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Showing posts from April, 2008

Book 51 of 52: The Book Stops Here by Ian Sansom

I've shouted the praises of Ian Sansom's Mobile Library books on the blog before. They're a series of mystery spoofs about a Israel Armstrong, a Londoner who goes to the north of Northern Ireland to run a library in about as backwards a town as you can get. They're silly, fun mysteries, and I can't even tell you how many times I've recommended them. So you can imagine how I felt when I saw that the third book, The Book Stops Here: A Mobile Library Mystery , was coming out in August (hence why there's no picture to go with this post). I even asked the Harper PR people about it before the summer catalogues came out. I literally jumped when I opened the package and saw The Book Stops Here: A Mobile Library Mystery inside. I just finished it. My review? I hate to say it, There's two problems with this installment of the series. First, the actual mystery doesn't come into play until page 132. Second, the bulk of the book takes place in London

Redux: Omnivore's Dilemma

As part of my review of The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals , book 40 of 52 , I wrote about how I passed out during a wedding because of poor nutrition and dehydration. I knew I looked bad after it happened -- members of the bridal party told me I turned white -- but now I have proof. Picture before passing out. Picture after passing out. That second picture is frightening. I look like a corpse. Omnivore's Dilemma is probably the book I've talked about the most from this series. I think of it whenever I make food choices, and when I see food prices skyrocket. It shows how much industrially produced food is reliant on oil. It makes me sick (though not enough to pass out). Anyway, that's my soapbox for the day.

Book 50 of 52: The Scandal Plan or: How to Win the Presidency by Cheating on Your Wife

So who's tired of election stuff already? I know I am -- after Pennsylvania became the epicenter of the latest primary vote off, I'm ready for it to be done -- and the Democrats haven't picked a candidate yet. Which is why Bill Folman's The Scandal Plan: Or: How to Win the Presidency by Cheating on Your Wife is the right book at the right time. The plot is ridiculous, which is the point -- it's a political farce, and a good one at that. The gist is that the good guy is down. Way down. He's the perfect person for the Presidency job, but he's being out campaigned by an incumbent who's messed up the country and can't find a complete sentence with two hands and a flashlight (sound familiar?) So the idea is to give the good guy a flaw by creating an affair, one that happened long ago enough that it'll create a smear, but not a smear campaign. Of course everything goes wrong, but that's what makes the novel. It's an incredibly silly book, b

Book 49 of 52: Up Until Now by William Shatner

Another one I can't say much about, but at least I can tell you what I read and, briefly, what I think about it. The book is Up Till Now: The Autobiography . My thoughts? Bizarre. Entertaining but bizarre. He lets it all hang out, that's for sure. I'm more of a Star Trek: the Next Generation Fan, but you can't like that part of the Star Trek empire without at least acknowledging the original series. What I found most interesting about this book, however, was learning how hard Shatner worked before and after Star Trek because, after all, that series only ran three seasons and was not an instant success. This is the only book in the series that has brought attention from strangers -- at least to the point where a stranger approached me about what I was reading. I read this one before and in between the last three books in this reading series, so I had it with me on Amtrak on my way to the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference. A man sat next to me at

Book 48 of 52: ?

Last one for a while, dear readers. Promise. It's nice to be done the "assigned book" sprint. I still have assigned books left to read, but at least I can blog about them after I've read the last page. But I have to give you something. In the comments section of the last review post ( the one where I shared my new headshot ), Abra of Abra Goes asked me what the back of my head looked like -- a joke playing off my posts about 'back of the head' covers . Well, Abra, here you go: That's a picture of me signing copies of my book at the Borders in Eatontown, NJ. You'll have to excuse the messy ponytail -- I'd been on the beach for most of the day . The ponytail on the back of The Department of Lost & Found , which was that first got me tuned into the back of the head trend, is much neater. Speaking of that book, it came out in paperback today. For the author's post on the topic, click here . I chose the book as one of my summer beach pick

Redux: Guys Read

I few weeks ago, I posted an item about , which spurred me to write an article about the idea that guys don't read as much as women. That article appeared in today's Philadelphia Inquirer -- read it here .

Book 47 of 52: ?

Yup, another blank one. Sorry folks. I should be able to write about the next one, though. But I can share my new headshot, which was taken on Monday: I like it -- a lot. As good as the old picture was, it was just that -- old. And I'm a much different person now. I think this gives you a better idea of 'me.' And here's some out takes. First, my office: Second, an action series with my dog: Fun day! And because I always give credit where credit is due: photos by Marc Steiner of Agency New Jersey .

My Book is Here

We interrupt our regular book reading series for an important announcement. My book, The Jersey Shore; Atlantic City to Cape May: Great Destinations is officially up for sale! Apparently a lot of people wanted this book, and my publisher decided to release it a few weeks early. So forget that May 5 publication date. Want a copy? I'm giving two away at my Down the Shore with Jen blog. Find out how to enter by clicking here . Here she is on the shelf at Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ. When I first saw it on the shelf on Saturday, I thought "hey, that's cool." It's taken a few days -- and a few emails from people who picked up a copy -- for it to sink in that I wrote a book, and it's for sale for anyone who wants to buy one. It's dizzying.

Book 46 of 52: ?

