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Archive for the ‘books’ Category

the enchanted

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

I have been waiting & waiting for this day. I read a manuscript of The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld last year and loved it so much I wanted to push it on people immediately but I had to be patient because it wasn’t coming out until March 4th, 2014 and hurrah! That day is finally here.

the enchanted

 

This is an exquisitely written, deep, dark book with a marvelous buoyancy that somehow keeps it from being too heavy which is particularly impressive considering it’s set on death row. The closest thing I can think to compare it to is The Shawshank Redemption, but truly I’ve never read anything like it.

And the finished book is just beautiful, with golden horses.

enchanted

Here’s my complete quote:

“The Enchanted wrapped its beautiful and terrible fingers around me from the first page and refused to let go after the last. A wondrous book that finds transcendence in the most unlikely of places, enshrouding horrible things in a gossamer veil of fantasy with a truly unforgettable narrator. So dark yet so exquisite.”

2013 favorites: books

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

2013 favorite books

Favorite Books Read in 2013

In order, as pictured, from left to right and going down the typewriter-sitting pile:

NOS4A2 – Joe Hill.  I believe my Twitter-length review was “made me fear Christmas and children more than I did already” but the tiny pointed teeth only scratch the surface of this epic ride of a novel. I can’t remember the last time I read something that took supernatural elements and wove them into the real world so masterfully and believably. Also, perfect holiday gift.

The Rathbones – Janice Clarke. Has my name on the cover for good reason, I adored this book to little pieces. Myth wrapped in sea shanty and family history, so beautifully told. I cannot wait to see what Janice does next, though of course I am going to be incredibly patient.

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson. I went on a Kate Atkinson bender last year so I was very much looking forward to this one and it didn’t disappoint. It also didn’t hurt that I read it in February surrounded by snow while housesitting for my parents, perfect mood for it. If you haven’t read it yet, winter would be a great time to dive in.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman. If I had a book to define my year it would be this one. Which I read early because Twitter is Magic and that of course led to more magic things. But beyond that, this lovely little book made me want to write again, in that magical way that I haven’t been feeling enough lately, and I got to thank Neil Gaiman for that personally.

Sailor Twain, or The Mermaid in the Hudson – Mark Siegel. I’d seen this on many of last year’s best books lists and I was curious but I still didn’t expect it to be as surprising and wonderful as it is. Beautiful art, beautiful story. I’ve been using it as a gateway drug for anyone who tells me they’ve never read a graphic novel.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – Robin Sloan. Had you told me at the outset that this book would make me cry I would not have believed you but it snuck up on me at the end. I have a thing for endings, and while this book was fantastic fun the whole way through the very last pages are perfection. Also it glows in the dark.

Hyperbole and a Half – Allie Brosh. I have said it before, I will say it again: I am grateful to live in a world that has Allie Brosh in it. I’ve been a fan of her blog for years and her posts on depression (I & II) are brilliant and funny and wonderfully real. I am grateful to have her words and pictures in book form to live on my shelf so I can re-read them over and over even without electricity or batteries.

Jim Henson: The Biography – Brian Jay Jones. I don’t really read biographies. I’ve read a few for research but that’s about it. I picked this up on a whim and then couldn’t put it down. It reminded me how much I grew up on all things Henson and Muppets and how much of an influence on my creative self he was and how I forget that sometimes because it’s so deeply engrained. I don’t remember a time pre-Muppets. I’m pretty sure The Great Muppet Caper was the first movie I saw in the theatre and I made my dad stay through the credits so we were the only ones left when Gonzo takes a photo of the audience. This biography is wonderful and engaging and a fantastic peek behind the curtain.

Y: The Last Man – Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra.  We went to Midtown Comics and started chatting with one of the booksellers (comicsellers? gurus?) who after he found out our tastes went on about all things Brian K. Vaughan. I got one volume of Y and then immediately had to read the rest of it. It’s epic and smart and surprising. I read a lot more Vaughan this  year but this one was my favorite, though I’m excited to see where Saga goes in the future. (Related: if anyone can tell me where I can find volume 4 of the deluxe editions of Ex Machina I’d appreciate it, I have all the others & I still don’t really understand why 4 is the elusive one.)

 

And a special bonus non-pictured tease because it was easily one of the very best things I’ve read this year, and possibly ever:

The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld. Not out until March 2014, but oh, this book. It is exquisite. I won’t tell you too much since it’s not available yet but I read it months ago in manuscript form and I’m so glad it has a perfect cover and I cannot wait to tweet and shout and spread the word about it. It’s extraordinary, truly.

