Book Review Carnival

Welcome to the April 26, 2009 edition of book review blog carnival! Check out posts from some wonderful bloggers and see what they've been reading lately!

John E. Riutta presents Chronicle of a Life Well Told posted at Born Again Bird Watcher:

Even if only the eleventh chapter of Birdwatcher: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal was the entirety of the book, it would still be well worth the cover price...
Keira presents Review: SEALed with a Promise by Mary Margret Daughtridge posted at Love Romance Passion:

J.C Roat and Rick Bremseth, both former SEALs who helped with the research for SEALed with a Promise, might tease Daughtridge about writing mush, but it is mush I definitely like...

Diana Hall presents Manga Messiah posted at damascusmoments:

The gospel was never intended to be dry words on a page. The whole point of the message is to engage, captivate and communicate with us...

Brad presents Meet Ken Wilber: A Brief History of Everything posted at Tri-Freedom:
If anything can be said about Ken Wilber, it’s that he has the capacity to integrate an overwhelming amount of information into a grand thesis...
Nate Desmond presents Book Review: The New SAT posted at Debt-free Scholar:
A few years ago, the SAT test was updated. College Board, the test’s creator, made many changes. Among other things, they changed the “Verbal Reasoning” section to the “Critical Reading” section and added the essay and the writing categories...

Carrie Kitzmiller presents Book review: Sea Changes by Gail Graham - Books and Movies posted at Books and Movies:

Sea Changes by Gail Graham is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. It’s not straight modern lit, nor is it completely fantasy. I suppose it falls into the genre of “magical realism” ...

Scott oOr presents Michael J. Fox is Always Looking Up posted at Life in this Century ::: by Scott Orr:

For many of the people of my generation who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, Michael J. Fox has been something of a patron saint...

Kristen presents Review - The Newford Stories posted at The Cackling Crow:
The Newford Stories by Charles DeLint is actually a collection of 3 other books called Dreams Underfoot, The Ivory and The Horn, and Moonlight and Vines. As a whole it is a wonderful collection of short stories about the different characters and their lives in the town of Newford...
Shiv Dravid presents We The Living By Ayn Rand posted at The Viewspaper » The Viewspaper:
This is as close as I will get to writing an autobiography”.
This is what critically acclaimed author Ayn Rand has to say about her first book We The Living. Ayn Rand was born in Russia and was a witness to the Bolshevik Revolution...
jim presents The Complete Idiot's Guide to Value Investing posted at Blueprint for Financial Prosperity.
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Value Investing is exactly what it sounds like, a book that will teach you how to be a value investor, how to analyze industries and companies, how to dig deep into financial statements, and how to filter analysts (among other things)...
Perpetual Prose presents Book Review - And This Was My Happy Ending by Kevin Staniec posted at Perpetual Prose:
The first time I read Kevin Staniec’s And This Was My Happy Ending, I didn’t think too much about mechanics and style. I just let myself get drawn into the story...

Steven Bush presents Grandfather Mountain posted at Book Dads: Fathers That Read!:

Grandfather Mountain takes ancient stories and brings them to life in a style that is both accessible to modern readers and respectful of their origins...

Jim Murdoch presents Stick Out Your Tongue: the review (Literature World Tour) posted at Meet at the Gate:

When Canongate made China the next destination in their literary world tour I went to my bookcases to see what I could talk about. And do you know what? I couldn’t find a single book by a Chinese national nor could I find a book about China...

Ray presents Best Books About Making Money posted at Money Blue Book.
Burn those get rich quick books and ditch the late night infomercial gimmicks. Whatever you do - don’t waste your money on useless junk. True personal finance knowledge is not something that can be acquired overnight...
KerrieS presents ECHOES FROM THE DEAD, Johan Theorin posted at MYSTERIES in PARADISE:
Julia Davidsson's life fell apart when her beautiful son Jens disappeared one foggy afternoon on the remote island of Oland in Sweden...
Yonit Gruber-hazani presents 13 books and magazines for linux sysadmins posted at
This is a list of books and magazines i read through the years to learn my job,
there are many other good books as well, but these are my must haves...
NathanKP presents “Snow Falling in Spring,” Moying Li posted at Inkweaver Review - Book Reviews & Cover Art:
“Snow Falling in Spring,” is a historical biography by Moying Li, about her life growing up during the tumultuous Chinese Cultural Revolution...

Emm presents Book review: The Trial – Franz Kafka posted at Emm Media.

I didn’t enjoy reading The Trial as such but then that is Kafka’s great accomplishment with this book in that he leads his reader to feel as helpless as his protagonist...

Jeanne presents City of Glass posted at Necromancy Never Pays, saying, "This is a new YA novel"
I can’t start my day without a newspaper to scan at the breakfast table. I’ve been this way forever...

children's books

Mouse presents A Review of Ben Morgan’s Stargazer | The Science Mouse posted at The Science Mouse.

