Thursday, January 31, 2008

Blah, Blah, Blah

I think I have a case of the blahs. Maybe it's the fact that I have been working so much. Or maybe it's the weather (right now we are in the middle of a big snowstorm. 5 - 7 inches of the awful white stuff tonight). Whatever the reason, I'm just in some kind of funk. I haven't felt like reading. I haven't felt like posting.

Actually, I've got a really bad headache right now. Not quite a migraine, just enough of a throbbing to make me slightly miserable. The only thing I really feel like doing is putting on my flannel pj's, crawling on the couch, and snuggling in to watch some TV. You know. I think that's what I'm going to do.

Sorry to be such a bore this week. Hopefully, this funk will lift...soon!!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Reading is Inpirational

Isn't this just about the sweetest???

And borrowed shamelessly from Biblioaddict:

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Pub Challenge 08

I've seen a lot of posts for this challenge recently, and to be truthful, I didn't actually expect to join this one. Any more, it seems, I very rarely read books when they are first published. Part of it's the money aspect. I just haven't had the money to spend lately. And new books are SO expensive. So lately, I've been doing a lot of library runs. And I love the library, but sometimes it's hard to get "new" books. It seems there is always a waiting list.

But there are a few books/authors that I will make an exception for. And they are coming out soon. So I thought I would join this challenge. Mostly because I just can't seem to stop myself!!

Michelle, from 1 More Chapter is hosting The Pub. (Doesn't she always have such fun ideas for challenges??)

Here are the rules:

Want to read more books that are published in the current year? You’ve come to the right place! This challenge lasts all year. The rules are simple:

  • Read a minimum of 8 books published in 2008. (Library books are acceptable!)
  • No children’s/YA titles allowed, since we’re at the ‘pub.’
  • At least 4 titles must be fiction.
  • Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
  • Titles may be changed at any time.
See? It DOES sound fun!! Besides, I love to read the reviews of all the "new" books out there. I would hate to run out of something to read, you know!!

Since I don't know all the books that are coming out this year, I'm only going to give you a partial list. These are the books I KNOW I want to read this year:
  • Duma Key: A Novel by Stephen King (Jan 08)
  • The Bleeding Dusk: Gardella Vampire Chronicles Book III by Colleen Gleason (Feb 08)
  • Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult (Apr 08)

I'm sure I will find 5 more books to add to the list sometime this year!! I also want to read Chosen: A House of Night Novel by PC Cast and Kristin Cast coming out in March. But since it's considered YA, I can't add it to the list :(

Any one else??

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Arctic Midwest and a Reading Meme

Is Spring coming any time soon?? Let's just put it this way: January in the Midwest $*!@& SUCKS!! When I left for work this morning, it was -7 degrees with a -21 Wind Chill Factor. Sheesh. I need some warmth!! At this very moment, the temp is 1.9...with only a -2 Wind Chill!! Have you ever tried to drag a 180 lb. dog outside when he doesn't want to go?? I don't recommend it!! Wimp. He's supposed to LIKE the snow!!

Anyway, I was tagged by the lovely J. S. Peyton at BiblioAddict for a reading meme. Since I'm lacking on words today for lack of heat, I thought I would post it now!! And this fun meme was started by Eva, from A Striped Armchair.....

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews?

Hmmm....that's a tough question. Certain books catch my eye, and others don't. I guess I would have to say Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. I know. I know. Everyone loves this book. Hell, even Oprah picked it. But I just have never found the desire to pick it up.

If you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be?

Well....I guess it would be different people for different events!! I would love to go clubbing with Sebastian Vioget from Colleen Gleason's Gardella Vampire Series. He is hot, dangerous, and not all together trustworthy. But I bet he'd be a blast clubbing in the city of Chicago!!

Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird would make a lovely dinner guest. Of all the books I've ever read, Atticus is probably my very favorite literary character. He's smart, lovely and just so moral. I'd love to sit and chat with him about life over dinner and a bottle of wine.

And afternoon tea would have to be spent with Gandolph the Grey from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. That is one brain I would love to pick!!

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave?

This one was easy. I think the most boring book on the planet would be John Banville's The Sea. I don't care if it did with the Man Booker prize. Sheesh. Watching paint dry would be more exciting!!

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it?

I don't know about this one. There were definitely a couple of books in college that I just skimmed. Read enough to pass the test, if you know what I mean. Madame Bovery is the one that comes to mind first!! I know. It's a classic. But I just couldn't get into it back them. Maybe now....

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (If you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead and personalise the VIP).

