25 March 2011

Book Review: A Visit from the Goon Squad

 (NB: On the left is the hardcover/ARC edition and on the right is the new paperback edition.  While I find the left one more visually appealing, the abstract pb cover art I think is more appropriate and less misleading.)

A Visit From the Goon Squad  by Jennifer Egan has been earning so many accolades that I finally picked it up to see what it's all about.  My sales rep from Random House, Ann Kingman, gave me a copy of the book in ARC form last year but I never got around to reading it (though I did buy it for my nephew for Christmas 2010 based on the reviews).  The New York Times named it a Top 10 Book of that year and now it's also the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award (incidentally, the prize I most respect out of the "Big Three" literary prizes in the US: the Pulitzer, the National Book Award, and the NBCC). I have read and enjoyed two of Egan's previous novels, so it's a bit of a surprise that it took me this long to get to this one.  

While I cannot say that I loved it, I can say that it's a pretty impressive and more than a little interesting novel.  What none of the reviews I read mentioned, however, is that it seems to be less a cohesive novel than a full length work of disjointed stories.  The key characters are so randomly interspersed throughout the book that it took more than a little effort to keep up with them, though admittedly that might have more to do with my attention span this week.  In most cases I just write up my own little cast of characters and chart them, but I didn't care enough about these people to do that.

The book's description tells us that Bennie and Sasha are the main characters, but since they don't actually appear in most of the book, I'm not sure I agree with that assessment.  Mostly the book jumps back and forth in chronology and we get various back stories and future stories for Bennie and Sasha, which means we're hearing more about their parents, children, uncle, spouses, bosses and significant others than we do about Bennie, a music mogul, and Sasha, his erstwhile assistant.  Along the way, Egan takes us for a ride through American pop culture with sidetrips to African for a safari, to Naples for a look at the city's underbelly, and to NYU for reasons that remain unclear to me.  We get alternating first, third, and even second person points of view (used with only limited success) and sometimes it takes longer than it ought for the reader (and I figure I'm at least as astute as most) to figure out just who the heck we're dealing with and where in the overarching chronology of the book we are.

Which is not to say I disliked the book or think it's not good, despite the bizarre section near the end that is done in the style of a Power Point presention, presumably to show how an autistic child named Lincoln sees the world visually and compartmentally.  The narrative problem, however, is that the point of view seems to be from his sister Ally, so the Power Point becomes more an elaborate ruse than an essential part of the story.  And yet, by the time I closed the book tonight and reflected on the ride Egan took me on, I was left feeling like this really is a novel of our time, reflecting the disjointedness and fragmentation of our society.

Egan's prose is always serviceable and occasionally elegant.  Here's a short passage that I liked, which I'd say is pretty representative of her style: "But eventually a sort of amnesia had overtaken Susan; her rebellion and hurt and melted away, deliquesced into a sweet, eternal sunniness that was terrible in the way that life would be terrible, Ted supposed, without death to give it urgency and shape."  I think this may be the first time that I've encountered deliquesce as a verb, and it's a word worth using.

A Visit from the Goon Squad is, for me at least, a more interesting read than a great one, but I am quite glad that I went along for the ride.  I recommend it for people who don't mind working a little bit at their novels and for those looking for something a little off the beaten track in terms of narrative and structure.

Edited on 18 April 2011 to add: Today this book won the Pulitzer Prize.  I'm just a little bit surprised that it nailed two out of the three major literary awards in the US...

24 March 2011

Andre Dubus III: Best author reading ever

Photo of Andre Dubus III and me

I mentioned Townie by Andre Dubus III in a blog post a couple of months ago as the book I read each morning over breakfast before work.  Since I'm usually running behind, this often doesn't amount to more than a couple of pages read on any given day, but I like having it to look forward to each morning, and if you've already read Dubus, you know that he's a great way to start the day! I'm still only about halfway through it, but it's such a compelling portrait of a man and his life that I'm pleased to make it last as long as possible.

My store hosted an event with Dubus last night, and because we expected a large crowd, we held the event offsite at Mount Holyoke College, just across the street from our store, in a mahogany-paneled room called The New York Room.  It's an attractive space to hold a reading and it feels very intimate, despite the 100 person capacity.  Dubus read from his memoir but it was the Q&A session  that held us spellbound.  Mr. Dubus is that rare writer who can quote at length any number of other writers to illustrate a point (Flannery O'Connor, John Gardner, William Faulkner, et al), and he artfully interweaves personal anecdotes into his answers.  Never once does he let on to the annoying person in the back of the room that he'd rather not answer her tenth stupid question in a row or that he's been on his feet for 10 hours and would prefer not to sign 75 books for store stock--he is the absolute portrait of graciousness. Dubus is charming, charismatic, and has the ability to focus on you so intently he can make you feel like you're the only other person in the room.  And yet he also comes across as perhaps the most down-to-earth person you've ever met, an erudite beer-drinking buddy.  Let me put it this way: if he ever decided to use his powers for evil, we'd be in a world of trouble.

