Monday, May 31, 2010

The Tale of Halcyon Crane

Read 5/29/10 - 5/31/10
4 Stars - Strongly recommended

Wendy Webb had contacted me through in an effort to promote her novel "The Tale of Halcyon Crane". I thought the book looked really interesting and managed to snag a copy to review.

And I am really glad I did. This is one of those novels that I may never have stumbled across on my own, had the author not brought it to my attention.

The gothic tale of a woman whose life was turned upside down when a strange envelope arrives in the mail announcing the death of a mother she thought had perished in a house fire 30 years before.

Wendy Webb does a great job of setting the stage for this spooky tale of a woman uncovering old family legends; complete with haunted house, creepy encounters with otherworldly beings, and an unsolved island murder dating back 30 years.

Though I found parts of the book to be predictable, and a bit typical of a gothic ghost story, I still found myself thoroughly enjoying it, and anxiously turning the pages. The book reads surprisingly quickly, in part due to Webb's pacing, and because I just simply had to know whether I'd guessed things correctly.

Not necessarily a story that scares you so much as creeps you out and lingers in the back of your brain...

A book that begs to be read with the lights on.

The Wind Warrior Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to Hodgepodgespv who blogs here!
They have won the signed copy of The Wind Warrior!

By entering this contest, they agree to allow me to feature their review of Cynthia Roberts novel on my blog. I want to thank those who showed an interest in this contest!

THE BOOK Giveaway Winners!!

The author Michael Clifford and I have put our heads together, and are very happy to announce the two winners for THE BOOK giveaway contest, in which they had submitted an original story idea.

Congratulations to Mandy of Mandythebookworm and Ashley!
To check out their original story ideas, please click here to view the contest comments.

The winners must contact me via email ( as soon as possible so I can get their mailing address in order to ship the book.

The author Michael Clifford will be contacting them personally and promises to acknowledge them in the credits of the book he creates based on their idea. How absolutely exciting is that? I cannot wait to see what he comes up with!!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Them: Poems from 1999-2002

Read 5/24/10 - 5/29/10
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with author/genre

This collection of poems was mailed to me by Twenty Three Books Press. I met the publisher at Baltimore's CityLit Festival back in April and was interested to take a peek at what he carried.

The author, Omar Shapli has written, directed, and acted in numerous plays in Chicago and New York, and has attempted to preserve his sanity by writing poetry - as per his bio on Twenty Three books.

I have always had a soft spot in my heart for poetry. It can be tender, forceful, confusing, full of rage - no matter what emotion it evokes, it is beautiful, and sparse, and creative.

Though I admit to struggling with some of the turmoil and political agendas mentioned in Shapli's work, I definitely felt the pull of his more personal poems.

Here are my interpretations of the ones that tugged the hardest:

Downed Tree on the Taconic - he writes about a tree that lies across the highway, blocking people from passing. Little by little, strangers drive up to it, dialing cell phones, sitting in their cars, eventually congregating outside around it's trunk. Men attempt to move it, rolling up their sleeves, when suddenly the tow truck arrives to free them.

I was touched by the calm and acceptance his characters felt when faced with obstruction. Were they late to a meeting? Was dinner getting cold? Were they running away from something? We will never know. They were together for those few moments, created a tiny community in those minutes they spent together, and then went on their separate ways, never to met again.

Global Positioning - A short 9 lines that sum up our human existence quite neatly. We are never content with where we are, always trying to get to someplace else.

It can apply to any part of our lives. Whether it be physical: where I live or where I work, what I own, what I am doing. Whether it be spiritual: who I am as a person, where I wanted to be at this point in my life. Financial: The money I make, the money I owe. Or even Love: who I am with, who I surround myself with.

Humiliation - When a man attempts to tip his waiter, who returns the money because he is not who the man thinks he is, we get lost in his confusing train of thought.

Tillinghast in a Tizzy - I clung onto these lines "We are fed by corruption/ led by the underbelly/ and ruled by thugs".

Stain - A simple coffee stain gets turned into something that was destined to happen, destined from the moment of the big bang and the creation of earth.

I liked this one because it just came across as this long exasperated mental sigh. A throwing up of the hands to something bigger than us, a bowing down to the uncontrollable elements, to the powers that be.

By the Brook:Late Summer - A man leaves his house to trim the bushes, and becomes distracted when he notices a tiny hole dug into the dirt beneath his feet. We take a peek inside his head, see his thoughts unravelling, until he snaps back to the moment and remembers why he went outside.

McGinley's Pocket Lexicon - These are alphabetical one line quips and analogies that were quite humorous. The ones I liked best: "Accessible: what you think might be graspable even by me." "Adventure is disaster modified". Clothing: Mousehole with mobility". "Measured response: killing my enemy just a little bit".

While I wasn't always able to grasp his meaning, these jumped off of the page and screamed out to me. I believe his collection contains a little something for everyone.

eBook Giveaway - The Second Coming

TNBBC's 6th book giveaway!!!!

We are rocking and rolling in the month of May with book giveaways, aren't we? This opportunity comes to us from David H. Burton, author of The Second Coming, which was recently reviewed here by yours truly. David is generously allowing me to give away 10 free downloads of his eBook!!

Goodreads describes the book:

"Five hundred years have passed since the Earth shifted on its axis – a catastrophic event that wiped out civilization and released the powers of the dead back to Earth. With technology long abandoned, a dark age has shrouded our world once more. Travel to a future of blood sacrifice, demons, witchcraft, and an immoral God that has returned to reclaim his former dominion".

Don't let that description scare you away. It's not leave-the-lights-on scary, I promise. But it is heavy on the science fiction and requires you to temporarily suspend your grasp on reality. Sci-Fi lovers and fans dark magic will appreciate this book.

In order to win the free download:

1- You must post a comment to this thread including your email address so we can contact you if you win.

2- You must agree to participate in David H. Burton's book discussion between the months of June and July over at the Fantasy Book Club group on Goodreads.

3 - You must be one of the first 10 people to comment. Yup, that's right. It's first come first serve!

The giveaway will remain open
until the 10th comment has been posted.

Upon it's close, David and I will email the winners with the free download code, and announce the winners here on my blog.

**Friendly Request** If you have won books from me in the past, I would appreciate it if you would please refrain from commenting for a copy so that other followers might get a chance to win. In the event that we do not get enough comments, I will open it up to past winners. Thank you for understanding!

