Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Teaser Tuesday

TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:
  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

  • Here are my "teaser" sentences, from Alaska by James Michener:

    "Varnak and Tevuk would hear none of this, for although they had a very old woman to care for, she was so precious to them that they would starve themselves rather than deprive her....'Others say, Let the old ones die', he whispered to his wife one night, 'but I have no mind to do so'. "

    This is quite an interesting novel - and based on its size, I might be reading it for months! =)

    Monday, December 29, 2008

    Sleeping with Bread

    The examen, based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, helps a person hold onto what spiritually nourishes him by looking at what is giving him consolation in his life or causing him desolation. It allows someone to express his gratitude to God for the good stuff and turn to him for solace for the bad stuff. It is quite simple. You simply ask yourself, in the last day/week/month what gave me consolation and what caused me desolation.

    I'm not sure how I could possibly feel anything but joyful after this week.

    Christmas with my husband's family- they never let me feel anything other than welcomed and loved.

    JoAnna's first Christmas - do you think she will hate us for this someday?

    Me and my guy.

    I couldn't ask for a more wonderful, funny, caring family.

    I am truly blessed.

    Yet ANOTHER challenge - I know, I'm nuts

    I know, it's crazy to even THINK about joining another challenge - but frankly, I'm going to be doing this anyway, so I might as well get a sense of accomplishment about it. =)

    Here are the rules for the Book Buddy Blogger Challenge:

    Rules: The challenge will run all of 2009. You will be required to read 5 books from a list of 10 that are recommended by a book blogger buddy. The books should be from their list of best books from 2008. It's that easy. Then let us know what you think of your friend's choices. Do you agree or disagree and why?

    This being hosted by Wisteria at Bookworm's Dinner - why not join us? Come on, you know you're going to read a whole list of books from other blogs. At least this way, you can feel like you are accomplishing something too! Here is my list, compiled from recent blog posts I've read:

    1 - How I Live Now by Meg Rosof - recommended by Megan of Leafing Through Life
    2 - Repossessed by A.M. Jenkins - recommended by Andi of Tripping Toward Lucidity
    3 - Devil's Brood by Sharon Kay Penman - recommended by Carey of The Tome Traveller
    (in the spirit of full disclosure, I was going to read this book anyway, but since I found a
    glowing recommendation for it, now I'm adding it to this challenge!)
    4 - Eon: Dragoneye Reborn by Alison Goodman - recommended by Alyce of At Home with Books
    5 - Matrimony by Joshua Henken - recommended by practically all of the book blogging world
    6 - Dakota by Kathleen Norris - recommended by Word Lily
    7 - The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff - recommended by Stephanie of Open Mind, Insert Book (6/1/09, rated 9/10)
    8 - Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips - recommended by Serena of Savvy Verse & Wit (5/3/09, rated 7/10)
    9 - The Almost Archer Sisters by Lisa Gabriele - recommended by Luanne of A Bookworm's

    10 - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford - recommended by Marcia of The
    Printed Page
    (5/28/09, rated 10/10)

    So there's my list - 10 books from 10 different bloggers. I don't think I'll have any problem reading at least 5 of them!

    Mailbox Monday

    This, friends, will be just the first in a series of posts I am entitling:

    "My loved ones feed my Book Addiction at Christmas."

    I seriously scored in the bookstore gift card category this year. Boy, do I feel loved!

    Here's the first haul of the season:

    Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Jennie Fields - woman with depressed husband tries to better her family's life

    Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum - a woman tries to uncover her mother's story of the Holocaust

    It Wakes in Me by Kathleen O'Neal Gear - book two of the Black Falcon trilogy

    Children of God by Mary Doria Russell
    - continuing story of Jesuit priest Emilio Sandoz as he returns to his own world.

    The Reckoning and Falls The Shadow, both by Sharon Kay Penman - fantastic historical fiction by one of the masters of the genre

    Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks - a young woman caught up in liberating France from the Nazis

    East of the Mountains by David Guterson
    - an old man ventures out on his last hunt.

    No Angel by Penny Vincenzi - saga of a publishing family during WWI.

    So, who's read these? Any comments? Suggestions? Catcalls from the peanut gallery?

    Sunday, December 28, 2008

    TSS - Yearly Wrapup

    Time for a little review of the best and worst of my year in reading. First, though, a picture of one of my Christmas presents - The Reading Girl. Don't you love it? I can't decide where I want to put her, so right now she's hanging out above the fireplace. I had a very book-themed Christmas, which is wonderful. My mom also gave me two t-shirts, one which says "What's another word for Thesaurus?", and one which says "My book club can beat up your book club." Fun!

    Also, I got a few gifts cards...but we'll talk about that tomorrow in Mailbox Monday. =)

    So here we go, The Best and The Worst.

    The Best -

    1 - The Lions of Al - Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay - one of my favorite books of all time, I re-read this one in 2008 for the third time. I still cry in all the same places. This is, for me, a work of true brilliance.

    2 - Bikeman by Thomas Flynn - This free-form poem captures all the shock and heartbreak of the day that was September 11. I've seen all the 9/11 movies, and watched the documentaries, but this is the first work that made me weep.

    3 - The White Mary by Kira Salak - This novel, about a broken woman journeying to find her hero in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, took my breath away. About so much more than the actual journey, this story of redemption was one of the first ARC's I had a chance to review, and it was amazing.

    4 - In Her Name by Michael R. Hicks - novels like this are why I will continue to read self-published work. The world of Reza Guard was completely engrossing, and I never wanted it to end. This is great fantasy writing!

