Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!!

May you get lots of Treats and very few Tricks today!!! Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Little Graphic Novel Love...The Preacher: Gone to Texas

Although my little brother is 12 years younger than me, we think a lot alike. It's actually kind of scary. I wasn't around alot when he was growing up, but I tried to spend time with him. I'd like to think that some of me has rubbed off!! Now that we are both adults, I just love him to death. He's seriously an awesome guy. And our tastes in movies, music and books are mirrored. He's also a HUGE graphic novel reader. So when he tells me, I HAVE to read a series, I take his recommendations pretty seriously. The Preacher Series by Garth Ennis is one of his favorites, so I decided I needed to go buy the first book and see how it is. Preacher: Gone to Texas (200 pgs, Vertigo, 1996) is Volume #1 in a 9 Volume series. And since Luke says it's the Best Graphic Novel Series he's ever read, I have a hard time arguing.

"It was the time of the Preacher...." And so begins our tale. We meet up with 3 people that are traveling together. Jesse Custer, an ex-minister from Texas who has lost his faith. And his congregation. His ex-girlfriend, Tulip, who happens to be working as a hitwoman. And then there is Cassidy, Jesse's new best friend. Cassidy is a lot of fun...for a one hundred-year-old Irish Vampire.

Jesse's faith had been wavering for a while. But when an incident occurs that leaves Jesse "possessed" by a Heavenly creature known as Genesis (as well as killing his entire congregation and destroying his church), his faith is pretty much destroyed. And he's pissed. So, Jesse is off to find God and have a few words with him.

Along the way, of course, there are many obstacles. First of all, Genesis is the offspring of an angel and demon that fell in love. Being a new idea, a combination of Heaven and Hell, Genesis has been kept in a prison of sorts. Genesis seems to have as much power as God Almighty, and now it is occupying the same body as Jesse. When the Adephi Angels guarding Genesis realized what happened, they send out the Saint of Killers (Patron Saint of Slaughter and Assassination) to find Jesse and retrieve Genesis at any cost. Then there is the Reaver-Cleaver Serial Killer that also has his sights set on the trio. And finally, it seems that God has actually LEFT Heaven. After the birth of Genesis, God leaves the Seraphi (Warrior Archangels) in charge of Heaven. Now, Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy are on the run....and on the hunt for God.

First of all, as much as I LOVED this book, I'm going to be the first to admit, it is NOT FOR EVERYONE. It reads like a Quintin Tarantino movie. It's bloody, gory, brutal, offensive, sick, twisted....and the list goes on. But it works well in the whole scheme of things. The story is original and fun. The characters are fantastic. Jesse, for a foul-mouthed ex-preacher from Texas, does have a strong moral compass. He is trying to do the right thing. With Genesis' bonding, he is probably the most powerful person on the planet. And yet he doesn't try to take advantage of the situation. In fact, all he really wants to do is have a little conversation with God. Oh...and stay alive. And maybe get back together with Tulip.

The plot will keep you on the edge of your seat. I'm quite sure that Volume 1 is just the tip of the iceberg, as far as the storyline goes. And I can not wait to run out and buy the next edition!! Sick and twisted it may be. But so am I, so it's all good!! If you don't offend easily, I would HIGHLY recommend this series. It fun, rough...and in the end, will probably make you think! 4.75/5

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Short Story Sunday

I really meant to post this LAST Sunday. I'm almost finished with the book (only the Charlie Parker Novella left) and yet, I've only posted one Short Story Sunday. It looks like I'll be posting even after the challenge has finished!! Once again, selections are being taken from John Connolly's awesome book of shorts, Nocturnes! This book has some seriously great short stories!

The New Daughter. "In truth, I cannot recall the first time I noticed the change in her behavior. She was always developing, altering -- or so it seemed -- with each passing day. The story of a single father who decides to move his children to the country and get out of the city. He bought an old rectory set on acres of land. The house had been on the market for ages, and at first, it seemed a steal. Until he started attributing the changes in his daughter on the house. Or rather on the mound that was located in one of the fields on the property. A "burial" mound, or so said some of the locals. What was actually buried there? And did it have anything to do with the strange scraping sounds that could be heard outside the bedroom windows at night? (When he woke one night to find his daughter at the edge of his bed. And she said: "I'm not Louisa. I'm your new daughter". I got chills!)

The Ritual of the Bones. "The headmaster's voice was the voice of God". This is the story of Jenkins, one of the two scholarship students at The Montague School, one of the most prestigious prep schools in all of England. Only the wealthiest, most elite families had children at The Montague School. But once every ten years, a couple of scholarships were doled out to worthy students. As with any prep school, there were rituals and pomp and circumstance. But one of the strangest was the ceremony when certain select upperclassmen were presented with small velvet boxes -- each one containing a bone. Where did the bones come from...and what was the REAL Ritual of the Bones?

