Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"What Are You Reading" Wednesdays

"What Are You Reading" Wednesdays is really just my way of sneaking a peek at your night-stand, coffee-table, book-shelf... where ever it is that you stack your current reads, when you aren't reading them! And of course, returning the favor by allowing you a peek at mine...

In the right hand column of my blog, you will see a section entitled "currently reading". I update this as I start each new novel. As you can see, I am currently spending time with Greg Olear and his retro 90's novel "Totally Killer", which has been described as part thriller, part satire, part period piece.

I'm about 90 pages into it at this point, and am a complete sucker for the way he dangles information out there and then snatches it back. This book has been a complete tease so far, and I love it!

If you grew up, graduated, and entered the workforce in the 90's.. you MUST read this. It's like turning back time...

Post what YOU are reading on your blog, and link me back to it by commenting here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Land of Limbo

Read 1/20/10 - 1/25/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

I want to thank Brittany over at Algonquin Books for this review copy. I realise that it is not really considered a "new release", however, I believe it is never too late to pick up a great book! And I am very glad I did.

In The Resurrectionist, we meet Sweeney - our main character, if I were to pick ONE and label him as such. I see him as the wheel around which this novel turns. Sweeney's son Danny has been in a coma for over a year, and they have just relocated to The Clinic - where Dr. Peck has successfully aroused 2 comatose patients.

O'Connell withholds information from us - the reader - information we desire to know. Which, quite frankly, kept me glued to this book. There are subtle and shrouded comments made about Danny's accident, yet it isn't clear to us what the actual accident was. We are informed that Danny's mother killed herself, unable to live with the guilt of Danny's condition, but we have no idea why she should have felt so guilty. And we learn that Sweeney can't be left alone with his thoughts, which can quickly plummett him into fits of rage, aggression, and depression.

As we chase after Sweeney, we are introduced to the comic book LIMBO and it's cast of circus freaks, which, according to all the paraphanlia that covers and litters Danny's room, has exploded into a preteen Amercian phenomenon. It's Danny's favorite thing in the whole world, and his father gets sucked into it for him, laying next to him in his hospital bed, reading the comics, hoping his son is listening.

Each issue of the LIMBO comic is designated its own separate chapter (strategically placed throughout the novel) in which we follow Chicken Boy, Aziz, Bruno, and a handful of other freaks through their trials and tribulations - which, strangely enough, seem to mirror those of Sweeney in the real world.

Parellels can be made between the group of misfit junkie bikers - all named after animals due to their personalities or physical resemblance to it - that Sweeney gets mixed up with, and the circus freaks from the LIMBO comics.

Even deeper than the loose connections between characters, O'Connell messes with the hearts of all parents by forcing you to look inward:
What would you do for your child?
How far would you be willing to go, what things would you put yourself and your child through, if you thought it meant they could be returned to you... pulled out of the limbo-land they are inhabiting, withdrawn from our world?
Or would you try to put yourself in their world?
At what point do you take the plunge?
Could you let go and make the leap if it meant trusting someone, or worse, not knowing?

I would think this goes without saying, but we do eventually discover what happened between Danny and his mother the day of his accident, we do get closure on the cast of circus freaks from the LIMBO comics... but will Sweeney and Danny get the closure they deserve? Read the book, my fellow followers. Read the book, and you tell me!

Author Interview w/ Mykle Hansen

Mykle Hansen is the author of Eyeheart Everything (a collection of short stories) and Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere (a novella collection). He also has had short stories appear in the Bizzaro Starter Kit and Magazine of Bizzaro Fiction.

Help! A Bear is Eating Me
is his first full length novel. How does one describe this novel? Picture Holden Caufield, all grown up, on tons of drugs. Sarcastic, manipulative, abbrasive, hateful, used to being in control, instilling fear in everyone around him. Now imagine him pinned beneath his own car with a bear chewing on his feet...

Here is a bit of his bio from goodreads:
"A jack of all trades since birth, Mykle Hansen still tries to spend most of his time writing. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and child, in a orange castle surrounded by a moat of man-eating chickens. He writes all of his author biographies in the third person."

I want to thank Mykle for sending me a copy of his novel, complete with signature and an original drawing of a bear eating someone on the inside cover!

I would also like to thank him for letting us peek inside his head, by answering a few questions!

How old were you when you first started writing, and what was the first story you ever wrote?

When I was 4 or 5, my Mom would let me bang on her Smith-Corona electric typewriter just to hear the noise. So I guess I've always been writing something. In high school I got busier because writing was something I could do during boring classes; it looked like diligent study. Much of my early work was about dismembering teachers, smashing teachers' brains, boiling teachers in lead, etc. But when a poem of mine won a local teen literary award with cash money attached, I started taking it all way too seriously.

What's the craziest or most embarrassing job you have ever held?

Once I was the receptionist for the president of the College of Home Economics at the University of Minnesota. All day long, people would call in asking how to pickle beets, convert teaspoons to tablespoons, iron wool socks, unclog drains and so on. If I couldn't find a qualified answer I'd just make something up. I lasted 3 days.

Describe your writing style in 5 words.

Mental dentistry with laughing gas

What do you feel has most influenced you as a writer?

I try not to think about it too much, but I can't deny that Donald Barthelme was a huge influence during my formative years. When I'm stuck, I still ask myself "W.W.D.D.?"

These days I'm far more focused on the practice than the craft; how to stay motivated, how to judge my own work honestly, how to avoid getting bogged down and discouraged, how to gather strength. So I'm influenced by writers with strong work ethics; Carlton Mellick III is a friend of mine who's taught me a lot about that. Also, there's a place in Portland called the Writer's Dojo that has an excellent library of Advice From Writers On Writing, which has been deeply inspiring and helpful in that regard.

How did "Help! A Bear is Eating Me" come about? Is there a second novel in the works?

I heard there was a book called The Mezzanine, by Nicholson Baker, about nothing but one man's internal monologue while he's riding down an escalator; the author's challenge was to make the reader care. And it occurred to me it would be really funny to try the polar opposite of that: I'd write the internal monologue of a guy being mauled by a bear, but I'd try to prevent the reader from sympathizing.

There will be no direct sequel to HELP!, but later I may do the further misadventures of Image Team and their titanic ad agency. Right now I'm focused on shorter stuff while I try to improve my chops.

How do you determine if the story you are writing will become a novel, or remain a short story?

I think that's an artificial distinction that has always mattered more to publishers than to writers and readers, and which is mattering less and less. For instance, the novella has gotten short shrift from mainstream publishers for a long time because they fear thin books won't sell -- Heart Of Darkness notwithstanding -- but the POD presses have been proving them wrong. On the other hand, I have a children's book that I can't get published because it's 16 pages too long, but cutting it just doesn't work. I generally prefer brevity to expansiveness, but most of all I really hate to make a story longer or shorter than it needs to be.

