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 amazon.com

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 amazon.com

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?

Surfing Saturdays 02.14.09

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):


Currently Reading:
  • Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell (Need to get back to this one)
  • Changing Places by David Lodge (Also enjoying)
  • Writing True by Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz (class text)
  • Zig-zagging by Tom Wilson (this is for a book tour at the end of March, but I couldn't resist starting it.)

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

Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy -- Book Review

It helps to be fluent in a number of languages if you want to become a spy. I spoke Dutch, German, Spanish, French and even Malay. If you have a studious mind, this helps you become a spy. If you do not have a studious mind, this too helps, because who would suspect you, being ignorant of how to break a code, of knowing how to concoct invisible ink from a number of vials? Anything helps if you want to become a spy, because everyone wants to believe you are a spy.”

How many wonderful things can I say about this book before you begin to roll your eyes?

Mata Hari, an exotic dancer and professional courtesan, was accused of being a double agent for the Germans during World War I and executed by t
he French in 1917. Whether or not she actually spied for the French is debated, and the records of her trial remain sealed until 2017.

Signed, Mata Hari shifts subtly between 1st person and 3rd throughout the book, even occasionally flirting with a 2nd person perspective, which creates a dreamy sort of voyeuristic feeling for the reader. The chapters are short, but luxuriously crafted--almost poetical in their cadence. I felt drawn in immediately, as Mata Hari begins her story by recalling when she "walked across the sea," a memory she calls on throughout her life as a source of strength and courage.

"When I walked back, I turned around and looked over my shoulder to watch the sea advancing. Try and catch me, I said out loud, and what answered back was the sky, at first in low rumbles, then louder as thunder rolled closer. But it never did catch me, and I outran the tide and lived."

The story alternates between Mata Hari's memories and the prison cell she occupies. I felt, as I was reading, that perhaps she was telling me only part of the story--that perhaps she was telling herself only part of the story, as she offers glimpses of her life leading up to her imprisonment.

Even not knowing that Mata Hari was an actual historical figure, I enjoyed this read. The last chapter tipped me off to the fact that this is a truth-based fiction, and now, having read a little of the history, I can see how thoroughly the author incorporated her research into the text. Signed, Mata Hari touches on subjects like parenthood, sex, abuse and desperation without the reader even realizing that this beautiful and enjoyable book is saying something deeper about our humanity.

Murphy has written a wonderful, simple, beautiful book.

What We Have in Common -- A Guest Post by Sheri of A Novel Menagerie

Today, Sheri is guest posting for me! Make sure to check out her site, A Novel Menagerie!


Pronounced: [muh-naj-uh-ree, -nazh-] (mə-năj'ə-rē, )
Word Type: Noun
Origin: 1705–15; < F: lit., housekeeping. See MÉNAGE, -ERY
• A collection of live wild animals on exhibition.
• An enclosure in which wild animals are kept.
• A diverse or miscellaneous group.
• A collection of wild or unusual animals, esp. for exhibition
• A Place where they are kept or exhibited
• An unusual and varied group of people
• a place for keeping) a collection of wild animals

Menagerie is the term for a historical form of keeping calm and exotic animals in human captivity and therefore a predecessor of the modern zoological garden. The term was foremost used in seventeenth century France originally for the management of the household or domestic stock, but later primarily for an aristocratic or royal animal collection. The French-language "Methodical Encyclopaedia" of 1782 defines a menagerie as an "establishment of luxury and curiosity." Later on the term was referred even to travelling animal collections that exhibited wild animals at fairs across Europe and the Americas. [French ménagerie, from Old French mesnage, ménage. See ménage.]


