30 September 2012

Wrap-up the #bloggiesta!

Well, I didn't get near as many posts done as planned.  I had to go into the hospital and work most of Sunday (ugh) but I did clear out my backlog of movie posts, reminded myself that ages ago I had a post footer that I liked (and somehow forgot about) so I rounded that up, and finished my review post for Brazen Reads.

So not nearly as much done as last Bloggiesta, but it was nice to give myself "permission" to sit down and finish things for once.  You have no idea how hard that is some days.

Current book-in-progress: The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Current knitted item: Camellia shrug (halfway through second sleeve!)
Current movie obsession: MI-5 has been keeping me company all day.  Finished an entire season (or series, as the Brits put it).
Current iTunes loop: Imagine Dragons, Night Visions.  Love the opening song "Radioactive"

(nice footer, huh?)

28 September 2012

Bloggiesta September 2012: Ole!

So it's Bloggiesta time again!  Time to work on the blog! 

I'm a shade late to the party (thanks, work) but I really only have one project this Bloggiesta:

Last Bloggiesta I got TONS of stuff done, but no posts.  So I'll reverse that trend and write up some of my backlog of reviews (and a few for Brazen Reads to get ahead, hopefully). And drop in on a few mini-challenges (just lurking).


Stephanie Laurens: The Bastion Club (tail-end)

While reading The Lady Risks All (reviewed on Brazen Reads), I was introduced the Neville Roscoe, London's gambling king.  At the end, there were previews for the two previous Laurens books he appeared in: the seventh Bastion Club book and the conclusion to the Cobra quartet.  The Edge of Desire was on sale so I decided to check out the Bastion Club series.

The Bastion Club is a private gentlemen's club with an extremely exclusive clientele: aristocratic men who spent the entirety of the Napoleonic Wars behind enemy lines as spies.  They are all now rich and titled and the target of the matchmaking mamas of the ton - so the Bastion Club was born as their refuge (since the regular gentlemen's clubs like White's are filled with the mamas sons and husbands).  In The Edge of Desire, the last unmarried member of the Club, Christian Allardyce, Marquess of Dearne is summonded to help Lady Letitia Randall when her husband is discovered murdered and her brother accused of the deed.  Christian and Letitia were once lovers, and had vowed to marry when he returned to England after the war, but, for some reason, Letitia married Randall and broke Christian's heart.  As Christian investigates, and enlists is Bastion Club colleagues and enigmatic handler Dalziel to help, he finds that what he felt for Letitia never went away.  The more time he spends with her, the more he wants her.  He only has to discover two things: whether she still loves him and why the devil did she break her vow to wait.  The mystery gets a little complicated (and hair-raising like any good Laurens) but the romance of second-chances was very sweet.

I also discovered that the final Bastion Club book, Mastered by Love, was on sale, so decided to read that, too.  The hero is the mysterious Dalziel, spymaster, and in reality Royce Varisey, now the powerful Duke of Wolverstone (oh, ha! That's where Carling and Eliza wind up after being chased across half of England).  There's a lot of backstory/emotional baggage in this novel: unrequited love, marriages of convenience for centuries, family disappointment, paternal banishment, etc., etc., etc.  Minerva Chesterton was adopted by the Variseys when her parents died (she's some sort of cousin) and now serves as chatelaine - she is the one suffering unrequited love, having loved Royce for years.  The two fall in lust with each other, then something approximating love, and Royce has determined that he wants to marry her when they are caught having sex on the battlements by his sisters' houseguests.  There are some behind the scenes machinations in this book, mostly due to the presence of the mysterious Last Traitor.  I find that Royce is less "dangerous" in this book than the previous book, which is odd since he's the spymaster.  I did like seeing Devil in his pre-Honoria days as well as some other prominent Cynster characters.  I wasn't aware that Laurens had so much cross-over between series.

23 September 2012

Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores (mini-review)

Ya'll know I work in a bookstore.  You've seen my "'Tis the Season" posts.

Jen Campbell has a blog where she started posting up things customers said in her antiquarian bookshop (it reminds me of the conversation in Notting Hill where some customer keeps asking questions like "Do you have the new John Grisham?" or "Do you have Winnie-the-Pooh?" to which Hugh Grant always answers "Sorry, travel bookshop").

It got her a book deal: Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores.

You think stuff I posted was weird?  Check out some of her submissions.  I laughed so hard I almost peed myself.

And then I found out there was a volume two in the works and submitted a few tidbits of my own.

Update: Jen accepted one of my submissions!!  Look for More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookstores in April 2013!

