Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Sunday Salon

My plan for today was to post a review of Down to a Sunless Sea by Matthias B. Freese - unfortunately, I didn't really like it. The book is a collection of short stories whose main characters are all damaged in some way - physically, emotionally, psychologically. The chapters are almost more character sketches than actual stories - some describe a life, some a brief episode, some are just the ramblings of a single character. About halfway through the book, it started to seem that the stories were depressing simply for the sake of being depressing. I also found the language difficult - I feel like I have a fairly strong grasp of the english language, but I needed a dictionary on several occasions. Perhaps the book was meant for a more erudite reader than I. That's okay with me - unfortunately, this collection was a miss for my reading taste.

Later on this week, I will be posting a review of Perfect on Paper by Maria Murnane for her blog tour - this book will be getting much more glowing comments, I can assure you. I'm also hoping to have an author interview at some point, so watch for that hopefully around the tenth.

My mom, who is an english teacher, gave my a very interesting idea for a question to pose to readers - I'm coming up with my own answer first, and then I will share. She's the kind of english teacher you WISH your kid had!

Also, I'm going to start featuring reviews of books recommended to me by my relatives. (Hopefully. So far, I've only had three of them respond to my request - if you are reading this, and you are related to me, I need some book titles!!) I'm lucky to be part of a family of readers, and thought it would be fun to read and review some of the books THEY consider to be their favorites, so look for some Relative Reads coming in the next few months.

I hope everyone had a safe, relaxing Thanksgiving. We had a bit of a blizzard to drive home through, but arrived safe and sound. Have a good week, everyone!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Real Magic by Brian A. Fowler

When Cassie Stevens and Leo Casteel touch, time stands still - literally. The first time they accidentally bump into each other on the street, for a moment the world is still, and it is just the two of them. Leo is a little freaked out by this, but more intrigued, and wants to get to know Cassie better. Cassie, however, is panicked - this isn't the first time this has happened to her. She has stopped time before, and it almost destroyed her.

As a young girl, Cassie was seduced by a dark demon, who used her for her powers, and abused and tormented her. She was able to free herself, but vowed never to let it happen again. When she experiences the same phenomenon with Leo, she fears the same horrible fate will befall her again - until she chooses to allow him into her life, and realizes he will never hurt her.

When her tormentor uses Leo to strike back at her, Cassie knows she must stop him once and for all. Enlisting the help of Cassie's mother, Lucinda, who has powers of her own, the group has 10 days to learn the secrets of the power the women possess, and use it to defeat the demon for good.

So, of course the irony of this situation is not lost on me - after the book blogging world has spent days and days discussing the merits and pitfalls of reviewing books directly from authors, the next book on my stack is - Voila! - a self-published novel I received directly from the author. So let me just be blunt - this book is not crap, but neither is it without fault. Much like the last book I reviewed, (which, by the way, came from a big ole' publishing house), there were parts I liked, and parts I didn't care for. But here's where the self-published author has the disadvantage - editing.

Real Magic has strong, interesting characters, and a well-crafted plot. It is certainly a page turner, and the steamy sex scenes read as well as some mainstream romances I've read. It just needs some editing. When confronted with Cassie's remarkable abilities, Leo seems pretty complacent - an editor could help the author make these instances seem more believable. Sometimes the dialog gets a little rambly - an editor could help cut down those paragraphs, and make them more accessible to the reader. I think Mr. Fowler has great promise as an author, and I would hope he continues to write, because the faults of the novel are fixable, and I think his work would appeal to many readers.

So there you have it - a review of the dreaded self-published novel. I hope they don't just fade away. I've had a lot of great reads that were self-published. I'd like to thank Brian Fowler for giving me the opportunity to read his novel - I enjoyed it!

Monday, November 24, 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.

Christmas is coming. I'm sure you've heard - it's been coming since before Halloween for a lot of retailers, and I have to admit I'm excited. It's my favorite time of the year, despite the bustle and busy-ness. I'm just about ready - I have all my shopping done, my cards are ready to be mailed, the decorations are ready to be hung. I do this early, because it is important to me to be able to spend the season of Advent without a lot of the distractions that can creep in. One of my favorite parts of Advent is the devotional I read, called Watch for the Light. It's a collection of writings by authors from Thomas Aquinas to Sylvia Plath, which allow me to spend time preparing to once again welcome the Christ into my life. Here is a brief excerpt from the introduction:

"We miss the essence of Christmas unless we become, in the words of Eberhard Arnold, 'mindful of how Christ's birth took place.' Once we do, we will sense immediately that Advent marks something momentous: God's coming into our midst...If the essence of Advent is expectancy, it is also readiness for action: watchfulness for every opening, and willingness to risk everything for freedom and a new beginning. "

So this week, I am going to spend some time being thankful - for my family, friends, husband, life. And then, I plan to turn with joy to Advent, a time of watching and waiting with expectancy, to prepare to welcome with open arms the gift of my Saviour.

