Saturday, July 31, 2010

Reading Robert Goolrick

I had so much fun participating in the Book Blogger Hop last week, I couldn't resist returning this week, and the topic is one that has intrigued and surprised me. The question is a simple one: Who is your favorite new-to-you author this year.

As I was looking back over my reading in my sidebar, I was tempted to say Marilyn Johnson or Lucy Knisley, but I've gushed about them a good deal lately. The other contender that jumped from the list really did shock me: Robert Goolrick, author of A Reliable Wife.

If you've been reading here a while, you might remember that I had some issues with this book. However, despite my quibbles, it is by far one of the most memorable books I've read this year, and one of the most engrossing. It's hard for me to give a book a higher compliment than that when so many plots and characters are quickly forgotten.

I decided to do a bit of research on Robert Goolrick since I know very little, and while I didn't find a great deal of personal information, the one bit I did find, seems all the more powerful. Before writing A Reliable Wife, he published a memoir titled, The End of the World As We Know It: Scenes from a Life. In this essay, he explains how that book came to fruition. I hope I can entice you by saying that he asked a homeless many "What happened to you" and that question resulted in his own bit of soul searching. Thus, he started writing his life to make sense of it .

While I will always have issues with some parts of A Reliable Wife, I know I'll also remember it and hold onto the characters with all their flaws and intricacies. I admire Goolrick's reverence for normal people and everyday lives, and I do agree that everyday stories can be profound and often very touching and affecting. Worth writing about.

Who is your favorite new-to-you author this year?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Heresy: Naming My Top 10 Books

I said I'd never do it. OK, maybe I didn't say so, but I thought I would never utter (or type) a Top 10 Favorite Books. That's just heresy to a reader. There are so many choices. There are so many variables. WHAT IF I LEAVE SOMETHING REALLY GOOD OUT?

However, like any good shifty freaknasty of a reader, I have a disclaimer.

These are TEN OF my favorite books. Not THE Ten. There is no THE Ten.

OK, I think I've safely covered my reading butt. Without further ado:

1. The Great Gatsby, by Ole F. Scott Fitzgerald. As many times as I've read this book, I practically have it memorized. I can call him "Ole F. Scott" if I want to. If he were alive I'm pretty sure we'd grab a whiskey together (maybe a whiskey sour for me). I first read this book as a junior in high school and I was one smitten kitten. It was subtle. Nothing blew up, there were no orgies (hello, Brave New World!), and no nuclear warfare. It was just a good novel about screwed up people. I loved the symbolism because I actually "got" it. Brilliance!

2. The Lord of the Rings (all of 'em!), by J.R.R. Tolkien. I may never read this weapon of a big chunky book again, but the first time through was sacred and fabulous, and I actually thought about doing grad work at the University of Maryland so I could camp outside the office of one of the greatest Tolkien scholars in the country after I heard her speak at my university where I did my BA. She was THAT GOOD. And I was that in lust with Tolkien's furry-footed creations.

3. Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. Because with "Estella" plastered all over my online persona, she'd probably crawl out of my copy of the book and smother me in my sleep if I didn't mention Dickens. People have a very strong reaction to Dickens. They either love the dickens out of him or hate the dickens out of him. I read this one as a freshman in high school, and obviously some of the characters stuck with me. I re-read it a couple of years ago, and got even more out of it. I will always love Estella, but maybe I should've named this blog "Miss Havisham's Revenge" because she's REALLY the star of the show. Rotten wedding dress and all.

4. What I Loved, by Siri Hustvedt. I just don't know how to describe this book. It's about art and philosophy and photography and fairy tales and friendship and loveship and it turns into a murder mystery in the last bit. It's just weird, but so lusciously, sexily, smartily written (yes, smartily) that I couldn't resist. I'll be doing a BookDrum profile for it when I re-read it soon. Hustvedt's other stuff is good, too. Especially The Blindfold and A Plea for Eros: Essays.

5. Patrimony, by Philip Roth. If you want a memoir with a sucker punch, go ahead and read this one. Roth writes candidly about his father's aging and what it's like for the child to become the caregiver. It's definitely not all pretty, but it's pretty human and accessible for Roth. Now, he's also believed to be a big fat liar most of the time because he plays with the idea of "truth" in his books, so it might be a load of horse*$%#. Either way, it's worth the read.

6. Hand to Mouth: A Chronicle of Early Failure, by Paul Auster. I avoided his fiction until after I read his memoirs. I don't know why, but it's actually been darned enlightening. It's cool to know where some of the anecdotes that make their way into his stories began. Auster has truly lived a "writer's life" of adventures, hard knocks, and crazy jobs. He's lived all over the world, worked on a ship, starved, stretched, and probably stank a few times.

7. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. DEATH IS THE NARRATOR! I know, I'm screaming in all caps, but it's really worth the scream! Death is a fantastic narrator, and that's what really got me involved in this Holocaust novel told from the perspective of a German orphan. It was one of those "grab you by the hair" novels. I devoured it for a graduate class a couple of years ago, and we had a very spirited discussion. Mostly the discussion revolved around "what is an adolescent novel" because the majority of people I know would argue that this one is just as fit for adults as young adults. Plus, ya know, I cried for the last 200+ pages, and I'm hard-hearted ogre, so that's pretty impressive and worthy of a Top Ten.

8. The Hours, by Michael Cunningham. Because it made me feel sad and lonely and happy and hopeful right alongside the characters. And I'm talking emotions to the bone. Very authentic and well-written.

9. Fables, by Bill Willingham. I devoted two and a half years of my life to Fables, from a term paper my first semester of grad school right on up to my Masters thesis. I love this series because it is smart, thoughtful, clever, and all those good words. Willingham shows off his knowledge of class fairy tales while he updates them and makes them hilarious, heartbreaking, and sometimes downright mean. The early collections are my favorites.

10. Feed, by M.T. Anderson. This is another novel I read in a grad class, and it made my brain explode. When it came time to pick a novel to teach my Freshman Composition courses, I chose this YA novel for its depth, cleverness, and to provoke my classes into discussion. In the story, teens have the Internet wired into their brains, the environment is shot, there's a whole facade of synthetic "stuff" covering up the natural environment. It's just a mess. And it's our contemporary lifestyle turned up to a gazillion. My students had a really good time looking for the similarities and embellishments and identifying the ways sf fiction critiques our society.

