Friday, October 30, 2009

Review: What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

What the Dog Saw is a collection of Malcolm Gladwell's favourite columns that have been previously published in the New Yorker, where he is a staff writer. I recently read Outliers, also by Gladwell, and enjoyed his theories so much that when I saw this book, I knew it was a must read. How this book differs from Outliers is that it does not have a central theme, no singular point that is trying to be proven by the author and further reinforced with an abundance of research on the one subject. What the Dog Saw represents Gladwell's unusual way of looking at things and providing in depth answers to his questions of who or why, etc.

Gladwell poses questions, like why there are many varieties of mustard but Heinz ketchup is a huge front runner in the tomato sauce market. Or he'll take a topic, like Ronco, and discuss the background of Ron Popeil's heritage, talking about how his company became what it is today. He tears down criminal profiling, to analyze why it is still not an exact science, though TV and movies may lead us to believe otherwise. (Incidentally, this was the article I wanted to read the most, so I read them out of order.) His subjects are things that you might not have wondered before or perhaps even been interested in but when he's brings it up, you think, "Yeah, why is that?" Then he finds the answers, making them relevant and interesting to the reader.

The way he describes scenarios or begins the telling of his non-fiction tales draws the reader in. For example, "Murray Barr was a bear of a man, an ex-Marine, six feet tall and heavyset, and when he fell down - which he did nearly every day - it could take two or three grown men to pick him up. He had straight black hair and olive skin. On the street, they called him Smokey. He was missing most of his teeth. He had a wonderful smile. People loved Murray." Gladwell weaves his words brilliantly, drawing you in as though caught in a spider web. You just want to read on and discover more about Murray or who/whatever topic is next.

What I found lacking, though it's barely worth mentioning, was that the articles did not list the original publication dates. For a seasoned inquiring mind like my own (that frequently goes off on Google tangents, researching as much as possible), this would have been a nice addition, to see if any details from his original articles had changed or updated. Again, this is a very small point and may be moot if these are listed in the final published copy (my review is based on an ARC.)

Malcolm Gladwell's unique perspective on things makes the ordinary seem extraordinary. His style is dazzling and I would recommend this book to anyone that enjoys good writing. It is very much well worth the read.

Book Excerpt: Angel Time by Anne Rice

I have been a total fail over the last few days in regards to anything blog related. But, today, I'm back with a bang. I'm very stoked to offer up an excerpt from Anne Rice's new book, Angel Time. This marks her return to fiction and I know I, for one, gladly welcome her back! The book was released in hardcover on October 27, 2009. There are also some video links at the bottom of this post. So, read on and enjoy!

Angel Time by Anne Rice


There were omens from the beginning.

First off, I didn't want to do a job at the Mission Inn. Anywhere in the country, I would have been willing, but not the Mission Inn. And in the bridal suite, that very room, my room. Bad luck and beyond, I thought to myself.

Of course my boss, The Right Man, had no way of knowing when he gave me this assignment that the Mission Inn was where I went when I didn't want to be Lucky the Fox, when I didn't want to be his assassin.

The Mission Inn was part of that very small world in which I wore no disguise. I was simply me when I went there, six foot four, short blond hair, gray eyes—a person who looked like so many other people that he didn't look like any special person at all. I didn't even bother to wear braces to disguise my voice when I went there. I didn't even bother with the de rigueur sunglasses that shielded my identity in every other place, except the apartment and neighborhood where I lived.

I was just who I am when I went there, though who I am was nobody except the man who wore all those elaborate disguises when he did what he was told to do by The Right Man.

So the Mission Inn was mine, cipher that I was, and so was the bridal suite, called the Amistad Suite, under the dome. And now I was being told to systematically pollute it. Not for anyone else but myself, of course. I would never have done anything to harm the Mission Inn.

A giant confection and confabulation of a building in Riverside, California, it was where I often took refuge, an extravagant and engulfing place sprawling over two city blocks, and where I could pretend, for a day or two or three, that I wasn't wanted by the FBI, Interpol, or The Right Man, a place where I could lose myself and my conscience. Europe had long ago become unsafe for me, due to the increased security at every checkpoint, and the fact that the law enforcement agencies that dreamed of trapping me had decided I was behind every single unsolved murder they had on the books.

If I wanted the atmosphere I'd loved so much in Siena or Assisi, or Vienna or Prague and all the other places I could no longer visit, I sought out the Mission Inn. It couldn't be all those places, no. Yet it gave me a unique haven and sent me back out into my sterile world a renewed spirit.

It wasn't the only place where I wasn't anybody at all, but it was the best place, and the place to which I went the most.

