Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Winter Blues.....

Still Sick. Still Snowing. When will it end?? When is Spring coming?? We got 5 inches of snow last night. This was the scene that awaited me when I got up this morning. Pretty, till you have to go out in it to clean off the car or shovel the drive!! Even Rocco is ready for it to be gone!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Non-Fiction Meme and a Prize

With all that I had going on this week (you know...that whole dying with the flu thing), I haven't had a chance to complete the Non-Fiction Meme created by Gautami. Isn't it funny how these work their way through the blogging world?? Anyway, I was tagged by both Iliana, from Bookgirl's Nightstand and Nancy, the Bookfool herself.

So here it is: Non-Fiction Meme

a). What issues/topic interests you most--non-fiction, i.e, cooking, knitting, stitching, there are infinite topics that has nothing to do with novels?

I have to be honest here. Until very recently, Non-Fiction was probably one of my least favorite genres. For some reason, I had written off most non-fiction as boring. But enter the world of blogging and challenges, and somehow I ended up smack in the middle of the Non-Fiction Five Challenge hosted by Joy from Thoughts of Joy. And I found some really good books!!

Of course, the books in this genre that interest me the most are memoirs. I really do find it enjoyable to read about the lives of people in different places, times and cultures.

I also like books on politics. Not everyone's cup of tea, but it interests me.

And I love Cook books. Not really to read, per se. But I love to skim the recipes for new ways to torture my family.

b). Would you like to review books concerning those?

Sure. I'm always up for a good book, no matter what genre it is!

c). Would you like to be paid or do it as interest or hobby? Tell reasons for what ever you choose.

I'm not sure I know how to answer this. Would I like to be paid to read?? YEAH! But I have received a lot of books to review, and that is actually a great payment!! Or would I like to be paid to cook?? Well....sure. In the back of my mind, I've always wanted to be a chef in some fancy-smancy restaurant. I think it's the hat that appeals.

d). Would you recommend those to your friends and how?

When I review a book, especially if it's a good one, I'm always recommending them to others.

e). If you have already done something like this, link it to your post.

2 of the best books I read last year were memoirs. The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer and Marley & Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan. Both were excellent books!

f). Please don't forget to link back here or whoever tags you.

I already linked to them at the beginning of this post, in case you missed it!

If you haven't done this meme, consider yourself tagged. Yes, again a cop out, but I think this one has really made the rounds!!

Dear Annie from Words by Annie is hosting the What's in a Name Challenge. Annie is a remarkable 11-year-old. I'm telling you, this girl rocks!! She made my day a couple of weeks ago by telling me I had won the contest from her challenge for the month of January. This week I received my prize in the mail. Many apologies Annie for not posting my sincere thank you sooner. She sent me the neatest journal (which I LOVE), a beautiful angel bookmark, and Dove Dark Chocolate Raspberry Caramel chocolates (YUMMY!) Annie, I think you are my new best friend!! I love all of it!! So....THANK YOU!!

Finally, a quick shout-out to Bibliolartist for bestowing upon me the You Make My Day award. I really appreciate it, and just know you made MY day!!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Road to Hell

....is Paved with Good Intentions. Isn't that how the phrase goes?? That's about all I could think about this week. Because that's where it felt like I was: in Hell.

Good Intention: Working extra hours at both jobs. Last week, our entire work group was decimated with the flu. A group of 8 people, covering 24 hour shifts was down to 3. So I put in a lot of extra hours helping out. I also added a couple of shifts at the restaurant the last few weeks, working for others that were sick or had things going on. Gee, isn't that nice of me?? Not really. The money helps out nicely, especially after dropping so much of it for the Jonas Brothers!!

