30 June 2010

Spotlight On . . . Marta Perry

Welcome to the Literary Road Trip and my Spotlight On . . . Marta Perry. Unlike many of the Pennsylvania authors I feature on the Literary Road Trip, Marta lives in the countryside and she is a jack of all trades in the author business. She is currently writing three different series.

First is a Harlequin Love Inspired series about the Bodine family, which is set along the South Carolina coast. The newest book, The Guardian's Honor, is out in just a couple of weeks.

The second is a brand new suspense series. In fact, the first book, Murder in Plain Sight, won't be out until December. These books are set in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, known for beautiful quilts and wonderful food.

The third is the Peasant Valley series, which is about a Pennsylvania Amish community. The newest novel is Anna's Return, which was just recently released. The story is about a woman who is moving back home after spending three years in the outside world. Here's a bit from the publisher's summary:

Anna Beiler returns to the Pleasant Valley Amish with a baby girl, which will surely cause a stir since Anna is unmarried. What they don't know is that the baby is adopted, and Anna desperately needs to protect it from its violent father.
Intriguing, isn't it?

Now, you might be wondering about Marta's interest in the Amish. Well one reason is that the Plain People are in her blood . . . literally. Let's learn more.

Uniquely Pennsylvania

After living all my life (never mind how many years!) in Pennsylvania, I've just recently come to appreciate what we all owe to William Penn. Oh, sure, we studied him in 8th-grade Pennsylvania history, but not very much has stuck since then. But as I've stumbled through some research on my own family genealogy, as well as researching the Plain People for the two series of books I'm writing about them, I've renewed my appreciation for Penn's unique attitude, which has made us what we are. Without his "holy experiment" in encouraging immigrants of all religions to settle here and to worship as they chose, our culture would be so much poorer.

I read an estimate recently that nearly one-quarter of all Pennsylvania residents are of German descent, which seems astonishing to me. Probably most of those Germanic ancestors landed in Philadelphia in the 1700s, mine among them, and after all these years, we're still here!

Among the groups who came seeking religious freedom, the Amish must be the most fascinating. Amish culture may have made its first impression on a general audience when Harrison Ford donned that Amish straw hat in Witness, but folks in publishing are still shaking their heads over the current wave of popularity of Amish fiction. Though searching to understand why readers across the country suddenly can't get enough of tales of rumspringa and barn-raisings, publishers are naturally eager to provide what the reading public wants.

Several years ago, in the course of an existing inspirational romance series set in Pennsylvania, I introduced a few Amish characters. They seemed to fit the story I was telling, and they simply walked on. I wondered what my editor would say. Her response? Do more of that!

So now I have two separate series going for two different publishing houses, both with Amish settings. The Pleasant Valley series, for Berkley Books, is series of trade-size books focusing on the residents of a mythical central Pennsylvania valley, based very much on what I see when I look out my office window. Anna's Return, book 3, came out this month, and it seems to be doing well. Book 4, Sarah's Gift, will be out in March 2011. It's completed now, and my editor and I have been back and forth via e-mail all week, trying to firm up the cover. For some reason, the art department just doesn't seem to "get" Amish, and didn't understand why I wouldn't want a woman wearing bright pink lip gloss on the cover!

My second series, for HQN Books, is a romantic suspense series which begins with Murder in Plain Sight, releasing in December. The two main characters are not Amish, but are involved in defending an Amish youth accused of murder. This series is set in Lancaster County, and since that's obviously a real place, I have to be considerably more careful about my setting, though I hope readers may forgive a little artistic license in what I put where.

Writing about the Plain People has been a trip into my own family's past for me. The Dovenbergers and the Ungers came to Pennsylvania from the same areas of Germany and Switzerland and at the same time as the Amish, and although not plain, have held onto many of the same traditions, especially when it comes to food. I've compiled a brochure of Pennsylvania Dutch recipes from family and friends, and I'd be happy to send a copy to anyone who cares to e-mail me at marta@martaperry.com.

Happy Reading and Eating,
Marta Perry
(And give a tip of the hat to Billy Penn the next time you pass him!)

Thanks so much, Marta. I have lived in central Pennsylvania for a lot of years now, and I will join you in tipping my (straw) hat to Billy.

I laughed at the image of the Amish woman in shiny pink lip gloss. What a hoot. How generous of you to offer your recipes. I hope lots of my readers take you up on it. You so kindly sent them to me, and I was excited to see the Peppernuts recipe. I really love them. Now I'm thinking of baking some for the Fourth of July.

Marta Perry has written everything from Sunday School curriculum to travel articles to magazine stories in more than twenty years of writing. Marta’s books have received numerous awards, including the HOLT Medallion, RT Reviewers Choice Award, the Rising Star Award, the Write Touch Award, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award, and she has been a Rita Finalist. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, the Faith, Hope and Love Chapter, and American Christian Fiction Writers. Marta lives in rural Pennsylvania, where she is active in church and community activities. When she’s not writing, she’s probably visiting her children and her six beautiful grandchildren, traveling, gardening, or relaxing with a good book. Visit her at her website or her blog.

For more posts in the Literary Road Trip project, visit the LRT link page. Thanks to Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves for hosting this fabulous project.

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Wordless Wednesday 84

Farmers Market: The Baker

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here.

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29 June 2010

Review: All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spencer-Fleming

All Mortal Flesh is the fifth entry in Julia Spencer-Fleming's Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyne mystery series. This review assumes you've read the previous novels, but includes no spoilers for this one.

Clare and Russ have pretended that their attraction to each other is simply related to their jobs: They both take care of people--she as priest and he as police chief. Or maybe they like to talk because they are both ex-military. Or maybe it's love. Whatever their relationship, it's no one's business . . . except maybe Linda Van Alstyne's, Russ's wife.

The gossipmongers in Millers Kill, New York, never had it so good. The hot story is Linda threw her husband out of the house, and Russ has moved in with his mother. When a woman is found murdered in the Van Alstynes' kitchen, the town, the parish, and the state police figure they can name the murderer. The only problem is, they all have a different theory.

