Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A "Sweetheart" She Ain't!

Since the end is near for 2008, I thought I would post at least one more review before the ball drops! I actually ended up reading a few more books than I did last year which is totally amazing since I'm working twice as much!! But the last review of the year is Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain (336 pgs., St. Martin's Minotaur, 2008), the follow-up to HeartSick.

Forest Park was pretty in the summer. Portland's ash sky was barely visible behind a canopy of aspens, hemlock, cedars, and maples that filtered the light to a shimmering pale green. A light breeze tickled the leaves. Morning glories and ivy crept up the mossy tree trunks and strangled the blackberry bushes and ferns, a mass of crawling vines that piled up waist-high on either side of the packed dirt path. The creek hummed and churned, birds chirped. It was all very lovely, very Walden, except for the corpse.

(There may be a few spoilers for HeartSick in this review)
Once the After-School killer had been revealed....and Gretchen Lowell's part in it, Archie Sheridan promised himself he was done. Done with Gretchen. Done with his visits to the prison to see her. She had controlled every aspect of his life for so many years, he couldn't even count. Now, he wanted it all to be over. Archie had moved back in with his (ex-) wife and kids. He was back on the force working cases. And he was in therapy.

Susan Ward had also moved on since the After-School killer. She moved back in with her mom! She decided that after a brush with a killer and death, a little growing up may be in order. No longer does she have pink hair because apparently turquoise is more professional. And she is serious about her investigation into Senator Castle's life. She knows the man was bad news, and now she has sworn testimony from Molly Palmer, the girl that had the "relationship" with the Senator when she was 14 years old. That is, until the Senator AND Susan's mentor end up dead, when the car they were in crashed over the Freemont Bridge.

All the players are back in this follow-up to HeartSick. And while I was hardly able to put this book down, I didn't like it nearly as well as I did the first. The things that made HeartSick so good was the fact that is was unique. Gretchen Lowell, the female serial killer...and the way she was still in Archie Sheridan's life. THESE were some of the reasons I really liked HeartSick. In Book 2, these reasons aren't unique anymore. In fact, they were a little redundant.

The relationship between Archie and Gretchen is also a big part of this book. Truth be told, it really made me uncomfortable. I find it hard to believe that any person that had been through what Archie went through, could still have feelings for his captor. Was he in love with her? In a really twisted way, he was. And it just made me want to shake him. He does a lot of things that no sane person would do. And if you can actually get over the fact that the woman fed you drain cleaner and tortured you for 10 days, then more power to you. But when said woman threatens your family...and your small kids, then maybe it's time to say enough is enough.

I actually liked Susan a lot more in this book. She was trying to balance her need to be a journalist and get "the story" and the fact that a lot of journalism feeds off the pain of others. She showed a lot of sass and determination in this book, and I think she might have been my favorite character.

I'm not saying it's a bad book because it's not. Chelsea Cain has created some really memorable characters and she certainly knows how to write some thrilling sequences. Personally, I don't understand Archie. He's a broken man, yes. I know. But one with a family that has looked past a lot of stuff to let him in again. And he is ready to pack it all in for a homicidal psychopath. Makes me think his sanity should be a little more in question!

If you've read HeartSick, you will probably want to read Sweetheart, just to know what happens. Who knows, maybe you'll love it more than I did!! 3.5/5

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Book 2 in the Twilight Series......

Well....I can't stop reading the series now, can I? Not a series that has my son begging for more books?? I went out and bought New Moon by Stephenie Meyer (608 pgs, Little, Brown Young Readers, 2006) as soon as Chad was disappointed he was on a waiting list at school to get the book. I figured it was an investment in his education!! Again, I can see the appeal this series has for the younger set.

I felt like I was trapped in one of those terrifying nightmares, the one where you have to run, run till your lungs burst, but you can't make your body move fast enough. My legs seemed to move slower and slower as I fought my way through the callous crowd, but the hands on the clock tower didn't slow. With relentless, uncaring force, they turned inexorably toward the end -- the end of everything.

Things for Bella seem to be going smoothly. She and Edward are a couple. No one knows the Cullens' secret about being vampires. Life is good. There is still one tiny problem -- she wants Edward to turn her so they can spend eternity together, and he wants nothing to do with it. But dating a vampire has a few drawbacks!

Then the Cullens throw a surprise party for Bella's birthday, and in typical Bella clumsy fashion, she gets hurt. The realization that she IS human and they are not seeps in. The Cullens leave town, and Edward breaks up with Bella. In harsh fashion, he tells her that he just can't take their relationship. He doesn't love her enough to do it.

Bella goes into a tailspin of depression. So bad that her friends no longer want to be around her. Charlie is ready to have her committed. She is sleep walking through life. Until she finds if she is in trouble, she can "hear" Edward's voice inside her head. So Bella starts do really reckless things just to feel closer to him. She evens buys 2 motorcycles, although they need a lot of work. And who does she get to help her with it, but her old friend Jacob Black.

Bella starts spending a lot of time with Jacob. He comes her best friend, and the person she relies on the most since Edward left. It's pretty obvious that Jacob's feelings are a lot stronger than Bella's. But she really does care for him. But Jacob has secrets of his own, and now Victoria is back....and pissed off. She is trying to exact her revenge by killing Bella. Since Edward killed James, she is planning to kill Edward's mate. Mate for Mate. And Bella is scared.

Really, I do see how this series became so popular. Meyer's writing is smooth and certainly addictive. Once you start, you can't put it down. But I don't think I liked this one as much as I did Twilight. Edward and family took a backseat to the new monsters in town, and frankly, I am rather partial to vampires!!

Again, Bella stilled annoyed me WAY too much. I get that she's a teenager. Losing your love is traumatic at any age. But we've all been through it. She fell into such a depression, feeling so sorry for herself, that it made me want to scream!! Her recklessness was really starting to bother me too. Personally, I didn't blame her for turning to Jacob. I've read a lot of reviews that said she was being really fickle...but I just didn't see it that way. I think she valued Jacob as a friend. She was very honest with him that she didn't feel the same way about him...and he accepted that. But she did come to love who he was....and if that was gone, she was going to be sad.

