I'm Moving... Which Means I'm Culling... Which Means Giveaways!

So, I'm moving. Which means I'm forcing myself to cull my stacks. Which means that those books that didn't go to the local library (you can't donate ARCs, sadly), are up for grabs. One a day until they are gone.

Giveaways are open to all, just leave a comment to enter (be sure to include your email address so I can contact the winner).

+1 for following, +1 for re-posting (Twitter, FB, etc)

Up first - Infinite Days by Rebecca Maizel (ARC, pub date August 2010). Enter by 6 PM tomorrow (June 30) to win. Winner will be selected using random.org

Book Review: Sixty-One Nails by Mike Shevdon

Mike Shevdon's Sixty-One Nails, the first in the Courts of the Feyre series, is almost unclassifiable. The novel is part modern urban fantasy - but not the kind with scantily-clad vampires leaping from rooftop to rooftop - part secret history of England, and part mystery-adventure. This is in no way a bad thing, however: the 500+ page novel is gripping, suspenseful, and finishes faster than this reader would have preferred. I'm already excited for the sequel.*

Sixty-One Nails starts with Niall Peterson, a work-a-holic divorcee and distant father to his only daughter. When he has a heart attack at a busy London tube station during rush hour, his path crosses with that of Blackbird's - and their paths collide, bringing Niall fully into an as-yet hidden world of secret magic and a centuries-old power struggle.

Shevdon's world-creation is thorough and satisfying; he creates a world in which magic and secret histories are carefully interwoven with normal, everyday tasks and city life. Annual legal ceremonies in London history - based on fact, as best I can tell (check out the Getting Medieval article on the ceremony of Quit Rents**) - are tied up in a battle between conflicting sides of a magical world, in which the Seven Courts of the Feyre struggle to keep the exiled court - the Seventh - at bay. The various kinds of the Feyre are loosely related to those mythological creatures that exist in most folklores (though of course the human tales have got it wrong, as always): leprechauns, fairies, the like.

I'm probably starting to confuse you, no? Don't worry, I was lost too; Shevdon reveals the world of the Feyre to his readers as it is revealed to Niall, resulting in a slightly confusing but consistent growth of knowledge as the book progresses. I haven't read the sequel yet, but for this fact alone, I'd recommend starting with the first book in the series.

Bottom line: Looking for a modern, action-packed (oh dear, I hate that phrase) fantasy novel that doesn't include vampires that sparkle in the sunshine? Or, for that matter, doesn't include vampires at all? Look no farther. Sixty-One Nails won't disappoint, and with further books promised in the series, I look forward to more from Shevdon.*


Note: I read the British edition of this book, released by Angry Robot through HarperCollins earlier this year. The title will go on sale in the US in September, released by Angry Robot, now owned by Osprey Publishing.

Note #2: In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell you that I work for Osprey Publishing, but this review in no way reflects the opinion of my employer, etc, etc. I'd also like to reiterate that I really did enjoy the book, and wouldn't have reviewed it at all if I hadn't.

*Sequel is due October 2010.

** Oddly enough, this article sites a Shire title, Discovering English Folklore and Traditions, as a source. Shire is also part of the Osprey group. I swear the article just popped up when I Googled "sixty-one nails," though.

Great Highlights in Review Friday, or, A BBAW Registration Post

To the judges for BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week): please consider the posts below as entries in the Best Written Book Blog and Best Eclectic Book Blog categories.

To my readers: please consider the links below as a kind of re-cap of some of my favorite posts from the last two years, in case you missed any of them.

To any new readers stopping by (from the Hop, or from anywhere else): please consider the links below as a kind of introduction to my blog, my posts, and what I do!

