Friday, July 29, 2011

Bookstores are magical places...

Something wonderful happened in a San Francisco bookstore the other day.  Read THIS.  It'll take less than two minutes, and I guarantee you'll smile.  I almost cried, but I'm sappy like that.

After the “Ever After”

The Magician King
by Lev Grossman

Can it possibly be only two years since I read Lev Grossman’s The Magicians? If you asked me about that novel, I would immediately tell you that I loved it. Apparently, that’s about all I could tell you. Having just read Grossman’s engaging follow-up, I regret not having reread, or at least brushed up on, the first novel. References to prior events were plentiful, and rather than jog my memory, they highlighted just how fallible it is. Hopefully yours is better, or you will take the steps I didn’t prior to reading the sequel. Oh, and it goes without saying that if you haven’t read the first novel, don’t start with this one.

Nonetheless, my inexact memory did not keep me from enjoying the latest adventures of Quentin Coldwater et al. Even I recalled that at the end of The Magicians Quentin, Julia, Elliott, and Janet had left our world to become the co-queens and kings of the magical (and not fictional after all) land of Fillory. The end. I thought that was the end. It was a good ending, and I didn’t expect any more. As we catch up with Quentin and co., they are living their “happy ever after.” It’s glorious. It’s perfect. It’s boring. To some degree, this has ever been the issue of life in a magical world.

Quentin is itching for a quest, but this is countered by the perfectly reasonable fear of screwing up a perfect life. When a safe-looking mini-quest comes along, Quentin goes for it—and screws up his perfect life. The mini-quest evolves into a major-quest with the highest of stakes. While this primary drama is unfolding, there is a second story being told in reflection. The Magicians recounted the education and coming of age of Quentin, Elliott, and Janet. Finally we learn what “hedgewitch” Julia was doing all of those years, and how she learned her craft. It would be an understatement to say that she took a different path. It’s a fascinating counterpoint. Along the way of these twin narratives, we meet many new characters and revisit old ones.

I’ve now read three of Mr. Grossman’s four novels, and I’ve enjoyed all of them. If I had to pick out the one thing that sets his work apart, the word that comes to mind is “unpredictability.” When you read as much as I do, a lot of storytelling becomes formulaic. This isn’t always a bad thing. Formula can expedite storytelling or give shape to a narrative. In any case, I think most avid readers begin to get a feel for where a story is likely to go. But not with Mr. Grossman. I never know. I don’t have a clue. I just know that he’s going to pull something different and unexpected out of his magician’s hat.

Additionally, it’s always a pleasure to read his prose. And he’s a champion at world-building. I adore the world he’s created in Fillory, and the dozens and dozens of pop culture references found throughout the text increase the fun and anchor that world to the reality of our own. It’s not merely Rowling and Lewis and Tolkien. It’s Die Hard and Star Trek and D & D. It’s Elmer Fudd, Dr. Suess, and GEB. It’s Disney, Dr. Who, and Discworld—and too many more to ever list.

I’ve rated this novel down one star only because I didn’t love it quite as much as its predecessor. I had the opportunity to speak to Mr. Grossman briefly at BEA. Expressing surprise at the sequel, I asked if there would be more books in the series. He told me that he thinks there will be a third, making it a trilogy. This second book comes to a shocking and unresolved conclusion. So, to Lev Grossman I say, “Damn straight there will be a third book!” It can’t end like this. And while clearly I have no idea where the tale will go, I will be along for the ride.

NOTE:  This novel will be next week's Humpday Giveaway!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

HUMPDAY GIVEAWAY: Dominance by Will Lavender

So, earlier this week, I read my first Will Lavender novel, and I have to say it was a lot of fun.  I posted a review mere moments ago HERE.

Are you intrigued?  Do you like a good puzzle?  Are you ready to play the Procedure?  Well then, it's your lucky day, because Dominance is this week's Humpday Giveaway.  All you have to do is post a comment below, and you may be the winner of a pristine trade paperback galley of this newly released hardback novel.

