Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday Randomness......

I am totally kicking myself in the ass right now. Why, oh why have I waited so long to read a Graphic Novel??? After all the awesome movies that have come out in the last few years based on graphic novels, I've been really intrigued. And they really seem as if they would be the type of reading I would like....lots of fantasy graphic novels are out there. And yet, never once have I picked up one to read. Until today.

I decided in the way of spring cleaning to tear apart the bedrooms. Part of it included washing all the huge comforters in the house. Since I almost hosed up my washing machine the last time I tried this, I decided to spend my morning at the laundry mat. They have those big, industrial washers and figured it would be a quiet couple of hours away from the house. So, with my detergent and softener in hand, me and my 5 comforters trudged up up the 'mat. I actually kind of like it there. I can wash like 8 loads of laundry at the same time and just be done with it all!!

So after chucking in a ridiculous amount of quarters, I settled it with The Sandman Vol 1: Preludes & Nocturnes. Sure, I can gush all day about Neil Gaiman and how he is one of my very favorite authors. Sure, I've loved everything I've read of his so far. But, The Sandman is a COMIC BOOK, right?? I haven't read one of those since I was in 4th grade! How good can it be?? Right?? WRONG!!! It took me about 1/2 a page to realize I was in love already. Not just with this book, but the graphic novel as a whole. The pictures were awesome....and it totally adds to reading the story. I got about 75 pages in before I had to leave, but I'll be finishing it up this week. Not sure I will be able to review it though. But I'll definitely try!!

Other than that, it's a rainy, dreary mess around these parts. I finished up book 2 of the Fablehaven series, Rise of the Evening Star. For some reason, I start out not liking these books initially, then totally get sucked in. I know it's a YA book, but for some reason I find the writing really elementary. But I did like this one better than the first....and with the cliffhanger ending (ACK!) I know I'm going to have to read the rest of the series.

I haven't had a lot of time to blog hop lately. Work has been kicking my butt. But I'll try to catch up a little tonight....and hopefully a whole lot more tomorrow!! No "Mailbox Monday" for me this week. Maybe next week!!

Happy Monday to you all!!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Since I wasn't here on Monday......

I figured I might as well do a Mailbox Monday today!! I know. I know. It's Wednesday. But I've been out of town. It was 2 very LONG and stressful days. And I'm seriously glad it's over. I feel drained. Completely. Physically, but most of all, mentally drained.

I did get a chance to go to the movie Wrap Party and had a great time. Of course, I drank about 5 too many glasses of wine!! Still, the cast and crew were wonderful! And we'll be seeing some of them soon, when we head up to Chicago for to party with them!!!

On to mailbox Monday (on Wednesday). Actually, I skipped last week, so this is a list of books that have entered my house the last 2 weeks. I got some really good ones!!

The book I'm probably most excited about is The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, the author of The Shadow of the Wind. Another book about literature, this one is sure to go to the top of the TBR pile!!

Mommy By Mistake by Rowan Coleman is a book that lovely Wendy, The Literary Feline passed on to me. She received this book for review, and didn't think she would like it. I've read a couple books by Rowan Coleman, back in my "Chick Lit" days. I LOVED them. So she sent it to me!

Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead is an ARC that I got from Shelf Awareness. I've read a few reviews of this one already and am really looking forward to it.

The Blue Notebook by James Levene is another book that is generating a lot of buzz. The ARC was also received from Shelf Awareness and although it's a hard topic, I can't wait to read it!!

The final book that I received from Shelf Awareness is Ultimatum by Matthew Glass. Set in the future, it's a thriller dealing with global warming and catastrophic effects it has on our environment. Sound relevant to me!!

Next up are 2 books that I received from the Early Readers program at Library Thing. The first is Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann. "a dazzlingly rich vision of the pain, loveliness, mystery, and promise of New York City in the 1970s." Sounds great!!

The second book that I got from Library Thing is Misery Loves Cabernet by Kim Gruenenfelder. Chick Lit can be a nice distraction sometimes!!