 

So those are the favorites of the year for 2013. I had an off-kilter reading year, got a lot of things read in the first half of the year and then fell off the reading wagon a bit. (December was eaten by The Goldfinch. Still not done with it yet.) But it was a year full of wonderful books and surprises and I hope next year will bring even more.

double book birthday!

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

It is finally August 6th! I have been waiting for this day for so long because two of the best books I’ve read in the past year are out today, hurrah! Double book birthday!

(This is one of the frustrating aspects of getting advanced copies of things, waiting so long to be able to share fabulous new book discoveries.)

First, SAVE YOURSELF by the wonderful Kelly Braffet.

save yourselfI never know how to describe this book which I personally think of as an excellent quality in a novel. I’ve seen it called a thriller but it’s the kind of thriller that occurs in your backyard, in your neighborhood, at your convenience store. Where things have gone wrong before and will go wrong again and all you can do is keep turning the pages. One of those extraordinary books where the characters feel like living, breathing people. Dark and bleak yet so compelling. You know that feeling when you’re reading and you’re scared about what might happen but you have to find out and you feel all conflicted and nervous and it’s just delicious? That feeling. A lot.

This is the first novel of Kelly’s that I’ve read and I’m very much looking forward to reading her previous books. (Kelly is also featured in this fabulous NYT Magazine article about the absurdly talented King family.)

And sharing the auspicious August 6th book birthday, THE RATHBONES by Janice Clark.

rathbonesMy name is on the cover there so I think it’s probably obvious that I loved this one, but here’s the whole quote:

“Part odyssey, part ancestral mystery and part sea shanty, all brilliantly entwined and soaked in Greek myth. Mercy’s journey over sea and shore and through extraordinary family history is a remarkable tale, both epic and intimate. The Rathbones itself feels as though it was loom-woven or carved in whalebone. Beautifully crafted and elegantly told. A siren song of a story.”

I was super nervous when I picked this up because it seemed like it could have gone amiss with the layering of the Odyssey with whales and New England but it steers itself through this beautiful inbetween of reality and myth. It’s Janice’s debut novel and I cannot wait for her next one but I will be patient because I’m not one to talk on such a subject.

Go forth! Buy books! Read on beaches with sand between your toes or lounged upon backyard grass or couch curled or wherever your reading spot of preference is! It’s only August, still plenty of summer reading time.

post-ocean blue dress gratitude

Monday, June 24th, 2013

Last week I got to wear a blue (blue! not black!) dress and interview Neil Gaiman and talk about The Ocean at the End of the Lane and admit in front of hundreds of people that I’ve never seen Doctor Who.

(I know. I’m sorry.)

I had planned on doing some sort of post-event blog post but then afterwards I really wasn’t sure what to say.

I had a lot of fun and though I was supremely nervous it went really well and everyone including Neil seemed very pleased with everything. He’s remarkably easy to interview considering he kept answering questions before I even asked them. Perhaps he’s clairvoyant. I met him for the very first time about an hour before we were on stage so the whole thing felt remarkably surreal.

There is an excellent writeup of the evening over on Tor.com (though I think a few of the quotes about whether or not we die may be misattributed).

I had many more questions than we had time for, though my main goal was to talk about things that maybe weren’t being talked about at every single stop on his tour, and we got tiny frogs in teacups and BPAL and Mythic Boy Jesus so I’d call that a win.

One of the last audience questions posed to Neil was “Who is your favourite living writer?” and of course it was a longer list than just one, and included a few recently no longer living writers as well, like Iain Banks and Diana Wynne Jones.

And I thought in that moment how incredibly lucky I was to be sitting there, when I will never get the opportunity to meet the other gigantic influence on my writer-brain I mentioned in my babbling introduction, the incomparable Douglas Adams.

There is a sentiment I am concerned got a bit lost in that babbling during that introduction (I was nervous), which is this:

I would not be the writer I am today without Neil Gaiman.

I’m not sure I would even be a writer at all without him.

I discovered his work at the perfect time for my developing story-brain and I am eternally grateful for that.

I’m not sure the gratitude got properly expressed then, so here’s an extra Thank You, Neil for good measure:

Thank you, Neil.

For your work and for asking me to do this event and for being a real live lovely person.

(Also I am sorry that I inadvertently stole the title of that Batman thing, but The Night Circus is indeed a really good title.)

Erin & Neil

gaiman-y post (goes well with tea)

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Neil Gaiman’s lovely, brilliant The Ocean at the End of the Lane comes out today, hurrah!

