Saturday, September 29, 2007

Celebrate the Freedom to Read Sept. 29 - Oct. 6

Today is the start of Banned Books Week, sponsored by the ALA and the Office for Intellectual Freedom. There is so much information on those 2 sites about books, reading, freedom to choose and censorship....I don't even know where to begin this post!! So, I'm just going to give you the links and let you explore for yourself!! YOU get the freedom to choose! If I get going on book banning, I might not make it to my daughter's soccer game!

I will leave you with a list of the 10 most Banned Books of last year: (this list is provided by the ALA)

"And Tango Makes Three" by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, for homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group;

"Gossip Girls" series by Cecily Von Ziegesar for homosexuality, sexual content, drugs, unsuited to age group, and offensive language;

"Alice" series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor for sexual content and offensive language;

"The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things" by Carolyn Mackler for sexual content, anti-family, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

"The Bluest Eye" by Toni Morrison for sexual content, offensive language, and unsuited to age group;

"Scary Stories" series by Alvin Schwartz for occult/Satanism, unsuited to age group, violence, and insensitivity;

"Athletic Shorts" by Chris Crutcher for homosexuality and offensive language.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" by Stephen Chbosky for homosexuality, sexually explicit, offensive language, and unsuited to age group

"Beloved" by Toni Morrison for offensive language, sexual content, and unsuited to age group;

"The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier for sexual content, offensive language, and violence.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Incredible Alternate History of Zombies and Life

Carl's RIP II Challenge was the perfect opportunity for me to justify reading another "Zombie" book so soon after Monster Island. And I'm so glad I did!! I've had a few people recommend World War Z by Max Brooks (352 pgs., Crown), and for a very good reason: It's such a unique way to tell a story!!

The subtitle of this book is "An Oral History of the Zombie War". And that's exactly the way it's written. A few years after the Zombie World War, a UN postwar Commission Report was written. The author (unnamed) was upset because the report he submitted was not the report that was presented. All the "human" element was removed. This book is a compilation of that human factor. Divided into sections detailing different aspects of the war, the author gives us a look at what happened through interviews with survivors. We learn a little about the initial outbreak of the Zombie epidemic that started in China and spread rapidly worldwide. We hear horror stories from survivors of the "great panic", and what each had to do in order to be telling the tale today. We learn about different countries and how they chose to turn the tide of the war. And we learn about heroes worldwide and how they stepped up to help their fellow man survive an attack like the world has never seen.

It's hard to review this book, because there are no central characters, no plot lines, no big finishes. It is written as if it is a documentary, detailing events and people all the way down to little footnotes of "historical" fact. And it is indeed chilling. Early on, I had expected this to be a funny book, taking a stab at the paranormal genre. What else would you expect from the son of Mel Brooks, but something of a parody?? But it isn't like that at all. It is a well-thought-out and carefully plotted book, that goes into such detail, it's hard to believe World War Z is just fiction!! Each little "interview" tells it's own little story, and Brooks ties them up nicely in his presentation. Not too much drama, but just the facts. Brooks also throws in a lot of political references in how he perceives the world would change if such a catastrophe occurred. Can you imagine a world in which Cuba is the new commerce capital? And yet, he does it so smoothly and believably, it's really hard to see it as fiction! Kudos to Brooks for such a unique and down-right fascinating book!! If there ever IS a Zombie epidemic, I know who's doorstep I'm going to show up on!! Max Brooks can lead us to Victory!! 4.5/5

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Friendship

Suggested by Marsha:

Buy a Friend a Book Week is October 1-7 (as well as the first weeks of January, April, and July). During this week, you’re encouraged to buy a friend a book for no good reason. Not for their birthday, not because it’s a holiday, not to cheer them up–just because it’s a book.

What book would you choose to give to a friend and why?

And, if you’re feeling generous enough–head on over to Amazon and actually send one on its way!

Sounds like such an easy question for a reputed bibliophile like me, doesn't it?'s not. Because books, just like people, have personalities too. If I want to answer this question truthfully, I would have to say it would depend on WHICH friend I was buying the book!!

Missy has been my very best friend since Kindergarten. We grew up together, and she was like the sister I didn't have. When she went to one college and I went to a different, we spent many weekends going back and forth to visit. When she got married, I was her maid of honor. When I got married, she was mine. She is my son's godmother. We've been friends through it all. And I know her. She doesn't like scary things. In fact, I'm pretty sure she STILL hasn't forgiven me for dragging her to see "A Nightmare on Elm Street" when we were 16!! So, I know without a doubt, my favorite genre and a big fat Stephen King novel would be out of the question!! For Missy, I would probably buy a Jodi Picoult novel...maybe "My Sister's Keeper" or "Plain Truth".

