Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Club: A web series for bibliophiles

Today I received an email from an actor named Noah Longo.  That's him pictured above.  He wrote:
Hello, Fellow Book Lover!

I attained your email from

My name is Noah Longo and I'm a co-creator of the web series: Book Club: a Web Series for Bibliophiles. My best friend and I are in the entertainment industry and also love books so much! We decided to combine our two passions! We've shot the pilot and written the entire first season.

I'm writing you today to share with you an online campaign we've created to raise funding and awareness for our series so we can shoot the remaining episodes.

Please understand, I'm not asking for money (clearly, we've never met!:)

However, if you check out our pilot/campaign and you like it, feel free to pass it along to your friends, colleagues, family etc...
And, if you happen to throw us 10 dollars, we wouldn't say no to that, either:)
Thank you for your time!

Best of luck with your Book Club!!!

-Noah Longo
I was intrigued enough to visit the campaign page where I found:
Our Story

Once upon a time, an evil casting director* told the fair maiden, Jessica Runck that actors shouldn't waste their time reading books but instead only watch TV. Determined to prove that books AND TV can share a place in your heart, she and her trusty steed (read: best friend) Noah Longo set out across the land to find help. Poof! In came Fairy Godmother, Katey Wheelhouse, and the trio created the web series Book Club. Through the help of talented and generous friends, the pilot of Book Club was shot and placed online to critical acclaim.

Sadly, we have run out of gold and are yearning for our knight in shining armor (read: LOTS of donors) to arrive so we can shoot the rest of the first season. Please help us write the ending.

*Authors Note: We LOVE casting directors.

The Impact

Book Club's goal is to take literature and make it accessible to everyone in a funny, engaging, and quirky way. From a production standpoint, we strive to create quality scripted content for the internet. We live in an age where anyone can pick up a camera phone, make a video, and call it a web series. We want to raise the bar.

In an ideal world, we want to see Book Club yield enough revenue to keep the series going through multiple seasons. More importantly, it is also our goal to use some of the profits gained from the series to donate to charities that promote literacy.

Whatever we earn, whether it's $100 or $100,000 it will be more than what we started with. All earnings will go towards creating more Book Club.

What We Need & What You Get

We need at least $25,000 to help us shoot more of the first season of Book Club. This money goes towards cameras, lights, food, location rental, insurance, cast and crew, and everything else that goes into making a quality web series. We know that sounds like a lot for six minute episodes, but because we are proud to be a SAG New Media project we have to follow certain union guidelines that can cost more money. We would be happy to show you the budget spreadsheet if you're interested. :)

Other Ways You Can Help

We understand that not everyone is in a place to donate money. With that said, simply by sharing our campaign with your friends via Twitter, Facebook, text, or the good old fashioned letter-in-a-bottle, brings us one step closer to reaching our goal.
I visited Bookclub's website, and watched the video linked above.  It's funny, well-acted, and with surprising excellent production values.  There are even a couple of familiar faces among the cast.  Well, after all those years of working with struggling actors, how could I resist lending a hand?  DO check out Bookclub, and if you've got a tenner to spare, you might consider throwing it their way.  I, for one, would love to see more episodes.  Book clubs, the satire writes itself...

HUMPDAY GIVEAWAY: Lowcountry Summer by Dorthea Benton Frank

How's your work week going?  I think it's time for another Humpday Giveaway.

A big thank you to my friends at Wiliam Morrow who supplied this lovely trade paper copy of Dorthea Benton Frank's Lowcountry Summer.  It just went on sale yesterday, you know.  I haven't read it, but in a starred review, PW raved:
Here's one for the Southern gals as well as Yankees who appreciate Frank's signature mix of sass, sex, and gargantuan personalities. In this long-time-coming sequel to Plantation, opinionated and family-centric Caroline Wimbly Levine has just turned 47, but she's less concerned with advancing middle age than she is with son Eric shacking up with an older single mom. She's also dealing with a drunk and disorderly sister-in-law, Frances Mae; four nieces from hell; grieving brother Tripp; a pig-farmer boyfriend with a weak heart; and a serious crush on the local sheriff. Then there's Caroline's dead-but-not-forgotten mother, Miss Lavinia, whose presence both guides and troubles Caroline as she tries to keep her unruly family intact and out of jail. With a sizable cast of minor characters with major attitude, Frank lovingly mixes a brew of personalities who deliver nonstop clashes, mysteries, meltdowns, and commentaries; below the always funny theatrics, however, is a compelling saga of loss and acceptance. When Frank nails it, she really nails it, and she does so here.
So, this giveaway is open to anyone with a US mailing address, 'cause I'm footing the shipping.  In order to enter, please leave a comment below by noon Pacific on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.  (If at all possible, please restrict comments in this one thread to contest entries, thanks.)  With the help of a random number generator, I'll pick a winner and announce the name here.  Check back and get me a mailing address within one week's time or I'll draw an alternate winner.  After that, it goes to my book group.  If you're worried about forgetting to check back, do feel free to include an email address with your comment.  I'll be sure to contact you that way.

So, I think that's most of the fine print.  Good luck, and happy reading!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ah, to be the bearer of good news...