And Edward....oh let's get started on him. If he can't have Bella, he's just going to kill himself?? Please. Give me a break. You'd think that a 100-year-old vampire would be smart enough to get over a whiny little thing like Bella. Maybe I'm being jaded by dismissing the whole "Soul Mate" idea. I get the concept....but I just have a hard time buying into it. And marketing books to teens that promote this kind of worshipful love seems kind of dangerous to me. Sheesh. Maybe I AM too old to be reading this series!!

Anyway, I enjoyed the book. Not as much as Twilight. But since I bought Chad both Eclipse and Breaking Dawn for Christmas, I'll definitely be finishing out the series!! 3.75/5

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!!

The last few days have been a whirlwind of activity. From last minute Christmas shopping to the wrapping of tons of presents. But all worked out well....other than the fact that I did not get one book for Christmas!! You know, I'm not hard to buy for. But coming from a family of non-readers, I guess they just don't think!! Oh well....bygones!!

I hope you all had a great holiday....and I'll be back with a review or two tomorrow!!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Utterly Chilling.....

A few months back, I joined the Amazon Vine program. They send me books (for FREE) and all they want out of me is a review. Pretty easy, right? One of the books I requested was Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain. It was Book 2 in a series. As you all know, I completely anal about reading books in series order, and I never would have requested it, but Amazon sent me a copy of Cain's 1st book, HeartSick (352 pgs, St. Martin's Press, 2007) as well. And I am so thankful they did! I would have hated to miss out on this series!!

Archie doesn't know for sure it's her until that moment. There is a dull bloom of warmth in his spine, his vision blurs, and he knows that Gretchen Lowell is the killer. He realizes that he has been drugged, but it's too late. He fumbles for his gun, but he is ham-fisted and can only lift it awkwardly from his belt clip and hold it out as if it were a gift for her. She takes it and smiles, kissing him gently on the forehead.

2 years ago, Archie Sheridan spent 10 days being tortured by Gretchen Lowell. For 10 years, Archie was on the task force that was investigating the serial killer, dubbed the "Beauty Queen Killer". Then Gretchen Lowell walked into his office and offered her services as a consulting psychiatrist. Not only was she off-the-charts intelligent, but she was also extremely beautiful. Little did anyone expect she was actually the killer. Very few serial killers were woman. Especially one this brutal. Besides, who would have thought the killer would be so arrogant as to insert themselves into the investigation?? But Gretchen did, and she came for Archie.

But in a weird twist, after 10 days of torturing Archie to the brink of death, Gretchen actually saved his life. In fact, she called 9-1-1 for medical assistance and sealed her fate. She was caught, but through plea bargaining, she avoided the death penalty. Part of her agreement was that she would tell the police where to find the bodies of the 200 + victims she had tortured and killed. But there was a condition to this agreement. Gretchen would only speak to one person -- Archie.

Now, 2 years later, another serial killer has surfaced. Nicknamed the "After School Killer", he is abducting high school girls on their way home at night. Archie has been asked to come out of retirement and head the new task force. But Archie is a broken man. Not only has he not worked since the incident, but he takes enough Vicoden on a daily basis to sedate a small elephant. He has a medicine cabinet full of prescriptions from anti-depressants to Xanax to sleeping pills. His wife divorced him. And every Sunday Archie drives to the prison to speak to Gretchen Lowell. He's obsessed with her, and not in a healthy way.

Susan Ward is a features writer for the local Portland newspaper. She'd love to be serious reporter, but so far, she hasn't been given the chance. Spunky and independent,with bright pink hair, Susan has been tapped to do a story on Archie and the task force. She doesn't know why she was requested for this assignment, but she isn't going to look a gift horse in the mouth. Following Archie around is definitely the biggest thing that has ever happened in her career.

Because Gretchen is in prison for most of this book, there are the obvious comparisons to another literary killer -- Hannibal Lecter. But in my opinion, Gretchen Lowell makes Hannibal Lecter look like a Sunday School Teacher. Through a few small chapters that flash back to the ten days Archie was captured, we get a small glance at how incredibly brutal this woman really is. The kinds of torture she put her victims through are so twised, I had trouble reading about them.. And not only was she brutal in her kills, but she is equally so with Archie. She is a master manipulator. She "killed" most of him during those 10 days. But now she is keeping him in a prison of her own making. He can't seem to let go of her. It's almost like a weird form of Stockholm Syndrome.

The Susan storyline was a little weak in comparison to the Gretchen storyline. You just didn't get as much of a chance to get to know her as well. But her character is likable. She is tough, although not as tough as she thinks she is.

But Archie is such a wonderful character. He is flawed almost to the point of destruction. Chelsea Cain has created a man so human, there are some chapters it's almost painful to read. You just want to yell at him, then hug him the next minute.

On top of the great characters is a really fast-paced, riveting story. One that will keep you turning page after page, just dying to know what's going to happen next. An extremely enjoyable thriller, HeartSick will keep you on your toes. And just praying you never see Gretchen Lowell on a street corner in your neighborhood!! I was so impressed with this book, that I immediately started Book #2 - SweetHeart. If you are a fan of the thriller/serial killer genre, this is a definite must-read for you. Even if you aren't a big fan, this is a very enjoyable book! 4.5/5

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winner of the Matrimony Giveaway

Drumroll please........

Linda from Maine!!
Thanks so much to all of you for participating. I wish I had a book for everyone! But stop back again after the first of the year. I have a few ARC's that I'm going to be giving away too!!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Quiet Little Novel About Life......

T'is the season to be busy!! So busy, that I am about 4 reviews behind, and that never happens to me! But since I'm hosting a Giveaway for Matrimony by Joshua Henkin (291 pgs, 2007), I thought it would be prudent to let you all know what I thought about the book!!

"Out! Out! Out! The first words Julian Wainwright ever spoke, according to his father, Richard Wainwright III, graduate of Yale and grand lubricator of the economic machinery, and Constance Wainwright, Wellesley graduate and descendant of a long family of Pennsylvania Republicans. Julian, the first Wainwright in four generations to be given his own Christian name. Julian's father would have liked another Richard, but Julian's mother was a persistent woman and she believed a child of hers was entitled to his own identity and therefore his own name.