20 September 2012

Much Ado About Loving

From Goodreads:
Ah, romantic happiness.You’d think finding it would be easier now than ever before, given all the options modern life allows us. Instead, it’s much harder—because there’s so much to figure out. And we feel such pressure to find someone perfect: soul mate, sexual dynamo, emotional stalwart, and best buddy all in one. And if we do beat the odds and manage to get into something steady, then a new batch of concerns arises—like how to go from a friendship-with-benefits to a full-fledged commitment, how to deal with his overbearing mother, or how to overcome problems in the sack. In our quest to reach romantic nirvana, we turn to self-help manuals, daytime TV, magazines, talk shows, friends, relatives, and shrinks. But we’ve forgotten a far better source of wisdom: the timeless stories written by the great novelists. Jane Austen was around long before Oprah—and though ladies in tight-laced corsets didn’t have to deal with Internet profiles or speed dating, they can help us better understand why first impressions shouldn’t necessarily be lasting (Sense and Sensibility) and why sometimes it’s okay to date bad boys ( Jane Eyre).

Daunted by how hard it would be to mine books like those for the best nuggets? Don’t be. The authors of Much Ado About Loving have done it for you, combining expert dating advice with lit crit as they discuss classics of literature. Avid readers and relationship gurus, Maura Kelly and Jack Murnighan have gone through as many romantic highs and lows as Bridget Jones and Don Juan combined. They’ve also stayed in plenty of nights, comforting themselves with great novels and learning a few lifetimes’ worth of lessons in the bargain. Trading off narration chapter by chapter, they explain the key romantic eurekas that more than thirty books have given them. Whether they’re talking about Moby-Dicks or why brides are prejudiced, each chapter will get you thinking—and keep you laughing all the way to a great relationship.
You don’t have to be a bookworm to learn about love from great novels. Jack Murnighan and Maura Kelly have done the reading for you. Their take on life’s greatest love lessons from literature’s most memorable characters will enlighten you about all sorts of questions, like:

* Why shouldn’t a relationship develop too much online before it enters the realm of reality? Love in the Time of Cholera was published long before Match.com went online, but it demonstrates the dangers of getting your hopes too high before you meet.
* Are you more excited about having a wedding than being married? Pride and Prejudice can help you take off those “champagne goggles” and get real.
* Is hanging out at bars your go-to move for meeting dates? Bright Lights, Big City shows why that’s no way to find a new relationship.
* Should you marry a man with a past? There are times when it’s the most principled thing you could do—and Jane Eyre can help you see why.
* Do you have a TMI problem? You should rein it in if you want romance to bloom—as Brothers Karamazov shows.
* Should you cross the political aisle for love? Howards End has the answer.
* Nobody who’s interested in you is ever good enough? Get over your intimacy issues with a look at The Bell Jar.
* Why do men talk so much, and why do women put up with it? Infinite Jest will tell you everything you need to know.

Whelp....I liked Much Ado About Loving but my expectations might have been rather high since I liked Murnighan's Beowulf on the Beach.  I probably would have liked it better from the outset had I NOT started it around Valentine's Day because it was too much advice for someone with a rather pathetic dating life. And I wasn't looking for a dating advice book.  Coming back to it in September was much better.

I like Murnighan's chapters more than Kelly's - probably because I LOVED Beowulf on the Beach and was looking for more of that.

So a good book, a decent read, but not as good as I expected.

18 September 2012

The Duke's Tattoo

Summary from Goodreads:

First comes revenge then comes love and marriage in The Duke’s Tattoo, a historical romance set in Regency England.

After being grievously wounded at Waterloo, Jeremy Maubrey returns from war to find his new life as the tenth Duke of Ainsworth painful, dull and full of obligations. That is, until he wakes to find himself indelibly decorated in a mortifying place and mocking manner.

Though he cannot recall much of the hellish night when he was abducted and tattooed, he cannot forget the waif-like villainess responsible or her haunting eyes. Ducal duties must wait till he finds the culprit and takes his revenge.

Miss Prudence Haversham, Bath’s only female apothecary, knows she has a problem. A big, broad shouldered problem. At least she will have, if the tenth Duke of Ainsworth ever discovers she is to blame for tattooing him. Unfortunately, she meant to have tattooed the previous Duke of Ainsworth, who tried to debauch her and disgraced her with his lies. Worse yet, she learns this duke is one of four infamously implacable cavalry officers known as ‘The Horsemen of the Apocalypse.’

No sooner has the vengeful duke traced his abductress to Bath, than Prudence Haversham overturns the duke’s every expectation and intention. In turn, the duke proves himself an honorable and surprisingly forgiving man who earns the wary apothecary’s love.