So, I like to keep up with what's going on in the book world, and one of the many ways I do that is by reading Publisher's Weekly.  Yesterday, while reading the reviews, I was delighted to see that my friend Matt Richtel's forthcoming novel, Devil's Plaything received an excellent review.  This is what they said:
Devil's Plaything: A Mystery for Idle Minds
Matt Richtel. Poisoned Pen, $24.95 (342p) ISBN 978-1-59058-887-1

In Richtel's deft follow-up to Hooked (2007), medical reporter Nat Idle thinks someone taking potshots at him and his beloved grandmother, Lane, in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, may be payback for his snide exposé involving city officials and torched port-a-potties. Further attacks and an encrypted flash drive from a scientist who subsequently disappears soon indicate otherwise, and Lane's disjointed statements related to a computer-assisted oral history project suggest that she may know more than she's capable of revealing about a larger conspiracy. Surrounded by dubious figures such as a mysterious venture capitalist, an anal-retentive nursing home manager, a neurologist with suspicious connections, and a colorful witch who reads people's auras, Nat is wary of trusting anyone and frantic for Lane's safety. Numerous plot twists and cliffhangers keep the reader turning the pages in this plausible if disquieting scenario of Big Brother not only watching but also messing with minds. (May) Reviewed on: 03/28/2011
Upon seeing that, I did the friendly thing and sent him a brief note of congratulations.  His response, moments later was, "Huh? Can u send? Haven't seen it!"  (Those novelists, they do have a way with words.)  I replied, "Oh, honestly...  Don't you have 'people' for this sort of thing?"  But I was delighted to be the bearer of good news, and Matt's reaction was suitably gratifying.  Plus, I was deemed "awesome," just for reading the trades.

This is hardly the first time this has happened.  I'm always shocked to see a review, or know details of a writer's career, before they do.  I once informed James Rollins what his latest hardback print run would be.  Possibly the craziest example of this was the time that I was the person that informed Doug Preston that a film was being made of one of his early novels.  On that occasion, I really had the inside scoop.  I was working at the San Diego Film Commission, and the film of his novel Jennie was crewing up to shoot on location.  Still, I was stunned that I was the very first person to tell him that they were really making a movie.  The novel had been optioned for like 10 years, and after all, why bother tell the author?

Matt Richtel first came to my attention shortly before his debut novel, Hooked, was published.  It would have been BEA (BookExpo America) 2007.  His publisher had chosen the title as their "buzz" book for the season--an honor that will reliably capture my attention.  I grabbed a couple three galleys and was more than satisfied when I read it later.  In fact, I became a fan.  The extra galleys circulated through my book group and generated lively discussion over the course of several months.  It's quite possible that I may have sent him a brief email telling him the novel was awesome.  I don't really remember.

I do remember that Matt was participating in a book group discussion at the Books, Inc. in Laurel Village, and my friend Ann and I crashed it.  I wound up having a nice chat with Matt afterwards, and we've remained friendly ever since.  Ironically, we're both here in San Francisco, but I probably see him more often in New York.  (Ah, but those crazy NY nights are tales for another day.  A day when I want to embarrass David Liss.)  Incidentally, Matt has kept his day job--when not writing thrillers, he's a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist writing about technology for the New York Times.  I know, it's enough to make a person sick.

I haven't read Devil's Plaything yet.  Well, I read some very early drafts that bear little resemblance to the book that's about to be published.  As it happens, while I was looking for photos to steal for this blog post, I stumbled upon an excellent interview that ran in the Chron a few months ago.  I like it because it really sounds like Matt's voice and it's quite interesting. And in reading the interview, I realized that I was one of the early people he refers to bouncing ideas off of during the hellish period.  I feel proud. 

Anyway, the galley is loaded up on my Kindle, and I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing it this month.  (In case you're wondering, the reason I have so many writer friends is that I offer them unvarnished criticism.  If I'll do it for hours with a manuscript in hand, I have no compunction about doing so in a review.)  Look for a review here in the next few weeks.  For now, I highly recommend Hooked, which has one of the best thriller openings I've ever read.  And while the same protagonist, Nat Idle, is back in Devil's Plaything, as far as I know, you absolutely don't need to have read Hooked first.  Somewhat strangely, Devil's Plaything is being published in hardback on May 3, 2011 by Poisoned Pen Press, and being published as a mass market paperback on May 31, 2011 by HarperCollins.  So, pick your format or go electronic.  And, if you do give Matt a read, let me know what you think in the comments.

I'm just wild about Harry

Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1)
by Jim Butcher

After the recent disappointment of A Discovery of Witches, it was, perhaps, an odd choice to dive into another book that featured wizards, witches, vampires, and demons. The thing is, I couldn’t help it. I got sucked in. I’d had the audio book sitting on my Kindle for a while, and when the opportunity to get a bargain on the next book in the series arose, I decided to listen to a few minutes of this one to see if I liked it. Eight hours later, it turned out that I did.

At this point, surely everyone knows that this is the first book in the wildly popular Dresden Files series. The series is named after the books’ protagonist, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden—named after three magicians, and at this time Chicago’s only professionally practicing wizard with an ad in the yellow pages. He’s a finder of lost items, and an instigator of paranormal investigations—no love potions. What he really is, is a classic hard-boiled PI with supernatural trappings.

In this first case, a cash-strapped Harry has two jobs going at once. One is a missing persons case of sorts, taken on behalf of a damsel in distress. Harry can’t resist ‘em. The other is a consulting job for the Chicago PD. Lieutenant Karen Murphy uses him for cases dubbed “unusual.” A double homicide in which the victims’ hearts literally exploded from their chests’ by means unknown certainly meets the requirement.

