The Wannabe Literati.

What's your all time favortie sexytime song?

What's your all time favortie sexytime song?

Answer here

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Highlights, or this is just something trivial, but you can read it anyway.

Everybody's got issues. Some people have issues with their morning coffee, dating guys who smoke, Barack Obama, and using condoms. Other people have problems with commitment, finding the right job, or Chuck Norris. I've got issues with fish (which I will only eat if I'm really, really hungry and have got nothing else; this poses a problem for when those 'if you were trapped in an island' survival scenarios actually happen), 2012 (because everybody keeps saying the world will end then, which brings up question of me ever being able to graduate from college, which makes for a very frustrated Kulot), and - just recently - highlighting books.

You see, I love taking care of my books, especially the hardbound ones. I'm saving them for my future two-story bookshelf for when I have my own house (I will make this happen, you'll see). And even though I rarely have a problem with people writing dedications on the back of the cover or on blank pages (as I, myself, am also a big fan of said practice), and will only frown ever so slightly upon people who dog-ear pages (my mother does this, and I've developed the habit of straightening out the pages of her books right after she's read them, kinda like the Dog-Eared Book Patrol), I will go into a fit - nay, I will die - if I ever see someone so much as write a squiggly mark on the text.

This is where my problem comes in. I've only just recently started writing down my thoughts on the books that I've read, and I realized that it's hard to do so when you don't have notes. Yes, you actually need notes to write notes about books. Sure, I can keep a pad and pen with me when I read, but this, too, gets difficult when you read like I do:
  • lying down on the bed, or on my tummy, while
  • eating something - usually food involving crumbs, like cookies - and
  • too engrossed with the book to even pause and write that sudden thought down for future use.

I tried writing notes on the margins with a pencil, but then the fear of writing something really stupid and then forgetting about it until years later when my future children read the same book and laugh at their mother's idiotic commentary struck me, and so I quickly erased said idiotic commentary. I tried using Post-its, but instead of reading I ended up making non-obtrusive bookmarks out of them (which, by the way, I will patent, unless somebody beat me to it).

And so here I am, reading my (literally) shiny copy of Charles Yu's How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, a book so good I wish I could dip it in a bucket full of highlighter ink, when the idea struck.

Highlight the passages, duh.

Notice the said soon-to-be-patented Post-it non-obtrusive bookmark, which I might call Dog-Ear in replacement of actual dog-ears (yay I'm so witty). I'm on this page of HTLSIASFU, and this is (by far) my favorite quote from the book. Thank you, highlighter. I can now read in peace.
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The September-October book piles, aka I need a new reading strategy.

So I pretty much bummed around the house the entire month of September... which really isn't that big of a deal, considering the fact that it's what I've been doing for the last three months. What's surprising, though, is the dismal number of books I've read the previous month - four novels, of which I'm gonna cheat with and say I read one per week.

It's a bit of a let-down, really; this abysmal  reading turnout has prompted me to ask the quintessential question for every bum out there: I have all the free time in the world, yet not enough time to do the stuff I wanna do. Where has my time gone?

So far, I've only been able to post one book review and author interview, while the rest are saved as drafts, waiting for me to publish them. I honestly don't know what I  am waiting for exactly, or why I'm even waiting. I feel kinda lost in (or is it with?) my reading, if you know what I mean.

My September reads are not too shabby, if I may say so myself. Of the four, three are review copies sent to me by their publishers, while the other one is a giveaway I won from 2 months ago and only recently got around to reading. Room is a finalist for this year's Man Booker Prize (fingers crossed!), and Billie Girl won the Leapfrog Fiction Contest last year. Oh, I even got included in author Robin Spano's virtual book tour for Dead Politician Society! Expect their reviews sometime this week.

I'm kinda excited with this month's book pile, mainly because I've decided to turn over a new leaf and organize my life, even though I'm not doing much at the moment (perks of not being in school). I'm not really big on the whole organizing scheme of things and setting schedules for myself - I prefer winging stuff, and needless to say it hasn't done much for me recently (more on that on my personal blog). For one, I've set reading goals for myself, set some deadlines (my biggest weakness), and even scheduled to post one review a day (since I'm still hell-bent on posting reviews of books I've read for the entire year). My main goal this year is to read at least seven more books in order to cap off my Project 52 list and allow me to work on my A-Z Reading Challenge next month (yes, I'm actually thinking ahead, so stop snorting).