My friend Kris, I met here in Peoria. We are very similar in our ways of thinking, our likes/dislikes, and the things we like to do. She is my concert-going buddy. But Kris is single and doesn't have kids. I also know this is becoming something a problem for her. I know how hard it is for her to come to my kid's events and birthday parties....even though she loves them to death. So books about mothers/children would probably be out. (Hence no Jodi P. for her!) For Kris, I would probably buy something a little more "literary". Actually, I would buy her "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coehlo. I think she would really like it, and take a lot away from it.

Then there is Aaron. My best guy friend. He likes to read. In fact, Aaron buys ME books for Christmas and birthdays. Aaron is an actor and loves the drama. For Aaron, I would definitely buy a copy of "The Book Thief" by Markus Zuzak.

My brother Luke is one of my best friends in the world. And he is just like me. He loves the paranormal, the odd, the strange. He's easy to buy for. I just go to the bookstore, looks for a book that *I* want to read, and then buy it for Luke, hoping it will come back to me soon!! He does get books for every birthday and Christmas as well. If I was to buy him something now, it would probably be something by Hunter S. Thompson or Neil Gaiman.

Sorry this wasn't a short post with a quick and dirty answer. But I honestly believe to become a lover of books, you just have to find the right one. The one that will complete your personality!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Fall Into Reading 2007

Yeah...I know. No more challenges. It amazes me how many there actually are!! But Katrina from Callapidder Days sponsors both the big Spring and Fall challenges, and she does a fantastic job. Already there are close to 200 participating. Besides, I just showed you all the books I have to review....and I'm one of those anal people that derives pure joy from checking something off a list!! So, if you want to follow me along in this insane journey, click on this link and join up!

The rules are simple. The Challenge starts on the first day of fall (which was actually Sunday!) and goes until December 21st. You can read as many or as few books as you like. And she always has tons of prizes and book giveaways. Besides, it's a link to lots of other book related sites.
Here is my list of books:
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
  • Betrayed: A House of Night Novel by PC Cast and Kristin Cast
  • Kiss & Blog by Alyson Noel
  • School's Out by Christophe Dufosse
  • The Reincarnationist by MJ Rose
  • Death Dance by Linda Fairstein I can check mark these AND get some reviews done!! Killing two birds with one stone! I love it when a plan comes together!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Short Story Sunday.....on Monday Part II

I think there was a meme out there one time that asked "How do you prefer a story to begin: Once Upon a Time or It was a dark and gloomy Evening?" As much as I am a fan of the fairy tale, my very favorite genre is the eerie and the paranormal. So I immediately went for the Dark and Gloomy Evening scenario. This week's Short Stories in the form of Neil Gaiman's Fragile Things fits the bill perfectly!! Ghost Stories seemed to be the writings this weekend...and you may detect a little gushing when you read this!! I'm serious LOVING this book!!

The first story I read yesterday was Forbidden Brides of the Faceless Slaves in the Secret House of the Night of Dread Desire. (And yes, I do realize that is certainly a mouthful!) I really don't know how Gaiman does it. He can suck a person into a story in the opening line! "Somewhere in the night, someone was writing." The story goes back and forth between a writer and the story he is creating. Without spoiling this wonderful story for anyone, I will just say, it's filled with talking Ravens, the undead, family curses and an elderly aunt chained in the attic!! This story which Gaiman wrote 20 years prior was snubbed by a couple of editors and stuffed away in a box. He pulled it out a few years ago to submit it for an anthology called Gothic! and was awarded the 2005 Locus Award for Best Short Story. (I certainly hope those editors are now working in other industries!)

The Flints of Memory Lane is more of a 4 page memory. It was written for a anthology of true life ghost stories, and is not "story-shaped" as Gaiman so eloquently puts it.

Going Wodwo is a poem written by Gaiman for Terri Windling and is about a wild man of the woods.

And finally, Closing Time is another Ghost story. One late night, years ago, several men were sitting around a London "club" telling stories, when somehow the topic of ghost stories come up. After a couple of "urban legends" are told, one of the men tells a story from his youth. He said it didn't happen to a friend of his. It actually happened to him...and he remembers it as if it were yesterday. The story is about a nine-year-old boy that met up with some other kids on the way home from school one day. They all decide to go to an abandoned mansion called the Swallows. 4 boys started out, but only 1 comes back! An eerie twist at the end is surely what won Gaiman the 2004 Locust Award for Best Short Story!'s my gush: You must read this book!! I have let it be known my utter lack of interest in the short-story. Many times. But with Gaiman telling the tales, I'm going to do a complete 180 and whole-heartedly recommend them!! You are immediately drawn in and although your time is short, completely enthralled!! I can't wait until next Sunday!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Christmas in September

As you know, I recently reviewed the book Marked: A House of Night Novel by PC Cast and Kristin Cast for You can read my review here. It's the first in a new YA Vampire series and I was really impressed with how good it was. Yesterday, I went out to the mailbox and there was a package waiting for me from CurledUp. Now...I thought this was strange, since I got a package of Young Adult books last week. Imagine my surprise when I opened it to find the second installment of the House of Night Novels called Betrayed!! This book is not scheduled for release until Oct. 2nd! I was doing a happy dance in front of the mailbox!! It looks like I'll be reading this one.....sooner than I had hoped!!