Let's just pretend this VIP is in Government. I would like for the person running our country to show a little compassion, if you know what I mean. I would have to recommend The Words of Mahatma Ghandi by Ghandi, of course. If there was ever a person that was humble and compassionate, it would Ghandi. He could definitely teach a leader some valuable lessons. In the same vein and for the very same reasons, In My Own Words by Mother Teresa.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with?

I have always wanted to learn Italian. Talk about the language of love. It's just so beautiful!!

A mischievous fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick?

Absolutely, positively.....To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My very favorite book and one that I have already reread a few times. It's one of the few books I HAVE reread. I could read it a hundred more times and still love it!!

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)?

Another easy question. Neil Gaiman. Anyone who has ever read this blog knows my new obsession with all thing Gaiman. I read my first book this past year, and have since read 4 more of his books. In the same sense, Gaiman has given me a new outlook on the Short Story.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free.

If I was to have a library in my house, it would have big, comfy chairs, right next to a huge fireplace. Lots of soft, cozy throw blankets as well. The walls would be lined with floor-to-ceiling built in bookshelves. (I would also like to have one of those rolling ladders to be able to reach that top shelf!) And I would have a whole collection of those beautiful leather-bound books that I have been coveting for years!! Man...that would be a dream come true!!

Now, here’s the hard part: As per the rules, I have to tag 4 people for this meme. My choices are… drumroll, please…

Nicola from Back to Books
Chris from Book-A-Rama
Melody from Melody's Reading Corner
Deb from Nothing of Importance

Can't wait to see your responses!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Random Thoughts and New Releases

Is it just me, or is anyone else out there extremely excited for Stephen King's new book, Duma Key?? It just came out yesterday, and I still have some Christmas money left. So....I HAVE to get to the bookstore....SOON!! There are not a lot of books out there I will buy right away. Money is tight, and I really don't have the space anyway. But when Stephen King puts out a new novel, I will definitely be in the mood to buy it! And this one looks so good.

Besides the new Stephen King, I'm anxiously awaiting the new Colleen Gleason as well. The Bleeding Dusk is Book 3 of the Gardella Vampire Chronicles. Chris just wrote an excellent review of it here. The first 2 books were great, and even though they are in the "Romance" section (a place I generally don't hang out!), they are so much more than that. Colleen really knows how to build the suspense. Book 2, Rises the Night, was pretty dark, and I can't imagine this one will be any different. Release date is February 5th....just a few weeks away!! It seems like it is forever coming!!

On a rather sad note, I was extremely disturbed by the news of Heath Ledger's death. Not incredibly mainstream, he was still one of my favorite actors. Since the first time I saw him in 10 Things I Hate about You, I knew he was something special. (of course, that is one of my favorite movies!) He was never afraid to take chances either. Not many actors would have taken on a role like Ennis in Brokeback Mountain. He did a fabulous job of it too. He also looks deliciously creepy as the Joker in the newest Batman movie, The Dark Knight, a movie I can not wait to see. I really feel bad for his little girl. Hollywood definitely lost a shining star in Heath.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Short Story Monday - Smoke and Mirrors The Final Chapter

It is a sad day in the Toland household. For today we must bid a fond farewell to Mr. Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors. Oh, but it was a fun ride! And to me, it seems that Neil saved the very best for last!

Desert Wind is a poem. It's about a man that had been in the desert and had found an oasis. It was beautiful....and then it was gone. One day, he hoped to find it again.

Tastings is actually kind of an erotic story. It's about a man who makes his living having sex with women. And he makes a lot of money doing it. The reason he's so good at what he does, is he has a 6th sense of sorts. When he's with a woman, he "knows" what she likes. By touching someone, he can tell what her desires are. Until the day he is hired by a famous celebrity......

Babycakes is a short, 2-page story written to benefit PETA. According to the man himself, "it's the only thing I've ever written that has disturbed me". For the record, I know what he means. I was so chilled by the time I read the last sentence, I had to put the book down. So frightening were the words of this story, that I had to read it to my husband. (Mike then proceeded to ask me if this is the kind of thing I read all the time. No wonder I'm such a nut case!) There is nothing I can really say about it, except read it for yourself. And I dare you not to get chills.

Murder Mysteries is a wonderful story. A man is stuck in LA, trying to get back to England. His flights have been repeatedly canceled because of the weather in London. One night, in the strange city, this man was wondering around close to his hotel, having a cigarette, when a street man asked him if he could buy one off of him. He offered him a quarter for a smoke, thinking that was a fair price. The man told him to keep his money, but gave him the cigarette anyway. Since the street man couldn't take the cigarette for nothing, he offered him a story as payment. The story was a true story, the street man said. It was about angels, and the time before the world had been created. An angel had died, and this street man, who was really Raguel, the Vengeance of the Lord, was called by Lucifer to find out who had killed him.