So begins a short stretch where I can't tell you what I just read, let alone what I thought of it. Why? Because I've been contracted by a magazine to do a series of reviews, and I'm not allowed to say what I'm working on. Gives it all an air of mystery, eh? But I don't want to leave you hanging, so I'll take this post to remind you that Ellington Boulevard: A Novel in A-Flat , which was book 18 of 52 in this series (and reviewed before its publication date), is now out. Enjoy! You can also check out my article from today's Philadelphia Inquirer about commuting from Philadelphia to NYC -- that article is here .

Weekend Wandering: Sweet Valley High

In honor of my review about a Sweet Valley Twins book : There's so much I could comment about -- the gratuitous bikini shots; Jessica's 'hussie' tendencies; the awesome stereotypical-ness of Lila and Winston. You gotta see it to believe it. I barely remember this show. But the time it aired in 1994, I was moving out of my Sweet Valley High phase -- that, or I didn't want to ruin the picture I had of these people by watching the show. The show ran for seven seasons -- for an episode list, click here .

On Covers

Allison Winn Scotch -- she of one of the 'back of the head' covers -- writes on Writer Unboxed about having different hardcover and paperback images. Check out the article here . Speaking of those back of the head covers...Ron Hogan over at Galleycat linked my post on the topic , and asked his readers for more. He got quite a few. Check out his posts about it here here here here here and here .

Book 45 of 52: LoveHampton by Sherri Rifkin

I have never been to the Hamptons, but I get exactly what Sherri Rifkin is writing about in LoveHampton . Because if you change "Hampton" to "Avalon" and you've got your typical summer rental at the Jersey shore. If you haven't noticed, I wrote a book about the South Jersey Shore that's coming out in less than a month. I did most of my research last summer while living in Avalon, NJ, with about a dozen complete strangers. Most were in their 30s, and most acted like college kids on the weekends. It was fun, it was exhausting, but it was nothing short of a wild ride, especially while trying to write a book at the same time. LoveHampton is about essentially the same setup albeit on a higher price scale (the main character pays $7,500 for her summer share. I paid far less than half of that for mine). In this Miller's story -- that being Tori Miller of the book, not me -- she's bouncing back from a major slide that started when her perfect boyfrie

Book 44 of 52: Sweet Valley Twins: Teacher's Pet

"So are you an Elizabeth or a Jessica?" Such was one of the more important questions that separated the girls of St. Francis de Sales grade school. If you were a Jessica, go to side A. Elizabeth, side B. "Even though the two sixth-grade girls both had long blond hair that glinted in the sunlight, aquamarine eyes, and tiny dimples in each left cheek, they were really very different. Jessica liked to talk about boys and clothes, and always wanted to have as much fun as possible. Elizabeth liked more serious things -- reading and writing and long talks with a good friend." You can guess which one I was. And still am. My mom recently cleaned out her attic, and gave me boxes of books to sort through. One was full of Sweet Valley Twins books. I was obsessed with the adventures of Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield for a solid 10 years, starting with the twins, moving into the high school years and then onto the Legacy books, which were probably what you could call a gate

Weekend Wandering: You're a Good Mom

Jen Singer, author of You're a Good Mom (and Your Kids Aren't So Bad Either) will be a guest on my Down the Shore with Jen blog on Monday, so here's here book trailer. I'll post a link when the Q&A goes live! Read more at .

Subscription Reminder

Scared you're going to miss a post? Then drop your email in the "subscribe" box on your left. You'll be send a little reminder asking you if you really really really really want to sign up to get "Book a Week with Jen" in your inbox (of course the answer will be yes), and then, around 7am EST on days after I post, you can enjoy a little bit of the book world with your morning coffee!

Book 43 of 52: Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian by Scott Douglas

This book could have been funny. If you've ever spent a lot of time in a library, you know that they can be strange places with even stranger patrons. That's why I was psyched to start reading this book. Unfortunately, Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian wasn't exactly funny, even though it tries. Sure, there were a few humorous patches about Douglas' life as a librarian in Anaheim, and I did appreciate the chance of getting behind the counter with someone who's about my age. But the writing is what sapped the life out of the story. That, and the footnotes. It's a classic case of showing versus telling, something that I read the best description about in Follow the Story: How to Write Successful Nonfiction , book 27 of 52 . An example: "Pearl arrived next. She was fifty by dressed thirty, had messy brown hair, and walked with a skip in her step." Ok, but how was she fifty and dressing thirty? What exactly did she wear? And "skip

Recommendation: Oil on the Brain

While I slog through the next book in the series, you might want to check out Lisa Margonelli's Oil on the Brain: Petroleum's Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank . It follows gas from the gas station to South America. It's a fascinating, funny and sometimes depressing look at where we get our oil. I couldn't help by think of it yesterday when I read reports about Big Oil's day in front of congress. If you wanted to cut your oil consumption before, you'll really want to do it after reading this book. From my St. Pete Times review: "In Chad, for example, where Exxon has invested $3.7 billion in oil development, children do their homework by sitting outside Exxon’s security lights at night because they have no electricity. More than $300 billion in oil has been pulled from Nigeria, but some villages have no schools, no hospitals. Well, the buildings are there – Shell built them, but didn’t provide the people to make the buildings functional. Without staff or t

Ask and Yee Shall Receive Some More

Looks like I was too early in snapping that picture of books under consideration for summer beach reads . My poor UPS/FedEX/postman. If you've ever wondered why it's so hard for a book to get review attention, this is just a sliver of an example. I usually go to Book Expo America and see thousands of books all jockeying for attention. And some people think we don't read anymore...