Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: Watermark

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

A recent trend in historical fiction is the immersion of multifaceted female protagonists into a trade or profession. Sankaran follows suit by introducing another strong female character into the genre. Born an albino in medieval France, Auda endures a dreadful experience: her tongue is amputated by a healer’s apprentice who believes she has been cursed by the devil. Unable to speak, she is an avid reader and writer who masters her father’s craft as a papermaker at a time when the Church, suspicious of independent thought and communication, tightly controls and monitors access to parchment. When Auda gives voice to her passions through her poetry, both she and her father become victims of the Inquisition. Sankaran deftly illuminates a time of intellectual darkness in this superbly rendered debut.
 This title will be released on April 13, 2010.

What are you waiting on this week? Leave your link here.

~Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.~

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

All Things Kid Lit: I Want Two Birthdays!

Picture Book Pick of the Week:

I Want Two Birthdays!
written and illustrated by Tony Ross

A royal cake, lots of presents . . . Little Princess’s birthday makes her feel special—but not as special as the Queen, who gets two birthdays, one to share with the kingdom and one to share with family. Can’t Little Princess also have two? Or four? Wait . . .wouldn’t 365 birthdays be the most special of all? Full-color illustrations.

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    Links of Interest:

    The Guardian (U.K.)
    March 25, 2010

    An international jury of children's literature experts this afternoon decided to award the world's most prestigious prize in children's literature to British author David Almond. Almond, who won the Carnegie medal and the Whitbread children's prize with his first children's book Skellig, the story of a boy who discovers an angel in a derelict garage, was selected as the winner from authors around the world, seeing off finalists from Iran, Brazil, Sweden and Denmark to win the medal.

    Los Angeles Times
    March 23, 2010

    Fleischman, whose book The Whipping Boy earned him the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1987, died of cancer Wednesday at his home in Santa Monica, the day after his 90th birthday, said his son, Paul. "Sid was a national treasure in the field of children's books," said Lin Oliver, a children's book author and executive director of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. "It really is a monumental loss for the field." Known for his humor, love of language, adventuresome plotting and nose for history, Fleischman wrote more than 50 children's books. "He was a true master of the craft and a writer's writer," said Oliver, adding that Fleischman wrote in many genres, including novels, tall tales, picture books and biographies.

    Monday, March 29, 2010

    Books By Theme: Arthurian Legend

    The source for all Arthurian legends since its publication in 1485, Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur  is the classic text, relating the rape of Igraine, the birth of Arthur, the sword and the stone, the wedding to Guenever, and the many feats of the knights. A great companion is The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights, John Steinbeck’s retelling of Malory’s text.

    Comprising four books, T.H. White’s The Once and Future King is the version of the Arthurian saga most readers know as it inspired the Broadway musical Camelot. The first book, “The Sword in the Stone,” relates Merlyn’s tutoring of a young Wart. The remaining books recount Arthur’s seduction by his half-sister, describe the creation of the Round Table, introduce Lancelot and Guinevere, and reveal the dark presence of Mordred. As Arthur’s tragedy unfolds, White’s story becomes darker and his characters more complex.

    In Guenevere: Queen of the Summer Country, Rosalind Miles conceives a Camelot ruled by queens where goddess worship reigns. In the lushly beautiful Summer Country, Guenevere lives a tranquil life—until her mother is killed and the kingdom teeters on the edge of destruction. Arthur offers marriage to unite their two lands, leaving Guenevere free to reign as Queen. However, this union brings Morgause, Morgan, and Merlin into Guenevere’s world, and all three will wreak havoc on Camelot.

    Bernard Cornwell also displays a deft hand at mixing history with action. The Winter King is a darkly raw tale of the inner political workings of Arthur’s world. Here, Arthur is a complex and flawed figure, surrounded by players with dangerous motivations—Lancelot is particularly loathsome. In another twist, Arthur is in service to King Mordred. (My favorite novel portraying a flawed Arthur is Philip Reeve's Here Lies Arthur.)

    ~ For more themed book lists, check out Listless by One Librarian's Book Reviews and Listed by Once Upon a Bookshelf ~

    Thursday, March 25, 2010

    The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

    Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen book cover
    The Creation of Eve
    by Lynn Cullen
    Putnam (March 23, 2010)
    392 pages
    Historical Fiction
    Received from TLC Book Tours

    Summary in a Sentence:

    In the sixteenth century, Sofonisba Anguissola is invited to the Spanish court to study under master painter Michelangelo and serve as a lady-in-waiting for the young Queen Elisabeth, but as a scandal forces Michelangelo to flee and Sofi is pulled into a love triangle between the King, the Queen, and the King's illegitimate half-brother, Sofi fears her life and her dreams of becoming an artist will be ruined.

