Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ten Cents a Dance--Christine Fletcher

With her mother ill, it’s up to fifteen-year-old Ruby Jacinski to support her family. But in the 1940s, the only opportunities open to a Polish-American girl from Chicago’s poor Yards is a job in one of the meat packing plants. Through a chance meeting with a local tough, Ruby lands a job as a taxi dancer and soon becomes an expert in the art of “fishing”: working her patrons for meals, cash, clothes, even jewelry. Drawn ever deeper into the world of dance halls, jazz, and the mob, Ruby gradually realizes that the only one who can save her is herself.

I never lived during the 1940's and neither did Christine Fletcher, but after reading "Ten Cents a Dance" I'm almost convinced that we've been kicking around in Chicago together with Ruby Jacinski, 60 years ago. The music, the language, the smell of the meat-packing plants--it's all very real, in these pages.

Also real is the sense of hopelessness that comes with poverty, with the beginning of a war, and with being a young woman in a time of double standards, when marrying well was considered by many to be the best chance of success. Like the proverbial bull crashing through life's china shops (Well, smarter and far more feminine, of course, than the average bull), Ruby's next move is never predictable except in that it's likely to lead to disaster. But she'll never choose to give in--for Ruby, giving in means giving up on herself, on her family, and on ever leaving the Yards.

This makes the book sound very serious, and it is. But Ruby's plucky stubborness sets her firmly in the middle of near-impossible situations, and watching how she navigates her way out of them will bring frequent smiles and the occasional right-out-loud laugh or gasp of horror (she did what?!).

The only thing lacking is for the male characters to be fleshed out a bit more. Handsome bad-boy Paulie is a pretty straighforward character, carefully drawn so that the reader sees him for who he is despite Ruby's innocence. The more interesting men--Manny, a Filipino architect-turned-railroad-porter; Ozzie, an African-American trumpet player and composer--are both characters worthy of a book in their own right, but neither asserts his presence enough for the reader to get to know them fully here.

I wondered, as I read, how on earth this story could lead to an ending that wouldn't leave the reader disappointed: in Ruby, and in the book. But Fletcher comes through beautifully. Like a dish of sorbet after a heavy meal, the final chapter is just enough to give closure on Ruby's taxi-dancing misadventure, without overdoing it.

Coming in a week or so: An interview with "Ten Cents a Dance" author Christine Fletcher!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kid review: The Castle Corona, by Sharon Creech

I pulled this book off the library shelves to read to my kids because we enjoyed Creech's "Pleasing the Ghost" but none of her other books have struck me as their style (though I read "Bloomability" and "Love That Dog" myself, and liked them). I hoped Castle Corona, an extended (and, I assumed, unique) fairy tale written for 9-12 year olds, would fit the bill. Knowing it might not be as much of a thrill as some of their favorite read-alouds, I started it on a long car trip--generally a good opportunity to give a book a little more time to grab their attention.

Three days and 61 pages later, we're home and we'll be returning the book to the library. As a fairy tale, Castle Corona might succeed--but when's the last time a fairy tale went on for 319 pages? Here's the kid's eye view: "The book wasn't action-packed at all, and I didn't care about the characters." (Ben, 11)

"It's a good book for people that don't like books that much and don't like any action, just like two people finding something that they don't know what it is and find out in the end, and then there's something about a hermit which I didn't even know what a hermit was at first before I was told. So, it was kind of bad!!!!!! Especially since my mom said that the author had some other really good books so that adds two more !!s" (Evan, 7)

The kids weren't the only ones who were bored as the story moved back and forth between the king and queen's family, and two peasant children. The plot, such as it is, unfolds painstakingly slowly, with extremely short chapters in which very little happens. Creech introduces each character through long descriptions: Pia was a slender girl with large, round dark eyes and thick black lashes, curly black hair, long legs, and an easy, graceful way of moving....She could be feisty, if challenged, but she could also be silent, withholding her temper. There was a girlishness in her open joy of the smallest of pleasures: a bird sailing through the sky, cool river water, a piece of red cloth found in the market. At the same time, there could be a mature air about her: she avoided self-pity, respected others' feelings, and looked after her brother and so on. These character outlines do nothing to connect the reader to the characters (well into the book, the princes are still being described as "Gianni, the elder prince" and "Vito, the younger prince"--otherwise the reader might very well forget which is which) and, in some cases, don't seem to have any bearing on their actions.