In 1986, seventeen-year-old Julian Wainwright leaves New York City to go to college. Early on, Julian knew he would never follow in his father's footsteps and become an investment banker. It wasn't in his heart. And he certainly didn't want to go to Yale. Instead Julian enrolled at Graymont, a small liberal arts college in Northington, Massachusettes, and set his sights on becoming a writer. He had come to Graymont to study fiction writing under Professor Chesterfield, a man who had written one novel. His novel had been sold to Hollywood. Plagued by troubles from the start, the movie was never made...and it started Chesterfield on a road to a 20-year Writer's block.

It was in Chesterfield's Fiction Workshop, where Julian met Carter Heinz....the only other promising writer in the bunch. The two became best friends, and spent most of their time together....mostly out of convenience. Carter was a scholarship kid from California, and it was hard for Julian to really understand him. Julian's parents were rich, and he never had to worry about money. Carter always felt like he was on the outside because he didn't have money. Nevertheless, the two remained friends.

It was also during Freshman year that Julian met Mia Mendelsohn. He had picked her picture out of the freshman facebook, and dubbed her "Mia from Montreal". He had decided she was the one for him. And when he actually meets her, the two started dating, and by Senior year, they are living together.

But Senior year is a year for change and when Mia's mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, things really change. Mia and Julian got married right after graduation. It wasn't a romantic thing to do....Mia wanted her mother there to see it. Did they love each other? Sure, but they really did rush marriage.

Through college, grad school and years of writer's block, Matrimony takes you through the lives and times of Julian and Mia. This book isn't chocked full of explosions or cliff-hangers. What Matrimony is full of is a lot of intense character study. It's a slow, quiet little novel. And that's not a bad thing. Josh Henkin lets us peek into the lives of Julian and Mia at certain moments in time. The characters are so-well developed, that even though there isn't always a lot of action, you really care what happens to these people. This is real life.

I haven't read a lot of literary fiction lately. But Matrimony, which was a NY Times Notable Book for 2007 is certainly a winner. If you want to read a wonderful character study, this one is for you. Don't forget to sign up for my giveaway either. Go to this post!! 4.5/5

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Generosity

Booking Through Thursday

Generosity December 18, 2008

Do you give books as gifts?
To everyone? Or only to select people?
How do you feel about receiving books as gifts?

I tend to give EVERYONE books as gifts!! Even my husband, the non-reader, gets books. The last one I bought for him was Nikki Sixx's biography, The Heroin Diaries. But see....that's the beauty of books. There is literally something for everyone!!

My son gets fantasy books. Bella gets anything with Faeries. And Ana is kind of like me. She'll read the back of a cereal box. Right now, she is interested in any of the Early Reader Books.

My brother is another person that will get books for Christmas. His taste is really weird....just like mine! I always buy him something *I* want to read, with the hopes that it will come back to me soon. do I feel about RECEIVING books? Are you kidding? Books are the best gift of all. Well.....a new Mustang Shelby would probably be the BEST ever, but books are right up there!!

Monday, December 15, 2008


OK.....did I get your attention??? A few months back, I won a copy of Matrimony by Joshua Henkin from Naida at The Bookworm. Well...a few weeks ago, Joshua Henkin contacted me, and now I'm getting a chance to return the favor! Mr. Henkin is offering to send one lucky person an AUTOGRAPHED copy of his New York Times Notable Book, Matrimony. I just finished it last night, and it really is wonderful! I hope to have my review up tomorrow, so stay tuned!!

This giveaway is open to anyone, worldwide. All you have to do is leave me a comment, and I'll enter you in the contest. And if you post about it on your blog, I'll double your chance to win. Just send me a link!

If you would like to read Matrimony as a book club selection, Joshua has kindly offered to participate in the discussion!! This would make a great Christmas present for any book lover as well!!

Check out Joshua's website for to learn more about the author himself, download a reading group guide, and check out his other contests!!

The drawing for the book will take place on December 22nd. And all you have to do is leave me a comment!!

Blogger's Advent Calendar - The Toland's

Ever hear the old saying "A Day Late and a Dollar Short"...? Well, that seems to be a way of life for me. I was so sure I was scheduled for the 15th, that I didn't even bother to look until tonight at work.....only to see that I was really scheduled for the 14th!!

That seems to be a theme for me this year. The kids and I literally put our Christmas tree up last night. And with the crazy hours both Mike and I are working right now, it's been really hard to get into the Christmas spirit. But we are trying!!

This year, I took the girls to the Festival of Lights in East Peoria. It's really beautiful. They have all sorts of floats and light shows set up in a park and you drive through it to look at the lights. Then we went and visited Santa. The girls told him what they wanted for Christmas (so at least now I know what to get!!) Then the 3 of us went out for dinner. It was a great Girl's Night Out!

OK....traditions. In the Toland household, we actually kind of fly by the seat of our pants. There aren't a lot of "traditions" we really have. We go back and forth between families for dinner, but we always spend Christmas Eve with Mike's parents. It's nice because I usually spend the latter half of the evening doing the whole "Santa" routine with wrapping presents and putting them out under the tree for the kids. I'm really going to miss all that when the Santa experience is over. Right now, it is still least for the girls.

But Christmas Eve is nice. We always have dinner and cookies and warm hot chocolate with the in-laws. And the once-a-year viewing of Christmas Vacation. Sometimes, I think the Toland's and the Griswald's have a lot in common!! It's a quiet evening before the Big Day....and it's one that I will always treasure.

I'll leave you with a clip from Christmas Vacation!!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Still Alive.....

just haven't felt like posting. Not sure what the problem is either. I think it's partly due to all the hours I've been working. Trying to get things ready for Christmas.

And I think it's partly due to this blah I've been feeling. Is it the holiday blahs??? I don't know. I'm hoping it will pass soon. I'm seriously behind in reviews. I do hope to get that rectified soon.

More later.....

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Terrible Loss.....