Julia Spencer-Fleming takes her series into new territory with All Mortal Flesh. Although the premise seems familiar, Spencer-Fleming's handling of it is anything but. At the heart of this complex novel is, of course, the murder. But the solving of this case is colored by small-town gossip, and Clare and Russ's friends and colleagues are not deaf to the rumors.

Clearly, Russ and Clare's relationship could not have continued as it was, and after the events in All Mortal Flesh, it certainly will be forced in a new direction. The emotional breadth and depth of the novel draw us in, and it is of no consequence that some of us may suspect the ultimate outcome. There is so much going on in this book--murder, relationships, small towns, ethical behavior, job security--yet, Spencer-Fleming masterfully weaves the plot lines, and we can't stop reading.

Fans of the series will not be disappointed by this entry, and it is no surprise that the novel won the 2007 Nero Award and was a finalist for the Agatha Award for best novel, Macavity Award for best novel, and Anthony Award for best mystery.

I listened to the unabridged audio edition (BBC Audiobooks America), which was read by Suzanne Toren. As I've said before, I am impressed with the way Toren can move from Clare's light southern accent to the sharper voices of the Millers Kill police force. The end of the audio edition includes an interesting interview with Spencer-Fleming. It was a nice surprise to hear the author talk about her work in general and All Mortal Flesh in particular.

To learn more about Julia Spencer-Fleming and her books and to read a Millers Kill short story, visit her website.

All Mortal Flesh at Powell's
For Audible.com and Simply Audiobooks, see the sidebar.
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by St. Martins / Minotaur, 2006
ISBN-13: 9780312312640
Challenges: Cozy Mystery, 100+
YTD: 58
Source: Bought copy (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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28 June 2010

Review and Gveaway: Linger by Maggie Stiefvater

Linger is the second book in Maggie Stiefvater's The Wolves of Mercy series. If you haven't read the first book, Shiver (my review), and you hate spoilers, jump down to the last paragraph. This review contains no spoilers for Linger.

Even as spring makes a start in the northern Minnesota woods, Sam still cannot get used to being in his human skin. How many years will it take before he stops cringing at every icy breeze? Grace is truly happy for the first time in her life. That is, until the day she and Isabel find the dead wolf in the woods behind her house. Now Grace is beginning to fear she may not have a lifetime of love with Sam.

Linger, by Maggie Stiefvater, begins several months after Shiver ends. Sam has made it through his first winter as a human in almost ten years. He loves Grace, but he also misses his wolf family, and he has trouble imagining his future. Moreover, as the snow melts, the burden of his responsibility for the pack weighs on him.

Grace has only twelve weeks until she's eighteen. She has spent an idyllic winter dreaming of her life with Sam, of going to college, and of setting up her own household. By the time spring hits, however, Grace is beginning to sense that all is not right: It seems she is never without a headache. She isn't sure what's wrong with her, but she keeps her fears to herself.

Unlike Shiver, two additional characters narrate the chapters of this novel. Isabel and Cole keep us focused on the secrets of Boundary Wood and the larger story. They offer a welcome contrast to Grace and Sam, who are mostly concerned with their own problems.

The love story between Grace and Sam verges onto the obsessive, which is always a bit uncomfortable. The love between any two people should not be the sole source of happiness for that couple. As with Shiver, the adults in this novel are generally absent or unreasonable or resort to violence. Of course, teens will disagree with their parents and no parent is right all the time. On the other hand, there should be some kind of middle ground.

The ultimate outcome of Linger is not much of a surprise, but the book sets the stage for future entries in the Mercy Wolves series. Linger takes the premise set up in the first novel and expands it in a way that allows Stiefvater to keep the overall plot both complex and exciting. Not all story lines from Shiver have been resolved, new characters are explored, and the ending leaves you wanting to know more.

Linger at Powell's
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Published by Scholastic Press, July 20, 2010
ISBN-13: 9780545123280
Challenges: 100+
YTD: 57
Source: Review copy (see review policy)
Rating: B
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

The Giveaway

I am so excited that Scholastic has offered me the chance to host an absolutely terrific giveaway.

One lucky commenter will win autographed copies of both Shiver and Linger! That's two autographed books! All you have to do to enter to win is leave a comment telling me the names of one of your favorite literary couples. Also, be sure to leave your email address. If I can't get in touch with you, you can't win. Good luck.

This contest is open until July 12. I'll pick a winner on July 13. I'm checking to see if the giveaway is open internationally. In the meantime, go ahead an leave a comment. I'll let you know. EDIT: I've heard back from the publisher and this contest is open to U.S. and Canadian mailing addresses only.

EDIT: Blogger is having problems with comments: please be assured that I am receiving your comments even if they don't show up on the blog. You ARE entered if you comment, your comment appears in my email inbox.

For more on the books, be sure to check out Maggie Stiefvater's website. Linger goes on sale on July 20.

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27 June 2010

Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge: Soon Ending

Yikes! It's hard to believe that a year has passed since I announced the first challenge I ever attempted to host: the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge. I was not a good host, and I failed to offer as many prizes as I promised. I realize now that I had grandiose plans.

In three days this challenge will end. If you have completed the challenge you are eligible for a $25 gift card to Powell's (U.S. and Canada) or to the Book Depository (rest of the world).

I will pick a winner using a random-number generator from the links and comments from those who completed the series (only one entry per person). If you haven't yet linked up or commented about completing the challenge, you have a few days left to do so. I'll pick a winner on July 1 when I turn on my computer in the morning.

Congratulations to all those who finished the challenge and good luck in the prize drawing.

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Reviews: The Rock and the River by Magoon & Almost Perfect by Katcher

As I announced last month, I was honored to be asked to be a first-round judge in this year's Nerds Heart YA tournament. The books I read were The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon and Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher. The choice between these two excellent novels was not easy, but I did pick one to move on to the next round.

Rather than publishing two reviews in my usual style, I will give you an idea of what each book is about and then present a brief comparison and announce the winner.

The Rock and the River takes place in 1968--the year of Martin Luther King Jr.'s and Robert Kennedy's assassinations, the year of student unrest, and the year of riots in many big cities across the United States. Thirteen-year-old Sam Childs is the son of a civil rights leader who is a friend of Dr. King and who preaches nonviolence. Sam finds it difficult to live up to his father's turn-the-other cheek principles in the face of blatant racism. Meanwhile, Sam's older brother, Spike, has decided to join the Black Panthers, an often-misunderstood activist group that was not afraid to resort to violence.