I’d tell you what I think of it but if you’re reading this you probably already know, and in case you didn’t, this is what the back cover looks like:

ocean back cover

I was asked by the publisher if they could use a quote that was an amalgamation of things I’d said on Twitter and here and of course I said yes. I truly thought they’d use it in promotional materials or something, so when I received a finished copy of the book with this on the back I was surprised and delighted and I am absolutely honored that my name is on this book.

BookRiot is all Gaiman, all the time today and as part of it they’ve posted the Neil Gaiman Introductory Tea Service I wrote for their Start Here project. (The short version of this from now on will just be: “Read The Ocean at the End of the Lane” because it would truly be an excellent book to start with.)

Tomorrow night at Symphony Space I shall be in conversation with Mr. Gaiman himself and I have all sorts of things (non-spoilery things!) to ask about this book and general things about writing and stories and myths and memories and such. As I’ve mentioned before, the event is already sold out so my apologies for that. Hopefully it will not be like the anxiety dream I had last night where I couldn’t find my cards with my questions and topics and there was hardly anyone there and all anyone wanted to talk about was baking.

(I shall be signing as well so do please bring your circusy things if you’d like me to sign them. If you do not have circusy things, there will be copies of The Night Circus for sale.)

Today I will be re-reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane so it is fresh in my mind and drinking lots of tea (yerba mate with coconut sugar) and wondering why I still feel like I am comparatively new to the world of Neil Gaiman when I’ve been reading his books for over a decade.

on ARCs and blurbs and (yet again) time

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

For those of you who don’t know (and I, despite years as a rather avid reader, had no idea until I started figuring out how to get published) an ARC is an Advance (or Advanced) Reader (or Reader’s or Reading) Copy (the C seems to always be for copy). They are also sometimes called galleys, for additional confusion. They’re sent out to booksellers/librarians/reviewers before the book itself is published so people can decide to stock or sell or review it, and they also send them to authors in order to get the little quotable endorsement phrases (blurbs) on the covers or on posters or t-shirts or whatnot. (Blurbs on t-shirts might not be a thing, actually, but someone should look into that. For BEA, maybe.)

So you have likely all seen blurbs on books. You may have already seen blurbs by me on books, of which there are two that are already in book form and two more on their way to being books (I shall give you a peek at the third at the end of this post). I have, to date, blurbed four whole books. I have been sent a lot more than that, though.

This is my current pile of things received late last year & year-to-date, with a bunny on top:

giant arc pile with bunny

 

It’s already more books than I could read in a year, especially a year where I should be writing a novel. (A novel which is requiring reading other not-in-the-pile books for research-esque purposes, too.) Which brings me to a sad but true confession:

I’m a slow reader.

Not like, glacial slow but it takes me a good chunk of time to read a standard length novel. I’ve been trying to keep track of everything I read this year and so far I’m managing about four books a month. So, no too shabby, but not enough to keep up with my for-my-own-entertainment, for writing research *and* please-blurb-me books, especially since the blurb-requesting ones are time sensitive. Like little book time bombs. Luckily they remain readable after the time limit expires. I am working on a way to stop time in order to read more, but so far I haven’t mastered it.

I’ve been trying my best to reply to the expired ones (just sent another batch of analogy-filled emails today) as much as I can, though sometimes I can’t find a specific contact email, and one of the emails I sent in this batch came back with an autoreply stating the editor no longer worked at the publisher. Oops.

Luckily I still have some time to possibly read a decent percentage of the pile but the other thing I have learned through this whole process is that I am absurdly picky. I like a lot of books but the ones I love enough to press on others and put my name on in blurby endorsement form are rarer.

Maybe there’s a book I’ll love in the pile somewhere or one will arrive in an envelope sometime soon (they arrive quite frequently) and hopefully I’ll manage to read it in a timely manner. It’s strange to be asked for such things, and even stranger to me that my name on someone else’s book makes any sort of difference. But I’m glad to be able to help boost the signal when I read something extraordinary.

So the next thing that will be appearing on bookshelves with my name on it is a book I mentioned very briefly in my list of books I read & enjoyed last year. It’s called The Resurrectionist, it unfortunately doesn’t come out until May but I was given an early copy and it’s even more gorgeous than I’d expected.

resurrectionist

 

resurrectionist blurb

 

I got to use so many of my favorite words in that blurb.