The Mission Inn was not far from where I "lived," if one could call it that. And I went there on impulse generally, and at any time that they could give me my suite. I liked the other rooms all right, especially the Inn keeper's Suite, but I was patient in waiting for the Amistad. And sometimes they called me on one of the many special cell phones I carried, to let me know the suite could be mine.

Sometimes I stayed as long as a week in the Mission Inn. I'd bring my lute with me, and maybe play it a little. And I always had a stack of books to read, almost always history, books on medieval times or the Dark Ages, or the Renaissance, or Ancient Rome. I'd read for hours in the Amistad, feeling uncommonly safe and secure.

There were special places I went from the Inn.

Often, undisguised, I drove over to nearby Costa Mesa to hear the Pacific Symphony. I liked it, the contrast, moving from the stucco arches and rusted bells of the Inn to the immense Plexiglas miracle of the Segerstrom Concert Hall, with the pretty Cafe Rouge on the first floor.

Behind those high clear undulating windows, the restaurant appeared to float in space. I felt, when I dined in it, that I was indeed floating in space, and in time, detached from all things ugly and evil, and sweetly alone.

I had just recently heard Stravinsky's Rite of Spring in that concert hall. Loved it. Loved the pounding madness of it. It had brought back a memory of the very first time I'd ever heard it, ten years before—on the night when I'd met The Right Man. It had made me think of my own life, and all that had happened since then, as I'd drifted through the world waiting for those cell phone calls that always meant somebody was marked, and I had to get him.

I never killed women, but that's not to say that I hadn't before I became The Right Man's vassal or serf, or knight, depending on how one chose to view it. He called me his knight. I thought of it in far more sinister terms, and nothing during these ten years had ever accustomed me to my function.

Often I even drove from the Mission Inn to the Mission of San Juan Capistrano, south and closer to the coast, another secret place, where I felt unknown and sometimes even happy.

Now the Mission of San Juan Capistrano is a real mission. The Mission Inn is not. The Mission Inn is a tribute to the architecture and heritage of the Missions. But San Juan Capistrano is the real thing.

At Capistrano, I roamed the immense square garden, the open cloisters, and visited the narrow dim Serra Chapel—the oldest consecrated Catholic chapel in the state of California.

I loved the chapel. I loved that it was the only known sanctuary on the whole coast in which Blessed Junípero Serra, the great Franciscan, had actually said Mass. He might have said Mass in many another Mission chapel. In fact surely he had. But this was the only one about which everyone was certain.

There had been times in the past when I'd driven north to visit the Mission at Carmel, and look into the little cell there that they'd re-created and ascribed to Junípero Serra, and meditated on the simplicity of it: the chair, the narrow bed, the cross on the wall. All a saint needed.

And then there was San Juan Bautista, too, with its refectory and museum—and all the other Missions that had been so painstakingly restored.

I'd wanted to be a priest for a while when I was a boy, a Dominican, in fact, and the Dominicans and the Franciscans of the California missions were mixed in my mind because they were both mendicant orders. I respected them equally, and there was a part of me that belonged to that old dream.

I still read history books about the Franciscans and the Dominicans. I had an old biography of Thomas Aquinas saved from my school days, full of old notes. Reading history always soothed me. Reading history let me sink into ages safely gone by. Same with the Missions. They were islands not of our time.

It was the Serra Chapel in San Juan Capistrano that I visited most often.

I went there not to remember the devotion I'd known as a boy. That was gone forever. Fact was, I simply wanted the blueprint of the paths that I'd traveled in those early years. Maybe I just wanted to walk the sacred ground, walk through places of pilgrimage and sanctity because I couldn't actually think about them too much.

I liked the beamed ceiling of the Serra Chapel, and its darkly painted walls. I felt calm in the quality of gloom inside it, the glimmer of the gold retablo at the far end of it—the golden framework that was behind the altar and fitted with statues and saints.

I loved the red sanctuary light burning to the left of the tabernacle. Sometimes I knelt right up there before the altar on one of the prie-dieux obviously intended for a bride and a groom.

Of course the golden retablo, or reredos, as it's often called, hadn't been there in the days of the early Franciscans. It had come later, during the restoration, but the chapel itself seemed to me to be very real. The Blessed Sacrament was in it. And the
Blessed Sacrament, no matter what I believed, meant "real."

How can I explain this?

I always knelt in the semidarkness for a very long time, and I'd always light a candle before I left, though for whom or what I couldn't have said. Maybe I whispered, "This is in memory of you, Jacob, and you, Emily." But it wasn't a prayer. I didn't believe in prayer any more than I believed in actual memory. I craved rituals and monuments, and maps of meaning. I craved history in book and building and paint—and I believed in danger, and I believed in killing people whenever and wherever I was instructed to do it by my boss, whom in my heart of hearts I called simply The Right Man.