The Furnace Room. "The Thibault company once made locomotives and carriages for the railroads, famous names that ran on lines all across the Northeast: green cars for Wicasset and Quebec; green and red for Sandy River; yellow and green for Bridgton and Saco. This is the story of a loner with a secret past who drifts into town looking for a job. One day on a walk along the waterfront, he sees a sign for a Night Watchman at the old Thibault company. Seems like an easy job, at least until the night he hears noises. And sees strange creatures going to the "Furnace Room". But what really gets him, is seeing his wife there. The wife he had killed.

The Underbury Witches. "Steam and fog swirled together upon the station platform, turning men and women into gray phantoms and creating traps for unwary out of carelessly positioned cases and chests." The town of Underbury has a sordid history. In 1628, Ellen Drury and her sisters were executed for witchcraft. Now, 200 years later, Sergeant Stokes and Inspector Croft of Scotland Yard are called to the town of Underbury to investigate the mysterious death of a local man. A man that wasn't exactly the nicest man around. A man that had a history of abuse towards women. But what animal could have caused the death? Because surely the wounds inflicted on Mal Travers were not made by a human. But if it wasn't an animal, what could it have been? And what secret are the women of Underbury hiding?

I'll leave it at 4 stories this week. 4 really GOOD stories. I have to say that The New Daughter was probably the creepiest of all that I read this week. Seriously, I got chills reading this one (AND I see they are making a movie based on this story. With Kevin Costner. Interesting.) If you like creepy, scary short stories, I highly recommend this book!! John Connolly definitely knows how to set the mood!! Although the RIP IV Challenge will be over, I'll be back next Sunday to finish up my review of this book!! Till then, happy reading !!

End of Read-a-Thon Survey

Each year of the read-a-thon, I think "Next year, I'll get a chance to participate". I never do get to read, but I did get to cheer this year. Only for about an hour at the beginning. And the final 8 hours or so. But it's been a lot of fun, even if I didn't get to spend as much time as I would have liked. But I thought I would finish off with the Ending Survey:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? Since I'm a third shifter, the first couple of hours were the worst. I hadn't been to bed yet!! These last few hours, I've been wide awake!

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? This year has been such a great year of reading for me. I would suggest quick, fast-paced reads like The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and The Knife of Never Letting Go. Books that make your heart almost stop!

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? Nope. From what I saw, the read-a-thon was a total success!

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? Everything!!

5. How many books did you read? Only a cheerleader. I did finish 3 short stories tonight though!

6. What were the names of the books you read? short stories from John Connolly's Nocturnes

7. Which book did you enjoy most? N/A

8. Which did you enjoy least? N/A

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? Have fun! Visit as many blogs as you can....and try to visit new-to-you blogs. It's always fun meeting new people!

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I will always participate in same way, shape or form. If I could be a reader, I definitely would do it. But just cheerleading has been a lot of fun. Hopefully, I made at least one person smile tonight. If so, my work here is done!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My Memory of Dewey

Although I wasn't able to participate this year in the Read-a-thon as a reader, I still wanted to take the time to share in the Dewey Love-fest. I remember the day I read on her blog about her untimely passing and it really hit me hard. Sometimes I'm amazed at how incredibly drawn I am to this community. And with that, the incredible friendships I have made. Make no mistake about it: The friendships that have been made in this online community are indeed real. When I'm feeling down, all I have to do is visit a blog or jump on Twitter to find someone to talk to.

When I first started blogging, I didn't realize how many book bloggers were out there. One of the first people to visit me and make me feel welcomed was Dewey. She was larger than life, and her blog was big and had so many visitors, I was blown away by her stopping to read and comment on my little blog. She was so nice and smart. And she always took the time to leave comments.

I remember, I was having a hard time with Chad. He had been diagnosed with ADD, and I had reluctantly put him on medication when he was in 3rd grade. A few years into the process, I still had so many concerns, I posted about it. Dewey made certain to email me off-post, because she had some things she wanted to discuss with me. Over the course of a few weeks, we talked about the subject and she really had some incredible insights into the situation. It was so nice to bounce ideas off someone who wasn't so personally involved, and she made me feel so much better about the decision that I ultimately made.

Her death left such a hole in the community, and in all our hearts. I wish I had some eloquent words to adequately describe her, and how much I miss her. But I don't. What I can say is this. Dewey was a kind and gentle soul. And she is missed. Daily. But thanks to all of you, her light will forever shine on. With the continuation of the Bookworm Carnivals, the Read-a-thons and the Weekly Geeks, Dewey will stay with us. So, thank you. Just know that I love all of you very much.

Library Loot, a Couple of ARC's and a Cheerleader....Again!

