Monday, April 29, 2013

The Breath of Life

I finish reading The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman. My mouth is filled with grit and sand, my feet are cut and bruised by stone, my fingers grip the breath of life. This is a story about women. This is story about blood and death. This is a story about the lengths to which we must go sometimes to survive. It's scary in that regard. Scary to know what we as human beings are capable of doing to one another—and ourselves. We have enough reminders of that on a daily basis. And yet…
Alice Hoffman is my favorite contemporary author and this is, perhaps, her greatest work, and yet…I've put off reading it. Now, I'll have to read it again someday, this story of Yael, Revka, Aziza, and Shirah. I'll have to read it with more care and devotion. This story of lions and doves.

It's so very layered and intricate. Each sentence explodes with meaning.

If it is indeed: our duty as human beings to see behind the veil to the inside of the world, to the heart of things, then it would seem that Alice Hoffman has fulfilled her duty as a human being and then some.

Friday, April 26, 2013

How to Read a Short Story

I finish reading Black Dahlia & White Rose, a collection of seriously creepy stories by Joyce Carol Oates. Although I'm not a huge fan of short stories, this is the third short story collection I've read in the past year. Leaf Storm by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman being the other two. They are growing on me, these books of short stories.
Leaf Storm is incredible. So is The Red Garden. The stories in Leaf Storm revolve around Macondo, a fictional town in Colombia. They are horizontal because they all take place in about the same time period. The stories in The Red Garden are about Blackwell, Massachusetts and they are vertical in that the tales occur in a linear progression through time.

The twine that binds the stories in Black Orchid & White Rose is twisting. Oate's needle inserts itself into the human psyche and extracts disturbing grey matter. A few of them are really good for what they are: biopsies.

The trick I've found to reading short stories is reading them one day at a time. Kind of a reading hors d'oeuvre. That works well. It can take me a while to get through them, but I enjoy them more that way. It gives me at least twenty-four hours to absorb what I've read.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Much Loved Books, An Interview With a Book Blogger

Welcome, Michelle, the UK blogger of Much Loved Books. One of the things I love about the blogging, bookish, bibliophile community is meeting passionate readers from all over the world.

Please enjoy Michelle's interview. You're going to have to read it to figure out why this is the perfect picture for her!

1. Introduce Yourself (anything you’d like folks who visit your blog to know about you)
My name is Michelle and I am a UK book blogger.  I have a full time job looking after children in a nursery and I read whenever I get the time to.  I hate the sun and avoid it as often as I can, but give me snow and I will gladly spend the entire day outside.  I am a strange person who has lots of fears (spiders, wasps, bees, needles, bugs) but I have tattoos and ear piercings (although the gun to pierce my ears scares me).

2. Coffee or Tea or Water? Espresso, Drip, Instant, or French Press? Bag or Looseleaf? Bottled, Filtered, Tap or Rainwater? Coffee, always coffee,  I tend to use instant as its quicker and easier for me to drink it in work too.  Although I do like lattes and cappuccino when I am out in town.

3. Why do you blog about books?
I blog about books to share my thoughts and feelings about them, and to spread the word about books that wouldn't normally catch people attention.  I read almost anything and I have read so much before blogging that I decided to share my thoughts about what I liked about the book I had read.  I never expected to still be here nearly two years later.

4. What inspired the design of your site?
At the moment it is a free template I found online.  I picked it as I love the style and colour of it.  I wish I had a creative bone in my body so I could work on a template myself and put my ideas down but sadly I don't.

5. What is your favorite thing about book blogging?
Getting to meet others who share the same interests as me, getting the opportunity to meet authors at events or other bloggers.  Also getting to read some amazing books, sometimes before they are released to the public.

6. How do you decide which books to read?

For my review books I have to like the synopsis of a book before I request or accept it.  If it doesn't sound interesting I am not going to read it.  For my own books again it is what sounds good or if it is an author I already like, then they will automatically get purchased.

7. How much time do you invest reading and blogging?
Weekday I read during my dinner hour, then for a few hours at home.  Weekend it depends on what I am doing, shopping, movie day in brothers.  This weekend alone I have read and finished 3 books and started two.  So anywhere from 1 hour to 5 hours a day.

8. Care to comment on the Alice Hoffman quote: Books may well be the only magic?
I have never heard this quote before but I do agree with it.  Books have the ability to take the reader away from their own world and their own problems, and place them into whatever world is between the pages, all while you are sitting.  The ability of an author to do this is well and truly a magical experience and I hope I never get bored of it.