My October to-be-read pile includes: my second Erma Bombeck book (the first one being A Marriage Made in Heaven: Or Too Tired for an Affair, which I randomly grabbed from one of our book shelves sometime during high school); the first book whose passages I will attempt to highlight as a step to writing better reviews (more about this dilemma later); an ebook I won over at LibraryThing last month but never got around to reading much because, well, it's an ebook; and a bunch of egalleys I got from NetGalley and I'm dying to read but can't because the internet holds too many distractions and I have the attention span of a cute little hummingbird.

That's pretty much it. Check back a month from now and see if I ever got around to achieving said goals. :)

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Author Q&A: Randa Jarrar


Randa Jarrar grew up in Kuwait and moved back to the United States after the first Gulf War. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Five Chapters, Guernica, The Oxford American, The New York Times Magazine, The Utne Reader, and The Progressive. She has received residencies from Hedgebrook and the Eastern Frontier and was chosen to take part in Beirut39, which celebrates the 39 most gifted writers of Arab origin under the age of 40. She has an MFA from the University of Michigan, where A Map of Home won a Hopwood Award. The book also won an Arab-American Book Award, and was named one of the best novels of 2008 by the Barnes and Noble Review.
  • A book you wish you'd written:
 Autobiography of Red, Anne Carson

  • A book you think everyone should read at least once in their lifetime:
To the Lighthouse [by Virginia Woolf]

  • The book you'd like to read again for the first time:
Jazz, Toni Morrison, Toni Morrison

Q: I consider A Map of Home one of the best contemporary pieces of Arab-American fiction - and that's saying something, considering I don't find many that fall under that genre, or they don't get as much exposure. Did you encounter difficulties while writing and getting the book published?

A: Thank you so much for saying so. The book took 2 years to sell, and 2.5 years after that to be published. During those 4.5 years, I seriously doubted it would ever see the light of day. It wasn't until I actually held the advanced reader copy that I realized it would really be available to readers, and I wept. Every journey to publication must have its arduous moments, but mine felt truly torturous. I'm glad it's out and the wait is over.

Q: Nidali is one of the most memorable narrators I've read in my 20 years of existence (okay, a bit of an exaggeration - my earliest memory of a book I read was around the time I was seven), and while reading the book, I can't help but think that she's actually you, and this is actually your story. Was A Map of Home part memoir, part work of fiction? Which of your personal experiences did you incorporate in the book?

A: The novel is a fiction. Like all fiction writers, I used parts of myself to inform certain characters, but I had to do lots of research about the Middle East, the geography of Kuwait and Egypt, and the 1st Gulf War.

Q: One of the things that struck me most about Nidali is her potty mouth - and her no-nonsense approach to talking about sex (I still can't get over the bidet, haha). She's brought up in Kuwait then moved to Egypt, where I think the majority of society still hold conservative views when it comes to women. But not Nidali - she reminds me of Holden Caulfield from J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Has anybody told you this, or am I crazy in comparing Nidali to Caulfield?

A: People have mentioned that in reviews. The funny thing is, I've never read The Catcher in the Rye. I thumbed through it in high school but it didn't appeal to me. I was more interested in poetry then, anyway, but I think I understand the connection. Nidali came to me like that; profane and rebellious. I'm not interested in being a good girl or writing about good girls. ;)

Q: I like how you decided to use the first-person voice instead of an unseen narrator because that made it easier for me to relate to her and how she's feeling. Was this how you initially wrote the book? Were there other revisions in the story, like a subplot that got cut or a part that got revised?

A: Nidali was always a 1st person voice. I can't imagine the book any other way. I'm glad it helps the reader relate to her, but that wasn't a conscious choice on my part. I just wanted to write in a voice that interested and entertained me!

Q: What's your favorite scene in the book?

A: Probably any of the scenes set in Alexandria. I love the romanticized version of that city, the version that lives in my mind.

Q: Are you working on a new book right now? Will we be reading what happens to Nidali after A Map of Home?

A: I don't think I'll ever write a sequel, because Nidali stopped narrating her story years ago. I *am* working on a new book about a young woman, she's about 19. She's just as sassy as Nidali was, but her journey is very different.

Read my review of A Map of Home here. Find out more on Randa Jarrar's blog. You can also follow her on Twitter. ☞ [buy the book]

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Author Q&A: Robin Spano


Robin Spano grew up in downtown Toronto, Canada and was a physics major in New Brunswick before she dropped out to travel North America on her motorcycle - a 1987 Virago she bought with her waitressing tips when she was 21. She loves to explore the world  on her boat or motorcycle, and traveling to new places with her husband. A full-time writer, she is currently working on the second book of her Clare Vengel series.

  • A book you think everyone should read at least once in their lifetime:
 Eat, Pray, Love. It made me feel strong; it reminded me of the power of the mind and the value of constant compassion.