DK Smithsonian’s Stargazer by Ben Morgan is part field guide and part experiment book. At 8 x 6 inches and 72 pages it is the perfect size for little hands...
DNLee presents Book Review: Environmental Education Books posted at Urban Science Adventures! ©, saying, "three great children's science books that celebrates Environmental Education Week, National Library Week and National Poetry Month all in one post."

Knowing how much I love to piggy-back on themes I’ll be recommending some great environmental titles and poetry books that you can check out at your local library...

Ruth presents Book Review: Fearless by Elvira Woodruff posted at Bookish Ruth, saying, "Middle grade historical fiction":
Left in the care of his aunt while his father is at sea, 11-year-old Digory Beale is plagued by nightmares of his father dying in a terrible storm...
historyiselementary presents The Gift posted at History Is Elementary, saying, "A great children's book to explore!"
Back during another lifetime in the 1970s you would have found me on Friday night sitting in front of our family television….the one where the knob had fallen off and we had to resort to using needle-nosed pliers to change it…patiently waiting for my favorite television show to air...

non fiction

GrrlScientist presents Land of the Lost Souls: My Life on the Streets posted at Living the Scientific Life, saying, "The homeless are everywhere in New York City. I run across them every day while riding public transit, while walking around the city and while using wireless in the public libraries. After a few conversations with homeless people, I've learned that most of them avoid shelters because of the risk of violent crime there. So where do they sleep? Where do they go to get a shower and clean clothes? Are all homeless people either crazy or crackheads? How did these people end up living on the streets in the first place? Don't they have families and friends? This is my review of a new book by Cadillac Man, who lived on the streets of NYC for 16 years."

Jade Meng presents The Angel Inside posted at Dream of Jade, saying, ""There is a masterpiece within each of us, waiting to emerge. " Let's follow Michelangelo, to find the beauty and power inside us, and to live a life we want from our heart."

Jim Murdoch
presents The Optimist posted at The Truth About Lies, saying, "So you decide one day you want to see if optimism still works in the 21st century. That's what the author of The Optimist does. He sets off on a quest to interview the world's top optimists from Richard Branson via the Surfing Guru to Bill Clinton. Boy is he in for a shock. Available as a free e-book for a limited time."

Aliall presents In Praise of Slowness (Carl Honore) Book Review posted at Motivated Mama.

Carole Fogarty presents Walking Meditation: posted at THE HEALTHY LIVING LOUNGE, saying, "Walking meditation is the perfect alternate if your body and mind are too restless to sit. Its also a lovely change from the usual meditation practices. No great skill or understanding is required simply the attention of your mind - on your breath, foot steps and the ground."

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of
book review blog carnival using our carnival submission form.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Zig-zagging by Tom Wilson -- Book Review and Tour Stop

"This game of ours always began the same. Dad would draw a picture of Ziggy happily strolling along, unaware of some horrible misfortune about to befall him. Ziggy might be zooming off a cliff, walking unknowingly into an open manhole, or oblivious to a meteor plummeting head-on his way. After Ziggy had been drawn into one of these dire circumstances, Dad would flip the placemat around, hand me his pen, and say, "Tommy, it's time for you to SAVE ZIGGY!"

This book is a cross between the memoir and inspirational genres, as Wilson writes about his experiences taking over responsibility for Ziggy from his aging father, dealing with the early death of his wife, battling depression, wrestling with faith, and finally founding his marketing firm Character Matters and finding a place for his pain and Ziggy.

I enjoyed the memoir, and wished Wilson had written more about his personal life and included fewer inspirational platitudes, although I understand why they're mixed in. The first portion of the book is the strongest, where Tom talks about his relationship with his father and how Ziggy played into that dynamic while he was growing up.

The book also has a Ziggy cartoon mixed in for every 5 pages or so--offering Ziggy's insight into the situations as Wilson relates them, which is a great touch for the book. All in all, Zig-zagging is an interesting peek into the private life of the man behind the Ziggy cartoons I love to read in the paper.

Buy Zig-zagging: Loving Madly, Losing Badly How Ziggy Saved My Life by Tom Wilson


This book is currently on tour with TLC. View the tour schedule and visit the publisher for a chance to win a copy of Tom Wilson's Zig-zagging.

I Can Help With That... Your Google Queries Answered

Google is a marvelous thing--but a few recent visitors haven't found what they were looking for... I can help with that! Behold, your (common) google queries answered!

"what's the story of macbeth about"

Witches chant, cackle and stir up trouble with prophecies. They tell Macbeth he's going to be king, and he tells his wife. Lady Macbeth thinks this sounds like a marvelous idea and persuades Macbeth to murder the king and make it happen. (What a go-getter!)

Now Macbeth is king... and he keeps murdering to make sure he stays king, and visits the witches to hear more cryptic prophecies. Lady Macbeth goes crazy and kills herself (Stress and hallucinations will do that to a person). Meanwhile, all Macbeth's murdering and tyranny has made him a bit unpopular and the English army attacks his castle. Macbeth dies in battle. All is right with the world again.