This has actually be a great week for receiving ARC's. (not that I need anything to read mind you, but who can pass up on free books!) As I said, I just last week got a box of YA books from CurledUp. I like reviewing YA books, so they sent me some more!! 7 books that I would like to have reviewed by the end of the year:

  • Girl 15, Charming but Insane by Sue Limb
  • Better than Running at Night by Hillary Frank
  • Journey to Mythaca by Eve Baumohl Neuhaus
  • Kiss & Blog by Alyson Noel
  • Saving Zoe by Alyson Noel
  • School's Out by Christophe Dufosse
  • Psyche in a Dress by Francesca Lia Block

In addition to those, 4 more came this week. Barnes & Noble book groups is now offering a "First Look" club (and I think you can still sign up for it). They sent me an ARC that looks just fabulous, as well as 3 others from various publishers:

  • The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff (B&N First Look)
  • The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry (FlapJack Press)
  • The Spanish Bow by Andromeda Romano-Lax (Harcourt)
  • The Reincarnationist by M. J. Rose (Mira)

Having a book blog has definitely increased my list of review books!! In fact, I need to finish up some challenge books and get going on these!!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Sunshine and Roses

The reverse of last week’s question:

Imagine that everything is going just swimmingly. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all’s right with the world. You’re practically bouncing from health and have money in your pocket. The kids are playing and laughing, the puppy is chewing in the cutest possible manner on an officially-sanctioned chew toy, and in between moments of laughter for pure joy, you pick up a book to read . . .

What is it?

Hmmmm....well, if I'm in a great mood, then I can read just about anything!! I have very eclectic tastes in reading material: I read Classics and braincandy; non-fiction and science fiction; fantasy and mystery; historical fiction and dystopian fiction. I just love a good book. But in the same sense, I am kind of a mood reader. Also, I really don't want to read anything that is going to bring me down out of my good mood!

So.....if everything is going swimmingly, I would probably pick up something that I've been wanting to read for a long time. Maybe the newest "bestseller", that just came out that week and I rushed out to get it right away. Or maybe I would pick up a book that I have been "saving" for just the right time. I have a habit of doing that, as weird as it might sound. Sometimes when there is a book that I really want, such as the latest Stephen King or Jodi Picoult, I buy it and just put it on the shelf instead of diving in right away. That way it will be there.....poised and ready for the "perfect" time!! (now that I've just re-read that, I realize how crazy it sounds! Maybe my husband is right....I AM nuts!)

Happy Thursday!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Did You Know.....

that Hugh Laurie wrote a book??? I didn't! Where have I been? One of my favorite actors wrote a book, and I didn't know it!! House is such a great show, and Hugh is just so darned sexy, that I'm a huge fan!, I decided to go to Borders. Bad idea, yes I know. But I just can't seem to stay away. I was just LOOKING....really!! Then that blasted 2 - for - 3 table started calling my name. While I was browsing, I saw a book called "The Gun Seller" by Hugh Laurie. I thought to myself, can there be 2 people with the same name?? And lo and behold, it's MY Hugh Laurie!! It's described as a "ripping spook of the spy genre". Well, I certainly couldn't pass this one up!! (I mean, really!) And both Darkly Dreaming Dexter and Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay were on the table too, so I picked up all three!! Oh...and I got a copy of The Lies of Loche Lamora by Scott Lynch, since it's now out in paperback.

I really need to stop going to Borders, just to "look around", don't I?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Short Story Sunday.....on Monday

For the RIP challenge at Stainless Steel Droppings, Carl added a "Peril" that is called Short Story Sunday. The goal is to read a Short Story that falls under the RIP category of books on Sundays during the challenge. Another "peril" includes reading the book Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman. So I'm combining both perils by reading Fragile Things on Sundays!!

A Study in Emerald is the first story. Fantastic!! In the introduction, Gaiman says he wrote this story for an anthology in which he was requested to write a "story in which Sherlock Holmes meets H. P. Lovecraft." Our "hero" returns home from Afghanistan and meets a man that will soon be his roommate. His roommate, he finds out later, is a consulting detective and is called upon by many police officers to help solve mysteries. Taking a page from the Sherlock Holmes tale, A Study in Scarlett, our detectives are asked to look into a case in which a member of the Royal Family was brutally murdered and found in blood on the wall was the word "Rache". This is where the H.P. Lovecraft twist sets in. The Royal family isn't actually human. They are creatures that defeated humanity in a bloody war seven hundred years earlier. The "Great Old Ones" have ruled ever since.