I was stunned and incredibly saddened this morning to learn that one of the most energetic, sweetest, and original bloggers in the blog-o-sphere has passed away. I learned this morning that Dewey of The Hidden Side of a Leaf died Tuesday evening. She was such a creative person, hosting not only the 24 Hour Read-a-Thons, but also the Weekly Geeks. Dewey also had such a positive spin on things, a love for reading that held no bounds, and a such a friendly demeanor that everyone loved her. I can not imagine how the Book Blogging Community is going to recover from this loss.

I have no words to express myself…

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Book 2 in the Cassandra Palmer Series....

In my quest to finish off (or at least catch up) with some of the numerous serieses I have started, I picked up Claimed by Shadow by Karen Chance (374 pgs, ROC, 2007) which is Book 2 in the Cassandra Palmer series.

Any day that starts off in a demon-filled bar that is designed to look like Hell isn't likely to turn out well. But all I thought at the time was that a brothel should be more fun -- especially one that was for ladies only staffed by handsome incubi.

Cassie Palmer isn't having a good day. Now that she has become the heir apparent to the title of Pythia, the world's chief clairvoyant, you would think things would be easier. But Cassie doesn't really want the job. Unlike other Pythia, Cassie was never trained to use the power. And besides, the job comes with strings attached. The Silver Circle of mages want to control her and so does the Vampire Senate. To top it all off, there are lots of people out there that just want to kill her. And the only thing Cassie really wants is to find Antonio, the master vampire that raised her, and now has a bounty on her head. When she learned that Tony killed her parents and trapped her father's spirit, she is looking for a little revenge. But Tony escaped from the Senate, and is hiding in Faerie, a seriously bad place to be if you aren't Fey.

The list of players in this book is long and rather intimidating. Besides Cassie and Tony, there is Mircea, the Master vampire that Cassie has known all her life. Because Mircea knew Cassie had the ability to become Pythia, he placed a geis on her at an early age. This lovely little spell was meant to ward off would-be suitors because to gain the Pythia power, you must be a virgin. But one of the unfortunate effects of the geis is an unbelievable attraction to the person that placed the attraction that goes both ways.

Then there is John Pritkin, the War Mage and the Silver Circle's Chief Assassin. Friend of foe, Cassie doesn't know. She's pretty sure that Pritkin would rather kill her than look at her, but he also needs her help for something. She just doesn't know what that something is.

Myra was supposed to be the next Pythia. She spent her life being trained by the mages to use the power, only to be passed over for Cassie. Myra is super-pissed off and would like nothing better than to see Cassie dead.

Because of all the characters, the book gets a little complicated. It takes a lot of concentration to follow all the storylines and keep up with everyone. To top it all off, you really don't know who is on the good side, and who isn't. But if you can wade through all of that, the story is a really good one. Karen Chance has created a world in which the Pythia (named for the ancient Greek clairvoyant priestess that presided over the Oracle of Apollo) has the ability to go back in time to change events. However changing an event can cause major upheaval in the future. She also gives us a look at the dark world of Faerie, that certainly isn't like Disney's version.

I really enjoyed this book. Cassie is a strong character....she is tougher than she looks and has a mind of her own. Mircea, Vlad the Impaler's brother in fact, is dark, sexy and undead. My kind of guy! Where the first book in this series sets the stage and introduced us to the characters, this book goes a lot farther. Non-stop action from page one, Claimed by Shadow is an incredible thrill-ride!! Unfortunately, not all the questions are answered, and you are just going to have to keep reading the series to find out where the everything falls in the end. If you are a lover of the paranormal, this is a great series to start. I totally recommend reading it! 4/5

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Thankful

Today is Thanksgiving here in the U.S.

Now, you may have noticed that the global economy isn’t exactly doing well. There’s war. Starvation. All sorts of bad, scary things going on.

So–just for today–how about sharing 7 things that you’re thankful for?

This can be about books, sure–authors you appreciate, books you love, an ode to your public library–but also, how about other things, too? Because in times like these, with bills piling up and disaster seemingly lurking around every corner, it’s more important than ever to stop and take stock of the things we’re grateful for. Family. Friends. Good health (I hope). Coffee and tea. Turkey. Sunshine. Wagging tails. Curling up with a good book.

So, how about it? Spread a little positive thinking and tell the world what there is to be thankful for.

Well....this is a question that always gets asked at the Thanksgiving day table....and I always seem to say the same things every year. But I can't help it. That picture there??? Those are the 3 things I am most thankful for in the world!! I mean, honestly. I don't really think I ever thought about having kids before I got married. Not that I didn't like kids...just didn't think much about them. Then BOOM. I'm the mother of 3. Talk about life-changing events!! But I don't even remember what life was like without them. Nor do I want to. I'm so thankful they are all healthy and happy. They are a blessing and my reason for getting out of bed every day.

Other things that I am thankful for?? Family in general. My family, my husband, my in-laws. I may not always agree with them. Or even like them, for that matter. But I don't know what I would do without them.

I'm thankful I have a job. In today's horrible economy, it's something just to be employed. I may complain about the hours I'm working, but all things's better than the alternative.

I'm thankful that I have a house to live in. I work with a lady that is sleeping at a Salvation Army shelter because she lost her house to foreclosure...and doesn't have any family in the state. Breaks my heart. But makes me thankful for what I have (even if it is in a perpetual state of upheaval!)

I'm thankful for my friends. I don't see them very often. Working so much has a few serious disadvantages. But I do love them. And I know if I ever needed them, they would be here for me.

I'm thankful for my books. Sounds kind of trite with everything else I just listed. But damn. I need something to keep me sane. And a little quiet time with a good book is that island for me in the middle of the insanity I call life.

And lastly, I'm thankful for all of you!! I have come to realize what a wonderful community this really is, and I'm just thankful you all let me be a part of it!!!

So....Happy Thursday. But most importantly.....Happy Thanksgiving!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Sunday Salon - It's the Holiday Season!

