Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Finds... because I can't seem to do anything else

Hoo boy, well that big self-reprimand I gave myself last week turned out to be hot air... or it's computing, internet equivalent... because all I managed to churn out last week was a Friday Finds (however extensive it was, it was still just a meme).

Alright, after this post, I will re-post something here that appeared last week in Publisher's Weekly's weekly newsletter, "Children's Bookshelf." I was interviewed for a "Galley Talk" column, where they ask you a bunch of general questions about an upcoming release and you answer as well as possible (on the fly) and then the put your answers into a somewhat coherent review. Why bother, right? If the woman asked me to write a review, in an hour I could have sent her in something comparable to what was published (if not better). But okay, I'll re-post it here, because so far only my mother has read it... And I like attention...

On with the finds!

So this week's finds come almost exclusively from impromptu trip to Half Price Books. I don't always land a huge pile when I go there - I tend to be a bit picky about editions and prices - but this was a fairly successful venture. I went looking to pick up Madeline L'Engle's entire "Time Quartet" and I was not disappointed:

- A Wrinkle in Time, A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters by Madeline L'Engle - Not only did I get the entire foursome for a steal, but they're all the same edition (which I was hoping for, but I was willing to settle if need be). I read WiT when I was a kid - my mother kind of forced me (thanks Mom!) - and I've been dying to re-read it ever since I read When You Reach Me. I never did make it through the entire series, however, so this is a good time to give it a go again.

- The Long Walk by Stephen King (writing as Richard Bachman) - This and another Bachman book, The Running Man, are obvious inspirations for one of my favorite books of last year, The Hunger Games. I've read all about this one, so I was glad to finally snag a copy. However, if anyone ever finds an old edition in a used bookstore or thrift store (etc.) please get it for me, and I'll pay you twice what you paid. I love the old paperback cover of this book, and the new one just doesn't hold the same pulpy terror.

- Other Voices, Other Rooms by Truman Capote - Because I don't own it, it's terrific, and at Half Price Books, mass market paperbacks are half the cover price. This old paperback cost $1.50 list price... So $.75 for a classic isn't so bad.

- Foundation and Foundation and Empire by Isaac Asimov - I have a hard time swallowing hard science fiction (my taste runs toward not the fantastic side, but science fiction with a larger emphasis on literary themes than detailing and exploring the machinery inhabiting the world - I want to know the why, not the how, basically), but I like Asmiov, and I've been wanting to get more of his books.

- The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. LeGuin - LeGuin is my favorite science fiction author, one of my favorite writers period. Reading Lathe of Heaven changed the way I felt about science fiction and fantasy, so while I/m not really a completist with most authors, I am with her.

- The Night of the Gun by David Carr - I heard a lot about this book upon its release, so when we found the hardback on the discount shelves for $2.00, I begged and pleaded with my roommate (another devoted bibliophile) to hand it over. He eventually did.

Not bad for one hour's visit. There were a few galleys that came my way, but nothing extraordinary seeming. Our general manager, Chris, handed over a hardback copy of Joyce Maynard's new book, Labor Day, but I think I'm going to pass it on.

Oh, and I just finished Jincy Willett's The Writing Class - the author's ability to mercilessly poke fun at her own self is once again used to great effect. I won't say anything more on the subject except for this: If you have ever taken a writing workshop, if you have frequented them, if you have only taken one, you need to read this story.

Friday, July 24, 2009

friday finds

It was a busy week, and this week is going to be even busier at the store, as Monday marks the first of our week-long Band Camp. I'm armed with random junk, kazoos, poster board, and Ann Wiseman's beyond excellent Making Music. The first day of June's Superhero Camp was pretty rough, but I have a better idea of what to expect, and hopefully with something more tangible as teaching basics of music and rhythm to the kids, there will be more active things to do and discuss.

But I don't want to just do Friday Finds (as fun as it is to keep track of my incoming books), so I'll try to keep the blog as fresh as possible this week. I finished both Knife of Never Letting Go and the upcoming Candor, and there's a lot to discuss regarding both books. I didn't intentionally seek out two like texts, but in the process of finishing Candor, I realized that there were a lot of parallels to both its and KNLG's storylines. Both feature male protagonists who are both insiders to their horrifying worlds, but outsiders because of the presence of disparate perspectives and willingness to defy the momentum of the status quo. So, hopefully, more on both of those books later this week.