Book Expo and Book Blogger Con

Hi Everyone. Sorry I have been silent for nearly a week. I didn't really think ahead enough to prepare a notification post, so I hope you forgive me. But I am back now, and ready to share my Book Expo and Book Blogger Con experiences with you.

I have them sectioned out, so feel free to skim or skip entire topics. I know my life is not all that exciting to everyone. It's going to be a long one!

The Book Expo of America (BEA)

My personal experience

This event was held May 26 - May 28. I did not attend the BEA on Tuesday for the conferences. I was working overtime to pay myself back for the expense of driving back and forth and parking all day in NYC. And mentally preparing myself for my first solo trip into the city. Not only had I never been to the city alone, I hadn't ever even driven there. My husband is the designated driver whenever we take a trip out there. So I was a big old ball of nerves.

Turns out I really didn't need to be. After getting advice from some friends at work, who have lived in the city and visit quite often, and borrowing my mother's GPS, and bringing written directions to boot, I felt I was well prepared. And I most certainly was!

I was out the door Wednesday morning by 5am, in order to beat the rush hour traffic, which I did. The trip was wonderfully simple and painless.

I parked at Port Authority, an easy on/easy off location whose perk is self-parking.. which means I have access to my car at all times. I hate those garages that park your car on those lifts, so you have no way of getting anything out of them, or putting anything into them without having the parking attendant maneuver cars around.

I hightailed my butt out of the station, hooked a right, and marched myself all the way down to the Javits Center - which was roughly a 20 minute walk. I walked through it's doors at 7:30am, registered, and since I paid through the Book Blogger Con, I got a press pass and was allowed to walk the BEA showroom floor before all of the other people. I must have walked the entire floor 5 times that morning, casing it out, seeing which ARC's and Galleys the publishers were laying out for us. I wasn't allowed to take anything yet, but I was making mental notes of the booths I wanted to hit first.

At 9am, the doors were opened to everyone, and it was a mad rush to the booths. I swear, it was like these people have never seen a book before! There was pushing and shoving and people knocking other people out of their way. I had an older man shove me backwards to get to a stack of books on the floor. I was flabbergasted. I wanted to punch him in his beer belly and ask what happened to the manners I know his momma taught him. Geesh!

Once the madness died down, and that inital rush into the showroom passed, the crowd became less violent, and a little more human. Perusing the isles, you were handed canvas bags, pins, posters, tshirts, as well as books from the publishing companies.
At first, I took just about every book I saw or was handed. By 10am, my back was breaking under the weight of the books in the bags on my shoulders. I think it was around this time that I met up with Bridgit.

Bridgit is a long-time member of TNBBC on goodreads, and has been sooo wonderful to me the last few months by answering all my thousands of questions about BEA. She is a seasoned BEA attendee. I found her back by the author autographing booths. She had an excel schedule printed out of all the publishers and authors, complete with times and locations, to guide her through her day. She was a woman on a mission. Since I was underprepared, I asked if I could follow her for a bit till I got my bearings. It was amazing watching her move through the crowd and bounce from line to line.

At 11:30am, Bridgit and I parted ways, and I attempted to walk back out into the city to drop off my two bags at the car. It was stifling hot outside, and I couldn't make it more than two blocks before hailing cab. My shoulders thanked me!

I walked back down to BEA, stopping at a subway for a quick tuna sandwich. The rest of the afternoon was spent walking up and down all the aisles, picking up the galley copies that were laid out at the booths, waiting for author signatures (I had books signed by James Patterson and Jonathan Lethem), and introducing myself to the publishers who have been suppling me with review copies for my blog.

The women of Graywolf Press were so friendly. Marisa, the woman who supplies me with my galleys, was not able to attend, but her co-workers were prepared for me. We chatted about the publishing industry and preparations for the BEA.

Then I met Erica from HarperCollins. She is so cute and bubbly! I absolutely LOVE her. We dished on books, our husbands, and the new HarperCollins releases.

The remainder of my afternoon was spent lugging books around until I thought I was going to pass out. I called it quits at 4pm, and took a cab back to my car, homeward bound.

Day two I was determined not to go. My whole body was in shock and I was exhausted. But once I got the kids on the bus, and showered, I felt revived. Plus there was a Book Blogger Con pre-meetup that night and I didn't want to miss it. So I hopped in the car and arrived in the city by noon. The afternoon was basically a repeat of the day before, packing my bags full of books, and hob-knobbing with the publishing people. But with more new books!!

Publishers and Books

There were an uncountable amount of publishers with booths at the BEA. Here are the ones that I was most impressed with - based on their catalog, galleys, and/or staff:

HarperCollins - always putting something new out for us to take away, great titles, and of course, Erica works there!
GrayWolf Press - I like their catalog, alot! And they are wonderful people.
Random House - They had in booth signings and galleys the entire time, like clockwork. Fabulous!
New York Review Books - They didnt have any galleys, but I looked over their catalog, and I want EVERYTHING in it!
Akashic Books - They are publishing Arthur Nersesian's new novel. 'Nuff said.
Consortium - They cover a HUGE array of smaller publishing companies, with books covering just about every genre.
SoftSkull Press - They are sort of a niche seller, but look good. No galleys here, sadly.

For a peek at the lovely new books I brought home with me - both signed, and not, check out my goodreads splurge thread posts #8624 and 8629. 65 books overall. Not bad, methinks!

The Book Blogger Con Pre-Meetup

This was FUN! The meet-up was for authors, publishers, and bloggers to hang out, network, and just have an all around good time. It ran from 4pm - 6pm, and I met so many great people.

Erica from HarperCollins introduced me to her co-worker Kyle, who works in Hardcover. I enjoyed talking to him, he entirely crushed my image of what it's like working in a publishing house, but still managed to make it sound fascinating.

I met Rachel from TNBBC goodreads - who ended up being my Book Blogger Con partner in crime. She blogs at A Home Between the Pages. She is a total sweetheart, and struggles with the same things I do when it comes to blogging, and followers, and whatnot. She loves to read the award winning books, while I tend to stick to the indies, so I plan on stalking her blog all the time now!

There were two awesomely awesome first time authors there who I completely loved talking to. The first was Teddy Wayne. He wrote Kapitoil, of which I hope to get a galley of! We hung with the HarperCollins crew for a bit, chatting about "following" people in the room and how this is acceptable behavior, where, 5 years ago if you said you were "following" someone it would be construed as "stalking". Oh how times they are a'changing.

I also met Justin Kramon, who wrote Finny, which releases in July. He was neat to talk to as well. We discussed his writing process and which authors he likes to read. We had a few in common, and he is a huge fan of John Irving.

