Saturday, April 30, 2011

April 2011 in Review

Total Pages Read in April: 2,042

Wow, April was a great reading month!  Not only was it my most successful reading month so far this year (most pages and books read), it featured some fantastic books.  There was fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.  There were classics and contemporaries. 

I reread Virgina Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, one of my favorite classic novels and one I highly recommend to anyone with an interest in literature.  I also recommend Nathan Rabin's My Year of Flops, which is a very funny look at failed films.  I found the first Loretta Chase romance I didn't like, but it's not going to stop me from reading her in the future.  Best of all, I began the month with Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, which is one of the best novels I've read in a long time.  If I had to give out my 2011 top ten list right at this moment, The Moviegoer would take the top spot.  Hopefully, this means I'll read even better books as the year continues.

I didn't review this for my blog or include it on any of the records I keep about my book reading habits, but I also listened to a great audiobook this month: Tina Fey's memoir, Bossypants.  I'm glad I listened to the audio version, as I'm not sure I would have liked Fey's style nearly as much on the page.  But she reads it wonderfully, and it's great perspective on the world from a funny woman with opinions on both comedy and womanhood.  This audiobook was a lot of fun.

April reminded me that there are some really kick-ass books out there and that I should read as much as I can in the next few months before graduate school kicks in and makes my reading options much more limited.  I have quite a few books I hope to tackle in May, but it's also a pretty busy month in terms of social obligations, so it may not be quite as fruitful as April.  You never know, though....

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A Place of Memory

Book Reviewed: The Coast of Chicago, by Stuart Dybek

In every fiction writing class I've ever had, I've been assigned Stuart Dybek's short story, "Pet Milk."  There's a reason this happens.  It's one of those stories that's so perfect it hurts.  Informed by memory and a strong sense of place, it's only a few pages long but packs a pretty profound punch.  It's about first love and the excitment of youth and the experience of living in Chicago.  If you care about the art of short stories in any way, you have to read "Pet Milk" at some point in your life.

Yet, despite reading and loving "Pet Milk," I had never read the critically-beloved collection it came from, The Coast of Chicago.  I read Dybek's I Sailed with Magellan a few years ago, but I'm new to Coast.

It's a great collection, and it's all about memory and Chicago, two subjects I'm pretty fond of reading about.  Not every story grabbed me equally, but the ones that did will probably stick with me for some time.  There's "Blight," about a group of childhood friends as they grow up and apart.  There's the strange and witty "Death of a Right Fielder."  Then there's "Nighthawks," a kind of prose collage with multiple sections and stories.  Some of the passages in "Nighthawks" really took my breath away.  There's a part of this story called "Killing Time" that will ring painfully true for anyone who's ever been unemployed for a long period of time or who's ever spent significant time in the Art Institute.  As someone who's done both, I absolutely loved these four pages.  I think this book's worth reading just for this section's heartbreaker of a last line. 

What makes this collection so special is Dybek's familiarity with its setting and characters.  He's lived the lives of his characters; he's a genuine product of Chicago at its most raw and real.  I like a writer who can use his past and hometown as fodder for his work, and Dybek is an excellent example of this.  He's an expert, and as a reader, you're perfectly happy to follow him around the streets of Chicago's south side. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This Week in Trashy Reads 2011 #5

Trashy Read 2011 #5:  The Last Hellion, by Loretta Chase

I went into The Last Hellion knowing that it is quite a divisive book among Loretta Chase fans.  There are those who love it; some Chase fans would even say it's their favorite.  Then there are those who hate it, easily calling it one of her worst books.  I'm afraid I lean a bit more towards the latter camp.  This book is kind of a mess.

This historical romance centers on a woman named Lydia Grenville who works as a journalist for one of London's tabloid papers.  She writes stories about the struggles of the poor and unfortunate, particularly the sad lives of women born into crime and poverty.  She comes from a desperate background herself (dead mother, criminal father, etc), so she has made it her life's work to make things better for others.  Lydia's very tough and opinionated, loved and hated by Londoners in equal measure.  One day while trying to protect a young woman, she runs into Vere Mallory, the Duke of Ainswood.  Vere is a rake with low opinions of women and an even lower opinion of himself.  He is one of the last remaining members of his family, and he spent many years doing little but going to funerals for his friends and relatives.  He feels guilty about being alive.

