Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What He's Poised To Do Giveaway Winners!

And the winners of the giveaway are.....

Rachel from A Home Between the Pages and LiAnn from Sluethly.

They both wrote letters to fictional characters, which were submitted to and published by Harper Perennial on their Letters with Character promotional website. Congratulations Ladies, and I hope you enjoy the book!

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Case of the Missing Servant

Read 6/22/10 - 6/28/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

It's funny how things find a strange way of lining themselves up. A few months ago, I came across an ARC copy of this novel at a local library sale. I flipped through it, read the back cover, and thought it sounded interesting. Once I got home, I stacked it up on my bookshelf with the other books I purchased that day, and there it sat... Until I met Lucinda, who works with the authors literary agent, in NYC during the BEA.

She offered to have me host the author, Tarquin Hall, on TNBBC to discuss the novel (which is taking place all this week) and offered up 5 copies of the novel to get the discussion going!

So, of course, in order to participate in the Author Q&A, and drive some discussion, I pulled the book off of the bookshelf and began to read it.

The Case of the Missing Servant is - at it's heart - a true murder mystery. Taking place in Dehli, we met Vish Puri: India's Most Private Investigator. A portly, proud, and persistent undercover detective who will stop at nothing to uncover the truth of the disappearance of Mary, a maid servant who seemingly vanished in the middle of the night.

Using ancient espionage methods, Vish Puri enlists the help of spies like FaceCream, Tubelight, and Handbrake to investigate the situation. Little by little, the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together for our hero - leading the reader on what first appears to be a twisting, turning, seemingly endless wild goose chase.

Tarquin Hall has created a wonderfully humorous, light-hearted tale starring a very charismatic, if not slightly full of himself, lead character who certainly has earned the recognition and prestige that is showered upon him. Boasting about his numerous awards, his photo appearing on the cover of a popular magazine, and the many cases he has already solved, Vish Puri is quick to refuse help from his Mummy - who manages to perform some of her own undercover investigations throughout the novel as well.

Hall also does a fantastic job of pulling the reader into the storyline, of allowing us to get lost in the plot, and giving us just enough information to keep us guessing the whole way through.

What really made the book for me, in the end, was the authentic way in which Tarquin's characters spoke English. In conversation, it is quite common to hear the characters saying "The driver was doing reckless driving..." or "Don't do the sleeping." or "You want I should send someone with you?"

A real gem of a novel, a true taste of India, and a dynamic cast of characters.
This book is worth the read, and I hope if you enjoyed it, that you will check out the second novel of the series, which just released this past week, "The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing".

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Author Guest Post - Ben Tanzer

I'm very excited to bring you the following guest post by Ben Tanzer. Not because I was so very impressed with his eBook collection of short stories "Repetition Patterns" (although I really was). And not because he sent me two signed copies of "Most Likely You Go Your Way and I'll Go Mine" - one to review and one for a blog giveaway (although he totally did). And not because he was a great sport and agreed to let me interview him here (although he truly was). And not because he introduced me to GLBT author Collin Kelley (although he really did).

Ohhh, who am I kidding, it's for all of those reasons, and many more!! Ben is an out-and-out great guy. A hard working husband, father, author, and blogger who takes pride in everything he does. Even though his life must be as busy, crazy, and jam packed as Mr. Mom's, he always finds a way to make time for people like me - his fans!

After reading and reviewing his latest novel, which centered heavily around dating as a New Yorker in 1990, I threw this question out at Ben - "Why did you write this book? What was your own dating history?" - here was how he replied:

Dating: A Topic I Know Little About.... By Ben Tanzer

I have barely dated as an adult and whatever I was doing before getting where I am now, fourteen years and two little children into a marriage with someone I met as a teenager, probably had less to do with dating acumen, than meeting someone, or someone’s, sometimes sober, sometimes not, and getting as much action as possible, all the while trying to both hold on until things terribly imploded, and futilely avoid the inevitable tears and anguish, usually mine, though also those of whoever's mother I was refusing to let go off and borderline stalk, though back then we called it courting.

Wait, no we didn’t really call it courting, we just called it obsessive behavior, something I know a lot about.

Which is why I thought it would be fun to try and write a book about dating, because if we assume all new relationships are grounded in confusion, poor communication and working through whatever our compulsions are so we can hope to look normal and maybe even ultimately be loved, than I think I know enough about dating to write about it, especially when it allows me to riff on pop culture, New York City, sex, coping, friendship and the ripple effects of family dynamics across one’s lifetime, the things I obsess over any way.

And that is what Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mines grows out of, well that, and a woman I was once friends with who was getting married around the time I met her and when I asked her about how she and her husband met said "We dove right into it, we were in love, and that was it for me, and I thought for him, but of course, since he’s a guy, he backed out, got scared, crushed me, and then at some point we had to try and figure out if we could make it work despite all that."