Other than that, the usual rules apply.  Good luck to all who enter!

  • The giveaway is open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address ('cause I'm footing the postage).
  • To enter, all you need to do is post a comment below by August 3, 2011. (Thanks for pointing out I forgot to update the date!)
  • At my discretion, if there are less than five respondents, I can cancel or extend the giveaway.
  • Winner will be chosen by me with the help of a random number generator, and will be announced in the comments section of this thread.
  • Please check back to see if you've won. If you have left a way to contact you, I will do so.
  • The winner has one week to respond to me at with a mailing address, or I will choose a new winner.
  • If a second winner fails to respond, the book automatically goes to the lovely members of my face-to-face book club.
  • Previous giveaway winners are welcome to enter.
  • Finally, if at all possible, please comment below only if you're entering the giveaway.

A total mind freak!

by Will Lavender

Generally speaking, were I to use the term “contrived” in a book review, that would be a bad thing. But Will Lavender’s sophomore novel, Dominance, exudes contrivance, and it totally works. It reminds me of those classic scenes where one character states, “I suppose you’re all wondering why I’ve brought you here…” And that’s not too far from the set-up in Dominance. A group of old college classmates has been reunited by the death of one of their own. More precisely, by his murder.

Nine of them had been students in a most extraordinary literature class years ago. Their professor, an expert on the subject, is a convicted murderer. He is teaching them via telecast from inside a maximum security prison. The subject of the class, Unraveling a Literary Mystery, is the elusive novelist Paul Fallows. Fallows had published two acclaimed novels back in the 70’s, and his true identity has never been known. Scholars had been digging for it for years. Some believed that the novels themselves held clues to the author’s identity, and that the answer would be found through playing a game called “the Procedure.”

Got that? It’s a lot of set-up. Dominance is told in two times. Part is set in 1994 during the Fallows class and the events that led to the professor’s exoneration for the crimes of which he was convicted. (This is not a spoiler; it’s known from the opening of the novel.) The other half of the novel is set in the present day, as one by one the students from that class are picked off by an unknown murderer.

The atmosphere throughout is contrived, gothic, and ridiculously melodramatic, but it’s all sort of fun. Lavender does a great job of creating suspense. Partly this is mechanical. The first half of the book is composed of 21 chapters; the second half is 37—nearly twice as many. The story speeds up exponentially as it goes, so if things feel slow at first, hang on. There’s a lot of white space on these 368 pages, so it’s a quick read.

I don’t think Dominance is a complete success. It’s 150 pages before you get an inkling of what the mysterious “Procedure” really is. And once I found out, I was like, “That’s it?” I consider it to be a weak element of the story. Plus, I don’t think any of the characters are particularly well-developed, most of them serving as Breakfast Club stereotypes and pawns: the jock, the actor, the tramp—or their adult counterparts: the coach, the drunk, the soccer mom.

But despite any flaws, I have to admit I stayed up past 2:00AM to get to the dénouement. And when you get there, it really is (to use the PG version of the phrase) a mind freak. It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a puzzle like this, so I have to say, “Thumbs up!”

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

K is for Kate who was struck with an axe

The headline above is an old Edward Gorey quote that I couldn't resist using. No, the eponymous Kate of Julie Kramer's fourth Riley Spartz mystery was actually bludgeoned with a baseball bat. So close. Kate's death basically opens the novel, and straight off the reader learns that she is the fourth victim of a serial killer. The authorities are not yet aware of this fact.

Local news reporter Riley has been lying off the violent crimes lately, since she had been making more news than covering it. But hearing the familiar address of this homicide, she grabs it before anyone can object. And her memory is correct. The crime happened at a house she once knew well. It was the home of her former college roommate, Laura, and the victim is Laura's younger sister, Kate. Kramer has the mechanics of creating suspense down pat. She keeps readers turning pages, ending chapters with lines like: "I didn't know yet that Kate had led a secret life, and that her secret did not die with her."