But the last three days it finally caught up with me. Partly just being tired, I'm sure my resistance was down. And the fact that this flu seems to be EVERYWHERE.....but it finally hit me. And man, I was out for the count!! Seriously, the last time I felt this bad I had pneumonia. I was off work Thursday and Friday with a fever, a cough, and all the rest. I'm going to work at the restaurant tonight, but it's mostly because I just can't afford not to be. (The Red Cross is wonderful with benefits, days off PTO and sick days, but it doesn't kick in till you've been there 90 days. It was only 65 when I got sick).

I'm still coughing...there doesn't seem to be an end to it. Sheesh. Will this ever go away?? I've been so sick, I haven't even felt like READING. So you know it's bad. It's been hell. Yes, I realize the phrase has an entirely different meaning, but it still feels that way to me!!

Now...I'm going back to bed for a few hours. If I feel better later, maybe I'll try to post something else!!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Neil Gaiman for the Younger Set

I decided to read Coraline by Neil Gaiman (162 pgs, Harper Collins) for a couple of reasons. First of all, I have a intense literary crush on Neil Gaiman and I've decided to read everything he's ever written!! And secondly, I choose it as a selection for Joy's Young Adult Challenge.

Young Coraline and her parents moved into a new flat. They have odd neighbors, like Mr. Bobo, who was working on his "mouse" circus and the Misses Spink and Forcible, who were retired stage actresses. But for all the newness in her life Coraline was bored. So she decided to be an explorer. And explore she did. She explored the land around the flat and found the old well that was boarded up because it was dangerous. She explored the flat itself, and found there were 21 windows and 14 doors. All the doors opened except one. Her mother found the old black key and showed Coraline that the door led nowhere. Only to a brick wall....that separated the flat from the one next to it.

One night when Coraline was sleeping, a strange noise woke her. She went out to investigate, being the explorer that she was. She heard noises coming from the door that wouldn't open. But when she tried it, the door was unlocked. And what she found wasn't a brick wall, but a passageway to another flat. One that looked almost identical to her own. But it wasn't quite the same.

The next day, when her mother and father went out, Coraline unlocked the door and followed the passage. What she found was her family!! But it wasn't really her mother and father, though they did resemble them. Although, instead of eyes, they each had buttons. It was the OTHER mother and father. They made her feel very welcomed, showed her a toy box in her "other" bedroom, filled with toys that were alive and unique. The food was fantastic. And they told her how much they loved her and wanted her to stay with them. But on the table were 2 black buttons and some thread. Right then and there, Coraline decided she didn't want to stay at all. Quickly, she took the key and went back to her real flat, locking the door behind her.

But when her real parents failed to return, it was apparent to Coraline that something was very wrong. Something that had to do with the "other" family on the wrong side of the door.

For a book that is geared at the younger set, this one is indeed dark. It's actually kind of scary. I really think kids will enjoy it, especially if they like adventure stories with a villain and a young heroine. Hopefully, it won't be too scary for them. Coraline as a character is fantastic. She's smart, courageous, and extremely honest. I loved her!! The story itself is short and a quick read. And in typical Gaiman fashion, you are really never sure where it's going. All in all, I was extremely pleased with it. If you decide to pick this one up, I hope you will be too!! 4/5

Also reviewed by:

Monday, February 18, 2008

Have You Ever Heard of the Jonas Brothers??

Have you?? No?? Then you must not have young kids. Because these boys are the hottest boy band to hit the "Tween" airwaves in years. And my daughters are just CRAZY about them!! Can you believe that? They are only 7 and 5, and yet they are gaga over these guys.

Personally, "boy bands" never did it for me. Not one of them ever held any appeal to me at all. No New Kids on the Block; no Backstreet Boys: no INSYC. Then again, I'm more of a metal/goth chick myself. So when I found out the Jonas Brothers were coming the Peoria Civic Center, the last thing I wanted to do was deal with that madness. And the price was unbelievable. But a couple extra shifts at the restaurant, and a little overtime at the Red Cross...and we stocked up enough money to go. Do you think I could talk Mike into going?? Not a chance....so last night, it was truly a Girl's Night Out.