The last 5 books are from a box that I got from Curled Up with a Good Book. I haven't reviewed for them for awhile, and I'm looking forward to the challenge. The first is a YA book called The Debutante by Kathryn Williams. I always love a good YA book, and this one looks sweet.

Enclave by Kit Reed is a YA book that is described as "dystopian satire". What could be more fun than that?? I'm really looking forward to this one!! Will have to read it sooner rather than later!

Good Luck by Whitney Gaskell is another humorous Chick Lit book. I seem to have a couple of those on the pile this time.

Going Too Far by Jennifer Echols is another YA book. This is one that is put out by MTV. I've read a couple of their books before and really liked them. I hope this one is the same.

And the last book to enter my house this week is The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen. I really liked her book Garden Spells, and I'm hoping this one is just as good!

That's it. Next week, hopefully I'll make it on Monday!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Of Read-a-Thons, Work and a Little Sadness.....

Today was the Dewey-inspired 24-Hour Read-a-Thon. (OK, technically, it was yesterday since it's after midnight...but a few hardcore readers are still going!) I SO want to join in this one day, but circumstances have never let me!! The fall is right in the middle of my son's football season. All games are on Saturdays, and usually take up a majority of the day, since it's a travel league. Today, my daughter had a soccer game, and I was scheduled to 15 hours. So while all of you were reading, I was having a Work-a-thon of sorts!

Since I wasn't able to participate, I did want to do a little shout-out to all of you that signed up, and are still reading!! I tried to do a little cheerleading earlier. I'm not really good at it though! I've tried to hit some blogs and leave them comments....and I've also tried to follow some the action on Twitter.

Anyway....Kudos to all of you that participated in one way or another today!! And if you are still readintg, KEEP IT UP!! It's sad that Dewey isn't with us anymore, but a great thing that her legacy has lived on!!


On a final note, I will probably be off-line for a few days. You all know my grandmother has been sick. Well, she passed away late last night. As sad as I am, I truly know she is in a better place, where there is no sickness or pain. I'll be heading out of town for the visitation, funeral, and family gatherings. Hope to be back on Wenesday morning. I'll try to catch up with all of you then.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Horrifying Glimpse into the Future??? Let's Hope Not!

Finally!! The reading slump is officially over!! It took some time...and just the right books, but I finally feel like I've rounded that corner! And no, I'm not reading any more than I was before....I'm just BEHIND on my reviews!! The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (384 pgs, Scholastic Press, 2008) is a fantastic dystopian novel that I'm using not only as a selection for the YA Reading Challenge, but also for the End of the World Reading Challenge!! Me loves a good dystopian novel!!

When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth, but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. Today is the day of the reaping.

For 16-year-old Katniss (and yes, I really hate this name!) Everdeen, the day of the reaping is a day to dread. Panem, the country that was once North America before natural disasters and war laid waste to it, holds a "reaping" once a year. It is the Capitol's way of punishing the 12 districts of Panem for the "uprising". Each year, the 12 districts hold a drawing that will provide one girl Tribute and one boy Tribute to the Hunger Games. The 24 Tributes are taken to an arena and dropped off. Imprisoned together, it is ever child for him- or herself. There can only be one winner of the Hunger Games, and it is a fight to the death.

Each child between the ages of 12 and 18 is eligible for the reaping. District 12, The Seam, is the coal-mining district. They have only had one winner of the Hunger Games since it started. On the day of the reaping, all the kids are brought into the town square for a televised drawing. But this year, when Katniss' 12-year-old sister, Prim's name is drawn, there is a volunteer to take her place. Katniss is not going to let her sister go to be slaughtered. She immediately volunteers to go as the girl Tribute instead of Prim. Along with Peeta Mellark, the baker's son and the boy Tribute from District 12, Katniss is whisked away to the Capitol.

Because Katniss has spent the last few years providing for her family by hunting in the Seam, she feels she would have a better chance at survival than her little sister. Because frankly, being chosen for the reaping is a death sentence. Other districts have kids that are bred to be winners. But even if she can't survive, at least she has the knowledge that her little sister will be saved.

