Butterbeers Are On Me

"Tasted like cream soda. It was somewhat thick, and it was really sweet, and then it got salty as you swallowed it, like butterscotch."

- Sabrina Sampson, age 11, describing butterbeer at the Harry Potter Theme Park

The Summer Reading Challenge 2010

I stumbled across this challenge a little late but I'm going to participate regardless.

Hosted by Coconut Library, this challenge just asks it's participants to read 3,000 pages in three months. I like this challenge because my reading tends to slow down in the summer and hopefully this will keep me motivated:

What: A challenge to get you reading all through the season.

Why: So that you will have motivation to keep those pages turning!

When: 12 a.m., June 1st - 11:59 p.m., August 31st

Where: On your couch, at the beach, on a plane or a train... anywhere you can read. Check back here to let us know your progress. We can keep each other motivated by doing it together!

How: This season your goal is to finish 3,000 pages in the course of three months.

  • All pages counted must be from a book (no magazines, newspapers, etc). If you are reading from an e-reader or an audiobook check a book-selling site to find the official number of pages in the book. Use the Trade Paperback (regular paperback) format to count page numbers to add to your total pages. If the book has not yet been published as paperback, use the Hardcover page number count. No Mass Market (smallest versions of books, also soft covers) page counts allowed. E-mail or leave a comment if you have questions about this.
  • You can split the number of pages however you like. You can read twelve 250 page books, or three 1,000 page books (or any other type of combination -- it's up to you).
  • You may combine this challenge with other challenges you are doing.
My progress:

Since the challange started June 1st I am going to count the pages of each book I have read so far in June.

Wurthering Heights: 400 pages
Memories of My Meloncholy Whores: 128 pages
The Angel's Game: 544 pages

Total: 1,072

Woohoo! I am already a third of the way through the challenge, which works out kind of perfectly since the challenge is a third of the way through as of tomorrow.


Shelter of Hate

Reading now: Rabbit, Run by John Updike

"...hate suits him better than forgiveness. Immersed in hate, he doesn't have to do anything; he can be paralyzed, and the rigidty of hatred makes a kind of shelter for him."

So far this book is depressing me.  It follows Rabbit, an unsatisfied 26-year-old who, on a whim, runs away from his wife and child with hopes of finding what is missing from his life. I'm not invested in any of the characters and am hoping they change into more respectable and admirable people. I'm preparing myself to be let down.



Friday Finds

A few of my favorite things from the inter-webs I happened upon this week:

Russell Smith responds to the controversy around David Davidar's termination from Penguin Canada in "The Truth About Publishing: It's Full of Hotties". Don't let the title fool you. Smith is one of those guys who actually gets it: "But I have never in my whole career made a real pass at one of my colleagues or, I think, been flirtatious to the point of making someone seriously worried about my attention. Even when I was single. Perhaps I’m getting old, but believe it or not, I actually value my colleagues’ professional abilities more than their beauty. " How refreshing.

A big thank you goes to Carolyn Kellogg for writing such a great response to Lee Siegel's claim that fiction is dead. This article is full of solid arguments and witty responses; a must read. She picks apart Siegel's claims sentence by sentence. "Siegel: It is only when an artistic genre becomes small and static enough to scrutinize that a compensating abundance of commentary on that genre springs into existence." If writing critically about an art form indicates that it is in its decline, that means there hasn't been a rock song worth listening to since critic Lester Bangs died in 1982, and that filmmaking ended with the 1965 publication of Pauline Kael's "I Lost It At the Movies."

If you've ever had an intimate relationship with the slush pile (those of you who have know what I'm talking about) you will love Slush Pile Hell, where a literary agent posts the funniest bits of inquires and comments on them. My favorite so far:

Do you ever get the feeling that we are all machines being controlled by someone or something beyond our control?

Katie Holmes, I’m just a literary agent. I can’t help you with your husband issues.

Friday Finds is hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.


If I Ever Meet Paulo Coelho...

If I ever meet Paulo Coelho I will congratulate him for writing a piece of crap book that became hugely successful despite it's constant repetition and simplification of a story line. But, I will be able to pronounce his name correctly thanks to this handy guide.


The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

I've mentioned before how much I loved Shadow of the Wind, Zafon's first novel translated into English. The prequel, The Angel's Game (which was published after Shadow of the Wind) is equally as compelling, albeit much darker. What makes the The Angel's Game so good is the story, which isn't to say it's not well-written because it is. But for me it was the story that sucked me in. Chapter by chapter I just wanted to know what would happen next.

