Monthly Archives: July 2008

Giveaways and a break

If you haven’t yet, please check out these awesome blogs for some great giveaways!

Jen over at Devourer of Books is having a giveaway for Queen of the Road.

You can try to win a copy of the much anticipated title The Gargoyle over at Readerville for entry details.

And you should also stop by Natasha’s blog over at Maw Books to check out a very worthwhile giveaway, giving away 2 books each to 4 winners in attempt to raise awareness about genocide in Darfur. The giveaway consists of a mini-quiz about the title: Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond by Don Cheadle. Please go check it out!

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Well, I’ve managed to read 12 books in July, 1 shy of hitting my goal for the July Book Blowout challenge. I may still read another book, but I think its time to give my eyes a little break. Although, I did make the mistake of stopping by Leigh’s Favorite Books, a used bookstore in Sunnyvale. I spent about an hour and a half in the store walking up and down every aisle, picking up books, putting some back, remembering titles and authors, forgetting certain titles and authors that I always look for. I picked up:

1. Post Office by Charles Bukowski

2. The Most Beautiful Woman in Town and other Stories by Charles Bukowski

3. The Lady in the Tower by Jean Plaidy (I first heard about this author from Devourer of Books, but unfortunately, my library system doesn’t have any of her books!)

4. Swann’s Way by Proust (so that I can try to be an English major again)

5. Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund (I adored Abundance, a novel of Marie Antoinette, and have been wanting to read this title for a long time, but something keeps getting in the way…like due dates from the library)

I also, by the good graces of the selectors for my library system, get to pick and choose from a pile of ARCs that are sent to the library for librarians to read and decide to order or not. From this pile I picked up

1. The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

2. Geekspeak, How Life + Math = Happiness by Graham Tattersall

Although, I feel like taking a book-break tonight and watching Rocky II with my mom while finishing up this baby blanket I am knitting for a friend of my sister.

The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club – Review

True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life

The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club
By Laurie Notaro
Villard Books, 2002
ISBN 0375760911
225 pages

Laurie Notaro is a humorist, and an incredibly funny and talented one. With a title like The Idiot Girl’s Action-Adventure Club and chapters titled: “How I Can Relive the Horror of High School for $103”, and “Revenge of the Bra Girl”, the reader in for a treat. While not all of her stories are completely original, or laugh out loud, there are a few gem sentences and scenes that had me laughing for a good 2 minutes. Unlike David Sedaris, Laurie Notaro is not out to make social commentaries on human nature. She wants to share her life, her funny friends, and witty family.

This first book is a collection of columns written for the Arizona Republic. Each story details Laurie simple, yet comedic life. Laurie is the typical woman. Not too pretty, or too smart, but incredibly funny and very sarcastic. She introduces herself to us an alcoholic, chain smoking and overweight cynic. Her life is not glamorous, but that is what makes her endearing to any reader, because Laurie’s life, and the situations she finds herself in are common amongst a fair portion of the female population. Laurie’s disheveled appearance has her mistaken for a homeless person on her way to jury-duty in the chapter “Gone Courtin’.” She crashes her own High School Reunion in “How I Can Relive the Horror of High School for $103”, and was blacklisted at a community college gym for being a smoker in “I Have a Note From My Mom…” She goes through the horror of dentist visits and OB-GYN visits that end rather embarrassingly. In each story, Laurie manages to embarrass herself or her QVC addicted mother. This book is a good addition to any humorist collection. I personally would love to hang out David Sedaris and Laurie Notaro for one night, listening to them dish out sarcastic and comedic quips about the general populous.

FINAL GRADE B+

Find this book at your local library

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A Confederacy of Dunces – Review

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A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Age: Teen & up
Genre: Fiction
 
 

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole is by far one of the most entertaining and amusing books I’ve read to date. I picked this book up a Border’s Express 4 years ago that was going out of business and all items were 40% off. I didn’t know anything about this book, except that the title sounded vaguely familiar and I was slightly mesmerized by the cartoonish cover. Well, unfortunately, once this book ended up on my bookshelf, it decided to stay there for a quite some time. I finally decided to pick it up and read it, mostly at my friend’s urging, and I am very very glad I did. A friend had described the book to me like this during a chat conversation:

“yeah, he’s quite offensive, actually,
but the book is obviously a satire
the main character is very educated and pompous
he sticks out like a sore thumb in New Orleans, where he lives”

So, I had this image of a pompous genius with social ineptness in my head when I picked up this book. Then I started reading:

“A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head. The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out on either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once. Full pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs.”