And finally there is Snow, Glass, Apple. A vampire story. The story of a young witch who marries a king and becomes a step mother to his young daughter. A girl with white skin and black hair. A girl that is scary to be around. A girl that has a hunger. This story is a sort of weird, twisted take-off of Snow White....if Snow White were a vampire!!

In this final collection of stories, I found a couple of real gems. I love, love, loved both Murder Mysteries and Snow, Glass, Apples. Two of my favorites in the entire book!! Throughout the entire book, Gaiman has taken legends and folklore, and made them his own. I can't stress enough how much I love this man!! His writing is simple and beautiful. And creepy and weird. Fascinating and repelling. And I'm going to miss them!! I can't say I liked this book better than Fragile Things. I think they were both pretty evenly matched. But I can say, I now have a new appreciation for the short story. I will never doubt again that a short story can pack the punch of a novel.

With that....we bid adieu to this wonderful collection. Hopefully, you all enjoyed my reviews. If you haven't read this collection, please do. I'd love to hear all your thoughts about it!!

Saturday, January 19, 2008


Of course, I HAD to go see this movie opening night! With all the hype surrounding this movie, was there any doubt? Not since the movie Alien has there been such silence over a film. I guess I wouldn't expect anything less from J.J. Abrams, the man that brought up Lost. And as with Lost, I'm still a lot puzzled over what I just saw!!

I can tell you right now, this is not going to be a movie for everyone. I know this movie is going to be one that you either love or you hate. Filmed in the same vein as The Blair Witch Project, the entire movie is done by hand-held camera. It is the "video documentation" by some friends that were having a going away party one night in New York City. And it's sometimes difficult to watch, as the person filming the movie is running down the street or through the subway system of NYC.

But I do have to say, for me anyway, that this unique way of filming is what made the movie seem so REAL. Some of the scenes were incredibly intense. As a spectator in all that is happening around this group of friends, it's rather chilling to watch the head of the Statue of Liberty roll down the street. But that's about all I'm going to say about the plot of the movie. It's one that you should see and judge for yourself.

I will be falling into the category of people that love this movie. I like anything different and unique.....because it's hard to find something unique coming out of Hollywood these days. I know that Fangoria Magazine BEGGED J.J. Abrams to let the publish a picture of the "monster" on the cover of their magazine. And he refused. Truthfully, I SAW the movie and I can't really tell you what the monster was. And I think that's why this movie is so good. Because you never really know what this "thing" is, or why this is happening. It's literally just a bystander's video....and nothing more. As a film goer, you must decide for yourself what happened. And THAT'S the reason a lot of people are going to hate this movie. Because it's not just cut and dried. Some people just don't have the imagination to enjoy something like this.

Like I said, don't take my word for it. If this type of thing interests you, go see it. And judge for yourself.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Let's Review

This week’s question is suggested by Puss Reboots:

How much do reviews (good and bad) affect your choice of reading? If you see a bad review of a book you wanted to read, do you still read it? If you see a good review of a book you’re sure you won’t like, do you change your mind and give the book a try?

Interesting question!! In the year or so that I have been blogging, there has been a lot of "controversy" over blogger reviews. It seems that many "literary" critics don't like the influx of bloggers that review books. For some reason they think it devalues what they are paid to do. I always review the books that I've read here. I started this blog for that very purpose. But I did it for me. It gave me a chance to put to log the books I've read and give reasons why I liked them or didn't. The fact that others read this blog now is just cake for me.

I DON'T usually pay attention to the so-called literary reviews. If there is a book out there that I want to read, I'm going to read it. Regardless of a review. And if I don't think I'm going to like a book, even a good review doesn't change my mind. I know what I like and what I don't. With that being said, I actually do pay a lot of attention to the BLOGGER reviews. And I'll tell you the reason why. I have come to "know" a lot of bloggers over the past year. When someone I "know" recommends a book, I weigh that a little bit more. And I usually have a better understanding of why that person liked a book. I also know that the average blogger doesn't get paid to review a book. Most bloggers review books out of sheer love. And that to me is worth a lot more than what I can find in any literary review!!

Happy Thursday!!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Short Story Monday - Smoke and Mirrors Part V

And yes....FOR THE RECORD....I do realize it is now Tuesday!! But with birthdays and work and speeding tickets, I just couldn't bring myself to post this last night!! So, as usual, I'm late. But don't they usually say, Better Late than Never?? So, here is the next to the last installment of Neil Gaiman's Smoke and Mirrors!!

