Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
You can find all my old reviews at the new site, but they are better organized - there's a reading list with links to each review and I've revised my tags and categories so you can find the reviews you're interested in more easily.
I'll be posting reviews in both places for a while and I am planning some giveaways to christen the new site. Come on over and make sure you're on my RSS feed!
We've got one major spammer going to prison, let's hope others end up in the same place. I would love to see an internet free of spam and malware.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Those of you who frequent a number of book blogs may be familiar with Dewey, a well-known blogger who passed away this time last year. She was a force in the on-line community - sponsoring and supporting a variety of the events we all participate in. Lisa at Online Publicist came up with a lovely idea to comemmorate Dewey and spread the charitable spirit around the holidays.
Here's how it works
"Here's what you do: Gather up the books you can live without. It can be 4
books, 10 books, or 20 books! Find a worthy group you would like to donate your overflow books to. It can be your local library, a literacy campaign (mine will go to the literacy center I volunteer for), or overseas. There's a great list of
book donation sites here on the ALA. Find a charity that speaks to you!*Then take a picture of your donation and email it to me (onlinepublicist [AT] gmail [DOT] com). It can be a pic of the mailing label on your package, one of your kids giving a box of books to a librarian, or you handing books over to your literacy center. Be creative and have fun!"
I will definitely be pulling together a pile of books. I can think of several local charities that might be able to use them (my local library is kind of funny about donations). I sometimes forget that although I consider books a necessity, for others they are a luxury, a luxury they set aside when there is barely enough for food and shelter. I hope these find their way into the hands of someone who will really enjoy them.
For more information, check out Lisa's post on The Dewey Tree.
Monday, November 30, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Paul Rudnick is one of those names that I was complete unfamiliar with, until I read his book. As he told his stories, I kept thinking “oh! I remember Sister Act!” “I’ve heard of Allan Carr!” “He wrote The Addams Family? I never knew that!” It was part discovery, part reunion, full of funny bits, a little gossip, and some entirely fictional chapters that were, perhaps, my favorite parts. It is wickedly funny, even — maybe especially — when recounting the worst stories. All in all, it was a pleasure to read.
I Shudder isn’t exactly a memoir, although it’s full of funny stories about his family, his Hollywood contacts, the plays he’s written and the people he’s met. Between these stories, there is also a (hopefully) fictional memoir, “An Excerpt from the Most Deeply Intimate and Personal Diary of One Elyot Vionnet.” Elyot is a bizarre character, a semi-retired substitute teacher living in a perfect studio apartment that almost overlooks Gramercy Park. One worries about what he might be teaching those impressionable young minds:
As this is my most deeply intimate and personal diary, I am assuming that it will one day be introduced into evidence at my trial.
Surely I can’t be the only one who goes to the movies but never remembers the name of the screenwriter. Paul Rudnick was involved with some very funny movies, but I had never heard his name. Frankly, even if I had, it might not have helped. There is a long chapter devoted to his involvement with Sister Act, but his name does not appear when I check my source for all things movie-related,IMDb.com. Still, he tells great stories about bringing the original treatment of Sister Act to producer Scott Rudin and how they originally met with Disney, and snagged Bette Midler in the lead role. A host of meetings later, this nice Jewish boy was on his way to a convent in rural Connecticut for some hands-on research.
In the end, Bette Midler didn’t star, Whoopi Goldberg was very funny as Deloris, but Rudnick has never been able to bring himself to watch it.
Renting a wonderful Gothic apartment that was once the retreat of John Barrymore inspired a play, I Hate Hamlet, about a young actor living in the same apartment, working on the role of Hamlet and being visited by the ghost of John Barrymore. The downfall of the entire play is choosing Nicol Williamson – an unfamiliar name but a very familiar face — to play Barrymore. Rudnick makes Williamson’s utter disintegration both funny and tragic. He gives Allan Carr much the same treatment — Carr is a flamboyant, extravagant character, and Rudnick knows him in both high times and hard times.
In between chapters full of stories so funny you wonder if they’re fiction, you’ll find some actual fiction. The story of Elyot Vionnet is the very best sort of dark, sarcastic humor. His campaign to make Hallie Tesler stop talking on her cell phone is utterly ruthless — and it does not have quite the intended effect. His stint as Mr. Christmas (and his various holiday visitations) require a certain sense of style:
I instantly donned my tuxedo, a garment which still appears sleek and fresh, although it has been passed down through over eighty generations of Vionnet men, and, of course, Great Aunt Vestra Vionnet, who wore the family tux to bewitch half the women of Bucharest. No, Vestra was not Europe’s first lesbian postmistress, but she was the first one to get it right.
In I Shudder, the fiction and non-fiction go well together. The stories are great — his mother and her crazy sisters, his partner John, his time at the Chelsea Hotel. Chapters sped by and I laughed often enough (and loudly enough) that people at the airport asked what I was reading. I always think that’s a good sign.