We meet David Martin when is a struggling writer living in Barcelona circa 1917. Within the first page Martin states, "A writer never forgets the first time he accepted a few coins or a word of praise in exchange for a story... A writer is condemned to remember that moment, because from then on he is doomed and his soul has a price." As the story unfolds, Martin is commissioned to write a book for a mysterious publisher of religious texts and eventually realizes that by accepting this work he has in fact put a price on his soul.

Like I said, the story itself will suck you in. Zafon is an amazing story teller. His novel is filled with intrigue, suspense and murder (which make it a great summer read) but also offers much more than that. The Angel's Game speaks to the power of literature and it's importance. We are taken to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books where Martin says, "This place is a mystery. A sanctuary. Every book, every volume you see, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and the soul of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens. In this place, books no longer remembered by anyone, books that are lost in time, live forever, waiting for the day when they will reach a new reader's hands, a new spirit...". If you are a reader who loves the idea of books - a reader who loves the smell and the feel of books and the notion that they can offer everything from understanding to compassion to an entirely new outlook of the world - then you will like this book. There were also many literary allusions throughout the novel, from Great Expectations to Jane Eyre, which, as a book lover, I really enjoyed.

I also want to mention that this book offers a strong sense of place, by which I mean the city of Barcelona is almost like a character itself. The backdrop of this city adds a lot to the novel, both in terms of beauty, uniqueness and mystery. As far as places go, this seems like a great one.

All in all I really liked this book. However, I think I liked The Shadow of the Wind more. So, if you haven't read either I suggest you start with the ladder. Each offer two unique story lines that focus on two different yet connected generations, but one isn't necessary to understand the other.

The New York Times also did a nice review of the book that you can read here. I enjoyed the ending, when they say, "The pleasures of “The Angel’s Game” are guilty ones. As he did in “The Shadow of the Wind,” Ruiz Zafón provides, along with sex and death, a nice slide show of old Barcelona, a handful of affectionate riffs on favorite books (among them that other, very different mysterious- benefactor tale “Great Expectations”) and a pervasive sense of the childish joy of credulity — of surrendering to a story and letting it take you where it will, whatever the consequences."

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson
Year of First Edition: 2009


Tornados and The Angel's Game

I would just like to say that as I am finishing the last 50 pages of The Angel's Game - right as everything is proving itself to be evil and tormented, and I am deliciously consumed in the devilish plot - a crazy thunderstorm rolls through, followed by tornado sirens, followed by my power going out.

Here I am finishing this book, flashlight in hand surrounded by candlelight, sitting in my basement hoping my roof and I don't get sucked into oblivion. What a perfect way to finish this ominous novel.


My Thoughts On "What It's Like For A Girl"

A couple of days ago I mentioned David Davidar's termination from Penguin Canada as a result of a sexual harassment case brought on by one of his coworkers. Well, the story just got juicier, and a tad more depressing.

This week, an "anonymous" blogger from Canada who worked in the publishing industry up until her recent termination discusses "What It's Like For A Girl" within the world of publishing, and it's not pretty: "I flirted back, when he'd flirt, and I'm ashamed. But I blame him. I blame the way he manipulated us into thinking it was all part of the job, the "culture" of the office. We were often told to "entertain" people at our parties, like we were geisha. Dress sexy, be the first ones on the dance floor, get drinks. Looking back, I feel like we were supposed to represent not the brains and talent of our office, but the tits and ass. Lucky for him, we were a smart, hard-working bunch of people, and we managed to make that place work. That made him look good too. You know, I'm still not sure really what he does, other than take buyers to lunch. His tales of business trips always involved a lot of drinking, eating, and weed-smoking. At Book Expo, he'd point out all the women he'd slept with. " And yes, the him she is referring to is her boss.

I'm not going to get into how painfully obvious it is that this girl worked under a man who may or may not have been recently let go from a major publishing house in Canada because of sexual harassment accusations, but I will say that as a girl whose career aspirations revolve around the publishing world, this woman's post gave me a slap on the face. I'm sure (and hope) these office dynamics aren't synonymous to every publishing office, but knowing to what extent this woman was harassed in an industry that is supposed to represent brainy, well-read intellectual women is depressing. That this blogger believes she was meant to represent the "tits and ass" is heartbreaking to me. Utterly heartbreaking.


The Versatile Blogger Award

Today I got my third blog award and I'm really excited about it! A big thanks to BookSnob for choosing me to pass it along to! The Rules for the award are:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

Now to the vain part: sharing seven things about myself. (Isn't writing a blog vain enough to start with? Yes, but in a good way.)