Foreign Parts is a short story about venereal disease. OK. Hmmm. That sounded rather weird. And frankly, it's a rather weird story. According to the man himself, "it's mostly about loneliness and identity, and perhaps, it's about the joys of making your own way in the world." Still with me?? The story begins with Simon. A man who doesn't really have any friends in the world. No one. And he certainly isn't having sex. And yet, he comes down with a disease that is chalked up to venereal disease. How did he get it? And why does he feel like his body isn't his own anymore?? Read the story and find out!!

Vampire Sestina is just that. A sestina is a highly organized poem with 6 6-line stanzas. The same set of six words ends each of the stanzas, only in a different order. Now, I can't even write poetry that rhymes, let alone trying to write something this elaborate. But it is creepy...and it's cool!! And it's about my favorite subject....Vampires!!

Mouse is fashioned after a Raymond Chandler story....and it's about superstitions. It's a little story about a man and his wife living in New England, trying to catch a mouse in their house. But it is so much more than just that. It's about love and children and choices. This one really made me think.

The Sea Change is another poem that was once again inspired by Lisa Snellings. It's about a man that went out to sea. How the sea was a part of him. And how the sea destroyed him.

We Went to See the End of the World by Dawnie Morningside, age 11 1/4 is written in the fashion of a school report by this little girl. Her family went on a day trip to the End of the World. I'm not really sure the end of the world is a nice place to go. (and this story is amazing mostly because it really reads like something an 11-year-old would write.)

Out of all the stories I have read so far, these are probably not going to end up being my favorites. Still good. Strange, as always. But I was never really sure where they were going. And when they got there, I wasn't really sure where we were!! I'm quite sure that doesn't make any sense at all, but bear with me (I'm running on lack of sleep these days!) Regardless, they still add a lot of depth to this book. And it just proves what a great writer Neil Gaiman really is. He can take a few little words in a few short sentences and completely change the world as we know it. And that is good writing!!

Next week will be the last of Gaiman for awhile (is that a collective sigh of relief, I just heard??) My book will be finished and I will have to find some new writer to covet for a while. But I guarantee you this. I WILL come back to Gaiman again!!

Monday, January 14, 2008

My Wonderful Family

Kids. You just have to love them. When they aren't fighting, they are just about the best things in life! Yesterday, for my birthday, the kids (and my in-laws) took me out for lunch at the Olive Garden. Not exactly my "favorite" place, but the kids love it!! It was a really nice lunch except for the singing waiters, who the kids insisted on telling it was my birthday!!

Then we came home for presents. in-laws really love me. I probably get along better with them than I do my own parents. They got me a boxed set of My So Called Life on DVD! That is just about one of my favorite shows...ever!! I also got The Dresden Files, some new flannel PJ's, some bath and body "stuff", and some money!! Mike got me some new jeans, some cool tennies, and is paying for my hair color (hmmm...what shade should I go THIS time!)

But the kids. Oh, they are so sweet. And they know me better than anyone. They talked Grandpa into getting me something. Each kid paid $5. Now, the older 2 have chores and I pay them a weekly allowance. But Ana is only 5...and she helps me out when she can. But my sweet little girl talked to Grandpa and told him she didn't have any money. So he gave her a couple little jobs to do. And she gave him her "tooth fairy" money!! How sweet is that??? What did they get me?? They had Grandpa order me the new Clive Barker book! It's called Mister B. Gone and I didn't even know it was out yet! Barker hasn't had a new book out in ages and I'm a huge fan. I'm still in shock at them. What great kids!!

Of course, today has been less than stellar. I was late for work this a speeding ticket on the way in....and couldn't find my insurance card so I got 2 tickets! (the cop said, I could come to the court date with a valid card and he'd drop the insurance ticket). Then he had the gall to tell me Happy Birthday. Jerk.

With a little luck, I'll be back later for Short Story Monday. It's running late today, but then again, so am I!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kaza Kingsley Blog Tour 2008

Today is Day Seven of Kaza Kingsley's Blog Tour and her stop at MY blog! (Isn't that a great birthday present?) For those of you that are not familiar with Ms. Kingsley, she is the author of the Erec Rex Series, a Young Adult Fantasy series.

If you have read her books, I'm sure you loved them!! After reading the first book (review is to follow), I've found Erec Rex to be an excellent character!! The book is fun, fast-paced and full of magic. Although I won't even bother to compare the books, I know a lot of Harry Potter fans that are looking for a new character to follow. Erec Rex would be a good place to start!!