What was the publishing process like? Any tips or pointers you would share with future writers?

My first book, EYEHEART EVERYTHING, was printed, bound and published in the middle of the night at Kinko's. Self-publishing is widely considered a really bad idea, but I came out of the 'zine world, and I thought of my book as just a really thick 'zine. It was really well-received by friends, friends of friends, their friends, and even some strangers. It opened a lot of doors for me.

My next two books were released by a small but ferocious publisher, Eraserhead Press, via Print-On-Demand. POD is also considered a really bad idea by all the wise elders of mainstream publishing, but it's working great for us. So my advice is: ignore professional advice!

If your house was on fire, and you could only rescue 5 novels from your bookshelves, which 5 would you save and why?

I'd grab the works of Richard Brautigan -- Trout Fishing In America, Revenge Of The Lawn, A Confederate General In Big Sur, The Abortion, In Watermelon Sugar -- because all five are rare first editions borrowed from a friend of mine in San Francisco. Then I would go to San Francisco and return his books, while also drinking his wine, sleeping on his couch. taking a nice vacation and maybe getting back some of that money he owes me.

What is your take on E-books and E-readers, as an author and as a reader?

I have a friend who tours with bands, and he loves his Kindle. He has tons of reading time on the bus, but no extra cargo space for books. An E-reader is perfect for his lifestyle. I don't begrudge anyone that. Also, I'm not sentimental about ink on paper, nor do I think it's about to vanish. And frankly, I love gadgetry of all kinds.

However, the major E-publishers are pushing hard to create monopolies that will be bad for everyone but them. E-books need to be an open format, bought and sold in an open market, delivered via a neutral Net. Amazon's Kindle program sucks in that regard, but nobody else has solved the distribution problem nearly as well as they have. So the Kindle still scares publishers, and that will be reflected in the low number of books released for it until things get better.

What authors/novels/ websites would you recommend to our audience?

They should read 1001 Books To Read Before You Die, 1001 Movies To See Before You Die, 1001 Albums To Hear Before You Die, and 1001 Objects To Put In Your Butt Before You Die.

Be sure to check out his website And go ahead, buy a copy of Help! A Bear is Eating me while you are at it. You know you want to!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blog Award

Hooray! I received this blog award from Jennifer G. over at the Introverted Reader. Be sure to check out her out!

The rules for this award are rather simple. All I have to do is answer the following questions with a single word answer and then pass this along to 5 bloggers.

(1) Your Cell Phone? texting
(2) Your Hair? long
(3) Your Mother? Here!!!
(4) Your Father? retired
(5) Your Favorite Food? burritos
(6) Your Dream Last Night? none
(7) Your Favorite Drink? water
(8) Your Dream/Goal? publishing
(9) What Room Are You In? playroom
(10) Your Hobby? Reading!!!!
(11) Your Fear? spiders!!!!
(12) Where Do You Want To Be In Six Years? debtfree
(13) Where Were You Last Night? sleeping
(14) Something That You Aren't? patient
(15) Muffins? chocolate
(16) Wish List Item? books
(17) Where Did You Grow Up? Fishkill
(18) Last Thing You Did? goodreads
(19) What Are You Wearing? clothes
(20) Your TV? off
(21) Your Pets? puppy, iguana, fish
(22) Friends? yeah
(23) Your Life? uneventful
(24) Your Mood? blah
(25) Missing Someone? Nah
(26) Vehicle? hyundia's
(27) Something You Aren't Wearing? shoes
(28) Your Favorite Store? Bookstore!!!
(29) Your Favorite Color? Burgandy
(30) When Was The Last Time You Laughed? today
(31) Last Time You Cried? uhhhhh??
(32) Your Best Friend? Mariann
(33) One Place You Go To Over And Over Again? Baltimore, NYC
(34) Facebook? yupper
(35) Favorite Place To Eat? Olive Garden

Man, I wish I could have expanded on some of those answers! That was hard. Thanks again to Jennifer... I am not sure what I did to deserve it, but I am happy to have it and will strive to be worthy of it :)

The Blogs that I award this to are:
The Book Whisperer
Mandy The Bookworm
Well Read Reviews
Keep up the great work, ladies!!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Author Interview w/ Lance Carbuncle

Lance Carbuncle is the author of two of the most wonderfully wicked self published novels I have ever read - Smashed, Squashed, Splattered, Chewed, Chunked, and Spewed and Grundish and Askew (which I named as one of my favorite reads of 2009).

We have a bit of a history together, going back to a giveaway contest he held in the not-so-distant past for Smashed. I like to think I won a copy of that novel fair and square, but something tells me that moderating TNBBC had a lot to do with it (Thanks Goodreads!) From there, I co-hosted an author chat session with Lance to promote the release of Grundish (of which he graciously sent me a review copy), and now he has taken the time to be interviewed for you, my faithful followers. If you are not familiar with Carbuncle's novels yet, I guarentee by the end of this post, you most certainly will want to be!

Lance, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to showcase you and your novels. And now....Let the questions begin:

What is the life of a writer like?

Well, it’s quite the rockstar life. I usually wake up around noon and drag myself out of bed around one. Sometimes I discover that, in an intoxicated stupor the night before, I have ripped the urinal off of the wall of my favorite watering hole and dragged it home. For breakfast I’ll slaughter a small animal and eat its raw flesh. I find that fresh blood and flesh help me to combat my hangover and general ennui. Once I feel that I have recovered from my excesses of the night before, I will typically go out on my third floor balcony and waive to my adoring fans. Sometimes I hang one of my younger children over the balcony by his or her feet just to shock onlookers. Usually there is a several hour nap after I greet my fans. Scattered throughout the day there will be lengthy bathroom sessions during which I tend to my hygiene needs with an expensive Japanese toilet that cleanses me with warm water and gentle bursts of air. Once cleansed I have one of my harem tend to the most vile of my needs. And then I’m out the door, hitting parties and bars and consuming ungodly amounts of absinthe, model airplane glue, fried foods, and controlled substances. And, then, once in a while, I write books. In addition to the above, my life includes a lot of firearms, dead hookers, illegitimate children, and ransacked hotel rooms.