"girls playing with hari puss"

You need to work on your spelling issues, but I deciphered. What a cute girl...

"poem about loving a dead guy"

There's no one who talks about death better than Poe:

To One in Paradise
by Edgar Allen Poe

Thou wast that all to me, love,
For which my soul did pine--
A green isle in the sea, love,
A fountain and a shrine,
All wreathed with fairy fruits and flowers
And all the flowers were mine.

Ah, dream too bright to last!
Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise
But to be overcast!
A voice from out the Future cries,
On! on!-- but o'er the Past
(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies
Mute, motionless, aghast!

For, alas! alas! with me
The light of Life is o'er!
'No more-- no more-- no more--'
(Such language holds the solemn sea
To the sands upon the shore)
Shall bloom the thunder-blasted tree
Or the stricken eagle soar!

And all my days are trances
And all my nightly dreams
Are where thy dark eye glances
And where thy footstep gleams--
In what ethereal dances,
By what eternal streams.

Annabel Lee
by Edgar Allen Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love--
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason, that long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre,
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angel, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me...
Yes!--that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we,
Of many far wiser than we--
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee,

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling--my darling--my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

"boeing jokes"

A blonde gets an opportunity to fly to a nearby country. She has never
been on an airplane anywhere and was very excited and tense. As soon
as she boarded the plane, a Boeing747, she started jumping in excitement,
running over seat to seat and starts shouting, "BOEING! BOEING!!
BOEING!!! BO....."

Annoyed by the goings on, the Pilot comes out and shouts "BE SILENT!"

There was pin-drop silence everywhere and everybody is looking at the
blonde and the angry Pilot. She stared at the pilot in silence for a
moment, concentrated really hard, and all of a sudden started shouting,

"the memory keepers daughter and libriVox"

I'm afraid you won't find any newly released books on librivox. Their catalog contains titles on which the copyright has expired, so they don't have to pay royalties. Try looking up some of those classics you've been meaning to get to!

Happy reading!

Surfing Saturday 3.14.09

Welcome to Surfing Saturdays! Each Saturday morning, I'll list any links of interest I came across during the past week of surfing and give an update on my reading progress. Play along with me! Leave your own links, or a link to your own post, in the comments!

So, where have I been this week? Check it out (only the best for you my readers):

  • Feeling a little Twilight withdrawal coming on? The New York Public Library offers a list of books to read while waiting for the next tome to be published. Oh, and speaking of YA lit, check out Random Buzz, by Random House, for ARCs and other info.
  • Books from Finland, a literary journal about--I'm assuming--books from Finland, launched online. There's not much content up yet, but it might be worth keeping in mind for all those international reading challenges.
  • The 2009 Indie Choice Book Awards finals list is out. I know there's a few on there that I've read and several more I've been wanting to get to.
  • What rules or guidelines do you follow when writing a book review? John Updike gave 5, and I think it's a good list.
  • On a completely unrelated note--I'm loving these March wallpapers, which incorporate a calendar. Now if there were only enough days left to use them all...

Currently Reading:

  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind (I have no idea where the plot is going--there doesn't seem to be one at this point in the book--but the writing is SO good!)
  • Tender Graces by Kathryn Magendie
  • A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore
  • Hearts and Minds by Rosy Thornton

I was on Spring Break this week and home from university, so I got a lot more reading in than I normally have time for, although still not as much as I had planned. Still, I published 10 posts in the last 9 days, which is quite an accomplishment for me! I think I prefer the pace of 2-3 posts a week better for the long haul though--I have a limited number of original thoughts to share, and would like to make them last as long as possible.

So where have you been this week? What are your reading? Let me know, leave me a comment!

Can you beat 25?

I saw this at Debbie's World the other day and decided to copy her idea. I thought about using the Guardian list before, but 1,000 books seemed a little extensive (and unfair to anyone who reads this in a feed), so we're going with the College Board's 101 Books College Bound Students Should Read. (I remember the nightmares about this list as graduation approached senior year--I was under the impression that everyone else I went to university with would have read the entire list. After a few English classes on campus, I felt better. I go to a "highly selective" school--but I've not met anyone yet who's run the list.)

The books I've read are highlighted red. If I just highlight the author, that means I've read something else by them, just not the book listed (That counts for something, right?):

