Friday, July 31, 2009

Happy 9th Birthday, Bella!!

My baby is growing up!! Today was Miss Bella's 9th birthday. This is a picture of her at the Olive Garden today. (Her very favorite restaurant!) Mike, the kids, and Grandma & Grandpa and I took her out, then went back to the house for presents. It was a lovely day.

Last night, I got to take her out by myself. As much as I work these days, I make sure that each kid gets a "date" with mom on their birthday. We had such a good time, too! I always feel so guilty when I don't get to spend much time with the kids, but this is the one day a year that is just theirs. And it was really nice. Bella and I went to dinner at Perkin's. Then we had some time to shop. So I took her to Border's so she could pick out some books (Mom ALWAYS buys books for birthdays!). We hit Bath & Body Works for some smell goods and lip gloss. Then off to a movie. We went to see The Proposal. Kind of surprised me when she picked this one out. Cute movie. We had a wonderful time!!

She got some great presents....including some Barbies, a couple of movies, the new Season 3 Hannah Montana soundtrack (Ewwww, I can't believe I actually spent money on it!), and a super-cool Twilight Messenger Bag (don't get too jealous, Michelle!) All-in-all, I'd say that it was a perfect couple of days.'s back to work for mom!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Not for the Faint at Heart - Tender Morsels

I have been putting off this review for awhile now because I really didn't know where to start. I really wanted to like this book. Hell, I wanted to love it. And that just wasn't the case. I picked up Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan (448 pgs, Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008) for a number of reasons: As a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red, it fit well with the Once Upon a Time Challenge. It is on the list of Printz honor books (and I have challenged myself to read them all). And most importantly, it is Nymeth's favorite book!! (Fortunately, she has chosen to forgive me for not liking it!)

There are plenty would call her a slut for it. Me, I was just glad she had shown me. Now I could get this embarrassment off me. Now I knew what to do when it stuck out its dim one-eyed head.

From the very first paragraph, you can tell this isn't going to be a Disney's re-telling of ANY fairy tale. Fourteen-year-old Liga lives in the woods with her father. Her mother is dead, she is scared to death of her father. Her father not only sexually abuses her, but has caused her to miscarry a couple of babies when she inadvertently gotten pregnant. Liga herself is so naive, she didn't even realize she was pregnant. But when it happens the third time, she tries to hide the fact from her father so she can have the baby.

When her father is killed by a passing carriage, Liga gets to keep the child she is carrying and her daughter Branza is born. If dealing with her father's abuse all those years wasn't bad enough, next she is attacked by five of the town's boys and gang-raped, causing yet another pregnancy. Liga then decides she has had enough pain from this world and tries to end her life and Branza's. But an intervening "spirit" won't allow it. She is given a chance at a better life in another "world". Similar to the one she knows, it is a place of her Heart's Desire. A plain vanilla world, where bad things don't happen and the bad people just don't exist. It is here that her second daughter Urdda is born.

But this Heaven can't last forever, and while Branza is content to live quiet and peacefully with just animals as friends, Urdda is more adventuresome. A few people from the "real" world have found their way into Liga's Heaven, and Urdda is determined to find out where there go. And this is the beginning of the end.

This is just a quick synopsis of the book. There is a lot more to it than just this. Other people have been able to enter Liga's Heaven. Some for their own selfish reasons. Others completely by accident. Basically, the book is broken into 3 parts. The Before Heaven, Heaven, and the Real World. I wanted to like this book, I really did. But it was just too harsh for me. I was expecting a fairy tale, and that is not what I got. Although the rape scenes are not explicit, Lanagan certainly doesn't pull her punches. It is tragic. The things that happen to this poor girl are tragic.

While some people liked the beauty of the story, I seemed to be more focused on the negatives. The real world was over-the-top harsh. There wasn't a lot of gray area here. When the women were returned to the real world, there was either good or bad. Not much in between, as you would normally see. And while, I liked the last section the best, the ending highly disappointed me. As far as I was concerned, there was no "happily ever after".

I can see how polarizing this book is: I think you will love it or you will hate it. Unfortunately, I happen to fall in the hate category. I almost quit reading after the first 2 chapters. And while I can appreciate the uniqueness of the story, I just didn't like it. If you are looking for a sweet, tender re-telling of a fairy tale, don't read this one. Because it's not. And I don't think I would consider it YA either. Maybe for older teens, but certainly not for the pre-teen or Tween set. I'm far from a prude, but the sex in this book is over-the-top. There is incest, gang-rape, drawf sex, and some really disturbing animal sex. But don't let me discourage you from reading it. In fact, I like to hear other opinions. I'm giving it 3/5 stars for being a unique and well-written story, but if I had to rate it for how much I enjoyed it it would only be a 1.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Library Loot....Plus the Books I Actually BOUGHT This Week....