Review of Rick Reiken's DAY FOR NIGHT

Review of Jean Kwok's GIRL IN TRANSLATION

Review of George Bishop's LETTER TO MY DAUGHTER

A New Trend in My Reading - Books That Ask the Big Questions (reviews of GOING BOVINE and ATONEMENT)

How Book Selections Reflect Our Current State of Mind

Booklovin' Tweeters

Following my post last week on Twitter, which drew from J. Robert King's article on the same subject, I've had a few requests for recommended book tweeters. While I consider myself far from a Twitter expert - I just learned what a Direct Message was a few days ago - here are a few I'd recommend for some great book links, articles, etc. If you keep an eye on who these Tweeters are linking to, I'd be willing to bet you'd scare up some more great booklovin' tweeters in the process...

@thebookmaven - Bethanne Patrick, former blogger at PW, current contributor to The Book Studio

@RonHogan - runs the literary website Beatrice.com, and has worked in various roles throughout the publishing industry

@HousingWorksBks - the twitter account for the Housing Works Bookshop in NYC, a great outlet for books and book events

@indiepride - an online store dedicated to indie and small publishing houses

- the twitter feed for Media Bistro's Galley Cat blog

Happy Tweeting!

One Day - the Movie!

Earlier this month, I posted a review of David Nicholl's ONE DAY. That was weeks ago, and I find myself still thinking about the book - if you haven't read it yet, do so ASAP, because in addition to being a fantastic book, it will soon be a movie starring Anne Hathaway as Emma and Jim Sturgess as Dexter. Check out the full story at GalleyCat.

Don't trust my review alone? Check out some other reviewers' thoughts -

Maylin at the Dewey Divas blog

Mary at Bookhounds

Book Review: Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton

Who is Mr. Toppit? This is the question that will haunt readers of Charles Elton's debut novel, just as it haunts the family and readers of author Arthur Hayman, from whose imagination - or experiences - Mr. Toppit comes.*

Mr. Toppit comes from the Darkwood, not for me, not for you, but for all of us. This is the only snippet of information any of us are given before Arthur Hayman is tragically killed in a car accident, ending the Hayseed Chronicles, an obscure British series of children's books, before they are complete.

Arthur's dying moments, however, are spent with an American tourist who will unwittingly launch the books into world fame, turning them into an international phenomenon. With Arthur gone, the legacy of the books falls to Arthur's strange and flighty widow, Martha, and their children, Rachel and Luke - Luke being eternally preserved in the pages of the Hayseed Chronicles as Luke Hayseed.

First-time author Charles Elton tackles the issues of family and fame through the lens of the at-first obscure and now-renowned book series, at times funny and at other times heartbreaking. Each of the characters around which the story is centered deals with the death of Arthur and the subsequent rise of the books in their own ways: Martha descends into her own strange world of living, Rachel descends into a world of drugs, and Luke into a boxed-off, withdrawn world of himself. Laurie Clow, the American tourist, moves onto national television, and Lila, the unwelcome artist of the series, into the role of unofficial Hayseed historian.

Elton's sense of character and personality is astounding, and he captures each important detail on the page, albeit subtly. Though his characters act and interact as though aliens in a foreign land, each of their movements, thoughts, motivations, is carefully constructed and not entirely unexpected. Elton's writing style is charmingly British, well-executed and all-around pleasing to both the eye and ear.

Bottom line: At times laugh-out-loud funny and other times truly heartbreaking, Mr. Toppit captures the power of books on its pages, from the Hayseed phenomenon driving fans to near-madness to the fame of the books driving its family into a steep and unsteady rise and decline. Personally, I'm excited to see more from Charles Elton, and can only hope his sophomore novel comes soon - and lives up to expectations.


*It's also the question printed on my new purple Mr. Toppit umbrella, picked up from the Other Press booth at BEA this year.

Note: I received a (signed!) galley of this book from Other Press at BEA this year. They were in the booth next to mine, so I even got to stare at the book for some time before actually going over to get a copy.

Second Note: The book does not go on sale until November - sorry! I usually try to hold reviews until closer to publication but I was just too excited about this book - but if you're lucky, and I can get my act together, I might giveaway a galley before then...

Happy Father's Day (Quote of the Day)

Not strictly a book quote, but I'm feeling sentimental for Father's Day, and my dad passed on to me one of the most important parts of who I am today: his love for reading and for books.

