Dec 29, 2008

Mail Box Monday

I have seen on various blogs people talking about the books they are getting in the mail. I don’t review (officially) very many books so it is a real treat when I get some books in the mail.

I thought it would be fun to celebrate that fact. I have been wanting to put some pictures of my books on the blog for a while, but all I have is a really crappy webcam. So, you are just going to have to suffer.

I was lucky enough to have Chelsea send me six books.

Chelsea sent me a copy of our January young adult book club pick so that I would be able to participate.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson has a beautiful cover and I am very excited to read it. The chat for this book will be on Dec. 29th. Feel free to contact me for more information or check out Chelsea’s blog.

I have been told I will really enjoy this book and now I am trying to decide whether to jump right into it or wait until closer to the chat to read it.

I really love talking about books in a group setting. I love that Chelsea will be giving away a copy of next month’s book to one of the chat participants.

I have been trying to collect all the Printz winners and finalists for my personal collection. I don’t have very many but thanks to Chelsea I have added two more to the pile. Monster by Walter Dean Myers has been on my wishlist for a long time. It is great to have it in my hands so I can get it read.

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing will be an interesting read. I really enjoyed M.T. Anderson’s book Feed but this book looks completely different. I am definitely curious about it.

The Big Empty, The Center of the Universe, and Sixtyfive Roses were also included.

Did any of these book interest you?

Dec 28, 2008

The Sunday Salon - Evaluation

The Sunday
Well, it is the last Sunday Salon of 2008. Though I have not participated as much in the latter part of the year, finding this group has been a great experience. I love talking about and sharing experiences with books. Looking back it has been a very successful reading year for me and in part that is because of blogging and fellow book bloggers. Thanks to all of your for sharing your insights and expereinces.

I am curious to know how you enjoyed 2008 and what you will be doing in 2009.

What was the best book you read in 2008?
What are your reading goals for 2009?
How has The Sunday Salon impacted your reading experience?
Is there one book you read in the past year and enjoyed that you would have never read without the encouragement of your fellow bloggers?
What is one of the things that motivates you to read?

The best young adult book I read in 2008 was easily Wake, though there were other great young adult books I read, this book had a uniqueness that I really found refreshing. The best adult book I read was The Sixteen Pleasures or The Handmaid's Tale. I find it really hard to pick a book and be fair to the whole year. I think we generally tend to pick newer reads as favorites.

I have a lot of book related goals for 2009. But one of the biggest ones is that I am going to keep better track of the books I have read. I am going to join a 100 books challenge and make a post for it and just keep it updated as I finish books. So the goal is in two parts, to keep records and to read 100 books in the year. So far I have read approximately 85 books in 2008. Because I didn't keep good records I can't know how many for sure. But when I was adding up the titles I felt a great sense of accomplishment.

I am also making a conscious effort to add more variety in my reading. This includes more classic young adult, popular fiction (aka "fluff"), classics, and more science fiction. Are you planning on reading any genre or author new to you in 2009?

The Sunday Salon has been great for me because I don't read book reviews. I don't like to know much about a book before I read it. But I love to read about how a person reacted and interacted with a book. I particularly enjoy reading passages that speak to a reader. There are definitely books that I pulled off my shelf after seeing other bloggers and saloners talk about them. Also it was fun to be exposed to new books and then find them while book shopping. Even when I have not read a book finding it in a thrift store makes me feel like I am sharing a special secret with a person that enjoyed it.

I find the idea of sharing what I am reading very motivating. Also mini goals publically encourages me even when I don't complete them. Hearing about author's lives and writing experiences also excites me to read their books. I love reading interviews and guest posts and participating in contests.

I still have 5 books left to finish my Well Read Challenge befor the end of the year as I had hoped to. I have abandoned some of my 13 books from a few weeks ago to focus on the smaller challenge. The five books I am rushing to complete are Stranger in a Strange Land, Hitchhiker's Guife to the Galaxy, To Kill a Mockingbird, Cat's Eye, and The Iron Heel.