Yes, it's that time again! I was going to post a book review today, but my brain is kind of fried, and I'm still trying to put into words my feelings about this book. It's a book that was well written with a unique storyline. And yet, I really hated it. So, I opted for the easy way out!! LIBRARY LOOT!! And of course, my first trip to the bookstore in forever! So...without further adieu, my "haul" for this week:

Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. Yes, I actually own this one. I own the whole series. BUT, they are all 1st Edition Hardbacks. My Harry Potters are one of my few indulgences. I'm saving them as collector's items. I'd love to get a set of the paperbacks just to have and re-read. Till then, I'll make due with the library. This is for the Harry Potter Reading Challenge.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green is on my list to read for the Printz Project. I hadn't actually planned on reading it right now. But it was a new purchase for my library, and it was just sitting there on the shelf. Looking at me. Had to grab it!!

The Monsters of Morley Manor: A Madcap Adventure by Bruce Colville, is 100% impulse pick-up. I don't even know what it's about. It also hitting a target audience that is generally a little younger than I normally read (9 -12), but I liked the cover. Looks cute.

The last book I actually checked out of the library is The Dark Hills Divide: The Land of Elyon by Patrick Carmen. Yeah, I know. Another series, right? Like I need to start one. This however is the problem I have going to the library with my kids. I browse the Kids and the YA sections while they are looking for books! It's dangerous, I tell you!

Books that I actually Purchased this Week:

Heck, Where the Bad Kids Go by Dale Basye. Isn't this just the cutest (in a really warped sort of way) book you've ever seen? It's about a brother and sister that die in a freak accident and end up in Heck (a reform school of sorts). Not quite Hell, but close! I'm really looking forward to this one!!

On recommendation from Chris, I bought Eighth Grade Bites, the Chronicles of Vladamir Tod by Heather Brewer. I actually bought it for Chad, but I'm going to end up reading it as well!! A recommendation from Chris goes a long way!

Carpe Corpus (Morganville Vampires) by Rachel Caine is book Six in the series. I have all the others, but I'm only just now getting to book 3. Since I was in the buying mood (and got a free book from Borders) I decided to go ahead and add this to my collection.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare is the first book in the Mortal Instruments series. I haven't really heard too much about this series, but I really liked the cover. Yes, I know. My shallowness is showing through again. Still, I wanted to give this one a try.

You are so Undead to Me by Stacy Jay is another YA book. This one deals with Zombies. Looks fun. Enough said!

Ballads of Suburbia by Stephanie Kuehnert is one of those books I've seen all over the blogosphere lately. Not really sure what it's about, but I thought I would see if it lives up the Internet hype it's getting.

13 Bullets: A Vampire Tale by David Wellington is another first book in a series. A Vampire Series. I've read one of his Zombie books, and liked it. Thought I would give the vamps a chance this time.

99 Coffins by David Wellington is the 2nd book in the series. What can I say? I love all things Vampire and Zombie!!

One would think this would be enough to tide me over....but on top of all these books, my mailbox was FULL the last few weeks with other books:
  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (sent as a pass-along from Chris at Stuff As Dreams are Made On)
  • The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams (I won this one from the wonderful Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading?)
  • The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos (a giveaway from I Heart Monster)
  • Afraid by Jack Kilborn (another giveaway win!)
  • Dark Time - Mortal Path (Book One) by Dakota Banks (from publisher for review)
  • BabyDoll by Allyson Roy (for a TLC Book Tour)
  • The Brutal Telling by Louise Penny (from Shelf Awareness)
  • The Twelve by William Gladstone(from Publisher for Review)
  • Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick (from Shelf Awareness)
  • The Purloined Boy by Mortimus Clay (for a TLC Book Tour)
  • Best Friends Forever by Jennifer Weiner (an Atria Galley Giveaway)
  • Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich (from Shelf Awareness)

Now....If you will excuse me....I MUST get back to Catching Fire!! Later, dear Readers!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Sunday Salon: A Little Bit of Randomness and a Couple of Challenges

The Sunday Salon.comI know. I know. I haven't posted a Sunday Salon in awhile. Not sure why. Probably because I really didn't have all that much to say! It's been one of those weeks. Back to work after nearly a week off. Spending some quality time with Bella as she "recovers" from her nasty little fall. Library days for the kids. (They finished their reading for the summer reading program and each earned a pass to the pool party sponsored by the library). Mike's been gone since Friday morning....left for a Racquetball tournament in Chicago. Amazing how quiet life is when he is gone!!

