Friday, November 28, 2008

Readings on Reading

As a sick, sick bookworm not only do I love reading books- I even dig reading ABOUT books. Books about books, magazines, blogs, you name it. Soon- after a healthy amount of Netflixing- I'll have a post centering on films about or centered around books. Not films based on books or where the plot is someone writing a book- but book-centric movies. If that confuses you, just be glad you're not having to dig them up with that designation!

Anyway, back to this post.One of my favorites is Bookmarks magazine, which is a great read if you love reading about books- but it's REALLY great if you don't have time to surf around and find out what's worth reading in new releases. They basically take a book, give a brief synopsis and background on it and/or the author, then collect a handful of random reviews on that book, ranging from the highest to lowest rated. They re-print about a paragraph's worth of the review, and include the "meat" of what the reviewer truly felt about the book. So if you're a book lover who doesn't want to spend all your free time reading up multiple reviews on possible To Be Reads, it's a nice resource.

All their content includes a TON of lists of books, but they do it in a clever and entertaining way and you don't feel like they're just making long lists on books you should buy. The latest issue focuses on historical fiction (modern, that is) I'm a fan of that genre and was happy to see that the books I've read on the list were very good recommendations. Some include Lauren Willig's great historic female spy series that begins with
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation. Also on my "have read, words will travel" from their list is The Observations by Jane Harris, The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani and Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. My one disagreement is The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl- the plot intrigued me and is very clever, but the execution was tedious and didn't use half the imagination it could have to really make the idea come alive.

They also have a really nice little one-page features on random book groups in the US (including what books the members enjoyed and hated) and favorite of readers. The reader will recommend about 9 books with a short description on why they love it, and if it's printed you get a free years subscription. just today I picked up a book based on a readers recommendation- The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster. Warning- the magazine WILL add on a fair amount of books on your TBR pile.

Today in Border's I also discovered A Public Space, one of those cool-minimalist magazines that seem to have merged 'zines with literary "glossy" magazines. I feel like the target market is probably well-educated but loft living people from 20-40 years of age. They're vegan, probably graphic designers and like dogs but aren't big on children.
In all honesty though, it's a very attractive magazine that's about the size of a trade paperback with surprisingly high paper stock. This is a magazine of pretty much the same quality of a paperback novel and will look good alongside the "real" books on your shelf. This issue I have, 06, contains poetry, short fiction, interviews and essays. After I actually read it I'll post my thoughts, if they're worth posting, of course.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Stress and Words

I apologize in advance for getting too personal.

I have a terrible habit of burying things that bother me down... somewhere, and eventually they swell up to the point that I'm completely overwhelmed. When that hits, I go into a fairly intense depression and have frequent (though not very big) panic attacks. If I wasn't a reader or didn't have an outlet like writing- I have no idea how I would ride these depressions out, honestly.

After having a stressful, busy day I just wanted to curl up in bed with a good book- or a few. Right now it's the Brief Lives volume of Sandman by President of Awesome Mr. Gaiman, Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner (I received this for review and so far it's one of my fave reads of '08), a MaryJanice Davidson book from the library (she's always reliable for a short, fast and very funny read) and reading stories from Blood Lite in-between each book I finish- it's one of the best anthologies I've read in a while, and I read a lot of anthologies.. Anyway, I was all set when I realized I was given only one of three medications when I went to the pharmacy, and the pharmacist didn't feel the need to tell me that (I was picking up some for my mom at the same time so the number wasn't obvious.)

Sniffling and feeling sorry for myself, I went back. After sitting things right, on the way back home I started up a narrative in my head that was inspired by my brain wandering while i waited for my change. I actually do a LOT of "writing" in my head, I'm almost always narrating things and have to remind myself to actually put it to paper or screen. Anyway, this one I really liked. I liked it so much I pulled over to the side of a quiet street, and wrote it out on the back of a prescription bag with a trusty pen I had in my purse. Afterwards I felt a bit better- like a little of the pressure inside me was relieved.

Now I'm at home, and even though I can read now- here I am, writing. I recently read the wonderful The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. I enjoyed it a lot, though towards the end when he apparently attacked readers for being "spectators" I was thrown off. Didn't the Queen of England find knowledge, a degree of happiness in her discovery of books? According to Mr. Bennett, however, us readers are introverted watchers of the action unless or until we write our own stories. I do not believe this is true of everyone, but after thinking about it I realized it was true of me.