9. On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you? 10 being VERY...
I would say I am maybe 2, I do have some quirky moments, and some OCD moments, but I like to think I am not very eccentric

10.Is there anything else we need to know about you?
I am a lefty (leftys rock) :D

Michelle Smith
Much Loved Books

Saturday, April 20, 2013

This Particular Set of Russian Nesting Dolls

I finish reading The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates and stare at the ceiling, the back of my hand against my forehead. Try to think. It's not like The Falls, the book that I l loved, at all. And yet I don't hate it, and there is satisfaction in the ending along with that axe grinding. I mean there is JCO's fierce writing, but the first word that comes to mind is: sprawling. It's a sprawling novel, running hither and yon within the sharp confines of a small world that is Princeton.

The plot is like a Russian nesting doll. There is a plot within a plot within a plot within a plot and they all fit together very nicely. All the loose ends—well, by the time you reach The Covenant there are none. Not one. So the next word that comes to mind is: choreographed. It is so tight, and everyone fits so perfectly in their places—to their detriment. They feel so very passive.
Todd is the only one who seems to have a will. And it's all temper tantrums until he finds a secret passage and has to play that life-or-death game of draughts. And that, for me, was the best scene, because when Todd is sweating so that he can hardly see the game board, he at least feels real and alive. The others are like wisps or cut-out paper dolls or are just annoying in their unwillingness or inability to step out of line and assert themselves as characters who might topple the very carefully and ingeniously constructed plot.


Yes, The Accused is very much like a set of Russian nesting dolls, like this set in particular  ...
And, yes, I'll probably read another one of her damned books.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Hysterical Paranormal

I am reading The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates. It's more historical fiction than vampire/paranormal. Qualification: I'm only halfway through the very long book, although I have to confess that at 48% I'm thinking Rosebud and when will Orson Welles show up; and at 49% I'm thinking, OMG, here comes Dr. Freud. It's kind of comprehensive like that.
Or if not Dr. Freud, then maybe Dr. Jung. And everyone in the vicinity of THE INSTITUTION of Princeton could just self-actualize before it's all said and done. But that's not Jung that's Maslow…see how confusing all these historical figures are, and, now, alongside fictional figures?

I mean…if Sherlock Holmes can show up with Woodrow Wilson Grover Cleveland Teddy Roosevelt and Upton Sinclar, why not the others? I know, I know, The Accursed is set well before Citizen Kane's TIME, 1905-1906 to be exact (and the book is very exact about that time frame) but … maybe there could have been a premonition…or a foretelling…or a vision…better yet…A NIGHTMARE. You know about the sleigh. Sled. Okay.

It's also hard not to think about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer, I mean Hunter, although I only saw the movie—didn't read the book...

So I picked up The Accursed in a Joyce Carol Oates frenzy. I'd just finished The Falls which, I have to tell you, I loved madly. It's exquisite, telling the story of Ariah (like pariah with the P left off—and you've got to wonder if that's a coincidence or the author being clever) anyway…where was I?

Oh, yes. The story of Ariah that is told in The Falls. I love it because it is a story, basically, about how life breaks you down, pulls you apart, puts you back together, and then sets you free. See, I wrote that JCO is mean to her characters (she is) (she is really mean to her characters in The Accursed. Am I supposed to like Annabel?) but at the end of The Falls there is Juliet and Bud and, well, they are grace.


But so far, The Accursed, is kind of like a hysterical paranormal … you know … kind of like those Salem witch trials.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Indie Life: Book Bloggers

Book Bloggers are an integral part of the reading community. They are passionate folks who invest their time in reading and spreading the word about the books they love. They write book reviews and host all sorts of bookish events like giveaways, cover reveals, author spotlights, and blog tours. Getting to know some bloggers and understanding the reading world from their perspective can be helpful for any indie author.

Today my indie life post introduces book blogger Cloey K of Cloey's Book Reviews And Other Stuff. One of the first things that intrigued me about Cloey was her passion for ebooks, tea, chocolate and Nascar. What an eclectic combination. 

1. Introduce Yourself.

Hi, my name is Cloey and I blog at Cloey's Book Reviews and Other Stuff at you are welcome to come by when you get a chance and say hello. I have many ideas for my blog and cannot wait to make them happen in 2013 so come be a part of something awesome.

2. Coffee or Tea or Water? Espresso, Drip, Instant, or French Press? Bag or Looseleaf? Bottled, Filtered, Tap or Rainwater?

I love tea and can drink a cup all hours of the day or night. I use prepackaged tea bags and looseleaf with bottled or filtered water, with or without milk/creamer. The flavors vary from black, peppermint, floral and many others. I used to buy bagged herbs to mix for the perfect brew and devoted a cabinet in my kitchen just for my teas.

While packing to move into my new home I found cotton tea bags, three tea balls, and three tea pots so look out! I may be blogging about my perfect brews at Cloey's soon, hehehe.

3. Why do you blog about books?

I was looking for a hobby with a zero dollar budget so I picked something that I liked to do which is reading and talk about books. When I originally started my blog I thought that it would be a win/win for me and authors, I get a free book to read and they get an honest review and I was right. Since starting my blog Feb 2012, I discovered that I really love showcasing authors, reading their work, and sharing my reviews with readers. I really hope that my blog will help readers to find their next hot read.