Author Title
Achebe, Chinua Things Fall Apart
Agee, James A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul The Adventures of Augie March
Bronte, Charlotte Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert The Stranger
Cather, Willa Death Comes for the Archbishop
Cervantes, Miguel de Don Quixote
Chaucer, Geoffrey The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen The Red Badge of Courage
Dante Inferno
Defoe, Daniel Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo Selected Essays
Faulkner, William As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von Faust
Golding, William Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas Tess of the d’Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest A Farewell to Arms
Homer The Iliad
Homer The Odyssey
Hugo, Victor The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous Brave New World
Ibsen, Henrik A Doll’s House
James, Henry The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz The Metamorphosis
Kingston, Maxine Hong The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair Babbitt
London, Jack The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur The Crucible
Morrison, Toni Beloved
O’Connor, Flannery A Good Man is Hard to Find
O’Neill, Eugene Long Day’s Journey into Night
Orwell, George Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allen Selected Tales
Proust, Marcel Swann’s Way
Pynchon, Thomas The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William Hamlet
Shakespeare, William Macbeth
Shakespeare, William A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Shakespeare, William Romeo and Juliet
Shaw, George Bernard Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles Antigone
Sophocles Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John The Grapes of Wrath
Stevenson, Robert Louis Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Swift, Jonathan Gulliver’s Travels
Thackeray, William Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David Walden
Tolstoy, Leo War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Voltaire Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard Native Son

So that makes 25, plus 5 authors I've read, but not the specific works listed. I wish it was a little higher, since I graduate college next year, but I'm actually satisfied with 25%. The Three Musketeers and Things Fall Apart are two of my most recent reads, within the last few months, and Beowulf is actually in my pile of books to read. I really enjoy classic lit when I have the time to sit down and savor it. What on the list have I really been missing out on? How many have you read?

If you do a post on this, let me know and I'll add your link here!

Check out Kitten's list, she puts me to shame with 44!

Correction: I originally had 26, but realized in looking over the list that I had Catch 22, which I have not read, confused with Fahrenheit 451, which I have. That lowers my total from 26 to 25.

Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch -- Book Review

I went to Cotillion Training School for the same reason my friends went: my mother wanted me to. This was important to her, the same way it was important to have a picture of her great-great-grandfather dressed in Confederate gray over the sideboard and for us not to be seen in Dad's truck when we were in town.

I was packing for Spring Break and trying to decide which books, out of my large TBR pile, I should carry home. I had four books started and needed to pick a few more, so I thought I would read the first page or two of the other books in the stack to decide.

Oh, the best laid plans...

I read the first 100 pages of Girls in Trucks before convincing myself to put it down and finish packing. The writing is wonderful. From the beginning I connect with Sarah. She's done the perfect daughter thing, now she wants to live her own life. The only problem is, she's not very good at it. She dates the wrong guys and can't seem to land that job she wants in New York. Life just isn't lining up like it's supposed to.

But when does life ever really go as planned, and do we want it to? I think that's what this book gets at. Everyone has goals, ideas of what their life will be like, but what happens when things don't work out? Do we change plans, or ourselves?

"Being unfaithful to yourself is not as hard as you'd think. I will never compromise myself for someone else, I always thought. I'll kill myself first. But it's so easy. It's like wearing earplugs. It's as if you've put your head under the pillow during a thunderstorm, so that all you can hear is the faint sound of muffled rain."

Girls in Trucks spans somewhere around three decades, I think, and is written more in pieces than as a novel. Sometimes I had to stop and reread to figure out how old Sarah was, which could be frustrating. The end frightened me as well, because I thought, for about 15 pages, that the author had written this great book and then was going to end it with a trite wrap-up, but she avoids that trap nicely.

This turned out to be a great read, up to all the hype I'd seen, and I can't wait for Crouch's next book.

On a sidenote: DON'T READ THE JACKET COPY. It gives too much away. Trust me, just start reading--you'll be a hundred pages in before you realize it.

Buy Girls in Trucks from

Katie Crouch talks about her book and her experiences as a Southern gal living in New York City:

(Does she look a little like Debra Messing from Will and Grace to anyone else?)

By its cover

I saw this cover illustration and instantly wanted to read the book. It's so simple and elegant--now I'm going to have to go scrounge up a copy to read, or to frame...

Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie


Sweeping in scope and mesmerizing in its evocation of time and place, Burnt Shadows is an epic narrative of disasters elided and confronted, loyalties offered and repaid, and loves rewarded and betrayed.

August 9, 1945, Nagasaki. Hiroko Tanaka steps out onto her veranda, taking in the view of the terraced slopes leading up to the sky. Wrapped in a kimono with three black cranes swooping across the back, she is twenty-one, in love with the man she is to marry, Konrad Weiss.

In a split second, the world turns white. In the next, it explodes with the sound of fire and the horror of realization. In the numbing aftermath of a bomb that obliterates everything she has known, all that remains are the bird-shaped burns on her back, an indelible reminder of the world she has lost.

In search of new beginnings, Hiroko travels to Delhi two years later. There she walks into the lives of Konrad’s half-sister, Elizabeth, her husband, James Burton, and their employee, Sajjad Ashraf, from whom she starts to learn Urdu. As the years unravel, new homes replace those left behind and old wars are seamlessly usurped by new conflicts. But the shadows of history - personal, political - are cast over the entwined worlds of the Burtons, Ashrafs, and Tanakas as they are transported from Pakistan to New York, and in the novel’s astonishing climax, to Afghanistan in the immediate wake of 9/11. The ties that have bound them together over decades and generations are tested to the extreme, with unforeseeable consequences.