I never forgot that conversation and when I finished my first novel Lucky Man, I thought what’s next, and I remembered that conversation, it had always been stuck in my brain and I started to wonder what it would look like for two people to fall fast and hard for each other, and then implode just as quickly, leaving them to decide at some point whether they want to try to piece whatever it was they once had back together again, and then if so, what that might look like?

It could probably look like a lot of things, but this is my version.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blogger Spotlight: Meet Ash

Hi everyone! I want to introduce you to Ash. She runs the literary book blog "Books From Bleh to Basically Amazing". She is a newbie to the blogging world, not quite a month old yet, and has landed two, count 'em, two giveaways from my blog!!

She has recently reviewed both of them - "The Map of True Places" by Brunonia Barry, and "The Book" by M. Clifford - and I wanted to share them with you, my fellow bloggers.

Of course, I should preface this by admitting my intentions here are two-pronged. First and Foremost, I want to spotlight Ash for remaining true to her word and reviewing the books she won here, as well as her gorgeous blog. At a close second, I am hoping this will entice other bloggers out there to submit entries in future contests and giveaways here!!

Back to Ash and her reviews --

She first reviewed "Map of True Places", which was a book she would not have normally picked up for herself. I want to share her review with you because I feel it outlines what a good, honest review should look like. While I am sorry that she wasn't thrilled with the book, Ash criticizes the book by using examples of the things she did not like, and yet did not let those things stand in the way of her appreciation for the story itself.

While I had NO DOUBT that she would love M. Clifford's "The Book", she wrote an extremely well thought out summary and spoke about the emotions his novel evoked in her. Ash warns readers not to "follow blindly. Question everything."

Many thanks to Ash for her interest in these books, and for sharing her reviews with us! And many thanks again to the people who made those books available for me to giveaway.

Who knows, you may be the next blogger to be spotlighted here! I look forward to seeing you around.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Read 6/9/10 - 6/22/10
3 stars - Recommended to readers familiar with the author or genre

I wasn't sure what to think when I decided to tackle this brick of a book at the beginning of the month, other than (1) It's not something I would normally read and (2) Oh Boy, this one is going to take awhile!

Tin House Books has been working hard promoting the pants off of this book, and rightly so. The author, South African native Marlene van Niekerk, creates the epic story of Milla - a 60+ year old white South African woman who is slowly dying of ALS - and her relationship with Agaat - her colored house servant turned personal nurse.

At the surface, we are witness to Milla's last days; unable to move or speak, forced to communicate solely with her eyes, and completely at the mercy of Agaat, her one and only care taker. Agaat, a woman who has spent her entire life working on Milla's farm as a house slave, fiercely independent, and knowledgeable of her patients every want or need, sometimes delivers them in humiliating and cruel ways.

As the story progresses, we discover that both Milla and Agaat's lives are weighed down with secrets. Milla was once married to a drunk abusive man. She had a son with him, a son whom Agaat reared and raised as if her very own. Dark and twisted things lye buried in their pasts.

Van Niekerk moves the story along, delving deeper and deeper into each of these women's past, by applying an interesting story-telling technique: switching the format 4 times within each chapter.

Each chapter begins with Milla in her current incapacitated state, where we, the reader, are plunged into her head, hearing her every thought, feeling her every need, suffering as she suffers.

It then changes into a 'second person' narrative, maintaining our connection to Milla by referring to us as Milla. The timeline moves back along Milla's past, outlining the struggles with her husband Jak, and her devotion to Agaat.

The third technique is typed out in italics, and appears to be a jumbled, unstructured series of memories. Written out with limited punctuation, Milla is communicating fleeting thoughts and feelings, as one would expect in a dream-like state.

The final switch returns us to Milla's past again, via her diary entries, which are marked by date.

Knowing that, due to it's size, Agaat was going to take me longer than usual to complete, I set up a Twitter hashtag in which I documented my progress as I read. I hadn't ever done anything like that before, and it was an interesting way to record my thoughts and feelings as I moved throughout the novel.

The deeper into the story I travelled, the more caught up I became in it. The author, skilled in the art of "keeping the reader waiting", teased me with just enough backstory... Led me further and further into the dark and layered pasts of Milla, Jak, their son Jakkie, and Agaat's lives... Showed me an inkling more of what was to come, and what had come to pass. I think the best way to describe it would be comparing it to a really great tv show, where the characters are all moving towards some great discovery, and right before they uncover it.... we get a commercial break!

There were some cringe worthy moments buried here and there. The entire novel takes place on Milla's farm, so I found myself sadly reading through a pretty graphic slaughter scene. And this one I should have seen coming - With Milla being completely paralyzed, I had the wonderful experience of reading about her bowel movements (yuck! ugh! bleck!).. and of her suffering horribly with an itch she cannot scratch that spreads throughout her entire body (oh itchy itchy, it made ME itchy!).

If this story had a moral attached to it, I would have to say "be careful what you teach people, and how you treat them"... because you never know how it will manifest itself later!