In a very Shirley Jackson sort of way, The Hunger Games is a glimpse into a terrifying future. In a world controlled completely by The Capitol, people live in fear of what can be taken from them. Even the games themselves are controlled by the Capitol. Each child can have sponsors that give them certain items to help them in the games. And if there isn't enough "action" to satisfy the powers that be, then the Capitol steps in and makes things more difficult for the contestants.

Collins has created a truly horrific look into the future. As a mother, the thought of such an events as the reaping or the Hunger Games makes me a little sick to my stomach. But as a reader and a lover of good fiction, this book is top-notch! Katniss is about as smart and as tough as a protagonist can be. I just fell in love with her. The Hunger Games starts out with a bang, but the suspense doesn't let up...ever! As a reader, you know there isn't going to be a good ending with this one, but Collins never lets you give up hope. From page one, you are immediately sucked in and just can't let go!! I practically read this in one sitting, it was so intense. I just needed to know what happens. Although there is clearly an ending....there is still more of the story to be told. Again, there is a follow-up book that won't be released till the fall. Damn. What is it with me and and the inevitable series reading?? Regardless of that, this is one intense read, and I highly recommend it!! 4.5/5

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A "Wicked" Faerie Tale

Another book review??'s certainly about time!! Especially since it's the Once Upon a Time season!! Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr (352 pgs, Harper Collins, 2008) could probably fall into more than one Fantasy Subgenre. Urban Fantasy is probably where I would leave it. Is there a better way to kick off the Once Upon a Time Challenge than with book about Faeries? I think not!

The Summer King knelt before her. "Is this what you freely choose, to risk winter's chill?" She watched him -- the boy she'd fallen in love with these past weeks. She'd never dreamed he was something other than human, but now his skin glowed as if flames flickered just under the surface, so strange and beautiful she couldn't look away. "It's what I want." "You understand that if you are not the one, you'll carry the Winter Queen's chill until the next mortal risks this? And you'll warn her not to trust me?" He paused, glancing at her with pain in his eyes.

Every since Aislinn could remember, she's had The Sight. Like her Grandmother and her mother before her, Aislinn has the ability to see Faeries. You see, Faeries inhabit the world we live in....only we can't see them. But Faeries aren't cute little creatures Walt Disney would have us believe. Oh no. Faeries are mischievous at best. At worst, they are cruel creatures that have no sense of right or wrong. No moral compass.

Aislinn's Grandmother taught her at an early age, the only way to survive in a world with The Sight is to not let anyone know about it. Especially, the Fey. Never stare at the faeries; never speak to the faeries, but most importantly, Don't EVER attract their attention. Aislinn took this advice to heart, and it worked for her...until the day the Summer King started stalking her.

You see, Keenan, the Summer King, needs to find his Summer Queen. He has been searching for 9 centuries and has yet to find the woman who will break the spell his mother, the Winter Queen, has placed on him. His powers are bound, and unless he finds the Summer Queen, Summer will eventually fade away and the Earth will grow colder. Keenan believes that Aislinn is the one he is searching for, but now he has to convince her to take a chance.

I love a good faerie story. Especially one that is this well-researched. Marr begins each chapter with a snippet of faerie legend. And she has created some great characters in Donia, the Winter girl and Keenan, the Summer King. It was their story that really sucked me into this book. Donia, the once mortal girl who took a chance and lost, was tragic and yet endearing. Her love for Keenan, even after she found she wasn't meant to be his queen was almost heartbreaking. For me, I didn't appreciate Aislinn until later in the book. She was a bit too timid and mild at first. But when her back was against the wall, she came out swinging....and that's a sign of a great female protagonist!!

As with most fantasy books these days, there is never a solid ending. They all seem to be under the category of series...and this one is no exception. I find myself entrenched in yet another series! This was a quick read, but a good one nonetheless. I'm really glad I chose to start this left me wanting I guess Marr did her job well!! 4.5/5

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Printz Project

Oh you didn't know this was coming!! Suey, from It's All About the Books and Jessica, from The Bluestocking Society have come together to host the perpetual challenge - The Printz Project. It even has it's own blog!!