That’s another thing, for things I do blurb I try to avoid the “This book is better than kittens” generic sort of quote and try to be as descriptive and evocative of what I liked about it as I can. I won’t tease you with anything about blurbed book #4 since it won’t be out until September, but I seriously spent hours coming up with the right combination of words and I’m still mildly bitter that I didn’t manage to get the word “salt” in there somewhere.

And the moral of this post is I need more time to read. Or more time in general, that would be nice.

read this.

Monday, January 28th, 2013

penumbra

 

I spent a good chunk of the weekend reading Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

I had wanted to read it for a while because I like the title and I’m a sucker for books about books.

Also, the cover glows in the dark.

(Seriously. I checked.)

Also also, it has my name on the back of the (glow-in-the-dark) cover:

harkaway blurb

I figured if Nick Harkaway had such lovely things to say about it it would probably be worth reading.

It is.

It is fun and funny and just plain enjoyable. It has mysterious books and thievery and Google (the place!) and it reminded me a bit of Ready Player One in tone. It celebrates both the old and the new in delightful ways.

And it has the honor of being the first book of 2013 to make me cry, completely unexpectedly. Happy tears of that good-book-sucker-punch-to-the-place-in-the-heart-where-the-booklove-lives sort.

Also, it glows in the dark.

(If there was ever a reason to get the paper book instead of the e-version, there you go.)

So since that was my weekend, I was extra delighted this morning to hear that it received an Alex Award, hurrah! (I haven’t read any of the other winners, bad me. More to add to the to-read list.)

books i read in 2012 & particularly enjoyed

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

2012 was a weird reading year for me. I feel like I didn’t read quite as much as I did last year. I read bits of things and more non-fiction than I usually do, there was more grazing than proper book devouring. I still got through a decent number of books. I didn’t, however, keep a proper list so I spent a lot of time staring at my shelves trying to remember if I read things this year or last year. For 2013 I will attempt to keep a proper list.

This is in no way, shape or form a “best of” list. This is stuff I read in 2012 and liked a lot. Most of them were not published this year.

There are two books in here that ended up with my name on them. There are a couple that had been on the to-read shelf for years. There’s a book that I read in its entirety in all of 15 minutes last week. There’s a cocktail book.

And a whole lot of Kate Atkinson.

Here is your visual aid*:

2012 books

Let’s start with the Kate Atkinson, shall we? My reading year was Atkinson-themed, I’d acquired Case Histories in Canada during my 2011 book tour and I took it on an airplane this year partially because it was a good size to fit in my bag and I got kind of obsessed after that and read all the Jackson Brodie books. I adore the way she writes, and I love a good mystery, and I love a multi-faceted narrative where everything feels disparate at first but then everything connects. They’re my new favorites to push on people, because sadly not nearly enough people in this country have read her books, but I hope that changes.

Rest of the tower, in order from top:

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories is filled with tiny bits of wonderment and delicious illustrations and it only took me 15 minutes (possibly less) to read but I know I will read it again and again.

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen. First of the two with my name on them, I read this book before it was published in the US, curled up on a February afternoon with a pot of tea. I simply adore it, I’ve pontificated about it before, I recommend it to people whenever I can, book evangelist, etc. LOVE THIS BOOK. Love.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn. Had been sitting on the to-read shelf far too long, partially because I was avoiding circus books in general while working on The Night Circus. Finally read it and loved it this year, both a little bit sorry that I waited so long and a little bit glad because I think I read it at the right time for me.

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry. This was given to me by a lovely bookseller at Politics & Prose last year but I didn’t get around to reading it until this year, after several other people had recommended it to me, usually after hearing that I’m working on a fantastical detective-esque book-thing. It is a delightfully surreal detective story, and having spent a great deal of time reading a lot of classic, not-so-surreal detective stories lately I loved it all the more.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett. I meant to get to this last year but didn’t actually get a hold of it until it was out in paperback though I am pleased about that because the paperback is such a pretty color. This was one of those books I couldn’t put down and then couldn’t stop thinking about afterward, though it made me oddly melancholy.

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. True confession: I have owned it since it came out in paperback but I only finally got around to it because I wanted to read it before I saw the movie. People have been recommending this to me for years knowing my taste in books, so I think I expected to like it a bit more than I did. I loved certain sections, I only liked others, but the book as a whole is astonishing. (I liked the movie, too.)

The Last Policeman by Ben H. Winters. As I mentioned, I have been reading a lot of detective stories. I also have apocalypse fatigue. I was primed to not like this book and I loved it. I especially loved the treatment of the impending end of the world, which felt nuanced and real and yet never overwhelmed the mystery, only informed it.