All afternoon was spent picking out just the right outfits, getting ready, curling hair, and general girl stuff. Man. I don't know what I'm going to do when these 2 actually hit their teens. I took the girls to their restaurant of choice (Buffalo Wild Wings), and got the party started. We had a nice dinner and the girls got to play video games at the table. It was actually a lot of fun.

Then we set of for the Civic Center. We had to walk a block in the cold, because I parked at the Red Cross. Just as we were getting ready to cross to the Civic Center, the nicest Security Guard came up to us. He asked where we parked, so I told him. He said because it was so cold and dark, he didn't think it would be right to let us walk that way by ourselves at night, so he found me a killer parking place in the lot for free (the parking was prepaid with the tickets, if you wanted to pay extra. I was just too cheap!) The girls even got to "touch" the Jonas Brothers bus!! I guess that was pretty thrilling.

Once inside, we were bombarded with stuff to buy. So I ended up getting the girls each a T-shirt and a light stick. We made our way to our seats. I don't know how I got such a lucky draw. We were on the Main Floor, 16 rows back..right in the middle. The girls were so short, they couldn't see a thing, so I let them stand on their seats. And the show was actually really fun. Not my type of thing, but the girls loved it. They sang along with all the songs, screamed and waved their light sticks, and jumped up and down with the crowd. The boys themselves are actually pretty talented. They play their own instruments and write all the songs.

But the piercing sound of over 10,000 screaming girls was about more than I could take. At one point, I thought my ears were going to bleed!! The things we endure for our children, I guess. It really was a fun night, but today, I'm feeling the pain. I have a horrible headache, and the onset of a nasty cold, I'm afraid. Oh well....I think it was worth it!!

3 tickets to the Jonas Brothers Concert: $177
Dinner at their favorite restaurant: $38
T-shirts and light sticks: $80 (can you believe that??)
Watching your daughters faces when they get to see the object of their first celebrity crushes live: PRICELESS

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Gothic Un-Valentine

Yes, I realize it's after the fact. But I couldn't let the Valentine Season go by without mentioning this book. The UnValentine by Sam Beeson and paintings by Jesse Draper (32 pgs, Shadow Mountain Publishing).

This book is a short little poem of sorts. Lily doesn't believe in love. And she certainly doesn't believe in Valentine's Day and the cutesy cards and mush that goes along with it. She writes in her journal about how she feels:

"Exactly midway through the frigid month of February
A day is celebrated by the dull and ordinary.
And all around me notes are passed by idiots and stupids --
Packed with sugar-mottoed hearts and naked, pudgy cupids.
This ritual, conducted under heart-shaped, crimson flag,
Does absolutely nothing for me, but to make me gag!"

I have to tell you, this little book is a treasure! When Patrick, from Shadow Mountain Publishing offered to send it to me, I was a little surprised. It didn't seem like something I would like. But Patrick must have been reading my blog, because my inner-goth girl fell in love with this poem!! The paintings are gorgeous and although the poem is rather simple in prose, the meaning certainly hits home!!

The best surprise of all comes at the end of the book. Included are 6 un-valentine cards that YOU can send out. Purely genius!!

I realize this isn't much of a review. There's not a lot that I can say without ruining it for you. But if you secretly (or maybe not-so-secretly) hate Valentine's Day, have a little goth in you, or just want to look at the beautful pictures, then you must buy this book!! That's the best recommendation I can give!! Next to a bouquet of black roses, this is the best Valentine I could imagine!! And many thanks to Patrick for sending this one my way! 5/5

Thursday, February 14, 2008

After the Honeymoon - Booking Through Thursday....and Happy Valentine's Day!

I had a post ready for today, but I liked this suggestion from Chris even better, so … thanks, Chris!

Here’s something for Valentine’s Day.
Have you ever fallen out of love with a favorite author? Was the last book you read by the author so bad, you broke up with them and haven’t read their work since? Could they ever lure you back?