I'll post a review of Townie once I've finished it, but until then, you'll have to take my word that Andre Dubus III is a writer and a person of the highest order.

Dubus signing in the New York Room

20 March 2011

Giveaway Promotion: One Hundred Followers or Bust!

My blog passed a personal milestone this week when it received its 75th follower.  It's kind of funny.  You know, my mom and my husband are my blog's biggest fans, but neither one is a follower.  My two best friends from high school are readers but not followers.  Based on the stats that I obsessively regularly check, it seems that they are not alone: each week I have more hits than I have followers.  Many of whom, interestingly enough, hail from Latvia.  So, if you read this post and you're not already following me in an official capacity, please consider signing up to do so.  When this blog reaches 100 followers, I will host not just a regular giveaway, but a custom-tailored giveaway.  I work at the Odyssey Bookshop in South Hadley, MA, USA, and we host a pretty incredible array of author events.  So once I reach my goal, I will do a random drawing of all of the blog followers and that person will be allowed to choose a copy of any signed book we have in stock, which I will then purchase and ship (at my expense, not the store's, I hasten to add).  Offer open to all followers who live in countries where the shipping charge will not exceed the cover price of the book!

Do your tastes run to modern literary fiction?  How about Teju Cole's Open City, Dinaw Mengestu's How To Read the Air, or Tea Obreht's The Tiger's Wife?

Do you like YA or children's books?  How do Holly Black, Cassandra Clare, Erin Hunter,  Kim Harrison, Mo Willems, Norton Juster, Patricia MacLachlan, Barry Moser, Jane Yolen, Rich Michelson, or Jeanne Birdsall sound to you?

Do you like reading debut authors for that sense of discovery? Try Hannah Pittard, Nina Revoyr, Michael David Lukas on for size.

What about nonfiction: We have Joseph Ellis, Andre Dubus III, Mira Bartok, to name a few who have been earning recent accolades.

We also have a terrific array of extremely popular fiction writers whose works dominate both the IndieBound and the New York Times bestseller lists, like Jodi Picoult, Deborah Harkness, Alice Hoffman, John Grisham, and Alexander McCall Smith.  Any of those names ring a bell?

To be frank, if we don't have signed copies of a book you'd be excited to have, you shouldn't be following a blog about books anyway.  Unless you're here to read only the travel portions of the blog.  But even then I'd have to bet that I could hook you up with something of interest!

19 March 2011

Backlist Book Review: City of Thieves by David Benioff

It's a clear but cold afternoon as I sit at my desk to type this and I've been thinking a lot about Russian literature vis a vis this week's blog hop.  It has made me remember a book from a few years ago that evokes wartime Russia so well, and as I read the book before I started my bookblog, I thought I would take a moment to post about it here.  It's City of Thieves by David Benioff, published by (I think) Penguin.  Two young men are caught out after curfew and accused--one for thieving government property and one for desertion--in 1942 Leningrad, and instead of being shot on sight, they are given a chance to live IF they can find before the week's end one dozen eggs to be used for the Kommandant's daughter's wedding cake.  The catch? Leningrad is under siege and the city is slowly starving to death and eggs cannot be found for any amount of love or money. 

If ever the full gamut of the Odyssey Bookstore staff has agreed on a book, this would be it--mystery, literary fiction, historical fiction and commercial fiction readers all read it and loved it.  Telling a tale that is equal parts coming of age, war story, male bonding, and winter survival, with hints of romantic interest, Benioff spins a compelling yarn that is easily devoured in one sitting but that will linger in the reader's memory.  Moments of brutality have their counterpoint flashes of humor in this utterly captivating story depicting the siege of Leningrad. 

Benioff did a reading at our store for this book and we had a lively discussion about truth in storytelling and the ways that family history can become fable. You see, the main character is Lev Beniov and the author is of Russian descent...Recommended for all readers, teen and up. 

