Wednesday, October 29, 2008

reading update

What are you reading right now?
Chasing Elvis by Glenn P. Marcel

Why are you reading what you're reading? Pleasure? For review? Something else?
For review - I received this one from Mini Book Expo.

What did you recently finish reading?
The last book I finished was Wife in the North. Before that was Veil of Lies, which I REALLY enjoyed.

What do you think you'll be reading next?
I plan to read Quintet unless I get review copies for November releases.

What was the best book you read this month? Why?
Veil of Lies by Jeri Westerson. It was the perfect combination of an historical setting with a mysterious plot. Jeri is also a great writer and researcher. Learn more about her at her website.

What was the worst book you read this month? Why?
Hmm, I think I'll reserve my opinion on that until after I finish Chasing Elvis. Watch for a review coming soon!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

1,000 most cataloged books on LT

LibraryThing posted a list of the 1,000 most cataloged books on the site here. A Girl Walks into a Bookstore... thought it would be interesting to see how many of her own books were on the list. I thought so too so I did a quick count....only 60 of my 988 books are on the list.

On the flip side, no one else shares 120 of my books, while only one other person shares 52 of my books. Does that mean I'm unique, eclectic, or just plain weird?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Review : Wife in the North

Wife in the North by Judith O'Reilly. PublicAffairs (2008).

Inspired by her blog of the same name, Wife in the North is Judith O'Reilly's diary of her life when she and her family moved camp from London to the Northumberland countryside. A true city girl, Judith finds it difficult to adapt to life in the country. This book charts her rollercoaster of emotions as she cares for her two, then three, children (she's pregnant at the outset of the book) all while her husband is largely absent. He's working in London where she wants to be while she's stuck in Northumberland where he wants to be.

Wife in the North has some sweet and touching moments courtesy of the children. They and Judith also provide some comic relieft throughout. However, there are long stretches where it is mostly sad and sometimes uncomfortable as Judith continues to struggle. I found myself wishing not quite halfway through that she would get to move back to London or, what seemed far less likely, fall in love with Northumberland and be truly happy there...and in a hurry. I'll let you read for yourself to see how it all pans out.

If you enjoy memoirs in a diary format, stories of fish out of water, or can commiserate with being the at-home mother of three young children, go ahead and give Wife in the North a try.

Another take:
Traci's Book Bag

Fabulous Halloween Giveaway!

A couple of bloggers are hosting a fabulous giveaway of 10, yes 10, spooky books for Halloween courtesy of the wonderful people at Hachette.

Click here to enter at Book Room Reviews.
Click here to enter at The Hidden Side of a Leaf.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And the winner is...

Courtesy of the Random Integer Generator at, the winner of a copy of The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters is...


Congratulations, blueviolet! I'll be emailing you for your address.

This giveaway had the largest response yet. Thanks to all who entered and a big thank you to Hachette Book Group for letting me host this giveaway!

Monday, October 13, 2008

iubookgirl's wishlist

As if I don't have enough books to ready already, right? I know! I just can't help myself from adding things to my wishlist as I come across them.

I thought I'd post a few of my top wants here and see if anyone has comments that will either make me go out immediately and buy one or drop it off my list. Thanks in advance for your insight!

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston. Grand Central Publishing (2008).

Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry. Simon & Schuster (2008).

The Lying Tongue by Andrew Wilson. Atria Books (2007).

State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America. Ecco (2008).

Review : Veil of Lies

Veil of Lies: A Medieval Noir by Jeri Westerson. Minotaur Books (2008).

I'm always a little wary when I pick up a first novel, but Jeri Westerson has restored my faith. Kudos to Jeri for persevering through fourteen years of trying to get published and to Minotaur Books for giving her a chance. Veil of Lies is by far the best first novel I've read this year. In fact, it doesn't feel like a first novel at all.

Veil of Lies "a medieval noir" set in 1384 London that combines Westerson's love of medieval history and hard-boiled detective fiction. The history behind the mystery is obviously well-researched. Westerson convincingly portrays this time period. Yet there is also a timelessness to the story, which I think reflects mid-20th century detective fiction. The main character is Crispin Guest, a disgraced knight, that uses his wits and training to solve crimes. His sidekick, Jack, is a lovable character, reminiscent of Short Round in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. There is, of course, a damsel in distress too. Westerson's character development is excellent and her plot is well-crafted. From cover to cover, Veil of Lies held my attention and kept me guessing. This is a winner for any fan of historical fiction and/or mystery.

I'm thrilled that Westerson already has another Crispin Guest novel in the works and will eagerly await its publication. Veil of Lies is scheduled for release on October 28, 2008, and I urge you to buy it the second it hits the shelves.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Booking through Thursday

What was the last book you bought?
Hmm, I've been buying mostly used books lately. One of the books from my last used bookstore pilgrimage was All the President's Men.

Name a book you have read MORE than once
I've read all the Harry Potter books (except the last one) more than once. My memory required it from book release to book release. I tend to not go back to things that much otherwise. I have reread some of my childhood faves in recent years including From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The Phantom Tollbooth.

Has a book ever fundamentally changed the way you see life? If yes, what was it?
The one piece of writing that has really influenced my outlook on life is Desiderata by Max Ehrmann, a fellow Hoosier.

How do you choose a book? eg. by cover design and summary recommendations or reviews
In a bookstore, I'm typically attracted to covers first. Then I read the blurb and maybe the first couple of pages to see if I really want to read it. I also use LibraryThing and all the other great book blogs out there to look for things I might be interested in. There are several authors that I will buy any book they publish--Nick Hornby and Erik Larson to name just two.

I'm a total sucker for author talks so I frequently buy books of authors I'm able to see in person and have sign my book.