    My Thoughts:

    Sofonisba Anguissola Renaissance painter
    You know the maestro Michaelangelo. And Raphael, and Leonardo, and all the other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle-esque names of the famed Renaissance painters. However, one name that might not come immediately to mind is that of Sofonisba Anguissola. One of the many reasons you've never heard of this female Renaissance painter is that she wasn't even allowed to sign most of her own paintings (!).

    After a most scandalous tryst with Michaelangelo's young apprentice, Sofi is summoned to a position in the royal court of King Felipe of Spain as the art instructor to the new queen, young Elizabeth of Valois. Soap operas have nothing on this 16th century Spanish court, and at times the theatrics can wear the reader thin. However, Cullen also touches on the Spanish Inquisition and illustrates just how restricted females of any class were in this period in history.

    I recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction that sticks faithfully to the historical record. Ms. Cullen has definitely done her research. I'm also now eager to read Cullen's I Am Rembrandt's Daughter.

    ~ Read for the Art History Challenge  and the Women Unbound Challenge ~

    You might also like:
    Other Reviewers on the Tour:

    Wednesday, March 3rd: Scandalous Women
    Thursday, March 4th: Café of Dreams
    Monday, March 8th: Books and Movies
    Tuesday, March 9th: Booking Mama
    Thursday, March 11th: Peeking Between the Pages
    Monday, March 15th: Fyrefly’s Book Blog
    Tuesday, March 16th: The Tome Traveller
    Wednesday, March 17th: Educating Petunia
    Thursday, March 18th: English Major’s Junk Food
    Monday, March 22nd: A Few More Pages
    Tuesday, March 23rd: Devourer of Books
    Wednesday, March 24th: Wordsmithonia
    Thursday, March 25th: A Bookshelf Monstrosity
    Monday, March 29th: Katie’s Nesting Spot
    Tuesday, March 30th: Dolce Bellezza
    Wednesday, March 31st: Raging Bibliomania
    Friday, April 2nd: Thoughts From an Evil Overlord

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    All Things Kid Lit: My Garden

    Picture Book Pick of the Week:

    My Garden by Kevin Henkes book coverMy Garden
    written and illustrated by Kevin Henkes

    A young girl knows what she’d have in her garden: rabbits made of chocolate, seashells that grow more seashells, and flowers that would change color by her thought alone. “Sometimes in my garden, good, unusual things would just pop up—buttons and umbrellas and rusty old keys.” There’s no need to water or weed in this garden, and only one simple tool can make it grow.

    You Might Also Like:

    Kid Lit Links of Interest:

    author Rebecca Stead headshot
    Washington Post
    March 16, 2010

    A 2006 New York Times article -- about a man who had amnesia and kept walking up to people asking them for help -- reminded author Rebecca Stead of a man she had passed every day growing up in New York City, whom she called the laughing man. "He was this really erratic, scary guy and my kid-reaction was just terror," she said. That memory, she explained, "was the seed" for "When You Reach Me," which won this year's Newbery Medal as best children's book.

    Seattle Times
    March 15, 2010

    Think "March Madness" is all about basketball? Think again. For the second consecutive year, School Library Journal is sponsoring a "Battle of the Kids' Books." Patterned after the wildly popular March Madness, when college basketball teams vie against one another in a "bracket" scheme, the "Battle of the Kids' Books" pits 16 topnotch children's books against each other and asks popular children's-book authors to choose a winner.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Books By Theme: Short Stories

    stairs short story grandma

    Some of my most memorable reading experiences in high school come from short story collections, especially F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tales of the Jazz Age. I've been trying to get into some of the modern masters lately. Here are a few to peruse...

    short stories Elizabeth Berg fiction
    Investigating women's lives and expectations, Elizabeth Berg's lively collection The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation offers solace and comfort while exploring deeper themes. The melancholy “Rain” traces a woman's friendship with an old pal, who dropped his successful corporate life to live closer to nature. Rocky terrain is covered: fidelity, brain cancer, and mortality. Other stories are lighter, such as the title story in which the narrator kicks up her heels and skips her Weight Watchers meeting to indulge in her food cravings.

    short stories fiction Amy bloom book
     The poignant coming-of-age tales of Amy Bloom's Come to Me: Stories explore the rich, intricate textures of family life. At her mother's funeral, reminiscing about her family's long summers spent with another family, the main character of “Love Is Not a Pie” realizes that her mother shared both a lover and a husband during those long, lazy days.
    Unaccustomed Earth Jhumpa Lahiri short stories fiction
    Like her Pulitzer Prize–winning Interpreter of Maladies , Jhumpa Lahiri's second volume of stories, Unaccustomed Earth, focuses on aspects of dislocation and assimilation. The titular selection features a woman in mourning, relocated from Brooklyn to Seattle, wondering if she should invite her recently widowed father, visiting from Pennsylvania, to share her home. The father has his own worries: he hopes his daughter will remain in the dark about a new relationship he is cultivating. Lahiri's characters' sense of loss is haunting, and her prose is gemlike. Readers will strike gold with this dazzling work, which also highlights Bengali customs and traditional Indian arrangements.