There's something like a line of gold thread running through a man's words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself. - John Gregory Brown, Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, 1994

Love you, Dad.

Book Review: Metatropolis edited by John Scalzi (on Bookgasm)

New review of Metatropolis is up on Bookgasm today! A collection of post-recession short stories, all well-written and a really unique approach to an anthology...

Do You Tweet?

Last year, I gave up arguing and, quite reluctantly, started my Twitter account (@ofabookworm) . Our publicist asked me to sign up to see who's talking about books, and who we could get in touch with about possible reviews of some of our titles (yes, tweeters, publicists and marketing people use Twitter research to find that kind of information).

I've since grown into my Twitter rather slowly. I'll post frequently for a day or two, then wane off as I get distracted. But even with my limited use - something I'm aiming to improve, with the help of HootSuite - I am astounded at some of the connections I've made. I've identified a few possible review outlets for our books, sure. Beyond that, though, I've "met" some great, book-loving people, discovered wonderful articles about books and book-related things, and even gained a few followers in the process.

It's more than just a platform to talk about what you had for breakfast, or whine about some inconvenience of the day. Of course, people do use it as such a platform, but the solution to that is simple: don't follow them.

Author J. Robert King, who writes for Angry Robot, argued the case for Twitter quite well in his recent blog post, which brought all of this to the forefront of my thinking. So if you've been thinking about tweeting, I'd like to add my argument to King's and say it's worth a shot, whatever your motivations. With over 1 million users, you are guaranteed to find a group that's worth your time.

Typewriter Computers

Has anyone else noticed a recent surge in the popularity of typewriters? They seem to represent an idyllic era of writing history, allowing writers faster, neater writing than basic pen and paper without offering the distractions of the computer and the internet. The development of typing skills when typing skills mattered and spelling and grammar came from the brain, not the squiggly lines on your word processor.

Antique typewriters aren't actually that difficult to track down on e-bay or at flea markets in most areas, but finding the spools and ink for them can prove more problematic. But not to fear! One particularly clever artist has recently come up with a way to link a typewriter to a USB drive on a computer, offering writers the typewriter experience without the difficulties of self spell-check, printer jams, ink blotches, etc.

Pretty cool, huh? For a mere $400+ dollars, you, too, can have your very own pre-made USB typewriter. Or, for $150, you can get a kit to build your own. Purchase here.

Book Review: The Bride Collector by Ted Dekker (on Bookgasm)

I missed my chance to post the link to this review when it was still new, but my review of The Bride Collector ran on Bookgasm recently. Interesting and straightforward thriller/mystery.

Bloggiesta Finish Line

Due to some unforeseen computer difficulties and a very hectic schedule this weekend, I didn't get to do quite as much for the Bloggiesta as I had hoped. That being said, I did manage to complete a few mini-challenges and put some thought into how I will go forward with my blog from here:

Writing Your Blog To-Do List (hosted by The Blog Improvement Project) - I've come up with some short-term goals (some of which I've done already) and some long-term ones that will hopefully improve traffic and content (which will therefore drive more traffic and better content... it's a cycle, see?)

It's All About the Numbers
(hosted by There's a Book) - I already had Google Analytics installed (I've been tracking all you people, you know), but learned a few new things about how to use it with this mini-challenge

RSS Mini-Challenge (hosted by Puss Reboots) - My RSS feeds are set-up in the top of my sidebar, and now my new goal is to learn how many people subscribe to them.

So that's three mini-challenges, not my intended five, but it will have to do!

I did have more success with culling my Google Reader to a more healthy level (following the steps from last year's Bloggiesta mini-challenge "Get Out From Under the Feed Reader" at The Book Lady's Blog). I trimmed blogs I no longer read (nothing personal, I swear, I used Rebecca's recommendation of the Google trends tab to determine which ones I don't read as often). I also broke my blogs into better folders to make them a bit easier to follow.

