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Parasite Positives: An Alternative To Those Other Teen Vamps October 7, 2009

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Hello Peeps! I’m back to the blog for this month’s installment of here’s how we’re re-arranging everything we’ve previously decided. For those of you on the email list, this isn’t new information. We’ve changed October’s book from Wicked (too big) to Scott Westerfeld’s Peeps . Until further notice, we’ll be meeting at 7:00 on the third Thursday at the Lemon Grove. This month’s meeting is scheduled for Thursday October 15.


Unless you’ve been living in a cabin in the woods, you know that vampires are the thing now. There is a group of teenage vampires who’ve been getting more than their share of the pop-cultural attention. It’s enough to make you want to quit the genre altogether, but before you do, you must, must, must read Peeps. This young adult novel gives us a fresh take on vampire lore. It’s not at all what you think it will be. In fact, the V word doesn’t even get much play until late in the novel. However, what’s really fun is that we get new explanations for old vampire myths. Garlic, aversion to crucifixes, light sensitivity, blood craving…it’s all in there. Westerfeld uniquely plays with the legends, and the result is delightful.

Westerfeld sets his story in Manhattan and crafts a new world within the city, specifically in the oldest part of the city that was built by the Dutch. The streets don’t even match up with Manhattan’s north/south and east/west grid. The story centers around the sweet Texan, Cal, who loses his virginity in the big city and then some. That one night [stand] results in Cal becoming a parasite carrier, and before he realizes it, he unknowlingly infects his girlfriend Sarah, turning her into a Peep (parasite positive). Cal works for the Night Watch as a hunter, and when we meet his, he is hunting Sarah.

What drives the story, without question, are the characters. The young woman who becomes Cal’s sidekick, the ever-resourceful Lace, doesn’t suffer from the kind of neurosis that too often characterizes the young women of popular y.a. fiction. Even though characters like the shrink and Dr. Rat are less developed, they are at once both recognizable and utterly original. This is a hard balance to strike, but Westerfeld does is with seamless believablity.

Here’s a review from SFF World and another from Strange Horizons.

I hope to see you all next week when we discuss Peeps. I’m just getting started on its sequel, The Last Stand.

If you’re already a Westerfeld fan, his latest novel Leviathan, the first in a new series, came out yesterday.


August Meeting Update August 8, 2009

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For our August meeting on the 27th at 7 pm, we will indeed be meeting at The Lemon Grove located at 122 Federal Plaza West in downtown Youngstown. Yes! They are open for business at last! I spoke with Jacob about our meeting, and he has already placed our group in their calendar. lemon-grove-cafe

Here is the Grove’s website:  http://www.lemongrovecafe.com/

The cafe is gorgeous! They have done a great job creating a wonderful community space. Be sure to get down there and check it out!

Happy reading,


Family Tragedy in India July 23, 2009

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For our August meeting, we will be switching from our usual fourth Tuesday to fourth Thursday of the month for the rest of the year. That means our next meeting will be on Thursday, August 27 at 7 pm. Tentatively, we will meet at the Lemon Grove located in downtown Youngstown. This meeting place may change if the Grove is not open for business by then (I know they are close!), so an update will be sent out and posted here to make sure everyone knows where to meet.  Our next book will be  Arundhati Roy’s  The God of Small Things:


Here is a brief summary and some reviews:


And here is an old interview with the author:


At the next meeting, we will vote on a new selection for November, so be thinking about a title you think our group might enjoy. And if you are interested in getting a head start on the reading list for the rest of the year, click the the Book List link to the right of this post.

I’m looking forward to seeing you all in August. Until then, happy reading!


A Thriller Set in Seville July 8, 2009

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The potlucks have been a lot of fun and delicious, however for this month’s meeting, we will meet at the Inner Circle on the campus of YSU, Tuesday July 21 at 7 pm. This month’s selection is The Seville Communion by Arturo Perez-Reverte:

This one looks like it’s going to be a perfect summer read! If you would like to know more about this author (this is the first I have heard of him), here is his website: http://www.perez-reverte.com/SevilleCommunion/description.asp

And here is a review of the book if you would like a quick overview: http://www.mostlyfiction.com/mystery/perezreverte.htm#seville

I’m looking forward to seeing you all! Happy reading!

Memoir and Memories June 17, 2009

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Since the potluck worked so well last time, we’re doing it again. We meet in two weeks, on Tuesday June 30th, 7:00 at my (Kris’s) house* for a potluck. I’ll have meat and veggie burgers and fixings. Bring a side dish or dessert and your favorite bottle (or bottles). This month, we’re reading Mark Helprin’s Memoir from Antproof Case.