April from TNBBC goodreads was there as well. We bumped into each other accidently in the meet-up. I love being able to put names to faces.

Then the night came to an end, and it was back to the car, and the long drive home.

The 1st Annual Book Blogger Convention (BBC)

The event was created and hosted by Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin', Rebecca from The Book Lady's Blog, and Michelle from GalleySmith, and Natasha from Maw Books. I thought they did an awesome job!
We had Swag Bags filled with Galley's, gifts, and goodies; A tasty breakfast; and informative panel interviews on blogging.

Maureen Johnson, a YA author, was the Keynote Speaker, and she was fabulous. Very funny, very chatty.

Then Ron Hogan, formerly of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, led the convention by discussing Professionalism and Ethics in Blogging. He asked us to think about the following things:

What binds you to your readers?
What is your focus?
Where are you pointing your readers?
What new perspective do you bring your readers?
Do you know the territory?
What do your readers do next?

After a yummy lunch of deli sandwich's and meeting more really cool people, we listened to discussions on Writing and Building Content:

How do we find a voice, as bloggers, and remain true to it?
Using regular features or a blog series to keep the readers coming back?

During the Marketing Hour (my favorite), we covered:

Building and reaching out to the Blogging Community
Making our blog into a Brand
Using the RSS feed for accessibility
And whether STATS are important to us

I liked this one best because it covered the things I feel I struggle most with. I don't like following or blogging those viral meme's that everyone seems to be pushing (not that there is anything wrong with them, mind you), and I haven't yet had any regular series or theme to my blog, which worried me a bit. So I felt the panel gave me lots of things to think about, which I greatly appreciated.

The next panel was on Blogging with Social Responsibility - using your blog to raise awareness, fund raise, or just plain old vent with people who share your ideas. They covered Platforming and Community, and one topic drew alot of conversation from the group - Racism in Publishing: from people of color to gay and lesbian struggles. It was wonderful to hear how people use their blogs to advocate for equal rights when it comes to publishing and being represented fairly.

The final panel discussion covered the Impact of the Relationship Between Authors and Bloggers. It was refreshing to hear the panel talk about how they felt authors were unreachable, like movie stars, when they all first began blogging. Because I had felt the same way many years ago, when I first started TNBBC on Goodreads. I enjoyed listening to their experiences.

They also discussed the differences between positive and negative reviews, and having to write a negative review for authors that you know personally. While this is not something that I struggle with myself, it seemed there were many bloggers who did. So I thought it was great of them to talk about it.

I had to bite my tongue at the end however, when the topic veered over to self published authors. There seemed to be this unfair stigma where some bloggers would rather not read self published works without proof of references and reviews, and even sample chapters. I adore many self published authors, and don't view their work any differently than mass produced best sellers.

Please don't misunderstand me, the conversation was not bashing self published authors, by any means. I just got the feeling that the bloggers on the panel just had not had enough experience with that type of publishing to speak well on the topic.

I met Avis, who very recently won one of my blog giveaways for The Map of True Places. That was really exciting. She blogs at she reads and reads.

To Sum It All Up

Ahhhh.. sorry for being so long winded. That is not usually like me.

It was such an exciting time for me, hanging out with people who love and obsess over the same things I do. Being around people who's first question to you after your introduce yourself is "Who do you like to read?". I was in heaven and I am very sad to see it all come to an end. Now it's back to real life. Laundry, dishes, bills, work... they are all sitting here waiting for me.

But at least I have my new friends, and their business cards, as well as all these new shiny galleys waiting to be read!!!!

Until next year.....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dear Everybody

Read 5/22/10 - 5/23/10
5 Stars - Highly Recommended

While attending the CityLit Festival in Baltimore last month, I sat in on Michael Kimball's 510 Readings. Back at home, I did a little research and discovered that he was an author himself (he is host and creator of the 510 Readings, but had not read at the event I attended). Of course I just HAD to contact him to inquire about his wonderful event and the books he has written. And Michael was kind enough to mail me out a review copy of "Dear Everybody", for which I thank him profusely!

Dear Everybody is a novel (to use the authors words from the Title page) "written in the form of letters, diary entries, encyclopedia entries, conversations with various people, notes sent home from teachers, newspaper articles, psychological evaluations, weather reports, a missing person flyer, a eulogy, a Last Will and Testament, and other fragments, which taken together tell the story of the short life of Jonathon Bender, Weatherman."

While a not entirely new concept, telling a story through the use of letters, author Michael Kimball breaks new ground by beginning with his character Bender's obituary, and leaving Bender's brother Robert to piece together the bits of the life he has left behind to try and understand why Jonathon killed himself.

We read excerpts of diary entries written by his mother Alice - starting at the time of his conception. We are shown clipped conversations that took place between Robert and their father after Jonathon's death. We read Jonathon's letters of apologies to nearly everyone he ever had any contact with - from neighbors, to elementary school bullies, to ex-girlfriends, to teachers, and employers.

Kimball shows us how Jonathon deals with a father that didn't want him and didn't know how to communicate with him, a mother who had high expectations for him and had a hard time accepting him for who he was, a brother who wrote him off and left him to his own devices.

Though the book is bleak by nature, the author skillfully creates pockets of humor to alleviate the overwhelmingly sad and painful look at this broken, unwanted, self conscious, and eventually depressed young man.

The more I read, the more I wanted to reach in and save Jonathon from his unhealthy life. The more I wanted to slap his mother for not doing something to change what she saw happening, to show how she became a part of the problem as she sat there ignoring it. The more I wanted to kill his father for the all the grief and headaches and pain he caused him. The more I wanted to curl up next to Jonathon to show him there was more to life than giving in to the madness of a dysfunctional family. I wanted to teach him how to fight and to be strong and to be his own person.

And the more it made me realize how everything I do, everything I say, affects those around me. And the more it made me want to be a better person - for myself, and for those I love and care most about.

Bravo Michael. A beautifully crafted collage of life, as told not only by the letters of the man who lived it, but also by everybody who had affected it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Second Coming

Read 5/15/10 - 5/22/10
3 Stars - Recommended to readers familiar with author and genre

Thanks go out to the author, David H Burton, for bringing his self-published novel to my attention.

Due to a not-yet-fully-explained catastrophe, the Earth is knocked off it's axis, unleashing things that were better kept hidden. Ghouls, demons, dark angels, Firstborns, Lastborns, Obeks, Imps... all crawled to the surface to fight for control under an immoral God.

