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About Daphne Durham

Daphne Durham has been a bookworm since the age of three when she literally chewed up her first copy of “Where the Wild Things Are.” Rarely seen without a book, she reads while walking to work, at red lights, and before the movie starts. She’ll give any book a chance (the just-in-case book in her purse is as likely to be literary fiction as it is horror), but the sheer volume of must-try books often requires her to be an uncharacteristically ruthless reader.

Posts by Daphne

9 Hours with "The Lost Symbol"

I was lucky enough to spend my entire workday locked in an office with The Lost Symbol. Great fun, but I'm beat--500 pages in almost nine hours will do that to you. Let's get the first question everyone asks out of the way: Is it as good as The Da Vinci Code? Yes. Unequivocally. Really? Yes. Dan Brown is in the enviable (or unenviable, depending on who you are and how you look at it) position of proving that he can write yet another breakneck thriller, and his doubters are legion. Sure, there is a bit of a Dan Brown formula at work here: Robert Langdon is unsuspectingly placed in a predicament in which his vast knowledge of symbology and superior problem-solving skills are required to save the day. You could argue that most series featuring a recurring character rely on some kind of formula (Bond chases villain. Bond gets Girl. Girl dies by hat, or paint, or some bizarre scenario. Villain dies by poison dart or boiling water or some fittingly gruesome scenario. Bond gets another girl.). Yes, Brown's characters tend to spout random, arcane (but interesting) facts as if they were teaching a class. But that's part of the unique experience of reading his books. You're utterly engrossed in this fast-paced thriller, but find yourself pausing every so often to ask the nearest person, "Did you know that… the Smithsonian has a collection so huge that only 2 percent of it can be on display at any one time?... or that the Library of Congress is the largest library on earth?... or that thermal imaging equipment has become sensitive enough to see not just where a person is, but where they were?" The short answer is that The Lost Symbol is very entertaining--a page-turner at its very core. Even if you don't read the book in one sitting, I guarantee you'll find yourself putting the book down 5-6 chapters later than your original stopping point. If you liked The Da Vinci Code, or love thrillers where the chapters are short and the revelations heavy, you will enjoy The Lost Symbol. Just make sure you clear your schedule before you get started. –-Daphne Durham

Omni Daily Crush: "Sandman Slim"

Top 3 reasons to give my crush, Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey a try:

1. You are a fan of William Gibson. His quote on the cover was all I needed to get me to turn to page one: "The best B movie I've read in at least twenty years. An addictively satisfying, deeply amusing, dirty-ass masterpiece, Sandman Slim swerves hell-bent through our culture's impacted gridlock of genres. It's like watching Sergio Leone and Clive Barker co-direct from a script by Jim Thompson and S. Clay Wilson."

2. You're looking for a lightning-quick, hilarious hitman-from-hell (literally) revenge fantasy to tide you over while you wait for: a) this week's episode of True Blood, b) Reaper to start airing again, c) the final installation of Charlie Huston's Joe Pitt series.

3. You like your novels hard-boiled and irreverent, and your (anti) heroes dark and twisty.

--Daphne

Recommended for fans of the talents already mentioned above, as well as Kim Harrison, Jim Butcher, and Cory Doctorow.

Omni Daily Crush: "Alphabeasties"

In my last crush I fessed up to having a thing for dictionaries, so now I feel perfectly comfortable talking about my obsession with typefaces. In fact, I may use all future crushes to confess my secret reading tastes. Wouldn't that be an interesting spin on PostSecret? Reader confessions. What would you admit to loving? Or hating? Hmmmmm. Anyway, back to my crush. My point is that I love looking at typefaces and thinking about type. It all started on an incredibly dull road trip, when a designer friend of mine mentioned how important typeface was for roadsigns--how it was key to find just the right type to help travelers read signs while they are zipping along at 75 miles an hour. I was fascinated. Since then I've been collecting books about fonts. Today, I came across Alphabeasties, a book that helps the type-obsessed share and explain their interest in letters to kids. Written by graphic designers Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss, Alphabeasties is a gorgeous, interactive picturebook, where groups of letters form the shapes of animals, and a single letters paired creatively with illustrations can represent anything (a cursive "f" turns into a finch, a "p" becomes a patch on the face of a pirate, an "s" forms the body of a swan). Every page of this book is covered in engaging type, from the jacket to the endpapers to the cloth binding. A fun, creative way to teach little ones their ABCs (and get 'em hooked on type!). --Daphne

Recommended for fans of Charley Harper ABCs, Not a Box, Little Pea, and Follow the Line.