My copy of I Shudder: and Other Reactions to Life, Death and New Jersey by Paul Rudnick was an Advanced Reader Copy, provided free of charge.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
This teaser comes from I Shudder: and Other Reactions to Life, Death and New Jersey by Paul Rudnick. Rudnick is one of those Hollywood types you never heard of, but he wrote screenplays for movies like Sister Act, The Addams Family, and In & Out. So, kind of a funny guy. Really liked the book (look for my review today over at When Falls the Coliseum or later this week here on the blog) and I liked this quote because it's so seasonal:
Santa's appearance is a cruel prank: red velvet on a fat man, with a wide black patent leather belt to provide some stab at a waistline? the beard and the boots? Over the centuries, Santa has begun to dress like an effeminate, drunken lumberjack...
Okay, maybe my idea of a fun, seasonal quote is a little off the norm but admit it - it made you laugh. I know it did.
What's teasing YOU this week?
Sunday, November 22, 2009
It has been a banner week for new books at my house! First, some great stuff came in while I was in Houston (including one surprise book). Then, my favorite bookstore (Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cleveland) had their Member Appreciation Day. For a very reasonable membership fee, you get bonuses and coupons and discounts, plus they make donations to a charity of your choice from their list. Today, I had pages of coupons and so really, I had to buy books, didn't I? How could I resist? Too bad they don't sell bookshelves.
So, here are the new acquisitions - I can't decide which one to start with!
- The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Vintage) by Stieg Larsson
- Nine Dragons by Michael Connelly
- Pirate Latitudes: A Novel by Michael Crichton
- The Collectors by David Baldacci
- The Woods by Harlan Coben
- Brick Lane: A Novel by Monica Ali
- The Vampire's Assistant and Other Tales from the Cirque Du Freak (The Saga of Darren Shan) by Darren Shan
- Michael Symon's Live to Cook: Recipes and Techniques to Rock Your Kitchen by Michael Symon - this one is special because (a) it's autographed (well, initialed at least) and (b) because Michael is a hometown guy and I have been eating at his restaurants and listening to that terrific laugh of his for years. And now I finally have the recipe for the beef cheek pierogies!
Now, that's a pretty good haul, don't you think? I cannot wait to dig in to this pile of new books!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The Book of Lies is a tough review to write. There is so much going on, so many interesting side stories that I want to tell you about, but I don't want to spoil the surprises you have in store. There's Cain and Abel, a kid named Jerry Siegel, a dog named Benoni, a tractor-trailer full of melting shrimp, and the difficult relationships between fathers and sons. Add a healthy dose of mystery, ties to several real-life stories, and you've got The Book of Lies, a great mystery from a great mystery writer.Cal Harper is a damaged man. When he was 9 years old, his family fell apart -- a crazy mother, an angry father and one hard shove. He lost his job with the Customs Service when he tried to help a young woman who eventually betrayed him. Now, he spends his nights aiding other damaged people, picking up the homeless and getting them help. But one night, he comes across the one man he never expected to see: his father. He's wounded and Cal cannot resist -- who could? -- the chance to find out more.
The encounter with his father leads to more mystery. Lloyd Harper was shot and the gun has its own startling secret: it can be traced back to a 70+ year old murder. In 1932, Mitch Siegel was shot with the same gun during a robbery, leaving behind a wife and six children. The youngest of those children, Jerry, was an artist, and in their suburban Cleveland home, Jerry Siegel created one of the most well-known comic book characters of all time: Superman.
Lloyd Harper is behaving strangely and his estranged son wants to know why. His curiosity leads to muder -- with all the evidence pointing to Cal. The only way out is for Cal to find the real killer, which means tracking down a book that may contain the secrets to the very first murder.
In chapter four of the Bible, Cain kills Abel. It is the world's most famous murder. But the Bible is silent about one key detail: the weapon Cain used to kill his brother. That weapon is still lost to history.
The mystery leads Cal, Lloyd and Lloyd's friend Serena from Florida to Cleveland, Ohio. To a modest house in the suburbs -- the house where Superman was born:
Their quest is full of twists and turns. They are being hunted by a ruthless killer named Ellis, although they don't exactly know why. Ellis is in contact with The Prophet, a shadowy figure who is orchestrating the hunt -- and who may be closer than they think. I read the book in one long sitting and it kept me turning pages right up to the end. The final scenes bring all the disparate pieces of storyline together beautifully. This book was a terrific thrill ride.
The stories in the book about Superman are true and author Brad Meltzer knows them well. He founded an organization called Ordinary People Change the World to raise money to save the house in the picture above, the house where a kid named Jerry Siegel, who desperately missed his father, created the world's most powerful superhero. He began researching The Book of Lies as a way to solve the mystery surrounding Mitch Siegel's murder. There are many other bits of historical fact (as well as some interesting supposition) in the book. It's not exactly historical fiction, but it's a fast-paced, interesting story with enough grounding in real-life mysteries to send me Googling and surfing Wikipedia. I love it when books have that effect!
Brad Meltzer is the author of seven novels and four comics. (I loved the quote on his Comics page: "Every teenage boy has two fantasies: writing a comic book...and dating a Playboy centerfold. Only one of them is actually worthwhile." I wonder which one he meant...) He has even created a soundtrack for the novel - the first time I've ever run into that.
I won my copy of The Book of Lies in a giveaway sponsored by Bermudaonion's Weblog.