I am making a baby quilt for one of my friends. She isn't due till January, which is a good thing. It may take me even longer than that to finish it. It's really cute. Cross-stitch pattern with Noah's Arc. But SO much work. To top it all off, the girls have been hounding me to teach them. And I started to, but it is just too difficult for them. But I felt really bad, and they were so discouraged. So, off to Hobby Lobby we went, and I got each of them a Latch Hook project. Man. I haven't seen those for YEARS. But they are easy to learn and it's a nice beginning for my little crafters. We are going to make pillows out of the finished product.

Quite a few books entered my house this week, but I think I will save that for a different post. But I do want to send out a HUGE thanks to Chris for passing on a copy of Catching Fire to me!! If you were awake Thursday morning, you probably heard my squeal of delight when I went to the mailbox and found it!! I'm sure it was loud enough to hear around the world!

As far as challenges go, there are a couple I've been meaning to join for ages now. I just haven't gotten around to posting them. So here in my all-inclusive Challenge post:

The GLBT Challenge post went up a few months ago over at The Zen Leaf, although the challenge didn't actually start until the 1st of July. I've been meaning to sign up for months, but I never did. Well...better late than never is my old here is my "official" post. You know me. I'm all about diversity in life and besides. Oscar Wilde is on the button!! Here are the rules:

  • Read 6 books in 6 months in any genre. Books must deal with GLBT themes OR be written by GLBT authors. No X-rated stuff, nothing that purposely attacks the GLBT community.

  • The challenge runs from July 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009. You may join at any time.

  • Sign up using Mr. Linky below (please link directly to your post). If you don't have a blog, you can still participate. Just enter your name and leave the URL blank.

  • Each time you read a book, please link to your reviews on this blog. I will put up a post for you to do that on July 1st.

  • You don't need to choose your books right away, and they can change at any time. Overlaps with other challenges are fine.

  • Audiobooks are also fine.

I will be reading books from the following list:

  • Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
  • The House you Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson
  • Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
  • Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford
  • Sex Talks to Girls: A Memoir by Maureen Seaton
  • We Disappear by Scott Heim
  • Weetzie Bat, Baby Be-Bop or Missing Juan Angel by Francesca Lia Block.

(of course, I reserve the right to change the books on this list if I find something that sounds better!)

For the 3rd year in a row, the fantastic John Mutford from The Book Mine Set is hosting the Canadian Book Challenge. Year 1, I completed just 1 book. Year 2, I made it through 3. For Year 3, I'm going for at least half of the 13 books!!

The rules are the same as before, and the goal is to read 13 books in 12 months from Canadian authors or about Canada/Canadians. Here is my list (a lot of carry over from this past year:)

  • The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
  • Eleanor Rigby by Douglas Coupland
  • Angel of Darkness by Charles de Lint
  • Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
  • Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
  • Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill
  • Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
  • The Time in Between by David Bergen
  • Runaway by Alice Munroe
  • The Summer Tree by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
  • Fall on Your Knees by Anne-Marie MacDonald
  • Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright

Finally, Michelle from Galleysmith is hosting the Harry Potter Reading Challenge. Can't pass this one up. Isn't it time for a reread?

What: Read or listen to all seven books in the Harry Potter series:

  • Sorcerer’s Stone
  • Chamber of Secrets
  • Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Goblet of Fire
  • Order of the Pheonix
  • Half-Blood Prince
  • Deathly Hallows

When: The challenge will run from August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010. I know we’re all busy with life and work and other such fun things so join up whenever you want, there are no deadlines to the challenge besides the end date above.

Where: E-to the Everywhere! Post reviews on your blog, chat about it on messageboards, post vlogs or podcasts, comment on and converse about it in the monthly post I create here on Galleysmith. It’s entirely up to you, as long as there is some evidence of your having completed each book along the way you are good to go.

How: Get thee to Mr. Linky below. Sign up to join in and play, cause you know….Harry would want you to and all! Go Here to sign up!