17 March 2011

Book Review in Brief: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

I've been debating for about a week whether to review this book or not.  I've never devoted time to writing a negative review before, and I confess I'm not entirely comfortable with the idea even now, as I compose this post.  I'm a bookseller -- which means mostly that I don't think books I don't like are necessarily bad.  It just means I'm not the proper reader for them.  I don't think I could sum up my feeling towards this book better than Publisher's Weekly did back in January: "a plodding story with a killer hook."  In other (read: my) words, it was too potentially interesting not to be better than it was.

Stellar Plains, New Jersey, is a progressive suburban town.  When the drama club at Eleanor Roosevelt High School decides to perform Aristophanes' Lysistrata, a play in which the women of Greece withhold sex from the men in order to end the Peleponnesian War, the women (and girls) of Stellar Plains mysteriously lose interest in all sexual activity, much to the dismay of the men (and boys) in their lives.  The young lead in the play then decides shortly before opening night that she wants to go on a sex strike to protest the war in Afghanistan.

Metalife imitating meta-art.  Intriguing, no?  In the opening chapters I felt this book was positively humming and vibrant with possibility.  The characters, mostly students and the middle-aged teachers at ERHS, are likeable and the prose style is serviceable.  But somehow it all fell apart for me.  The narration moves randomly from third person omniscient to third person limited and back again, for starters.  I definitely do not like inconsistencies like that the draw me out of the story.

Secondly, why on earth does Wolitzer not spend more than two throwaway sentences addressing same-sex relationships in this book?  What could have been an interesting and topical jumping off point instead feels stilted and limiting.  The author basically acknowledges that there's one gay couple who go on coupling as usual, and though she mentions once that women not involved sexually with men are not affected, not once are lesbians mentioned, and their omission seems to imply that they aren't seen as part of the "perfectly healthy, normal women and teenage girls"who are affected (quotation from the publisher's marketing).

Thirdly, as we get the musings of many of the women about what's happening to them and the various excuses they give the men in their lives for avoiding sex, the female characters rarely express curiosity about what is happening, and not once does the idea of a more, ahem, self-serve approach come up in the story.  Really?  Healthy women with healthy sexual appetites (one of the characters loves sleeping with her four different lovers for the different styles they employ in and out of the bedroom) go for more than two months without wanting to take matters into their own hands? 

Lastly, for most of the book I kept wondering why I continued to read it.  It's an easy and quick enough novel to read, and I think I kept hoping that I was just about to get to the interesting part.  The interesting part never really came.  Pun intended.

This book comes out in April from Penguin books.  I read the book in ARC form, sent to me by my sales rep.  I should note that I might be in the minority with my views, as this title is one of the top recommended titles from indie booksellers for the month of April.  

Literary Blog Hop: Read This Before You Die and How Many Books at Once?

This week's Literary Blog Hop, sponsored by The Blue Bookcase, asks what work is it you must read before dying.  I spend most of my time recommending to other people what I think they should be reading--after all, it's my job as a bookseller to do that.  Not that I fancy myself a tastemaker or anything like that, but I do try to listen to every customer and synthesize their likes and dislikes to come up with the perfect book they should read.  Now I'm going to turn the tables on myself and make a recommendation to me.  Though I consider myself quite well read amidst English language literature, both classic and contemporary, I've read lamentably few works from other languages.  Therefore, I recommend to myself that I should read more so-called world literature, particularly the Russians, before I die.  I need to tackle Nabokov and Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.  Round them off with a little Bulgakov and Solzhenitsyn. Maybe learn if there are any Russian women of letters I should know aside from Anna Akhmatova, who is the only one I can think of!

Clearly NOT my photo!

This week's Book Blogger Hop, sponsored by Crazy For Books, asks whether we read more than one book at a time.  Frankly, I can't remember the last time I only had one book going, and I suppose that juggling 3-4 books is pretty typical.  I've got the book-of-the-moment, the one I cannot put down, that I read each night before falling asleep.  The book I read at the breakfast table each morning--usually a work of nonfiction that is easy to dip into and out of for brief intervals.  There's the, ahem, bathroom book.  And at least half of the time I've got an audio book going in my car or there's a fanfiction novel I'm reading online.  I own an e-reader (technically it belongs to the bookstore but nobody else ever seems to want it) but I find I like it best when I'm traveling, so I don't have an e-book constantly going unless I am also on the go. 

14 March 2011

Book Review in Brief: You Believers by Jane Bradley

You Believers by Jane Bradley
Jesse is a sociopath hell-bent on making random women pay for the perceived sins of his mother and this is the story of those unfortunate souls who cross his path--the girls who go missing, the people who search for them, and the one young woman who survives.  This is a literary page turner of the highest order, where the darkest corners of our everyday world are limned in sinister shadow and even the bright daylight spaces are dappled with menace.  