From the moment this story started, I was completely turned around. The "twist" in the end, proved just that!! And while I was completely off on the actual characters, Gaiman writes a very compelling story that was well deserving of the Hugo Award it received in 2004.

Since I couldn't stop at just one, I went on to read October in the Chair. This story was dedicated to Ray Bradbury. It begins as the 12 months of the year are congregated together for a meeting. October is the leader this time around, and stories are told by the months. October's story is about a boy called The Runt by his family. He feels unwanted at home and decides to run away. He comes upon the ghost of a boy called Dearly, and finds with him the acceptance he never received from his own family. Again....this story was wonderful, if a little creepy. And it deserved the 2003 Locus Award for Best Short Story.

In between each story were poems entitled The Fairy Reel and The Hidden Chamber. One was fantastical and one was dreary and Gothic.

Last week I tried to read Poe, and just couldn't get into it. Short stories have never been my thing! I like sinking my teeth into plot and character development, and the short story just doesn't have the time to provide either. But Neil Gaiman is another creature all together!! Even though I spent most of my day watching football (Da Bears!), I picked up this book and didn't think I would be able to put it down! I don't think I can say this enough times.....I LOVE Neil Gaiman!! His writing is simple and fantastic. And I can't wait to read more of his stories!!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Four Legged Friends Challenge

OK...I know I said I was going to stay away from challenges. But this one is different. This past week, my good friend Kelly at Kailana's Written World, lost her beloved dog Sandy. Sandy was her constant companion for the last 13 years, and to honor her, Kelly came up with the "Four Legged Friends Challenge". The Challenge officially begins on Sept. 20th and runs for 5 months. Read 3 - 5 books dealing with animals. Since I love animals, especially dogs, this should be an easy challenge.

In addition to the challenge, we are supposed to post about your beloved pets. So here it is!! I grew up on a farm, so I was surrounded by four-legged creatures at an early age!! We had lots of cattle, a few horses, dogs and cats. But my cats weren't house cats. I remember the day my dad took me to get my first kittens. A neighbor was giving them away, and I got 2 of the cutest gray tabbies. Bonnie and Clyde were the first.....but from then on, we had cats all the time. My favorite was a large black cat named Dracula. He would curl up in my lap anytime I was outside reading. My dad finally broke down and got me one house cat. She was a little Siamese named Skittles, but she wasn't nearly as friendly as the farm cats. She had an attitude!! She used to hide under the china cabinet in the dining room and swipe at my dad as he walked by!! He SO hated the decision to get her! Our dogs were the same. Mostly just big farm dogs.

But the week after I got married, my aunt called me and said her Chow, Sugar, had her puppies. If I wanted one, we could have one. So Mike and I took a day trip to her house. There were 4 puppies left. 2 all black males, and 2 brown females. I had my heart set on one of the fluffy females, but Mike liked the littlest black one. He was "anti-social" and didn't play well with others....just like Mike!! So we brought home a little puffy black puppy, that was a Chow/Lab mix. That was 13 years week. Ninja has been the best dog I've ever had. My aunt Peggy is amazed we still have him. He is losing his sight and his hearing, and has slowed down....alot! But he has been a wonderful dog and loves my kids with all he has! Even with his sometimes unpredictable Chow temperament, he has never one time gotten angry with one of them.

3 1/2 years ago, my husband got it in his head we needed a puppy for the kids for Easter. And not just any puppy. A St. Bernard. I really don't think he ever actually WATCHED the movie Beethoven! So we found a breeder about 4 hours from us and took off. That is how Rocco entered the Toland clan. He has since grown to be a moose, topping the scales at 174 lbs! But he is the sweetest dog ever. My youngest daughter, Ana, is particularly close to him, as you can see in this picture. Whenever she is around, so is Rocco. When she was about 3 years old, her godfather came to visit. Now Aaron is my best friend and he loves my kids dearly. He has been Uncle Aaron since the day they were born, and he is as close to me as my own brother. We have a 4 season room added to our walk-out basement. It has tall windows on 3 sides. When Aaron walked in, he picked up Ana and started throwing her up in the air. She was laughing and screaming (with joy, just so you know!) Rocco was right outside the windows. He started barking and running along the side of the house. He was literally trying to jump through the windows, thinking Ana was being hurt. To this day, Aaron is afraid Rocco might eat him!!

They can be big pains in the butt sometimes, but I honestly don't know what I would do without them!!

So...the books I picked out for the challenge are a mixture of old classics and new books! Most are YA, so they'll be quicker reads.

  • Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
  • My Friend Flicka by Mary O'Hara
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
  • No One Noticed the Cat by Anne McCaffrey

Friday, September 14, 2007

Man Booker Short List Announced

I just saw that the Short List was announced for this year's Man Booker Prize. The winner will be announced on Oct. 16th. It looks like McEwan is the leading contender so far. I have to say, I've had bad luck recently with Bookers! Both John Banville's The Sea and Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss bored me to tears!! Let's hope one of these are better!