Mailbox Monday

Another Monday rolls around, and it's time to check out what came in my mailbox. This week I received three new books, which I'm excited to get started on.

The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia by Laura Miller

I've loved Narnia for as long as I can remember, so I'm interested to read this author's conflict between her love for the series and her distate for organized religion.

The Gates of Trevalyan by Jacqueline Cook

I got this one through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program, and it sounds great. I've seen it compared to Eugenia Price's Georgia trilogy, which I loved when I was in high school, so I'm interested to see how it compares.

The Perfect Man by Naeem Murr

This has been on my "You have to read this!" list for years, so when I saw it on a bookswapping site, I grabbed it.

Stop by and visit Marcia at The Printed Page to see more Mailbox Monday posts, or maybe leave one of your own!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

TSS - The Hour I First Believed

So, I spent most of this week reading "The Hour I First Believed", the new book by Wally Lamb. (Well, and to be perfectly honest, playing Guitar Hero: World Tour. I am SO addicted to that game.)

I know I read Wally Lamb's other two books, and I remember really liking them, so I was REALLY excited to get to read this one. REALLY excited. And I spent an entire week reading it - it's big, kids. 700+ pages. And my reaction is.....hmmm. Well, that was interesting. In some places, it was breathtaking. The first half of the novel had me on the edge of my seat. It was intense and heartbreaking. The second half just.....lost something. Apparently, it took Lamb 9 years to write this book, and it almost seemed like he wanted to cram every tragedy that took place in America during that time into one novel. We have Columbine, we have 9/11, we have Katrina, we have the war in Iraq. It was almost distracting to have every bad thing America has gone through somehow find its way into these character's lives. I mean, I know these things touched all of us - but seriously. The first half of the book, which was primarily the Columbine shooting, was brilliant. The second half, which tackled all these other issues, just seemed like he tried to do too much.

Now, that being said, it was still a good book. Well written, interesting characters, all that. But I just expected it to be remarkable, mostly based on the first half, and it wasn't. I also think I'm in the minority on this one - I've just read a whole bunch of glowing reviews on other websites, so there's every possibility that YOU might love it. In fact, if you do read it and love it, let me know - maybe I'm just off base. I'd love to hear your comments!

Up next for this week - a couple of books I've received from authors. And probably more Guitar Hero. =)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by JM:

I receive a lot of review books, but I have never once told lies about the book just because I got a free copy of it. However, some authors seem to feel that if they send you a copy of their book for free, you should give it a positive review.

Do you think reviewers are obligated to put up a good review of a book, even if they don’t like it? Have we come to a point where reviewers *need* to put up disclaimers to (hopefully) save themselves from being harassed by unhappy authors who get negative reviews?

Well, this is certainly the topic of the week, isn't it? It's interesting that just a few days before I saw this whole kerfuffle, I had decided to formalize a sort of disclaimer to send authors when they request a review - sort of like a "what you can expect from me" type thing. I initially thought it would be a good idea so authors know their books don't just disappear into the black hole of my bookshelf. Now it's apparently necessary so I don't get threatened with a lawsuit.

I've only ever had good interactions with authors, so I consider myself lucky. I also haven't had any really stinky books to review, because before I agree to accept one I try to do as much poking around about the author as I can to see if their style of writing is something that will jive with me - so far, every author has had some sort of website, or writing sample out there that I could check out, so I've at least had some idea of what I was getting into.

Ultimately, though, I am going to write what I think. If I don't like a book, I'll say that. I don't really do snarky reviews - I think you have to have a certain talent as a writer for that to work in cyberspace, and I'm not sure I have it. So I just try to write my criticism in a way that doesn't seem cruel, but if I feel it I'll say it.

And, I put up a disclaimer - just in case!

Tuesday, November 18, 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's my teaser -

    "What daddy did when we went downtown was: first, he got drunk, and then he broke the cigarette machine, and then he made that gas station lady dance with him. It was my fault, in a way, because I couldn't pee in the alley."

