Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dear Publishers....

On my way home from work tonite, I stopped at the mailbox to empty it out. I have one of those little clusterboxes, so if I don't check it religiously, it has a tendency to overflow.

Imagine my surprise when I turned the key and found a package from Tatra Press peeking out at me! Chris Sulavik had contacted me through Goodreads at the beginning of the holidays to ask if I would be interested in previewing a couple of books. Of course I said "Yes"!

These are the two newest additions to my TBR pile thanks to Chris and Tantra:

The Colorman - Erika Wood
Summary: a young female painter, trying to make her mark in Manhattan's art world, encounters setbacks and betrayals that send her down a path of self discovery. At the fringes is the mysterious colorman, James Morrow.

Brighter Graphite (Two novellas)- Michael Horvath
Summary: In Graphite, a scholarly eccentric travels the rails to discover why his stock of the world's finest, most expensive pencils break with every sharpening. In Brighter, a failed painter explains how economic collapse turns a quaint artistic center into a bloody battleground between philosophically opposed factions of artists.

Being reviewers copies, they move to the top of my TBR pile. Well, hang on. That's not entirely true. They move to the bottom of the top of the TBR pile. The bottom of the reviewers copies portion of the TBR pile, that is. See, I have 4 other books that have been sent to me from other publishing companies... waiting patiently to be read as well. Not to mention the one I am currently reading.

Why don't I introduce you to them?

Here they are, in the order they were received (which is also the order in which I will read them):

Chronic City - Jonathan Lethem (DoubleDay pub)
A trippy little tale of Chase Insteadman, a child star living off the residuals of his time on TV, hanging with some whacky Manhattan folk, dating an astronaught who is stuck in orbit in outer space.

The Gates - John Connolly (Atria Books)
The gates to hell appear when Satan is summonded forth during some strange goings-ons taking place at 666 Crowley Road. Can Samuel Johnson and his dachshund defeat evil?

Horns - Joe Hill (WM Morrow / HarperCollins pub)
Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke the next morning with a hangover, a headache, and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

The Resurrectionist - Jack O'Connell (Algonquin Pb)
Nothing is as it appears. Part classic noir thriller, part fabulist fable, we are plunged into the intrigue that surrounds Sweeny, his comatose son, and the fortresslike Peck Clinic.

Totally Killer - Greg Olear (Harper)
Part thriller, part satire, part period piece, we follow Taylor Schmidt as she arrives in the 1990's Big Apple, finds the perfect job, and the perfect boyfriend. But will perfection have a price?

Dear Publishers, please be patient with me :)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Cookie, It's Cold in Coos County!

Read 12/09/09 - 12/24/09
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
554 pgs

I managed to secure a reviewers copy of this novel when I braved a request for an online Author Q&A session with John Irving through his publishing company, Random House. He was touring to promote the book, the chat session wasn't approved, but the novel was graciously delivered to my doorstep.

As an Irving newbie, I was unsure what to expect from Last Night on Twisted River. The book jacket informs the reader that the novel follows the lives of 3 characters - the cook, his son, and his lifelong logging friend - across 5 decades. Here is where I initially hesitated. 50 years is a long time. Just how much detail will I be getting into here, how much of each of these men's lives will I get to see? Can Irving keep me interested in the characters as that much time passes?

After only a few pages, I realised I had worried over nothing. Irving is a master at story telling. His sentences can be magical; his timing is nearly flawless. Can he linger too long on a topic, writing in painful intricate detail? Yes. Oh, certainly yes, he can. But it is easily overlooked, and accepted as part of the landscape. Those intricate details, at times, became characters themselves.

Irving begins his story with a powerful opening sentence: The young Canadian, who could not have been more than fifteen, had hesitated too long. 3 sentences later, you discover: The carpet of moving logs had completely closed over the young Canadian, who never surfaced; not even a hand or one of his boots broke out of the brown water. Death - a common theme - sets the tone for the entire novel.