Though not a book I would have read on my own, it would appear I owe another thank you to the wonderful people of Tin House for sending it along with other review copies.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Men Read !?!?!

I do not know why this should surprise me.

All of my favorite authors are men.
And in order for them to write, they had to read, yes?
And have a love for reading, yes?

Yet for some reason, throughout most of my life, I struggled to find proof that men actually read. For fun. Without anyone forcing it on them. Because they wanted to. Because they enjoyed getting lost in the story.

I grew up around male non-readers. My father didn't read anything that wasn't printed on a page of the newspaper. My brother, at a young age, liked to have stories read to him, but did not want to read on his own. None of my boyfriends were readers, either. What a shame, that. I find men who read terribly sexy!!

My husband, god love him, when we first started dating, used to read Dungeons and Dragons novels. You know, those serial novels that came out (and still come out) by the millions - featuring dark elves, and dwarves, and trolls, and clerics? While I scoff at the subject matter, at least he was reading! Somewhere between there and here, he lost his taste for books, and doesn't seem to want it back.

So, I was determined to make readers out of my sons.

My oldest went along with it for quite awhile. We would read together every night, discussing what we had read, and how we visualized the characters and the landscapes that were described within the books. When I took him to the bookstore, he would come home with an armful of books he chose for himself. I should have known it was too good to be true.

I think it was about two years ago, as he approached his 10th birthday, when I began to notice that, while he was still asking me to buy him books, he wasn't exactly reading them anymore. I would ask him to grab the story we were in the middle of, and he would sigh, and say how he didn't want to read it anymore, didn't find it interesting, wanted to give reading a rest. Quite a few books were left half-read, with the bookmarks still holding our page. Or, I ended up reading it on my own to see how it ended.

I even tried to bribe him with money! 5 bucks for a book read cover to cover if he gave me a verbal report on it when he was done. 5 bucks to describe what the book was about, what he liked about it, and what he didn't. But he wouldn't bite.

My youngest son.. he is my last hope. He took to books as a baby, sitting in my lap, asking to have them read to him. As he learned to read, we went out and bought books that he could handle on his own. He will sometimes sit on the couch next to me as I read my current novel, with a pile of books, and read silently to himself. At the age of 7, he still enjoys bedtime stories.

How I long to be married to a man who will sit in bed beside me, reading a book. How badly I wish my 12 year old would beg to borrow my books when I finished them.

Until that happens, I will just have to content myself by reading enough books for all of them!

Perhaps this blog post would help? It's from Art of Manliness.com and it lists the 100 Must Read Books for Men - I love it just for it's gorgeous retro photos. Not to mention they list some excellent novels in there! Sure, the post is 2 years old, but these are books that will never go out of style!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Jose Saramago 1922 - 2010

My heart was whole. My heart has broken.

Today I mourn the loss of Jose Saramago.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

GrayWolf Press Author Book Tours for June/July

I have to share my love of GrayWolf Press! They have a great line up of authors who are touring to promote their books this summer season. So run out, grab a copy, and meet the author at the following readings:

(All book descriptions taken from Goodreads.com in some way, shape, or form)

First, we have Belle Boggs, author of Mattaponi Queen, which won the 2009 Bakeless Fiction Award. It's a short story collection that takes place on the Mattaponi Indian Reservation and in its surrounding counties. The stories in this linked collection detail the lives of rural men and women with stark realism and plainspoken humor.

Her tour dates are:
6/17 - Harvard Book Store, Cambridge Ma
6/21 - Barnes and Nobles, Ny
6/24 - The Virginia Shop, Richmond Va
7/6 - Fountain Bookstore, Richmond Va
7/7 - Twice Told Tales Bookshop, Gloucester Va
7/10 - Prince Books, Norfolk Va
7/15 Quail Ridge, Raleigh Nc
7/16 - Literary Bookpost, Salisbury Nc

Next we have Ander Monson, author of Vanishing Point: a provocative, witty series of essays that face down the idea of memoir, grappling with the lure of selfinterest and self-presentation.

His tour dates are:
6/20 - Northern Light Booksellers, Duluth Mn
7/15 - The Project Lounge, Madison Wi

Alyson Hagy has written a short story collection "Ghosts of Wyoming" - An unsentimental vision of the west, new and old, comes to life in this gritty collection that explores the hardscrabble lives and terrain of America’s least-populous state.

She will touring:
6/17 - Natrona County Library, Casper Wy
6/18 - Wind City Books, Casper Wy

Finally we have Tony Hoagland, author of "Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty" - An exhilarating set of new poems known for their fierce moral curiosity, their desire to name the truth, and their celebration of the resilience of human nature.

See him on tour:
6/23 - Bowery Poetry Club, Bowery Ny

Be sure to let us know if you stop in and meet the authors. Photos welcome!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Author Interview w/ Geoffrey Becker

This is Geoffrey Becker - Author of "Hot Springs" which I recently reviewed here on my blog. I had the pleasure of listening to him read from it back in April when I attended Baltimore's CityLit Festival.

