Happy Memorial Day!

Memorial Day means summer, right? Yes, of course, it also means remembering those who have fought for our country; I work for a military history publisher, I haven't forgotten that. But more immediately, it also means barbeques, cookouts, beer, beaches, flip flops, bathing suits, etc.

So... Happy Summer! Any great summer reads lined up? I'm looking forward to The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno and The Passage myself. I'm also learning to sail this summer - my dad is in the midst of planning his retirement onto a sailboat, so I figured it was time to learn - so I have The Complete Sailor in my to-read stack in the first weeks of summer as well.

But for now, I'm off to enjoy one more day on the Cape... Happy Memorial Day, all, and for those with the day off - enjoy it!

Where Summer Reading Belongs (Quote of the Day)

"There is a temperate zone in the mind, between luxurious indolence and exacting work; and it is to this region, just between laziness and labor, that summer reading belongs." - Henry Ward Beecher

Book Review: Neverland by Douglas Clegg

Review of Douglas Clegg's awesomely creepy Neverland is up on Bookgasm. Highly recommend it!

Book Expo

Over a week since my last post (tssk, tssk, me) and I don't have much time to be truly creative here. Just wanted to let those attending BEA know that I will be in Booth 4346 (Osprey/Shire/Angry Robot - "The Osprey Group") for most of the next two days. We're part of the Random House Publishing Group, so we are very close to the RH booth.

If you'll be there, please stop by and say hello! I'll have a name tag.

I'll also be at the Book Blogger Show on Friday, attending for work but looking forward to it for my own edification as well.

Have a great show, all, and looking forward to meeting some of you.

Regular posting will resume (hopefully) this weekend.

How Book Selections Reflect Our Current State of Mind

I've been in a reading slump lately. It took me three weeks to finish Douglas Clegg's Neverland for review on Bookgasm - it's only 278 pages long - and I could only make it 30 pages into The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. I've read 10 pages of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and have temporarily put that one down as well.

It's not that there is anything wrong with the books - Neverland was a perfectly haunting, creepy novel, and Lost Summer and Abe Lincoln were both interesting in both writing and premise, but they all just failed to captivate. And yet I have had no trouble plowing through my Wheel of Time Re-read, finishing Book 5 last week and now a few hundred pages into Book 6.

Instead of blaming the books, I'm blaming myself. I think am so frazzled with work, job hunting and planning a move that what little time I do find to read, I am either unable or unwilling to delve into new book territory. I feel I am too distracted, not doing the book justice, not giving it as much of a chance as I believe every new book deserves.

The comforting mass-market paperback pages of Jordan's Wheel of Time are familiar and captivating, though, giving me enough distraction from the stresses of every day and yet mindless enough - mostly because I've read them all already - that I don't feel I am missing out on the beauty of a story.

But it goes beyond the meat of the Jordan books - the suck-you-in plot paired with thousands of pages of distraction - and more into the familiarity of the text. I'm itching to re-read The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Traveling With Pomegranates, and Freddy and Fredericka. I am excited at the prospect of poring over each title for a second or third time, catching things I've missed, discovering new ways of looking at the story, and remembering what I've forgotten.

Maybe this is a reading parallel to the beginnings of my goodbyes to New York City. Maybe it is a small way of digging in my heels as I face so many changes, of keeping something similar, familiar, comfortable. Or maybe I'm just in a reading slump, and it has nothing to do with all of the life changes in these few months, and I just need to find the right book to suit my quirky mood. The only thing I'm certain of in all of this is that now, more than ever, my book selections - or non-selections, as the case may be - have been incredibly dependent on my state of mind.

What about you? Anyone else have reading slumps, or strange urges to only re-read materials? Any get-out-of-your-slump reading suggestions?

Morning Commute (Quote of the Day)

As I delve more and more into audiobooks (see my review of The Swan Thieves on CD from earlier this week), I thought this was appropriate:

"It took people 10 years to figure out that while stuck in a morning commute, they could be listening to a book." -Paul Hilts, in Publishers Weekly

Great Bookmark Friday (part 2)

Following last week's post, I found some more great bookmarks to save your place in all those weekend reads...

Mark-my-time bookmarks. Absolutely practical for those of us that get lost in our reading. (Really Good Stuff, $8.95)

Sadly, this one is only a design and isn't for sale... which is too bad because it's an absolute stroke of genius. (As seen on Coolest Gadgets)

Run, man, run! (ThinkGeek, $9.99)

The Help! Bookmark. (Design boom, $26)

Audiobook Review: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves is Kostova's sophomore novel, following her well-received Dracula-based novel, The Historian. The premise is simple but strikingly complex: Robert Oliver, a famous painter, suffers some kind of mental breakdown and attacks a painting in the National Gallery, and his dedicated psychiatrist aims to find out why. Robert refuses to speak after his first day in the mental hospital, leaving his doctor, Marlow, to find out what has happened. Through the voices of characters from Robert's past, Kostova reveals a complicated and complex history to Robert.