I generally shy away from self-published work - what I have read previously is spotty at best.

This book, though, is an entertaining, well-thought out start to a new Regency series - "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." Intrigued?  And it came recommended by Lady Wesley, on Goodreads, and she's has pretty good/similar taste to mine.

This first book finds Jeremy Maubrey, tenth Duke of Ainsworth, waking up after a night of, well, who knows - he can't quite remember what happened - to find that he has acquired a tattoo. In a rather sensitive location ("tup a lamprey?" has got to be a catchphrase somewhere). Miss Prudence Haversham has long harbored a grudge against the Duke of Ainsworth for ruining her reputation as a teenager. Not Jeremy, but his elder brother, Phillip. Prudence doesn't know that Phillip has died and when presented with the opportunity to revenge herself on the Duke, she does. Only to take a closer look later and realize she snared the wrong man. Jeremy seeks to take his revenge for his tattoo...we all know where this is heading - it's a romance novel!

I liked both our hero and heroine. Jeremy is a man unprepared to turn himself into a pink of the ton, being used to military life, and Prudence has found her own way - as a trained apothecary - in a society that is unforgiving to women who misstep. And they have the customary trust issues and "helpful" best friends.

I really only have two major quibbles with this book:
1) Prudence's odious brother and sister-in-law aren't very well-drawn. Therefore, I really didn't understand the motivation to essentially throw a teenage girl out of her brother's house. Prudence hints that the SIL doesn't like her, but we don't see much evidence of this.
2) The falling action drags on. Very few romance novels violate convention and fail to deliver the Happily Ever After (this is why On the Way to the Wedding delivered a heart-stopping scene before giving us the HEA - it actually seemed for about 10 pages that it wasn't going to happen). Sending Jem to London where he dithers there for several chapters followed by multiple scenes where Prudence refuses Jem's offer of marriage. Over and over. Needed a bit of tightening up.

That being said, it was as very entertaining and quick read. Best wishes to author Miranda Davis on the rest of the series!

16 September 2012

The Power of Habit

In my quest to become a more productive adult I decided to pick up Charles Duhigg's The Power of Habit.  I seem to have trouble forming/keeping good habits - good intentions are only a small part of the battle - so I thought this might be a book with some good ideas.

Well, sort-of.  Duhigg uses case studies and examples of corporate culture to demonstrate how habits have a cycle.  A cycle of cue --> routine --> reward --> [repeat] that is self-reinforcing.  A man with post-encephalitic brain damage so severe he has both retrograde and anterograde amnesia retained old habits of eating, taking a walk, and watching television; even though he couldn't create new memories the neuroscientists were able to train him to form new habits.  Target uses shopping data to analyze shopping habits and predict which coupons a customer would be likely to use (i.e. if a purchase shows onesies, a stroller, and a maternity top then the shopper is likely a pregnant woman and Target can send coupons for diapers) thereby getting the customer back into the store to buy more product.  The new CEO for Alcoa boosted productivity and profits by focusing on a single "keystone" habit - how worker injuries were handled (the cue loop for that one runs worker injury (cue) --> must be reported within 24 hrs (routine) --> get a promotion for using the system correctly (reward)).

Some of the examples don't fit so well.  The development and success of Febreeze is posited as the desire to have a clean-smelling house.  The chapter on Starbucks's career development programs is interesting but many of the notes say the program has been discontinued making the whole section less useful.  At the end of the book Duhigg tries to pull viral networking and the issue of biology vs. free will into the discussion but those last two chapters feel very tacked on.

The money chapters are Chapter 2 (The Craving Brain: How to Form New Habits) and Chapter 3 (The Golden Rule of Habit Change: Why Transformation Occurs) as well as the appendix which offers a readers' guide.  These sections go into depth using case-studies of people who have changed their habits.  One quite biting her nails.  Tony Dungy's training program is reviewed.  Brain imaging is discussed (surprise: the neural pathway for the "old" habit never goes away, the new is only overlaid which offers up one explaination why bad habits have tendency to come back).  The guide is nice in that it takes the habit loop evidence and lays it out very simply.  I haven't yet put it into practice (I have a really bad habit of always eating out and driving to work rather than cooking for myself and taking the bus) but the loop theory is good to keep in mind.