Some of the surviving humans turned to witchery and the occult; learned how to summon spells; create blood oaths; Soul Run; and command the dead. Some turned to the Church of Ascension and the Confederation - which bred a new age Witch Hunt.

Burton's eBook is a face paced, dark, apocalyptic tale that's bursting at the seams. Packed with loads of action, it promises to never bore you, and always keep you guessing. A very ambitious first novel that, while fully functioning as a stand alone story, teases the reader as only a book destined for sequels can.

I admit to being slightly confused throughout most of the story. Burton may have bit off more than he could chew when it comes to maintaining such a heavily charactered plot-line. I lost count only a few chapters in, and found myself forgetting, and at times even confusing, the different people and their alliances and backgrounds. This would be easily remedied, though, with the aid of a notebook - I recommend outlining the characters and their storylines if you do not think you can finish this book in one sitting.

He does a great job of pacing the subplots as characters that began at different points of the novels move towards one another, and those that began together move apart. Though, once they all converged in the much awaited finale, I found the pacing was thrown off and a bit scattered when I needed it structured the most.

Some of the characters suffer from extreme cases of what I call "internal thinking". It's where the author italicizes what a character is thinking, so you know it is being processed internally. While I don't have issues with the technique itself, Burton overuses it to the point where different characters get different symbols placed before and after their internal thinking as a way for us to differentiate who is doing the thinking. In the end, I found it to be more of a crutch or gimmick than a useful technique.

One thing that surprised me was the amount of sexual innuendoes and practices that the author was able to cram within the plots. At times, it fit the need of the moment, and at others just seemed so random and out of place that it distracted me from what was actually taking place. I do have to give Burton credit though, his characters exhibit a wide variety of sexual preferences, which (as distracting as I found it) was really quite refreshing.

Certainly not to be missed by fans of dark fantasy, witches, demons, and all things good vs. evil. Suspension of belief and reality are a must.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Author Interview w/ Austin Kleon

World, meet Austin Kleon. Author of Newspaper Blackout - a creative new look at the morning newspaper. By blacking out the words he doesn't need, Austin creates poetry with the words he leaves behind. No topic is off limits - from aliens, to teenage love, to Texas, to bugs... Austin stirs the soul.

But that's not the only thing he can do with a marker.. check out some of his other creative work on his blog.

He very graciously took the time to answer a few questions. Have a look at what he had to say:

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I wanted to be Shel Silverstein. I remember seeing his photo and his bio on the back of Where The Sidewalk Ends. It said he writes books but he also "writes songs, draws cartoons, sings, plays the guitar, and has a good time." A Renaissance man. That's who I wanted to be.

The way I see it, you are a triple threat – a writer, a poet, and an artist. Which are you most comfortable as? Which do you have to work the hardest at?

Saul Steinberg said, "I am a writer who draws," so that's what I go with. There are tons of folks who can write better than me, there are tons of folks who can draw better than me, but when it comes to folks who can put the two together, well, it's a smaller pool of competition, anyways. I have to work hard at both, because I'm not naturally gifted at either.

Who and what have been the biggest influences in your life?

My parents. My friends. My wife. Books. Music. The southern Ohio landscape. John Lennon. Bob Dylan. Saul Steinberg. Lynda Barry. Kurt Vonnegut. LucasArts adventure games. A lovely letter from the artist Winston Smith that I received when I was 13. David Hockney. Edward Tufte. Bill Callahan. Raymond Carver. Back to the Future. Ghostbusters. Indiana Jones. Punk rock. Collage. I could go on and on...

What’s a day in the life of Austin Kleon like?

It's not glamorous. I get up at 7:30 and go to work in a cubicle. I work on a college campus here in Texas, so I'll spend my hour lunch break reading, making poems, or browsing one of the good university libraries. I get back home a little before 6, have dinner with my wife, walk the dog, and try to get some drawing and writing done. I get into bed at 10PM and read until I fall asleep. Rinse and repeat.

How long have you been touring, and speaking on panels? What are those experiences like?

I've only been speaking publicly for a year or two. I love it. I love getting up in front of a crowd, giving slideshows, signing books for people. Usually artists are really introverted, but I get a lot of energy from other people. I'm terrified of being boring, so I'm always putting as much as I can into live events. At the Newspaper Blackout "readings" I don't even read from the book: I just do a quick slideshow, and then pass out newspapers and markers and the audience goes to town, making their own poems.

Are you writing anything now? What can we expect next from you?

I'm still making new poems and publishing them online. I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. They've become a kind of weird magic ritual. Every time I go to that paper, I never know what I'm going to pull out of it. It's a bit addictive.

I have an idea for a graphic novel that would be a collaboration with my wife about art and marriage, but it's not quite ready to be talked about yet.

What are you reading right now?

I just finished Joe Brainard's I Remember, which just shot up to one of my favorite books of all time. I also recently read David Shields' Reality Hunger, which, despite the author, is a good book. I'm currently reading a biography of the poet Frank O'Hara called City Poet that my friend Jen Bekman recommended to me. So far so good.

Which 5 books would you save if your house was on fire?

If the house is on fire, I'm grabbing my wife and dog and going out the window. Forget the books.

But if I could save 5 books on my bookshelf from eternal damnation and hellfire obscurity:

1) Ed Emberley's Make A World Drawing Book

2) Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five

3) Everything by Lynda Barry, especially Cruddy, One! Hundred! Demons! and What It Is

4) Memories, Dreams, Reflections by Carl Jung

5) So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

What is your take on eBooks and eReaders, both as a writer and as a reader?

My biggest issue is the resolution and the graphics capability. The iPad is good enough that Newspaper Blackout could work on it, but it could never work on a Kindle.

The best part about eReaders is the instant access--one press of the button and you have what you want.

Personally, I'd rather have a bag of paperbacks and decorate the house with them.

What authors/novels/websites would you like to share with our audience?

You can get the best sense of what I like by checking out my Tumblr, which is where I post all the things I'm looking at / reading / listening to on the net:

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

So Many Books... So Little Time

My Old Friend

As I was out running errands in the chilly, dreary, rainy weather today, I drove past a very old friend. There my friend sat, up on the hill, rain dripping down the front of his face, beckoning me from up there. I felt awful as I drove past, barely acknowledging him like that, with the wipers swishing across my field of vision. But if I had looked, if I made eye contact with him, the urge to visit would've become unbearable. I would have crumpled and cringed under his blank, lonely, wet stare. I would have turned the car around and raced up that slippery hill!