Geoffrey has received the Drue Heinz Literature Prize for his 1995 short story collection "Dangerous Men". He also wrote the novel "Bluestown", as well as being published in Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and The Antioch Review.

He was kind enough to answer a few questions for me, enjoy!

What was the first story you ever had published? What was it like to see your work in print?

My first published story, "Big Grey," came out in West Branch, a literary magazine connected to Bucknell University. Seeing my work in print was very exciting for me. Unreal, too.

Which award for literature meant the most to you, and why?

My first big prize was the Nelson Algren Award from the Chicago Tribune. They flew me to Chicago, put me up at a nice hotel, there was a reading at a fancy venue with great food. I felt like I was at the Oscars.

Your novel “Hot Springs” deals with many issues: abandonment, entitlement, kidnapping, and insanity to name a few. Where did the idea for “Hot Springs” originate from?

Hot Springs grew out of a short story I'd written with the same name.

What was the writing and publishing process like?

It took a few years to complete the novel. It took another few to get it published. I did some re-writing (a lot, actually) along the way. My agent was very enthusiastic all along, even when it began to look like we'd never find the book a home. But we did, and I love Tin House. It's a wonderful press.

I recent sat in on your CityLit Festival reading of “Hot Springs”. What has touring been like for you? What venues do you have schedule in the near future?

I didn't do much of a tour, really. A few appearances in New York, one in Iowa, some locally. I do enjoy reading and talking to people about books (not just mine).

What authors do you enjoy reading?

I like so many authors. I hardly know where to start. I try to read widely, and with an open mind.

What book(s) are you currently reading?

I have a Carl Hiassen novel I've just started, an old one. It's hilarious.

If your house were to catch fire, which 5 books would you save?

If my house catches fire, I won't be worrying about saving books!

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

I haven't tried reading on an e-reader yet. I find the idea of them very attractive, partly because of how they can eliminate clutter. I guess maybe we can eventually integrate them into our lives, without giving up the pleasure of real books, which are so much more pleasant to interact with.

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

I'm not a Website afficionado. I already spend more time online than I'm comfortable with. I don't think a general reading recommendation works very well. Some books are right for certain people, wrong for others. I do think that the late Barry Hannah was a one-of-a-kind, and flew a little below the radar of the general reading public.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

HarperCollins Author Book Tours for June/July

Hi everyone! I am back again, whoring myself and my blog for my friends at HarperCollins. They have some great authors who are hitting the road to promote their new books. Grab yourself a copy and join the party -

(please note that the book descriptions have been taken from Goodreads.com)

First up we have Michael Perry and "Coop" - Alternately hilarious, tender, and as real as pigs in mud, suffused with a contemporary desire to reconnect with the earth, with neighbors, with meaning . . . and with chickens.

The tour dates are:
6/12 – Talking Leaves Books, Buffalo NY
6/13 – Lift Bridge Book Shop, Brockport NY
6/14- River’s End Books, Oswego NY
6/15 – Colgate Bookstore, Hamilton NY
6/16 – Oblong Books & Music, Rhinebeck NY
6/17 – Book House of Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany NY
6/18 – Northshire Bookstore, Manchester Center VT
6/19 – Toadstool Bookshop, Keene NH
6/22 – Gibson’s Bookstore, Concord NH
6/24 – Porter Square Books, Cambridge MA
Ben Greenman will be out promoting "What He's Poised To Do" - a collection of short stories that use letters and letter writing to investigate human connections.

The tour dates are:
6/13 – KGB Fiction Reading Series, New York NY
6/21 – Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn NY
6/23 – Loft Literary Center, Minneapolis MN
6/24 – City Lights Bookstore, San Francisco CA
6/30 – Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge MA

Minrose Gwin is still touring for "The Queen of Palmyra" - an unforgettable evocation of a time and a place in America—a nuanced, gripping story of race and identity.

She can be found here:
6/15 – Square Books, Oxford MS
6/16 – Lemuria Books, Jackson MS
6/18 – Octavia Books, New Orleans LA
6/26 – Page & Palette, Fairhope AL
7/8 – Bookworks, Albuequerue, NM
7/30 – Malaprops, Asheville NC

Simon Van Booy will be out drumming up support for "The Secret Lives of People In Love" (which I reviewed and loved) - In radiant prose he writes about the difficult choices we make in order to retain our humanity and about the redemptive power of love in a violent world.

His tour date is:
6/19 – Bookhampton, Southampton NY

Marcy Dermansky (whom I met at this years BEA) is promoting her new novel "Bad Marie" - the story of Marie: tall, voluptuous, beautiful, thirty years old, and fresh from six years in prison for being an accessory to murder and armed robbery.

Her tour dates are:
6/29 – Book Court, Brooklyn NY
6/30 – Harvard Bookstore, Cambridge MA

Emily Gray Tedrowe's novel "Commuters" is story about new found love and money, and the impact is has on loved ones.