4. What inspired the design of your site?

I was looking for something funky and dark to fit in with the genres that I like to read and found an awesome design by @Parajunkee. My blog has an urban fantasy, paranormal, or dark fantasy feel but horror and science fiction fits well too. I also wanted a place where people would feel comfortable hanging out and browsing the pages without having ads popping up everywhere. 

5. What is your favorite thing about book blogging?

My favorite thing about book blogging is meeting like minded people. I am bringing readers and authors together in a comfortable place where everyone can express themselves - what's not to like about that? I get to read fabulous books and help to introduce them to readers. I feel like I am helping authors to get the word out about their work and saving readers the hassle of reading through the many books out there when searching for a good read. I also share my favorite TV shows and occasionally anything else that comes to mind.

6. How do you decide which books to read?

If the book is a request for my review, and I do get many review requests, I take a look at the cover art, description, and if it was edited by someone other then the author and a family member then I may consider it for reading. After that I go with my mood. No matter how much I try, if I want to read something Scifi an Urban Fantasy will not be interesting to me no matter how good the book is.

If I am picking out the book for my pleasure then I look at what other people are reading. I checkout other book blogs, read reviews by my friends on goodreads, and always read the reviews on book selling sites. I have also found books through Twitter which were very good reads.

7. How much time do you invest reading and blogging?

About 10 - 15 hours a week. Most of my spare time is spent reading and you will always see me reading at lunch time and when alone waiting in lines.

8. Care to comment on the Alice Hoffman quote: Books may well be the only magic?

I agree with Alice Hoffman because where else can you live a thousand lives and walk side by side with heroes without leaving the safety of your home?

While a movie gives us a flat view of the story world based upon someone else's imagination a book gives us a description and our imagination brings that description to life... that's part of the magic. 

A story in a book can invoke a memory of a scent, or a feeling and also make us feel like we are right there in the story on the sidelines watching the scene as it happens. We can be in the present moment reading a story taking place in the past or future and get so caught up that we lose all concept of everything going on around us... now that's the magic. 

9. On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you? 10 being VERY...

Haha! I'll say a 3. I am eclectic and open minded. I never picture myself living with 10 cats but I can picture myself living in an eco friendly house mixing transitional designs with a touch of modern.

10. Is there anything else we need to know about you?

I love NASCAR - my driver is Jimmie Johnson.  I began watching NASCAR  in 1990 while taking naps because the races where just too long. Then in 2004 I paid attention and in 2006 I became a fan of Jimmie Johnson and have been going to races twice a year since 2008. Other drivers that I quietly cheer for are Tony Stewart (I love his attitude), Martin Truex Jr (go Jersey!), and Danika Patrick (who said girls can't drive?).

I have been described as Bohemian and opinionated (well, in my defense, I am child 5 of 6). I am a meditator and live as holistically as possible with my old school minded fiancé who often shakes his head and laughs at my quirks and affectionately calls me crazy while my 2 kids call me mom.

Find Cloey at:
Twitter: @CloeyWorld
Facebook: Cloey's Book Reviews
Instagram: cloeyworld

Thanks for stopping by the Indie Life blog hop!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

I'm so Taken by The Falls

I'm reading The Falls: A Novel (P.S.) by Joyce Carol Oates. Very Old Skool. I know I used to read Joyce Carol Oates, but I go back and look through her catalogue of 70 plus novels, short story collections, and plays, and only one title sticks out, You Must Remember This. But I've forgotten most—almost all?—of the story. But she's been writing up a storm since then with all sorts of intriguing new titles like: The Accursed, Daddy LoveMudwoman, and Zombie.

I got The Falls for $2.99. One of those Pixel of Ink things that assures I'll never ever ever take another breath without something interesting to read on my Kindle.

I'm so taken by The Falls. As I said, very Old Skool, and gender is a prominent theme. Kind of like it's being hit with a sledgehammer. Oates isn't a friendly writer. Nor is she a romantic writer in that if she's ever had a pair of rose-colored glasses I'm sure that she's smashed them. Probably with that sledgehammer. And if anyone was ballsy enough to give her another pair, I wouldn't be surprised if she crushed them with her bare hands right in front of them. Probably said something like: Rose-tinted things are for the fearful and fools.

