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My Vegas flush (excuse the 5am pic circa 2006)

I like to think I’m lucky.

Take me to Vegas, and it’s probably I’ll win you money (really, a Jack and a two is a winning hand for me in Texas Hold ‘Em).  I enjoy the thrill of betting, though get just as excited over penny slots as hundred dollar bets (well, maybe that’s a stretch, but not having lots of extra $$ I’d have a heart attack before winning if lots was at stake).

I also love brackets.  Wayyyy more than basketball.  But year after year, I tend to perform well in brackets knowing nothing about the sport (see above: I’m lucky).

Luckily, in this month o’ brackets, I have more options from which to choose, and on a subject I’m knowledgeable: Books!

The Morning News is at it again with their new Tournament of Books (#ToB for your Tweeters).  I’m engaged: THE HELP has already beat LOWBOY, and LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN has overtaken Nami Munn’s lovely debut, MILES FROM NOWHERE (which I read when it first came out in hardcover and found it to be amazing).

Not only are books just as exciting as basketball (or more-so, in some cases), these “competitions” are judged by well-written experts.  After reading Rosecran Baldwin’s review of why he chose McCann instead of Munn, I’ve already ordered LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN and am eagerly anticipating its arrival.

On a side note, Baldwin happens to be the author of an upcoming Riverhead title, YOU LOST ME THERE (August 12), which has officially climbed up on my TBR stack after having read, and loved, his thoughts and style.

Now that you’re hooked on the ToB, who do you think will win?

Onto Bracket #2!  The fabulous Jen Forbus over at Jen’s Book Thoughts, is hosting a bracket for the “World’s Favorite Detective” tournament!

I tried to revisit the bracket to give you a better rundown, but her techie site seems to think I’m trying to stack the vote (which I may have considered) and won’t let me back in.  No worries, as I can about guarantee your favorite detective is included!

From classics like Agatha Christie’s Hercules, to the contemporary and swoon-worthy Elvis Cole, this bracket reads like the “who’s who of crime fiction.”  Voting in Round One is occasionally like “Sophie’s Choice” – how can you reasonably choose between Kinsey Millhone (Sue Grafton) and V.I. Warshawski (Sara Paretsky).


But, as you’ve probably noticed, after touting my “lucky” status, I’m not about to jinx myself and share my predictions on the book brackets!  I’ll be sure to let you know how my predictions (jotted down in a post-it somewhere) turn out…

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Some authors hide behind their words and author photos, unrecognized by the general public and are happy with that. On the other hand, there are authors who become a celebrity in their own right (and no, I don’t mean the celebrity “memoirs” or, God-forbid, the “books” written by Lauren Conrad or Heidi & Spencer).

Some authors achieve this status through talk show appearances (James Frey, anyone?) while others build a hugely loyal reading fan base.  I think Robert Crais, bestselling crime fiction author, is the latter.

The video you see above is the second author video I’ve worked on, and working with Bob was like working with a seasoned journalist.  You can tell he’s comfortable in front of the camera and gave us so many sound bites to work with, it was hard to keep the video under three minutes!  So Oprah, if you’re reading this, I suggest you have this charismatic and well-written author on your show before you retire.

In other Crais news, his latest Joe Pike novel (you all should know who Joe Pike is, of the sexy tattoos who exudes sex appeal) went on sale yesterday!  You can find THE FIRST RULE at your favorite bookseller nationwide.  It was my first Crais novel, and I’ve since visited his backlist and never been disappointed.

There’s something unique about Crais’s two main characters, Joe Pike and Elvis Cole.  They’re smart and dangerous, but not unemotional.  Though they’re crime books about very bad people (ahem, the Serbian mob – scary), the friendships and relationships depicted go much deeper than the surface, giving these novels a depth beyond the typical title in this genre.

Bob is on tour for several weeks (details) and if you’re anywhere in the vicinity I highly suggest you stop by.  My sister is attending the event in Dayton, OH and I’m going to try to convince her to do a guest post about it.  I know Jen Forbus is driving several hours to the same event (now that is a loyal fan!).

