NOTE: I don't post to this blog super-duper often anymore, because I'm busy writing, well, books. (Read more about that here.) For more up-to-date, day-to-day ramblings, visit my Facebook page.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fun Friday: Word Crimes

It may have come to your attention that I rag on other people's bad grammar. It's the curse of the copy editor and the writer, and sadly, I'm both, so ... guilty.

But at least Weird Al Yankovic is here to justify my behavior. Word Crimes: Who will we arrest next?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

TBR 2014: Book No. 20



Frances Mayes, acclaimed author of Under the Tuscan Sun, is one of the best travel writers I know. I'll go with her anywhere. In A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveller (Broadway Books, 2006), she'll lead us through the Greek isles, Morocco, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, and more. Pack your bags; I'll meet you at the plane.

“Those who want to find parts of themselves they didn’t know existed, take risks, have an adventure . . . and discover another culture altogether, with its different rhythms, tastes, smells, and ways of being human—those readers will find in Mayes a kindly, eager, tough-spirited guide.”    —Houston Chronicle
All aboard! Let's travel, blog readers!

That's right: I've committed to reading all the books on my TBR Shelf this year--and blogging them! Click here to read the reviews I've posted so far.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: WILD by Cheryl Strayed




















Title: Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Author: Cheryl Strayed
Pub info: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012; 315 pp
Genre: adventure/memoir, written for adults



I've always admired people who can tackle arduous physical tasks, because I've always been kind of a wimp. Reading Cheryl's experiences made my morning suburban walks seem like, well, morning suburban walks.

Goodreads summary:
At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother's death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone. Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.
Status: finished 7/5/14
My impressions:
This is the kind of book that you don't just read; you inhabit it. While I was buried in Wild, I felt like I was right there, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with only four of my original ten toenails attached. (I know. Ew.) I was hungry, thirsty, exhausted. And I don't mean metaphorically. For example, I got my hair cut during the period I was reading this book. My stylist, who knows me pretty well, draped the waterproof cape over my shoulders and said, "Hey, have you been working out? Your back muscles are really defined." I nearly said to her, "Well, what do you expect? I've been hiking the PCT for the last two months." Seriously. Then I remembered I'd only been reading about it.


Kudos to Cheryl Strayed for writing with such vivid detail that I felt so completely immersed. Every night I went to bed feeling eternally grateful for the soft pillow and the glass of water that I didn't need to purify with iodine tablets. Her story is transporting. Is it inspiring in the way I thought it would be? Well, yes and no. I got to know the trail--and Cheryl--very well, but not so much the people she met along the way, who all kind of ran together in my mind. Some of them just grossed me out a little, to be honest--sex on the beach with a stranger sounds creepy, and shooting heroin is more than creepy. But I guess it's all part of the life journey. Whatever you think about it, you'll be thoroughly engrossed in Wild, should you choose to pick it up. And who knows? Maybe you'll get some well-defined back muscles out of the deal.


About Cheryl:
Strayed’s writing has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Missouri Review, The Best American Essays, and many other publications. She holds an MFA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota. Her other writings include the novel Torch (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). Today she lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two children.

Online:
Cheryl's website resides here, where you can watch video interviews about her experiences and read up on her other works. You can also reach Cheryl on Twitter and Facebook. You can read a bit about the upcoming film adaptation of Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon, at imdb.com. Look for the film to be released in December of this year!

Want to win a free copy of this book? The first Monday of each month features a giveaway of any of the titles I've reviewed the previous month. Pick your fave, enter, and win! Next giveaway: August 4.
SIGN UP HERE TO RECEIVE A BRIEF EMAIL WHENEVER A NEW GIVEAWAY BEGINS.
To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

TBR 2014: Book No. 19



I love books about survival and triumph under difficult circumstances, especially since I'm a bit of a coward myself. I know better than to attempt an 1,100-mile trek through mountains and deserts on foot. But lucky for me, Cheryl Strayed had no such qualms when she decided to hike the Pacific Crest Trail and find the answers to her life's problems. She wrote about the experience in her memoir Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012).
"One of the most original, heartbreaking, and beautiful American memoirs in years."  --Michael Shaub, NPR Books

"[A] vivid, touching, and ultimately inspiring account of a life unraveling, and of the journey that put it back together."  --The Wall Street Journal

"An addictive, gorgeous book."  --The Boston Globe

Ready to go for a hike, blogfrogs? Grab your boots and let's go!

