Monday, November 7, 2011

Mailbox Monday: I can't think of an edition edition

So, last week was chock full of excitement between the Bay Area Festival of Science and the literary events.  Man, I was busy!  My two loves converged at the end of the week with a completely awesome panel discussion entitled The Science in Science Fiction held at the completely awesome Borderlands Books.  The panelists were Scott Sigler, Mira Grant, and Jeff Carlson.  I could try to describe to you at length, just how awesome these three were, but why don't I just post video of the whole thing later this week?  And folks, I got good video for once.

So, I haven't had a chance to write up my dead mules in Southern Literature follow up yet, but I did receive nice notes from both Hillary Jordan and Bookseller Bob from Books, Inc. subsequent to my post about our evening together last week.  Very, very nice.

There are a couple of cool lit events going on here in SF this week that I might try to hit.  Local author Peter Orner is at The Booksmith on Wednesday.  I just acquired a copy of his novel Love and Shame and Love that I'm looking forward to reading, so it would be great to hear him speak.  Also, Gregory Maguire is going to be at The Booksmith on Saturday night.  Perhaps it'll be less of a mob scene because it's a Saturday?  Anyway, we'll see if I make it to either event.  I've been pretty run down lately and really need to pace myself.  Tonight I will go straight home after work like a good girl.

You may have noticed that I'm trying to catch up on the book reviews I've been slacking off on for the past few months.  So, expect more of them this week.  In addition to the backlog, I did read The Time in Between, which goes on sale tomorrow and which Simon & Schuster has been promoting so heavily.  I wanted to jump right into Eco's The Prague Cemetery right after, but I was defeated on my first attempt by the staggering outpouring of pure hatred in the opening pages of the novel.  The character actually articulates the philosophy, "I hate, therefore I am."  It's funny, but very tough to take.  So I set it aside and got distracted by I YA novel which is the funniest thing I've read since I don't know when!  It was Libba Bray's Beauty Queens.  What a pleasure over a dreary weekend at home.  Of course, I finished it in a day, and launched back into the Eco.  God, it's tough going!  Will this man defeat me again?  I've never made it through one of his novels.  I've about a quarter of the way through The Prague Cemetery, and I've already read each page at least twice.  And on that note...

Out of Oz
by Gregory Maguire
Release date: November 1, 2011
Source: Finished hardback from publisher

As noted previously, I have only read the first book in this series.  I'm not sure yet if I'm prepared to catch up on the intervening books.  Perhaps going to hear Maguire speak will help me decide.

Hard Target
by Howard Gordon
Release date: January 3, 2011
Source: Paper galley from publisher

Howard Gordon has all sorts of television writing/producing cred, and this is his second novel, a follow-up to Gideon's War.  I have a galley of that one, too, but the book descriptions sound a little macho for my tastes. 

The Time in Between
by Maria Duenas
Release date: November 8, 2011
Source: Finished hardback from publisher

Yes, another copy.  Meanwhile, I read this last week and had a mixed response.  It's been a big bestseller in Europe.  It will be interesting to see if S&S can duplicate that success here. 

Beauty Queens
by Libba Bray
Release date: May 24, 2011
Source: Audiobook from Library

First, best cover ever, am I right?  This is an over-the-top high-concept comic novel about a planeload of teen beauty queens who crash onto a mysterious island.  I won't guarantee that this book is for everyone (humor is so subjective), but I had a blast listening to this!  I also noticed this morning that PW named it one of the top books of 2011.  Take that, Umberto Eco!

Ashes to Dust
by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Release date: March 27, 2012
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

Wow, you don't see a name like that on a book cover every day.  I think I'll have a Guess How to Pronounce it Contest in my face-to-face book group, with a winner chosen by our Swedish member.  Anyway, I do not even remember what this novel is about, but I know that I was quite interested in reading it.

The Odds
by Stewart O'Nan
Release date: January 19, 2012
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

O'Nan is one of those authors that I hear nothing but good things about.  I know that he is a real favorite of my BFF, Jon.  This will be the first work of his that I've read, and I'm really looking forward to it!