Last time I'd been to the Mission—scarcely a month ago— I'd spent an unusually long time walking about the enormous garden.

Never have I seen so many kinds of flowers in one place. There were modern roses, exquisitely shaped, and older ones, open like camellias, there were trumpet flower vines, and morning glory, lantana, and the biggest bushes of blue plum - bago that I'd ever seen in my life. There were sunflowers and orange trees, and daisies, and you could walk right through the heart of this on any of the many broad and comfortable newly paved paths.

I'd taken my time in the enclosing cloisters, loving the ancient and uneven stone floors. I'd enjoyed looking out at the world from under the arches. Round arches had always filled me with a sense of peace. Round arches defined the Mission, and round arches defined the Mission Inn.

It gave me special pleasure at Capistrano that the layout of the Mission was an ancient monastic design to be found in monasteries all over the world, and that Thomas Aquinas, my saintly hero when I was a boy, had probably spent many an hour roaming just such a square with its arches and its neatly laid out paths, and its inevitable flowers.

Throughout history monks had laid out this plan again and again as if the very bricks and mortar could somehow stave off an evil world, and keep them and the books they wrote safe forever.

I stood for a long time in the hulking shell of the great ruined church of Capistrano.

An earthquake in 1812 had destroyed it, and what remained was a high gaping and roofless sanctuary of empty niches and daunting size. I'd stared at the random chunks of brick and cement wall scattered here and there, as if they had some meaning for me, some meaning, like the music of The Rite of Spring, something to do with my own wretched wreck of a life.

I was a man shaken by an earthquake, a man paralyzed by dissonance. I knew that much. I thought about that all the time, though I tried to detach it from any continuity. I tried to accept what seemed my fate. But if you don't believe in fate, well, that is not easy.

On my most recent visit, I'd been talking to God in the Serra Chapel, and telling Him how much I hated Him that He didn't exist.
I'd told Him how vicious it was, the illusion that He existed, how unfair it was to do that to mortal men, and especially to children, and how I detested Him for it.

I know, I know, this doesn't make sense. I did a lot of things that didn't make sense. Being an assassin and nothing else didn't make sense. And that was probably why I was circling these same places more and more often, free of my many disguises.

I knew I read history books all the time as though I believed a God had acted in history more than once to save us from ourselves, but I didn't believe this at all, and my mind was full of random facts about many an age and many a famous personage. Why would a killer do that?

One can't be a killer every moment of one's life. Some humanity is going to show itself now and then, some hunger for normality, no matter what you do. And so I had my history books, and the visits to these few places that took me to the times of which I read with such numb enthusiasm, filling my mind with narrative so that it wouldn't be empty and turn in on itself.

And I had to shake my fist at God for the meaninglessness of it all. And to me, it felt good. He didn't really exist, but I could have Him that way, in anger, and I'd liked those moments of conversation with the illusions that had once meant so much, and now only inspired rage.

Maybe when you're brought up Catholic, you hold to rituals all your life. You live in a theater of the mind because you can't get out of it. You're gripped all your life by a span of two thousand years because you grew up being conscious of belonging to that span.

Most Americans think the world was created the day they were born, but Catholics take it back to Bethlehem and beyond, and so do Jews, even the most secular of them, remembering the Exodus, and the promises to Abraham before that. Never ever did I look at the nighttime stars or the sands of a beach without thinking of God's promises to Abraham about his progeny, and no matter what else I did or didn't believe, Abraham was the father of the tribe to which I still belonged through no fault or virtue of my own.

I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore.

So that's how we go on acting dramas in our theater of the mind even when we don't believe anymore in the audience or the director or the play.

I'd laughed thinking about that, as I'd meditated in the Serra Chapel, laughed out loud like a crazy man as I knelt there, murmuring in the sweet and delicious gloom and shaking my head.

What had maddened me on that last visit was that it was just past ten years to the day that I'd been working for The Right Man.

The Right Man had remembered the anniversary, talking about anniversaries for the first time ever and presenting me with a huge monetary gift that had already been wired to the bank account in Switzerland through which I most often received my money.

He'd said to me over the phone the evening before, "If I knew anything about you, Lucky, I'd give you something more than cold cash. All I know is you like to play the lute, and when you were a kid you played it all the time. They told me that, about your playing. If you hadn't loved the lute so much, maybe we never would have met. Realize how long it's been since I've seen you? And I always hope you're going to drop in, and bring your precious lute with you. When you do that, I'll get you to play for me, Lucky. Hell, Lucky, I don't even know where you really live."

