This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
GalleyCat Reviews will feature daily book review content, including 300-500 word book reviews, excerpted book reviews from select review outlets, and curated posts linking to the best book reviews on the web. The reviews will be written by a mix of professional reviewers and passionate readers in the GalleyCat community. There will be more surprises this week as we unveil our rapidly growing book review directory and reveal the first publication to excerpt content on GalleyCat Reviews. As the program grows over the next few months, we will update the information on this FAQ page to include new developments. If you are a publicist looking to submit books to GalleyCat reviews, please email your pitches to this new email address. We are accepting pitches for new books in any genre, but we will only be able to review a fraction of the suggested titles.
"Remarkable Creatures" by Tracy Chevalier
Reviewed by Clea Simon Read more about GalleyCat Reviews Tracy Chevalier may never recapture the commercial success of her 1999 breakthrough, "Girl with a Pearl Earring," but over the subsequent three novels, she’s found her métier. Her new "Remarkable Creatures" dabbles in science, rather than art, and there' precious little of the sex and romance that gave "Pearl Earring" its kick. But in this new work, based on historical figures in early 19th century England, she has created a vivid and stirring portrait of a friendship--as two women from very different worlds find themselves and each other while hunting fossils. "Remarkable Creatures" doesn't start out with a friendship. In fact, both these characters are initially settled on their isolation. A survivor of a lightning strike, working class Mary Anning has always been an oddity to her neighbors in the seaside village of Lyme Regis. Part of what sets her apart is her ability to find "curies," or fossils, along the shore, and after her father dies, it's these curiosities--sold for a penny a piece--that keep her family from the workhouse. Elizabeth Philpot, the book's other narrator, arrives in this modest resort destination determined to make her way alone. As she did somewhat clumsily in her 1997 debut "The Virgin Blue" and much more successfully in 2001's "Falling Angels," Chevalier depicts the tenacity of female friendship during difficult times. The two narrators of "Remarkable Creatures" are separated by birth and education, and their relationship begins with all the expected prejudices. Elizabeth and her two unmarried sisters are settled there to live in reduced but respectable gentility after their brother marries and takes over the family's London house. While her youngest sister Margaret, still hoping to marry, goes to assemblies, and Louise takes to gardening, Elizabeth discovers fossil hunting. A self-possessed bluestocking, she finds a substitute for her beloved British Museum in freshly unearthed ammonites and belemnites. After meeting Mary on the beach, she introduces her to the studies of early anatomists and evolutionary theorists like Georges Cuvier – ultimately making the young fossil hunter known to Cuvier and his colleagues, as well. These early assumptions help delineate their voices, but as their narratives alternate Chevalier also captures subtler differences in her protagonists, from their outlooks on life to their evolving impressions of each other. It's Mary's skill--her ability to see fossils in
the rocks--that wins Elizabeth over first, but when Elizabeth begins to use her advantages to help Mary--negotiating with quarrymen to extract a large specimen--the two edge toward equality. Chevalier has spiced up what is known about the actual Anning, adding a slight touch of romance and, thus, conflict, as well as a sweet ending. But the small dab of sentimentality doesn't deter from this novel's own remarkable creatures: three-dimensional characters, transcending their place and time. Clea Simon's sixth mystery, "Grey Matters" will be published in March by Severn House. She can be found online at cleasimon.com
"Losing the News" by Alex Jones
By Peter Osnos Excerpted from Foreign Affairs In "Losing the News," Alex Jones, who won a Pulitzer Prize while at The New York Times and is now director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, addresses how the rise of the Internet and the precipitous decline in advertising have left print journalism, especially big-city newspapers, in desperate straits. Jones' book presents what is at risk of being lost: what he calls "the iron core" of journalism, which comes from shoe-leather reporting, experience, and, often, courage. Jones calls this particular brand of journalism "accountability news..." This genre of reporting stands apart from flip, glib, and entertaining opinion-driven commentary -- the fast food that nourishes much of the blog culture, which is relatively cheap to produce compared to in-depth investigations and systematic coverage of local and national beats. Continue reading... In order to bring you the best content, GalleyCat Reviews will excerpt quality reviews from select critical outlets, a program that debuted with Foreign Affairs. Peter Osnos is Founder and Editor-at-Large of PublicAffairs Books, Vice Chair of the Columbia Journalism Review, and Senior Fellow for Media at the Century Foundation.
Reviewing Novel Reviews: Bright Lights, Big Review
As we continue our first week here at GalleyCat Reviews, here are a few notable book reviews from around the Internet. Literary Celebrity Book Review of the Week: Bright Lights, Big City novelist Jay McInerney reviews a new book by Joshua Ferris. Here's an excerpt: "With his second novel Ferris makes it clear that he has absolutely no intention, for the moment at least, of repeating himself or creating an authorial brand. In fact, it's difficult to believe that The Unnamed and Then We Came to the End come from the same laptop." Most Philosophy-Packed Book Review Sentence of the Week: Ron Charles reviews a 36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. Here's the sentence: "A Princeton-trained philosopher and a MacArthur "genius," Goldstein can make Spinoza sing and Godel comprehensible, and in her cerebral fiction she dances across disciplines with delight, writing domestic comedy about Cartesian metaphysics and academic satire about photoelectric energy." Stickiest Review Metaphor of the Week: Megan Doll reviews Your Face Tomorrow: Volume Three by Javier Marias, a novel currently obsessing this GalleyCat editor. Check it out: "In All Souls (sort of The Hobbit to Your Face Tomorrow's Ring Trilogy), Marias writes of Oxford as 'a city preserved in syrup.' A similar thing could be said of Marias's pickled prose-style, with its long, sinuous sentences and manifold digressions that can try even the most patient and trusting reader." If you think a book review you wrote should be featured for our audience, email GalleyCat a link.