For the first half of this book, Lydia and Vere have a love-hate relationship that I never quite bought.  Their romance is much more believable in the book's faster-paced second half, but this is also when the book goes off the rails.  There's just too much going on to fit into one mass-market paperback.  There's romances and hidden wealthy backgrounds and revenge and thievery.  There's carriage races and dogs and an admittedly cute secondary romance.  That's a lot to cram in, and way too much of that cramming happens in the book's last 100 pages.  By the time there's a final, big familial reveal at the end, I just rolled my eyes.  I had a hard time caring a whole lot about Vere and Lydia, to be honest.

Granted, The Last Hellion does have its moments.  As I've mentioned many times, Chase is an easy, charming writer of romance.  There are a few cute scenes and funny lines, and the above-mentioned secondary romance is a very pleasant surprise.  Best of all, Vere happens to be an old friend of Dain, the hero of Chase's best book, Lord of Scoundrels, which means we get to see the return of Dain and Jessica.  Yay!  Unfortunately, there's a downfall to having beloved characters from an old book show up again; it only reminds the reader of what they find lacking in the new book.  Vere is a lot like Dain in his rakish, low-self-esteemed ways, but he lacks the interesting aspects and brutal magnetism of Dain's personality and story.  Seeing Dain and Jessica again only reminded me that Vere and Lydia are no Dain and Jessica.  But man, did I want to reread Lord of Scoundrels once I closed the pages of The Last Hellion.  I expect this might happen soonish.

Next in Trashy Reads:  I'm being a lot more judgmental about romance novels lately, probably because I've read such good literary fiction lately.  I was super-excited about Erin McCarthy's new racing romance, The Chase, but I couldn't get past the second chapter.  The heroine really rubbed me the wrong way in just a few pages, so I put it down.  I have no tolerance for 28-year-olds with very high school bitterness towards old boyfriends.  However, I do have an intriguing Laura Kinsale historical on my shelf that is rumored to be really angsty and emotionally satisfying, so I might try that sometime in the next month.  I also might try to read some new stuff by my comfy blanket fave, Nora Roberts.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

444 Pages Deep into American Poetry

Book Reviewed: Good Poems, American Places, selected by Garrison Keillor

Once or twice a week, I'm lucky enough to be the person who unloads the new books at my library branch.  Library employees are not allowed to be the first people to check out new DVDs, but CDs and books are free game.  Sometimes, I find a book I have to have, and I just sit around nervously until my break when I can finally check it out (I should also add that I am a holds-placing fanatic; nothing is better to me than when I get to be the first person to have something at the branch).  That happened a couple weeks ago when we received a copy of the latest Garrison Keillor-edited collection from his Good Poems series.  I am avid follower of Keillor's online Writer's Almanac, and even though Keillor's tastes are a little dull, it's a great place to find new poems.  Good Poems, American Places is a long and fun anthology that introduced me to a lot of new stuff.

I read this collection in a week, which is no small task for a book of poetry of this size.  It's not always easy to read a poetry collection straight through; I often just read a little bit here and there so as not to get overloaded.  I read this one from cover to cover in long stretches of time.  It has a good momentum as it goes on, which makes it an easy book to digest.  Not everything in here is particularly exciting, and the same poets tend to get showcased over and over.  Occasionally, though, you get something new and interesting.  For example, there's a poem in this anthology by the poet son of my beloved college advisor.  What a pleasant surprise!

The book is separated into categories based on theme or place.  There's sections titled "City Life" and "On the Road."  As I mentioned earlier, Keillor's tastes can run a little bland at times.  He hand-picks a lot of new poets but only ones with a certain kind of traditional style (not that I should complain, being a traditionalist writer myself).  You won't find anyone like Richard Siken or Jay Hopler here, unfortunately.  I also found a lot of glaring omissions.  There's a whole section on the West, but not a single poem by Richard Hugo, who writes some of the best place poems out there, particularly about the West.  There's a lot of Midwestern poets, but no James Wright (from Ohio) or Maurice Manning (from Kentucky).  Now, obviously, some of this is due to rights attainment and whatnot.  But I couldn't help but miss what wasn't here. 