Um, okay, all of the above is a steaming load of bullshit. The author description that I usually give is (although tongue-in-cheek and self deprecating for comedic reasons) fairly accurate. My about the author blurb usually reads something like this: “The Dr. Reverend Lance Carbuncle was born sometime during the last millennium and he’s been getting bigger, older and uglier ever since. Carbuncle is an ordained minister with the Church of Spiritual Humanism. Carbuncle doesn’t eat deviled eggs and he doesn’t drink cheap beer. Carbuncle doesn’t wear sock garters. Carbuncle does tell stories. Carbuncle’s stories are channeled through a pathetic little man who has to work a respectable job during the days in order to feed the infestation of children in his house.” That’s mostly the truth. I’m a 41 year-old man with a houseful of children (triplet 5 year olds, a seven year old, and three older step-kids who are now adults). I am an ordained minister, but that was just done as a goof because anyone can become ordained. I have never worn sock garters. And I do work a respectable job during the day (don’t ask).

To answer the question, I don’t know what the life of a writer is like. I work, I’m a family man, and I write in the small amount of free time that I can find. I would love to write full-time but, unfortunately, my day job pays the bills much better than the writing. So, until Oprah endorses my books or Quentin Tarantino buys the rights and makes my books into movies, I don’t’ have a very good answer to your question.

At what point did you realize that you were destined to put pen to paper, and can you remember the first story you ever wrote?

In fourth grade a friend and I did a comic strip called Rufus and Roland for our school newspaper. It was a poorly drawn strip that mostly ripped off the Cheech and Chong movies. It was totally inappropriate for elementary school kids and I have no idea how we got away with it. That was probably my earliest creative writing endeavor.

In high school I had an English teacher who really taught me how to write properly. He was a great influence and I truly respected the fact that he would wait for senior girls to turn eighteen and then he would date them. We’ll just call the teacher Rod. Rod encouraged the class to write short stories (when he wasn’t encouraging freshly legal girls to slob on his knob). I think that the first story I ever wrote was for Rod’s class and it had something to do with a guy who lived in a garbage dump and ate rats.

Who are you most influenced by?

It’s hard to say. I started reading a lot of Stephen King when I was a kid. I’ve always liked the way Stephen King tries to tie all of his books together. Frank Zappa did the same type of thing with his music. So, between King and Zappa, I have picked up a fondness for the whole idea of an artist’s conceptual continuity. As far as my humor, I read a lot of Mad magazine and National Lampoon in my teenage years and thus fostered a true appreciation for inappropriate and irreverent humor. In high school I picked up on Kurt Vonnegut and have been deeply influenced by him. I also really like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Mark Twain and Jack Kerouac. They have all influenced my writing in one way or another.

Describe each of your novels in 5 adjectives.

I think I’ll have to just let the title of my first book, SMASHED, SQUASHED, SPLATTERED, CHEWED, CHUNKED AND SPEWED speak for itself (okay, so that’s six adjectives, sorry).

As far as GRUNDISH AND ASKEW, I would describe it with the following adjectives: gritty, dark, damp, mephitic, and twisted. Oddly enough, these are the same adjectives that I use to describe my underpants.

Which of your novels are you most proud of? Was one easier to write than the other?

I’m equally happy with both novels and, as far as the content, do not favor one over the other. Smashed was a lot easier to write as the story was pretty well formed in my head before I started writing it. Plus, Smashed was just plain fun to write.

What are some of the positives and negatives of being a self published author?

I love being an independent author. I have complete creative control over the process and content and do not need to worry about deadlines (other than those that are self-imposed). If I have a creative vision, then I can follow it without having to worry about whether it will result in sales or profits. For me, writing books is not about making a living; instead, it is really about expressing myself through my art and, hopefully, touching others through my words and fucked-up thoughts.

I also like that, as an independent author, I have to stay on top of marketing my work. One aspect of my marketing is to work up good word-of-mouth buzz about my books. Being independent and having no real marketing budget to speak of, I mostly encourage my readers to spread the word about my books. A consequence of this promotional technique is that I am constantly hearing from my readers about my books. I love corresponding with my readers and hearing how my work has affected them. Some authors don’t like having to promote their own work. I actually enjoy getting the feedback from my readers, though.

Is there a third novel in the works, and if so, can you tell us a little about it?

I have a third book brewing in my brain right now but have not put much of it down on paper. But here’s what I have so far. The next one is a feel-good, coming of age story of Davey, a pigeon-toed boy with a crush on his substitute teacher and the silly things he does to try to win her heart. With the help of his best friend, Talulla, Davey does his utmost to woo the comely substitute teacher. But, ultimately he realizes that he actually loves Talulla, and everything ends on a happy note with Davey and Talulla walking into the sunset, hand-in-hand, and ready to discover the wonders of young love. Okay, not really. If I wrote that story, I would want to repeatedly stab myself in the face with an icepick.

I do really have a third book forming in my head. I just have to force myself to get going on it again. It seems that I need a period of time to recover from the final editing process of a book before I can fully dedicate myself to working on a new book. I think I’m nearing the completion of the recovery period from Grundish and Askew and I am starting to get the itch to write again. What’s the book going to be about? I can’t really give an intelligent answer to that right now.

What does your writing area look like?

It’s a shameful disgrace. Actually, I have two writing areas. I have an office at home with a big cluttered desk. Between the shit that I leave laying around and the stuff that my kids throw on my desk, it’s impossible to find anything. The only thing that matters is that in the center of my desk there is a partially cleared area for my laptop.

I also write at work during my lunch. I wish I could say that my office at work is cleaner but it’s not. I lock the door to my office at night so that the cleaning crew cannot get in. The only time that my office is cleaned or dusted is when my wife comes in, calls me a slob, and then tidies up for me.

What is your take on E-books and E-readers, as an author and reader?

I’ve never read an e-book. I want to hold the hard copy and look at actual pages. I’ve had other authors offer to send me pdf copies of their books and I’ll usually ask for the actual book instead. Maybe I’m getting stuck in my ways as I get older, but, there’s just something that doesn’t seem right about books in the electronic format. It’s like trying to breed a dog with a cat. It just ain’t natural.

What authors/ novels/ websites would you recommend to our audience?

I’m not going to bother recommending mainstream authors or books as those will already be fairly well known. Instead, I’d rather give a shout out to some other independent/self-published/small press authors that I’ve enjoyed. There are a lot of good small press books out there that are worth checking out if people are looking for something different or cutting edge. I would recommend checking out some of the following:

Mykle Hansen- Help! A Bear is Eating Me! and Rampaging Fuckers of Everything on the Crazy Shitting Planet of the Vomit Atmosphere

Robert Kroese- Mercury Falls

David David Katzman- Death By Zamboni

Marcus Eder- Rorschach’s Ribs. Also, check out Eder’s band, Strawfoot, on Myspace Music or for some good rockin’, dark, alt-
countryish jams.

Those are just some of the independent authors that I have read an enjoyed recently. There are more good independent authors’ books rated and/or reviewed on my profile. Check them out and support independent authors.