I am ashamed to admit I have been ignoring his daily emails as well. I don't even open them anymore. I delete them, because I can't trust myself to read them. I am not a strong person. He tempts me with coupons, to come and visit. And sales, he is always having sales.

Oh, did I forget to mention that my old friend is a Borders Book Shop? Hee hee!

It's been over 6 months since I have stepped foot inside that store. We used to rendezvous once a week. I always swore to him that I would walk out with just one book. But his bookshelves would taunt me, flashing their new, fancy releases at me, trying to catch my eye.

It was a clean, hard break. I decided to stop visiting cold-turkey. However, books are not an easy thing to separate yourself from. See, my old addiction for buying books has now morphed. It's changed, evolved, into something else. Something that is, quite probably, even more out of control than my Borders shopping days ever were.

The New Addiction

I am addicted to galleys and ARC's now! I cannot stop myself from agreeing to work with publishers, and authors, and asking for copies of their novels to review. What started out as a fluke, a what-if, has now become an all out obsession. Every day, I send and receive emails about books. Which books I want, which books I'm reading, Which books I have waiting to be read... It's a disease.

The Line Up

If you don't believe me, take a peek at the books that I have waiting to be read at this very moment. Books I have not spent a dime on. Books that are eagerly waiting for me on my doorstep and in my mailbox when I get home. Books that I love and am dying to read right this very moment!

The titles and authors, in the order they will be read
(which was the order in which they were received):

Dear Everybody - Michael Kimball
Hot Springs - Geoffrey Becker
Call It What You Want - Keith Lee Morris
Mentor - Tom Grimes
Agaat - Marlene Van Niekerk
Them, The General is Asked His Opinion, Thin Snow - Omar Shapli
Ore - Christophe Casamassima
Almost Dead - Assaf Gavron
Lean on Pete - Willy Vlautin
The Embers - Hyatt Bass
The Secret Keepers - Mindy Friddle

The True Backlog

These should be the least of my worries, though. I mean, that amount of books? That's what, two... three months worth of reading, tops, right? What about the other 260-some odd books that I own that are sitting here unread? Oh yeah, you heard me correctly. I have close to 300 UNREAD books here, there, and everywhere in the house... When will I ever find the time?

I think I am beginning to feel like this poor sap!

The idea for this blog was brought about by reading the following blogs by The New Yorker's Book Bench, and Boof's Book Whisperer Blog.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Book Giveaway and Author Interview w/ Cynthia Roberts

TNBBC's 5th Book Giveaway!

Cynthia Roberts, author of the Historical Indian Romance novel "Wind Warrior" has generously sent me one signed copy to giveaway for review. In order to enter the contest, please comment here on why you would like a copy of the book. By commenting, you also promise to read and review the book. I will post winners review of the book here on my blog!

This contest is open internationally
And will end on May 31st!!

Let's get to know a bit more about Cynthia and her passion for reading and writing romance novels!

Who are some of your favorite authors? Do you read genres other than romance?

I am a true blue die-hard woman of romance. Some of my favorite authors are Jude Deveraux, Lisa Kleypas, Madeline Baker, Johanna Lindsey, Catherine Coulter, Nora Roberts to name a few.

When did you first start writing?

In the early 80's after my daughter Alyssa was born. I was such an avid reader one day it was like a light bulb went off in my head and I thought, "Heck ... I can do this!" So, I enrolled at my local community college for a series of creative writing classes and so the stories began.

What was the writing and publishing process like for you?

Writing for me is such an explicit joy. The words tend to flow straight from my finger tips, I swear. I was sooooo excited when the publishing process started. It was like one of those first timers in your life ... you know the ones ladies ... the first kiss, getting married, the first pregnancy. It was such an enjoyable experience. My editor Meghan Barnes was so much fun to work with and my Assist. Creative Director Brandon Wood who designed my cover did an outstanding job.

Are you a routine writer – do you have a specific time of day, or place, that you prefer to write?

I truly try and write every day to keep those creative juices flowing. I created a play list of 70 songs ... my pure romance collection from Michael Buble', Peabo Bryson, Lionel Richie, Brian McKnight, Andy Williams, Perry Como, Tony Bennett ... Can't write without my boys crooning to me.

I have a home office. I just can't get into laptops for some reason and I do love the fact that they're so portable. Even though I can type almost 100 w.p.m. once I get going, on those keyboards though, my fingers get all befuddled and I hit the wrong keys ... it's ugly. I invested in a good ergonomic keyboard for comfort and try to devote at least 20 hours a week to my projects.

What life experiences fuel(ed) your passion for writing?

The passion was sooo inherent I just had to. I mean, ever since a Crayola was placed in my hand, I jibbered on paper. Sadly, life just got in the way and it has taken until my more mature years (chuckle chuckle ) before it was time for me.

What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

Why reading romance novels, of course! :) And I do … seriously.

But I also love to spend time sucking the faces of my beautiful grandchildren ages 11 – 6 months Tyler, Ayden, Connor, Nicholas & Addison. I try and exercise every other day, take long walks when the weather allows (helps get those creative juices flowing)and cherish my closest and dearest friends.

Can you tell us a bit about how your Historical Indian Romance novel “Wind Warrior” came to be?

The first romance I ever read was a novel from Cassie Edward’s Savage series and instantly became hungry to read more. I tracked down every one of those babies; let me tell you, until I read them all. Every historical Indian romance I read from that point on was based on a Plains tribe. I wanted to focus on a tribe indigenous to my area and decided to write a series based on the five tribes that make up the Iroquois League of Nations.

Describe “Wind Warrior” in 5 words.

inspiring ~ captivating ~ emotionally raw ~ passionate

What is your take on eBooks and eReaders, as both an author and a reader?

Times are changing and we have to keep up with them. I mean e-books are an incredible added revenue stream for authors that also affords fans a more simplistic, flexible and portable means to enjoy reading. And, of course, I'm all about going green and saving trees.

What authors/novels/websites would you like our audience to check out?

My official author website is romanceauthorcynthiaroberts stop by and sign my guest book if you get the chance. I also started a blog almost two years ago especially for women of all ages called The Girlz Korner where they can read witty, entertaining and meaningful articles on topics of interest to us.

Cynthia is conducting a Wind Warrior Release Contest where she will be giving away (5) spectacular prizes. To enter, go to her website. Contest runs 6/15-6/30.

THE BOOK Giveaway Has Been Extended

TNBBC's 3rd Book Giveaway HAS BEEN EXTENDED!
Taking entries until May 31st!!

