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Showing posts from November, 2007

Book 11 of 52: Oh the Humanity! by Jason Roeder

Book 11 of 52 is an excellent example of how asking your friends for help is not a shameful thing to do. Jason Roeder is friends with a member of Freelance Success , which is a fabulous and invaluable freelance writer group (if you freelance and are not a member, sign up pronto -- worth the money. It's how I got my book deal). Anyway, Roeder's friend posted on our message boards about this book, and that if anyone could possibly write about it, to let him know. I let him know. Roeder emailed me right away, sent me a copy of the book, and now I've placed it in two different articles. One is a book round up and the other is a straight newspaper review. I never would have heard about Oh, the Humanity!: A Gentle Guide to Social Interaction for the Feeble Young Introvert if not for that post on Freelance Success. Why? Well, because I'd never heard of Tow Books (the publisher) and I rarely write about humor books. Humor's hard, especially to review. While someone migh

Book 10 of 52: Salty Dogs by Jean M. Fogle

I debated whether or not I should include Jean M. Fogle's Salty Dogs as one of the 52 books in this project. Why? Because it's a photo book. Would it really count as something I read? Then I remembered that this is my blog and I can do whatever I want, so Salty Dogs it is. Salty Dogs came at just the right time, too. Friday is a very special day in the Miller household. It's my Jack Russell Terrier mix's sixth birthday, and Saturday marks our two year anniversary. First, the book. Fogle found me through my Down the Shore with Jen blog. I had posted about my trip with Emily, my dog, to Cape May, NJ. Since that trip involved a dog and salt, and I have this book blog, she offered to send me a copy of the book. And what an adorable book it is. It has dogs of all stripes playing on the sand and in the water. Fogle also has a Jack Russell Terrier (hers is named Molly), so a lot of the shots are extra adorable, like the one of a JRT on a boogie board. It's a fun

Interview: Chris Grabenstein, author of the John Ceepak Mystery Series

Click on over to my " Down the Shore with Jen " blog for an interview with Chris Grabenstein , author of a series of mysteries that take place at the Jersey Shore. I've never been a huge mystery fan, but can get into them for a quick, intense read. So check it out!

Update: Book 6 of 52: The First Campaign by Garrett M. Graff

On Saturday, I saw the final copy of Garrett M. Graff's The First Campaign , which was number 6 of 52 in this Book a Week series. If you remember from my first review , the last pages were not printed in the preview copy because Graff was trying to be as up-to-date as he could be, so left the ending for the real end. I'm happy to say that the ending was as good as the rest of the book. It's also reviewed in the December issue of Wired . I texted with Garrett this weekend to tell him I saw the review (which is positive) and that I got the final book. I agree with what he said (or texted) -- the cover looks better in final form. Still not my favorite, but not as cheesy as it looked on the galley cover.

Book 9 of 52: The Threesome Handbook: A Practical Guide to Sleeping with Three by Vicki Vantoch

"Oh, no you didn't!" Oh yes I did review a book about threesomes. Before you check "perv" on your "opinion of Jen A. Miller card," let me ask you this: if someone sent you a free book about threesomes, wouldn't you be tempted to take a peek? I'm not saying you would read the entire thing. I wouldn't have if I didn't have this book-a-week project, but I figured, what the heck. Maybe I'll learn something. I did. I learned a lot of things, like the proper way to stick your finger up someone's bum, a new meaning for "club sandwich" and that a lot more people are getting it on triad style than I thought. After all, Vantoch's book isn't the only one out there about threesomes. Click on the amazon link for The Threesome Handbook: A Practical Guide to SLEEPING WITH THREE and you'll also be directed to Threesome: How to Fulfill Your Favorite Fantasy by Lori Gammon and Bill Strong; Threeways: Fulfill Your Ultim

Book 8 of 52: How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore

Here's a fun exercise: go to your local bookstore and check out the writing section. You'll find two kinds of books: instruction books and fun books. Instruction books show you the nuts and bolts of how to be a writer, whether it's something like The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell, which hows you how to make this freelance writing thing work (a book I highly recommend) to On Writing Romance by Leigh Michaels, which is a guide to writing romance novels (I haven't read this one, but I've thought about it -- more about that later in this series). Fun books about writing would be something like Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life , which, yes, does offer writing advice, but is more about being a writer than a straight writing guide. How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore is a fun book about writing. Yes, she (and the ma