Riley and Laura, once the closest of friends, had split in a rift more than a decade ago. But this tragedy paves the way to an uneasy reconciliation. Investigative reporter that she is, Riley, of course, becomes far too involved in the hunt for this killer. As always, there's a "b" story in the novel involving an animal story her crazy news director wants her to cover. And the third narrative thread is Riley's long distance relationship with Nick Garnett.

I have outlined several things I like about this series in past reviews. I find Riley to be an immensely likable character with a distinctive voice. Reading each novel feels like visiting with an old friend. Also, I love the television news setting. I feel like I'm getting the inside scoop with each novel, and given the author's background, I guess I am. I can't watch a promo for the 11:00pm news with the same eyes after reading one of these books. It's fascinating! Plus, I like that while being fairly realistic, the novels aren't unnecessarily graphic. In other words, there's not too much sex and violence graphically depicted--which isn't to say there's none, but it's left more to the imagination.

One thing that was bugging me a little in this book was the relationship between Riley and Nick. There's always conflict between them, and conflict is what makes a great novel. But their relationship dynamics seemed a bit too simplistic and surface level. I guess four novels in, I'd hope for a little more depth there. But Kramer must be doing something right, because I'm always rooting for the two of them.

I don't know that I'd describe Killing Kate as a cozy mystery, but it's not entirely dissimilar. I bring this up, because while the mystery itself should not be predictable, there's a certain tone to these stories that is. Therefore, I have to tell you that the end of this novel shocked the hell out of me. And I LOVED it. Surprises are good. I have NO idea where this series is going next, but I will be the first in line to find out! Way to go, Julie Kramer!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mailbox Monday: The all type, no talk edition

So, I still have no voice.  This has gone beyond mere annoyance, as it's been nearly three weeks now.  But it led to a very funny interlude this past week.  I commented to a co-worker that I'd spent the entire weekend in silence.  She looked at me very skeptically.  I said, "As much as I read, don't you realize that I spend most of my life outside this office in silence?"  Her response was, "I always picture you reading aloud.  And gesticulating."  I laughed until I cried.  Everyone who has heard this quote shrugs and says, "I could see that."

And on that note, let's start this week's list with the swarm of books I picked up in the "Paperback" sale.  I've said it before, I can't resist the cheap audiobooks.  One of the things I love about them, is that while I have little time to reread books, sometimes I'll pick up an especially beloved book in this new format, and it feels a little less like revisiting the same territory.  It's also a way to fit in older books I've been wanting to read--books I don't owe reviews on.  Or new books I didn't receive review copies of.  It's a little easier to squeeze the audiobook in while I'm shopping, cooking, stitching, or otherwise multi-tasking.

Still Missing
by Chevy Stevens

This was a hot debut thriller last summer, and I considered reading it then.  Her latest thriller is now sitting in my house.  I already "read" this one while walking around New York.  Enjoyable.  The first half was very reminiscent of Emma Donaghue's Room.  I liked the second half a lot better. 

Alas, Babylon
by Pat Frank

I've always wanted to read this classic of apocalyptic fiction.

A Visit From the Goon Squad
by Jennifer Egan

I think everyone here knows I'm a big fan of Jennifer Egan and this year's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.  For five bucks, I couldn't resist adding the audiobook to my collection.

Fever Dream
by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

I'm a decades-long fan of Doug and Linc's, but I'm a rare fan who feels that a little Pendergast goes a long way.  A few years ago, I just got Pendergasted-out, and I stopped reading the books.  But, I started to feel a little nostalgic recently.  The latest Pendergast book is out in a couple of weeks, so I decided to re-enter the series with last year's offering, the first in a trilogy.  I've already listened to it, and I had an epiphany.  Pendergast's courtliness is 100% Doug Preston.  An example... Me: Doug, I've lost my voice.  Doug: What a shame, you have such a lovely voice.  He's like that all the time.

Then Came You
by Jennifer Weiner

Technically, I purchased this brand new title with my credit.  This is another one I've already listened to.  Enjoyable and interesting, but not funny like her typical work.  I missed the humor.

