Books Read in 2008

Posted in Review, Tally at 11:04 pm by Amber

For a long time I resisted posting book reviews here because I was afraid of being pigeonholed.  Nearly all of my publications are reviews but that is just one venue I use for my writing.  It appears my reviews bring readers to my site but hopefully they find more when they start looking around.

Here is my list of books read in 2008.  I only began keeping track in July so I read more than 34 books but I couldn’t remember all of them.  If there is a book review published here or elsewhere, I’ve included the link for it.  The bolded ones are my favorites. 

  1. Woman’s Best Friend: Women Writers on the Dogs in Their Lives – Pam Houston and Megan McMorris
  2. The Unseen – T.C. McMullen
  3. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street – Robert Mack
  4. ErRatic – N.D. Hansen-Hill
  5. About Alice – Calvin Trillin
  6. The Lost Episodes of Beatie Scareli – Ginetta Correli
  7. Gimp: When Life Deals You a Crappy Hand You Can Fold – Or You Can Play – Mark Zupan with Tim Swanson
  8. The Hunters – Claire Messud
  9. Red Ant House – Ann Cummins
  10. No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas For Your Blog – Margaret Mason
  11. The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelancing – Diana Burrell and Linda Formichelli
  12. Heat – Bill Buford
  13. Twilight – Stephenie Meyer
  14. The Rule of Four – Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason
  15. Born Standing Up: A Comics Life – Steve Martin
  16. The Renegade Writer’s Query Letters That Rock: The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Selling More Work Faster – Diana Burrell and Linda Formichelli
  17. Faceless Killers – Henning Mankell
  18. Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name – Vendela Vida
  19. Greywalker – Kat Richardson
  20. New Moon – Stephenie Meyer
  21. Eclipse – Stephenie Meyer
  22. Breaking Dawn – Stephenie Meyer
  23. Poltergeist – Kat Richardson
  24. The Jane Austen Book Club – Karen Joy Fowler
  25. In The Night Kitchen – Maurice Sendak
  26. The Headless Cupid – Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  27. The Good German – Joseph Kanon
  28. Dirt: An American Campaign – Mark LaFlamme
  29. Any Given Doomsday – Lori Handeland
  30. Ever – Gail Carson Levine
  31. Sarah’s Key – Tatiana de Rosnay
  32. The Soul of a Chef: The Journey Toward Perfection – Michael Ruhlman
  33. Things the Grandchildren Should Know – Michael Oliver Everett
  34. Sweetsmoke – David Fuller


Return of Story of the Month

Posted in Story Of The Month at 2:38 pm by Amber

The Story of the Month feature has been missing the last few months.  Either I didn’t read much short fiction or nothing I read stuck.  In November, I even had a story ready to post.  It was something I read shortly before the end of October and I wasn’t sure if it really fit the criteria for a Story of the Month.  Here’s what I said back in April was the criteria:

I’ve decided to do a new feature by the 7th of each new month.  As you can guess, I highlight a short story that makes an impression on me.  The story may not have been published in that particular month or the previous month – the only qualification is that I read the story after the previous Story of the Month.

There may even be more than one Story of the Month in February.  I’ve been catching up on a lot of short story reading!

John Updike Passes Away

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:50 pm by Amber

John Updike has left this world.  I will miss his writing in New Yorker magazine.  My condolences to his family.


An Hour of Comedy

Posted in Event at 9:24 pm by Amber

Friday evening was fun.  When I arrived they were accepting raffle entries to win two tickets to the next “Evenings With Authors” night.  Three Dog Bakery was a sponsor and there was a big basket with little treat bags.

Tom Holiday with the Board of Trustees served as the host.  He introduced Markoe and they started right off with doggie photo contest winners.  Sammy won for “Most Likely to Talk”.  I was really shocked at the number of goodies from Three Dog Bakery and Thurber House.

Our Goodies
Our Goodies
Sammy's Winning Photo
Sammy’s Winning Photo

Markoe began reading her piece about Puppyboy titled “Something Very Important”.  It was a little bit difficult to hear at times – she may have been too close to the microphone.  Tom fixed it which resulted in a good natured exchange where Markoe commented that he threw her off and she had to begin it again (she didn’t, really).  After he took his seat, Markoe gave him the hand signal and the “stay” command.  It only added to the hilarity of Puppyboy’s story.

When finished, she asked if she should take questions or read more.  Many voices requested she read.  So read she did.  Markoe picked a bit from Nose Down, Eyes Upwhere the main character walks in his dog, Jimmy, giving a motivational speech to the other dogs about what is edible or inedible.  It’s currently being made into an audio book and Markoe was impressed the reader actually does voices for the characters.

During the question and answer session, Markoe was asked just about everything imaginable… “What is the strangest thing one of your dogs have eaten?”… “How did you get started writing?”… “Would your mother be proud of your success?”… “Have you always been this funny?” and so on. 

Tom had Markoe pick out the raffle winner.  Then Markoe signed books while a cookie and coffee reception was held nearby.  I bought a copy of Nose Down, Eyes Up for her to sign earlier in the week and since I now had a signed copy I went on to the reception.  It was a great evening and I’ll definitely be going to another Thurber House event.


The Thurber House

Posted in Event at 12:37 am by Amber

James Thurber was a student at The Ohio State University before going on fame and fortune at the New Yorker.  The house he lived in with his parents and siblings is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1984 it was turned into a museum and literary arts center.  They sponsor several programs all year long.  It’s a shame that I’ve talked about wanting to go to some of their events and haven’t made the time.