DARKMANS, Nicola Barker: An 838-page dark story of love and jealousy set in Ashford, Kent. 3rd novel by 41-year-old English author.
THE GATHERING, Anne Enright: Roaming story of a dysfunctional Irish family and a ghost. 4th novel by 44-year-old Irish author.
THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, Mohsin Hamid: Political-personal tale of a Pakistani living in the US after 9/11. 2nd novel by 36-year-old Pakistani ex-management consultant living in London
MISTER PIP, Lloyd Jones: 2007 Commonwealth Prize-winning fable about escapism and civil war set in Papua New Guinea. 7th novel by 52-year-old New Zealand author
ON CHESIL BEACH, Ian McEwan: Novella about sexual awkwardness of honeymooning couple in 1962. 59-year-old McEwan won the Booker Prize with Amsterdam in 1988.
ANIMAL'S PEOPLE, Indra Sinha: Dark story of Indian slum child and the Bhopal tragedy. 2nd novel by 57-year-old Indian author living in France.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

We have a Winner!!

After my son's football practice tonight, we placed all the names of the bloggers out there that commented on my book giveaway in his football helmet! Chad had the honors of pulling one name out. Booklogged from A Reader's Journal is the lucky winner!! My email address is in my profile!! Just send me your snail mail address and I will send out your book!!

Congratulations!! And thanks to all you that left me comments!!

Comfort Food - Booking Through Thursday

Okay . . . picture this (really) worst-case scenario: It’s cold and raining, your boyfriend/girlfriend has just dumped you, you’ve just been fired, the pile of unpaid bills is sky-high, your beloved pet has recently died, and you think you’re coming down with a cold. All you want to do (other than hiding under the covers) is to curl up with a good book, something warm and comforting that will make you feel better.
What do you read?

(Any bets on how quickly somebody says the Bible or some other religious text? A good choice, to be sure, but to be honest, I was thinking more along the lines of fiction…. Unless I laid it on a little strong in the string of catastrophes? Maybe I should have just stuck to catching a cold on a rainy day….)

Well, to be honest....if I'm REALLY depressed, even reading doesn't do it for me. I have a hard time concentrating on the words that are right there in front of me.

But, if I'm a little sad, or it's just a rainy day.....I'd probably stick with my old favorite, Stephen King. For one, he's my favorite author. I love to read his books because I'm immediately sucked in. His characters always stay with me for quite a long time. And lets face it: facing bloodsuckers, dealing with the end of the world, or fighting off crazed zombies HAS to be easier than what I'm going through!

If it's not Stephen King, then a nice little cozy murder mystery or a quirky, funny chick-lit book will do in a pinch!!

Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

It's all in the Name!

Heather, from Errant Thoughts, tagged me for this cute little meme. (Check out Heather's Errant Dream Reviews also for some AWESOME book recommendations!) This is the Book Cover Meme.

Go to the advanced book search on Amazon, type your first name into the Title field, and post the most interesting/amusing cover that shows up.

This one is cute!!! Besides, the rest of the "Stephanie" titles ended up being Janet Evanovich books!! Gotta love that Stephanie Plum!

Since I've tagged just about everybody I know for all the other memes, I'm just going to "group" tag. If you haven't done this yet, you're tagged!! Kind of lame, I know. Sorry!

In other news.....Short Story Sunday took a back seat to Fantasy Football Sunday! I really TRIED to read. But I just couldn't concentrate on Edgar Allen Poe while the Bears game was on!! Not that it mattered. Why, oh why, won't Lovie Smith listen to me and start ANY other QB on the team besides Grossman?? That man is KILLING me! I would have thought after the fiasco called a Super Bowl last year, he would have gotten the clue!

The library called me yesterday. My copy of "Fragile Things" was in!! I love my library. I was looking for a copy of the new book, "Catherine the Great: Love, Sex & Power" by Virginia Rounding. They couldn't get me a copy through ILL, so they just ordered a new copy for our library!! Those ladies just love me there!! Of course, while I was there, I stocked up on my more books! I came home with the following:

  • Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry
  • 1916 by Moran Llywelyn
  • Booked to Die by John Dunning
  • Sin in the Second City: Madames, Ministers, Playboys and the Battle for America's Soul by Karen Abbott
  • The Uses of Enchantment by Heidi Julavitus
  • Terrorist by John Updike
  • The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist

Looks like I'd better get to reading!! And don't forget about my giveaway!!! Marked: A House of Night Novel by PC Cast & Kristin Cast. Go here to enter to win! I'm drawing a name on Thursday!!


Sunday, September 9, 2007

Oh WHY can't I resist?????