Of course, while I was reading The Power of Habit I was thinking about how to apply the habit loop to handwashing at work (even tweeted Eli about it).  For those of us in healthcare epidemiology, we sigh and grumble everytime we see the perennially abysmal hand-hygiene compliance numbers.  A lot of money is being thrown at the issue to study everything from high-tech sensor motes, immediate electronic feedback, and research assistants to watch HCWs wash their hands, to pizza parties, new antimicrobial handrubs, and focus groups.  The methods don't seem to stick, though.

In my own personal experience, it seems to come down to habit (if a physician or nurse claims poor education they ought to leave the profession).  And HCWs are experts at the habit of excuses for why they don't need to wash their hands.  I have stood and played the "what-if" game with nurses and doctors:
  • What if I only have to silence an alarm? (the alarm is in the patient's environment, use the handrub on the way in) 
  • What if I have a cup of ice for the patient?  (Since it's unlikely that you'll only put the cup down and leave, hit the handrub bottle on the way in and rub it in once you've put the cup down) 
  • What if I have to step out and grab some meds?  (You'll be touching the cart/PYXIS/patient) 
  • But I used the pumper bottle thirty seconds ago, why do I have to use it again on the way into see a patient?  (And you've touched the computer keyboard and the counter since then)
  • What if, what if, what if....
So how would the habit loop of cue --> routine --> reward work in this situation?  The cue and routine portion is very straightforward: when you enter or exit a room, don gloves, etc. per the WHO Five Moments guidelines that is the cue, the act of hand-washing is the routine.  So where's the reward? Perhaps the Alcoa situation is similar and hospitals needs to start recording individual HCWs' hand-hygiene rates; those HCWs with good rates get first pick of vacation days or that becomes part of the promotion package (I can hear the union complaining now).  Or perhaps, given that tying HH rates into career might seem "mean", a hospital could provide HCWs with HH>90% a voucher for a free meal or coffee one a month.  We could back it up and apply the reward to the students - the more a habit is "baked in" in nursing or medical school the more likely it is to be carried through into the post-graduate workplace.

15 September 2012

You can find me at Brazen Reads, too!

Thanks to the lovely Pam - who loves romances but really didn't have a place for them on her blog - the new blog Brazen Reads is up and running.

I'll be posting my romance reviews there and I will be focusing on historicals - Regency romances, for the most part.

My first post concerns Eloisa James's newest Fairy Tale, The Ugly Duchess.

Come join us!

14 September 2012

BBAW 2012 Day 5: Saying Goodbye

Friday's prompt:
what did you get out of this week? What will you take with you in the future? I liken it to the end of camp when you say goodbye and exchange addresses and promise to stay in touch!

BBAW is the number one reason why my Google Reader grows in size: I find new bloggers.  Each Bloggiesta I go through and clean out blogs that have (sadly) permanently ceased production...and each BBAW I add easily twice that number of new-to-me blogs. 

The kind comments of other bloggers always gives me a burst of blogging energy.  Since I've been in a slump and are quite behind the evergy is gratefully appreciated this year.  I intend to return the commenting favor - it might take me a few weeks to sift back through the Linkies but I will!

As always, many, many hugs and thanks to Amy for putting this all together and thinking up BBAW in the first place!  *mwah*

And now I leave you with the Muppets:

13 September 2012

The Ugly Duchess

Summary from Goodreads:
How can she dare to imagine he loves her... when all London calls her The Ugly Duchess?

Theodora Saxby is the last woman anyone expects the gorgeous James Ryburn, heir to the Duchy of Ashbrook, to marry. But after a romantic proposal before the prince himself, even practical Theo finds herself convinced of her soon-to-be duke's passion.

Still, the tabloids give the marriage six months.

Theo would have given it a lifetime... until she discovers that James desired not her heart, and certainly not her countenance, but her dowry. Society was shocked by their wedding; it's scandalized by their separation.

Now James faces the battle of his lifetime, convincing Theo that he loved the duckling who blossomed into the swan.

And Theo will quickly find that for a man with the soul of a pirate, All's Fair in Love — or War.

[Note: I am reconstituting some blog posts from another, now unfortunately non-functioning, blog for which I wrote romance reviews.  Some aren't very complete because I didn't save the full text but I wanted to get them onto this blog somehow on their original review dates.  Cheers and happy reading.]

A lovely new Fairy Tale from Eloisa James.  I didn't find the story quite as complete as that of Kate and Gabriel from A Kiss at Midnight - there's a great deal of set-up with James and Theo's history but I feel like the "Regency romance" aspect is missing a part of the reconciliation, like I get the odd feeling that the discussion of feelings and more-or-less-required knocking-boots scene got smushed together.  (And what about the locket?  Didn't Theo keep it?  Wouldn't she tell James?)