    (The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb, page 102)

    If you'd like to join in with your own teaser, visit MizB at ShouldBeReading!

    Monday, November 17, 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.

    My joy - JoAnna. I'm not sure what I thought being an aunt would be like, but this is something entirely else. I would literally do anything in the world for this little, not-quite-7-pound baby. It's a good thing I'm not her mom, because I don't think I'll ever be able to tell her no.

    She's a miracle.

    My sorrow - my grandma doesn't remember me anymore. In September, she clearly knew who I was. This weekend - I was a nice lady whose face looks familiar, but I wasn't her Elizabeth. I knew her memories were fading, but I think I always assumed I would be the one she would remember. She was always SO vital and full of life, that it's heartbreaking to see her now. She would never have wanted this for herself. I don't want it for her.

    It's the circle of life - as one fades away, another is born to take her place. I'm sorry my grandma will never know the sweet baby who shares her name.

    Mailbox Monday

    It was a quiet week for my mailbox, but what I did receive was awesome -

    A little while ago, I posted my review of The Hidden Man, by Anthony Flacco. A couple of days later, I got a nice email from him, thanking me for my review. I answered, we had a brief correspondence, and then his publicist sent me a SIGNED, PERSONALIZED copy of his first book, The Last Nightingale.

    I'm pretty excited - not only to read the book, but because it is clear that this one is meant specifically for ME!! Woo!

    To see what arrived in other mailboxes this week, head on over to The Printed Page, or join in with us!

    Thursday, November 13, 2008

    The Book: The Bible Illuminated

    Yes, this is my second post about The Book: The Bible Illuminated. The first post was based on a PDF sneak-peak I was given, but now I have the actual goods right here in my hands - if you recall, I was pretty hyped to see if the real thing measured up. So am I still as excited about this new take on the New Testament as I was before?

    Yep. In fact, I might be more excited. This is such a fresh new visioning of the ancient text of the New Testament - I find myself completely engrossed in the pictures, and the stories that the pictures are illustrating. It's not like I haven't heard them before - I grew up going to a christian school, after all - but something about this format makes the reading different, somehow. I think the decision to exclude chapter and verse was a good one, because it makes each book flow together as whole. I sat down and read the entire book of Luke - the entire thing! - in one sitting, because the story didn't stop, so I didn't want to either.

    I was surprised when the package came in the mail - it was so thin! Even though I knew in my head this was not the same as a regular Bible, I wasn't expecting what I got. It looks like a magazine, or graphic novel - tall, thin, with big, glossy pictures between pages of text.

    Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts are each separate sections, with their own title page, and distinct flavor. The letters, however, are grouped together - Romans through Jude - in one long section, with only small, intertextual notes to differentiate between the different books. I haven't had a chance to read all the way through this section, but am interested to see how this will change the traditional reading of these books. Revelation is given its own section again, with probably the most graphic pictures of the entire work. After the biblical text is a short message from the American Bible Society, who are the originators of the Good News Translation used in The Book. I found one section of the message to be an interesting, insightful summation of this new version of the New Testament:

    "The New Testament that you have perused (and we hope have read in its entirety) has profound messages about what it means to live in harmony with our fellow human beings, the importance of justice and mutual respect, and the urgent need to care for the planet we cohabitate. "

    Of course, it is not a perfect work - I know many people who would find The Book to be sacreligious, using contemporary images to portray sacred text. Personally, I am not a fan of the binding of the text - my copy is already showing fairly significant spine breakage, and I've been quite careful with it. I would like to see a hardback version for people, like me, who would potentially read this many times.

    In general, however, I think it is an extremely sucessful work. It is beautiful and startling, much as I would imagine the texts were when they were first read thousands of years ago. I am pleased to have a copy, and pleased to have been involved in this innovative, exciting new look at the New Testament. I certainly cannot wait to see what the Old Testament will look like in 2009!

    Booking Through Thursday

    Today's question is:

    I’ve asked, in the past, about whether you more often buy your books, or get them from libraries. What I want to know today, is, WHY BUY?

    Even if you are a die-hard fan of the public library system, I’m betting you have at least ONE permanent resident of your bookshelves in your house. I’m betting that no real book-lover can go through life without owning at least one book. So … why that one? What made you buy the books that you actually own, even though your usual preference is to borrow and return them?

