Friday, May 30, 2008

Since it's Useless to Resist.....

why even bother?? Darla is hosting the Irresistible Review Challenge. Just when I thought there weren't any more challenges I would possibly want to join, here come a few more!! And I'm joining them. At this point, does it really even matter?? Does it matter that I've committed to read more books in all the challenges I've joined than is humanly possible for me to read?? Nope. I'm just happy to join in the first place!!

So here are the rules to Darla's Challenge:

1. Read 8 books between now and Labor Day (September 1) that you were inspired to read after reading a fellow book-blogger's review. Ideally the books will be ones you'd never heard of or would probably not have considered reading had it not been for the review. If you expanded your horizons or went beyond your usual reading comfort zone because of the review, all the better!
2. Write a review of the book on your blog.

3. (The most important step) Make sure you link to the review that inspired you to read the book in the first place!

4. Books read for other challenges count.

5. There is no need to make a list ahead of time - for this type of challenge, it's probably best to remain open to serendipity in the bookblogosphere!

The main problem with this challenge is there are SO MANY books out there, that I had a hard time choosing. And I decided to keep my options open. So here are the first 6 books, with the last 2 selections to come.
  • Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen (reviewed by Bookfool)
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale (reviewed by Debi)
  • Life as we Know it by Susan Beth Pfeffer (reviewed by Chris)
  • The Sky Inside by Clare B. Dunkle (reviewed by Becky)
  • Voice of our Shadow by Jonathan Carroll (reviewed by Nymeth)
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart (reviewed by Darla)

Now you guys need to help me choose my last 2 picks!!

Trish from Trish's Reading Nook is hosting this year's Classics Challenge. Lately, I've been neglecting my Classics. It's sad, but I just haven't had time to keep up. Trish set up a Challenge blog, and everything. Here are the rules:

RULES (keep reading for the bonus):
OPTION 1: Read FIVE classics.

OPTION 2: Read FIVE classics from at least TWO different countries

OPTION 3: Read FIVE classics with any combination of at least TWO different countries and TWO different genres (see above for genres).

Cross-posting with other challenges is allowed (and encouraged!);

Audiobooks are fine; books must be finished after July 1st to count for the challenge although re-reads are acceptable.

Lists don't have to be set in stone; you can change your selections at any time.

Have Fun. Oh ya...there will be a drawing for a prize or two. To be entered you must complete any one of the above options. You do NOT need a blog to participate.

Am I going to define what a classic is? Nope! There are lots of definitions offered on the Internet, but essentially we all have different opinions so don't stress too much--and see the bonus below.

BONUS!! (optional)
As you can see, I'm requiring FIVE classics for six months. For the sixth book, I would like the participants to offer suggestions for books that may not be considered classics but that you think should be or books that you think will be a classic one day. Leave your suggestions in the comments below. I'll compile a list of the suggestions and you choose a book from the list and make that your sixth read. I realize this means you may have to wait to make your list if you choose to participate in the bonus round, but I'm hoping this is a modern twist on the old classics challenge. are my 5 + bonus for this year's Classics Challenge:

  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • The Far Pavilions by M. M. Kaye


  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The last thing I wanted to mention was Callista's Daring Book Challenge. She has set up this challenge as either a set reading tract or just a perpetual challenge. Here is the challenge blog, A Daring Book Challenge. The key is to read the "list" from The Daring Book for Girls'. The list is HUGE, hence the perpetual challenge. But the books are cool. Girl's Classics, Favorites, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Classic Girl & her horse books, Mythologies & Fairy Tales, Old Fashioned Girl Detective Stories.

I know I will never be able to read all the books on the list, but I'm going to read some....and I wanted to pass this along!!

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wizards and Werewolves

Last year, after faithfully watching the Sci-Fi Channel series The Dresden Files, I decided it was time to read the books that inspired it. And I was blown away by the book Storm Front. You can read my review here. But it seems now that if I want to read anything, I have to add it to a challenge list!! So, as a category of Urban Fantasy, I added the second book in the series to my list for the Once Upon a Time II Challenge, as well as the TBR Challenge and the Spring Reading Thing Challenge. Figured I would get it in somehow!! And Fool's Moon by Jim Butcher (352 pages, Roc) certainly did not disappoint!

I never used to keep close track of the phases of the moon. So I didn't know that it was one night shy of being full when a young woman sat down across from me in McAnally's Pub and asked me to tell all about something that could get her killed.

For Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, Chicago's only professional wizard, life was rough at the moment. Business was slow. OK, business was almost non-existent. Since the "episode" last spring, involving a dark wizard and Chicago's drug trade, his main source of income, working with Chicago's Special Investigations Unit, had all but dried up. Lt. Karrin Murphy was still a little pissed at Harry for leaving her in the dark over some of the more Supernatural elements to the case. In Harry's defense, he really was trying to keep her safe. The White Council had strict rules about too much information going to mortals. But Murphy didn't see it that way. She thought Harry was keeping things from her and with Harry's loyalty in question, she had backed away from using him as a consultant. So when Kim Delaney, a novice wizard, offered to buy Harry dinner in exchange for some information, who was he to argue? A man had to eat.

But when Kim wanted information on containment circles, Harry knew she was way out of her league. She didn't have the experience or the power to create the kind of circle she was asking about, and Harry didn't want to give her information that could get her in trouble. Then, in walks Murphy with a brand new case, one that Harry might be able to give her some guidance in.

But when Murphy takes Harry to the crime scene, he knows that bad things are about to happen. The corpse in question is one that he knows: a henchman for Gentleman Johnny Marcone, Chicago's biggest crime boss. That isn't so much the problem. The problem is it looks like the body was "eaten" by wild animals. But just as they were investigating the body, the FBI shows up and interferes with the case. Because this isn't the first body to found in this condition. 12 others just like it.....during last month's full moon cycle.

Murphy doesn't believe in the existence of werewolves, but Harry does and she wants to know all about them. With 3 more days in the cycle, others are going to die if something isn't done. And when the next body is discovered....the body of Kim Delaney, Harry makes this case a personal one. Werewolves, Hexenwolves, Lycanthropes, Loup-garou....there is a lot of activity in Chicago, and only one wizard that can figure out what is going on!

I don't think I can express how much I love this series!! Harry is one of the coolest characters to come along in the fantasy world, and I just love him. He's smart, funny, chivalrous, and moral. He WANTS to do the right thing. And yet, he's human, albeit a wizard. He has faults and flaws just like anyone else. Fool Moon moves at a lightning-fast pace, and the pages just seem to turn themselves. The plot is rich with unexpected turns and twists. And poor Harry seems to have everyone gunning for him. But can a few little wolves keep Harry down?? Well...I guess you'll just have to read it and find out. I dare you not to fall in love with Harry Dresden and this series!! 4.5/5

Monday, May 26, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Holiday weekend? Not so much for me. I worked more of it than I was home! But I did take some time this afternoon, and take the kids to a matinee. Yeah! I love movies!! And one of my very favorite of all the onscreen heroes has always been Indiana Jones!! So.....armed with a large soda and a big bucket of popcorn, off we went to see Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

I, personally, liked the older, slower, grayer Indy. I mean, come on....the man IS in his mid-60's now. Still sexy. Indiana Jones has always appealed to me. He's a, studious, READER.....then he puts on the hat and leather jacket and he's the complete action hero. Nothing has changed in that regard. And the return of Karen Allen was just an added bonus. Marion Ravenwood will always be the best of Indy's leading ladies. Cate Blanchett plays the villainous Irina Spalko. It's actually kind of a waste of her amazing acting talent. But she's very good at being evil. And I was a little disappointed with Shia LaBeouf's character. Very sullen and not all that much too him. I had hoped for a little more.

Did I enjoy the movie?? Of course. It's Indiana Jones. Did I love the movie? No. The storyline was a little too sci-fi. Don't get me wrong...I love sci-fi. But not in an Indiana Jones movie. He's a man whose feet are firmly planted in the past. Archeology digs and ancient civilizations. The added "alien" storyline (and this isn't a find out in the first 10 minutes that the villains are looking for something that came from Roswell) just didn't do it for me. Mike and the kids loved it though. But for me, it didn't even come close to Raiders or the Temple of Doom.

But I would love to hear what you guys think. Anyone else see it yet??

Sunday, May 25, 2008

This is Definitely NOT Walt Disney's Snow White....

Fairy Tales. Who doesn't love a good Fairy Tale?? I think we all do. Face it. There is just something heartwarming about the "Happily Ever After" idea. Especially when it's mixed up with a little fantasy. It's one of the categories that Carl has chosen for the Once Upon a Time II Challenge, and it's the reason I choose to read White as Snow (White as Snow, Red as Blood: A Dark, Sensual Retelling of Snow White) by Tanith Lee (320 pgs, Tor Books). This book is a part of Terri Windling's Fairy Tale Series. It has an amazing cover by artist Thomas Canty. Unfortunately, this is the best part of the book!