The tour dates are:
6/29 – Book Court, Brooklyn NY
7/1 – Sandmeyer’s Bookstore, Chicago IL
7/17 – Womrath Bookshop, Bronxville NY

Last but not least, we have Tony O'Neill and his book "Sick City" - which revolves around two druggies, one sex tape, and a load of money.

He will be touring:
7/22 – Greenlight Bookstore, Brooklyn NY
7/27 – Noir at the Bar, Austin TX
7/28 – Skylight Books, Los Angeles CA
7/30 – Powell’s, Portland OR

Be sure to let us know which authors you go see, and what you think of their novels.
Pictures welcome!

Author Interview w/ Michael Kimball

It is my pleasure to introduce you, fellow TNBBCers, to author and documentarian Michael Kimball!

Michael Kimball’s third novel, DEAR EVERYBODY, is now in paperback in the US, UK, and Canada. The Believer calls it “a curatorial masterpiece.” Time Out New York calls the writing “stunning.” And the Los Angeles Times says the book is “funny and warm and sad and heartbreaking.”

His first two novels are THE WAY THE FAMILY GOT AWAY (2000) and HOW MUCH OF US THERE WAS (2005). His three novels have been translated (or are being translated) into many languages.

His work has been on NPR’s All Things Considered and in Vice, as well as The Guardian, Prairie Schooner, Post Road, Open City, Unsaid, and New York Tyrant. He is also responsible for Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard)—and two documentary films, I WILL SMASH YOU (2009) and 60 WRITERS/60 PLACES (2010).

I want to thank him for taking the time to answer the following questions, and for allowing us this brief glimpse into his head!

At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

It wasn’t until I was out of college that I started to take writing seriously, but it was many years and two novels before I actually started to identify as a writer.

Who were your influences? Which authors do you aspire to be like – if any?

I had a lot influences early on. The ones that still really stand out are William Faulkner, Gertrude Stein, Raymond Carver, Richard Brautigan, Lydia Davis, Michael Ondaatje. But I never aspired to be like any particular writer. I was always trying to be my own particular writer.

Of all the books you have written so far, which one was the easiest to write? Which one was the most difficult? Which are you most proud of?

In many ways, Dear Everybody was the easiest to write. The main character writing letters of apology to everybody he has ever known, that voice felt delivered to me. The Way the Family Got Away was easily the most difficult to write—in part because I really didn’t know what I was doing at that point. And I don’t know if proud is the right adjective, but How Much of Us There Was is the book that is most dear to me (and I’m excited that it’s coming out with Tyrant Books later this fall).

For the readers who haven’t seen your 510 readings yet, can you tell them a little about how it began, and how it works?

I started the 510 Readings (with Jen Michalski) because there wasn’t a fiction reading series in Baltimore. We hold it once a month at the Minas Gallery and there are 3-4 readers, each one getting 12 minutes. There are generally standing-room-only crowds and it’s been nice to see the sense of community that has built up around it.

I love your “Life Stories (on a postcard)” blog. How did you come up with that idea, and how do you choose who to spotlight?

My friend Adam Robinson was one of the curators for a performance art festival, the Transmodern in Baltimore, and he asked me if I wanted to participate. I asked him what he thought a writer could do as performance and we made some jokes about that. But then I suggested that I could write people’s life stories for them and then I remembered this bunch of postcards that I had just gotten in the mail. That's how the project started. The first postcard I wrote was for Bart O’Reilly, a painter, who quit art school in Dublin to work as an ice cream man in Ocean City, which is how he met the woman who became his wife. When I finished the postcard and looked up, a line had formed. For the rest of the night, I interviewed dozens of people, wrote each person’s life story, and then gave them the postcard. I did this for four hours straight without getting up out of the chair that I was sitting in. I don’t choose the people; I let the people choose the project. It’s important that they come to the project wanting to tell their life story. Now Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard) includes about 270 life stories (on postcards) and the one thing that I have learned so far is that everybody is amazing.

Can you tell us about your two documentaries “I Will Smash You” and “60 Writers/ 60 Places”?

In I Will Smash You, twenty different people each tell a personal story about an object and then destroy that object. A teenage girl destroys a papier-mâché version of her teacher's head to get the meanness out. A man smashes his procrastination with a cement block. Another man sings his grandfather’s favorite hymn and then swings a baseball bat at the song’s notes. And a woman smashes her car because it is cursed, etc.

60 Writers/60 Places is a film about writers and their writing occupying untraditional spaces, everyday life, everywhere. There is Blake Butler reading in a subway, Deb Olin Unferth in a Laundromat, Jamie Gaughran-Perez in a beauty salon, Tita Chico in a dressing room, Gary Lutz at the botantical gardens, Will Eno in a park, Tao Lin next to a hot dog cart, and Rick Moody on a baseball field. One of the ideas is that the writer and the writing go on no matter what is going on around them.

What is a typical day in your life like?