    If you usually buy your books, tell me why. Why buy instead of borrow? Why shell out your hard-earned dollars for something you could get for free?

    I'm going to be totally honest here - I think I might be addicted to buying books. I love my library - I have a great branch about 5 minutes away from my house, and since all the brances in my city are linked, I can get almost any book I want to read within about 2 days. There is no reason I would ever have to buy a book - and yet I do, with some sort of strange compulsion. I run to the mailbox every day to see if there are any books in it. If I go too long without receiving one, I start to feel sad. I visit bookstores, and CAN'T leave without buying something. I almost feel like I NEED to buy that next book. Now, I do NOT need to buy another book - it will take me years - literally - to get through the backlog at my house. But there is nothing that makes me feel good in quite the same way as a new book. I'll admit it - I'm an addict. But I love my gigantic library, and don't think I'd have it any other way.

    Stop by and read other responses, or post one of your own, at the Booking Through Thursday website.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    She's Here!

    I am officially an Aunt!!

    Joanna Emma, born 6:46 am Monday, 6 lbs 15 oz, 21 inches long.

    She's a cutie!!

    I'm already trying to figure out how to spoil her rotten...

    Monday, November 10, 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 think I've been a bit of a downer with these posts so far, and so this week I really want to focus on the good stuff - which, of course, my life overflows with, even when I'm too busy/tired/whiny to notice.

    So good stuff from this week =

    I'm at the END of the nasty cold that has been pestering me....thank god for tussin and cough drops.

    We had the first snow of the season, and it wasn't very much, and I didn't have to drive anywhere in it anyway.

    I'm getting pretty good at grilling, even in the dark!

    Jeremy is switching to his winter schedule at work, which means we will be home together Monday and Wednesday nights for the next four months - I get to see my husband again!

    My heater checked out a-okay for another winter.

    My student's mom did NOT have a flesh-eating bacteria on her leg.

    My co-worker did NOT have to have her baby 3 weeks early.

    My friend and her fiance' are expecting a baby in June - hooray for more babies to spoil!

    That seems like an awful lot of blessings for just one week. As for my struggle from last week, thanks for the kind words of encouragement. I'm trying to learn to be thankful for the pain - after all, not having the pain would mean not having Keri, and I'm so glad I had her. So even in that desolation, I can find consolation - which, of course, is what SWB is all about.

    Mailbox Monday

    Welcome Monday, once again - I have to say Mailbox Monday is one of the highlights of an otherwise usually pretty crappy day. Let's see what arrived this week.

    Six new books found their way to me this week.

    Three arrived from bookswapping sites:

    The Book of Saints by Nino Ricci
    - I fell in love with this author after reading his novel Testament. This is the first book in a trilogy, and I can't wait to fall in love with it also.

    The Coelura by Anne McCaffrey
    - another author I'm in love with, because of her Pern series. Hope I like this one as well.

    The Wars by Timothy Findley
    - I seem to be collecting books by this author, though to be honest I'm pretty sure I haven't read one yet. Hope I'm happy when I finally get around to him...

    Three others arrived to be reviewed:

    Tightrope: Six Centuries of a Jewish Dynasty by Michael Karpin
    - from Cynthia, my new favorite publicist. *grin* This sounds really interesting.

    The Darcys and the Bingleys: A Tale of Two Gentlemen's Marriages to Two most Devoted Sisters by Marsha Altman
    - sent to me by the author. I've poked around her website, and I think I'm really going to enjoy this one.

    The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
    - review book for I am just so excited to read this!!

    So, all in all not a bad week! If you'd like to see more of Mailbox Monday, visit Marcia at The Printed Page and see what the rest of the lucky suckers hauled in this week!

    Sunday, November 9, 2008

    The Sunday Salon

    I managed to get sick this week - blech. Not fever sick, or throwing-up sick, just a really, really nasty cold that won't go away. It seems to be draining the life force right out of me, so I don't have anything terribly new or interesting to say today - I'm hoping to just stay home on the couch and be a vegetable most of the day. We'll see how that goes....

    To try and make this a LITTLE bit more interesting, here's a review of a great book I read awhile ago for

    The Hidden Man by Anthony Flacco

    Detective Randall Blackburn does not like his new assignment. After 19 years on the San Francisco police force, the homicide detective has been given a job babysitting. It is nine years after the great San Francisco earthquake, and the city is starting to renew itself. The Panama Canal has just been completed, and the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition is about to draw multitudes of tourists into the rebuilt San Francisco. The famed mesmerist J.D. Duncan has been engaged as the premiere attraction, and Blackburn, along with his adopted son, Shane Nightingale, finds himself assigned as a bodyguard to the increasingly paranoid stage performer.