The death of this young Canadian, while not the actual catalyst for the novel, accompanies our 3 characters - "Cookie", Danny, and Ketchum - over the course of the next 50 years. For the sake of our story... those 50 years really begins when an accidental murder with an eight inch cast skillet sets our father and son on a constant run from the 'cowboy' - Coos County's local policeman. Ketchum, who remains in the logging town, communicates the cowboys every move to our two guilty men, warning them to stay hidden and change their names, if they want to survive.

Ketchum was by far my most favorite character in Twisted River. Big and burly; crude and tortured; protective and thoughtful; flawed beyond a doubt, he stood out to me as the wheel from which the entire novel would turn.

There were some things I wish Irving had just steered clear of - politics, and the terrorists attack on 9/11 - not because he couldn't handle them, but because I didn't see the value of them. In my opinion, they did not really add to the story. They almost took something of the story away.

If this novel is about anything, it is about love and loss, pain and healing, fear and hope. It is a novel that should not be missed.

While it was my very first Irving, I can assure you it most definitely will not be my last.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Curl Up With a Good Christmas Story Tonight

Only two more sleeps until the jolly old man in the red and white suit slips down your chimmney to fill your stockings with care.

While you wait patiently to find out if he thinks you were naughty or nice, why not curl up with on the couch and get lost inside a few good christmas stories? I recommend the following - and I feel I have covered all my bases here... The "time tested" classics, the "read me with a box of tissues" tear jerker, and the downright hilarious.

Read 12/08
5 Stars - Highly recommended
This was TNBBC's group read for Christmas last year. I was a little hesitant because I had never read anything by him prior to this. An absolute must read for the holiday season. It's a quick, wonderful read with a very powerful message!

Read my whole life
5 Stars - Highly recommended
Who doesn't know The Night Before Christmas? A true childrens classic.

Read my whole life
5 Stars - Highly recommended
Cindy Lou Who and all the Who's in Whoville have their presents stolen by that evil, awful Grinch. Another timeless childrens story.

Read 12/07
4 Stars - Strongly recommended
A short novel that can be read cover to cover in a matter of a few hours. Be prepared for a little tugging-of-the-heart-strings with this one. It may be small, but it sure can pack a punch.

Read my whole life
5 Stars - Highly recommended
Is there anyone out there who doesn't love Charlie Brown?

Never Read
But I hear it is a wonderful christmas time story for both young and old.

Read 12/07
5 Stars - Highly recommended
This was my very first Christopher Moore novel, and is TNBBC's current Christmas group read. It had me laughing out loud many times! Do not let another holiday season pass you by without reading this one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Secret Santa Book Exchange Grand Opening!

Do you remember how, as a kid, the closer you got to Christmas morning... the longer it seemed to take? Do you want to know how to get that feeling back as an adult?!

Participate in an Online Secret Santa Book Exchange and set a date and time when you will all log on to the computer together to open your gifts.

As I've mentioned in my previous post, I've had my Secret Santa's package sitting here on my bookshelf for a few weeks now. Taunting me every time I walked past it. Whispering to me from the side of the room that "no one will know if I just take a little peek".

It was hard to be strong, and became progressively harder as the days passed, and moved closer and closer to opening day. But that was NOTHING compared to the wait I had to suffer through this morning.

We set the time for 5:30pm this evening.

Of course, I performed my usual morning routine of getting the kids up and out for school at 7am, showering, reading a few pages in my book.. But I just could not concentrate! The clock kept distracting me. And I had this horrible urge to raise my head, eyeing up my Secret Santa package. I found myself willing it to give me a hint of what it contained.

So I decided to run a few errands. Upon my return, there it was, that darn package, begging to be caressed and held. I'm stronger than this - I know! I will wrap some presents. And position myself in such a way that the christmas tree blocks my view of the package. And this works for awhile... Until I realise that even though I can't see it, I can FEEL it, back there, behind the tree, perched on the bookshelf. Damn it again! I cannot concentrate on wrapping the presents, Im tearing corners and using too much tape.