Best Books of July: "The Defector"

I have never considered myself a spy novel reader. I’ve always been a fan of espionage on the big screen--hooked since the first time I heard the words “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die,” in fact--but I admit to being intimidated by spy novels. I imagined them as too dense and loaded with acronyms for the novice reader, and requiring advanced knowledge at best and homework at worst. So, it was with some trepidation that I prepared for an author visit from Daniel Silva. I nervously cracked open my copy of The Defector--and was promptly lost to the world. I had to force myself to put it down at two in the morning so I could get some sleep. I picked it up first thing in the morning and read as I walked to the office. And in between meetings at work. And on the bus on the way to dinner with the author. When someone at dinner started talking about the ending, I literally stuck my fingers in my ears and hummed to myself. This is all to say that it has been a long time since I’ve been as taken with, or surprised by a book as I was with The Defector. I encourage those of you, like me, who have enjoyed Bond, Bourne, or Bristow on the screen, but never made the leap to the page, to give Silva a shot (I’m sure Fleming or Ludlum fans will have some recommendations as well). Gabriel Allon is one hell of an interesting character (learn more about the artist/assassin in an exclusive essay from Silva), and the best news is that once you are hooked, there are eight other books in the series to keep you occupied for the rest of the summer. I’ll leave you with my review for The Defector, and encourage spy thriller fans out there to please send me recommendations, because I for one, am sold on the genre.

Amazon Best of the Month, July 2009: "If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared." The ninth book in Daniel Silva's smart, fast-paced series about enigmatic assassin and art restorer Gabriel Allon begins with an epigraph courtesy of Machiavelli. A fitting start to a twisty spy thriller chock full of clandestine meetings, tenuous alliances, and ruthless men. The beauty of Silva's series is that it is easy on acronyms and byzantine operations (so you don't have to be a spy novel aficionado to enjoy it), and each book gives you a discreet rundown on familiar characters and back-stories (so you don't have to start at the beginning). In The Defector, the disappearance of Russian defector and dissident Grigori Bulganov draws Gabriel out of semi-retirement and into the path of Ivan Kharkov, the former KGB agent and Russian oligarch from Moscow Rules. Exotic locales, intriguing characters, and a breakneck pace make for a riveting summer read. -- Daphne Durham

Omni Daily Crush: "Pictorial Webster's"

I have a thing for illustrated dictionaries. It all started with the Macmillan Dictionary for Children. When I was a kid, I remember loving the heft of that book, the way it felt in my hands (paper over board with no dust jacket), and how the bright cover and title font were so different from my parents' dictionary (a seemingly gigantic, ancient Merriam Webster's). Every new word was an adventure. Not all the words were illustrated, so on my way to finding the meaning of "accurate" I'd be merrily derailed by a detailed illustration for "accordion" or "ace." I like to think that this is where my love affair with art and words began, and explains the randomness of my library shelves, where you may find an illustrated medical dictionary or visual encyclopedia sandwiched between copies of The Brothers K and The Glass Castle. So imagine my delight to stumble upon John M. Carrera's Pictorial Webster's: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities, a gorgeous book devoted solely to Webster's dictionary illustrations of the 19th century. Including prints of more than 1500 original engravings, and arranged alphabetically to "assume an organization that is random and dynamic," Pictorial Webster's is an "artistic experiment" to test Carrera's hypothesis on the origins of creativity--"that new ideas arise from the recombinations of old ideas." This labor of love took more than a decade to produce because Carrera, an artist and printer himself, spent years meticulously cleaning and restoring the originals, bringing them back to life in a limited edition artist's book (only 26!), from which the hardcover edition was reproduced--a process that married nineteenth century technique with twenty-first century technology. Fun, educational, and a study in word association (you'd be surprised what you'll look for after happening upon "Spider Monkey" or "Headlock"), Pictorial Webster's is a visual delight. Book nerds like myself will yearn for the glorious limited edition, but may content themselves with the companion wall cards (I love the "drum" and "dodo" that grace the "Dd" card on my desk), or the stamp set. --Daphne

Recommended for any dictionary-loving, art-appreciating bibliophile.