    J.D. Duncan is known the world over as a master hypnotist. When he takes to the stage, his command of the crowd is complete. The only thing Duncan is unable to control is his own mind – he is caught in the ravages of Alzheimer’s, a disease newly identified, which robs him of his ability to remember much of his life. He combats his symptoms with an elixir that offers him flashes of clarity in between moments of mania. When strange coincidences start to increase, he becomes convinced that someone is trying to kill him, but he can’t afford to show too many of his secrets to Detective Blackburn.

    As Blackburn and Nightingale attempt to guard the performer against his unknown assailant, Blackburn’s adopted daughter, Vignette, has a mystery of her own to solve. Betrayed in her attempt to attend police officer’s training in disguise, Vignette cannot help but believe Blackburn’s fiancĂ©, Janine Freshell, is not at all what she seems. As Vignette probes underneath the woman’s perfect exterior, she uncovers a devastating secret. As the connections between Miss Freshell and J.D. Duncan begin to become clear, the lives of everyone involved depend on whether or not Blackburn and Nightingale can piece the clues together in time.

    Former screenwriter Anthony Flacco is a gifted author and storyteller. His descriptions of event and place allow the reader to see perfectly the action as it unfolds. In fact, for some readers, his descriptions might be too good, as some of his death sequences are several pages long, and extremely graphic. The action of the novel unfolds gradually, building suspense in each chapter, so the reader is eager to turn each page to see what will happen next.

    The Hidden Man is Flacco’s second novel featuring Randall Blackburn and Shane and Vignette Nightingale – it’s predecessor, The Last Nightingale, took place nine years before the events of The Hidden Man, when Shane and Vignette were still children. Readers familiar with the preceding novel will be captivated to see how the characters have grown, but The Hidden Man is fully readable as a stand-alone novel.

    Flacco’s depiction of the unusual blended family is brilliant. Each of his main characters is amazingly complex, and it would be nearly impossible to choose one as a favorite. His secondary characters are equally interesting, and he spends time giving each emotions and motivations that bring them fully to life. Within the confines of a mystery, Flacco is also able to explore themes such as a woman’s place within society and what makes a family truly a family, adding depth and richness to an already well-told story.

    The Hidden Man is an excellent novel which should enjoy a wide readership. I highly recommend it to fans of mystery and suspense, as well as historical fiction and family dramas. I sincerely hope Flacco has plans to continue this series, because I can hardly wait to read the next adventures of Randall, Shane and Vignette.

    Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Elizabeth Schulenberg, 2008

    Rating: 8/10

    Friday, November 7, 2008

    The Host

    Blurb from Amazon:

    The author of the Twilight series of # 1 bestsellers delivers her brilliant first novel for adults: a gripping story of love and betrayal in a future with the fate of humanity at stake.

    Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed.

    Wanderer, the invading "soul" who has been given Melanie's body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human: the overwhelming emotions, the too vivid memories. But there was one difficulty Wanderer didn't expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind.

    Melanie fills Wanderer's thoughts with visions of the man Melanie loves-Jared, a human who still lives in hiding. Unable to separate herself from her body's desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she's never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

    Featuring what may be the first love triangle involving only two bodies, THE HOST is a riveting and unforgettable novel that will bring a vast new readership to one of the most compelling writers of our time.

    My thoughts:

    Well. I'm not sure what I expected from Meyer's first non-Twilight novel, but I certainly liked it. The Host just seems like a more adult novel - much darker, with more complex relationships and interactions. The basic premise - alien is inserted into the brain of a host body, but the host won't leave - is quite interesting, and Meyer does a good job of exploring what can happen when a host-parasite relationship goes wrong. As usual, her characters are smart and sensitive, and just a teeny, tiny bit too good to be true. She includes lots of romance, which will appeal to her core audience, and is careful not to write any graphic sex or violence, so parents of teen readers don't have to worry about inappropriate content.

    Meyer tackles a lot of complex issues, which makes the novel linger in the readers' mind after the last page has turned. I love stories that turn ideas about good guys and bad guys around (Battlestar Galactica - the best show on television! - does an amazing job of this), and Meyer presents readers with a heroine who is probably the bad guy - after all, she is living inside the body of a human who doesn't want her there. Wanderer, however, is not your typical bad guy, and the changing responses to her by the varied characters she comes in contact with makes for fascinating reading.