Once Upon a Time, in winter, there was a mirror. And this mirror was a gift to 14-year-old Arpazia, the King's daughter. But when the brutal Draco conquered all the land, Arpazia and the mirror were both taken over. But instead of killing her like most of the King's people, he took her with him. When she became pregnant after he brutally raped her, Draco decides that he must marry her and make Arpazia Queen of the new land. When a daughter was born, Arpazia wanted nothing to do with the child. She could barely bring herself to acknowledge the girl, named Candacis (or Coira).

First off, I have to say, I wanted to like this story. I like the idea that a simple tale is taken and made into a darker story. The Book of Lost Things used that very same idea and I loved it. But White as Snow was just lacking something. Or maybe it wasn't that is was lacking, but that it contained TOO much. Not only was Tanith Lee retelling the Snow White tale, but she was trying to compare it to classic Greek Myth of Demetra and Persephone, where Persephone as the daughter was a younger "self" of Demetra. She also tries to parallel the story of Persephone being taken into the underworld by Hades. Then there is also the storyline of Arpazia joining in the pagan ceremonies with the wood's people. Oh....and finally she tries to equate the Seven Drawfs with the Seven Deadly Sins. What comes out of all these metaphors and parallels is just one big jumbled mess.

And even if the storyline was a little more clear cut, the characters are such lifeless creatures that I just wanted to scream. Arpazia starts out being a victim. She is totally justified in her hate of the King and even her reasons for not wanting to be around her daughter. But once you start feeling a little sympathy for her, Lee just turns her into a complete loon. And Coira is such a boring character. She is completely without emotion. When her own mother pays someone to kill her, does she get angry or resentful? No. Life sucks. That's it. Nothing you can do to change your destiny. Coira was little like a goth in that fashion. "The whole world was against me, and I guess I just have to suffer for it." The guard took the pouch, examined it, and let them into Hell's mansion. This was like life, too. You must even pay to be abused, as you were punished for being hurt. Sheesh. It really got on my nerves.

Normally I would love a retelling of a known fairy tale that turns a dwarf named Stormy into the romantic lead, and the handsome prince into the king of Hell, who just happens to be a crazed, sex-obsessed, narcissistic necrophiliac. (Yep, Lee really does go there!) But this book just left me cold. I think part of the problem is that a lot of Lee's writing in this book is stream of consciousness. Something that I'm not fond of to begin with. Top that with characters that I just plain hated and you've got a book that did less than nothing for me. And I so wanted to like it, but White as Snow was such a struggle for me to read. Better luck next time, I guess! I would still like to try another in this series. Let's hope that it's just Snow White that gives me to the Blues! 2/5

Friday, May 23, 2008

Weekly Geeks # 4 - Tibetan Freedom

This week’s theme: Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

Oh Lordy. Someone's giving me a soapbox! Where do I begin? There are so many issues that I'm extremely passionate warming, saving the planet, LGBT Rights, Humanitarian rights, how do I proceed from here?? I've seen a lot of great posts this week. So instead of trying to build on what someone else has already said, I thought I would through out a new topic: The Freedom of Tibet.

As with a lot of things in my life, I came to understand a little about Tibet from music. Back in 1999, we attended the Tibetan Freedom Concert, not for the politics, but the music. Rage Against the Machine, Beastie Boys, The Cult and Eddie Vedder were on stage, just to name a few. But the passion these artists showed for this cause got me thinking....

Tibet was an ancient country the size of Western Europe when it was invaded by the People's Liberation Army. A place with a unique culture, history and identity, Tibet has been changed dramatically by the Chinese invasion. This has not only changed many lives and cost its people the freedom to practice their culture, religion and language as they wish, but has also seen a calculated process put into place by which Tibetan culture is gradually and finally eradicated. I, for one, am appalled by the Chinese, and still can't believe the International Olympic Committee chose Beijing as the next site for the games.

According to, here are 10 facts about Tibet:

1. The invasion of Tibet began in 1949. Chinese occupation has resulted in the death of over one million Tibetans, the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries, nunneries and temples, and the imprisonment and torture of thousands of Tibetans.

2. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's political and spiritual leader, fled Tibet in 1959 to Dharamsala, India, followed by over 100,000 Tibetans and established the Tibetan Government-in Exile. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for a steadfast dedication to non-violence.

3. Tibet, before occupation, was a nation with an established sovereign government, currency, postal system, language, legal system, and culture. Prior to 1950, the Tibetan government also signed treaties with foreign nations. The Chinese government claims that Tibet has always been part of China, yet its invasion of Tibet resembles imperialist aggression that China accuses other powers of exhibiting.

4. The "Tibetan Autonomous Region" (TAR) is not Tibet, nor is it autonomous. The Chinese government has divided historical Tibet into one region and several prefectures and counties, with the TAR encompassing only the central area and some eastern regions of Tibet.