Fantasy books have become a staple in my household these days. Not only for me, but for my son Chad. (He wasn't too thrilled that I read his Christmas present first! But I figure he will get over it!) Chad loves anything with dragons and magic, so this series is right up his alley. And it's nice for me to FINALLY have someone in the family to share books with!!

Now, on to the tour:

"Stephanie, thank you so much for hosting me on your blog today! This blog tour has been a fun adventure so far. It's fun traveling through cyberspace! I hope your readers enjoy the kid picture of me - they can watch me grow older on the other blogs on this tour! I'll be here to answer any questions that come up.

Do you have a daily writing routine? What is it like?

I do! My heavy writing days are so methodical, it's ridiculous. Get up. Run. (Under a mile. I'm happy with that.) Shower. (Too much information?) Check email. Eat something: grapefruit a lot. Then I get all set up at my desk with good organic chocolate with yummies in it (nuts, dried cherries, you name it) and a cup o' green or herbal tea, and I'm all set! I get up for a quick lunch and a few small breaks. And that's it!

How do you deal with deadline pressures?

I'm one of those weird, type-A, Virgo types that feel best when they're ahead of schedule. That said, I still get behind schedule regularly. The way I deal is by setting huge, undoable daily deadlines for myself and then actually trying to do them. I break down the work into big daily chunks. Once I get a lot done I start to relax. And I spend so many hours a day writing that it's really no problem once I get going. It actually helps me get into it more.

If you ever have "writers' block," how do you deal with it?

You know, I've never had it. I won't be so smug as to say it doesn't exist (I know, from life, saying things like that guarantee it will happen to you!) I've always heard just write through writers block and it goes away. I do know that when I've been away from writing a while it gets harder to do. I tell kids when I talk at schools that writing is like lifting weights. The more you do it, you get in "shape" creatively. I think when you're in the writing mode it's hard to get blocked. It also helps that I've plotted out my series. There is always more to plot “ so much in each book“ but I generally know where I'm going.

Do you have up and down days? Can writing be stressful?

I definitely have up and down days, but more from the same mundane things that everyone goes through than from my writing. Things like headaches, getting disappointed about something I was looking forward to, the usual thing we all deal with. Writing can be stressful, but it's kind of a good stress. When my characters are in danger, or sad, I feel it with them, but I also know where they are going, so it's different. Overall, writing is a stress release, a creative outlet for me, so it doesn't cause stress. Okay, if I had a computer glitch and lost a chapter's worth of writing I'd be stressed. Very. But not from writing itself.

What do you do for stress relief?

I run in the mornings “ not far at all “ but I find it helps me a lot. Simple things like taking a long shower make me feel better. And chocolate. I'm a big fan of chocolate! If I really need a pick-me-up a big mug of hot chocolate is the best!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Kaza!!! And to all the readers, just post any questions you might have for Ms. Kingsley!!

If you'd like to follow her through the rest of her tour, here's the schedule:
1/14 A Year of Books,
1/15 Author Chris Rettstatt's blog
1/16 Deliciously Clean Reads,
1/17 Into the Wardrobe,
1/18 Real Gurlz Magazine,
1/19 Chauceriangirl,

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Johnny Depp is SO the Man!!

Last night, for my birthday, Mike took me out to dinner and a movie. And I got to pick the movie!! We usually agree on movies, but I knew a musical was going to be a hard sell. Even though Mike LOVES Johnny Depp, he HATES musicals. Hates them. He was actually SNORING at Phantom of the Opera at the Chicago Opera House. So.....I usually go with my friend Kris. At least she appreciates a good musical!!

Oh....but this movie is fantastic!!! Johnny Depp has cemented himself as the most versatile actor in Hollywood. I already knew that. He's done some of my favorite movies, including What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Pirates of the Caribbean, and Finding Neverland. But he is just so good as Sweeney Todd. And he can sing!! Who would have thought?? He is dark, creepy, and completely set on revenge.

Helena Bonham Carter has always been, in my opinion, a total spook (anyone who would be engaged to Tim Burton would have to be!) But I've always liked her. She has that whole gothic thing going for her. And she's good at it. She takes the role of Mrs. Lovett and does wonders.

Alan Rickman is also another favorite of mine. He plays the greatest villains ever.....and Judge Turpin is no exception. He's fantastic to the very end.