Onto the Friday Finds! Only a day or so after my last Friday Finds post, I received a big box of Random House ARCs, and I have to say that this may have been one of the best promotional boxes I've gotten in a long time. I put a lot of the books on my galley shelves in the storage closet, but I snagged a large amount for myself. Among the selections in the box:

- A two-in-one ARC for the Looking Glass Library release of The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit and The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald.

- Dream Life by Lauren Mechling, the follow-up to Dream Girl Coming out January 2010.

- Party by Tom Leveen - Entitled teens at a party - Yay for underage debauchery! Coming out April 2010.

- The Smart Aleck's Guide to American History by Adam Selzer - I love The Smart Aleck's Guide series, and I still hold a fondness for Dave Barry's Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States, so I'm looking forward to this one. It's coming out December 2009, and I think it could be a great Christmas sell.

- The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone. Truth be told, the cover sucked me in one this one, but as I learned with The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, sometimes that's all you need to clue you into a great read. This is an art mystery, similar in sound to Blue Balliet, Mystery of the Third Lucretia, etc. Comes out February 2010.

- The Knife That Killed Me by Anthony McGowan. High School-set thriller coming out April 2010.

- All Unquiet Things by Anna Jarzab. Mystery thriller, featuring the mean, rich, elite of a private school. I don't read enough murder mysteries featuring bitchy teenagers. This one looks like it will be more than a cut above the rest. Comes out January of 2010.

- Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray. Three boys strike revenge on those they believe responsible for their friend's death. Set in England and Scotland, I'm very, very excited for this one. Coming out March 2010. [By the way, kudos to Random House for getting these ARCs out super early. It's not always a great thing to be laden down with galleys, especially if you get them only a month or so before the release date. Getting them far in advance gives you a chance to really get into each title, increasing the publisher's chances of having you not just read the book, but enthuse about it, build up excitement about it, etc.]

-Notes From the Dog, the latest release by Gary Paulsen, who has always been hit or miss with me, but this one sounds pretty promising. It comes out this Tuesday, so I'm hoping to get a jump on this title. Also, I'm chasing after Wendy Lamb books these days, because I've had such good experiences with their releases.

-Split by Swati Avasthi. Another March 2010 release, this one an intense coming of age about a runaway moving in with his estranged brother.

So, those were my RH box grabs - There were at least three or four other books that I left on the shelves that I may go back for. Right now, I'm going to try and get through at least one of these galleys a week.

Other grabs:

- The Writing Class by Jincy Willett - Because I am a cheap bastard at heart, I was waiting for this one to come out in paperback. Not that I don't think she's every bit worth the twenty-some dollars for the hardback. Willett may be my favorite writer, and I've only read Winner of the National Book Award. I just started this one, and even though I'm only ten pages in, I'm pretty sucked in. And as a former English Lit/writing student, the use of a creative writing workshop as a backdrop for a murder mystery appeals to every bit of my sense of humor.

-A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century by Jane Vandenburgh. I've read quite a bit about this memoir, and I've liked the sound of it, so when I saw this in a box of ARCs, I grabbed it immediately. I don't tend to jump into memoirs like I used to, but I'll give this one a read very soon.

That's it for the finds. Wish every week could be as lucrative in books (although my bookshelves must certainly be relieved that this kind of windfall only happens occasionally).

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Finds

Another slow week of finds.

- The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness - I picked this up when it came out in paperback on Tuesday. I received The Ask and the Answer (the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy), so I needed to read the first book. I'm about done, and it's pretty great: suspenseful, scary at points, with a really interesting protagonist, and a mystery that is only now being somewhat unfolded. The way Ness is using the constant stream of telepathy is very clever, and it's a premise that is working in ways I wouldn't have immediately thought.

- Candor by Pam Bachorz - Upcoming release from Egmont USA's fall line-up. I'm very excited about Egmont USA, especially after receiving their catalog of fall releases yesterday. Candor is a Stepford Wives-esque tale about a boy living in a small community in Florida who runs a profitable business providing anti-brainwashing CDs to his fellow teenagers. Trouble - having already began with the whole brainwashing business in the first place - continues with the arrival a new girl in town and the obvious complications falling for her presents. After reading the review in Shelf Awareness, I was eager to get my hands on this title - the West Coast rep for Random House was nice enough to send a copy over to my store.

Hey! There's a book trailer for Candor:

Not totally sure how I feel about book trailers. Mostly silly stuff, to be honest. Most book trailers I've seen have been foolish attempts to capture a market that is way more invested in already produced sight and sound, then whatever they can attempt to create in their own imaginations while reading. It's not a bad gimmick, but I haven't seen it used to its best effects yet.