If my kids wrote like this I'd tell them, "Instead of a long description, how about showing us what's important about your character, using the things he/she does and says?" In fact, my kids don't need to be told this. When I launched into yet another paragraph describing another character's hair and personality, I was met with a resounding "We don't care!! Just get on with the story!" A pretty good summary of our response to the entire book, I'd say.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Finding a good book

The question of the week: how do you find out about the books you want to read? (The full question is at Boston Bibliophile's blog). Answer as a comment or on your own blog and post a link here if you'd like.

My book choices generally go in the following order:

1) If a friend recommends a book? Top priority.

2) Read a book I love. Hooray! Zero in on that author until I read one I don't like. Then the honeymoon's over.

3) A topic sticks in my head. I hunt down novels on that topic, usually with my library's subscription to the NovelList database. For example, recently I decided I might want to write about a homeless teen, so I checked out every novel and memoir my library owned with that subject. There weren't that many. And, unfortunately most of them weren't great and got returned to the library half-read. (Which probably means I really need to write that book).

4) YA books, I just grab off the teen "new book" shelf on the library, and yes, I judge them by their covers. These go high on the list because they're usually quick reads so I stick them in between heavier or longer books.

5) Lists like the New Classics, I love stuff like that. (But it still goes back to #1--I want to know which of those books my friends have read and liked).

6) When a how-to-write author recommends something I usually seek it out and end up with either a really great or a really awful read.

7) I read the book section of my local Sunday paper.

8) I see mention of a book and look it up on Amazon, and whether or not that book resonates with me I often end up hopping from book to book through their "also-bought" links.

9) Occasionally I go to Librarything's recommendations, but the fact is it's very rare that I need to seek out book recommendations. Numbers one through eight tend to keep my bookshelves overflowing!

10) When a book comes in the mail waiting to be reviewed! I put this as #10 because it's never happened yet, but I got two emails this week saying books are coming! Those books will go to the top of my to-be-read list.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Book swapping

Question from The Boston Bibliophile: Do you do book swapping?

I do book swapping all the time: that is, I bring all the books I've finished back to the library and swap them for new ones!

I've never been a collector of books. I've probably bought fewer than 5 books so far this year. I love the freedom of checking any number of books out from the library, knowing that, love them or hate them or never get around to reading them, they wont be taking up shelf space for long. Every one of my "library" of books on Librarything is a library book. In fact, one of the things I love about Librarything is that it's a way to hold onto the books I've read after I've passed them along to the next library patron.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Reading Challenge: The New Classics

Joanna at Lost In a Good Story is hosting a challenge based on Entertainment Weekly's list of New Classics - 100 of their best reads from 1983 to 2008.
The challenge rules are:
1) Copy the list and bold the titles that you have already read.
2) Choose at least 6 other books from the list , read and review them between 1 August 2008 and 31 January 2009.
3)Post links to your reviews at Lost In a Good Story
4) In January 2009, cast your vote for which one of the 100 books on the list is your favorite (and write a post on why). The winning book will be sent to a lucky winner chosen by the scientific method favored here in the blogosphere, i.e. names in a hat.

Any of the titles I haven't read that you recommend?

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)

4. The Liars' Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid's Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones's Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)

22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O'Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)

38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World's Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993) Saw the play
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
couldn't finish it
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)*
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)

85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators' Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

At this point I'm leaning toward The Things they Carried (Tim O'Brien), Black Water (Joyce Carol Oates), Naked (David Sedaris), The Year of Magical Thinking (Joan Didion), and Bright Lights, Big City (Jay McInerney), but that's only 5. I'd love some help choosing the 6th.
Edit: I've highlighted 9 books on the list, but I'm still open to suggestions for others. The more I have on my to-be-read list, the more leeway I have to toss one aside if it doesn't grab me!