1. I feel naked without earrings.
2. My favorite place in the US is New Orleans. My favorite place I've visited so far in the world is a three-way tie between Amsterdam, Paris and the BVI's.
3. I used to think I was a really good driver but lately I have been cutting people off without meaning to because the space I thought was there just wasn't. This is something I need to work on. On a related note, I have a really hard time driving at night because my depth perception doesn't seem to work after dark. Do they make glasses for that?
4. My favorite game in the whole world is Trivial Pursuit. I really want to get the Book Lover's Edition but I have a feeling I would need to track down more English majors to play with me.
5. I won't let you borrow my books if you dog-ear them (ehhhm, Melanie) but I scribble and annotate all over the pages. I'm not sure why I'm ok with one and not the other.
6. My biggest pet peeve is when people don't use adverbs correctly.
7. I want a miniature bulldog puppy more than anything but I am holding off until I can make it a very happy dog. Oh, and I'm going to name him Potato. I visit puppy stores every chance I get and molest bulldogs with kisses while calling them potato, like this poor guy below:


Friends Made Of Paper and Ink

Reading now: The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

"Even then my only friends were made of paper and ink. At school I had learned to read and write long before the other children. Where my school friends saw notches of ink on incomprehensible pages, I saw light, streets, and people. Words and the mystery of their hidden science fascinated me, and I saw in them a key with which I could unlock a boundless world, a safe haven from that home, those streets, and those troubled days in which I could sense that only a limited fortune awaited me."

So far this book is proving to be equally as good as Shadow of the Wind. Like Zafon's earlier work, this too is a book about books and brings us back to the "cemetery of forgotten books". Ohhh it's just so good! If you are a reader who loves the idea of books - a reader who loves the smell and the feel of books and the notion that they can offer everything from understanding to compassion to an entirely new outlook of the world - then you will like this book.

If you're here from the hop, welcome! Take off your coat and stay awhile.


Another From Post Secret

One of the best secrets I've seen in awhile:

If you aren't familiar with Post Secret I suggest you visit the blog (which is updated every Sunday). Then, if you're like me , you'll start buying the books. It's truly a unique and inspiring project. 

Oh, Snap!

"The truth is that a former colleague accused me of sexual harassment and Penguin terminated my employment." - David Davidar, former president of Penguin Canada, revealing that he did not in fact leave Penguin to pursue writing, as he claimed last week. Read more here.


Sunshine Award

A big thanks to Lisa at bibliophiliac for the sunshine award! Lisa gave this award to 12 book bloggers and states, "What I look for in a blog is a distinct voice, or a distinctive aesthetic or ethos--and that voice or aesthetic doesn't necessarily have to match mine.  I continue to find interesting and unique voices as I explore the bookish blogosphere, and the twelve blogs above are just a few I have stumbled on in recent weeks."

Thanks again, Lisa! What a great way to start my week! 

A Few Things I'm Excited About

1. I know I've mentioned it before but I can not WAIT for The Night Bookmobile to be published in book form. It was a serialized graphic novel that was in the Guardian, but as of September 1st I'll be able to read the whole thing in a book. Did I mention it's by the one-and-only Audrey Niffenegger?

2. NPR Books Podcasts: This week I discovered that you can subscribe to the NPR book reviews and author interviews - All Things Considered - and upload them to your iPod. I've always kind of turned on NPR and hoped I would stumble across it, which didn't always work so well. Subcription? Yes please!

3. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. I've read a couple of reviews here and there and it sounds like this book has the potential to be amazing. I've got to track it down soon!

4. Eclipse on June 30th. I'm sorry I had to say it.

5. The Harry Potter Theme Park that opens this Friday, June 18th. Not that I'm planning to be in Orlando anytime soon, but at least I know I've got the option!


Memories of My Melancholy Whores

Wow. I loved this book. I'm not sure I can even call it a book because it's five chapters and 115 pages but it is considered a book... and I loved it. I love it in that weird way that I love Lolita. But actually, I don't love it the same way I love Lolita. I suppose I am ashamed to love it in the way I am ashamed to love Lolita. Because it's great, but has a disturbing premise.

Ok - enough of my cryptic elusiveness. This novel is about an old man who has never been in love and on his 90th birthday decides the one thing he would like to gift himself is an underage virgin. Said virgin turns out to be 14 and said 90-year-old falls in love with her before he ever makes love to her. Creepy preface, I know (hello comparison to Lolita!) but this mans love for the young girl, who he begins to call Delgadina, prompts him to reconsider and evaluate the conflict of growing old but feeling young, death, love and beauty. Ultimately the old man is forever changed by his love for Delgadina.