Dec 26, 2008

Cat’s Eye

Even though I have only read some of her short stories and poems, Margaret Atwood quickly made it onto my list of favorite writer’s. Her short stories "Wilderness Tips" and another short story from the same collection whispered into my heart. It was easy to see why they are both so widely anthologized. I enjoyed these stories so much I quickly went to the store and bought every one of her novels I could find.

But then I came across a problem. I was worried that if I read one of her novels I wouldn’t like her writing as much and the purity of the connect I felt with her stories and writing would be severed.

When I decided to take on the well read book challenge I quickly selected Cat’s Eye to read. A lot of people chose it to read for their year of reading dangerously. This alone was peaking my interest. The fear was still in me, the worry that I wouldn’t LOVE it.

It ended up that I read The Handmaid’s Tale first. This is great because I loved it. And it abolished all my worry. But when I started Cat’s Eye the other day I realized how much I would have disliked it and been disappointed if I read it first. It is a good book, and I like it, but I am pretty confident in saying that if you want to read one of her books you probably shouldn’t start with this one. It has a really unique style. An odd, but strong detailed oriented voice. It can be off putting and it can be beautiful.

Cat’s Eye is the story of a painter reflecting on her childhood life. It is centered in Toronto and is included as one of the 5 books in the Toronto canon. The title comes from the main character’s childhood when she used to play marbles with her brother. She keeps the prized marble in her red purse and in her later life it becomes a motif in her paintings.

Judging a book by it’s cover. Which of these covers do you like the best? Have you seen an alternate version you like the best? My copy is a variation on the first cover shown. It seems to be the most readily available but in slightly different variations. If you notice the third image it in similar in composition. I am not far enough along in the book to know if this is a piece of art work that is described in the book. But the similarities between those two covers lead me to believe so. If you have read the book, which cover is the best representation? If you haven’t read the book, which cover makes you most interested in doing so?

Fun Friday

The UK versions of the mac vs pc commercials have been circulating around the web and I just thought I would do my part. All I have to say is: I WANT TO BE ON THE NAUGHTY STEP.

Dec 25, 2008

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen things I wish I had gotten for Christmas.

1. ACR of Fade by Lisa McMannWake was one of the best novels I read in the whole of 2008. I cannot wait to read the sequel.

Wake is such a unique book I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.

Just watch the trailer for Wake!


2. Little Brother by Cory Doctorow.  The ebook is available online here, (totally free and legal) but this is a book I want to hold in my hands. I may suffer without it and just read the ebook but I don’t want to.  I have heard so many good things about this.

This book has been recommended to me several times in the last few months.

Have you read it?

The New York Times named it a notable children’s pick for 2008. They call it “a novel that is at once an entertaining thriller, a thoughtful polemic and a practical handbook of digital-age self-defense.”

3. Diamond earrings.  No this isn’t a book title.  I just really want some nice diamond studs that I can wear all the time and have a little sparkle in my life.

4. A maid.

5. New tires for my van. This needs to be done before March anyway.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if Santa had gotten them for me?

6. A chance to see my boyfriend. Corny but true.

7. A second toaster.

8. The Professors’ Wives’ Club
by Joanne Rendell.

I have only recently become aware of this book.  But I love the title, the cover and the premise.

Joanne is in fact a professors’ wife so I bet there is quite a unique perfective in this book. The Professors’ Wives’ Club is her first novel, but she has already sold her second and third. 

I am not sure, but I think we may be allowed to hate her for this. What do you think?

9. A spa getaway.

10. My dishwasher and washing machine fixed.

11. Let It Snow

12. My wall to wall bookshelves build behind me. I am sure you have no idea why I may need them.

13. David Cook serving me breakfast in bed.

Actually, he is so delish, who needs food?  So maybe just Dad Cook in bed?!

(The best thing about this picture? His horrible short hair is cropped out of it.  And the size of his massive forehead is greatly diminished. The eyes aren’t bad either.)