Challenges, challenges, challenges.....why is it that I just can't seem to resist?? I just seem to love signing up for challenges. On the positive side, I have met some wonderful people and have added so many new books to my TBR list (or is that a negative?) I have experienced reading books that I know I wouldn't have ever picked up without the little "push" that a challenge will give. On the downside, I seem to have added so many challenges that I can't possibly finish all of them!!

But I think it seems to be the fun in trying new things. New books, new authors, new genres. And being able to actually check something off a list seems to be a big pull for me. Yes, I know that I'm weird!! But right now, there is an onslaught of new challenges, and I just can't seem to stop!!

First is the Cardathon Challenge. Sponsored by Becky from Becky's Book Reviews, this is a challenge honoring her favorite author, Orson Scott Card. But you don't have to read only Card books. Oh no. You can read any books that he's written, edited or REVIEWED!! The reviewed part is what opens up realms of opportunity! Now, I ask it crazy to join in a challenge honoring an author you have never read before??? Probably. But I'm going on faith (and the word of my blogging friend Chris, who also counts Card as a favorite and hasn't steered me wrong so far). So indeed I joined. The challenge is for 2008 and has it's own blog!! So...with all the great books that can be picked for this challenge, I added a HUGE amount to my list!! I reserve the right to pick and choose at least 12, if not many more, from this list:

  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Seventh Son by Orson Scott Card
  • The Memory of Earth by Orson Scott Card
  • Sarah by OSC
  • Lost Boys by OSC
  • Enchantment by OSC
  • A Planet Called Treason by OSC
  • Capitol by OSC
  • Hot Sleep by OSC
  • Eye for and Eye by OSC
  • Treasure Box by OSC
  • Wyrms by OSC
    Then comes the reviews and recommendations:

  • Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbit
  • Murder of Roger Ackroid by Agatha Christie
  • The Black Echo by Michael Connelly
  • Widdershins by Charles de Lint
  • The Bone Doll's Twin by Lynn Flewelling
  • The Puppet Masters (or Farmer in the Sky) by Robert Heinlein
  • The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini
  • Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
  • Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
  • Holes by Louis Sacher
  • Digging to America by Anne Tyler

Sheesh...that's a lot of books!!

Next up is the Index Librorum Liberorum, hosted by Imani, from The Books of my Numberless Dreams. This is a chance to read some classics that have been on the Vatican's banned list for centuries. Figured I could "culture" myself a little with this challenge! You can choose any work by any author on the list. I've decided to stick mainly with works of fiction. This challenge runs for a full year and could be quite interesting.

The books that I have chosen to read are:

  • Candide by Voltaire
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  • Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (re-read)
  • Nana (or The Ladies' Paradise) by Emile Zola
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
  • Indiana by George Sand
  • The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
  • History of My Life by Giacomo Casanova
  • Justine by Marquis de Sade

See...that's some heavy reading!

Finally, and I haven't signed up for this one.....yet! But Michelle from 1 More Chapter, has a new blog for her new challenge 888. This is 8 books from 8 Categories in 08. It sounds like so much fun, but so many books!! Who knows? I will probably have to throw my name in the hat for this one too!!

Anyone going to join me?

Saturday, September 8, 2007

A Legend in the Literary Field Passed Away

Madeleing L'Engle, Children's author extraordinaire, passed away on Sept. 6th, 2007, in Connecticut. According to this article in the New York Times, she was 88. I read the book, A Wrinkle in Time, when I was in 6th grade! I thought it was fantastic even then. It won the John Newberry Award in 1963.

In addition, she wrote over 60 books, including childhood fables, regilous meditations and fantasy, and "weaved emotional tapestries transcending genre and generation".

Please read the article. It's a very nice tribute to this wondeful lady. The world is a little darker place today.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Book Giveaway and the RIP Challenge

Since Carl's RIP Challenge is so much fun and he's so giving with his prize packages, I thought I would pass along the first book I read for this challenge!! If you haven't read my review yet, you can check it out below. Marked: A House of Night Novel is the first book in a new series by PC Cast and her daughter Kristin. It's marketed to YA, but I found it to be a very good addition the ever-growing paranormal genre.

My copy is an ARC and it's a soft-covered trade paperback. The drawing is open to anyone, anywhere!!

So....if you need something to add to your list of RIP Challenge books, this one is a great one!! Or, if you aren't in the challenge, but just want something new to read, here you go!! I will be drawing for a winner on Sept. 13th, so sign up now. All you have to do is leave me a comment that you want to be entered!!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Goldilocks

Booking Through Thursday

Okay, so the other day, a friend was commenting on my monthly reading list and asked when I found the time to read. In the ensuing discussion, she described herself as a “goldilocks” when it comes to reading–she needs to have everything juuuuuust right to be able to focus. This caught my attention because, first, I thought that was a charming way of describing the condition, but, two, while we’ve talked about our reading habits, this is an interesting wrinkle. I’d never really thought about it that way.