I didn't get a chance to discover too many new blogs, but I'm aiming to do that this week. Taking recommendations!

Thanks again to Natasha at Maw Books for hosting the Bloggiesta challenge, and getting me focused on what I'm doing with the blog.

Bloggiesta Starting Line

I've just signed up for the Bloggiesta challenge (hosted by Maw Books). Over the next three days (in between packing apartments, helping my mother shop for a dress, and planning a move), I'm aiming to give the blog a little TLC through a series of mini-challenges. Hopefully this will mean a better blog: better layout, better tracking, better content, the works.

I'm aiming to complete at least 5 mini-challenges, get myself a bit more organized, cull my Google reader (which is totally out of control), try to discover new blogs to follow in place of a few I currently follow but rarely read, and, somewhere in between all that, sleep a little bit.

I'd love to hear feedback if you notice any of the changes!

Weekend Reading

I'm taking a brief hiatus from my "Great Friday" series (while I ponder up more great book-loving nick nacks) to bring you a great collection of essays on weekend reading today.

To celebrate this week's launch of HarperWeekend (which will be republishing previous titles and aiming them toward the "cottage and armchair crowd"), Canada's The Globe and Mail ran an article called "The Art of Weekend Reading," featuring four writers from the new Harper imprint on the joys of weekend reading.

The picture on the Globe and Mail article alone makes me want to run away to a secluded pier at dawn somewhere. But beyond that, these writers make important distinctions between reading for work vs. reading for ourselves; the need to escape to a new environment in order to truly appreciate a new book; the importance of indulging in interrupted days of literary devourings.

I recommend all four essays, but I particularly enjoyed Martin Walker's, which includes the following sentiment:
"There's something about the doubled syllables that murmurs comfort and promises long lazy hours stretching out into wide acres of self-indulgence. It's a time for easy chairs and kicked-off shoes, for hammocks and eyeshades and books that nuzzle their way into your affections like furry puppies. It's a safe bet that most peoples' favourite books were first encountered on a weekend afternoon."
Spot on, Walker.

Book Review: Isis by Douglas Clegg

A few weeks ago, I read Douglas Clegg's Neverland for a review on Bookgasm. This was horror writing as I always wished it could be, standing on its own two feet sans gimmicks and hooks and cliche plot twists. Creepy, haunting, well-written, imaginative, the works.

So of course, I scanned my shelves for something to satisfy my new desire for more horror and came across a galley copy of Isis, part of last year's BEA haul. It's signed to me and everything.

Isis: A Tale of the Supernatural is a slim volume, ranking more as a novella than a novel, with line illustrations by Glenn Chadbourne, who also did the artwork for Neverland.

The back-cover text for the book asks, "If you lost someone you loved, what would you pay to bring them back from the dead?" A perfect tagline for this charmingly creepy little book. As a child's game becomes deadly and the characters of Isis and Osiris become a reality, Iris Villiers finds herself asking that very question. Ignoring the warnings of their loyal family gardener, she turns to the occult and the family Tombs to change the course of life.

Bottom line: Chadbourne's illustrations fit Clegg's text perfectly, and both combined have created an atmosphere of impending doom that starts on page 1. This is the kind of book that makes you feel unseen eyes watching you at all hours, and will leave readers satisfyingly full of more questions at the end than the beginning.


Note: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at BEA 2009. And I also met the author there, albeit briefly as one in a long line of fans requesting signatures.

The Literary Tastes of Book Thieves

According to an article in The Guardian last week, book thieves not only account for a large chunk of cash lost by booksellers each year, but they have distinguished tastes, too.

Bookseller Anna Goodall of Britain observes that in her store, book thefts tend toward the intellectual end of the spectrum, citing The Paris Review Interviews Vol. 2 and Crime and Punishment as a particularly high-brow haul. According to her, New York booksellers report a trend toward beat authors as prime theft targets: Bukowski, Kerouac, Burroughs.