(AND she has cool prizes!!)

Well....that's it for me. Happy Reading and Happy Sunday!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Round 2: Dylan Fontaine Vs. City in the Lake

Again...I just want to apologize to Renay for not posting this sooner. But at least I let you know what you were to be reading!! :)

For my Round 2 as a Judge for the Nerds Heart YA Tournament of Books, I was giving the tasking of choosing the best book between 2 really DIFFERENT books. Although the choice wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be (because one book totally stood out), they were really different types of books. One is a "coming of age" type of book; the other a Fantasy tale.

First: The reviews:
The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie (224 pgs., Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2008).

I can tell you from experience that a jail cell is not a place you'd like to visit. Now, I'm no Papillon, and the police station serving the Sixty-eighth Precinct in Brooklyn, New York, is no Devil's Island, but it sucks just the same.

For Dylan Fontaine, the summer of his fifteenth year is not going so well. His mother left the family to move in with her former art professor. His father, a doctor, spends more time at the hospital than at home in an effort to avoid the hole his wife left in the family. Dylan's older brother smokes way too much pot and spends all his time with his band. His best friend Angie is dating a real jerk. Oh yeah....he's also secretly in love with her. Getting arrested for stealing underwear AND holding his brother's pot is just the final kick in the teeth.

Then Angie decides she wants to make a short film about Dylan, as part of her summer film course at NYU. Entitled The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine, it gives Dylan a chance to do things he normally would never consider. Take chances instead of playing it safe. And grow in ways he never realized he could. Can Dylan survive the summer AND keep his family entact?

What's not to love about Dylan Fontaine? He's funny, smart, sensitive and wise beyond his years. He's a loyal brother and friend. He's a basketball player that could be star; a classical guartist that could be fantastic; an artist that is gifted, but always plays it safe. And he really wants to make things right with his family. This is a wonderful coming-of-age type of book, and I loved it! April Lurie has created a fantastic story for the teen set and adults alike. (I don't think it would be a great book for the younger set, mostly because of slight sexual content and the drug use). Dylan is a fantastic character, with lots of layers. He's a boy trying to become a man in a really trying time. He does the best he can with the cards he has been dealt, and it's admirable the way he tries to keep his family together.

Randy, Dylan's older brother, is also a great character. On the outside, he's this tough guy, playing in a band and trying hard to get past his mother abandoning the family. But deep down, he's just a boy that's insecure and lost without her.

A quick read, The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine, is definitely a page-turner. Lurie makes you care what happens to the people on the pages. And that is the sign of a great writer. 4.5/5

Book Number two:

The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier (304 pgs, Knopf Books, 2008).

The City is beautiful at sunset, almost as beautiful as the Lake itself. The waters of the Lake run with the crimson and flame-orange and deep lavender as the sun sinks beyond its farther shore, colors pouring across the water all the way to Tiger Bridge.

This fantasy tale set in an unknown time and place, is the story of a kingdom. When Prince Cassiel disappears from the Kingdom, the King is devastated. And not only that but the Kingdom seems to be dying because it. You see, Cassiel is the heart of the King. And that makes him the Heart of the Kingdom. Without him, things seem to be falling apart. His half brother, Neill, or "The Bastard" is taking a lot of heat for his disappearance. Many people think he might have something to do with it, maybe having set his sights on the throne.

In another part of the Kingdom, Timou is learning magecraft from her father, Kapoen. Growing up the daughter of a mage has never been easy for Timou, especially since she doesn't know her mother. And Kapoen has never been open about her birth. But when Kapone goes to the City to help find the Prince, and disapears as well, Timou is forced to learn about her mother, Lelienne. Lelienne, who just happens to be Neill's mother as well. She holds dark powers that are encompassing the Kingdom. Now that she has returned, Timou and Neill are becoming pawns in a game bigger than either of them understand.

First of all, I will be the first to admit I love fantasy. And while this book is right up my alley, I do realize it will not be suited for everyone. It's a bit confusing at times, and although Neumeier has weaved a very intricate story, there is a lot of philosophical babble that will go WAY over the heads of a lot of readers. For example:

We say it is a reflection of our City, we think of ours as the true City. But it is not so. The Lake holds -- it holds the eternal City, which the mage Irinore and the first King, Castienes, used to build our City. Ours is the reflection. The true City lies in a different layer of truth and dreams. But it is an aspect of eternal truth. It is more real than this ordinary City can be. Sometimes we dream of it -- of the truth that lies beyond our own City.