Every since our library system went online, I've been grabbing books left and right. It is just so easy to log on to the system, look up the books that I'm interested in, and click that little button that says "hold". Now, each week, one of the friendly librarians call me and say my holds have come in. I have books waiting for me. When I had to ask someone to order the books for me, I had far fewer ILL books checked out. Sometimes, I think that would be better. I'm not the quickest reader these days. Just not enough time. And yet, I still have over 40 books checked out from the library!! Crazy, I tell you. Just crazy!

But some are must have's. Others are whims. And some, I've been waiting on for awhile. So without further adieu, this week's library loot:

First and foremost, is The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness. I debated for about a minute on requesting this book. It's the sequel to The Knife of Never Letting Go. But as much as I want to read this one, I'm worried that I'll be even more uptight once I finish. I mean, what will I do till the trilogy is finished??? How will I ever sleep at night?? But, in the end, I couldn't wait. Had to order it right away.

Make Lemonade by Virginia Euwer Wolff is actually book 1 in a trilogy of books. Because book 2 is on the list of Michael Printz Award books, I figured I'd better read Book 1 first! It is one of my big quests to read every book on this list by the end of next year!

The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko is a books about vampires. It is a Russian book that is the first in a series. I'm reading it A. for the Orbis Terrarum challenge and B. because it's a vampire book (and do I really need a reason to read a vampire book???)

SOOOO many people have told me that I need to read one of Michelle Moran's books. So, I requested Nefertiti. I love the cover. I love the time period. And hopefully, I will love the book itself!!

The next book is Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd. This is one of those books that I have seen popping up all over the internet. It's a book of short stories by YA authors. And it looks really good. Sounds like a great addition to the "pile"!

Monster by A. Lee Martinez is a total impulse pick-up. You know how I'm distracted by shiny objects? Well, this cover is a total shiny object. I saw it and was captivated!! A cool cover is half the battle. Hopefully the book will be as good as the cover.

Elfland by Freda Warrington is another totally impulse pickup. I was skimming the books in the New Books section of our library, when this one caught my eye. A beautiful cover. A story of faeries. And magic. Couldn't get a book that sounds more perfect!

Cirque du Freak: Book 1 A Living Nightmare by Darren Shan is the first book in the Cirque du Freak series. The kids want to see the movie, The Vampire's Assistant. Figured I might want to read a few of the books and see if I like the series.

Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill is a book I've wanted to read forever. I actually bought it when it was released. Then it was stolen by my brother, and I haven't seen it since! Decided it would be a good book to finish up the RIP I just decided to get it from the library. Who knows? Maybe I'll actually see my copy again someday!

Another impulse pickup is Zombie Blondes by Brian James. Isn't that like the creepiest cover??? Besides, it's another zombie book, and right now I'm all about the zombies!!

Fallen by Lauren Kate is an ARC that I received in the mail this week. Not sure if I'll like it. The whole Fallen Angel thing may be getting a bit overdone these days. Let's hope for a better book that Hush, Hush.

The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah is another ARC that I received for review. It's a murder mystery/thriller. Looks like it could be good!!

Finally, today is Dewey's Read-a-Thon!! Although I can't participate because of work, I will be cheering y'all along, especially in the wee hours of the night. When you need the most cheering. So, I'm getting my pom poms out....dusting them off, and gearing up for a long night. Good luck to all who are participating!!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday Randomness

I have a question to ask all of you, dear readers. Now that I've finished reading The Knife of Never Letting Go, I'm having problems getting into another book. I've tried starting a couple. I've read a few short stories. I'm working on a graphic novel. But I just can't sink my teeth into anything. Do you ever have this problem: when you finish a book that completely exceeds expectations; a book that is just so good you can't even review it properly; do you have a hard time reading something else?? I've hit slumps before. Usually a good book pulls me OUT of a slump, not puts me IN one! But I can't think of any other reason I'd be having problems. This is my favorite reading time of the year!!

I really wish I was able to read in Dewey's Read-a-thon this weekend. :( So sad, but I'm working. I'll be checking in periodically. Mostly just to cheer y'all on!! I'll be the one online when everyone else is asleep!! I keep seeing everyone's stack of books for the big day, and it just makes me sad. One of these days....speaking of that, Bethany posted this last night. If you can't make Dewey's Read-a-thon, she's hosting another 24-hour read-a-thon on Dec. 5th. I'm thinking this one might actually be doable for me!! We'll see if the stars line up just right!! Regardless, if you have the time, join in the fun!

Not much else going on right now. The only thing that seems to be holding my reading attention right now is a graphic novel by Garth Ennis: Preacher: Gone to Texas. It's bloody and violent as all hell....but I'm having a lot of fun with it. My little brother recommended it. We've been emailing/tweeting/facebooking lately. He gave me a huge laundry list of Graphic Novels to pick up. The boy is warped, so who knows what he'll have me reading!! Of course, you'll find out soon, I'm quite sure.