The best attempt I've seen of late is Quirk Book's trailer for the upcoming Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Very cute:

Hmm... that was it for the week. A box of upcoming Random House titles should be coming any day, however, so I'll have a lot of finds in the near future.

I haven't been keeping up on my book buying, for one because I just moved and I'm trying to get all the books I already own sorted out, and two, because I'm trying to save a little money for the things that a new apartment requires, and three... well, I'm should catch up a bit before overloading myself again. Fall ARC season is coming, and I know I can't resist the impossible lure of books that are free for the taking. But it's cut down a whole lot on my used book buying, and buying the occasional full price gem at my store or any random other book store.

Still, there's a bargain bookstore in my new neighborhood that I have been meaning to try out. I haven't heard very positive things, but they did have an original Mysteries of Pittsburgh paperback (with the old cover, of course) in the window for a time, so they can't be completely devoid of interesting finds.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Review: How I Became a Famous Novelist

I have been in a mild reading slump as of the past two weeks. I read The Graveyard Book, which I adored, and then… well, it’s the weird mystery with reading: sometimes even the best titles don’t click. It’s all about timing. After book club last Thursday, I put down my half-finished copy of Twilight, and I have to pick it back up, despite meaning to – it’s still on my coffee table, waiting to be finished. I’m also more than halfway through The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday, which, while informative, engaging, and definitely the kind of thing my mind should be sucking down right now, is not quite doing it for me either. I’m enjoying en route to work, or in the few minutes of clarity I have, right after I wake up… but it’s not the kind of book that has kept me from chanel-surfing, watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on ABC Family or any random reality show on Bravo or even Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.

If a book can’t keep you from watching the nearly 24 straight hours of Law and Order that there always is on cable TV, then it’s not doing its job.

It seemed like I was about to go through one of those really bad reading droughts that can derail my booklist for months. Then a few bright spots appeared:

- A book I’ve been meaning to read, The Knife of Never Letting Go, has been released in paperback. Naturally, I snapped up a copy. I already have an ARC of The Ask and the Answer, the follow-up, so if I get into the series – fingers crossed, but it sounds awfully promising – I’ll have an instant second read.

- Frank Portman – or Dr. Frank to those of us MTX devotees – has a new book coming out soon, a follow-up to King Dork. An ARC for his new one, Andromeda Klein (great name) arrived in the mail. I’m going to have to get out my old Mr. T Experience albums and read while I rock out.

- Lovely Sarah Nasif is sending me an upcoming release off of Egmont USA’s fall line-up, Candor, which I read about in Shelf Awareness last week and sounds like just the thing to keep my reading fires aflame. The Shelf Awareness review of Candor can be read here.

- I’ve been trying to keep a commitment to read (or check out) at least one book featured in the New York Times Book Review every week. Media Relations Department of Hizbollah was one of those titles. Yesterday morning, skimming the times before rushing off to work, I read a quick one-page review of a recently released title that I remembered I had a galley for, albeit, buried in the one of the three lockers I take up at work.

That’s how I came to spend most of my Tuesday reading How I Became a Famous Novelist, a book whose cleverness vastly outweighs its plot, but that’s all part of it. You would think that Steve Hely, a comedy writer (formerly of Late Show with David Letterman, now unfortunately mired in the depths that is American Dad), was a grizzled veteran of the literary set. Yet, his skewering of popular (and at times, populist) literature, the nature of bestsellers, and the culture of literary fame comes from the distinct observation of someone who has not actually delved in that gray area of writing a famous novel.

This works to his advantage, as he is allowed to spend more time on pure literary parody and less on the moral and creative consequences of writing a hack novel (this crisis being a weight, dragging down the second half of the book). Not that there shouldn’t be discussion of the problematic dynamics of readership, popularity, and literary merits. But Steve Hely is not the writer for that task.

Instead, the first half of the book displays his genius as literary parodist. Hely’s stand-in is slacker Pete Tarslaw, an expert hack in the making, working for a shady entrepreneur, penning college admissions essays for rich underachievers and foreigners. Pete briefly describes idealized college life as a blurry, hazy whirl of cutting academic corners, drinking too much and lying around with his girlfriend at the time, Polly Pawson. But following graduation, Polly breaks up with him, headed for law school and a fulfilling future, while Pete, stranded in the mundane present by heart ache and his avowed laziness, inhabits a muddled middle ground between his formative years and adulthood.

