Saturday, December 31, 2011

I Was Robbed!


I was robbed. Yup, you read that right. Robbed by someone in the postal service, to be exact. Yesterday, I received a package in the mail that had obviously been deliberately ripped into, and was thus EMPTY. Yes, an empty package envelope inside of a big plastic bag bearing the insignia of Canada Post with an "apology" printed on the packaging. It reads:
"Dear Customer,
We sincerely regret that your mail item is damaged. It was found in this condition in the mail-stream.
We realize that your mail is important to you, and we are always concerned when mail entrusted to our care is damaged. We continue to improve our processing methods to help reduce occurrences of mail damage in our system.
You may call Canada Post at 1-800-267-1177 or visit our website at www.canadapost.ca if liability coverage applies. Please note the packaging and contents may be required.
We apologize for the inconvenience.
Sincerely,
Canada Post"

Damaged?? How about MISSING! Really, I would have been quite content with a damaged book, as long as I still had the thing. When I am asked to review a book for a publicist in exchange for a free copy of the book, I feel like I betrayed their trust when something like this happens. Plus, it's rather difficult to trust the mail service when my packages are rifled through and stolen like some petty shoplifter. Wasn't there a Home Alone scene featuring bad postal workers?? or how about this Ace Ventura scene?



Packages have a hard enough time getting to my tiny town, without having to deal with this, too. And the website was pretty much no help at all, either. And no way is this an accident, as that is an obvious tear by dirty, thieving fingers. Has this ever happened to you?

Friday, December 30, 2011

Challenge Completed: Outdo Yourself

This challenge was hosted by my friend, The Book Vixen. It's purpose was to challenge yourself to read more than you read in 2011, and I just barely made by goal of 6-10 more titles than last year, aptly named "Out of Breath". Last year I read 69 books, and this challenge puts me at 75 for the year. I'm still working on all of the reviews, but this is where I will list them all when they are completed.


1. Keridan's Journey by Michelle Peterson
2. Sense and Sensibility BY Jane Austen
3. Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood
4. Doctor Margaret's Sea Chest by Waheed Rabbani
5. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
6. The Lost Angel by Javier Sierra


Thursday, December 29, 2011

Challenge Completed: Twenty-Eleven

This challenge was hosted by Bart's Bookshelf, and it required me to read a total of 20 books in eleven categories. This really was challenging for me, as one of the categories required me to re-read a book, which I pretty much never do. There are just too many books I want to read to waste time reading something I have already read. I did manage to find one title, though. The Bablefish category also led me to read two interesting titles.
Here is the list of books with reviews that I read for this challenge:


1. To YA or not YA…
Beastly by Alex Flinn
Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick

2. …With a Twist
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
Redemption by Laurel Dewey

3. Hot off the Presses
River Marked by Patricia Briggs
The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

4. It Wasn’t Me! (aka Bad Bloggers*)
Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater
Kathleen's Story by Lurlene McDaniel

5. Show it Who is Boss!
13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ravens of Avalon by Diana L. Paxson

6. Bablefish
Lion's Honey by David Grossman (Translated by Stuart Schoffman)
The Lost Angel by Javier Sierra (Translated by Carlos Frias)

7. Will-Power? What Will-Power? (aka: The Henry Ward Beecher Memorial)
Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione
Just One Taste by Louisa Edwards

8. Mind the Gap
Coyote Dreams by C. E. Murphy
Awakened by P. C. Cast and Kristin Cast

9. Back in the Day
Chocolat by Joanne Harris

10. Way Back When
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

11. Slim-Pickings
On The Prowl by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, and Sunny
Harvest Moon by Mercedes Lackey, Michelle Sagara, and Cameron Haley