Maroon brings the deep prejudices of the time out into the open and shows that there was conflict within the civil rights movement itself, with peaceful demonstrations on one end and the rioting and pipe bombs on the other. Sam, much too young to chose sides, is caught between his father's and his brother's ideals. He is on the brink of young adulthood and must pick a path after witnessing the worst that the city of Chicago had to offer a young black teen in the late 1960s.

The Rock and the River at Powell's
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Published by Simon & Schuster / Aladdin, 2009
ISBN-13: 9781416975823
Challenges: 2010, new author, 100+
YTD: 55
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B

Almost Perfect takes place in modern times and focuses on an issue that is not often written about, especially for a young adult audience. Logan Witherspoon starts his senior year in high school just a few days after his long-time girlfriend admits that she has slept with another boy, thus ending their relationship. Logan is not looking for another girlfriend, but when Sage, a new student at their small-town Missouri high school, sits down next to him in biology class, he feels the attraction. She is pretty, funny, tall, and very different from any girl he has ever known.

It is clear, however, that Sage is hiding a secret. And when she finally tells Logan that she was born a male and has not yet undergone transforming surgery, Logan has absolutely no clue how to react and how to deal with the knowledge. Vacillating between self-loathing, disgust, hate, confusion, sympathy, and love, Logan must decide just what kind of friend he will be for Sage.

Almost Perfect at Powell's
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Random House / Delacorte, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780385736640
Challenges: eBook, 100+
YTD: 56
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B+

Comparison & Winner
Both books are coming-of-age stories, and each revolves around the larger issues of personal freedom, tolerance, and understanding. Sam and Logan, however, are at different ends of the spectrum. Sam wants equality for himself and others like him; Logan is scrambling to find a way to open his heart and keep it open. In neither case is the path clear. Furthermore, although both Sam and Logan have present and caring parents, each feels the need to find his own destiny.

The Rock and the River is important because it is all too easy to see the strides that have been made instead of the work that still must be done in the name of civil rights, not just for blacks but for most minorities. Unfortunately, Maroon presents only two movements within the black community of the 1960s. Almost Perfect addresses an issue that is little discussed but is no less demanding of our understanding. Transgenderism must be a painfully confusing situation for a young person and his or her family and friends. Katcher explores several reactions to Sage's sexual identity and makes it clear that at present there is no easy or happy solution.

It is my job to pick one of these young adult novels to move to the next bracket in the Nerds Heart YA tournament. This was not an easy choice, but I picked Almost Perfect because it focuses on a situation that is often ignored and because it deals with transgenderism in a sensitive and believable way. We need more young adult novels to help teenagers understand the biological and psychological aspects of sexuality and to offer a basis for further discussion.

Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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26 June 2010

Weekend Cooking: Cranberry-Orange Bread

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


By request, today's Weekend Cooking post is my recipe for cranberry-orange bread. I have no source for this recipe, it's one I copied down many years ago. All measures are U.S. standards.

EDIT: I rushed to get this post up this morning and failed to say that this is a family favorite, and I've given this bread for Christmas and house gifts for years. I buy extra cranberries in the fall to freeze so I can make this year round. Moist and good.

Cranberry-Orange Bread

1 9-inch loaf
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1½ teaspoon baking powder
  • Juice and grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • ½ cup chopped nuts (walnuts, pecans)
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.

Sift flour, salt, baking soda, sugar, and baking powder into a large bowl. Put the orange juice and zest in a measuring cup and add enough boiling water to make ¾ cup liquid. Add the juice mixture to the dry ingredients. Add the egg and butter, and mix just enough to moisten the flour. Fold in the cranberries and nuts.

Pour the batter in the prepared pan and bake 45 to 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry. Cool on a wire rack until warm, turn out of pan to finish cooling.


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25 June 2010

Featuring . . . Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky

This Friday and every Friday for the next several months I'll be featuring a book in the Harper Perennial Imprint. Some were recently published, some will be released later this year, all are worth a closer look.

I think it was the quote by Frederick Barthelme on the publisher's website that first attracted me to Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky. Barthelme said, in part: "It’s sinful in all the right ways, delicate, seditious, and deliciously evil." Who can resist?

Here's the publisher's summary:

Bad Marie is the story of Marie, tall, voluptuous, beautiful, thirty years old, and fresh from six years in prison for being an accessory to murder and armed robbery. The only job Marie can get on the outside is as a nanny for her childhood friend Ellen Kendall, an upwardly mobile Manhattan executive whose mother employed Marie's mother as a housekeeper. After Marie moves in with Ellen, Ellen's angelic baby Caitlin, and Ellen's husband, a very attractive French novelist named Benoit Doniel, things get complicated, and almost before she knows what she's doing, Marie has absconded to Paris with both Caitlin and Benoit Doniel. On the run and out of her depth, Marie will travel to distant shores and experience the highs and lows of foreign culture, lawless living, and motherhood as she figures out how to be an adult; how deeply she can love; and what it truly means to be "bad."
I looking forward to seeing just how bad Marie really is. Well, okay, stealing your friend's husband and child is pretty bad, but is Marie all evil? I'm also interested in seeing how she copes with a kid in Paris; I'm sure it's not what she thought it would be.

Here are two reactions to Bad Marie:
  • In an interview on Literary Kicks, Levi Asher says: "Another thing I like about this novel is the pacing. It moves pretty quickly--from friendship to enemy-hood, from New York to Paris to Mexico, from love to hate and back again."
  • And on Genre Go Round Reviews, Harriet says: "Readers will enjoy Bad Marie while wondering whether the anti-heroine will prove heroic when it comes to the wellbeing of the toddler."
To learn more about the novel and Marcy Dermansky, visit the author's blog and the Bad Marie page on the publisher's website.

This book was featured as part of my Spotlight on the Harper Perennial imprint. For information about the imprint, please read Erica Barmash's welcome note posted here on June 18, 2010. You might also want to visit the The Olive Reader, the Harper Perennial blog.