A Brief History of J. D. Salinger Reviews
Author J.D. Salinger passed away today, generating thousands of posts around the Internet. In honor of this great writer, we've collected a few links to the evolving critical opinion of Salinger's work. In 1951, James Stern wrote one of those 'I'll write like a character in the novel' book reviews that never quite work. Dig it: "This Salinger, he's a short story guy. And he knows how to write about kids. This book though, it's too long. Gets kind of monotonous. And he should've cut out a lot about these jerks and all at that crumby school. They depress me." In 1961, the great John Updike reviewed Franny and Zooey. Check it out: "His fiction, in its rather grim bravado, its humor, its morbidity, its wry but persistent hopefulness, matches the shape and tint of present American life. It pays the price, however, of becoming dangerously convoluted and static. A sense of composition is not among Salinger's strengths, and even these two stories, so apparently complementary, distinctly jangle as components of one book." In 2004, Jonathan Yardley pondered The Catcher in the Rye. "What most struck me upon reading it for a second time was how sentimental -- how outright squishy -- it is. The novel is commonly represented as an expression of adolescent cynicism and rebellion -- a James Dean movie in print -- but from first page to last Salinger wants to have it both ways." Finally, in an engaging essay, Janet Malcolm revived the reputation of Salinger's Franny and Zooey. Here's an excerpt: "Today Zooey does not seem too long, and is arguably Salinger's masterpiece. Rereading it and its companion piece Franny is no less rewarding than rereading The Great Gatsby. It remains brilliant and is in no essential sense dated. It is the contemporary criticism that has dated." If you want to read more, Literary History has a collection of links. As GalleyCat Reviews grows, we will feature daily links to excellent literary criticism. If you think a book review you wrote should be featured for our audience, email GalleyCat a link.
For the Soul of France by Frederick Brown
Reviewed by Louise Leetch They say you should write about what you know and Frederick Brown certainly knows France--he wrote biographies of both Emile Zola and Gustave Flaubert. In his new book, For The Soul of France, Brown plumbs the depths of the country's psyche. Here is the saga of France's sojourn from monarchy to a republic. The French Revolution may have begun in 1789 but it was fought well into the twentieth century--the author shows us the whole convoluted, tortured trip. It's a miracle the Third Republic survived with attacks from left and right, economic disasters, and revolving door Premiers. This book reveals frightening similarities to the first ten years of the 21st century. The book contains all the lies, finger-pointing, invented evidence we've seen since 2000. There's a lion's share of yellow journalism. Fear was the weapon of choice. Sadly, it was accepted by those who were taught to think, but didn't. While this is not a beach book--you'll trip over fifty-dollar words--it's certainly the quickest, most readable history I've seen in years. Mr. Brown gives us all the puzzle pieces we need but he's not giving anything away. Be prepared to think and to reason, because this book is not about the Soul of France, it's about the search for it. Get out your dictionaries, sharpen up your French and Latin, and let your brain run through this forest of facts. Getting lost is half the fun. As France struggled, she constantly searched for a scapegoat. The Catholic Church and the Germans took their fair share of hits, but the Jews bore the brunt of the attack. It's astonishing to see the anti-Semitic (a term newly coined in this period) vitriol--worse still to see the popularity--of newspapers such as La Libre Parole. There will always be those who refuse to give up the past, praying for the return of a monarch, an emperor, insisting on France for the French. Luckily there were also those who challenged the old ways and the old religion and fought for free, secular education. One of the results of the law for compulsory education was that France learned how to read. And after reading, they argued and expounded. The author writes: 'France's malady is the need to speechify.' Adolphe Thiers, Georges Clemenceau and Emile Zola fought to build the Republic. The conservatives and royalists reawakened the symbol of Joan of Arc. Eiffel's tower sits in juxtaposition to Sacre Coeur--on one side, the growth of technology and science. On the hill in Montmartre sits France's penance for the sins heaped upon her by the church. Louise Leetch divides her time between Chicago and Wisconsin. Both houses are just crammed with books. She collects her reviews on her GoodReads page.
Happy: A Memoir by Alex Lemon
Reviewed by Michael Paul Mason Read more about GalleyCat Reviews In 1996, neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor sustained a stroke that would lead to a bestselling account called My Stroke of Insight, an effusive and preachy book that makes a brain bleed sound like a weekend Buddhist retreat. In 1997, the would-be poet Alex Lemon suffered a similar lesion, but his condition didn't result in any earth-shattering revelations-thankfully. Instead, Lemon offers up Happy: A Memoir, a gritty, human portrayal of a young life sidelined by reoccurring strokes. When we first meet Lemon, he's Happy, a drug-addled freshman whose brain houses a timebomb--a vascular malformation inclined to arbitrarily bleed. Instead of hammering away with realizations and epiphanies about the condition, Lemon evokes the actual confusion and horror of his predicament with racing prose. When his head goes haywire, he doesn't see stars, but 'a hundred jumping suns.' Before our eyes, the happy-go-lucky, college baseball player devolves into a scrawny, debilitated patient whose observations only become more penetrating with the growing haze in his head. Lemon's descent into the neurological inferno is almost unbearable at times-particularly when his relationships begin to unravel along with his mind. What rescues Happy: A Memoir from the confines of too much gloom is Lemon's unexpected levity. Most of us shudder to think of the humiliation of getting our pubic hair shaved by a nurse; Happy prays for a raging erection so that he can tell his friends about it. The entire book is peppered with a testosteroned banter that has the dual effect of being both humorous and disquieting in light of Happy's serious condition. If Lemon errs anywhere, it's in Happy's unrelenting proclivities toward self-loathing and subsequent self-sabotage. There are a shelves and shelves of medical survivor-lit, but it's ultimately Lemon's sensitivity--probably borne from two previous collections of poetry he wrote--that makes Happy required reading. Instead of giving into clinical speak, Lemon delivers stylistic proof that a life packed with curse words point to a reality more truthful than any neurobabble could conjur. Call it Lemon's stroke of genius. Michael Paul Mason is the author of 'Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury & Its Aftermath,' published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His work appears in magazines and newspapers, including Discover, The Believer, and NYT. Learn more at michaepaulmason.com
GalleyCat Reviews the Books of Lost
Tonight readers, writers, and television obsessives will crowd around television sets, following the tricky plot of Lost--a TV show loaded with countless literary allusions. To help you prepare, GalleyCat Reviews has collected literary criticism about our favorite books from Lost. First, The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares is this GalleyCat editor's favorite Lost book. Here's an excerpt from a review by Seamus Sweeney: "Borges' comparison with The Turn of the Screw is apt - it is an eerie, brief masterpiece, of the right duration to make for a supremely vivid afternoon's reading." Next, Flannery O'Connor's short story collection Everything That Rises Must Converge played a key role at the end of last season. The brilliant Joyce Carol Oates reviewed her work in this essay: "O'Connor's plainspoken, blunt, comic-cartoonish, and flagrantly melodramatic short stories were anything but fashionable ... these were not refined New Yorker stories of the era in which nothing happens except inside characters' minds, but stories in which something happens of irreversible magnitude, often death by violent means."' Flavorpill also rounded up their favorite lost books, briefly reviewing Valis by Philip K. Dick. Here's an excerpt: "Narrated by a fictionalized Dick and his protagonist proxy Horselover Fat, the book is an extended, at times utterly surreal, meditation on the pursuit of religion and philosophical query. Addressing doctrines like Christianity, Gnosticism, and Taoism, the story is a subtly paced romp toward the meaning of life." Finally, last week we uncovered one New Directions title that will be featured in the upcoming season.