    Each of the nine wry selections in Julie Orringer's debut, How to Breathe Underwater: Stories,
    resembles a mininovel. Complex, spellbinding, and illuminating, “Stars of Motown Shining Bright” focuses on two girls retracing their sudden divergent paths. “Note to My Sixth Grade Self” is an acutely rendered study of the pain felt by a socially ostracized girl. Orringer's straightforward compassionate voice exposes the fears, secrets, and cruelties that children and adolescents experience. Her tender tales, overflowing with the turbulent longing and agonies of youth, testify to the enduring promise of the short story.

    ~ For more themed book lists, check out Listless by One Librarian's Book Reviews and Listed by Once Upon a Bookshelf ~

    ~ All summaries from Library Journal ~

    Who are your favorite contemporary short story authors? 

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    The Monstrosity Gazette: A weekly smattering of all things literary...

    There is no frigate like a book
    To take us lands away,
    Nor any coursers like a page
    Of prancing poetry.

    -Emily Dickinson

    Today in Literary History:

    On this day in 1556 Thomas Cranmer, one of the "Oxford Martyrs," was burned at the stake. Cranmer's promotion of the English Bible and his authorship of The Book of Common Prayer are his most significant connections to Christian literature, but for fiction readers he is known through his connection to Ray Bradbury's book-burning novel, Fahrenheit 451.

     For more, please visit Today in Literature.

    Pic of the Day:

    Book on my Radar:

    The Solitude of Prime Numbers
    by Paolo Giordano
    Pamela Dorman Books (March 18, 2010)
    288 pages

    Summary in a Sentence:

    Alice and Mattia thought they were kindred spirits, soul mates meant only for each other, but when Mattia is offered an opportunity that takes him far away, Alice is left bereft and alone, until a chance encounter years later reunites them and Alice must decide if she is willing to trust Mattia with her heart once more.

    Read the Reviews:

    MostlyFiction | Bibliophile By The Sea

    Saturday, March 20, 2010

    A Golden Age by Tahmima Anam

    A Golden Age
    by Tahmima Anam
    Harper (January 8, 2008)
    288 pages

    Summary in a Sentence:

    Rehana Haque, a young widow with two teenage children in East Pakistan in 1971, is forced to make some difficult choices when her happy life is disrupted by the outbreak of the Bangladesh war for independence.

    My thoughts:
    "Dear Husband, 
    I lost our children today."
    Meet Rehana Haque. A widowed mother of two in 1970s East Pakistan, Rehana would do anything for her children. Shortly after her husband's death, Rehana allowed her brother-in-law to take custody of her two children for a year, and she never lets herself forget it. She is a devoted mother, perhaps to a fault, and the unchanging love of a mother for her children is at the forefront of this novel about the war for Bangladesh's independence.

    This novel starts out strong, but without a baseline knowledge of the Bangladesh War for Independence, the reader could easily feel a little lost. Also, I had a very hard time making a connection with Rehana's two children, Sohail and Maya. I found that I didn't really care what happened to the characters in the novel.

    Luckily, the second half of the novel takes on a suspenseful edge as the war and the Haque family's involvement in the resistance increases. The last chapters are page turners indeed, and make this book one worth reading.

    ~ Read for the South Asian Author Challenge ~

    You might also like:
    Other Reviews:

    Motherhood and AnarchyA Book Sanctuary | Trish's Reading Nook

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    5 Minute Factoids: Academy Awards

    On this night in 1953, for the first time, audiences are able to sit in their living rooms and watch as the movie world’s most prestigious honors, the Academy Awards, are given out at the RKO Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California (

    Fascinating Tidbits: 
    • The very first person to receive an Academy Award didn't attend the first Academy Awards ceremony. Emil Jannings, the winner for Best Actor in the 1927-28 Academy Awards, had decided to go back to his home in Germany before the ceremony. Before he left for his trip, Jannings was handed the very first Academy Award. 
    • Midnight Cowboy (1969), the winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, is the only X-rated movie to win an Oscar.
    • Gone With the Wind (1939) was the first movie filmed in color to win the Best Picture award. 
    • At the 61st Academy Awards, held in 1989, the Academy decided to replace the trademark phrase "And the winner is..." with the phrase "And the Oscar goes to..." Did you notice? 
    Still Interested? Read this book for more info...