Now that was something he brought up all the time, that he didn't know where I lived, because I think he feared, in his heart of hearts, that I didn't trust him, that my work had slowly eroded the love for him which I felt.

But I did trust him. And I did love him. I didn't love anyone in the world but him. I just didn't want anyone to know where I lived.

No place I lived was home, and I changed where I lived often. Nothing traveled with me from home to home, except my lute, and all my books. And of course my few clothes.

In this age of cell phones and the Internet, it was so easy to be untraceable. And so easy to be reached by an intimate voice in a perfect teletronic silence.

"Look, you can reach me anytime, day or night," I'd reminded him. "Doesn't matter where I live. Doesn't matter to me, so why should it matter to you? And someday, maybe I'll send you a recording of me playing the lute. You'll be surprised. I'm still good at it."

He'd chuckled. Okay with him, as long as I always answered the phone.

"Have I ever let you down?" I'd asked.

"No, and I'll never let you down either," he'd replied. "Just wish I could see you more often. Hell, you could be in Paris right now, or Amsterdam."

"I'm not," I'd answered. "You know that. The checkpoints are too hot. I'm in the States as I've been since Nine-Eleven. I'm closer than you think, and I'll come see you one of these days, just not right now, and maybe I'll take you to dinner. We'll sit in a restaurant like human beings. But these days, I'm not up to the meeting. I like being alone."

There had been no assignment on that anniversary, so I was able to stay in the Mission Inn, and I'd driven over to San Juan Capistrano the following morning.

Excerpted from Angel Time by Anne Rice Copyright © 2009 by Anne Rice. Excerpted by permission of Knopf Canada. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Oct. 27, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Here is how it works:

Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2 or 3) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

My teaser this week comes from: And Another Thing... by Eoin Colfer

Zaphod tried to clap along, but his hands were miles away, arms stretching into space.

"You look good, Diona. Great in fact. No decomposition or anything. I always hoped the afterlife would be like that."

Diona placed three hands on her hips, using the fourth to hold the microphone stalk.

I don't know about anyone else, but I can think of a few times when four hands would come in handy, for sure!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Review: I Am Not A Psychic!: A Novel by Richard Belzer

Richard Belzer is well known as a stand up comedian and has been appearing in crime dramas over the past decade or more as Detective John Munch, but I had no idea he was an author too. Turns out that this is a follow-up book to I Am Not A Cop!, which published earlier this year. (Incidentally, he's also written a book on his conspiracy theories in addition to a How-to for stand-up comics). The question I had was: can a man that plays a detective on TV successfully write a book in a similar genre?

The book centres around Paul, an old friend of Belzer's, that calls him out of the blue to say he's discovered information on the mysterious death of a Hollywood starlet twenty-six years prior. Then Paul ends up dead and Veronica, a "psychic" that was helping him research the old case, turns up at Belzer's door. Veronica thinks Paul was murdered and that everything seems to be connected. Unwillingly, Belz begins to help uncover the truth, all while trying to help his mentor organize a telethon

While Belz becomes less and less willing to help, he ultimately gets more involved and more dead bodies start piling up. Belz has many fans on police forces around the U.S. and uses this to his advantage to untangle the web that has been spinning all this time.

The story has the feel of a Marilyn Munroe/JFK mystery with a dash of old Hollywood thrown in. The mob makes an appearance as well as the CIA, giving it a whole "everyone's in on it" conspiracy kind of feel to it. What I found it lacked was the humour you would expect from a comedian. Not that it didn't have any, but what was offered was a dry, ironic type but for the most part the story is told straight up.

It is an interesting concept to take a real person, namely Richard Belzer, throw himself into a story and be surrounded by fictitious happenings. The story line flowed well and everything fit together nicely. If you are a fan of his TV series or of conspiracy type mysteries, you will enjoy this book.

So, to answer my question Richard Belzer does a decent job with murder/mystery; not bad for an actor/comedian.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Friday 56 - Oct. 23, 2009


* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.

* Turn to page 56.

* Find the fifth sentence.

* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.

*Post a link along with your post back to Storytime with Tonya and Friends.

*Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST

The closest book to me is Malcolm Gladwell's What the Dog Saw. In trying to find the 5th sentence, I realized that he has some very lonnnng ones! Anyway, here's my offering:

"Winn, Danny, and Pallop look as if they belong in high school. The room has an overstuffed bookshelf in one corner, and a television muted and tuned to CNBC. There are two ancient Greek heads, one next to Taleb's computer and the other, somewhat bafflingly, on the floor, next to the door, as if it were being set out for the trash."