From a fairy tale perspective, though, The Ugly Duchess is darn near perfect. Both hero and heroine suffer through the separation (great use of psychology without banging us over the head with it in a pre-Freudian setting). And who wouldn't want the spouse whom they thought to be dead to reappear and, to boot, be naughty, dangerous, and hot? Very Princess Bride-like, loved it. I snivelled through the last three chapters.

BBAW 2012 Day 4: Book pimpin' @jasperfforde!

Thursdays prompt:
One of the best parts about book blogging is the exposure to books and authors you might never have heard of before. Pimp the book you think needs more recognition on this day. Get creative! Maybe share snippets from other bloggers who have reviewed it or make some fun art to get your message across.

Well, I didn't make anything but...

If I were really cool/talented/a GarageBand Wizard, I would have transformed JayZ's anthem about basically being a dude with lots of chicks in his music video into a sample about pimping good books, but I'm not.  Be we can all hum along making the necessary word replacements:  Book pimpin'...na na na naaah na-a nah...book pimpin'....

Moving on.

I am pimping out Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crimes series.  Now, I think most people have at least heard of his Thursday Next series, starting with The Eyre Affair.  It was his first published and longest series with the newest installment due out October 2 (I managed to lay hands on an ARC of The Woman Who Died Alot.  Squee!).  It's a pretty sci-fi/crazeballs/humor/crazeballs/book-geek series.  But Nursery Crime is hard-boiled mystery noir...with nursery rhyme characters.  Yeah, you heard that - nursery rhyme characters.  In the first book, The Big Over Easy, DI Jack Spratt - fresh off his very public failure to prosecute the Three Little Pigs for the disappearance of the Big Bad Wolf - is saddled with both a new partner, Mary Mary, and a new crime, the death of Humpty Dumpty.  Right away there are many motives and many inconsistencies - did HD fall, or was he pushed?  He was pretty depressed, did he jump?  He was also drunk, so perhaps it was an accident.  Something is very rotten in the city of Reading, England. 
Following Jack's success with Humpty Dumpty, he is presented with a double-whammy:  the homicidal Gingerbread Man escapes from his high-security prison (is he a cake or a cookie?) and investigative journalist Goldilocks is missing possibly murdered in the Three Bears' house...but there is evidence of a FOURTH BEAR!  And what is up with the goings on at SommeWorld?  Plus, he has to deal with the illegal dealing of honey by the ursine population.  And Mary goes on a date with Ashley, their Rhombosian co-worker (yup, he's an alien).  Will Jack survive to solve Goldie's disappearance or will the Gingerbread Man wreak his revenge? 
Could this get any better?  Fforde has a third book in the series planned, too - I believe it will center on the Great Tortise vs. Hare Race.  If you take my advice and read Nursery Crime - and Thursday Next - go on to the first volume in Shades of Grey, and the first volume of his YA series, The Last Dragonslayer, due out October 2 (if you are UK side, I believe the second book, The Song of the Quarkbeast, is out now with the last book, The Return of Shandar, planned for somtime this year still).

12 September 2012

BBAW 2012 Day 3: Blogging means to me....

Wednesday's prompt is very open-ended.  Amy asked:  What does book blogging mean to you?

Essentially, it means I can share my occasionally-articulate-but-sometimes-not opinions with a community of booklovers. 

We may not all have the same opinion.  We may not all have the same taste or genre preferences.  Some of us have a well-defined niche.  Some of us just read whatever we can get our hands on (*raises hand*).

But we all love to read and tell each other what we liked or found or dug out of the 50¢ bin at a yard sale and are fangirling (or boy-ing, depending on gender) about all over the Internetz.

And, from where I sit in the peanut gallery, the come-as-you-are mentality is wonderfully refreshing and inviting.

There's only one rule:  Don't be a jerk.

And if you are a jerk, beware: we book bloggers have sharp pitchforks lightning-fast response times.

Chaucer sez - yoo likes dis 'pooter too much, kitteh needs skritches!

11 September 2012

BBAW 2012 Day 2: An interview swap with Hannah of Word Lily!

The interview swap is one of the best parts of BBAW.  First, the anticipation - who do you get? - then the fun of coming up with questions.  This year I traded questions with Hannah, aka wordlily, which was a wonderful surprise - we already interact through Twitter and Ravelry (bet you can't guess what our handles are there, haha) so this was a great opportunity to get to know each other better.  My questions (and occasionally answers) are in the italics:

Since we're both knitters, I have to tell you that I'm massively jealous of your new studio (knitters always take time to admire The Stash).  Are you ever tempted to start your own fiber-y business?