Geek Love
by Katherine Dunn

It must be 20 years since I've read this cult classic, and yet I think of it so often.  It deserves a reread after all these years.  I loved this book, and hope that I still do.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson

I have heard too many raves about the book and audiobook to ignore.

Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett

In a perfect world, I would have every book I read in paper, Kindle, and audiobook formats, as I like to switch back and forth, and frequently listen and read at the same time, etc.  Now that I do have this monster in all three formats, I'm running out of excuses not to read it. 

The Thirteenth Tale
by Diane Setterfield

This is another popular title that's been sitting on my bookshelf that I've been meaning to get around to reading.

Kafka on the Shore
by Haruki Murakami

Simply put, Nicole would never forgive me if I passed up a Murakami.  I'm reading my first Murakami now, and while I don't understand it, I'm enjoying it immensely.

People of the Book
by Geraldine Brooks

One of these days I'll actually read a Brooks novel.

Shut Up and Dance: How to Stop Leading and Follow Your Man Into a Happier, Sexier Relationship
by Jamie Rose
Source: Paper galley from publisher

I don't think this is for me...

The Winters in Bloom
by Lisa Tucker
Source: Paper galley from publisher

I keep acquiring Tucker's novels and not reading them.  I need to break this cycle!  Has anyone else read Lisa Tucker?  Thoughts?  I shall try to get to this one.

The Search for Philip K. Dick
by Anne Dick
Source: Finished trade paperback from publisher

This is a new biography of the troubled writer, written by his wife.  Sounds interesting!

They're Watching
by Gregg Hurwitz
Source: Picked up at book club

I enjoy Hurwitz, and I missed this one last year.  Thanks, Maya!

The Finkler Question
by Howard Jacobson
Source: Picked up at book club

The Jewishest Booker Prize winner ever.  The only question is, why haven't I read it yet?  Thanks, Steve! 

Books finished this week:

Killing Kate by Julie Kramer
The Magician King by Lev Grossman
Machine Man by Max Barry

How painfully obvious is it that I will never catch up on my review writing?  I'm like 20 behind now.  *hangs head in shame*

Currently reading:

Dominance by Will Lavender
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
and snippets of too many other books to even mention

So, what books have you acquired lately?  What have you been reading?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

HUMPDAY GIVEAWAY: Rebirth by Sophie Littlefield

Do you find yourself intrigued that every second blog post I write contains the name Sophie Littlefield?  Did you read Aftertime and get hooked like me?  Is a good apocalypse what you need to complete your summer?

Well, then do I have good news for you!  This week's Humpday Giveaway is a signed trade paper galley of Rebirth, the second novel in Sophie Littlefield's Aftertime Trilogy.  I posted a review of this excellent novel here yesterday, and a review of Aftertime here several months ago.  I can't recommend these books enough--though not perhaps for every reader.  I'll be the first to admit that they are bleak and harsh and not for the faint of heart.

And there's a caveat with this giveaway.  Definitely enter the contest, but don't read Rebirth before reading Aftertime.  In this trilogy, the second is dependent on the first, in my opinion.  So, that said, it's the usual rules.  You guys are kind of hard to give free stuff to, so I do hope there's more interest in this book than there was in last week's title.  But, whatever, less shipping for me if you're not.  Good luck to all who enter!
  • The giveaway is open to anyone with a U.S. mailing address ('cause I'm footing the postage).
  • To enter, all you need to do is post a comment below by Wednesday, July 27, 2011.
  • At my discretion, if there are less than five respondents, I can cancel or extend the giveaway.
  • Winner will be chosen by me with the help of a random number generator, and will be announced in the comments section of this thread.
  • Please check back to see if you've won. If you have left a way to contact you, I will do so.
  • The winner has one week to respond to me at with a mailing address, or I will choose a new winner.
  • If a second winner fails to respond, the book automatically goes to the lovely members of my face-to-face book club.
  • Previous giveaway winners are welcome to enter.
  • Finally, if at all possible, please comment below only if you're entering the giveaway.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not all monsters are monsters...

by Sophie Littlefield

I have always thought that the strongest writers have a deep understanding of psychology, an ability not just to get at the complex thoughts and emotions of their characters, but to articulate them as well. And to create characters who are internally consistent, believable, and who breathe life. I generally muse over such thoughts while reading some piece of delicate literary fiction. How astounding, therefore, that the complicated characters are what I find driving Sophie Littlefield’s latest zombie apocalypse.

