Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!

I just wanted to take a few minutes to wish everyone a Happy (and safe) New Year's!!

Tonight, I will be staying home by the fire (since it's snowing like crazy here). I stopped on my way home from work and bought a couple bottles of wine, some sparkling grape juice, and in an effort to channel Oscar Wilde, a bottle of Absinthe!! It hasn't been legal in the US in years, although we have bought some from overseas. Figured we could have a drink of it at midnight. Personally, I think it tastes a little like licorice flavored gasoline, but that's just me!! Besides, it's not a night to get lit. Especially since I will be in the middle of a Rockin' game of Old Maid!!

So be safe. Have fun. And enjoy the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008!!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Neil Gaiman Experience Continues.....

with my Netflix rental of Stardust!! I wanted to see this movie in the theater so much, but it came out when we were on vacation, and there was just never the right time when we got home. Since Friday nights are "Family Movie Night", this time I sucked the whole family into Gaiman mode!

There were slight differences from the book, but absolutely nothing that detracted from the enjoyment! The casting was just over-the-top phenomenal! Claire Danes was the PERFECT Yvaine. She is absolutely how I pictured her. Besides I have loved Claire Danes since the very first episode of My So Called Life. Charlie Cox was a wonderful Tristin. And Michelle Pfeiffer played the evil witch Lamia. She was beautiful and ugly; young and old. An excellent choice. Ricky Gervais had a very small, but funny role as well.

But the show stealing character had to be Robert De Niro as Captain Shakespeare!! He is one of my favorite actors anyway. But you just had to laugh at him dancing around in a corset and pink feathers!! Not your typical De Niro role, that's for sure.

My girls fell in love with the movie. They didn't know what it was about, but when I said it was a Fairy Tale, they were in! Even Chad loved it. It was enough fantasy for him (and not TOO much romance!) Even Mike liked it.

If you haven't seen Stardust, do rent it. If you are a fan of Neil Gaiman, you will love it. And if you are not, it may just make you a fan!!

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Sci-Fi Experience

Carl, from Stainless Steel Droppings, is hosting The Sci-Fi Experience 2008. It's not a Challenge, per se. It's an "Experience". But if any of you are familar with Carl's Challenges, they are all EXPERIENCES!!

No amount of books has to be read. It runs from January 1st until the end of February and there is even a site for book reviews. It's just a chance to delve into the sci-fi genre. For me, this is a chance to read some books that have been sitting around my house for far too long!! Sci-Fi is a fairly new genre for me. And one that I have grown to love!! I don't have a set reading list. We'll just see where the months take me!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Best of 2007 (as well as a Booking Through Thursday)

Wow. Does it seem possible that 2007 is days away from ending?? This year certainly has flew by. In some ways, it was an awful year...and in other ways it was a great year. I started a new job that I like, and everyone is well. So, I really guess you can't beat that!!

As far as reading is concerned, it was a lousy year for me quantity-wise. There just weren't enough hours in the day. BUT quality-wise, I read some exceptional books!! (and for a person that admits to not liking non-fiction books, I was pleasantly surprised!) Here are my top 5 reads of 2007:

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zuzak - Narrated by Death, this is the story of Leisel Meminger, a little girl in Nazi Germany. She is being raised by a foster family, and she steals books. This book left such a mark on me!! I cried for at least the last 50 pages! It was truly the best book I've read in a very long time!

2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman - This story is about the clash between Old World Gods and the new Gods of the Technical Age. Shadow is one of my very favorite literary characters. This book blew me away and cemented Neil Gaiman as one of my favorite authors!

3. The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer - Memoir written by a man about the Bar that changed his life forever. A wonderful story of a boy and his mother, and how they made their dreams come true.

4. Marley & Me: Life and Love With the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan - Another memoir!! John Grogan tells the story of his dog, Marley. Untrainable, hyperactive and a true pain-in-the-butt, Marley is also loyal, lovable and a wonderful part of the family. If you ever had a pet, this book is for you!

5. I am the Messenger by Markus Zuzak - Yep. This guy can WRITE! A story of an average, unmotivated young man and the great things he accomplished. Another book that left me with tears in my eyes!!

These are the best books I've read this year. A few that I would consider runner-ups: Rises the Night by Colleen Gleason, The House of Night Novels by P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast, and Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors.

Like I said. Some great quality books in 2007. What were some of your best books??

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Me!