See? Not exactly easy reading. Much of the book reads like this. And as much as I liked Timou and especially Neill, I had a hard time figuring out exactly what was going on. That being said, I did enjoy the storyline. I just think the execution of it was a little confusing. I also thought it finished off nicely with all the loose-ends tidied up.

In my opinion, for those of you that love Fantasy, I'm pretty sure will appreciate the story this book tells. Otherwise, I really think you are in for some difficult reading. 3.5/5

My Choice for Winner of Round 2:

Hands down it goes to The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine!!

Now....The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine will go up in the next round against either Cracked up to Be or The Screwed Up Life of Charlie the Second (not sure who won that bracket yet!)

The other two bracket winners are:

My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger vs. Stop Me if You've Heard This One Before by David Yoo.

Thanks again for allowing me to be a judge. Sheesh. At least the pressure is over!!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Blog Tour: Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens

When asked to participate in the blog tour for Two Years, No Rain by Shawn Klomparens (384 pgs, Delta, 2009), I jumped at the chance. It's been awhile since I've read an "adult" book, and this one held lots of promise. So a big Thank You to Shawn Klomparens and to Lisa at TLC Book Tours for allowing me to participate!!

Every time I went out to the car, I'd slide myself in and pull that pack of smokes from the slot in the dash. Without looking at it, staring into the afternoon haze, I'd run my fingertip back and forth over the unopened plastic tab and breathe.

Told in first person narrative, this is the story of Andy Dunne, a weatherman in the drought-stricken Southern California market. As the story opens, Andy's life is taking a turn for the worst. His ex-wife has just moved all the furniture out of their house; he still hasn't gotten over the death of his twin brother; his job as weatherman for the satellite radio station is about to become "redundant"; and the woman he is head-over-heels in love with is married. There is also no end in sight to the almost two year drought in the San Diego area.

But soon enough, opportunities arise for Andy. On a whim (and a little nudge from Hillary, the woman he's fallen for), he auditions for a voice-over role for a new children's show. Not only does he get the part, he becomes the new "face" for the show, aptly entitled 'Andy's Magic Carpet'. Overnight, he becomes a huge success. But does all this success make Andy happy?

Shawn Klomparens has created a wonderful character in Andy. His story is one of self-discovery and growth. Not only is this a love story, it is a story of family ties and grief. Andy is warm and caring, willing to do just about anything for the people that mean the most to him. But he's also quick to avoid not only confrontation but just about anything that reminds him of the brother he lost.

The symbolism in this story all seems to center around the weather...the drought in question parallels Andy's life. The stormy weather could be a metaphor for adultery, which is another theme that is weaved into the story. Just as Andy's marriage is dissolving, we get a peek into Hillary's declining marriage as well. But unlike Andy, I found Hillary to be rather intolerable. We don't get a chance to know her character very well, since all we really see is Andy's version of Hillary. And I disliked her immensely. More apt to play games than show true feelings, Hillary is shallow and selfish. Her character was a real downer for me. And I have to admit, I hated their relationship. Both were very emotionally invested in a relationship outside their own marriages, and as real-life as that is, I don't particularly like reading about it.

All in all, this is a very good character study of Andy. Highly readable, I sailed right through this book, hoping that Andy would get a happy ending. One of the best part of the book for me, is the relationship he has with his teenage niece, Hannah. And it has it's feel-good moments, when you want to stand up and cheer. A recommended read for those of you that like stories that are more about relationships than plot lines; more dialogue than action. 4/5

For more information about Shawn Klomparens, visit his website here.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hugs and Kisses

I just wanted to take a second to say Hugs and Kisses to all of you!! Thank you so much for all your heartfelt comments on my last post....although it was over a week ago. As you can tell, I've been going through some "stuff" lately, and by venting some of my frustrations, I feel a lot better. Just knowing I have lots of friends out there is more than enough right now to make me see just how lucky I really am. So....thank you, and I just know how much I appreciate it.

I have a huge post to do for the Nerds Heart YA. (for the record, although I'm totally late on the post, the next round judges already know my decision, so at least I have that going for me). I've been meaning to do it for the last few days, but things kind of got out of hand.

