Friday, October 29, 2010

'What Is the Value of a Book?'

This is a GREAT post from Bookshop Santa Cruz on the value of books and indie stores. Read it and be inspired again.

'What Is the Value of a Book?'

Friday, October 15, 2010

It's not you, it's me.

Don't you hate it when you REALLY want to love a book, but you just can't?  Especially when you have been waiting and waiting for this title to come out, finally get it, and just can't force yourself into a relationship with the characters (or the plot, or whatever).  This doesn't happen to me often, but when it does, it ruins the book for me just about forever (I've been known to go back and try things when I am in a different mood). 

Most recently it happened with Dave Zeltserman's Caretaker of Lorne Field.  It got GLOWING reviews and has a fantastically interesting premise, but I wanted to kill each and every one of the characters, except for one.  How bad is that?  When this happens, I start to not care about the story and become only marginally invested in it, thus not really paying attention.  It's almost like going to see a bad movie and forcing yourself to finish it since you paid $35 to see it.  But in this case, since I got it from the library (where I had it on hold forever and just got it), I didn't feel too bad when I put it down for good. But I so wanted to like it on merit alone. 

I had this same problem with Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes in New England.  Everyone loved it, but me: booksellers, critics, and publishers.  And I usually LOVE quirky, off beat stuff like that, but once again, the main character ruined it for me.  He was so annoying and didn't have a redeeming quality about him, not even some half-baked morality humor that I could find. I know that is part of the beauty of the novel and the appeal of the story, that the main character is really unlikable, but I didn't even find that aspect enough to continue.  It's really a fine line to walk between unlikable/awful and unlikable/funny because most of the characters of Chuck Palahniuk's novels are awful, awful people while still being amazingly funny and snarky, and I love his work.  AGtWHiNE just failed for me and I so wanted it to work!  Hopefully his next title, Exley, will work for me.  It's another great premise with lots of promise, and a great cover.  We'll see.

Another shocking dislike from me is the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay.  I love the marketing (I sleep in a Dexter publisher tshirt promoting the first season on DVD that says "Have a Knife Day" with a bloody knife on the front) and the concept, but I just can't get past the complete disconnect of the character.  I KNOW that is the entire point, but it just doesn't work for me.  I like the idea of it and I think that it is extremely clever to write about serial murder and vigilante justice from that point of view, but I just can't bring myself to care about him.  Once again, if I am not personally invested in the character, I just can't see spending my scant free time with them. 

What books have you wanted to love but had to ditch like a bad date? 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Penguin is going dystopia crazy!

In case you have been living under a rock for the last couple years, the newest trend in YA literature has moved from vampires (and somewhat away from zombies as well) to dystopian/post apocalyptic themed books.  Bestsellers like the Hunger Games Trilogy (Scholastic), Chaos Walking Trilogy (Candlewick), and Susan Beth Pfeffer's Life As We Knew It trilogy (HMH) have totally changed the market, much like Harry Potter did when those first came out.  This has paved the way for a welcome resurgence in smart, well written fantasy for young adults and adults alike. 

Many of this fall's biggest titles are coming from one publisher: Penguin.  They have become more and more cognizant of the trends of the market in the last couple years and have shifted gears accordingly, but all the while, not flooding it with crap.  Titles like Catherine Fisher's Incarceron (and the upcoming Sapphique), Brenna Yovanoff's Replacement, Ally Condie's Matched, and the much awaited title from Beth Revis, Across the Universe (one of the BEST first chapters that I have read in a long time and a phenomenal cover; I can't wait to see an ARC!) are all extremely well written in a genre that is notorious for mass produced junk when it comes to trends.  These books are smart, funny, emotionally gripping, and although they might deal with some adult themes, are perfectly toned for the younger set but still great reads for those of us who refuse to grow up.  They take place in well-drawn alternate worlds and futures but don't focus on the extraneous like some authors try to do.  (Really?  Do you think that a teenage really cares about all of the science?  Save it for the adults who like Michael Crichton.  If kids want science overwhelming the story, they will just read Jurassic Park.) They also deal with issues that most kids deal with (although in a different way) like ethics, good vs. evil, and the ever present young love.  Get on the hold list now at your local library because once these titles come out, it will be hard to get them for a while.  Better yet, order them from your local indie bookstore and help your community by keeping your money there. 