My days are pretty simple. I get up and work on my own stuff, then I take care of email and the blog. After that, I work on any editing work that I may have. After that, I often go on a mountain bike ride. After that, my wife and I make dinner, watch movies, play with the cats, read, etc.

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

I don’t own an e-reader. As close as I get to one is reading a lot of fiction online. But I’m old school. I like paper and ink. I like to fold the corners of pages down.

Which 5 books would save if your house were to catch fire?

The End of the Story by Lydia Davis, End Zone by Don DeLillo, Oulipo Compendium, Michael Ondaatje’s Coming Through Slaughter, and Will Eno’s The Flu Season—of course, the list is always changing.

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

I really liked Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask and I’m looking forward to new books from Will Eno, David Markson, Lydia Davis, Blake Butler, Amelia Gray, Deb Olin Unferth. I read blogs like Htmlgiant and Big Other every day—a great way to keep up with all the great indies putting out new fiction.

Thanks again Michael - and *gasp* he dog-ears his books. Breathe, Lori, breathe... it will be alright. Everything is ok... No need to freak out... breathe....

I encourage everyone to check out Michael's novel Dear Everybody!!

Call It What You Want

Read 6/3/10 - 6/9/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

"Call It What You Want" is another in a long line of short story collections that I have found myself reading this year. I suppose you could say this is the year of "Unintentionally Reading Short Stories".

This particular book was sent to me from Tin House Books when I requested a copy of "Hot Springs", and the description on the inside flap intrigued me.

One of things I enjoy most about short stories collections is discovering the ways in which they are linked to one another. Some feature characters that pass in and out of each story, demonstrating the thin strings that connect people subconsciously to one another. Others all take place in the same town or state, perhaps over the years, highlighting similar backgrounds, a familiar stage on which different characters perform.

In the case of "Call It What You Want", Keith Lee Morris connects his stories on a more emotional level. Each tale introduces to us to a character who is struggling with some sort of inner demon or desperation, struggling to keep themselves together, suffering from a painful wound that they are unable to allow to heal.

His stories are filled with sadness and disappointment, frustration and failure. And most of them leave a lasting impression on the reader, long after the story has been told. The characters tell their stories in such memorable, tangible ways that it makes them difficult to shake.

There are quite a few that are still rolling around inside my head, haunting me.

Camel Light shows how an accidental discovery can bring a persons world crashing down around them. A man, who has the house to himself for an hour or so, is determined to sit on the couch and relax. Before he gets too comfortable, he discovers a lone unlit cigarette lying under his dishwasher. The mystery of this lone unlit cigarette initiates thoughts of his wife or kids sneaking a smoke, to a possible broken appliance that he was unaware was repaired, to infidelity, which slowly drives him to the brink of insanity.

What I Want From You is a heatbreaking tale of a mother and wife who fights to keep her sanity after both her oldest son and husband die, leaving her to raise her youngest son on her own. In the midst of battling severe depression, she now finds herself dealing with the death of a tail-less squirrel who has become a part of their family.

In Visitation a young man returns home after attending a church service during which his mother strangely passes away to discover someone has broken into his home. This young man goes from victim to victor back to victim again in the matter of a few minutes.

A Desert Island Romance was probably one of the more humorous stories, in which two strangers find themselves washed up on an uninhabited island. It details how these two people fall in love, begin to reminisce about life off the island, and how one of them eventually begins to believe the imagined life has become reality.

Morris chose to end the collection with a story called The Culvert, which was the perfect way to end his book. In this story, we find a town facing a flash flood, and a family who realizes that their oldest son is not at home. The father searches everywhere, shouting for his son, as the water rises and invades his home, forcing him to give up and wait for the water to clear. It's a story about refusing to accept reality, and continuing to search for what you cannot live without.

Though the author uses words to tell his story, I saw the characters and situations come to life in my head. He has this uncanny way of creating visual stories.

A collection I am glad to have read. One that I may not have found on my own. So a big thank you to the people at Tin House for sending it my way!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Giveaway - "What He's Poised To Do"

TNBBC's 8th book Giveaway!
***Updated Rules***
Contest ends June 28th

Back in May, HarperPerennial posted a blog to promote Ben Greenman's upcoming release "What He's Poised To Do" - a collection of short stories that use letters and letter writing to investigate human connection and disconnection.

The blog is called Letters With Character: An Interactive Literary Environment" - and they are inviting readers to celebrate the art of correspondence by writing a letter to a famous fictional character.

According to their blog rules: the letters can be funny, sad, demanding, fanciful, declarative, or trivial. They can be about a novel, a short story, or a children’s book, works both literary or popular. There is only one requirement: They must be written by a real person and must also address an unreal one. The best, strangest, interesting, and most moving letters will be posted on LettersWithCharacter.Blogspot.Com

I absolutely love this idea, and want to tie their efforts into a 5 book giveaway here on this blog.

In order to win a copy of this novel:

(1) You must submit a letter to a fictional character to HarperPerennial at the following email address: LettersWithCharacter@gmail.com.