Well, there you have it, folks! Straight from the computer keys of Lance Carbuncle! Be sure to check out his website where you can get a great deal on his novels -

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ani DiFranco - Her Music, Her Poetry

One lazy day in 1996, I was meandering up and down the aisles of the local Gallery of Sound music store, having wandered in wanting a new CD, but not having anything particular in mind.

At times like these, I would pull a cd from the rack, check out the recording label, the cover art, and read the song titles. This was how I came across some of my favorite indie/unknowns at the time. Groups like Brad, Sunny Day Real Estate, Lemonheads, Catherine Wheel...

That lazy day found me checking out Ani DiFranco's "Dilate" cd. I had never heard of Righteous Babe Records, the cover was punky grunge, and the titles of the tracks were intriguing, so I brought it up the counter and asked the guy working the register to tell me a bit about her and her music. Rather than explain, he popped the cd into the stereo system and "Untouchable Face" came crawling out of the speakers. Bitter, achey, beautiful... I was in love. I bought the cd and spent the rest of that day and night playing it over and over and over again.

A few days later, I ran back to that store to pick up some of the other albums of Ani's that they carried.

Her lyrics are rough, biting, and painfully sweet. Her voice is soulful, tender, and powerful.

I must have been living under a rock these past two years, because somehow her collection of poetry and paintings slipped right past me. Of course, once I realised I had missed it, I went off in a frantic search to aquire a copy. But alas, my local chain stores were not carrying it.

Out of sheer frustration, I wrote to 7 stories press, and asked them for a copy, expressing my love of her music and my need to own this, and read it. And my request was granted.

If you are familar with Ani Difranco's music, you will know that she has strong political and social views. Views that she is not afraid to express to her audiance. A self proclaimed feminist, hailing from Buffalo NY, she speaks from the heart, and her fans listen.

Cracking open this collection of poems is no different than cranking up the volume on one of her songs. Literally, since quite a few of the poems are actually her song lyrics in written form. But that does not take away from the beauty and urgency that is Ani DiFranco.

Some, like "Pulse" evoke strong emotion - I would offer you my pulse, if I thought it would be useful. I would give you my breath.... And "Parameters" with it's bubbling fear.

Others, like "Subdivision" cry out for us to look around and see our surroundings for the first time - I'm wondering what it will take for my country to rise, first we admit our mistakes and then we open our eyes. And "Self Evident" in which she takes on 911 and other catastrophes, and our reactions to such events.

Taking the recording industry by its neck at the age of 18, and building her own label - Righteous Babe Records - doing things her way the whole way... painting, poetry, and music that stirs the soul.

A true gem for an Ani fan, and for those who are new to her, a perfect place to introduce yourself.

The Devil You Know

Read 1/12/10 - 1/20/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

This Advanced Readers Copy was sent to me by the lovely people of HarperCollins. So a big thank you goes out to them!

Horns is Joe Hill's second novel, following Heart Shaped Box and a collection of short stories 20th Century Ghosts. Horns is set to release on February 16th, and Joe Hill will be touring to promote the book, so check his website for upcoming dates and locations.

In Horns, we meet Ig Parrish. Painfully hung over, grieving the brutal murder of his girlfriend - no different from any other man.. well, except for the fact that he has just awakened to find horns growing out of his head.

We wake up beside Ig, just as confused and concerned as he is about what horrible things might have taken place last night. We stand behind him in the bathroom as he stares at the grotesque curves of bone jutting from his temples. We question his sanity as he wonders if he is losing his mind or dying of a brain tumor that causes him to see things which aren't there. We follow him into the hallway as he has a strange conversation with his girlfriend - where she speaks of disgusting and hideous things, revealing her deepest darkest thoughts and secrets.

Ig's nightmare is only just beginning. To be seen by anyone, to touch or brush his skin against someone elses skin, opens the door to their subconcious. In his presence, the horns have this queer power of making people say the things they would never normally speak of. And once he leaves them, they have no recollection of the conversation or that he was even there. Little by little, Ig learns to use this new power to his advantage.

Hill tackles a subject matter that has long been a favorite of mine to read. It goes beyond the typical good vs. evil, internal conflict, let's discuss heaven and hell sort of story. Hill scratches past the surface, drawing the blood of the subconcious out into the open. What secrets are you hiding? What sins have you contemplated committing? What if your own personal devil was sitting on your shoulder, whispering what fun it would be to act on those urges?

If you are interested in reading Horns, or have read it and are looking for other, similar novels, here are some books I have read that tackle the devil, death and dying, and religion and/or religious notions: The Testament of Gideon Mack, The Monk, The Priest, I, Lucifer, Death of an Ordinary Man.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Author Interview w/ David David Katzman

David David Katzman is the author of Death by Zamboni, an intensely twisted, trippy novel of a private detective who is quite likely out of his mind. It reads like a lucid dream, or a drug laced spoof on detective noir! Very funny, very experimental stuff!

He selflessly sent me a copy of his novel when I stumbled across it on Goodreads. David is a self published author,with a great sense of humor, and he is currently working on his second novel. Here is his author profile from goodreads, and his webpage

"I sit in my creative shrine surrounded by Timothy Leary, Aldous Huxley, a jerk named Nietzsche, Junko Mizuno, Mark Ryden, William S. Burroughs, Valerie Solanas, Richard Dawkins, Guy Debord, Native American history, Curious George, King Kong, Ganesh, Artaud, Daniel Pinchbeck, Yoshitomo Nara, dictionaries, thesauri, notebooks and candles and plan my publishing empire. My second novel is nearly done, an adventure of six years. I'm an obsessive creator, whether it be painting or performing with my improv teams Fire Good and Frankenreagan."

"David David Katzman is powered by polyester and ancient spaghetti with magical properties. A painter, writer, comic book addict, contemporary art lover and recovering actor, David² resides in Chicago with two cool cats and something, something, something. Death by Zamboni is his first novel. And yes, his first and middle names really are David."

I want to thank him for taking the time to answer some questions for yours truly! And here we go:

At what age did you start writing and can you tell us about the first story you ever wrote?

I would trace my early writing to ‘round about 6th grade. It took the form of mapping out Dungeons & Dragons adventure scenarios. I feel that my experience playing D&D contributed significantly to my creativity, my problem-solving skills, and my attraction to half-Elven Druids. My first complete short story was a dungeon adventure involving the hero swinging on a rope over a horde of monsters to escape. In my novel, Death by Zamboni, there is a scene where the main character swings on a microphone cable over a horde of blood-thirsty surgical patients. It’s a callback for all my fans from middle school.

As I recall, my second short story was a noir private investigator story influenced by Hemmingway whom I was reading at the time in English class. I re-read that story a few years ago, and it really isn’t too shabby. A little bit obvious at the end with a shoot-out in a church and a bullet piercing the stained-glass heart of Christ, but it was High School after all. These things are to be expected.

