Monthly Archives: August 2008

The Black Dahlia – Review

The best part about reading, is being able to time travel all over the world through all different time periods and eras. Last week, I was in 19th Century Bath, England chasing after ghosts and falling in love. This week I spent my time in Hollywood, CA in the 1940’s pre and post WW2 hunting down a sadistic killer.

The Black Dahlia The Black Dahlia by James Ellroy is a very grisly, graphic and disturbing book. But I still enjoyed it immensely. The novel starts off with two former boxers now policemen, duking it out for a crowd to corral moral support from the city voters in order to procure a raise for the entire LAPD. Ellroy writes in a fast-paced, somewhat jumpy style with lots of police jargon. There is a lot of derogatory and racist terminology sprinkled throughout the novel, and almost no one is innocent or the “good-guy”, particularly the women. Then again, this is the police-world and the police usually deal with crooks, pimps and prostitutes, in a big city. The racist words, although jarring, were probably abundantly used back then, so it helps keep the plot in its time-frame. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the same terminology still pops up in modern police life in this decade. But to be fair, I found Ellroy to be somewhat misanthropic across the board, and not towards any specific race or gender as other reviewers have claimed.

The story centers around Lee Blanchard and Dwight “Bucky” Bleichert coming upon the mutilated and tortured body of Elizabeth Short, nicknamed The Black Dahlia by the media. While neither man was completely mentally or emotionally stable when the novel begins, the Dahila cases engulfs their lives and takes both men into a downward spiral of sex, booze and corruption, all in the name of finding Dahlia’s killer. Bleichert is easily the protagonist in the novel, and despite his faults and slip-ups, he wears his heart on his sleeve knows when to separate the good guys from the bad guys. Pschologically he shifts back and forth between “moral” and “immoral” finding a center of gravity in Kay Lake, Lee’s girlfriend and former mob-moll. Although no character is endearing, all the characters stick with you after you put the book down.

The storyline is full of twists and turns and exciting new characters that you loath immediately, but still want to know more about. There is great character development, even though it feels more like de-evolution as we learn that what people project is not necessarily genuine of their actual being. Everyone in this novel has dark skeletons in the closet and something to be ashamed of. Its a dark look inside morality, psychology and what is considered “right” and “wrong” among various ethnicities and social classes. No one is perfect, no one is good, but some people do try, and that is a true reflection of the world.

FINAL GRADE: A

The Black Dahlia
by James Ellroy
Warner Books, 1987
ISBN 0446618128
358 pages
*******

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And the award goes to….

Time to dig through your Feeds and Bookmarks and start marking down all your favorite book blogs. Amy, over at My Friend Amy has the categories up for the Book Blogger Appreciation week

Email Amy at BbawawardsATgmailDOTcom with all of your nominations (up to two blogs per category). You don’t need to have a blog in order to vote. Each category will have 5 final nominees. Vote for me if you love my blog! Or vote for another blog that you love and appreciate. All votes count! Think of it as practice run before the big election in November.

Here are the categories:

  • Best General Book Blog
  • Best Kidlit Blog
  • Best Christian/Inspirational Fiction Blog
  • Best Literary Fiction Blog
  • Best Book Club Blog
  • Best Romance Blog
  • Best Thrillers/Mystery/Suspense Blog
  • Best Non-fiction Blog
  • Best Young Adult Lit Blog
  • Best Book/Publishing Industry Blog
  • Best Challenge Host
  • Best Community Builder
  • Best Cookbook Blog
  • Best History/Historical Fiction Blog
  • Best Design
  • Most Chatty
  • Most Concise
  • Most Eclectic Taste
  • Best Name for a Blog
  • Best Published Author Blog
  • Best Book published in 2008
  • Best Meme/Carnival/Event
  • Most Extravagant Giveaways
  • Best Book Community site

Bone – Review (guest post)

Guest post by my best friend, local graphic novel enthusiast and my local dealer and source for all things comic book. Here is her great review of a comic book series called Bone by Jeff Smith, which I will probably be borrowing in the near future:

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One Volume Edition You’ve read the story before. A kingdom, set in medieval times, is taken under siege by monsters who no longer wish to be subordinate to the arrogant human race. The royal family goes into hiding, is betrayed, and the only two surviving members abandon the kingdom in order to seek refuge in a pastoral farm town. A treaty is signed between the humans and monsters, order is restored, and the once powerful kingdom is only a shadow of what it used to be without its royal family inhabiting its walls. Nevertheless, peace reigns throughout the valley again.

Time passes and the two surviving royal family members are living in tranquility on their farm. It is a grandmother, Rose, and her granddaughter, Thorn. The granddaughter, Thorn, was only a baby when the war had broken out, and knows nothing about her royal heritage. She believes they were always pastoral farmers, and her grandmother intends to keep her in the dark for as long as possible, believing it will keep the monsters, or rat creatures, from breaking the treaty and going back into the valley.