Like unto other book award projects, the Printz Project is a perpetual challenge to read the winners of the Michael L. Printz Award (and perhaps the honor books if you’re brave).

Since the Printz Award is a relatively new award, we’re structuring this site a little differently. Each Printz Award-winning book and honor book has its own post. When you read one of the books, head on over to its post and leave either a link to your review on your own blog or go ahead and post your thoughts right there in the comments. This format is designed to keep reviews on the same book together. Each book’s post has a picture of the cover and the synopsis from the publisher. Feel free to browse about.

Seriously...I love YA books!! And out of the entire list of books, I've read 4 of them. And LOVED all 4: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, I am the Messenger by Mark Zuzak, The Book Thief by Mark Zuzak, and Looking for Alaska by John Green. So, yes, I'm IN!!

Monday, April 13, 2009

High Fantasy War Games.....

Today, I'm going to start getting out some of those book reviews that I am behind on. I have at least 4 that I need to do, and I thought I would start with Cry of Justice by Jason Pratt (444 pgs, Bittersea Publications, 2007).

My wife, my beloved. I promise....I can explain. I can explain where I went. And why....I can explain why I didn't explain when I returned. I didn't explain because I was afraid.

In the aftermath of a horrible international war in the world of Mikon, thousands of refugees have fled the Coastal States and are heading into the Middlelands. Cry of Justice follows a few of those people. A small band of warriors are led by the Maga, Portunista. She is sharp, power-hungry and intent of gaining as much control as she can. Among her subordinates is Seifas, one of the last members of the Guacu-ara, or the Hunting Cry. Born and bred to kill, Seifas fears he is the only remaining Guacu-ara left alive, and has made it his mission to follow Portunista until the end. And then there is Jian, who happens upon the group. It is a mystery who he is or where he comes from. And not everyone trusts him, especially Portunista.

Told in part through journal entries from Portunista, Seifas, and an unknown author, this is the story of how Portunista and her band of warriors happen upon a castle. The castle belonged to Qarfax, an extrememly powerful Cadrist. The castle holds many secrets....secrets that Portunista is desparate to do several other powerful mages. It is this castle and it's secrets that bring upon Portunista's group an epic battle: one that will change things forever.

Cry of Justice is an epic novel, the first of a trilogy. I would definitely classify it as "high fantasy". Maybe it's the fact that I don't read a lot of high fantasy that I found the first part of the book rather confusing. There are a lot of terms and people that I didn't understand, at first. But the story line is good. Very good. And that is what kept me reading.

Portunista is a hard character to nail down. You can tell she wants to be a "good" person, but she is so hell-bent on gaining power it diminishes her ability to distinguish from right and wrong. I wanted to like her. I really did. But her inability to trust in her own feelings made it hard. Just when I start appreciating her intelligence and her passion, she does something stupid....and it makes me mad!

Jian and Seifas are both wonderful characters, as are many of the minor warriors. They are strong, loyal and extremely complex in their nature. Jian has one goal throughout the story...and that is to save Portunista....from the other mages, but most importantly, from herself.

Although a lot of the complex war strategies were lost on me, I found myself reading faster and faster because I had to find out how the final showdown would end. Of course, being the first in a trilogy, the ending is far from over. You can tell that the story, even when the last page has been turned, is only just beginning. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has a love for high fantasy. For anyone else, it might be a bit confusing. Now, it's just a matter of time until Book 2 is released!! 3.75/5

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Challenges?? Life is a Challenge!

Yes. That's right. Life is a challenge. My days are being eaten up by challenges. The challenge of working so many hours in a week and still trying to spend time with my family. The challenge of dealing with the many obstacles that have been impeding our financial future. The challenge of dealing with my grandmother's illness. The challenge of finding time to actually sleep in the my already booked days. The challenge of trying to keep my house from falling apart. The challenge of keeping up with posts, emails, "tweets", phone calls and even the snail mail. The challenge of actually blogging more than once a week (I'm seriously behind 4 book reviews!!)