    Then, of course, there is the "love triangle involving only two bodies" - well, technically, it becomes a love quadrangle, and the tension between loving someone's physical body, and loving their soul is explored with interesting results. As far as the genre goes, it is Sci Fi, but pretty fluffy Sci Fi, and fans of the more hardcore stuff will probably be unsatisfied.

    Honestly, I liked The Host better than the Twilight series. It feels like a more grown-up work, and is a more satisfying read. I did, again, have a bit of a problem with the ending - for some reason, I don't like the way Meyer ends things. But I did enjoy the book, and recommend it highly. But be warned - it's another one that is impossible to put down!

    Finished: 11/4/08
    Source: Bookins
    Rating: 9/10

    Thursday, November 6, 2008

    Booking Through Thursday

    Today's question is:

    What, if any, memorable or special book have you ever gotten as a present? Birthday or otherwise. What made it so notable? The person who gave it? The book itself? The “gift aura?”

    The ones that really made an impact on my life were all when I was young. My aunt and uncle used to give my a really cool book every year for my birthday, and one year they gave me a copy of D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths. I absolutely devoured this book. I can't tell you the number of times I read it, but it started me down a path of loving mythology that I'm still on today. I took mythology classes in college because of this book. I have numerous books on mythology in my personal library because of this book. Nothing, however, comes close to D'Aulaires' for making the stories come alive. If you know a kid, and are trying to figure out what to buy for Christmas, buy them this book.

    For another birthday, another aunt and uncle (I know, my relatives are great!) gave me my first, hardback, beautifully illustrated copy of Anne of Green Gables.
    Once again, a love affair was born. When I was in junior high, I actually wanted to BE Anne Shirley. I memorized The Highwayman because Anne did, I read the entire series over and over again - I still love Anne. I re-read the books every couple of years, and while they don't hold quite the same magic as when I was young, I still love all the character so much that each reading is a joy.

    I'm not sure my relatives knew what obsessions they would be starting when they gave me these two books, but they were both highly influential in my reading life. That's why books always make good gifts! =)

    If you'd like to participate in Booking Through Thursday, head on over and leave a link to your post.

    Monday, November 3, 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 was a hard week for me. I have been remembering a lot a friend who passed away 3 years ago this week. She was incredibly influential in forming some of the core beliefs I hold today, but shortly before she died, we had an incredibly silly argument, and stopped talking. She felt like I wasn't supporting her in a major decision she had made, I felt like she wasn't supporting me in a major decision I had made, and I am pretty sure we were just misunderstanding each other, but we let it get out of hand. We didn't communicate for about 4 months, and then her ex-husband called to tell me that she had been found dead in her apartment.

    I think there is still a broken place inside me that may not ever be able to heal, because she died before I was smart enough to tell her that it really didn't matter - I loved her, and that was the important thing. She has been increasingly on my mind because of two people who have recently come into my life that, for various reasons, remind me of her. It was through her that I came to believe that friendship is more than just a word - true friendship requires action. I believe that a true friend does more than just say they care - they show the importance of the relationship by how they treat the person they call their friend. It's why I don't have a lot of people I consider to be true friends, because I expect more out of that relationship than most people are willing to give. I don't mind - the friendships I have are that much stronger for the work we put into them.

    But Keri showed me how to be a friend, and in the end I wasn't one for her. I know she would want me to forgive myself for it, but I'm not sure I can. I hope somewhere she knows how sorry I am, and how much I love her.

    Mailbox Monday

    Welcome again to Mailbox Monday, hosted by Marcia at The Printed Page. (she has her own domain now, so make sure you update your links!) Here's what found its way into my mailbox this week:

    Reading Dance: A Gathering of Memoirs, Reportage, Criticism, Profiles, Interviews, and some Uncatagorizable Extras by Robert Gottlieb - I've been fascinated with dance for some time, even though I never did it as a kid, so I jumped at the chance to review this book. Of course, it is 1200+ pages, so it might take me a little while.

    Searching for a Better God by Wade Bradshaw - because I'm a sucker for an interesting sounding theology book.

    Down to a Sunless Sea by Matthias B. Freese
    - a book of short stories kindly sent to me by the author - thanks!