This Top 10 is brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. And I know it's not Tuesday. I'm just running two days behind in general.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Reading About Everyday Life

I love books that paint the characters' everyday lives down to fine, minute detail. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking about The Red Tent (Anita Diamant), The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck), and Pope Joan (Donna Woolfolk Cross). These are just a few historical fiction novels that I've read through the years that really did daily lives justice.

In The Red Tent the details about food, living conditions, and the women's menstrual rituals blew me away. In The Good Earth I was satisfied to visit life in rural China--the backbreaking work, sparse living, and then a richer lifestyle when Wang Lung and O-Lan hit it big. Finally, Pope Joan, a lesser known novel these days but a big book club pick in the early 2000s, is about a rumored female pope in the 9th century. Donna Woolfolk Cross does a great job illustrating how people lived during this time period, and how a woman could've disguised herself to rise to the papal throne. Hygiene, religion, and the pursuit of education played a big part in this novel.

After my last disappointing read, I picked up By Fire, By Water, by Mitchell James Kaplan. When I saw this one reviewed over at Caribousmom, I knew I had to try it, and the author was kind enough to seek me out and offer a copy. It's rare that I get a craving for a very specific kind of book. Most of the time I'm a random reader. I just snatch whatever looks tasty off the shelves and take a taste. For some reason, though, I've been feeling a definite need to be swept into a different time period where I can fall into someone else's everyday life. I'm sure it's a combination of end-of-term stress at work, a very full home life, and other factors.

I'm not far enough in to do this one justice, but so far it looks like it's going to stick. It revolves around the Spanish Inquisition, and I know embarrassingly little about this particular time period, so it's something of a learning experience. I do have a base knowledge. I was prompted to do a little research after I read Alice Hoffman's YA novel of the inquisition, Incantation, which I really loved. I even loved it in the middle of the night during a Read-a-Thon, so it HAD to be good to keep me awake.

So now I need your recommendations for future reference. What are some of your favorite historical novels that have plunked you down in the middle of another time and let you take a peek into the details of how people lived?

Wordless Wednesday (Almost)

Landed in my e-mail during a really bad day at work. Couldn't help but smile.

By the way, this is my first Wordless Wednesday. I'll be more creative next week.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Where BS Ends and Brilliance Begins

Yesterday's review of Beatrice and Virgil threw me into at least 15 minutes of serious reflection on Postmodernism and the "pretention" in some novels that can bug so many of us. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite since I've actually liked quite a few novels that, by my definition in Beatrice and Virgilshould be considered pretentious. Namely, there are several novels I count among my favorites that are highly self-referential, intertextual, employ techniques of metafiction, or are otherwise experimental. So what's the difference between the novels I love and the novels that make me want to toss them in front of a moving garbage truck? I'm certainly not anti-intellectual and I don't want to bag on novels that are smart, but there comes a point when a novel can move from smart to intellectual self-gratification (aka, intellectual masturbation).

On of my very favorite books (actually three novellas) is Paul Auster's New York Trilogy: City of Glass, Ghosts, and The Locked Room. They were originally published independently and later collected into one volume.

I found these novellas innovative, beautifully written, and supremely interesting and intellectually stimulating. Auster is self-referential as a character named Paul Auster appears in each of the novellas. However, as I see it, Martel was essentially writing a thinly veiled autobiography of his writing experiences after Life of Pi. While Auster casts himself as a character, it's in short spurts as opposed to making himself the star of the show. His appearances often draw attention to the act of writing instead of expressing his own overt life experience to the audience.

The New York Trilogy also uses metafictional techniques, or draws attention to the "fictional" quality of the writing. When I was in school we often referred to metafiction as "breaking the fourth wall." Instead of allowing us to purely sink into the story, we're made aware of the story in some overt way. Beatrice and Virgil did this, too, so what's the difference? Why did I want to toss B&V at a wall while I ate up The New York Trilogy like nougat? In this case, I think it's all about subtlety. I can see that Auster is drawing my attention to his fictional techniques and his sly writerly tricks, but it seems to work within the context of the story. Basically, I always felt as if Martel was hitting me over the head with a big writer's mallet with I'M SMART engraved on the side. There was a smugness about his writing and his techniques that annoyed me.

When it comes to intertextuality--references to outside texts in the story--Siri Hustvedt is one of my favorites. Her novel, What I Loved, is another of my all-time favorites. She also just-so-happens to be married to Paul Auster. Do they sit around and talk about this stuff at dinner? That's what I want to know.

What I Loved makes innumerable references to outside texts: art, artists, fairy tales and their interpreters, psychology and psychologists, philosophers. What makes it OK for me is the main character. Leo Hertzberg is an art historian and critic. His best friend is an artist. It never seems weird that he should analyze his friend's work or make the observations that he makes because that's his job, and essentially that's his life. The references to art and artists seem effortlessly woven into the text and aren't jarring, whereas Martel's often seemed too overt (that mallet again). Thrown into the mix to make an overarching, very obvious, very "look at me!" kind of observation. In short, he just tried too hard.

I don't want to be too hard on Martel or alienate the readers who loved his book, but these are some of the reasons why his book didn't work for me while so many others that were similar made me beam. I also wonder if the brevity of Martel's work contributed to the problems. In What I Loved and The New York Trilogy, both of the authors were allowed a little more real estate over which to stretch their writing muscles. Points and references and smart writer stuff could develop more naturally without such a whack to the head.\

So I'm wondering whose writing you find pretentious. When is pretention or high-flown, writerly 'stuff' permissable and when does it make you want to scream? What's the difference between writerly novels you love and the ones you want to put down the garbage disposal?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Donkey Poo + Monkey Poo = Beatrice and Virgil

What I've come to understand since I started reading Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel, is that few books in recent years have been as polarizing as this one. The reviews I've read range from love to hate.

First off, this one is complicated. It's about a writer named Henry who flees into theater and music lessons after the failure of his second book. His editors pan it, it never sees the light of day, and he hides his head in the sand. He receives a letter from a local taxidermist claiming to need help on a project, and he gets embroiled in the life of the stuffer o'animals, also named Henry. The taxidermist's play is a Beckett-like story of a howler monkey named Virgil and a Donkey named Beatrice. They live in a violence-torn country which serves as a thinly-veiled metaphor for the Holocaust. Henry finds himself deeply involved with the taxidermist the more of the play he hears, and there are plenty of shadows in the taxidermist's life.