My yarn room? Gee, thanks! Tempted? Yes. Will it happen any time soon? Likely not. I've been oh-so-close before, though, to starting my own fiber arts business. I'll be sure to let you know if I do, though, k? :p What about you?
(I would need to knit much, much faster!  I'm mostly a gift-producing/Christmas stocking-making mechanism right now - I love to give booties or a sweater wrapped with a stack of board books to welcome new babies.  I do knit on commission...so long as you don't need something right away!)

Who is your favorite knitting book author/publisher (I am extremely partial to Interweave and the Yarn Harlot myself)?

I'm not sure I can name an outright favorite, but Interweave is definitely up there. I'm pretty excited to see what Cooperative Press is doing these days, too. Authors, hm. I really do have trouble picking favorites of anything. I love the Yarn Harlot's blog, but alas I haven't read any of her books yet. I also like Mason-Dixon Knitting (and, and, and ...).

Congrats on your new bebe!  What are some favorite childhood books you look forward to sharing with your little guy?  And a lovely picture, thank you for letting me share it!

I honestly don't remember very many (if any) books from the years when my parents read to me (and they did). So I feel like I'm discovering books for these young ages for the first time! Which is fun, but a bit daunting, too. Any recommendations?
(My mother read nursery rhymes to us when we were little things - my older-younger brother did it with all three of his girls.  He knows all the verses to "Wynken, Blynken, and Nod" now!  I learned to read with Winnie-the-Pooh books and I still love them.  I love the board book versions of The Hungry Caterpillar, Guess How Much I Love You, and Each Peach Pear Plum - fun to read and hard to damage.  Being a bookseller and auntie means I've found new picture books, too.  The Skippyjon Jones and Splat Cat picture book series all get high marks from my nieces and No Matter What is a great book for moms and little kids.  Then I have to recommend Bats at the Library and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore to any booklover.  TFFBoMML was made into a beautiful Oscar-winning animated short film - it's available on YouTube.)

You've been very involved in the INSPYs for the last several years. Do you have any favorite nominees or winners that fall into the "must-read" category?

So many great books! A Star Curiously Singing by Kerry Nietz, City of Tranquil Light by Bo Caldwell, The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson, Passport through Darkness by Kimberly L. Smith, The Falling Away by T.L. Hines, The Reluctant Prophet by Nancy Rue, The Fences Between Us by Kirby Larson. Sorry, that's probably an overwhelmingly long list ...
(Nah, we're all booklovers here - we like lists.)

What's the best book you've read this year, and why?

The Hunger Games trilogy, because they're that good. Great story. How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, because the writing is brilliant, and it's heart-wrenching. The two Wodehouse books I've read this year, one because it was my first novel of his, and the other because it was my first of hopefully many encounters with Jeeves and Wooster. I'm not good at picking just one.
(How to Save a Life is on my TBR long list!)

What's been your most meaningful blogging experience?

Working on the INSPYs is probably the greatest blogging-related experience I've had. Although going to Hutchmoot and meeting My Friend Amy also qualifies as pretty great.
(Yay, meeting Amy!! I'd love to meet her someday, too.)

Stop by Hannah's blog for my answers to her questions!

10 September 2012

BBAW 2012 Day 1: Appreciate!

Monday's topic:
Appreciation! There are no awards this year, but it can still be hard to navigate the huge universe of book blogging. Share with your readers some of the blogs you enjoy reading daily and why.

My Google Reader overflows daily - thanks to book bloggers (easily the largest category in my GR, followed by knit bloggers in a close second, then photography blogs).  Just a few of my "always read" bloggers (Twitter handles, too):

Swapna:  S. Krishna's Books is such a professional, cohesive work - all Swapna's posts are similarly laid out, very easy to read, and easy to tell which books she recommends.  But even books she doesn't particuarly like are reviewed with courtesy, a standard to which we should all strive to achieve.  Plus, she reads faster than I do - much, much faster - so there's always a new review or two to read! (@skrishna)

Marie:  The Boston Bibliophile is fast becoming my go-to blog for literary fiction reviews, especially those books put out by small presses.  I found Melville House through Marie's blog (and helped save some penguins!).  She's a fellow bookseller, so we get to share a mutual joy in recommending books to customers. (@bostonbibliophil)

BookRiot:  Now, this one is a bit of a cheat since I get Rebecca and Jenn in one fell swoop as well as their personal blogs (The Book Lady's Blog and JennIRL, respectively) as well as Bookrageous.  They both do a good chunk of their writing here and I always, ALWAYS love to read their thoughts whether it's about a specific book (as in when Rebecca read 50 Shades of Grey so I didn't have to - here's Part 1 to get you started) or thoughts on book news of the day. (@RebeccaShinsky and @jennIRL)