When I gave up writing for a few years after high school (a long, boring and depressing story) I really did feel like I sank into a shell I had worked hard to pop out of. Since I've re-discovered writing in the past couple of years, I had felt more empowered- both in life and even in my reading. Before I claimed to be a bookworm but I just picked out whatever book was convenient and therefore didn't finish most of them. Now I read a ton of book blogs, visit lots of bookstores (used and new) and have dialogues with other readers. I think finding my love of writing re-triggered why I love books so much. I am so thankful I found them both again, because I need them both a hell of a lot right now. Now that I think about it, I tend to write better the more depressed/stressed I am- maybe my writing needs my "suffering" as much as the suffering needs the words.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thrifty Holiday Shopping

This week McSweeney's is having a sale of 50% off almost everything. If you have a lot of nerdy friends (hey friends- I'm a nerd, remember?!) this would be a good time to maybe stock up on some affordable gifts.

Actual content soon, randumb musings & new books

I have some interviews and profiles of local bookstores I'm lining up, so I promise *soon* I'll actually have readable and (hopefully) interesting content here for you. One of the ironic things is that I have so little time to gather everything up for this blog because I have so much reading to do. Believe me, I know that's an awesome problem to have and I'm embracing it with late nights of "Just one more chapter, then I'll sleep." "Alright, that was a short one, after this, sleep." "More read. Sleep. Later." "Wha- what? Morning already? I'm sorry I drooled on your book, Mr. Vonnegut."

Since I've started receiving ARCs for review, I've fallen even more behind on my "TBR" shelves/piles. The thing is- I'm not just a bookworm, I'm an actual book addict. I'm addicted to buying books and just feeling them in my hands and smelling that delicious pulp.

Just last night I went to a local B&N just because being surrounding by thousands

of books calms me down and usually sparks my imagination, which I then try to funnel into writing. The problem is, I have zero self control when it comes to book buying. Last night I ended up getting Voltaire's Candide (it was only $5!) and Roberto Bolaño’s The Savage Detectives, with 2666 coming to me in the mail
I guess I have the Bolaño fever a lot of other book addicts have right now.

I sat down and did my "To Buy Or Not To Buy?" test- read the first
few pages to see if I dig the prose, the voice- just if it captures me. As an aside- I really do recommend this. I've saved a lot of money and frustration by reading a bit in the store. Some books, like An Arsonists Guide to Writers Homes in New England treacherously made me buy it with a great title, a plot that sounded unique and engaging and all kinds of gushing praise on the covers. Then when I get around to reading the thing I discover the execution is actually like an execution. So in short- try then buy (or not buy) and "Arsonists Guide" is a terrible novel.

Anyway, after Bolaño's deceptively simple strings of words slowly wrapped
around my neck until I was completely absorbed in the story and cut off from my surroundings, I couldn't resist. I also got the new issue of Bookmarks (even my magazines are about books, heyzeus...) and a monkey bookmark. Those who know me know I can't resist a good monkey bookmark- and if you didn't, now you do know. Oh, and you could buy a children's book at the cashier to donate, and I also love giving kids books (even indirectly) so yea, that too. I seem to be cutting back on everything but books- thankfully they're a hell of a lot cheaper then some of my friends' video game and meth addictions.

Oh, and I also frequent the two libraries in short driving distance, find steals at 50 cents to $3 at their "Friends of the Library" used bookstores IN the library, I'm a very active member of Paperbackswap, and there's three local used bookstores I go to fairly frequently. I'd ask for help but deep down I don't want it.

I ended up spilling some coffee on the new books when I got home, and I'm not at all a book abuser so I drama queened my reaction up pretty well.
So, invisible, made-up reader in my head who thinks my blog is fabulous- do you enjoy
bookstores, or try to avoid them altogether and just get them delivered to your home? If you're a big reader, do you also enjoy the physical books themselves? What about building your personal library? (That's my classy way of asking if you're a fellow book shop-a-holic.)

WOW- this is insane- but true!- the doorbell just rang and my order with 2666 just came! One of the bloggers from one of my favorite blogs posts her "hauls" and I love reading those for some reason, so here's what showed up.