This is the reader’s first introduction to Ignatius J. Reilly. An obese, flatulent, gluttonous 30 year old, still living with his mother, unable to make any kind of life for himself. I think for the first few chapters, I kept flipping to look at the cover of the book to see the visual image of Ignatius J. Reilly every time he opened his mouth in the book. As my friend already summarized, this book is a satire, and it is a gritty look at the French Quarter of New Orleans in the 1960’s. Toole manages to discuss racism, political and social strife through the comedic actions of Ignatius. There is social and racial commentary via Burma Jones, an African American man, working below minimum wage, on fear that he’ll be arrested for being a “vagran” and just for being a black man. There is social commentary in the form of the wealthy Levy’s with their dysfunctional world-view and, as well as Lana Lee, the owner of an infamous bar/stripclub.

The plot: After an attempted arrest, Ignatius and his mother escape and hide in a very horrid bar/stripclub. As they leave, Ignatius’ mother is rather drunk, gets behind the wheel and backs the car up into a building. Subsequently, the Reilly’s are sued for $1,020.oo in damages. In order to pay off this debt, Ignatius takes a couple of jobs. First he works as a clerical assistant for the floundering Levy Pants, and then as a more hilarious hot-dog vendor. No matter what he does, Ignatius leaves a trail of wreckage, and confusion behind him. When not working, and also while working, Ignatius is constantly writing on his Big Chief tablets about his insights in the moral downfall of modern civilization. The characters are just incredible and so animated and colorful. All the characters end up coming together in the end, there are no loose strings.

Although this book was written in the 1960’s, Toole wrote this book while living in Puerto Rico for two years. Sadly, this book was not published during his lifetime. Hounded by depression, Toole committed suicide in 1969 after Simon and Schuster rejected his book, claiming it was a book about nothing.

After his death, his mother went to Walker Percy insisting that he read the manuscript. Percy instantly fell in love with the work, and even provides the forward for the publication. A Confederacy of Dunces has won the Pulitzer Price and has been translated into 18 languages. Toole’s other work, Neon Bible, was written when he was 16, and was also posthumously published in 1989.

I really hope that anyone who has the book on their to-be-read list can find a way to nudge it up a couple of slots. The characters are endearing, you keep thinking, what is going to happen next? Oh no! why is he saying those things? Since Ignatius is a pedantic, it would be helpful to keep a dictionary nearby to look up some of his polysyllabic vocabulary that shoots out of his mouth with a playful and natural ease.

A Confederacy of Dunces
by John Kennedy Toole
Grove Press, 1980
ISBN 0802130208
394 pages

Find this book at your local library

A confederacy of dunces

 

Weekly Book Release 7/28/208

New releases for this week:

7/28/2008

Adult Books

1. Into the Fire by Suzanne Brockmann (Ballantine)

7/29/2008

Adult Books

1. Last Kiss by Luanne Rice (Bantam)

2. Fractured by Karin Slaughter (Bantam)

3. Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters by Nancy Pelosi

4. Robert Ludlum’s (TM) The Bourne Sanction by Eric Van Lustbader

Juvenile Books

1. Madam President by Lane Smith (Disney-Hyperion)

2. Cinderella’s Fairy-Tale Wedding by Lisa Ann Marsoli

3. Disney Fairies: Tinker Bell’s Tea Party by Lara Bergen (Disney Press)

4. Baby Einstein: Touch and Feel Neighborhood Animals by Julie Aigner-Clark (Disney Press)

The compilation is based on information from www.publishersweekly.com, www.bn.com and www.bordersstores.com.

The Seamstress – Review

The Seamstress by Frances de Ponte Peebles is set in 1930’s Brazil around the lives of two sisters with an amazing skill of sewing and tailoring. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all its about. Somewhere almost 300 pages into the novel did any sign of plot actually start to form. Peeble’s way with words are magical with the way her descriptive writing brings life to the setting. But it seems that she focused more of her energy on the description, rather than the story. It was almost 80 pages into the book before I saw even a hint of dialog.

The novel follows two sisters, Emilia and Luzia de Santos from their childhood growing up in the mountains with their Aunt Sofia. Luzia is nicknamed “Victrola” due to an accident that mangled her arm. Despite this, she is the better seamstress of the two sisters. During their teens, a rowdy gang leader, The Hawk, is smitten with Luzia, and soon forces de Santos family to sew entirely new uniforms for his gang. That same night, The Hawk and his crew kidnap Luzia and she slowly becomes one of their members.

Once their Aunt Sofia passes away, Emilia unsuccessfully marries a rich city boy, Degas, and is taken to a new life in Recife, where she feels uncomfortable and out of place trying to adapt to a world of many rules and gossip. Emilia keeps tabs on her sister through a collection of newspaper articles written on the on-going crimes committed by Luzia’s new family.