That is, until he finds out that Polly Pawson is soon to be wed. Embarrassed and jealous, Pete takes inspiration from the king of contemporary literary fiction, Preston Brooks, ascribing to become a bestselling author of the type that wins over college girls at university lectures and bookstore appearances. “That’s why I always tell people Preston Brooks was my inspiration. Because right then, I figured him out. I realized what a magnificent, ridiculous bastard he was.” Peter sets out to become a famous author to one-up his ex at her wedding.

This is all, of course, well beside the point. Hely’s thin premise is a vehicle for his much stronger skill: providing the kind of hack literary Olympics that allow his parodies to span genres, eras, and levels of popularity. Hely hits it so on the head, it’s a wonder that many of the titles on his New York Times Bestsellers List don’t already exist: Guess (“An economist analyzes the importance of random choices in everything from investments to choosing sushi to professional bull-riding.”), Manassas (“Accompanied by the ghost of Ulysses S. Grant, a young writer goes in search of his ancestor, a gay Civil War soldier.”), The Balthazar Tablet (“The muder of a cardinal leads a Yale professor and an underwear model to the Middle East, where they uncover clues to a conspiracy kept hidden by the Shriners.”), and – my favorite - The Jane Austen Women’s Investigators Club (“Housewives inspired by the 19th century novelist probe a murder mystery in their quiet suburb.”).

The underbelly of what he’s describing is the real bite of the novel: bestsellers that go “from store shelves to home shelves to used-book sales unread.” Tarslaw’s literary world is cluttered with accomplished hacks. A crime novelists who farms out writing her hit series to “starving graduate students,” a famous author of military history who claims to be able to “make the switch over to movies, video games…” because of his ability to tell a story without “prose, frills.” Pete’s book becomes an unlikely, unwieldy success, built off of everything he learned about writing from the bestsellers lists.

“Rule 5: Must include a club, secrets/mysterious missions, shy characters, characters whose live are changed suddenly, surprising love affairs, women who’ve given up on love but turn out to be beautiful.”

Pete’s book, The Tornado Ashes Club, is a literary Frankenstein’s monster. But while Tarslaw’s creation of the monster is hilarious, and it’s abrupt rise is even more amusing, the second half the book is dragged down by unexpected existential crisis. While his book (and it’s success) is based off the notion that people will buy anything that is comprised of certain basic plot and prose elements, Pete keeps finding himself in situations where people treat “serious” writing very seriously, such as a talk at the University of Billings. Seated with the professor and several of his writing students, Pete is confounded by a request for “the lonesomest story he ever heard.” While professor and students alike tell their their own horrifying tales, he sits there rendered almost speechless.

Truth in writing is a batted about debate in the book – writing truth, writing truthfully, being truthful to readers, readers seeking truth. But Hely never really gets to any breakout moment with Pete: his comeuppance is appropriate, but without a definite catharsis or revelation for the character. Which is perhaps the point: Hely has Pete condemned (very, very publicly) by an author and his faithful readership, then backtracks a little, allowing a character to re-appraise Pete’s take on literary success.

Having both a degree in English Literature, years experience working in both a library and bookstore settings, I feel like I’ve got a pretty good grasp of what is popular, but I still have never quite grasped why. Hely opens up a very good debate, but the debate is nowhere near as interesting as the inane titles, ridiculous authors, cleverly hackneyed and precious plots, and hilarious literary world run-ins. Peter Tarslaw is an appropriate blank slate for these elements: a slacker, not particularly likeable or unlikable guy, with little interest in writerly or moral debate, and little to no genuine remorse or reaction to his own subterfuge.

How I Became a Famous Novelist is a great read: quick, energizing, and very, very funny. It may hit a little to home for some, but it spares no spite on any readership, whether it be the “sophisticated” lit. fic. set or the sentimental ladies of chick lit or the beach-going or subway riding followers of icy crime fiction. Everyone gets a little blasted, a little vindicated…. even the hacks.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Finds

I’m doing it. I’m going for it. This marks the first, brave steps I take toward… memes. But first, what is a meme anyway?

“A meme (pronounced /ˈmiːm/, rhyming with "cream"[1]), is a postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, and is transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.”

Interesting. This is traceable from slang patterns to fashion trends to regional dialects. But how does this apply to blogging?