Inevitably, something happens to cause disruption once more. Chaos erupts, war happens, characters die, others are redeemed, and order is restored once more. (C’mon, I didn’t just ruin the ending. Order is always restored in these sorts of tales!) So why should you read “Bone” by Jeff Smith? I’ll give you one word — its namesake — the Bones.

Meet cousins Phoncible P. “Phoney” Bone, Smiley Bone, and Fone Bone. They are bone creatures and residents of Boneville. The book starts with the three cousins wandering the desert, two weeks after having been exiled. One of the cousins, Phoney, had incurred the wrath of the entire town after having implemented one of his famous get rich quick schemes that ended terribly wrong (imagine gastrointestinal troubles on a town wide scale). They are drawn and depicted as sweet and childlike as Tolkein’s hobbits are in the “Lord of the Rings,” and even Phoney’s shady business deals are described as being innocent in their selfish intentions. After accidentally splitting up, each cousin individually makes their way to Barrelhaven, the human inhabited town where Rose and Thorn live. This is when the story really starts.Out From Boneville

It is the scenes with these bones, whether with each other, the rat creatures, or the humans, that makes the story attractive to even non-comic book lovers. As we get to know each Bone individually, we find ourselves rooting for Phoney as he implements one of his schemes just so we can see to what humorous means it will ultimately backfire. We then sympathize with the lovelorn Fone who follows Thorn, his unrequited love, and later partner in war. And finally, we smile every time we get to see Smiley interact with his pet baby rat creature, constantly hiding and sheltering him from those who try to kill him simply because of his race. Then, when the war really starts, Smith masterfully has the reader wondering what will become of the innocent spirits of the Bones as they are thrust into ugly times where allegiances are shadier than Phoney’s business schemes and evil doers exists solely to destroy the entire world and sheer existence.

In short, if you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, Lord of the Rings, or any kingdom like fantasy world, you should read “Bone”. Don’t be a literature snob and turn away from this masterful piece of work just because it is drawn like a children’s comic, or simply because it is drawn. “Bone” stands alongside any great bildungsroman or hero’s journey tale, and will suck you in so much that after the last page is turned you will want to go back to the beginning get lost with the Bones all over again.

** Bone by Jeff Smith is available in a 1 volume, 1332 page, trade paperback by Cartoon Books.

** Winner of several Eisner awards, including, but not limited to, Best Humor Publication (1993, 1994), Best Continuing Series (1994), Best Writer/Artist (1994).

** Winner of several Harvey awards, including, but not limited to, Best Cartoonist (1994-97, 2000, 2003, 2005), Best Graphic Album of Previously Published Work (1994, 2005).

Find this book at your local library

Buy this book at Better World Books

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Inside the Reader’s Studio

I was tagged by Jen from Devourer of Books for this fun little “getting to know you” meme.

What is your favorite word?

For a while I used to subscribe to Dictionary.com’s word of the day, and they would always send me words that I could never find a way to easily slip into daily use, so most of those words fell into my favorites category, mostly because they are outdated and fun to say.

Brobdiganean is the number one favorite. It means “huge”

Lackadaisical is second runner up.

What is your least favorite word?

I’m not fond of swear words. I don’t use them, and I think that more creative words can be used in their place.

What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?

Being outdoors, whether its a park, hiking in the woods, or being lazy at the beach. Also snuggling up on the couch with a glass of wine with the boyfriend.

What turns you off (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?

Selfishness, greed. Parents misusing their children’s library cards…

What sound or noise do you love?

My guinea pig wheeking for food. My guinea pig eating food (she chews really loudly, its really cute).

What sound or noise do you hate?

Dogs barking, it always makes me jumpy. I hate car horns, when used inappropriately. I hate it when the latex balloon pops.

What is your favorite curse word?

I use damn a lot. But my friends debate if that is considered a swear word or not.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I would like to be a professional baker. Open up my own bakery/reading room.

What profession would you not like to do?

Anything involving customer service in a retail store.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Your dad is right over there. Go say hi.  —–>

Now it is your turn!

I’m tagging:

Meghan from Medieval Bookworm

Trish at Trish’s Reading Nook

and MizB at Should be Reading

Weekly Geek #14

Yay, Weekly Geek is back up and running over at Hidden Side of a Leaf. These week’s geek theme is a photo tour:

Many of you have already posted photos of bookshelves, so here are some other ideas for photo tours. You could post just one, or many.

