Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Sunday Salon - What a Week

The Sunday Salon.comWhat a week. I've actually done very little in the way of reading though. I did finish one book this week:

I'm going to post an official review tomorrow. But....if you are a big fan of "Vampire" fiction in any form, you should definitely go out and buy this book!! It was campy and fun, and personally, I loved it!!

The week started out horrible with the tragedy of Ninja. The kids are feeling better about it now. And Mike and I are dealing with it as well. I think the worst at the moment is Rocco. It's heartbreaking to watch my puppy (and yes, even at 160 lbs and 4 1/2 years old, I'm still calling him my puppy!) mope around the house. I took him for a trip to the "beauty" shop on Tuesday. He LOVES riding in the car and visiting PetSmart. People fall all over themselves trying to pet him. A St. Bernard, especially a clean and beautifully groomed one makes an impressive appearance. And he struts around there like he is king. That dog thinks he's the shitz! But once we got home again, he was back to moping.

This week I've also been following the Democratic Convention and McCain's choice for VP. Anyone who has ever read this blog certainly knows where my heart lays with this one. I don't plan on opening this up as a political post. Discussing politics is one of those really touchy subjects. And you know shouldn't be. People should be able to talk about the candidates with openness and candor. But frankly, the last 8 years has left us all a little bruised and broken. No matter what side of the fence you fall on, there are people that are positively rabid about it. And I'm probably one of them. In fact, I know I am. But I'll save political discussions for another day. In the meantime I will say this: I was moved to tears during Obama's speech. Love him or hate him, you have to admit, he is one of the best orator's of our generation.

What else? Oh....let's see. I had an interview for a part-time job. I know. I know. I'm already working 2 jobs. Something will have to give if I get this job. But I really like the idea of it. It's a part-time bookkeeping position that works with the Peoria Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Oversight Commission. Pay is top dollar for part-time too. Keep your fingers crossed. (I also applied for a job at Barnes & Noble, though that's kind of like putting an alcoholic behind the bar, so it might not be such a good idea!)

With Hurricane Gustav looming on the horizon, I'm really worried about my fellow blogger, Chris. He's become a good friend this past year. I know the devastation he endured during Katrina and I hope this is better for him. A few little prayers are going out that he and everyone in the New Orleans area stays safe.

On the reading front, I'm over-the-top excited to start the 3rd annual RIP Challenge!! If you've read this post, you will know autumn, Halloween and RIP is my favorite time of year! I started Colleen Gleason's 3rd Gardella Vampire book, The Bleeding Dusk yesterday. Apparently, Tis the season of the Vampire!! I have a list of books for the challenge already, but I'd love to hear any suggestions you have!

Yesterday, we had a really nice cookout with the family, and a few close friends. Mike and I both have to work on the holiday, so it was the only day off we had. A wonderful way to spend it though. And I even got 8 full hours of uninterrupted sleep!! Imagine that.

Finally, the lovely Bookworm, Naida, informed me that I had won an autographed copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin from her!! How's that to end the week??

Happy Sunday and Happy Reading!! Also have a safe and wonderful holiday weekend for those of you here in the US!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year......

Some people love summer, with the sunny days and heat. Others love Spring, with the buds showing on the trees and flowers starting to bloom. Not me. My favorite time of the year is fall. (Granted this is a little early, and it's still in the 80's right now!) I love the chill in the air and the beautiful colors of the leaves as they change. I love going to football games in sweatshirts and drinking hot cocoa. And I LOVE Halloween, when you get a chance to see the eerie and the creepy.....and have the opportunity to change yourself into something else for a day. And most of all, I love Carl's RIP Challenge!! It signals to me that the seasons are about to change!

Since I was a teenager, my favorite genre of book runs to the creepy and the weird. I love a good Horror novel, as well as a good "Scary" movie. From my very first reading of "Carrie" when I was in 7th grade (ever so many years ago), Stephen King planted himself firmly as my Most Favorite Author ever!! And now, my waiting is done....since Carl announced the RIP III Challenge!! I'm a little late out of the gate I realize. But it's been a busy week!

And so, on to the particulars:

Dark Fantasy.

1. R.I.P. III runs from September 1st through October 31st, 2008. But I’m no stickler, start reading now if you feel so inclined.

2. Choose one of more of the perils listed below:

Peril the First:
Read Four books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Peril the Second:
Read Two books of any length, from any subgenre of scary stories that you choose.

Peril the Third:
Read One book of any length from one of the subgenres listed above.

This peril is for those who want to participate but don’t want to get bogged down in a long list of books. It is also for those who feel this type of reading is not their proverbial cup of tea but are willing to challenge themselves by giving just one book a try.