5. The basic freedoms of speech, religion, and assembly are strictly limited, and arbitrary arrests continue. There are currently hundreds of political prisoners in Tibet, enduring a commonplace punishment of torture.

6. The Chinese government increasingly encourages Han Chinese to migrate to Tibet, offering them higher wages and other inducements. This policy is threatening the survival of Tibetan people. Tibetans are becoming a minority in the TAR. Yearly, thousands of Tibetans still flee from Tibet, making the treacherous journey over the Himalayas into a world of exile.

7. Historical Tibet was a vast country, with an area roughly equal to Western Europe. Tibet is the source of five of Asia's largest rivers, which provide water for two billion people. Tibet's fragile environment is endangered by Chinese strip-mining, nuclear waste dumping, and extensive deforestation.

8. The Chinese government claims to have “developed” Tibet, with “developments” mainly benefiting the new majority Chinese, not Tibetans. China, neglecting education and healthcare, has spent millions of dollars building infrastructure; many roads, buildings, and power plants directly support heavy militarization, allowing China to maintain Tibet as a police state.

9. The Chinese government aggressively seeks foreign investment for its “Go West” campaign, with use of these international funds to develop Tibet as a resource extraction colony and consolidate regional control. Foreign investments in Chinese companies legitimise China's colonisation and exploitative projects that harm Tibet.

10. The United Nations and international community have done very little to address the core issue of China’s illegal occupation of Tibet. China represents an enormous market and cheap labour force, and its associated businesses have such a strong lobby that officials are reluctant to take substantive measures. Since western countries adopted policies of so-called “constructive engagement” with China in the 1990s, the human rights situation in Tibet has only deteriorated.

Here are some great books to read on the subject as well. Heinrich Harrar wrote the book Seven Years in Tibet about his life before the occupation. He escaped a British Prisoner of War camp in 1945, and made his way to Tibet. He fell in love with the country, but left after the Chinese invasion. He returned in 1982, and the book Return to Tibet is his experience in the country AFTER the invasion. It truly is a heartbreaking book, although Harrar has a lot of hope for a truly peaceful country of people.

Tears of Blood: A Cry for Tibet by Mary Craig is another fantastic book that is powerful and heartbreaking. It tells the story of the persecution of the Tibetan people and the colonization of their country. She did tons of research and also has many interviews with refugees of Tibet that are now living in India. If you want a look at the atrocities that the Chinese have plagued upon this country, read this book.

The final book is a wonderful book. And it just proves that even one person can help change the world. It's called A Beginner's Guide to Changing the World: A True Life Adventure Story by Isabel Losada. Although Losada isn't exactly the most well-versed author on this subject, her heart is definitely in the right place. Here are her adventures, as one woman tackles trying to make a difference in the quest to free Tibet.

As I said before, I'm very politically active. Although we feel the need to stick our noses in wars all the time, America has steered clear of trying to help the occupied people of Tibet. And it's a travesty. I think you will all feel the same if you read up on the subject just a little.

Thanks Dewey for such a relevant Weekly Geeks!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

It's the End of the World as We Know It.....

Becky, Becky, Becky. I hope you know you are KILLING me with all your challenge ideas!! This one, however, is one that I just can't pass up. It's the End of the World Challenge, and it's hosted by Becky from Becky's Book Reviews. And although I have been using these challenges to try to broaden my reading, this one goes right back to my roots! Rules are easy. Read 3 novels from May 2008 - Sept. 15, all dealing with end-of-the world or post-apocalyptic subject matter.

Well...I love this stuff. The Stand by Stephen King has been one of my favorite books since I first read it....YEARS ago. It's actually one of the few novels that has ever garnered a re-read from me. I've read it 3 times!! Not many books compare to it, but I guess I'm going to have to try!!

Here is my challenge list. Yes, I know. Longer than 3, but I just can't help myself. It's a sickness, you know.

  • Life as We Knew It by Sarah Beth Pfeffer
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, Jr.
  • The Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld (Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras)
  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Oh yeah...this is going to be fun!! And since I know you are all singing REM in your head (and yes, I know every word to this song!):

Coming soon: My list for Darla's Irresistable Review Challenge!! At this point, it's hopeless to resist!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Weekly Geeks #3

This week’s theme comes from Samantha, who suggested that one week we all write about our fond memories of childhood books.

You could approach this several ways. I’ll probably list my favorite childhood books with maybe a paragraph about each book: why I loved it, how old I was when I read it, where I got the book, etc. You could also just pick one childhood favorite and review it as you would any other book. Or, if you’re fast, you could make up a meme other weekly geeks might like to use. It’ll be interesting to see how everyone personalizes this theme. Don’t forget to come back and leave a link to the post in your comment once you’ve written your post. No wrap-up post this week; just the one childhood books post.