Great news everyone! This giveaway, which was made possible by M.Clifford, has been extended until May 31st!! Get you entries in for the chance to win one of two copies of this dystopian look at the future of censorship and government control in a digital age gone wild.

Please check the original post for the giveaway for the rules, and to submit your entry. Do not submit the entries here. Good luck everyone!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine

Read 5/13/10 - 5/15/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended
Pgs: 172

God. How good does it feel to discover you are not the only one who has no clue how to date! In "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine", Ben Tanzer introduces us to two completely fucked up twenty-somethings trying to hook up in the 1990's in New York City.

Jen is a girl who knows what she wants, but is unsure how to fight for it. Geoff is a guy who has no idea what he wants, and can't be bothered to fight for it. It's a recipe for a dating disaster.

This book was a flashback to those achey, unsure, 'what the heck is he thinking - is he thinking what I'm thinking - God, am I coming off too needy - Why does he seem so distant' moments.

Tanzer places us inside the heads of Jen and Geoff as they work their way through their relationship. It's actually kind of a relief, watching them struggle. It almost validated everything I had ever gone through in my dating years. The insecurity, the embarrassment, the fear of getting physical too soon, or not soon enough.

The conversations are what makes this story work. Geoff seeks out the advice of his best friend Paul, who spews his words of wisdom Yoda-style in the back alley of their office, and the "Coffee Pot Crew" who are constantly contradicting one another but somehow all end up asking Geoff the same questions "What do you want"?

Jen confides in her mother, who sees too much of the man she married in her daughters love interest, her best friend Rhonda, who intermittently dates Geoffs BFF Paul and a married man, and her sister, who she is insanely jealous of.

If you have ever wanted a front row seat to both sides of a dysfunctional romantic relationship, you cannot afford to pass up this book.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Map of True Places" Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to the 10 winners of the "Map of True Places" book giveaway.

Ashley, Jennifer, Sherry, Wendy, Bhumi, Sherrie, Julie, Les, Shoegal, Avisannschild will all be receiving a brand new copy of the book thanks to the ever generous Tavia at HarperCollins.

They have agreed to participate in a mini group read-along to be held at over at Goodreads in the TNBBC group sometime in June.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the book giveaway. Keep an eye here for more giveaways ... You never know what goodies will come your way!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Secret Lives of People in Love

Read 5/11/10 - 5/12/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommend

Thanks to the ever so wonderful employees at Harper Perennial for giving me the opportunity to review this collection of short stories.

The Secret Lives of People in Love is a quick read, coming in just shy of 200 pages. But do not allow it's length to underwhelm you. Simon Van Booy manages to squeeze an insane amount of love, loss, grief, and heartbreak into each and every one of his short stories.

A few that caught my heart and gave it a little tug:

The Reappearance of Strawberries walks in on a dying man in a hospital who requests a bowl of strawberries. Though he cannot eat them, he struggles to breathe in their scent. They remind him of his wife, and allow him to feel close to her in last moments.

In Some Bloom in Darkness , we meet Sabone - a railway station worker - who is hopelessly, obsessively in love with a mannequin.

Distant Ships tells the story of a man who has not spoken a word in over twenty years, grieving the loss of his son due to a fatal car accident.

And then there is Apples, the story of an old man who sneaks out to a vacant lot time and time again to plant apples trees to honor and remember his deceased daughter.

Van Booy understands what it is like to have loved and lost. He writes as though he has personally experienced and documented each of these moments in time. Calling out every detail - from the biting cold air, to the crunch of a shoe against the pavement - and chronicling every painful moment, he breathes unique life into each character.

A melancholy look into the heart of those who have lost a piece of what they held most dear... how they suffer, how they heal, and how they survive another day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Pain Killers

Read 5/4/10 - 5/11/10
2 Stars - Recommended Lightly

Oh boy. This one was kind of painful. Which perfectly fit the title. It's like it was telling me subconsciously "Don't read this novel without pain killers".

I haven't struggled with a novel like this in a long time. I kept waiting for it to hook me. I wanted it to hook me. It seemed like it was always on the verge of hooking me. Like an itch you can feel, back between the shoulder blades, but can't reach it in order to relieve it. It was poised, right on the edge, and just never seemed to take the plunge.

It's inability to hook me ended up frustrating me. I threatened to put it down and never pick it back up again unless it delivered soon. It just sat there, this bulky mass of pages and words that failed to give me what I wanted. And I just sat there, too, muttering more threats and curses under my breath, as I turned the pages again and again, waiting for it to WOW me. Waiting for it to hook me.

Then I began to beg it, and plead with it. Please, I whispered in a little voice, please just reach out and grab me. That's not too much to ask, is it? And still, the book just sat there. And still, I kept turning the pages.

I should have just dropped it, left it there on the bookshelf, with the bookmark holding the page I would never return to. I should have been strong. To teach it a lesson. To show it that I would not be taken advantage of. That it could not just sit there like that, teasing me like that, always remaining on the edge like that.

But it had me wrapped around it's massive wordy little finger. I was it's bitch. And it knew it. And it never fucking delivered.

Bet it's having the last laugh right now. While I sit here stewing over the 7 days I spent with the book that just would not deliver.

Book Giveaway - "Map Of True Places"

Welcome to TNBBC's 4th book giveaway!!!

This giveaway was made possible by Tavia at Harper Collins. She has allowed me the opportunity to give away 10 copies of Brunonia Barry's "The Map of True Places" for a mini group read. Brunonia is The New York Times bestselling author of the Lace Reader.

The rules are really quite simple:

- Be the first 10 commenters here and tell me why you would like a copy of Brunonia Barry's new book. Please be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you for your mailing address. The books will be shipped from Harper Collins. The books will only be shipped to US and Canada residents (sorry guys, not my decision!)

- The winners of The Map of True Places must agree to participate in a mini-group read held over at TNBBC on goodreads and discuss the novel there in a folder designated for the book - like we do for our monthly group reads.

This contest will remain open until I have received the tenth comment on my blog. So it could be over very quickly. Get going everyone!! And a very HUGE thank you to Tavia and the staff at Harper Collins for being so wonderfully, fanstically generous!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Book Giveaway - "The Book" by M. Clifford

Welcome to TNBBC's 3rd Book Giveaway!

This giveaway was made possible by self published author M.Clifford. His novel, The Book , placed in the top 250 of this year's Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest. An amazing accomplishment! And now two lucky people out there will have the opportunity to win a copy of this dystopian look at the future of censorship and government control in a digital age gone wild.