*Bookshelves, of course.
*TBR piles.
*Your favorite places to read in your house or apartment.
*Other favorite places to read: coffee shop? library? park? secret hiding place at work?
*Your book group: faces, places, books you’ve read for it.
*Collages: books you’ve read or plan to read, or just your librarything collage.
*Your kids reading in their favorite places.
*Your own ideas!

So the only real guideline for this week’s Weekly Geeks is that it should include bookish photos.

Copying my best friend’s idea, I split up my TBR pile and my already-read pile between my two bookshelves. This one is my To be Read Bookcase. 4 of the 5 shelves are all books that I own. The 2nd shelf from top are all books that are borrowed from friends and need to be returned. I believe there is a total of 84 some odd books on those shelves. This bookshelf doesn’t really change, because I tend to check books out from the library rather than read what’s on this shelf. But, I did manage to move Northanger Abbey over from one shelf to another. Also, A Secret Life of Bees will be finding itself a new home soon.

The top three rows on this stack of shelves are books I’ve already read. These two bookcases make my bedroom. Lovely waking up to such wonderful sights each morning. I used to have a third bookcase, same size as the one holding all of my TBR books. But I managed to donate enough titles to actually move one bookshelf out of my room.

I was at an Art Festival in Palo Alto Sunday afternoon, and happened to cross a street filled with chalk art. There were a number of beautiful renditions of art. This one of Curious George is the most bookish. Unfortunately, you can’t see the top of it very well from the glare of the sunlight.

Northanger Abbey – Review

Northanger Abbey (Bantam Classic) You can tell that Northanger Abbey is one of Jane Austen’s earlier stories because it isn’t quite as long as the rest, and the main essence of the story isn’t in the love triangles and misunderstandings. In fact, this book is simply about loving books. Although Persuasion is the last of the Jane Austen books, and the only one I haven’t read, I feel safe to say that Northanger Abbey is by far my favorite novel. It is just as ripe with social commentary on the upper and middle class, the educated and non-educated, the pious and the selfish.

The story takes place mostly in Bath, England when a young Catherine Morland is sent to spend a few months with friends of the family, the Allens. On one her first days she encounters a very sociable young man named Henry Tilney. Catherine soon develops a strong crush on Tilney, but unfortunately, he is nowhere to be seen for the next few chapters. Enter Isabella Thorpe. She reminded me very much of Mary Crawford from Mansfield Park. Isabella also came with a brother, John Thorpe, who did nothing but torment Catherine with his obnoxious behavior. Through a series of missed chances, Catherine is finally able to keep her engagements with the Tilney siblings once they return to Bath. Striking up a pleasant friendship with Henry and Eleanor, Catherine is soon invited to spend a few months at Northanger Abbey with the Tilney family, and here the fun ensues. Her mind ripe with images of Ann Radcliffe’s Udolpho, Catherine lets her imagination get the better of at the abbey. Henry, even encourages Catherine’s fantasies by drafting an entire plot of her adventures exploring Northanger Abbey in a scene that could have been taken straight out of Udolpho. Henry’s imagination and sweetness in this scene made it one of my favorites in the whole book.

Catherine Morland is an extremely likable heroine. She is early on defined as “almost pretty” by her parents, but also very humble and simple. Isabella is a flirt more concerned with fashion than her friend’s well-being. John Thorpe and Henry Tilney are polar opposites of each other in virtually every way. Henry comes from a family with money, the Thorpes only pretend to have money. John abhors reading: “I never read novels; I have something else to do” (p32), whereas Henry tells Catherine “The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.”(p85). But at the heart of the story is just a love of a good story, which is why the romance of the Catherine and Henry, and that of Catherine’s brother James and Isabella is almost in the background to Catherine’s love of books and love for a good story.

This book is one best read late at night. I was up until 1am reading before I finally made myself go to bed. I kept falling into that trap of “one more chapter” but that’s not so easy when each chapter is only 2 or 3 pages long, and you are dying to know where Catherine and Henry will finally meet, or if the Thorpes will keep interrupting their plans.

FINAL GRADE: A+

Northanger Abbey
by Jane Austen
Bantam Books, 1818 (original publication date)
ISBN 0553211978
212 pages
*****

Find this book at your local library

Buy this book at Better World Books

Buy this book from Amazon

The Secret Life of Bees – Book Giveaway winner

The winner of my second giveaway, The Secret Life of Bees, goes to Amanda! If you are in the mood, check out her blog over at Life and Times of a New Yorker for some great book reviews.

Thanks again to everyone who participated. I will be hosting more giveaways, so please keep an eye out for those announcements. =)

Life is a series of…

Does anyone else hate this senario? You go the library, pick up a book that sounds like a really interesting read. You take said book home, do a little research on the author after having read a chapter of the book, and find out that you’re in fact reading the third and final book in a series?