The Most Popular Book Reviewers on Twitter
What are your favorite book review sites on Twitter? We are putting the finishing touches on our growing book review directory for GalleyCat Reviews, and we realized that we can't exclude Twitter. The microblogging site has become a hub for many book reviewers and readers. Last year, we interviewed Eric Mueller, the co-founder of the Twitter book review, Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations. They've since grown to include more than 80,000 followers. In addition, we've already uncovered a few hashtags for literary criticism, including: #bookreviews, #reviews #books, and #bookchat. Even better, TweepSearch lists 575 book reviewers on Twitter. Where do you go for book reviews on Twitter? Add your favorite Twitter reviewers in the comments section, we'll add them to our growing collection of literary criticism on Twitter. After the jump, check out the ten most popular self-identified book reviewers on Twitter, ranked by number of followers. Here are the book reviewers with the most followers, according to TweepSearch. 1. Tamoor: "Astrology, Teaching Metaphysics since 1972, EFT, Award Winning Fantasy Author, dragons, fairies, wizards, book reviews, gold panning, Labradoodles" 2. Janette Fuller: "My Thank-You Project, Social Media, Blogger, Book Reviewer, Librarian, Children's Literature Enthusiast, eBay, Card Making" 3. Horror News Net: HORRORNEWS.NET Official Site FREE Horror Horror news Horror reviews DVD reviews Book reviews" 4. Library Journal: "Library views, news, and book reviews from LJ staffers." 5. Susanna K. Hutcheson: "Copywriter, journalist, entrepreneur, fitness fanatic, photographer, collector of vintage ads, fountain pens, book reviewer and a hell of a lot of fun." 6. Organic Wales: "The Organic Wales directory covers organic Welsh food, restaurants, homes, gardening, and holidays. Features include recipes and book reviews." 7. Wayne Hurlbert: "Blogger, social media, SEO consultant, speaker, business book reviewer, Blog Business Success host on BlogTalkRadio"
8. Erin--Books in 140: "Book reviews. In 140 characters. Also: coffee addict, tv addict, pop culture addict, giant." 9. Katlogictalk: Award winning Blogger of Kat Logic, published author, book reviewer, business owner. 10. Maria Schneider: "Freelance writer, editor, blogger, forum hostess, book reviewer, former editor of a writing magazine you've probably heard of. Wants to eradicate the semicolon."
Thereby Hangs a Tail by Spencer Quinn
Reviewed by P.E. Logan Read more about GalleyCat Reviews
Not since Timmy and Lassie has there been such a winning human/canine duo as Bernie Little and Chet, the protagonist and narrator, respectively, of Spencer Quinn's ultracharming mystery, Thereby Hangs A Tail. Like last year's debut, Dog On It, this lighthearted detective romp is set in the American Southwest and centers on the missing persons caseload of the Little Detective Agency. The novel is told from the viewpoint of Chet, a K-9 drop out ("long story," as Chet says) who refers to himself as Bernie's "partner" in the Agency. From the cover art, Chet appears to be a shepherd-mix and his self-description is that he is a bounding "100pounder." From the random thoughts and musings that pop into his over-active dog brain, he is a combination of Mr. Peabody, the clever cartoon dog, and Ed Norton the spacey neighbor from The Honeymooners. In other words: utterly irresistible. Quinn, a.k.a. veteran thriller writer Peter Abrahams, successfully captures what we love best about dogs: their single-minded devotion to the task at hand; the ability to rise from a dead sleep and leap into action to snag a Frisbee or a pant leg on our behalf; and their undying loyalty and faith. "Who's better than Bernie?" Chet frequently comments about his ex-cop master who is frequently down on his luck and financially very unlucky. In Chet's mind, no one. Chet is not a talking dog, just one that thinks out loud. His amusing interior dialogue aptly reflects his fleeting canine attention span and Swiss cheese memory. "Did I mention that?" Chet asks the reader in his frequent asides on a multitude of tangents including his love of trumpets, the Discovery Channel, Bernie's young son Charlie ("Hi Chet the Jet") who's not around much since the divorce and food. Yes, Chet has brought up these factoids before but this is Quinn's cleverness, to get inside a dog's mind in a way that we don't doubt what Chet is thinking or that he is telling us this story. Chet is hyperbolic in his thoughts and confirms what we believe about dogs; that they are genuinely happy to be with us and live in the moment. "What's better than this?" Chet exclaims each time he snags a perp, scares off a stray javelina desert pig, rides shotgun in Bernie's beaten up Porsche with the wind in his ears or scarfs down endless chew strips, bacon and crullers. The case before Chet and Bernie this time is the abduction of a wealthy contessa and her prize-winning show dog, Princess, shortly before the Great Western Dog Show. Also
missing is Bernie's main squeeze prospect, local newspaper reporter Suzie Sanchez. The mystery is easily solvable by the reader, but you meet a good cast of characters including whacked-out desert hippies, jealous dog show competitors and dubious law enforcements agents. The Bernie and Suzie relationship woes are nicely captured by Chet who has many philosophical moments to share about humans and the way they act. "What's up with that," Chet thinks when it comes to why humans even have noses if they can barely smell through them. The books in this series are the most fun you'll have between the covers all season. But don't take my word for it. My dog Mr. Scott gave this novel a good sniffing. Having chewed the Gourmet Cookbook and Anna Karenina he is a discerning consumer of quality books. One look at him and I could tell his review, other than bacon, what's better than this? P.E. Logan is communications professional and a writer in New York. She has worked at various adult trade publishing houses including Random House, Putnam, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster for almost three decades. She now works at The New York Times. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and other periodicals.