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My Teaser:
          That evening, long after everyone is driven inland by the high tide, I bring Corr down to the beach. Our shadows are giants before us; this time of year, it gets dark at five and the sand is already cooling. I leave my saddle and boots at the top of the boat ramp, where grass still grows through the soft sand. Corr's eyes are on the ocean as it slowly slides back toward low tide.
We leave fresh prints in the hard-packed sand the tide's left behind; it is frigid against my bare feet, especially when cold seawater presses out of the ground around my skin. My blistered feet welcome it.
End of the first day, the endless first day. The beach has had its share of casualties. One boy fell off and bloodied his forehead on a boulder. Another man got bitten, an impressive-looking wound, but nothing a pint and a few hours of sleep won't fix. And then there was the dog. I couldn't be surprised that its maiming was the piebald mare's handiwork.
All in all, there've been worse starts to the training. - pg. 55, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
What are you reading this week?


Monday, December 26, 2011

Challenge Completed: I Want More Challenge

I finished this challenge with 8 books read at the "Give Me More" level. This challenge was hosted by Marce at Tea Time with Marce. This challenge motivated me to read some books that I have been interested in, but never made the time for.

Here are the books that I read for this challenge, plus reviews:


1. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood
2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
3. Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee
4. Summers at Castle Auburn by Sharon Shinn
5. A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell
6. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire
7. Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood
8. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen


Monday, December 19, 2011

Review: Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood

Book Details:
Morning in the Burned House
By Margaret Atwood
Genre: Poetry
Published 1995, McClelland & Stewart Inc.
Hardback, 127 pages
ISBN: 0771008309


Synopsis:
         These beautifully crafted poems - by turns dark, playful, intensely moving, tender, and intimate - make up Margaret Atwood's most accomplished and versatile gathering to date, " setting foot on the middle ground / between body and word." Some draw on history, some on myth, both classical and popular. Others, more personal, concern themselves with love, with the fragility of the natural world, and with death, especially in the elegiac series of meditations on the death of a parent. But they also inhabit a contemporary landscape haunted by images of the past. Generous, searing, compassionate, and disturbing, this poetry rises out of human experience to seek a level between luminous memory and the realities of the everyday, between the capacity to inflict and the strength to forgive.
Though I really cannot remember the last time I read a book of poetry, when I spotted this library discard by the well-respected Canadian author, Margaret Atwood, I could not resist. I was hooked with the first poem, as I felt that these words could have echoed from my own thoughts -- a feeling that continued with many more poems in this book. I also loved that she did not feel the need to make her poems rhyme or follow any specific rhythm. I believe the technical term is free verse. At any rate, it was much more freeing to read than the typical poetry I remember from my school days. I find myself also growing in respect for the author, as I think it is rather courageous to publish a book of poetry, even for an established author like Margaret Atwood. Poetry somehow feels more raw and closer to the heart of the author than a lengthy work of fiction. Though I have jotted down bits of poetry in private moments, I would not dare share most of it with anyone. Some of my favorites are "A Sad Child", "Red Fox",  and "Helen of Try Does Counter Dancing", but I found something to like in every poem. I highly recommend this very enjoyable read, even if poetry is not your cup of tea.

The Cover: The imagery and metaphor that the cover picture evokes is a good representation of the feeling that many of Margaret Atwood's poems elicit in the reader -- that of a caged wildness seeking freedom.


First Line: "You come back into the room/ where you've been living/ all along."
Admittedly, I can't really judge a book of poetry by the first line, but this first poem, "You Come Back," was both mysterious and relate-able, enticing me to read more.


Favorite Quote: "Why encourage the notion/ of virtuous poverty?/ It's only an excuse/ for zero charity."




Read For: Outdo Yourself Challenge, I Want More Challenge

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge: Finishing the Series

I had to hunt for this challenge, because I have a number of book series that I want to finish, and there just had to be a challenge for that. Socrates' Book Review Blog conceived of the Finishing the Series Challenge, just what I was looking for. I'm participating at level 3, as I have more than 3 series to finish!