If you haven’t started it yet, get going! It’s 514 pages long (but, unlike last June’s pick, House of Leaves, you won’t have to read it upside down and diagonally). Oh, and it’s not really a memoir. It’s a fictional memoir. Although, I guess we could argue that they all are.

Here are some reviews:

This meeting marks the one year anniversary of our book club, and from what I know and hear about book club success, we’re doing pretty well. We usually have ten or more people at each meeting, about half of whom have read the whole book, and we only go off topic about 60% of the time, so yay us! All kidding aside, most book clubs don’t make it this long, and I’m thrilled that we’re still going strong.

In more news, I’m going to start sharing the book club duty branch with Julie Cancio Harper and Miriam Klein who have graciously agreed to co-organize and co-facilitate the book club meetings (and I hope co-post to this blog). I’m so grateful to both of them.

So please, come out and join us for this anniversary meeting, and someone, bring a cake! Even if you don’t finish the book. You know how we are.

*If you’re a bookclub regular, you’ve already gotten an email from me with my address. If you’d didn’t receive that message, contact me at kharrington@ysu.edu.

Surviving the Minions of May May 18, 2009

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Go ahead, roll your eyes. I deserve it. Titles were never my strong suit. Moving on…

minionsThis month is an exciting one for the Oakland Book Club. We’re meeting Richard Bowes, author of Minions of the Moon, one of our two scheduled books. If you  haven’t gotten a copy of it yet, there is still time. Although the book is out of print, I purchased a “like new” hardcover through barnesandnoble.com for under six dollars (including shipping), and I received it in only a few days. I’m waiting to read this one until closer to the date (it’s all about my failing memory), but I’m intrigued by the description of it as an “urban fantasy” and also by the cover art. Yes, friends, I judge books by their covers.


We’re also reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor. I’m 3/4 of the way through this one, and clearly, it’s by the guy who brought us Fight Club. This is not a criticism. Where Fight Club brought us soap made from suburban ass fat, Survivor brings us spray-painted garden flowers, carefully selected from the local masoleum.  There is some fun to be had here.survivor

This month, we’re meeting on Tuesday May 26th, 7:00, at the home of Christopher Barzak. In the interest of protecting Chris from stalkers (he is an award-winning author, and if we’re honest, a hottie), I won’t print his address here. If you’re a book club regular, I’ve emailed it to you. If you didn’t receive this email, contact me at kharrington@ysu.edu.

The meeting is pot luck, so bring a dish to share and your favorite bottle of wine.

(Make sure to pick on the links. I put in the basic amazon.com descriptions along with another couple of fun sites to explore)

Urban magic, suicide cults, and cups of love… April 21, 2009

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There are several things going on with our book club over the next couple of months.

Let’s start with a shout out to book club founder, Chris Barzak. Chris will be reading from The Love We Share Without Knowing at 7:00 on Thursday April 23. The reading will take place in the Art Gallery of YSU’s Kilcawley Center. YSU Poet Phil Brady will read from his collection, By Heart, and Phil will be joined by student writers from the Penguin Review. This event is free and open to the public.

Our next book club meeting is at Charlie Staples next Tuesday, April 28, 7:00 to discuss Z.Z. Packer’s collection of short stories Drinking Coffee Elsewhere. Come and get your “cup of love.”

Here are a few reviews

The title story from Packer’s collection was published as debut fiction in The New Yorker, June 2000.

For May, we’re reading two books. Richard Bowes’s Minions of the Moon. We’re trying to arrange a meeting with Bowes, who will be in the area for a week in May. Here’s a teaser from the cultural arts magazine, Rambles: “Like all good urban fantasy, Minions of the Moon deals with magic living just below the surface of everyday life. Aside from Kevin’s Shadow, there are appearances here by angels, devils and strangers from another dimension, who want both Kevin and his Shadow for their own twisted purposes. Another character is haunted by a ghost which is tied to a disappearing book of children’s rhymes.”

This book is out of print, but ordering it shouldn’t pose a problem (except that is may take a couple of weeks, so order now). If you have an account with either barnesandnoble.com or amazon.com, you don’t need to do anything different but click on the used button on a book’s page, which will take you to a list of used book dealers with prices and book condition descriptions and you click one of those and go to the purchase page, just as you would with a new book.

The second book is Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor, the story of Tender Branson, a member of death cult. Palahniuk’s novel has been described as “a satire of commercial culture.” From what I’ve read, people either love or hate Palahniuk’s work, so it should make for an interesting discussion.