Omni Daily Crush: "Johannes Cabal the Necromancer"

People often ask us how we decide what to read next. My answer is that I don't really decide--I just start reading. I don't commit to just one book (I often have several going at once), and I am not one of those readers who feel compelled to finish every book they start (I know many who find this appalling--sorry dad!). This policy helps me deal with the blessing and curse of our jobs (there are so many books to read, and so little time to read them all!) and affords me the freedom to crack open any book that crosses my path and dive right in. Things that help me sort through what to keep and what to give in a box of books include anything from a clever title (a couple of us are hopelessly in love with After the Fire, a Still Small Voice), to a great quote (Colm Toibin's blurb on the cover of John the Revelator earned it a spot on my shelf), or a really good cover (yes, you can sometimes judge a book this way). This brings me to my current crush, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer, by Jonathan L. Howard. In the true spirit of a crush, I fell hard and fast--loved the cover, was intrigued by the epigraph (the opening stanza to Emily Dickinson's "A Clock Stopped"), and dug the pen and ink illustrations at the start of each chapter. I admit to being a sucker for Faustian tales, so the story of a snarky scientist who hastily sells his soul to the devil before he realizes he does in fact, need it, was enough to hook me. As an added bonus,the first chapter made me laugh out loud--always a good sign. I am only halfway through, however, so like many crushes, this one could flame out quickly. So far, it's a fun ride, and it looks like many of our customers have enjoyed it, so I’m not too worried.

Here's a taste of the first chapter to entice you, wherein our soul-less Johannes Cabal confronts Satan in hell, and they strike up a deal (cue The Charlie Daniels Band):

--

"Frankly I don't think your challenge is entirely fair."

There was a period of silence for a long moment.

Satan's periods of good nature--in common with many managerial types--lasted precisely up until the moment he was challenged. He scowled monstrously the smile falling from his face like a greased pig off a church roof…

"Not entirely fair," repeated Satan, all trace of jovial hail-fellow-well-met gone. "Not entirely fair?" His voice became that of the inferno: a rushing, booming howl of icy-evil…

"I am Satan, also called Lucifer the Light Bearer…"

Cabal winced. What was it about devils that they always had to give you their whole family history?

"I was cast down from the presence of God himself into this dark, sulphurous pit and condemned to spend eternity here…"

"Have you tried saying sorry?" interrupted Cabal.

"No, I haven't! I was sent down for a sin of pride. It rather undermines my position if I say 'sorry'!"…

Satan leaned back in his throne, and his voice dropped to the low tone of somebody who is about to abort an interview. "Look up 'Satan' in a thesaurus at some point, mortal. You'll find terms like elemental evil,' 'wickedness incarnate,' and 'the begetter of sins.' If you find 'nice chap,' 'good bloke,' and 'the embodiment of fairness,' then I would suggest you buy a new one. Do you accept the deal?"

--Daphne

Recommended for fans of Christopher Moore, Buffy, and readers who love cheeky anti-heroes.

Omni Daily Crush: "Beautiful Creatures"

When friends and colleagues ask, "What should I read next?," my first response, invariably, is "What is the last book you loved?" It's an easy way to glean someone's reading taste, and is the main reason publishers love to make grand statements like "Her book is this year's "Eat, Pray, Love"  or "He is the next John Grisham" when they pitch to booksellers. So, when I saw the poster for Beautiful Creatures butted right up next to the poster for the Twilight series at BEA, I thought, they must be trying to make this book "the next Twilight"--even if just by proximity. Imagine my surprise to find out that is exactly what it is.

Beautiful Creatures charms you from the first page, drawing you into a lush world of mystery and magic until you emerge gasping and blinking, wondering how you lost the last few hours and how many more you are willing to give up. Star-crossed teenagers, (one with a mysterious secret), find each other in small town Gatlin, South Carolina, and drama ensues. To tell too much is to spoil the fun of finding out, but let's just say that in this fresh, smart, fun read, the boy is chasing the girl who has the dark, dangerous, life-altering power. Love it, love it, love it.

'Course, it doesn't come out until December. I know, sorry, but you can't choose what you crush on, or when--sometimes the books choose you. At least you know that between now and then you'll have Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and New Moon in the theaters to keep you happy. We'll hopefully have more to share on Beautiful Creatures soon, so stay tuned.

--Daphne

Recommended for fans of the Twilight Saga, Wicked Lovely, Tithe, the Gemma Doyle series, and anyone that likes to lose themselves in a good southern gothic.

Best Books of June: "Everything Matters!" and "The Strain"

Who knew that June could be such an ominous month? My two picks for our Best of the Month feature are about the end of days. So, the book for you, really depends on how you want to go out--by flaming comet, or bloodsucking virus.