    5 - The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne - if you haven't read this yet, GO READ IT before the movie comes out and ruins it for you. I think it is considered Young Adult, but it is mesmerizing and powerful and intense. Don't miss this one!

    6 - Zoe's Tale by John Scalzi - Actually the fourth in a series, but good enough to stand alone. Zoe is one of the best young teenage women protaganists I've read in a long time, and she was created by a man! I can't wait for my niece to get big enough to read Zoe - and I'm so happy to have discovered John Scalzi, who is quickly becoming a favorite.

    7 - Run by Ann Patchett - I'll say this for Patchett - she never writes the same novel twice. This beautiful story about a man trying to figure out how to keep his family together surprised me - I didn't really expect to like it as much as I did. This is why I'm saving Bel Canto - I don't want Patchett's novels to end.

    8 - Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn - Another re-read this year, the first in a series about a young man named Takeo who has to figure out where in belongs in a world of assassins, secret sects, and powerful warlords. I love this series, but none of the books are as good as this first installment.

    9 - The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan - yet another first-in-a-series, this story of young, abused Will coming into his own as a ranger's apprentice was excellent. Young adult, so quick reading, and the start of a series I am eagerly anticipating.

    10 - The Host by Stephenie Meyer - I know ALL the reasons this shouldn't be on my best-of list - Meyer's writing is often not that good, her endings are trite, much of the novel is predictable - and yet, I loved this book. After reading her Twilight series, The Host feels like a writer coming into her own. I found the premise of the novel to be fascinating, and the relationship between Melanie and Wanderer heartbreaking. Maybe I'm too easy to please, but I couldn't have a list without The Host.

    And now, The Worst - not in any particular order.....

    In the Face by Lorelei Armstrong
    - I think the reason this made my worst list is because it really had a GOOD premise, but was executed POORLY. I WANTED to love this novel, but I was mostly just bored by it. Very disappointing.

    Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss - this is on my worst list because it really started out good - funny, smart, critical - but by the end, just felt whiny. I hate whiny.

    Sweetsmoke by David Fuller
    - I'm pretty sure this one will land me in book blogger purgatory, but I really did not enjoy this novel. I know, I'm the only one - in the same way I'm the only person in the world who didn't enjoy Peace Like a River, I'm prepared to be alone on the island on this one.

    My Sister, My Love by Joyce Carol Oates - Joyce and I have such a love/hate relationship - this one I really hated.

    The White by Deborah Larsen
    - someone I know REALLY LIKED this novel - can't remember who, but I think I'll not take any recommendations from them again, because I was not engaged at all with this one.

    Red River Rising by Wendy Lea Meckel
    - my mom warned me when she gave me this book to read that it wasn't very good, but it's about the area of Minnesota where she grew up, so I wanted to give it a chance - whew, she was right. Not good.

    So far this year, I've read 144 books - pretty good, since my goal each year is always 100. I might get one more done before we officially ring in 2009, but I'm happy with my total. So - do you agree with my lists? Disagree? Think I'm crazy? Feel free to let me know - I love to hear your opinions!

    Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    Merry Christmas, friends

    Credo at Christmas

    At Christmas time, I believe the things that children do.

    I believe with English children that holly placed in our windows will protect our homes from evil.

    I believe with Swiss children that the touch of edelweiss will charm a person with love.

    I believe with Italian children that La Befana is not an ugly doll but a good fairy who will gladden the hearts of all.

    I believe with Greek children that coins concealed in freshly baked loaves of bread will bring good luck to anyone who finds them.

    I believe with German children that the sight of a Christmas tree will lessen hostility among adults.

    I believe with French children that lentils soaked and planted in a bowl will rekindle life in people who have lost hope.

    I believe with Dutch children that the horse Sleipner will fly through the sky and fill the earth with joy.

    I believe with Swedish children that Jultomte will come and deliver gifts to the poor as well as the rich.

    I believe with Finnish children that parties held on St. Stephen's Day will erase sorrow.

    I believe with Danish children that the music of a band playing from a church tower will strengthen humankind.

    I believe with Bulgarian children that sparks from a Christmas log will create warmth in human souls.

    I believe with American children that the sending of Christmas cards will strengthen friendships.

    I believe with all children that there will be peace on earth.

    - Daniel Roselle

    Giveaway Winner!!

    After tossing all the entries into a hat, and making my (totally disinterested) husband draw one out, I can announce that the winner is:

    Tara of Books and Cooks!!

    Congratulations Tara - when you send me your mailing info, I'll pass it along to Anna at Hachette and your book will be on its way. Merry Christmas! =)

    Tuesday, December 23, 2008

    Hello world, it's me

    My blog friend, Tara, tagged me to participate in this "Take a photo now" meme. Here are the rules:


    1. Take a picture of yourself.. riiiiiight.. NOW!
    2. DO NOT change your clothes. DO NOT fix your hair.. Just take a picture.
    3. Post that picture with NO editing.
    4. Post these instructions with your picture.
    5. Tag 10 people to do this and leave their pics as a comment!

    So here you go - this is me, after an 11 hour work day, with my dog, Kadie, who doesn't realize she can't fit on my lap. It's good to have her furry little face to come home to. =) I've already changed into my comfy clothes, because I do that immediately upon entering my home.

    I know it's Christmas, and everyone has other things on their minds, so I won't tag you specifically, but if you are reading this, CONSIDER YOURSELF TAGGED! I'm hoping to see lots of Christmasy smiles on people's blogs - take a picture and let me know so I can meet you, too!

    The American Journey of Barack Obama - Giveaway!!

    Agree or not with this guy's politics, he has lived a fascinating life. And, whether or not you voted for him, living in America during the presidency of the first African-American is living while history is being made.