If anyone's handing out review copies of this book, please send one my way! :)

Happy Reading!

Remember Barbie?

Barbie turned 50 this week. (She looks good for her age, doesn't she?) As I was reading a bit about Barbie's history I got to thinking how she hasn't really changed much, in 50 years. When she appeared, in 1959, it was to a storm of controversy over her sexuality, but today you don't hear that so often anymore, or at least I haven't. Then again, there's a lawmaker (a man, I might point out) in West Virginia trying to get the dolls banned from the state. For the most part, though, I think we, as a culture have changed, since we first met Barbie.

I know I have changed.

I remember playing with Barbie. She was beautiful, had a handsome boyfriend, and could be anything--a doctor, a fashion designer, a princess, an astronaut--and I was so optimistic that I could be anything too. I read hopeful books, full of strong heroes and clever heroines, books where everything always came out alright in the end.

Now I study, write, work, search for internships and cross my fingers that I'll find something. I still read hopeful books, but only with heaping doses of cynicism--if it has a storybook ending, it's unrealistic. And I read plenty of books that end in tragedy, heartbreak, and failure. There's a satisfaction in watching a character's world come crashing down around them--like a nightmare that lets you experience your worst fears outside of real life.

I know life might not turn out the way I'd like for it to. I may fail to make a difference when I take over the university magazine next year. I may fail to find a summer internship this year, or a job when I graduate next May. I may fail to find that perfect guy. I may fail to raise my children well. I may fail to do anything significant in my life ever again.

This is how I'm not like Barbie. Barbie, after all, is an eternal optimist and I'm a pessimist. But that doesn't mean I can't learn something from her sunny disposition. On the flip side, Barbie has never been a writer, or a publishing exec, so maybe someday I'll be able to teach her a few things too.

Check out Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll

The first Barbie commercial (1959):

And the commercial that introduced Ken (1961):

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake -- Book Review

Without Contraries is no progression. Attraction and Repulsion, Reason and Energy, Love and Hate, are necessary to Human existence. From these contraries spring what the religious call Good & Evil. Good is the passive that obeys Reason. Evil is the active springing from Energy. Good is Heaven. Evil is Hell."

This is a gem of a work I discovered while writing a paper for my class on British Romanticism. More a piece of art than a book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell is beautiful, confusing, thought-provoking and a bit insane. My favorite part of the book is the Proverbs of Hell. Blake writes that he wanted to explain what hell is like so he brought back its wise sayings, because a people's proverbs tell you what is important to them. The list is a mishmash of contradictions. Some of the sayings could have come straight out of the biblical proverbs, while others fly in the face of Christian teachings.

Here are the first few (Read slowly, let each one sink in before you move on to the next):

"In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.

Drive your cart and your plow over the bones of the dead.

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

Prudence is a rich ugly old maid courted by Incapacity.

He who desires but acts not, breeds pestilence.

Blake is railing against a religious establishment he doesn't agree with, in a world that has been turned inside out by the French Revolution. If you haven't read this since it was assigned to you in Lit class, pick it up again, but make sure to find an edition with Blake original illustrated pages. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how refreshingly beautiful Blake's writings and drawings are.

Buy William Blake: The Complete Illuminated Books

Changing Places by David Lodge -- Book Review

"High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour. They were protected from the thin, cold air by the pressurized cabins of two Boeing 707s, and from the risk of collision by the prudent arrangement of the international air corridors."

Sometimes, you go on a date with a really great guy. He's smart, funny and considerate. He takes you somewhere fun, opens the car door for you, and asks lots of questions about where you work and what you read. You laugh at his jokes and smile and really, really want to like him because he deserves to be liked. He's perfect and gorgeous--and total not doing anything for you.

That's how I felt about David Lodge's Changing Places.

The novel follows two professors, one from California, the other from England, who switch positions for a year in an exchange program through their respective universities. They not only trade positions, however, as each finds himself mixed up in the other man's personal life and political problems. It is the first in a trilogy of campus novels and the next two in the series were both shortlisted for the Booker Prize for fiction.

I know I should like it, and I can tell it's a good book if I look at it objectively. The passages are well written and clever. The author switches from prose to letter to screenplay style with great success, and even throws in a twist at the end when you think you have it all figured out. He works in themes about coincidence and fate and politics and education without coming across as if he did it on purpose.

It should have been a good book, but I just never could get into the story or care much about the characters. I finished the book and had nothing to say, which is one of the reasons why it took me nearly three weeks to write this review.

We had a few laughs together, me and Lodge, but if this was a date, I wouldn't call him back. On the other hand, I might give his number to a girlfriend. After all, he's a catch--just not for me.

Buy Changing Places on

Surfing Saturday 3.7.09

Welcome to Surfing Saturdays! Each Saturday morning, I'll list any links of interest I came across during the past week of surfing and give an update on my reading progress. Play along with me! Leave your own links, or a link to your own post, in the comments!