As EVERYONE who reads this blog knows, Stephen King is probably my very favorite author. I HEART his work. Of course, there have been books I haven't enjoyed (need I remind anyone of The Tommyknockers??) With the amount of books and stories he has written, I'm going to give him a break on the few clunkers he's published. So the answer is NO. I have never fallen out of love with Uncle Steve. I will never break up him!!

Now....that being said, I used to be a big fan of James Patterson. I though his Alex Cross series was fantastic. At first. Then he started pumping out the books so fast that I was afraid they would start to lack content. And they did. Each new book was the same as the last....the stories started to become so formulaic that I just quit reading them. And really, I don't see myself wasting any more time on them. So, I guess I did break up with Mr. Patterson!!

Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sneak Peek: Coraline

Neil Gaiman, how do I love thee....let me count the ways!! When I get a chance to post a review for Coraline, I will. Till then, you must settle for a sneak peek of the animated movie that will be coming out in 3D (supposed next February...but that seems so LONG!)

Did you Watch it??

Hopefully I'm not the only one who was incredibly excited for the season premiere of Jericho last night! I know my friend Kookie was watching, since I talked her into renting the first season on Netflix. Now she's hooked!! This is truly one of my favorite shows. (Truth be told, I think I have a slight crush on Mr. Skeet Ulrich!) Besides, it's in the legendary status of TV Shows. A show that was cancelled by the network....and brought back by a deluge of fan support. THAT doesn't happen....ever! So....we definitely need to keep the ratings up so it sticks around for a while longer.

This season is going to be good too. It started out 4 weeks after the ending of last season's battle. After Jake, I definitely think Mimi is my favorite character. That girl's got a big set of brass ones, if you know what I mean!! So WATCH it!!

Other than that, not much going on around the Toland household. Both Bonnie and Chris gave me the You Make My Day award. I love you guys!! It warms my soul to know that you like to read my blog!! And you both make my day as well!! I've already passed this little one along, so I don't see the point in nominating anyone else. Yeah, I know it's a cop out. But seriously, you ALL make my day. It's nice to come home and read comments from the masses. So consider yourselves nominated if you are reading this post!!

Bonnie also gave me a Friendly Site Award. And I know I need to pass this along, but I'm limited on time. So expect to see another post soon!!


Sunday, February 10, 2008

What a Week.....Random Thoughts

Sheesh. What a week. Forgive me for my lack of posting, but it's been CRAZY this week. The ups and downs of the polls. Work, work, and more work (have I mentioned that today is my first day off since January 13th!!). Snow, snow, and freezing cold temps. Slumber parties (NOT at my house!) and preparing for Valentine's Parties. And a massive migraine that about put me out for a day or two. Computer problems. (Oh yeah. Chris, as much as I love you, your move to Wordpress has been HELL for me!! Trying to upgrade to a different IE explorer wiped out all my settings....and has almost made it impossible for me to log on at all. I still can't get to my email!!)

So today, on my only day off in a month, I'm sitting by the fire (today's high so far has been 6, and the wind chill hasn't left the negative numbers). I'm messing around on the computer. And I've got a stack of books that I would love to dive into....soon!! Although I did go out for some breakfast with the kids, I'm now getting ready to take a HOT bubble bath and throw back on the flannel pj's. There is nothing like a little lounging to make the body feel good!!

As far as the polls go, I'm incredibly boistered to see that my man Barack is doing well!! I love that this country is finally putting aside color and making a decision based on content. If you've ever heard the man speak, you would understand what I mean by this. He really makes me excited about the future of this country! As much as I would love to see a woman in the White House, I really don't think Hillary is the candidate for me. She's a politician through and through. And her sell-out to the health care industry just leaves me with a bad taste.