I received an advance reading copy of this book from my old buddy, Steven Wallace, who is the sales director of Unbridled Books, one of my favorite small, independent publishers.  As someone who has been recommending books to me since I became a bookseller lo, these many years ago, he has a good eye for fiction and is a good judge of books I like to read.  He is, in short, the kind of friend that any bookseller or reader would want to have.  I don't read many thrillers because I don't like that tense, scared-of-every-small-noise-in-the-night feeling that I get when I read them, but (1) I always read what Wallace puts in front of me, and (2) how could any reader's curiosity not be piqued by a book with blurbs from writers as disparate as William Gay and Jodi Picoult?  You can click here to see what other booksellers and reviewers have had to say about this fine book. Or you can take my word for it and order a copy from your local store or library when the book releases in May.  

And whatever you do, always run away from your house if you come home and find that all of the lightswitches have been taped down into the off position because only bad things would come of that!

04 March 2011

In Praise of the Pig: B.T.'s Smokehouse in Sturbridge, MA

Yesterday I drove with my coworker, Diana, to Sturbridge, MA, to sell books at the Harvest New England conference.  We weren't entirely sure that it would be a financially successful day for the Odyssey Bookshop to be there, especially when we were told that our book table would be in the outer hall way where the registration table is, not in the exhibit hall (turns out our fears were misplaced).  But as we were driving into town, Diana casually pointed out a BBQ joint, called B.T.'s Smokehouse, on the side of the road and allowed that she'd had good food there before, so I knew the day wouldn't be a waste of time, personally speaking.

When it was time to break for lunch, Diana picked us up two pulled pork sandwiches and a container of hushpuppies to go and brought the whole lot back to the conference hall, where the wafting scent of smoked pig attracted a lot of attention.  Too bad for the rest of the conference attendees, who had to eat in the cafeteria instead!  As a Southerner who has frequently bemoaned the lack of good BBQ in New England (up here in the Kingdom of the Yankee, they think "bbq" is a verb, not a noun), this sandwich was a revelation.  Not only did it pass the important first step of not having any sauce on it (in real Southern bbq, the customer adds the sauce at the table; the meat should not come pre-slathered in sauce), the meat was piled high on a soft white roll, with lots of those crispy, blackened, caramelized end bits of the pork.  Neither one of us could finish the "regular" size sandwich, not on top of those yummy, ever-so-slightly-sweet hushpuppies.  
Diana, waiting for our food.

I knew that my dear but long-suffering husband would never forgive me if he knew I was that close to good BBQ but did not bring him any, so after Diana and I packed up at the end of the conference, and AFTER we stopped at the largest liquor & wine store in New England (an entire row of shelves with nothing but rum!) we stopped by B.T.'s to pick up dinner to go.  It looks just like a BBQ joint on the side of the road ought to look-- diner-style comfort with not much to speak of in terms of decor, in order not to distract from the finest BBQ I've eaten in New England.  The usual sides are there, like beans & slaw, but this place also has greens and cheese grits, and lemon sweet tea on tap.  It's also the real deal, with two large smokers sitting in the parking lot.  You can even top your meal off with an amply-portioned  square of pecan pie or bread puddin'.

I know that B.T.'s also serves up beef, too, but I was so blinded by the pulled pork that I never looked beyond it on the menu.  Guess I'll have to wait until my next visit to see what the rest of the menu holds, which might be sooner than I thought...My husband almost cried when he tasted the pork I brought home to him and asked if we could go back the next day.  Maybe not tomorrow, but it will be soon.  That 45-minute drive from our house ain't nothin' when it comes to a BBQ pilgrimage. 

NB: I'd like to mention that this blog post title comes from a documentary called In Praise of the Pig that my old boss and friend, Robert Willig of Troubadour Books, made when he was a few decades younger.  He traveled all over the US in search of the best BBQ.  There was one particularly excellent and prolific area for bbq, and that's the point where Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee come together.  He said at that point that he and his buddy could basically just roll down the windows of their car and follow their noses from one bbq joint to another.  
Not one, but two, smokers!
Bought this one for the fun bottle!
Bought this one 'cause it's amazing. 