Through these characters, both modern-day and from 19th-century France, Kostova weaves a beautiful tale of love, art, and obsession. Her story is long, deep and incredibly detailed, simple yet complicated, and full of passion - for love, for art, for psychiatry, for human relationships, for France, for history, and for every small detail that life offers forth. Her writing is pure and simple, but her vivid descriptions are breathtaking, and - as all great writing should - quite literally open readers' eyes to a world as yet unseen, a set of descriptions as yet unknown.

Lovers of art and art historians are sure to appreciate the incredible research that is sure to have gone into this work, from descriptions of the National Portrait Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art to those of Monet's brushstrokes, Degas' ballerinas, and Robert Oliver's careful and somehow carefree sketches. Readers that enjoy psychology and the inner workings of behavior and relationships will appreciate Marlow's musings on Robert's strange issues. And those who simply enjoy a passionate, talented writer are sure to value Kostova's incredible ability to pinpoint the smallest of actions, the tiniest of details, proving her as much an artist as those impressionists she describes throughout the novel, as much a psychologist as Dr. Marlow himself.

Bottom line: Whether or not you have read The Historian, The Swan Thieves is bound to make a Kostova fan out of any who read it. This is great writing, not good. Existing fans of Kostova will enjoy a second chance to see the world through her clever, detailed pen, and those new to her work (such as myself), will find a new author to watch for - and find themselves on a mission to read The Historian as soon as possible. With crisp characters, an ear for history and an eye for detail, The Swan Thieves is a phenomenal addition to the world of modern literature, and personally, I am excited to see what other great works lay in the wings of Kostova's literary stage.

Audio review: I listened to this book on CD, from Hachette Audio. The audio version of this book is spectacularly done, with five actors offering voices for the five main narrators of the story. Astounding, all five have voices that one could fall into, listening to for hours - lucky, since the unabridged CDs number 17, and offer over 20 hours of listening pleasure. The actors - or their voices, anyway - are well-cast, well-read, and never over-acted or over-done. Narrators change from one chapter to the next, but only as Kostova has written different chapters from different points of view - any dialogue within a chapter is done by the narrator, not in an exchange of voices.


Disclosure: I won a copy of this from the All About {n} blog (thank you!), and my copy was shipped to me from Hachette Audio.

Happy Mother's Day (Quote of the Day)

"Are we not like two volumes of one book?" -Marceline Desbordes-Valmore

Great Bookmark Friday

Who doesn't love a good bookmark? Here are some to mark your places in all that weekend reading - Happy Friday!

For all those hot and heavy romances, or any book on fire! (From Perpetual Kid, $3.99)

For the practical in all of us, a bookmark dictionary. (From B&N, $39.99)

Book reviews on a bookmark. Share your thoughts as you read! (From Fred Flare, $7 for the set)

Perfect for horror novels, no? (From ThinkGeek, $11.99.)

Prolific Blogger Award

Thanks to Lisa at Bibliophiliac, I've received my first-ever blog award:

The award goes to bloggers who "is intellectually productive, keeping up an active blog with enjoyable content."

Of course, it's a sign of my chaotic life at the moment that I receive the Prolific Blogger Award the week that I haven't posted since Monday, missed my weekly Sunday quote, and am so far behind in Google Reader that I didn't even see the award until 5 days after her post.

Oh well - I am honored that she thought of me, and excited to share the award with 7 other bloggers (one of whom would have been back to Lisa, but you're not supposed to pass it back to the one who gave it to you... but I still highly recommend that you check out her blog, Bibliophiliac).

1) Greg at The New Dork Review of Books
2) Natalie at Book, Line and Sinker
3) Bookish NYC
4) Kathy at Bermudaonion's Weblog
5) Jay at Bookrastination
6) Eva at A Striped Armchair
7) Everyone over at Learning to Read

And, same as Lisa mentioned, these are all blogs that I read regularly and would highly recommend. Enjoy!

Book People Do Great Things

Just another example of the great things a book community can do: Author Brenda Novak's 6th Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research starts today, running from Saturday, May 1 through May 31st. Novak's son has juvenile diabetes (Type I), and she started the auction in 2005 to raise money for research and awareness. Last year, the auction earned over $250,000.

Donated items for bidding include a variety of e-readers, tickets to Rachael Ray's show, a chance to fly in a 4-seater Lancair, and more!

Prizes for this year's competition include: an iPad, a Nook, $100 Gift Certificate to Borders, $200 Gift Certificate to Macy's and $100 Gift Certificate to Olive Garden, and a ticket to FAN 2011 (for those that places the most bids each week).

You can follow the auction on Twitter here. Happy bidding!

A Video to Celebrate the End of National Poetry Month

I don't usually post on Saturdays, but in honor of the end of National Poetry Month, I wanted to share this video of Bill Murray reading poetry to a crowd of construction workers. Hope you all enjoyed your poetry readings for the month! I'm a bit behind in my reading for the month, so didn't actually read any poetry books in April, but that's not to say I won't find time for something in May.