The Complete Persepolis

I'm not a fan of the graphic novel, but Satrapi's memoir, published in two parts beginning in 2004, is worth reading. Satrapi is an Iranian woman who grew up during the end of the Shah's regime, the beginning of Iran's Islamic Revolution, and its war with Iraq. The book illustrates her childhood from age 6, her exile at age 14 in Austria while her parents remain in Tehran, her return to Iran as a young woman struggling with depression and with her inability to fit in in either world. Alternately humorous and horrifying, this is an eye-opening account of the effect of the changes in the middle east on one neighborhood, one family, and one strong-willed young woman.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sins of the Fathers--Chris Lynch

There's much to like about this YA book--quirky characters, fun dialogue, compelling relationships. And yet, the timing is distractingly elusive--Drew watches for the Hancock Tower windows to fall out (the big story upon the building's completion in 1973) while the Bruins are losing to the Mighty Ducks (a team that formed in 1993). Drew refers to the vinyl record as if it were a relic...meanwhile the atmosphere of the book shouts out Baby Boomer Childhood, as if it were a half-hearted attempt to bring the author's recollections of childhood in Boston into the present so kids will read it.

I so wanted to like these tough Boston Catholic boys, but, who were they? I kept checking back to see if maybe I'd gotten the ages wrong. Their dialogue is too smooth, their jokes are too clever, and they just aren't gawky enough. As 16-year-olds, maybe. But 13? Not even in the movies.

The crux of the book is the "tribe" of three sticking together through the changes in Drew and his friends. The sticking together part is clearly defined. The "tribe" part...well, never having been a 13-year-old tough Boston Catholic boy I'll give the author the benefit of the doubt on that one. But the rest is so subtle it risks being lost on the intended audience. Hector goes from being a model Catholic who beats up fellow "tribe" member Skitz for no apparent reason, to being a quieter Catholic who prays longer after confession and beats up a water rat. Meanwhile, Skitz's experimentation with glue-sniffing is illustrated by one scene in which he acts goofier than his usual goofy self.

Lynch has got some great stuff going on, though. I'd try another by him just for the fact that he can find a dozen clever ways of having boys tell each other "shuddup."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Christine Fletcher

After I had the pleasure of hearing Christine Fletcher speak about writing for young adults last week, I picked up a copy of her first book, Tallulah Falls, as soon as I could. She was positively inspiring, partly because she's a fun, dynamic speaker, partly because she really knows her stuff, and partly because she's a local success story and we can always use more of those.

Christine wrote Tallulah Falls with no intention of writing a Young Adult book. She wrote the story that came into her head, and the protagonist happened to be 17. After several publishers expressed interest and then ultimately decided to pass, her agent convinced her to try submitting it as YA. Within two weeks of submitting to children's publishers, she had herself a book deal.

Her rule of thumb to distinguish books with young protagonists that are marketed to adults (The Secret Life of Bees, for example) from those marketed as YA: it's all about voice and immediacy. If it feels like a teen is talking in the narration, it's probably YA; an adult reminiscing about their younger days is more marketable as adult fiction. This was so helpful to me, as I've been waffling about how to label the book I'm writing. It's not what I consider a "typical" YA book, and yet my protagonist is in-your-face eighteen, writing about events in his life as they happen--according to Christine Fletcher's wisdom, my first intuition (that I was writing a YA book) prevails.

But enough about me, let's talk about Tallulah. Impulsive and naive, Tallulah's the kind of character that makes you glad you're not her mom. Or her boss. Or the dog she rescues. This is not to say she's not likeable, it's just that she blunders her way into dead ends. Her current dead end has her stuck in Tennessee working for a veterinarian after traipsing across the country attempting to deliver some notebooks to her bipolar best friend. What follows is a story with unique characters who welcome Tallulah into their lives and help her along her way to finding her place in the world. In the meantime, there's no telling what Tallulah will do next, which makes this an enjoyable and unpredictable read.

Read further:
Interview with Christine Fletcher
Review of Ten Cents a Dance

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Michael Cunningham

Most famous for the book that was made into the film The Hours, Michael Cunningham's depth of character and his straightforward yet often-poetic prose make him another of my favorite authors. One day I'll rewatch that movie, so I can try again to read the book. It's the only one of Cunningham's books I haven't finished, and I blame the fact that I saw the movie years ago, which generally leads my brain to spend its reading time racing in circles: "I think I remember this. Do I remember this? No, it was different in the movie. Wasn't there a monkey?"