3. Leave a comment here announcing your intention to join and a link to the post* on your site, if you have one and choose to post about R.I.P. III.
*One of the things I enjoy about hosting and joining challenges is seeing what everyone else might be reading. I also like posting my own list–yet I am the first to break said list as my whims take control. So this year I want to do something a little different. Rather than posting a list of books you feel locked in to, instead post a pool of potential reads. That way we can all gather ideas from other people’s pools and no one need suffer the hangover effects of feeling boxed in by a list. Sound good? Those of you who want to participate but do not have blogs are welcome to post your book pool in the comments section here and I will link to it in the body of the post.

4. Post links to your reviews on the Yarns Review Site. I am using last year’s review site and posting a new comment thread in which you can post this year’s reviews. That way you can also go back and check out last year’s reviews (you may have to hit the ‘click here’ link at the bottom of the post to get last year’s list to pop up).

5. The most important thing: Have Fun! R.I.P. III is more than just a reading challenge. There will be contests and giveaways and some of the subject matter of my regular posts, especially as we approach October, will be more in fitting with the R.I.P. III spirit. There are artists who have committed to interviews and sales and other tie-ins as well.

For this year's challenge I have chosen Peril The First. And I have a list of my "pool" books!! I'd love to read them all, and at some point I will. But I will definitely make it through 4 for this challenge!! Here is the list that I will draw from:

  • The Bleeding Dusk by Colleen Gleason
  • When Twilight Burns By Colleen Gleason
  • The Duma Key by Stephen King
  • Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
  • The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker
  • A Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier
  • 13 Bullets by David Wellington
  • Nocturnes by John Connelly
  • Everything's Eventual: 14 Dark Tales by Stephen King
  • The Terror by Dan Simmons
  • Untamed: A House of Night Novel by PC Cast and Kristin Cast
  • Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest
  • Iron Kissed by Patricia Briggs
  • The Scent of Shadows by Vickie Pettersson
  • The Devil You Know by Mike Carey
  • Vampyres of Hollywood by Adrian Barbeau and Michael Scott (which I'm reading right now!)
  • And anything else that might jump out and grab me!!

I could probably list another 20 books that I'd love to read. We'll just see where the season takes me this year!! And even a few books of Short Stories to keep up with last year's "Short Story Sundays" (which ended up being "Short Story Mondays"!


On a side note, thank you all for your kind words about our beloved Ninja. It's been a trying week for all of us.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bittersweet Day

The first day of school. Being the complete geek that I was, I loved the first day of school. All the new school supplies, a new desk full of books filled with information and stories, lockers and friends. School was the one place I've always felt comfortable.

Today was the first day of school for the kiddies, and they took it in stride. I don't think any of them had quite the enthusiasm I used to, but it's all good. Chad is now a 7th grader, Bella is in 3rd, and Ana is in 1st. Everything went exceedingly well.

However, last night, my husband came home from work and found our beloved Ninja had died. Very peacefully. Right next to the back door. It's not like we didn't expect it really. This month he turned 14. But it was still horrible to stomach. We picked him out of a litter of puppies when he was 6 weeks old. Mike and I had been married for about a week. He's been the best dog a person could ask for, and he will be truly missed.

We didn't tell the kids until they came home from school. Just didn't think it was right to tarnish the first day of school for them. They didn't really take it all that well, and I know that's to be expected. I'm sure they will be fine. It's going to take some time to adjust. Man. Ninja has been a part of my every day life for 14 years. It's hard to let go. He was and is one of the family. I just hope he is at peace right now.
RIP Ninja
(1994 - 2008)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Reading and ARC's

The Sunday Salon.comAh.....Beautiful Sunday!! It's really kind of funny. I've had the last few days off of work, and I've done little to no reading. But I took the time to spend with the kiddies, since school starts tomorrow. And that's what I've done. We've been school shopping (a harrowing day filled with the girlies spending hours trying on "beautiful" clothes!), met up with my Mom & Dad, rented movies, and a few meals out. Overall, it's been pretty nice.

I did post 2 reviews this week. One for The Secret History by Donna Tartt, which I thought was fantastic! It was a book I read for a challenge. And the other one for Left to Die by Lisa Jackson. This book was sent to me Pump Up Your Book Promotions - Authors on the Web. And it's this book that has led me to some questions for all of you. About ARC's and books sent to you by the authors themselves.

If you read my review for Left to Die you can see I had a few "issues" with the ending. But I ended up giving the book a 4/5 review. I still think I'm keeping my position that it earned that rating because even though I didn't like a few things about the book, the story was still a first-rate thriller. But for some reason I have been questioning myself about it. Did I rate it higher because it was sent to me for review? If I had checked it out from the library, would I have rated it differently? I really don't think I would have, but the little niggling in my head has prompted this post.

From the beginning of this blog, I have maintained my position that I created it solely for me. Truthfully, I never thought anyone else would read it. But then, slowly I found a niche of wonderful book bloggers that would stop by and comment. I've made some remarkable "friends" across the world with this blog, and for that I am thankful. Then something weird started happening. I'd receive requests to review books. Damn. Free books?? I knew this blog thing was pretty cool, but that was the icing on the proverbial cake!!