Those complaints being registered, I can't say I didn't enjoy this anthology.  I spent years only reading American literature, followed by years where I read everything but.  Good Poems, American Places brings back to mind my former love for American lit.  This book is a nice introduction to the world of American poetry, to its breadth and obsessions.  If you are a fan of place poems (which, I should add, is my personal favorite kind of poetry), then this book should be on your must-read list.  It also works as a great starter book for anyone who is tackling poetry for the first time.  All the poems are easy to read and in plain language, making it a great book for beginning poetry readers.

To finish, here's a few of my favorites from this collection: Reid Bush's "Campbellsburg" (see Sunday's Poem of the Week), Wesley McNair's "Small Towns Are Passing," Davis Wagoner's "Bums at Breakfast," Stephen Dunn's "Midwest," Marie Howe's "The Game," Faith Shearin's "Fields," Linda Pastan's "25th High School Reunion," and William Carlos Williams's "Dedication for a Plot of Ground."  I'm too lazy to post links to all these poems, but you can easily find them by using the search tool on the Writer's Almanac link posted above.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Poem of the Week: "Campbellsburg," by Reid Bush

I've been reading the latest Garrison Keillor-helmed Good Poems anthology, and as soon as I encountered this poem, I knew it needed to be Poem of the Week.  It's a short and sweet read with a wonderful last thought that rings true to anyone who's ever "toured" some place special with someone else.  No one ever cares about our origin stories as much as we do, which is one of the reasons poetry and fiction exist in the first place.  Writers come up with all sorts of reasons for why they write, but they rarely talk about one of the most essential - that writing is a way to make other people care about your stories.  Anyway, I think this is a wonderful poem, and I hope you enjoy it.

Campbellsburg, by Reid Bush

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Great Interview

Today the AV Club posted an interview with the poetry critic David Orr.  I love this interview.  Orr may be the most reasonable lover of poetry I've encountered in a long time.  Like him, I have made poetry my life's work, but I also don't think it's going to save the world.  It's not even particularly important.  It's just lovely and wonderful for those who like it.  Enjoy!,54791/

Awesome Flops

Book Reviewed:  My Year of Flops: One Man's Journey Deep into the Heart of Cinematic Failure, by Nathan Rabin

I spent the first half of April doing some "serious" reading, so I figured I needed to start the back end of the month with something a little more fun.  I returned to the well that so often brings me such joy: the AV Club.  Specifically, I went to my favorite AV Club writer, Nathan Rabin (though Noel Murray is a close second).  Rabin is hysterically funny, particularly in his regular "My Year of Flops" column, which started as a bi-weekly experiment four years ago and continues to this day.  Last fall, Scribner released the book version of My Year of Flops, but I haven't gotten my hands on it until now.  As usual, I am at least six months late to anything that's awesome.

Flops features some of the highlights from Rabin's column, which is about movies that notoriously failed at the box office.  Rabin loves movies, and he rates these flops based on a judgment system that consists of "fiasco, failure, or secret success."  I have never heard of some of these movies, and I've only seen a couple with my own eyes.  But that doesn't matter.  These essays are so funny and informative that you don't need to know anything about the subject to appreciate the book.  Rabin has a real soft spot for these bombs, and he writes about them in a way that mixes awe with disdain, horror with joy.  This book is a lot of fun.

Obviously, I loved My Year of Flops and laughed all the way through it.  But then something happened at the end that I didn't expect.  I got a little teared up.  Rabin starts the book with his very first MYOF column about the movie Elizabethtown (which, I should add, is one of the few movies that I can honestly say I hate).  He finds the sentimentality and cuteness of it to be toxic, and he rates the movie as a "fiasco."  Then, at the end of the book, he writes about the movie again.  Three years later and a hundred-and-some flops later, he decides to re-assess Elizabethtown.  This time, he rates it a "secret success."  Anyone who has read Rabin's great memoir, The Big Rewind, knows this guy has had some majorly crummy years.  But by the time he sees Elizabethtown this second time, he has to admit he's a happy person, with a job he loves, a girlfriend who makes him ridiculously happy, and an interesting life he enjoys.  Suddenly, seen through these more content eyes, he finds the movie charming.