Reading my first Cunningham book, A Home at the End of the World, felt almost like falling in love--looking up at the sky every so often to sigh, because life was so gorgeous. It's the story of two childhood friends, Jonathon and Bobby, who drift apart and together again throughout their lives because they can't quite admit to being in love with each other. They find various ways to be together, along with Clare, who becomes the mother to a baby that is biologically Bobby's but emotionally Jonathon's as well. They build a life together. But the brilliance in this book is the way it presents the characters in all their imperfections, the way they don't do what you want them to do and you understand why. No, the brilliance is how it's written, actually. The plot is secondary. This is one of those books where you read a passage and it so succinctly captures a moment, scene, or character, that you have to read it again just to take the whole thing in. Then you want to look up from the book for a minute to absorb it, read it again, and then dive back into the story to find out what happens next.

Specimen Days is a very different sort of book. It got such mixed reader reviews that I was hesitant to read it, afraid it would burst my Cunningham bubble. It's comprised of three separate stories, three different times, "...and yet the same old human race, the same within, without, Faces and hearts the same, feelings the same, yearnings the same, The same old love, beauty and use the same." (excerpted from the Walt Whitman quote at the beginning of the book).

Basically, Cunningham takes the themes of love, death, and the influence of ideas on people's lives, and intertwines them through three stories in three different time periods. By giving the characters in each story the same names but different relationships to each other, Cunningham underlines the universality of the themes. There's also the fascinating thread of New York City throughout the three stories--places and pieces of history that recur in each story.

"In the Machine" takes place at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Lucas (from whose point of view we are reading) is a thirteen-year old boy, Simon was his brother (now dead) and Catherine was Simon's fiance who Lucas adores. Lucas is autistic and obsessed with Walt Whitman's poetry, he quotes it at random (or is it random?), it influences everything he does.

"The Children's Crusade" is almost contemporary, a few years into the future. Catherine/Cat (the point-of-view character) is the detective, Simon is her boyfriend, Lucas was her son (now dead). The other children in this story have no names. They were raised on Walt Whitman's poetry. They're obsessesed with it. It influences everything they do.

"Like Beauty" takes place far into the future. Simon is an android, Catareen is an alien, and Lucas is a boy they meet along their travels as they escape a modern society that holds no place for either of them. Simon has been programmed with Walt Whitman poetry and quotes it at random (or is it random?). It influences, you guessed it, everything he does.

If this book does nothing else, it will make you look at poetry differently. Powerful stuff.

Flesh and Blood had the unusual combination of being a book I didn't want to put down, and being a book I wanted to savor slowly. I read several segments two or three times, just for fun.

It's not perfect. Certain pivotal events feel glossed over--it's hard to elaborate without giving away plot details. In one case, we know Event A is going to happen, then Event B completely overshadows A, and then we skip ahead to where A has already happened. The reactions of most of the characters to both events could be elaborated on more and yet, at that point Cunningham seems to be pretty much done with the book and ready to tie up loose ends.

And, OK, I didn't like the ending that much. The last chapter had the potential to be a nice moment, but it fell short. I didn't need a summary of the next 40 years in everyone's lives, I needed to maintain my connection to the character Cunningham chose to end with in order to care about that nice moment.

Or maybe I just needed him to stop sooner, and write the next 40 years into another gorgeous novel.

Cunningham has one other book, and one day I'll have to go to Provincetown, Massachussetts, just so I'll have an excuse to read his one work of nonfiction. Or maybe I'll just go ahead and read it anyway. As the saying goes, I'd probably read the guy's shopping lists, if I could.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ron Carlson

I've decided to start highlighting my favorite authors, beginning with Ron Carlson.

A Creative Writing professor at UC Irvine, Carlson belies the old saying that those who can't do, teach. (Though his one book about writing, Ron Carlson Writes a Story, made me want to sign up for every class he teaches, if he's half as brilliant, funny and wise as the written version of himself).