Bad Marie at Powell's
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Published by HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, July 2010
ISBN-13: 9780061914713

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Audiobook Week: Getting Started, Genres, Favorites

Today is the final day of Audiobook Week 2010. This fabulous event is the dream child of Jen of Devourer of Books. Be sure to read her Audiobook Week information post and the post listing the great prizes available for participants! (I'll be offering one of those prizes on Friday, so be sure to come back!)

For the first four days of Audiobook Week, I posted on the daily topic. Today, I am going take a different path. I hope you take the time to visit all the participating blogs; you can find them by checking out Jen's blog and clicking on the Mr. Linkys.

Today, I'm talking about picking your first audiobook, audiobook genres, and some of my favorite audiobooks.

Picking Your First Audiobook

I am often asked to suggest a good audiobook for someone new to the medium. Picking your first audiobook can be daunting, but it doesn't need to be. There are two principal questions to ask yourself before taking the plunge:
  • Do you want an audiobook just so you can see if the medium is for you?
  • Do you want to jump in the deep end?
Testing the waters: If your goal is the see if audiobooks work for you, then I suggest going with a classic or an old favorite. Lots of people have talked about how much they loved revisiting the Harry Potter books through audio. Or try something older: Pride & Prejudice, The Secret Garden, or Jane Eyre, for example. The trick here is that you already know the story, so if your mind starts to wander a bit, it doesn't really matter much.

Diving right in: If you just want to give audiobooks a shot and you're not in the mood for a reread, then pick the next book in a series you are reading or a title from an author you like. That way, it's the medium that's new, not the entire experience.

For the truly adventurous, I suggest picking a book you just can't wait to read and start listening. You may be surprised by how quickly you are drawn into the story.

One more tip: don't just sit in a chair in listen, get up and do something--that's one of the big advantages of auodiobooks.

Audiobook Genres

Is there a genre that doesn't work in audio? Well, I haven't tried poetry, but I bet I wouldn't like it. Short stories and essays are also a problem for me on audio. Why? Because when I read a collection of work, I don' t necessarily read every piece and I don't always read them order. Audio would take away my ability to pick and choose.

I've heard some people say that nonfiction doesn't work on audio, but I've had great success with history and biography. It is true that I often pair my nonfiction audiobook with a print copy (usually from the library) so that I can see the maps, photos, genealogies, and other visuals.

In terms of fiction, I don't think there is a genre I wouldn't try. I'm more apt to turn down an audio because I don't like the narrator, because the book is abridged (should be against the law), or because it is advertised as a dramatization than because of its genre.

Do I have favorite audiobook genres? I love listening to mysteries and historical fiction on audio. I haven't checked my stats, but I would bet they are my two most-listened-to genres. Well, I've also listened to quite a bit of biography. And fantasy. And young adult. Okay, so maybe I don't pick my audiobooks by genre.

Some of My Favorite Audiobooks

Here, in alphabetical order are some of my favorite audiobooks from the last few years, divided into nonfiction, adult fiction, and young adult.

About Alice by Calvin Trillin (read by the author)
Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson (read by Edward Herrmann)
John Adams by David McCullough (read by Edward Hermann)
Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick (read by George Guidall)
Stiff by Mary Roach (read by Shelly Frasier)

Adult Fiction
Ceepak mysteries by Chris Grabenstein (read by Jeff Woodman)
Jack Aubrey series by Patrick O'Brian (read by Simon Vance)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (read by Kristoffer Tabori)
The Stolen Child by Donohue, Keith (read by Andy Paris and Jeff Woodman)
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (read by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner)

Young Adult
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (read by Vane Millon
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (read by Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone)
Tomorrow series by John Marsden (read by Suzi Dougherty)
Willow by Julia Hoban (read by Kim J. Ulrich)
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (read by Jeannie Stith)

My All-Time Favorite Audiobook Ever
Wicked, Lovely by Melissa Marr (read by Alyssa Bresnahan)

There are many, many more audios that I have loved, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of the titles I've mentioned.

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24 June 2010

Review: Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd

In 1981, Northern Ireland was reeling from The Troubles and the activities of the IRA. All Fergus McCann wants, as he finishes up high school, is to get a scholarship to university in Scotland. What are The Troubles to him? He wants out and wants to be a doctor.

But there is no escaping what Ireland is.

One early morning, Fergus joins his uncle Tilly in a cross-border expedition to cut peat. But before their work is done, Fergus discovers the body of a young girl who looks as if she had been murdered.

Fergus is further drawn in to The Troubles: First by his older brother, Joe, who has been arrested for his IRA activities and who has decided to join the hunger strike. And second by a local hoodlum who has blackmailed Fergus into smuggling small packages over the Irish border.

After Fergus befriends an archaeologist and her daughter, Cora, he learns that the bog child is actually a young woman who lived almost 2000 years ago. Fergus begins to dream of the murder victim, and through her story, he starts to understand his own.

Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd is a complex and moving story that easily travels between 80 C.E. and 1981, showing that humans have not come very far along the road to peace and understanding. Young love, facing the truth about one's family, standing up for one's personal beliefs, and doing the right thing are explored from a number of view points.

Fergus's parents and his uncle Tilly offer one perspective, Cora and her PhD mother offer another, and Joe and the bog child and the British guards offer others. And through the reality that is his own Ireland, Fergus must find a path, as he quickly approaches adulthood and is forced out of the complacency of youth.

Although this award-winning novel is generally considered to be geared to young adults, it will appeal to a wider audience. The book would make a great starting point for parent-child discussions about tolerance and how the love of one's family and country can have the power to change the course of an individual's life (for good or for bad). Bog Child would also make a good adult book club choice; the multiple story lines are fodder for debate.

The unabridged audio edition (Listening Library) was read by Sile Bermingham, a new to me narrator. Bermingham did a believable job telling the story from sixteen-year-old Fergus's point of view, and her native Irish accent is easy to understand. She changes her voice just enough to make it clear who is talking and avoids being overly dramatic. The reading draws you in, and it is difficult to turn off the mp3 player.

Oxford University Press offers a reading guide for Bog Child, which might be particularly helpful for those of you who home school. Bog Child is the recipient of at least five awards, including the prestigious Carnegie Medal.

