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Comfort Reads (42nd Bookworms Carnival)

imageI’m just tickled to be hosting this 42nd Bookworms Carnival! Thank you to everyone who sent in their links on such short notice.

I chose the topic of Comfort Reads because there are always those times in life when a much-loved, well-read book is exactly what I need, and I’m hoping you all feel the same, too.

The desire for a spot of comfort reading hits me most often during the winter: usually at night, when it’s toasty warm inside and bitterly cold outside. I look at my special reading armchair and thoughts of a good, familiar book and a mug of hot tea come to mind.

I’ve enjoyed seeing the titles my fellow bloggers turn to when they’re up for some comfort reading; there are many old favorites of mine in the group, plus some new titles that of course I’ve now added to my list of books to get my hands on. All I can say is, it’s a good thing Christmas is just around the corner!

Classics

Ah, the classics! I have quite a few classics on my own list – especially Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, A Room with a View, by E. M. Forster, and The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford. Only one person submitted a classic, but it’s a lovely one for reading on a cold night, all warm and cozy in front of the fire.

Heather from Age 30+ … A Lifetime of Books submitted Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë. If you’re like me, whenever you think of Wuthering Heights you think of Heathcliff. I also tend to think of dark and glowering brows, too! Heather has included a great detailed list of the cast of characters that does a wonderful job of refreshing your memory about this classic if it’s been a while since you’ve read it.

Fantasy

There’s something about a good fantasy that gives that old favorite one an edge when it comes to being a comfort read. I think it’s because the world you dip into is so different and all-encompassing (with the best fantasies, anyway), that you literally are swept away for those few hours you’re re-reading.

Heather submitted as another comfort read, Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, one of my own favorite reads. I’ve always had a fondness for retellings of the King Arthur story, and I read this when I was a teen and just adored it. Heather says, “I guess I’d have to say that if you DO find it challenging, it is VERY worth the effort you put into it. For me, this is a “must read” for just about everyone.” And I agree totally!

Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series is another series I turn to in my own comfort reading, so I was pleased to see it showing up in the submissions. Zee at Notes from the North recommends listening to the Dragonsinger series in audio, which sounds like a great idea. Jemi at Just Jemi has also included the Pern series in her list of comfort reads, and I am in complete agreement with her! I recently bought the first three books in the series in ebook format, so that I’ll always have them to dip into.

Zee also includes in her list a fantasy series by David Eddings, the Belgariad and Mallorean series; I’ve read a few books by Edding, and she’s reminded me it’s time for a revisit.

Jackie at Literary Escapism submitted three urban fantasy books that sound like fantastic reads; I haven’t read any of them, and have added them to my list. There’s Friday Night Bites, by Chloe Neill, a novel about the Chicagoland vampires, and Destined for an Early Grave, by Jeaniene Frost, another novel about vampires. And I’ve had the Riley Jensen series, by Keri Arthur, on my list for a while now; the latest installment, Bound to Shadows, sounds so good.

Sheila, from One Person’s Journey Through a World of Books, picks The Three Sisters Trilogy, by Nora Roberts as her comfort reads; I haven’t read very many books by Nora Roberts, but as soon as I read Sheila’s post, I immediately added these books to my list – I love the concept of three independent women who are all witches. In her email to me, Sheila wrote, “These three books are favorites of mine and are always a “go to” series if I need to just sink into characters that are like old friends to me. Even talking about them now makes me want to go visit them between the pages of these books.”

Mysteries

There’s nothing more perfect than curling up with a good mystery, and with the passage of time, I find that my memory of exactly whodunnit has dimmed enough for old favorites to be just as enjoyable as they were the first time I read them.

For Aarti, at Booklust, Footsteps in the Dark, by Georgette Heyer, is a favorite read. She says, “Footsteps in the Dark is a thriller mystery of the first order, complete with secret passageways, priest holes, skeletons and a cowled monk.” She definitely has me sold on this one! I’ve never read a Georgette Heyer, and one of her mysteries seems like a good place to start.