    80 Years of the Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards
    by Robert Osborne
    Abbeville Press, 2008
    439 pages

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Waiting on Wednesday: The Imperfectionists

    This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

    In his zinger of a debut, Rachman deftly applies his experience as foreign correspondent and editor to chart the goings-on at a scrappy English-language newspaper in Rome. Chapters read like exquisite short stories, turning out the intersecting lives of the men and women who produce the paper—and one woman who reads it religiously, if belatedly. In the opening chapter, aging, dissolute Paris correspondent Lloyd Burko pressures his estranged son to leak information from the French Foreign Ministry, and in the process unearths startling family fare that won't sell a single edition. Obit writer Arthur Gopal, whose overarching goal at the paper is indolence, encounters personal tragedy and, with it, unexpected career ambition. Late in the book, as the paper buckles, recently laid-off copyeditor Dave Belling seduces the CFO who fired him. Throughout, the founding publisher's progeny stagger under a heritage they don't understand. As the ragtag staff faces down the implications of the paper's tilt into oblivion, there are more than enough sublime moments, unexpected turns and sheer inky wretchedness to warrant putting this on the shelf next to other great newspaper novels.
    This title will be released on April 6, 2010.

    What are you waiting on this week? Leave your link here.

    ~Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.~

    Tuesday, March 16, 2010

    Books By Theme: Memoirs

    Guys, I love memoirs. I do. I really can't get enough of reading about other peoples' lives. They don't even have to be particularly exciting lives, as long as the author has a great, witty writing style. So, for you fellow memoir lovers out there, here are a few more to add to ye ole wish list.

    The Addict: One Patient, One Doctor, One Year
    by Michael Stein

    Stein here re-creates his heartrending struggle to help patients overcome their addictions to commonly prescribed painkillers and other life-threatening drugs. Charting therapeutic challenges and inevitable recidivism, Stein brings to life his all-too-human patients in a narrative that is as readable as any work of compelling fiction. Therapists, addicts, and their family members will be riveted.

    Impaired: A Nurse's Story of Addiction and Recovery
    by Patricia Holloran

    A devoted R.N., Holloran began stealing Stadol from her hospital during a stressful period in her life. Her world was upended when hospital administrators confronted her about the thefts. Fortunately, a stint in drug counseling was successful, and the author went on to advise nursing students and nurses about the pernicious dangers of addiction. A cautionary tale for medical professionals.

    I'm Sorry That You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother and Friend to Man and Dog 
    by Diana Joseph

    Despite the mouthful of a title, there isn't an excess word in this smart and tightly constructed debut. Fans of David Sedaris and Sarah Vowell will appreciate Joseph's portraits of the men in her life. From her young son's trench foot to her blue-collar father's attempt at a sex talk, these impeccably detailed stories are as heartfelt as they are trenchantly funny.

    The Body Broken: A Memoir
    by Lynn Greenberg

    After first-time memoirist Greenberg survived a harrowing car crash at 19, her broken neck supposedly healed. In 2006, however, debilitating pain returned. In this heartbreaking, inspiring story of the lack of resources and understanding available to chronic pain sufferers, Greenberg finds the determination to live life to the fullest. Lyrical, vivid writing makes this an essential read for those marginalized by the health-care system and medical providers alike.

    I Loved, I Lost, I Made Spaghetti: A Memoir 
    by Giulia Melucci

    This delectable memoir follows New Yorker Melucci through failed relationships from college to midlife, detailing the recipes she used to reel the men in, sustain the romances, then comfort herself when they fizzled out. The book's heart lies in Melucci's gradual accretion of culinary wisdom, which leads her to acknowledge her identity as a writer. Anyone who has wondered, "Will I ever find Mr. Right?" will appreciate this sprightly debut.

    ~ For more themed book lists, check out Listless by One Librarian's Book Reviews and Listed by Once Upon a Bookshelf ~

    ~ All summaries from Library Journal ~

    Sunday, March 14, 2010

    The Monstrosity Gazette: A Weekly Smattering of All Things Literary...

    "The closest we will ever come to an orderly universe is a good library."