I thought taking a few days off would leave me with some time to blog, but alas, I was wrong. I've been in the middle of some serious house cleaning. Then there was Bella's basketball camp, 3 make-up softball games, end of the season soft-ball tourney, fall sports sign-ups. And last, but certainly not least, a trip to the emergency room and a CT scan for Bella. A family bike outing took an unexpected twist when my little Bella did a face-plant to the concrete. She looks worse for the wear, but she is fine. I think it probably scared me as much as it did her. I was right behind her and saw her hit the pavement. I swear, my heart just stopped. Thank goodness she was wearing her helmet, or I'm sure it would have been worse. Even with the helmet, she suffered multiple scratches, a bloody nose, a nasty cut in her mouth, and a bump on the forehead that caused a mild concussion.

So...all in all the last few days have been a blur. Please look for my Nerds post tomorrow and see who is crowned the Second Round winner: The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie or The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier. Also up this week: Book tour for Shawn Klomparens' Two Years, No Rain.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Whining Post

For the most part, I use this blog for books and book related posts. That was the whole point in creating this blog. But there are days when I just feel the need to unload. And sometimes, this is the only place. Feel free not to read. I'm not even looking for comments. I just really need to vent.

Commence whining: The poker hand above is a Royal Flush. My daddy taught me to play poker when I was little. It's a game I love...and to be honest, I'm good at it. In the words of Kenny Rogers, I "know when to hold them, and know when to fold them. I know when to walk away and I know when to run". I was talking to an old friend the other night, and we got on the subject of life, in general. (And a whole lot of specifics that I will leave out of this post). The reason for the poker hand?? He told me (and I will paraphrase) that sometimes life deals you a rotten hand, and you just have to do the best you can with what you've got. Makes sense, doesn't it?

Well let me tell you....if my life was a poker hand, I would have folded and ran a long time ago! The last 10 years have been rough. For some reason, I must have zoned out of all those lessons that told me how rough life really is. I don't remember anyone talking to me about "corporate downsizings", "permanent layoffs", "bank foreclosures", "bankruptcy" or "rescinding incentive payments". No one told me at this age, I would be working 2 jobs, on off-shifts...some weeks up to 75 hours. No one told me that at this age, even after all the hard work, I'd still have to count my pennies just to pay my bills. No one told me how HARD life would be.

Hindsight is 20/20, they say. And those mysterious "they" would be right. I can pinpoint a few decisions that I made that could have drastically changed the shape of my life. Sitting here right now, it's easy to say that I was an idiot for making the choices I have. But I can't change things, and it seems so counter-productive to second guess myself. At the time, the decisions I made felt right. If I could go back and do it all over again, would I? I can't actually say. Would my life have been better? Who knows??

What I do know is this: As much of a struggle as life is, I have 3 wonderful kids that I can't live without. They are my reason for waking up in the morning. And my reason for breathing. I am employed, which is more than a lot of people can say. And I'm thankful for that. But I want to teach. I have for a long time, but have given many excuses for why I never returned to school to get my certification. In a perfect world, I'd be a professor of English lit at a small Liberal Art College out East. Or maybe teaching high school English in a small town by the ocean. And you know what? Starting in the fall, I'm going to be taking classes again. At least one class. Just to see if I still have it in me. And to see if I can handle it with my already over-the-top schedule.

My friend made me think about a lot of things, and even without the conversation, things have been building. To be honest, the last few days, I've felt like shit anyway. I'm just coming off a major migraine. For the last 2 days, I've been pretty much down and out. It's really bad when you can't move without getting nauseous. To top it all off, the blood tests that I took last week didn't exactly have the results I'd hoped for. My TSH levels (for my non-existent thyroid) are way too high and my meds need to be changed again. My cholesterol is through the roof. Stress isn't helping anything. And I think I might possibly be getting an ulcer. Sheesh. I think I need a vacation. I'm tired and still not feeling great. I just want to know....when it is MY turn for a Royal Flush??

That's it. Whining Ceased. I feel much better now. Stay tuned for more "Book" stuff later!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Library Loot...or the "Why, oh why, do I Keep Checking Out Books???" Post least I'm not BUYING books!! That is the only excuse I can give. An innocent trip to the library to pick up the books for the Nerds Heart YA Round 2 that I'm judging and I come away with even more books!!

See, I had requested online the 2 books for the brackets, plus a couple of Discworld Books I'm going to Buddy Read with Kailana. The rest were complete and utter impulse pickups!! Here I was whittling away at my list of 26, and now I'm up to a whopping 32!! Of course, I have a couple to take back (reviews are pending). But still. I'm hanging my head in shame at my total lack of restraint!! Although I may never get to all of them, it will absolutely be fun trying!!