Who are you most influenced by?

I don’t have a single primary influence. I approach each individual work with an attitude of finding the voice best suited to it. The work (or my subconscious) will pull me toward a structure, style and tone. I let my freak-flag fly and then later, when I try to explain it to people, I’ll realize…oh, I must’ve been channeling an episode of the Brady Bunch if it had been written by J.G. Ballard.

To demonstrate my mood swings: my first novel was (in retrospect) most influenced by Monty Python, Firesign Theatre, South Park, and Mark Leyner. My second novel is most influenced by Lewis Carroll, William S. Burroughs, Grant Morrison, Siddhartha and Nietzche.

I’m also quite influenced by artists. Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr and Alex Grey have all influenced my second novel. I spent quite a bit of timing visualizing scenes as tableaux similar to the work of these artists.

What is your favorite novel, and why?

Ouch. Choosing a favorite novel is like admitting you have a favorite child. So cruel. Here are a few of my favorites and why. In no particular order:
At Swim-Two Birds (Flann O’Brien was one of the most creative and hilarious writers who ever lived.)
Naked Lunch (Burroughs’ words are like fire; he makes me uncomfortable and amazed.)
Siddhartha (The story of Buddha is calming.)
The Circus of the Earth and the Air (A strange trip that I loved for being both impenetrable and compelling)
Swann’s Way (No one be writing better than Proust do is.)
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series (I would make love to Douglas Adams if I was gay, and he wasn’t dead.)
Foucault’s Pendulum (This was a perfect book because I read it on a perfect summer day while lying in the luxurious grass beneath a tree atop the wall surrounding the city of Lucca in Tuscany.)

Describe your book in 5 adjectives.

Death by Zamboni was athletic, impetuous, sugary, heart-felt, and fragrant.

What genre best describes your writing style?

Experimental. I like to experiment.

How did "Death By Zamboni" come about?

I free-form wrote without attempting to judge or direct myself for about a year. At some point, I recognized a form within the formless and reorganized the material, made new connections, wrote new material, and began the re-writing process. I completed about 6 drafts of it over the course of the following year. Then I wished up on a magic toadstool and voila. Book!

What are some of the positives and negatives of self-publishing?

For a fuller exploration of these issues, you can follow my blog (at, which is a blow-by-blow of my efforts to publish my second novel.

Pros of self-publishing:
• You will make significantly more money per book you sell. (Published authors give up a significant percentage to publishing companies and literary agents.)
• Even if you find a publisher, you will still have to do most of your own marketing so why give them so much money when you have to do so much non-writing work anyway?
• You own all rights and control every detail of your work. (Many publishers will make decisions without your input, such as cover design and back-cover copy).
• You can keep your work available indefinitely. (If a published book does not sell very well in the first few months, large publishers will rarely do a second printing, and your book will disappear.)
• You can get your book out into the world quickly. (Finding a publisher can take years and then it may be a few more years before it goes to press—if you are lucky. Since very few authors land publishers, your book might sit in a drawer, in the dark, eating dried bits of bologna for your entire life. How sad.)
• A publisher might pick you up later.
• You dance indie, DIY, non-corporate style.

Cons of self-publishing:
• More effective for non-fiction.
• You are responsible for every detail.
• You have to invest money upfront on design, printing, distribution and more. Although now some authors are going Print-on-Demand with little attention to design, I think this approach doesn’t give your book a very strong chance of becoming as popular as it deserves, simply due to the fact that people DO judge books by their cover.
• You need to work harder to get bookstores and libraries to carry it.
• You have to teach yourself the basics of publishing, promoting books and running a business.
• Still does not get a lot of respect (which makes it harder to get reviews), but that’s changing.

Can you give us a sneak peek of your second book?

You might be able to gather a bit of its nature from the influences I described in your second question. The book is entitled A Greater Monster and for the sake of Pete, I’m calling it a Psychedelic Fairytale.

What is your take on E-books and E-readers, as an author and a reader?

I do enjoy the tactile aspect of reading, and I find reading words on paper is easier and more enjoyable for my eyes. And I don’t like to piss my eyes off. On the other hand, e-books do seem to be more environmentally friendly and take up less shelf-space. However, if civilization collapses into a Road Warrior-style world someday, e-books won’t fair so well. I like to think that centuries from now, someone can burn my book to cook up a dead rat. Take that e-book!

E-books will make self-publishing a bit easier as they become more popular. The upfront cost of publishing a book will be further reduced and reproduction of e-books is essentially free. I also think that e-books will allow for some creative cross-media work. My second novel has three multi-media aspects to it. One scene is fully illustrated. Another scene is linked to a website where you can hear an original musical composition connected to the story that I co-composed with several musicians. A third scene is represented with animation, similarly hosted on a website. In a future version of e-Readers, I will be able to embed both the song and the animation into the book itself, I imagine.

What authors/novels/ websites would you recommend to our audience?

I’ll give a shout out to a few of my favorite more obscure works: The Alphabet Man by Richard Grossmen is a mind-blowing work of prose poetry and design splendor. Flan by Stephen Tunney is the weirdest and perhaps most disturbing book I’ve ever read. The graphic novel series The Invisibles by Grant Morrison is an epic brainbender. The Fan Man by William Kotzwinkle made me laugh a lot but not as much as Wake Up, Sir! By Jonathan Ames. Destroy all Monsters by Ken Hollings is as cool as a James Bond nightmare, Gojiro by Mark Jacobson is too much fun, and Angry Young Spaceman by Jim Munroe combines science fiction with politics in a way that no one ever has before. Hairstyles of the Damned by Joe Meno deserves attention, and I’m looking forward to reading more of his books soon.

As far as websites go, have you been to this It’s pretty handy! And that icanhascheezburger site is hilarious! I’ll be here all night folks, tip your waitstaff. But seriously. I really dig, where I have my blog and write reviews. has some interesting articles as does Poets & Writers ( You can see the art of Mark Ryden at, Todd Schorr at, and Alex Grey at Some day I will dust off my website at Last but not least, I’m very impressed with the caliber of authors interviewed on Worth a look.

Hahaha... David, thanks for the shout out to my own blog! That was so sweet. If you haven't heard of him yet, it's not too late to check David out, and read Death By Zamboni.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blog Award

Last week, my good friend Boof over at The Book Whisperer gave me my first blog award!

It's called Splash and it’s given to alluring, amusing, bewitching, impressive, and inspiring blogs!

I'm very flattered she thought of me, and will work extra hard to deserve it! She has been doing a wonderful job over on her blog. Please be sure to check her out and add her to your blogroll!

Author Interview w/ John Connolly

I am very pleased to introduce my very first author interview here at The Next Best Book Blog!!