This wasn’t the greatest mystery I’ve ever read. I could see some of the plot twists coming a mile away, but it was a strong and entertaining debut novel. Things moved at a fast pace and Harry’s a winning, if world-weary, character. Buffy alum James Marsters does a really nice job of bringing Harry, Bob, and the others to life in the audio book version I listened to. I don’t feel the need to run out and read the subsequent umpteen books right now, but I would certainly consider working my way through them as a break from my usual fare. This was an enjoyable start, and based on the series’ success, they only get better from here.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday: The "Out like a lamb?" edition

Okay, this is week two of the $5 audiobook sale.  I'm done for a while after this!

by Connie Willis
Release date:  3/1/1996
Source: $5 book sale

I've been meaning to read something by Willis for ages.  This sounds like a light, easy toe in the water. 

The Rebel Angels (Cornish Trilogy, #1)
by Robertson Davies
Release date:  1981
Source: $5 book sale

Can enough ever be said about Robertson Davies?  No it can not.  God, he was wonderful!  He's never been nearly well-known enough in this country.  If you haven't read him, start with Fifth Business in The Depford Trilogy as I did and move on from there.  You'll thank me.

Hard Rain
by Barry Eisler
Release date:  7/10/2003
Source: $5 book sale

Yes, I own them all in hardback, but I'm never going to catch up on dishy Barry Eisler's backlist if I don't get a move on it.  I REALLY liked the first John Rain book. 

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day
by Winifred Watson
Release date:  1938
Source: $5 book sale

A few years ago, Jon took me to a movie that I'd never even heard of.  He said, "You'll like this."  That's good enough for me.  I didn't like it, I loved the film of this novel.  I've always wanted to read the original.

Native Tongue
by Carl Hiaasen
Release date:  8/27/1991
Source: $5 book sale

I have a signed hardback of this early Hiaasen on my shelf, but I've never read it.  It sounds hysterical.  As you can see, random audiobook sales sometimes help me finally get around to reading a book I've had for ages.  Who doesn't love a good Hiaasen?

The Ninth Wife
by Amy Stolls
Release date:  5/10/2011
Source:  Paper galley via the Amazon Vine program

I like the premise of this novel, and the fact that the protagonist lives in my hometown, Washington, DC.  Sometimes that's all it takes to make me choose a book.

The Upright Piano Player
by David Abbott
Release date: 6/7/2011
Source:  Paper galley from the publisher

This debut novel is a completely unknown commodity, but at the delightful length of 240 pages, I will certainly consider reading it.  It appears to be a novel of suspense.

Kraken : The Curious, Exciting, and Slightly Disturbing Science of Squid
by Wendy Williams
Release date:  3/1/2011
Source:  Electronic galley from publisher

Anyone who knows me knows that I have a love/hate relationship with the squid.

by Will Lavender
Release date:  July 5, 2011
Source: Paper galley from publisher

This is Lavender's second novel, and despite rave reviews and a really interesting premise, his debut, Obedience, was off my radar a few years ago.  I don't ever recall hearing his name.  This galley looks FANTASTIC!  I will defiinitely read when I can find the time.  What a pleasant surprise.

Books finished this week: 

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht - Completely wonderful!

Spiral by Paul McEuen - An awesome debut thriller!

I have a lot of reviews that I need to write up.  Expect to see several this week.

Currently reading:

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson - I can't say enough good things about this classic from 1938.  It's amazing how humor can remain fresh.  Highly recommended for fans of Wodehouse's Jeeves and Wooster novels. 

I'll be finished with this one tonight, and plan to jump into The Tragedy of Arthur and/or The Informationist and/or a new shiny book that catches my eye.  You know how it is.

I have so thoroughly enjoyed hearing about your books. What books have you acquired this week?  What are you reading?  Please share in the comments!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Double, double toil and trouble

The Weird Sisters
by Eleanor Brown

I’m a reader for whom the title “The Weird Sisters” immediately brings Macbeth’s witches to mind. I’d guess that I’ve got a slightly above average knowledge of Shakespeare, and I have to say that background certainly added to my enjoyment of Eleanor Brown’s lovely debut novel. It is rife with Shakespearian undertones, overtones—all kinds of shades and tones!

The Weird Sisters is, in fact, the story of three sisters. They aren’t that weird, but their upbringing was a bit on the unconventional side. Their father is a respected Shakespeare scholar, and the household was full of culture and absent-minded intellectuals. Dad quoted Shakespeare constantly, and Mom would forget cooking dinner when lost in a book or some other distraction.

Now the three sisters are grown and on their own. Eldest Rosalind (or Rose) is the most stable, a Ph.D. mathematician working in academia like her dad. Naturally a second daughter was named Bianca, after Kate’s sister in Taming of the Shrew. Like her namesake, Bianca (or Bean as she is fondly known) always wants to be the life of the party. She’s been living the high life in New York. And following the example of Lear, Professor Andreas named his third daughter—What else?—Cordelia. Cordy’s the true Bohemian of the family. She dropped out of school and has been living on the road for years.

As the novel opens, every member of the family finds themselves in some sort of trouble. At what should be the happiest time of her life, Rose is in an engagement that’s bordering on estrangement. Bean has just been fired for embezzling from her employers; the high life costs a lot to maintain. And Cordy, well, she’s just knocked up. Their various troubles may be the catalysts that bring them home, but upon arriving they face the daunting reality that is their mother’s fight against breast cancer.

Ms. Brown knows that there’s plenty of drama to be mined from the relationships of adult children suddenly under the same roof again for the first time in a decade. Mix in a whole lot of the Bard, as well as a soupçon of Dylan Thomas, a dash of Greek mythology, and a host of other literary and cultural references, and you’ve got a fizzy brew that goes down easy.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mailbox Monday: I can't resist a sale edition

Well, you can't say that I didn't warn you that there's be a long list this week!