Well....with all the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I totally forgot about my blog anniversary!! Dec. 22nd was the date of my first post last year. Can you believe it?? This blog is now a year old!! And don't I feel like a veteran??

But....I don't have much time to celebrate!! I'm off to work soon. I guess the one bad thing about changing jobs is having time off around the holidays. But that will change next year. One of the best benefits I received when starting was Vacation/PTO. By the end of the first year, I will have 4 weeks vacation time!! It's starts accumulating immediately, and after my 90 days "probation" time, I will already have a week!! Not bad.

The house looks like a tornado hit!! Santa (and the grandparent's) were very good to the kids. We have toys and boxes all over the living room, that I was just too tired to pick up. Not a book was found under my tree (for me anyway!), but I did get some money. Can always use that. Besides...the Ministry ticket was my real present, so I can't complain.

So...I'm sitting here in my new flannel pj's, getting ready to hop in the shower. I hope each and every one of you had a great Christmas with your family. And I hope Santa was good to you!!

And for those of you that love Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books, here's a cute (and extremely witty) little mystery, taken from The Guardian!!


Saturday, December 22, 2007

A lot of WORK and 2 more challenges!

Dang. I totally forgot what it was like to train for a new job. Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. Sheesh. THEN there are the training manuals. I'm working in the Blood Services area, and I now know about Bloodborne Pathogens that I ever thought I would!!

Still, it's a WONDERFUL organization. I haven't met one person that works there that doesn't love their job. That, to me, is a huge indicator. The Heart of America region that I work for services close to 50 hospitals including 5 big ones in Chicago, most of the hospitals in the entire Central part of the state, and even a few VA hospitals. LOTS to learn, and I've been extremely tired from taking it all in. (that's just a little apology for the lack of posting this week! Don't worry. I'll be back more often!)

As for the new challenges, Miz Books is again hosting the TBR challenge, this time for 2008. I failed miserably this past year!! Too many other challenges took my focus away!! But I'm trying again next year!! This wasn't too hard to choose the books...most were books that I didn't get a chance to read during challenges THIS year!! So, without further's "The List":

  • Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood
  • Case Histories by Kate Atkinson
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  • Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
  • Lisey's Story by Stephen King
  • Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
  • I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
  • Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
  • High Five by Janet Evanovich


  • Little Earthquakes by Jennifer Weiner
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters by Gordon Dahlquist
  • Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
  • The Skewed Throne by Joshua Palmatier
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy

So.....there you go. Will try to actually get through the list this year!!

It's finally time to post my choices for the "Celebrate the Author" Challenge. Hosted by Becky from Becky's Books, it's a year-long challenge. You read 12 books in 12 months. A book a month, during the authors birthday month. I just think this sounds fun!! And a way to celebrate my favorite authors!!'s "The List":

  • January - Anne Bronte - Agnes Gray
  • February - John Steinbeck - Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden
  • March - Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • April - Terry Pratchett - The Colour of Magic
  • May - Jodi Picoult - ???
  • June - Thomas Hardy - Far From the Maddening Crowd
  • July - Robert Heinlein - The Puppet Masters
  • August - H. P. Lovecraft - At The Mountains of Madness
  • September - Stephen King - ??
  • October - Ursula Le Guin - The Left Hand of Darkness
  • November - Neil Gaiman - ??
  • December - Charles de Lint - The Onion Girl

I left a few blank. Maybe it's wishful thinking that a new book will come out by then. Or I just couldn't decide right now. Whatever the reason, I'll pick something!!


Thursday, December 20, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - And the Nominee is.....

What fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?(Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’t count.)

What non-fiction book (or books) would you nominate to be the best new book published in 2007?(Older books that you read for the first time in 2007 don’t count.)

And, do “best of” lists influence your reading?

Truth be told, I'm usually a little behind when it comes to new books. I always have a list that I want to read, but by the time I get to them, it's usually after the year they are published!! There are a few exceptions to the rule. I did read Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult when it came out. It was good. Not as great as some of her other books.

The best 2 new series that I started this year are the House of Night Books by P.C. Cast (the last one was published this year - Betrayed - and it was fantastic!!) and the Gardella Vampire Series by Colleen Gleason. Book number 2, Rises the Night, was wonderful.

I think that "Best of" lists do influence my reading. If for nothing else, it's just another list of books that sound interesting to me!! I always read them and add a few to my reading list for NEXT year!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas at the Toland's

Sorry this is so late today. It was my first day of work at the Red Cross and I didn't have time to post before I left this morning!