I can see why publishers and authors are using the book blogs to spread the word on their books. It's a great untapped resource of readers, and really it's free advertising, aside from a few review copies that are sent. I know there is a ton of discussion right now from "real" book reviewers (ie, paid "professional" reviewers) about how book bloggers are muddying the waters of their livelihood. And I've always taken offense to that. Personally, I think I am pretty honest with my reviews. I don't think I have any bias in them, other than my own opinions. And isn't that basically what a review is? An opinion on a book? If I like it, I say so. If I don't, I say so. And with all the book review requests I get (and frankly, I've been overloaded with requests lately), I try to only accept books that I think I would like. I try to skip a lot of the non-fiction books that I don't think would interest me.

But with the pile of books I've received adding up, I wanted to ask if any of you ever felt the need to be a little more 'admiring' of a book if it was personally sent to you by an author or publisher? I know that I feel a little guilty if I have write something negative, but so far it hasn't stopped me from being honest. At least I don't think it has. (Like I said, I just had a little niggling with the Jackson book). I have been reading Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire series, and I frequent her blog all the time. I've even had some email conversations with her. But I've loved her books, so I haven't felt the guilt there. And PC Cast has commented on the reviews I have written for her books. Again, books I have loved. But I always wonder what an author would think if they read something really negative. I'm sure it happens all the time for them. Not everyone likes the same things. And surely, if I hate it, someone else will love it. That's just the way life is.

So...I'm still sticking by my 4 star review...with it's problems and all. And hope that I can still be honest with my opinions. I guess I just need to be careful of the ARC's I get. Any opinions from you guys??

On that note, I AM reading another book sent to me from Authors on the Web: Vampyres of Hollywood by Adrienne Barbeau (yes, the original "Scream Queen" herself) and Michael Scott. Thankfully, I'm loving it right now! I mean Vampires are kind of my weakness, you know!! And I have 3 author sent books to go: Farworld by J. Scott Savage, Anatomy of a Boyfriend by Daria Snadowsky, and Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall. I also have Sweetsmoke by David Fuller from the First Reviewers group at Librarything, and a couple more from William Morrow that I need to get to....soon. It's a shame I haven't yet figured out how to fore go sleep because, really, there just aren't enough hours in my day!

Happy Reading and Happy Sunday to you all!!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A Modern Greek Tragedy

I finished this book almost a week ago, and have been pondering it ever since. Originally chosen for the Southern Reading Challenge, The Secret History by Donna Tartt (576 pgs, Ballantine 1992), this book isn't Southern in the least. However, the author, is. So I guess that it will possibly qualify it as a challenge book!

"The snow in the mountains was melting and Bunny had been dead for several weeks before we came to understand the gravity of our situation. He'd been dead for ten days before they found him, you know. It was one of the biggest manhunts in Vermont history -- state troopers, the FBI, even an army helicopter; the college closed, the dye factory in Hampden had shut down, people coming from New Hampshire, upstate New York, as far away as Boston."

Richard Papen came to Hampden College as a transfer from a small school in California. Why did he choose this tiny, but prestigious college so far from home? He liked the brochure. And it was about as far away from his parents as he could get. His father wanted him to take over the family gas station and his mother couldn't understand his need to go to college at all. Anxious to be rid of the monotony that his life had become in the small tract home where his parents really didn't seem to care much for him, he applied to Hampden. With a lot of help from financial aide, he was accepted. But mounting the bus to take him to Vermont changed his life forever.

When he arrived, his chosen major was English Literature. But he was fascinated by the students who were "Classics" majors. Richard had wanted to continue his study of Greek, but found that he was not able to register for the classes. They were taught by the enigmatic professor, Julian Morrow. He hand-picked the students for the Classics, and only allowed a handful into the program. While Richard wasn't all that interested in the major beforehand, it seems that you always want what you can't have. Determined to be a part of this group, Richard tried to register with Julian, but was shot down immediately. Only when he happened upon the small group in the library trying to finish some Greek homework did his luck change. He was able to help them find some answers, and was indeed admitted to the program. However, this program was all-encompassing, and Richard had to drop all his other classes.

There were 5 other students in the program: Henry Winter, a tall, dark-haired boy that worse glasses and English suits. He was brilliant and wealthy. He studied endlessly and spoke 6 different languages. Edmund, "Bunny" Corcoran, was loud and rude, but lovable in a way. Francis Abernathy, was elegant and refined. He wore exotic clothes and pince-nez glasses. And again, came from money. The last two of the group, were the twins: Charles and Camilla Macaulay. They were blond and beautiful, sophisticated in a way that Richard had never known. And now he was one of them, although he always seemed to find himself on the fringe of the group. But eventually, they accepted him and even started inviting him to go away to Francis' Aunt's home in the country for weekends.