But enough about politics. I hope all is going well for everyone. I'll try to catch up on your blogs tonight. I seem to have baraged with requests for reviews. That's something I never thought would happen to me!! The review books are pouring in...and I haven't the time to read at all!! So far this month I've received:

  • Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
  • Irreparable Damages by Karlene Heinkel
  • The UnValentine by Sam Beeson
  • The Wednesday Letters by Jason F. Wright
  • The Winter Rose by Jennifer Donnelly
  • The Forgery of Venus by Michael Gruber
  • My Soul to Keep by Melanie Wells
  • Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos

Yeah...I've got a lot to do!! Finally, Teddy from So Many Precious Books, So Little Time tagged me for a short little meme. Thought I would play along!

The rules of this particular meme are:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages)
2. Open the book to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence
4. Post the next three sentences
5. Tag five people

So....from Coraline by Neil Gaiman:

"Beside the decapitated rat, a smug expression on it's face, was the black cat. It rested one paw on the gray glass marble. "I think I once mentioned," said the cat, "that I don't like rats at the best of times." "

Hmmmm...that is an interesting quote!! I'm not tagging anyone this time. I'm quite sure you are all tired of my tags.....but please play along if you like!!

Now....It's time for my bubble bath!!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Yes We Can

Today is Super Tuesday for many of us, here in the US. And I, for one, am extremely excited. For the first time, in 8 long years, I see a light at the end of a very black tunnel. I'm tired of my Constitutional Rights being tramped on by a select few who think they have that right. Politics is an extremely polarizing topic. And I don't plan on jumping on my soapbox. Because, if I did, this post might never end!! Let's just say, I'm VERY political in nature and I have a lot of very strong opinions.

Right now it's our chance to let our voices be heard. It's time to make a stand. This country needs change. So, please get out there and vote.

Stephen King, my very favorite author...as you ALL know.....wrote an article in EW about the presidential campaign. He is a bit concerned about how "pop" the election is becoming. Personally, I think it's a good thing. It's about time people take an interest in the way this country is being run. Today, when I went to vote, I was so proud to see that the election officials at my precinct were young. College kids. Even some high school kids were there. To me that says something. As a Generation X'er, I have lived through decades of apathy from the masses. (Man...I said I wasn't going to get on a soap box. Damn)

Finally, I want to leave you with this:

I guess this shows you where my feelings are!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Want a Little Magical Adventure???

Why did I read Erec Rex: The Dragon's Eye by Kaza Kingsley (400pgs, Firelight Press)? I had bought the book for my son for Christmas. He loves anything Dragon related. But I have to admit, *I* only picked up the book when Ms. Kingsley asked me to take part in her blog tour. But I have to tell you, I'm very glad I did!!

On one of his very first days in New York City, Erec Rex awoke to find that his mother had gone out. She had left all six of her adopted kids with a sitter, and had left their very, very modest apartment before everyone had gotten up. But when Erec saw her glasses on the sink in the bathroom, he knew something was wrong. His mother NEVER left her glasses. In fact, she actually slept with them on a chain around her neck. In that moment, Erec got one of his "cloudy" feelings. Sometimes, when something bad was going to happen, Erec would get a "cloudy" thought....and he would be commanded to do what it told him. He had no control over himself. This time, the cloudy thought ordered him to find his mother! And the first place to look was Grand Central Station.

After a little bit of deception from his brothers and sisters, Erec was able to get away from the babysitter. Armed with only a picture of his mother, her glasses, and the cloudy thoughts, Erec set off for Grand Central Station. He showed his Mom's picture to all the vendors, and yet no one claimed to have seen her. Finally, the young girl at the Newpaper stand, told him to meet her away from the stand. She knew where Erec's mother was, but couldn't be seen talking to him by the owner of the stand, her uncle Earl. The girl's name was Bethany, and she had seen Erec's Mom go with some men, under the station. And not just under, as in subway. But through a hidden entrance under the street!!

Erec and Bethany soon set off on a magical journey to far-away lands. In a world where magic is the norm, and all the people in "Upper Earth" are losers who have forgotten the magic. A world where Kings and Queens rule, although their time is almost at an end. To find the new rulers of the land, a contest is taking place....a contest in which Erec and Bethany find themselves thrust in the middle.