John Connolly, creator of the Charlie Parker series; The Book of Lost Things; Nocturnes; and most recently The Gates, kindly agreed to answer a few questions. So let me first start by thanking him for his time and generosity.

Here is a bit about John, taken from his website

"John Connolly was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and has, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which he continues to contribute. John Connolly is based in Dublin but divides his time between his native city and the United States, where each of his novels has been set."

I understand that you started writing stories at a young age. Was your family always supportive of your gift? Who were your biggest critics?

Er, I'm not sure about the word 'gift', but it's very nice of you to say. My mother was a big reader, my father less so. I think he probably felt that writing was a hobby, but that I was never going to make a living at it. He was from a very working class background, and also from a generation that had had a lot of its ambition knocked out of it. He didn't live long enough to see Ireland come out of recession - or, indeed, to see me become a published writer, or even graduate from college - and I think his main priority was that I would find a permanent, pensionable job. He would have been pleasantly surprised by the fact that I'm a writer, I think.

What is the life of a writer like?

Well, it's much better than working for a living. On the other hand, there is constant doubt, at least for me, and a fear that at some point I'll be found out and dumped by my publishers. It's also close to madness at times. When I'm working on a book, the book is always with me, even when I'm at a movie, or having dinner, or just reading someone else's book. In a way, writing it is just a way to get it to shut up.

The Charlie Parker series can be categorized as Crime Fiction. How would you categorize your stand-along novels, like The Book of Lost Things and The Gates? Did you have a certain age group or genre in mind as you wrote them?

I've always preferred 'mystery fiction' as a description for the Parker books, as I think it's a little wider in scope than 'crime fiction'. Then again, there are those in mystery fiction who don't think that I write mystery fiction at all. Generally, they're the purists, and they hate the supernatural elements, but I think that's down to a misunderstanding of the nature, and purpose, of those elements. After all, I have yet to write a novel in which 'the ghost did it'.

As for the other books, The Book of Lost Things is, I think, an odd one, in that it contains elements of fantasy but isn't really a fantasy novel. It's a book about books, I suppose. It's fiction. I didn't really have an age group in mind when I wrote it, but what is interesting is that adults and teenagers respond to it in quite different ways. For teenagers, it's quite immediate, as they're living through some of the some problems that David, the central character, is trying to come to terms with. Adults, by contrast, pick up on some of the sense of loss, and the disjunction between the hopes and expectations of a child, and the realities of the adult world. Some teenage readers get that too, but often because they've suffered an equivalent loss too early in life. A young girl came up to me at a signing in Arizona, and told me of how her mother had died less than a year before, and how she had read the book in the aftermath of that loss.
There's almost nothing that one can say in response to that. I just wanted to give her a hug, and I hoped that life would be gentler with her from then on.

The Gates is different. That's very much a book for smarter kids that an adult can also enjoy, but I hate that term 'crossover'. There's something cynical about it. I wanted to write a book that my 11-year-old stepson and his brother, who is 17, could both enjoy. That was it.

How long does it take for you to write a novel - from start to finish? Do you know the basic plot before you write, or do you develop it as you go?

About two years. I'm usually thinking of the next book while I'm writing the book in hand, and I'll often be doing bits of research for that planned book along the way. I tend to know the beginning of the book, and one or two incidents along the way, but that's about it. The actual process of writing is very slow, mainly because I don't know exactly what's going to happen. I write a little every day, and when the first draft is done I go back to the first chapter and start again. I'm a compulsive rewriter, which is no bad thing.

Who are you most influenced by?

Oh, other writers, like most writers. We're the product of the writers whom we've read and admired, in my case everyone from Dickens to Ross Macdonald and James Lee Burke, with a detour for P.G. Wodehouse's Jeeves & Wooster novels.

When reading The Book of Lost Things, I fell in love with your version of Snow White and the Dwarves. In The Gates, I found myself most drawn to Nurd - The Scourge of 5 Deities. Which of your characters did you enjoy writing the most?

I think there's a little bit of me in all of them, more in some than in others. There's a lot of me in Charlie Parker, but I've also found a way to give every one of my sins to characters in the books. I'm in the bad as well as the good, but that's the only way that I can be certain of the truth of those characters. There's also a lot of my own childhood tied up with David in The Book of Lost Things. That's probably the most personal of my books, but the narrative voice in The Gates is probably closest to my own voice.

In both The Book of Lost Things and The Gates, you lighten up some dark moments with well placed humor. Are you a naturally funny guy, or do you tend to be more serious?

Dark moments with well placed humor sounds like a pretty apt description of me, I think. I'm probably melancholic by nature, but that's true of most writers, in part because we spend so much time living in our own heads, and mining that life for our work. The Parker books are dark, but are leavened by touches of humor. The Gates was a chance to let the humorous side run riot, but it was written in the same year as The Whisperers, which is shadowed by pain and loss.

Which novel are you most proud of? Was one easier to write than the others?

I'll always love The Book of Lost Things. Whatever its flaws, it's probably as good a book as I'm ever going to write. The Gates was probably the most enjoyable writing experience, but The Book of Lost Things is probably the most fulfilling.

What is your take on E-books and E-readers, as an author and a reader?

I love the artifact of a book, and I think that's true of most of those who love reading. A book is also perfect technology, a bit like sharks and spiders. There's a reason why those species didn't evolve to the same degree as others: they were perfectly adapted to survival from the start. In a way, then, e-readers are an answer to a problem that didn't really exist in the first place. A writer friend of mine was extolling the virtues of her e-reader, pointing out to me that she had 100 books on it, so that if she was in the queue at the post office she could just take it out and start reading. But if I'm in the queue at the post office, I can also just take out something from my bag and start reading, and that thing is a book. Also, how long is her post office queue that she needs to have 100 books with her? If you ask me, her current postal needs are not being met, and an e-book is not the answer to her problem . . . After all, how many of us are really going to head off for a year with a backpack and require that many books? You can just buy another book. It's not that difficult. They sell them in lots of places, I hear. Ultimately, I think e-books will co-exist alongside traditional books in a way that CDs are struggling to do with downloads, because in the latter case there's no affection for the technology, and that technology wasn't great to begin with. The issue for authors and publishers, though, as for musicians and record companies, is how to ensure that they're paid for their work if books are downloadable and copyable.

What authors/ novels/ websites would you recommend to our audience?

Oh dear, I hate that question. If you haven't read Ross Macdonald, then you really should. And Bleak House by Charles Dickens is probably the greatest novel in the English language. The Three Musketeers is great too. As for websites, Declan Burke's Crime Always Pays blog has been very good for Irish crime fiction, and I rather like a website called, which is a music site that offers a chance to download legally, and for free, remixes, obscure tracks, and new music by a range of independent artists. For me, music and books are the two mainstays of my life. I'd hate to have to choose one over the other.