Candace, at Beth Fish Reads, submitted a book from one of my new personal favorites: the Hamish Macbeth series by M.C. Beaton. In her review of Death of a Travelling Man, she notes that she started this series in audio mainly because of the narrator, Davina Porter. Candace likes to read her series in order, but I tend to grab hold of whatever I can find; I seem to have started the series at the opposite end, and the majority of the ones I’ve listened to have been narrated by Graeme Malcolm. I like Porter’s narration a bit better, but Malcolm does some great accents.

Zee’s picks include J.D. Robb’s In Death series. This is a series I’ve been meaning to read for a while; Zee writes, “This series makes me laugh and the characters feel very real …”

And I’m very glad Jemi included Agatha Christie in her list. She says, “Agatha Christie’s mysteries are kind of like chocolate for me,” and that’s such a perfect description of how the Christie books feel to me, too. My memory isn’t as good as Jemi’s, though – I’ve been rereading Christie in audio, and I find that I’ve forgotten who the culprit is in most of the novels!

Children’s Books

The books I read as a child will always hold a special place in my heart; one of the first things I did as a “real grown-up” holding down a job (ie finally having a bit of money to spend) was to start buying copies of all the old favorites that I’d borrowed time and again from the library when I was little.

I grew up with Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery, so I was so glad to see that Jessica, of The Bluestocking Society, and Jemi both chose Anne Shirley as one of their favorite comfort reads. I have read and reread the whole Anne of Green Gables series so many times, I can quote whole sections from the book. Jemi writes, “As a shy, serious girl, I wanted to be Anne’s friend.” I could have written that! I remember wishing I knew someone like Anne, too; the term “kindred spirits” will always hold a special place in my heart.

Jemi also includes The Hobbit in her list of comfort reads – another one of my favorites! I couldn’t decide whether to put this under Fantasy or children’s books, but since I’ll always associate The Hobbit with childhood, I decided this was the proper place for it. (I read The Hobbit long before any of other The Lord of the Rings books.)

Food Writing

There’s something just so comforting to me about reading about food; I go on occasional food-writing splurges, during which time I’ll read nothing but food writing. I also come out of these splurges with a few extra pounds, I think, because one thing about good food writing – it makes you hungry!

Margot, of Joyfully Retired, has submitted a book that’s one of my personal favorites: Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen, by Laurie Colwin. As Margot points out, “Her tone is strictly conversational – just as if you are sitting in her kitchen talking about food.” That’s what makes this book such a charming book for me; I loved Margot’s example of having a conversation with the author as she was reading it!

General Fiction

A lot of the books in my own comfort reading pile fall into a general, non-genre category. When I look at them, I see that a charming, cozy feel is a common element.

I loved Jessica’s review of 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff. This is a book that has long been on my “I really want to read that” list, and her review is a good reminder that I really do need to get to it.

Amy, from Amy Reads Good Books, submitted Trouble, by Kate Christensen. I’ve never read any novels by Christensen, but Amy’s caught my attention with this: “it was a thoughtful meditation on how we do or do not bounce back from trauma as we age.” Another interesting book!

Jackie at Farm Lane Books has chosen The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp as her comfort read – Sharp’s books are out of print, but she was lucky enough to find three of them! Ever since I read Jackie’s review of The Nutmeg Tree, I’ve been on the lookout for books by Sharp. They sound like the perfect comfort read.

Myrthe, at The Armenian Odar Reads, submitted The Chosen, by Chaim Potok. This is a lovely review; she writes, “It is the one book that still makes me cry all through the last chapter, a book that I immediately want to start again when I finish it.” I haven’t read The Chosen yet; it sounds like such a beautiful coming-of-age story.

I was also thrilled to see that Melanie, at The Indextrous Reader, submitted Alexander McCall Smith: “My version of comfort reading must always include Alexander McCall Smith,” she says in her post. Me too! She has great things to say about both the Mma Ramotswe series and the Scotland Street series. I haven’t yet fallen under the allure of the Mma Ramotswe series yet, but McCall Smith’s Scotland Street and Isabel Dalhousie series are both very near and dear to me.