2666 by Roberto Bolaño- I got the version with it split into three books in a nice box set.
Just After Sunset by Stephen King- I usually NEVER buy King new in hardcover (like Grisham and Clancy, his books end up everywhere used after a few months), but my buddy Nick tipped me off that there's a DVD of that N. series if you get it from B&N, and I couldn't resist because I'm a giant sucker. Plus, I think King shines most in short short story form, and that's what got me into him after failing to engage in his description maximum overdrive (punny!) in his full=length stories.
Burlesque & Fetish and the Art of the Teese by Dita Von Teese. Ok, not literature- but I've been dying for this book (I'm a big fan of
Von Teese and old-fashioned burlesque in general) and decided to use my gift certificate on it. Flipping through right now... it's gorgeous. Marilyn Manson- you're a schmo.
I have a feeling this will be the one book people ask me to borrow, rather than the normal situation of me foisting books onto them. I really can't get why so many enjoy weird, plastic-y, gross porn that uses cameras as a gynecologist/proctologist over titillation from a stunning, classy woman that teases with beautiful clothes and lingerie. If I went to a strip club with my boyfriend I'm sure I'd feel grimy, but when it comes to Forty Deuce I've been dying to go.

Men- who can figure them out? Not me- I'll stick to my books.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Blog Manifesto

I thought I'd take a few minutes and put up an entry to explain what I'd like this blog to become and my goals for it. I know at the moment nobody is reading this, but hopefully once it's around longer and I (hopefully) add on interesting and relevant content, more readers will discover and bookmark it. If you are reading this and enjoy it please link me on your blog/website/anything and I'll be sure to return the favor.

Vegas is known for flash, short-term instant gratification and surface beauty- not exactly the reading capital of... anything. Still, those of us who live here have non-Strip-related hobbies and I think there's a place for this blog. I would love to encourage other locals to discover more books and events through this blog, and champion "reading for pleasure" as much as possible. From what I've heard and read, the majority of residents tend to stick with non-fiction and maybe the occasionally best-seller. There's so much more out there, and hopefully I can distill some of that to foist onto those who are too busy to discover it themselves.

This blog will be a mixture of personal reading habits and Vegas-centric events, people and anything else that falls under that book-shaped umbrella. I'm planning on profiling local authors, bookstores and editors- and if you stumbled onto this blog and are any one of those things- please contact me! I'll do my best to attend or at least report on literary events and signings, and also post opinion pieces. I'd also love pieces from my fellow local Vegas readers, so if there's an issue that's literature related then please get in touch with me, either in the comments section or at

I've lived in Vegas since I was 16, and I'm 25 now. I've lived here long enough to know the city, but I remember how things work outside of this crazy place, too. Thanks for checking this blog out, and feel free to leave comments on what you think so far or any suggestions of content you'd like to see!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More Neil Gaiman

Another great book festival, and having two of my favorite authors open and close the event was amazing. The Vegas Sun did a good article about the comic book portion of the fest, and there's a great cartoon of Gaiman and Chabon heading it that's worth checking out.

In other Gaiman news, This will be Gaiman's first publishd non-fiction since 1988, and I for one am really looking forward to it. I just recently picked up Stranger Than Fiction by Chuck Palahniuk, so I guess I'm pretty amped for more novelists-writing-non-fiction. From MTV News:

"If you’re a regular reader of noted comic book and novel author Neil Gaiman’s blog, you know he’s been going back and forth to China a bit recently — sometimes for a month at a stretch. It wasn’t a vacation. Since summer of 2007, Neil’s been traveling around China, “by car and coach and train and foot,” gathering material for a book, which now has a title, “Monkey and Me: China and the Journey to the West,” and a tentative due date of fall 2009."

This will be the first of three non-fiction works that will be published by William Morrow, imprint of Harper Collins.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Liberation of the Spaceman from His Blues

The current issue of Las Vegas Weekly focusing on the Book Festival is pretty terrific. A big bonus is their coverage of Brian Francis Slattery, whom they have supported a lot- starting with their glowing review of his novel "Spaceman Blues". His publisher Tor is offering an e-book version for FREE on their site, so there's no reason not to read it.