  • The book you last read:
Looks Perfect, by Kim Moritsugu. I loved it – I don’t know how it’s classified officially, but for me it was like chick lit grabs a brain. Enjoyable, quick, and lots of food for reflection. Seriously good writing, too – not a word out of place. Kim is one of my favorite writers.

  • A book you're currently reading:
Still Life, by Louise Penny. I love this one too. (I’m quick to put a book down if I don’t love it.) It’s a murder mystery, and right from page 1 the characters have been vibrant and warm. Again, the writing is excellent.

Q: The protagonist in the story, Clare Vengel, struck me as the modern-day Canadian version of Nancy Drew. Was Nancy Drew an inspiration for the character? What or who were the other inspirations for Clare, as well as for the other characters

A: Cool question. Nancy Drew was the first sleuth I read about, so I’m sure her influence must have filtered in somehow. But consciously, I don’t think Clare was influenced by anyone – except maybe a modern solo Charlie’s Angel.

Q: The book is heavy with relevant political issues as to date: homelessness, the environment, politicians who aren't really worth the taxpayers' money. You seen to know a lot about these things. Are you, by any chance, a Political Science graduate yourself?  Which of your personal experiences did you incorporate in the book?

A: I’m not a poli sci grad (I studied physics and dropped out), but I am intrigued by politics. It gets under my skin when public money is wasted. We work hard for the taxes we pay – and I’m fine with high taxes if there’s value for it. But too often that money is frittered away on non-essential things instead of being used to address real issues. We have enough money and collective brainpower to solve a lot of the world’s problems, and it bothers me that most of the time we choose not to.

This book isn’t meant to solve any of these problems – at its heart, it’s just a light, fun read – but I enjoyed asking the questions as I was writing.

Q: The one thing that kept me turning the page was how right from the start you made everyone appear guilty, from the professor to every single one of the students; I was even wondering if Brian's mother was the killer (haha). The title Dead Politician Society is just spot-on, and you mentioned in your acknowledgments that it was your dad's idea. How did he come up with it?

A: He pulled it out of his head in two seconds when I asked him on the phone one day. He doesn’t like the new title as well as the working title (Dead Politicians), which he still lets me know any time the subject comes up!

Q: I like how you jumped third-person narration from character to character; normally I'd be confused with a lot of different POVs, but I quite enjoyed it in your book. Did you originally plan to write the book this way, or did you pick it up as you wrote along?

A: I’m glad you liked the jumping narration! No, I had no plan. The book started writing itself, and I went with it. Before this, I’d only written first person present tense (and never crime), so Dead Politician Society was a total departure.

Q: Were there other revisions in the story, like a subplot that got cut or a part that got revised?

A: Tons. The original version had too many characters and the killer was way too obvious. So I cut out half the characters, merged two people into one in a couple of cases, and threw in some extra red herrings. Roberta came in when someone suggested that Clare should have a mentor and a place where she could be herself (i.e., not undercover), so readers could get to know the real her. There were many more revisions, too – I had some really good advice along the way.

Q: What's your favorite scene in the book?

A: I try not to marry a particular scene (in case it needs to get cut), but I like the scene where Matthew’s car breaks down and Clare fixes it.

Q: Are you working on a new book right now? What's next for Clare Vengel?

A: I sure am working. Next up, Clare goes undercover as a poker player at a major televised tournament. High profile poker players are being strangled in their hotel rooms, and it’s Clare’s job to figure out who’s killing them. She’s posing as a trust fund princess in designer clothes, which is a fun twist because she hates fashion and pretense of any sort. And her love life heats up in a big way.

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Review: Dead Politician Society by Robin Spano

Dead Politician Society: A Clare Vengel Undercover Novel by Robin Spano
ISBN 1550229427 (ISBN13 9781550229424), ECW Press ☞ [buy the book]

From the back:

The mayor falls down dead in the middle of a speech, and a university secret society promptly claims credit for the murder.

Clare Vengel is given her first undercover assignment: to pose as a student and penetrate the society. She’s a mechanic in her spare time, and thinks book smarts are for people who can’t handle the real world. Instead of infiltrating the club, she alienates a popular professor, and quickly loses the respect of police superiors.

Another politician is killed, and Clare is horrified that student idealism could be ramped up to the point of murder. She gets into gear, forging friendships with students, and a romantic involvement with a key suspect.

When two more politicians die, Clare knows that the murderer she has to unmask is someone she has come to consider a friend. She only hopes that the friend doesn’t unmask her first.