I’ll either have to go and find the first two books before completing this title, or just send it back to the library and hope that one day it will resurface atop by TBR pile.

The 19th Wife – Review

A Novel

Part historical novel and part contemporary murder mystery, David Ebershoff’s The 19th Wife takes a rather unique and extensive look into the start and ultimate decline of polygamy in Mormonism in the United States. There are two major story lines alternating throughout the book. One of Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young’s 19th wife who fought ardently to abolish polygamy from the religion. The second story is of Jordon Scott and his mother, the 19th wife of a Saint in the “Firsts” sect of Mormonism in Mesdale Utah. Jordon is reunited with his mother after a 6 year separation when his mother is accused of having killed her husband. I first read about this book from a review by Jen over at Devour of Books, and I was lucky enough to finally find a copy at my local library. It seems more libraries in the Bay Area had the audio cd in transit, than the actual book on the shelves.

What is unique about this story is the way it is presented. Ebershoff used a variety of formats to tell the fictionalized story of some very real characters. Ebershoff uses diary entries, correspondence, newspaper articles, all sorts of mixed media to tell the story of polygamy’s rise in Mormonism through the eyes of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, as well as Ann Eliza and her parents. The modern storyline is told through the eyes of Jordon Scott only. The majority of the novel centers around Ann Eliza and her perception of polygamy from early childhood well into her adulthood. Ann Eliza’s story, as well as that of her parent’s are key in understanding modern Mormonism, and in turn, understanding Jordon’s story.

The novel is beautifully written and at over 500 pages, I was almost sad to finish the book. Like Devourer, I was also a little disappointed with the finale of the murder trial for Jordon’s mother, but the rest of the novel was gripping. The publication date is also pretty well timed given all the recent news about the polygamous sect in Texas and its leader Warren Jeffs. Ebershoff said on LibraryThing’s Author Chat group that his book has received a pretty fair acceptance by the Mormons. I found that Ebershoff tried to be fair and unbiased in his retelling of a very controversial part of religious history. I think having up to five narrators tell the same tale was beneficial in providing a variety of points of view from which the reader can draw their own conclusions and decisions about this topic. I was also surprised to find an author’s note at the end of the book detailing what is fiction and what is fact in this historical novel. I have only come across one other historical fiction novel that made sure the reader knew that the author took liberties with the characters and the setting. This is a fantastic read, and I hope you all can find a place for it on your never-ending To-Be-Read lists.

Ebershoff has also written two other novels, both of which are now on my TBR list. 

The Danish Girl, and Pasadena: A Novel

The Danish GirlA Novel

FINAL GRADE: A

The 19th Wife
by David Ebershoff
Random House, 2008
ISBN 1400063970
514 pages

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Buy this book at Better World Books

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Friday Finds 8/22/2008

What great books did you hear about or find this week?

The Secret Female Pope Mistress of the Vatican: The True Story of Olimpia Maidalchini: The Secret Female Pope by Eleanor Herman. Morrow, $25.95 (452p) ISBN 9780061245558

In this engrossing “forgotten story” of the Vatican, Herman (Sex with the Queen) relays not only the life of 17th Cenutry Papal puppet-master Olimpia Maidalchini, but the political and social history of her age, including glimpses of art and architecture, family relations, medical care, religious traditions and daily life. Born into a family of average means, Maidalchini rebelled successfully against her father’s plans to place her in a convent. This early triumph gave her a will that she’d eventually use to grab the ultimate seat of power in 17th century Italy, the Papacy, through the likely accomplice of her indecisive brother-in-law, a lawyer with holy orders who was dazzled by Maidalchini’s intelligence, planning and accounting capabilities. He submitted to the her plans, and she eventually ushered him into power as Pope Innocent X. As her wealth and strength grow, so does the resentment around her, but her fate would be sealed by the bubonic plague. Exhaustively researched, with historical vignettes interwoven seamlessly, Herman’s latest provides a window into an age of empire, nepotism and intrigue that rivals any novel for fascinating reading. – Publisher’s Weekly

Zoli by Colum McCann. Random, $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6372-7

McCann’s story is loosely based on a real Gypsy poet, Papsuza, who was exiled by her people when her poems were published. He has enriched that story with insightful and evocative prose, and in Zoli has created a vibrant character who is able to maintain her identity and proud heritage, even when abandoned by those she loves. – BookPage

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Not a Genuine Black Man: Or, How I Claimed My Piece of Ground in the Lily-White Suburbs by Brian Copeland. Hyperion, $22.95 (336p) ISBN 1-4013-0233-5

Laugh through tears at Copeland’s chronicle of a black childhood in white San Leandro. “Honest and engaging, this memoir is a valuable book for anyone trying to straddle racial lines, for anyone who has ever felt out of place.” – Publishers Weekly