 Everything Matters!, Ron Currie Jr.'s debut novel about a guy who learns the exact date of the end of the world on the day of his birth, is one of those books where you fall in love with every character--especially Junior's stoic, devoted father. In one of my favorite scenes, Junior recognizes how knowledge of the end of the world has colored every day of his life through the help of one of the most evocative characters I've come across this year--a wry, omniscient, unnamed "we" that I've been likening to a Greek chorus:

"As you watch it becomes apparent that blue is the predominant shade of your life, nearly ubiquitous...Your life is so blue it looks like a James Cameron movie...For you, there is no anger, no joy, no indifference. There's never been anything but the sorrow of loss, paid over and over and always in advance, and your determination to go forth in the face of that sorrow. There is nothing heroic about this doggedness; there may well be, in fact, something cowardly concealed within it. Either way, you suddenly recognize--and appreciate--that more than anything else, this relentless slogging forward into life's headwind makes you truly your father's son."

 The Strain, is an apocalyptic novel of another sort, but just as fun to read. The end isn't just coming, it's stalking you. The gory brainchild of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan is the first of a trilogy--one that is sure to have fans counting down the days until each installment. I can pinpoint the moment I knew I would love this book. In Chapter 3, a plane lands at JFK and then goes dark. A baggage handler named Lo walks up a ramp to the rear exit door:

"All of a sudden it got real silent--so silent that Lo pulled down her big-muff headphones, just to be certain. She thought she heard pounding coming from inside the plane, but realized it was just the beating of her own heart....She shined her light on the long row of windows. Every interior shade was pulled down. That was strange. She was spooked now....she had a fleeting yet palpable and cold sensation of standing in the presence of a dragonlike beast. A sleeping demon that was only pretending to be asleep...Then she noticed that one of the shades was up now...Inside the plane, the darkness stirred...And she understood it then, unequivocally: something in there was going to eat her...."

My interview with Everything Matters! author Ron Currie, Jr. will be posted later this week. While I have not yet had the pleasure of speaking with Guillermo del Toro or Chuck Hogan about The Strain, we have a couple of video clips posted on the page for the book. Fans will also enjoy watching del Toro and Craig Ferguson geeking out over Lovecraft and "scary" vampires in this Late Late Show clip. --Daphne

BEA 2008: Scene and Heard

The thrills of this year’s star-studded BEA have taken their toll on our team (you know it’s been a rough week when even our most prolific blogger only manages a couple of posts), as has the absence of sunshine (why oh why do we live in this damp, dark city?). Next week folks will be back to regale you with tales from the show floor, including favorite author sightings, interviews, and must-have galleys, but I’m happy to send you into the weekend with my two fave highlights of the trip, including a King and a Prince.

41i2yoxwa1l_sl500_aa240_ I shoe-horned myself into a spot in the bustling Simon & Schuster booth to chat with the fabulous Susan Moldow (publisher of Scribner) about our beloved Nixonland, a new John le Carre for fall (I’m going to give it a shot this weekend), and a new short story collection by my favorite-of-all Stephen King (check out the just-released jacket!). But that was not the best scoop on King, nor was the news about the impending release of the second Dark Tower graphic novel, or the announcement of the comic series based on The Stand (although that one is pretty good). The best scoop on King was revealed with a wink and a whisper: “He’s working on a new novel. An epic. 900 pages in and he thinks he’s halfway done.” Music to this fan’s ears. I could have floated home--but then I would have missed the Prince party.

And what a party it was. It has been 8 days and 19.5 hours since I walked into Prince’s house (I KNOW!)415bcii7agl_sl500_aa240__3 and I still remember what it smelled like. And because the gift bags included Prince's designer perfume and scented candle, now my house (and I) too can smell that good. Celebrating the September release of his first book, 21 Nights, the party of my year took place on the palatial grounds, hosted A-list celebs (including Cameron Diaz, P. Diddy, Dave Navarro, Seth Rogen), and featured an out-of-this-world performance by the artist formerly known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. I won’t risk irritating non-Prince fans with the play-by-play (although fans can write in—I’ll tell you anything you want to know), but suffice it to say that it was surreal and, well, awesome.