Field Gray
by Philip Kerr
Release date:  4/14/2011
Source:  paper galley from publisher

Well, easy come, easy go.  This was given away at my San Francisco Book Crossing (SFBX) meeting on the day it arrived.  I've given away other galleys from this series there, and they're gotten a positive response.

The Floor of Heaven: A True Tale of the Last Frontier and the Yukon Gold Rush
by Howard Blum
Release date:  4/26/2011
Source:  paper galley from publisher

This looks very interesting.  I read very little non-fiction, but I'm not ready to give this up yet.  I may have to read it.

The Wilder Life
by Wendy McClure
Release date:  4/14/2011
Source:  paper galley from publisher

More intriguing non-fiction.  This memoir of obsession for the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House on the Prairie books looks very cute.  I suspect there's someone out there that wants to read this book way more than I do.  Possible future giveaway.

The Kor
by Warren Fahy
Release date:  3/14/2011
Source:  purchased from Amazon via Kindle

I think I've established a willingness to purchase anything this author puts out.  I'm sure I'll sample it sooner or later, though I'm not sure I want to read it.  We'll see.

The Road
by Cormac McCarthy
Release date:  9/26/2006
Source:  purchased via $5 book sale

This is the year I finally gave audio books a serious listen.  I'm not a whole-hearted convert, and I generally have paper copies of the books I listen to.  I frequently read along, or switch back and forth.  Still, some books work really well in audio, and it allows me to maximize my reading time, i.e. while browsing in the mall, stitching embroidery, etc.  I love my monthly subscription, and I have an absolute weakness for their frequent sales!  Grabbing up a pile of $5 audio books is like the old days of binging on remaindered hardbacks.  I miss those days.  I spend so little on books these days that I have no problem with an occasional splurge like this.  And, as the last literate person in America not to read this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and given the fact that it's less than seven hours long unabridged, picking it up is a no-brainer.

How to Talk to a Widower
by Jonathan Tropper
Release date:  7/17/2007
Source:  purchased via $5 book sale

You may recall that I finally read my first Tropper novel, This is Where I Leave You and loved it.  I'm more than happy to give another one a try.

Grave Peril (Dresden Files #3)
by Jim Butcher
Release date:  4/1/2000
Source:  purchased via $5 book sale

Well, obviously I've been aware of this bestselling series for years.  I never so much as looked at one of the books until the first book in the series was offered during the last Audible sale.  I listed to 15 minutes of that book this morning, and based on that I've decided to pick up #3 for light "reading" later. 

A Little Bit Wicked: Life, Love, and Faith in Stages
by Kristin Chenoweth
Release date:  4/14/2009
Source:  purchased via $5 book sale

I'm so not proud of this.  I've resisted picking up this book for two years now.  I resisted it during previous Audible sales.  I am actively disinterested in Chenoweth's faith, and passively disinterested in her love life...  But I love the theater.  And that part--which is presumably the largest part--might be pretty darn interesting.  Don't judge me.

A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
Release date:  3/28/1989
Source:  purchased via $5 book sale

THIS IS MY FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME.  A statement so bold it needs a font to show it.  I've read this masterpiece twice, but the second time couldn't hold a candle to the joy of reading it for the first time.  I've had this audio book on my Audible wish list since I first subscribed.  I wonder if I can recapture some of the magic by experiencing it in a new medium?  This was the ultimate no-brainer.  Oh, and this sale continues until March 22nd, so there are likely to be a few more $5 audio books next week.

The Name of the Wind (Kingkiller Chronicles Book #1)
by Patrick Rothfuss
Release date:  3/27/2007
Source:  purchased with credit

With the recent high-profile release of the second book in this series, I've heard too many good things from too many respected people not to be curious about these books.

by S.J. Parris
Release date:  5/3/2011
Source: paper galley from publisher

This is a great-looking cover.  This appears to be the sequel of a well-received historical thriller called Heresy.  Anyone read it?  Looks interesting.  I've never read Parris.

Sleight of Hand
by Peter Beagle
Release date:  3/1/2011
Source:  paper galley from publisher

Hold on to your hats, but I have never read any Beagle.  I know, I know.  This collection of stories looks really delightful, and I'm looking forward to diving in.  I'll probably read one story at a time between novels.  BTW, another great cover!

Books finished this week: 

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown - A review will be posted this week.

Currently reading: 

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (paper galley) - I'm almost done and loving this novel!

Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher (audio book) - Yeah, I got sucked in.  It's easy, entertaining, and much better than current bestseller A Discovery of Witches.

So, what books have you acquired this week?  What books have you been reading?  Please feel free to share in the comments.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

HUMPDAY GIVEAWAY: Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut by Jill Kargman

So, I seriously considered reading Sometimes I Feel Like a Nut, if only because it was so short and digestible, and the publisher did send it to me for that purpose.  Plus, it seems to be getting very positive reviews.  But who am I kidding?  I just don't have the time right now.  So, I'm offering this lovely little hardback to a commenter below. 

Here's the book's description: 
Demonstrating Woody Allen's magical math equation, comedy = tragedy + time, a sensational collection of witty essays about life, love, hate, kids, work, school, and more from the author of The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund and Arm Candy.
Jill Kargman is a mother, wife, and writer living the life in New York City . . . a life that includes camping out in a one-bedroom apartment with some unfortunate (and furry) roommates, battling the Momzillas of Manhattan, and coming to terms with her desire for gay men. In this entertaining collection of observations, Kargman offers her unique, wickedly funny perspective as she zips around Manhattan with three kids in tow.