Bog Child at Powell's
For Audible and Simply Audiobooks, see the sidebar.
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Random House / David Ficking Books, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780375841354
Challenges: Audiobook, Support Your Library, 2010, Ireland Reading, 100+
YTD: 54
Source: Borrowed (see review policy)
Rating: A
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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Audiobook Week: When Do You Listen?

Today is the fourth day of Audiobook Week 2010. This fabulous event is the dream child of Jen of Devourer of Books. Be sure to read her Audiobook Week information post and the post listing the great prizes available for participants! (I'll be offering one of those prizes on Friday, so be sure to come back!)

For the first four days of Audiobook Week, I plan to post on the daily topic. On Friday, I am going take a different path. I hope you take the time to visit all the participating blogs; you can find them by checking out Jen's blog and clicking on the Mr. Linkys.

When Do You Listen to Audiobooks?

I listen to audiobooks almost every chance I get. Here are just some of the activities that go better with an audiobook.

Picking berries, drinking coffee, playing computer games.

Cooking, driving, dusting.

Gardening, grilling.

Relaxing, walking.

Where and when do you listen to books?

(Pardon the poor quality of the photos -- one handed quick shots are not conducive to art!)

Audiobook Week Extra

Today's audiobook review, Bog Child, is set in Ireland. I've spent a few hours listening to Irish stories. Here some Irish audiobooks that I've enjoyed:

The Artemus Fowl series by Eoin Colfer (I've listened to six)
Irish Country Doctor series by Patrick Taylor (I've listened to three)
The Tavern on Maple Street by Sharon Owens (I know Owens has more out on audio)
Blessed Are the Cheesemakers bySarah-Kate Lynch (yes, that's the title & I reviewed it)

On my wish list are the Ireland books by Edward Rutherfurd: The Princes of Ireland and The Rebels of Ireland.

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23 June 2010

Audiobook Week: Quick Meme

Today is the third day of Audiobook Week 2010. This fabulous event is the dream child of Jen of Devourer of Books. Be sure to read her Audiobook Week information post and the post listing the great prizes available for participants! (I'll be offering one of those prizes on Friday, so be sure to come back!)

For the first four days of Audiobook Week, I plan to post on the daily topic. On Friday, I am going take a different path. I hope you take the time to visit all the participating blogs; you can find them by checking out Jen's blog and clicking on the Mr. Linkys.

Audiobook Meme

  • Audiobook are you currently reading/you read most recently: All Mortal Flesh by Julia Spenser-Fleming
  • Impressions?: Excellent. A bit different from the earlier books in the series and it is definitely taking the main characters in a new direction (in a good way).
  • How long you’ve been listening to audiobooks: I'll say 20 years, but I became a serious addict about 12 years ago.
  • First audiobook you ever listened to: As I said earlier in the week, I think it was Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club.
  • Favorite audiobook title: Waaaaaaay too many to choose from: I'll say John Adams by David McCullough for nonfiction, Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr for the production, The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien for pure indulgence.
  • Favorite narrator: Can't answer this: Simon Vance, Davina Porter, Barbara Rosenblatt, Jeff Woodman, Scott Brick, Kate Reading . . . Sorry. Just don't have a favorite.
  • How do you choose what to listen to versus read? I don't. If I can get it in audio, I will usually choose that medium because I have more listening hours in a day than I do reading hours.
Be sure to visit Jen's blog, Devourer of Books, for other posts on today's Audiobook Week topic.

Audiobook Week Extra

I didn't keep good records on my reading and listening until about 2006, but a quick search through my database shows that Davina Porter is my audio-narrator BFF. I have listened to 20 titles by her (including the entire Diana Gabaldon Outlander series) for a total of 394.5 hours. Yikes!!!

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Wordless Wednesday 83

Reflective Light Fixture

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here

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22 June 2010

Review: Charm City by Laura Lippman

Charm City is the second entry in the Tess Monaghan series by Laura Lippman. This review assumes you've read the first book (Baltimore Blues review) and does not include spoilers for the second.

Tess Monaghan's life is definitely on the upswing. First, she's got a decent job as a budding private investigator with lawyer and rowing instructor Tyner Gray. Second, she has a cute younger boyfriend named Crow, who's a musician by night and bookstore clerk by day. Plus, she's still living cheaply in the apartment above her aunt Kitty's store.

When local businessman Wink Wynkowski decides to bring pro basketball to Baltimore, two reporters from the Beacon-Light, start digging into his less-than-law-abiding past. The paper's editors put a hold on the article, but it shows up on the front page anyway. After the story results in an apparent suicide, Tess is hired to investigate the newspaper's staff and discover who hacked into the computers, bumping the squelched piece into publication.

In the meantime, Tess's uncle Spike has been beaten into a coma, and while he is known for his shady dealings, no one knows what brought about his current troubles. While Spike is in the hospital, Tess and Crow take over the care of his dog, Esskay, a newly rescued greyhound.

Tess finds herself involved not only with the Beacon-Light case but also in Spike's business with the sleazy side of Baltimore. She is being threatened on all sides and is pressured to solve the cases before anyone else dies.

There are many things to love about Charm City, especially Lippman's descriptions of Baltimore. Tess's extended family is fun to get to know, and her developing relationship with Crow seems to be a grounding force in her life. Because Tess is still learning the PI trade, it is realistic that she would make mistakes and not always see what's coming.

On the other hand, the two distinct plot lines—Uncle Spike and Wink Wynkowski—were almost a distraction. It wasn't clear if they were going to converge into a single story or whether we'd have two sets of bad guys. It was sometimes confusing to keep the details straight.

The flaws in this novel are likely the result of a sophomore slump. The characters who are important to Tess are more clearly delineated in this second entry than in the first, and Tess is starting to grow up. Both developments are encouraging, and we can hope for a tighter third in the series.

The unabridged audio recording (BBC America) of Charm City was read by Deborah Hazlett, who also read the first in the series. As I noted in my earlier review, Hazlett's narration is nicely done with easy pacing and natural inflections. Unfortunately, there were a couple moments of mispronunciations, most notably "cedar" for the Passover Sedar. Regardless, I am looking forward to hearing Hazlett read the next Tess Monaghan novel.