Arabic: مَجْموعَة حيوانات نادِرَه
Chinese (Simplified): 动物园
Chinese (Traditional): 動物園
Czech: zvěřinec
Danish: menageri
Dutch: menagerie
Estonian: loomaaed
Finnish: villieläintarha
French: ménagerie
German: die Menagerie
Greek: θηριοτροφείο
Hungarian: állatsereglet
Icelandic: dÿragarður
Indonesian: pengumpulan binatang
Italian: serraglio
Japanese: 見せ物動物園
Korean: (개인이 소유한) 대규모 야생동물 사육지
Latvian: zvērnīca
Lithuanian: žvėrynas
Norwegian: menasjeri
Polish: menażeria
Portuguese (Brazil): coleção de feras
Portuguese (Portugal): zoo
Romanian: me¬najerie
Russian: зверинец
Slovak: zverinec
Slovenian: zverinjak
Spanish: casa de fieras
Swedish: menageri
Turkish: vahşi hayvanlar koleksiyonu; hayvanat bahçesi

Menagerie, it’s what we share and what brought me to you. I am wondering if you relate to this word as much as I do.

I remember the day that I chose the name for my blog, as I am sure all bloggers can relate to. I was with Lisa of Books on the Brain and she was sharing with me her passion for reading, reviewing and the start-up of TLC Book Tours. I just sucked up all of excitement into me and exploded within my own. I want to review all of the books that I have been reading! I want to blog. But, what to name it? I remember rambling out some names with her, but I can’t remember how the words came to me. I constantly refer to my household as a ZOO… because it is one. I think I went from zoo to menagerie to The Glass Menagerie… to A Novel Menagerie. I can’t recall (maybe Lisa does). But, I was struck so much with how much this website name suited me that I scribbled it down and never changed my mind on it once.

My life in my home is one of a domestic zoo keeper. And, I love it that way. I am a pretty diverse person and am into multiple hobbies, with various collections, and a wide taste in both music and books. I collect both, in addition to collecting all sorts of things: elephants, nail polish, socks, chopsticks, pillows, fish, pens, yarn and glasses (the drinking kind). I’ve hosted contests asking others about their collections… their menageries, if you will. After all, your menagerie tells a lot about you!

So, you and I… Literary Menagerie… are tied by this beautiful word with French origins. You and I are tied by a love of literature, a collection of words which, once published, become as timeless as the sea. You are I are tied as we are both new to the book review blogging community. As we venture off into 2009 and share our love of the menagerie and our fearlessness of the “Blog World”… I can’t wait to get to know you better!

Winners take 2... an update

So, I have some good news and some bad news for my giveaway winners...

The good news: Your books are not lost in the mail.

The bad news: it's because I haven't mailed them yet. I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to track down a few of the winners.

The best news: I'm drawn NEW winners to replace the one's I couldn't get a hold of, and I've already e-mailed them, so I hope to have books out to you soon!

The Dead Guy by Doug Hewitt -- Book Review

"The name's Thigpen. Jack Thigpen. I investigate car insurance fraud. I'm not a double-nought spy, and I can't stomach martinis--no matter shaken or stirred--much to the chagrin of my wife. Martinis make me gag, but what I hate even more than olive-adorned, vomit-inducing adult beverages are scammers, con men, swindlers, and cheats. These shysters, sumbags, fraud-meisters, who absolve their consciences with the belief their crimes are victimless, instead perpetuate illegal activities that result in injury and death."

I received this book as a review copy, and at the risk of being blacklisted, I'm writing the review.

First of all, can I just ask: What in the world is going on with the grammar in that last sentence? This is the first paragraph in the book!


Moving on.

If you've read very many of my reviews, you've probably noticed that I focus on the voice and writing style probably more than I do the actual plot line--that's just the way I read and appreciate books. Now every writer or book has (or should have) a unique voice. Now, Hewitt was ambitious--he took on the stereotype that every bored film student with a camera has tried: the classic private eye...


Now, I'll be honest--I put the book down and walked away.

For a few days.

Then I considered that perhaps the book is supposed to be satirical--an entertaining spoof. Or maybe Hewitt has found a way to pull off this classic in an interesting new way. I went back and kept reading. Not only did the book not get any better, within 30 pages the author lost track of the PI voice--the only element that had any real potential of making the book a memorable experience.

Did I mention that Thigpen's best friend was shot? And he's chasing down bad guys that want him dead?! But it doesn't matter because he'll be dead in a few months from a fatal disease anyway?!! I'd wait for the movie: (I love the potato head characters!)

The Dead Guy didn't have a chance.

As always, feel free to disagree! Let me know what you think in the comments!