I leave the living room, and kill some time on the computer, figuring the more space I put between myself and that package, the better! Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads... And little by little, the time creeps closer and closer to our grand opening.

The excitement and anticipation could be felt through the computer screen. Once we were sure those of us who were able to be there at that time had made it, we gave ourselves the green light, and tore into those packages like there was no tomorrow!

The next half hour found us simutaneously tearing into the packages, uncovering our Secret Santas, discovering which books we received, and then posting who they were and what they got us.

My Secret Santa spoiled me! I received a beautiful card, 2 bookmarks, Mary Shelly's "The Last Man" and "The Invention of Morel".

After all the stress and anxiety and excitement from the wait to open our Secret Santa packages, I am now suffering a different type of stress and anxiety and excitement.. the type that comes from figuring out when to read them!!! Ahhhhh......

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Christmas Countdown Begins...

So much going on, so much still to do, so little time left to get it all done!

The Goodreads NYC hook-up was fabulous!

I managed to get a little reading accomplished in the car on our way into the city to meet Boof. The novel, Last Night in Twisted River, is absolutely wonderful so far. It seems to be taking awhile to complete (I'm only half way through at this point) but I simply have no time available to devote to it. The holiday season is not very forgiving though I manage to sneak in a few pages here and there as I can.

Upon entering the city: the hubby, kids, and I hightailed it straight to the Rockefeller Tree in all its shimmery and glittery glory. With 15 minutes until Hook-up time, I hung back at the entrance to the skating rink below the tree with my eyes peeled for Boof, while the family walked around the block to take in the sites.

NYC in the wintertime, at christmas time, is kind of magical. And the anxiousness and excitement of meeting someone I have known cyberly on Goodreads for over two years really added to the whole experience.

Of course, as I stood there, I worried over what we would talk about... What we would do once the introductions were over...

Which was really silly, because once we met, we really never stopped talking. Boof and her husband are absolutely two of the sweetest, adorable people I have met! We instantly started chatting about Goodreads, and our fellow online friends, book-shopping, actor-spotting, blogging, our Secret Santas...

We ate some NYC pizza for lunch and headed over to Bryant Park, which is a part of the city I had never visited before. We went ice skating - a first for ALL of us! I did fairly well, surprising myself. I only fell twice, while Boof managed to escape the rink without falling at all! Her husband was snapping photos of us hanging onto one another in an attempt to remain upright, and I cannot wait to see them.

From there, we headed to Times Square and took in the whacky exhibits in Ripleys Museum, and then said our goodbyes. It was such a wonderful afternoon. I'm so happy I was able to finally meet her in person.

While we were in NYC, time seemed to stop - at least for those 3 hours we spent together. Once I was back in the car, heading for home, reality started to sink back in....

9 more days to finish christmas shopping and wrapping presents! 7 more days until my Secret Santa group opens our packages! 4 more days of work before the holiday break!

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed, somewhat anxious, and very excited all over again... How exhausting!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Secret Santa Book Exchange and a NYC Hook-Up

It's starting to feel a lot more like Christmas!

While out shopping today, I picked up two make-your-own-ornament kits for the kids. So we spent the afternoon over tubes of paint and glitter, creating special sparkly snowflakes and things. Take a peek at the final products:

My hubby lugged the pre-lit tree out of the shed and the living room is now bathed in the warm, white glow of christmas.

While all this seasonal family fun is taking place, there is a knock on the door. Imagine my excitement to find the post-woman delivering my Secret Santa package!!

This is my Second Annual Secret Santa Book Exchange. Last year, a group of 15 of the most wonderful, well read Goodreadians and I posted a list of the 5 books we wanted most for Christmas. We received our secret partners name in a super secret email, and ran out to the bookstore to purchase ONE of the 5 books they most wanted (and, of course, a copy of the same book for ourselves - so we could read it together!)

This year, I asked my Secret Santa for one of the following: The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares, The Last Man by Mary Shelley, After London by Richard Jefferies, Scars on the Face of God by C.G. Bauer, or In The Land Of Long Fingernails by Charles Wilkins

The package is sitting on my bookshelf, as we speak, begging to be opened! We have chosen a date when we will all be home to open our Secret Santa packages together, share which book we received, and discover who we will be reading it along with.... I cannot wait!!!!