    Real Magic by Bryan A. Fowler - a paranormal romance, also sent to my by the author - thanks!

    Kosher by Design Lightens Up: Fabulous Food for a Healthier Lifestyle by Susie Fishbein
    - I'm honestly not sure why this book was sent my way, but it looks yummy!

    Too Fat to Fish by Artie Lange
    - so honestly, this one is for my husband. Artie Lange is one of his favorite comedians, and it's not too often I get to use my publishing world "connections" to get something HE is actually interested in, so it was fun to be able to get this book for him.

    What fabulous reads made their way to your house this week? Join Marcia, me, and the rest of the gang at Mailbox Monday!

    Sunday, November 2, 2008

    The Sunday Salon - October wrapup

    Once again Sunday rolls around, and it's been another busy week on the homefront. Somehow being gone for 4 days last week equals about a million loads of laundry, using some kind of weird, laundry math I don't understand. (Math was never my strong suit!) It's time to look back on what I've read over the past month - it was a good one.

    The Price of Silence by Camila Trinchieri
    - finished 10/1/08, rating 8/10. This was a review book for, and I will be posting my review of it here later on this week. Very entertaining thriller.

    In Her Name by Michael Hicks - finished 10/4/08, rating 9/10. One of my favorite books so far this year, this self-published science fiction novel was a review book for Bookloons. I have linked to my review already, but if you missed it you can read it here.

    All the Windwracked Stars by Elizabeth Bear
    - finished 10/9/08, rating 6.5/10. Elizabeth Bear is kind of an icon in the sci-fi/fantasy world, so I was excited to review her latest novel for Bookloons. It wasn't as earth-shaking as I had hoped - took forever to get into - but the end made it mostly worthwhile. Bear is not an easy author, and this novel seemed to take me a g e s to read. But I am interested to see where she will take this projected trilogy next. You can check out my review here.

    Evacuation Plan by Joe M. O'Connell
    - finished 10/11/08, rating 6/10. A novel in short stories about a screenwriter trying to come up with the idea for his next movie by interviewing people associated with a local hospice home. It was nice.

    Bad Penny by Sharon Sala
    - finished 10/12/08, rating 7/10. The latest in Sala's Cat Dupree series features Cat getting married, and of course lots of mayhem. It's an entertaining series, and this installment lived up to the rest.

    The Hidden Man by Anthony Flacco
    - finished 10/18/08, rating 8/10. Another excellent novel for review at I will be posting my review of this one before too long as well.

    Til Human Voices Wake Us by Mark Budz
    - finished 10/18/08, rating 7/10. A very good sci-fi recommended to me by SOMEONE in the blog world - why don't I ever keep track of these things? You can read my review here.

    The Keepsake by Tess Gerritsen
    - finished 10/19/08, rating 7/10. No real review, per se, since if you've read one Maura Isles/Jane Rizzoli you know the general idea, but another great entry into this always entertaining series.

    The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
    - finished 10/28/08, rating 6/10. Oh, how much I wanted to love this book. The prose is absolutely stunning. So what, you ask, was the problem? Magical realism friends. Magical realism is my nemesis, and once again it kicked my tush.

    The Storm by Jean Johnson
    - finihsed 10/31/08, rating 6/10. For a completely fluffy paranormal romance, this was actually pretty good. It's the 6th book in the Sons of Destiny series, and I'm half tempted to pick up the rest of the series for some easy, easy entertainment.

    So that was my month - right now I'm in the middle of The Host, and loving it. Curse you , Stephenie Meyer - why must your books be so addicting??

    Saturday, November 1, 2008

    And the winners are....

    After putting all the entries in a hat, and making my (totally disinterested) husband pick out 5 lucky readers, I am happy to announce the winners!

    First prize - Aerin, whose fabulous blog is In Search of Giants.

    Second prize - Kimberly, who has several blogs, but my favorite is She Scribes.

    Third prize - Amy, from My Friend Amy, whose blog I have enjoyed for quite a while.

    Fourth prize - Wendi, from Wendi's Book Corner

    Fifth prize - Violet, from Violet Crush, my first international winner.

    Congrats to all of you, and thanks to everyone for making this a really fun contest. First and second prize winners, send my your mailing address so I can get your goodies shipped out to you. Third, fourth, and fifth prize winners, let me know which swapping site you prefer, and your member name, and I will get your credits to you. ALL WINNERS - I expect a full report of the great stuff you receive!! =)