I really enjoyed the first half of this novel. The writing really is--dare I say it--lyrical at times. There's a lot to munch on if you're a fan of Postmodern literature. If you're not, you'll hate this book by default. Martel is obviously self-referential. The book parallels his own experience with a scrapped and revamped novel according to news reports during the years between Life of Pi and this book. There's also a good deal of intertextuality--references to works of literature from Flaubert to Beckett himself.

Where the novel falls apart is in Martel's obvious attempts to be clever and hiply Postmodern. There's a line between subtle and deft use of Postmodern conventions and a circus of showing off. The bottom line: the final half of this book was tiresome and left me wishing to hurry on up and pick up another book.

I'll take Paul Auster's self-referential, Postmodern writing over Martel's clunky execution any day of the week.

What the heck do I read now? Still trying to avoid a slump!

The Books JUMPED into My Cart!

That's a big fat lie--the books did NOT just jump into my cart--but I got your attention, huh? In fact, I received a book I won in a contest, one that I shamelessly downloaded on Nook, and one from an author. Here we go...

Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, by Frank Delaney was a prize from the effervescent and always delightful Musings of a Bookish Kitty. I actually received an opportunity to review this one from the publisher a while back, but it's about a traveling show. I shy away from books about traveling shows. The blurb:

January 1932: While Ireland roils in the run-up to the most important national election in the Republic’s short history, Ben MacCarthy and his father watch a vagabond variety revue making a stop in the Irish countryside. After a two-hour kaleidoscope of low comedy, Shakespearean recitations, juggling, tumbling, and other entertainments, Ben’s father, mesmerized by Venetia Kelly, the troupe’s magnetic headliner, makes a fateful decision: to abandon his family and set off on the road with Miss Kelly and her caravan. Ben’s mother, shattered by the desertion, exhorts, “Find him and bring him back,” thereby sending the boy on a Homeric voyage into manhood, a quest that traverses the churning currents of Ireland’s fractious society and splinters the MacCarthy family.
When I entered the contest for this book I'd had a change of heart. I seem to be craving reading of a historical bent lately which is tooootally weird for me. Hey, I'm going with it, though! When I was pregnant I ate what I craved and I had a really cool, dashing baby, so now I'm indulging my reading cravings. I figure it represents some bookish "mineral" I'm missing in my diet. Sounds possible, right?

I also read Delaney's wife's book, The Season of Second Chances (by Diane Meier), and I had veryyyy mixed feelings about it. Hoping I have better luck with Delaney.

I received Love in Mid Air from the author, Kim Wright. Somewhere the cover claims to hook the reader with the first page, so Chuck decided to put it to the test. Sure enough, he read the first page, kept going, and ended up reading five pages. Rocketgirl did the same, so I'm looking forward to this one. She's already begging to read it, too. We'll see...

A chance encounter with a stranger on an airplane sends Elyse Bearden into an emotional tailspin. Suddenly Elyse is willing to risk everything: her safe but stale marriage, her seemingly perfect life in an affluent Southern suburb, and her position in the community. She finds herself cutting through all the instincts that say no and instead lets yes happen. As Elyse embarks on a risky affair, her longtime friend Kelly and the other women in their book club begin to question their own decisions about love, sex, marriage, and freedom. There are consequences for Elyse, her family, and her circle of close friends, all of whom have an investment in her life continuing as normal. But is normal what she really wants after all?
Finally, in this mixed bag of reading, I downloaded a book I've been eyeing for a while now: Simon Mawer's The Glass Room. I'm completely taken with the idea of this book as it integrates architecture--one of my favorite things--and WWII. It looks terribly literary and captivating.

The latest from novelist Mawer (The Fall) begins with great promise, as Jewish newlyweds Viktor and Liesel Landauer meet with architect Rainier von Abt, not just an architect but "a poet...of light and space and form," who builds their dream home, a "modern house...adapted to the future rather than the past, to the openness of modern living." World events, however, are about to overtake 1930s Czechoslovakia.
In other news, I think my reading has taken over my brain. I woke up last night after a wickedly vivid dream that was somewhere between The Passage and The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Zombie invaders had taken over a compound where I lived. We tried lights, guns, hiding, etc. and there was always some way those little buggers snuck in. It was an extremely vivid dream--terribly "action movie"--and I woke up unsettled and looking around for Virals or the Unconsecrated. Ugg! It's all fun and games until someone dreams about losing a chunk of flesh.

I got tied up with "stuff" yesterday, so I didn't get to do a Sunday Salon post. Am still trying to finish Beatrice and Virgil. Only about 50 pages left, so I'll polish it off sometime today. Still up in the air about what I think of this one. More to come!

Happy Monday! Oh, and that reminds me...I think this is my first time participating in Mailbox Monday! How did I manage to not participate for so long? I have no idea. Pure laziness, I suspect. It's hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

More SubHerban Gardening

Happy Saturday, folks! Welcome back to my second edition of Sub"Herb"an Gardening, also playing triple duty for Heather's Saturday Farmer's Market and Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking. Since my first post about our rapidly growing patio garden, everything has exploded!

Our sweet banana pepper plant is our biggest success in the patio garden. It has no less than 8 peppers on it right now, and that's pretty much all the time. They're delicious on sandwiches, sauteed on sausage dogs, and sliced on salads.

Our bell peppers have been a little disappointing. They produce reasonably well, but the peppers never grow bigger than a couple of inches. Perfect for an omelette but not much else. I think the Texas heat is keeping them skinny mini.

These are our big pots of herbs. The pot at the top is all basil.The other one is basil, mint, tri-color sage, marjoram, cilantro, oregano, curry, and lemon verbena.

Our flowers: moss roses, zinnias, etc. have gotten even larger than this.

I love my lantanas, acorn squash, and lavendar.

The final big pots of herbs. Left: thai basi. Right: mint.

Thai chili peppers. Pretty AND spicy.

So, how does your garden grow? Show me, show me!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Books Headed into the Weekend

I've been on fire this week! Ever since I whipped through The Passage I've been fearful of a slump. I've been trying to get my hands on a diverse sampling of books so I won't get bored. I'm pretty sure this is when I really fall into a deadly reading slump: when I'm bored by what I pick up immediately after a huge favorite.

While The Poison Diaries, by Maryrose Wood, was not a successful read for me, I still managed to finish it in one day. That always makes me feel accomplished and giddy, so crisis successfully averted right out of the box.