Dec 24, 2008

The Cure

The Cure was a very promising science fiction novel to begin with. It is set in a future Utopic world but when Gemm 16884 starts acting contrary to accepted behavior the book took a turn into very intense historical fiction. And while it was very well written and historically accurate, it just wasn’t what I wanted from the book. it went somewhere "new" and maybe that isn't always a good thing

The hybrid did not integrate the way that I would have hoped. The elements of the stories were almost completely separate; a historical novel book ended with pure science fiction. Though I could see how and why this book has been popular to read in school. If I had to read this in school I would have loved it.

I like to know as little as possible about a book before I read it, and sometimes that leads to disappointments. I think I would have enjoyed this book more if I knew what to expect out of it. But critically I have to observe that on a creative level this book just didn’t work for me. There is a lot of potential there but the story would have had to been crafted in an entirely different way.

Dec 23, 2008

Frankenstein As Science Fiction

Frankenstein is considered to be one of the first pieces of science fiction. The modern view of this genre is intensely tied to the concept of technology and outer space, but it is not limited by these confines. Science fiction is about the exploration of any future scientific advances. There has been much inquiry into what inspired the story of Frankenstein and his monster, but it is deeply connected with scientific experiments that were contemporary to the creation of the story.

Besides being the predecessor to modern science fiction what place does Frankenstein have in the contemporary genre? And does it still have influence?

The story exhibits a classic example of the mad scientist subgenre of science fiction. When one comes to think about it, it is easy to understand how it can be classified as science fiction, but less apparent is why that is relevant. But a deep aspect of mad scientists is their need to play god. And this is both very relevant in the perspective of Frankenstein and the broader scope of modern science fiction.

“Since the 19th century, fictitious depictions of science have vacillated between notions of science as the salvation of society or its doom. Consequently, depictions of scientists in fiction ranged between the virtuous and the depraved, the sober and the insane. Until the 20th century, optimism about progress was the most common attitude towards science, but latent anxieties about disturbing "the secrets of nature" would surface following the increasing role of science in wartime affairs.” *

And with this commentary about the nature of science in fiction we get to the real root of Frankenstein’s influence on the genre. It is with the growth science and the fear of scientific and technological growth which has created the science fiction genre. The mysteries of science have changed over time, starting with biology and alchemy and going into space exploration and expanding through technology.

If Frankenstein didn’t exist, where would we root the genre?

Teen Tuesday

Starting today, Dec. 23rd, publisher Simon Pulse and Lisa McMann are having an essay contest. 

It is only open to teens aged 14-18.

Fund Your Dream
Essay Contest

The kind of dream that Janie has - to go to college, better her life situation, and maybe, not have to work two jobs to do it!

Lisa McMann and Simon & Schuster want to hear from you:

What is the Greatest Obstacle You’ve Overcome?

Answer this question in 500 words or less and submit your essay below
to enter the contest.

Lisa McMann will choose a winner, who will receive
$1000 toward meeting his or her life goals!

Lisa has more details and some good advice on her blog. Check it out for more info.

Dec 22, 2008

Book Acquisitions

It is snowing here. But before the snow started I may have run some errands. And while running those errands I may have stopped at the library. And while I that library it is possible I bought some books. If I did in fact buy some books, it may have been the following.

The Red Tent

Fourth Grade Celebrity

The Talking Earth

Naked in Death

Innocent in Death

The Winter Worm Business

Read any?

Popular Austen

Would Jane Austen be proud of her modern popular status?

There seems to be a slew of Austenesque books floating around. And I am not talking about her realism running through romance. From The Jane Austen Book Club to Just Jane, it seems that everyone wants to have their take (and piece of the pie) regarding this author in general and Pride and Prejudice in particular. Just last week I picked up Mr. Darcy’s Daughters and Jane Austen in Boca. At a dollar each one can’t help but be swept up into it. But during her lifetime Austen wrote anonymously, now she has not only one of the most noted names in literature but also in popular fiction. There might be a pride in the endearing and enduring nature of her work, but I don’t really know enough about Austen herself to say for sure. Either way, I am curious to know which Austen related books have you read and enjoyed?

Among all these recently popular Austen spins, I thought maybe the market and interest level had been saturated. I thought even my own had been. But when I came across Prada and Prejudice I felt an instant spark of interest at the title alone. This young adult novel really seems to be onto something different.