So, this is my question to you–are you a Goldilocks kind of reader?

Do you need the light just right, the background noise just so loud but not too loud, the chair just right, the distractions at a minimum?

Or can you open a book at any time and dip right in, whether it’s for twenty seconds, while waiting for the kettle to boil, or indefinitely, like while waiting interminably at the hospital–as long as the book is open in front of your nose, you’re happy to read?

Great question!! Truthfully, I'm not a discriminate reader at all!! So, the answer is NO, I'm not a Goldilocks kind of reader. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a book with me every where I go! Sure, it's nice to be able to cozy up next to the fireplace with a roaring fire (on a cold winter's night, of course!) with low music in the background. With just me and my book. But in my life that rarely, if ever happens!! With a loud husband, and 3 kids there are very few moments that I consider peaceful!! So I make do with what I can get!! I can tune out most of the background noise, if the book is interesting enough!

I always have a book in the car with me too. That way, I'll be prepared if I need it. If I'm in the passenger seat, I can usually read. And if I'm waiting for my son to finish football practice, I have it open in front of me. Doctor's offices are great places to read since you rarely get in at your appointed time!

When I was in Disney World, I got the cutest Tinker Bell bag. It's really a large purse/carry-all. I now how room to fit in a paperback!! So I'm never without a book!

Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Great New Series!

I like vampire books, okay? Sue me! When I saw that Marked: A House of Night Novel by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast was available for review, I jumped on it. This book is the first in a new young adult series about vampires.

One day, Zoey Redbird is an average, 16-year-old schoolgirl, worrying about her ex-boyfriend’s drinking and her upcoming Geometry test. Then it happens. A Vampyre Tracker “marks” her, and life as she knows it has ended. When you receive the “mark”, a crescent-shaped tattoo on your forehead, it means that you have been chosen to become a vampyre. And you will, if you can survive “the Change.”

From that moment, all things are different. Her best friend looks like she’s scared to death of Zoey. Her own family, led by the sanctimonious step-monster John, thinks she has done something evil to deserve it. And being Marked means that she will have to leave her own home and move to the House of Night, the vampyre finishing school that will train her as a fledgling to go through the Change and become an adult vamp. But Zoey is destined to more than just any fledgling. After a fall in which she hits her head, Zoey connects with the Vampyre Goddess Nix and is told she is special. She is to be the Goddess's eyes and ears in the modern world, destined to have great Goddess powers. When Zoey awakens, her Mark is colored in, something that doesn’t happen to fledglings.

With Neferet, a high-priestess of Nix, as her mentor, Zoey starts her new life as a fledgling. Her roommate, Stevie Rae is great, and she is given an invitation to join the Dark Daughters, the school’s most elite club (although the leader of the group isn’t at all what she appears to be). How bad can life be?

In the first book in a series, we are introduced to a new world - a world in which vampyres are real and are usually the most successful and famous people around. A world in which the People of Faith are taught to be frightened of them. And we are introduced to the House of Night and the ways of the vampyre population of today.

I was completely hooked by the first chapter; P.C. Cast has done a fantastic job of laying the groundwork for an exciting series and, with the help of her daughter, Kristin, has made a very believable character in Zoey Redbird. The mother-daughter writing team has done a wonderful job capturing the essence of a 16-year-old girl: scared, looking for acceptance, and trying to fit in. Isn’t that what all 16-year-olds want out of life? In my opinion, Marked is definitely above average in the emerging “teen” paranormal genre, a genre that is growing at a lightning speed. This book isn’t a bloody horror novel by any means. It is much more than that. I found it to be exotic, engaging, and just plain fun, and I highly recommend it. 4.5/5

(copyright 2007 by Stephanie Toland for Curled Up With a Good Book)

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

To Medicate or Not to Medicate.....

That is indeed the question!! I'm in a quandary right now, and I'm just not sure what to do. My son Chad is 11, and just starting Jr. High. For the past four years, he's been taking Adderall for ADD. I've never been a big fan of pumping kids full of meds, but after a teacher suggested it, I took him to the doctor. He HATES taking them, but he is definitely more focused than he was before. But the past year, I've noticed his appetite has been nothing. After taking him in July for his football physical, I found out that he has only gained 1 pound in a year. ONE lousy pound. The poor kid looks like a refugee from a concentration camp. So I made the decision to take him off the meds for awhile. Since July, he has packed on 8 pounds and looks SO MUCH healthier. He actually seems to be sweeter and happier too.

But here's the conundrum. Now that school has started, I've been noticing some things. This is his first year in Jr. High and he has to use a locker and switch classes. He seems really unorganized, and is having problems keeping up with this books and papers. He actually lost a History paper that he spent hours working on. (He found it later in the day...turned it in late, and got 10 points off). And when he's doing his homework, he is so easily distracted that it takes forever to finish.