Ah.....reading memories from Childhood. What a fun topic!! The really funny thing is, I don't have a lot of memories of reading "kids" books. What I mean by that is picture books. This isn't because I didn't love books at an early age because I did. But I was a sick little girl. I spent more time out of Kindergarten than in it. And when I was in the hospital, I had a tutor. So when the other kids were working their way through the Mat and Pat books one at a time, I had already been through the entire series. So, in essence, I skipped reading a lot of picture books. That's not to say I still don't have a couple of favorites. I always loved Dr. Suess. I mean, really who doesn't? Horton was always fun, but my personal favorite was Bartholomew and the Oobleck. Yeah, I know. I was weird right off the bat!! I can remember actually checking this out of the grade school library MANY times! My grandma also had a couple of really awesome Richard Scary books. They were really large hardbacks, and they were filled with fun!

But by 2nd grade I had graduated to reading books that were much harder. That's when I found the "girl sleuth" novels. Nancy Drew, The Bobbsie Twins, and my personal favorite: Trixie Belden. I SO wanted to be a part of the Bob-whites!! One of the gang. Be friends with Trixie and Honey and Jim and Mart. I loved these books. I read everything our little library had. And my grandma used to take me shopping on Saturday mornings. We'd go to the Little Professor Bookstore on the square in Taylorville. I swear, that woman really knew how to feed my book habit!! Then she introduced me to Agatha Christie. I was really young, and they took me forever to read. But by the end of 4th grade, I had read most of her works.

Jr. High brought on all the cheesy teen Romance books. The Sweet Dreams and Wildfire series were awesome! So wholesome, now that I think about it. Times were different in the 80's, that's for sure. But read one, and you've read them all. Boredom set in. And the discovery of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and John Saul. Not really what you would call "childhood" books. So I guess I'm at the end of this post!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Modern Day Faerie Tale

This weekend I needed something to read, so I picked up Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale by Holly Black (336 pgs, Simon Pulse). It's a book I'm using for the Young Adult Reading Challenge, though I think it would fit perfectly well in a category for the Once Upon a Time II Challenge.

Kaye Fierch isn't your average 16-year-old girl. She hasn't been to school since she was 14. She got a job to help her Mom pay the bills. To be honest, she was more of an adult than her Mom, who spent all her nights in bars singing in a band. Besides, Kaye was always considered a little weird. As a child, she spoke to Faeries, though everyone thought it was all in her imagination.

When an attack on her mom left the two without a place to stay, they were forced to go back to New Jersey to stay with Kaye's grandmother. As Kaye got a chance to look up old friends, she meets a Faerie Knight that is wounded. This starts off a chain of events that leads her right in the middle of a war between the two Faerie Courts, the Seelie and the Unseelie. The bright and the dark. The tradition of the Tithe is being brought back. It is the sacrifice of a mortal. And it will require that all the solitary fae, those that aren't a part of either court, be bound for seven years in servitude to the Unseelie court.

Just when Kaye starts to understand that she herself is set up to be the mortal sacrifice, she is blindsided with more news. For the last 16 years, Kaye has been living a life that wasn't hers to live. She is not a mortal at all, but part of the Fae world herself. Now with her mortal friend, Corney, and the Dark Knight, Roiben, she has to figure out who to believe. Things are not always as they seem.

I really enjoyed reading this book, although it is exceedingly darker than I originally expected. Holly Black has created a strange and dark world in which faeries aren't exactly the nicest creatures around. In fact, they are down-right frightening!! Kaye is a great character in that she has feet in both worlds. She is faerie by birth, but having lived in the mortal world for 16 years, she is starting to understand the delicate balance of power between the two worlds. And the need to keep each world in it's place.

My only major complaint at all is that this book IS marketed to the young adult set. As a 16-year-old girl, Kaye spends more time in bars with her mother than anywhere else. She drinks and smokes and is a high school dropout. There is also a lot of sexual innuendo that is just way too much for those under the age of 16. It's not a book that I would go right out and buy for my son, who reads at this age level now, at age 11.

But for older kids and adults, I think it's a unique story about new worlds. And I'm looking forward to reading Ironside, the follow-up to this book. 4/5

Also Reviewed by:

Sunday, May 11, 2008

I Need to Recover Before I can Post......

I HEART Ministry!! I'm sore all over....I think I'm one big bruise right now. And I have the worst headache. But I got to meet the man. I just hope my pictures turned out.