Kargman tackles issues big and small with sharp wit and laugh-out-loud humor: her love of the smell of gasoline, her new names for nail polishes, her adventures in New York City real estate, and her fear of mimes, clowns, and other haunting things. Whether it's surviving a family road trip or why she can't stand Cirque du So Lame, living with a mommy vagina the size of the Holland Tunnel or surviving the hell that was her first job out of college, Kargman's nutty self triumphs, thanks to a wonderfully wise outlook and sense of fun that makes the best of everything that gets thrown her way. And if that's not enough, Kargman illustrates her reflections with doodles that capture her refreshing voice.
You know the rules by now, right?  This contest is open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address.  Please leave a comment by 10:00 AM PDT on Wednesday, March 23rd.  With the help of a random number generator, one name will be selected.  That person has one week to get me a mailing address, after which I'll draw an alternate winner, who also has a week to get me a mailing address.  After that, the book defaults to my book club. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Mailbox Monday: A day late and a dollar short edition

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme for book bloggers to share their recent acquisitons.  I've been meaning to start up the feature here for weeks, but something always gets in the way.  So, here I am, a day late and a dollar short--as I so often am.  But I'm going for it.  How many weeks can I procrastinate?  Different bloggers do this different ways, and I'm not quite sure yet what I want this feature to be, so let's just see how things evolve, okay?

Books acquired this week:

Iron House
by John Hart
Release date:  7/12/2011
Source:  paper galley from publisher

This will be the fourth stand alone novel by this much-lauded master of the literary thriller.  I'm pretty sure I have galleys of most of them, yet I've read none.  I really have to rectify that.  Maybe this time?

Between Shades of Gray
by Ruta Sepetys
Release date:  3/22/2011
Source:  paper galley from publisher

Okay, I don't mind telling you that this YA novel set in Stalin's Russia does not look like my cup of tea.  But that's okay.  I'm collecting YA titles to donate to the adolescent treatment center over at Children's Hospital in Oakland.  They put books in the waiting room, and they want the kids to be able to take them home if desired.  Bookcrossing to the rescue.

One of Our Thursday's is Missing
by Jasper Fforde
Release date:  3/8/2011
Source:  Hardback purchased from M is for Mystery Bookshop

Yes, after all that hype, the book went on sale last week.  And despite having read the galley graciously supplied by the publisher, I went out and bought a copy.  I love Jasper Fforde and I love my local independent booksellers.  I'm happy to put my money where my mouth is in order to support their livelihoods.  Plus, Jasper was signing.  Hopefully, I'll find time to blog about his event.

Books read in the past week: 

A whole lot of ABNA submissions.  Don't ask.

Currently reading:

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (trade paper galley)

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (audiobook)

So, I think that's all for last week.  I predict a very long post next Monday.  I'm going to have to start logging these things as they come in from various sources, because I really feel like I'm forgetting something...

Part of the fun of Mailbox Monday is reader contributions.  What books have you acquired this week?  What are you reading?  I would love to hear from you!  It may take a while, but I am hopeful that regular readers will join in the Mailbox Monday fun.  At the very least, it'll give you an idea of what reviews may be forthcoming.

A final note:  A winner was just drawn for the Pale Demon Giveway.  Please check the comments thread here for the winner.  And there are just a few hours remaining to enter The Bone Yard giveaway here.  Competition is less fierce, so good luck!

More Fahy News: Warren Fahy Releases The Kor

Yes, another press release, followed by my comments below:


March 14th, 2011

WARREN FAHY releases his novel THE KOR on Amazon and Barnes & Noble eBooks.

When a kor child spies a comet in the sky he sets a chain of events in motion that will shake the foundations of his people’s entire civilization. As ancient truths are challenged, buried secrets are unearthed that will change the course of his people forever. In this unique tale, acclaimed author Warren Fahy (FRAGMENT) takes readers on a journey through a new world where familiar themes play out on an epic stage and the only thing that can be counted on is that, in this adventure, nothing can be counted on.

In this audacious tale, which defies categorization while blending fantasy, adventure, mystery, dystopia and revolution, Fahy takes readers on a wild ride guaranteed to be like nothing they have encountered before.

“EBooks are the perfect format for this novel,” Fahy says. “It is a unique tale that would have a hard time finding a traditional spot on the shelves of a book store. It is also one of my own personal favorite novels. I’m very happy to have this alternative means of getting it to fans. As PANDEMONIUM, the sequel to FRAGMENT, is under negotiation with publishers, this was the perfect format to put THE KOR out now.”

Warren Fahy is the acclaimed author of FRAGMENT (soon to be a motion picture), his debut novel, which was published in 18 languages by 20 publishers around the world.

THE KOR is available exclusively on Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble NOOKbook. If you don’t have a Kindle or NOOK you can read THE KOR on any device. Just download the free Amazon Kindle reading app or the Barnes & Noble NOOKbook app.

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So, wow, it's been all-Fahy, all the time around here lately, huh?  I expect that to change in the near future, once his recent spurt of activity settles down.  His publishing trajectory has been unusual, a little dramatic, and makes for great blog copy.  Plus, info on these recent books has been sparse.  I wanted to know more, so I asked a bunch of questions.  He answered them and I posted the info for others. 

Still, I don't usually shill this much for even my closest friends.  As it happens, Mr. Fahy is a rare thriller novelist that I've never met--never even spoken to--though we have exchanged several friendly emails in the past couple of years.  Basically, what I'm getting at is that I'm just a fan.  He isn't my BFF, and he isn't blackmailing me for publicity.  Just so we're clear.