Do you prefer Fiction or Non-Fiction?
Fiction, though I go through phases.

What's more important in a novel - beautiful writing or a gripping plot?
Definitely plot. If an author can't keep that together, it doesn't really matter how beautifully written it is.

Most loved/memorable character (character/book)
This is so hard! I love books with great character development so it is just impossible to pick one.

Which book or books can be found on your nightstand at the moment?
Ha, well until about an hour ago I would have said Descartes' Bones! I'm planning to pick up Veil of Lies next.

What was the last book you've read, and when was it?
The last book I read (and finished) was The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. I finished it earlier this week.

Have you ever given up on a book half way in?
Several times. I never made it through Great Expectations or Don Quixote in high school. Recently, I gave up on The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. If I'm not enjoying it, I'm not going to punish myself. I have so many other books to read!

my failure

Descartes' Bones by Russell Shorto. Doubleday (2008).
[to be released October 14, 2008]

Okay, so this book is completely outside my norm, but the idea of following someone's bones across centuries of history sounded interesting. So I requested it even though I shouldn't have. I find myself unable to fight my way through the history of philosophy so I've given failure.

I think someone with a greater interest in philosophy would really enjoy this book. I can't really write a review though. I'll let the New York Times take it from here.

Here's another review from Booklorn, who enjoyed the book.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

giveaway time!

A rep from Hachette Book Group has graciously offered a copy of The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters for me to give away. The book will come directly from Hachette so residents of the U.S. and Canada are eligible.

Read my review here.

1. Leave a comment on this post for one entry.
2. Comment on my review for a bonus entry.
3. Link to this contest on your blog and tell me about it in your comment for a bonus entry.
4. Total of 3 entries possible.
6. Enter by Wednesday, October 15 at 5pm Eastern.

Make sure I have a way to contact you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Review : The Wordy Shipmates

The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell. Riverhead Books (2008).

Anyone who appreciates Sarah Vowell's writing is in for a real treat. The Wordy Shipmates is an uncomplicated presentation of history with a heavy dose of stream of consciousness commentary. Vowell grew up in the church, Pentecostal to be exact, and has an amazing grasp of 17th-century American theology for a layperson. Don't be scare though--her presentation is straightforward and easily understood. I feel like I know a great deal more about the Puritans after reading The Wordy Shipmates.

Vowell was inspired to write about the Puritans following September 11th. During those hardest of days, Vowell took comfort in Winthrop's words, "We must delight in each other...mourn together, labor and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, our community as members of the same body."

Vowell's writing is witty and thoughtful. I found myself struck by an innovative thought either of Sarah's or inspired by her throughout my reading. I enjoyed her discussion of Reagan's usurpation of Winthrop's "city on a hill" phrase (from the same speech quoted above). I think the following quote highlights the intellectual curiosity, wit, and sarcasm Vowell pours into her work.

And speaking of marriage, in colonial New England weddings were "a civil thing," civil unions one might say, performed by magistrates, not clergy. Because a wedding wasn't trumped up as the object in life that saves one's soul--that would be God--but rather more like what it actually is, a change in legal status, an errand at the DMV, with cake.
[taken from ARC, may vary from final printing]

The Wordy Shipmates was just released today (October 7, 2008), and I recommend you go and get it without delay.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Review : Testimony

Testimony by Anita Shreve. Little, Brown (2008).
[to be released October 21]

Anita Shreve's Testimony has a "ripped from the headlines" feeling. It tells the story of a high school sex scandal--the sort of thing that probably happens more than we realize. The horror any parent would feel at her child being involved in this situation is, at times, palpable in Shreve's writing.

She tells the story from multiple viewpoints including parents, children, school administrators, and friends. She maintains the voice of her many, many characters extraordinarily well. Only once did I have to retrace my steps to reconstruct a relationship. I felt great pity for some of the parties involved while others I felt completely indifferent towards. I was surprised I didn't have a greater emotional reaction to this book, but I always felt like an outsider looking in. It allowed me to keep my distance from these characters. Whether this was Shreve's intention, I cannot say.

Overall, Testimony is a well-written, thoughtful story of a life-changing event. This is my first Anita Shreve novel, and I was impressed enough that I would pick up another. If you are a fan or want to learn more, visit Anita Shreve's website here to sign up for her eNewsletter or read an excerpt.

Check out other reviews at:
At Home with Books
A Writer's Pen
Breaking the Spine
For the Good Times
The Sleepy Reader

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Review : The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters

The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine Lopez. Grand Central Publishing (2008).
[released October 1]

The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters is a beautiful tale beautifully told. It is the story of Bette, Loretta, Rita and Sophie, four sisters who are inherently different yet share a common bond. This bond is an overwhelming desire to understand Fermina, the family housekeeper, and the gifts she said they would receive following her death. Each sister struggles to understand and control the gift she thinks Fermina has bestowed upon her. Lopez follows each sister through the twenty-year search for answers and allows the reader to share in their triumphs and bemoan their failures. Finally, the sister come together to learn the truth. The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters is a touching tale of family and finding one's role within it. Lopez has a true flair for words that lets the reader become part of the story.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

September summary

September was another month of great reading for me. I thought I'd do a quick recap in case any of you missed one. Click on the cover to see my review.

banned books week

Here's my favorite Banned Books Week display so far courtesy of Shelf Awareness.

Third Street Books, McMinnville, Ore., is highlighting Banned Books Week with this simple window display featuring 1984 by George Orwell. The store also devoted an issue of its e-mail newsletter to the subject, which, Third's Street's Sylla McClellan noted, evoked the following response from a customer: "I will write your name in for Vice President of the United States."