I still think Elizabethtown is a shitty film, but it's hard not to be moved by Rabin's conclusion.  Who hasn't readjusted their tastes after finding some sort of happiness or calm?  It's happened to me a lot over the last two years, and you can see it happen if you go back in time on this blog.  I spent many years being a sober book snob, and now that I have let go of a lot of my personal hang-ups, I now enjoy reading lots of stuff I never would have even looked at before.  My Year of Flops isn't just a book for pop culture nerds or film buffs or Nathan Rabin fans.  It's a book for anyone who loves what they love and is willing to change their minds.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Poem of the Week: "Success Story," by Terence Winch

This poem was yesterday's selection on the Writer's Almanac.  I thought it was really funny and wanted to share it.  It's the kind of poem that fools you because it seems all gloss on the surface.  But if you really look at it, there's nothing particularly successful going on in this.  In fact, the speaker is living a pretty normal life of cheap rent, friends, and decent socks.  The success is the contented voice.  It's very clever.  And how can you not love the phrase "gorgeous air conditioner"?  Enjoy.

Success Story, by Terence Winch

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Adventures in Re-Reading: Mrs. Dalloway

Book Re-Reviewed:  Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf

On Sunday, I mentioned it was the anniversary of The Great Gatsby's first publication.  I've always thought of The Great Gatsby as being a "perfect" novel.  I'm not talking about the story or my affinity for the book.  I'm simply speaking of the construction of the book.  It has nine evenly-spaced chapters full of prose that's been worked over and over again into a simple grace.  It has a building series of events and emotions that lead to the ending, a beautiful little rumintion on the American dream.  It's a book thats form is absolutely faultless, no matter how you feel about the actual story or its characters.

There is only one other book that I feel this confident about in its perfection of form:  Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf.  Interestingly enough, this book was published only a month after Gatsby in 1925.  But this is where the similaries end.  If Gatsby is perfect because of its clean lines, then Mrs. Dalloway is the opposite.  The first time I read Mrs. Dalloway a few years ago, I loved it; but it was a love that was hard-earned.  This is a difficult book, where everything is taking place below surfaces and the voice shifts every couple of paragraphs.  The last ten or so pages of the book take place in a cacophony of voice and language.  Yet, this book's construction is perfection.

The novel is centered around the titular, middle-aged Clarissa Dalloway during a single June day in London as she plans a party for that evening.  In the meantime, we also meet Septimus Warren Smith and his wife, Lucrezia.  Septimus has suffered some major emotional trauma from World War I, and he manages to be both Clarissa's foil and her thematic twin.  Throughout these two stories, we also hear from many of the people around Septimus and Clarissa.  Peter Walsh, a man who loved Clarissa when they were young and has since sort of squandered away all his potential, has a fairly major voice throughout the book as well.

The whole thing is told in third person, but when we center in on a single character, we are hearing his or her internal voice.  I'm not quite sure how it is that Woolf manages to pull this off so well.  It's extremely complicated, but it's never messy.  Instead, we get this gorgeous collage of people bumping into each other, affecting one another in ways they cannot understand.  Woolf also relies a lot on memory, particularly in the summers Clarissa spent as a young woman in Bourton, where she met her husband, Richard, and shared a doomed relationship with Peter Walsh.  Bourton remains the place where Clarissa was at her most happy, particularly in her deep friendship with Sally Seton, undoubtedly the love of her life.  The book's final pages, when we see Sally in the present, are wonderful.

I love the hell out of this book.  We had some amazing weather up her last weekend, full of warmth and sunshine.  I think Mrs. Dalloway is an excellent book to read on a nice spring day.  It features some of the best sentences in English, and it's very lush, even though it's less than 200 pages long.  The way the book mixes the past and present gives everything a sort of hazy vive that feels as if you've spent too much time having long conversations under the sun, where you end up feeling slightly overwhelmed even while you enjoy it.  It's a glorious experience.  And while I do think it's a difficult book that definitely won't be everyone's forte, I also think it features some of the most memorable characters in all of literature.  The depth of Clarissa, the tragedy of Septimus and Lucrezia, the boldness of Sally - all of it feels simultaneously familiar and original.  And whenever I read this book, I cringe at the character of Peter Walsh.  I have a theory that everyone knows a Peter Walsh - overly-intelligent, correcting and a bit off-puting, interesting but in the end ruined by his great passions.  I really enjoyed reading this book again.  It's a real treasure.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Horror!