    The American Journey of Barack Obama is a big, pretty book, filled with pictures and commentary about the life of Barack Obama. Most of his story is common knowledge, but there are still places in the book that can surprise readers - like when his daughter, Malia, asked him if he was going to try to be President, and then said, "Shouldn't you be Vice-President first?"

    Perhaps the most interesting section of the book is at the end, called "Aspects of Obama", where 12 prominent writers examine different aspects of Obama's life, giving brief snapshots into the challenges and responsibilites Obama will face. This is, of course, a book favorable to Obama, so dissenting viewpoints are not really presented. But it is an interesting record of a man who is bound to go down in the history books, for better or worse.

    Hachette Book Group is kindly offering another copy of this book to one lucky reader of this blog, so leave me a comment with your email address and you will be entered to win. I will take entries until midnight, Tuesday, December 23, and then someone will get a fabulous Christmas present the next day! This is only open to US addresses, no PO boxes, so I'm sorry to those left out. If you are interested, drop me a comment!

    Monday, December 22, 2008

    Sleeping with Bread

    The examen, based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, helps a person hold onto what spiritually nourishes him by looking at what is giving him consolation in his life or causing him desolation. It allows someone to express his gratitude to God for the good stuff and turn to him for solace for the bad stuff. It is quite simple. You simply ask yourself, in the last day/week/month what gave me consolation and what caused me desolation.

    This week, I'm stealing the words of another, because they have been in my head since I read them.

    "Yet I suggest that we are better givers than getters, not because we are generous people but because we are proud, arrogant people. The Christmas story- the one according to Luke, not Dickens - is not about how blessed it is to be givers but about how essential it is to see ourselves as receivers. We prefer to think of ourselves as givers - powerful, competent, self-sufficient, capable people whose goodness motivates us to employ some of our power, competence, and gifts to benefit the less fortunate. Which is a direct contradiction of the biblical account of the first Christmas. There we are portrayed not as the givers we wish but as the receivers we are. Luke and Matthew go to great lengths to demonstrate that we - with our power, generosity, competence, and capabilities - had little to do with God's work in Jesus. God wanted to do something for us so strange, so utterly beyond the bounds of human imagination, so foreign to human projection, that God had to resort to angels, pregnant virgins, and stars in the sky to get it done. We didn't think of it, understand it, or approve it. All we could do, at Bethlehem, was receive it. A gift from a God we hardly even knew...

    This strange story tells us how to be receivers. The first word of the church, a people born out of so odd a nativity, is that we are receivers before we are givers. Discipleship teaches us the art of seeing our lives as gifts....This is often the way God loves us: with gifts we thought we didn't need, which transform us into people we don't necessarily want to be. With our advanced degrees, armies, government programs, material comforts, and self-fulfillment techniques, we assume that religion is about giving a little of our power in order to confirm to ourselves that we are indeed as self-sufficient as we claim. Then this stranger comes to us, blesses us with a gift, and calls us to see ourselves as we are - empty-handed recipients of a gracious God who, rather than leave us to our own devices, gave us a baby."

    (excerpts by William Willimon, from the book Watch for the Light)

    So this week, this is me - a giver, trying to learn to receive.

    Mailbox Monday

    Happy Monday, everyone. What are your plans for the last Monday before Christmas? I'm mostly going to try not to freeze, as our weather has taken a turn for the COLD. I'm sure my mailman is hating his job right about now - how could he possibly stay warm enough??

    I did have one little book arrive amidst the pile of Christmas-related goodies:

    Etta by Gerald Kolpan

    If you got something wonderful you'd like to share, stop by and visit Marcia at The Printed Page - she'd love to hear from you!

    Sunday, December 21, 2008

    TSS - two quick reviews

    Good morning, and welcome to the last Salon before Christmas. Everyone done with their shopping? I am - I'm just hoping one more gift I ordered for my Dad shows up before the big day. Oh well - if not, I can just wrap up a picture and mail it to him.

    I managed to finish a couple of books this week - my LibraryThing ER book, and its prequel, so for your reading pleasure today, here are my reviews.

    Sunrise by Jacquelyn Cook

    Amazon description:

    The true love story behind one of Georgia's most famous antebellum mansions. In the 1850's Anne Tracy, a smart and well-educated young woman from the stifled but elegant world of Macon, Georgia, made a polite marriage with an older, wealthy merchant, William Butler Johnson. The unlikely pairing blossomed into a romantic and devoted marriage. The Butlers' wide travels through 1850's Europe inspired them to return to Macon and build an incredible Italiante mansion. Through the trials and trbultions of family tragedy and later the Civil War, the Butlers maintained an amazing legacy and an amazing home.

    My thoughts:

    It was fine. Not horrible, not wonderful, just fine. The writing is fine, the dialogue is fine - it just didn't have anything that really engaged my emotions, which is what I always want a book to do. I want to really empathize with a character, or really despise a character, or SOMETHING - this book just left me feeling detached.

    The author spans about 40 years in the novel, so I think the biggest problem I had was that relationships seemed to develop very....quickly. Suddenly Anne and William are in love. Suddenly Anne loves her brother's wife like a sister. Suddenly William and his neighbor are best friends. Because she was dealing with so many events so rapidly, the author didn't have a chance to actually show the relationships developing, and I think that is why I didn't really feel any real sense of caring for any of the characters.

    Also, and this could be important to some readers, there is a LOT of history in this novel. I mean A LOT. And the author moves through it QUICKLY. I really think if she had focused on one portion of the story - perhaps expanded this one novel into a trilogy - I would have enjoyed it more, because it wouldn't have seemed quite so rushed. I know there will be some people who really like this novel - I was just hoping for a little more substance.