Do I put him on a different medication?? The doctor recommended Focalin. He said it won't cause the side affects like lack of appetite. Chad is a straight-A student. And he can be EXTREMELY hard on himself. I'm afraid that if his grades slip, he'd be devastated. But in the same sense, I hate to put him back on the meds when personality-wise he seems so much happier?? I'm really torn up about this...and I just don't know what to do!! Any suggestions??

Monday, September 3, 2007

A Coming of Age Story for those of us Raised in the 80's!

First of all, I would like to thank Josh McClary himself for sending me a copy of his book! I'm sorry it took me so long to read it! Chance Murphy and the Battle of Morganville, (367 pgs, Kedzie Press) is a book in which I can relate! It's about a boy growing up in the midwest in 1986!

In the summer of 1986, Chance Murphy was living in Morganville, Indiana with his mother and his mentally handicapped older sister, Sabby. His parents are divorced and his father lives with his old Vietnam buddy, Pete, in an apartment over The Murphy. The Murphy is the local movie theater, and Chance and his sister went weekly to spend time with their father, but also to partake of "Monday Movie Madness", a tradition in the town of Morganville.

Chance is not your average 13-year-old. He has dreams of grandeur. His grandfather died during WWII while fighting the Germans. He wanted to be soldier too, but an accident when he was little involving his best friend Dan and a BB gun put an end to that dream quickly. He has the normal problems that any kid has at that age, and yet they always seem bigger to Chance. He lives across the street from his mortal enemy Otto Manheim (the dirty "Hun"). His best friend Dan lives next door with his perfect (at least to the outside world) family. When Dan gets home cooked breakfast consisting of eggs and whole hog sausage, Chance is forced to endure bran flakes and a mom that works all the time. And his sister Sabby is sweet and he loves her, but sometimes it's hard dealing with her handicap.

I really enjoyed this book. It's hard not to like Chance and feel sorry for him, although he has a lot of anger issues. In fact, he has a lot of issues period. He's got a mouth on him that needs a good bar of soap, and a temper that is hard for him to control. But through it all, Chance has a good heart. He really WANTS to be a better person, he just can't quite get there. But I think that's what being a 13-year-old is all about. Trying to become the person you will eventually grow up to be. And Chance has a lot of growing to do.

One of the best things about this book is all the pop culture references. When Chance is DYING to have Laser tag under the Christmas tree that year, it brought me back in time to my brother wanting the same thing!! From Top Gun and The Breakfast Club to Coca-Cola Shirts and Guess? Jean jackets, I was definitely transported back to the my days in jr. high and high school! Isn't that really the fun of books? 4/5

Sunday, September 2, 2007

I'm BACK!!

FINALLY!! I got ameritech to replace my modem (for a lot less than originally quoted). And now I can once again connect to the internet!! Man. It's awful not being connected! Vacation wasn't SO bad because at least I knew I COULD connect if I wanted to.

Did I accomplish anything while I was down?? Well....I finished Marked: A House of Night Novel for review at Curled Up. (As soon as it's published there, I'll post my review here!) I was actually really impressed with it. I should have used it for my first RIP book, but I didn't even think about it at the time. Review is Coming!!

I also almost finished Chance Murphy and the Battle of Morganville. This book was actually sent to me by the author, and I'm just getting around to reading it. I have to say though.....I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Maybe it's because it's about a boy growing up in the 80's and I just love all the pop culture references. Or maybe because it's a good story. Anyway, I hope to finish it today and post a review soon.

Other than that, I guess I just did a lot of housework (which I have been seriously putting off!) and grocery shopping (ditto). I did manage to go to the library and check out about 6 books and request 5 others. Not like I don't have anything to read at my house!

On Friday, we went to see the Halloween remake. First let me say, that I love, love, love Rob Zombie movies!! Both House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects rank right up there with my favorite scary movies!! You can tell that Zombie is a fan of the genre. He really puts a lot of effort and coolness into his movies. And I really enjoyed Halloween. It gave us a lot more information on Michael Myers as a child, and events that led to his becoming a Halloween nightmare. That being said, I just don't think there was enough new stuff to warrant a remake! I mean, why take a classic movie like Halloween and do it again? John Carpenter's movie was phenomenal when it first came out in 1978. It cemented Jamie Lee Curtis as the "Queen of Scream" and it made Michael Myers a household name. Malcolm McDowell as Dr. Loomis was good in the beginning, but he couldn't match the intensity of Donald Pleasance at the end of the movie. Scout Taylor-Compton was cute as Laurie Strode, but she was no Jamie Lee Curtis. But Sheri Moon Zombie had a great performance as Michael's mom, and Daeg Faerch as the young Michael was uber-creepy! He did a fantastic job for one so young.

So, I'm asking the question....what do you do when you can't get connected?? Have a nervous breakdown or do you just go with the flow?? Now...I'm off to catch up on all that I missed!!