I'd like to edit this post on 19 March 2011 to add that I went back one week later for lunch with my husband and my friend and we ordered randomly and widely from the menu:  pulled pork sandwiches, Rueben brisket sandwich (I couldn't let down those folks who recommended it, could I?), macaroni & cheese, collard greens, cole slaw, and cheese grits and everything ranged from good to oh-my-freakin'-God.  My husband and friend didn't care much for the lemon sweet tea, but that's okay.  I liked it enough to down mine and theirs, too.  Oddly enough the greens weren't fantastic, merely good, but everything else was excellent, most notably the beef brisket Rueben.  We also ordered a side of ribs, a quart of pulled pork, some bread pudding, and a pecan pie square to go to have feast later at home, and again everything was excellent except for the bread pudding.  The accompanying sauce, which tasted like caramel icing on a caramel cake, was good, but the bread pudding itself was too stale and a little too smokey in flavor to even finish.  Since that Friday I've been thinking long and hard about the Rueben brisket sandwich.  I wonder if it would be considered excessive to drive to out to Sturbridge every Friday to eat it? 

Book Blogger Hop: Favorite Fictional Villain

Book Blogger Hop

This week's book blogger hop, sponsored by Crazy for Books, asks who our "all-time favorite book villain" is.  I'm not crazy about the wording here--I'd rather pick best villain over favorite villain, but for once, I'll try to quit quibbling over semantics.

I think Thomas Harris' Hannibal Lector from The Silence of the Lambs, is one of the best, most chilling villains ever created.  And when Sir Anthony Hopkins brought him to life on the big screen, he played him to perfection: courteous, brilliant, engaging, cunning, and devastatingly sick & twisted.

However, one of my favorite fictional characters, whom most readers thought of as a villain for longer than anybody with sense really should have, is Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series.  Admittedly, I'm a Snape fan, have been since book one, and, possessing the ability to differentiate "not nice" from "evil," I've rested comfortably in the knowledge that my convictions would play out in the end.  Much to the chagrin of all the Snape-haters who then had to furiously backpedal and do revisionist histories of Hogwarts when they discovered he was not actually evil after all

And as with Hannibal Lector, it certainly doesn't hurt that Alan Rickman plays Severus Snape in the film adaptations of the series!

03 March 2011

Literary Blog Hop: Can literature be funny?

Literary Blog Hop

This week's Literary Blog Hop question, sponsored each week by The Blue Bookcase, asks whether literature can be funny.

I, for one, think the answer is a resounding yes.  I posted before that I think it's more difficult to write literary humor than literary drama and therefore it's a more precious commodity.  I think Jane Austen tempers her books very well with humor, with Pride and Prejudice and Emma being the funniest.  Dickens is frequently funny, though perhaps the funniest of the ones I've read is The Pickwick Papers.  P. G. Wodehouse's works are outrageously funny, but I'm not sure how many readers think he qualifies as literary.

Of more modern selections, I'd mention Jonathan Tropper's This Is Where I Leave You, Nicholson Baker's The Anthologist, any of Jim Harrison's Brown Dog stories, about half of Eudora Welty's short stories (with "Why I Live at the PO being the most famously funny), the forthcoming The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson, and the travel writer/memoirist Bill Bryson.

02 March 2011

Last Month in Review: February 2011 Books Read

In homage to Nick Hornby and Believer magazine...

Books read in February 2011


1. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, forthcoming in June 2011.  Really excellent book.  One of the best I've read in a long time.  Folks who enjoyed Bel Canto will find much to praise about this one, too.

2. These Happy Golden Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I was actually aiming to read The Long Winter here in the midst of our worst New England winter since I moved here from Mississippi, but it was the only Little House book missing from my set.  Wanted to read how Almanzo & Cap risked their lives to get the hay, and how Almanzo & Royal kept seed corn hidden in their wall and made buckwheat pancakes for Pa that one time...

3. The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, forthcoming in May 2011.  Fun and light with a few ominous undertones.

4. Clementine and the Family Meeting by Sara Pennypacker.  A book for middle grade readers, forthcoming in late spring of this year.  I wish I had a dad who realizes that a young girl's crisis of identity can only be solved with a grown-up tool belt full of tools and a project to put them to work on.  And ice cream.

5. Pao by Kerry Young, forthcoming in July 2011.  I love reading books about the Caribbean, but this one was a bit different in that it's a Chinese immigrant's story about moving to Kingston, Jamaica, during WWII and becoming one of the movers & shakers of Chinatown there.  I didn't even know there was a Chinatown in Jamaica!

6. Clare Dewitt and the City of the Dead by Sara Grun, forthcoming later in 2011.  This is the first mystery I've read in a while. I picked it up because it was set in New Orleans one year post-Katrina.