For a non-fiction author, I love Gladwell's descriptiveness!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Word Verification Balderdash

This is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey through a world of books where you take the verification characters you have to input when commenting on other blogs and make up definitions for them.

Here are my selections for the week:

sheavo - the unfortunate nickname associated with the newest personal recording device as a result of its odd slim line, pointed shape and its distribution within the jail system (it has been involved in many a jailhouse shanking since being introduced to the market earlier this year).

braiddr - the new super NFL team established with the amalgamation of the Oakland Raiders and the Denver Broncos. These guys are unstoppable!

sonablog - the latest blogging trend where all posts are formatted in Iambic pentameter

The lack of "word" choices I had is in direct proportion to my lack of commenting over the past week; shame on me! In my defense, it's been a rough week but I'll be a commenting fiend next week, I promise ;-)

What great new verification words have you invented this week? Let me know.


Check out this contest, featuring 3 P.C. Cast books! Click over to Frankie Writes to get in on the fun!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Review: Going Away Shoes by Jill McCorkle

Going Away Shoes is a collection of short stories by Jill McCorkle. This is, in fact, the first such book that I've read. I'm not sure why I haven't read short stories in the past but I was intrigued by the premise of this collection, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Within the pages, there are eleven tales to be told. All are from a woman's perspective and discuss a loss of some sort, be it a spouse, a child, or maybe just the loss of one's original plans in life. For me, I struggled a bit through it, not wanting to quit but eventually found myself unable to read beyond four of the stories. I found they were a little sad, somewhat depressing. I really tried to push on but just couldn't; I truly hated to give up.

It is most definitely not that the writing is bad, in fact it's probably a sign of how good the writing was that didn't sit well with me. The stories hit close to home and left me feeling a bit unsettled. This is probably more of a testament that the author is doing a good job of getting her tales across. McCorkle takes, heartache, disappoint, grief and puts them in your face. They need to be dealt with because, in the end, all of these elements are an unavoidable part of life. It's how we deal with them that defines the path to our future.

I like my fiction to be a bit further removed from the familiar aspects of life, but the similarities were just too much for me. I have already recommended this book to people that I know enjoy the genre and if you like stories of women's struggles to find peace or happiness or whatever, through hardships or hard times, then these are for you, too.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Book Title meme

This seemed like a cute meme that I found at Find Your Next Book Here, who in turn saw it over at As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves,

What To Do:

Using only books you have read this year (2009), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. It’s a lot harder than you think!

Describe yourself: Hush, Hush (Becca Fitzpatrick)

How do you feel: Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas (Tom Robbins)

Describe where you currently live: Dead Until Dark (Charlaine Harris)

If you could go anywhere, where would you go? Vampire a Go-Go: A Novel (Victor Gischler)

Your favorite form of transportation: The Time Traveller's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

Your best friend is: The Host (Stephenie Meyer)

You and your friends are: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters)

What’s the weather like: Breaking Dawn (Stephenie Meyer)

You fear: Demons of the Past (Erin Durante)

What is the best advice you have to give: Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men (Molly Harper)

Thought for the day: I Am Not a Psychic! (Richard Belzer)

How I would like to die: Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Narquez)

My soul’s present condition: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (Christopher Moore)

This was a bit tricky but after moving things around a few times, I think these answers work. For clarification, my best friend is not an alien invaded human, but seems to always have me hanging out over at her place. The "how I would like to die", well cholera wouldn't be the way to go but it was a more family friendly answer than Alan Weider's book title, which was my first choice, lol. To this point, I only had 28 book titles to choose, so i did the best I could. What can you come up with? Let me know.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Word Verification Balderdash - Oct. 15, 2009

This is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey through a world of books where you take the verification characters you have to input when commenting on other blogs and make up definitions for them.

I've been skipping it for the past few weeks and have noticed that like myself, Sheila has been neglecting this fun meme, too. Speaking for myself, maybe it's the turn in weather that's made me complacent, but I'm back this week with a vengeance (maybe). Here's hoping we can revive this! {Right, Sheila? Hint, hint;-)}

So my contribution for the week are:

ecoadio - an experimental item using only veiny lettuce as conductors and celery stalks as antennae and other enviro-safe materials to transmit radio waves that will be less harmful to the earth

nonerf - a sad, modern ailment involving the lack of ownership of a Nerf toy (I am a sad victim to said ailment, but you're never too old, right?)

kningos - a dangerous cross breed of kangaroos and dingos, particularly vicious around babies...."the kningos ate my baby"

broperti - dwellings or establishments made for the sole purpose of celebrating brotherhood or more commonly known these days as "bromances"

For other great "words" pop on over to: Wordsmithonia , Alexia's Books and Such, and My World

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Review: How the Dead Dream: A Novel by Lydia Millet

This book is about a man, named T. He is easy to envision, the good looking, aloof, business man with his eye on the bottom line. He has always been unsure of how to connect with people but, through the course of the story, circumstances change this about him: his mother's sudden needfulness, his father's strange desertion, the fate of his first relationship, etc.