This book is basically 2 halves. The first is before Bunny is murdered. And the second half is the aftermath of said murder. Strangely enough, it's a bit of a mystery even though you know in the first page who is murdered and who is responsible. Donna Tartt's writing is amazing. It's beautiful, and the story which is a tough read seems to flow with ease.

Does such a thing as "the fatal flaw", that showy dark
crack running down the middle of a life, exist outside literature? I used to think it didn't. Now I think it does. And I think that mine is this: a
morbid longing for the picturesque at all costs


Tartt takes a group of kids, albeit not exactly the normal college students, and creates an intense character study of them. She throws in a planned murder and then creates an atmosphere in which their world seemingly breaks down inch by inch. Of all the characters, Richard is probably the least defined. But he is basically a good kid caught up in circumstances that were completely beyond his control. The controlling factor is Henry. From one moment to the next, you have no idea whether he is a soft-spoken intellect with only a desire to fit in, or a cold, calculating man who will do anything to achieve what he really desires: power and control over others.

Even the minor characters in the book are well-written and thought out. Julian, the enigmatic professor who seemingly loves his students. But might just love himself and his reputation more. Judy Poovey, another friend of Richard's is loud and funny. And Cloke Rayburn, the campus drug-dealer, who is a prep school friend of Bunny's, gets caught up in the disappearance of his friend and has no idea why.

Underlying all of this is the group's desire to follow Henry, even though in their minds they know it is wrong. Henry is such an incredible force, and is the epicenter of the entire story. What are his morals? And do they fit with the morals of today's society?? Donna Tartt lays it all on the line, and leaves it up to you to decide the answer to these questions. A brilliant, well-written novel, The Secret History is going to be one that sticks with me for quite some time. I realize this isn't much in the way of reviews, and I know there is no way to do justice to this book. But if it gives you a peek into a fantastic story and makes you want to pick it up, then I guess my job is done! 5/5

Friday, August 22, 2008

Left To Die in a Horrifying Way

In the last year or so I have come to find out there are a few benefits to having a "Book Blog", especially if you are a bibliophile like me. One of those benefits is the chance to read books provided to you by publishers and/or authors. I was contacted about a month ago by Pump Up Your Book's Promotions, Authors on Tour looking to promote Lisa Jackson's newest novel, Left to Die (484 pgs, Zebra 2008). Since I haven't read anything by Jackson before, I thought this would be a great opportunity to try something new.

"He's going to kill you. Right here in the middle of this snow-covered, God-forsaken valley, he's going to kill you! Fight, Wendy, Fight!"

And so our story starts off with a bang! In the sparsely populated area of the Bitterroot Mountains in Pinewood County, Montana, a serial killer is on the loose. 4 bodies of missing woman have been found tied naked to trees and left to freeze to death in the bitter winter snow, with a star carved into the tree over their heads and letters added to a cryptic note with each added victim. Not one of them have a thing in common, and none are from the area. All have been victims of car "accidents", that have left them injured but cared for, at least until they found themselves tethered to a tree. But the accidents were forced by a gunshot to a tire, not a random accident. And the killer is meticulous in efforts to create the perfect crimes.

For Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Piscoli, this case has turned into a nightmare. With each additional body, the population of Pine County is getting more and more paranoid, and the pressure to crack this case is getting to be unbearable. Alvarez is a straight-laced, newcomer to the area, and she keeps herself and her past sheltered from everyone. Piscoli is a single-mother of teens that flys by the seat of her pants and is heading for trouble by seeing the latest drifter in town.

When Jillian Rivers receives a package in the mail with pictures of a man that looks a lot like her husband that supposedly died in an accident 10 years before, she initially freaks out. When Aaron died, he left her in a bad way. Apparently he had bilked a lot of people of their life savings in a pyramid scheme, and people were pointing fingers at Jillian. Postmarked Mizzouli, Montana, home of her ex-husband Mason, the letter was cryptic. Jillian immediately sets out for Montana and a showdown with Mason, only to be involved in a car "accident" along the way. When she wakes up, she is in the cabin of loner Zane MacGregor and she is terrified for her life. Having read about the serial killings, she has no idea if she is in danger or if she is being "saved" from a fate almost worse than death.

Left to Die is a first-rate thriller, that is action-packed from page one. There are a lot of characters in this book, and lot of different story lines. One would think that might muddy the waters, so to speak. But Jackson makes it work. Is Jillian the victim of the "Star-Crossed" Killer, or is her accident the work of a copycat, since she seemed to be specifically targeted?? Is Zane MacGregor a good guy, or the killer himself? And what about the secrets that both Alvarez and Piscoli keeping? How do they relate to the killer and/or killers?