Its an interesting concept, but the execution of the story is lacking substance. The pace of the story is incredibly slow due to Peeble’s Dickenesque method of writing. I started this book sometime in early June and had to force myself to finish it. The characters are well developed, but Peeble’s doesn’t really know what to do with them. In a way, it feels as if she just made up the story as she wrote, without finding a connecting thread to tie everything together. If this is simply a story about life in Brazil in the 1930’s, with no conflict, then she did a good job. Other than Emilia’s mother in law, the only other villian is The Hawk, but as the story progresses, we see he is more of a Robin Hood of the oppressed. The story does eventually pick up at about 350 pages into the novel, but I don’t know who has the patience to sit through 300 pages of description.

FINAL GRADE: B-

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A Novel

The Seamstress
by Frances De Pontes Peebles
Harper (August 5, 2008 )
ISBN: 0060738871
656 pages

Better World Books

I found this site through an ad on Facebook.

Better World Books is an online bookstore, with a heart of gold. I feel like I should just copy and paste their entire About Us page, but I’ll just paste a few choice paragraphs that really describe what this company is all about.

“We’re breaking new ground in online bookselling. We believe that education and access to books are basic human rights. That’s why books sold on BetterWorld.com help fund high-impact literacy projects in the United States and around the world.

All books are available with free shipping to any location within the United States (or $2.97 worldwide). And in case you’re concerned about your eco-footprint, every order is shipped carbon neutral with offsets from Carbonfund.org.

Here’s the best part: In addition to selling new titles, Better World Books supports book drives and collects used books and textbooks through a network of over 1,600 college campuses and partnerships with nearly 1,000 libraries nationwide. So far, the company has converted more than 11 million donated books into $4.5 million in funding for literacy and education. In the process, we’ve also diverted more than 6,000 tons of books from landfills.”
Free US Shipping, less than $3.00 for international shipping, and they can boast a pretty hearty collection of books. You can even check out their blog www.betterworldblog.com. Prices are fair, and they even provide links to Worldcat.org so that you search for titles to find at your nearest library.

Unfortunately, the one and only book I’ve been looking for and can never find anywhere (other than Amazon, of course) is Penguin Lost by Andrey Kurkov, is not available on this site, otherwise I would have snatched it up. But Death and The Penguin is there, which I highly recommend that everyone read. Russian black comedy…its just a big book of dreary fun!

An award for me?

I was nominated for two awards, one by the wonderful Adam over at Letters on Pages, and the other by Jen over at Devourer of Books. What a great ego boost to be nominated for an award! I feel so giddy with glee! Thank you Adam, and Jen and thank you to everyone else who takes the time to read my posts! I really appreciate your interest and comments!

In turn, my nominees for the Brillante Weblog are:

1. Hidden Side of a Leaf for her fantastic contests, giveaways and book reviews

and

2. Jessica over at The Bluestocking Society for her great reviews, author interviews and Blue Leaf notes.

Nominees for the E for Excellent Award go to:

1. Adam over at Letters on Pages for his fantastic non-fiction book reviews.

and

2. Wendy over at Lists-Books for the Obsessive Reader for her interesting book picks and comprehensive lists of books for virtually every reader!

Nomination Rules

1. Put the award logo on the post (see above)
2. Link back to the person who nominated you (see blogroll)
3. Nominate other blogs (see below)
4. Add links to your nominees (see blogroll)
5. Leave a message on their blogs (see their blogs)

The Doorbell RangToday, I’m going to be doing an audition for this volunteer storytime group I found through my local library. I had to prepare a mini storytime presentation complete with a book, a couple of little songs, an a flannel board story. The group gave me all the materials, I just have to present it. I’m not sure how large the group of kids will be today, but it should still be fun. For the audition today, I am reading The Doorbell Rang by Pat Hutchins and doing a flannel board story of the 5 Little Ghosts. I currently do weekly storytimes Friday mornings with another librarian where I work, so I have a feel for the pacing and enthusiasm. I’ve also been practicing in front of my pets. Its cute when they just sit and stare and me as I ramble on and on.

Autobiography of a Face – Review

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Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
Age: Adult
Genre: Memoir, nonfiction
 

When reading the Publisher’s Weekly review of Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy I was surprised to see this work was in its original form an award-winning, article published in Harper’s in 1993. (Mirrorings. By: Grealy, Lucy, Harper’s Magazine, 0017789X, Feb93, Vol. 286, Issue 1713). For the most part, the article is a very concise version of the book. The only difference is that in the article, Lucy does not mention her family, nor her love of animals. The animals, primarily horses, are what help her through some of her worst years of surgeries and taunts.