We haven’t set the date, place, time for May’s meeting yet, but we will soon. Remember, you don’t have to read both books to attend the meeting.

March, April, May March 29, 2009

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The four of us who met at Vintage Estates Beer and Wine in Boardman to talk about Watchmen had a good time. It was all girls, so naturally, we enjoyed a  feminist reading of the text. Really with four girls and Watchmen, it’s all but a countdown until the word “misogyny” makes its way into the conversation. I’m sure there are still more of you who’d like to get together to talk about Watchmen. Feel free to use the email list to do so.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday April 28 at 7:00 (back to 4th Tuesdays for good). Mark your calendars. Location is TBA. It’ll be a secret location, like a rave party, without drugs, and with books, so in other words, nothing like a rave party.

This month we’re reading Z.Z. Packer’s collection of short stories Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, which I’ve just found at barnesandnoble.com for $4.98 in hardback! You can’t beat that price.


And now on to May. There is a slight modification here. Richard Bowes’s Minions of the Moon is out of print, but it’s available used online. We’re still going to discuss this book, but we’ll discuss it during the second hour of our May meeting.

We’re adding another book to May, Chuck Palahniuk’s Survivor: A Novel. Palahniuk is best known for being the author of Fight Club, the novel and film that brought us light and wonderful thoughts like “I wanted to destroy something beautiful.” We’ll discuss Survivor during the first half of the May meeting.

As always, email me with questions,


Fetishists and lunatics and books, oh my! February 27, 2009

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First, I’d like to thank everyone who attended the planning meeting. It was a lively one, that’s for sure, and I was thrilled with both the number and quality of suggestions. It’s also refreshing to kick off the next couple of months with some new genres.

Note, this is a change of time: Our next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday March 25th at the Vintage Estate Wine and Beer on South Ave. in Boardman ( it’s next to Aladdin’s, where The Boathouse used to be) at 7:00.

in March, we’re reading Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons. 


This one is a graphic novel, and I have to say, I’m pretty jazzed about reading it, despite having mocked both the superhero and graphic novel genres. Seriously, the graphic novel section of Barnes and Noble is like its own little world where the normal rules of book shelving and organizing don’t apply. It’s fortunate that B and N has a guy. You know, that guy…the reason we mock superheroes and graphic novels, that is, until we need him, and then he is the superhero (and that was a helluva lot of commas).

And then, we’re all going to go and see the movie together; it comes out in a week or two. Today, I found this great article on cnn.com. It’s called “Will Anyone Watch the Watchmen?”  It really piqued my interest in both the novel and the film with this line from cast member Billy Crudup: “What would people who dress up in costumes to fight crime actually be like? Well, they’d probably be fetishists who lived on the fringes of society. They’d all be a bunch of freaking lunatics.”

Fetishists and lunatics? Count me in!

Here’s the rest of the lineup.

  • April:  Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, Z. Z. Packer (collection of short stories)
  • May: Minions of the Moon, Richard Bowes (with opportunity to meet the author)
  • June: Memoir From an Ant proof Case, Mark Helprin
  • July: The Seville Communion, Arturo Perez-Revert
  • August: The God of Small Things, Arundhanti Roi
  • September: Skycraper, Faith Baldwin and Elizabeth M. Hess (pulp fiction from the Feminist Press Femme Fatale Series)
  • October: Wicked, Gregory Maguire
  • November: Hardboiled Wonderland at the End of the World, Haruki Marakami (I have to check the availability of this one)
  • December: Linden Hills, Gloria Naylor

The best book club in the Yo. We’ve got it going on.

We’re mixin’ it up in 09! January 8, 2009

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Please Note: The meeting date has changed

This month, we’re started our first in a the series of member-selected books. January’s pick, Kindred by Octavia Butler was recommended by Laurie Delaney, who will also lead our discussion. Thank you Laurie! We’re meeting on Tuesday Jan. 27th at 7:00, but this time, Laurie and I decided to keep it cheap for the beer drinking and wing chomping among us, and thus, we’ll meet at the Inner Circle Pizza on YSU’s campus.

Here is a brief description of the Kindred from Amazon.com:

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back again and again for Rufus, yet each time the stay grows longer and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana”s life will end, long before it has even begun.

So it seems there’s this magically realistic, Quantum Leap thing going on.


I also tracked down this interesting interview with the author at wab.org (Writers and Books)

Just a head’s up, February’s book (meeting date TBA) is The Little Prince, suggested by Rob Joki.