At first site, I found these results rather astounding. Like Goodall, I didn't really consider book theft as a major part of a bookstore's operations. Sure, I'm not naive enough to believe it didn't happen, but to such an extent? At Hard Bean, we had mirrors posted above the shelves so employees could "keep an eye" on customers in the back of the store from behind the computer, but in reality, we rarely, if ever, looked in the mirrors (except to catch some kids making out in the bio section). I don't really recall any major book thefts - chocolate bars from next to the register were a much larger target.

But given the fact that bookstores do suffer from regular thefts - a sad fact, but apparently a true one - maybe it isn't so surprising that it's the intellectual high-brow lit that gets swiped. After all, who but a true booklover would take the time to steal from a bookstore? Aren't there easier - and more profitable - targets? These people can't be stealing for monetary gain; there just isn't enough of a high-profit market for gently used books. So if they are stealing for themselves - either because they can't afford the books, don't think they should have to pay (that seems to ring well with the Beat-theft trend) or are getting a thrill from the theft itself - I can almost wrap my mind around the fact that Penguin Classics and Paris Review titles go before the Jodi Picoults and Nicholas Sparks of the world.

Now, my sleep-deprived and over-worked mind is trying to figure out if there is a link between the fact that most classics are public domain, and therefore available for free (especially electronically) or very cheap (i.e. B&N Editions) and the fact that these same books are the ones disappearing from the shelves. Thoughts?

Huffington Post Presents Overlooked Books

Saw this on Twitter yesterday and thought it worth sharing. Last week, Huffington Post listed 12 books by great authors that are often forgotten. In response, readers were invited to submit their own opinions on great overlooked books.

With the exception of the three Gabriel Garcia Marquez titles mentioned (Autumn of the Patriarch, Of Love and Other Demons, and The General in His Labyrinth), I have read exactly none of the overlooked books... I guess I've overlooked them myself. Several are already on my want-to-read someday list (Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, for example), and some I'd never heard of, which I always love in lists.


Book Review: One Day by David Nicholls

I started David Nichol's One Day during my reading slump last week - I had recently read a good bit about it on the Dewey Divas blog and figured I might as well give it a try. Lucky me! It did the trick.

One Day is, in brief, the story of two college friends - Emma and Dexter - and the ways their lives continue to overlap through the years. With some of the most epic bad timing I've seen in characters recently, they continually need each other, miss each other, find each other, love each other and lose each other in a veritable plethora of combinations.

The premise sounds simple, and rather chick-lit-esque, at that, but I assure you, it is far from it.* Nichols' story is heartbreaking, touching and important in every way.

The genius of Nichols' writing lies in his presentation: each chapter is July 15th - St. Swithin's Day, apparently - of a proceeding year. And so the reader is told the story of Dex and Em, Em and Dex in snapshots of one day over the years. The title, therefore, is fitting, both because of this unique writing style and for other reasons that I won't explore here in fear of spoilers.

The initial buzz for the book - first released in the UK (it's a British book,** so be prepared for British spellings and the like) - calls the book "roaringly funny" (The Guardian) and "funny" (The Times). I couldn't disagree more, but maybe that's a difference in British vs American humor (humour?). I would, however, agree that it is "heartbreaking" (Tony Parsons) and "wise... perceptive, compassionate and often unbearably sad." (The Times again).

Bottom line: The lack of (understandable) humor and substantial amount of heavy subject matter is in no way a detraction from the value of the book. Nichols has crafted a poignant, lingering story of love, friendship and life in his unique novel. One Day would qualify (to me, at least) as ideal beach reading, perfect distraction, easy to put down and pick up again, and yet substantial, satisfying, and not a throwaway of time and energy. Highly recommend.

* Note to marketing personnel: You need to work on the back cover copy for the ARC. The copy floating around the internet on Amazon and Indiebound is better, at least, but the back cover blurb I read before picking this up almost convinced me not to read it.

** Originally published in England, the book is out in the US (as a Vintage Paperback) this month.


Note: I received a review copy of this title from Random House when at the offices for a sales meeting.