When I saw this press release last night, I, of course, immediately clicked over and purchased the novel.  I mean, for $1.99, why not?  Right?  Still, I wrote Warren and said, "I'm not really sure this is my cup of tea."  He admitted that he wasn't sure it would be either, so we'll both have to wait and see.  Based on the file size, The Kor looks to be under 300 pages long.  In other words, a simple one-day read.  But I don't have the time right now.  I owe dozens of reviews, and I'm craving literary fiction in a big way after my recent reading diet.  In fact, at your suggestion in my "What should I read next?" polls, I am currently reading The Tiger's Wife and The Weird Sisters, and am enjoying them immensely.  You readers always know best.  ;-)

So, someone read this novel, come back, and give us the scoop in the comments, okay?  I can't wait to hear what you think!

And, Warren, if you visit, please tell us in the comments who does all that terrific diverse artwork that I keep stealing from your website.  It's fabulous!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Michael and Ayelet's Hobgoblin

This just in:  The Hollywood Reporter is, uh, reporting that Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Michael Chabon and his wife, novelist Ayelet Waldman, will be penning (and exec-producing) a new television series for HBO.  Currently entitled Hobgoblin, the series is about a group of con men and magicians who use their unique skills to battle Hitler and the Nazi's.  Right now the show is being developed, but doesn't appear to have been picked up yet.

Ahh, that's so Michael.  Certainly I detect echoes of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.  As potentially awesome as this project may be, is it wrong that I'm almost more interested in the behind the scenes action?  I've had plenty of interaction with both Michael and Ayelet over the years, out and about in Bay Area literary circles, and let me tell you--they are a reality show waiting to happen.  He's lovely.  She always squints at me and asks, "How do I know you?"  Always.

My one concern is that we don't "lose" this talented literary novelist to Hollywood.  Please don't forget your roots, Michael.

And for those of you who are speculating that I posted this news merely for an excuse to feature a huge photo of the dreamy-even-when-scruffy Chabon... No comment.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A slave to Amazon-- or, Kill. Me. Now.

So, some readers may have noticed that I haven't been posting quite as many book reviews for the past couple of weeks.  There's a reason for that; I've been devoting my reading time towards serving as an "expert reviewer" for the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, or ABNA, as it is generally known.

This is the second time I've served as an ABNA reviewer in the contest's four-year history.  The first time was two years ago.  A few weeks ago, I was delighted to be asked to do it again.  What was I thinking?

No, there is something undeniably cool about being a part of this massive talent search.  The contest starts with a staggering 10,000 contestants in two categories: adult fiction and young adult fiction.  There are 5,000 contestants in each category.  Those 5,000 are pared down to 1,000 in each category in the first elimination, which is based solely on the 300 word "pitch" that each contestant submits about their novel.  That round is judged by Amazon staff.

My round is next.  One hundred "top" Amazon reviewers are asked to read and review 3,000 - 5,000 word excerpts (usually 15-20 pages) of 40 of the remaining 2,000 entries.  Those of you doing math in your head have calculated that each excerpt is read, rated, and reviewed by two of us.  We are asked to write 75-300 word responses to each of three questions:
  • What is the strongest aspect of this excerpt?
  • What aspect needs the most work?
  • What is your overall opinion of this work?
Then we are asked to assign a one- to five-star rating on these four areas:
  • Overall strength of excerpt
  • Plot/hook (would you want to read more)
  • Prose/style
  • Originality of idea
You might be surprised by how long it takes to complete each excerpt.  Obviously, you want to give each and every contestant their proper due.  I read each excerpt carefully, taking notes, noting quotations, and thinking hard about what kind of constructive feedback I can offer.  The ABNA contestants never seem to be satisfied with the feedback and reviews we provide, but God knows that I give it my all.  In fact, I sit down with each excerpt and look at it as if it were one of my editorial jobs.  Ironically, several bestselling authors value my feedback, but ABNA contestants - not so much.  (Of course, that's a generalization.  It's anonymous on both sides, so while there's a general level of dissatisfaction, maybe my contestants are thrilled with the pearls of wisdom I've bestowed.)

It's really hard.  You see work ranging from dreadful to brilliant and everything in between.  I often compare it to open auditions for American Idol.  Some people seem to be just as "tone deaf" towards their writing, so it's a mixed bag.  There's a lot to enjoy, and one of the hardest parts is starting some of these stories, falling in love with them, and knowing you'll never get to read further.  Most of the submissions have strengths and weaknesses, and those are the easiest to review.  Some are nearly impossible to praise and for others, I've got nothing constructive to offer.  They're fantastic.  (I'm guessing the ones who get nothing but praise will forgive me.)

There have been several "innovations" this year that have made the reviewing more odious than I remember from two years ago.  Back then, there were YA submissions mixed in with all the other genre entries, but they were in the minority.  Now they're fully half of the contest.  Now, I've got absolutely nothing against reading a good YA novel, but if I read another first-person tale of teen romance that opens with the female protagonist in her high-school classroom, I won't be responsible for what I do to myself or others.  And, please, no more fantasy!  Excerpts seem to be assigned completely at random, and rather than half adult and half YA, I've had three-quarters YA excerpts so far.  There really is so much sameness to them that I just crave the diversity of the adult submissions.

Well, I've still got quite a few to read.  Hopefully the balance will change.  It has to, right?  It's going to be a long weekend for me.  I don't mean to procrastinate, but the aforementioned innovations have hindered my ability to review efficiently.  Last time I had all 40 excerpts assigned from the first day.  I could look at my list and pick a title that sounded intriguing.  And I could print out ten excerpts at a time and take them away from my computer to read, ruminate on, and review.  Now, I can only see one excerpt at a time, and I can't get at the next one until I've finalized my review of the prior one.  It's really a pain, and I'm glued to the laptop for hours on end.  On the bright side, I've become a regular at the coffee shop across from my apartment.  It's a sit-com-like establishment, and it smells really good over there.