11 Books found there way into my home the past week from the library. And here they are:

The first book in my bracket as a 2nd Round judge for the Nerds Heart YA contest. The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie. I've already finished it. But my lips are sealed as to the winner!!

Book 2 in the contest is The City in the Lake by Rachel Neumeier. I'm almost done with this one. And I'm also almost 90% sure of my decision. I'll make it tomorrow, with a post of reviews...and a winner this weekend!!

Wee Free Men is Book 1 of the Tiffany Aching trilogy and a part of the Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett. I've been dying to start this series but didn't have a clue where to begin. This is Nymeth's recommendation (and we all know to listen to her!) I'm buddy reading with Kailana.

Book 2 in the Tiffany Aching series, A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett. Figured I might as well just get the whole series while I was at it.

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett is the final book in the Tiffany Aching Series. Ditto above. As a start to Discworld, I couldn't ask for anything better than a YA trilogy!!

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett is another Discworld book. It's also YA, and for some reason, I had it in my head this was part of the Tiffany Aching series. Apparently, it's not!!! I'll try to fit in this one as well!!

Hot Air (Edgar and Ellen Nodyssey Series, Book 1) by Charles Ogden was a total impulse pickup. I saw in on an endcap at the library and LOVED the cover!! Curse the wonderful YA section of my library!

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy is the first book in a new series. Impulse pick-up as well. I loved the cover, and saw a fantastic review on this at Kailana's blog. She hasn't steered me wrong yet, so I grabbed this one too!

The Rising by Brian Keene. I had originally had this on my list for the End of the World Challenge. I put a hold on it WEEKS ago, and it finally showed up. Book about Zombies. 'Nuff said!!

Flyte: Septimus Heap Book 2 by Angie Sage. Since book one was so good, and this one was just sitting there on the shelf with it's gorgeous cover calling to me...I couldn't help myself! Score another one for the impulse and the great YA section!

Fablehaven (Book 3): Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull. Just see my response above!!

VERY Heavy on the Young Adult books this week. Can't wait to get cracking. Stay tuned for numerous book reviews!! That's all for today!! Later, dear readers!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Graphic Novels Edition, Vol. 2

Last week when my computer was down, I finished up a couple of
graphic novels. Since I couldn't decide which series I liked better, I decided just to continue with BOTH series!!

The first book was The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll's House by Neil Gaiman (256 pgs, Vertigo, 1991). If there was one word to describe this book, it would be: Disturbing.

In the beginning.....But of course, we never see the beginning. We come in in the middle, after the lights have gone down, and try to make some sense of the story so far. Whisper to our neighbors, 'Who's he? Who's she? Have they met each other before?" We get by.

Volume 2 opens up with the final chapter of Volume 1 where Dream is talking to his sister, Death. But this book is less about Dreams and more about Nightmares than before. We meet another one of Dreams siblings: Desire. It seems his younger sibling is trying to play games - games that could have fatal consequences.

We also meet Rose Walker. Granddaughter of Unity Kincaid (the woman from Vol. 1 that was raped while suffering from the sleeping sickness), Rose is on a quest to find her younger brother, Jed. Jed hasn't been seen in years, since he was left in the custody of his father. And he's in trouble now. But Rose is also a Dream with the ability to merge the dreams of others. It's an incredible power because she can draw dreams and nightmares to herself. If this happens, it could cause the Dream world to collapse upon itself.

But the main premise of this book, as I said before, are nightmares. While Dream was imprisoned, several major players in the Dream World escaped: Fiddler's Green, and 3 Nightmares: Brute and Glob, and The Corinthian. Dream must find them and bring them back.

First of all, I LOVE this series. I love Neil Gaiman. And I love the fantastic drawings that are tucked away in this book. But know for sure that this volume is exceedingly disturbing. Not the stuff of pleasant and safe dreams, this is one that deals with child abuse, rape and serial killers. Truly the subjects of nightmares. A "Cereal" Convention takes place: a gathering of the world's most prolific serial killers, all trying to learn from each other. They even set up panel discussions!! With special guest, The Corinthian, these are the worst and darkest of all things that make up the human condition.