One of the first traditions that Mike and I started when we got married, was this: Every year before we put up the tree we would go to Hallmark and buy a Christmas ornament. Then when the kids came along, we would buy one ornament for them and one for us. Now, the family goes and each person picks out an ornament!! We have so many now, there is barely any room on the tree. But we just keep adding them!! You can't tell from the picture, but our tree is covered with blue lights. They are the epitome of Christmas for me.

This year Mike was SO pleased with Chad's choice: It is a TV with ESPN on it. When you hit a button on the top, it plays the theme from Sport Center!! You can tell he is getting older. We started out with Woody from Toy Story, then went to Storm Troopers from Star Wars. Then it was football players. Now ESPN!!

Bella....ever the Diva....this year choose the Barbie Fashion Ornament!! The girls are so much more predictable than Chad. We have Disney Princesses and Barbie!! This one is really cute. She even has her shopping bag!! Yes, I know I'm in trouble with this girl!!

And Ana, my angel and girl after my own heart, always goes for Pooh!!! This year, we have Pooh and Eeyore.

Christmas Eve is always my favorite night of the year. We go to Early Mass with the in-laws. Then we go back to their house for a Prime Rib dinner, complete with all the fixin's!! Finally it's a showing of one of my very favorite Christmas movies....Christmas Vacation!! (What can I say?? We are rather warped!) When I FINALLY get the kids to bed, the real work begins. All the last minute wrapping and stocking stuffing. And putting the presents out. I always send Mike to bed with the kids, just to make sure they don't slip downstairs. So it's really peaceful. Especially when Christmas morning is a blaze of kids running and presents being torn open!!

Finally, I will leave you with my favorite Christmas cookie recipe. Peanut Blossoms!!

1 bag (8oz) Hershey's Kisses

1 egg

1/2 cup shortening

2 tablespoons milk

3/4 cup peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

additional granulated sugar
Heat oven to 375F. Remove candy wrappers. In large bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter until well blended. Add the 1/3 cup of granulated sugar and all of the brown sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to peanut butter mixture. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in the additional granulated sugar; place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Immediately place kiss on top of each cookie, pressing down so cookie cracks around edges. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Don't forget to visit the others on the blog tour!! And have a wonderful Christmas holiday!!

18 December - Dev (Good Reads)
19 December - Callista (S.M.S. Book Reviews)
20 December - Tiny Little Librarian (Tiny Little Librarian)
21 December - Carla (Carla Nayland Historical Fiction)/ Susan (Reading, Raving, and Ranting by a Historical Fiction Writer)
22 December - Carolyn Jean (The Trillionth Page)
23 December - Booklogged (A Reader's Journal)
24 December - Kailana (The Written World) / Carl V. (Stainless Steel Droppings)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Ministry's Last Stand

Ministry is my number one favorite band of all time. They have played together for close to 30 years. When I was in college I found this band. Founder Al Jourgensen IS Ministry. He is the singer, songwriter and main voice for all these years. Originally from Chicago, he signed with Wax Trax in 1980, and started Ministry. In the early years, Ministry had a techno/electronic sound. Most Ministry fans refuse to even admit to this. But the song "Every Day is Halloween" is still one of my favorites!!

With the release of The Land of Rape and Honey, Al Jourgensen became the Godfather of the Industrial Revolution. So many bands today credit Ministry for their sound. And this album is considered a classic and one of the most important in the industrial metal sound. Probably my very favorite song, is "Stigmata" from this album. But it's hard to pick. The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste was next to be released. Still one of top-5 Favorite Albums of all-time. With "Burning Inside" and "So What", you can't miss. All that teen angst I had, was released by shouting the words from So What:

So what, it's your own problem to learn to live with
Destroy us, or make us slaves
We don't care, it's not our fault that we were born too late
A screaming headache on the promised age
Killing time is appropriate
To make a mess and fuck all the rest, we say, we say
So what? So what?

What can I say?? From here was Psalm 69, which I know word for word as well. Al had some drug problems in the 90's, which led to an arrest and jail time. But Ministry prevailed (and I'm happy to admit that Mr. Jorgensen has done what many people have never been able to do....and that's completely kick a heroin habit. The man is clean and buff today). Some of their music during the 90's wasn't so great. I didn't like Filth Pig or The Dark Side of the Spoon all that much. But my love of Ministry still stayed strong.