I don't like to review movies....because frankly, I'm not very good at it. So, I'll stop here. This is definitely not a movie for everyone. The gore factor is pretty high, and some of those scenes are really intense. Then there is the whole singing thing. Mike said he would have loved it without the singing. And I know a lot of people probably feel the same way. Personally, I thought the singing just brought out the whole story in such a unique way. I can't imagine it being any different. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp are certainly masters on top of their game in this one.

But don't take my word for it....go see it!! (if you aren't too squeamish!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Yes, I'm an Idiot!! ANOTHER Challenge!!

Yes, I know. How dumb can I be?? Another challenge??? Sheesh. But I keep seeing this one ALL over the blog world!! And it's fantasy-related. So, I just HAD to!!

Foxy Writer is hosting the Mythopoeic Challenge. Choose seven books from the list of Mythopoeic Award winners (or nominees list). It runs all of 2008. Sounds like fun!!

Here is the list I have chosen:

  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (come on....did you really think I would take on a challenge like this and NOT throw in somem Gaiman?)
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • The Song of Rhiannon by Evangeline Walton
  • Tigana by Guy Gavriel Kay
  • Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
  • The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale
  • Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold

Have you read any of these books?? Questions or comments??

Sorry, I've been absent the last few days. I'm trying to make a habit of posting at LEAST 5 times a week. But I've worked both jobs the last 2 days straight. 13 hours yesterday...and 12 1/2 today. Man....I'm dead. I'm heading up to bed right now. I have to be in early tomorrow. Mike is taking me out to dinner and a movie for my birthday tomorrow night. I'm finally getting to see Sweeney Todd!!


Monday, January 7, 2008

Short Story Monday - Smoke and Mirrors Part IV

With Christmas and New Year's messing up my schedule, I skipped Short Story Monday the last few weeks. But I'm back today with another edition from Neil Gaiman's FABULOUS book, Smoke and Mirrors.

Only the End of the World Again was written for an anthology of stories set in H. P. Lovecraft's fictional town of Innsmouth. It's about a man named Larry Talbot, who just happens to be a werewolf. He moves around a lot, and just recently came to Innsmouth. Surprisingly enough, the townsfolk seem to know what he is because they are continually offering him ways to relieve himself of his condition. (I might add, there's an extremely unsettling image dealing with fingers that you are just going to have to read about yourself!) But what do the townsfolk really know and what do they want with Larry?

Bay Wolf is a story/poem that mixes a little bit of Beowulf with a little bit of Baywatch! Ok....that really sounds kind of cheesy, but somehow Gaiman makes it work!! And very well, I might add. Again, Larry Talbot joins us as he tries to find out what is killing people on Venice Beach.

We Can Get Them for You Wholesale is a story about a man who is looking for a little revenge. He finds out that his girlfriend/fiance is messing around with someone at work, so he starts to look for an assassin. And he finds what he is looking for in the yellow pages under "pest control". This is a story for all of you that really enjoy finding a bargain!!

One Life, Furnished in Early Moorcock is the story of a young boy that is completely enamoured with the stories of Elric of Melnibone. (OK...I had to look this one up. I have never heard of Michael Moorcock or Elric the albino "White Wolf" and his sword Stormbringer).

Cold Colors is another poem/story dealing with computers, technology and basically, the devil himself. Would you sell your soul for a ten-pack of floppies?

Finally, The Sweeper of Dreams is a short, 2-page narrative that was written about one of Lisa Snellings statues. This one is of a man who is a janitor and is leaning on his broom. He is the "Sweeper of Dreams" and it really is a fantastic read!!

This week's stories were all over the place in terms of genre: werewolves, hired killers, computers and the enigmatic Sweeper. I have to say, I didn't really "get" the Moorcock story. But maybe that's just me. I absolutely adored Bay Wolf and The Sweeper of Dreams. And I had to laugh at the man trying to find a bargain as well as trying to knock off the competition. Who thinks this stuff up anyway? Oh yeah. Neil Gaiman!! So far, this collection is proving to be just as good as Fragile Things. I really didn't think it could get any better, but he just keeps cranking out some fascinating characters!!

Till next week. Only 2 more posts for Smoke and Mirrors, then I'll have to find some other author to occupy my short story Monday slot!!

Sunday, January 6, 2008


One of my favorite people in the blogging (and real world, since she is one of the few I have actually met live and in person!) is Bonnie. Bonnie has many blogs that I read all the time, including Bonnie's Books, Words from a Wordsmith, and Book Around the World, to name just a few. And I am honored to call her my friend.