The Sunday Salon.comIt's been a couple of weeks since I participated in The Sunday Salon, so I thought I would post today. I can't believe it's Thanksgiving already. Where has this year gone??? Time is certainly marching on, isn't it? Since I'm working this holiday, we are not able to go home to visit my family. And my in-laws are spending Thanksgiving with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law. To say that Mike and his brother don't get along is an understatement. I know it's hard on his parents, but for us it's much easier if we don't spend the holidays with them. It just makes things flow a little smoother. So it looks like I'm cooking for us this year! Normally, I don't mind. I like to cook. With me working so many hours, it would almost be easier just to order a pizza!! But I promised the girlies we would do this thing right, so it's turkey and all the trimmings for us. And they are pretty excited about it. I guess we'll give it a go.

I'm hoping to take them to see Twilight on Tuesday. I've been looking forward to it ever since I read the book. I hope it lives up to the expectations.

Another event I'm looking forward to this year is the Book Bloggers Christmas Swap. I participated last year and had a great time!! Hosted by Nymeth and Dewey, this is a chance to play "Secret Santa" with a fellow book blogger. I mean, really. How much fun is it to get presents? Last year, the wonderful Carl was my Secret Santa. He got me a wonderful book, some chocolate, but most importantly, had some trees planted in my name!! It was a very cool present, and it meant alot. By the way, it's Carl's birthday, so hop on over to his blog to wish him a great one! This year's Swap looks likes it's shaping up to be just as fun!!

Also for the holidays and the blogging community is the Blog Advent Tour. Hosted by Marg and Kailana. This is a chance to get a peek into the holidays of other bloggers. Each day, a blogger or two will post about something that is meaningful to them about the holidays. It's a great chance to find other blogs that are of interest to well as getting a leg up on that ol' Christmas Spirit!! There is still time left to join in the fun!!

On the reading front, I've been pretty lax. I just haven't had the time...and I'm kind of in a slump right now. I just finished up the second book in Karen Chance's Cassandra Palmer series, Claimed by Shadow. And I'm still plodding my way slowly but surely through The Lost Diary of Don Juan (this one isn't really my thing. Interesting, but just not grabbing me). I need to find a book that really sucks me in. Any suggestions??

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

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Honesty

Suggested by JM:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?

I could see this question coming from a mile away! After all the controversy from last week I think it's a valid question. But I have to say my answer is a resounding NO. I don't think a blogger is "required" to give a positive review just because an author sends a book.

As I've stated numerous times, when I started this blog I really didn't think anyone else would actually READ it. It was a place for me to log my reading. Kind of like an online journal. Then something weird happened. People did start reading it. I'm very honest with my reviews. If I don't like something, I state the reasons why I don't like it. But I always try to balance out the negatives with the positives. Because there are usually good things with every book I read.

Just because an author chooses to send me a book should not mean I have to be dishonest. I haven't really encountered this problem though. I tend to be pretty selective in choosing books from the numerous requests that I receive. I tend to pick books that I think I would like. Maybe that's a cop out. But if it's a subject matter that interests me, I'm already a step ahead. And I always let any author know that I will give an honest opinion. I always forward a link to the review as well.

For what it's worth, I tend to rely pretty heavily on the word of bloggers. I don't read a lot of professional reviews anymore. I follow word of mouth from the people that I know and respect. That's all of you. If we start trading our values for free books, what does that make us?? I can think of a few choice adjectives, but I don't think I'll put them in print!

Keep up the good work! I know I'm counting on all of you!!

Happy Thursday and Happy Reading!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Book Meme and Randomness

I was doing so well posting at the beginning of the month, and then I just seemed to taper off. I guess I really didn't have much to say!! And I've pretty much spent the last 24 hours in bed with a migraine. Sheesh. I haven't had one in awhile. I guess I forgot the sheer magnitude of them. This one was a doozy, and frankly I'm still feeling the "after shock" of it. But at least I feel slightly better. That's something, I guess.

It looks like winter is's butt cold in the Midwest these days. And I'm just not ready for it. I hate the cold. I'm ready for retirement and Florida! Of course, that's a good 25 years away.....but at least it gives me something to look forward to!! For now, I just have to keep the hot chocolate flowing.

On to the meme. Both Melody and Chris tagged me for the 7 Random Bookish Things About Me meme, so here it goes.

The rules are:
Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
Share seven random and/or weird book facts about yourself.
Tag seven random people at the end of your post, and include links to their blogs.
Let each person know that they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

  • I love books. OK. I guess this isn't a surprise. But I really do. I love the feel of a book in my hands. I love the smell of a new book. I love just having them around.
  • When we moved to this house 12 years ago, I had one book shelf. It was filled with my small collection of books. Since that time, I have added close to 1000 books in my house. My husband had bookshelves built in our "play" room to hold them. As soon as they were finished, I still overflowed!! Now, I have about 4 huge totes filled with books stored away, on top of overflowing shelves.
  • Of all the books I own, my most prized possessions are my 7 Harry Potter 1st Edition hardbacks and my almost entire 1st Edition Stephen King collection. These are books that I will NEVER part with.
  • Even with all the books I own, I still frequent the library. I love the library. In the town I grew up in, we didn't have a library. So when I moved to town, my first order of business was to get a library card. Now, because of the time I spend there and all the books I request of inter-library loan, all the librarians know me by name.
  • I'm seriously anal about reading books in order. There is no way I will read a book out of series order. And after being burned by a few supposedly "stand-alone" books, I won't even read authors out of date published order.
  • I am married to a non-reader. They always say opposites attract, and I think that is true to a certain extent. As much as I love my husband, I really wish we had the book thing in common. I think that's one reason I turned to the internet for "book friends". And I'm totally trying to turn my kids into book people.
  • I started my online journey with a membership into Oprah's book club. Think of her what you will, but she has done wonders for the reading community. Through Oprah, I have "met" a lot of wonderful people...and I still am in contact with many of them today. In fact, some of you reading this blog will fall into that category.

OK. That's it. Kind of boring, but what can I say? Still have a headache to contend with!! For tags, I'll go with:

That's all for now!! Later!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Final RIP Review......

Sheesh. I'm WAY behind on reviews these days. That has never happened to me before. For the last RIP III Challenge book, I choose Sisters of Misery by Megan Kelley Hall (308 pgs, Kensington, 2008). This book was sent to me by the author for review. So, here's a big shout out of thanks to Ms. Hall!!