I could write for days on Ministry. Al's very political stance and his hatred of both President Bush's. His political music. His many side projects which include The Revolting Cocks (with Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys), 1000 Homo DJ's (with NIN's frontman, Trent Reznor), Lard (again with Jello), PTP (with Chris Connolly)....and even Skinny Puppy. I could write about all the great songs with all the lyrics that really hit me deep inside. I could write about The Thirteenth Planet, the recording studio and record label that Al created. But I won't.

The C-U-LaTour is getting ready to start. The last stand. Ministry's last tour. I have seen Ministry live 7 times. And yes, I will be in Chicago, May 9th for the last concert ever. At the House of Blues. (the last time I was there I saw Ministry and was actually in the middle of a mosh pit!) With a VIP pass, I even get a chance to meet my idol, Al Jourgensen. The last concert will have a 2 1/2 hour set that will include many "special guests". With a little luck, I will be able to meet Jello Biafra too! Dead Kennedys were another band of my past.

I know most of you have never even heard of Ministry. (but if you saw the movie AI, they were the band that played at the Flesh Fair...and their music has been on many soundtracks) I know most of you probably couldn't care less. But this means a lot to me. My favorite band EVER. As sad as I am, that I won't be able to ever hear any new Ministry, I'm ecstatic that I have this one last chance to see them live. And MEET them!! This is my Christmas present from Mike and it's a great one. It doesn't get any better than this!!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Friday Movie Extravaganza! this is my last free Friday before I start the Red Cross. Should I have spent it cleaning my house, Christmas Shopping, baking for the holidays, or maybe wrapping presents?? You bet. Did I? Not a chance!!

I am Legend started and Mike and I went to the first showing of the day!! I heart Will Smith, and would go see just about anything with him in it. Did I like the movie? Yep. Sure did. Mike thought there wasn't enough action. And true, it was a lot of psychological "stuff". Personally, I think that made it a BETTER movie. The things you don't see are usually way scarier than what's on screen. (of course, the night seekers were pretty damn freaky!)

As much as I love Will Smith, he was actually my biggest problem with movie. Robert Neville is a brilliant scientist, a virologist. And as much as I like Will Smith, I personally see him as more of a "action" figure. He was FANTASTIC in the action scenes...and even the scenes where you can tell he was just about to crack. But him as a scientist just didn't do it for me. Did it detract from my enjoyment? Not really. Just made it a little more unbelievable. (like a movie about zombie/vamps that are all that's left in a world that was affected by a virus that killed off almost the entire Earth's population is BELIEVABLE!!) Good movie in my book. Well worth at least a B+!!

After that we went home and decided since we were in a movie watching frame of mind, let's check out one of our Netflix movies:

I've never been a HUGE Matt Damon fan. I like him ok. But he is really a fantastic Jason Bourne!! Since Mike was lacking on the action in I am Legend, we put on The Bourne Ultimatum. Well...the movie certainly wasn't lacking for action. From the opening sequence, it was a non-stop roller coaster. And truth be told, I thought it was definitely the best movie of the 3. I really enjoyed it!! the spirit of the holidays, we did watch a Classic:

It's a Wonderful Life is just about the greatest Christmas movie...ever!! (OK...there IS Christmas Vacation!) I just love this movie!! So, while I was making Chocolate Chip cookies for the kids, we watched it. There is just something about Jimmie Stewart that makes me want to hug people. To see him go from wide-eyed dreamer to a man utterly without someone that has EVERYTHING to live for is just so touching!! And yes, I cried. I always do. It's part of the Christmas tradition for me!

So....I didn't get anything accomplished yesterday, but I did watch some fantastic films!! So, I'll leave you all with this thought:

"Remember that no man is a failure who has friends".

Friday, December 14, 2007

Perfect Holiday Book

Maybe it's just me. But for some reason, I've had a hard time getting myself psyched up for Christmas. I dragged my heels about putting up the tree. I stalled on Christmas shopping. But this past week, I think it's finally coming on. I received my Secret Santa package in the mail. And I decided to read Christmas Jars by Jason Wright (149 pgs., Shadow Mountain). I thought it might help the Christmas Spirit gain a little momentum. This little book, almost a novella, certainly packs a punch!

