Read as You... (Quote of the Day)

"Read as you taste fruit or savor wine, or enjoy friendship, love or life." -George Holbrook Jackson
There is something to be said for quotes or sentiments that relate our passion to something considered universally beautiful. In this vein, I'm also including a quote below that I stole from my brother's Facebook page, of all places. He is in culinary school and loves food and cooking as much as - if not more than - I love books:
“Enchant, stay beautiful and graceful, but do this, eat well. Bring the same consideration to the preparation of your food as you devote to your appearance. Let your dinner be a poem, like your dress.” -Charles Pierre Monselet, French journalist
It's Sunday, which means most of us aren't working... why not spend today doing something you love?

Giveaway: Black Hills Audiobook

This is a big day for me. This is the day of my very first ever blog giveaway, which means you, reader, have a chance to win some free stuff. Get excited...

Thanks to Anna at Hachette Book Group, I have three (count 'em, three!) copies of the Black Hills audiobook to give away. Black Hills is published by none other than Reagan Arthur Books (I just joined the Reagan Arthur challenge... see yesterday's post).

Reagan Arthur Books Challenge

I'm not much of one for challenges, really - I like to read what I like, when I like to read it. I do like some encouragement when it comes to selecting books, though, because it can be such a daunting task (do I detect an idea for a future blog post?).

So when a helpful commenter posted a link to the Reagan Arthur Books Challenge, I took a peek. Turns out a lot of the books on my to-watch list are actually coming from Reagan Arthur...

Reagan Arthur is a new imprint of Little, Brown and Company, which is part of Hachette. Boring details aside, RA Books has the kind of mission statement I can fully support:

"Reagan Arthur Books is an imprint with a simple, single focus: great writing in the service of great stories. It will be a home for writers of literary novels, adventures, memoir, true narrative—a place where books aren’t separated by genre, but bound by a common love of language and storytelling. The authors on their list are some of the most talented and original writers at work today, from critically acclaimed and award-winning bestsellers to fresh-out-of-the-gate, dazzling newcomers. Their goal is to give readers what they want most: the unique and lasting pleasure of sitting alone with a good book, being moved and entertained and even changed forever."

Book Review: Marriage and Other Acts of Charity by Kate Braestrup

I've had a galley of this book on my shelf for almost a year - I believe I picked it up at BEA 2009.* It had sort of fallen to the bottom of my pile, but after reading Bermudaonion's review of it last week, I decided to finally give it a go. I wasn't wowed, but I also wasn't disappointed.

Marriage and Other Acts of Charity is the second memoir from pastor and writer Kate Braestrup. Her first memoir, Here If You Need Me, was apparently a New York Times bestseller when released. This new memoir tackles the often tricky and sticky issue of marriage. As a pastor, a widow and a wife, Braestrup has seen marriage from the inside and the out, performing weddings, serving as a marriage counselor and struggling within her own marriage(s), and this is a collection of her valuable insights into the subject, from the first kiss until death does thee part.

The back of the book (well, the galley, at least) claims that this book is "Part memoir, part observation of modern marriage, and part meditation on the roles of God and love in our everyday lives... a unique and unforgettable look into why, and how, people love each other." Unlike much of the copy we find on the backs of books, this one hits the nail on the head.

Harry Potter vs Willie the Wizard

It seems that the world just can't be happy for J.K. Rowling these days. After all, she's not only famous, she's also fabulously wealthy, happily married and mother of two. Or is it three now?

And now that she isn't putting out any more Harry Potter books, what have we to look forward to? Plus, she wrote that pesky little epilogue at the end of Book 7 (something for which I will never forgive her, because it was just downright bad writing and bad storywriting), but that means that no one else (save Warner Brothers, of course) will be able to make money off of her fantastic story creation.

...Or will they? I guess the mysterious "they" are going to try, this time in the form of the estate of deceased British author Adrian Jacobs. The claim is that Rowling stole huge chunks of text from Jacobs' own wizard book, The Adventures of Willy the Wizard, No.1 - Livid Land. It turns out this is actually related to a previous lawsuit drawn up by the same estate; they have now added No. 1 to the suit as they were unclear on whether or not it would be eligible before (copyright law is fickle, I take it).

Rowling denies the claims, arguing that she has never read Jacobs' books and had not even heard of them until the initial lawsuit was filed in 2004.