On the home front, Miss Bella came home from school yesterday literally jumping up and down. The 4th graders are putting on a Christmas play this year: Santa Goes Green (how environmentally friendly can you get?). She tried out for the female lead of Mrs. Santa Claus. She's been talking about it for weeks. And guess what? She got the part!! She's SOOOOOO excited. AND she has a solo to sing. Not a whole song, but a verse. And lots of lines to learn. It's going to be work, but I can't wait. The excitement on her little face was enough to make my entire week!!

We were supposed to do a "haunted house" this past weekend, but the girls got skittish at the last minute. But we've been thinking about taking Friday off and hauling Chad up to Joliet for the Statesville Prison Haunted House. It seriously looks like the thing nightmares are made from, but Chad and Mike are just drooling over the idea. Me? Saw a trailer of it....and saw me some clowns. I can handle just about anything but that. They really creep me out!

This is like my new favorite song. I heard it on Eastwick the other night, and I just HAD to find it. Isn't it great?? It's called No Heaven by DJ Champion!!

That's about it for me today. Just not much going on. Not much to talk about. Hopefully, I can change that in the next few days. Till then....later!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Knife of Never Letting Go - Is it as Good as the Hype??

And that certainly is a fair question to ask. For this seems to be the "year of the Hype". At least for me. I've been enthralled by both The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Entranced by The Graveyard Book. Underwhelmed by the first few Fablehaven books. And blown away by the awesomeness of Looking for Alaska. And since I always seem to be just one step behind everyone else, I find myself reading books that have already gone viral across the net. And as such, I always brace myself for disappointment. I always fear that a book that has been toted by everyone and their brother will leave me with just a so-so feeling. And I HATE disappoint. I'm not sure where I'm going to go with this review, but I can tell you this: The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking, Book One by Patrick Ness (496 pgs, Candlewick, 2008) most certainly did NOT disappoint! I'm using this book as a selection for both the RIP IV Challenge and the YA Dystopian Challenge.

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say. About anything.

Todd Hewitt is a twelve-year-old boy living in Prentisstown in the New World. The New World is a another planet that was settled years ago by people who wanted a simpler way of life. But when they reached the New World, they encountered an alien race known as the Spackle. And there was war. A war in which a germ was released that caused the "noise". This germ not only killed all the women in the New World, but most of the men. Only the men of Prentisstown are left. And they have the "Noise" disease. They can hear each others thoughts, or noise as its called. And although this sounds pretty cool in theory, being able to read eveyone's thoughts makes for a big jumbled mess most of the time. So many thoughts coming at you in all directions is enough to drive a person crazy. But this is the only world Todd has ever known.

Both his mother and father died during the war. Todd lives with friends of his mother's, Ben and Cillian, and his dog, Manchee. Prentisstown is the only settlement left from when the settlers arrived on the New World. But just 30 days before Todd's 13th birthday (the one that means he's a "Man"), something happens on his walk through the swamp. Something that causes him to go on the run from everyone and everything he has ever known. And, boy is his world turned upside down!

That's about all I can say about this book without giving away any part of the plot. And I think going in blind is the best possible way to read this book. Now...on to what *I* thought of it:

I had to give myself a day or two's time to let the story sink in before I could write this review. Is it at all possible to love a book and hate the same book all at once? Because if it is, that's how I feel about it! I know I read a couple of reviews that said this could possibly be a new favorite of all time. I'm not going to go that far. No way this book is going on the list past The Stand or To Kill a Mockingbird. I may change my mind when I'm done reading the Trilogy. But as a stand alone book, not a chance. I need closure in my life. I really HATE when a book leaves you with a huge cliff-hanger ending. And that is exactly what Ness does at the end of this one.

Reading The Knife of Never Letting Go is like riding on a roller coaster. It starts off at a real nice pace, then BAM! It kicks into high gear and doesn't stop until the final page. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing. But there is no chance to catch your breath. It is so intense that you can almost feel your heart beating at times. It is an emotional read. It will absolutely tear at your heart-strings. And it is very violent and extremely graphic.

And there is another thing: I actually felt physically exhausted when I had finished reading this book. I can not remember the last time that happened to me. There is at least one scene in the book that left me so drained, I could barely get out of my chair. I felt like I had been kicked in the gut, my heart ripped from my chest and stomped on. I was so angry I wanted to throw the book out the door! And yet, I picked it up again and continued reading.