The PDT Cocktail Book by Jim Meehan & Chris Gall. I think it is fair to say that I drank more cocktails this year than I read books, but I did also start collecting more cocktail books which should count for something. This is one of my favorites, because beyond having fantastic cocktail recipes it’s an interesting, gorgeously illustrated book.

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler & Maira Kalman. The Basic Eight remains one of my all-time favorites, and this book reinforced my belief that Daniel Handler is or has been an adolescent girl, even though I’ve met him and he appears convincingly manly in person. This would be a brilliant, bittersweet story on its own but the Maira Kalman illustrations of the contents of the break-up box turn it into something extraordinary.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway. Read as 2011 turned into 2012 and I said last year it’d likely make the 2012 favorites list and it did, of course. And it has the honor of being the very first book I ever blurbed, which makes it special. Also, it’s shiny. Also also, it truly did give me a raging crush on a fictional lawyer.

 

*Other books I enjoyed in 2012 that are not pictured for various reasons:

Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard, lent to me and thus not in the pile. First Ballard I’ve ever read and some of the imagery will be in my head forever, I’m certain.

Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, because I read it before everyone found out he was a lying liar who lies and I loved it then, and I still love a lot of the ideas behind it.

The Resurrectionist by E.B. Hudspeth. I read a PDF galley and I cannot wait to see the finished book when it comes out next year. Beautiful and macabre, one of my very favorite combinations.

 

pontifications on the to-read pile (with mini-pile)

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

I will not say that I have too many books. I would never say that, even if I had All The Books which is probably impossible. Even if I had Most Of The Books, which I’m sure I don’t. But I have a lot of books. And I have a great many that I haven’t managed to read yet.

I did a quick count just to get an estimate, I went around to most of my shelves and counted the books I hadn’t read yet. I stopped at 200, and that wasn’t all the shelves and I didn’t even look at the ever-growing pile of advance copies sitting in the office. I have been accumulating books at a much faster rate than I can read them. They even show up in the mail all unexpected-like. And of course I am almost always incapable of visiting a bookstore without buying a book or five.

I think I’m at the point where 40-50% of the books I own I haven’t read yet. I used to keep them all on one shelf and had aspirations of keeping the to-read books contained to that single shelf but that never really worked and now they’re everywhere. They make me feel slightly less guilty this way, camouflaged in with books I have read.

I need more time to read.

I’m not the fastest reader. I’m not the slowest, either, but it takes me a few days to read a decent-sized book, especially when I’m busy which is pretty much always lately. I’ve become slightly more fond of travelling just because it gives me more time to read.

(Though, as an aside, the travel reading tends to mean that the hardcovers stay unread longer because the paperbacks are more travel-friendly. Yes I am aware that an e-reader would help with this but I have tried and failed at e-reading and I like my paper books with their delicate fibers beneath my fingertips and also I am far too fond of flipping back and forth.)

Since it would have been architecturally dangerous to pile all the to-read books into a proper to-read pile I instead put together a sampling of things that I am really looking forward to but haven’t gotten to read yet because of that pesky time thing. Hopefully all of these will be read in 2013, I should have more reading time next year.

 to-reads

books in tower form

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

I am quite frequently asked about books. Usually about books I like or that I’d recommend and I’ve been meaning to do book posts for the blog for ages, so December is going to have lots of them and this is the first one, featuring a tower of books.

This is not an ideal bookshelf or an all time favorites or any sort of thoughtfully curated list. This is what happened when I wandered around my apartment searching my bookshelves for the books that seemed like they should be in this pile to be blog-shared.

Caveats: there is nothing in this pile that I read in 2012, that post is separate and forthcoming (a preview: I fell in really deep booklove with Kate Atkinson this year). There are a lot of old favorites here, one of them is so old it has my signature inked inside the cover to distinguish it from when I first read it in high school, several have been read many times over. I purposefully did not choose multiple titles by single authors (though Smoke & Mirrors, Fingersmith & all the other Amphigoreys tried really hard to get in on the book tower action).

Also, I’m not going to go on about why I love every book in this pile. For one thing, this post would get far too long, and for another, booklove is a personal sort of thing and it doesn’t always fall easily into short sentences or even words. I hugged my copy of Einstein’s Dreams when I pulled it off the shelf, that’s probably all you need to know.

So here is Erin’s Tower of Books She Loves & Hopes You Might, Too. Presented in easiest-to-stack order and followed by a list of titles & authors.

From top to bottom:

Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood

The Litte Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Griffin & Sabine by Nick Bantock

Tales From Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Amphigorey by Edward Gorey