Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Horror by Christopher Moore

I think my tags for this book in Library Thing say it all: Christmas, humor, fiction, Santa Claus, zombies

How can you not love any book that matches Santa Claus with zombies???

This is only the 2nd book I've read by Christopher Moore, but I have every one on my wish list on Amazon, and I can't wait to read them all. Moore is brilliant.

In this book, the Angel Raziel comes to Earth to perform a Christmas miracle and sort of flubs it up a bit. A little boy's wish that Santa, who he saw killed, be brought back to life. This, of course, leads to mayhem.

I particularly liked the fruit bat named Roberto.

Here is one of my favorite passages from the book:

Sour Nerds? Cinnamon Geeks? Or Gummy Boogers? Sam Applebaum's mom was picking out a "nice" reasonably priced Cabernet, and Sam was allowed one item of candy from the rack at Brine's Bait, Tackle, and Fine Wines. Of course the Boogers would last the longest, but they were all mundane green-apple finish, while the Nerds proffered a fruity variety and an impudent little top note of tang. Cinnamon Geeks had a rich nose and a bit of a bite up front, but their tiny certified-public-accountant shape betrayed their bourgeois origins.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

R.I.P. III Challenge

It's that time of year again, and I'm so excited! Carl V's challenges are so much fun! The R.I.P. II challenge last year was one of my first challenges, and while I didn't care for the one book I chose (House of Leaves), I did enjoy taking part. So here is my game plan.

I hope to read 4 books this year. I'm still up in the air about which pool to pick my books from - only ones I have at home or should I allow myself to branch out to the library? Since I work in a public library, I won't have any problem getting pretty much any book I want, so I think I'm going to make my list and let the randomizer do the rest of the work.

Here are the books I plan to choose from (subject to change).

From my own collection:

100 Cupboards
Billy Bones: A Tale from the Secrets Closet
Witch Child
Nature of Monsters

From the library:

The Sister
Heart-Shaped Box
The Bone Key
The Terror
Gil's All-Fright Diner
Mistress of the Art of Death
The Ghost Writer
World War Z
Anna's Book
Wicked Lovely

I noticed that there's no official short story portion of the challenge this year, which was one of my favorite (yet largely unsuccessful) parts of the challenge last year, so I'm going to create my own "short story sunday." I have several books in the house that fit this category this year: a couple of Neil Gaiman short story collections, John Connelly's Nocturnes, a Stephen King collection, and a dark faery story collection (Black Pearls).

I'm almost finished with The Stupidest Angel, which technically fits the challenge, but I'm going to be a purist and only count books I started after the challenge was announced. So I will dive into my first challenge book tomorrow, which will be Tithe.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Libraries

btt button

Inspired by Booksplease

Whether you usually read off of your own book pile or from the library shelves NOW, chances are you started off with trips to the library. (There’s no way my parents could otherwise have kept up with my book habit when I was 10.) So … What is your earliest memory of a library? Who took you? Do you have you any funny/odd memories of the library?

Well, since I'm a librarian, I couldn't pass up this question (even if it's a few days late).

My earliest library memory is browsing in the children's section when I was probably in kindergarten, maybe a little younger. I can remember my mom showing me
Madeline and Make Way for Ducklings. (Funny, until now, I wasn't sure if that was the same memory or maybe even a false memory, but seeing that they both start with MA, I think I'm probably remembering correctly.) I know for certain I was a regular at the library before then, since I have pictures to prove it. I also can clearly remember the chairs that were in the children section: they had a white wire frame with green fabric cushions. I can even remember how they felt.

Funny memories of the library? Hmmm...the only thing I can remember is when I was in maybe 4th or 5th grade, certainly after my mom and I had "the talk" (I got "the talk" when I was in 3rd grade after a 14-year-old classmate of my brother's got pregnant), I checked out some type of "how babies are made" book. The librarian in my small-time library asked, incredulously, "Does your mother know you're checking this out???" (such a bad library practice!) to which I calmly replied with something along the lines of "Oh, she doesn't care."