JUST IN: I am not the only one to think of Crais as a leading man!  Check out this new post, “Hot (& Talented) Authors!” – don’t miss the People’s Sexiest Man article they link to as well!

What other authors do you think have achieved a celebrity status and following?

Growing up, I associated my “community” with distance – however far my parents were willing to drive to deliver me to play, and later the mileage I covered in my own car, cabs, trains, and planes.

As I’ve continued to age, the boundaries shifted from place to place, but frequently covered tangible ground. Within my community were others that shared similar interests and hobbies and had somewhat comparable moral values. Under their influence, I purchased clothing, drank my first wine cooler, and got my navel pierced. Obviously, my most prevalent hobby/interest has always revolved around books (even in my “rebel” years). And since reading is typically a lonesome activity, when I meet those rare souls with whom I can banter, discuss and share favorite authors and writing styles, I hold on tight. Luckily, with the advent of social media, connecting with people has never been so easy.

Thanks to noted technology, my community is no longer limited by distance. I can find people with shared libraries by a quick blog search, or if I’m really lazy just log into GoodReads or LibraryThing and see whose bookshelves are most similar. I can get personal book suggestions, read intelligent reviews, and even win the occasional new release through blog giveaways. So while my community may no longer be on speed dial, it is very accessible.

Earlier this month, the Denver Post questioned the future of book blogs in the interesting article, Who Will Write the Future? While the article is examining the more prestigious litblogs and discussing pay walls, I think it overlooks the importance of the book blog that may be “more enthusiastic than professional.”

…ok, now that you’re hooked, why don’t you stumble on over to the complete article at Beneath the Cover for a little thumbs up action 🙂

My friend Elyse over at Pop Culture Nerd (a far superior blog, I highly suggest visiting regularly!) is asking people to share their motivation for choosing a new book to read.  Interesting right?

What drives you – is it a friends’ recommendation?  A great priceReview in the NYT? Sick of seeing it on Twitter and not contributing to the conversation?  Whatever it may be, I ask that you comment here as I am intrigued and you don’t want to be responsible for keeping me up at night…

For all of you out there lining up to buy me a Kindle, you can hold off until Christmas (unless you feel really strongly about it; who am I to turn down a gift?!).  Sony has just announced their latest e-reader to the family and this one has access to libraries (via wifi)!!!!  This definitely puts Sony ahead of Amazon at the moment.  So instead of purchasing each E-book for $9.99+, they’ll be rent-able… I wonder if you need an account with each library from which you “borrow”- but the details aren’t important to me yet since it won’t be out until December (hence, Christmas).

The official Sony post here: EXTRA, EXTRA: SONY’S DAILY EDITION ROUNDS OUT NEW LINE OF DIGITAL READERS, no pre-order link but if I stumble across one I’ll definitely let you know, along with my mailing address!

It appears I need to change my gmail signature from “Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over & updated regularly: http://www.novelwhore.wordpress.com” to read more along the lines of:

“Visit my digital book nook, obsessed over regularly, but rarely updated, though every time I write I really enjoy it, so keep on visiting until it  gets more exciting.”

And, like the headline suggests, I am going to re-post my article from http://www.beneaththecover.com right now, since not only does it take  minimal effort since it’s already written, but I’m able to justify to myself that my blog is now updated!  So, for all you readers that I really do appreciate, here’s my latest column:

HANDLE WITH CARE

What are books, exactly—treasured artifacts to be displayed behind glass, or objects to be enjoyed and devoured, like a good meal?

I know that no book I actually enjoy leaves the experience unscathed. For the lucky few that I enjoy, I’ll refer back to the content often, dog-eared pages in my wake. While stories offer escape within the language, for the books I reread I get taken back to where I was the first time, whether it be via the stains of soy sauce from unsuccessfully trying to read while enjoying sushi, or the sand that spills out as remnants of a long-forgotten vacation.

Obviously, with that description in mind, you can see that the books on my shelf may never make it into a museum exhibition of classics preserved in immaculate conditions. But what are books for if not to be loved, smelled, handled, and passed around? To me, the print medium is so important—though after lugging home a complete manuscript to read this evening (even with double-sided printing, 204 sheets is heavy!), my shoulder disagrees and would prefer a Kindle copy.