I want to thank John Connolly again for taking the time to answer these questions. It really has been quite an honor to be in contact with him - for a book lover like myself, it's been a dream come true!

Check out my review on The Gates down below, and click here to see my review on The Book of Lost Things! Must reads for all ages!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

First Book Buying Splurge of the Year

Oh Yes! It's that time of the month again...(no, no, not THAT time!)... Bethlehem Library held their "every other month for two days" gigantic book sale. I never miss this sale. It's a peaceful 30 minute drive, and I'm guaranteed to walk out of there with an armful of books.

The library is located on church street, which is a lovely little slice of heaven to walk down on a day like today - when the single digit chills of last week have given way to a high of 40 and melt away all the snow. Take a peek... The library is located at the end of this street:
The library hosts the book sale in the basement, which is set up just like a book store - books are shelved by genre, and then alphabetical by author. I have a worn path into the carpeting, almost always following the same book-hunting pattern: The classic shelves first, then off to the newer trade paperbacks, next the Sci-Fi section, followed by the hardcover contemporaries, swing around the children's section, then head for the back of the line, which tends to be incredibly long.

Bethlehem library holds its sales on a single Thursday and Saturday every other month. Most paperbacks are a buck, hardcovers for $3, childrens books for 50 cents. I used to go on Thursdays, as soon as it opened, and I would walk out with 15-20 books of my own, not counting what my sons would pick. Since my work schedule has changed, I now drive out there on Saturday. I arrive armed with my recyclable Barnes and Nobles bag, because I never know how many incredibly cheap and wonderful books I might adopt, and my poor arms get tired so easily.

Here is my somewhat weak splurge from the sale today:
Dan Brown - The Lost Symbol

Alexandre Dumas - The Last Cavalier

Max Barry - Company

Tarquin Hall - The Case of the Missing Servant

Kurt Vonnegut - Breakfast of Champions

Leonie Swann - Three Bags Full

Katherine Miller Hanes - The Winter of Her Discontent

Not pictured here: Jasper Fforde - Lost in a Good Book.
The reason it is not pictured? I somehow, somewhere along the line, have purchased this book in the past! hahahaha...! Perhaps you are wondering how I could not know I already owned a copy of this? Take a peek at my goodreads shelf - it's called "Owned Not Yet Read", and it currently contains 235 books in it. Which means I have 235 unread novels sitting here in my house!! (I am actually surprised I don't have more unintentional duplicates...) I also think the book sale has less to offer me each time I go because I own so darn many already!!

Now to just find time to read some of them :)

To find out more about this sale, or to locate library and used book sales in your area, check out booksalefinder.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What Do Your Books Say About You?

I was browsing some book blogs this morning, as I sometimes do, and came across Stuck In A Book ... where I found this fun little exercise:

1. Go to your bookshelves...
2. Close your eyes. If you're feeling really committed, blindfold yourself.
3. Select ten books at random. Use more than one bookcase, if you have them, or piles by the bed, or... basically, wherever you keep books.
4. Use these books to tell us about yourself - where and when you got them, who got them for you, what the book says about you, etc. etc.....
5. Have fun! Be imaginative. Doesn't matter if you've read them or not - be creative. It might not seem easy to start off with, and the links might be a little tenuous, but I think this is a fun way to do this sort of meme.
6. Feel free to cheat a bit, if you need to...

I think 10 may be a bit of an overkill, so I am going to share 5 with you. I challenge you, my faithfull followers, to do the same. Post a comment to link me to your list, I cannot wait to see what you come up with!

Weathercock - Glen Duncan
This was my first online purchase at BetterWorldBooks, my third Glen Duncan novel, one that I had been looking for for quite awhile. As with most of his novels, Duncan ponders God, the Devil, thier influences on who we are and the decisions we make. Like Glen, I always find myself sitting on the fence when it comes to religion. I strongly believe that if you live a good life, and treat others kindly, you will end up where ever it is you are supposed to go. Whatever my beliefs - Heaven/Hell, Reincarnation, Nothing - I love reading novels that deal with religion, religious conspiracy, and the afterlife. Duncan also happens to be one of the many authors I push as a recommendation to fellow readers. You are doing yourself an injustice if you haven't read him yet!

Listen to the Warm - Rod McKuen
As a freshman in college, I found myself at the University library a lot. I remember searching the shelves for a book - though I cannot recall which book, or for what paper I needed it - when I just happened to come across this collection of poems, and quite a few others. I flipped through them, having never heard of the poet before. Not having any change for the photocopier, and being too lazy to check them out, I sat at the table and copied out poem after poem onto notebook paper. Needless to say, I fell in love with McKuen and his heartwrenching works. I began to search for his collections in book stores and library sales as an adult, grabbing them as I can find them. I have yet to read another poet that has moved me more than McKuen has.

It - Stephen King
My mother was a huge Stephen King fan when I was younger. She liked him so much that she used to allow me to stay up late when I was small to watch "CreepShow", which was a film adapation of Stephen Kings short stories. I remember sneaking this book off her bookshelf one night... I couldn't have been more than 12 or 13 at the time. It was my first real ADULT novel, and it was scary as hell! I also recall a few years later, watching it on TV on a dark and stormy afternoon and getting scared all over again. Early King novels put all other horror authors to shame.

Lord of the Flies - William Golding
Have you ever read something before you were old enough to truely appreciate it? This book was required reading for my high school literature class. While I didn't hate it back then, there is something about reading a book because you're TOLD to, rather than because you WANT to. Because this novel appears on the Lost Literature List, my husband bought it for me two years ago for christmas, and I re-read it right away. It's amazing how much you can pull out of a book, depending on the time in your life when you read it. When I was in school, it was just a novel about a bunch of shipwrecked boys who devolve into animals. As an adult, I saw so many additional layers to it: the breakdown of society when rules no longer apply, and actions have no consequences; the need for a balance between good and evil, even in a jungle when survival means everything.

The Last Man - Mary Shelley
This was a gift from Sherry, my Secret Santa over at Goodreads. I have been wanting to read this novel for quite awhile now! Mary Shelley's less famous novel, about the last man on earth, a survivor of some world destroying plague. I am a big fan of Post-apocalyptic fiction... having read and loved books like Earth Abides, The Road, Blindness, A Canticle For Leibowitz, The Sheep Look Up...all of which I would recommend!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

In Which We Review "The Gates"

Read 1/09/10 - 1/12/10
5 Stars - Highly recommended

It's 4 days before Halloween. The neighbors at #666 are bored and looking for a way to spend the evening. Donning black capes in their basement, they recite a spell from an old book they found. At the same time, CERN's LHC (Large Haloden Collider) surprises the scientists by firing off "a bit" of energy they cannot account for. 11 year old Samuel, and his little dog Boswell, just happen to be peeking in the neighbors basement window when a portal to Hell opens up and let's a lot of evil out... Are the Gates of Hell going to open? Are the Neighbors or CERN at fault? Can Samuel stop the end of the world as we know it?