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

Unlike most of the reviews I've read (which I admit are few), I actually like Kite Runner better than this one. It's been a few years since I read that one, so I can't really pinpoint why this is, but there ya go. I think Kite Runner was more plot-driven, while A Thousand Splendid Suns was more character-driven, and while reading this one, I just kept waiting for something to happen.

That said, I really enjoyed this book. I thought Hosseini (a man, if you don't know), did a remarkable job writing as two separate women, with two separate voices. If you've read my blog long enough, you probably know I don't like to give away too much of the book in my "reviews," so I won't go into much detail here. If you don't much about this book, here's a brief synopsis. The book is set in Afghanistan and focuses on two main characters, Mariam and Laila, whose lives intersect. The book opens while one of the main characters, Mariam, is still a child, in the 1960s, but it covers the period from then up until almost-present-day. As you can imagine, the book is wrought with the horrors of the war-torn Middle East, and it isn't always easy to read. It is, however, a quick read and very well-written. I do highly recommend this one.

This book will fill the "T" title slot in the A-Z Challenge.

Friday, August 22, 2008

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff

I listened to How I Live Now on my commute this week, and I have to say it wasn't really my cup of tea. Parts of it reminded me a bit of Life As We Knew It, but I liked Life As We Knew It much better. The basic plot is that Daisy, a 15-year-old American girl, is sent to live with cousins in England, due to family problems at home. While she is in England, war breaks out, and she and her cousins have to survive. The book starts out pretty well, but it becomes bleaker and bleaker as it goes on. This is the nature of the story, not a flaw with the book. There were a couple of very violent scenes, which I find harder to deal with in an audiobook than in print, because in print you can sort of skim over them. Not so easy with audio. Another major theme in the book was Daisy's eating disorder, which while it was important (it is used as a plot device in a couple of places) I sort of felt that it was shoved in in places that weren't necessary. Overall, I just didn't care much for this book.

If you've reviewed this one, let me know in the comments, and I'll link to your review.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert

Don't assume by the length of time it took me to read this book that I didn't like it. I started it sometime last week and fully expected to finish it by the end of the week. However, life got in the way, and it took me almost a full week longer to finally get it read.

Moloka'i is the story of Rachel, a Hawaiian girl who develops leprosy at the age of seven and is sent to the island of Moloka'i which is the site of a leper colony. I was afraid the book would be depressing and bleak, but it really wasn't. I learned so much from this book. I wasn't aware that the Hawaiian people were (are?) very susceptible to developing leprosy and that there was such an epidemic of the disease. I loved this book - in fact, it makes my list of favorites. Don't be dissuaded by the subject matter - this is a lovely book.

Also reviewed by Stephanie.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

For the last (finally!) installment from Weekly Geeks a few weeks ago, here are the answers to your questions regarding Peter and the Starcatchers. But first, a quick story. At the Texas Library Association conference in April, I had the pleasure to hear Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson speak. I learned that the idea for this book came about when one of the authors (I can't remember which now...) was reading the Disney picture book version of Peter Pan to his daughter, and his daughter asked him how Peter learned to fly. This is his answer to that question. As you may know (and this will answer Dewey's question, "Is this the same Dave Barry that is the humor writer?"), Dave Barry is a humor columnist and book author, while Ridley Pearson writes thrillers. Whichever author it was had a dilemma in that he didn't know how to write this type of book, and he sought the help of his friend, the other author. (The authors, by the way, have played in a band which consists of such other authors as Stephen King and, if I remember correctly, Amy Tan.)

1. Was, Peter and the Starcatchers, worthwhile or would it have been better to leave the world of Peter Pan, alone?

The book was fun, and I think it is worthwhile, if you take it for the whimsy that it is.

2. Did you like what the authors did with the Peter Pan story in Peter and the Starcatchers?

In some ways yes, and in some ways no. It was kind of fun to hear a story of how Peter learned to fly and how Never Land came to be. But, and it's been years since I read the original, if I remember correctly, Barrie has part of a backstory in the original book about how Peter ended up on Never Land, and it's sort of annoying that this part of the story was ignored. The book by Barry and Pearson feels much more like an adaptation of the Disney Peter Pan story than the original novel by Barrie.