From the author's website:

"Fifteen-year-old Callie buys a pair of real Prada pumps to impress the cool crowd on a school trip to London . Goodbye, Callie the clumsy geek-girl, hello popularity! But before she knows what’s hit her, Callie wobbles, trips, conks her head… and wakes up in the year 1815!"
COMING JUNE 11, 2009

This time travel concept was tackled in Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict, but the fresh twist of having it aimed at young adults seems perfectly appropriate. It seems the right level of light heartedness that would compliment Austen's sentimentality. There is something about this title that is instantly heartwarming and appealing.

Prada and Prejudice author Mandy Hubbard astonished me with a detailed timeline regarding her road to publication. Her detailed account is a must read for anyone interested in writing and the authorial experience. In and of itself it is almost as enthralling as a novel.

Maybe there was a genius in that original spark of Pride and Prejudice that inspires infinite variations of Austen’s work which also acquire success. If you are interested in finding more titles there is an excellent list here. And I am happy to report my titles are among the ones listed. I always knew I had good taste.

Dec 18, 2008

Guess What?

I cannot believe I went to the Kelly Parra book chat tonight and won a book! I am totally excited to read her young adult paranormal novel Invisible Touch.

It was great chatting with Kelly and getting some insight into her writing process. One of the things I enjoyed hearing about the most was her story creation/editing process. She said that she starts with a very bare bones story and adds another layer to it every time she rewrites it. I am excited to see what kind of depth this will add to her story.

Kelly shares more of her experience about become on a writer on her website. Here is a taste:

“I wish I could say I was an avid reader all my life, but that would be stretching the truth. The real truth is, I've been an avid lover of stories all my life. I've loved movies since I was a kid and was hooked on VC Andrews as a teenager. Beyond television, it was art.

So when I became pregnant with my first child and someone gave me a Nora Roberts Romance novel, I was hooked from there on out. I had caught the Nora Roberts fever. When I got my hands on as many NR books as I could, I started exploring new authors with a special enjoyment for Romantic Suspense. One day as I was reading an Intimate Moments author bio, I discovered a stay-at home mother and author not far from my hometown who wrote books for a living. There was nothing glamorous or mysterious about her life. She was in fact a regular me.”

Read more about Kelly’s life and writing on her website.
You can find her lots of other places online:

  • YA FRESH: A young adult focused blog Kelly shares with Tina Ferraro, fellow author.
  • SECRET FATES: An secret blog to help celebrate the launch of INVISIBLE TOUCH.
  • WORDS OF A WRITER: Kelly’s blog about writing and publishing.

Have you felt the crush of the Iron Heel?

The Iron Heel by Jack London is considered to be on of the first pieces of dystopic fiction. I was eager to read it when I was it listed on the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, but was dismayed to find it wasn’t at the library. But I am SMARTER than the library search system and I found the book in a Jack London collection annoyed that it did not come up with my first search.

I have never read any of London’s writings previously but I fell instantly in love and feel eager to read more of his work. What Jack London books have you read?

The Iron Heel is in the public domain and available online. The first two paragraphs I found overwhelmingly striking and I will share them with you now. (This work uses a considerable amount off footnotes which I am leaving off for now.)



The soft summer wind stirs the redwoods, and Wild-Water ripples sweet cadences over its mossy stones. There are butterflies in the sunshine, and from everywhere arises the drowsy hum of bees. It is so quiet and peaceful, and I sit here, and ponder, and am restless. It is the quiet that makes me restless. It seems unreal. All the world is quiet, but it is the quiet before the storm. I strain my ears, and all my senses, for some betrayal of that impending storm. Oh, that it may not be premature! That it may not be premature!

Small wonder that I am restless. I think, and think, and I cannot cease from thinking. I have been in the thick of life so long that I am oppressed by the peace and quiet, and I cannot forbear from dwelling upon that mad maelstrom of death and destruction so soon to burst forth. In my ears are the cries of the stricken; and I can see, as I have seen in the past, all the marring and mangling of the sweet, beautiful flesh, and the souls torn with violence from proud bodies and hurled to God. Thus do we poor humans attain our ends, striving through carnage and destruction to bring lasting peace and happiness upon the earth.