Raych:  She always makes me laugh.  I think we have very similar tastes in humor but she's just that much funnier.  When she likes a book it is covered in caterpillars! As a visual bonus, her blog header features art created by her sister.  (@raychraych)

Pam:  I consider Pam to be the RiotGrrrl of book blogging.  She goes her own way.  If there's something hinky going down in books and publishing she'll let you know about it at Bookalicious.  She also created Bookalicious.org, a collaborative blog focusing on children's and YA books and is hard at work on Brazen Books, an upcoming romance review blog (to which I will contribute, hehe). (@bookaliciouspam)

Hannah:  Can't leave out my BBAW 2012 swap partner! We were both tickled pink to find ourselves paired up this year.  Hannah's had a busy year - new baby! - so not as many posts (which I am guilty of, too, but I have no cute baby on whom to focus my attention) but they are always heartfelt.  In addition, Hannah has been a major player in the INSPY awards. (@wordlily)

07 September 2012

Fables: Animal Farm (Fables #2)

After the tongue-in-cheek mystery that was Fables: Legends in Exile, I started reading the second volume, Animal Farm.

And it's about "Animal Farm" - the Farm where the non-human Fables live and is nominally overseen by Fable Town mayor Old King Cole but is actually self-administered.  When communication falls through (no one has seen or heard from the caretaker Weyland Smith), Snow White and Rose Red, still serving her community service sentence for faking her death as part of a moneymaking scheme or something, drive up to the Farm to check things out.  (Note: Bigby is forbidden to visit the Farm due to the whole "3 Little Pigs" incident.)  When the sisters arrive, they interrupt an odd meeting run by the pigs.  Come to find out, the Farm is beginning to feel like a prison, no matter how nice and comfortable it might appear to be, and revolution is brewing led by Goldilocks.  When Goldie's plans are discovered Snow goes on the run while Red appears to join the rebels.

Willingham throws in so many cameos by famous non-human book and fable characters: Shere Khan and Bagheera from Jungle Book, the Three Bears (Goldie is married to Baby Bear), many animals from Aesop's fables including Reynard the Fox.  There were a few panels where I just didn't know where to look.  There were so many characters present.

The ending was such a shocker -


- when Goldie shot Snow in the head I thought the series was really taking a left turn.  It did a bit but the exchanges between Snow, Bigby, and Red while she recovered illustrated why Snow didn't die.  Snow White is a popular fairy tale, helped out by Disney, and the power of the mundy's belief and knowledge kept her alive.  As Red points out, if Goldie had shot her she would have likely died because her story is now obscure.  Sad.

I appreciated the more serious tone in this volume and look forward to reading more.

06 September 2012

The Sandman, Vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

Book 3 in my introduction/re-introduction to graphic novels was Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes.  Now, I like Neil Gaiman both as a writer and as a human so I probably would have got to his Dream Lord graphic novels eventually.  Eventually. But the sale bumped him up on my reading list.

The premise is immediately eye-catching: A magician, attempting to capture Death in order to bargain for eternal life, ensnares her brother Dream instead.  The magician takes Dream's symbols of office (a helm, a bag of sand, a ruby) and imprisons him in a glass cage.  Without Dream to direct the Dreaming, people fall asleep for years.  Decades.  Seventy years (one of those people, Unity, is an important character for the rest of the series).  When Dream (also known popularly as Lord Morpheus) escapes he goes on a quest to recover his stolen possessions and exact vengeance on those who wronged him.

Wow. Just, wow.  I could not have predicted any part of the narrative.  Inventive, creative, beautiful, and creepy as hell. I loved how Gaiman pulled in other mythologies as Morpheus progresses on his quest - the representation of the three witches/Fates was fantastic.

was really surprised to see so much crossover with other DC characters (JLI, Arkham Asylum - I had to depend on introductions, notes, and a Wikipedia search to get all of them).  But the crossover also provided the final villain to stand against Morpheus.  The use of John Dee as a damaged man further deranged by the use of the Dream Lord's ruby provided an interesting counterpoint to the god-like and dispassionate Morpheus (and while we are on the topic of John Dee the "24 hour" chapter may have been the most disturbing thing I've read in ages; holy crap).

Although I couldn't get confirmation on this I still think Morpheus was deliberately drawn to look like Neil Gaiman himself. Can't wait to read more. 

PS: How many more volumes until I get to Death's book?  Great final chapter in "The Sound of Her Wings."