Louise Jensen spent every Christmas Eve doing the same thing. She went to Chuck's Chicken & Biscuits and ate dinner. It was a tradition she had been following for years. Except one. She was sick on Christmas Eve and had to put off her annual dinner....until New Year's Eve. Maybe it was fate. Or maybe it was God's plan. But whatever the reason, Louise was in the right place at the right time. A baby girl was left in the booth next to Louise with a note:

To the next person to hold my baby girl, She is yours now. I'll miss her more than you know. But I love her too much to raise her with a daddy that hits. Truth is, he didn't even want me to have her anyways, and her life will be better without a mommy that will always need to run. Please tell her I love her. And please tell her I will hold her again. I cannot give her much, but this year I give her the life her daddy wouldn't. And a little bit of hope.

And this is how Hope Jensen came to be adopted by a loving mother that would do anything for her. As the years went by, it was obvious to everyone that Hope wanted to be a journalist. When she graduated from high school, she started interning for the local paper. With a lot of hard-work and determination, Hope moved up the ladder. But things at home just weren't the same. Louise had cancer. And although she fought it valiantly, it was no use.

Hope's first Christmas Eve without her mother was hard enough. But when she got to her apartment that night, someone had broken in and stolen all her things! As the police were taken her statement and collecting evidence, a mysterious bag showed up by her front door. No one saw who delivered it. It contained a jar....labeled Christmas Jar and was filled with money! As Hope was trying to find out who left the precious gift, she formed the idea of writing "The Story". A story that would lead to her first Front Page exclusive.

This was a fantastic story!! Beautifully written in a sparse fashion, Jason Wright tells an inspiring tale of love, generosity and heart. The only I fault I see with this story is it's too short! As with a lot of the short story genre, I felt that it would have been nice to have a little more character depth. There is only so much you can get with a 120 pages. But the tradition of the Christmas Jar and how it links to Hope's past is one that will warm even the coldest of heart. It really does put things in perspective. Could this little story (which is slated to become a "Major Motion Picture") be the next Christmas Carole? It just might.

(A special thanks goes out to Patrick from Shadow Mountain Publishing for sending me this little gem!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Booking Through Thursday - Catalog

Do you use any of the online book-cataloguing sites, like Library Thing or Shelfari? Why or why not? (Or . . . do you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking to?? (grin))

If not an online catalog, do you use any other method to catalog your book collection? Excel spreadsheets, index cards, a notebook, anything?

Yes, I use Library Thing to catalog my books. Trouble is, I have so many books, I just haven't found the time to get them all listed!! It's on the list of things "To Be Done Someday!" I do like the idea of having all my books listed. And I like to add books that I have read. You know. The ones I've checked out from the library. I even added a few reviews. But as with most things in my life, I just haven't found the time to do it all.

I do like the Early Reviewers section!! I even got a copy of Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell from Random House. Hopefully, I will get it soon!! If you'd like to see the books I have listed, you can check me out under my username Stephlee_77. Add me to your friends!

Happy Thursday!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Check Out" this Novel Mystery!

Sorry for the pun. It just couldn't be helped!! That's what you get when you have a mystery that deals with books!! Booked to Die by John Dunning (432 pgs, Simon & Schuster) is a book I decided to read for the Something About Me Challenge. Bonnie choose it as one of her selections. And it's the first book in the Cliff Janeway Mystery series.

Denver police officer, Cliff Janeway, is a bit of an enigma. He's a good, hard-working cop that used to be a boxer. AND he's a collector of rare books. Strange combination, that's for sure. He's known all along Denver's "Book Row", and is always willing to stop and look for a great find. When he gets a call late one evening to investigate a homicide, his book expertise actually helps him out. The victim, Bobby Westfall, is one of Denver's Bookscouts. Bobby spent all his days searching for 1st editions and trying to find the "Big Score".

At first, the murder looks like a random killing, although in the back of Janeway's mind, he suspects it's related to books. His first suspect is Jackie Newton, his arch enemy. Jackie is a thug with lots of money and power. Janeway has been trying to put him away for the murder of several homeless people ever since he moved to Denver, but has never been able to get a conviction.

When Jackie steps over the line by tormenting a woman that might testify against him, Janeway takes the law into his own hands. He literally beats the pulp out of Jackie. With an investigation and a lawsuit pending, Janeway turns in his badge and decides to become what he's always known his future would hold: A Bookman. Bobby's murder gets written off as a random killing.....until murder strikes Book Row once again.