Book Reviewed:  Heart-Shaped Box, by Joe Hill

Pity the book that is read immediately after finishing a book you love.  I enjoyed Walker Percy's The Moviegoer so much that it colored my perception of the world for a little while.  The lush descriptions, the turns of phrase, the utterly original protagonist; the novel was a feast.  Unfortunately, there must come a time when another book is read, and usually, that book doesn't fair as well in your perception.  It's a bit like an overly sweet desert eaten too soon after the meal.

I decided to do a 180-turn from The Moviegoer and picked up the debut "horror" novel by Joe Hill.  You might remember that Hill is responsible for my #10 favorite book of 2010, 20th Century Ghosts.  More importantly, he wrote "Pop Art," a favorite short story of mine and one of the most moving things I've ever read.  I'd heard good things about Hill's two novels, so I decided it was a good time to try one out.

I liked Heart-Shaped Box well enough.  It begins with aging rock star Judas Coyne buying a suit online, a suit that is supposed to be haunted.  It ends up being more complicated than just a simple ghost, though, as the suit is haunted by the stepfather of one of Coyne's many ex-girlfriends, a fragile young woman who eventually killed herself.  Coyne and his latest girlfriend, Marybeth (aka "Georgia") end up being tortured by the spirit until it affects every aspect of their lives.  They end up on the road, trying to outrun the inevitable, deadly outcome headed their way.  In the meantime, secrets are unearthed and feelings are realized.

This book is more than just a horror story, though.  It's a tale of redemption.  Judas Coyne is a man who's haunted by more than just physical ghosts.  His rocky past includes a terrible childhood, several dead bandmates, and a long string of unhappy ex-girlfriends.  Marybeth begins the story as just the latest lay in Coyne's life, but she eventually becomes something more, as the danger they find themselves in brings them closer together.  Coyne is saved as a person by his ordeal.

Hill's a good writer, and his style is very similar to that of his famous father, Stephen King.  He does a good job making the story satisfying on multiple fronts.  Also, like King (and I don't mean to keep comparing him to his father), he is just as good at small details and moments as he is at plot points.  Unfortunately, this book just didn't do it for me the way his story collection did.  It was fun to read, a good way to pass the time.  But it wasn't particularly nourishing.  I'm not sure if it was Walker Percy's fault for being so awesome just days earlier, or if I was too harsh in comparing this book with Hill's fantastic short stories.  Overall, a somewhat forgettable bit of literary entertainment. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Poem of the Week: "Camouflaging the Chimera," by Yusef Komunyakaa

I recently borrowed a copy of HBO's 2010 mini-series, The Pacific, from my library.  I'm slowly making my way through the series, and it's really something.  It's about the Pacific theater of World War II, a topic I'm ashamed to admit I know almost nothing about.  The cast is really good, the camera work is lovely, and the story is super-interesting.  But none of that takes away from how brutal the whole thing was at its most basic level.  It reminds me of the work of my favorite war poet, Yusef Komunyakaa.  I've name-checked Komunyakaa on here many times before, as he was one of the first poets with whom I fell in love.  His work really gets at the horribleness of war, but the images are always very striking.  Well, here he is again, with one of his poems about the Vietnam War.

Camouflaging the Chimera, by Yusef Komunyakaa

Note:  Today is the 86th anniversary of the 1925 publishing of The Great Gatsby.  So a very happy birthday to my favorite novel of all time!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

With Prose Like This...

Book Reviewed:  The Moveigoer, by Walker Percy

Have you ever read a book that you absolutely loved, but if you had to explain to someone what it was about, you would be at a complete loss?  That reading the book was such a joy, but you can't totally figure out what the big themes were?  I just had that experience.

Walker Percy's The Moviegoer is one of the best novels I've read in a long time.  Percy's debut book, it won the 1962 National Book Award and won the adoration of just about every critic in the U.S.  I've known about the book's existence for years, but I just finally got around to reading it.  Man, am I glad I did.

Our narrator here is almost-thirty-year-old Jack "Binx" Bolling, a New Orleans stockbroker from a classic, genteel Southern family that's gone a bit to ruin.  Bolling is a pretty passive guy.  He's not a fan of real life, so he escapes it by having affairs with his secretaries and spending lots of time in dark movie theaters.  Bolling knows himself quite well, but he's lost and wandering in his surroundings.  He has a good relationship with his Aunt Emily and his troubled step-cousin, Kate, but he's not interested in the idea of being a respectable Bolling that his aunt has.  For much of the book, he's just doing his thing, avoiding real entanglements with life.  It's only when things come to a head in the book's final fifty pages that he ends up changing.  And even then, I wasn't convinced it was a worthy change, as it didn't feel organic to his personality and rather seemed to be a result of social pressures.