Cemetery Dance Publications

Attention all Horror, Scifi, and Fantasy readers:  if you aren't aware of Cemetery Dance Publications yet, you should be ashamed of yourself.  They are an amazing small publishing house that cultivates both new and bestselling genre authors, as well as putting out Cemetery Dance magazine a few times a year.  Their books are HIGHLY collectible and are almost all tiny print runs, illustrated, and/or signed limited editions.  You can't beat it.  And, if you preorder, they give you free shipping.  Who doesn't love free shipping?  Especially from a small publisher.  It's unheard of. 

Some of their best stuff is in their famous Grab Bag sales.  These are random things that they have lying around their warehouses and sell to us for ridiculously cheap ($39 for 3 hardcover, signed limited editions usually).  And if you are on their mailing list, you get advance notice of almost everything before it gets announced to the general public, and usually get some sort of discount.  I'm a member of the Collector's Club and some of the initial discounts have been stellar.  I'm not ashamed to say that I have spent WAY more money than I probably should have in the last 3 months, but don't tell my husband.  That is what having a separate bank account is for. 

They publish everyone from Stephen King (they did the true first edition of this year's huge hit, Blockade Billy, that caused his normal publisher, Scribner, to put out a cheaper version for the masses since there was such demand) to Peter Straub to Richard Matheson, and many many more.  Most of their titles sell out within a few days of announcement and are very hard to get aftermarket.  They have been also known to sell a few editions from Subterranean Press or Donald Grant, but not very often. 

If you love a good thrill ride, check them out on facebook or on  Let's help the little guys have a great year.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

I'm a Stieg Larsson stalker. I got sucked into the Millenium Trilogy when the galleys first came out a couple years ago (maybe even before when I saw the first write-up about the book in PW) and haven't been able to extricate myself in the slightest. I have been waiting and waiting for the ARC of the third book, Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, for months and now, having read it, I can say without a doubt that the world is a lesser place because Stieg Larsson is no longer in it and writing. My only disappointment is that it's over and that the movies aren't available yet in the States.

The first two books in the trilogy, Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Girl Who Played With Fire, were phenomenal, which is rare. Usually the first book is great, the middle is ok, and then the third picks up the slack to finish it off, but never quite captures the mystery and promise of the first. That isn't the case here. Both books are fantastic in their own ways. Although the title of the first book indicates the story is truly about Salander, it is in actuality mostly about Blomkvist by way of Salander. Sure, we get the majority of Salander's background, but it isn't until the second book that we really know what to think of it. Salander truly comes to the forefront and becomes a character that will surely be as classic and iconic as Scout (To Kill a Mockingbird) or Holden (Catcher in the Rye) or Alice (Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking Glass). Her journey is so unique because she is SO unlikable that she just grows on you like moss. Her view is so black and white that when she is forced into the gray reality of today, her reactions and perceptions show us how truly screwed up we are. This objectivity is one of the most beautiful aspects of Larsson's writing. He is like a floodlight subjecting all of the imperfections and indiscretions of society and its' players in the same scorching glare that the good guys willingly bathe in. It's amazing.

Now, I'm not going to ruin Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest with a bunch of spoilers and try to analyze what his big picture point was. All I have to say that is that any story, whether fiction or non, that can keep me laughing, cringing, crying, and cheering simultaneously, is one that I will come back to again and again. I have to point out that I was irritated during the entire reading of it because I wanted to know how it was going to end SO badly that I just couldn't wait, but I was also irritated because I knew that once I found out what happened, then the story would be over. I haven't felt this way since I finished the seventh Harry Potter book and realized that there wasn't any more to the story. Books like that are so good but once they are finished, it's like a death in the family (only you can "visit" by re-reading them). You feel a sense of peace because the story is done, but a huge sense of loss because your forays into the world for the first time are done. Now we are just all seasoned veterans. Which is better?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hundred Thousand Kingdoms -- N.K. Jemisin