A few days ago, she bestowed upon me a MWAH!, an acknowledgment that made me smile. Here is what she had to say about it:

"So, the point (and I do have one) to this post is motivated by my desire to hand some of that love and kindness back around to those who have been so very, very, very good to me in this bloggy world. My hope is that those who receive this award will pass it on to those who have been very, very, very good to them as well. It's a big kiss, of the chaste platonic kind, from me to you with the underlying 'thanks' message implied. I really do appreciate your support and your friendship and yes, your comments. ... Mwah!" (actually this quote came from the original post, but you get my drift, right? )

So....with a huge thanks to Bonnie (and a big MWAH back to you), I would like to take a few minutes and throw out a couple of my own:

Kookie, from A Fraternity of Dreamers - Kookie makes me laugh with her obsession with The Flight of the Concords, Lost and Heroes. But her views and reviews seem so in line with mine, that I claim her as a soul sister.

JP from Bombastic Bagman - JP is a relatively new friend in the blogging world, but is a great guy. He has the same taste in books and movies that I do, although I have to teach him about American Football. Cause Rugby and Cricket are his passions, and I know next to nothing about either of them!!

Chris from Book-A-Rama - I "met" Chris through an online Classics Club over 3 years ago. She's a stay-at-home Mom, has great taste in books, and we started our blogs at virtually the same time. I love her book related posts!!

Bellezza from Dolce Bellezza - A fellow Illinoisan, Bellezza is a teacher. She also has the most beautiful way with words. Ever sentence she writes has meaning and I'm always eager for a new post.

Debi from Nothing of Importance - Debi is also a new-to-me blogger. She writes with passion about her kids, which is something that I admire. She also has great taste in books (which basically equates to a taste that is similar to me!!) I'm so glad I found Debi's blog!!

Carl from Stainless Steel Droppings - Carl's passion for Books, art and movies shines through every sentence he writes. He hosts the most fantastic challenges and "experiences". Besides, he was my Secret Santa this year and a truly great guy!!

Chris from Stuff as Dreams are Made On - I've decided that Chris is my long-lost little brother because we are so alike. Not only is he sweet, but he is devoting his life to counseling kids in need. Talk about a guy with a heart. You won't find one bigger than Chris'. And he loves his books!! Great taste (you know where this is going!) He has recommended books to me that I have adored. Keep those recommendations pouring in!!

Nymeth from Things Mean Alot - Nymeth organized the Blogger Secret Santa exchange this year and it was a HUGE success!! She seems to be a World Traveler these days (cause I never know where she's going to be!) Out of all the blogs I read, hers has shown me more great books (that I never would have considered) than any other.

Finally....Andi from Tripping Toward Lucidity - Not only does Andi teach, she writes for various e-zines including her own, Estella's Revenge. She's smart, funny, and has a great head on her shoulders. (and her views are really similar to mine. Guess that's why I think she's so smart!!) I love reading Estella's Revenge and her blog whenever I have a few spare seconds.

Well...I wish I had time to say more. Cause I love each and every blog in my blogroll. So, I'll leave with a big MWAH to all of you!! Thank you so much for enriching my life and being my friends!! I'd love to meet you all in person some day!!


Saturday, January 5, 2008

Erec Rex, Kaza Kingsley and a Blog Tour

Have you read the Erec Rex books? I haven't (yet), but I've heard great things about them. In fact, I bought The Dragon's Eye for Chad (or me!) for Christmas!!

Taken from the back of The Dragon's Eye: Life is not easy for twelve-year-old Erec Rex. His single mother can barely support her six adopted kids. They’ve moved into an apartment so tiny that Erec sleeps with the washing machine. To make matters worse, there is a strange force in Erec that he cannot control.

Then one morning Erec’s mother is missing. Compelled to find her, he embarks on an adventure that will change him forever. On his journey he meets Bethany, who also lost both parents in a mysterious past. Together they discover Alypiam, where the knowledge of magic is kept.

Things do not go as planned. Forced into a royal competition filled with danger and sorcery, rescuing his mother seems impossible. He discovers that Alypiam is in peril and he is the only one who can save it. But he must learn the secrets of trust and loyalty to overcome all odds ... and to start on a quest to become king.

Now I ask you....doesn't that sound good?? Yes, folks. I do have a point to this post. Author Kaza Kingsley contacted me a few weeks ago. She is having a Blog Tour to promote her books, and has asked if I would host a day!!! Well of course I said I would be honored. It's not every day something like this just falls into your lap. are the details. On January 13th (my birthday!), Ms. Kingsley will be guest hosting. I have some questions for her, and I'm hoping you will too!! I've never really done this before, so work with me. If you'd like to check out her website, you should!! Erec Rex is fantastic fun. And so is Kaza's blog, The Memory Mogul. For all of you who love YA books and fantasy, this is a series you shouldn't miss. Stop by on the 13th and leave a comment for Ms. Kingsley. Should be fun!!
And here are Kaza' other stops on her tour:
1/13 Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-A-Holic,
Now...I'm off to steal Chad's Christmas present and get started reading!!