Melanie also submitted The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets, by Eva Rice. The title is so charming. Melanie writes, “Full of eccentric English characters, revealing social conditions, ancient houses, True Love, teatime and Selfridge’s, I greatly enjoyed this lovely and unusual novel.” I think it will be one I’ll enjoy too.

Finally, Meg’s review of The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen, at Write Meg is so enticing; this is another book I’m adding to my burgeoning list of books to get my hot little hands on. Meg calls The Sugar Queen a “seriously delightful, magical story”, and reading her review, it sounds absolutely charming and whimsical, with dashes of mystery and magic.

This ends the Comfort Reads edition of the Bookworms Carnival! I hope you’ve rediscovered some old favorites in this list, and perhaps added a few to your list that you haven’t read before.

Play along with us! What are some of your comfort reads?

Incoming! Books About Words

(Incoming! is a feature at Ms. Bookish that chronicles some of the recent new book arrivals at the Ms. Bookish household.)

I’ve been getting prepared for NaNoWriMo; the novel I’ll be working on in November is a middle-grade fantasy novel that involves words (as words, that is – because of course, the actual writing of it will involve words!).

So I’ve been researching words, and it’s proving to be a lot of fun!

I thought it would be interesting to highlight the books I’m currently looking through as part of my research – along with a few that I picked up along the way simply that won’t be useful for research purposes but are just too fun to pass by.

Phraseology: Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections, and Fascinating Facts about English’s Best Expressions, by Barbara Kipfer

Phraseology: Thousands of Bizarre Origins, Unexpected Connections, and Fascinating Facts about English's Best ExpressionsSynopsis (from the back cover):

Phraseology is the ultimate collection of everything you never knew about the wonderful phrases found in the English language. It contains information about phrase history and etymology; unusual, lost, or uncommon phrases; how phrases are formed; and more than 7,000 facts about common English phrases.

Practical enough to be used as a reference book but so fun that every book lover will want to read it straight through, Phraseology contains such engrossing tidbits as:

ACROSS THE BOARD is an allusion to the board displaying the odds in a horse race

ARTESIAN WELL gets its name from Artois, where such wells were first made

BEST MAN originated in Scotland, where the groom kidnapped his bride with the aid of friends, including the toughest and bravest – the best man.

First line(s): Phraseology is a collection of really interesting things you probably do not know about thousands and thousands of phrases.

Where I got this book: Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog recommended this to me when we were having a Twitter discussion about this recent post of mine. I went straight to Chapters and bought this one that very night!

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 301 pages

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The Word Detective, by Evan Morris

The Word DetectiveSynopsis (from the jacket flap):

Comic, skeptic, cyber-sleuth, syndicated columnist, and inspired wordsmith, Evan Morris is the Word Detective. Morris’s unique approach to language and his distinctive brand of humor account for his loyal following of readers who wonder about everything from soup to nuts – and that means the origins of the phrase soup to nuts, as well as hundreds of other perplexing words and phrases.

The Word Detective is a collection of Morris’s language columns, which appear in newspapers around the world and on his popular Web site. The Q & A format makes for lively and unusual interactions between Morris and his readers: Dan from Brooklyn is perturbed by television newscasts that incorrectly use the word factoid to mean “a piece of trivia.” (Morris agrees and adds that factoid was actually coined by Norman Mailer in 1973 to mean “a rumor disguised as a fact.”) Tim via the Internet asks how the word moxie came to mean “courage.” (Morris replies that Moxie was, and still is, the name of a soft drink with a taste so intense it takes real gumption to swallow the stuff.) Whether the question is from a student hoping to win a word dispute with his professor or a daughter-in-law trying to wow her mother-in-law with an esoteric phrase, the Word Detective snoops around, does the legwork, and uncovers the answers.

First line(s): It all started with sticky dimes.

Where I got this book: I came across this when I was at the library looking for some specific “words” titles. It isn’t really relevant to my research but I just couldn’t resist.