Just Words on a Page (Quote of the Day)

It's Sunday, which means I have (yet another) reading quote for you. This one is from no one famous, just a student in San Fransisco who has summed up perfectly the difference between reading to digest and reading to finish what you're reading:

There should be a little voice in your head like the storyteller is saying it. And if there's not, then you're just lookin' at the words. -LaKeisha (9th Grader in San Francisco)

Book Review: Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming

I picked up Kingdom of Ohio last weekend on kind of a whim – the galley had been sitting on my shelf for too long – and it turned out to be the kind of book I just couldn’t put down. It took my four days to finish, but that was only by sheer willpower, forcing myself to look away so as to keep the book from ending.

Yes, it was that good. Close on the heels of my review of E.L. Doctorow’s Ragtime, Kingdom of Ohio is another historic novel set in turn-of-the-century New York (despite its misleading name – see below). But unlike Doctorow, whose focus on the impending inventions of the 20th century did so at the expense of the individuality of man, Matthew Flaming’s story focuses on the advent of machinery as a sign of an overarching pattern and rythym of life.

Kingdom of Ohio tells the tale of Peter Force, a runaway from Idaho who flees to New York, eventually finding work on the infant subway tunnel projects. When he meets a woman on the street who identifies herself as Cherie-Ann Toledo, heiress to the Kingdom of Ohio, Peter is swept up in a fast-paced adventure of love, machinery, time-travel and the meaning of life itself.

In the Library... A Perfume?

I've said in the past, quiet seriously, "If they made 'old book' as a perfume, I would wear it. And 'new book' for going out." Don't you just love the way a good old book smells? There's something about a dusty old hardcover that speaks of... book.

My dad recently ordered some out-of-print sailing books online, and when I went home to visit, he had them waiting in a stack for me to smell. Maybe this weird love of book smell is inherited.

Luckily, my dad and I aren't alone in this love.

The genius behind CB Perfumes, who seem similar to Demeter in that they make scents of real things (Demeter makes scents such as Laundry, Gin & Tonic, Tomato, Earl Grey, and "Peach" -- and they are all strikingly accurate), has found a way to bottle this perfect scent. The scent called In the Library, described as "English Novel taken from a Signed First Edition of one of my very favorite novels, Russian & Moroccan leather bindings, worn cloth and a hint of wood polish."

The scent is available in perfume, water perfume (I'm unclear what that is) and room spray. Head over to the CB I Hate Perfume website to order.

Is this heaven for a bookworm, or what? I guess I should technically wait to actually smell the perfume before judging... nope, too late, I'm already ecstatic, and have set my expectations high. Thanks to Merry Day (a family friend) and David Mitchell for sending the link to me!

Bookgasm Review: Bones of Betrayal Review by Jefferson Bass

My review of Bones of Betrayal now up on Bookgasm. Head on over to take a look!

And coming this week, a review of Kingdom of Ohio, which I am almost finished and currently loving.

Goodbye (!) Exclamation (!) Points (!)

I recently got a new follower on my Twitter page - PollyFrost. I wasn't sure who she was, but a bit of digging revealed that Polly Frost is a playwright and writer who has written for the Atlantic and the New Yorker. She has also written for the Barnes & Noble Book Review, it seems. For them, she's written a very funny piece about the overuse of exclamation points!

Reading her article, punctuated throughout with incessant exclamation points, reminded me of a quote I'd read some time ago on the limits of these dangerous punctuation marks. Again, thanks to Polly Frost, the quote came from William Maxwell, fiction editor for the New Yorker. His claim was that every writer gets only two exclamation points -- per career. This was, of course, before the age of the internet, with every other person and their mothers on Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail.

Presidential Reading

In honor of Presidents' Day today (happy day off, for those of you that have one!), Huffington Post created a list of appropriate presidential reading. The list includes such well-known titles as Team of Rivals (the one that Obama made popular during the last campaign), John Adams (by the now-famous author of 1776, David McCullough) and The First Hundred Days (which focuses on FDR and the Depression, but came back into the spotlight around Obama's 100th day in office).

Love as a Book (Quote of the Day)

It's Sunday, and Valentine's Day no less, so here's another quote. This one comes from what I consider the most classic love story of all time...