I'm a repeat reader. I admit it. When I was a kid, I would go to the library, get 5 or 6 books, and only 3 of them would be things that were new to me. The rest would be things that I had read a billion times before and just loved. I would usually buy the books later (or ask for them for birthdays or Christmas) and still have most of them today. I am one of those people who finds comfort in the familiar worlds of these particular books. That said, at this point in my life, with the job that I have, re-reading things is not so much of an option for me anymore. I have a duty to my job to read as many things as I possibly can before they come out so that I can be as effective as I can and limit my re-reading to times of despair and extreme duress -- maybe twice a year for like 3 weeks at a time. So when I tell you that I read N. K. Jemisin's Hundred Thousand Kingdoms a couple months ago and couldn't stop thinking about it so much that I re-read it this week, that is a BIG DEAL. For me to think about a book that much that I re-read it virtually immediately, regardless of the other things on my shelf (which happen to include Stieg Larsson's Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest which I have been SALIVATING for for at least a year), it had to be amazingly good.
Her debut fantasy is so original in scope and style that it seems like she has been around for years rather than months. Her premise is steeped in the classics of both ancient literature and mythology, as well as comparitive religion and modern science fiction, with a little bit of stream of consciousness thrown in. It's phenomenal. There are very few holes in the plot and the majority of the characters are perfectly developed. The couple of minor problems aren't really issues at all because the reader doesn't really care about these people/plotlines at all since they are intentionally peripheral while not being contrived or feel "forgotten" like some lost plot threads can in lesser hands. And it is one of those books that only gets better each time it is read because of the little details and nuances that weren't detected before.

The basic plot is centered around Yeine, the daughter of the now disowned heir to the current ruler of the kingdoms. When she is summoned after her mother is killed suspiciously, she has no reason not to go, even though she is wary. Much more is to be revealed as she spends her time at Sky (city & capital). As she comes into herself and attempts to keep herself alive despite the petty political manuevering of her rivals, she is thrown into the company of several enslaved gods -- Nahadoth, and Sieh most prominently, the result of a long ago war that is the basis for the entire religious system. At first, the religious aspects don't ring original, but that isn't the case. By blending many different mythologies of everything from The Sandman's Morpheus and the concept of the biblical Trinity, she created a nexus for the conflict between the gods and between the humans.

It's a very complex novel filled with all of the intrigue and revenge that comes with political struggles, but with a healthy dose of the many faces of love, and the price that it can exact. She never takes a heavy hand with the characters or with their actions; each entity acts "naturally" if that makes sense, and doesn't feel forced to the reader. Jemisin has achieved the elusive feeling of being a true voyeur to the story through the structure of the narrative and the completeness of the story. I was obviously thrilled with this installment, and can't wait for the next phase of the story. She is going to have a (hopefully) long and illustrious career and I will surely salivate for each work.
For more info on the book or N. K. Jemisin, go to Check out her blog posts too. So much fun.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls

YAY! It's here!

Being a HUGE fan of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies when it came out last year, I couldn't wait until PPZ: Dawn of the Dreadfuls came out. So, of course I finagled my way to get an early copy and have since devoured it. You will not be disappointed. It gives us the backstory of how Elizabeth became the bad-ass zombie slayer from PPZ and elaborates more on the familial relationships that are somewhat kept in the background in the original PP (hello, can Mr. Bennet want to kill Mrs. Bennet anymore!?!). It's the most polite and mannerly bloodbath that you'll ever read. The fun part is that it still remains faithful to the reference text and doesn't detract from the basic essence of the story. It's witty and smart and a delight to read, as long as you keep your tongue firmly in your cheek.

It's a great addition to the Quirk Classics canon and I can't wait for the next installment of the trilogy, as well as the next classic, Android Karenina. Don't miss this!

Here is some fun for you readers. Enter this contest by March 11 through Quirk Classics to win a great PPZ prize stash including a copy of the book, PPZ notecards, PPZ journal, and more. Simply go to the link below and enter my blog. Happy Hunting!

For more Quirk Classics fun, go to their website,