My one major complaint about this book is that it is basically a segway for Book number 2. Now, I'm usually all about the series. But this book is so completely open-ended that I was a bit perturbed. I expected a little more to be tied up by the time I closed the book. And it wasn't. I almost feel like I was suckered into having to read another book (or two). But that doesn't mean I was disappointed in the content. The storyline was a real page-turner, and I found myself mesmerized by the incredible detail of the terrain and the killer's methodology. Lisa Jackson is a talented author that will leave you wanting more. I guess I just have to wait until NEXT August to get some answers. 4/5

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Censorship

The Sunday Salon.comCensorship. I can't even say the word without getting upset. This is one topic that always gets my panties in a twist. I abhor the idea that someone else gets the right to tell me what I can or cannot read. Or watch on TV. Or listen to on the radio. I'm all about free will. If I don't like it or don't agree with it, then I don't have to read it. Period.

What brings this topic up today of all things?? I was trolling the net this morning, checking out the news and such. And I found this article about Salman Rushdie. I've always had a lot of respect for Rushdie, even though I haven't read one of his books! I've seem him on quite a few talk shows, news programs and political discussions. He's incredibly intelligent, and I agree with a lot of his views on life. One of these days, I WILL read something that he has written!

The article however is about how his publisher, Random House, has pulled Sherry Jones' debut novel, "The Jewel of the Medina". It's a historical fiction novel about Muhammad and his child bride, Aisha. A novel of FICTION. And it was pulled because Random House was afraid of the backlash it would receive from the Muslim population. "Censorship by fear" is how Rushdie sees it, and I agree. Rushdie of all people would understand how a book like this could incite people, considering he was handed down a death decree by the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini when he wrote "The Satanic Verses" back in the 80's.

I'm sure that Random House has their reasons. They said that "credible and unrelated sources" had warned that the book "could incite acts of violence by a small, radical segment." Now, Random House has the right to choose which books to publish and which books not to. That is there right. That is their job. But to pick up a book for publication, then back down because a group of people disagree with the contents is a completely different story.

Where would we be today if Mark Twain wasn't allowed to publish "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" because of racism? Or "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee?? What if someone decided that Harry Potter couldn't be published because some people might take exception to the notion of witchcraft and sorcery?

Like I said, I just don't get it. Freedom of choice. Read what you like. Don't read what you don't. Why do some people get to make that choice for me?? For instance, right now there is a new book out by Jerome Corsi. You know him. The man that is best known for the "Swiftboat" campaign against John Kerry. His new book, "The Obama Nation" is currently on the NY Times Non-Ficiton best-sellers list. It seems to be nothing more than a smear campaign of Obama thinly veiled as a Non-fiction piece. He says, "My intent in writing this book, as was the case in coauthoring Unfit for Command, is to fully document all arguments and contentions I make, extensively footnoting all references, so readers can determine for themselves the truth and validity of the factual claims." And yet, the book itself contains false statements. It has been debunked by a number of websites and political groups, including Obama himself. And yet, this book was published. And I CHOOSE NOT to read it. Simple enough, isn't it??

A guess this is just a little food for thought on a Sunday!!

Tomorrow, I hope to have a review up for "The Secret History" by Donna Tartt. I think I need some time to digest this one!! Fantastic book, though. Now I just have to decide what to read next!!

Happy Sunday and Happy Reading!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Gold Medal Reading

You, um, may have noticed that the Olympics are going on right now, so that’s the genesis of this week’s question, in two parts:

Do you or have you ever read books about the Olympics? About sports in general?
Fictional ones? Or non-fiction? Or both?

And, Second:
Do you consider yourself a sports fan?
Because, of course, if you’re a rabid fan and read about sports constantly, there’s a logic there; if you hate sports and never read anything sports-related, that, too … but you don’t have to love sports to enjoy a good sports story.
(Or a good sports movie, for that matter. Feel free to expand this into a discussion about “Friday Night Lights” or “The Natural” or whatever…)

First of all, I have to admit it. I'm am the quintessential rapid sports fan. I love sports!! I used to love to play. Now, I just love to watch. And it's not just the Olympics. I love football, baseball, volleyball, basketball.....LOVE them!! I love shouting at the TV when I'm angry and I love screaming when I'm happy!! A great Sunday afternoon is one in which I can turn on the TV and watch a football game, or a baseball game.

And this summer, the Olympics have been exciting. I haven't been this into the Olympic games since Mary Lou Retton ran away with the gold, ever so many years ago. Micheal Phelps is a big reason for that. He's amazing! Not so bad on the eyes either. The girls and I have watched all the swim meets, the gymnastics, and even the beach volleyball!

That being said, I've never been a big sports "reader". For some reason, it's never been as exciting for me on the page as it is for me to watch. I did highly enjoy Jim Bouton's CLASSIC book, BALL FOUR, a looky at the rather dark side of Major League Baseball. And FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS was also a phenomenal book. I guess maybe I SHOULD be reading more sports books.