Amazon & Macmillan Edition
The Amazon and Macmillan standoff over eBook prices has almost lasted an entire week, and the online bookseller still has not reactivated the buy direct from Amazon buttons for many of Macmillan's authors (as of this 4:11 p.m. EST writing). To help these writers stuck in the middle of a corporate struggle, GalleyCat Reviews has rounded up reviews of books from various Macmillan imprints. First up, the great Jeanette Winterson reviewed The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith Joan Schenkar for the NY Times: "Schenkar has a wonderfully bold approach: not worrying about a linear chronology (although this is meticulously supplied in the appendices), but choosing instead to follow the emotional watercourse of Highsmith's life, allowing her subject to find her own level--to be tidal, sullen, to flow without check, so that events in one decade naturally make an imaginative tributary into turbulence Âbefore and after." Next, here's a New Yorker review of The Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw: "In this wintry fable, Ida Maclaird finds her feet crystallizing into glass ... The book is filled with winsome details of 'this place and its people, as stilted and monochrome as sets and stars of precolor TV.' But the characters' naive inner lives, and the novel's earnest sentimentality, can make the conceit feel as transparent as Ida's transparent toes." Here's an excerpt from a Library Journal review of Impact by Douglas Preston: "A young woman in Maine sees a meteorite streak through the sky and decides to find the crater. A scientist working on Mars data finds something so startling that he is murdered to keep the information secret ... The thriller elements mix well with the science aspects of the story, and the author makes even the hard-to-grasp concepts easy to understand. Most readers will consume this in one sitting; not to be missed." Finally, for your weekend reading pleasure, the LA Times reviews Hellraisers: The Life and Inebriated Times of Richard Burton, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole and Oliver Reed by Robert Sellers Dig it: "What you've got in this book is an incredibly entertaining series of anecdotes, interspersed with unpretentious and conversational interviews -- all about drinking ... Most of the stories are outrageously funny, although, like the ones you're likely to hear from the guy on the next stool at your local, they may be a bit manicured."
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Reviewed by Michael Paul Mason Read more about GalleyCat Reviews Henrietta Lacks is a woman whose cancer cells have been massproduced with no monetary benefit to her heirs; the author, Rebecca Skloot, appears as a character who is so taken with the Lacks story that she writes a book about it. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is part biology lesson, part memoir, part sociological study, and part bioethics. But it's also a genre-bending story that extends beyond its covers. In fact, if you haven't fanned or followed the author, Rebecca Skloot, then you're already missing out on one level of the ongoing narrative. To date, Skloot has 1,943 Facebook friends, of which I am one (disclaimer: we have never met, but we did exchange a couple of brief emails about a year ago when she was looking for a science writer to take her place at a conference). As one of her digital friends, I've enjoyed reading Skloot's gleeful and wacky updates detailing the tiny joys that come with a first book: the arrival of the galley, the selection of the author photo, the first review. It's a story of terrific, starry-eyed success, something like a Nora Ephron plot told through tweets and status updates. As a recent example, here's a post that Skloot made following the appearance of a gushing review in the New York Times: "Rebecca Skloot is absolutely FLOORED by this incredible review of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in today's New York Times. May actually pass out from reading it." Before its publication date, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks already had about a dozen 5-star reviews on Amazon, and so far, I haven't read a single negative word about the book. It's such a pitch-perfect publicity campaign that I've found myself wondering about the ongoing plot of Skloot's life. Will she pull off the manic book tour okay? Can she ever go back to teaching after this? What does her father--who is also a writer--think about her sudden success? After reading Skloot's messages for a year, it's a curious experience to open a book where she plays a starring role. Unlike her Facebook posts, Skloot employs an unornamented, direct style in Immortal Life, but each word is weighted with an impressive--even alarming--depth of research. For example, Skloot went so far as to reveal that Henrietta Lacks discovered her cervical cancer by probing her body in a warm bath some sixty years ago (yes, a writer might
expose your bathroom habits to the world someday). These and myriad other details bring the story into sharp focus, adding a tremendous richness to the characters and setting. The story of Henrietta Lacks isn't new, nor is the phenomenon of immortal cell lines (in which cells reproduce infinitely). But in Immortal Life, Skloot's suggests that science is still bullying the poor and disenfranchised, and that there's a gaping ethical hole that hasn't been adequately addressed: are we entitled to control the smallest elements of our body? And should entities--like Johns Hopkins in Lacks'; case--be able to profit from our tissues without compensation or even our consent? As our understanding of our physiological make-up deepens, these questions and others make The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks relevant reading. Moreover, it's a different kind of story, one that's still spreading on Facebook, achieving its own kind of immortality in the process. Michael Paul Mason is the author of 'Head Cases: Stories of Brain Injury & Its Aftermath,' published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux. His work appears in magazines and newspapers, including Discover, The Believer, and the New York Times. Learn more at michaepaulmason.com
Dead Aid by Dambisa Moyo
By Jagdish Bhagwati Excerpted from Foreign Affairs Moyo's sense of outrage derives partly from her distress over how rock stars, such as Bono, have dominated the public discussion of aid and development in recent years, to the exclusion of Africans with experience and expertise. "Scarcely does one see Africa's (elected) officials or those African policymakers charged with a country's development portfolio offer an opinion on what should be done," she writes, "or what might actually work to save the continent from its regression..." Moyo is less convincing, however, when she tries to argue that aid itself has been the crucial factor holding Africa back, and she verges on deliberate provocation when she proposes terminating all aid within five years -- a proposal that is both impractical (given existing long-term commitments) and unhelpful (since an abrupt withdrawal of aid would leave chaos in its wake). Click here to keep reading... In order to bring you the best content, GalleyCat Reviews will excerpt quality reviews from select critical outlets, a program that debuted with Foreign Affairs. Jagdish Bhagwati is University Professor at Columbia University and Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations.