Since I hurt too much to post, here is a video of my band:

And this one is a little more recent:

Al Jourgensen is the coolest. That man rocks my world!!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Weekly Geeks, Challenge Number 2

For some reason, this week I seem to be woefully behind. Of course, that really is a state of being for me!! So, here, FINALLY is my Weekly Geek post!!

Dewey's post:

The theme for Week 2 is something I borrowed (yes, she said it was ok!) from Darla at Books and Other Thoughts. She says in her sidebar that if she reviews a book that you’ve reviewed, you can email her and she’ll link to it in her review. I love this idea for three reasons.

1. As a blog reader, I like that I can have my review linked in someone else’s blog.

2. As a blog reader, I like that if I’m interested in a book Darla writes about, there will be other reviews linked at the bottom of the page, so I can get other viewpoints. You can see how this works

3. As a blog writer, when I review a book, I often remember that I read someone else’s review at some point, but whose? And when? With Darla’s method, people tell her about their reviews, and she can see what they had to say about a book that is still fresh in her mind.
So here’s your challenge! If you’re willing, adopt Darla’s policy in your own blog. I realize this is a big commitment, so think it over first, but I think it can be really community-building.

Dewey is right. It is a big commitment. And I have to say, I actually wavered a bit on it this week. But after thinking about it....I think it's a great idea!! Truthfully, I haven't read nearly as much this year as I would have liked. But I've enjoyed everything I've read so far, so it's all good! On my left sidebar is this list of books I've read in 2008. I'll be watching the comments carefully on this post....and any future reviews. Leave a comment here, or feel free to email me at stoland at ameritech dot net. I'll be happy to link your review in my posts....both going forward and the ones I've already completed. You can also go here to check out my list for 2007 as well if you are truly ambitious!!

I haven't had a lot of time to check out everyone else's posts....but I will be doing that slowly! Savouring my time reading everyone's blogs!!

So....this policy has officially been adopted by me!!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Short Stories for the Once Upon a Time Challenge's not Monday. Or even Tuesday. But I finished Joe Hill's 20th Century Ghosts (336 pgs., William Morrow) and I wanted to write a wrap-up review of it. And I do have to say, it certainly was a treat to read!! I've been very lucky lately to find some real gems when it comes to Short Stories. I read this book because a) I've been dying to read something by Joe Hill and b) it fit the category of "Folklore" for the Once Upon a Time II Challenge.

Short Stories are so hard to review because there's just not that much to them. I've already posted on 6 of the stories I've read. That leaves 9 left un-reviewed. I really enjoyed all the stories, although some exceedingly more than others. So I'll hit the highlights with the final 9.

The Black Phone is probably every parent's (and kids) worst nightmare. John Finney was waiting for his father on the front step's of Poole Hardware store, drinking a grape soda. An average, boring kind of day. As he was sitting there, a man was trying to get his groceries in a van across the street. When he dropped his grocery bags, John ran to help him out. Everything was fine, until he let his guard down and the man sprayed him in the face with something that temporarily blinded him. The next thing he knew, he was shoved in the van and driven away. It seems that the "Galesburg Grabber" had struck again. 4 boys had already disappeared, never to be seen again. One of them, John knew. It was a boy he had played baseball with. You never think this kind of thing could happen to someone you know. And you especially don't think it could ever happen to you. John was put in the basement of the man's house, with only a mattress and a black phone. Unfortunately, the old fashioned black phone wasn't even connected. But that didn't stop it from ringing....and messages from the boys who had already disappeared coming through the wires.

The Cape is the story of Eric, a young boy that liked to play superhero. He had made a cape out of his old blanket....and even had his mom stitch a red lightning blot on it. When he was climbing a tree one day, the branch beneath him broke. And to his and his brother's amazement, Eric didn't fall. With the help of the cape, he was suspended in the air. At first. Eric ended up falling and had to be hospitalized. Right next to his brother, who decided to try out the cape for himself....and ended up falling off the roof. With all the accidents, their mother decided the cape must go.....but when Eric finds it 20-years later in a closet, the magic is still there.

Last Breath is the story of a doctor who "captures" and stores the dying breath of people. He runs a museum of "silence" for people to listen to the last breath of others. Most people laugh, until they hear for themselves that there really is something inside all of those seemingly empty jars......