Format & Pages: Hardcover, 228 pages.

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Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our Language, by Richard Lederer

Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults Upon Our LanguageSynopsis (from Amazon):

Anguished English is the impossibly funny anthology of accidental assaults upon our language. From bloopers and blunders to Signs of the Times to Mixed Up Metaphors…from Two-Headed Headlines to Mangling Modifiers, here is an outrageous treasury of assaults upon our common language that will leave you roaring with delight and laughter.

First line(s): It is truly astounding what havoc students can wreak upon the chronicles of the human race.

Where I got this book: This is another book that’s not really relevant to my research for my NaNoWriMo novel, but I recently mooched this book from Bookmooch and it’s too fun to leave out of this post.

Format & Pages: Mass paperback, 175 pages

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You’ve Got Ketchup on Your Muumuu: An A–to–Z Guide to English Words from Around the World, by Eugene Ehrlich

You've Got Ketchup on Your Muumuu: An A--to--Z Guide to English Words from Around the WorldSynopsis (from the jacket flap):

With dry wit and remarkable erudition, Eugene Ehrlich takes us on an eye-opening tour of our ever-changing language, showing us how English has, throughout its history, seamlessly sewn words from other languages into its original fabric. He reveals that the language we call our own has in fact been culled from the languages of ancient invaders, such as the Romans, the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes, and the French.

Ehrlich’s comprehensive research and vast lingual experience bring to light what has until now been hidden from the general audience: the origins of some of our favorite and well-used words. The word graffiti, for example, comes from the Italian word meaning “scratches.” The word for one of our favorite breakfast foods, bagel, originated with the German Beugel, meaning “a ring.” And ketchup comes from the Chinese kéjap, which literally means “fish sauce.” So why do we put it on our burgers and fries?

In the clear style his readers have come to expect, Ehrlich effortlessly illuminates the origins, purposes, and meanings of once-foreign words that have become part of the rich weave of our language.

First line(s): (from the preface)

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” – Polonius, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Old Polonius was talking about prudence in managing one’s finances, not about borrowing and lending words.

But just as English words are increasingly taken into other languages, English throughout its history has continually picked up words from other languages and treated such words as its own, calling them English.

Where I got this book: I picked this one up from the library.

Format & Pages: Hardcover, 285 pages

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Scholastic Dictionary Of Idioms, by Marvin Terban

Scholastic Dictionary Of IdiomsSynopsis (from Amazon):

Cat got your tongue? Penny for your thoughts? Come again? Every day, idioms bring color to our speech. Since they don’t really mean what they say, idioms can stump even the native English-speaker. Marvin Terban makes understanding idioms “as easy as pie” with the revised SCHOLASTIC DICTIONARY OF IDIOMS. Explanations for, and origins of, more than 700 everyday American idioms, complete with kid-friendly sample sentences. The entries are amusing as well as educational. Alphabetical listing and cross-referencing index makes finding idioms a “piece of cake.”

First dictionary entry:

Ace up Your Sleeve

“I don’t know how Henry is going to get his mom to buy him a bike, but I’m sure he has an ace up his sleeve.”

Meaning: a surprise or secret advantage, especially something tricky that is kept hidden until needed.

Origin: Back in the 1500s most people didn’t have pockets in their clothes, so they kept things in their sleeves. Later on, magicians hid objects, even small live animals, up their sleeves, and then pulled them out unexpectedly to surprise their audiences. In the 1800s dishonest card players secretly slipped a winning card, often an ace, up their sleeves and pulled it out when nobody was looking to win the game.

Where I got this book: I picked this one up from the library, and it is very relevant to my research! If it comes in as useful as I think it will, I’ll probably end up getting my own copy.