Yesterday I picked up Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel. I had to proctor an exam for an absent instructor, so I had some time to read at work. While the book is a little iffy so far, the writing is enough to keep me interested. Many seem to think this book is too self-referential and stuck up, but I haven't decided just yet. I've read a lot of self-referential authors (Hello, Paul Auster!), so that part doesn't bother me in particular. However, we'll see if Martel manages to pull off this animal thing again.

I also managed to catch the reality show I've been salivating over: The Fabulous Beekman Boys on Planet Green. How I remembered to set the DVR in a sleepy haze yesterday morning I'll never know, but I was rewarded with three episodes of the show last night. Funny! Very funny. Gay men from New York City running around helping raise goats is a good time, my friends. It's not as silly as I expected it to be. There was minimal flailing. Still fun and lots of snark.

I have Josh Kilmer-Purcell's book about their move and farming experience--The Bucolic Plague--on my nightstand. I just read the introduction and part of the first chapter last night before I sacked out, but I'm really excited to finish it now. Kilmer-Purcell, a former drag queen and a marketing executive, and his partner "Dr. Brent", who was the medical consultant for the Martha Stewart Show, are wonderfully irreverent and terribly sarcastic and smart.

So what books will be accompanying you into the weekend? Let me know so I can covet your stacks.

Note: I'm also participating in my first Book Blogger Hop this weekend! Happy hopping!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Poison Diaries - Bad Taste in My Mouth?

I've been saying for a while now that I'm completely burnt out on young adult paranormal novels. Vampires, no thanks. Werewolves, whatever. Ghosts, boooring.

I received The Poison Diaries by Maryrose Wood from the publisher (Balzer + Bray, imprint of HarperCollins) and thought it looked promising. (Hello, FTC, do you see this? It's my disclosure!)

The Poison Diaries is the story of Jessamine Luxton, daughter of an ambitious apothecary, Thomas Luxton. He grows innumerable plants for his cures and concoctions, but Jessamine is banned from the poison garden where he keeps his most powerful plants. One day, by chance, a boy named Weed with "special abilities" is dropped off at their door. Soon his relationship with Jessamine begins to blossom and everything hits the fan.

I was particularly drawn to this book because it's about plants! I love plants, obviously, from all the gardening pics and food/homesteading books I read, and this one sounded refreshingly earthy in the realm of YA lately. The first 3/4 of the book was superb. I loved reading about Thomas Luxton's cures and the various plants that Jessamine tended. The small family lived in an old abandoned church. Delicious atmosphere. Jessamine was someone I liked...curious, seemingly strong, devoted.

It was the last 1/4 of the book that lost me. Suddenly, just as I was REALLY loving the book, it took a weird supernatural turn. Now, given, the book was never perfect. It was predictable from the start. I knew right off the bat who the villain was going to be, and I knew when the villain's dastardly deeds began to play out. But I didn't care! Up to the last quarter, I was enjoying the writing and atmosphere so much that none of the predictability bothered me in the slightest. And in truth there were supernatural elements throughout--Weed's "powers"--but that part of the story was well-integrated and seemed to fit.  The super-supernatural ending seemed to elevate the existing supernatural elements to a level that was tiresome, overblown, and annoying. It became a slog, quite honestly. Even if I wasn't burned out on the supernatural, I don't think it would've worked for me.

This is the beginning of a trilogy, and I'm really on the fence about whether I'll attempt the second book. While I did enjoy Jessamine and Weed, and while I was thoroughly compelled for most of the book, the climax and denouement really were enough to give me pause.

On a lighter note, I was compelled to read this book by another interesting nugget. The cover of the book says "written by Maryrose Wood" and "based on a concept by the Duchess of Northumberland." A little blurb alongside the author's explains that the current Duchess of Northumberland has spent the last 14 years building beautiful public gardens at Alnwick Castle. One of the gardens is a poison garden full of dangerous plants and herbs (belladonna, mandrake), and some of them even require a license to keep (cannabis, coca). I'm completely fascinated by this idea. It's sort of morbid and poetic at the same time. From the looks of the garden complex, it's somewhere I would love to visit if I ever make it to northern England.

Visit the website for yourself!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rocketgirl Reviews: Of All the Stupid Things

For some time now, I've mentioned my stepkiddos-to-be, Rocketboy and Rocketgirl. They're 12 and 13, and both the monkeys like to read, but they have some very specific preferences. Rocketboy won't read just anything. He needs a book to capture his attention right off the bat, and he's quite the artist, so he's always drawn to graphic novels.

Rocketgirl is a born writer. She scribbles all the time, and God only knows how many notebooks she's filled since she moved here to be with us a year ago. She's also an avid reader, and she reminds me a lot of myself at her age. She likes things that tend toward the slightly romancey, though she's not averse to other books, too.

Both of the kids have been observing and helping Chuck with some of his graphic design projects--my logo, for one. They've both seen this blog, and they think it's cool, and I'm not sure who brought up the idea of Rocketgirl reviewing for me. She wants to start her own blog as well, but that'll be a work in progress once she reviews here for a bit. She decided to start with her most recent read: Of All the Stupid Things, by Alexandra Diaz. I won this pretty gem of a book from Trisha at Eclectic/Eccentric, so thanks to her.

Without further ado...Rocketgirl Reviews!

I was roaming the bookshelf looking for something to read when I stumbled upon the book Of All the Stupid Things! I read this book within two days because it was so good. The book is about three best friends: Tara, Pinkie, and Whitney Blaire.

Tara is an athletic girl who has to train for a marathon coming up in a few months. After hearing a rumor about her beloved boyfriend, Brent, having an affair with a boy cheerleader, everything starts to go downhill. While Tara was away on a trip with her mother she ran into her father and his new family. Which made things even more difficult . When this new girl, Riley, comes to town they become best friends. Pinkie and Whitney Blaire's friendship with Tara gradually fades away because of anger. It only makes things worse when Tara's assumption about Whitney Blaire and Brent together gets into her head.

Pinkie is like the glue in the friendship. She is the one that is happy, huggy, and is pushed to the side when there is a fight. Whitney Blaire ends up forcing Pinkie to choose sides. She ends up running to her best friend, David, for some guy advice after Whitney Blaire assumes something horrifying to Pinkie about Tara. Yet she has different problems; Pinkie is dating, or she thinks she is dating, the after school teacher when he invites her to an assembly. When she's not dealing with friends, family, and teachers, she's visiting her mom's gravestone, giving her letters, and telling her everything that goes on.