What's not to love about this book? It involves two of my favorite things: mystery and books! Cliff Janeway is a great character. He's smart, tough, and knows his 1st Editions! There are enough twists to keep the pages turning. All the way to the final sentence in the book. And there's tons of information about rare books, enough to keep my interest piqued. You can tell that Dunning is a collector himself, and it radiates through the entire book. Booked to Die is a great mystery, and one I would highly recommend to anyone! I can definitely see that I will be continuing this series!! 4.5/5

Also Reviewed by:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Short Story Monday - Smoke and Mirrors Part III

I know. You are waiting anxiously for this week's edition of Short Story Monday. It is week III of Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. It's a wonder that I can actually put this book down each Monday morning, and not pick it up again until Sunday night. But that is the way of the short story, isn't it? Reading short stories isn't like reading a novel.....I don't have to keep reading till late in the night to find out what happens at the end. Because the end shows up much quicker. I can get the beginning, the middle, AND the end all taken care of in one sitting. Actually a few stories in one sitting. Maybe I will become a short story aficionado yet!!

Changes is a really strange little story. It's about a man named Rajit who invents a cure for cancer. Sounds like a wonderful thing, doesn't it?? But as with most "cures" these days, there always seem to be side effects. And Reboot certainly has side effects. So much so, that a black market is out there for people that want the side effect as much as the cure.

The Daughter of Owls is a tale? fable? legend? written in Olde English, as if by John Aubrey, a 17th-Century Historian and writer. It's about a baby girl that was left on the steps of the convent. In her hand was the pellet of a Hoot Owl. Or so the story goes....

Shoggoth's Old Peculiar is a rather comic tale of a young American boy taking a hiking tour of the British Coastline, all the while following a rather meaningless written guide. He happens upon a town called Innsmouth and finds a little pub called The Book of Dead Names. In this pub, he befriends a couple of locals (who look amazingly like frogs!) and learns the story of Great Cthulhu.

Virus is a poem about computer games....and how they get under your skin. And in your brain. And are all-consuming.

Looking for the Girl is one of the first short stories Gaiman ever wrote (for publication). A young man buys his first Penthouse magazine and falls in love with one of the models. She was nineteen at the time (the same as the boy) and her name was Charlotte. As the years went by, this boy never forgot about Charlotte. And then, he sees her picture again. In Penthouse. And she was still only nineteen.....

I know this is going to sound like a broken record, but I am just amazed at the way Gaiman writes!! Each story is different than the previous one. And I haven't read one yet that has failed to entertain me!! Some I like more than others (and this week I think it was Shoggoth's Old Peculiar), but I always enjoy them. It's like having a box of Belgium chocolates. Each one is different, but they are all meant to be savored!!

Until next week.......

Friday, December 7, 2007

Santa Came to my House Today!!

Imagine my surprise when I came home today to find a package sitting outside my door!! I heart getting presents!! I guess that's the one thing that will never change the older we get. It was labeled S.S. My secret Santa package arrived today!! Now, I guess I could have done the really cool thing and taken pictures of the beautifully wrapped presents....but no. I was too anxious to dig in! I guess that's another thing that will never change.

I do have to say as soon as I opened the first present, I knew exactly who it was from. I had read a review posted by my Santa on Mary Modern by Camille DeAngelis a few weeks ago. And it looked fantastic. So I decided to put it on my "Wish List". And apparently Santa noticed!! Of course, Santa hit on 3 things that I love: Books, Chocolate, and Saving the Planet.

Candy rocks! Especially chocolate. And I got a box of chocolate along with some candy canes. (Mental note: must hide before the rugrats get home from school. Or said chocolate will be a goner!)

But the last is probably the most special. The little Christmas tree and the certificate meant the world to me. 10 Trees planted in my name. What a special present!! I have to say, it actually brought tears to my eyes. OK. So I'm a sap when it comes to this stuff. What can I say?

So...I have to send an especially heartfelt THANKS to Carl. What a wonderful Santa you are! (for the record, I'm sending a special thank you your way. Hopefully, you will get it next week!)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

5 Things Meme

Booklogged tagged me for this meme, so I thought I would play along!

