Monday Mailbox 5/28/12

Monday Mailbox is hosted this month by Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

I received one book this week, an unsolicited review copy from Plume:
Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent
and other amazing comic book trivia,
by Brian Cronin

Not gonna lie. Kinda excited. Although I think we all know the answer:

Aaaand we've got another giveaway this week! 

This time, it's for a copy of 
Alberto Manguel's 
All Men are Liars 
(Riverhead Trade Paperpack Original) 
which comes out on June 5, 2012. 

Description from amazon:

In this gorgeously imagined novel, a journalist interviews those who knew—or thought they knew—Alejandro Bevilacqua, a brilliant, infuriatingly elusive South American writer and author of the masterpiece, In Praise of Lying. But the accounts of those in his circle of friends, lovers, and enemies become increasingly contradictory, murky, and suspect. Is everyone lying, or just telling their own subjective version of the truth? As the literary investigation unfolds and a chorus of Bevilacqua’s peers piece together the fractured reality of his life, thirty years after his death, only the reader holds the power of final judgment.
 In All Men Are Liars, Alberto Manguel pays homage to literature’s inventions and explores whether we can ever truly know someone, and the question of how, by whom, and for what, we ourselves will be remembered.


A Small Fortune Giveaway Winner Announcement

Sorry this is about a day and a half late...

The winner of a brand new hardcover copy of Rosie Dastgir's A Small Fortune is:


Congratulations! Be sure to check your email for details.

And thank you to all who participated! Be sure to check back on Monday for the next giveaway announcement! 

Y'all have a great holiday weekend!


Review: Valley Boy, by Jack Remick

Valley Boy
by Jack Remick
Cofeetown Press
May 1, 2012
254 pgs
The second book in Jack Remick's "California Quartet," Valley Boy follows its predecessor, 2011's The Deification, in basic bildungsroman structure. It's about a young man on a journey to find himself and his place in the world. But unlike the messy first book of the quartet (which mostly made me want to vomit, my head was spinning so hard), Valley Boy has a straightforward narrative, a simpler plot, and much more likable characters. 

It is also much more rooted in reality than The Deification. Whether that's a good thing or not is completely subjective, but the realism was certainly a boon for this particular novel and made it a much better homage than the first book.

The bulk of this story takes place in Central Valley, California which is apparently one of those places you're born in and you die in, but you never move there on purpose and, chances are, you'll never leave. Ricky is a third generation Californian of solid dust bowl Okie stock. Both his character and Remick's story seem to be veritable descendants of the Joads in Californian John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Ricky's family came to California like the Joads did, in search of work, in search of a living. 

A product of, and victim of, the diaspora, Ricky's mother is a musical prodigy wrapped up in and bound by a religion that Ricky cannot and does not wish to comprehend, and everyone can't help but make fun of poor Okie Ricky with his Frisco jeans and his low aspirations. But while Ricky's coming-of-age is central to the story, the novel's female characters are its strongest: from Ricky's gifted pianist mother to the waitress at the Sno-White, the female contingent is what inevitably drives the novel forward. This is made flesh in Ricky's hallucination of the raven-haired woman who later comes into being. 

The women literally push and pull Ricky toward the future. As a result, the other male characters are somewhat sidelined and turn out either rather puny (Ricky's best friend who is a wastrel whose aspirations are even lower) or larger than life caricatures (the rich Mexican father, Ricky's own prodigal father, and the dean at Berkley, the owner of the junk yard). Mr. W, Ricky's mentor who finally shows his mother the way out of her shell, seems to be the only male character besides Ricky who seems thoughtfully sketched: an indication, perhaps, of the man Ricky could grow up to be.


Review: Radiant Days, by Elizabeth Hand

Radiant Days
by Elizabeth Hand
Viking Juvenile
April 12, 2012
272 pgs
The idea of this story as an Orpheus myth is introduced to us by the author, but it's more than that. It's Orpheus and Jesus wound together in something that resembles both "Kate and Leopold" and "Once."