Besides the titles above, there were about 125 books from the NCIBA show.  I haven't organized a list of them yet.

Books finished this week:

Why Read Moby Dick by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Time in Between by Maria Duenas
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Currently reading:

The Prague Cemetery by Umberto Eco

So, what books have you acquired this week?  What exciting (or not so exciting) books are you reading?  Have you successfully read an Eco novel?  Please let us know in the comments!


  1. I finished reading The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon. Loved it! It begins in 1968 with a couple from the local state School for the Incurable and Feebleminded escaping, taking refuge at the home of a widow with Beautiful Girl's newborn baby girl, then getting caught. Beautiful Girl asks the widow to hide her baby while Homan escapes out a window into the storm. The book then follows each of these characters through the next 43 years. Simon is best known for her memoir Riding the Bus with my Sister.

    I also finished Black Magic Sanction, which means I'm all out of Hollows books to read. Gah!

    So I'm now starting Hammered by Kevin Hearne and Elysiana by Chris Knopf.

    I have read several Eco novels. He's one of my favorite writers. The last one I started, though, I had to set aside and haven't gotten back to yet, The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. His books are dense, but they're worth it. I kept this one and two others when I purged my library.

  2. Oh, it's been craziness over here as well. Up at 2:30 about to shuttle to the airport and Gregory Maguire's Wicked is in my bag. We'll see if it's riding on a plane with four hours of sleep reading.

  3. Oh, dear, my comment on another of your threads about Eco's book is far too late! I have read three of his: The Name of the Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. He is one of my favorites. I think I can stomach The Prague Cemetery because I know him as a writer; I know that the darkness is not about him or about me, but is truly about immersing into the plot and characters. As Sara Leigh stated, the best word for his writing is "dense". I only reached about page 175 and decided to set it aside until I have read a nonfiction book that will give me some background on the history and people of the events in the plot. Trying to make sense of conspiracy theories (which I find very fun) interwoven through events of which I have no knowledge is not working for me. I do look forward to returning to the book after I finish the Italian history work I checked out from the library. That said, I will definitely be skipping the diatribe at the beginning of the book-nobody needs to subject themselves to that more than once.

    Have you ever read The Name of the Rose? I would think that you might like that one.

    I am really wavering on The Time in Between. On one hand it sounds like very much my kind of novel, yet everything I have read makes it sound as if an editor with a ruthless streak could have made it a much better book. I am not afraid of novels that are either long or meandering (books do not even have to be plot driven if the writing is good where setting and characters are concerned), as long as they are not stuffed with inconsequential filler. What do you think of this one and me? Even though you and I often differ in opinion, you know me fairly well...

  4. SL,

    Yours are not the first raves I've heard for The Story of Beautiful Girl, but it doesn't sound like my cup of tea.

    Also, Eco--GAH! (As you might say.) We'll be discussing this in more depth when I see you in a few weeks.


    I hope you're off to someplace fun! I'm still trying to decide if I'm going to attend Mr. Maguire's book signing this weekend. Please let us know how the book is. And, safe travels!


    Years ago I tried to read Foucault's Pendulem and couldn't get through it--a very rare event. I have copies of most of his subsequent novels on my shelf, but have not tried to read him again until now. I REALLY picked the wrong book. I suspect that you're right, and that The Name of the Rose would be much more my speed, but at this point I'm very tempted to write the talented Mr. Eco off. There are so many good books to read. Do I really have to read his. I think we have a toxic relationship, LOL.

    As for The Time in Between, obviously I think it could have used some serious culling. But I will say that every other review on Amazon has been way more positive than mine. (I used to be so nice; now I'm turning into a literary curmudgeon!) Also, I think that you will be significantly more interested in the history than I was. If you want to read it, I'll mail a galley to you (I couldn't work up the enthusiasm for a giveaway on the blog.) or you can grab an electronic copy through Net Galley. If I had to guess, I think you might like it a bit more than me.

  5. Susan, I would love the galley! The characters sound interesting even if the plot and beginning are slow.