“The term "Internet meme" refers to a catchphrase or concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the internet, largely through email, blogs, social networking sites, and instant messaging.”

Well, okay, that’s a little more useful. Basically, an Internet meme is something people continue to do long after it ceases to be funny.

But I’m still not sure how this applies to blogging. Maybe The Daily Meme can help me:
“In the context of web logs / 'blogs / blogging and other kinds of personal web sites it's some kind of list of questions that you saw somewhere else and you decided to answer the questions. Then someone else sees them and does them and so on and so on. I generally consider these to be actual questions and not some multiple choice quizzes that determine some result at the end (what color you are most like, what cartoon character are you, what 80s movie are you).

By some other definitions memes are viral and propagate around sometimes mutating as they propagate. Someone proposed something along the lines of some blog posts are viral, they write about something they see on one blog and the next person does the same sometimes their interpretation varies slightly changing the story (I cannot find this original reference).

Eventually some people decided they were going to creating weekly questionnaires (memes) and post them every week. Some are monthly, a few are daily and some are always there. Some suggest that you get five other people to do the same meme and they have to get five people (and so on), which sometimes increases their propagation. This probably stunts their mutated growth, having a permanent storage place where people go to find them but many people copy them from the site where they see it and they'll still change a bit.”

That’s more like it. So, a lot of book blogs that I enjoy reading participate in a few of the more engaging memes out there. The Boston Bibliophile recently decided to cut back on a few, but some bloggers do at least a meme a day. While I think that can get a little boring – I prefer reading their reviews to most of their meme answers – following a meme (or two) is a nice way to keep up the blog entries. When a really busy, frenzied week strikes, and I simply can’t drum up the time or energy to write a wholly original entry, I can still jot up a few quick meme-related entries. It keeps me in the practice of writing these entries, and a little reinforced writing exercise is never a bad thing… unless it’s unforgivably dull, and if it gets to that point, I will stop.

Another good point of participating in memes is that it connects you to a smaller network of bloggers in your preferred topic. To gain a readership, one must be an avid blog reader and communicator. It almost never works without participating in the very network you seek readers.

So, anyway, forgive the preamble, and follow me into the fun-filled world of… Friday Finds!

Since I’m still in the process of unpacking my new residence, there weren’t a whole lot of finds for me this week. What I did come across:

The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday by Neil MacFarquhar – I checked this one out from my store after reading all the praise it received in the Times. I’m about seventy pages in, and I’m pretty hooked, but it’s also an easy book to pick up and put down.

Making Music by Ann Wiseman – While at the Carnegie Library on Sunday, I came across this book, a 2003 reprint of a great children’s music book from the 1970s. The illustrations are worth the money alone, red and white hand drawn and very, very 70s. But I’m running a music camp at the store the last week of July, so I thought I needed a few decent books on making music and building instruments with children.

Spook by Mary Roach – The only one of her three books that I haven’t read. It appeared on the bargain table a few weeks ago, and I remembered to grab a copy before they all sold out.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby – Upcoming release from one of my favorite author’s. Not technically one of my snags, because my roommate grabbed it before I saw it. Since it lives in my household, I count it as among my finds. Super excited for this one.

Galleys and ARCs have dried up a bit for now. I expect Fall release stuff to be coming in closer to August. I received two from Bloomsbury last week (or possibly the week before), but I haven’t seen a whole lot come in the past month or so.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

some intriguing recent reads...

My one (and only) reader, Maureen, informed me recently that she wished that I would keep up the blog with more consistency. Her assessment is entirely correct. Where as I'm excellent in starting blogs, I have considerable trouble when it comes to actually keeping them going.

It's frustrating, because I'm always consuming new reads, always digesting new reads, and I spend a ton of time thinking about what I read... yet, it almost never makes the transfer to a written form or any kind of recorded discourse. It usually only makes an appearance in an off-hand comment to a co-worker or customer or friend. "Oh, I just read the best book." "The book I just finished was really disappointing." "Have you read that? It's great!"

I find myself so often engaging in empty pleasantries, I'm often horrified by the bland nothings that come out of my mouth. I know that writing these posts do more than externalize my feelings for the books that I consume. Writing posts allows me to sharpen my insights, purify my thoughts from the bullshit and generalizations. Like writing in college, only focusing on the stuff that I want to focus on, and without the need to over-intellectualize (but, admittedly, that is still fun to do) or fit the analysis into a specific theoretical framework.