Surfing Saturdays 02.07.09

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):


Currently Reading:
  • Signed, Mata Hari by Yannick Murphy (I'm loving this)
  • Gilgamesh translated by Stephen Mitchell (Need to get back to this one)
  • Changing Places by David Lodge (Also enjoying)
  • One Writer's Beginnings by Eudora Welty (class text)
  • Writing True by Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz (class text)

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

Just Like Training for a Marathon...

How are those New Year resolutions coming along? I always make a fresh attempt to read more, exercise more, clean more, smile more, etc. when New Years comes around, but around February I've slid back into old habits.

This year, I've actually done pretty well. I go to a step class and a yoga class, I walk around campus more than I drive, I wake up at a reasonable hour on days when I don't have classes... but my reading has fallen off. For me, reading is like training for a marathon--satisfying when I'm doing it, but hard to get back into when I've fallen out of the habit.

It's not that I'm not enjoying the books--I have a stack of tempting texts on my nightstand. The problem is, I'm doing such a good job with all my other resolutions, I'm running out of time to read!

So my question is, how do you find time to read when your schedule is hectic? Share your tips and tricks! Meanwhile, I'm going to get back to looking for news stories for next week's issue of the paper, and pretending to listen to my Media Law teacher--I'm a little bit proud of my triple-tasking!

Book Giveaway: The American Journey of Barack Obama

Win a copy of The American Journey of Barack Obama.

US and Canada entries only, and no PO Boxes please!

To enter, leave a comment telling me who your favorite historical NON-LIVING president is OR your favorite book set in historical America. This isn't a political forum, so let's leave our red and blue jackets at home.

For a second entry, be a follower of this blog and let me know in the comments.

For a third entry, link to this giveaway on your blog, and leave the link.

It's that easy! Contest ends February 21.

Book Giveaway: The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga

Win one of five copies of The Italian Lover by Robert Hellenga!

US and Canada entries only, and no PO Boxes please!

To enter, leave a comment below either about your experiences or thoughts on Italy OR your favorite romantic comedy.

For a second entry, be a follower of this blog and let me know in the comments.

For a third entry, link to this giveaway on your blog, and leave the link.

It's that easy! Contest ends February 21.

January Reads Roundup

I started out the month with a good reading pace, but had to slow down when school started, but nonetheless, I'm very happy with the books I picked this month--there were several stand-out excellent titles and picking a favorite was more difficult than normal.

Best Pick of the Month:
The Keep by Jennifer Egan -- this was a difficult choice, because I read several Best of the Month worthy books, but this one wins it by a hair. Haunting, magical, hilarious, complicated, frustrating -- this book will have your head running in circles.

Worst Pick of the Month:
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld -- I cannot emphasize how disappointing this book was. I'm more frustrated by good books with rotten endings than books that were rotten all the way through, because at least those I can stop reading before I become interested in any of the characters.

Also Read this Month:
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga -- give it 100 pages, it starts out slow but builds into something scary and engrossing.
Sherlock Holmes was Wrong: Reopening the Case of the Hound of the Baskervilles by Pierre Bayard -- this was in the picture finish for favorite of the month. An absolutely hilarious and engaging literary criticism for those who don't read literary criticism.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini -- beautiful.
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas -- this book is a lot darker than I was expecting, in a very good way. Complicated characters overlaid with romance and adventure, what's not to love?

Yearly Stats to Date:

Total Books Read: 6
Total Recommended: 5

Male Authors: 4 (4 Recommended)
Female Authors: 2 (1 Recommended)

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


Thanks to all who entered the giveaways this month! The winners are:

Sundays at Tiffany's winners:
  1. Galena
  2. Valorie
  3. 409cope
  4. idahomom
  5. PrissyGreen

Winner of the Time Traveler's Wife:
Sheri at A Novel Menagerie

please e-mail me at meh471(at)gmail(dot)com, and leave a comment (I've been having some trouble with my e-mail from the blog, so if you comment, I'll know you tried to e-mail me but it didn't come through)

Congratulations to the winners, and be sure to look for new contests up in the next few days!

Desenvolvido por EMPORIUM DIGITAL