When Harry Potter went into legend status, a lot of people tried to use the same formula to sell books. Boys and Magic. But this series, while using the magic background, is so much more than a blatant Potter rip-off. The worlds that Erec finds himself in are so different from our own. It's fun to see Erec and Bethany, two kids from "Upper Earth" try to make their way through the magical lands of Alpium. And while we get a small glipmse of who Erec Rex really is, the backstory about him and his brothers and sister is only touched on in this first book in the series. There is a lot of mystery surrounding this family, and a lot of questions still left to be answered. So I guess I'm going to have to continue on to find any really answers!!

All in all, I really enjoyed this book!! It was fun, mysterious, and magical. I think it's a great book for kids and adults alike, especially if you have a love of fantasy. Even if you don't, you will probably find Erec a really great character. Fun read!! 4.25/5

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A Much Better Day.....

For the entire past week, I've been in some sort of funk. Guess all I needed to do was come here and seek a little help from my friends!! You are all so sweet!!! So here is a little bit of why my day was much better:

Both Debi and Nymeth left me posts that said they had given me the "You Make My Day Award"!! Talk about making some one's day. Debi and Nymeth are two of my favorite bloggers (and not just because they said nice things about me! Which they did.) But because they are both kind, genuine people. I really want to thank them for making my day just a little bit brighter.

Debi's daughter Annie is the host of the What's in a Name Challenge. Talk about a prodigy. Annie is 11! I think Debi has done wonders homeschooling her. Not only is she a voracious reader, Annie is destined to be a famous author. She completed NaNoWriMo (something most adults couldn't do!) And I read her intro. It's fantastic! As the host of the challenge, Annie is having contests and giveaways throughout the year. And guess what?? I won for January!!

Finally, yesterday at work I got a surprise. As you know, I work for the Red Cross, Biomedical Division. Our region, The Heart of America region, services over 45 different hospitals, including a few in Chicago such as Rush, Northwestern, and U of Chicago. Of those 45, we also have 5 local hospitals, and a whole bunch of smaller, country hospitals. We have certain set deliveries to each of these hospitals, and we also do emergency runs to them as well. To do this we rely heavily on volunteers. My admiration for these men is huge. They do this out of the kindness of their hearts, and that's it. The don't get any pay. Some of them drive hundreds of miles a day. A round-trip drive can be over 350 miles. All of them are retired. They don't get to meet the people they help. And yet, they go out whenever they get a call, even in the snowstorms. Their level of commitment just amazes me.

Now I tell you all this because it makes my day to talk to these gentlemen. (Walt is 87, and yet he drives for the Red Cross at least 3 X a week!) Last week I was talking to Bob, one of our local drivers. He comes in one day a week, and spends his entire day driving to all the local hospitals. Some times many times to each. I was asking him if he had any plans for the weekend. He said he was going to do this and that...and then he said the magical words: Book Sale!! It was the Lakeview Museum Bi-Annual booksale. My eyes must have lit up because he asked me if I like the read!! Duh, that was an easy one. So we started talking about books. I had really wanted to go to the sale, but I had to choose that or go see my brother (who I haven't spent any time with in over a year). Luke won out, but it was close!!

Bob came in yesterday for his volunteer day. He knew I wasn't able to go to the sale, but I asked him if he found a lot of good things for himself. He proceeded to pull out a bag of books...that he bought for me!! Bill Bryson's Walk in the Woods, a couple of thrillers and even some fantasy hardback books by Tor!! He apologized because he didn't know anything about fantasy and hoped they would be good. I almost started crying. Isn't that just about the sweetest thing you've ever heard of?? I gave Bob a hug, and now I have to think of something to do to repay him for his kindness.

All in all, yesterday was a great day. I feel so much better....mostly because of the kindness of others. A heartfelt thanks to all of you!!