All of the things I've said sound really negative. And I don't mean it exactly like that. Those are a few of the reasons I said I hated this book. Some of the reasons I loved the book: the wonderful characters. Characters that were written so well, I could picture them vividly in my head. Characters that were so real to me I cried and screamed when something happened to them (and trust me, there is a LOT that happens). Protagonists so human that it's impossible not to completely empathize with them. A dog that could possibly be the greatest character ever written. (I now see why I could never be a cat person. Dogs are just too loyal and sweet!) And a villain that was so evil, it made me see red each time I even stumbled across his name.

There is also a fantastic story to go along with the great characters. It is dystopian in nature, which I love anyway. But the world Ness created is just incredible. The whole concept of the "noise" is unique. You would think it would be impossible to keep secrets in a world where everyone can read each others minds, but in fact, this world has MORE secrets than anywhere I know! And it's written in such a way that it is completely believable. Take this quote:
"Cuz knowledge is dangerous," he says, as serious as I've ever seen him and when I look into his Noise to see what he's hiding, it roars up and slaps me back.

But don't kid yourself. This is not a fun, light read. There is a stab-you-through-the-heart intensity that is hard to like. It is gritty and violent. And sometimes you are so overwhelmed with sadness that you physically ache. But if the sign of a good book is the fact that the author has made you feel something, then this is a great book because it engulfs you with FEELING. Even with the portions of the book that I hated, I'm still giving it a 100% 5 star rating. It was that good. Will it ever surpass my favorite books? Probably not. But I do reserve the right to revisit the topic when I complete the trilogy! 5/5

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Fall Festival Recipe Exchange

Amy, from My Friend Amy, had another one of her "Brilliant" ideas. This time: a Fall Festival Recipe Exchange! I love cooking, when I have the time, and I'm always on the lookout for new ideas. Especially baking. So, please help add to my recipe book!!

I know a lot of people think "pumpkin" when they think about fall. Personally, I've never been a big pumpkin fan. My personal favorite this time of year are apples. We have a place about 30 miles from here where you can go pick apples. They have a bakery, with homemade apple cider donuts (YUM), apple pies, apple cakes. They also have a huge pumpkin patch, where the kids pick out the pumpkins they want to carve for Halloween.

I try to take the kids apple picking every fall. But we always end up with way too many apples. There are so many apples you can eat in a day. So many pies to bake. Because of this, I started looking for other, easy apple recipes. I found two that I really love, and thought I would share them both. (I know you said one, but I never can do things quite by the rules, can I?)

The first is a recipe for a German Apple Cake. My grandmother used to make this for us, and it was SO good. And moist. My kids just love it (of course, I think it has more to do with the cream cheese frosting than the cake itself!)

3 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 cups tart apples - peeled, cored and chopped
3/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
2 teaspoons butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar


1. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla. Combine the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt; add to egg mixture and mix well. Fold in apples and nuts. Pour into a greased 13-in. x 9-in. x 2-in. baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

2. In a small mixing bowl, beat cream cheese and butter. Add confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth. Spread over cake. Refrigerate leftovers.

See...easy!! The second is for Baked Apples in a Caramel Cream. Just a slight variation of regular baked apples, but so yummy!

3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup hot water
4 large Rome beauty apples, cored
1 tablespoon lemon juice
12 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped
1/2 cup whipping cream

Combine brown sugar and water in an 9-in. square baking dish. Peel the top half of each apple; brush with lemon juice. Place in the baking dish. Fill each with three caramels. Bake at 350 degrees F for 60-65 minutes or until apples are tender, basting every 20 minutes. Carefully lift apples, allowing any caramel in centers to drip into pan, and place in individual dessert dishes. Pour sauce into a small saucepan; add cream. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until sauce is smooth and thick. Spoon over apples; Sprinkle with a little brown sugar and Cinnamon. Serve immediately.

Many Thanks to Amy for hosting!! If you have a recipe to add, please be sure to post and link up to Amy's Festival Mr. Linky!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Few New Challenges

Goodness, it's been WEEKS since I've signed up for a challenge!! I didn't honestly realize how many challenges take place everyday in the book blogging world. When I first started blogging, I signed up for EVERYTHING. But with the influx of book bloggers and the subsequent increase in challenges, as well as my final realization that I would never be able to complete them all, I've kind of taken a break from them. But every great while a good one comes along, and I'm in. For better or worse!

Hosted by Bart's Bookshelf, the YA Dystopian Reading Challenge just kind of jumped out at me!! YA and Dystopian/speculative fiction are two of my very favorite genres. Put them both together: even better. The challenge takes place from October 15 to the end of the year (shhhhhh, I already started my book!)

"Dystopia (from the Greek δυσ- and τόπος, alternatively, cacotopia, kakotopia, cackotopia, or anti-utopia) is the vision of a society in which conditions of life are miserable and characterized by poverty, oppression, war, violence, disease, pollution, nuclear fallout and/or the abridgement of human rights, resulting in widespread unhappiness, suffering, and other kinds of pain. (Source: Wikipedia)"

The idea is to have fun with this, and as I know with the year-end rapidly approaching, thoughts will be turning to completing all the other challenges we are all signed up to! So your level of participation is up to you, simply pick a target of between 1 & 4 books to read during the two and a half months of the challenge.