I've never read a single Nancy Drew book in my puny 20-year existence, a fact which has been a cause for ridicule by one of the guys I used to date (he was big on The Hardy Boys, so it follows that he date girls who grew up reading Nancy Drew - but I was an exception, sorta). All I know is that she was this chick who solved crimes with coiffed hair. So to compare Clare Vengel - the protagonist of Robin Spano's first novel - to Nancy Drew would probably be a bit off, maybe even disappointing to the former. Clare Vengel is by all means a better modern-day version of the classic female detective.

Set in modern-day Canada, Clare is your typical rookie cop: quick to react, brash, and gets drunk on the weekend. A politician dies of poisoning, a mysterious obituary is emailed to the local newspaper, a secret society  in a university becomes the prime suspect for the murder, and Clare is the only one young enough to pull off the college girl cover in order to infiltrate it. She's given the case, one that could help her earn respect in the industry. Crude but determined, she sets off to figure out who's killing the politicians and why.

What kept me reading: The book is written from various points of views, set in chapters of sorts, which helped for the fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat reading. A multiple POV writing style might sound confusing, but the characters are so well-formed that they each stand out in their own way. The multiple POVs also made for early assumptions as to "who did it" - a couple of pages in and I was already pointing fingers, and then kept changing my opinion as I read on. By being able to read the story from the different views of the characters, you start to root for some and hate others, and be suspicious of one or two based on their motives. The book is filled with current political issues, and though written based on the local Canadian context, one can easily relate to them - adding to the complexity of the murders, even making me agree that the politicians justly deserved to die.

Then there are the subplots: Clare's relationship dilemmas (lucky girl gets a who-do-I-choose? side story); a brewing romance amongst the suspected killers; and your occasional meddling reporter who gets in way over her head. Each resolved subplot gets you closer to the end, and just like any other detective story, they're not irrelevant to the story at large, though not in the way you'd expect them to be.

  • Clare is a 20-something biker-chick undercover detective who's a grease monkey, drinks beer, and wears tight jeans. What could be sexier than that? Heck, every character sound so good-looking - especially her Political Science professor. *insert grin here*
  • Unlike any of the detective novels I've previously read, it's not as predictable as it looks. On the contrary, it makes you think you know who did it, but then screws with you when you least expect it. Or did it? (possible spoiler here)
  • The book made a reference to the TV series Dexter. I don't know about you, but that automatically earns this novel 1000 points in my book.

Final say: Fast-paced but subtle, it will keep you guessing until the very end. I will now forgo Nancy Drew for more Clare Vengel.

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I think I'm ready, ready for it. [updated]

Earlier this week I published my first post, which was actually just an excuse to brag about my recent book acquisitions (hehe). I noticed that my blog was a tad too unfriendly on the eyes, so I decided to do a total blog overhaul. Two three days later1, the blog's better-looking, and my mother has threatened to have the internet connection cut off if she catches me on the PC at four in the morning again. I'm still working on some minor modifications, but so far everything's working. I'm so proud, I forgave myself for missing out on two days of my Insanity and Hip Hop Abs workouts.

I've been busy reading three books this week and I'm almost finished with one of them2. (I'm not saying which one, but it's the book in the photo. 500 points if you can guess it.) I had a few dull moments the previous days; one time I caught myself reading the same line over and over again. It's during one of these moments that I - unconsciously, unwittingly, unknowingly - created the best invention in the history of all mankind: an unobtrusive bookmark made out of a Post-it. I folded one here and there and came up with a triangle-insert thingy to mark my last-read pages. I didn't even use glue (the triangle was folded so that the adhesive part of the Post-it sealed itself shut).

I'm so smart. Meh.

Now to post them reviews and interviews.

PS. Additional 1000 points if you can guess where the post title is from.

Update 1. The jQuery featured posts widget was just bonkers. It took me a day and a half to figure out how to make it function properly, which prompted this tweet.

Update 2. I actually finished it today. I'm still not telling what book it is, but I'll be reviewing it next week!
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My steadily-increasing book backlog will be the death of me.

Yesterday, Dad came home bearing two packages he picked up from the post office: hardcover copies of Cranioklepty by Colin Dickey and 31 Hours by Masha Hamilton, and Vickie Weaver's Billie Girl in paperback (care of Unbridled Books and Leapfrog Press, respectively). Later that afternoon, my review copy of Emma Donoghue's Room from Hachette Book Group arrived. To say that I was happy yesterday is quite an understatement.

Besides that, there's also a bunch of e-galleys I downloaded from Net Galley. Oh, Net Galley is just wonderful; I have to thank it for introducing me to Adobe Digital Editions as well. I went ape-shizz crazy and requested egalleys for every book that interested me (and 'picky' is not my middle name).

I now wake up everyday with a purpose: to read. And read. And read some more.

Did I mention Net Galley is wonderful?
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