Format & Pages: Trade paperback, 245 pages

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Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer’s Guide to Getting It Right , by Bill Bryson

Bryson's Dictionary of Troublesome Words: A Writer's Guide to Getting It Right Synopsis (from the jacket flap):

As usual Bill Bryson says it best: “English is a dazzlingly idiosyncratic tongue, full of quirks and irregularities that often seem willfully at odds with logic and common sense. This is a language where ‘cleave’ can mean to cut in half or to hold two halves together; where the simple word ‘set’ has 126 different meanings as a verb, 58 as a noun, and 10 as a participial adjective; where if you can run fast you are moving swiftly, but if you are stuck fast you are not moving at all; [and] where ‘colonel,’ ‘freight,’ ‘once,’ and ‘ache’ are strikingly at odds with their spellings.” As a copy editor for the London Times in the early 1980s, Bill Bryson felt keenly the lack of an easy-to-consult, authoritative guide to avoiding the traps and snares in English, and so he brashly suggested to a publisher that he should write one. Surprisingly, the proposition was accepted, and for “a sum of money carefully gauged not to cause embarrassment or feelings of overworth,” he proceeded to write that book–his first, inaugurating his stellar career.

Now, a decade and a half later, revised, updated, and thoroughly (but not overly) Americanized, it has become Bryson’s Dictionary of Troublesome Words, more than ever an essential guide to the wonderfully disordered thing that is the English language. With some one thousand entries, from “a, an” to “zoom,” that feature real-world examples of questionable usage from an international array of publications, and with a helpful glossary and guide to pronunciation, this precise, prescriptive, and–because it is written by Bill Bryson–often witty book belongs on the desk of every person who cares enough about the language not to maul or misuse or distort it.

First line(s): (from the introduction)

The physicist Richard Feynman once remarked that every time a colleague from the humanities department complained that his students couldn’t spell a common word like seize or accommodate, Feynman wanted to reply, “Then there must be something wrong with the way you spell it.”

Where I got this book: I picked this one up while browsing at the library. As I’m making up a collection of random words, I thought I’d dip randomly into this book and pick out different words to add to my collection. Also, I really enjoy reading Bill Bryson’s writing!

Format & Pages: Hard cover, 241 pages

Review: The Guinea Pig Diaries, by A.J. Jacobs

The Guinea Pig Diaries

Excerpt from the book jacket:

In his role as human guinea pig, Jacobs fearlessly takes on a series of life-altering challenges that provides readers with equal parts insight and humor. (And which drives A.J.’s patient wife, Julie, to the brink of insanity.)

I loved The Guinea Pig Diaries, by A.J. Jacobs. It came into my life just yesterday – I spotted it while out shopping and couldn’t resist the title, especially since Jacobs’ The Know-It-All had been highly recommended by Carrie from Books and Movies (The Know-It-All is currently sitting in my to-be-read pile).

It’s rare that I decide to read a book on the day that I receive it; I’m such a moody reader, and my mood has to coincide with a book’s genre, plot and theme first. But late in the afternoon yesterday, I was feeling a little down, so I decided to read an essay or two from The Guinea Pig Diaries because I just didn’t feel in the mood for a novel.

What a ride those first few essays were! I couldn’t stop at just two essays; I ended up reading the entire book last night.. Did I say “feeling a little bit down”? It’s hard to stay down when you’re laughing out loud, and laugh out loud is exactly what I did while reading this book.

The charm of the book doesn’t stop there, though. Jacobs is very funny, but his words are more than pure comedy. He takes his experiments seriously, and writes about the insights he’s gained during the course of each experiment. Each essay ends with a Coda that talks about how the experience of the experiment itself has altered his life, for good or for bad.

And the experiments run such a wide range. There’s his outsourcing experiment, where he decides to spend a month outsourcing both his work and his personal life to a team out in Bangalore, India:

I had [Asha] call AT&T to ask about my cell phone plan. I’m just guessing, but I bet her call was routed from Bangalore to New Jersey and then back to an AT&T employee in Bangalore, which makes me happy for some reason.

