Tuesday, May 24, 2011

On My Way to BEA!

Greetings all! By the time this posts, I'll be on my way to BEA 2011 and after that on to Boston to visit a friend. My plans include much being out and about, so your best chance of finding me this week, if you're not at BEA, is probably via Twitter.

For the record, here I am, in polka dots. If you see me at BEA, please say hi! I'm really very nice, but can be on the shy side.

If you've already seen me and said hi and have come into possession of one of my overabundance of business cards, thanks for stopping by my blog!

My name is Megan and I've been blogging here at Leafing Through Life since 2007. I have a full time job in the medical field by day, but much of the rest of the time I love reading and writing about everything from literary to young adult fiction. If you're interested in finding out more about the types of books I like to read and review, please check out my review policy.

For a taste of my book reviewing, try these...

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue
Family Sentence by Jeanine Cornillot

Questions? Comments? Feel free to send me an e-mail at sweeme06 at yahoo dot com.

Here's wishing everyone, whether you're at BEA or not, a fantastic week!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday: State of Wonder

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Harper, June 7, 2011


Years ago, Marina Singh traded the hard decisions and intensity of medical practice for the quieter world of research at a pharmaceutical company, a choice that has haunted her life. Enveloping herself in safety, limiting emotional risk, she shares a quiet intimacy with her widowed older boss, Mr. Fox, and a warm friendship with her colleague Anders Eckman. But Marina’s security is shaken when she learns that Anders, sent to the Amazon to check on a field team, is dead—and Mr. Fox wants her to go into the jungle to discover what happened.

Plagued by trepidation, yet propelled by her sense of duty, Marina embarks on an odyssey into the unknown, down into the Amazonian delta, deep into the dense, insect-infested jungle to find answers from the company’s research team. Led by the formidable Dr. Annick Swenson, the scientists are looking into the development of a new drug that could have a profound impact on Western society. But the team has been silent for two years and the daunting Dr. Swenson does not like interlopers inserting themselves in her work, as Marina well knows. The eminent and fiercely uncompromising doctor was once her mentor, the woman she admired, emulated, and feared. To fulfill her mission, Marina must confront the ghosts of her past, as well as unfulfilled dreams and expectations—a journey that will force her to make painful moral choices and take her deep into her own heart of darkness.

A rich narrative dense with atmosphere and full of deeply realized characters, packed with amazing twists and surprises—encounters with an anaconda, cannibals, death, and birth—State of Wonder is Ann Patchett’s most enthralling and confident novel, a tale that will leave readers in their own state of wonder, examining their own values and beliefs.

What are you "waiting on" this Wednesday?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reviewlettes, Ahoy!

I have one thing to say about tiny informal reviews. I don't mind it when you write them, but I feel like I'm cheating when I write them. That said, the time frame on my review backlog is just really ridiculous, and this month is crazy busy, so I'm cheating, but I promise I'll make cutesy categories and keep it interesting for you, mmkay?

Review Pitch Fail - Once upon a time, someone sent me a pitch for a review copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I thought, "Hmm, sounds interesting" then instead of answering the e-mail, I wandered off to look at shiny things until a later date at which it would have seemed indecent to reply. Stupid me. The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of those rare books narrated by an animal that doesn't bury readers in cheese. Enzo, the furry narrator in question, is a wise old soul of a dog whose love, loyalty, and understanding illuminate the realities of a family, Enzo's family, much better than any human narrator could possibly aspire to do. Told as he looks back over his life with race car driver Denny Swift, Denny's wife Eve, and the couple's daughter Zoe, Enzo tells a terribly honest version of a life fraught with joys and hardships. Through Enzo, Stein draws out each character's most admirable qualities but without shying away from or making excuses for their weaknesses either. The Art of Racing in the Rain is funny and touching and had me in tears by the end. Enzo is the dog we all imagine and wish our own dogs could be when we look into their eyes and wonder just how much they understand.

Dystopian Delight - In Wither by Lauren DeStefano, Rhine Ellery lives in a world where a virus allows males to live only until age 25 and females only to age 20. To sustain the population and ostensibly to find a cure, girls are being forced into polygamous marriages with those young men with the means to purchase a few wives. Rhine herself is robbed from the life she is eking out with her twin brother Rowan to become one of four brides to Linden Ashby, son of a sinister doctor who will use whatever nefarious means necessary to conduct his research. Wither is a vivid and, at times, frighteningly possible tale of a world where girls are again only valued for the offspring they produce. Though the story takes place almost entirely in the Florida mansion in which Rhine and her sister wives are held captive, the setting leaps off the page, portraying just the sort of forgotten paradise that might tempt girls to forget their lives and embrace a life of virtual enslavement. Rhine and her sister wives Jenna, Cecily, and Rose are compelling characters who are well fleshed out and sympathetic. Even Linden, a sensitive architect wrapped up in a mess hardly of his own making, inspires sympathy from the reader lending credence to the difficulty of Rhine's choice whether to surrender to this luxurious life that's been forced upon her or to flee back to the life she knew. If good stories and/or dystopia are your thing, Wither is not to be missed. This is one book I'm glad is a part of a series!