I admit that so much of my fervor for print comes from its history. I didn’t stay up past my bedtime with a computer screen under my bedspread, but a flashlight, as I stealthily flipped pages. I get a special thrill from going back to my parents’ house and seeing the children’s books I wrote my name in, using my “best hand writing” in 4th grade. While it took me a while to get to this rather obvious realization, it came with the help of journalist and author Allison Hoover Bartlett.

Her upcoming book (available from Riverhead Books next month, September 2009), The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, tracks an unrepentant book thief and the “bibliodick” determined to take him down. It’s a story of passion and addiction, and has made me compulsively check all the books sold out of boxes on the streets of NYC for rare 1st editions awaiting discovery.

In this true tale about catching a wily 1st edition book thief, books are believed to be treasures, investments, or a drug, pacifying a need. While I admit it would be nice to have that 1st edition of Gone with the Wind standing proudly on my shelf (actually, it would be behind glass, it’s so rare!), I don’t need an intact dust jacket to accompany it that’s worth far beyond the cover price. The content and history between the pages is enough for me.

And the stuff within the pages may be enough for you, too. On the publishing blog GalleyCat.com, Ron Hogan thoughtfully deciphered a recent survey from the Pepsi Optimism Project citing the “optimism booster” cited by more respondents than any other—88 percent—was “books.”

As Bartlett notes towards the end of her book, “[Books] root us in something larger than ourselves, something real. For this reason, I am sure that hardbound books will survive, even long after e-books have become popular . . . I can’t help think that our connection to books is still, after all these centuries, as important as it is intangible.

So while I may want that Kindle for the sake of my poor shoulders, I don’t think I’ll give up my search for the elusive and meaningful hardcover finds, including a Margaret Mitchell 1st edition.

My booklist has taken an R-rated twist

I consume books regularly and try to be open to all genres (except Twilight and Harry Potter; I refuse based on principle), but tend to stick with titles that offer some literary content or even just a thrill.  Lately, my titles have been more suspect and less something I would proudly read while riding on public transportation (yet another reason I need an EReader!).  Strippers and womanizers have dominated a few of my recent literary ingestions.

 

Tucker Max

Tucker Max

Drunkenness & Debauchery with Tucker Max: To some, Tucker Max is a hero: One to emulate, live vicariously through and high-five. To me, he is a cringe-worthy example of all that’s wrong in society today – a mediocre looking man who somehow has managed to find innumerable women who willingly exploit themselves and become a topic of Max’s only talent – writing.  I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is written as a memoir, filled with vignettes of stories, aka one-night stands.

For Max, sex is an activity akin to my shopping habit.  He just walks out on the street, sees something he likes and takes it home – nothing personal or even especially friendly.  I don’t even care enough to go on a tirade about this, because the strongly offensive nature is exactly why this exaggerated content is so popular.  If everyone just ignored it, Max would hopefully disappear, and suffer from some STD, alone.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: C (Mediocre, like the author)
  • Title: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell
  • Author: Tucker Max
  • Publisher: Citadel Press (Kensington)

candygirlOn-Stage with Juno’s Screenwriter, Naked: The blockbuster success of the Summer Movie of 2007, “Juno”, about the pregnant high-school giving her baby up for adoption, resulted in an umbrella effect of PR for the author, Diablo Cody.  Not the typical glitzy Hollywood Screenwriter, Cody had already been around the block before achieving fame and there is no doubt many people who became fans experienced her naked at multiple strip clubs in Minnesota.

Yes, Minnesota.  The cold state in which the taking off of clothes makes me shiver was the setting of Cody’s memoir Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. College-educated with a normal childhood (if there is such a thing), she had a job in an advertising agency before wandering into an Amateur Stripping contest and becoming rather addicted to the thrill.  This memoir reminds me of Chelsea Handler’s Confessions of My Horizontal Life, as both women managed to maintain a conversational, self-deprecating voice while describing intimate things.  Entertaining throughout, this memoir offers a subversive thrill to a taboo subject and ends before getting overly disgusted from the vivid descriptions of what is done for cash.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: B+
  • Title: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper
  • Author: Diablo Cody
  • Publisher: Gotham (Penguin)

Expected Stripper-Tale, with Political Twists: From my experience, Carl Hiaasen takes a normal murder/suspense/power plot and adds tidbits of sex and humor to keep the reader engaged.  Striptease (an old title, found at library sale for $1) stays to this obviously successful formula and follows a young mother, driven to strip by the piling up of legal bills as she fights her ex-husband for custody of their young daughter (typical stripper sob-story, right?).