But then, I'm not sure if he even loved her at all. I'm not sure if we're meant to believe he did. Maybe he did, or maybe it was just the idea of her. After all, the title of the book is Memories of My Meloncholy Whores and I think thats what this man feel in love with; his memories of this girl. The fact that in his own mind she was whatever he wanted her to be. He romanticized the idea of her and didn't really get to know her at all. Upon the girl's 15th birthday the old man comments, "It troubled me that she was real enough to have birthdays". And later:

"From then on I had her in my memory with so much clarity that I could do what I wanted with her. I changed the color of her eyes according to my state of mind: the color of water when she woke, the color of syrup when she laughed, the color of light when she was annoyed. I dressed her according to the age and condition that suited my changes of mood... Today I know it was not a hallucination but one more miracle of the first love of my life at the age of ninety.
Which of course, lends itself to the idea that the very thought of someone and how you make them out to be in your head can actually become an ideal version of that perons. That maybe you have fallen in love with the idea of someone, or the person that you create them to be, rather than the actual soul behind the pretty face. Again, while the premise itself is a bit disturbing, the ideas and feelings behind this novel are very real and very relatable. In a strange way that I can't describe Marquez invited me into this sick and twisted love story and left me thinking "oh my God... this is soooo fantasic". We are never meant to understand the old man as unbalanced or dangerous - he is simply a man who has never been in love and has found it in this girl.So, I recommend this book to anyone who can get passed the 90-year-old obessed with a 14 year-old girl.

Published by: Vintage
Year of First Edition: 2004

Barbara Kingsolver - Orange Prize Winner

Barbara Kingsolver won the Orange Prize this year for The Lacuna - her first published novel in nine years.

"We chose 'The Lacuna' because it is a book of breathtaking scale and shattering moments of poignancy. We had very different tastes on the panel, but in the end we went for passion, not compromise." -Daisy Goodwin, chair of the judges

Have any of you read this? What did you think?


Greedy for Life

Reading now: Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

"Today I know I was right, and I know why. The adolescents of my generation, greedy for life, forgot in body and soul about their hopes and dreams until reality taught them that tomorrow was not what they had dreamed, and they discovered nostalgia."


Premio Dardos

"The Premio Dardos is a way to acknowledge the importance of bloggers committed to spreading cultural, ethical, literary and personal values, showing their letters and words." 

Thanks so much to Kate at Kate's Library for giving me this award! I'm really excited about it!


Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Let me start off by saying this book is a depressing yet highly realistic view into a tragic love story that viscously and contemptuously destroys almost every character in this novel. I want to say it's more a story about dispair and self-distruction than it is a love story, but it's not; it's both. It's a novel that highlights obsession and tormented love at it's finest.

The main characters of Wuthering Heights are both complex and compelling. Once you think you may have one figured out it becomes apparent that you really don't. Catherine Earnshaw is a crazy, selfish brat who I loved to hate (she is seriously BANANAS) and Heathcliff is a tortured and displaced soul who I hated to love. I would like to believe Heathcliff is misunderstood and deep down has a kind heart, but after finishing the novel it becomes clear he is truly malicious. But I still couldn't hate him. Rather, I felt bad for him. I wanted him to be happy or at least find a sliver of kindness in his body, but it never happened. He was a tortured soul until the end. I also really liked the structure of the novel. Told through Mr. Lockwood's diary as narrated from Nelly, the servant who has witnessed the novel's events unfold - genius.

For me, this was very much a departure from the bittersweet, everything-is-rainbows-and-butterflies type of love story and I liked that. I liked it a lot. It's like when I'm really upset about something and for one whole day I allow myself to be completly useless and embrace my sadness; eat pizza, drink wine, don't work out, watch tv, embrace it. That's what this book was like for me. It was a look into a world where nothing is happy and everyone hates each other and they die miserable.

That being said, those of you who haven't read this probably won't want to. But you should. Really. It's worth it. You can't help but relate to the tortured characters. Even crazy Cathy when she complains, "Oh, I am burning! I wish I were out of doors! I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free; and laughing at injuries, not maddening under them!"

Publisher: Barnes and Noble Classics
Year of First Edition: 1847


New Books!

The Angel's Game - Carlos Ruiz Zafon: I loved loved loved Shadow of the Wind and Angel's Game is it's prequel. Can't wait!

Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson: I read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in college and really liked it. Treasure Island should be a fun summer read.