John Connolly, known for his Charlie Parker series and Book of Lost Things, gives us a dark and humorous peek at what the world might look like should the Gates of Hell open and allow demons and evil spirits to enter earth through a portal - that may just be a blackhole with wormhole-like qualities.

Our 11 year old protagonist - accompanied by a few of his friends, his brave little dashund, and Nurd (the misplaced, not so evil, demon scourge of five deities) - tackle slimy blobs, flying skulls, and the very evil Mrs. Abernathy, who is paving the way for The Great Malevolence.

A cross between YA literature and your typical A.Lee Martinez/ Christopher Moore urban sci-fi fantasy, Connolly did a great job of grabbing hold and refusing to let go. Infusing a lighthearted look at Hell on Earth, while still managing to maintain that creepy, crawly undertone, he is sure to please anyone who picks this up! Not to mention the added fun of mixing it all up on Halloween of all nights! A definite must-read, do not let this pass you by.

Many thanks go out to John Connolly and Megan at Atria, who so selflessly shipped me a copy of this novel for review.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tigers and Chaldrons and Ice...Oh My!

Read 12/24/09 - 1/08/10
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with author and genre

Oh Mr. Lethem. How you teased me! How you twisted and turned me! Filling my head with Chronic and Ice, leading me on a wild internet goose chase for those mystical chaldrons and Gnuppets (both within your novel, and on google), forcing me to read those sad hopeful letters from the astronaut stuck in outer space...

Different from anything I have read previously - Motherless Brooklyn, As She Climbed Across the Table - and from those that I own and have yet to read - Fortress of Solitude, Gun with Occasional Music, The Wall of the Sky, The Wall of the Eye - Chase Insteadman, an ex child star living off the residual income of his syndicated show, narrates Lethems 8th novel, which takes place during an unspecified time in Manhattan NY. He introduces us to some of the strangest, conspiracy-driven characters I have ever met: Perkus Tooth - a has-been rock critic with a wandering eye, who seems to leave the apartment only to post billboards with cryptic messages across the city; Oona Laszlo - Chase's almost, not really girlfriend, who ghostwrites for celebrities and will not allow Chase into her apartment; Janice Trumbill - Chase's astronaut girlfriend who writes him from a rocketship that is stuck in outerspace, surrounded by a chinese mine field; Richard and Georgina - pushed together at a party when Richard lost his apartment to nesting eagles...

Some other introductions: A tiger wandering the streets and sewers of NYC unchecked, unobserved (though the characters are able to track his whereabouts online), tearing down buildings and shutting down entire sections of Manhattan at a time. A certain type of ceramic vase which, when viewed through an Ice-induced haze, opens a mental doorway that causes our friends to question the world in which they are living, ponder alternate realities, and place unreasonable bids on E-bay in order to aquire one. An investigation into unhealthy obsessions with Marlo Brando and Gnuppets.

While not my favorite novel, it certainly deserves a read by serious Lethem fans. Beware first time Lethem readers! I would recommend that you wait and read Chronic City after you have experienced some of his other, earlier novels first. A slower paced, slightly moody story that introduces the darker underbelly of the city and our unlikely cast of characters.

Many thanks to Doubleday Publicity for sending me this reviewers copy!

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Favorite Reads of 2009

As we turn our backs on 2009, and look forward to a happy and healthy new year - filled with wonderful new novels - Let us also remember to take a moment and reflect on the BEST and WORST books that we have read this past year.

For me, here they are in no particular order:


A Story With a Twist
The Secret History - Donna Tart
The prolouge grabs you quick and rather furiously. As Tartt allows Richard to tell his story, the only story he knows how to tell, you begin to wonder... how reliable is Richard as a narrator? What, or who, is driving this group of college kids? Who can be trusted, and who must be constantly watched?

Independant Hilariousness
Grundish and Askew - Lance Carbuncle
Carbuncle achieves perfection in his slightly darker, more gory sophmore novel of two buds who stick together through thick and thin, running from the law and the awful things they did. It reads like a runaway train and finally comes to a crashing hault with an ending I certainly did not see coming! Filled with some really fun, cool, literary and film references.

Super Sci-Fi
The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
A return to what is possibly my favorite genre - Apocalyptic Fiction. A man-made plant raised on farms for it's oils, a comet of strange green lights, and waking up to a world so far removed from any that we have had to survive before.

Revenge is So Sweet
The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
I knew it was love before even completing the first chapter. Dumas's writing called to me, even after I placed the book down on the shelf to take a break, or go to work, or do summer-things with the kids. I encourage everyone out there who has yet to read this book to do themselves a favor, find a reading companion, and dive in. Though it took me an entire month to complete, I wouldn't have missed this for the world!

Cormac Country
All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
A creative use of repetitive visuals. Taking what would ordinarily be a mundane and sleepy situation, he works his magic on us by dazzling us with his words. Part best friends traveling the country, part shoot 'em up and knock 'em down cowboy, part love story... Part pondering God, part survival of the strongest, part struggling to find your true place...


Doubly Delirious
The Double - Fyodor Dostoevesky
I am pretty sure I have missed something here. I must have. But I cannot bear to reread it to find out what I missed. Such a shame, as I really loved The Brothers Karamazov. Tsk Tsk.

Woeful Wallace
Angle of Repose - Wallace Stegner
The begining of the book was beautiful, very poetic, very haunting. But once the story got going, it lost all its soul, and rotted on the page, stagnant and stale, for hundreds and hundreds of pages. But FINALLY, right there, right at the end, Stegner returned me to that lovely, soft, poetic place.Too bad he couldnt have kept that magic the whole way through.

Pure Torture
Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift
Oh man. This book was sheer torture. The writing was dry and bland and boring. Swift had some really interesting ideas - An island of people no larger than your finger. Another island with people that are 60 feet tall. A floating island, an island of scientists, the island of Yahoos...but the execution was hard to appreciate. I came very close to putting this novel down many many times. This was just painful.

Sunset of Sorrow
Sunset Unlimited - Cormac McCarthy
Not your typical Cormac. Not by a long shot. Two men wax poetic about Jesus, and life, and death. Written in the form of a play, Sunset Limited is stripped of everything but their conversation, which takes place at one of the mens kitchen table. Definitely not my favorite from this author. And verged on the edge of preachy-ness, a little too much for my comfort.