It’s that easy.

Those are the rules. That's it. 1 - 4 books by the end of the year is something I can accomplish. Although you don't have to make a list, I usually do. It's easier for me to keep track, although I always reserve the right to change my mind and change books!!

  • The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (I'm reading this right now. Oh it is SO Good!)
  • The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (I have a feeling, I will HAVE to read this book after I finish the first!)
  • The Dead and the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer
  • Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras by Scott Westerfeld (doubt I can get through all of them, but I'd love to get a start on the series! )
  • Feed by M. T. Anderson
  • Exodus by Julie Bertanga

Oh, yeah. I'll be able to get some great books out of that list!!

The Countdown 2010 Challenge is hosted by Michelle from 1 More Chapter. I haven't participated in this one before, but I like the idea! It's a countdown through the decade. 10 from 10, 9 from '09, 8 from ' get the picture.

The goal of this challenge is to read the number of books first published in a given year that corresponds to the last digit of each year in the 2000s — 10 books from 2010, 9 books from 2009, 8 books from 2008, etc. The total number of books required, therefore, is 55.
This challenge lasts from 9/9/09 through 10/10/10.
Crossovers with other challenges are allowed and your lists may change at any time.
Sign up using Mr. Linky.
Have fun reading!

So far, I don't have a list. That will be forthcoming. I need to do a lot of research on this one. But the lists are the best part of the challenges!

Finally, the Childhood Favorite reads 2009 - 10 is hosted by Deb from Debbie's World of Books. It's a chance to go back and read some of your favorites from your youth! I'm a little late in starting this one. It started on the 2nd, but hey. Who cares, right?

Read 5 books that were favorites while growing up
If you would also just like to write a post high lighting your favorite book or series feel free to
Post your reviews or book/series highlight here
Challenge starts today and will end June 30, 2010.
I will do summary posts periodically highlighting the reviews added so far.

My list will look something like this:

  • Nancy Drew Mysteries by Carolyne Keene
  • Trixie Belden Mysteries by Julie Campbell
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  • The Time Quartet by Madeleine L'Engle

OK, dear Readers. Let's get started!!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Another Week, Another Library Loot Post

I had hoped that my time off work with my shoulder would free up oodles of time to read. Unfortunately, the pain medication I was on made it virtually impossible to read. One minute I'd be turning pages of my book, and the next minute I'd be sound asleep! On the bright side, I I caught up on a lot of much needed sleep!! I did, however, check out a couple of season of the Gilmore Girls from the library and a couple of season of Supernatural. And I overdosed on them!

Now, I am back to work again. Not quite 100%, but I do feel a lot better. I have a feeling it will be quite a while before I'm completely healed, but I can't really afraid any more time off at the moment. I had to return a few books to the library without reading them. It always kills me to do that, but I know when I check out 30 books at a time, there's no way I'll be able to read them!! This week, I had a few stray holds come in. That, and I grabbed up some graphic novels that caught my eye. Should make for some interesting reading!

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang was actually one of the first graphic novels I remember seeing out there in blogosphere. Although it doesn't really seem like my thing, I picked it up to read as a part of Dewey's Reading Challenge.

I think I first saw the Bone Series of Graphic Novels by Jeff Smith over at Chris's blog. I know others have review these books, Chris is the one that made ME want to read them. I was cruising the shelves at Alpha Park and I realized that had the whole series. Figured it couldn't hurt to at least try the first one!

Girl Genius, Volume 1: Agatha Heterodyne and the Beetleburg Clank, A Gaslight Fantasty with Adventure, Romance and Mad Science by Phil and Kaja Foglio is another total whim pickup. But come on. Who could pass up anything with a name like that? Doesn't it look like fun? Ana has been trying to take this one from me. I'll let her read it. It's way more appropriate that the Fables GN's she wants to read!!

If you think reading Graphic Novels is new to me, let me tell you a secret. I've never actually read anything that could be remotely labeled as Manga. Fruits Basket is a series they had in my library. It's pretty popular. Thought I would give it a try.

I think I said before that Zombies are the new Vampires. I've seen more Zombie books that ever lately. Generation Dead by Daniel Waters is one of them. It looks interesting. And it IS that time of year!! I think all the rest of the books I've checked out are RIP related!!

The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro is a book that I heard about from Carl. Vampires. What more could a person ask for during RIP? If Carl liked it, then I'm pretty sure I will too!! Besides, Del Toro directed Pan's Labyrinth, and it was this is bound to be good!