Here is the summary from
It begins,“Don’t read The Book.” All information is controlled by The Book, a digital reading device that exists in a paperless, dystopian future shockingly similar to our own. Among the many Book lovers, we find Holden, a simple sprinkler fitter content with his small life. Within his favorite story, he discovers an inconsistency between the digital version & a rare paper page, preserved as “recycled” wallpaper in his favorite Chicago bar, The Library. A quest for answers leads him to discover a secret library of books & the subtle, potent censorship of all written words. Alongside the like-minded readers of the Ex Libris, Holden dedicates himself to freeing the world from the grip of the Publishing House & overthrowing the Editors of The Book, saving the last printed words on earth. As the government’s capacity to outwit the minds of the public reveals itself, Holden is forced to accept that the only way to succeed may be to sacrifice the one thing they love more than life–books.

Michael Clifford and I are calling this the "Napkin Pitch" giveaway contest!
Michael is looking for ideas for a future novel.
The rules are simple:

In 300 words or less, post a comment here submitting an original story idea! The two best submissions will be chosen (There are two copies of THE BOOK to be given away!). Be sure to include your email address, so Michael and I can contact you if you are the winners. Michael will send the winners a letter of gratitude/authenticity for their idea and the nature in which he will expand on it. He will ALSO acknowledge the person's name and original story idea in the book once it is published!

If that's not enough to get you to put on your thinking caps, and send in a submission, I don't know what is?!?!?!

Please be sure to post the comment to this blog post, and remember to include your email address. Submissions that fail to follow the rules will be kicked out.

The giveaway contest begins today, and will end on Saturday May 15th.. so get those submissions is soon!

Best of luck to you all, and a gigantic THANK YOU to M.Clifford for allowing me this awesome opportunity! I cannot wait to see what you guys come up with!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Author Interview w/ Malena Watrous

TNBBCer's, meet Malena Watrous. Malena, meet the TNBBCer's.

Harper Perennial sent me a copy of "If You Follow Me", a book about a young english teacher who moved to Japan with her girlfriend to escape the death of her father.

I was quite taken by Malena's story, and was thrilled when Harper's told me she would be interested in doing an interview.

I want to thank her taking the time to answer the following questions, as I know she was quite busy this weekend!

Who was your role model growing up, and why?

As an only child, both of my parents were important role models for me. They were very different, and I admired and emulated different things in each of them. My mother is earnest and sincere, loving and moral--almost to a paralyzing extent. On the one hand, I saw from her example that having a strong moral code was important. I always admired her, and felt very secure in her love. On the other hand, she wouldn't even tell a white lie, and that drove me nuts when, for instance, I just wanted her to tell someone who'd called on the phone that I wasn't home. My father was much more of a moral relativist. He had a dark and irreverent sense of humor that I seem to have caught from him. (Is a sense of humor catching?) He never sheltered me from anything (taking me on surgical rounds when I was really young) and was more of a risk taker. Both of my parents instilled a love of stories in me. As a family, we'd go on camping trips where we'd rip a novel into pieces so that we could all be reading the same book at the same time.

Aside from them, I feel like I made role models out of characters in the books I pored over and loved, in particular the tragic but plucky orphan girls (ironic since I had two loving parents) like Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre.

Who are you most influenced by today?

Lately I have been influenced by a few of my favorite writers and writing teachers, Marilynne Robinson and Tobias Wolff, who have both stayed vital in their writing and in their teaching after decades of service to both crafts. I hope to follow their example, remaining energized and producing stronger work with the passing years. I am also inspired by people like Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida who give back to the community, especially in the work that they do with kids, in addition to writing. Our school system is so broken, that projects like their tutoring space really matter. For the past few years I've been juggling writing and teaching and raising a small child, but now that he's getting a bit older, I hope to broaden the range of what I'm doing.

What was the writing and publishing process like for you?

The first part--getting a good agent; selling the book--was challenging and stressful. I had a lot of advantages going into it. I'd gone to a good MFA program, placed short pieces fairly well, won a Stegner Fellowship and a Michener Prize for the manuscript. But it was still hard to find the right agent for the book, and then it was scary after she sent the book out, waiting to hear back and knowing that if no one wanted it, then this thing I'd worked on for almost a decade might never see the light of day. (I'd seen that happen to a friend with a novel that I loved, so I understood the real risk). However, once the book finally sold to my editor at Harper Perennial, I really enjoyed the rest of the process. Together we spent a year working on the novel, seeing it through three revisions, but I always felt like my editor and I shared a vision for what the book should look like in the end. While the changes weren't easy to make, I felt confident that they would result in a better book. Once it was revised, the next steps--from agreeing upon a cover to figuring out how to get the word out--were a lot of fun.

In what ways would you say that Marina, the main character in your novel “If You Follow Me”, is like you? In what ways does she differ?

We definitely share a contrarian nature, that is at odds with a competing desire to be liked. We both like (and are) odd balls. We both bristle against the pressure to conform, and sometimes against rules period, in a way that can be slightly childish. But I made her a bit more naive (especially about Japan) than I am or was. When I moved to Japan, I had a lot more knowledge of the country (and a better ability to speak at least some Japanese) than she did, but I wanted her to be in a heightened state of shock, more unprepared for what faced her there. She's also a quicker study. She is healing from her father's death in the book, and comes further in a year than I did.

How did you come up the title for the novel?

Ah, the title. I wanted the book to be called GOMI, or Garbage, but the powers that be had problems with that title because it is a foreign word that would mean little to most readers and because it means "Trash." For a while it was called Repeat After Me. Then, about nine months before the novel came out, another book by that title came out. So we went back to the drawing board. "Temporary People" was a consideration for a while. A friend of mine actually suggested "If You Follow Me," which had been the title of a short story that he wrote. It was incredibly generous of him to offer to let me use it, but because I hadn't thought of it myself, at first I was hesitant. But the more I thought about it, the more I liked its metaphorical connotations. I like titles that mean a lot of different things.

What book(s) are you reading now?

I just finished the new Jennifer Egan, for review. It's called A Visit From The Good Squad, and I loved it but can't say more until I write my review. I also just read and loved Victoria Patterson's linked collection, Drift. A friend of mine, Eric Puchner, wrote a wonderful novel called Model Home.

Which 5 books would you save if your house to were to catch fire, and why?