There are some girls that have everything. And not just the ones who are born with silver spoons in their mouths. Some girls are born with an intangible, magnetic aura: something that radiates beneath their flawless skin. You know who they are: the Cleopatras, the Marilyn Monroes. They are the present day sirens -- girls who have the power to transfix any male who comes their way. Then there are the jealous ones.

For fifteen-year-old Maddie Crane, life is a blur. Maddie should be happy. She has all the right clothes, is friends with the most popular girls in town, and is even a part of the "secret society" that everyone wants to join: The Sisters of Misery. Her mother made sure Maddie was always in the right crowds and a part of the society of Hawthorne. But Maddie has always felt like an outsider.

Then, Maddie's aunt and cousin come to live with them. Cordelia is so NOT like everyone else. She is quirky and eccentric, smart and beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, that all the guys in school want to date her. And all the girls in school, especially the Sisters of Misery, hate her.

With the Gothic setting of Hawthorne, the next town over from Salem, this book has a supernatural feel to it. It is perceived by most of the town's people that Aunt Rebecca and Cousin Cordelia could be witches. They open up a flower store that sells lots of "New Age" materials. But the book itself is more about the relationships between the characters than anything supernatural.

I liked this book. And yet, I had a few problems with it. From the reviews that I've seen, the problems might be limited to me!! The Sisters of Misery are a mean, spiteful group of girls. Led by the uppity Kate Endicott, they are a group that are not only popular, but feared. Kate is just down-right evil. End of story. She is nasty to the core, and yet no one stands up to her. Peer pressure is a bitch. I agree wholeheartedly. And there is a lot of pressure on Maddie to turn her back on Cordelia. OK. Understandable. But Maddie and Cordelia become close. Almost like sisters. And yet, when times get tough, Maddie does indeed follow the crowd. She is weak.....and as you all know, that bothers me in a main character. Especially a female protagonist. Without giving away the storyline, Maddie has a chance to do the right thing, and doesn't. OK. I'm all about second chances. No one is perfect. If they were, stories would be boring!! Yet, she never does come forward in a situation that could really help Cordelia. Her weakness certainly bothered me.

And of these days I'm going to learn to just go ahead and read the last chapter first. Maybe that way, I won't get myself sucked into a book that doesn't end!! The conclusion is anything but, and yes, it's open-ended...waiting for the sequel which is coming out in 2009. That might have been a good piece of information to have BEFORE I started the book. I don't know why I'm surprised though....this seems to be the way the pages fall these days!!

But for all that, Hall is a gifted storyteller. She has created a web of suspense that is hard to break, leaving the reader flipping pages quickly, just to find out what happens next. And her writing is really lovely. Pretty, in fact. Hall has a way of describing a scene so vividly, it's like you are actually watching it from the same room. There were a few twists and turns that really gives us more insight into the characters. Although the the story was open-ended, I was pleased that some of the threads were tied up in a way that I could live with. If this debut novel is any indication, I have a feeling we will be seeing more of this author! 4/5

Friday, November 7, 2008

Since I'm the Last Person on the Planet.....

to read Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (554 pgs, Little, Brown Young Readers, 2006) I'm not even sure if I should review it!! But I guess I will give a try. Actually, the reason I picked it up at this time is because Chad told me I had to read it. His reading teacher at school had all the kids in her 7th grade class read it for AR. When the movie comes out, she's taking the class to see it. THIS was the book Chad couldn't put down!! I even went out yesterday and bought him New Moon, because he is still on the waiting list at school and he was getting frustrated. Can't have that!!

I'd never given much thought to how I would die -- though I'd had reason enough in the last few months -- but even if I had, I would not have imagined it like this. I stared without breathing across the long room, into the dark eyes of the hunter, and he looked pleasantly back at me. Surely it was a good way to die, in the place of someone else, someone I loved. Noble, even. That ought to count for something.

When Bella made the decision to move to Forks, Washington, to live with her father, she really had no idea just how drastically her life would change. Sure, Forks, with all it's rainy darkness, was world's away from the sun of Phoenix. The school was so much smaller than her old school, Bella worried she wouldn't fit in. And yet, in a matter of days, she seems to be the object of obsession for most of the guys in town. And she makes friends quickly. This should be a good thing, right??

But Bella isn't interested in the boys in her school. Except for one. She is unusually drawn to Edward Cullen, one the "beautiful" people. Edward and his "family" are rich, beautiful....and dangerous. You see, they are a family of vampires.

When I read The Host by Stephenie Meyer, I was completely blown away. I still contend it is probably the best book I've read all year. Maybe it's a timing thing. I know a lot of people preferred the Twilight series. And while I highly enjoyed this book, I still think The Host was better.

Meyer has a way of completely sucking you into the stories she writes. I had a hard time putting this book down, even though it was rather slow getting to the "action", so to speak. The majority of this book is spent on getting to know the characters. We learn....slowly....WHAT Edward is. Meyer's gives us a different take of vampire legends. Edward and his family have a conscious. They don't hunt people, even though most of their kind does.

I really liked Edward and his vampire family. I liked learning their history and why they made the choices they did and live the way they do. And when the conflict (FINALLY) presents itself, I like how they band together to resolve it.

My biggest complaint about the book turns out the to be "human" factor....Bella. At first, I liked her. She's different than most teenage girls. She's not scared of Edward...even though she should be. She's curious. But she takes too many chances, and puts people she loves at risk. And she's whiny. EXTREMELY whiny. By the end of the book, I wanted to throttle her. Her "Don't Leave Me" mantra was almost more than I could take. I love a strong female protagonist. And Bella started out that way....but by the end of the book, she was clingy, whiny and so controlled that it almost ruined my enjoyment of the book.

I can see why Twilight is so popular, especially for the younger set. It's the ultimate "forever and ever" love story. It's heartwarming to see soul mates find each other. However, I'm not sure this one will have that fairy tale ending. I don't really see how it can work. But it gives a person hope. And for all my criticisms, I DID enjoy the book. I just hope I want to smack Bella less in the next one! 4/5

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Presents!