There's a lot going on in this book - Catholicism, existentialism, all sorts of ideas floating about.  By the time I hit the book's epilogue, I wasn't really sure what to make of all of it.  I loved Bolling as a character and narrator, and I wasn't really ready to see him change too much too quickly.  There's a lovely little interlude about two-thirds of the way through the book where Bolling visits his mother and much younger half-siblings.  This section of the book does a fantastic job of presenting the type of man Bolling might really be, what he might be capable of if he removes himself from ironic distance and social expectations.  That it comes back to play in the epilogue lends the book a fragility that shows the mastery of Percy's skills. 

So maybe I can't completely describe my feelings toward the book's mysterious idea of the modern man.  When I have this much fun reading a book, I'm willing to be a little unsure about the ending.  I'm obsessed with the prose in this book.  Percy somehow manages the trick of creating a style that's sumptuous, witty, and poetic while still remaining true to the narrator's voice.  I knew I was going to love this book when I hit upon this passage on page four:

My uncle and aunt live in a gracious house in the Garden District and are very kind to me.  But whenever I try to live there, I find myself first in a rage during which I develop strong opinions on a variety of subjects and write letters to editors, then in a depression during which I lie rigid as a stick for hours staring straight up at the plaster medallion on the ceiling of my bedroom.

I want to kiss that second sentence, I love it so much.  Better yet, there are hundreds of sentences and descriptions in this book that I want to kiss as well.  I can honestly say that this is the first novel I read this year (not including re-reads) that I right-out loved.  My library copy was 241 pages, but I wish it could have gone on for another thousand.

Note:  Often, this book reminded me of The Great Gatsby.  I think it's the delicate but capable prose that did it for me.  A lot of my favorite books are short, fragile things that explore the American spirit.  Also see Marilynne Robinson's Gilead.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Poem of the Week: "In Response to a Rumor That the Oldest Whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia Has Been Condemned," by James Wright

Since it's National Poetry Month, I thought it would be nice to post Poems of the Week that ranked among my favorites.  While looking for James Wright's incredible "Saint Judas," I came across this poem instead.  How could I not be intrigued by that title?  This poem is a lot of fun to read, humorous and sad at the same time.  Enjoy!

In Response to a Rumor That the Oldest Whorehouse in Wheeling, West Virginia Had Been Condemned, by James Wright

P.S.  I should mention that throughout the month of April, I'll be quoting my favorite lines of poetry at random on Twitter.  Drop me an email if you want a link to my twitter page.

Friday, April 1, 2011

March 2011 in Review

Total Pages Read in March:  1,808

I read a little over 400 more pages in March than I read in February.  I read a couple of romances, including one by a new favorite, Julie James.  I also attempted to read and understand Faulkner, which had mixed results.  I didn't enjoy Light in August very much, but it did help me realize that Faulkner deserves his reputation as one of the all-time great American writers.  He's just not hitting the right buttons for me personally.

I read two nonfiction books at the end of the month.  Sarah Vowell's new book, Unfamiliar Fishes, was okay but not as good as her previous work.  Meanwhile, Homer Hickam's memoir, Rocket Boys, was much better than I had anticipated.  As is so often the case, I judged the book before I read it and then was surprised to find I actually liked it.

April is shaping up to be a great reading month, one I'm really excited about.  I'm starting off the month with Walker Percy's 1961 classic, The Moviegoer.  Already, I like it a great deal.  There is a sentence on the fourth page that makes me want to dance with delight.  Look for me to quote it in my official review next week.  Since April is National Poetry Month, I hope to read at least two books of poetry.  Of course, there will be some trashy romances mixed in, as well as at least one horror or fantasy novel.

Most importantly, I have decided to take part in the NPR Monkey See blog's I Will If You Will Book Club.  I'm excited about this one, because Linda Holmes and Glen Weldon picked Dream Country, a volume of Neil Gaiman's Sandman graphic novel series.  I already have the book in hand, ready to go!  I'll let you know how this pursuit goes.  I think it'll be fun, and I encourage you to participate also.