Dec 17, 2008

Learn To Be Quiet

Learn To Be Quiet
Franz Kafka

You need not do anything.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
You need not even listen, just wait.
You need not even wait,
just learn to be quiet, still and solitary.
And the world will freely offer itself to you unmasked.
It has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

Dec 16, 2008

Well Read Challenge Update

As I mentioned the other week, my 1% Well Read to read list has changed from the original choices. The first two titles on the list were ones that I read otherwise, but within the time frame of the challenge. I decided to include them in order to finish the challenge by the end of the year.

1. The Handmaid’s Tale

2. Frankenstein

There are not many young adult novels on the list. As you know this is an area of literature that is a passion of mine so I made a special note of them and have read the following:

3. The Little Prince

4. Franny and Zooey

With my recent interest in science fiction titles from that genre have taken a prominent place on my list. Frankenstein, as seen above and

5. The Time Machine

Taking part in this challenge has been extremely motivating and I am looking forward to continuing to read books off the list. I have found them to be a nice guide through literature.

25 Things You Don’t Care About

I was ecstatic today to find out that I had to been tagged by Chelsea to tell you 25 Things about myself. And while I am pretty sure you don’t care I am going to do it anyway. See, the thing is I have been waiting my whole blogging career to be tagged and no one ever does it. What is up with that people?!

So I was all thrilled and honored to be chosen by Chelsea and go to her blog to check it out. And what does she say? “I'm trying to tag people I don't normally tag!” What exactly does that mean, Chelsea? Why have you been leaving me out all this time?!

1. Last night I dreamed I was dating Ricco Rodriguez. We were dating in secret because apparently the first rule of dating Ricco is not to talk about Ricco.

Don’t know who he is? Yeah, I didn’t either until I started watching Celebrity Rehab.

2. Out of an out curious moment I decided to take a look at Celebrity Rehab online. BOY, was that a mistake. Because you can’t watch just one. I stayed up all night watching the whole first season. And what did I get out of it? Dating this guy^ in my dreams. AWESOME. Jealous?

3. I have two girls. Ages 3 and 5. The older one weighed 6lb 1oz and the second was 8lbs exactly. And by the way, the two pound difference, OW! They were both born through induction and without the aid of pain meds.

4. During the holiday season I feel it dutiful to point out that I am not a big fan of turkey. It can be divine when cooked to perfection, but I sure as hell can’t cook it to perfection.

So, what do I cook instead? Generally duck. I really enjoy duck. I do a hoisin-lime duck that is to die for. (If you click on the link and are interested in the recipe, make sure you print it out, it isn’t always available online. The first link is for the sauce and the second link for how to use it with the duck.)

5. And speaking of ducks. Did you know I am allergic to duck eggs? For a while I didn’t know that either. And believe me, it wasn’t fun finding out. The neighbors had a few ducks and they were producing a lot of eggs. They were using them in their baked goods and I would go over and borrow them sometimes too. BIG MISTAKE. Not going to tell you all the details. Just know, it was a really big mistake.

6. I cannot stress this enough. While I LOVE to read, I love books EVEN MORE. (I even had to resize this picture so that it took up more space on my page than Ricco, lest my preference be subconsciously conveyed to you!) I love the smell of them and the feel of them. I like to run my hands across the covers and bindings. I enjoy looking for a book and getting to touch the others in the process. I could go on and on and sound like a freak in the process. But no, I have never done THAT with a book. Hello people, paper cuts?

7. So, you may or may not have noticed this about me, but I love words and generally have an inability for brevity. If you look at Chelsea’s list she generally didn’t take up more than one line per item, and what am I averaging at? 6 lines, at least. I enjoy using words and expressing myself and I think sometimes I need to learn that less is more, but unfortunately for you TODAY IS NOT THAT DAY! :)

8. As a kid I used to dream of being wildly successful at a young age. Maybe we all have these dreams. But I wanted to be the youngest singer or the youngest something else to be popular since so and so. And clearly….my time has passed.