What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present? Birthday or otherwise. What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”

Oh....this is an easy question!! My husband is not a reader. I think that is probably the reason that he never thinks to get me books for my birthday. Not that he ever really buys me practical things....he just doesn't think about books when it comes time to buy me something. On the other hand, my kids know me all too well. And they certainly know my favorite authors. A few years back, when Stephen King was releasing the remaining books in the Dark Tower series, I fell behind on getting them myself. I try not to spend a lot of money on myself, and books seem an unnecessary indulgent when times have been so tight. But Chad, my sweet oldest child, decided he wanted to do something special for my birthday. He talked my father-in-law into taking him to Barnes & Noble. He spent his own money and bought me Song of Susannah in the hardback edition (because those are the books I collect). The day before my birthday, he told me he wanted Grandpa to drive him to school because he had to go early. He said he had to study with his friend for a test and was to meet him there early. Silly me. I believed him. So....I told him it would be easier for him to spend the night at Grandpa's and I'd just take the girls. At 8 that morning, as I was getting the girls ready to go, the doorbell rang. There on my front step, grinning from ear to ear was Chad.....holding a wrapped present and a dozen red roses (again...paid for with his own money) for me. Sheesh...I'm crying just thinking about it, so imagine how I reacted that morning.

Last year for my birthday, the whole crew decided to get into the act. Clive Barker had just released Mister B. Gone (another favorite author of mine). Ana, my youngest, didn't have any money to contribute. So Grandpa gave her some "jobs" to do around the house and paid her for them. Which she in turn gave back to help pay for my book. Again....I ended up in tears. God, I love those kids!!

Any memorable gifts that you can think of??

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


My nephews were over the other day. They are 17 and 15....and my 12-year-old son idolizes them. He always wants them around, and he always wants to hang out with them, playing mind-numbing video games.

And then there was this exchange:

Nephew: "You know. I really wanted to smack Chad just now".

Me: "Hmmm....what's the problem?? What did he do now?"

Nephew: "I was trying to get him to play Call of Duty 4 with me. And he told me no. He said he would rather go to his room and finish his book. It was getting good! WHY would he rather READ?"

Me: "That's my Boy!!"

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Did you?

I can feel change on the horizon!! I voted....DID YOU???

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Sunday Salon - RIP III Wrap-Up

The Sunday Salon.comNow that it's all over, I'm sad. I love Halloween. And we had a beautiful one!! We had a spell of cold last week where it was in the 30's. But Halloween night it was in the upper 60's. The girlie's had a ball....and hauled home enough candy to last until the next millennium!!

But what is really sad to me is the end of the RIP III Reading Challenge. I love reading about things that go bump in the night. The eerie, the spooky, the gloomy and the Gothic....those are the types of books that have been my favorites since Jr. high. This year alone I have read lots of paranormal. Way more than I usually do. The only downside is that most of the paranormal books I have read are parts of a series, and now I have committed myself to actually finishing the series!!

For the challenge, I read 9 Books, thus completing my choice of Peril the First (and then some!)

I honestly loved each of the books I read. All were really good. Chalk up another fantastic Challenge for Carl!! Many Thanks to you for hosting my favorite challenge again this year!! I'm already compiling a list for RIP IV!

Happy Sunday and Happy Reading!!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Perfect End to the RIP Season.....

I haven't read Bradbury since High School. And for some reason, my memory of his writing is pretty sketchy. Maybe it has something to do with all the brain cells I probably killed off in college. Or maybe I just didn't appreciate it back then. It's probably the brain cell thing, though. But whatever the reason, I don't think I will soon forget reading Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (293 pgs, Avon, 1962).

One strange wild dark year, Halloween came early. One year, Halloween came on October 24, three hours after midnight.

For two young boys, the appearance of a mysterious carnival in town in October, was amazing. Green Town, Illinois, was normally such a boring place to live. But on a windswept October evening, Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show steals into town under the cover of darkness and changes their lives forever.

Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade were almost 14. They were next door neighbors and the best of friends. Born 2 minutes apart, one of them at 1 minute till midnight on October 30th, and the other 1 minute after, on Halloween night. They were the perfect companions: opposite sides of the coin, so to speak. Will was the light side, and Jim definitely the dark side. And yet, they complimented each other perfectly.

On that fateful October night, a Lightning Rod salesman stops by the boys' homes looking to sell his wares. Foretelling a great storm on the horizon, the salesman says that one of their homes is going to be hit by it. He can feel it in his bones. So he leaves a lightning rod for Jim, telling him that he needs it on his roof for protection.

Little did the boys know that the storm that was coming was by way of the Cooger & Dark show......

This book, written oh so many years ago, is a classic for many reasons. Named from the infamous Shakespearean line from Macbeth: By the Pricking of my Thumbs, Something Wicked This way Comes, this book is basically your good vs. evil story personified. And yet, there is so much more to it than just that. On the "good" side, we find Jim, Will, and Will's father, Charles Halloway. Charles and Will were never close. Charles feels he is too old to be a father. In fact, he was over 40 when Will was born. But when Will and Jim find themselves in deep trouble, Charles steps up and fast becomes the hero he was always meant to be. Ordinary people....taking on extraordinary beings.

On the "evil" side, is Mr, Dark, and his band of freaks from the carnival. G. M. Dark is the "Illustrated" man, carrying a tattoo of each person whose soul he has taken for the Carnival. But, as always, the side of evil offers up something that everyone wants: A chance to change their age. The temptation of being older is an incredible pull for young boys. As is the chance to be young again for anyone middle aged. And temptation is the name of the game in this book.

One scene that left me literally with chills up my spine, was one in which the Carnival people were looking for the boys. As Mr. Dark encounters Charles Halloway for the first time, he questions him about knowing 2 boys in town. On the palm of each hand is a picture of the boys, tattooed there....souls he is trying to steal. For some reason, that image, of the tattooed pictures on his hands, just left me cold. That's the way this book is. Nothing bloody or gory. And yet, so incredibly frightening. The power of suggestion is a amazing tool, and Bradbury uses it liberally throughout this book.