A young woman named Merle, a scholarship student at DC arts college, gets the boot when she stops and realizes that living in the moment supersedes anything she might learn in class. When she then loses her shelter, her bag full of drawings and supplies, and her emotional rock, all she has is the moment, this rock bottom moment.

That's when she meets Ted Kampfert, a legendary musician and fisherman tramp. He gives Merle the key to a shelter, and a key to life. Meanwhile, in 1870 France, poet Arthur Rimbaud has run away again and, destitute himself, encounters a similar eccentric who directs him to what turns out to be the same shelter Merle has found herself in, across the Atlantic, some hundred years later.

This is one of those novels that favors the id completely - anyone may relate to it because the desires involved are so universal. Right and wrong blend together to create a grand web of events so beautiful that the judgement of its morality would be inherently wrong. Of the story's morality, that is.

The actual construction of the novel does leave a bit to be desired: the supporting characters are more caricature than flesh and blood, and do a poor job of supporting the main characters whose fleshing out, as it were, is unstable to begin with.

The narrative's transitions between place and time are clean, but by labeling them we lose some of the mystery and luster: the reader would be better-served by not having things announced to them at the top of each chapter and by being left to our own devices to discover where and when we are, and might be going.

Monday Mailbox 5/21/12

Monday Mailbox is hosted this month by Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.


I just closed my show last night. It's been a very hectic three weeks, and I know I've been neglectful in the last two, but I'm gonna try to make that up to everyone! I have three giveaways going on in the next three weeks! Exciting, I know!

The first giveaway (this week's) is for a brand new hardcover copy of
Rosie Dastgir's new novel A Small Fortune which comes out this Thursday! Giveaway starts now, and a winner will be chosen on Thursday, announced on Friday. CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY

And then stay tuned in the next two weeks for (at least) two more giveaways!

And as this is Monday Mailbox, I actually did not receive anything this week. Did you??


Monday Mailbox 5/7/12

Monday Mailbox is hosted this month by Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Life is a bit insane this month. I'm working full-time and I'm stage managing a show for the Westchester Square Arts Festival, so things are a bit nutty. I've barely had time to pick up a book, let alone finish one, so no reviews this week. But I did receive two books...or, well, I received one and found the other.

The first is
Blood, Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education
of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Hamilton
I scored this one at my office's lending library / Lauren's feeding ground.

And then
All Men Are Liars
by Alberto Manguel
I received this one as an ARC from Riverhead. The novel is due out on June 5th. 

What did you receive this week??


Monday Mailbox 4/30/12

Mailbox Monday is a weekly meme created by Marcia at A Girl and Her Books and was hosted all tof April by Cindy of Cindy's Love of Books. Monday Mailbox will be hosted in May by Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf.

Posting a bit late this week due to a family outing. But now I'm back.

In case you missed it, I had a guest review of Helen Keller in Love this week from my friend Jessica - check it out here!

This week I received another copy (a hardcover instead of a galley) of A Small Fortune. Guess what I'll be holding a giveaway for next week..

I also received a review copy of Auraria by Tim Westover from QW Publishers, which will be released on July 10th of this year. Here's the summary from Amazon: Water spirits, moon maidens, haunted pianos, headless revenants, and an invincible terrapin that lives under the mountains. None of these distract James Holtzclaw from his employer's mission: to turn the fading gold-rush town of Auraria, GA, into a first-class resort and drown its fortunes below a man-made lake. But when Auraria's peculiar people and problematic ghosts collide with his own rival ambitions, Holtzclaw must decide what he will save and what will be washed away. Taking its inspiration from a real Georgia ghost town, Auraria is steeped in the folklore of the Southern Appalachians, where the tensions of natural, supernatural and artificial are still alive.

And finally, my mother brought me a copy of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith for my birthday, which is this Thursday the 3rd. Happy Birthday to me!!