But I'm tired of dealing with every day challenges. I'd rather push all that stuff aside for just a little bit and focus on other things. Yesterday, I took the kiddies to see a movie. A movie!! Monsters vs. Aliens...and it was fun!! Tomorrow is Easter, and I spent this morning shopping for the Easter Bunny. Damned bunny should be able to do his own shopping!

And right now, I want to add some reading challenges to my list of "things to do". I can't seem to pass them up. You see....I like to make lists. I think that's why all these challenges appeal to me so much. It's not like I'll ever be able to actually COMPLETE them. I just like making the lists!! And I always read some of the books, so in that regard....Mission Accomplished!

The Classics Challenge is hosted again this year by Trish from Trish's Reading Nook. I'm late with the sign up, but I'm in the game!!

**Choose Your Level (Keep reading for Bonus)
1. Classics Snack - Read FOUR classics
2. Classics Entree - Read FIVE classics
3. Classics Feast - Read SIX classics

1. Cross-posting with other challenges is allowed (and encouraged!)
2. Audiobooks are fine
3. Re-reads are acceptable, BUT books must be finished after April 1st to count for the challenge
4. Lists don't have to be set in stone; you can change your selections at any time.
5. Have Fun!!
6. You do NOT need a blog to participate.

**Bonus!! (Optional)Last year we compiled a list of books that we think might be considered classics one day. I've wiped out that old list so we can start fresh, but to get an idea of what others suggested last year, see HERE. To start off the list, I'm going to suggest Atonement by Ian McEwan.

As always, I go for the Big list. These are some of the books I hope to read for this challenge:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (and NO...I haven't read this book!)
  • Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Doestoevesky
  • Far from the Maddening Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  • Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
  • The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas

Also hosted by Trish this year is the Non-Fiction Five Challenge. The Rules are:

1. Read 5 non-fiction books during the months of May - September, 2009 (please link your reviews on Mister Linky each month; Mister Linky can be found each month on this blog)

2. Read at least one non-fiction book that is different from your other choices (i.e.: 4 memoirs and 1 self-help)

That's it!! Picking my books was way harder this year, and I don't know why. But I will draw from this list:

  • Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang
  • The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper
  • Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America by Rick Perlstein
  • Pictures of a Revolution: 5 Movies and the Birth of new Hollywood by Mark Harris
  • Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
  • No Angel: My Harrowing Undercover Journey to the Inner Circle of Hell's Angels by Jay Dobyns
  • Bringing Down the House: The Inside Story of Six MIT Students who took Vegas for Millions by Ben Mezrich
  • Tweak: Growing up on Methamphetamine by Nick Sheff
  • Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey through his Son's Addiction by David Sheff
  • Stolen Innocence: My Story of Growing up in a Polygamous Sect, Becoming a Teenage Bride and Breaking Free of Warren Jeffs by Elissa Wall
  • Escape by Caroline Jessop
  • Kabul Beauty School: An American Woman Goes Behind he Veil by Deborah Rodriguez
  • Infidel by Ayaan Hirisi Ali
  • Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl
  • Bush At War by Bob Woodward
  • What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception by Scott McClellan

I could probably list a ton more....but I'm going to go with this group. I'm sure I can find 6 good books from this list!!

Finally, the Herding Cats II: Attack of the Hairballs Challenge. I mean, seriously. How can you not join a challenge with a name like that?? It's hosted by Renay from Let's Get Literate.


1. Make a list of five books you love.

Five. I'm as serious as a beached whale.
All titles must be books you've read in 2007, 2008 or 2009.
Please don't list a series; just the first book. If you really want to list a book in the middle of a series, you can, but it has to be that specific book.
Feel free to share why you're putting the book on your list, because I am nosy.

2. Post your list: in your own journal, in the comments here, whatever is fine. Share the list here.
Lists should be public (no locked entries, no logging in to view).

3. Browse the new book list. Stay a while. Read a few (eta: if you want; not even reading is required this time around if you don't have time to commit to a new challenge but still want to share your favorites).