3. I am curious what an adult's take on Peter and the Starcatchers is?

I love children's and young adult books as much, in many cases, as I do adult books, so I'm not sure I'm the best person to answer this one! I found the book to be almost as fun as some of the other books directed toward the same audience (The Lightning Thief, for example), but there were some things that annoyed me about it. Some of the jokes were obvious or just plain dumb. And the typos (which I hear were fixed in later editions) were almost unbearable. Seriously, this book had the worst copy editing of any book I have ever read (and I am not exaggerating - even worse than unproofed ARC copies of books I've read). That was very distracting, and it might not have bothered a child as much as it did me.

4. As Dave Barry is a humor writer, is Peter and the Starcatchers a humor book?

Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson had an interesting approach to this book. Instead of alternating chapters, as is often the case in books written by two authors, each author wrote specific character portions. As such, Barry wrote the bits for the funnier characters, while Pearson wrote the bits for the more evil characters. This worked pretty well, as they each proofed each other's sections and collaborated a good deal. The book, as a whole, is not a humor book (there are, in fact, some quite dark parts), but Barry's humor does show up a bit in certain scenes.

Book giveaway winner from last week's Weekly Geeks

I only had two brave participants (Debi and Amanda) for this contest. Amanda, with 5 correct guesses, wins! Amanda, are you still interested in my copy of Becky? I can look and see what else I have to part with if you want, but I know you had expressed an interest in that one last month.

I will update my previous photo post with correct answers, if anyone is curious.

Surprisingly unproductive week

You would think that being on vacation for a week would yield good results in terms of reading, but, alas, no. I am still about 4 chapters away from finishing Moloka'i, and I start my new job tomorrow. I'm disappointed that I never even broke the cover of A Thousand Splendid Suns. I think I am going to return the copy I have and check one out from my new workplace once I finish Moloka'i, since that just makes more sense. I'm excited to be working in a public library again (and the big downtown one at that), with all the books I could ever want to read at my fingertips! This will, I'm sure, wreak havoc on my current reading habits...

Monday, August 4, 2008

July summary

July didn't feel very productive. Let's see what the totals look like.

Books completed:

Little Women (mostly read during June, but I finished it on July 4)
Peter and the Starcatchers (review still to day)
The Braid
The Icarus Girl
Julie & Julia
Wait for Me
The Innocent Traitor
Blackbird House

Challenge update:

The only challenge I'm really working on right now is the A-Z Challenge. I was able to count 4 of this month's books toward that. I've read 16 of 26 books for the title portion and 10 of 26 for the author section.

I suppose 8 books in one month isn't too shabby, after all. The past week or so, though, has just been torture. I started, I think, 4 books before finding one I could settle on. And a good one it is! I finally settled on Moloka'i by Alan Brennert, and it is excellent so far. I also just picked up A Thousand Splendid Suns from the library, and now I'm dying to get through Moloka'i so I can start that one! Considering we're looking at probably a direct hit from Tropical Storm Edouard tomorrow morning, I should get plenty of reading time tomorrow.

Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

Blackbird House is a collection of interconnected short stories, all centered around one home, built in the 1700s by a sailor who died at sea. I enjoyed this book mainly because I have this fascination with historical places and trying to imagine what they were like at different points in history. However, the book didn't just bowl me over. I want to like Alice Hoffman's writing - I feel like I'm missing something, though. I really disliked Ice Queen when I listened to it a while back, but keep hearing rave reviews of it. I very much enjoyed Incantation, though, which I read last fall. Some of the stories made me happy, content. But others just left me cold. The book was an interesting concept, and I suspect die-hard Hoffman fans will enjoy it, but it doesn't make my favorites list.

Wait for Me by An Na

I hate that I waited so long to review this book, as I'm not sure how well I'll remember it now. But still, I'm going to attempt it, using the questions I was asked as part of Weekly Geeks.