5 Things I was doing 10 years ago: (I can't even remember yesterday!)
1. Getting ready for Christmas with my son. It would have been the first Christmas that he would really have fun (18 months old). So I was buying a lot of toys!
2. I was finishing up some computer classes at the Jr. College here in town.
3. I was getting ready to start a new job at Caterpillar (and now I'm getting ready to start a new job again!!)
4. After Christmas in 1997, I made MY first trip to Disney World for 3 days with my husband. It was a wonderful time!
5. I was reading very little (can you imagine!)

5 Things on my T0-Do List today:
1. Send off my Secret Santa package!
2. Go pick up dog food at Petsmart.
3. Change the sheets and clean the bedrooms.
4. Do a little more Christmas shopping!
5. Go downtown and take the drug test so I can start my new job!!

5 Things I would do if I were a millionaire:
1. Buy a new house, so the girls don't have to share a bedroom.
2. Take the whole family on a Christmas Cruise during Christmas vacation.
3. Pay off all my debts!
4. Go to the bookstore and buy whatever I felt like buying!
5. Donate money to the Dream Center in Peoria, to help others have a nice Christmas as well.

5 Things I'll never wear again (or have never worn):
1. Crop-tops.
2. Cowboy boots.
3. Maternity clothes.
4. Split skirts.
5. Interview suits! (I guess I'd better Never say Never!)

5 Favorite Toys:
1. Tivo
2. Guitar Hero for PS2
3. Computer
4. Satellite Radio
5. My bread maker

5 People to tag:
Chris at Book-A-Rama
Suey at It's All About the Books
Melody from Melody's Reading Corner
Rhinoa from Rhinoa's Ramblings
Amy from The Sleepy Reader

See that was fun!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Sinister Fairy Tale for Adults

Everyone loves a good fairytale. We've all heard them from our parents and we tell them to our children. After reading wonderful reviews of this book written by both Chris and Nymeth, I decided The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly (352 pgs, Atria) was a book I must read!

Once Upon a Time -- for that is how all good stories should begin -- there was a boy who lost his mother. And so begins the journey of David, a young boy growing up around the time of WWII in London. When his mother got sick, David tried everything he could think of to help save her. He followed all sorts of routines, thinking if he tried hard enough, he could save her. But it just wasn't to be.

David's mother loved books. And from her, David learned to love stories. She told him that stories were alive.
Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them with a flashlight beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in our world. They were like seeds in the beak of a bird, waiting to fall to earth, or the notes of a song laid out on a sheet, yearning for an instrument to bring their music into being. They lay dormant, hoping for the chance to emerge. Once someone started to read them, they could begin to change. They could take root in the imagination, and transform the reader. Stories WANTED to be read, David's mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.

When his mother died, David lost himself in his books. And his father found another woman. David was very upset by this. He didn't want someone to take the place of his mother. And this is when the books started speaking to him.

This book was brilliant! Pieces of it reminded me of another boy. A boy named Jack Sawyer, from the book The Talisman by Stephen King and Peter Straub. A boy that went to another world to save his mother. Although the story differs, the premise is the same. David wanted to save his mother, but there was nothing he could do. And yet, he did go to another world. A world outside of ours.

It also reminded me of the "Fractured Fairy Tales" I used to watch on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show when I was little. Although these fairy tales were far darker than any in the cartoons I used to watch, it was a strange twist on tales that were very familiar to me (although the obese Snow White that tortured the poor dwarfs was hilarious!) Connolly took a bunch of tales and weaved them throughout this book. He took the familiar and made it dark and scary. And he did it in a way that made you really feel frightened for David.

In the end, Connolly wrote a wonderful book that told of a heroic young boy that learned how strong he really was. He created an enemy that will leave you feeling shivers in the night. And he created a new twist on old stories. This book is for every one of us that loves the fairy tale. And don't we ALL love fairy tales?? 4.5/5

Also reviewed by:

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

A Little Bit of Baseball and a Little Bit of "Chick-Lit"

I received Choosing Sophie by Leslie Carroll (272 pgs, Avon Trade) from the Harper Collins First Look program last week. I needed something light to read, so I picked this one up! (This book will be released on January 22, 2008).

Olivia "Venus" deMarley was pretty happy with the way her life was shaping up. She had a wonderful fiance, she had a great nest-egg socked away from her years as a burlesque dancer, and she was getting ready to move to Colorado to be near her future husband's family.