We see from T.'s history, that even in childhood, his fascination, perhaps even obsession, with money is more important to him than any human emotion or relationship. He offers to mediate for his friends with their bulliers, for a fee of course, to stop the bullying; he collects for charities, and to those not looking very closely, it seems like he's doing such great things at a young age. Though he does give some of the contributions to the charities, his "business" works in percentages and he amasses his personal funds steadily, through a 25/75 split.

One night, on a trip to supervise his new retirement community being built in the Nevada desert, he hits a coyote. Not wanting to leave the animal on the road for others to hit it, he pulls off to the side and remains there while the coyote is dying. This experience sets off a whole chain of events and is the beginning of a myriad of new sensations for T.: love, loss, compassion, empathy. T.'s formerly cold perspective on life warms to the plight of animals, particularly endangered ones. He begins to believe that our modern society would not seem as vivid without the natural background of oceans, deserts, mountains, and as we continue to expand the concrete jungle, these differences become less and less available.

The story starts off as a narration of T.'s life, but as we continue on, it feels like watching ice melt, seeing the transformation that this man is going through. It has a disjointed feel to it at times, but this fits beautifully with how the character comes across. T.'s eyes begin to open to the whole world around him, where he sees the flaws in the people he has chosen to do business with; he now finds them distasteful and is even threatened by one. There is a curious, surreal feel to the story telling but it works wonderfully in the overall chemistry of the book.

Lydia Millet has a such stunning phraseology. How the Dead Dream is beautifully written, contrasting ironic humour against the far less funny fate of our world and those creatures living in it, especially the ones that had nothing to do with the drastic changes to its landscapes. While the ending lacked a little something for me, perhaps a finite resolution, this may be because it is the first in a series. Overall it's an excellent book that I thoroughly enjoyed and would totally recommend. I look forward to more in the future from Lydia Millet.

Review: Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey

I am a novice Grail enthusiast. I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln long before Dan Brown brought the theory to the mass public and have many other King Arthur (et al) books in my personal library. So, when I read the premise of this book, the tale told through the eyes of Gwenhwyfar (the Welsh spelling of Guinevere), I thought this would go nicely into my collection.

Lackey starts with Gwen's history as a princess born to a minor King, Lleudd Ogrfan Gawr. Arthur in this tale is the High King, that all of the minor Kings swear fealty to. Together these Kings and their loyal subjects ward off threats from the Saxons and the Northerners to keep the land safe.

Gwen is the second youngest of four sisters. There are limited paths for young girls at this time and it looks like Gwen is filled with the magical "Power", the same as her mother. But Gwen chooses the path of the warrior instead, learning to race chariots, tend the horses, sword fighting, etc. She is good at what she does and soon becomes her father's favoured daughter, much to the dismay of the youngest of the girl. The youngest, nicknamed Little Gwen, because she is so like Gwenhwyfar in looks yet not in nature;
she's very envious little troublemaker.

As life continues, Gwen's oldest sister "goes to the Ladies" to learn all of the mystical aspects of life at that time, while Gwen is continuing her training. Meanwhile, Arthur has been married to two Gwenhwyfars to this point. The first having given him two sons, which would ensure the continuity of the blood line and the throne. But, all too soon, they are killed and soon after their mother dies, heartsick at the loss of her boys. He marries a second Gwenhwyfar, only to have different difficulties in that marriage also.

Finally, an arranged marriage is set up between Arthur and the Gwen we are following. Unfortunately for her, the marriage is secondary to the High King, his first reason being a bargain made for some of her father's horses. Gwen's life has gone from that of a respected warrior to an all but imprisoned Queen, kept for only the purpose of producing a proper heir. But she has always known that these, that all of her sacrifices are for the greater good of the kingdom.

The tale travels through many familiar aspects of the Arthur legends - the enchantment of Arthur by his half-sister, the betrayal by the seed of that enchantment, the meeting of Gwen and Lancelin - but with the background of the Welsh version. Incidentally, the Grail is not mentioned, but it does not leave things lacking by any means.