    —Ashleigh Brilliant

    Today in Literary History:

    On this day in 1939, John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath was published. Although Steinbeck believed that he had succeeded in his "very grave attempt to do a first-rate piece of work," he was so convinced that his "revolutionary" book would be unpopular and unread that he tried to dissuade his publisher from having a large first printing.
    For more literary history, please visit Today in Literature.

    Literary Pic of the Week:

    Book on my Radar:

    Burning Bright: Stories
    by Ron Rash
    Ecco (March 2010)
    224 pages

    Summary in a Sentence:

    A collection of short fiction from Southern writer Ron Rash that depict characters living in Appalachia from the time of the American Civil War to the early twenty-first century.

    Read the Reviews: Between the Covers | The Dusty Hum

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Wading Through My Wishlist


    Recent additions to the Great Monstrosity that is my wishlist....

    Origin by Diana Abu-Jaber
    (Found at A Striped Armchair)

    Abu-Jaber, who dealt with Arab-American themes in her earlier novels, Crescent and Arabian Jazz, shows her versatility in this gripping contemporary thriller. A spike in the number of local SIDS deaths piques the interest of Lena Dawson, a fingerprint specialist at a Syracuse, N.Y., forensics lab. Is it a statistical fluke or is there a killer at work? Determined to account for the dead infants, Lena joins the investigation, which stirs tantalizing memories from her dimly recollected early childhood. Despite her fragile mental state, Lena proves capable of surprising resolve. Her relationship with her protective ex-husband, her budding romance with a detective and her quest for her own lost past add psychological depth. Abu-Jaber's lovely nuanced prose conveys the chill of an upstate New York winter as well as it does Lena's drab existence before she was drawn into the mystery of the crib deaths. This enthralling puzzle will appeal to both crime fans and readers of literary fiction.

    The Archer's Tale by Bernard Cromwell
    (Found at Layers of Thought)

    Already a best seller in England under the title Harlequin, this novel is the opening salvo of a new series by the author of the well-known Richard Sharpe books (e.g., Sharpe's Trafalgar). Set in the early 1400s at the beginning of the Hundred Years War between England and France, this novel depicts one of the most bloody and violent periods in the history of conflict between these two nations. After the theft of the treasure of Hookton, a broken lance thought to have been the weapon St. George used to slay the dragon, young Thomas, the bastard son of the village priest and a skilled longbowman, joins the English army in hopes of recovering the relic. Instead, he finds himself caught up in the invasion of France. Cornwell has crafted an extremely well-written novel, grounded in actual historic events. As in the Sharpe books, Cornwell's battle scenes are particularly memorable. This series, however, promises to be a bit meatier. More attention is paid to fascinating secondary characters and the roles they play in the political, religious, and social arenas of the time. Highly recommended.

    Flow by Susan Kim
    (Found at Steele on Entertainment)

    Written like a sassy young women's magazine with first-person narrative and the occasional astonished exclamation point, a normally taboo topic claims attention with the surprising-and sometimes horrifying-history of cultural reactions to menstruation (Pliny believed menstrual blood was toxic to flora and fauna), feminine "hygiene," and the enticing yet under-researched future of period-free birth control methods. Sprinkled throughout with entertainingly naïve ads from each era of the 20th-century as well as many references to scientific findings, author and graphic designer Stein and Kim, a graphic novelist (Circle of Spies) and writer of the play adaptation of The Joy Luck Club, evoke a light-hearted tone about their serious subject. They cover everything from menarche to menopause, including what menstruation is (which receives an outstandingly clear explanation) plus an enlightening discussion of the pad v. tampon debate, which at bottom was a sophisticated marketing strategy.

    Wednesday, March 10, 2010

    Waiting on Wednesday: The Book of Spies


    Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

    This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:


    For centuries, emperors, historians, and even the Vatican have tried to locate Ivan the Terrible’s magnificent Library of Gold — a long-missing archive containing gold-covered, bejeweled books dating all the way back to the ancient Greeks.  Now one of the volumes, The Book of Spies, has surfaced, and along with it the highly secret book club that owns the Library of Gold.  They form a cabal of the globe’s most powerful men – men who will do anything to achieve their aims and protect their interests.  When the CIA discovers a connection between the legendary library and a bank account linked to terrorists, they turn to rare books curator Eva Blake for help.  Soon an attempt is made on Eva’s life. Determined not only to survive but to uncover the truth, Eva turns to the only person she can trust—Judd Ryder, a former intelligence agent with his own agenda and a troubled past.  Together, Judd and Eva embark on an international adventure from London to Rome, Istanbul, and Athens.  Somehow they must do what no one else has been able to do – find the library and stay alive.

    This title will be released on March 30, 2010.

    What are you waiting on this week? Leave your link here.

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