As a writer, she's not really kind or generous towards her characters. She's kind of mean, really. Most of them are neurotic, limited, shallow, obsessive…gender stereotypes lurk beneath every single one like stick figures or old-fashioned dressmakers mannequins without heads. And yet…gender issues are fascinating. The lens of sexual identity is infinite. I'm not sure anyone has done it more exhaustively than Oates. I'm definitely going to be picking up some of her newer works once I've finished The Falls.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Bookworm Lisa's Family Friendly Blog

Today, Lisa Faber shares the philosophy of her family friendly blog, Bookworm Lisa. She loves to read and pass on good books she'd be comfortable recommending to her fifteen year old daughter or her grandma. Blogs like Lisa's are invaluable for parents involved in their children's reading activity.
They're also great for readers who might get squeamish when sex and violence get too detailed. With tabs like: Children's Picture Books, Juvenile and Middle Grade Chapter Books, Young Adult Books, Clean Romance Books, Inspirational Books, Fantasy/Paranormal Books, and Adventure Books, there's plenty to choose from.

That's why book blogs are great. Invest some time online to find the blogs of those who have similar tastes to yours and they can help you find your next great read, especially in those moments when you don't have time to forage on your own.

Now, on to Lisa's interview!

1.  Introduce Yourself My first and foremost role is being a mother.  I have four children, three boys and one girl.  I was a "sahm" for almost 17 years. I now work part time as a lunch lady, so I can be home when my kids are home.  I actually enjoy the time at work, it's fun to work closely with a bunch of wonderful ladies, and I get my "girl friend" time in at work.

2.  Coffee or Tea or Water? Espresso, Drip, Instant, or French Press? Bag or Looseleaf? Bottled, Filtered, Tap or Rainwater? It would have to be water for me.  I love filtered water.  If I can't get the filtered then I resort to bottled.  My first preference would really have to be Dr. Pepper though. :)

3.  Why do you blog about books? Reading has always been a love of mine.  As far as blogging goes, I kind of fell into it. I started reviewing on Goodreads and then things expanded.  I really enjoy sharing my journey of reading with others.

4.  What inspired the design of your site? Several years ago I made a profile picture of the book I was reading (The Sword of Shannara Trilogy ~ 25th anniversary edition) with a bookmark that I created from my kids school pictures.  It has reading glasses on top of the book.  I spend several years in my local PTA helping children learn to read.  I wanted my blog to reflect a family friendly atmosphere and focus on books that would appeal to all ages. So I have books from childrens picture books to romance books for mom and grandma.

5.  What is your favorite thing about book blogging? I can't believe all of the wonderful bloggers out there.  There is a thriving community of book bloggers.  I have had the opportunity to "meet online" many people that I wouldn't have known about in any other way.

6.  How do you decide which books to read? There has to be an appeal on some level to me.  When I first started blogging, I couldn't believe that people actually wanted to give me a copy of their books to read.  I accepted everything, but soon learned that it didn't work for me.  I received books that I just couldn't get interested in.  I now look at the story line, the cover, and sometimes I will look at reviews that have been written on the book before making my decision.

7.  How much time do you invest reading and blogging? I don't know how to get a number for that. I spend many hours reading and many hours blogging.  I try to spend more time reading that blogging.  Sometimes it is hard to find the balance, because my kids need me too.

8.  Care to comment on the Alice Hoffman quote: Books may well be the only magic?
I look at books more as an escape.  I love that I can learn and be entertained.  That is in a way magical.  My favorite quote about books comes from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society.

 "That's what I love about reading: One tiny thing will interest you in a book, and another tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive - all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment." 

9.  On a scale of 1-10, how eccentric are you? 10 being VERY...
Maybe a four or so.  I try to blend in.

10.  Is there anything else we need to know about you? I am committed to literacy and helping people find books that are a good fit for them. My blog is on the conservative side.  I try to find books that I wouldn't be embarrassed to recommend to my grandma, or my daughter, she's 15.  I am very committed to my family, particularly my very supportive husband.

Lisa, thank you for sharing your love of books with us!

You can visit Bookworm Lisa for reviews, giveaways, blog tours, cover reveals, and other bookish things every day of the week.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Our Sins of Butter, Eggs, Flour & Sugar

I'm still reading The Red Garden by Alice Hoffman. I read one of the fourteen stories at a time, so I can make it last. But there will still be The End.

I'm thinking about finding this place, Blackwell, Massachusetts. I want to climb High Top Mountain and find a bear in a cave. Or better yet, a bear cub. Then stop by the Jack Straw Bar and Grill, maybe I'll hear some good stories from the locals. I don't think I'll swim in Eel River, even though there aren't that many eels in it anymore, not like there used to be, anyway. But I'll go have a look. Maybe sit for a awhile on the riverbank and see if the Apparition shows up.

I will definitely eat an apple.

Too bad Ava Cooper went back to California. Otherwise, I could indulge in some Devil's Food Cake, Lust Cake, Gluttony Cake—or maybe one slice each of Gratitude Cake and Apology Cake. Unless Envy Cake is what's on the menu.
All those sins of butter, eggs, flour, and sugar.
Maybe it would be easier to get down to San Francisco and stand in line on a Saturday night.