Laura Lippman has a website where you can learn more about her work and read a biography of Tess Monaghan. There is also more information on her author page at the HarperCollins website.

Charm City at Powell's
For Audible and Simply Audiobooks, see the sidebar.
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by HarperCollins / Avon, 1997
ISBN-13: 9780380788767
Challenges: Audiobook, Buy One and Read, Laura Lippman, Cozy Mystery, 100+
YTD: 53
Source: Bought (see review policy)
Rating: B-
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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Audiobook Week: How to Write a Audiobook Review

Today is the second day of Audiobook Week 2010. This fabulous event is the dream child of Jen of Devourer of Books. Be sure to read her Audiobook Week information post and the post listing the great prizes available for participants! (I'll be offering one of those prizes on Friday, so be sure to come back!)

For the first four days of Audiobook Week, I plan to post on the daily topic. On Friday, I am going take a different path. I hope you take the time to visit all the participating blogs; you can find them by checking out Jen's blog and clicking on the Mr. Linkys.

How to Write an Audiobook Review

Today's topic is all about writing an audiobook review. As with any book review, there is, of course, no right or wrong way, and individual style will play a role.

My personal approach is to write my review in exactly the same manner as I would have had I read the book in print. That is, I start with a summary and then get into the particulars. Finally, add a paragraph about the audio production.

Okay, so that wasn't exactly helpful. Here are some details, listed in random order.

While listening:
  • If I hear a quote that I think I might want to use in my review, I make a note of a couple of keywords.
  • I pay attention to how the narrator does accents, if they are needed for the book.
  • I listen for sound effects, music, and other aspects of the audio production.
  • I pay attention to the narrator's pronunciation of place names and other words.
When writing the general review:
  • I use the "look inside" feature found on many bookstore and publisher's sites to check spellings and other details.
  • If I want to quote the author, I use the look inside feature to search for keywords so I can find the passage.
When writing the audiobook paragraph, I always mention the narrator's name. When evaluating the reading, I think about these factors:
  • Whether the emotional tones (or lack thereof) of the narrator's voice fit the plot.
  • Whether the narrator's pacing was right for the story.
  • Whether the narrator's characterizations added to or took away from the experience.
  • Whether the narrator and/or production allowed me to get lost the book or whether there were problems that pulled me out of the story.
I also decide if I want to mention any of the items I noted under "while listening." The lists here are not all-inclusive, and I don't always address each of the issues individually. However, I've given you an idea of the factors that are important to my overall take on the audio production.

I rarely separate my experience with the audiobook from the book itself; unless I've read the book in both print and audio, I wouldn't know how to make such a distinction. On the other hand, if the audio edition is poor and/or distracting I encourage my readers to read the book in print.

Audiobook Week Extra

The narrator of today's review book, Charm City by Laura Lippman, is Deborah Hazlett. Because I know her only from the first book (Baltimore Blues) in Lippman's Tess Monaghan mystery series, I have now linked Hazlett's voice with the main character. I am happy to see that Hazlett continues with Tess (at least for the next two books). I'm am not a fan of changing narrators partway through a series. It is a disconcerting thing to hear one of your favorite characters speak in a new voice.

Be sure to visit Jen's blog, Devourer of Books, for other posts on today's Audiobook Week topic.

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Winner of Phoenix Pin from M. J. Rose

The winner of the jeweler-crafted phoenix pin from M. J. Rose to celebrate the release of The Hypnotist is

Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit

Congratulations and I hope you love the pin!

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21 June 2010

Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Every year since she was a young girl, Grace has waited for winter. In the cold Boundary Wood behind her house, she has looked for wolves. Not just any wolves, but her wolf, the one with the yellow eyes.

Every winter for years, yellow-eyed Sam has paused in the woods just beyond the clearing where he could see her. Grace, he has noticed, has a habit of sitting on the tire swing or on the back porch staring into the trees, no matter what the thermometer reads.

Grace barely remembers being attacked by the wolves when she was little or how she had been saved, but she has always remembered those yellow eyes. Sam wonders why life couldn't be different, why Grace didn't change, and why time is running out. They couldn't have know that it would take only a single gunshot to alter their destinies forever.

Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver is the first in an urban paranormal series that introduces us to the inhabitants of a small Minnesota town and the wolves of its surrounding woods. Each chapter is narrated by Grace or Sam and is headed by a temperature reading, which adds to the drama as the story develops.

Within the first eight pages we know how Grace and Sam are connected and that Sam is more than just a wolf. What we don't know is how and when Grace will meet Sam and discover his secrets and how she will react when she hears the word werewolf. Although readers will eventually feel sure about where the book is going, Stiefvater changes up the plot just enough to keep the tension high and plant doubts about our predictions.

The wolf and werewolf aspects of the book are well developed and internally consistent. The personalities of the wolves, and how they react to the constrictions of their existence and solve their unique problems are believable within the context of the novel. Grace's world is rooted in her small town, but there we find the characters are somewhat stereotypical.

Shiver, like many recent young adult novels, leaves the teenagers virtually parentless. Grace barely crosses paths with her mother and father, and her high school friends seem to be equally unsupervised. While it is understandable that a young adult novel should revolve around the teens, it seems less believable that every child would be left on his or her own, with no apparent rules or restrictions.

Although the novel does not end on a cliff-hanger, we are left wanting to know what happens next. Fortunately, the second Grace and Sam novel, Linger, will be released soon. Look for a review next week.

The audiobook edition of Shiver (Scholastic Audio) was narrated by David LeDoux and Jenna Lamia, who read the chapters from Sam's and Grace's viewpoint, respectively. Each kept the story moving at the appropriate pace and emotional level. The was my first experience with LeDoux. Although his voice sometimes seemed a bit old for a teenager, I wouldn't hesitate to listen to him again. I am quite familiar with Jenna Lamia, whose is particularly suited to reading from a young girl's or teen's point of view, making her a great match for Shiver.

I should note that I read Shiver in print last year and recently revisited it in audio. It is possible that my enjoyment of the audiobook was influenced by familiarity with the story.

Shiver at Powell's
For Audible.com and Simply Audiobooks, see the sidebar.
These links lead to affiliate programs.