Whitney Blaire tries to stop the relationship from ending but also is trying to stop the new girl, Riley, from stealing Brent from Tara. When Whitney Blaire overhears Riley talking to some friends she tries to step in but is at the wrong place at the wrong time. And then Whitney Blaire runs into trouble with David, the guy who's had a crush on her for years.

I love this book because it teaches you lessons in different ways. One is you can't assume anything because if you assume wrong it will end up in chaos. In this novel, it's all about trust in others, friendship, loyalty, support, and being there for others.

However, I'm not a big fan of the misspelled words. Sentences that were missing words, or words that didn't belong, and some sentences where words needed to be switched.

Overall, with those adjustments the book was great.
Thanks for checking out Rocketgirl's very first review. She's reading To Kill a Mockingbird right now, and I think she plans to share her thoughts on reading it for the first time in honor of the book's 50th anniversary. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Outspoken Interview: Lucy Knisley, author of French Milk

When I decided to undertake Outspoken Interviews, one of the first authors who came to mind was Lucy Knisley, author of my favorite graphic novel so far this year: French Milk. Since I'm a complete starstruck weirdo when it comes to authors, I really didn't think I would hear anything back. I was sooo wrong. Not only did she enthusiastically agree to answer my questions, she also OFFERED TO ILLUSTRATE HER ANSWERS. And I almost wet myself.

Andi: French Milk is a drawn journal of your time in Paris, and I can't help but wonder how much work went into transforming it from a personal journal to a published personal journal! I know that you self-published it originally and were later picked up by editor, Amanda Patten. What was the editing process like from that point?

Lucy: One of the nice things about self-publishing your own book is that you're the only one who has to edit it-- which is also probably the worst thing about self-publishing. The first (self-published) edition of my book had loads of spelling mistakes, incorrect French and weirdly worded sentences. I got the chance to fix it all up a little on the S&S edition. All the 2nd edition editing took place during my first year of grad school, and the deadlines for new edits always seemed to coincide with a finals or midterm week! It was a good, trial-by-fire sorta introduction to company publishing.
Andi: As a lover of comics and graphic novels, I was tickled when I got to graduate school as an English major and realized I could make graphic novels the bulk of my academic work. There's always the ongoing controversy about "What do we call these things?!" Some favor "comics" or "comix" or "graphic novels" or "sequential art." How do you categorize your work? How much does the label matter?

Lucy: I absolutely don't care at all what people call them. "Comics" is a pretty good blanket term, but I know people who feel that it doesn't cover the seriousness of the medium. I also know people who detest the term "comix," and people who don't like "sequential art" because it's TOO serious. Whatever-- though I will say that admitting to bringing "graphic novels" across the border at customs is not advisable.

Andi:  From reading French Milk and some of your other interviews, it's obvious you're a book lover just like myself and 99.98% of my blog readers. There's been a good deal of controversy in the blogosphere lately about the whitewashing of book covers (books about various ethnic groups with white adolescents on the covers). I also did a recent post about the repetitiveness of book cover images. If I see one more set of toes in the sand, I might just break down and cry. My question for you as an artist, illustrator AND a reader: what makes a great cover and what can ruin it for you?

Lucy: I have to admit that "young adult fiction" is my reading flavor of choice-- They're quick and easy to sink into. I can burn through Suzanne Collins and Louise Rennison and Kristin Cashore and loop back for some Jane Yolen or Lois Lowry. Love it. BUT it's Young Adult Fiction that gets some of the worst cover treatment (excepting, perhaps, Romance Novels). I've combated my total cover disgust ("Two people standing under an umbrella? A closeup of someone's eye with a misty green photo filter? And yes, those damn TOES IN THE SAND!") by buying a lot more digital books, where you never really have to look directly at the cover. Cover design can be a pain (another good reason to be a cartoonist, where you hopefully have more control over your cover than a prose author would), but much worse than a bad cover is a good cover over a bad book. That's what really gets me down.

Andi: You've been quick to embrace digital media while some of your contemporaries in comics have not. The Internet is alive with web comics and other digital creations. However, with the rise of the e-reader (Kindle, Nook) do you see this as having any effect on comics publishing? Right now it's nearly impossible to buy a comic or graphic novel in e-format in mainstream marketplaces, and even if we could, if there were color or expansive images, they would be hard to view (shame!).

Lucy: This is going to change really soon. I really think it's only a matter of time before publishers, artists and writers are going to see how crazy cheap it is to publish a digital book with things like color and images that you couldn't easily or affordably get in print publishing. What's nice is that it might even up the works a bit-- get more people making beautiful, image-heavy books to combat the lures of free reading/viewing material online. The digital books are cheaper and I can carry 500 of them around with me all the time. The conflict and publishing woes will all come right in the end, I think. I have faith that it'll benefit the authors and readers, if perhaps not the publishers quite so much. I'm a comic artist, and that's my job, but I think I'm foremost a reader, so cheaper/colorful/instantly accessible/portable books on my phone? I am IN.

Andi: You're working with a website called Picture Book Report to illustrate portions of Lois Lowry's children's classic, The Giver. Can you tell us how that book has played a part in your life and why you chose to undertake this unique project?

Lucy: I read this book for the first time in sixth grade, when my favorite teacher, Ms. King, assigned it to us. I adored her because we'd book-swap and sometimes she'd let me stay in from recess to read (I am, was, and always will be a huge nerd and teacher's pet). And because once I threw up in front of her and she was really nice about it. Anyway... We read The Giver and when it was over I was so furious about the mystery ending that I promptly hand-wrote thirty pages of what I now know to be "fanfiction," but which I then referred to as my "sequel novel." I loved the book, but it was also my doorway into compulsive writing projects, which is basically my current profession.
Thanks so much to Lucy Knisley for agreeing to this Q&A and for waiting for me FOREVER to get my stuff together and send the questions. She got this thing back to me in record time, AND with illustrations. She's officially my new favorite author crush.

Visit her website.

And since I knooowww you want to know, I asked Lucy to briefly describe her upcoming book. This is what she had to say:

"The book (Relish) is a collection of stories about food, and my childhood growing up with a mother who is a chef. Like French Milk, it explores the mother/daughter relationship and the bonds we create while cooking, feeding and eating. It's full-color, about 200 pages, from First Second Publishing."

I know I can't wait!