This is Lady Capulet speaking to Juliet:

What say you? can you love the gentleman?
This night you shall behold him at our feast;
Read o'er the volume of young Paris' face,
And find delight writ there with beauty's pen;
Examine every married lineament,
And see how one another lends content
And what obscured in this fair volume lies
Find written in the margent of his eyes.
This precious book of love, this unbound lover,
To beautify him, only lacks a cover:
The fish lives in the sea, and 'tis much pride
For fair without the fair within to hide:
That book in many's eyes doth share the glory,
That in gold clasps locks in the golden story;
So shall you share all that he doth possess,
By having him, making yourself no less.

-Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Enjoy the day off tomorrow, for those of you that have a day off tomorrow!

Book Browsing - A Personal History

The other day, I ran into the Barnes and Noble on Union Square to grab a book I'd been eying. Though I went in with a mission, but I had a half an hour or so to kill before meeting a friend, so I spent some time browsing. Much to my surprise, as I perused the various offerings of the second floor, a perfect stranger came up and asked me where I was from. He explained that I reminded him of a girl he'd gone to high school with, and she laughed like a horse, so he would make fun of her, and the long and short of it was that if I was that girl, he wanted to apologize. (Note: I'm not that girl, and I don't laugh like a horse)

Ok, I get that it is New York, and there are a lot of crazy people here. And even if I believed this guy's story (which I didn't), it's a strange thing to ask someone in the middle of a bookstore. But what annoyed me most about it was that he interrupted my otherwise peaceful and enjoyable book-browsing experience. After five minutes of explaining that I wasn't her, I wasn't from LA, and answering a series of other bizarre questions, I just walked away. And straight to the register and then out of the store.

Hope for All of Us Who Love to Hate Typos and Bad Grammar

Yes, there is hope for all of us who hate - and love to hate - typos and bad grammar and general bad editing! As reported by Teleread this week, Rich Adin has created a book Hall of Shame. The concept is quite simple: books will be added to the Hall of Shame not based on the quality of the story, but the quality of the writing and editing. Is the book full of typos? Poorly formatted? Full of inconsistencies? This is where readers can voice their opinions.

Book Review: Ragtime by E. L. Doctorow

Set in New York City in the years immediately before the outbreak of World War I, Ragtime is a grand, sweeping novel that locks its teeth around a particular era and explores it with unflinching honesty. Through a cast of carefully chosen characters, Doctorow paints for us a picture of a time of contrast and hypocrisy. There is JP Morgan, the wealthiest man in America, struggling to understand Henry Ford's proposal of an assembly line, dumbing individual men down to the most menial task, to be repeated on a timeline determined by industrial machinery.

But there is also Tateh, a struggling Jewish immigrant who refuses to be nothing more than a cog in the wheel of capitalism, traveling around the East Coast with his daughter in an attempt to find a place where he can be an individual. There is Harry Houdini, the masterful escape artist who finds the praise he garners empty and meaningless, for what has he done to change the world? And there is the young boy who relishes the discarded items of those around him, finding meaning not in what is deemed important, but in what is deemed unimportant.

These strange characters are inextricably linked by unexpected and unforeseen events seemingly outside their control; the young boy’s uncle is in love with a woman who meets a revolutionary who is arrested for creating anarchy when a criminal holds up J.P. Morgan’s library when his fiancĂ© is killed when she leaves the house of the mother of the young boy’s uncle. And so on.

Despite the fact that so far I have painted a picture of a book torn by contrast and chaos, Doctorow’s novel is anything but scattered. Perhaps it is saved from this fate by the slow, steady, plodding of Doctorow’s writing; the story is told through the eyes of an unidentified narrator who speaks (or writes) in the meter of what one might imagine a rag would look like on paper.

Academy Awards Give Nod to Literature

This year's nominations for the Academy Awards were announced last week, and as usual, several of the movies nominated are adaptations of books (whether literal or very liberally adapted).

The Blind Side is a loose adaptation of Michael Lewis' book of the same name. The movie focuses primarily on the story of a young homeless man who learns to play football under the guidance of a local housewife; the book tells this story while simultaneously addressing the evolution of the game of football and the industry that surrounds it. Both look promising.

A Few Updates

I've been at this blog for over a year now (shocking, really), and decided it was time to update a few things. First of all, the blogger platform has now added a pages option, meaning I can (and therefore have) created static pages. Links to these are across the top of the page, under the header. So... if you were wondering where those random words came from, now you know.