05 September 2012


So Alan Moore's Watchmen was my second choice for the DC Comics sale (see Fables: Legends in Exile post for reasons why).

A much better read on the second time around.  In fact, I don't even think I finished it the first time around (and I'll get to that in a few paragraphs).  I understand character motivations much better this time - I absolutely didn't get Rohrsach previously, and his need for the mask, but this time I sympathized with how his Rohrsach personae had come to be his preferred way of interacting with the world.

I also got the anti-superhero this time: the need for a dark, gritty world-in-1980s-Reaganomics/nuclear-crisis to have imperfect, mortal (with the exception of Dr. Manhattan, I'll get back to him in a bit) vigilantes to help protect the populace.  A Captain America just wouldn't work; maybe a Batman - especially the later issues with Arkham, etc where stuff is really nuts - but definitely not a Clark Kent.

Dr. Manhattan is such an interesting character.  Very distant, emotionless, but still manipulable (as evidenced by the reaction to his former associates who have all developed cancer).  Chapter IV: Watchmaker was my favorite out of the entire book.  Great art, a fantastic way of giving the reader Manhattan's backstory.  A masterstroke.

But Watchmen has some drawbacks.  The intervening storyline involving the kid, the comic book, and the newsstand was largely unnecessary.  Although the story commented on the plot, the characters just didn't grow on me.  Secondly...THE ENDING.  Seriously?  Giant squid/alien thing dropped on New York City?  That's the Grand Plan?  My belief suspension just hit its limit.

03 September 2012

Fables: Legends in Exile (Fables #1)

I never really got into graphic novels as a kid.  Eh, the snare guys in drumline (because if drumline consists of the "cool kids" in band, ergo the snare players are the kings) read Douglas Adams and Watchmen so I read those, too, since I wanted to be cool.

Douglas Adams was pretty good.  Watchmen made absolutely no sense to me.

I really wasn't into superheroes. I certainly knew about them and a little bit about the worlds from bits I read or overheard here and there but nothing really caught my interest.  So graphic novels were definitely a "blind spot" in my reading. 

Enter DC Comics and a Buy-2-Get-1-Free sale.  It included the Vertigo imprint which puts out graphic novel/comics series that friends had frequently recommended: Fables and Sandman.  So I poked through a few while on break one day and decided to pick up three books just to try on for size: Watchmen (because 30s-aged me should give it another shot given my 14yo-aged me's recollections - and I saw the movie thanks to a bored weekend and Netflix), Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes, and Fables: Legends in Exile

Fables: Legends in Exile caught my attention immediately.  I've been reading a fair number of deconstructed/reconstructed fairy tales (Robin McKinley, Eloisa James, etc) so Bill Willingham's choice to force all fairy tales to move to contemporary New York City, where they live anonymously among regular people, was very intriguing.

In the backstory, a mysterious force called the Adversary invaded the land of fairy tales.  The defeated princes, princesses, beasts, magical animals, and the occasional villain were forced into exile among the "mundys" of New York City.  Those who can pass for human live in the City, a good number in an apartment building on the Upper West Side (known among the residents as "Fable Town") under the mayorship of Old King Cole and deputy mayor Snow White (divorced from her cheating husband Prince Charming) with Bigby Wolf as sheriff.  Those who cannot pass as human live on the Farm in upstate New York.

Legends in Exile opens as Jack (who I can't decide is Jack Horner, Jack Jump Over the Candlestick, Jack and the Beanstalk, or some other Jack - maybe all of them) comes running to tell Snow White that her sister Rose Red has disappeared.  And her apartment is covered in blood.  Snow gets Bigby Wolf to investigate - and he does, with a nod to the flourishes of older detective fiction.

There's a lot of introduction to get through in this volume with so many characters.  Charming was not only married to Snow White, but cheated on her with Rose, then married Cinderella then Sleeping Beauty (or was it the other way around?).  Bluebeard puts in an appearance.  There's apparently an issue with the pigs up on the Farm.  Beast is having trouble staying human because Beauty is upset about something (probably money, since all the fable and fairy tale characters lost their wealth when they fled the Adversary). 

Fables in Exile was so much fun to read.  Willingham is clear that he makes comic books for grown-ups, with adult themes, and that I appreciated.  I've read a few reviews that state the rest of the series gets better from here on out - wow - so I'll definitely check out more Fables volumes.

My only problem is that I read very fast - probably too fast for a graphic novel - and sometimes I don't know where to look!  Sometimes the story is told in details within the art, not the dialogue, so I definitely need to alter my reading style for this type of book.