That's right: I've committed to reading all the books on my TBR Shelf this year--and blogging them! Click here to read the reviews I've posted so far.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Review: WIND, SAND AND STARS by Antoine de Saint-Exupery




















Title: Wind, Sand and Stars

Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; translated from the French by Lewis Galantière
Pub info: Harcourt, 2009 (orig. 1939); 229 pp
Genre: adventure/memoir; appropriate for any age, written for adults

The writer who enchanted the world with his Little Prince also penned this National Book Award-winner about his adventures in the air.

Goodreads summary:
Recipient of the Grand Prix of the Académie Française, Wind, Sand and Stars captures the grandeur, danger, and isolation of flight. Its exciting account of air adventure, combined with lyrical prose and the spirit of a philosopher, makes it one of the most popular works ever written about flying.  
Status: finished 6/30/14

My impressions:
As much as I love this author and admire this book, I'll take issue a bit with the Goodreads summary above. Saint-Exupéry does write about flying, but this is a book about life--not his life, but Life with a capital L. He was a man of deep thoughts, and given the times he lived in (1900-1944), he thought a lot about war and the nature of human beings. Wind, Sand and Stars is a gorgeous book, artfully written, about flying, a crash in the desert, and visits to Franco's Spain. It's quiet and contemplative--even the parts about surviving in the desert--but very moving.

As I say, there's not all that much about flying--certainly nothing highly technical. I recently took  my first flight lesson in the hopes of eventually securing my private pilot license, and reading this book has the feel of flight--something quiet, above the clouds, when so much is going on below. I've never read this in the original French, but I think Galantière captures Saint-Exupéry's spirit very well. Highly recommended.

About Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was born in Lyons, France, in 1900 and was a pioneer in the field of aviation. He signed up as an airmail pilot for Aéropostale in 1926, flying a route between Toulouse and (then French-occupied) Dakar. He was flying reconnaissance during World War II when his plane disappeared off the coast of Marseille, in 1944. His writings include Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), a book for children and adults, as well as Vol de nuit (Night Flight) and Pilote de guerre (Flight to Arras). His writings received many awards, including the National Book Award (U.S.), the Prix Fémina, and the Grand Prix du roman de l'Académie Française (both the latter, France).



Want to win a free copy of this book? The first Monday of each month features a giveaway of any of the titles I've reviewed the previous month. Pick your fave, enter, and win! Next giveaway: August 4.


SIGN UP HERE TO RECEIVE A BRIEF EMAIL WHENEVER A NEW GIVEAWAY BEGINS.

To follow my progress as I bulldoze my way through a stack of 51 to-be-reads this year, search for the tag 2014 TBR Shelf. Read all the reviews here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

July Giveaway

** SORRY, THIS GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED **

Yes, blogfrogs, it's Fantasy for All Ages Month! Here are the books I plucked off my TBR Shelf this month. Pick your fave and win a brand-new copy. Note: This supershort giveaway lasts only 4 days! Here are your choices:


 
THE BOOKS OF ELSEWHERE: SPELLBOUND
by Jacqueline West
MG fantasy
An ancient spellbook is the key to the mystery of Olive's creepy old house

THE CARPET PEOPLE
by Terry Pratchett
MG fantasy
A tiny civilization that lives in your carpet battles another tiny civilization that lives in your carpet


CREWEL
by Gennifer Albin
YA dystopia / fantasy
A teenage girl fights a system wherein women are forced to weave the fabric of reality












LAVINIA
by Ursula K. Le Guin
adult fantasy / myth
The story of Lavinia, the woman Aeneas fought for in Virgil's The Aeneid















GIVEAWAY RULES:
1. U.S. entrants only, please.
2. Be sure to note the book you want to win AND WHY.
3. Giveaway prizes will be brand-new books delivered to you via Amazon.com. They will be paperback editions unless the book is still available only in hardcover. 
4.  This giveaway ends 12:01 AM JULY 11.
5. There's a new giveaway every month! CLICK HERE to receive a brief email every time a new giveaway is posted on the blog. 


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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

TBR Book No. 18



Welcome to July, which I've dubbed A Month of Adventure! What better time to explore new places and experiences than the height of summer? Let's start off with Wind, Sand and Stars (Harcourt, 2002; orig. 1939) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Ever since I first read his classic Le Petit Prince in French class, I've wanted to read more by this extraordinary author. I picked up a copy of this little volume years ago and somehow never got round to reading it. My used copy got so dusty and decrepit that I replaced it with a better one. And now I'm finally going to read it, spurred on by my own recent flying adventures.
"A beautiful book, a brave book, and a book that should be read against the confusion of this world."  --The New York Times

A National Geographic Top Ten Adventure Book of All Time
Winner of the National Book Award
So what do you say, blog readers? Come flying with me!

That's right: I've committed to reading all the books on my TBR Shelf this year--and blogging them! Click here to read the reviews I've posted so far.