So, where have I been this week? Check it out (only the best for you my readers):

  • Are you a free book fan? Check out Suvudu's Free Book Library, where you can download the first book in many of their popular series.
  • Anxious to read those Kindle books on your iPhone? Amazon released the application earlier this week, although I for one don't understand how reading on that little screen could be very much fun. This reviewer agrees that a small glowing screen isn't her preferred reading method at the end of the day. (On a side note, I got to play with a Kindle for the first time this week, and not I've got the Kindlelust bad!)
  • I saw this in the NYT this week, but here's the online version--in a great irony, google's plan to digitize all the world's libraries has hit a snag, and google must print ads in newspapers around the world (70 languages!) letting authors know that their books will be online unless they raise their hands and opt out of the program.
  • Library Thing's early reviewers March list is up. If haven't tried this "get free books" tactic, give it a shot!
  • If you haven't seen The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks yet, you should visit. I know I'm not the only one with punctuation pet peeves, but the sarcastic captions are what make me laugh every time a new post shows up in my google reader! See a few of my favorites below:

Currently Reading:
  • Zig-zagging by Tom Wilson (I've got about 50 pages left, but you'll have to wait till the book tour for a review!)
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind (I have no idea where the plot is going--there doesn't seem to be one at this point in the book--but the writing is SO good!)
  • Tender Graces by Kathryn Magendie
  • Girls in Trucks by Kaite Crouch
  • Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell (This is on the back burner, but one of these days, I'm going to finish it)

I'm on Spring Break this week! I plan to read and send out more internship applications. (If you or anyone you know is looking for an intern to read the slush pile or fetch coffee, please send me an e-mail!) I will be doing absolutely NO HOMEWORK, once I finish writing the last 10 pages for my Non-fiction writing class, due on Monday. So, I guess that means almost no homework.

So where have you been this week? What are your reading? Let me know, leave me a comment!

Book Review Policy

I'm always happy to receive book review requests at meh471 (AT) gmail (DOT) com. I enjoy a variety of genres including literary fiction, memoir, general fiction and non-fiction, chick lit, classical, and romance. I do not review poetry collections, YA novels or children's titles. I'm not a fan of vampires. I do not accept self-published titles or electronic books at this time.

I post reviews on Library Thing. I do not post to regularly, but will if requested. I cannot guarantee that I will review every book I receive, but I will try to pass those I choose not to read along to others reviewers. I do write negative reviews. Please look at review copies, not recommended, and of course, book reviews if you would like an idea of what to expect.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions!

I've managed to gather quite a stack of ARCs, so while I'm still accepting review copies, it will probably be May before I have a chance to review any books I receive from now on.

Book Giveaway: A Lucky Child

Win a copy of A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal!

Here's a description from the publisher:
Thomas Buergenthal, now a Judge in the International Court of Justice in The Hague, tells his astonishing experiences as a young boy in his memoir A LUCKY CHILD. He arrived at Auschwitz at age 10 after surviving two ghettos and a labor camp. Separated first from his mother and then his father, Buergenthal managed by his wits and some remarkable strokes of luck to survive on his own. Almost two years after his liberation, Buergenthal was miraculously reunited with his mother and in 1951 arrived in the U.S. to start a new life.

Now dedicated to helping those subjected to tyranny throughout the world, Buergenthal writes his story with a simple clarity that highlights the stark details of unimaginable hardship. A LUCKY CHILD is a book that demands to be read by all.

To enter, just leave a comment below with your name and e-mail address. Contest ends March 19. Check back on the 20th to find out if you won!

For more book giveaways, check out this week's carnival at Book Room Reviews!

It's Giveaway Week!

It's that time again... when book bloggers from all corners of the ether join together for a giveaway extravaganza! Unfortunately, I'm not participating this time around, but head over to Bookroom Reviews and check out all the other bloggers giving away great titles this week--over 90 contests last time I checked!

Good luck, and happy reading!

February Reads Roundup

I read a couple more than this, but they'll have to go on next month's list, after I write the reviews. Still, I hope your February was slightly more productive than mine!

Best Pick of the Month:
Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy -- If you haven't read it, go pick up a copy, because you've been missing out: a quasi-ghost story/historical fiction, a narrator that may or may not be telling you the whole truth, and a brilliant writer who dresses it up in melodic, haunting prose.

Worst Pick of the Month:
The Dead Guy by Doug Hewitt -- If it's cliche, it could be okay. If it's cliche and badly written, run away.

Also Read this Month:
Slow Hands by Leslie Kelly -- this was just good sex, and good fun.

Yearly Stats to Date:

Total Books Read: 9
Total Recommended: 7

Male Authors: 5 (4 Recommended)
Female Authors: 4 (3 Recommended)

Read by Cassandra:

Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson

See last month's roundup here.
Visit the reads roundup archive page here.

Surfing Saturdays 02.28.09

Welcome to Surfing Saturdays! Each Saturday morning, I'll list any links of interest I came across during the past week of surfing and give an update on my reading progress. Play along with me! Leave your own links, or a link to your own post, in the comments!