4. If you review your books, you can share the reviews. You know, if you want. No pressure. Definitely not.

To learn more and to sign up, visit the post about the challenge.

I haven't yet picked the books I'm going to read, but here are the 5 books I'm adding the master list:

From 2007:

  • World War Z by Max Brooks
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman

From 2008:

  • Memory and Dream by Charles de Lint
  • The Secret History by Donna Tartt

From 2009:

  • Looking for Alaska by John Green

That's it. Enough talk about challenges. Time to get reading!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Yes, I'm still here.....

Unfortunately, I seem to be posting more updates like this than I would like. Life seems to be getting in the way of blogging!! A few updates are in order.

My vacation didn't quite turn out like I had hoped, but then again, it never does!! I did have 2 wonderful days where I didn't do anything!! Spent me time, sleeping, relaxing and catching up with some old friends online. Like Facebook or not, it has become a great tool for me. I have reconnected with a few old friends from high school, and have been having a great time. Many years and miles have been put between us, and it's been nice to see old faces and find out what's going on in their lives.

Then, within a 24 hour period, Mike got his layoff notice in the mail and I found out my grandma's sick. The layoff will be permanent, although it won't take place for awhile (at least hopefully). There is always the possibility that Mike will be able to transfer within the company, but it's pretty slim. Regardless, we are taking steps to get his resume updated and starting to look for something else....again. In the meantime, I'm picking up extra shifts left and right to try to put back some cash just in case.

Grandma, is another story. With my horrendous schedule, I haven't been able to do a lot of connecting with her lately. She lives about 2 hours away, and I've been lax. It's just that any free time I have is usually spent trying to catch up on sleep. I guess now I'm just going to have to suck it up and start doing a little more travel. It is not good, and I don't have a lot of time left. I'm taking a couple of days next week to go visit and take the kids.

On a brighter note....yesterday I spent the afternoon on a movie set!! Sounds fun, right?? My best friend, Aaron, who I've mentioned a few times is making a movie!! He wrote a screenplay, is directing and producing....and even acting in it. I'm so incredibly proud of him!! It's low-budget, to be sure. But he has a few minor celebrities in cameos and it was so much fun to see. The star is a young kid named Derek North, who is not only the sweetest guy, but just about the most gorgeous thing I've seen in ages!! I'm really hoping he becomes a big star, because he deserves it!!

AND, he wrote in scenes for each of the kids!! Yesterday, Chad got to get out of school and film his. He had 3 lines (which he nailed!) and was filming with Wendy, the Snapple Lady!! She is a hoot!! The film crew had me doing stand-in for her. It's funny, because I'm short, but I always wear heels of some sort. I had on my 3 inch Mary Janes, and they thought I was too tall....till I took my shoes off!! When I get all the pictures from the crew, I'll post them.

But for now, I'm posting the few that I took:

Here is Chad and Wendy. She is an incredibly sweet lady, who only was in town for the day. She had nothing but praise for Chad, and he just loved her!! Initially, he was a little scared. AND he was hoping for a scene with some hot young girl. But the second he met Wendy, he was instantly feeling better. The cast and crew treated him so special....he was in his heyday!!
Here is Chad with Richard Pryor, Jr. He was the first person on the set to come over and introduce himself. Super nice, and praised Chad for being so professional! He said Chad could be a big star someday!! Not sure that's the life I hoped he would have, but I guess if he wants to try.....Aaron wants to hook him up with an agent. Sheesh. Just what I need!!

Here is Chad and Derek. Like I said, Derek is a doll! I'm really hoping for good things in his future!! The shoot was at a men's clothing store, if you are wondering about the backgrounds!!

Finally, here is Chad with Aaron. Aaron's the best. He pulled us both in right away and introduced Chad as his nephew and me as his best friend. So, everyone treated us super!! We had a blast...and now the girls are wicked anxious for their day in the spotlight. Filming is going on all month, so I'm hoping to be able to catch some more time with all of them. Help out where I can. It's fun to be a part of something like this!!

That's all for now. Will check in again this weekend!!