Then there’s the month he decides to give Radical Honesty a try. Radical Honesty isn’t just about not lying; it also requires you to remove that filter from your brain and your mouth, so that you’re always – and that’s always – saying what you think:

One other thing is also becoming apparent: There’s a fine line between Radical Honesty and creepiness. Or actually no line at all. It’s simple logic: Men think about sex every three minutes, as the scientists at Redbook remind us. If you speak whatever’s on your mind, you’ll be talking about sex every three minutes.

There are other experiments, too. There’s the month he decides to live his life according to George Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility and Decent Behaviour in Company and Conversation; the month he gets a taste of what being a beautiful woman is like when he persuades his sons’ nanny to let him handle her online profile at a dating site; there’s the time actress Mary-Louise Parker agrees to write an essay for Esquire about what it feels like to pose naked (with an accompanying photo), provided Jacobs agrees to appear in the magazine naked too; and there’s the time he appeared at the Academy Awards disguised as a celebrity, for his “240 Minutes of Fame”.

My favourite piece, though? It’s a toss-up between “The Rationality Project” and “Whipped”. During Project Rationality, Jacobs decides to eliminate all cognitive biases from his brain for a month:

As one scientist puts it, we’ve got Stone Age minds living in silicon-age bodies. Our brains were formed to deal with Paleolithic problems. When my brain gets scared, it causes a spike in adrenaline, which might have been helpful when facing a mastodon but is highly counterproductive when facing a snippy salesman at the Verizon outlet.

What I liked most about “The Rationality Project” was the aftereffect Jacobs experienced as a result. There’s something that’s so appealing to me about letting go of the assumptions we make all too readily about various situations in life, and Jacobs highlights some real long-term benefits of his experiment.

In “Whipped”, Jacobs decides to go along with readers’ suggestions that he make it up to his wife for all that she has  had to put up with during the course of his quirky quests and experiments:

I need to pay Julie back in a more appropriate fashion. I need to spend a month doing everything my wife says. She will be boss. I will be her devoted servant. It will be a month, they say, of foot massages and talking about feelings and scrubbing dishes and watching Kate Hudson movies (well, if Julie actually liked Kate Hudson movies, which she doesn’t).

How could I not enjoy reading about that? Jacobs was figuring that his wife would get bored of being in charge. Do I even need to say it? That didn’t happen.

I loved The Guinea Pig Diaries. It was funny, yes, but each essay also made me think. And to me, that’s essay writing at its best.

I’m very eager now to read Jacobs’ The Know It All – or at least, I would be, if it weren’t for the fact that he misspelled Wayne Gretzky’s name in that book (and that is an inside joke you’ll only get once you’ve read The Guinea Pig Diaries).

Where to buy The Guinea Pig Diaries:

U.S. (Amazon.com) | Indiebound | Canada (Chapters) | UK (Amazon.co.uk)

Review copy details: published by Simon and Schuster, 2009, Hardcover, 236 pages

Reading: The Opposite of Fate, by Amy Tan

The Opposite of FateI am in the midst of getting the house tidied up, as we’re having friends over for dinner tonight – I love the end result of this process of cleaning and tidying, because it means not only a nice clean space in which to entertain, but also a nice clean house for at least a day or two after tonight as well.

That’s a rather rare event so I’m all for celebrating it when it does happen.

It’s funny the efforts we’ll go to for others, when in retrospect, we can see how beneficial it is for ourselves as well. As to why I don’t just keep the house clean on a regular basis, I don’t have a clue. Except that I don’t like cleaning, and it takes the threat of friends seeing the mess in which we live to move me enough to do something about it.

All of which leads me to The Opposite of Fate, by Amy Tan. No, this is not a book about cleaning. It’s a book of musings by Amy Tan on her life and on her writing. And the reason why I’m currently reading this right now is because I’ve spent the morning cleaning up, there’s still a little bit more to do, but I was hungry, and since I found myself eating lunch by myself (my husband is out doing the shopping for tonight’s dinner, and the kids have all gotten their own various versions of lunch), I did what I always do when I’m dining solo: I reached for a book.