The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia is a steampunk fable. I haven't read much in the way of steampunk, but I like the concept. Figured I would give it a go.

Living Dead Girl by Elizbeth Scott is another book that has made it's way around the blogosphere lately. Sounds eerie enough to be a good RIP book.

Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez just has a really cool cover. I've read a couple of reviews and it sounds like fun!

Finally, Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a short little tale by a master of the gothic scary tale. A perfect addition to the RIP challenge.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Book 2 of Suzanne Collins' Gregor Series

Now that Chad has succeeded in getting Mommy hooked on a new series, I had to hurry up and finish book # 2. He checked it out of his school library and it was due back this week. (on a side note, he also succeeded in talking his teacher into accepting his Hunger Games and Catching Fire reads as AR credit by lending her his copy of CF. God, I love that kid!) So, Book # 2 in a five book series is Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane (312 pgs, Scholastic, 2004).

When Gregor opened his eyes he had the distinct impression that someone was watching him. He glanced around his tiny bedroom, trying to keep as still as possible. The ceiling was empty. Nothing on his dresser. Then he saw it sitting on the windowsill, motionless except for the delicate twitching of its antennas. A cockroach.

After Gregor had returned from the Underland with Boots and his father, he thought everything would be great again. But his father didn't return in the same condition in which he left. He was sick, and his mind just wasn't the same after all those years of captivity with the rats. He couldn't work, and there was never much food for the kids. But they were together again, and that was all that mattered.

One day, close to Christmas, Gregor took Boots to Central Park to sled. He couldn't do much for the family in the way of money, but he wanted to help out out all he could. But with all the family problems on his mind, he wasn't paying complete attention to Boots, and the next thing he knew she was gone! When he took the time to access where he was, he realized he was close to one of the waterways back to the Underland. And when he found the grate to the opening, he found a giant cockroach antennae! It seems that something had come from the Underland to take Boots. As he was trying to find the waterway, a couple of giant rats found Gregor. But luckily for him, Ares, his bat friend and bond, was waiting to take him to Regalia. It seems that the roaches had been watching the family. The rats had planned on stealing Boots and they wanted to protect her. And now that Gregor was back, it seemed that his help was needed once again. Another prophecy foretold of his actions. This one against the Bane, a giant white rat that would lead them to victory if it was allowed to live.

If Under Fell, If Over Leaped
If Life was Death, if Death Life Reaped
Something Rises from the Gloom
To Make the Underland a Tomb.
Hear it Scratching Down Below
Rat of Long-Forgotten Snow
Evil Cloaked in Coat of White
Will the Warrior Drain Your Light?
What Could Turn the Warrior Weak?
What do Burning Gnawers Seek?
Just a Barely Speaking Pup
Who Hold the Land of Under Up.
Die the Baby, Die His Heart
Die His Most Essential Part.
Die the Peace that Rules the Hour
Gnawers have Their Key to Power.

If the gnawers kill Boots, it seems that Gregor, the Warrior won't be able to protect the Underland anymore. And Gregor is NOT going to let that happen.

Once again, Collins leads us on a fantastic journey of the Underland. We are introduced to more characters. Some are members of the Royal family: Luxa's cousins. And a few more creatures from the Underland. If the first book was good, this one is even better!! As a reader, you are even more vested in emotion with the people and creatures that take part in the next quest. Gregor, has grown and matured. But one thing hasn't changed: his love for family, above all else. The lengths he is willing to go through to save and protect his sister is astounding. And it makes your heart feel all warm and fuzzy!

I wish everyone would read this series. I realize it's aimed at middle school/junior high students. But the life lessons are there for everyone. And Collins is grade A, #1 at weaving a story so tantalizing, that you won't want to put the book down until you have finished!! Take my advice and get this book for you and your kids. But get to it first, because the kids might not give it back!! 4.5/5

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Short Story Sunday - Nocturnes by John Connolly

I woke up this morning feeling the chill in the air. Autumn has arrived in all it's wonderful glory!! (actually, I don't think summer was every really here. I remember spring, then lots and lots of rain. Now, Autumn!) It's in the low 50's, and I'm getting the kids ready for Chad's football game. But before I go, I wanted to do a Short Story Sunday Post.

I'm pretty sure the last Short Story Sunday I participated in was last year, during the RIP challenge. In fact, it seems the only short stories I ever read are during RIP. I've never really been a big fan. It takes a special writer to be able to do the short story right. It's hard to create characters that people want to get to know and care about in only a few short pages. Neil Gaiman can do it. So can Stephen King. Joe Hill has a little of his daddy's talent as well. Can you tell the only short stories I read are spooky?? I've tried a few others, but none really captured my interest too well. Until now.