    The Gates of Trevalyan by Jacquelyn Cook

    Amazon description:

    Family. Faith. Love. War. The Gates of Trevalyan brings the turbulent years before, during and after the Civil War to vivid and passionate life. Trevalyan, the beautiful central-Georgia plantation where idealistic young Jenny Mobley and aristocratic Charles King marry and build a life together, becomes a symbol of the heartache and division brought by the nation's bitter wounds.

    Author Jacquelyn Cook weaves the King family's story into a tapestry featuring the most compelling figures of the time--from charismatic statesman Alexander Stephens and his doomed love for Elizabeth Craig to Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and many others. Richly detailed and intensely researched, THE GATES OF TREVALYAN breathes the spirit of great storytelling into a fascinating historical era.

    My Thoughts:

    This is the second in Cook's "Georgia Civil War" trilogy, and I actually liked it better than the first. Again, the mechanics of the novel are sound, but in this one I was able to enjoy the characters more. Once again, Cook chooses to write about a fairly extensive time period - we start in 1844, and end in 1866 - but this time, she is able to develop each of her main characters enough that I felt like I actually got to know them.

    Perhaps the difference was that her heroine, Jenny King, was fictional. Sunrise is the story of Anne and William Johnson, who actually lived, so Cook was forced to stay within the confines of actual historical accounts in telling their story. Jenny King is smart, and vivacious, and strong-willed, and completely made up, so Cook is able to create a much more imaginative world around her. Several of the other characters are real people, and Cook uses their own letters and journals to tell their stories, but Jenny is all her own, and I think Cook shines when she is able to create her own heroines.

    Once again, The Gates of Trevalyan has A LOT of history - fully the final 2/3 of the book is spent jumping from one battle to the next, one political war to another. Cook obviously researches her novels well, but it would be a bit more enjoyable for the reader if she were able to disguise some of the research a little more convincingly into the flow of the narrative. I also still think that she would be better served to make this installment into a multi-book set - I think her stories would be stronger for more fleshing out. In general, however, it was an easy, entertaining read, and I'm sure it will appeal to many readers.

    And now I am on to Alaska, by James Michner, the first in my "Relative Reads" series. I've had a bunch of good recommendations from various family members, so I'm excited to get started. Have a good week, everyone!

    Saturday, December 20, 2008

    My Year of Reading Dangerously

    Another day, another challenge to join - yep, I'm a glutton. I've actually been eyeing this one for a while - it's a great idea, and Andi rocks. Besides, it has such a cool button! =) So here are the rules:

    Your job: Read 12 books you deem "dangerous." between January 1st and December 31st 2009. They may be banned or challenged books, new-to-you genres, books that seem to inhabit a permanent space on your stacks, or authors you're afraid of. The possibilities are endless! If it's dangerous to you, it's challenge-worthy to us!

    Instead of breaking the year down into monthly Mr. Linky's, we'll be hosting one ongoing Linky this year. We'll post updates and notices to participants in sticky posts at the top of the blog, but your reading will be the centerpiece of this site. Whenever you finish a dangerous book, come leave the link to your review so other participants can ogle your accomplishments.

    I have started a list - these are all books that have been banned or challenged, and several are on my lists for other challenges, so that is a nice bonus! Here's my starting point:

    Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - banned book (finished 2/27/09, rated 8/10)
    Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
    The Color Purple by Alice Walker
    Beloved by Toni Morrison
    A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
    Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Peterson
    The Giver by Lois Lowry
    Incantation by Alice Hoffman - magical realism (finished 4/20/09, rated 8/10)
    Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons - graphic novel (finished 9/7/09, rated 8/10)
    Humpty Dumpty Was Pushed by Marc Blatte - noir (finished 9/19/09, rated 7/10)
    On the Road by Jack Kerouac - beat, spontaneous prose (finished 10/09, rated 5/10)

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Sleeping with Bread

    The examen, based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, helps a person hold onto what spiritually nourishes him by looking at what is giving him consolation in his life or causing him desolation. It allows someone to express his gratitude to God for the good stuff and turn to him for solace for the bad stuff. It is quite simple. You simply ask yourself, in the last day/week/month what gave me consolation and what caused me desolation.

    I'm not feeling terribly eloquent today, so you'll just get a list:

    The good:

    early Christmas present exchanges
    my pharmacy students coming home for the holidays
    no ice storms
    Battlestar Galactica webisodes
    It's a Wonderful Life on tv
    snuggling under blankets
    hot chocolate
    Mary Chapin Carpenter's new Christmas CD
    shrimp soup

    The bad:

    friends having to say goodbye to their pets
    my pharmacy students going home for the holidays
    too much work and not enough time
    long, long nights and short days
    people inviting themselves over to my house without telling me!

    As usual, my good list is longer - I am blessed.

    Mailbox Monday

    Oops - mine was empty this week! Well, empty of books, that is - lots of other fun Christmasy-things arriving, so I didn't feel completely neglected. Stop by Marcia at The Printed Page to see what goodies arrived for other lucky bloggers.

    Sunday, December 14, 2008

    TSS - sigh.

    Too busy to do much reading this week - it's the time of year when my bookish life suffers. Even though I get most of the shopping, etc. done early, I still seem to have plenty to fill my days. Most recently, I agreed to be part of a cookie swap - 14 dozen to bake by next weekend. Boy, will I hate the work, but I will certainly be happy when I get to enjoy the fruits of the other 8 ladies' labors. =)

    I did manage to finish up one book I've been working on for a LONG time - Reading Dance, an anthology edited by Robert Gottlieb. My review is posted here. It is a great anthology if you are a dance lover - biography, memoir, criticism, lots of good stuff.