Published by Scholastic Press, 2009
ISBN-13: 9780545123266
Challenges: Young Adult, New Author, Buy One and Read, Support Your Library, Audiobooks, 100+
YTD: 52
Source: Bought print; borrowed audio (see review policy)
Rating: B+
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)

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Audiobook Week: Why Audiobooks

Today marks the first day of Audiobook Week 2010. This fabulous event is the dream child of Jen of Devourer of Books. Be sure to read her Audiobook Week information post and the post listing the great prizes available for participants! (I'll be offering one of those prizes on Friday, so be sure to come back!)

For the first four days of Audiobook Week, I plan to post on the daily topic. On Friday, I am going take a different path. I hope you take the time to visit all the participating blogs; you can find them by checking out Jen's blog and clicking on the Mr. Linkys.

Why Audiobooks?

I know that some of you have heard my story before, but I'm going to tell it again! In 1984, while still in graduate school in an unrelated field, I launched my career as a freelance editor. Although I absolutely love my job--I get paid to read!--it has a down side. After reading carefully and closely for fifty or more hours a week, I am not always in the mood to sit and stare at the printed page yet again.

Now let's jump to 1989. I was out of school and my business was chugging along nicely, but, sadly, the number of books I was reading for pleasure had dramatically decreased. In addition, I had given up my office at the university and decided to stick with editing from home full time, which meant I risked becoming very sedentary. I needed to find a way to read in the evenings, rest my eyes, and be active all at the same time. Enter my first book on tape, which I think was Amy Tan's The Joy Luck Club. I have no idea who the narrator was, but I remember loving the idea that I could listen while working in the garden and making dinner.

I remember I had no problem listening to the story or getting lost in my first audiobook. Perhaps it was the audio production of the Tan book or perhaps I'm just a good match for listening, but in either case, I was sold on the medium . . . mostly. I was not an instant convert, however. Several things help me back:
  • Audiobooks were expensive.
  • Books on tape from the library were unreliable (broken, stopped working).
  • There didn't seem to be many titles on tape.
  • My Walkman used up a lot of batteries.
  • My husband didn't always want to listen, so I couldn't count on using the boom box.
Then one day I was on my dial-up Internet connection using, ummm, would that have been Windows 3? I discovered Books-On-Tape had a rental service. For a monthly fee, they would send me books on tape, I would listen, and then I'd send them back. There were no late fees, no trips to the library. I could do everything on the computer. That was the day my reading life changed.

I rented (and sometimes bought) hundreds of books on tape and books on CD through Books-On-Tape, Recorded Books Direct, Kitabe, Simply Audiobooks, Audiobook Stand and more. Suddenly I could get almost any book I could think of on audio, and my wallet wasn't suffering . . . much. Eventually, I started ripping CDs, merging tracks and files, and transferring everything to an MP3 player.

The next step in my addiction to audiobooks was my discovery of Audible.com and the convenience of digitally downloading directly to my player. Oh boy! Instant gratification; dangerous to the pocketbook (or credit balance at Audible) but so easy and wonderful. No more scratches, no more stretched tapes. Soon other companies followed suit, and now I can even download audiobooks from my library!

I have never counted the number of books I've listened to, but I kept decent records for about six years before I started blogging. A few days ago, I commented on Jen's blog that my record for audios in one year was 86 books. I was wrong. That was my total in 2008. In 2007 (I checked on Sunday), I listened to 113 titles! That's a lot of hours of walking, gardening, cooking, driving, and so on.

So why audiobooks? Because I love being read to, because it gives my eyes and editor's brain a rest, and because I truly cannot escape books. I listen so often, my husband is fond of saying, "God forbid you go one second without listening to a book." He's right.

Audiobook Week Extra

One of the narrators of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver (my audiobook review for today), is Jenna Lamia. I have spend almost forty hours with her voice in my head. Here's the list:
  • Shiver
  • Firefly Cloak
  • Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
  • The Secret Life of Bees
She also narrated The Help and The Adoration of Jenna Fox, both of which are on my MP3 player right now.

Be sure to visit Jen's blog, Devourer of Books, for other posts on today's Audiobook Week topic.

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19 June 2010

Winner of SOS! The Six O'Clock Scramble to the Rescue

The winner of SOS! The Six O"Clock Scramble to the Rescue by Aviva Goldfarb and a subscription to Aviva's online recipe service is


Hope you love the cookbook and recipes as much as I do.

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Weekend Cooking: Review: Two Short Pieces by M. F. K. Fisher

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.


You may recall that I found A Stew or a Story in New York City a few weeks ago. Because the book is a collection of M. F. K. Fisher's works (collected by Joan Reardon), it isn't necessary to read it in a linear fashion or all in one go. Periodically, I'll share my thoughts about articles and essays from this volume.

First up is a piece titled "Through a Glass Darkly," which was written for the Atlantic Monthly in 1944. The article is about how the California wine industry was being affected by the war, and Fisher laments that the war came so soon after Prohibition was lifted. In this short piece, here's one thing I learned: Some vineyards in California were close to 65 years old and producing decent wine before growers plowed under their vines at the start of Prohibition. After the repeal, some vintners opted for quick profits by buying cheaper vines and rushing wine to sale. I see in retrospect that this was one of the reasons California wines developed such a bad reputation.

Fisher mostly focuses on how the vineyards were suffering from the effects of the war. Much of what she wrote was new to me. I won't go into details, so you'll have something to discover if you decide to read the article yourself.

Second is "Ode to the Olive," published in Travel and Leisure in 1976. In this article, we learn of M. F. K.'s first taste of an olive and her love affair with the fruit. She was especially fond of pure virgin oil, "made from ripe, dark olives, . . . which have never fallen from the tree" (215). She mourns that fact that she cannot buy the wonderful olives she knew in Europe (it was the late 1970s, after all):
For me, olives and their oil are more essential than many other things I may want, like a vintage Rolls-Royce (not really), or an aluminum ladder so that I can mend my roof myself (217).
Best of all, she describes a heavenly but simple meal prepared for her by a friend in France. The main dish was half of a fresh pan bagnat that had been "bathed in olive oil and covered with available delicacies" (217). I leave it you to discover the rest.

I will share more stories as I get to them.