Monday, July 19, 2010

The Passage - It really is THAT good! (No Spoilers)

I don't do hype, and you know this, dear readers. Except this time I ignored the hype AND the fact that this is a 700+-page book AND I have a newborn at home. I swallowed the e-book pricetag even though I'm on a no-buying spree. I just did it. I jumped in. I ignored the fact that there are "vampires." And what did I get?

A truly worthwhile and stunning read. While some might be tempted to categorize Justin Cronin's The Passage as a science fiction book or a vampire book, what I found was a really nicely written and engrossing book that happened to have sci-fi elements and vampires in it. What I loved most were Cronin's characters and his (dare I say it) sweeping epic. How many cliches can I fit into once sentence? But it REALLY was a SWEEPING EPIC. I can't help it. It's beyond me to try to work around that description.

If you've been hiding in your attic and don't know what the book is about, here's my very short, super-condensed version:

The goverment wants to engineer superhuman killing machines or these "vampires" we keep hearing about. They screw up (surprise, surprise), and the 12 death row inmates they tested their virus on escape and kill the majority of humanity and make a whole bunch more vampires along the way. Oh, and the government tried this virus out on a six-year-old, too, but she was fine, if endowed with some weird/helpful powers. Shift forward nearly 100 years, and the reader is introduced to a community of people living, and avoiding the vampires, in California. They soon find out the batteries powering the lights that help keep the "virals" away are going to die, and an expedition begins to find a replacement for the batteries, and find out what's up with the weird little girl who showed up--unharmed--at their gates.

While this is a lighthearted summary, let it not diminish my message: this book was really, really good. I was swept away in this chunkster, and if I could've divorced eating, sleeping, and work, I would've finished it in two days.

Cronin's greatest strength is his characters. There are a LOT of characters both before and after the book's big time shift, and I never had a bit of trouble keeping up with who was who. He includes their backgrounds, and in many cases personal tragedies, and it made so many of them--no matter their actions throughout the book--incredibly sympathetic. The community in the latter portion of the book: Peter, Theo, Mausami, Alicia, Sara, Michael, Caleb, Hollis, Amy and others were just great. I wanted to kick some of them in the face occasionally, but I really cared deeply about all of them, and it was excruciating to read about their adventures and misadventures.

Cronin's vampires are not cheesy in the slightest. They drink blood and they're super strong, and that's where any traditional comparison to vampires ends. They are terrifying monsters with humans buried somewhere deep inside and the threat they posed to my beloved characters throughout the book was more than enough to make me hate them. Although, oddly, there were moments when Cronin was able to render them sympathetic as well. Weird.

As nicely written and richly developed as the book is, it is not without fault. I found some of Cronin's descriptions of action hard to follow. He has a writing style that rides the line between literary and...not. At times it was beautiful, raw, and a punch in the gut. When it came to action, though, I just wanted him to be straightforward. Instead of writing, Her body arced outward from the Humvee just give it to me straight. She nearly fell off and got her ass run over. It was frustrating to have to SLOW DOWN reading these portions, and at times I even had to re-read a couple of paragraphs. Maybe he did this to me on purpose, but either way, it ticked me off. It was a small price to pay, and in the long run it didn't diminish my enjoyment of the book, but it made me "grrr" a few times.

I've said it before, and I'll say again: the highest compliment I can bestow upon any book is an emotional investment in the story. This one made me cry a few times, and not just at the end. I was seriously invested in these characters, and it's going to be painful to wait for the next book.

The Passage is one of my top reads for the year, no doubt. If you're on the fence about reading it, I certainly understand, but I would urge you to try it anyway. I can only hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Visit the website.

Note: I posted this sucker early due to a slip of the mouse, and it's already plooped into your readers, so I can't take it back. Just don't forget to read the Lucy Knisley interview below!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Sunday Salon (I'm Back!) and Saturday Farmer's Market

I haven't done a Sunday Salon post in ages, and do you want to know why? I've been unplugged at home for almost 3 months. Shortly after Greyson was born, my beloved Toshiba laptop started having "issues" to put it nicely. I now know those issues were a result of multiple viruses that finally dragged it down so low it stopped working completely.

Since then, I held onto the computer for better than a month here at home because I didn't miss it that much and I don't teach online during the summer, but I finally dropped it off at my trusty computer repair shop, and they've had it for almost a month due to various extenuating circumstances.

In short, it's back! It's weird to be typing away in bed on a Sunday morning. This was my routine for a very long time, so it's good to be back and also sort of odd, too. Greyson is sleeping, squeaking in his crib occasionally, Chuck is snoring it up next to me, and Daisy is curled up against my leg. And I'm reading blogs! Wooohooo!

With all that out of the way, what's shaking for The Sunday Salon? Well, I ignored the family for a few hours last night in favor of finishing The Passage. And OHMYGOD, I can't wait to write the review.

Today I'll be starting Ten Acres is Enough for review in the upcoming grand re-opening issue of Estella's Revenge E-Zine. In other bookish news, Rocketgirl finished a book yesterday and was hunting for something else to read. Since she's going into high school this upcoming school year, I've pretty much (pretty much!) given her free reign to read whatever she wants off my bookshelves. She'd chosen The Time Traveler's Wife, but I also mentioned that she would LOVE To Kill a Mockingbird. She chose Mockingbird, and I didn't see her for the rest of the night. I hope that's a good sign.

In other news, I decided to participate in Heather's Saturday Farmer's Market today, even though I'm a day late and several dollars short. These pics are from a visit to the Dallas Farmers Market several weeks ago. I should be posting pics of my own patio garden, but I'm too lazy to go dig through Chuck's camera bag for the point and shoot I used to take those pics. You'll get those next weekend. In the meantime...

As usual, you can click for the larger version, and it's really worth it for all the colors and textures. Most of the booths aren't this stacked, but when Chuck saw this one, the camera clicking started immediately. They really did have a stunning setup of all kinds of veggies, local honeys, and other goodies. I wanted to stick my face in the veggie pile, personally. There's probably a psychological term for wanting to motor boat the tomatoes.

So what's in store for your Sunday? Any good reading today? Do share. Maybe I can add MORE to my wishlist.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bookellanea or This is How I Drool

Bookish + miscellanea. Get it? Get it? OK, it's been a hell of a week, and it's Thursday and I'm dragging arse. This has just been one of those weeks at work when every duty snowballs at once and I'm left trying to keep my curly head above water. No signs of slowing before the end of the term on July 30th, so I'll be paddling hard until then.