7. The Fire and the Rose by Abby and Domina.  This is a novel-length work of Harry Potter fanfiction that I read about once a year or so.  It's the story of what happens when Neville explodes a variant of polyjuice potion one day and Snape & Hermione got caught in the middle of it -- they exchange bodies for a full term.  The lemony bits come in at the end, and they're good, but the rest of the story is pretty much in character for both of them.

8. You Believers by Jane Bradley, forthcoming in May 2011.  I read this one as a favor to a buddy of mine at the publisher.  Good stuff.  Review to come.

9.  The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan. Review here.

10. The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson, forthcoming in May 2011.  A sequel to the young adult novel Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes. Review here.

11. Red by Hillary Jordan.  Wow.  Just wow.  A friend of mine at her publisher sent me the manuscript and after I read it, it was all I could think about.  It's hard to imagine two books more different than Mudbound (her first book, winner of the Bellwether Prize) and Red, but they're equally successful in what they're trying to do. Not sure when the pub date is on this one.

12. The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson.  Review here.  Forthcoming in August 2011.

13. The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan. Review here.  Forthcoming in June 2011.

01 March 2011

Book Review: The Last Werewolf

The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
I feel I should start by saying that this book is a departure from my usual reading.  But then again, I've been saying that rather frequently lately, so maybe I need to re-evaluate what constitutes my "usual reading."  Really, though, I normally wouldn't pick up most books with the word werewolf in the title, but most werewolf books aren't published by Knopf, the most literary imprint of all of Random House's imprints.  Word on the street during Winter Institute was that this was a book to watch, so take note I did.  After all, any book that can make the good men from Algonquin/Workman howl at the moon in the parking lot is a book that I want to read!

Jacob Marlowe is the last surviving werewolf on record, helped along by his covert human familiar, Harley. When the book opens, it's not likely that Jake will survive another moon cycle, as Grainer, a special-ops werewolf hunter, has vowed to track him and take him down, eliminating the last of his kind from the face of the earth.  However, a wealthy socialite with dark appetites and an elite cabal of vampires have other plans; they want to abduct him and conduct experiments on him with the hope of curing their daytime curse.  If this sounds like it's treading the same old werewolf/vampire/special ops territory, however, you couldn't be more wrong.  The intelligent prose and Jake's existential philosophies make this a very smart book, indeed.  It's fast-paced, sexy, graphic, and it will be the ruler against which all future werewolf books will be measured -- and found wanting.  With no offense meant toward genre fiction, this is a novel that transcends its genre in a luminescent way.  And which will completely redefine what it means to be "Team Jacob."

I dog-eared dozens of pages and noted twice again that many passages, some of which I've included here:

"I lifted her hair out of the way and worked her trapezius from scapula to occipital bone.  Anatomical Latin's an unjudgemental friend if you have to rip people apart and eat them."

"One develops an instinct for letting silence do the heavy lifting.  In the three, four, five seconds that passed without either of us speaking, the many ways the conversation could go came and went  like time-lapse film of flowers blooming and dying."

"We were in bed, her lying with her wrists crossed above her head, me up on one elbow, caressing her nakedness.  The flesh had infinity in it.  I must have known every inch by touch, yet every inch renewed its mystery the instant my hand moved on.  Delightful, endless futility."

"The point is I make no apology and ask no forgiveness. I'm a man. I'm a monster. A cocktail of contraries. I didn't ask to become a werewolf but once it had happened I got used to it pretty quickly. You surprise yourself. You surprise yourself, then realise even the surprise was a bit of a sham."

"I changed channels.  American Idol. Transformation again, this time from Nobody into Superstar. Perhaps Jacqueline was right: humanity's getting its metamorphic kicks elsewhere these days. When you can watch the alchemy that turns morons into millionaires and gimps into global icons, where's the thrill in men who turn into wolves?"

"Filial honour. Forty years ago I killed and ate Grainer's father.  Grainer was ten at the time.  There's always someone's father, someone's mother, someone's wife, someone's son. This is the problem with killing and eating people.  One of the problems."

And possibly the best invocation of Jane Eyre I've ever read: "Reader, I ate him."

Did I mention that the author is dead sexy?

I picked up an ARC of this book at Winter Institute and decided to read it upon the extra urging of my sales rep, Ann Kingman.  And I just want to say that I bet I'm one of very few readers who know exactly  what Duncan was talking about when he mentions Barbuda as Harley's place of escape.  Ahh, Barbuda!