It is the “latest,” in that it is book two of her Aftertime Trilogy. If you have not yet read Aftertime, please do so before embarking on Rebirth. Aftertime can stand alone; Rebirth can not. It builds on what has come before.

I’m not going to go into detail summarizing the plot here, but I will say a few things… This novel, like the previous one, is driven by a hunt for a missing child. In it, Dor, one of the secondary characters from Aftertime, comes front and center. And perhaps most daring of all for a novel in the zombie genre, the zombies are little in evidence this time around. Oh, their threat hangs over everything in this wholly changed world, but of the many monsters you’ll meet on these pages, almost all are human. And they are all the scarier and more disturbing for it. The story told is compelling, fast-paced, and deeply chilling.

Second books of trilogies are notoriously tricky things. Often they are intermissions before the end game, and they can loose their narrative drive. Happily, that is not the case here. Cass Dollar, the protagonist of Aftertime, is still at the heart of this story. I, personally, don’t relate to her any better than I did in the first novel. Nonetheless, I find her absolutely fascinating. She’s a tough, volatile character surviving in an unbearably harsh world. Love and revenge, often at war with each other, are the emotions that drive these characters.

This is a zombie tale for fans of The Walking Dead, readers who can appreciate a truly smart, profoundly disturbing, and ultimately character-driven tale of horror—and hopefully redemption. I could have quit reading after Aftertime. That novel concluded its arc and ended at a satisfying point. Rebirth also completes a full arc of the story. However, by the time you get to the end, you will be aching to read on. Just a little more torture from Littlefield, as we collectively wait to get our hands on the final volume!

NOTE: A signed copy of Rebirth will be tomorrow's Humpday Giveaway.  Please check back to enter!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Ellen Sussman on French Lessons

So, last week I went out to hear local novelist Ellen Sussman talk about her new novel (and NYT bestseller), French Lessons.  She was speaking at the Booksmith on Haight Street in San Francisco, on July 13th, appropriately enough one day before Bastille Day (which I celebrate with French food). 

The Booksmith is my other favorite bookstore in the city.  The host terrific author events both on- and off-site.  I don't get over there as often as I'd like, but regardless, I'm frequently greeted by a warm "Susan!" as I come in the door by staff.  I feel like Norm at Cheers.  And I rarely get out of the place without making a friend.  It's amazing, you just start talking with strangers while perusing the shelves, or standing in line to get a book signed, and suddenly you have a friend for life.  That is the sign of an awesome book store!

Unfortunately, it's a schlep from my office, and I arrived a few minutes into Ms. Sussman's opening remarks.  I started filming as she began reading from the book.  The video is slightly out of focus, as Flip Cams have no focus control, but it's not too bad, and the shakiness stops a few seconds in, once I get the camera propped on my knee.  The first two clips are her reading from the novel, followed by several clips of her Q & A session afterwards.  I hope you enjoy watching.

Oh, and if you're now intrigued by this book, today is your lucky day!  I have a signed galley of French Lessons being given away on this very blog this very week!  I heartily encourage you to enter!

Mailbox Monday: Oy, three weeks late edition

Happy Monday, one and all.  How much do you love this mailbox?  It's a lobster trap.  It feels appropriately summery--unlike San Francisco, where high temps last week hovered in the upper 50's.  Please let this week get warmer!

I am finally back from my travels, and, as you can see, blogging again.  I have a lot more to write about Thrillerfest, and I'm trying to catch up on my book reviews.  Normally, I'm behind with my reading.  At the moment, I've been reading up a storm.  Unfortunately, I haven't been writing the reviews.  I'm more than a dozen behind, so that's a problem.  But look for them to start appearing this week, okay?