Sports Movies on the other hand are a favorite of mine. Nothing will start tears flowing faster for me, than say the last 15 minutes of FIELD OF DREAMS. Or even FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME or THE ROOKIE. And those are just the baseball movies. What about RUDY? Man...that guy got to compete in just 27 seconds of ONE game. And it still puts a lump in my throat.

How about you?? Happy Thursday!!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Forever Night....and Then Some!

Book number two from the Amazon Vine program is yet another (gasp!) Young Adult book. It is Evernight by Claudia Gray (336 pgs, Harper Teen, 2008), and this is the latest offering in the burgeoning world of Teen Paranormal/Vampire books.

It was the first day of school, which meant it was my last chance to escape. I didn't have a backpack full of survival gear, a wallet thick with cash that I could use to buy myself a plane ticket somewhere, or a friend waiting for me down the road in a getaway car. Basically, I didn't have what most sane people would call "a plan". But it didn't matter. There was no way I was going to remain at Evernight Academy.

Bianca Olivier is about to start her first day at the Evernight Academy, an exclusive boarding school in a desolate area of New England. Her parents had been offered teaching positions with the school, and they decided it would be beneficial for Bianca, such a painfully shy girl, to be enrolled at Evernight. But Bianca had barely ever left the small town she grew up in, and hated the idea of leaving the few friends she had, especially to go live in the Gothic, eerie, and utterly creepy boarding school. And due to a change in Admission Policy, a new group of kids were admitted for the first time this year.

The "old" kids at Evernight were rich, smart, beautiful snobs. But Bianca found a kindred spirit in Lucas Ross. He was different than the others. Very confrontational, Lucas made no bones about being different from the others. And Bianca fell for Lucas....hard.

But there were many secrets the kids at Evernight were keeping. Even Bianca and Lucas had their secrets. And secrets always have a way of coming the most inopportune moments.

First of all...this is another teen vampire story. (and I'm not really giving anything away here.) In the same vein as PC Cast and Kristin Cast's Marked series, Evernight is the first book in yet another series. But Evernight has it's original moments too. There is a big "twist" in the middle that really threw me for a loop. I'm usually pretty in tune with what's going on in most of the books I read, but this one actually got me.

The characters in the book are all very well drawn out, and I loved the relationship that Bianca had with her parents. There is also a really good love triangle portion of the story involving Bianca, Lucas, and another student named Baltazar. And the plot is very suspenseful. Again, this is the case of me NOT knowing I was starting yet another series, but the ending is open enough for more. (Then I tripped on over to the author's website and found that this is the first of a four-book series!) While I think this book would appeal immensely to the YA sect because of all the "teen angst", there is still alot for adults to enjoy. The pages turned fast, and by the time I hit the twist, there was no stopping until I finished. All in all, I found Evernight to be an exceptionally good story and one that will leave you wanting more!! 4/5

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Spare Time and LOTS of Water

The Sunday Salon.comSpare time. Some of us have it; some of us don't. My spare time these days is severely limited. When I have it, I like to spend it with my kids, especially since I have been working so much lately. I also like to read. Since this is a "book blog", I think you all probably know that. And I've been doing a fairly adequate job of reading the last few months.

But this week has been different. It's been a hell of a week, to be honest. I've been really busy at work, for one thing. We are so short-staffed that there is always so much work that needs to be done. Things don't get finished on first shift, so it carries over to second shift. By the time I get in on third shift, there is even less done. So by the time all of second shift work is finished, there is barely any time to do what *I* need to do for 3rds. And then the vicious cycle starts all over again.

The cherry on top of the proverbial cake happened on Wednesday, though. I came home from work, tired and ready for some rest. But when I opened the back door, the sound of running water hit my ears. When I walked into the hall, there was running water coming through the ceiling. All the ceiling tiles had fallen....and water was everywhere. Apparently, the ice maker on my refrigerator in the kitchen had busted a line while trying to refill......and the water started running. Through the freezer, out onto the floor of my kitchen (and dining room), and finally through the floorboards into the basement. Over $6000 worth of damage. We are going to have to replace the carpets in the kitchen, dining room, family room in the basement, patio in the basement and the tile in the hallway. Also the ceiling tiles and maybe some of the floorboards upstairs. Now...the good news in the insurance agent came out right away and even cut us a check for the amount (plus $2000 to pay someone for the water cleanup.) The Bad news is my house is a nightmare, and I have to now spend my spare time picking out new flooring and finding someone to do the work.

Now that's a picture of the basement. My laundry room is down there and a lot of my CLEAN laundry has to be re-done because it got soaked. The kitchen and dining room are worse. At the moment we still have 11 industrial fans and dehumidifiers going around the house. Sounds like an airplane taking off. It's crazy.