For me, I've always felt that Gwen got a bad rap, historically, making Arthur the most famous cuckold ever. Within this version, we get to see a different take on it, Arthur being a more minor player in the actual story, and I loved it. I was totally engrossed and did not want to put this book down. Even though the outcome never significantly changes, I was hoping this time it would and was routing for Gwen, wholeheartedly, to get what she wanted. And, when the inevitable climax hit, I cried like a baby!

Mercedes Lackey can truly tell a good story, making it feel like this was the first time I had read about these characters. It is the first Lackey book that I've actually read, though I have had the Mage Storms series on my shelf for...well, I'm embarrassed to say for how long, but they remain unread. That will not be the case for much longer!

(I apologize about the long review, but I really felt this book deserved it!!)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Oct. 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Here is how it works:

Grab your current read
Open to a random pageShare two (2 or 3) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

So here's my teaser for this week:

From I Am Not a Psychic! by Richard Belzer

"She kept babbling about it being murder and a big conspiracy. We finally had to threaten her with obstructing to get her to shut up."

Contest Alert!

Check out this awesome contest over at He Followed Me Home! It's a giveaway for a copy of Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick....actually there's 2 copies up for grabs (to Canadian entrants only though). This is a must read for fans of YA fiction!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Mailbox Monday - Oct. 11, 2009

This weekly meme, hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page, is where we get to share what awesome books we received in the mail over the last week.

Here's what I got in my awesome mailbox this past week:

Book Description:

At 66 Star Street in Dublin someone is watching over the lives of the people living in its flats. But no one is aware of it - yet... One of them is ready to take the plunge and fall in love; another is torn between two very different lovers. For some, secrets they want to stay buried will come to light and for others, the unveiling of those secrets will have tragic consequences. Fate is on its way to Star Street, bringing with it love and tragedy, friendship and heartbreak, and the power to change their lives in the most unexpected of ways...

From the book Jacket:

In a dreary seaside town on England, Annie loves Duncan - or thinks she does, because she always has. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden he doesn't anymore. So Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.

She sparks an e-mail correspondence with Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanesque singer-songwriter who stopped making music twenty-two years ago, and who is also Duncan's greatest obsession. A surprising connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more of what they've got/ Tucker's been languishing (and he's unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional, familial, and artistic ruin - is young son, But then there's also the material he's about to release to the world, an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet, titles Juliet, Naked. And he's just been summoned across the Atlantic with Jackson to face his multitude of ex-wives and children (both just discovered and formerly neglected). in the same country where his intriguing new Internet friend resides.

What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, Love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one's promise.

From the back cover:

'When three popes all murdered lie.
And Christ's own kingdom desecrated...'

A mysterious book of prophecies written by a sixth century Irish monk has puzzled scholars through the ages. Foretelling wars, plagues and rebellions, the Black Book of Bran is said to have predicted the Black Death and the Gunpowder Plot. It is even said to foresee the Day of Judgement. But is it the reuslt of divine inspiration or the ravings of a madman?

A hidden hoard of Saxon gold. A poisoned priest. A monk skinned alive in Westminster Abbey. Only one thing is certain: whoever comes into possession of the cursed book meets a gruesome and untimely end.

So without meaning to, my excellent mailbox brought me all books involving stories from acroos the pond! I look forward to reading them all.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Friday 56 - Oct. 9, 2009

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
*Post a link along with your post back to
Storytime with Tonya and Friends.
*Don’t dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's my contribution for the week, from Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey:

The King was in a rare good mood; after breakfast he gathered up Gwen - with Little Gwen predictably trailing behind, unasked - and took her down to his horsemaster.

(Yes, there are two Gwen's in my book - Gwenhwyfar and Gwenhwyfach - and they are sisters but distinctly different girls, so it helps to stave off confusion, lol.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday - Oct. 8, 2009

Thoughtful Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by Mel at He Followed Me Home where we get to share what character(s) we have embodied or locales we've visited through our reading each week.

This week I've read/been reading:

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winter where I got to experience life in the late 18th century, albeit with an unusual aquatic theme, searching for love, suffering heartbreak and battling gruesome sea beasts.

How the Dead Dream by Lydia Millet where I am a seemingly cold-hearted man whose number one concern is the bottom line. But through the book a transformation happens to add warmth where there once was none.

Gwenhwyfar by Mercedes Lackey where I am the daughter of royalty and have chosen to set aside my magical powers to become a warrior/rider of chariots in a long ago, mystical time. The High King , Arthur, has just taken his second wife (both to date have been named Gwenhwyfar) and all await the birth of his son, to ensure the blood line continues.