It feels odd to say that I enjoyed reading this memoir, mostly because of Grealy’s topic, Ewing’s Sarcoma. How does one enjoy reading a book about a 9 year old’s struggle with cancer and the subsequent emotional and physical damages she would suffer afterward? I did however, enjoy Lucy’s fluid and descriptive writing. At times, her writing did seen overdone, but I didn’t think that she over dramatized any particular aspect of her life.

Ewing’s Sarcoma, is a form of cancer that left Lucy’s face severely disfigured at the young age of 9, and left her hospitalized for most of her life, dealing with chemotherapy for 2.5 years as well as over 30 operations to reconstruct her jaw into its former shape from age 15. Each attempt somehow managed to fail as the tissues would be reabsorbed, and her jaw-line would return to its normal shape.

Lucy struggled to be brave for her rather stoic family who, I think, had no real way of being able to understand and commiserate with Lucy’s pain. Lucy, being a child, was in no state to really be able to articulate all the emotional and physical pain and confusion she suffered as a result of the surgeries, and chemotherapy. Her mother urging her not to cry and to be brave put a lot of emotional stress on Lucy, when she should have been told that it is OK to cry and be scared. Her father never stayed during the 4 minute chemo rounds, and his absence left Lucy with a sense of relief that she could be scared without being judged by her family. She makes no mention of how her brothers and sisters treat her.

I think it was wise of Grealy to keep her childhood naiveté regarding her early childhood experiences in and out of hospitals. Most memoirs tend to have the narrator be incredibly well aware of their surroundings and situations at all times, and I find it hard to believe that any 9 year old is so in-touch with the world on that level. I think Grealy’s childhood ignorance of what was happening to her is also reflective of how hospitals treat children, almost not addressing their fears directly, but just working on the problem and hoping for the best. But that might have changed since the 1970’s when Lucy went in for chemotherapy.

I cried at various parts of the book, mostly for Lucy’s detachment from her parents and upon the death of her father. It was interesting seeing her reaction to the death of her horse, Mare, which left her depressed for months, and her reaction to the death of her father. The latter was taken a little more light-heartedly.

I think Lucy is a brave woman for coping with her disfigurement and her depression and being able to share her story. Lucy wrote “I felt as if my illness were a blanket the world had thrown over me; all that could be seen from the outside was an indistinguishable lump. And somehow I transformed that blanket into a tent, beneath which I almost happily set up camp. I had no sense of how my life was supposed to be, only of how it was” (130). Once Lucy is reinstated in school, she has to relearn how to cope with her disfigurement as she is daily and routinely taunted and harassed by a group of boys on campus.

If you can get your hands on it, I would suggest reading the article in Harper’s if you want a quick summary of Lucy’s life. If you want to be more in touch with her feelings, then I suggest reading the book.

Find this book at your local library

Buy this book on Amazon

Autobiography of a Face
Lucy Grealy
Houghton Mifflin Co. 1994
ISBN 0395657806
223 pages

Weekly Book Release 7/21/2008

Books being released this week.

On 7/22/2008:

Adult Books

The Dangerous Days of Daniel by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Little, Brown)

Moscow Rules by Daniel Silva (Putnam)

Damage Control by J.A. Jance (Morrow)

Riven by Jerry B. Jenkins (Tyndale)

Children’s Books

What’s Your Red Rubber Ball?! by Kevin Carroll (Disney-ESPN)

7/26/2008

Children’s Books

Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Battle Begins by Rob Valois (Penguin/Grosset & Dunlap) * Published 7/26

Star Wars: Clone Wars Visual Guide (DK) * Published 7/26

The compilation is based on information from www.publishersweekly.com, www.bn.com and www.bordersstores.com.

Title lines are not always easy to name.

A big thanks to DeweyMonster as I won Everything Bad is Good For You, from the Weekly Geek #11. I’ve had an interest in reading this book for a long time, but its one of those titles that slips out of my mind whenever I am in a bookstore.

So, I decided my next reads after Autobiography of a Face, will be A Confederacy of Dunces and The Secret Life of Houdini. Both got the most votes in my Weekly Geek #12 Post. I had already read through a quarter of the Houdin biography a few months ago, but I had to return it to the library because I already hit the maximum amount of renewals. So, here is for round two. Confederacy of Dunces has been highly recommended by a good friend, and since I haven’t read a book directly off of my bookshelf in quite a while, its long overdue.