A Stew or a Story at Powell's
These links lead to affiliate programs

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18 June 2010

Featuring . . . Harper Perennial Books

Let me introduce you to Harper Perennial. Unlike the other imprints featured here on Beth Fish Reads, Harper Perennial is a big imprint that's been around for a while. But like all imprints, it has a focus and is directed by a particular vision.

Because Harper Perennial is an established imprint, I'm going to shake things up a bit for my Friday feature. Dozens of books are published each year under the imprint, so I have worked with Erica Barmash to create an initial list of twenty-two books that we're excited about. Some the titles have already been published, and some will be released over the coming months.

Each Friday this summer and into the fall, I'll feature one of the books on the following list, letting you know what it's about, giving you links to the author's website or blog, quoting from reviews, and/or showing you the trailer. Most important, though, I will tell you why I am looking forward to reading each one. I will also post my reviews as I delve into the books. Here's what you have to look forward to:

Harper Perennial Featured Books

  • Bad Marie by Marcy Dermansky
  • The Blessings of the Animals by Katrina Kittle
  • Commuters by Emily Gray Tedrowe
  • Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever by Justin Taylor
  • Everything Is Going to Be Great by Rachel Shukert
  • Financial Lives of the Poets by Jess Walter
  • Girl Trouble by Holly Goddard Jones
  • Great Lover by Jill Dawson
  • If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous
  • In a Perfect World by Laura Kasischke
  • It All Changed in an Instant by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser
  • Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin
  • Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy
  • Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carleton
  • More of This World or Maybe Another by Barb Johnson
  • Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon
  • Numb by Sean Ferrell
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing by Lydia Peelle
  • Stretch by Neal Pollack
  • Truth about Delilah Blue by Tish Cohen
  • Vanishing and Other Stories by Deborah Willis
  • What He's Poised to Do by Ben Greenman
But wait! There's more! My feature on Harper Perennial Books won't be limited to just this list. As new titles are released and as I spend more time reading the Harper Perennial catalog, I plan to let you know about other books in this imprint that seem to call out to me.

I will not be hosting another reading challenge, but I will post a review page with a Mr. Linky, so we can all share our thoughts about these and other Harper Perennial books. Look for that post in the next couple of weeks, and I'll also add a tab to my blog header.

I'm thrilled that Erica Barmash has taken the time to tell us about the Harper Perennial imprint. But before we get to her note, I have a couple of things to say.

First, thanks so much to Erica and the HP Books people for coming up with the very cool button for this feature. I just love it, and I'm very grateful for the tech and design help. Second I have to add a plug for Harper Perennial's great blog The Olive Reader. If you aren't a subscriber, you ought to be. It has a good blend of zany and serious. Check it out.

A Note from Erica Barmash

My name is Erica Barmash, and I'm the marketing manager for Harper Perennial, where we're all SO excited to be featured here on Beth Fish Reads. For those of you that don't know us, here are the basics: Harper Perennial is one of the trade paperback imprints of HarperCollins. We publish both trade paperback originals and reprints of hardcovers. We publish literary fiction, nonfiction, short stories, memoir, history, popular science, and many other types of books that I'm probably forgetting. The one thing that unites the books we publish, as said so well by our editorial director, Cal Morgan, in a recent Huffington Post interview is "the sheer enthusiasm we're seeing among writers out there—a kind of faith that writing can still change the world."

This excitement is present not only among our writers (people like Simon Van Booy, Katrina Kittle, Tony O'Neill, Ben Greenman, and Marcy Dermansky, to name a few), but also here in the office. I've never been around more people who care so passionately about books and want to share that feeling with other readers. I hope we can continue to do that through this feature, and I'm looking forward to chiming in about all the books you'll be learning about in the coming weeks. Welcome to the Harper Perennial community! We're happy to have you.
And I for one am happy to be a member of the Harper Perennial community. Thank you , Erica, for the introduction and warm welcome. Let me turn it around and welcome Harper Perennial to Beth Fish Reads. I also want to encourage you all to click through to the Huffington Post interview for a closer look at the imprint.

I love the eclectic mix of genres and styles that Harper Perennial publishes, and I can't wait to share these "Good Books for Cool People" with you. I hope you are as excited as I am to get to know Harper Perennial.

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17 June 2010

Imprints, Imprints, Imprints

If you are a long-time reader of Beth Fish Reads, then you know I have a deep interest in imprints and editors. Since the beginning of the year I have become familiar with two young imprints whose editorial directors speak to me.

Amy Einhorn seems to pick hit after hit. I was so taken with her list that I featured an Amy Einhorn Book every Friday throughout the first half of the year. I am even hosting a perpetual reading challenge based on the imprint. (Think about joining the challenge.)

What's next? Look for reviews of Amy Einhorn books in the coming months and watch this space for features of the new titles coming out under the imprint. I was lucky enough to have heard about two books on the 2011 list, and I'm not only excited to read them but am already planning on giving one to my dad.

The other imprint, Pamela Dorman Books, I stumbled on by chance. Three great reads from this year just happened to be the first three books issued under the Pamela Dorman imprint. That discovery had me rushing off to do research. I shouldn't have been surprised to discover that Pamela Dorman was the editor behind several of my favorite books. It shows how strong the character of an editor or imprint can be: I was a fan and didn't even know it.

I gave you a heads-up of three more titles in the Pamela Dorman Book imprint, so look for features and reviews of those titles right here in the coming months. I can't wait to see the 2011 books. I'll be featuring each one.

I'd bet that you too follow some imprints, even if you aren't aware of it. This is especially true if you have a favorite genre (romance, mystery, or fantasy, for example). If you were to track your reading by imprint, you might just find a pattern.

I plan to continue to be an advocate for Amy Einhorn Books and Pamela Dorman Books, letting you know when new titles are coming out and publishing my reviews as I read my way through their catalogs.

And don't forget that Julie from Booking Mama and Kathy from BermudaOnion are fans of Reagan Arthur Books. They have done a great job bringing attention to another new and exciting imprint. Check out the RAB blog and learn about the books and the reading challenge.

Tomorrow morning, I'm turning my spotlight on another imprint that has caught my eye. I'm very excited about introducing you to these books; you'll find a little bit of everything in this established imprint.

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