My Father's Mask is an incredibly disturbing little story that is like a nightmarish version of "Through the Looking Glass". Jack's parents pack up the car for a weekend away. It was a last minute trip and Jack isn't exactly happy about being whisked away. The family is headed to the family cabin on Big Cat Lake to meet with an "appraiser". Jack's mom tells him that they are in trouble. They are in deep money trouble, and the "playing card people" are after them. Jack must be careful because they can't let the playing card people see him. They are "so flat they can slip themselves under doors". They are dangerous. At first, Jack thinks this is all a game, until they reach the cabin and he sees all the masks. When the appraiser comes, Jack realizes it isn't antiques that is being appraised!!

Finally Voluntary Committal is the journal documentation of what actually happened in the disappearance of Eddie Prior. He was Nolan's friend, until something bad happened between them. And Nolan just wanted him to go away. Nolan's little brother Morris made it happen, although no one would believe it. How can it be possible that Morris had created a gateway into another world?

I was so impressed with each story in this collection!! Joe Hill has an amazing talent for telling a story. These stories are all just a little creepy, and a lot fantastic! The one thing Hill seemed to gleam from his father, is his gift for the surprise ending. There were a couple of stories, like The Cape and Dying Breath that left me with my jaw dropped!! Not at all what I was expecting. And that's a good thing. I really hope to read more from Joe Hill, starting with Heart Shaped Box. If his novel is half as good as his short stories, I'm sure I'll fall in love with it!! 4.5/5

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Reading Challenges and More Shoulder Woes

It's official. I've completely lost my mind. Not only am I signing up for another challenge.....I'm signing up for 3!! Nuts, I tell you. My name is Stephanie and I'm a Challenge Addict! I seem to be struggling to keep up with the challenges I've already committed to. Man. I need my head examined. But they just seemed to fun to pass up! no particular order, here they are:

The 1% Well-Read Challenge is hosted by the lovely Michelle from 1 More Chapter. I LOVE the concept of this one. "The goal of this challenge is to read 10 books in 10 months from the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. For you non-math people, 10 out of 1001 is approximately 1%, hence the title. The challenge will run from May 1, 2008 through February 28, 2009." Go Here to sign up! I actually thought I WAS fairly well-read until I read this list. Apparently, I'm not!! Out of 1001, I have only read 38. Wow. That is not a big number at all!! Most of the ones I've read are Classics too. So....trying to get a big variety, I opted for books in all the centuries (except the pre-1700's!) And, as always, I reserve the right to change this list!

  • The Devil and Miss Prym by Paulo Coehlo
  • Atonement by Ian McEwan
  • Choke by Chuck Pahlanuik
  • The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood
  • Less Than Zero by Brett Easton Ellis
  • The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • Far From the Maddening Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • The Monk by M. G. Lewis

  • That's 10. I could have listed, like, 100 more!! But we'll take some baby steps here.

    Maggie, from Maggie Reads, is once again hosting the Southern Reading Challenge. I participated last year, but didn't finish. I'd love to actually complete my list this year!!

    The rules are easy. 3 Southern Setting Books by 3 Southern authors in 3 Months (May 15 - August 15). Sound like fun?? But, of course!!

    You would think that only picking 3 books would be easy. But it's not. Southern Literature encompasses a lot of books, and it was horrible trying to narrow down the list.

    The Little Friend by Donna Tart

    Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

    Dead Sleep by Greg Iles

    • And finally, The Chick Lit Challenge. I don't read much "Chick Lit" any more. I used to bury myself in it. Truthfully, I usually like my books with a little more meat in them. Most Chick Lit is light and fluffy. But I have shelves of it taking up space in my house. And it really is a great way to relax. With the summer months coming up, I can always use a light read, so I thought I would join. Hosted by Journey to the End of my TBR (love the name!) it's only 3 books. Figured this challenge would motivate me to purge some things from my books shelves!! Here are my selections:

      The Pact by Jennifer Sturman
    • Tall Poppies by Louise Bagshawe
    • The Givenchy Code by Julie Kenner

    OK....enough with the challenges! In other random thoughts, I went to my Dr's appointment yesterday. He gave me the results of my MRI. I have a "frayed" rotator cuff. Not as bad as a complete hole in the cuff, but still kind of nasty. The worst part of it is that I have tons of fluid in the bursa, and a bit of arthritis near the collar bone. His recommendation is surgery. Ack. I did NOT want to hear that. He said I could try the steroid injections, but with an injury this bad, the chances of it working are only about 30%. I don't really like those odds. But the recovery time for surgery is about 3 months. At least 6 weeks off work. Right now, I can't really afford to be off that long. And we are so short-staffed, it would kill them to have me gone for that long. So.....I think I might see if the injections will give me a bit of relief, and worry about the surgery after summer is over. But that's how I feel today....who knows tomorrow!! I have decided I really am too young to be feeling this much pain all the time. Decisions, decisions. What's a girl to do??