    Here's a picture of JoAnna, the Christmas elf. I can't wait to see her again and get some auntie time in. =)

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Interview with Maria Murnane

    Last week, I posted a review of Perfect on Paper, the first novel by self-published author Maria Murnane. (Here is a link in case you missed it.) I've since exchanged a couple of emails with her, and am thinking about inviting her to move to Iowa to be my new best friend - seriously, I think we would get along. Today, I have the pleasure of hosting an interview with her about writing, her inspirations, and how the heck she ended up in Argentina for a year. Here you go!

    Hi Maria! Thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions. I really enjoyed Perfect on Paper, and look forward to getting into your head a little bit about the writing of this great novel.

    It’s my pleasure! Seriously, thank you for having me. =)

    What made you first decide that you wanted to write a novel? Is Perfect on Paper your first attempt, or are there others lying around in your closet, waiting to be discovered?

    I guess you could say about eight years of working and being single in San Francisco was what really motivated me to write this book. It just got to the point where I had so many funny stories running around in my head that I needed to do something with them. So one day I finally did, and yes, this is my first novel!

    Waverly Bryson is such a great character - I believed in her from the beginning. How much of Waverly is drawn from real life - yourself or others - and how much is your own unique creation?

    Hmm, I could try to pretend that I made her up entirely, but to be honest Waverly and I are nearly one in the same, at least in terms of personality (my friends all say that reading “Perfect on Paper” is like listening to me talk for 320 pages). Just like Waverly, I tend to care too much about what other people of me and of what I’m doing with my life, and I’m always making random observations like she does in the book and in the Honey notes. I also tend to stick my foot in my mouth when I get nervous because I can’t think of the right thing to say. And I really love to make people laugh.

    In other ways, however, Waverly and I are very different. My family situation is a good example of that—my parents are happily married and are extremely supportive of me, and I have two sisters and a brother who are awesome, as are their spouses and kids. Waverly missed out on that, but I felt it made the story more interesting to have her as an only child with a less-than-perfect relationship with her dad. And while Waverly doesn’t like sports at all, I play soccer five times a week!

    Do you have a favorite character, or are you like my mom and love all your children equally?

    Ha ha ha, moms are good at that! (In my family my siblings and I always say that we each secretly know we are the favorite child.) In my book I think Waverly’s friend Andie is my favorite character—she’s not based on anyone I know in particular but is sort of a combination of several friends of mine. I guess you could say she’s the kind of friend I’d love to have—she doesn’t care AT ALL what anyone thinks about her and just lives her life the way she wants to live it. Sometimes I wish I could be more like that. Actually, I always wish I could be more like that.

    Do you enjoy the writing process? Are you a fast writer, or do you spend hours on each paragraph?

    Yes, yes and yes. I get it down on paper fast, but then I edit to death.

    I appreciated your inclusion of the message that women need to stop worrying about other's opinions, and find value in themselves. Did you plan to write that from the beginning, or did it find its way into the novel as the writing progressed?

    Hmm, that is a very good question. As I was writing the book, after a while it sort of took on a life of its own. I didn’t consciously think about it at the beginning, but I think that message was a natural part of Waverly’s growth. I actually reread the book last week for the first time in a while, and that message really stood out to me as important to remember, even now. I still tend to worry too much about how I think my life “should” be like instead of just living my life as it really is. I often tell my friends that no one is keeping score in their lives but them, so they shouldn’t worry about what other people think--- but then I forget to do that for myself!

    Are there other media outlets - movies, music, art, etc - that especially inspire you as you write?

    Music sometimes inspires me to write poetry when I am sad—but that is a different topic entirely, and I don’t have plans to publish my poems anytime soon! =)

    What are three or four novels that you'd consider your favorites, and why do they make the list?

    Here are four that I loved for very different reasons:

    1) The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand—for its fundamental message of “think for yourself”

    2) Beach Music by Pat Conroy—for the beauty of the storytelling

    3) Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett—historical fiction that taught me a lot while also keeping me interested in the story

    4) McCarthy’s Bar: A Journey of Discovery in Ireland by Pete McCarthy — probably the only book I’ve ever read that literally made me laugh out loud many times (not a novel, but I loved it!)

    How in the world did you end up in Argentina playing soccer?

    Well, to be honest it was because I hated my job. I worked for a PR firm in San Francisco, and while I really liked the people I worked with, the work itself just wasn’t making me happy. A lot of PR agency work is about justifying your existence through plans and reports, and a lot of it is about rejection by reporters who just don’t want to hear about your clients, but you have to try because that's why the clients pay you. So put those together, and it just wasn’t a lot of fun. It wasn’t fulfilling intellectually or emotionally, and I just didn’t feel like I was doing anything that MEANT anything. So one day I quit, with literally no idea what I was going to do next. Literally no idea. Scary, but that’s how miserable I was. I just couldn’t take even one more day of high-tech PR.

    A few weeks later I went to Thailand and Cambodia with my friend Katie for a couple weeks, and while we were there we met an English woman named Clare who was traveling around the world, by herself, for six months. She’d been laid off and figured she’d take advantage of the chance to see the world, and since she was single she had decided to do it on her own. I was so impressed by her because I’d never traveled anywhere by myself—it just seemed so, well, so grown up!

