Friday, February 27, 2009

The Talent

I surf over here every now and again for the lovely wit (haven't read any of her novels so can't say anything beyond that I like her blog writing) and this post had me laughing just at the title. It's possible I've been reading too much Smart Bitches, Trashy Books but The Talent seems like a saucy nickname for a large penis.

Apologies to MJ, she wasn't being immaturely crass, that's reserved for me!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Margaret Atwood describes a sticky situation.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Letter to a Friend

Question from a friend: I'm finding a lot more time to read. Have you read the Twilight Series. It is a fun romance/drama/horror? I'm almost done so if you have any good books to recommend, let me know.

Answer for a friend:
Oh man, did you ask this of the right person at the right time (or the wrong person at the wrong time depending on how you look at it - I'm about to give you an eyefull:)!?!? I looooooooove to read and am always reading and almost always thinking about new books. On top of that I'm back into my own writing which has sent me zipping around cyberspace getting writing/author tips and so I have been reading a ton of author/book news. To do the best possible job I can it'd be great if you told me what kind of books you enjoy reading. Or rather, if you like a lot of stuff but there are certain things you don't want to read just tell me those so I don't suggest anything that is outside of what you prefer to read.

Anyway, to answer your original question I have not read the Twilight series. I am very familiar with them, their author, etc. I really like young adult (YA) fiction, and I really like fantasy but I often don't enjoy books that are set in high school. I don't mind if the characters are high school age but I need them to be in a setting other than high school. However, I may eventually give these a try. I'd love to hear what you thought of them.

As for some suggestions I highly recommend The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (YA fantasy). This book began a series so there are two books that follow. They are set in a fictional history that is inspired by the terrain of the Greek coastline. I have read each book in the series at least three times. I really like them. :)

If you like historical fiction, Katherine by Anya Seton is very good. It is well-written, well-researched and a true to life 'fairytale' love story. It always makes me feel like a giggly school girl. Another historical fiction book I like (and not at all a love story:) is Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield

I'm not usually a big fan of memoirs but The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls was really interesting to me.

Two good non-fiction books I have read recently are:
Black Hawk Down by Mark Bowden
Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

A few fiction titles that I think are very good are:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay [Ed. Note. I no longer recommend this book]
Pretty Birds by Scott Simon
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Ok, this was probably more than what you were expecting! I tried to give a variety depending on what you are in the mood for. Let me know if you want more (hehe) or rather just some more suggestions in a certain genre. Also, I'm on so if you're interested in sharing book ideas there I can send you an invite to join...I think.

Ah, happy *sigh*! I love talking about books. I miss my book clubs and I miss having a great variety of English language books. However, since the library here [Utrecht, Netherlands] has foreign language sections at all I should probably not complain.

Happy reading!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bloody Great!*

The best dedication ever can be found in Terry Pratchett's Guards! Guards!

"They may be called the Palace Guard, the City Guard, or the Patrol. Whatever the name, their purpose in any work of heroic fantasy is identical: it is, round about Chapter Three (or ten minutes into the film) to rush into the room attack the hero one at a time, and be slaughtered. No-one ever asks them if they wanted to.

This book is dedicated to those fine men."

*phrase I sincerely hope we Americans will poach from British English. It is, well, bloody great!

Friday, February 6, 2009

What makes a good book?

As an avid reader of author, agent, and reader blogs the idea of what makes a good book is oft discussed (argued) with almost more opinions than there are books, good or otherwise. Since I love to read, am trying to be a writer, and write book reviews these discussions got me thinking of my criteria.

First a tangent:

For most of the years of my existence I went wandering through libraries and book stores thinking there were four kinds of books: good, bad, ones I liked, ones I didn’t like. Simple, easy, comforting. Now I have learned that books (apparently) have all these categories. The two big umbrella categories are fiction and non-fiction. Fair enough, it’s nice to know where to go for the reference books and it’d be weird (though not unpleasant) to stumble across a fantasy novel whilst looking for a book on home repairs.

Let’s stand under only one umbrella for now and talk about fiction. Right now I’m thinking of the library and it’s nice to have adult, young adult, and children’s sections for ease of shelving. Still no beef with this, but now we’re in a pickle. Mixed in with all these books I have learned are genre books!

Here you might ask, what’s the big deal about genres?


What’s the big deal about genres? What’s with genre fiction? I’ve recently come by the statements “I read genre fiction” or “I don’t like genre fiction.” WTF? Please place the book in front of me that can not be listed under a genre heading! I’m pretty sure such a book does not exist. Even if it’s one of those completely random stream of consciousness books it’s still going to go under the Stream of Consciousness genre. Since I don’t like that particular style does that mean I don’t like genre books?

Ok, ok, I do actually know what people are trying to say when they say genre fiction. But if a book is well done then what the hell does genre have to do with its merit?

And this is the first of my criteria for a good book. It transcends.

A good book transcends genre, transcends caveats like “it was a good book except for…” I think a truly exceptional book would even transcend time and age group but I hesitate to make that a criterion. Some books are good precisely because they are so rooted in the time in which they were published, and still others are good books even if a Reader might not be ready for them in their teens or too mature for them by retirement.

The second of my criteria is a good book will display excellence of craft. For a book to truly be good it must be well-written and well-plotted with outstanding character development.

The last of my criteria is that a good book will be accessible. I firmly believe that a book must be accessible to an audience. I don’t see the point of writing a book if it is not.

You’ll notice from my four categories that I did not assume that I would like every good book or dislike every bad book. I have read books that I thought were lovely examples of craft yet still I did not care for them. Conversely, I’ve read books that would not have got a passing grade in some of my writing classes (I will not insult them by calling them trashy, or worse, genre books) but that I loved and read twice! This is where the subjective of good and bad comes in but I think that’s separate from the objective (or at least as objective as anyone can be when analyzing art).

And even if you were to agree with my criteria I bet we could come up with a lot of books where we disagree re whether they are good or bad (in fact, you can give that a try by checking out my goodreads list). And that’s where the objective part gets fuzzy, though I think that’s the fun of a topic that has no right answer.

So my brief flirtation with trying to understand genre books will be happily put aside. I return to good, bad, books I like, books I don’t like and I am relieved that something as irrelevant as genre won't prevent me from reading a really good book!

And as they say in one of the very best books, be blessed in your endeavors!