You disappoint me, Corinthian. You, and these humans you inspired and created disappoint me. YOU were supposed to be my masterpiece, or so I thought. A nightmare created to be the darkness and the fear of darkness in every heart. A black mirror, made to reflect everything about itself that humanity will not confront. But look at you. Forty years walking the earth, honing yourself, infecting others with your joy of death and what have you given them? Nothing. What have your wrought, Corinthian? Just something else for people to be scared of, that's all.

Gaiman looks at the blackest side of the human heart in The Doll's House. He truly has a gift of insight into the human psyche. And he knows what makes people scared. Although the volume ends well, most of this book is dark and scary. As I said before, it is deeply disturbing. But it is also a fantastic read!! Most definitely a classic as far as graphic novels are concerned and well deserving of a 5-star review!! 5/5

The second Graphic Novel series that I am reading is Fables. Fables Volume 2: The Animal Farm by Bill Willingham (128 pgs, Vertigo, 2003) is the next in line.

Yes, it's "Once Upon a Time" time again!

As we know from the first volume, the Fables have been exiled from their lands. The fables that are able to live in New York City amongst the "mundy's" or mundanes, as they Fables like to call the humans. But there are some Fables that are not able to live easily among the humans. Talking animals, giants, and dragons....just to name a few. So these Fables are relegated to live on the Animal Farm, or just The Farm. It is a compound that allows them a place to roam without the wandering eyes of the mundanes.

In Volume 2, Snow White decides to take her bi-annual visit to the Farm a little early to spend some quality time with her sister, Rose Red. Snow is hoping to be able to mend some fences with her. But when they arrive, things are not quite the way they are supposed to be. The girls stumble upon a meeting of the residents. Dun and Posey (part of the 3 little pigs) tell Snow that the caretaker of the Farm, Weyland Smith, has resigned....just walked off. The pigs are now in charge. Snow and Red are tired, and decide to figure it all out in the morning.

But when they wake up, they are surprised by the vicious murder of Colin the pig and the phone lines are down. Things are not as they are supposed to be at The Farm, and it's up to Snow White to figure out what's going on.

This series is just so much fun! With a page from Orwell's Animal Farm, there is a revolution on the rise, and the animals are arming themselves. With a frighteningly militant leader in Goldilocks, the animals are trying to re-take their homelands. I know this is only the second book in the series, but I love it already!! Sometimes you can tell by just a few pages whether or not you are going to love a book or not. The same goes with this series. It's nothing new to put a spin on an old fairy tale. But Willingham really creates fresh ideas with this series. And even though they are "fairy tales", the underlying darkness is always there. Nothing is as you would expect it. I mean, come on: Goldilocks is a radical militant, who is sleeping with Baby Bear; Snow White is hot and heavy (though she won't admit it!) over the Big Bad Wolf; and there is more fire power coming from the old lady in the shoe and her many kids than most small countries!

The message is a bit political, but the story is bold and fantastic. The pictures are beautiful, and I can't wait to start the next book in the series. On a side note, I see that ABC is going to make a series out the graphic novels. I'm dying to see a cast list!!! 4.5/5

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My Hissy Fit Worked!!

Don't ever let anyone tell you a temper tantrum is a bad thing!! 9 days for my computer turned into 3!! I am back up and running. Better than ever. New anti-virus software has been downloaded, and for now, all is well!!

Was going to post a couple of book reviews (or to be specific, a couple of Graphic Novel reviews). But those can wait. To all of you here in the US, have a peaceful and safe 4th of July!! Actually, I hope everyone has a wonderful day, whether you are celebrating the holiday or not.

Happy 4th of July!!! PEACE!!!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Woe is Me.....

It's been a rather lousy week for me. First of all, #%&&$#% Blogger decided that my blog was spam!! I had to appeal for a review. If I hadn't been considering a move to self-hosting, this would have pushed me over the edge. Of course, I really don't think I have the time right now to make the move. It's a little scary thinking about it.

To top off an already lousy week, my computer went down. At the moment, it is sitting somewhere at a Best Buy waiting for a Geek Squad dude to fix it. They told me 9 days, but I threw a major hissy fit in the middle of the store, so I'm hoping to have it back sooner.

Of course, this means, I'm pretty much off-line until I get it back. Hence the sudden departure. Hopefully, I won't lose all my friendly reader friends!! If I'm not around, have a safe 4th, and cross your fingers that I'll be back up and running by Monday!

(ps...I'm at work now. And I already have 3 reviews to put up!!)