    Anyhow, after I got back to San Francisco I decided to follow Clare’s lead and go to South America by myself. All my friends were working and had no vacation time, so I bit the bullet and bought a ticket on my own. My plan was to fly into Buenos Aires (Argentina) and fly out of Santiago (Chile) 2.5 weeks later, figuring out a travel plan along the way. I literally didn’t know one person in the entire country when I landed in Argentina—no one. It was a complete 180 from how I’d lived my life to that point.

    Two weeks later, I was still in Buenos Aires. I loved it there! The word I kept using to describe how I felt there was “comfortable.” I just really liked it, and I was having a lot of fun speaking Spanish, and I wasn’t ready to leave yet. So I told myself that if I could find something to do there, I would stay for a couple months. Then I ran around town for an entire day until I found a company that would hire me a few hours a week to translate magazine articles from Spanish into English for the “Hilton Moments” magazine for the big Hilton hotel in Buenos Aires. So I said cool, I’ll stay for a couple months!

    Then I started asking around about where I could play soccer during that time (I mentioned above how much I love to play), and I ended up training with the women’s team at RiverPlate. After a couple weeks the coach asked me if I’d like to stay for a full year and sign with them to play legally—I even had to get a work visa so I could get paid! It was random and crazy and a completely surreal experience—I was on TV, on the radio, even in the newspaper. A few times we even had to sign autographs after games.

    So anyhow, while I was down there I also wrote the first draft of what would eventually become “Perfect on Paper.” It was definitely the most interesting year of my life…so far.

    There has been a lot of conversation in the book blogging world recently about self-published authors, and a lot of bloggers have chosen not to review books if they don't come from a big publishing house. As a self-published author, what is your response? Is there anything you'd like to say to the book blogging world?

    If anything, I’d like to thank the book blogging world! You guys have truly been great to me, SO great, and the extremely positive reaction to my book has been incredibly validating after all the rejection I experienced when I shopped it around a couple years ago. With all the positive reviews out there now, I am very hopeful that a publishing house might pick it up. Fingers crossed… and for anyone who wants to help me in that effort, there are three key things they can do:

    1) Write a review on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/098004250X

    2) Become a fan on Facebook and write something on the wall (you can use the "share with friends" link here too if you want: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Perfect-on-Paper/26239620721

    3) Post a comment on my Web site: http://mariamurnane.com/reader-comments/

    Doing those three things would be fantastic—so thank you in advance to any of your readers who take a few minutes to help out!

    Thanks so much for letting me pick your brain for a while. I wish you much success with Perfect on Paper!

    It was my pleasure Elizabeth-- really! Thank you so much for your interest in my book and in Waverly—fingers crossed that we get to read about more of her adventures in the future. I know I would certainly love to write about them! =)

    See - isn't she fun?? Here is a link to her website, if you are interested in learning more about her, or leaving a comment. If you haven't had a chance to read her book yet, I encourage you to pick it up - it's really a lot of fun. Thanks so much, Maria, for taking the time to let us get to know you a little better. (And, if you are ever in Iowa, seriously, let's go out for drinks!)

    Monday, December 8, 2008

    Join too many challenges, #4

    1. The challenge will run from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009.
    2. Since this is an author challenge, there is no restriction on choosing your novels. They can definitely be from other challenges. However, the authors must be new to you and, preferably from novels, but anthologies are also a great way to try someone new.
    3. I want this to be an easy challenge, so you state how many new authors you want to try this year and then that’s your challenge. For me, I’m trying another 50 new authors. If you want a number given to you, try for either 25 or 50.
    4. Add your name to the Mr. Linky below. If you do not have your own blog, you can join the group blog here.
    5. Bloggers or Non-Bloggers alike are welcome
    6. When you read a new author, write your review (either at your site or the group blog) and then come back here and post a link to your review

    I'm going to shoot high and say I'd like to try 50 new authors - this might be a bit unreachable, but it will be fun to try!

    1 - Big Big Sky by Kristyn Dunnion
    2 - By the Shore by Galaxy Craze
    3 - The Eyes of a King by Catherine Banner
    4 - Alaska by James Michener
    5 - The Musician's Daughter by Susanne Dunlap
    6 - Fatal Light by Richard Currey
    7 - Convergence by Christopher Turner
    8 - Canvey Island by James Runcie
    9 - The Marchessa by Simonetta Agnello Hornby
    10 - Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand by Gioconda Belli
    11 - The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
    12 - Deep Night by Caroline Petit
    13 - 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    14 - Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
    15 - The Silent Note by Patrick Davis
    16 - Family Plots by Mark Patrick Kavanaugh
    17 - Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress
    18 - Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips
    19 - Somebody Else's Daughter by Elizabeth Brundage
    20 - My Abandonment by Peter Rock
    21 - Losing my Religion by William Lobdell
    22 - Sonata for Miriam by Linda Olsson
    23 - The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan
    24 - Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee
    25 - Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
    26 - Saints in Limbo by River Jordan
    27 - 20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
    28 - The Chosen One by Carol Lynch Williams
    29 - Palace Circle by Rebecca Dean
    30 - The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
    31 - Best Intentions by Emily Listfield
    32 - Cutting Loose by Nadine Dajani
    33 - A Girl's Guide to Modern European Philosophy by Charlotte Grey
    34 - All Other Nights by Dara Horn
    35 - Wings by Aprilynne Pike
    36 - Skellig by David Almond
    37 - Life's That Way by Jim Beaver
    38 - Crossed Wires by Rosy Thornton
    39 - Sunnyside Blues by Mary Carter
    40 - The Fifth Vial by Michael Palmer
    41 - Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
    42 - A Good House by Bonnie Burnard
    43 - The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon
    44 - Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson
    45 - Still Alice by Lisa Genova
    46 - Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs
    47 - Written in Blood by Sheila Lowe
    48 - Gentle Infidel and Queen's Cross by Lawrence Schoonover
    49 - Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
    50 - The Widow's Season by Laura Brodie

    Sleeping with Bread

    The examen, based on the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, helps a person hold onto what spiritually nourishes him by looking at what is giving him consolation in his life or causing him desolation. It allows someone to express his gratitude to God for the good stuff and turn to him for solace for the bad stuff. It is quite simple. You simply ask yourself, in the last day/week/month what gave me consolation and what caused me desolation.