This year will be different.  One of the programs offered by Thurber House is an evening with an author.  Not all of the programs are held at the house.  There is one tomorrow night at the Columbus Museum of Art.  Merrill Markoe will be there to do a 50-minute reading of Nose Down, Eyes Up, answer questions and do a book signing during a reception.

As a special event for the evening, ticket holders were invited to enter their dogs into a doggie photo contest.  Markoe will award two dogs with the honor of “Most Likely to Talk” or “Most Likely to Be Portrayed in Markoe’s Next Book”.  I could not resist entering the Resident Corgi into the contest.  I’ve seen the pictures of the other dogs and there are some cuties!

Resident Corgi at Faucet
Resident Corgi at Faucet


Wyoming Book Festival in September 2009

Posted in Event at 11:29 pm by Amber

Since June 2008 I’ve been able to access statistics on my site visitors such as search terms used to get here and where they are from.  To my surprise, I’ve had visitors from all of the continental United States except for Wyoming.  This made me curious about Wyoming itself. 

I had no idea about 48% of the land is owned by the US government in the form of parks, wildlife refuges and trails.  The state bird is the colorful Western Meadowlark.  Cheyenne is the state capital and the home of the Wyoming Book Festival.  I found a listing of over a dozen independently owned bookstores.  Stop by any of them if you find yourself in Wyoming.


Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen by Dyan Sheldon

Posted in Event, Review at 11:54 pm by Amber

This book was made into a movie starring Lindsay Lohan, Alison Pill and Megan Fox.  Though I did not watch the movie as part of the Lit Flicks Challenge I can see how the novel could easily be adapted. 

Many Young Adult novels follow a formula.  In one, the main character gets into an impossible situation of his/her own doing, makes more mistakes and learns a lesson in the end.  Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen strays from this formula but not by much.

Mary Elizabeth Cep (who insists on being called Lola) is forced to move from New York city to Dellwood, New Jersey by her mother.  Her mother and little sisters call her Drama Queen due to her propensity to always be in character.  As the new girl at Dellwood High School, she tries to keep the other students guessing about her personality.  She even lies to her best friend, Ella, to make herself more interesting. 

When it’s time for the drama class to hold a production of Pygmalion, Lola is confident she will get the lead part.  After all, she has perfected a Cockney accent.  Carla Santini, the most popular girl in school, wants the same role.  Most of the book is about the battle of Lola and Carla to be reigning queen of the drama department. 

The ending offers resolutions to many of the storylines but is unsatisfying.  In fact, I checked out another copy of the book from the library on the suspicion that the last five or six pages were missing from the first book.  Nope.  They both ended the same.


Sue Miller Reading Recap

Posted in Event at 3:50 pm by Amber

Sue Miller has been busy of late.  The paperback edition of The Senator’s Wife went on sale last Tuesday.  She’s doing a workshop at Ohio State University and did a reading at the Wexner Center for the Arts last night as part of the OSU Department of English’s Visiting Writer program.  Tonight she’ll be at the Thurber House for their Evenings With Authors.  (I hope the snow doesn’t keep people away!)

Last night Miller was introduced by Lee K. Abbott.  Miller began with how the idea for The Senator’s Wife started.  She keeps writing notebooks and is a planner in order to minimize the number of rewrites and know the tone of the book.  It began with two thoughts – love begins with the body and instances where friends of friends took in an ex-spouse during a terminal illness.  From there it transformed into an older woman taking care of someone nearing the end of life and a younger woman taking of someone at the beginning of life. 

I had bought The Senator’s Wife before the reading even though some of the reviews did not like the characters or content of the book.  Hearing Miller talk about it not only gave me some framework but convinced me I will enjoy reading it.

Miller read several sections about the older wife, Delia.  She gave good information to let the different passages flow from one to another.  Many authors pick the first chapter or a chapter that can be read in twenty to thirty minutes.

Afterwards Miller took questions from the audience about any of her books.  It was a decent crowd and it wasn’t just MFA students.  Questions ranged from “How did you pick the timeline for The Senator’s Wife?” to “What kind of research did you do for the time period?”  One person asked what genre classification she’d give her novels which caused a moment of perplexity.  Like most writers, she writes a story without aiming for a specific genre.  She replied that she’s been classified as a domestic realist like Richard Ford and Raymond Carver.

When she signed my copy of The Senator’s Wife I asked what she did with her notebooks after the book was sent off to the publisher.  Some writers put them away or get ready to send them to an archive somewhere.  Miller will look at them and see if there are more ideas there.  Sounds like Sue Miller has more in store for her readers.

Sue Miller Reading Tonight!

Posted in Event at 12:31 am by Amber

I went to a reading of The Senator’s Wife by Sue Miller earlier this evening. It was a lot of fun. I’ll post more about it this week but wanted to mention it was a good time!  She’s one class act.


Lit Flicks Challenge Update

Posted in Event at 10:45 pm by Amber


Here is my initial list of novels for the challenge:

  1. The Good German
  2. Devil In a Blue Dress
  3. A Good Year
  4. The Name of The Rose
  5. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

My updated list looks like this:

  1. The Good German
  2. Devil In a Blue Dress
  3. A Good Year
  4. Twilight
  5. Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen (review forthcoming)
  6. (Bonus) The Jane Austen Book Club

My list hasn’t changed much since the challenge began.  I suppose that means I picked well.  In November I didn’t read anything at all so I wouldn’t accidently pick up plots or phrases while working on my novel for NaNoWriMo.

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