(2) Post a copy of that letter here in the comments section. Be sure to include the author and title of the novel your character was from, as well as your email address (so I can notify you if you are a winner).

(3) You must be a resident of the US or Canada to participate (sorry, guys, the copies are coming from the publisher!).

(4) Anyone can submit entries!!!

The giveaway copies will be awarded to the most creative entry letters. The letters can be as short as a few sentences, and as long as a few paragraphs.

Have fun, and good luck!! I look forward to seeing which fictional characters you choose to write to!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I'm a Book Whore For....

Welcome to a brand new blog series in which I shamelessly (virtually) whore myself for books, authors, and publishers.

I haven't decided if this will be a weekly event, or an 'as the mood strikes me' event. In either case, I promise to share my undying love and unshakable desires for all things literature with you, my fellow readers.

For it's debut blog post, I wish to celebrate my Book Whoredom of Nobel-laureate Portuguese novelist, playwright and journalist

How the Whoredom Started

I fell in love with José when I stumbled across his novel Blindness in a Borders book store quite a few years ago. The cover for Blindness was on display in the shelf, facing outward at me, almost daring me to pick it up with it blinding white cover. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Why I think he is worthy of Whoring

His writing never ceases to amaze me. It's haunting. It's cerebral. It's stream of consciousness. It's allegorical.

As much as I adore Jose Saramago, and whore his books, I understand that he may not be for everyone. For starters, he writes in his original language of Porteguese, and it sometimes takes years for his work to become translated for American consumption.

His writing style is unique and can be off-putting for readers who prefer the strict rules of syntax and grammar. Saramago does not use quotation marks to identify when his characters are speaking, nor does he note which character is speaking, causing the easily confused reader to backtrack and reread pages at a time to track conversations or determine if the words were even spoken aloud. His paragraphs can run for many pages, and include insane amounts of run-on sentences, which can flow for up to 10 lines at a time.

What THEY say

There have been whispers that it is Saramago's translators who are recklessly tampering with his sentence structures, but I strongly disagree. There is a certain poetry and flow to his words, an intentional chaotic stream-of-consciousness that is breath taking and intense.

People have called his style a "gimmick", a way of hooking readers into purchasing more of his work, which could not be further from the truth. I find that the people who believe this have only read the novel Blindness. They assume the writing style is limited to that novel because it lent itself to the confused anxiety of the story so well.

What I say

Dear readers, do not let these things put you off. I do not want to you miss the beauty and passion that is found within his pages. I want you to experience his stories and writing for yourselves, and I believe Blindness is the perfect introduction, which still remains my favorite of all his translated novels to date.

I wouldn't be surprised if you end up standing next me in the future whoring his books as well!

Also take a close look at The Cave - which tells the story of Cipriano, a humble potter who makes his living selling his goods to the people of the Center - a dark, suspicious place that is hiding a terrible secret. I wouldn't forget to pick up Death With Interruptions while you're at it - A fantastical look at what would happen if Death decided to stop doing what it does.

But don't stop there! You must also read All the Names - in which a clerk at the Central Registry comes across a card for an unknown woman, and becomes obsessed with hunting her down and collecting as much information as he can about her. and Seeing - the somewhat sequel to Blindness, in which we find ourselves in the same town, where something strange is taking place with the political ballots.

Ok, I think I have rambled enough.

Who or what are you a book whore for?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Next Best Book... Could Be One of These

So, I was sitting here thinking (when I know I should be reading...) about the name and subtitle of my blog "The Next Best Book Blog - my unending search for the next best book".

While I know that some of you are members of my TNBBC Goodreads group, I realize that many of you may not be familiar with why I created it. I needed a place where I could talk to other book lovers about my inability to stop searching for the next best book. I wanted to see what other people were reading, and purchasing. I wanted to know what books I was missing or overlooking or underestimating. I wanted to know what everyone thought was their next best book.

Three years later, and my search still continues. I honestly don't think my search will ever end. It's impossible to stop anticipating which book I will gush about next. That I would next whore myself for.

Some of my past "Next Best Books" were:

Blindness by Jose Saramago
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
Banned for Life by D.R. Haney
The Book by Michael Clifford

Now - I think it's time that I start sharing my search for the next best book here, with you, fellow book lovers and blog followers.

The only criteria I have for the next best book is that it must be one I currently own, and one that I plan on reading fairly soon (within the next two months or so). As I prioritize ARC/Review copies, which I read in the order I receive them, it is quite easy for me to narrow down the search for my potential next best book. If it weren't for that rule, which I follow quite strictly, I would be lost in the sea of my to-be-read piles, totaling an embarrassing 300+ books at the moment.