In other news, my voice is beginning to recover from T-fest.  So sad to have such delicate vocal chords.  Clearly, I should spend more time typing and less time talking.  And I have a lot of typing to do this morning.  I haven't posted a Mailbox Monday post in three weeks.  You can guess how many books I've acquired in a three-week period.  Plus, there was another audiobook sale, and you know that I can't resist them!  So, we'll see how far we get before I give up.  Anything that I can't get to will have to roll over to next week.

Only Time Will Tell
by Jeffrey Archer
Release date:  August 30, 2011
Source:  Amazon Vine

This is how you can tell I'm a child of the 70's.  I keep hoping Jeffrey Archer's going to write another Kane & Abel.  I did so love those classic novels.  This one is apparently going to be the first in a series, a family saga.  My hopes aren't really that high, but this should be reasonably enjoyable nonetheless.

by Will Lavender
Release date: July 5, 2011
Source: Amazon Vine

Yes, another copy.  Someone's going to get it.

The Vault
by Boyd Morrison
Release date: July 5, 2011
Source: Finished hardback from publisher

I love it when publishers send em books that I'm dying to get my hands on!  However, this one didn't stay in my hands for long.  It was last week's giveaway.  I suspect another copy will be coming my way soon...

No Rest for the Dead
Various authors
Release date: July 5, 2011
Source: Finished hardback from publisher

This was a surprise from the kind folks at Simon and Schuster.  I hadn't heard of this book before it arrived in the mailbox.  It's one of those collective novels, where each chapter is written by a different novelist building on what's come before. The list of contributors is impressive indeed. Among the 26 authors are: Alexander McCall Smith, Sandra Brown, Faye Kellerman, J.A. Jance, Jeffery Deaver, Kathy Reichs, Lisa Scottoline, and Jeff Lindsay.   I'll be honest, I generally like the idea of these things better than the execution, but hope springs eternal.  The book is short, starry, and in my house, so I'm going to read it.  I'll let you know how it is.

by Meg Cabot
Release date: July 5, 2011
Source: Finished hardback from publisher

Ms. Cabot has moved from Princess Diaries to vampires.  That seems like a logical progression.  Sorry, can't give this away here.  I know someone who is desperate to get her hands on it.

Betrayal of Trust
by J.A. Jance
Release date: July 5, 2011
Source: Finished hardback from publisher

Wow, this is the 20th book in the series.  Impressive longevity!  I'm unlikely to jump into the series at this point, no matter how good the books are.  A likely future giveaway.

Killer Move
by Michael Marshall
Release date: June 28, 2011
Source: Finished hardback from publisher

I'm not familiar with Michael Marshall, but the description of this book is really enticing.  Much more so than the cover, I'm afraid.  Is it just me?  I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing this one soon!

The Map of Time
by Felix J. Palma
Release date: June 28, 2011
Source: finished hardback from publisher

This book, on the other hand, has a beautiful cover.  And, I read my galley of it from cover to cover within the past few weeks.  I haven't written the review yet, but the short version is that after some early misgivings, I found this book to be truly delightful, and am looking forward to the next book in the trilogy!  I would give away my galley copy here, but it's a little too well-read for you guys.  (I like to give you clean, unread books.)  Your loss is the face-to-face book group's gain. 

French Lessons
by Ellen Sussman
Release date: July 5, 2011
Source: Galley from publisher

Does this look familiar?  Oh yes, it's this week's giveaway that no one is entering.  What I've seen of this book is completely delightful.  Man, y'all are tough to give free books too!  Perhaps once I get video of the author up on the blog...  Sorry for the delay.  There aren't enough hours in the weekend.

by James Rollins
Release date: March 1, 2011
Source: Gift from author

This is a newly reissued copy of this novel.  Jimbo's earliest novels are finally being released in hardback, one a year.  This particular title is special to both of us, as it is the book that brought the two of us together 11 years ago, and incident that we still frequently laugh over.  Jimbo bought this copy for me at the Mysterious Bookshop while we were in NY and nicely inscribed it for me.  Thank you, Jimbo!  You know I love all your books!

by Jeff Abbott
Release date: July 1, 2011
Source:  Thrillerfest tote bag

Yes, I received a lovely finished hardback of this current bestseller in my T-fest tote bag.  Score!  I've heard nothing but good things about it.

