Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Giveaway! Win the new paperback version of The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma

The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards by Kristopher Jansma very nearly made it into my Top 5 Books from 2013, but its Honorable Mention status makes it no less significant. To celebrate the book's paperback release today (and that lovely new cover), Penguin Books has very kindly offered me 1 copy of the book for a giveaway.

If you didn't catch my review the first time, here's an excerpt:

"The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards exists within the lies we tell ourselves and the lies others choose to believe. In this stunning first novel, Kristopher Jansma has accomplished a narrative feat by making the reader embrace bewilderment and questions of identity.

To properly summarize Leopards is to run the risk of spoiling its magic, but our young male narrator has yearned for notoriety ever since his flight attendant mother would leave him waiting in the concourse while she worked, depending upon other airport employees to watch him. The boy would write and write, desiring great words that would impress those around him. By impressing them, he wishes to earn their love.

We think we know his name, and then we are not sure. The process continues, and the boy ages — "growing up" is not entirely the correct term, for he still has not quite figured out who he is, or if the love he feels for a special woman is a love for her or just love for love's sake."

Read the rest here.

If you would like to be entered to win The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, leave a comment telling me: What's one "grown-up" thing you have yet to master? Make sure I have some way to contact you (email, Twitter), too.

Mine is definitely cleaning the bathroom. The mister does it because I think it's icky and I don't wanna. So there. Etc.

One entry per person. Winner will be chosen via random number generator on the evening of February 27th.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Story Time: "Carbon" by Dan Rhodes

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. The fine folks at Europa Editions have passed along a story from Dan Rhodes' new collection of short fiction, Marry Me, and I like it a lot. So while I'm continuing to be slow about book reviews and updates and other writing, how about I just leave this here:

"Carbon" by Dan Rhodes

I asked my girlfriend to marry me, and she said yes. I couldn’t afford a diamond, so instead I handed her a lump of charcoal. ‘It’s pure carbon,’ I explained. ‘Now, if we can just find a way to rearrange the atoms . . .'
She stared at the black lump in her palm, and I began to worry that ours was going to be the shortest engagement in history. She smiled. ‘We’ll put it under the mattress,’ she said.  ‘Maybe we’ll squash it into a diamond over time.’
It’s been there ever since. We check up on it every once and a while, and it never looks any different. I think we would be a bit disappointed if it ever did.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Books I Read in 2013: Part 2

(Read Part One here. Includes Top 5 favorites published in 2013, lots of Doctor Who audio dramas, cats, and more.)

Before it gets any further into 2013, I want to continuing documenting the pile of books I read last year. Let us get to the "Not Among the Favorites, But Still Very (or Very, Very) Good."


Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling: Continuing on with my "I am probably the last person of my age to read these," this was the first Harry Potter book where I became really distracted by things like, "said Ron grimacingly" or other stylistic choices that just aren't my writing cup of tea. Of course, it's still a great story, and I'm going to keep reading, but please forgive me for any snobbishness that my criticism implies.

Black Swan Green by David Mitchell: The first David Mitchell novel I didn't want to eat (for being so good), but that doesn't mean it's not worth reading. With its realistic young protagonist, it somewhat reminded me of Ciarán West's Boys of Summer, but with less murderin'.

Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream: I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Review here.

The Unseen by Katherine Webb: Also quite captivating, especially for a long book. Review here.

Fobbit by David Abrams: An outstanding novel about the various absurdities surrounding and contained within the Iraq War. I meant to review this awhile back, and never did. Abrams is from Montana, so I gotta let out that obligatory-but-deserved Woo! (We get really excited when people realize that writers do exist in Montana, and no, we don't all write about cowboys and "the range.")

It's Fine By Me by Per Petterson: Petterson does melancholy and lonely so well. Review here.

Father Gaetano's Puppet Catechism: A Novella by Mike Mignola and Christopher Golden: A recommendation from a friend I ended up enjoying very much, despite not being all that well-versed in Catholic symbolism. Review here.

A Winter's Night by Valerio Massimo Manfredi: A big, satisfying family saga that extends through both World Wars. Review here.

NW by Zadie Smith: My first Zadie Smith book. I know, I know, late to the literary party again. This was a library book, and I loved the characters and their unapologetic flaws and the various London settings. Right up my alley.

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro: I'm a sucker for heist stories and some portions of art history, so I'm glad that this was not at all disappointing. Review here.

The Ocean at The End of The Lane by Neil Gaiman: This is where I was triumphantly fist-pumping over my review copy contacts. Gaiman, of course, writes beautifully, in that full-on heart-swelling way that identifies tricky emotions that one could not previously name. The nightmares of children exist in a language that is often impenetrable to adults, but he writes with such a direct insight to those dreams that we begin to remember what it was like to have them. Review here.

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie Jr.: It's an unusual book, in its way. Review here.

The Golem and The Jinni by Helen Wecker: I guess you would call this a fantasy novel, or maybe in some ways, a magical realism novel, but however you want to classify a story about two mythic beings from two different cultures meeting in Ellis Island-era NYC, it's worth the read.

Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho: I would almost call this a book of philosophy, but if Coelho and his publisher, Knopf, want to call it a novel, then okay. Still quite good though. Review here.

Maya's Notebook by Isabel Allende: Although the book is nearly 400 pages, it never feels like it goes on too long, and the diary premise never seems forced. Review here.

Grey Cats by Adam Biles: My first-ever Kindle-read novel, which I guess counts for something. Still, I did enjoy this surreal story set in Paris, made even more surreal by reading it in a very warm Florida house.

The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy: Not quite as "I WILL HUG THIS BOOK'S FACE OFF" as Everything Beautiful Began After, but still really good.

Girl Afraid by Ciarán West: In the same way readers moved past their shock to read Alissa Nutting's similarly-themed Tampa, I do hope people give this a look. Review here.

Short Stories!

One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses by Lucy Corin: Another one of those "meant to review/got behind/ declared Review Bankruptcy instead." That shouldn't deter you. This is an odd, wonderful collection of little "apocalypses" with a really great cut-out hardcover.

Half as Happy: Stories by Gregory Spatz: You know a book is good if you only stop reading so that you can tell the author, at 1 AM via Facebook, how much you are enjoying it. Review here.

The Girlfriend Game by Nick Antosca: These aren't happy tales, but the confusion, loneliness, and yearning for change feels so authentic to each individual world. Review here.

A Simplified Map of the Real World by Stevan Allred: I wanted to review this for Word Riot because it is a short story collection from a small press, so it would be a good fit, but alas, I didn't write anything. Let this be my recommendation now: Allred writes wonderfully of loneliness, despair, and desire. The history and characters contained within the town of Renata, Oregon make this one of the most connected collection of short stories I've ever read.

NANO Fiction (Vol. 7 No. 1) edited by Kirby Johnson: Their collections of flash fiction are usually good, though this was the best one from them I read last year.


All-American Poem by Matthew Dickman: I first became aware of Matthew Dickman through a New Yorker profile of him and his twin brother, Michael, who is also a writer. In Powells, I purchased this while looking for poetry books in which my husband might be interested. It's very, very good, and he should read it. (She said, staring pointedly.)

Looking For The Gulf Motel by Richard Blanco: 2013 kind of became my year of reading poetry, probably helped tremendously by my well-documented love for Richard Blanco. His work and dem arms. I reviewed this collection of poetry over at The Rumpus. (I also want to read his memoir.)

100 Love Sonnets / Cien Sonetos de Amor by Pablo Neruda: Twas almost entirely full-on love. Review here.

Proxy by R Erica Doyle: Prose poems that are unafraid of the body, of queerness, and the messiness into which one can willingly dive. Review here.

Equivalents by Jessica Baran: I will have a review of this up at The Rumpus soon, so stay tuned, other than to say, y'know, I liked it.


Magic Hours: Essays on Creators and Creation by Tom Bissell: I also meant to review this one, but I also read it around the same time I met Johnny Marr, and that was quite... distracting. (And wonderful. And I'm not going to stop mentioning it.) While I didn't always agree with Bissell's points, his essays were always interesting and gave me something to think about regarding creativity.

Mountainfit by Meera Lee Sethi: A cross between journalism, memoir, and poetry. Review (and a guest post) here.

Sexy Business!

Suite Encounters: Hotel Sex Stories edited by Rachel Kramer Bussel: Probably one of the better erotica collections I've read. Review here.

Sexy Sailors: Gay Erotic Stories edited by Neil Plakcy: Thankfully, it's not only about Navy members. I think maybe this and Suite Encounters might set someone up for false expectations about the general quality of most erotic fiction compilations because this was mostly pretty good, whereas most others are variations on "just okay, with a couple highlights." Review here.

The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure: Erotic Exploration for Men and Their Partners by Charlie Glickman and Aislinn Emirzian: Definitely interesting in a "Huh. So that's how that works," scientific sort of way, but also interesting in a fun way. Review here.


Boo: The Life of The World's Cutest Dog by J.H. Lee and Gretchen LeMaistre: AKA... The e-book went on sale for 99 cents, and how could I (or my kids) resist that? Look at him. He is pretty cute.

The Believer: Issues 99-103: If you like smart, arty magazines that somewhat read like a book, then you should just go subscribe already.


John Varvatos: Rock in Fashion by John Varvatos: Sometimes the fashion-speak is not entirely my thing, but this is a great rock n roll book. I love the Paul Weller inclusions, and seeing Neil Casal's photos of Ryan Adams and Liam and Noel Gallagher (whom I've also met, Obligatory Mention #14353). It's a fun book to look at. More importantly though, SO MUCH BOWIE.

Reporter (Vol. 1, No. 1) by Dylan Williams: Pulled this out of my husband's old comic collection and even bothered to make a Goodreads entry for it, so it's worth a look. Might be a bit of a rarity? I'm not sure.

And that's all for now. In the final installment, I'll go over the good to "meh" to the one book that made me (probably irrationally) angry, and a few I didn't finish. Until then...