So, gentle readers.... which book shall be christened The Next Best Book? Of my current To Be Read pile - These are the books I am most excited to read:

Agaat by Marlene Van Niekerk
This is a review copy that was mailed to me by Tin House Books along with the copy of Hot Springs that I had requested. The blurb explains it as a story of love and family loyalty written in haunting, lyrical prose. The few reviews I see are positive, and Tin House is really promoting the heck out of it. I can't wait to see how it holds up.

Almost Dead by Assaf Gavron
Goodreads says it's politically incorrect, provocative, and steeped in wit and irony, a fast-paced tragicomedy about the perfectly ordinary madness in today's Middle East. I requested this one from HarperCollins for a few reasons. I'm expecting something big with this one. Though it released in April, it has very few reviews. I would like to change that.

Your Presence is Requested at Suvanto by Maile Chapman
This one came highly recommended from Marisa at GrayWolf Press. When I read this blurb -A brilliant and unnerving debut novel about the mysteriously ill patients at a remote hospital in Finland- I knew I couldn't pass it up. This could be really really good!

Kapitoil by Teddy Wayne
I met Teddy Wayne at the Book Blogger Convention pre-meet up not too long ago. He recognized the name of my blog, and I recognized the contest that HarperCollins was hosting to promote his novel. Of course, I had requested a copy prior to meeting him, however I want to read it even more now!!

Finny by Justin Kramon
Justin is another author that I had the pleasure of meeting at the Book Blogger Convention Pre-meet up. Once I heard about his new novel, which is described as a sweeping, enchanting voyage, an insightful story about a young woman’s complicated path to adulthood, I couldn't help but want to read it. So I shamelessly asked for a copy.

Will any of these become the next best book?

Stay tuned to my blog to see what I think of them as they are reviewed!

Which books are you hoping will become YOUR next best book? Comment here and share the books that you currently own, that you are planning on reading soon, that you are excited to start, and think may become the next best book that you have ever read!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hot Springs

Read 5/31/10 - 6/3/10
4 Stars - Strongly Recommended

When I attended the CityLit Festival in Baltimore a few months back, I was lucky enough to attend Michael Kimball's 510 Readings. At that session, I listened as Geoffery Becker read the prologue to Hot Springs, which released in February 2010 under Tin House Books.

The book opens as a flashback in which we are introduced to a young Bernice, who obsesses over the mental stability of her mother. There's a pretty curious incident in which her mother dons running shoes, and literally nothing else, and proceeds to jog around her neighborhood block.

Fast forward quite a few years to Bernice as an adult, kidnapping Emily, the 5 year old daughter she had given up for adoption. And all the chaos and craziness that follows them across the country.

Becker did a great job of fleshing out Bernice, who is obviously unstable (like her mother), and though I am unsure what caused Bernice to decide to steal her daughter from the couple that Bernice willingly released her to, I was hooked and had to know how the story would end.

It was an interesting roller coaster of a ride. I found very little to like in any of the characters, yet, like a train wreck or a car crash, I simply could not avert my eyes. Bernice and her boyfriend were the epitome of unhealthy relationships. Emily was the strangest 5 year old child I have ever known ( read about ). And Emily's adoptive parents were certainly cringe-worthy in their own special ways.

Yet Becker managed to balance them against each other, and pulled off an amazing novel that demonstrates what it's like to fight for what you want and force yourself to finally let go.

A huge thank you to Tin House Books for sending me this novel upon my request.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Second Coming Giveaway Winners

And the winners of the 10 free downloads of The Second Coming are:

Hannah Marie, Cyn Hyde, Bonnie, Oshkoshonthewater, Caroline, Rhonda, Anonymous, Amanda, The Saint, and Jen!

Congratulations to all the winners!

In accepting the free download, they are agreeing to participate in David H Burton's group read that is being held during the months of June and July over at the Fantasy Book Club on goodreads. They will be contacted via email shortly.

Hip Hip Horray! Hip Hip Horray!

I Won a Blog Award

Bibliophiliac has just awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award!!!

According to the rules, I'm supposed to share seven things about myself, then pass the award on to fifteen blogs I've recently discovered. Gosh, What to share, what to share!!

1- I'm addicted to chapstick!
2- I am terrified of spiders.
3- I work as a Learning and Development specialist for a major off price retail company.
4- I recently attended The Book Expo and Book Blogger Convention in NYC.
5- That was the first time I had ever driven to the city on my own (I'm so proud!)
6- My favorite authors are Jules Verne, Jose Saramago, Cormac McCarthy, and Glen Duncan.
7- I run a really great book group over at Goodreads. Maybe you have heard of it? TNBBC!!!

I would like to share this award with the following blogs:

The Book Whisperer
Mandy the Bookworm
Heather's Lost Books Challenge

She Reads and Reads
A Home Between the Pages
Books I Done Read
Well Read Reviews
The Introverted Reader
Good Books & Good Wine

Here are some new bloggers that I think we should keep an eye on. While they may be a bit too green around the gills to be considered "Versatile", I would like the honor of acknowledging their hard work and effort this far:

The Allure of Books
The Book Coop
Escapism through Books
Consumed By Books