I've got until midnight on Sunday.  It will take me that long.  Please send encouraging comments to the blog.  It's a marathon, people.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

HUMPDAY GIVEAWAY: The Bone Yard by Jefferson Bass

It's Wednesday, AKA "Humpday."  There really isn't that much to look forward to on Wednesdays, not even a new episode of Glee.  I think a Humpday Giveaway should be a fairly regular feature on the blog.  I hereby make it so.  And it just so happens that I have a shiny, new hardback of The Bone Yard by Jefferson Bass.  It just went on sale yesterday.  Thank you, friends at William Morrow!

For a chance to win this book, please leave a comment below by next Wednesday morning, March 16, 2011.  This contest is open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address (because I'm footing the postage).  Next Wednesday, with the help of a random number generator, we'll pick one lucky winner.  That winner will be announced here, and will have one week to get a mailing address to me.  If they fail to respond, I'll draw a second winner.  After that, this book goes to my book club.

Also, the Pale Demon giveaway is still going on until this coming Monday morning, March 14th.  (Twelve days is just too long an entry period!  What was I thinking?)  If you read across genres, comment here for a chance to win.  Wow, we're all about the giving here at In one eye... 

And by the way, we hit a milestone yesterday.  The little counter thing flipped over to 10,000.  Thanks to all visitors!  Y'all come back, now.

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I've gone over completely to the dark side...

It's bad that I think this is cool.

I'm one of those readers who occasionally has authors sign the back of her Kindle.  (Among other things--but that's a post for a different day.)  As long as you use a Sharpie and keep your Kindle in a cover, the signatures are fine.  No, my problem is that Amazon keeps replacing my Kindle.  I've had like five or six of them.  Every time I have the slightest issue or complaint (i.e. my battery needs to be changed), they just send me a new machine.  Their customer service is excellent, but James Rollins has signed the back of at least three Kindles, and it's time to do it again.  Actually, it's basically like getting the latest novel signed at each book tour.

Now I totally want digital signatures in my ebooks.  When did I become this person?

P.S.:  Yay me!  My first multi-media blog post!

UPDATE 3/9/2011:  Author Boyd Morrison writes in to remind me that we had dinner with TJ Waters, the author/inventor in the story above in New York last summer.  D'oh!  That's why he looks so familiar.  (In my defense, there were, like, eight of us, and I already knew everybody else at the table.  Plus, I was sitting next to Graham Brown and, well, have you seen him?)  As it happens, TJ is a lovely dining companion.  I am totally buying TJ's novel Secret Signs, just so that he can sign it!  Actually, the novel sounds kind of awesome, but it's not available on Kindle.  What's up with that, TJ?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blind Submission meets The Tender Bar meets The Truman Show

Let's start the week off with a bang...

Faking Life
by Jason Pinter

The title of this review refers to a thriller set at a literary agency, a memoir of life at a bar, and a film about an everyman whose life is controlled by a puppet master. Throw them in a Cuisinart and you’ve got a reasonable approximation of Jason Pinter’s Faking Life.

The novel is indeed a thriller set at a literary agency. As the novel opens, Esther Williams (whose swimming namesake is never referenced) is reviewing submissions to literary agent Nico Vanetti, her boss and mentor. Nico was once at the top of the literary food chain, but these days he’s on his way down. He’s got all kinds of personal problems, and he doesn’t have the instincts for picking winners that he once did. That’s why, when Esther discovers the partial manuscript from unknown bartender John Gillis, she’s prepared to fight for it. She knows his memoir has huge potential.

Esther takes the first round, and soon enough even Nico realizes he has a potential goldmine in Gillis—if only there were a bit more excitement to his tale. Towards that end, the Machiavellian Nico begins—for lack of a better word—screwing with the unwitting bartender’s life. He messes with John’s job at the bar, and he wants the memoir to have a love interest. Here, he directs Esther into the picture. Esther’s torn between knowing what Nico’s doing is wrong and her own growing attraction to the writer through his words.

Okay, that sounds pretty good, right? Not a bad premise at all, or so I thought. However, when I purchased the novel, I didn’t know what Pinter would reveal in his foreword: “I began writing this book back in 2002, while I was a student at Wesleyan University.” Okay, so this isn’t the work of the seasoned bestselling author. That might have been good to know before I clicked “purchase.” Even more telling was the first sentence of the author’s note: “This book wasn’t supposed to be published.” I’m taking that quote slightly out of context, but it’s worth sharing because it’s the most honest sentiment in Faking Life. This manuscript should have stayed buried in the drawer it was moldering in.

The book is ridiculously contrived. For instance, John Gillis is presented as the second coming of Randy Pausch. We are treated to lengthy excerpts of his supposedly life-altering inspirational memoir. What we actually get are mediocre blog postings that are at times almost painful to read. Also, I don’t think it takes too much insider publishing knowledge to realize that people don’t do business this way! I’m not talking about the Machiavellian stuff. It is fiction, after all. I’m talking about the fact that editors do not make multi-million-dollar preemptive bids on books whose full manuscripts they’ve never seen. I’m talking about the fact that careers in publishing are not ruined because a man slept with his housekeeper. In 2011, you do not FedEx in daily page submissions to your agent; we have a thing called email now. And being unfinished is not considered an asset in a manuscript. Don’t even get me started on the relationships—all of them.