Seedy tale with the emotional mother-daughter pull, Hiaasen weaves his web of politics, blackmail and murder through the sleazy Governor of Florida, who’s in love with the stripper (like that Akon song!) and in bed with $millions$ behind the illegal farming of sugar cane.  The stripper is realistic and smart, the bouncer muscular and clever, the Congressman aging and not aware of all that’s happening for his behalf, this book is another look at the different cogs in society and what happens when they interact.  Definitely entertaining, but without the introspective angle of Candy Girl or the disgust-worth content of I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell.

  • Novelwhore’s Grade: B-
  • Title: Striptease
  • Author: Carl Hiaasen
  • Publisher: Vision

Cover Blurb:  “Treat yourself to this book, please–I can’t recommend it highly enough.” -Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love

Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society BookSweet but never boring.  Intense but never overdone.  Inspiring but never preaching.  Loving but never raunchy.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a rare novel, one that comes into our life without a sound, but leaves having made an imprint on our soul.

Such an odd, cumbersome title, and one that may have never appealed to me personally except Random House professionals, Susan Kamil, SVP, Editor-in-Chief, and Jane Von Mehren, VP, Publisher, Trade Paperbacks, came to my NYU SPI class to share their experience and the road to success.  This title is globally recognized as this book has been on the New York Times Bestseller List since publication in 2008 (read the inside story of how it achieved such fame in my column on Beneath the Cover, “The Making of a Bestseller”).  Small in stature (the trade paperback a mere 274 pages), this book may initially be cast-off as a whimsical historical fiction novel until you try to put it down… I dare you to leave it untouched for a full 24-hours once you’ve begun.

The characters are lively, quirky, and lovable as they communicate via hand-written letters in 1946, as they rediscover themselves and their world post the trauma and impact of World War II.  You find yourself wanting novelist Juliet Ashton as your own pen pal and quiet Dawsey Adams as a neighbor.  Twists and turns are discrete and natural so that you almost don’t realize when a revelation occurs and the impact in the character’s life.

This novel celebrates people who love books and the written word.  Text, language and history are embraced within remarkable friendships.

Though the era has passed, issues of love, hope, and the kindness of the human spirit will always be timeless and this book (I wager) is destined to become a classic alongside the titles of the authors celebrated in the text, including the Brontes, Austen, Shakespeare, etc… This book  appeals to a wide audience, as it is told from multiple perspectives allowing a glimpse into different psyches.  I agree with Elizabeth Gilbert’s quote, above, to give yourself the gift of this book.

  • NovelWhore’s Grade: A
  • Title: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
  • Author: Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
  • Publisher: Random House

Brian Murray, President and CEO, HarperCollins

Though he may not be as recognizable as Brad Pitt, George Clooney or A-Rod, I think he’s more deserving of his fame.  Is he famous, or is that only my skewed, publishing-obsessed view?

Now off to class to see other amazing speakers, hope this teaser holds you over until I can get back and give you a review of Murray’s “What’s A Book: The Digital Transformation of Publishing” speech!

chick lit

PostSecret

In case you weren’t aware, Romance is the most successful genre of books; it’s also the most popular/successful type of EBook purchase.  Coincidence? I think not.  This PostSecret “secret” really touches on the secretive nature of the new digital mediums that are allowing people to read whatever they want without anyone knowing.  The conservative Christian reading Chelsea Handler?  The heterosexual reading about being gay?  The wife looking into divorce? Handheld devices have really returned reading to a private endeavor.

Interesting insight in an amusing/frivolous way.  Now if I could just get someone to donate an EReader to me so I could explore what non-socially acceptable books I may enjoy…

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