Friday, January 4, 2008

A Story of Man's Best Friend

Man. With the new job and the holidays, I just couldn't find any time to pick up a book!! How sad is that? But the New Year has started out well, and I just finished Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls (1961, 272 pgs, Yearling). I read it for a couple of reason. One - I have never read it before and it's a Classic YA book. Two - I read it for the Four-Legged Friends Challenge. And three - I love dogs!!

This is the story of Billy, a young boy growing up in the rugged Ozarks. There was only one thing in life that Billy wanted. A dog. But mind you, not just any dog. No, Billy wanted a hound dog to hunt coons. But a good dog cost money, and Billy's parents just couldn't afford it.

One day, he found a magazine with an advertisement for redbone hound dogs, and he knew he had to have them. Two puppies were going to cost $50, which was a ton of money to him. So Billy started saving. He worked hard to pick berries to sell to his grandfather's story. He caught crawfish and minnows to sell to the fisherman in the area. Two years of saving his dimes and nickels and Billy had enough money to buy the puppies. He had his grandfather send the money, and waited anxiously till they were delivered.

When they did arrive at the train station a good 20 miles from his house, Billy couldn't wait till he had a ride to pick them up. He started walking. He just had to have his dogs!! He wasn't going to let 20 miles stop him from getting something he had worked so hard for over 2 years to buy. And when he finally laid eyes on his puppies, he just knew they were the most special dogs anyone had ever had. Little Ann and Old Dan became Billy's best friends and constant companions. When they got a little older, he taught them how to hunt coons. And they were good. A legend in the making.

This story was a wonderful tale of a boy and his dogs. Those 2 dogs made an incredible impact on not only Billy, but his entire family. It's a story of unconditional love, devotion and loyalty. It made me smile and it also made me cry. I loved how hard Billy worked to get his puppies. And I think it's the perfect book for kids, especially boys. They will appreciate all the coon hunting the book contains a little more than most girls. If you've ever had a pet, especially a dog, you will appreciate the love Billy had for his "friends". This book is especially heartwarming, and the perfect book for my first read of the year!! 4/5

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

A New Year and a Rose Bowl Game

After a long night of "partying" with the kids, we finally rang in 2008!! I've been to many New Year's Eve parties in my lifetime. But the ones we've spent at home with the kids are always the most special. Last night was no exception. We played games (ending up with Spongebob Monopoly!), listened to music and finally watched the 'Ball' drop in Times Square. Glasses tinkled as we toasted to us and the New Year. It was really nice.

Today, I am the only one out of bed. It's quiet (except for the dogs barking at the door. I think they are cold. Sheesh. Wimps! St. Bernard's are supposed to LIKE the snow!) And I'm sitting here reflecting on the last year. Things were really weird for us. The hunt for a new job. The money issues. Working a second job. All that stuff was really hard on us as a family. And yet, we are surviving it. In less than a year, both cars will be completely paid off. Money is being set aside for taxes already. And while we won't be able to vacation in the Riviera, we will get by with a lot of budgeting. And little by little, we WILL get ourselves out of this hole caused by layoffs and debt. Maybe it's the freshness of the new year, but I feel hopeful.

I've never been one to make resolutions, and I won't start this year. I just plan on trying to be the best wife, mom, friend, employee and person I can be. It shouldn't take a date on the calendar for people to live a good life. It should be ingrained in oneself. That's how I try to live my life. We'll see how far it gets me!!

It's going to be a great year for reading too, if I can find some extra time during the long days. I am already starting to compile lists and timelines for the upcoming challenges. And there are many!! Man. I love lists!!

And today, the Fighting Illini are playing USC in the Rose Bowl. A little home state pride in that one. (of course, USC might as well be playing on their home field, but I'm hoping the Illini at least give them a run for their money!) I almost went to U of I. But after a visit, just seeing the vast size of the place frightened me off. My hometown of 527 people could practically fit on a few floors of one of the dorms!! So, when it came to choose, I opted for the much smaller, more compact campus of Bradley University. But I still follow the Illini. I hope they do well!!'s wishing all of you good luck and tidings in this shiny new year. I hope you count your blessings today. And thank you for letting me into your world!