Then life threw her a curve ball. Her father, a man that pretty much disowned her, passed away. They hadn't spoken in over 20 years. When Venus went to the reading of the will, she got more than one surprise. First, her father left her controlling interest in his bottom-of-the-division minor-league baseball team if she met one stipulation: she had to close the "circle". What does that mean?? Enter Sophie, the other surprise. The daughter she gave up for adoption when she was only 20 years old.

Choosing Sophie was a surprise to me. A pleasant one. Reminiscent of Bull Durham and A League of Their Own, the secondary story of the baseball team struggling to get out of the cellar was just plain fun. Especially when Venus tries to "shake things up" a bit. Trying to picture grown men playing baseball in "raspberry" colored uniforms was just too funny.

Venus and Sophie's relationship was a little too easy. There just wasn't as much "drama" as you would expect in this situation. When Sophie decides to move in with Venus to help close the circle, the expected fireworks just aren't there. They mesh well....a little too well sometimes. And the final chapter is a bit abrupt in the way Carroll chose to end the book. BUT, it's a nice, sweet, feel-good type story. And I enjoyed it. So, if that's what you are looking for, this book is for you! 3.5/5

Monday, December 3, 2007

Short Story Monday - Smoke and Mirrors Part II

Monday is here again. It seems so soon! Time for this week's edition of Short Story Monday.....Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman. The word for the day: Strange. Each story or poem that I read this week was strange.

Troll Bridge is the story of a little boy. Or at least it starts out that way. This little boy Jack, takes off one summer day, to go exploring. He heads on an old path, through fields and meadows, until he sees an old red bridge, left over from the days of the old railway lines. After he crossed over the bridge, he was met by a troll that wanted to "eat his life". But the little boy was only 7. He hadn't had much of a life, and made a bargain with the troll. He would come back when he had lived some more.

Don't Ask Jack is a very short short-story. Only 3 pages long. It is the tale of an old Jack-in-the-Box. One that was left to the children of the house. But they didn't like it. It was scary. And it called to them at night......

The Goldfish Pool and Other Stories is about an author. He has written a book about the children of Charles Manson. It was the story that just sort of "wrote itself". Not his usual fare. And it was purchased by a major Hollywood studio to be made into a movie. The author flies to America to write the screenplay for said movie. But, as it usually is with Hollywood, nothing is easy. Every person that is "attached" to the movie wants him to change things: parts of the plot, the characters, the outcome. Our frustrated author starts spending more time by the goldfish pool at his hotel and meets one of the groundkeepers, an elderly gentleman who has been working at the hotel for 70 years, and now he tends to the fish.

The White Road is a narrative poem that takes the story of Mr. Fox, which is apparently the "English Version of Bluebeard". (I hadn't heard about this one before). It's utterly creepy and extremely well-written!

And finally, The Queen of Knives is another narrative poem about a young boy that goes to see a Variety show while staying with his grandparents. His grandmother gets pulled up on stage by the conjurer and placed in a box. She is never seen again....

Although I wasn't as impressed with this set of stories as I was the last, I still really enjoyed them. I hate Jack-in-the-boxes anyway. They rank right up there with clowns and those creepy ventriloquist dummies for me!! And Gaiman is just such a good writer!! An example:

"I loved her gray eyes, and her fine light-brown hair, and her gawky way of walking (like a fawn just learning to walk which sounds really dumb, for which I apologize): I saw her chewing gum, when I was thirteen, and I fell for her like a suicide from a bridge."

I don't know what makes me love this line so much, but I do. It's not the most eloquent of prose, but it hits you right in the chest!! I completely understand how this boy feels. And I think that's it in a nutshell. When I read Gaiman, I feel very close to his characters. I understand them. And this just keep me coming back for more!!
Till next Monday.......

Saturday, December 1, 2007


Well....I knew it would happen one of these days. After many months of looking for a new job, I got the call yesterday. The American Red Cross gave me an offer, and I jumped on the chance!!

After spending the last 13 years of my life with a fortune 500 company that treats it's employees like crap and works them to the bone, I think I finally found a place I can respect. Not only are the benefits good (although the pay IS less), it's a company that's sole purpose is to help others. The job is administrative (not programming), and the hours are exactly what I was looking for. In the end, I'll be able to spend more time with my family, even if I still keep up the part-time gig on the weekends.

I don't start until the 17th (pending the results of my drug I hope being completely hopped up on caffeine isn't a BAD thing!) So....2 weeks to get stuff ready for the holidays, and off to work I go!!

Maybe things are starting to look up a little for me!! I was beginning to wonder.