And Bradbury's writing is something to behold. It is lyrical and almost hypnotic. One paragraph that caught my attention was about Charles. He is constantly worried about his age and time, especially with regards to Will:

His wife smiled in her sleep. Why? She's immortal. She has a son. Your son, too! But what father ever really believes it? He carries no burden, he feels no pain. What man, like woman, lies down in darkness and gets up with child? The gentle, smiling ones own the good secret. Oh, what strange wonderful clocks women are. They nest in Time. They make the flesh that holds fast and binds eternity. They live inside the gift, know power, accept, and need not mention it. Why speak of of Time when you are Time, and shape the universal, as the pass into warmth and action?

This is a book everyone should read. Wonderful and frightening. If carnivals and freak shows didn't already give me the creeps, this book has definitely altered my image of them. I will never look at a carousel the same way again!! 4.5/5

Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!

I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy and safe Halloween!! I'm getting the kiddies ready for Trick-or-Treating. Chad is going off with some of his friends. He's dressing like Joey Jordison. For the uninitiated, he is the drummer from Slipknot!! Although they rock, they scare me more than any vampire would!! Bella, ever the diva, refuses to be anything that isn't "beautiful", so she's dressing like a Queen. And Ana, my angel, wants to be a vampire!! The kid that always has a book in her can tell that she is definitely mine!!

Gotta run!!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Booking Through Thursday - Conditioning

Mariel suggested this week’s question.

Are you a spine breaker? Or a dog-earer? Do you expect to keep your books in pristine condition even after you have read them? Does watching other readers bend the cover all the way round make you flinch or squeal in pain

OK. This is an easy one. NO, I'm not a spine breaker. Or a dog-earer (although I do not believe dog-earere is really a word). I AM that weird person that gets freaky when her books are touched. My kids and my husband all think I'm slightly manic when it comes to my books. Actually, I don't really think it's a mania. But I do feel I'm a little OCD about certain things. Books, just happen to be one of the things that me a little crazy. I physically cringe to see someone dog-earing a book. And watching a person crack a spine?? Well, usually it takes a paper bag for me to blow into to keep me from hypervenilating!

Weird, I know. But I have an almost reverencial view of books. I KNEW I should have been a librarian......

Happy Thursday!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chalk Up Another Vampire Novel!

Since I am sometimes a very shallow reader, a cool cover can definitely be a reason for me to pick up a book. When I saw Touch the Dark by Karen Chance (320 pgs, ROC, 2006), I knew I had to read it!! Chalk up another vampire novel for the RIP III Challenge!

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I saw the obituary. The fact that it had my name on it was sort of a clue. What I didn't know was how they'd found me, and who the guy was with the sense of humor. Antonio has never been much for comedy. I've never figured out if that had something to do with being dead, or if he's always been a morose son of a bitch.

From the opening paragraph you can tell it's going to be a wild ride!! Cassandra "Cassie" Palmer is on the run. She has been hiding for the last 3 years from Master Vampire Antonio. Cassie is a gifted clairvoyant, and was raised by Tony after her parents were killed. Not that Tony was being charitable. No, he used Cassie's abilities to make a lot of money for his vampire "mafia". But when Cassie found out that Tony was behind her parents' death, she took off. Now Tony has found her, and is intent on settling the score.

But Cassie has bigger trouble. Not only has Tony found her, but so has the Vampire Senate. In fact, they have been watching her for some time. Under cover of a runaway, her roommate Tomas, is a master vampire and she didn't even know it!! He was placed with her by the Senate to watch over her in case something bad went down. Now that it has, Tomas takes Cassie to the Senate HQ to meet with the Counsul. It seems they are also interested in her abilities.

A storm is a brewing. The vampire Rasputin has aligned himself with the Dark Circle, the dark mage. He has already taken out some of the members of the Vampire Senate and is trying to take it over. And for some reason, he wants Cassie. The Senate has offered her protection, but is she willing to pay the price for it??

That is just a quick synopsis of the beginning of this book. There are many layers to the story, and lots of history on the Vampire Senate, the pecking order in the vampire world, and the Dark and Silver Circles. In fact, it seems this book is just a stepping stone for others in the series.

Cassie is one tough cookie. She is a loner through and through. Tough, smart, and full of sass, she is an fantastic protagonist. Named after the 'Seer' Cassandra in Greek Mythology, Cassie indeed has the gift of sight. She also has the ability to commune with spirits, in particular one named Billy Joe - a card shark from the old West that lost his life cheating in a poker game.

One of the things I liked best about the story is the role that historical characters play. It seems that a lot of people in history are truly vampires. From Jack-the-Ripper (as creepy in death as he was in life) to Mircea, Vlad the Impaler's brother.

Packed full of adventure and tension, Touch the Dark is an excellent start for this series. One of these days maybe I'll learn to stop reading Book One's, because now I feel the need to keep on reading this series!! A real page-turner, this book is a great way to get a good fix if you need some paranormal fun!! 4.5/5

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sunday Salon - What a Week, Again!

The Sunday
First off, I want to apologize for being gone so much this month. With the new part-time job, my time has been severly limited. They have scheduled me uber-hours, which is great money-wise, but time-wise it kind of stinks. Oh well....I plan on keeping up the hours at least until after Christmas. My last car payment is in November (Yeah!) and hopefully, we'll be back in the black soon. After that, all the extra money is just cake. And we really need that right now.

This week controversy brewed in my husband's fantasy football league. Lord, who knew a bunch of grown men could act like such babies! My husband was in first place in both points and win/loss too. Having a great season....and a little squabble started between the commissioner and another team. Commish decides to take his ball and go home....otherwise, disbanded a league that has been around for over 8 years. And this isn't just a little money either. Last year 1st place garnered almost $2000. Mike got $1500 for second. And I'm not really sure what 3rd took. So he is more than a little ticked off. I swear, I'm ready to shoot them all!!

Not much on the reading front. I still have a couple of reviews to post, and I'm almost done with Touch the Dark by Karen Chance. I have sunk into this rut of paranormal, but I haven't found a bad book yet, so I guess I will keep reading!!

Basically, I just wanted to say "Hi! I'm still alive." And know that I will posting much more frequently. I miss it when I don't!!

Happy Reading and Happy Sunday!!