I've been all over the map, time-wise, from the dark ages to the 1990's. Where have your books taken you?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday - Oct. 7, 2009

This weekly event is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine where we get to share which upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.

I am super excited this week after winning a contest Penguin Canada was offering through Twitter/Facebook. I'm going to be receiving a signed copy of Nick Hornby's newest book. While I haven't read anything of his yet, I have seen a few of the movies and have heard great things about his books. Mixing content about music and love is sure to make Hornby one of my new favourite writers. Woot!!

From the Publisher's website:

From the beloved New York Times– bestselling author, a quintessential Nick Hornby tale of music, superfandom, and the truths and lies we tell ourselves about life and love.

Annie loves Duncan—or thinks she does. Duncan loves Annie, but then, all of a sudden, he doesn’t. Duncan really loves Tucker Crowe, a reclusive Dylanish singer-songwriter who stopped making music ten years ago. Annie stops loving Duncan, and starts getting her own life.

In doing so, she initiates an e-mail correspondence with Tucker, and a connection is forged between two lonely people who are looking for more out of what they’ve got. Tucker’s been languishing (and he’s unnervingly aware of it), living in rural Pennsylvania with what he sees as his one hope for redemption amid a life of emotional and artistic ruin—his young son, Jackson. But then there’s also the new material he’s about to release to the world: an acoustic, stripped-down version of his greatest album, Juliet—entitled, Juliet, Naked.

What happens when a washed-up musician looks for another chance? And miles away, a restless, childless woman looks for a change? Juliet, Naked is a powerfully engrossing, humblingly humorous novel about music, love, loneliness, and the struggle to live up to one’s promise.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Contest Alert!

Peeking Between the Pages has 5 copies of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova being offered up in a giveaway. I've heard such great things about this book. Click on ever there and check it out!

Teaser Tuesday - Oct. 6, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly event hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading.

Here is how it works.:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2 or 3) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

From How the Dead Dream: A Novel by Lydia Millet

Behind the wheel of her car she carefully avoided not only the various Los Angeles locations of the International House of Pancakes but all breakfast-oriented restaurants that were national chains. And if she was struck with the sight of a Denny's or Waffle House, unexpected, she closed her eyes tightly until it was past.

Quite a teaser, right? Well maybe not exactly but the reason why "she" does this is even better! Now, you're all just going to have to go read it ;-) And don't forget to link back to MizB and share your teaser too.

Review: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H. Winter

"The source of the Alteration was unknown and unknowable, but Mr. Dashwood held an eccentric theory: that there was discoverable, in some distant corner of the globe, the headwaters of a noxious stream that fed a virulent flow into every sea, every lake and estuary, poisoning the very well of the world. It was this insalubrious stream (went Henry Dashwood's hypothesis), which had affected the Alteration; which had turned the creatures of the ocean against the people of the earth; which made even the tiniest darting minnow and the gentlest dolphin into aggressive, blood-thirsty predators, hardened and hateful towards our bipedal race; which had given foul birth to whole new races of man-hating, shape-shifting ocean creatures, sirens and sea witches and mermaids and mermen; which rendered the oceans of the world naught but great burbling salt-cauldrons of death."

And thus begins the twisted tale of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. The classic Jane Austen book gets turned upside down, like a capsized boat, in this crazy tale of love in the late eighteenth century, amidst the horror of sea creatures seemingly looking for the destruction of mankind.

The book follows the familiar story of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood, two sisters displaced from their home after the death of their father. They are at the right age for marrying and are looking for worthy suitors, yet with the romantic ideals of finding true love in the bargain. Not only are these girls very pretty but Elinor is an accomplished whittler of driftwood and Marianne can play, on her pianoforte, a sea-faring shanty like no other.

The co-author, Ben H. Winter, maintains the feel of Austen's original version while expanding the readers knowledge of marine biological terms and creating such scenarios that only a truly twisted mind could come up with. The aquatic theme brings sheer silliness to the events experienced by the sisters, from Marianne's meeting Willoughby as a result of a giant octopus attack to Edward riding up on the back of a dolphin (a fairly common mode of transportation).

Winter seamlessly sews in the thread of an altered society with side-stitching humour that has you chuckling with every page.

I have loved Jane Austen from the first time I saw the A&E version of Pride and Prejudice, then actually buying the book to read, which I've done every year since (I've yet to read Sense and Sensibility but have seen the movie several times). I'm not sure whether she would approve of this variation on her classic work but I whole-heartedly do!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Contest Alert!!

Check out these great contests over at He Followed Me Home:

Must Love Hellhounds

Atlas Shrugged

The Lovely Bones

Remember to let Mel know you heard it from me ;-)
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