Christian Non-fiction? How did you get here? - When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert is a Christian perspective on helping the poor that might well stand to benefit anyone, Christian or otherwise, who has tried to help someone they perceive to be less well-off then themselves. In today's world where the prevailing method of helping people is an impersonal rubber stamp of "I built X many houses and schools" or "I helped get food to X many children" that serves the giver more than the recipient, Corbett and Fikkert ask us to consider spending the time necessary to tailor our help to a community's needs and, even more, incorporate those being helped into the process so that they will be empowered to seek and maintain lasting change for their communities even after the outside help leaves. Corbett and Fikkert's book wisely advises its readers to always consider themselves to be just as needy in one way or another as the people they are helping thus avoiding the almost-inevitable God complex, the unwelcome guest that always comes along with our better intentions of helping people who have been rendered unable to help themselves. When Helping Hurts is a definite must-read for anyone who wants to create lasting and empowering benefit from the help they have to offer those less fortunate.

Okay, 3 reviewlettes in one day seems like plenty. Especially since they aren't that short. What did you expect? They're short for me. It was surprisingly painless, and I feel much like much less of a cheat than I expected. I could get used to this.... ;-)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

BEA, Book Blogger Con, and Other Bad Excuses

Greetings, Blogosphere! Oh how I have been missing you!

You see, all winter, I did pretty much nothing but stay home and read and blog and read blogs. I even managed to form myself into a fairly consistent poster, if not a frequent one. Then April came, and I started doing things and making travel plans and the pace of life started to pick up. Then May came and the pace of life spun out of control and will probably continue to do so.

I finally decided that BEA and Book Blogger Con are indeed in the cards for me this year. I'm all registered up and ready to go. Okay, maybe not ready to go. Maybe in a planning fervor attempting to be ready to go. It's really not long now. I managed to totally luck out and now have two great roommates with a possible third to come.

Ironically, registering for BEA/BBC and all the plans that need making and the logistics that need working out make me into a terrible blogger. I've been so busy figuring what to do and who to see and when to see them and how to get there that I haven't had much time left for actual blogging. I'm sure I'll get back on my blogging horse. If not this week, then the week after, and if not that week then definitely after BEA. But trust me, I have not forgotten you, dear blogosphere, and I shall be back right after I finish dogsitting, planning travel to NYC and Boston, making caramel apples (ARGH!), trying to get a new job, having ginormous yard sales to raise a few extra bucks to pay for my travel extravaganza and so on.

That all said, if you're going to BEA and want to meet up for lunch or dinner or to wander the show floor together or some other enticing activity, please send me an e-mail at toadacious1 at yahoo dot com. I'm planning to be in NYC from around noon on Tuesday May 24th until around 1 on Friday the 27th, and I'd love to put some more faces with names. I fully intend to e-mail some people to twist their arms until they agree to hang out with me, but it seems the harder I try the more things are getting left until the last minute, so if you want a BEA buddy please don't hesitate to send me an e-mail, and we can skip the whole late in the game arm-twisting thing. ;-)

In other news, the book keeping me company this week that was from hell (the week, not the book!) has been Tabloid City by Pete Hamill. I'd heard that Hamill writes New York so well, and now I see that it's absolutely true. From what I've read so far, I'm eager to dig into Hamill's other books, many of which are languishing on my shelves. In terms of subject matter Tabloid City isn't exactly happy, but it's still probably been one of the best things about my week and a book that's getting me in that New York state of mind. Perfect timing!

I'm off to take my mom to the movies for Mother's Day shortly. Hope all you mommies are having a great Mother's Day!

Have a lovely day, all, and happy reading!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'm So Glad Were Recommended To Me

Well, it's been about a month since I did my first Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish, so I suppose maybe it's time I gave it another go. This week's topic is "Books I'm So Happy Were Recommended To Me," so here are 10 books that I'm so glad I got a few nudges or perhaps a strong shove from people to read, else they might never have ended up in my hands, let alone become some of my favorites!

1. Complications by Atul Gawande - I'm not sure who put this on my radar first, but I'm pretty it's when Eva wrote about it that I knew I shouldn't wait any longer to read it. It's the first non-fiction book I've read in the space of a weekend, I think, ever. Gawande tells tales and asks important questions about the U.S. health care system in a way that's incredibly readable. (My Review)

2. Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer - I think Becky gave me the push I needed to go buy this one. So glad I did. I can't remember the last time I got so caught up in a book. (My Review)

3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - My dad nagged me to read these since about as soon as I could read chapter books. When I finally gave in, they became one of my total favorites!

4. After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell - This is one of those books that somebody was so taken with on Bookcrossing that they persuaded me with their sheer enthusiasm for it to join a bookring for it. I loved it, and now count Maggie O'Farrell among (the few the proud) my favorite authors. (My Review)

5. Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going - Susan at West of Mars loved this book, and as a result so did I! (My Review)

6. Pied Piper by Nevil Shute - I'd heard of this author's more famous works, but never even knew this one existed until my book club leader who teaches it to his high school classes picked it to read the year before last. And it's so good. (My Review)

7. The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene - Okay, so this book wasn't so much recommended to me as forced upon me as required reading in high school, but it's one of the few, the proud that instead of actively resenting, I actually loved and imagine myself rereading some day (which is a big deal if you're at all familiar with my reading habits).

8. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett - Okay, so this isn't even my favorite Ann Patchett book, but it introduced me to one of the few authors I count among my favorites. Not to mention getting my attention on the Orange Prize, my favorite literary award to follow.

9. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - I had not ever even heard of Neil Gaiman until I started getting involved with Book Crossing. This is the book that totally hooked me!

10. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn - This one I attribute to my Bookcrossing days, too. A kind of a graphic disturbing tale of circus freaks is not exactly the sort of thing one picks up without a little outside prodding. I'm glad I gave it a shot, it's one of those books that, while disturbing, is absolutely compelling, too.

How about you? What are some books that you might never have picked up that you ended up loving because of someone's recommendation?