I didn’t feel in the mood for fiction, so I decided to dip into The Opposite of Fate. And I’m very glad I did. It’s wonderful so far, and since it’s been a while since I’ve read an Amy Tan novel, it feels good to luxuriate in her words again:

In gathering these pieces for the book, I made a new realization, so obvious that I was stunned I had not seen the pattern a hundred times before. In all of my writings, both fiction and nonfiction, directly or obliquely but always obsessively, I return to questions of fate and its alternatives. I saw that these musings about fate express my idiosyncratic and evolving philosophy, and this in turn is my “voice,” the one that determines the kinds of stories I want to tell, the characters I choose, the details I decide are relevant. In my fictional stories, I have chosen characters who question what they should believe at different moments in their lives, often in times of loss. And while I never intended for the pieces in this current nonfiction book to explain my fiction, they do.

Friday Finds – Lots of Fantasies

friday-finds

It’s time for Friday Finds again! Here are the books I’ve discovered this week, that I’d love to add to my TBR pile:

Fantasy/Young adult: Family Bones, by Kimberly Raiser (discovered at Marta’s Meanderings)

Young adult: Jellicoe Road, by Melina Marchetta (discovered at The Children’s Literature Book Club)

Children’s book: Indigo’s Star, by Hilary McKay (discovered at Book Nut)

Contemporary romance: Forbidden Fruit, by Eden Bradley (discovered at Alyssa’s Book Blog)

Nonfiction/Essays: Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, by Neil deGrasse Tyson (discovered at S. Krishna’s Books)

Paranormal romance: The Bride Finder, by Susan Carroll (discovered at Musings of a Bibliophile)

Fantasy: Angels’ Blood, by Nalini Singh (discovered at Literary Escapism)

The following were discovered at Fantasy Book Critic:

Fantasy/Young adult: Tales from Outer Suburbia, by Shaun Tan

Fantasy/Young adult: Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side, by Beth Fantaskev

Fantasy: Counter Clockwise, by Jason Cockcroft

Fantasy/Anthology: Crime Spells, edited by Martin Greenberg

Fantasy/Children’s book: The Yggyssey, by Daniel Pinkwater

Fantasy: The Manual of Detection, by Jedediah Berry

I know, I know – that’s a whole lot of books. But wow – it’s going to be a great year for reading in 2009!

Friday Finds is hosted every Friday at Should Be Reading , and it’s a great way to check out other bloggers’ reading finds this week and discover some great books.

Friday Finds: Essays and Story Collections, Anyone?

I’m not even going to say, “my goodness, the week has just flown by – it’s Friday Finds already!” because I suspect I might be saying that every Friday. (But it has flown by, don’t you think? Especially with the holidays looming ahead of us. And Ms. Bookish hasn’t bought a single gift yet …)

It’s a short list for me this Friday because I’ve been busy tackling deadlines so haven’t had the chance to surf around the book blog world as much as I would have liked. I am always so grateful to all the book bloggers out there, who make sure that my TBR pile stays filled with succulent, juicy and tempting reads (can you tell I’m looking forward to turkey dinner this holiday? Especially since I won’t be cooking it!).

This week, it’s essays and short stories that have been catching my eye:

Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, ChelseaAre You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea (discovered at Meg Cabot’s blog) Maybe it’s the play on the title, with that bit of homage to Judy Blume, but this sounds like it would be such a funny read. Here’s the synopsis:

When Chelsea Handler needs to get a few things off her chest, she appeals to a higher power — vodka. You would too if you found out that your boyfriend was having an affair with a Peekapoo or if you had to pretend to be honeymooning with your father in order to upgrade to first class. Welcome to Chelsea’s world — a place where absurdity reigns supreme and a quick wit is the best line of defense.

In this hilarious, deliciously skewed collection, Chelsea mines her past for stories about her family, relationships, and career that are at once singular and ridiculous. Whether she’s convincing her third-grade class that she has been tapped to play Goldie Hawn’s daughter in the sequel to Private Benjamin, deciding to be more egalitarian by dating a redhead, or looking out for a foulmouthed, rum-swilling little person who looks just like her…only smaller, Chelsea has a knack for getting herself into the most outrageous situations. Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea showcases the candor and irresistible turns of phrase that have made her one of the freshest voices in comedy today.

