Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Plots? What plots?

Okay. So I realize I've been a little short on the whole reviewing part where you give a little hint at the plotline or basic point of a book. I'm so used to having to write reviews at work where I'm just supposed to have a few words of an impression without plot since people can just pick up the book and find that out from the back or inside of a book. But you, dear blog reader, cannot do that here. Duh. So from here on out I promise to give some sense of what the heck a book I'm talking about is actually...about!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Meaning of Tingo, Adam Jacot de Boinod

Check out the website for this delightful little book: The Meaning of Tingo. I read an excerpt from it that was published in the March issue of Smithsonian Magazine on "The Last Page" of the magazine, a little column that is, in fact, on the last page.

It is difficult to explain without revealing the fun linguistic oddities that Monsieur Jacot de Boinod shares, but one must hear a few of these to get the picture of this collection. Essentially, think of all the unique emotions, physicalities, weather anomalies, expressions, etc. that we experience in life for which we have no words to encapsulate them accurately. Imagine being able to use ONE WORD to express any of the following:

the gap between each finger and toe
the excess weight one gains from emotion-related overeating
face that cries out for a fist in it
looking beautiful after a disease

to walk along in the water searching for something with your feet
to walk in windy weather for fun
the swinging of long earrings or the swishing of a dress as one walks

to be swallowed like a postman's sock (hopelessly in love)
to sever one's intestines (broken heart)

a camel that won't give milk until her nostrils have been tickled
to exchange wives for a few days only
to borrow things from a friend's house, one by one, until there's nothing left

To find out the words for these expressions, as well as the languages of origin, you'll just have to buy the book.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


I am. I can't deny it.

OK. Brief bits.

Just recently read:

Floor Sample by Julia Cameron.
Memoir. Starts out strong and interesting. Carries on strongly but starts to taper out and feels more like a chronological listing of her mental state and correlating "episodes". Could have been truly a book about doing what you dream even when your own self fights you and despite poor past decisions. Sounds more and more like one big pity party with a lot of name dropping of the look-at-me-and-everyone-I-know kind. Too bad.

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen
I should do a post just for this book but someone else is borrowing it at the moment. So, in summary: Fantastic read, very interesting subject matter (Train Circuses), brilliant characters and so utterly well-researched that you really do feel like the writer was there and is now taking you with her. I really, really, really liked this book. Once you read the first page you will not be able to stop until you finish.

A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier.
Another book that should get more words. But I'm a slacker. Started this on Saturday afternoon. Finished it Sunday afternoon. It was all I wanted to do. The style of writing is known as "magical realism" for its slightly sci-fi leanings without being so...so....hard to believe? Yes, that's it. See, this was completely believable. In its pandemic that wipes out the population (except one lone female), the people who live in a city between earthly life and full-blown-gone-forever-death: both written in a way that you can believe that such situations and places do/could exist. Truly beautiful.

I'm trying to catch up on some books that are already out but we have Spring galleys coming soon. Eiiieeee! So I can't guarantee anything long, even if the book was stellar. Just a heads up!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Broken For You, Stephanie Kallos

I was a little late in actually getting around to reading this one. The life of a bookseller is fraught with advanced reader copies of books you need to read to push when they hit the shelves, re-discovering old books, stumbling across hidden treasures - and you must read them all!! Or at least identify them and learn a substantial bit about them from trustworthy resources. Argh! So, yes, I didn't read Secret Life of Bees until it had already been out in paperback for many moons and the author had already published another novel that was selling like mad. It's easy to get behind, needless to say.

So this last October at the Wisconsin Book Festival (mahvelous event!), I got to listen to Stephanie Kallos and Mya Goldberg speak and read bits of their works. I knew that Kallos' novel was a big hit with booksellers and readers alike. I knew I needed to read it. Listening to her read from the first chapter, I was smitten. Of course, it took until a couple weeks ago to actually start reading it. I went the audio-book route, however. I can read while going on walks or driving in the car (audiobooks are a GODSEND - audiobooks on iPod? Greatest combination of greatest inventions ever!). Kudos to the reader, first of all. She was a delight. ANd anyone who reads audiobooks knows that the reader can make or break a book.

I loved this book. There were turns in the plot and additions of character I had not expected. And they were believable, the twists and turns. The character development was so incredibly honest!! More prosaic than poetry, more of a character study than intricate plot. It is an experience worth having....letting these people into your lives and making their hopes and dreams yours. While I didn't leave it feeling wowed, it was so satisfying a read that I felt more in touch with my own humanness when I was done. I do fear that the author used every trick in her book to write this and that her next novel won't be nearly as splendid. Unless this was just the unlocking of herself novelistically (yes, I just made that up), being the emobodiment of the rule: "Write what you know", and the next one will surpass what she knows without losing any of its honesty about people and emotions.

I can only hope.