    I am terrified of driving in bad weather. Absolutely terrified. I clench the steering wheel so tightly I have made my hands bleed from my fingernails ripping into the skin. It is mostly irrational - there are not that many times when the weather is bad enough to warrant the panic I afford it. But every time I hear snow in the forcast, my stomach starts to loop, I can't sleep, I spend all my time worrying. So obviously, this is a bad time of year for me.

    Why this irrational fear? Well, rolling end-over-end in a minivan with my family as a girl probably adds to the problem. But I think mostly it is about lack of control. I am, actually, quite a control freak. I'm pretty good at hiding it, but at times like this it pushes its way out - I hate the thought of being out of control, and there is no out-of-control like spinning wildly in your car in the middle of a busy road.

    For this reason, I dread winter. Now, I also enjoy winter - Christmas and my birthday are two of my favorite times of the year. But I also obsess over the weather reports - will it snow today? Tomorrow? Will I have to drive to work in it? Will I get out of work before it starts? And I hate the dread. Absolutely hate it. I know it does me no good - whatever is going to happen will happen, whether I sit up all night worrying about it or not. I am constantly praying for my fears to be relieved, but I still bring them on myself every time.

    My consolation through all this - I now have a coworker who lives very close to me, who likes to drive in the now. Yep, that's right, she LIKES IT. I'm pretty sure she's crazy. I'm also so incredibly thankful that she is willing to pick me up and drive me to work. I have acquired a chauffer. There will be some days that our schedules don't mesh, so I will still certainly have to drive myself at some point, but this is truly Godde telling me I am not alone - I don't have to dread - I am being heard.

    So when the snow reaches 8 inches tomorrow morning, I can breathe a little easier...

    Mailbox Monday

    My good friends the snowmen are helping me introduce the new books that came into my home this week - it seemed appropriate, since apparently we have 4-8 inches of snow to look forward to in the next 24 hours. Have I mentioned how much I love snow? And by love, I mean hate...

    Three books came from bookswapping sites:

    Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany by Bill Buford

    The Folded World by Amity Gage

    The Naming: The First Book of Pellinor by Alison Croggon

    A few others came from other sources...

    The Help by Kathryn Sockett

    Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

    The Glister by John Burnside

    American Rust by Philipp Meyer

    The Book of Night Women by Marlon James

    So once again I am overflowing - so backed up that I'll never see the light of day. What a wonderful problem to have! Stop by The Printed Page to join us in the fun!

    Sunday, December 7, 2008

    Join too many challenges, #3

    But this one is totally necessary!

    The rules:

    * set a goal for how many of your OWN books you’d like to read in 2009

    * read from your own collection between January 1st and December 31st, 2009

    And, that’s basically it! You don’t have to create a list beforehand (’cause we all know that our reading preferences change as the year progresses), and you can even read books that come into your possession (that will be yours to keep) during the year!

    Some other helpful hints…

    - you CAN overlap with other challenges

    - eBooks and Audiobooks count AS LONG AS they are from your own collection

    I'm going to set my goal at 30 books from my own collection, and also stipulate that they are 30 books I've acquired BEFORE 2009 - time to get through some of the backlog!

    1 - Tiger, Tiger by Galaxy Craze

    2 - People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

    3 - The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray

    4 - 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

    5 - Incantation by Alice Hoffman

    6 - Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

    7 - The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

    8 -

    9 -

    10 -

    11 -

    12 -

    13 -

    14 -

    15 -

    16 -

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    18 -

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    30 -

    Join too many challenges, #2

    Decades ‘09 Rules:

    1. Read a minimum of 9 books in 9 consecutive decades in ‘09.

    2. Books published in the 2000’s do not count.

    3. Titles may be cross-posted with any other challenge.

    4. You may change your list at any time.

    5. Peruse the eligible book lists and reviews from 2008 or 2007. Any book from that decade is eligible; it doesn’t have to be on the list to qualify. A good source to find out when books were published is wikipedia. For example if you follow this link, you will see how easy it is to search books by a particular decade. Another resource is fantasticfiction.co.uk.

    7. Sign up through Mr. Linky below. Please use the url of your specific post for this challenge rather than just your blog url.

    8. 6. After about January 12, come back and post the links to your reviews into Mr. Linky for the appropriate decade. Please don’t post ‘09 reviews in the Mr. Linky before January 12. I’ll need some time to switch over the ‘08 reviews and set up the new ‘09 Linkys. You don’t have to, but you are encouraged to post all the books you’ve read for that decade if you’re participating in Decades ‘09.