Now, I realize this is supposed to be a book post. And I apologize. I just wanted to let you know why I have a huge lack of reading this week. I did finish my Amazon Vine book, Gone by Michael Grant. You can read my review and see the book trailer here. It was a great YA book, and although I had no idea in the beginning it was going to be a series, I am looking forward to the next installment.

I'm also reading my second Amazon Vine book, Evernight by Claudia Gray. It was described as a book that lovers of the Twilight series would be interested in. Yes, there are teens and Vampires. So far, so good! And I'm also reading The Secret History by Donna Tartt for the Southern Reading Challenge. Although the book doesn't take place in the South, the author is Southern. And the writing is really fantastic. I can't wait to get farther into it. is Sunday, and I don't think I will be reading much. I feel bad sitting around with a book in my hand when so many things need to be done around the house. The men in the house are going to Chicago today, so the girlies and I are going out for Brunch, and maybe a trip to Barnes & Noble. I've been so good lately, I'm rewarding myself with the latest Gardella Vampire book by Colleen Gleason. Then it's back home to clean up this mess! So....Happy Sunday and Happy Reading!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Another End of the World Type of Book!!

The first book I received from the Amazon Vine program was Gone by Michael Grant (576 pgs, Harper Teen 2008). It is a Young Adult book (yes, I know. Another one!). And it's one very terrifying book!

One minute the teacher was talking about the Civil War. And the next minute he was gone. There. Gone. No "poof". No flash of light. No explosion.

Life for Sam Temple in the town of Perdido Beach was spent trying to blend in. Two years ago, he was a hero. When the driver of the school bus had a heart attack while driving, Sam stepped up and pulled the bus over. But he didn't want to be a hero. He just wanted to be normal. But Sam had a secret, and he didn't want anyone to know.

Then IT happened. One minute, all the kids were in class....then everyone over the age of 15 was gone. In the blink of an eye, the world had changed. Sam, his best friend Quinn and the smartest girl in school, Astrid were trying to make sense of what happened. And everyone was looking to Sam to know what to do. But he didn't want to lead. But Sam had other things he needed to do first. Astrid's brother, little Pete, was missing and they had to find him. He was severely autistic, and couldn't handle things by himself. They tried to find him at Astrid's house and her mother's tennis club. They finally found him at the nuclear power plant where her father worked. And they also found "the Barrier". Not only were all the adults gone, but there was an impenetrable barrier that held the kids inside the FAYZ, as it was being called: Fallout Alley Youth Zone.

But when they came back to town, things were getting weird. A couple of the local bullies were trying to run the show. Nothing was organized. A couple of older kids were trying to look after the smaller ones at the daycare. The stores were being looted. Things were a mess. Then into town rolls the kids from the Coates Academy, the high-price boarding school located just out of town. Their leader was Caine, a charismatic, but egocentric kid. But at least he had a plan. He appointed a "Sheriff" and came up with rules that had to followed.

If things weren't weird enough, it seemed like animals were mutating. And some kids were discovering they had certain powers. But showing these powers meant bad things would happen to them if Caine and his sheriff found out. Then there was the question of what would happen when you turn 15. Would you just "poof" like the others? Sam's birthday is only 10 days away.....

This book is kind like Lord of the Flies meets It. And I loved it!! Unfortunately, I didn't realize it was going to be a series. Many things go unanswered, and the ending is wide open for the next book to start. I loved Sam and the way he had to step and become a man at 14. That is something no kid should have to do. But he handled it well. And the story flowed so easily, I didn't even realize it was almost 600 pages long.

Grant created an impossible world with improbable odds and set a bunch of kids in it to see if they could survive. And it's definitely one that the younger YA set could read. Nothing graphic about it at all, and it really would make a younger person think about what would happen. Food shortages, no one to care for the little ones, no doctors or cops. There is some death involved though, and it might be a little hard for some to swallow. All in all this was a great adventure and I'm so glad that I read it. Highly recommended! 4.5/5

And if my review isn't enough to make you want to read this book, just check out the book "trailer":

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Sunday Salon and a July Reading Update

The Sunday's that day of the week again. Is it me, or is this summer just flying by?? It feels like only yesterday that I was posting LAST week's Sunday Salon!!

For this week, I thought I would do a July Wrap-up. I never do this. Usually, I'm rather disappointed in the amount of time I've spent reading. Compared to a lot of other bloggers, I feel so lax. Then again, I work two jobs and have 3 kids. Sometimes I think I'm lucky to read at all!! But my 3rd shift job has lots of down-time. And since I'm the only one on the shift right now, it gives me a lot of time to read. Besides, I get antzy if I go for too long without a book in my hand!!