The story is contrived. The characters are shallow, unbelievable, and largely unsympathetic. The writing is… not good. Hats off to you if you can get past these deficiencies, because that’s only the beginning. Not only is it abundantly clear that Mr. Pinter didn’t spend a moment updating this school project, it’s obvious that neither he nor anyone has proofread this since 2002, if ever. I can’t resist sharing a few (dozen) quotations:

• “Thankfully John had been blessed with good genes, a fats [sic] metabolism.”
• “Paul had been trying to [sic] hard for so long…”
• “…tickling a twenty until [sic] John’s nose.”
• “Some days I feel like a prostitute, brandying [sic] my goods behind a wooden counter…” Brandishing?
• “Things hadn’t worked out between Paul and the [sic] Kendra…”
• “Just once, he was hoping to meet someone who didn’t [sic] the outside world tugging at them 24/7.”
• “I don’t understand what [sic] you’re having such a hard time.”
• “John eyed him for a moment, wiped the sauce from hi [sic] face…”
• “Jon [sic] gasped and felt his legs grow weak.”
• “He received a call back a week later saying [sic], and a contract was in the mail the next day.”
• “You go so you can tell your friends you were [sic] sat where Norm and Cliff did.”
• “His parent’s [sic] mailbox…”
• “But how many people can say that [sic] love that [sic] they do for a living.
• “They declined coffee and desert. [sic]”
• “…he was so full that desert [sic] probably would have…”
• “…his arm grazing her check [sic], her skin warm and inviting.”
• “Tears rolled down her check [sic], but she made no move to pull her hand back.”
• “The apartment looked like it had been witness to a viscous [sic] bar fight.”
• “Broken glass and empty beers [sic] bottles littered the floor.”
• “People liked to read about scandal and martial [sic] problems.”
• “…a package wrapped in shin [sic] blue foil…”
• “He looked up, his eyes tired, yes [sic] strangely hopeful.”
• “He’d have to convince Marlene Van Tripp of he [sic] same…”
• “Esther slowly gently [sic] and leaned forward.”
• “You might as well save the energy and give [sic] to me.”
• “I hope to share a pint with him [sic] Slappy’s Two someday.”
• “Nico was sitting in his leather chair, the collar of his blue Oxford shit [sic] folded up around his neck.”

That last is my favorite. And, folks, that is nowhere near a comprehensive list of the errors within this text. In his author’s note, Mr. Pinter writes, “I don’t consider FAKING LIFE the evolution of my career, but a glimpse at an early work that I am proud of, despite its flaws.” Really? Personally, I call this a profound embarrassment and I’m stunned that you put your name on it.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A conversation with Jasper Fforde (part 2)

My month-long Fforde Ffiesta celebrating the March 8th publication of One of Our Thursdays is Missing continues.  As promised, here is the second half of the Viking publicity interview with Jasper Fforde.  Part 1 of the interview may be read here, and my review of the novel may be read here.  Readers who prefer to go into a novel completely blind may prefer to read this interview after reading One of Our Thursdays is Missing.  Enjoy!

Q: The written Thursday has a very curious, perhaps disturbing interest in her mentor’s emotional life. What is it about Landon and their life in Swindon that so affects her? Does her meeting Landon change how she sees herself?

Being the written version of someone is a double-edged sword. You have many of the skills, but then you have a lot of the downsides, too. Written Thursday’s biggest problem is that she was written with the passion for the real Thursday’s husband, yet Landen refused to be featured in the Thursday Next books. (Perhaps it might be as well to explain at this juncture that the Thursday books in our world and the Thursday books in Thursday’s are quite different!) So, all the hots for Landen, but no Landen. It is a sense of loss that drives her, something which her ghostwriter intended. It allows me to look at the notion of someone who loves someone—but can’t have them. And how do they deal with that? More importantly, should a writer consider the emotional stress wrought upon their creations by clumsily written backstorys?

Q: Tell us about the killer mimes.

I’ve always found mimes a bit creepy and taking themselves a little bit too seriously, like all actors, really. Being a writer, I am in the top five of the professions who talk the most amount of bollocks about what it is they do for a living, but at least writers are behind actors and artists. And sometimes poets. Anyhow, the whole incident with the mimes simply popped into my head with a single line: “We had driven into a mimefield.” It was a gag I simply couldn’t not use, and I just like the whole silly notion. It’s very Bookworldish.

Q: What was the plot thread that you found most enjoyable to write?

Written Thursday being in the Realworld, I think. It might have been fun to have more of her coming to terms with the somewhat bizarre place we call home, but there wasn’t time. From what it feels like to breathe (gurgling and whiffling) to walking in a crowd (fraught with danger) or going to sleep (like dying, I should imagine), written Thursday finds the Realworld a bizarre place to be—and from the orderly Bookworld resident’s point of view, totally without any sort of understandable plot-line or resolution. “If the Realworld were a book,” she says, “it would never find a publisher.”

Q: Metaphors play a vital role in your world, and in the end, in the revelations behind the Peace Talks. Why are they important?

Metaphor is only of real importance on Fiction Island—in Non-Fiction, Metaphor is mercilessly hunted down and eradicated. Fiction is the world of ambiguity and inference, Non-Fiction the world of clean and clear facts. I like the idea of Metaphor being the magic dust that transforms shopping lists into revealing windows into shopper’s souls. Writing is a dark art, but it is by the very complex and often subtle use of metaphor and all the other mechanics of meaning and ambiguity can we hope to convey so much with so little. That being so, it follows that much of Fiction runs on Metaphor, and with a commodity so powerful, its production and supply becomes a matter of great concern. And drama is never far away.

Q: What’s next for you?

The next book will be a standalone. It’s time I did another. Then we’ll be either back with Thursday or with Jack Spratt—or maybe even Shades of Grey 2. Lots of options.