Are we talking five books that are all I'd have left to read for the rest of my life on a desert island? Because I don't have any special editions I'd want to save--I'm not that sentimental about the actual artifacts--except maybe the copy of my novel that I've used at every reading, which I'm superstitiously attached to. But if I could only have five books for the rest of my life, I'd bring the Riverside Shakespeare, because it's full of different plays and would never grow old. Proust, because I love the language but never have time to finish it. Chaucer's Canterbury Tales--I was a medieval lit major, and I still love those stories. I think I'd also bring the fairy tales of the Grimm's Brothers, to share with my son. And Jane Eyre. I can't help it. I never grow tired of that novel, and get something new from it every time I reread it.

What is your take on eBooks and eReaders, both as an author and a reader?

After hearing from many people who swear by their Kindles, I got one for my husband for Christmas, and after buying about three or four books and reading those, neither of us ever uses it. I find the reading experience flat, much less engrossing than I do reading a book on paper. I know that technically you "own" the book in a digital library of some kind, but it doesn't feel like it. That said, I can see how they make a lot of sense for people who travel a lot, or people (like my grandmother) who appreciate the ability to enlarge print size. As an author, I'm just happy to have people read my books, no matter if it's on paper or on a screen. There's so much talk about the death of the novel. If new technology helps keep it alive, I'm all for it. But I'll keep buying real books as long as I can.

If you could sit and chat with any author, dead or alive, who would you choose to talk to, and what would you say?

To be honest, I don't feel a great desire to talk to authors. If I love someone's book, then I often feel the illusion of knowing them--an illusion that actually meeting them shatters. I do like reading interviews with or essays by authors, but when I meet them face to face, I get tongue-tied.

Please be sure to check out Malena's website, and grab a copy of her book while you're at it!

Newspaper Blackout

Read 5/1/10 - 5/3/10
5 Stars - Highly Highly Recommended

So. This was one of those books I knew I had to get my hands on the moment I heard about it. And a big thank you goes out to author Austin Kleon for so wonderfully helping a copy find it's way to my doorstep.

I'm ashamed to admit that I broke my review rule for this collection. I placed it right on the top of the pile. I know I shouldn't have, but I just couldn't help myself. I started reading it in the car on the way to the chinese buffet the other night, to celebrate my son's 7th birthday. I locked myself in my car on my lunch breaks this weekend just to have a few minutes alone with it.

And now.

Emptiness. Sadness. Regret.

I wish I had waited. I wish I could have made it last longer. It's like taking the last bite of your favorite piece of cake - dripping with chocolate and caramel, moist and delicious - soooo good you can't help but finish it quickly. Though the whole time you are telling yourself to slow down and savour it. That you'll be sorry you didn't make it last.

Oh god, did I just call Austin's book moist and delicious?!?

It's really amazing to think that he created these poems almost by accident. Frustrated with writing, struggling with the process, Austin picked up a black marker and began to blackout sections of the newspaper, circling a few words here and there that caught his eye. And what words remained became poems. Posting them on his blog turned out to be just what he needed. People liked what they were seeing, wanted more, and word spread throughout the internet.

Four years after he created his first Blackout Poem, Austin Kleon became a published poet.

His collection is Strange. Beautiful. Breath-taking. Humorous. Witty. Creative.

There are themes that run throughout the book: Nakedness, monsters, bugs, wives, kings, captains, love, Texas.

Here is a taste of what you will find inside- (click the image to enlarge it)

Austin shares contest winners poems at the end of his book, and invites the reader to create their own blackout poems as well.

A very unique twist on a very old concept. Starting with a page full of words, and removing the ones he has no use for, Austin creates more than a poem. Every page he touches become a piece of art.

If you have not seen his work, please visit his blog, which he updates quite frequently, for sneak peeks of his work. He also refers throughout his book to A Humument by Tom Phillips, which I encourage you to check out as well.

Maybe one day I will find myself attempting to create my own blackout poem. In the meantime, I will get my fix from Kleon's blog, and see if I can't get my hands on a copy of A Humument.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Legend of a Suicide

Read 4/27/10 - 5/1/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommend (Specifically for the Novella "Sukkwan Island")

How I love the ladies at Harper Perennial for sending me a copy of "Legends of a Suicide". This is a book I may never have picked up on my own, so I am very thankful to them for the opportunity to review it.

David Vann's family has been surrounded by suicide. At a young age, his father took his own life, his step mother's parents died by murder/suicide, and his grandmother found her mother dead by self-hanging. David had a hard time accepting and believing in his fathers death. This novel, which he dedicates to his father, has allowed him to bring his dad back to life, momentarily, and given him the ability to finally say goodbye.

The back cover blurb really does not do the book justice at all. It states:
Semiautobiographical stories set largely in Alaska...follow Roy Fen from his birth on an island at the edge of the Bering Sea to his return thirty years later to confront the turbulent emotions and complex legacy of his father's suicide.

What it fails to tell is how absolutely twisted and confusing the stories can be. And how utterly raw and painful they can get. In a good way!

A collection of 5 short stories and one fairly long novella, Legends of a Suicide introduces us to the world of a young boy who is forced to witness his fathers slip into depression. Cheating, jumping from job to job, falling into and out of his son's life, we follow along through each story, mostly told from the boys point view.

"Ichthyology" recounts certain memories from the boys life; His birth; his sometimes unhealthy obsession with owning, and killing, fish (which tends to pop up in each story); his parents divorce; and working on a fishing boat with his father and uncle.

"Rhoda" introduces us to the boy's stepmother, and the relationship she and his father have.

"A Legend of Good Men" lists all the men his mother took up with after the divorce, in the order of their appearance.

"Kerchikan" outlines the boy's return to his hometown and the place of his father's death, in which he seeks out the very first woman his father cheated with.

"The Higher Blue" is more or less the epilogue, where the boy is thinking back on some good, and not so good, memories of his father.

The magic, however, is completely rolled up in Vann's novella "Sukkwan Island", which makes it's grand entrance smack in the middle of these short stories. It momentarily throws the reader for a loop, jumbling up the story sequence just a bit, contradicting what we had been told up to this point, taking you on a very different path... which had me so confused, that at one point, I reread quite a few pages to convince myself that I had read the story correctly.

It is heartbreaking, heartwrenching, beautiful, painful, and raw. Starting out with the point of view of the boy, who is forced to listen to his father's mental breakdown until he can no longer take it, it suddenly changes over to the point of view of the father, a broken and confused man, who is now forced to survive something no parent should ever have to live through.

Sukkwan Island makes this book worth reading. It could very well stand on it's own. It's brillantly written by a man who understands what it is like to lose someone you love, and that sometimes, no matter what you do, you may never be able to get over it.