Essay: Pack of Two by Caroline Knapp

Here's a link to an essay I wrote for the September 2007 issue of Paste Magazine about Caroline Knapp's Pack of Two . The book is about dogs, and so is the essay. An excerpt: "Like Knapp, I lived by myself. Like her, I had just gotten out of a relationship that I knew would never work. I was lonely. I needed a friend. I didn’t go to the shelter expecting to find Lassie or my other half in the form of four legs and fur—just an animal to wag its tail when I walked in the door, and something to take the edge off of loneliness by being in my own pack of two. And while Emily—the Jack Russell Terrier who wound herself around my life—and I are less than perfect companions, she has changed me, hopefully for the better. Even when she tinkles on the carpet, yaps at a squirrel or nudges me while I work, she brings me a serenity I haven’t found anywhere else." I read Pack of Two in graduate school; before I adopted my dog; and I read it after. The book took on a different mea

Interview: Lord Whimsy, author of The Affected Provincial's Companion

Click over to my Down the Shore With Jen blog for an interview with Lord Whimsy, author of The Affected Provincial's Companion . You'll have to go through the interview to "get" what it is Whimsy does. It's worth the read! To go directly to the interview, click here .

Review: Of a Feather by Scott Weidensaul

As promised, here's my review of Book 4 of 52, Scott Weidensaul's Of a Feather . This review ran in Sunday's St. Petersburg Times -- St. Petersburg as in St. Petersburg Florida, NOT St. Petersburg Russia. I went to college at the University of Tampa , so even though I live in NJ, and have lived here most of my life, it's not that odd for me to be reviewing at the St. Pete Times !

Book 7 of 52: Smart Girls Like Me by Diane Vadino

Smart Girls Like Me by Diane Vadino is the perfect example of a book that I judged by it's cover. It's pink, and the cover image, as you can see, is of a rack of clothes. Even the jacket copy wasn't too promising -- 24-year old who works at a fashion magazine afraid of 1999 turning to 2000. Boy trouble. Wedding trouble. Drugs, sex and rock and roll. Yawn. If it looks like chick lit and talks like chick lit, it's chick lit, right? I am not a fan of the genre. I have no patience for Jennifer Weiner, or her commentary on the subject (which I liken to a Catholic priest defending the church while molesting the alter boy). I gravitate toward non-fiction, but if I'm in the mood for a good story, I seek out books by young women for young women that reflect what our lives are actually like, not some technicolor mock up filled with martinis and shoes we can't afford, and, if we could, shouldn't buy because there are plenty of other places to put $500. So Smart Gir

Interview: Caroline Leavitt

Click on over to Down the Shore With Jen to check out my interview with Caroline Leavitt, author of eight novels, including Girls in Trouble and Coming Back to Me . She's an Ocean City gal -- not a bad kind of gal to be! You can also check out Caroline's blog at carolineleavittville.blogspot.com .

Review: Brainiac by Ken Jennings

It's been a while since I reviewed Brainiac . So why am I highlighting it again right now? Because the paperback just came out, and my review from The Philadelphia Inquirer is blurbed on the back of the book! This is the first time (that I know of) that this has happened with one of my reviews, and it couldn't have happened with a better book. It was, hands down, my favorite book of 2006. Yes, it's by the guy who won all those Jeopardy! games. But it's also a history of trivia in America, and it's hysterical. The blurb's not that long, but long enough that, when I saw it Monday night, I did a little dance in Barnes & Noble. Here's what I said: "Keen characterization, pithy commentary, and pop-culture associations . . . make Brainiac a sharp and witty read." And I don't care what kind of look that guy in the other aisle gave me. It was a good little dance. Read more about Brainiac at www.ken-jennings.com .

Book 6 of 52: The First Campaign by Garrett M. Graff

Book 6 is a political title: The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House . I will be the first to admit that while, yes, I do have an interest in politics (I think anyone who votes should educate themselves about it, and everyone who can should vote -- good cycle, right?), I get most of my information from the news, whether that be from TV, newspapers or the internet. But pick up something book length? Not likely. So how did this book end up as part of my project? Simple: I know Garrett. Before Garrett ever put pen to paper for this book, he helmed FishbowlDC , one of Mediabistro 's city blogs. I was new to freelancing then and educating myself about the business by poking around content on the site. From the day FishbowlDC launched, I was hooked. I liked Garrett's informal yet informative style, and his knowledge of what seemed to be everything going on in the media world down there. I was also writing for DC STYLE magazine and, being locat

Review: Backyard Giants by by Susan Warren

I wrote a review for today's St. Pete Times . Normally, I would post about that here, but the book is so bad that I would not recommend it to anyone (if you're curious, that review is here ). So, instead, I'm going to refer you to a fantastic book I reviewed for the Philadelphia City Paper : Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren. That review is here (fourth item). I like reading non-fiction books about strange topics, and this is example of the perfect book for me. It's fascinating, from how people grow 1500 pound pumpkins, and, even more so, why. I'm not really a garden person, but the people who take on this quest every year were ripe for a character study as Warren writes, so it'll be interesting to anyone who is interested in people and the odd things they do. My interest in quirky non-fiction books is the same reason why I consider Ken Jenning's Brainiac my top book of 200