And if that wasn't enough, I am going to be taking a day trip out to NYC on Wednesday to meet one of my Goodreadian buddies face to face for the first time ever! We will be meeting each other in front of the Rockerfella Tree. How Christmassy is that??? Boof, I cannot wait to see you there!

This is going to be one heckuva christmas!!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Pynchon's gone to Pot

Read 11/28/09 - 12/09/09:
369 pgs
3 stars - Recommended to readers familiar with the author and genre.

Many thanks to Penguin Press for allowing me the honor of reviewing this novel, and for not making me drop a dime to do so! It's my very first Pynchon, though I have owned The Crying of Lot 49 for over a year, and keep meaning to crack it open. What can I say... So many books waiting to be read... Some scream to be read louder than others!

Some thoughts as I was working my way through the novel:

1- Pynchon takes work. Me and him are in this for the long haul!

2- If the novel ever graduates to film, it's already packing it's own soundtrack. All throughout the story, Pynchon reports the artist, title, and lyrics for the songs Doc Sportello (our hippy lead PI) hears on the radio. While I am not too sure that any of the artists or songs he lists actually EXIST is another thing...

3- Everytime I crack open the novel, I expect to be smacked with a faceful of pot smoke, and am surprised I haven't suffered from a contact high! I swear, how most of Pynchon's characters haven't died of accidental overdose is a miracle in itself. Every one, every where, all the time, seems to be rolling or lighting or smoking a joint.

4- I have caught myself more than once fighting the urge to use doper terms such as "groovy" "hip" and "where are you at, maaannn". This scares me. A lot.

Doc is a good guy, trying to get by, sleeping with his female customers, and posing in numerous hilariously cheesy undercover costumes to find his guy.

Well worth the time I am put into it, though it did tire me out as I tryed to stay focused... Following the mind of a stoned PI is quite a task... let me tell ya!

"You can only cruise the blvds of regret so far, and then you have get back onto the freeway again" - Inherent Vice, Pynchon

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Reading - A Full Time Job?

Wow. Look at how TNBBC has grown!!

If you would have asked me two years ago whether I thought I would be tweeting, facebooking, and blogging about books, authors, publishers... I would have giggled and arm-punched you. "Like I have time for that!"

Working full time as a Training Specialist for a company-who-shall-remain-nameless, keeping my two fiercely independant sons from killing themselves and each other, and making sure my husband has a few homecooked meals a week, would certainly leave the best multi-tasker with very little free time.

However, I find myself with this uncanny ability to set aside time to curl up with a good book, and to lose myself inside it's words.

It was my love of books which prompted me to join Goodreads, the ultimate book whore's hangout. As I learned the layout of the land - locating reviews on books I wanted to read, peeking in on discussions within the numerous groups - I realised I had found a place where I could connect with fellow book lovers. Sit and chat about what I was reading, what I wanted to buy, and share some of my silly and strange book habits....!!

Gradually, after posting all over everyone elses groups in Goodreads, I took a deep breath and created The Next Best Book Club (TNBBC) . It's purpose was simple: Who is looking for the NEXT BEST book? It's motto was genius: Rallying behind each and every member as they spend every last dollar at the bookstore, celebrating every single purchase, sharing our splurges and favorite reads...

It started small and specific, and little by little, it expanded and grew and gained momentum. Today, it proudly boasts 5800+ of the most active, book addicted members within Goodreads.

I've been selling TNBBC merchandise over at Cafepress for about a year, and I've recently created a TNBBC Twitter page, and there is a TNBBC group on Facebook. So now, not only are we discussing our current reads and splurges on Goodreads, but you can now recv tweets and updates about the group, and it's SuperMod (me!).

So, now that TNBBC has expanded beyond my wildest dreams, I have to ask... How the hell can I make reading my full time job???!!!