In the meantime, I've been reading Lucy Knisley's graphic novel French Milk for the second time this year. She will be my next Outspoken Interview, with ILLUSTRATIONS!!!! That'll post this coming Monday.

I'm also still reading The Passage, and I will wait to tell you how FREAKIN' AWESOME it is when I'm finished with it completely. 200 pages left! You know how allergic I am to overhyped books,  but this one, so far, has been far and above the hype. And this is not even my "kind" of book generally speaking. Awesome. Just awesome. But I'm waiting to tell you that. Right. Ahem.

While I haven't gotten anything new from the library or for my Nook, I have been adding titles to my Nook wishlist when I blog hop or read through the latest issue of the New York Times Book Review. Have you read any of these?

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell Kaplan - I read about this one over at Caribousmom. Wendy writes:
Mitchell James Kaplan’s debut novel is set in fifteenth century Spain during the time of the New Inquisition when King Fernando and Queen Ysabel were waging war and expelling all Jews from Spain. This period is also remembered for Cristobal Colon (Christopher Columbus) and his discovery of the Western Hemisphere. Kaplan has taken all of these events and created an historical novel of depth, passion and faith which held me spellbound.
The only other book I've read from the Spanish Inquisition time period was Alice Hoffman's YA historical, Incantation. I read it a few Dewey's Read-a-Thons ago, and I absolutely loved it. I would love to delve back into this particular part of history.

The Birth of Love by Joanna Kavenna is one I read about over at Farm Lane Books. Jackie summarizes it nicely:
The Birth of Love combines a present day birthing experience with flashbacks to Vienna in 1865, a time when thousands of mothers died simply because doctors didn’t think to wash their hands between performing an autopsy and helping with a birth. We discover how Professor Semmelweis, the first man to suggest that doctors should wash their hands regularly, was imprisoned in a lunatic asylum. He was driven mad by his realisation that he had killed so many women by spreading disease between them.

The book also gives a scary prediction for the future, suggesting that in 2153 no one will give birth – all babies will be grown in special genetically screened baby farms.
Having a child certainly gives any woman a greater appreciation for the process. Personally, I had absolutely no interest in birth stories before Greyson came along, but now a book like this sounds like something I'd love to get my hands on. I'm also fascinated by the various historical periods. Seems I'm craving something historical! That's totally out of the ordinary for me. I'll blame it on loving The Good Earth so much. Now I need MORE!
My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares is everywhere. I can't even remember which blogs have featured it because they numbers are stacking up. The Powell's description:
Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has the memory, the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he's previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.

Interwoven through Sophia and Daniel's unfolding present day relationship are glimpses of their expansive history together. From 552 Asia Minor to 1918 England and 1972 Virginia, the two souls share a long and sometimes torturous path of seeking each other time and time again.
OK, does The Gargoyle come immediately to mind for any of you? It did for me. I've never read any of Brashares' YA stuff, so I'm completely new to her writing, but I'm hoping this story offers something new. I adored The Gargoyle, so if it's too similar I may be irked. We'll see how it goes!
Mr. Peanut by Adam Ross was one I noticed in the New York Times Book Review, and it had a pretty good showing from what I can remember. This is only part of the blurb from Powell's, but it sounds like quite the twisty mess:
David Pepin has been in love with his wife, Alice, since the moment they met in a university seminar on Alfred Hitchcock. After thirteen years of marriage, he still can't imagine a remotely happy life without her — yet he obsessively contemplates her demise. Soon she is dead, and David is both deeply distraught and the prime suspect.
So basically, David Pepin is not the only married man under fire or embroiled in murderous schemes in this book (that's included in the rest of the blurb over at Powell's). While I'm not much of a murder reader, it seems as if this one may be an interesting, if brutal, examination of marriage.

Dismantled by Jennifer McMahon is another book that landed on my radar, but I'm not sure how. I'm almost certain it was a blog, but it's been a while so I can't remember who got me hooked.
Dismantlement = Freedom

Henry, Tess, Winnie, and Suz banded together in college to form a group they called the Compassionate Dismantlers. Following the first rule of their manifesto--To understand the nature of a thing, it must be taken apart--these daring misfits spend the summer after graduation in a remote cabin in the Vermont woods committing acts of meaningful vandalism and plotting elaborate, often dangerous, pranks. But everything changes when one particularly twisted experiment ends in Suz's death and the others decide to cover it up.
It sounds one part The Secret History (Donna Tart) and one part "The Destructors" (Graham Greene). Both the novel and the short story came immediately to mind when I read the blurb, and now I can't wait to get my hands on it. I'm not sure if I'll be able to grab it from the library or if I'll end up snagging it on e-book, but either way, I must try it!

What books are you drooling over?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

PS - Save the Libraries!

Somehow Marilyn Johnson and I forgot to talk about library budget cuts!!! What kind of Outspoken Interviewer would I be if I didn't follow up about this important issue? A crappy interviewer, that's what! Marilyn was kind enough to take even more time to put together this "PS" guest post about saving the libraries. For me, this all started with a Fox affiliate in Chicago reporting that libraries are a suck on resources in the face of the Illinois budget crisis. You can read that article here.


"Estella" and I were having such a good time chatting about cutting edge librarians and drive-through libraries that we forgot to discuss the current trend to lop 30% off library operating budgets. This is NOT where we the people should be saving tax dollars. Libraries are remarkably efficient ways to share resources, especially in these tough times. We all have to have access to computers and the internet if we want to compete in the world, and let's face it, not everybody can stroll into the Apple store and order up a nice, shiny Mac. And librarians help anyone and everyone, from experts and small business owners to the vast numbers of the technologically challenged. They've helped me as a researcher, a frustrated computer user, a harried mother, a baffled citizen…whatever my problem, they can find a resource to help solve it. At this point, with so many other cuts to government and education services, libraries and librarians have been handling the spillover problems (most recently, they helped everybody, especially senior citizens, figure out how to access tax forms online) -- I worry that the cuts to libraries will leave us all without a safety net, without human help in navigating the bureaucracy, and without computer access for a significant percentage of our citizens. I don't think we have any idea how much of a load libraries have been carrying, and I worry that we're going to find out the hard way. Just look at the small business owners they've been keeping afloat! Look at all the children they've been keeping off the streets!