Also, I've given my labeling system an overhaul. With 125+ posts, this actually proved to be quite an undertaking. But hopefully now the labels will be more useful as comprehensive categories - if anyone has suggestions or feedback, I always love to hear it!

Lastly, I've started to Twitter, albeit hesitatingly. Oh, I guess Twitter is the noun... I should say I've started to Tweet? Anyway, you can follow my scarce posts on my Twitter page, if you're interested!

Bud Light Ads - Witty or Offensive?

Unless you live under a rock, you are well aware that Budweiser ads feature heavily in every Superbowl's coveted advertising spots. This year, we saw Bud Light in the asteroid observatory, a baby horse befriending a baby cow, and a house of Light. (Click on any scenario here to see the ad)

But the ad that seems to have the book world talking is this one, in which a baseball team crashes a ladies' book club:

Branding the iPad

Perhaps the most rampant criticisms of the iPad (besides the lack of camera, lack of Flash, lack of e-ink, lack of multi-tasking... did I miss anything?) center around the name. Many reports have claimed women are offended by the name because of its connotation with "sanitary napkins" (a term I've always despised). Personally, I think that's taking the gender barrier a bit too far... but there are a host of funny alternatives floating around out there: iTampon (a thumb-size drive for your iPad) and MaxiPad (either the pink alternative or the larger-disk-space alternative).

The most interesting bit of the debate (in my mind, anyway) is the role MadTV has come to play - after all, they released a skit of two women joking about a device called the "iPad" years before the rumors on an Apple tablet became mainstream.


Human Nature (Quote of the Day)

"Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore?" - Henry Ward Beecher

... the answer? Nowhere. I've had to abstain from bookstores completely. I literally cannot go in one without purchasing. Does anyone else have that problem?

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This week, stay tuned for a review of Ragtime and (if I can read fast enough) Let the Great World Spin (2009 National Book Award). There will also be a review of Bones of Betrayal coming up on Bookgasm...

E-books Won't Kill P-books

Earlier this week, YA author Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) wrote an op-ed piece entitled "Apple's iPad is no book-killer" for the New York Daily News. It's short, but to the point. And with cleverly incorporated references to Plato and Socrates' fear of literacy as the death of poetry, Paterson lays bare our fears of the loss of the book.

True, the development of a literate society has forever changed how we listen and how we consume literature, but it has not killed an interest in either. And, if the book truly is "the perfect technology," as Paterson writes, it will withstand the test of time.

Anyway, check out the article - it's well worth a read. Happy Friday!

Tor Authors Speak on Amazon/Macmillan Debate, and Booksellers Support Macmillan

Simon Owen, over at Bloggasm (no, not the same thing as Bookgasm), recently sent me a link to his blog post on the Amazon/Macmillan debate. He had a chance to speak with a few Tor authors (a science-fiction and fantasy publisher that is part of Macmillan), and the article was pretty interesting. Great to get a different perspective on the ongoing discussions as well.

In relation to Tor authors, and other science-fiction and fantasy authors published by Macmillan, the Science Fiction Writers of America (SWFA) are removing any links to Amazon from their site, instead sending customers to Indiebound, Borders, Barnes & Noble, and Powell's. You can read the SWFA release, with their reasoning behind this decision, here.

One Week After the Storm...

One week after Apple announced the iPad, and have you seen the debates? There are those who love it, those who hate it, those to love to hate it and hate to love it... you get my drift. Is there an overall consensus? It's hard to say. But here's what a few top-notches are saying these days:

Amazon/Macmillan

Almost a week since my last post, and I've been quiet through the entire Amazon/Macmillan debacle... dear, dear. To recap for those of you who missed it, the e-book pricing war seems to have come to a head this weekend, when publisher Macmillan proposed a new pricing structure for e-books to Amazon, and Amazon responded by removing all Macmillan titles - e-books and p-books - from the Amazon listings. They also removed any Macmillan title from users' wishlists, and deleted sample chapters downloaded onto Kindles.

Needless to say, customers were... not happy. But interestingly enough, some customers were unhappy with Macmillan, calling them the bully, claiming that they are forcing Amazon into an agreement Amazon should not be required to participate in. Well, it seems to me that Amazon forced the issue with their absurdly monopolistic reaction, and as Macmillan owns their books, they should be able to set the prices for the books... not Amazon.