How Do You Review a Vook?
Yesterday we reported that novelist Anne Rice will release her first Vook on March 1st, a digital version of her 1984 vampire story, "The Master of Rampling Gate." In addition, more Janklow & Nesbit Associates authors will soon follow with their own multimedia Vooks that combine social networking, video, Internet links, and text. This all raises a crucial question for the book review community. How do you review a Vook? Here are some links to the first round of Vook Reviews. Add your own links and thoughts in the comments section. First up, unexpected book critic Perez Hilton raved about the new Rice Vook in a post entitled Why Didn't Stephenie Meyer Get This Memo?: "Anne explained she was excited to see how the technology will bring her over 25 year old story to a new generation ... Sounds like it could be a lot of fun for die hard fans, if nothing else. Seriously, Twilighters: how come you guys don't have cool shiz like this? Wouldn't you just love a new way to girlishly squeal over a the story you've read over 400 times?! Author Joanna Penn reviewed a Vook version of Embassy by Richard Doetsch on her site: "Having read Dan Brown's 'The Lost Symbol' last week, I can immediately see the application of these types of video to stories like that. I would have loved to see the Washington architecture as it was described, as well as the actual video that is used as a plot device by Dan Brown. I would also like to buy travel books with these types of video â€“ not just the guides, but travel narratives. I recently reread Inhaling the Mahatma by Christopher Kremmer. I love India and have been myself, but I would love to see what he saw and wrote about. These video clips don't need to be so 'professional' as the ones in the Vook, travel narrative could have raw local footage." Our digitally obsessed sibling eBookNewser reviewed Vook's Sherlock Holmes Experience. Here's an excerpt: "To the newbee, the videos might offer some useful background, but all the bells and whistles finally distract from the text itself, where the real action still takes place. This app raises a question: do we actually want our books-"e" or otherwise--to do more than display text? Is a product like Vook or the upcoming Blio the end of reading, or the beginning of something else?"
The Best Book Club Books
Counting on our readers' collective knowledge of books, GalleyCat Reviews will share (and help expand) curated book lists from Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations. The regular feature launches today as we ponder a list of 10 Great Books for MotherDaughter Book Clubs. Over the last year, Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations has created more than 300 lists--giving reading advice on everything from book club books to cancer survivor books. Working with this carefully curated publication, we will share our favorite lists with GalleyCat readers. In the comments section, you can add your favorite books and help the lists grow. We begin with book club books, one of our favorite topics. Here's more about the Mother-Daughter Book Clubs list: "This list is particularly created for moms and their kindergarten through high school daughters. Whether you are one mom reading a book with your daughter or a group of moms and daughters reading and discussing together in a book club (what fun!), the books listed here provide plenty of opportunities to discuss the minor and major choices we all face in life." The list follows, after the jump. Add your thoughts and books in the comments. 10 Great Books for Mother-Daughter Book Clubs The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch, illustrated by Michael Martchenko Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary, illustrated by Tracy Dockray The Secret Language of Girls by Frances O'Roark Dowell Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith Graceling by Kristin Cashore Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen Twilight by Stephenie Meyer Follow this link for more book club books and lists.
Living Oprah by Robyn Okrant
Reviewed by P.E. Logan Read more about GalleyCat Reviews When the New Year rang in on January 1, 2008, Robyn Okrant, a Windy City yoga teacher with an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, started a year-long project, Living Oprah, in which she literally followed all of the advice dished out by the daytime deity, Oprah Winfrey. Okrant's plan was to live her Best Life, the overarching theme of Winfrey's inescapable dictum provided via her show, Oprah.com, Oprah satellite radio, O Magazine, Oprah's Angel Network and other off-shoots of her empire.