End of Days
by Robert Gleason
Release date: August 30, 2011
Source: Thrillerfest tote bag

This galley was the other title in my tote bag.  I haven't really had a chance to look it over properly yet, but the cover is certainly an eye-catcher!

by Diana Gabaldon
Release date: 6/28/1992
Source: Thrillerfest giveaway

I now have a Kindle, audiobook, and paper copy of this book on hand.  I am rapidly running out of excuses not to read it--except for the fact that it's 896 pages long!  Should I move it up on the TBR list?

The Crown
by Nancy Bilyeau
Release date: January 10, 2012
Source: Thrillerfest giveaway

The debut author of this forthcoming period thriller was signing galleys at T-fest.  I heard her speak on a panel regarding historic fiction, and I look forward to checking the book out.

by Sophie Littlefield
Release date: July 19, 2011
Source: The novel's editor

Adam gifted me a copy of the galley of Rebirth while we were at Thrillerfest, and Sophie kindly signed it.  Guess what?  It's going to be this week's giveaway!  As it happens, I finally read this book over the weekend, and I loved it.  And not just because we're friends.  I'll be posting a review within the next 24 hours.

by Alex Shakar
Release date: August 23, 2011
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

I already have a paper galley of this one that I was looking forward to reading, but having an electronic copy as well just moves it that much higher on my TBR list.  You guys may have noticed that I like reading books in multiple formats--often at the same time.

Birds of Paradise
by Diana Abu-Jaber
Release date: September 6, 2011
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

Here's another book I have in paper.  It was one of the titles I was most excited to grab at BEA, as I am a fan of the author.  There are so many great books to read before fall, I barely know where to begin!

The Prague Cemetery
by Umberto Eco
Release date: November 8, 2011
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

Shameful confession:  I have never finished an Eco novel.  I tried to read Foucault's Pendulum years ago, but it defeated me.  I can probably count on the fingers of one hand writers who were too challenging for me:  Eco, Pynchon, Dostoevsky.  Those are the only three I can think of, and I haven't attempted to read any of them in years.  I've been intimidated.  It's time to conquer my fear.  Mr. Eco, we've got a date this fall!

The Twilight of Lake Woebegotten
by Harrison Geillor
Release date: October 4, 2011
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

Some readers may recall that I read the first book in this series, The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten, because it was a gift from the publisher.  Despite being neither a fan of Prairie Home Companion nor zombies (all evidence to the contrary), I thought the book was a hoot!  That is why, after refusing to read or view anything written by Stephanie Meyers, I will read this book.  What will the pseudonymous Mr. Geillor satirize next?  I can't wait to see!

Ghost Lights
by Lydia Millet
Release date: October 24, 2011
Source: Electronic galley from publisher

I have never read Ms. Millet, have you?  The description of this novel sounded interesting, and the page count sounded short.  It seemed like the perfect introduction to the work of an author I hope I'll like. 

Okay, we're already at 20 books.  Let's save the dozen titles for next week, shall we?

Books finished within the past few weeks:

I can barely remember them all, but here are a few titles...
Rebirth by Sophie Littlefield
Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
Charlie All Night by Jennifer Cruisie (red-eye flight reading)
Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
Buried Secrets by Joseph Finder
Before I go to Sleep by S.J. Watson
Blood of the Reich by William Dietrich
Fever Dream by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
The Map of Time by Felix J. Palma

Books I'm currently reading:

Machine Man by Max Barry
Dominance by Will Lavender
Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami (Yes, Nicole, I'm reading my first Murakami.  I'm totally lost, but the writing is gorgeous!)
So, what books have come into your home?  What have you been reading?