So here are the stats for my July:

Books Read: 7

Pages Read: 2550

ARC's Read: 1

  • The Safety of Secrets

Books for Challenges Read: 6

  • Life as We Knew It - End of the World as We Knew It Challenge
  • Crow Lake - 2nd Canadian Reading Challenge
  • Garden Spells - Southern Reading Challenge
  • This Charming Man - Chick Lit Challenge and The Pub '08 Challenge
  • Good Omens - What's in a Name Challenge and TBR Challenge
  • Jamaica Inn - What's in a Name Challenge

Favorite Book (s) - All were good, and highly rated, but I think my favorites were Good Omens and Crow Lake.

That's it for my little wrap-up. Right now, I'm STILL reading Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods. Taking my own sweet time with that one. I'm also reading Gone by Michael Grant. It's a book I got from the Amazon Vine Program and so far it's really good. Later on this week, I'll probably start something else. I just don't know where I'm going to go next.

Till next week....Happy Sunday and Happy Reading!!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

A Book to Leave you in Knots

I love Young Adult books. I think I like them more now than when I WAS a Young Adult. I don't know why. When I was younger, I wanted to grow up fast. We all did. Now, I just want to go back! Life is funny that way. Or maybe I'm just trying to analyze it all way too much. Regardless, I'm thoroughly enjoying the YA Challenge, and Twisted is the second book by Laurie Halse Anderson (272 pgs, Viking Juvenile 2007) that I've picked up for this challenge. She is one amazing writer!

I spent the last Friday of summer vacation spreading hot, sticky tar across the roof of George Washington High. My companions were Dopey, Toothless, and Joe, the brain surgeons in charge of building maintenance. At least they were getting paid. I was working forty feet above the ground, breathing in sulfur fumes from Satan's vomitorium, for free. "Character building", my father said. "Mandatory Community Service" the judge said. Court ordered restitution for the "Foul Deed". He nailed me with the bill for the damage I had done, which meant I had sell my car and bust my hump at a landscaping company all summer.

Tyler Miller was getting ready to start his Senior year in high school. For years, he had been the quiet, geeky kid that most of the football team had picked on. Then a couple of somethings had happened. Tyler had grown taller and filled out. A summer of working at the landscape company had pumped up muscles he didn't even know he had. Now he was taller and stronger than most of the football players. And of course, the "foul deed". Tyler had spray painted a couple of thousand dollars worth of damage at school and had gotten caught. Now he was "dangerous", a bad boy. The kids at school were definitely looking at him differently. Including, Bethany Millbury, only the most beautiful, popular girl at school. A girl Tyler had a crush on forever. Oh yeah, and the daughter of his father's boss.

Tyler's dad was tough and cold. Working for Millbury trust, he spent so much time at work and traveling that he wasn't around that much. But when he was, tension at home was unusually high. Both Tyler and his sister Hannah had to walk on eggshells around him. And Tyler's mom spent a lot of time with either a migraine, or a gin and tonic in her hand.

When Bethany started eating lunch with Tyler, he couldn't have been more amazed. And neither could Chip, Bethany's brother. He was Tyler's mortal enemy and hated that his sister was interested in Tyler. When the Homecoming Bonfire came around, Bethany invited Tyler to go to a party with her and her friends. Since he didn't have his car any longer, Tyler had to walk to the party. Showing up late, Bethany was around drunk when he got there. She practically threw herself at him.....and Tyler being the good kid he really was, tried to sober her up instead of taking advantage of the situation. But Bethany took it as an insult and got mad. She started making out with one of Chip's friends, and left Tyler alone at the party.

Tyler figured this would probably be the end of his dreams with Bethany. But when pictures of a half-naked Bethany got posted on the Internet, Tyler became suspect number one. Now his new found popularity is gone. And he has to prove to everyone, including his dad, that he isn't the kind of person that would do something like this.

Laurie Halse Anderson has this uncanny ability to think like a teenager. And not only that, she can WRITE like a teenager. Twisted is told from Tyler's point of view, and it's hard to believe it wasn't actually written by a teenage boy. Anderson tackles some really deep issues including sex, depression, and teenage suicide. And she does so with such realism and honesty that it's scary. I haven't been in high school for a long time, but I remember a lot of those raw feelings. Anderson just puts them all down on a page. And it's gut-wrenching to read.

It makes me a little frightened to read books like this. My son will be in 7th grade this year, and I just want to hold him and protect him from all the bad things that High School can bring. I know that I can't. I can give him love, encouragement and the tools to try to do the right thing. Then I have to let him go and trust that he will be ok. It scares the hell out of me, it really does.

Even if you don't have kids in school, this book will take you back to the torturous days of high school. It's honest, insightful, and at times, very bleak. But, in the end, there is hope. And that's all that anyone can ask for. This book is definitely not for children (and it plainly states that on the opening page of the book). But for older kids and teens, it's a wonderful look at the world of high school, and the pitfalls and temptations that could possibly face them. Highly recommended. 4.5/5