This week was very exciting at Literary Menagerie, because Cassandra, a good friend of mine, decided to give reviewing a try. She did an excellent job convincing my NOT to read Sundays at Tiffany's and hopefully will become a regular contributor here!

So, where have I been this week? Check it out (only the best for you my readers):

  • See Kindle 2's guts. I'm not sure why, but I find this picture fascinating. Plus, I have Kindle envy. Please leave comments telling me how much you hate yours, like this guy, so I won't break down and buy one.
  • You weren't the only one Twittering through Obama's speech Tuesday. Read some of the snarky comments made by your very own Congressional representatives! Oh, and don't let the end of the article bruise your ego--then again, if it does, just twitter about it.
  • You would think, with the recession and all, stupid stuff like this would just stop selling. I mean $80 for a BOOK BRUSH?! Those books can stay dusty. Call it the classic look.
  • Who wins in an economic crisis? Ayn Rand, apparently. Book sales over the past few weeks have tripled in comparison to last year. Anyone want to venture a guess as to why?
  • Poor Joe the Plummer, no one's even showing up for his book signings anymore.
  • If you like free books, and who doesn't, you will be so freakin' jealous. (or, if you live in England, you'll grab your car keys and heading for Bristol)

Currently Reading:
  • Zig-zagging by Tom Wilson (this is for a book tour at the end of March, but I couldn't resist starting it.)
  • Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind (I'm seriously considering putting off finishing this book, so that I don't have to choose between it and Signed, Mata Hari for favorite read of the month)
  • Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell (I know, it's pathetic how long I've been at this one, but reading classic literature for classes puts me in the mood for anything else most nights)
Cassandra is Reading:
  • The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga

So where have you been this week? What are your reading? Let me know, leave me a comment!

Slow Hands by Leslie Kelly -- Book Review

“Don’t stop me,” he whispered hoarsely as he tugged her ponytail holder off and ran his fingers through that thick, dark hair, spreading it across her shoulders. He tasted her soft earlobe, moving slowly down the long line of her delicate neck, nibbling lightly, savoring the unique flavors of skin and woman.
“Stopping you isn’t even a consideration.”

This isn't the sort of book you read for it's literary merit. The plot was predictable, the characters were typical, and the gimmick--she thinks he's a gigolo, which he lets her believe until he has time to win her over--is tired. Romance novels follow a tried and true formula that can get old fast, and this one doesn't deviate far from the model. That said... the sex is great.

Some romance novels skimp on the sex, which is really the whole point of the book, right? Slow Hands really delivers on the good stuff. In fact, if you're short on time, read Chapter 1, then skip to Chapter 5 -- instant satisfaction.

Buy Slow Hands from

Sundays at Tiffany's by James Patterson -- Book Review

"Across from me at my table at the Astor Court was Michael: hands down the handsomest man I knew, or have ever known, for hat matter. Also, the nicest, the kindest, and probably the wisest."

As a college student starved for an easy-going read, James Patterson’s “Sunday at Tiffany’s” was full of promise. The snowy picture with a young couple embracing on the cover quickly caught my interest and I couldn’t wait till I was done with my schoolwork and this week's newspaper to start reading the story.

It felt great to cuddle up in my quilt and start reading for fun again until I read the first page of the book. The author's detailed description of an ice cream fudge sundae didn't manage to disguise the horrific writing. The story was filled with numerous adjectives that seemed to be there to distract the reader from noticing the lack of quality in the style. I love adjectives—they can breathe life into a story and transcend the pages of the book, but only if used properly Adjectives can also drag the story down, cluttering out the plot and themes, which is what happened. Still enthusiastic about reading a book other than Chemistry or Spanish, I plodded on through the pages. Neither the plot nor the style ever improved.

I felt like I was reading a private journal written by somebody in their late teens, rehashing how awful their parents were, rather than a story from a seasoned author. I have a beef with stories structured around the idea of a character blaming their weaknesses on their parents or relatives. After a certain age I feel that the character should step up and take control of their lives. I don’t want to hear about your eating problem, how ugly you think you are, or the awful manner in which your boyfriend treats you. Eventually the heroine’s problems in “Sunday at Tiffany’s” were resolved but the conclusion made me think the author ran out of things to complain about so he ended the book.

One moment in the book had promise—the sex scene between the heroine and the hero. But even as the hero was nibbling on the heroine’s breasts, the author quickly gave the reader the quick and dirty rundown. The lovemaking lasted less than a half of a page, more like a paragraph really. Like the rest of the novel, the sex scene was poorly executed and sloppy.

As I closed the book and left my toasty quilt behind in the chair, I thought about what I would write for this review. As much as I disliked the story, I appreciate the hard work the author probably put into it…BUT if you are going to commit to a sex scene or fill your novel with a monstrous number of adjectives, at least have the wherewithal to do it it well.

Buy Sundays at Tiffany's from

Contest Winners! Plus some blog news!