A few years ago, I read a wonderful book called The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly. I can not begin to tell you how much I loved this little treasure. (Instead, I'll just point you to my review. I gushed enough here.) Suffice it to say, if you haven't read the book, it's a wonderfully dark, sinister fairy tale and worth ever second you have the cover opened.

But today, we are going to talk about John Connolly's book of short stories: Nocturnes. I've missed the first half of the RIP Shorts Challenge, but I won't miss another Sunday.

The Cancer Cowboy Rides is the first story in the collection, and one of the longest. The cowboy's name was not Buddy Carson. The cowboy didn't have a name, not now. There may have been one a long time ago, but if there was, then it had been lost to him for many years. Jim Lopez was the Chief of Police in the small hamlet of Easton, New Hampshire. It was quiet and small, a place where everyone knew your name. And he loved his town. Being Chief of Police was easy in a town like Easton. There was never a lot of least there wasn't until the day Buddy Carson arrived in town and people started getting sick. Really sick. It seems that everywhere the cowboy touches, cancer seems to spread. And it's up to Lopez to save not only the ones he loves, but the entire town of Easton from the Cancer Cowboy.

Mr. Pettinger's Daemon is the story of Mr. Pettinger. He was a chaplain during World War II and had seen the horrors of war first hand. Now that the war had ended, he is trying to pick up the pieces of his mind and move on. The Bishop has decided to move him to the tiny parish of Chetwyn-Dark to recuperate. Mr. Fell, the minister there now has seemingly had a "crisis of faith", and needs to be replaced. It is up to Mr. Pettinger to find out what has been going on in this tiny parish. And to find out exactly what has been trying to dig itself out of the crypt that is directly beneath the church in Chetwyn-Dark.

Finally, we have The Erlking, which is the tale of something that goes bump in the night. The Erlking, that steals children away from the beds, never to be seen again.

I love this time of year!! I love the scary story and the urban legend. And I love tales of things that go bump in the night! I had to look up The Erlking to find it's origins. It is found a lot in old German poems and ballads and is described as a "malevolent creature who haunts forests and carries travelers off to their deaths". But Connolly's short story is based on a ballad by Goethe called Der Erlkonig, who preys on children, in the forest. And it literally sent shivers down my spine. Not bad for a story that's only 10 pages long!! Connolly definitely joins the ranks of Gaiman and King as a talented writer that can scare you with the short story!! (I know. This isn't much of a review. I have problems with reviewing Short Stories! Maybe next week will be better!) Till next week then!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Enemies Unite in Morganville!

For some reason, I just can't seem to help myself when it comes to vampires. And yes, I know you already know that! Fortunately, the market is heavy on vampires and zombies right now. Especially in the YA lit department. But one of the better series in the mix is the Morganville Vampire Series by Rachel Caine. I don't know what there is about this one, but it is just SO readable! I just finished Book 4: Feast of Fools (256 pgs, Signet, 208). Since it IS that time of year, I'm using this as one of my selections for the RIP IV Challenge.

It was hard to imagine how Claire's day -- even by Morganville standards -- could get any worse...and then the vampires holding her hostage wanted breakfast.

I'm mean really. With an opening line like that, how can you not want to read this book/series?? As with every book in the series, Feast of Fools picks up immediately where Midnight Alley left off. Mr. Bishop has arrived in town and wants to meet with his daughter, Amelie. As the Founder of the Morganville, Amelie has always been the most powerful vamp in town. Until now. If things in Morganville were scary before, now they are downright terrifying. Unlike Amelie, Mr. Bishop couldn't care less about the humans. To him, they are just cattle. Nothing more than the next meal. The protections that have been placed don't mean anything to him or his vampire crew.

And if this wasn't bad enough, now Claire has to deal with the fact that Amelie has brought her parents to live in Morganville. At least, when they were not in Morganville, she could shield them from the horrors she faced on a daily basis. Now, not only are they going to learn the secret of the Vampires of Morganville, but she is going to have to worry about their safety as well as her friends' safety.

In the fourth installation of this series, enemies come together to fight side by side against an outside force that threatens their existence in Morganville. I wish I could explain why I like these books so much. Rachel Caine can write. She knows how to tell a story. And frankly, she doesn't pull her punches. The characters in her books go through a lot. Unlike a lot of the books out there that romanticize vampires, Caine does not. Her vampires are rather scary, in fact. They need the humans in town to survive, without exposing themselves to the world. But if push comes to shove, they will eat you!

Claire is still a great character. In past books, I've admired her smarts, strength and loyalty. Nothing changes in this book, except her confidence. She has grown from the shy, meek little girl to a much more confident, self-reliant woman. Her romance with Shane is heating up too. But as with all the other books, Feast of Fools ends with a major cliffhanger ending. In fact, it's almost cruel the way Rachel Caine leaves us hanging! I guess that means, I'll just have to keep on reading!! And if you start this series, you will too! 4/5