    9. Have fun reading your Decades ‘09 books, and have a great year!

    Here is my initial list:

    1910s - Howard's End by E.M. Forster
    1920s - Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
    1930s - National Velvet by E. Bagnold
    Invincible Louise by Cornelia Meigs - finished 3/29/09, rated 8/10
    1940s - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by B. SMith
    1950s - Marjorie Morningstar by H. Wouk
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury - finished 2/27/09, rated 8/10
    Gentle Infidel and Queen's Cross by Lawrence Schoonover - finished 7/09, rated 7/10 & 8/10
    On the Road by Jack Kerouac - finished 10/22/09, rated 5/10
    1960s - A Wizard of Earthsea by U. LeGuin
    1970s - Bridge to Terabithia by K. Peterson
    Somewhere in Time by Richard Matheson - finished 7/8/09, rated 7/10
    The Summer Before the Dark by Doris Lessing - finished 8/16/09, rated 7/10
    1980s - Midnight's Children by S. Rushdie - finished 4/23/09, rated 6/10
    Alaska and Journey by James Michener - finished 2/14/09, rated 8/10
    Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee - finished 5/8/09, rated 7/10
    Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons - finished 9/7/09, rated 8/10
    1990s - The Giver by L. Lowry
    By the Shore by Galaxy Craze - finished 1/23/09, rated 8/10
    Skellig by David Almond - finished 6/09, rated 9/10
    A Good House by Bonnie Burnard - finished 7/4/09, rated 7/10

    In which I go crazy and join too many challenges, #1

    I've been greedily eyeing a bunch of challenges that have taken place this year, that I didn't get to join because I started blogging too late. Well, now I'm gonna make up for it. The first challenge I am joining is the 2009 Pub Challenge. Here are the rules:

    Here are the 2009 rules:

    1. Read a minimum of 9 books first published in 2009. You don’t have to buy these. Library books, unabridged audios, or ARCs are all acceptable. To qualify as being first published in 2009, it must be the first time that the book is published in your own country. For example, if a book was published in Australia, England, or Canada in 2008, and then published in the USA in 2009, it counts (if you live in the USA). Newly published trade paperbacks and mass market paperbacks do not count if there has been a hardcover/trade published before 2009. Any questions on what qualifies? Just leave a comment here, and I’ll respond with the answer.
    2. No children’s/YA titles allowed, since we’re at the ‘pub.’
    3. At least 5 titles must be fiction.
    4. Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
    5. You can add your titles as you go, and they may be changed at any time.

    I've started to compile a list - here is what I have so far:

    The Origin of Species by Nino Ricci
    While My Sister Sleeps by Barbara Delinsky (finished 5/1/09, rated 6/10)
    Still Alice by Lisa Genova (finished 7/11/09, rated 9/10)
    Blonde Roots by B. Evaristo
    Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
    The Believers by Zoe Heller (finished 4/16/09, rated 5/10)
    Delicate Edible Birds by Lauren Groff
    Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand by Gioconda Belli (finished 3/19/09, rated 7/10)
    The Musician's Daughter by Susanne Dunlap (finished 2/10/09, rated 7/10)
    A World I Never Made by James LePore (finished 3/26/09, rated 7/10)
    Steal Across the Sky by Nancy Kress (finished 5/1/09, rated 8/10)
    My Abandonment by Peter Rock (finished 5/4/09, rated 9/10)
    Sonata for Miriam by Linda Olsson (finished 5/15/09, rated 8/10)
    Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford (finished 5/28/09, rated 10/10)
    Saints in Limbo by River Jordan (finished 5/29/09, rated 7/10)
    Palace Circle by Rebecca Dean (finished 6/1/09, rated 7/10)
    20 Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (finished 5/29/09, rated 7/10)
    All Other Nights by Dara Horn (finished 6/7/09, rated 8/10)
    Best Intentions by Emily Listfield (finished 6/11/09, rated 8/10)
    Life's That Way by Jim Beaver (finished 6/14/09, rated 10/10)
    Sunnyside Blues by Mary Carter (finished 6/19/09, rated 7/10)

    There are a lot of good books on the horizon, so I'm sure this list will change, and I think this is going to be a fun challenge!

    TSS - November wrap-up

    I'm not sure why I didn't post this last week - probably still in a Thanksgiving hangover. Oh - and I had just driven home in a blizzard, so my brain wasn't working. I remember now. Anyway, here's the scoop on what I read in November - not an especially prolific month for me, but I had a cute little distraction that kept me busy for part of the month.

    The Host by Stephenie Meyer - I thought this was a better novel than the Twilight series - it felt like an author growing up. Although I didn't like the ending, but I've come to expect that with Meyer novels. Finished 11/4/08, Rated 8/10.

    Flygirl by Sherri L. Shepherd - great YA novel to be released in January, this was for review on Bookloons.com. A young girl tries to figure out how to fulfill her dream of becoming a pilot in WWII. Good stuff! Finished 11/8/08, Rated 8/10.

    Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss
    - started out funny and ended up whiny. Big disappointment. Finished 11/9/08, Rated 5/10.

    Too Fat to Fish by Artie Lange - I actually got this as a review book for Bookloons.com because Artie is one of my husband's favorite comediens, and I thought it would be fun to get a book he would actually be interested in. =) Turned out to be an interesting memoir, though his style is not for everyone. Finished 11/14/08, Rated 7/10.

    In the Face by Lorelei Armstrong - review book for Curledup.com, this mystery/thriller had a great premise, but was executed poorly. Another disappointment. Finished 11/17/08, Rated 5/10.

    The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
    - long awaited follow-up novel by Oprah's buddy Mr. Lamb. I should have been alerted to the tone of the novel by the fact that he had been chosen for Oprah's book club twice - she does like depressing. Well written, but more bleak than I was looking for. Finished 11/22/08, Rated 7/10.

    Real Magic by Brian A. Fowler
    - self-published novel sent to me by the author - promising, but needs editing. Finished 11/23/08.

    All told, not my greatest reading month. I've already had some good stuff in December, though, so things are looking up! It's snowing here (again), and I'm planning to curl up under a blanket and read away the afternoon - or maybe watch football. We'll see how things turn out. =)