She set up a blog to chat with other Oprahnistas and attracted thousands of posts and a publisher. Thus was born, Living Oprah: My One-Year Experiment to Walk the Walk of the Queen of Talk, an Escher-like view of life, as seen on TV, where we watch Okrant watching Oprah who watches over us. The book spans her year of tackling the Best Life Challenge, a transformative experience where you can go from "shlumpadinka" (oh jargon) to swan. It is not a satire, although Okrant can often be witty and skeptical. It is an earnest attempt to chronicle 365 days of self-improvement, no matter the cost or time needed to do so. This includes tasks such as creating a vision board collage and pledging obeisance to a steady flow of tips, online quizzes, good-for-you-recipes, exercise commitments; acquiring must-have items for the closet and the home, as well as must-do behaviors for the boudoir. There are mandates to watch O-approved movies, read O Book Club tomes, pick a charity, declutter, get a financial life and even explore your most-secret body parts; all part of the Best Life Tao. In her book, Okrant charts her year-long progress month-by-month. The chapters of "Living Oprah" reflect her growing angst at having taken on this self-inflicted challenge and the mounting costs and time spent following the daytime Svengali. (Spoiler alert: 1,202 hours and $4,781.84.) She expresses a lot of self-doubt over how she will accomplish the compounding mandates, from donating books (her charity) to locating the perfect "crisp white shirt" (one of 10 items every woman should have in her wardrobe), to driving through a winter storm for a Celine Dion concert (GO!, said O) that she doesn't want to attend, all because Oprah spoke. She does have backup. Like Julie Powell's Julie & Julia before her in the quotidian How-To genre, there's a good-guy husband, Jim, who "gets it." And the supportive pet too, Wasabi the cat, later joined by cat #2, Selmarie, acquired when Oprah commanded, like Moses, that her people go forth and adopt a stray.
Living Oprah suffers from an overly dramatic tone. Okrant describes herself as an "emotional wreck" as she bears down on her growing to-do list. In the middle of sleepless nights she consults Oprah's Web site to search for answers. And every weekday morning her alarm wakes her for the nine a.m. TV show. She gets the magazine (or tries to, the subscription never seems to click in) and that begets more tasks. All this consternation over her forced self-improvement doesn't exactly flow. It's hard to cheer for her when the problem du jour is locating a great white shirt (Brooks Brothers). She comes across as having what you could call a "too much cake" problem. You wonder what this material might have been like in the hands of a great cynic/comic like Chelsea Handler or Kathy Griffin, but then that's not re-preaching to the daytime faithful. If you can wholly buy into the premise, then Okrant does have tinges of being a Margaret Mead among the living room set. Oprah has millions of followers. She's spawned the hugely successful media careers of Dr. Phil and Dr.Oz; put her personal trainer and chef on the mass culture map. If she mentions a product--from candles to Kindles--that item vanishes from the shelves quicker than you can say Harpo. Why is that? Why do we care what Oprah says? At the end of the project, Okrant posits her thesis on Oprah, the person. She asks a great question, and this is the take away from the book: why is Oprah still locked in her struggles if she has the power, the money, the access and the perfect white shirt? And why do so many people, mainly women, think she has THE answers? That's something we'd all like to know. But, that's a whole other book. P.E. Logan is communications professional and a writer in New York. She has worked at various adult trade publishing houses including Random House, Putnam, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster for almost three decades. She now works at The New York Times. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and other periodicals.
Dungeons & Dragons & Novelists
As journalists around the world scrutinized the life and writings of University of Alabama shooting suspect Amy Bishop, a few outlets condemned Bishop's experience with Dungeons & Dragons-- much to the dismay of the game's fans (including this GalleyCat editor). In a long essay defending the game, Matt Staggs interviewed writers influenced by the game, including Jay Lake, Paul Jessup, and Matthue Roth. To find out how these writers turned out, GalleyCat Reviews collected reviews of their novels. First up, The School Library Journal reviewed Losers by Matthue Roth, summing up both the book and the appeal of Dungeons & Dragons to many young writers. Here's a sample: "Roth's wry, lighthearted touch lends this sweet novel and its protagonist tremendous appeal, which transcends the sometimes too-loose plot; it's a fast, funny read with teen appeal and musical references that will delight fans of '80s and '90s shoegazer rock. Outsiders everywhere will rejoice with Jupiter as he finds a place for himself in a world that often feels as foreign to him as he does to it." Next, SF Signal reviewed Green by novelist Jay Lake. Check it out: "I think that the best indication of the strength of this book is how strongly I wanted Green to be able to settle down somewhere to a happy, un-action-filled life ... That's how much you can come to empathize with this really wonderfully drawn character. Certainly it is something of a rarity for me when reading fantasy books." Finally, Strange Horizons reviewed Open Your Eyes by Paul Jessup. Here's a sample: "There is also a dark, other-worldly magic at work in Open Your Eyes which provides a lovely blend of fantasy and science fiction, fully exploring the possibilities inherent to the space opera sub-genre and begging readers, once again, to have faith--faith in a writer who is willing to leap past genre boundaries and show us what's waiting in the great wide world beyond."
Arianna Huffington and the Future of the Book Review
As the publishing world converged at the Tools of Change conference in New York City this week, GalleyCat Reviews took careful notes during Arianna Huffington's keynote speech about treating book reviews as "conversation starters." Huffington began by urging the audience to stop worrying about the death of traditional publishing: "Heraclitus, one of my favorite Greek philosophers said 'You can't enter the same river twice,'" she explained. Huffington also explored the idea behind The Huffington Post books section, rejecting "this magical pub date"-- the traditional time-period for scheduling book reviews and running book tours. "Forget about it--the idea that you have three weeks between pub date and oblivion. It doesn't have to be like that," she said, earning a smattering of applause. Finally, she addressed the a perennial criticism that many writers on the site don't get paid. "Self expression is the new entertainment," she explained. "We never used to question why people sit on the couch for seven hours a day watching bad TV. Nobody ever asked, 'Why are they doing that for free?' We need to celebrate that moment rather than question it." What do you think? EDITOR'S NOTE: In an earlier edition of this post, a GalleyCat transcription error mistakenly attributed the Heraclitus quote to Herodotus.