9. Giving my complete adoration for the god that is David Cook I have to just say his album kind of sucks. Anyone out there take a listen?

Could it just be that he is a glorified cover artist? I actually can say that even with its flaws I enjoy his pre idol album much better. And Idol seems to have been his peak. I hope for more from him in the future. We can always try and blame Idol for the suckage. Also, David, what is up with these rumors of you possibly getting engaged to someone who isn’t me?

P.S. Why weren’t YOU in my dreams last night?

10. Don’t tell my boyfriend this, but I prefer tall guys. Ricco up there is 6’4. The fact that he is a full foot taller than me makes me swoon. David Cook is reportedly 6’ so we are totally good to go. But seriously, I do not like the short hair. Can we do something about that please? But, yeah, love the facial hair. DO NOT TOUCH IT. Wait, what was this number about? Oh, right. So in conclusion, will someone please memo my boyfriend and inform him he needs to grow a few inches. No, a few more. Yeah, nearly a foot would be perfect. ;)

11. Chelsea thinks I know the answer to everything, and I don’t mind.

12. I have been making a lot of goals recently. Mostly reading ones. I want to try and read 10 books off the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die list. But I want to try and read 10 every 3 months for the next year. I also want to read some novels off the 100 Best Science Fiction Novels and I would like to complete the 30 books to read before 30 before my 30th birthday.

13. I was Sweet 16 and never been kissed.

14. I prefer to read books with people rather than alone. I like book clubs but that isn’t even what I am talking about. I like to share the whole process of reading with a group of people and share ideas about it as we read. Of course this is enjoyable one on one too.

15. I will always consider myself a dancer. I grew up dancing and while a lot of art speaks to me, dance speaks to me on the deepest level.

I started doing modern dance in high school and continued it through into college. Now that I am a mom I don’t dance as much any more. Though I sometimes teach my kids ballet steps in the basement. I want to get them into dance class but I keep managing to put it off.

I love shows about dancing and just watching people talking about dance. I also love all the backstage elements of the dance experience. I have done lighting design and assistant stage managed a few shows.

16. I really like to travel but it is has been a long time since I have done so. And recently when I do go away I don’t enjoy it as much as I used to. Doe this mean I don’t like to travel any more? When I get there I am just really tired, and it isn’t as fun when you have to plan all the stuff and can’t just show up and have fun like you did when you were a kid.

17. Speaking of traveling, I have left the country three times by airplane and twice by car. Unless we are counting Puerto Rico and The Bahamas. In that case I have left the country times by airplane. In those journeys I have also been to: Ecuador, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Australia, Mexico, and Canada.

18. I have 2 tattoos. I got my first one in Australia when I was 18 and I got the second one in Las Vegas when I was 24. The first in on my inner left ankle, the second is on the top of my right foot. They have each come to represent one of my daughters. As my 5yo always say, “I am your butterfly baby and she (her sister) is the flower baby.”

19. I was a vegetarian for 7 years. Including the majority of my traveling years. As a result I have missed out on eating: ants, guinea pig, kangaroo, crocodile, and haggis. But honestly, I wouldn’t have eaten the haggis anyway.

20. I love roller coasters and I wish I was riding one right now! It has been a long time since I have been on one. The only place I really travel to lately is Vegas and to ride on just one one time is SO SO expensive.

21. So I am pretty pathetically afraid of heights (but roller coasters don’t bug me, go figure.) But no where near as pathetic as John Green.

Due to the massive amounts of snow accumulating on the ground I have decided to keep my 5yo home today. I don’t want to drive in that stuff.

23. My favorite flower is a cala lily and this is in part because of Georgia O'Keefe who I was extremely interested in growing up.

24. I named one of my daughters after someone in the following music video.

25. I prefer my books beat up to begin with. I figure they are going to get messed up eventually so if they are messed up when I get them I don’t feel as guilty about it.

And there you have it. 25 Things You Didn’t Care About. List your favorite in the comments!

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