From the glimpse we got at the show, the book is going to knock fans’ purple socks off—a gorgeous package featuring the lush photography of Randee St. Nicholas (see a sneak peek below), poetry and lyrics by Prince as well as a CD (available only with the book) of Prince’s live after-show sessions. And as someone who witnessed a live session, I can tell you the CD alone is worth its weight in gold. --Daphne

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Four Things I Learned on My Vacation

1. Stephen King was right about Meg Gardiner. The Dirty Secrets Club, featuring forensic psychiatrist Jo Beckett (she performs “psychological autopsies” to determine if a victim’s death was natural, suicide, or homicide) is a smart and thrilling ride. Kudos to King and Dutton for bringing her to the US.

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2. Apparently, I like westerns. So Brave Young and Handsome, Enger's follow up to Peace Like a River (my fave book from 2001), is terrific--the kind of book I want to hand out like candy after I've read it. A lyrical and evocative tale of valiant outlaws and relentless bounty hunters, it's a must-read for fans of Enger, The Brothers K (a book everyone should put at the top of their list right now) and Plainsong.

3. Thrillers dominate poolside. No one batted an eye when I pulled out Severance Package, which, by the way is fast and fun but seriously violent, even for me (and I loved The Wheelman). Booklist gives it "two thumbs up" but I can only think about how Swierczynski would have shot or chopped those thumbs off on page two. Back to poolside reading--I spotted multiple copies of the new Grisham, Down River (I almost stopped to chat with the woman reading, but she was nearing the end, and I didn't want to interrupt her), and Andrew Gross's The Blue Zone. I saw only one person reading the ubiquitous Memory Keeper's Daughter, but several people reading books by Chuck Palahniuk (including one boy who looked about 12).

4. I like myself better on vacation. I'm much less cranky when my to-do list includes only three tasks: 1. Read. 2. Eat. 3. Apply sunscreen. Soaking up the sun also allowed me to finally come up with a few six-word memoirs like my fellow omnivores. --Daphne

--Family history:

Don't mess with my little sister.

--Words to live by (applies to work, family, and sports):

Don't boo your own team. Ever.

--Advice for my fellow bibliophiles:

Life is short. Read better books.

My Turn at the Top

As Tom mentioned last week, the banner photo at the top of Omnivoracious is a real-life bookshelf—mine, this time, and since my books at home are all boxed up and waiting for shelves to be built, you are catching a glimpse of one of my always-packed, constantly shifting, nearly toppling Amazon.com office shelves. Click here to see most of the books featured.

I have many bookshelves in my office, but I picked this particular shelf because it was the least dusty and most organized. And by "organized" I mean that the books are upright (for the most part). Someday when my blessed shelves at home are built I'll unpack my boxes and lovingly organize my books by genre and by author…or maybe by genre and by title…by genre and by pub date? Hmmmm. I need to keep thinking about it. One thing for sure is that I won't be organizing them alphabetically by title. I'm an emotional reader—I choose books that suit my mood, so trying to remember what I have by title when I really just want to read something scary, or funny, or a little sad, gives me agita.

It's so easy to get distracted by the organizational possibilities…where was I? Oh yeah, my work bookshelf. I collect books in the office the way some people collect shells or sea glass. Something catches my eye--a pretty cover, a good quote, a great title--and I dump it on a shelf. Before it makes it into a box to come home with me, I comb through the stacks and save and reject based on a quick read from the first page. Starting with New England White and ending with the gorgeous paperback boxed set of Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time series, this shelf features books that I have already read (Basic Black, Matrimony, The Blind Side), books that are next on deck (Tokyo Year Zero, Exit Ghost, Life Class), and retirement books (books that I can't get to now but know that I really want to read some day, like The Zero, About Alice, Made to Stick).

Highlights include Donald Trump's Think Big and Kick Ass (a book I'll probably never read, but seriously? Best. Title. Ever.), Better (people in the office can't stop raving about it), A Golden Age (highly recommended by the publisher), In the Woods (one of my favorite books of the year), and Charlie Huston's can't-read-just-one Hank Thompson trilogy.

Favorites on the shelf? I gotta go with Harry and Hank. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was easily one of my favorite books of 2007. I'm still reeling from the first read, and I can't wait to go back for round two. Charlie Huston's trilogy ranks up there with best series ever. I keep several copies of each book on hand for whenever someone comes by moaning about not having anything good to read. I've learned to give all three books at once--it protects me from late night calls from folks desperate to know what happens next.

We want to hear from you and see your shelves, so please send photos to banner@omnivoracious.com. No shelf is too cluttered, too eclectic, too focused, or too weird. We are omnivoracious, we understand. --Daphne

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