Just After Sunset And then there’s Just After Sunset, by Stephen King, which I found via Bookzombie. Joanne’s not thrilled with the collection, but she gives a wonderful mini-review of each of the stories and I spotted a few with premises that sound good. So I thought it was worth requesting this from the library. Not to mention it’s been a while since I’ve read a Stephen King short story. Here’s the synopsis:

Who but Stephen King would turn a Port-a-San into a slimy birth canal, or a roadside honky-tonk into a place for endless love? A book salesman with a grievance might pick up a mute hitchhiker, not knowing the silent man in the passenger seat listens altogether too well. Or an exercise routine on a stationary bicycle, begun to reduce bad cholesterol, might take its rider on a captivating-and then terrifying-journey. Set on a remote key in Florida, “The Gingerbread Girl” is a riveting tale featuring a young woman as vulnerable-and resourceful-as Audrey Hepburn’s character in Wait Until Dark. In “Ayana,” a blind girl works a miracle with a kiss and the touch of her hand. For King, the line between the living and the dead is often blurry, and the seams that hold our reality intact might tear apart at any moment. In one of the longer stories here, “N.,” which recently broke new ground when it was adapted as a graphic digital entertainment, a psychiatric patient’s irrational thinking might create an apocalyptic threat in the Maine countryside . . . or keep the world from falling victim to it.

Happy TrailsI found Happy Trails, by Julie Hecht in the same Meg Cabot blog post I mentioned above, and it sounds like a story collection I will really like. I particularly enjoy a deadpan style of humour, and this collection sounds like it has oodles of that:

In this new collection of stories, Julie Hecht reclaims the darkly funny, existential territory for which she is known: “People say ‘Good morning,’ but don’t believe them. It’s just something to say.” The uniquely eccentric narrator reappears in Happy Trails to You and recounts her perplexed engagements with our society and the larger world — whether she’s attempting to withdraw money from a bank machine, worrying about Paul McCartney, or seeking a nonexistent place of calm on Nantucket, where nail guns and chain saws have replaced the sounds of birds singing.

Appalled by life in our times, the narrator recounts innumerable artifacts from a now vanished America (civility, idealism, Elvis Presley, well-made appliances). She is also exquisitely attuned to the absurdities of our culture; her acute observations illuminate every subject, from the dangers of microwave ovens to the disappearing ozone layer. With deadpan wit, the author reveals the truths of a new century. Happy Trails to You is a radically distinctive work of American fiction.

So these are my finds for this week! What wonderful books did you add to your i-want list?

Mailbox Monday: An eclectic mix

It was a busy week this past week for incoming books, with, it seems like, a little bit of everything. I’ve already mentioned some of the books that arrived this past week, in last week’s Friday Finds post, so I won’t mention them again here (including some romance/chick lit – I just noticed there’s none in the list below).

Essays: Fear Itself: The Horror Fiction of Stephen King, edited by Tim Underwood and Chuck Miller

Children’s Mystery: Doppelganger, by Pete Hautman and Mary Logue (review is here)

Paranormal Mystery: An Ice Cold Grave, by Charlaine Harris (just finished it, review coming soon)

Thriller/Mystery: Raven Black, by Ann Cleeves

Children’s Fantasy: The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, by Trenton Lee Stewart

Paranormal mystery: Casting Spells, by Barbara Bretton

Mystery: Lovelace and Button (International Investigators Inc.), by James Hawkins

Mystery: The Suspect, by L.R. Wright

Children’s Fantasy: Savvy, by Ingrid Law

Children’s Novel: Clementine’s Letter, by Sara Pennypacker

Essays: 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, by Jane Smiley (I had already read a copy of this from the library, and loved her list of 100 classics so much that I decided I needed my own copy)

Memoirs: Born Standing Up, by Steve Martin

Lots of great reading coming up!