Not only does writing allow for a better, cleaner thought process (in all manners of thinking), but it also will allow me a better retention over what I've read. When you consume book after book, you tend to even let go of details of even the best reads. Lately, I've had a hard time recalling the specifics of what I've just finished, and that simply will not do.

Basically, I will try to post more. For now, however, here is a list of recent reads, with brief (very brief) assessments.

Read on vacation: The following books were read during my trip to the Southwest the third week of May,
- The Elegance of the Hedgehog: Loved it. Get past the first few dry parts, and you find a story that's every bit as warm and funny as it is intellectual.
-Coraline: Read it for Mother-Daughter Book club. I've got a lot to talk about regarding Neil Gaiman, so I'll save most of my comments for another post. But of course, I thought it was great.
-Bonk: Mary Roach can make anything interesting, so her coverage on the history and practices of sex research was bound to be hilarious and endlessly entertaining. It did not disappoint.
-The Savage Detectives: Apologies to Bolano's multitude of fans, but I have not finished it. I think I'm going to need another vacation before I really get into it.
- Pure: Thought McEvoy did a fine job covering what could have been a melodramatic, borderline absurd teen morality play. Minor quibbles aside, it's a decent YA read.

The Savage Detectives was preempted by a copy of Catching Fire arriving in the mail while I was gone. I have a ton to say about Catching Fire and The Hunger Games overall, so I will save it for another post.

Liar: This is the first Larbalestier release that I really got into. It’s surprisingly complex, with an unreliable narrator/protagonist and a fluctuating storyline that spins into a mix of teenage angst, murder mystery, and fantasy suspense, but even more surprisingly, doesn’t lose its tense, unpredictable quality. This one comes out in October, I believe.

When I Reach You: I read this book in only a few hours, but it takes a while to sink in. It comes out next week, and I've been tempted to re-read it, to see how I've changed my mind about it. I really enjoyed it. It's a perfect blend of 1970s era coming of age story and the slightly fantastic, all loosely connected with A Wrinkle in Time, which I've also been tempted to revisit. A charming, remarkably well told work of children's literature. I especially liked the mother-daughter relationship in the book. Very true to life, very relatable.

It gets a little fuzzy around here. I think I started and stopped a lot of stuff. I re-read The Westing Game, which remains one of my favorite children's books. Raskin is smart about genre: she knows just how playful to be with her young audience, but doesn't dumb anything down regarding the mystery, the action, or the chracter development. Plus, the writing is near perfect for a who-dunit.

Sometime around then, I read an upcoming Bloomsbury release, A Whole 'Nother Story, which I didn't fall in love with, but I can definitely see the appeal. It's got a bit of Mysterious Benedict/Lemony Snicket thing going, but at this point, that style is starting to get used to a degree of quirk and preciousness that I'm not sure I'm comfortable with. Style won't save you, not even in children's literature.

Then... eek... when did I pick up Shiver?... So, I don't go in for paranormal romances. I'm just not the type. I've certainly tried them out before - and yes, I am currently reading Twilight, for the I Heart Teen Lit book club - but they've just never stuck. I tried out Cassie Clare's "The Mortal Instruments" trilogy, but ugh... I didn't make it past page 70 of the first book, City of Bones. Normally, it's the writing that puts me off, not the romance or the paranormal or the revived/altered/changed/blended version of mythical figures... always the writing. Shiver did not have this problem. A werewolf story, of sorts, but not the kind you might expect. I imagine I'll have more to say when it's released in August.

Okay, from there, it was Chronic City, the upcoming Jonathan Lethem. More to say on that. It's Lethem trying out his inner Philip K. Dick, with mixed results.

So, I just finished The Graveyard Book, hence having so much to say about Neil Gaiman. Let me just say that he earned that Newberry. He's one of the most continually exciting authors out there, and it's because he's a brave writer, not just a good one, and he treats children's literature with the same dignity bestowed upon contemporary literary fiction.

Now, I'm splitting my time between Twilight & The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday. Weird combo, and I almost never read two things at once - I don't usually have the patience for going back and forth, but these are two such disparate works, it's somewhat more suitable.

My favorites of 2009, thus far:
- Tunneling to the Center of the Earth
- The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate
- More of This World or Maybe Another
- Catching Fire
- Netherland - Despite being released in 2008, I'm counting this for its paperback release. It's good enough for two years.

At some point, I will finish both The Savage Detectives and Thirteenth Child (which I started right before... something... I can't remember... maybe The Graveyard Book?).