But first, since no one asked me this, here is a quick summary. Mina is a Korean-American girl, who, on the outside, appears to be the perfect daughter. She helps take care of her younger sister, who is hearing impaired (but not deaf), and she is a straight A student, with plans to go to Harvard. But Mina is hiding a secret - she has been altering her report cards to reflect higher grades than she actually is receiving, with the help of Jonathan, another Korean-American boy with whom she has grown up, and who her mother thinks is absolutely perfect. While helping at her parents' dry cleaning business, Mina meets Ysrael, an immigrant worker, and establishes a relationship that makes her uncomfortable about the life she is living.

1. Have you read any others by An Na? How would you say Wait for Me compares to her other books?

I haven't read any other of An Na's books, so I don't have a basis for comparison. I do know that her previous book, A Step from Heaven, was a Printz Award winner. As Wait for Me deals with a difficult topic, and one that is likely not far from the truth of many girls' situations (based on stories I hear from my husband, who is a high school teacher that teaches a large population of Asian students), I wouldn't be surprised to see this one win awards, either.

2. What country is An Na from? What are her books like?

An Na was born in Korea, but grew up in Southern California. As I mentioned before, this is the only Na book I have read, so I don't know if her first book has the same feel. Wait for Me was a very unhappy book. Mina is miserable at home, knows she is deceiving her mother (who greatly favors her over her sister), and knows that there is no way she will ever be able to get into Harvard with her grades. Once she meets Ysrael, she has to hide her friendship from her mother, who doesn't approve of Ysrael, because of his ethnicity. There was very little about this book that was upbeat.

3. In "Wait For Me" did An Na combine humour along with serious issues? The main character is Korean-American but I would like to know if her family pressured her to follow Korean tradition or was she free to embrace American tradition?

I don't remember any humor in Wait for Me at all. It was a very serious book, through-and-through. The second part of this question is difficult. Mina's family is very traditional and stereotypical. Her family owns a dry cleaning business, and they don't trust anyone outside of the family to staff the business, until Mina's father hurts his back and her mother grudgingly hires a Mexican immigrant, of whom she is terribly racist towards. Her mother expects her to be a perfect student and to go to a prestigious school (Harvard being the cream of the crop in her experience). I think this is her mother's vision of American tradition, but Mina is forced to abandon any activities that aren't beneficial to her college application. All her free time is spent studying, and the only activity she participates in is chorus. Mina has to sneak around to spend time with Ysrael. She certainly isn't allowed the freedome of a "typical" American teenager.

4. How was Point-of-View handled? Was there a single POV character or did it alternate among two or more. Was it always clear whose eyes and mind were filtering?

The book alternated between two characters. The parts where Mina was the focus were in first person. The other chapters focused on her sister, Suna. These chapters were written in third person. It was very clear when the POV changed.

5. How was language used to set tone and mood?

Mina's sections were generally angrier. Words like "snapped," "tirade," "shoving," were common.

6. Was the prose dense or spare? Were sentences generally simple or complex?

The sentences in Mina's section were longer, more complex. They sounded more mature than Suna's sections, which reflects the age difference between the two (about 5 years difference). The sentences in Suna's sections tended to be short and choppy.

This book fills the "N" author position in the A-Z challenge.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Weekly Geeks #13

It's meme time! This week we're doing a photo meme with an "author" theme. The idea is to answer the meme using pictures, but no names attached. You, my faithful readers, are to guess who the pictures are! I would like to give a prize for this to the person who gets the most correct, but I'm not sure what books I have up for grabs at the moment. So, for now, the plan is to offer a choice of several books to the winner, from which they can choose. However, I will give fair warning that I suck at making it to the post office and my saving grace for the past 3.5 years was that there was a post office in the hospital where I worked. Alas, my last day of work there was yesterday, so whoever wins will have to bear with me - I don't even know where my closest post office is currently! Leave your answers in the comments!

1. Photos of your favorite author(s).

Barbara Kingsolver

2. Photo(s) of the author(s) of the book(s) you’re currently reading.

Alan Brennert

Rick Riordan

3. Photo(s) of any author(s) you’ve met in person (even very briefly).

Libba Bray

Garth Nix

Graeme Base

4. A youtube of (an) author(s) you’ve heard speak.

Libba Bray

6. A photo of the author of the book you’ve most recently finished.

Alison Weir

7. Photos of the hottest author(s)!

Neil Gaiman