I'm heartened by the number of people who have been speaking out for libraries. All these wonderful, activist websites,

The ALA's advocacy center grows every time I check it out. and their advocacy sheets have such gems as the fact that Americans spend more money on candy than they do on libraries. Put that on your teeshirt! I love seeing all the authors stand up for libraries: Novelist Karin Slaughter says, "Funding libraries should be our number one national priority." Strong words, but absolutely true. Libraries offer the solutions to so many of our problems! And somewhere, I hope a nifty cataloger is cataloging all the opinion pieces that have been pouring out trying to make the case that funding libraries is good for all of us. I wrote my own for the LA Times. Libraries are neat, and librarians are fun….but libraries are also the foundation of this democracy.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Outspoken Interviews: Marilyn Johnson

I hope you'll take a few minutes to read through this chatty Q&A with Marilyn Johnson, champion to librarians everywhere and super-author of This Book is Overdue! How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All. It's a great, noteworthy book, and Marilyn Johnson offers some wonderful insights.

Andi: You introduce a slew—a cornucopia—of great librarians in this book. I thoroughly enjoyed each and every chapter. Were there any nuggets of information you found interesting or librarians you found fascinating but had to leave out in the editing process? Can you tell us about any of them?

Marilyn: Goodness, yes. I wish I could have written about some of the great libraries in the Midwest -- Topeka and Shawnee County, or the Schaumberg (Ill.) system, or one of the award-winning libraries in Ohio. Stephanie Sarnoff, who heads Schaumberg, pointed out that the Midwest libraries have embraced the culture of convenience in a way that puts the East to shame. In Schaumberg, you could check out material with a card from any library in the country; you could check out a librarian for an hour; you could pick up books and DVDs at the drive-through window.

I'm sorry I couldn't figure out a way to report more of my conversations with Joe Sanchez, who now teaches at Rutgers; he has a great grasp of digital media and its possibilities, and a wonderful imagination. He also told me to go to SXSW, where so many things happen first.

And I'm sorry I had to limit the book to American librarians, because I had two wonderful sources in the U.K., Rory McLeod and Sheila Webber, who spent many hours sharing their work…. those are just for starters. Actually, I could have written another whole book or two.

Andi: Did you read or do preliminary research to prepare to write this book before you started meeting and interacting with librarians in person? Are there other librarian-loving books you can recommend? Bookish people need to know these things.

Marilyn: I read Revolting Librarians from 1972 and Revolting Librarians Redux from 2003. I read Quiet Please: dispatches from a public librarian. The Time Traveler's Wife. The title story in Alice Munro's collection Carried Away. Ian Sansome's bookmobile novels were fun. Mainly, though, I read online. Blogs written by librarians were a rich source of information and attitudes, and an introduction to a cast of characters who proved to be excellent and articulate librarians and technical adventurers. I got my RSS feed going and began to follow some of these people; I got on a couple listservs; I read Library Journal and its blogs, American Libraries, Resource Shelf, LIS News. I'm hooked now.

Andi: One of the parts I love most about This Book is Overdue! is that you involve yourself in the stories. For anyone who hasn’t read: you not only chronicle the work of the librarians but you include your discovery process as you meet and interact with them (in person and virtually). I personally have a hard time believing in pure objectivity in any arena and giggle when an author claims to be totally objective. You personalized the librarians and the changes in the library and information science field by including yourself. How did you make the choice to write the book this way? Was it a conscious choice or is it a style of writing you feel most comfortable with?

Marilyn: I can write in the remote, objective voice, but it's not as much fun. First person can be tricky, but because this was essentially a book about librarians using, modeling, and teaching technology and I was a person who was almost completely clueless technologically, I thought it might add an extra dimension: you could read about these librarians, and you could also see them in action, bringing someone up to speed. I had a challenge in trying to write for people of variable technological sophistication. I wrote about my own experiences as a way to reach those who knew nothing about that stuff and as a way to be useful (I hope) to those who knew way more than I did: here is what it feels like to try to figure out cataloging migrations from the outside, or e-rates, or virtual reality. Mainly, though, I wrote in the first person because it was funnier.

Andi: One of the most fascinating sections of the book, to me, was the portion about librarians in online environments like Second Life. Personally, when I was in library school and first heard about this phenomenon, my computer and I both crashed and burned after touring Second Life for just a little while, and I know you struggled with it in the beginning as well. You’re a presence on Twitter and you have a website, but immersive environments like Second Life seem so much more ‘extreme’ somehow than regular social media. Do you think immersive online environments like Second Life can be sustained for information sharing purposes? Could they be as beneficial to writers as they’ve been to librarians or is it too impractical? And just for fun: Do you ever visit Second Life now that the book is done?

Marilyn: Second Life is being used very successfully by LIS students, especially those in distance programs, but is it too challenging to be of practical use? I don't know. I see people who lose themselves in World of Warcraft or Call of Duty, or get obsessed with online poker or geocaching. These things require skill and time, but people manage. It doesn't seem so challenging when it's fun.

I do visit Second Life, but not nearly as often, and mainly to make presentations or (sadly) go to memorial services. My wonderful source Daisyblue Hefferman died recently, and she is responsible for some of the trippiest experiences I had there: walking into the world of Fahrenheit 451, waltzing with Abraham Lincoln.

Andi: I’m an English professor teaching mostly college writing courses, and one of my favorite sayings in class is, “The librarian is like a ninja.” Meaning of course that our librarian has near-super powers in her ability to hunt down information the students might never find on their own and wrangle it for all its worth. Her knowledge and ability to traverse the online and print world is staggering. I would love for you to make your own analogy.

A librarian is like a __________.

Marilyn: Oh, ninja is good!

A librarian is like a consultant, only affordable.

A librarian is like a power tool.

A librarian is like a secret weapon! I do think librarians are like detectives or intelligence operatives-- a little Miss Marple, a little 007.
I also asked Marilyn if she would mind providing names and addresses for blogs she found particularly informative or inspiring. As she notes, you can find many of these linked on the This Book is Overdue! website listed below: 
Marilyn says: There are so many others I love....many referenced on the blogroll page of the website, but the new blog I'm following is written by David Ferriero. I wrote about him when he was running NYPL's libraries; now he's Archivist of the U.S. and blogging as AOTUS: Collector in Chief:

Not to be missed.
Don't forget to visit:
Thanks so much to Marilyn Johnson! It was a thrill and a pleasure to work with you. 

*Note: the photographs of Marilyn Johnson in this and my previous post were taken by Jennifer May.
Images by Freepik