The first Carlson novel I read was The Speed of Light (2003). Marketed as a YA book because the protagonist is 12, the book's delightful detached irony will appeal to adults more than teens, as the narrator recounts his summer on the verge of adolescence. The adventures of Larry, Witt and Rafferty are funny and endearing, and his childlike analysis of the world he's not quite ready to enter is spot on. The writing is at times achingly beautiful. And, like most YA books, it's a relatively quick read, which is always a good way to test out a new author.

Carlson's most recent novel is Five Skies (2007), the story of three very different men working on building a motorcycle jump in the middle-of-nowhere Idaho desert. Carlson effortlessly moves between three points of view as the reader experiences these mens' private pain intermingling with increased connections to each other. It's a very subtle novel, not one to breeze through quickly or you'll miss the pockets of humor. Much of the dialogue reminded me of a play--the lines bloom when read aloud, the subtle meanings behind words could easily be glossed over by an inattentive reader.

In fact, it's almost too subtle at times, losing opportunities to keep the reader in suspense. In one scene a character is injured, but instead of starting with the moment of injury, Carlson chose to start with the men in the car on the way to the clinic in town, then to go back and tell how the injury happened. Well, you knew the guy was OK because of the tone of the text as they drove along. In the climax, I again found myself spending more energy figuring out what had happened than reacting to it.

I have yet to read Carlson's other two novels, Truants (1981) and Betrayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1977).

His short stories, however, are magnificent. Short story collections, no matter how well-written, are harder for me to dive into than novels. Reading A Kind of Flying underlined why: in many short stories, by the time I figure out who the character truly is and what their motivation is, I've reached the climax of the story and it's a few more pages and on to the next one. Not true with Carlson.
Almost every one of these stories feels like the guy next door (even when the guy next door happens to be Bigfoot, or in a couple of cases the guy next door's wife) started a conversation with you over the side fence. By the end of the first paragraph you know these folks, and you know their story will take you somewhere you'll remember. From the baseball player who can't lose (Sunny Billy Day) to the man traveling to Alaska in search of a connection with the son he lost years before he died (Blazo); from men aching to become fathers (Life Before Science) or trying to re-establish relations with their wives amid young parenthood (Plan B for the Middle Class), to women struggling with the process of letting go of their teenaged sons (The Status Quo, The Summer of Vintage Clothing)--Carlson brings these characters to life and lets us ride along with them for a while. It's well worth the trip.

A Kind of Flying contains stories pulled from Carlson's previously published three collections, Plan B for the Middle Class (1992), The Hotel Eden (1997), and At the Jim Bridger (2002), which I've been reading sporadically. I'm hoping that if I go through them slowly enough, by the time I finish every story Carlson will have his next novel ready for me to review.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Review Policy

Updated: August 2012

The opinions stated on this blog are for my own personal benefit and for your entertainment. I am not in the business of selling books, and I don't take payment for reviews, but I do occasionally accept books from authors or publishers for review. Most of the books I review come from the library or a local bookstore.

What I review: I like to read the following types of books:

--Young Adult fiction (especially if it's got boy appeal)
--literary fiction by diverse authors
--graphic novels that are memoirs or realistic fiction
--cookbooks and craft how-to books
--writing craft books
--the occasional memoir
--certain other nonfiction (parenting, travel, outdoors)
--books by authors positively reviewed on this blog in the past

I have a substantial (!) reading pile and have been doing more writing than reading/reviewing lately. If your book fits the above categories, I'll be tempted to accept a review copy but if I resist it's no reflection on you. Promise.

However, if any of the following is true of you, I'll be hard pressed to resist accepting a review copy: (a) You wrote a Steampunk book with teen appeal. (b) You're writing in Oregon. (c) You're writing in Northern Ireland. (d) You're Deaf, or your book deals with Deaf culture. (e) You're Hungarian. (f) You're Ron Carlson, or you write like him. (g) You're Michael Cunningham, or you write like him.

I'm happy to review previously published books, but not e-books.

If you have sent a review copy more than four months ago and don't find it mentioned, please email me at worducopia@gmail.com.