It's time to draw winners! (Actually, it was time to draw winners a few days ago, but who's counting?) Thanks to everyone who entered, and so without further ado...

The winner of The American Journey of Barack Obama is...

Kat Bryan

The winners of The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga are...

Miss Grace
Anita Yancey
Mommyhood is Thankless

Congrats to the winners! Please leave me a comment, and send me an e-mail with your mailing address ASAP!

On a completely unrelated note...
A friend of mine has decided to take a stab at blogging and her first post will be up Thursday evening. Please come by and say hi--I need y'all to win her over, convince her that she'll be missing out if she doesn't blog! I know you can charm, so I'm counting on you!

I'm on Twitter

I finally gave in and signed up for Twitter! Check out my tweets here!

Surfing Saturdays 2.21.09 -- I'm in Minneapolis!

For the two of you that follow this weekly post, sorry I didn't get a Surfing Saturday up this week! I'm actually in Minneapolis for a journalism conference this weekend. Awards are tomorrow morning! I have a news article in the running, and our school paper, The Index, is up for best in show, so wish me luck!

Anyway, since I have no post this week, I'd like to shout out to Rebecca at Lost in Books, who posts with me every Saturday, so head over and check out her links, and I'll have a Super Surfing Saturday post next week!

How addicted to blogging are you?

62%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?
I'm not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing. I wish I had more time to blog, but school and work have been keeping me pretty busy. I head to Minneapolis this weekend for a journalism conference and the following weekend I interview with the media board for editor of Detours (our campus magazine).

I have a few books read that I haven't had a chance to talk about yet, and honestly I'm a little stumped for good ideas. So here's my list, and if you'd like to know anything about any one of the books, just let me know and I'll see if I can work it into my review!

Slow Hands by Leslie Kelly -- romance/erotica
Changing Places by David Lodge -- humor, British style
The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by William Blake -- classic philosophical text

TV Meme!

So, this is obviously a little off the topic of books... but I saw this at Amy's blog and couldn't resist playing along!

1. Name a TV show series in which you have seen every episode at least twice: Friends, the early seasons of Grey's Anatomy
2. Name a show you can’t miss: Gossip Girl
3. Name an actor that would make you more inclined to watch a show: Ed Westwick (of Gossip Girl -- he's just so utterly one-of-a-kind evil)
4. Name an actor who would make you less likely to watch a show: I can't think of anyone in particular...
5. Name a show you can, and do, quote from: Friends
6. Name a show you like that no one else enjoys: Kyle XY on ABC Family -- my roommate makes fun of me, but I can't help watching!
7. Name a TV show which you’ve been known to sing the theme song: Friends, Gilligan's Island, Zorro, 7th Heaven, Psych, Gilmore Girls, Smallville (I'm a sing-along kind of gal, but a lot of shows don't have theme songs anymore)
8. Name a show you would recommend everyone to watch: Mad Men, Numb3rs, Psych, Friends
9. Name a TV series you own: Friends... anyone else sensing a pattern in my answers?
10. Name an actor who launched his/her entertainment career in another medium, but has surprised you with his/her acting choices in television: Umm... I don't think I understand the question.
11. What is your favorite episode of your favorite series? "The One Where Ross Finds Out"--Friends
12. Name a show you keep meaning to watch, but you just haven’t gotten around to yet: Not really...although I just started watching Bones
13. Ever quit watching a show because it was so bad? I'm a sucker for continuing to watch shows after they've past their prime
14. Name a show that’s made you cry multiple times: I'm don't really cry at TV shows
15. What do you eat when you watch TV? Dinner or chips
16. How often do you watch TV? I never watch anything live anymore--thank God for streaming internet video, so it depends on how busy my schedule is
17. What’s the last TV show you watched? Grey's Anatomy, I just went back and watched a ton of episodes from the first and second seasons, to remind myself why I liked this show in the first place.
18. What’s your favourite/preferred genre of TV? Drama
19. What was the first TV show you were obsessed with? Maybe Sabrina the Teenage Witch? It was on the TGIF lineup for a long time, along with Boy Meets World.
20. What TV show do you wish you never watched? Private Practice
21. What’s the weirdest show you enjoyed? Kyle XY
22. What TV show scared you the most? I don't do scary TV, or scary movies, or scary books for that matter.
23. What is the funniest TV show you have ever watched? Friends, of course!

Want to play along? Just answer these questions on your blog and leave me a comment so I can come check out your answers!

Two decades in reading...

Today is my 20th birthday, which I suppose is a big deal--leaving my teenage years behind and all.

So to celebrate, I thought I would share the highlights of two decades in reading. These are the books that have stayed with me over the years, in semi-chronological order...

The Baby-sitter's Club by Ann M. Martin (the series)

The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (the series)

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (the series)

1984 by George Orwell

By the Waters of Babylon by Stephen Vincent Benet

Looking Backward by Edward Bellamy

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

A Passage to India by E. M. Forester

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

What stories and books have stuck with you over the years?

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