The Collected Criticism of an Intoxicated Superhero
Yesterday GalleyCat Reviews readers debated Arianna Huffington's keynote Tools of Change speech about the future of the book review. The heated comments section drew a response from a Twitter user who claims to be an intoxicated comic book character, DrunkHulk. The green hero typed in all caps, reminding this GalleyCat editor of a childhood memory: "DRUNK HULK NO BE THIS EXCITE ABOUT BOOK SINCE PIZZA HUT MAKE BOOK IT PROGRAM!" Turns out Drunk Hulk has contributed a few thoughts on this site in the signature style of the Incredible Hulk (pictured, via). As we recover from a long week of publishing conferencing, we have decided to archive the collected literary criticism of Drunk Hulk. When looking at GalleyCat Reviews list of the Best Book Reviewers on Twitter, he typed mightily: "UNLESS IT PYNCHON! BOOK REVIEW SHOULD HAVE NO MORE CHARACTER THAN IN REVIEW BOOK! IT SCIENCE!" Finally, he speculated about James Cameron's upcoming Avatar novel with fearsome logic: "JAMES CAMERON WRITE AVATAR PREQUEL! HE NO PUBLISH UNTIL POP-UP TECHNOLOGY ADVANCE TO SATISFACTION!"
Day out of Days: Stories by Sam Shepard
Reviewed by Patrique Ludan Read more about GalleyCat Reviews Sam Shepard is truly a man of many forms. A former musician, a current actor, and playwright, he has seen and conquered the creative aspects of the human mind. An author no less, he has given America a truly stunning vision of what our country is---a broken puzzle with many pieces that will never fit together. Day out of Days: Stories begins where the narrator does his best work, the kitchen. "Now I've got my own kitchen deep in the country with a big round table smack in the middle," he states as he describes a jumbled snapshot of his past. "I'm in this bunker all my own, surrounded by mysterious stuff." The narrator, Shepard's alter ego, is searching within himself the answers to this unending uncertainty. By the end of "Days," I could hardly tell if he put the pieces together, or if they were still drifting along the vast expanse of an American wasteland. One story involves the narrator's encounter with a head. Not a typical occurrence in every day life, but as our character begins to carefully inspect in head, it begins to speak. The narrator does what anyone would do, and drops it to run. But with gradual persistence, the head prods the man to help him, again and again. With careful narration of his intentions and an unyielding approach, the man accepts his fate as a companion to this poor soul, the head. "We are a man with two heads," states the head as he is carried to a new beginning. This struck me as a metaphor for how one accepts their fate even though it may be against their particular interest. All of us can relate to that. Towards the end of the collection, I began to accept my fate as a tiny little peg in a disorderly Lite-Brite. However, as the title suggests, maybe Shepard instructs us only to take what we see a day at a time, and not to be downtrodden in the vast expanse. However, despite the dark tone of this work, it made me feel that maybe there is some order to the chaos coming from our creative minds. Patrique Ludan writes for The Battalion at Texas A&M University.
Best Book Reviewers on Twitter
Twitter has become a new home for book reviewers, as they share recommendations, spread links, and review books in 140-character bursts. To celebrate this new kind of criticism, GalleyCat Reviews is building a directory of the best book review content on Twitter. We've collected these writers in a handy Twitter list, but after the jump, you can explore our growing collection of reviewers--they are listed alphabetically with links to each feed. This is not a comprehensive list, yet. Add your favorite Twitter reviewers in the comments section, we will update the list as readers contribute new names--a helpful directory for publishers, publicists, readers, and writers. EDITOR’S NOTE: This list was last updated February 26, 2010. In addition to this Twitter directory, GalleyCat Reviews is also sharing curated book lists from Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations. The regular feature launched with a list of 10 Great Books for Mother-Daughter Book Clubs. Sam Anderson: "New York magazine book critic." Mark Athitakis "Writer, editor, proprietor of American Fiction Notes." Attic Salt: "Book reviews, literary news, author interviews and more." AurealisXpress: "aurealisXpress is a monthly ebulletin for subscribers of Aurealis magazine." Cherylynne W. Bago: "I love YA and children's literature. I'm Children's Lead at Barnes and Noble and trying to be a YA writer!" Barrelhouse: "DC based, pop culture obsessed literary magazine" Mike Berry: "San Francisco Chronicle Book Columnist. Marketing Copywriter. Cheap Ironist." Boldtype: "Boldtype is a weekly book digest delivering commentary on literature and developments in the literary world." Book Browse: "Book reviews & recommendations, back-stories, online magazines, book club advice, discussion guides and more." The Book Journal: "providing honest book reviews."
Book Pleasures: "Norm, Publisher and Editor Bookpleasures.com Top 500 Amazon.com Reviewer" BookRabbit: "Bringing your bookshelf to life - a social network for book lovers" The Bookslut: Jessa Crispin blogs from Berlin. ThBookWhisperer: "Book blogger who lives, breathes & dreams books!" Janet Boyer: "Author of Back in Time Tarot; Amazon Top 10/Vine Reviewer; Book Maven/Blogger; Homeschooling Mom; Adored Wife; Tarot Reader/Teacher; Influencer" Robert Burdock: "A book-sniffing weirdo who loves nothing more than being surrounded by dead trees" Edward Champion: "Writer of dubious regard" Ron Charles: "Washington Post Book World, Fiction Editor and weekly critic." Jane Ciabattari: National Book Critics Circle president. The Collagist: "A new literary magazine from Dzanc Books, launching in August 2009" Steve Cunningham: "CEO of digital marketing agency and business education startup. Social media book reviewer for @mashable. Write for @bizmore. Love life." Dear Author: "Blogging about romance books, publishing and digital book technology" Lauren Elkin: "literary critic, novelist, professor, blogger, & hoarder of books" Erin--Books in 140: "Book reviews. In 140 characters. Also: coffee addict, tv addict, pop culture addict, giant." Julie Forrest: "Book lover, social media geek, blogger, mother and digital marketer @ Random House CA" Fiction Writers Review: "Reviews, interviews, and essays by, for, and about emerging writers. Fiction matters!" Michele Filgate: "I'm the Events Coordinator at RiverRun Bookstore, and I'm also a writer and member of the National Book Critics Circle." Flashlight Worthy Book Recommendations: "Recommending books so good, they'll keep you up past your bedtime."