    Friday, May 2, 2008

    If I Go Green, Do I Have to Stop Buying Books???

    In the past few years, the concept of "Going Green" has become a really big deal. When Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth in 2006, I for one was moved. Each and every one of us can do a little something to help save our planet before it is too late. If you check out the Inconvenient Truth website, there are plenty of little things we can do each day that will help out. I try to do my part with recycling, changing our regular light bulbs to the energy-saving bulbs, and cutting the temperature in the house. I still drive an SUV, though. Trust me, if I could afford a new car right now, I'd be buying a hybrid. Especially now that the price of gas is through the roof. But I didn't know my favorite habit could be destroying the environment!!

    Yesterday, I read this article in The Guardian about Book-Swapping sites. Did you know that only 24 books are produced from one tree! Sheesh, I have 24 books on my dining room table right now! " In 2003, Greenpeace launched its book campaign, producing evidence that the UK publishing industry was inadvertently fuelling the destruction of ancient forests in Finland and Canada. It found that one Canadian spruce produces just 24 books, which means that if you get through one book every two weeks your reading habits destroy almost one large tree every year. (In the same year, Greenpeace persuaded Raincoat Books to produce the Canadian edition of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix on recycled paper, saving an estimated 39,000 trees.) "

    How is it that it never even entered my head that actually buying books could be a BAD thing?? Stay with me folks....I'm in the midst of a panic attack! However, there is a little bright side to this post. It does look like most of the major publishers are trying to do a little something to help....with Random House leading the way. From a HappyNews Article, it states that "in 2006 when Random House, Inc., said that it would dramatically increase its use of recycled paper, saving more than 500,000 trees a year."

    'Virtually all of the major publishers have taken some steps, from Hyperion switching to soy-based ink, to Penguin Group (USA) using wind power, to Scholastic, Inc. printing the deluxe edition of ''Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'' on 100 percent post-consumer waste fiber. Simon & Schuster and the Hachette Book Group USA are among those using e-book readers instead of paper manuscripts. The Random House Publishing Group is experimenting with sending books online to media outlets."

    I personally don't like e-books. You just can't curl up on the couch with them. Looks like I may have to rethink that whole Kindle idea. But we can also do our part other ways. Check out the publishers and find the ones are doing their part. The Guardian article suggest using sites such as BookMooch and Paperback Swap to get used books instead of buying new. And there is always my favorite: using the library.

    Finally, you can go to Eco-Libris and donate to plant a few trees. Seems like a really good thing to do.

    I can honestly say, reading these articles has made me think. And that's all I'm really asking you to do, whether it's at the bookstore when you are browsing for your next read or when you shut off a few lights in the house to save a little energy. It's going to take all of us to save this planet!!

    Thursday, May 1, 2008

    Silence is Not Always Golden.....

    Lately, I've seen the book Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (208 pgs, Puffin 2001) pop up all over the blogosphere. And with good reason. This is a book I chose to read for the Young Adult Reading 2008 Challenge.

    "Older students are allowed to roam until the bell, but ninth graders are herded into the auditorium. We fall into class: Jocks, Country Clubbers, Idiot Savants, Cheerleaders, Human Waste, Eurotrash, Future Fascists of America, Big Hair Chix, the Marthas, Suffering Artists, Thespians, Goths, Shredders. I am clanless. I wasted the last weeks of August watching bad cartoons. I didn't go to the mall, the lake. or the pool, or answer the phone. I have entered high school with the wrong hair, the wrong clothes, the wrong attitude. And I don't have anyone to sit with.

    I am Outcast.

    For Melinda Sordino, high school is not going to be easy. Something happened over the summer that left her an outcast with not only her old friends, but most of the students at Merryweather High. Now this once happy, energetic, A-Student doesn't speak, is barely passing her classes, and has no friends at all. The only thing about high school that is tolerable is art class. Mr. Freeman, the art teacher, is the one person that seems to have any luck getting Melinda to open up. He's given her an assignment, and the entire year to finish. All she has to do is look inside herself, but that is almost as painful as being alone.

    There's not an easy way to review this book without giving too much of the plot away. Speak, written mostly as Melinda's inner dialogue, is sharp, funny and yet, extremely painful. High school can be such a difficult time for some kids, and reading this book left me with a bad feeling right in the pit of my stomach. Anderson's writing is just so smooth, you can FEEL Melinda's suffering.

    Honestly, this is a book that should be mandatory reading for High School students, to show them the affects of peer pressure and shunning. But that will never happen because someone would deem it too "inappropriate". Kids, on both sides of the coin, should feel what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes. If they did, they might not be so quick to judge anyone else. 4.5/5