Letters With Character

A couple of days ago I discovered Letters With Character; a collection of letters written by actual people to fictional characters. It's a really creative idea for a blog and they cover a wide range of accomplished authors:

This site was suggested by the highly anticipated What He's Poised To Do (Harper Perennial, June 2010), a collection of short stories by Ben Greenman, an editor at the New Yorkerand the author of several acclaimed books of fiction. The stories in the collection use letters and letter-writing to investigate human connection and disconnection. This blog has a related mission, which is to allow readers to interact directly with literary characters. Letters should be addressed to your favorite characters and sent to LettersWithCharacter@gmail.com.
Letters can be funny, sad, digressive, trenchant, or trivial. We receive too many submissions to publish every one; we strive for a balance of genres and periods. Letters must be written by a real person and must also address an unreal one. There are no other requirements.

So, I was inspired to write hate mail to Catherine Linton (which I posted yesterday) and today it was chosen for Letters With Character! Is it super dorky that this kind of stuff excites me?

My favorite letter I have come across so far, written for Edna from The Awakening - one of my favorite books:

Dear Edna,
Swim. Swim like there is no ending. Is there an ending? Are you still swimming? I don't know because there aren't any more pages left. What are you doing now? Did you make it there? Did you come back? Did you drown? Drown. Don't drown. Keep going until you see the next page, please. And I'll meet you there.
Shome Dasgupta

Book Blogger Hop

Thanks to Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books for hosting this book blogger hop! What a great way to connect with other book bloggers.

In the spirit of the Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and find new blogs that we may be missing out on! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs that they may not know existed! So, grab the logo, post about the Hop on your blog, and start HOPPING through the list of blogs that are posted in the Linky list below!!

Join the hop at www.crazy-for-books.com

Congratulations, Jonathan Karp

"For Karp, it's like going to sleep running a classy bodega and waking up managing Bloomingdales."

-Robert Barnett on Jonathan Karp, who founded the imprint Twelve and now, will head Simon & Schuster beginning June 14th.


Top 20 Under 40

The New Yorker has named it's 20 Under 40 - it's favorite authors who are all under 40 years old. When they made the list 11 years ago it included relatively unknown authors at the time who grew to become renowned (Jhumpa Lahiri, Junot Diaz).

A couple of weeks ago I read that they were compiling the list again. Apparently the New Yorker's Editor-in-Chief was brushing his teeth one morning and thought to himself they hadn't done it in awhile, so why not?

Who made the list? I definitely called out one (Jonathan Safran Foer) but the others aren't as recognizable (save Nicole Krauss - Foer's wife!):

Chris Adrian, 39
Daniel Alarcón, 33
David Bezmozgis, 37
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, 38
Joshua Ferris, 35
Nell Freudenberger, 35
Rivka Galchen, 34
Nicole Krauss, 35
Yiyun Li, 37
Dinaw Mengestu, 31
Philipp Meyer, 36
C. E. Morgan, 33
Téa Obreht, 24
Z Z Packer, 37
Karen Russell, 28
Salvatore Scibona, 35
Wells Tower, 37
Jonathan Safran Foer, 33
Chimamada Ngozi Adichie, 32

To my disappointment I have only read the work of one of these authors (and only recognize a handful of their names). Next time I'm at the bookstore I am going to pick up a few books written by them. So, my question to you is have you read anything by any of these authors (besides Krauss and Foer)? What was it? Did you like it?

I've also got to say that the youngest person on this list is my age. Kudos to her. Clearly she is on the right track. To make this kind of list at the age of 24 is quite the accomplishment.

A Letter to Catherine Linton

Dear Cathy,

You are really starting to annoy me with your whiny disposition and refusal to act like a sane, rational woman. At first it was entertaining but you're all grown up now. Eat something already and take a sleeping pill - you'll wake up feeling great. You're constructing your "illness" in your head because you are used to getting whatever you want. If you miss Heathcliff so much then do something about it! Mopping around your room isn't going to change a thing. Stop acting like a child.



Chuck Bass as Heathcliff?

I'm about halfway through Wuthering Heights and it's fantastic so naturally I imdb'd the title. It looks like there have been a handful of movies made and there is one in production - starring Ed Westwick as Heathcliff!

I haven't watched Gossip Girl in ages but the characteristcs that embody Heathcliff (brooding, misunderstood, sinister yet sexy) are perfect for the face behind Chuck Bass.

I suppose my only gripe with Westwick is that he is a little young - maybe someone in their late 20's would have been more suitable. However Ed appeals to that demographic of young teenage girls who will hopefully come to fall in love with Wuthering Heights like I have.

"And, as to you Catherine, I have a mind to speak a few words now, while we are at it. I want you to be aware that I know you have treated me infernally - infernally! Do you hear? And if you flatter yourself that I don't perceive it, you are a fool; and if you think I can be consoled by sweet words, you are an idiot: and if you fancy I'll suffer unrevenged, I'll convince you of the contrary, in a very little while!" Muuuuahahahaha. Perfect for Ed!