Janette Fuller: "My Thank-You Project, Social Media, Blogger, Book Reviewer, Librarian, Children's Literature Enthusiast, eBay, Card Making" GenreReviewer: "I review genre novels and nonfiction books on what life is like in other cultures, religions, and historical eras. Rob Gokee: "Born and raised in SoCal, composer for film and TV & author of the @FailWhaleBook. I'm a jack of no trades. But I'm damn funny." Sara Habein: "writing, obsessive music pondering, misc. thoughtery" Margo Hammond: "Co-author, 'Between the Covers: The Book Babes' Guide to a Woman's Reading'" Janice Harayda: "Critic, novelist, journalist, editor of One-Minute Book Reviews." David Hebblethwaite: "Book blogger on the lookout for extraordinary books of all kinds." Lesa Holstine: "Book reviewer, book blogger & librarian." Horror News Net: HORRORNEWS.NET Official Site FREE Horror Horror news Horror reviews DVD reviews Book reviews" Jennifer Howard: "writer, journalist, gadabout. writes fiction and non. covers publishing, schol comm, libraries & archives for the Chronicle of Higher Ed" Wayne Hurlbert: "Blogger, social media, SEO consultant, speaker, business book reviewer, Blog Business Success host on BlogTalkRadio" Susanna K. Hutcheson: "Copywriter, journalist, entrepreneur, fitness fanatic, photographer, collector of vintage ads, fountain pens, book reviewer and a hell of a lot of fun." I just finished: "Book Lovers Community!"
International Review of Books: "Professional reviews of important books." IPBookReviewer: "Professional Book Reviewer." Geeta Jensen: "Geeta Jensen writes about books and life" Sarah Johnson: "Librarian, reader's advisor, author of reference books. I edit the Historical Novels Review and review historical fiction for Booklist, NoveList, and my blog."
Sam Jordison: "writes blogs about books for the guardian and books like Sod That and Crap Towns for the bog" Ron Kaplan: "Baseball. Also blog Jews and sports." Katlogictalk: Award winning Blogger of Kat Logic, published author, book reviewer, business owner. Carolyn Kellogg "LA Times book blogger, critic, procrastinator, writer. In that order." Kirkus Reviews: "Kirkus Reviews has been reviewing books since 1933. Approx 5000 books 2/3 months pre-pub per year." Gary Krist: Author of Six Fiction/Nonfiction Books, Tweeting on Books, Politics, Wine, Chicago, Travel, and Crosswords Largehearted Boy: "I offer short reviews for both the Book Notes feature and my 52 Books, 52 Weeks feature." Caroline Leavitt: "have published 8 novels. Also a screenwriter, freelance book editor/consultant, Boston Globe columnist, critic at People, UCLA writing teacher" Library Journal: "Library views, news, and book reviews from LJ staffers." Literary Minded: Angela Meyer, Literary blogger for Australian online media service Crikey, fiction writer, edits Bookseller+Publisher. Tweets are bookish, absurd, pop cultural and personal Local Talent Books & Music: Giving regional authors and musicians a shout-out." Rohan Maitzen: "English professor, reader, critic, mom" James Marcus: NBCC board, proprietor of House of Mirth blog Regina Marler: "All-around wordsmith. Author of Bloomsbury Pie, editor of Queer Beats. Also write for the NY Times, LA Times, Advocate, and whoever will pay me." Laura Miller: "Writer for Salon + NY Times, author of Magician's Book: Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia" The Millions: "by C. Max Magee, founding editor of The Millions" Monie: Fiction book reviewer. Love cozies, paranormal, suspense and romance. Marie Mundaca "140 ch book reviews from a dilettante lit critic."
NBCC Book Critics: National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors NetGalley: "a website where reviewers can request & read galleys from publishers." Maud Newton: "Writer, blogger, editor, neurotic." Open Letters Monthly: "An Arts and Literature Review." M.A. Orthofer: the Complete Review + the Literary Saloon Bethanne Patrick (AKA The Book Maven): "Blogger, book reviewer, author interviewer, author --but above all, a reader." John Scalzi: "I enjoy pie." Maria Schneider: "Freelance writer, editor, blogger, forum hostess, book reviewer, former editor of a writing magazine you've probably heard of. Wants to eradicate the semicolon." Toni Scime: "Librarian." John Self: "Writes about books on a 'blog.'" Jacob Silverman: "writer, VQR blogger" Clea Simon: "I'm an author, but I always tweet my book reviews for the Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix, and Galleycat." Rebecca Skloot: "Writer (NYTMag, O, Slate, etc), Author of *THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS* (aka #HeLa) in stores 2/2/10, Contributing Editor, Popular Science" Lizzie Skurnick: "NBCC board and Jezebel blogger" Ron Slate: "mainly poetry, literary fiction and non-fiction." SF Signal: "A group science fiction blog" PD Smith: "Writer, reader & photographer. Reviewer for the Guardian & other journals. Author of 3 books, including Doomsday Men (Penguin). Now writing a history of cities." Susan aka LaTonya: "Wannabe bohemian mama, loc-wearin', veg-head, feminist, activist, writer." Tamoor: "Astrology, Teaching Metaphysics since 1972, EFT, Award Winning Fantasy Author, dragons, fairies, wizards, book reviews, gold panning, Labradoodles"
Rhys Tranter: "I write on A Piece of Monologue: Literature, Philosophy & Critical Theory" Anne Trubek: "Writer, professor, rust-belter." Variety SF: "Tinkoo Valia trying to figure out science fiction." Volume 1 Brooklyn: "A culture blog for the literary-minded." Sarah Weinman "crime fiction columnist for the LA Times and B&N Review; publishing reporter for AOL's DailyFinance; and other freelance adventures."
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.