That attractive cover to your left is bordered by a short-short story by Slattery called "Low End of the Dial". For those of you non-locals (and locals that haven't checked it out) I'll transcribe it here:

"They did not know where they were going. In New Mexico and Arizona, there had been parties and gunshots, a night in jail. Now they were in Las Vegas, where Hangdog did not want to be, but Fan Belt insisted. He ran through th daylit night cackling, lost $20,000 he didn't have in less than an hour, laughed when they told him what kind of trouble he was in. Why did you do that? Hangdog said. We had a plan.
Don't you understand? Fan Belt said. This is the plan.
Later, in the desert, Hangdog understood, lying side by side with a girl he'd just met, staring skyward, into the exploding greens an purples and oranges of distant nebulae, an infinity of neon. As if a signal were being sent, words written in the ether. Hello universe, this is America calling. Can you hear us?"

If you need even MORE Slattery (and you do, even if you don't know it right at this moment) they have another glowing review of Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America. Even better, an excerpt from the Vegas portion of the book is read by T.R. Witcher, that audio clip can be accessed on the same page as the review.

R.I.P. Michael Crichton

As most know, author
Michael Crichton passed away at the age of 66. While I didn't follow his career much, it was because of him that my love of reading as a child was bridged into the interest in reading as an adult.
When I was a kid, I was OBSESSED with dinosaurs. Common for children, right? Of course, but mine was pretty hardcore "Dinosaurs" was the first "big" word I learned how to spell, and around the age of seven I was dead set on my future career as a paleontologist. About every weekend I'd make my parents take me to the Natural History Museum in Albuquerque, where I grew up.

As a girl scout I even spent the night in the museum twice, the second time waking up with the skeleton of a saber-toothed tiger staring me down. i also spent a few summers in a program the museum did where we'd trek into teh dessert to collect fossils for the "touch and learn" part of the museum, and we got the see all the behind-the-scenes stuff. Yes, I was committed.

In 1993-1994 I was 10-11 when the film Jurassic Park was announced and released. It was like my greatest dream come true on screen- real, live looking dinosaurs running amok on screen? To add to the excitement, paleontologists had been criticizing the film for showing velociraptor as too big at around 6 feet. At the same time, the Utanraptor was discovered, averaging about 8 feet. Wow, this movie somehow caused evolution to bow down to it! So even though it was an adult novel with big words and small print, I picked up Crichton's actual novel, and my friend Jenna and I devoured it during recess (believe it or not we were not considered dorky... then again, it was a private school.)

The book wrapped me up, and added a lot to the film I ended up seeing three separate times in the theater (still my record.) Thanks to Crichton I not only read a book I loved, but he showed me that adult books may take a little more work to read, but they were definitely worth it. He and his work will be missed. Especially Westworld.

Let's Get It Started: Book Festival

It's the Vegas Valley Book Festival time here in Vegas, so I figured it was the perfect time to start this blog. In short- I'm a bookworm from birth and adore books like crazy. As shocking and mind-shattering as it might seem, Vegas isn't known for being the pinnacle of literature- or the pinnacle of anything beyond tribute acts and wino to slot machine ratios, anyway. Still, interesting literary things DO happen, and we even have terrific writers hiding out here. Join me, won't you, in ferreting out the good stuff?

To start, I'm geeking out mightily because tomorrow brings Neil Gaiman. Just seeing him mention it in his journal- which is worthy reading, btw- gives me the happy shivers. I'm currently going through his brilliant Sandman series after putting it off for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Good Omens is a favorite of mine and the Sandman series has cemented him as a favorite writer period. He is doing the opening keynote at the festival, which will be at the Clark County Library (the one downtown) in the Main Theater, 6-7 P.M Wristbands will be given out an hour beforehand, and it's free but a first come first serve basis.

Saturday (Nov. 8), 11 a.m to 3 p.m. will be the Comic Book Festival. The gem there (for me, anyway) is Michael Chabon, who will be doing the closing keynote speech at 6 p.m. at the same location the Gaiman one will be. Pulitzer-winning Chabon is another favorite-favorite author of mine, and his love of comic books informs his writing very obviously. If he haven't read him I HIGHLY recommend you do, you can't go wrong with The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay

Also on Saturday they'll be showing comic book movies- Batman: Gotham Knight at 11:30 a.m. and Iron Man at 1 p.m. Nothing like movies at a book festival, eh? Gotta love Vegas.

More details can be found at this link.