Here are the series/books I want to read for this challenge:

1. Morganville Vampires: Last Breath (#11); Black Dawn (#12) by Rachel Caine
2. Kushiel's Legacy: Naamah's Blessing (#9) by Jacqueline Carey
3. House of Night: Destined (#9) by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast
4. Hollows: A Perfect Blood (#10) by Kim Harrison
5. Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms: Beauty and the Werewolf (#6) by Mercedes Lackey
6. The Walker Papers: Spirit Dances (#6); Raven Calls (#7) by C.E. Murphy
7. Glass: Spy Glass (#3) by Maria V. Snyder
8. Wolves of Mercy Falls: Forever (#3) by Maggie Steifvater
9. Hunger Games: Catching Fire (#2); Mockingjay (#3) by Suzanne Collins
10. Landscapes of Ephemera: Bridge of Dreams (#3) by Anne Bishop

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Loveswept Holiday Hop

Happy Holidays to everyone - Romance At Random is celebrating their Loveswept line with a random e-book Giveaway to 25 winners plus an opportunity to win one Grand Prize from www.romanceatrandom.com.


Enter here to be included in the FREE random e-book drawing (25 winners will pick up their FREE book from Net Galley) and then stop on by www.romanceatrandom.com and comment to enter the drawing to be the ''ONE”Grand Prize winner, to win a selection of great books! Good Luck & Happy Holidays to all! INCREASE your chances to win by visiting all of the participating 'Loveswept - Holiday Hop' sites! Winners will be contacted after 1/10/12.








2012 Reading Challenge: Just for Fun

Another most useful challenge is the Just for Fun Challenge, hosted by Escape with Dollycas Into a Good Book. The the aim of this challenge is to read one book a month just for the fun of it. That's 12 books in 12 months, and no more. Easy Peasy. Plus, anyone that completes the challenge gets entered into a giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card or $25 in books from The Book Depository. I love perks. There is a goodreads group in conjunction with the challenge here.

I will list my books here:

January: Beauty and the Werewolf by Mercedes Lackey
February: Last Breath by Rachel Caine
March: Overbite by Meg Cabot
April: The Help by Kathryn Stockett
May: Candyfreak by Steve Almond
June: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
July: Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson
August: The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay
September: Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
October:
November:
December:


Friday, December 9, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge: 2012 TBR Pile











This challenge is all about tackling the mountain of books that I already own, before 2012, that I have not read yet. It does not matter how I acquired them, as long as I had them before the new year. The challenge is specifically for bloggers, as the ten hosts want quality reviews to link to the monthly wrap-ups. To further entice participants to complete their respective goals, every review linked up to the month's wrap-up post gets an entry into a drawing for a book from the Book Depository. Plus, every wrap-up post will have a unique theme and a mini-challenge. So there is LOTS to keep me busy with this challenge!
I'm going to start out at the second level of "A Friendly Hug" with 11-20 books. I will likely move up at least one level, though.

Some of the books I want to include in this challenge are as follows:
Beyond Opinion by Ravi Zacharias
Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Banerjee
Promises to Keep by Ann Tatlock
The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
Patch by Mucheru Njaga
The Postmortal by Drew Magary
I Want to Know My Future by Linda Dipman
The Time in Between by Maria Duenas
A Whisper of Peace by Kim Vogel Sawyer
The Ideal Man by Julie Garwood
The Immortality Virus by Christine Amsden
The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin & Alex Malarkey
Lover Mine by J.R. Ward
The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho
A Sound Among the Trees by Meissner
Tomato Girl by Jayne Pupek
Polyxena by H. Allenger
The Recipe Club by Andrea Israel & Nancy Garfinkel
How to Marry a Duke Vicky Dreiling
Rugged & Relentless by Kelly Eileen Hake
Penitence by Jennifer Laurens
Beautiful Disaster by Laura Spinella
Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl
Green Like God by Jonathan Merritt
How to Reach Your Full Potential for God by Charles F. Stanley
The Scarlet Thread by Francine Rivers
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Emma by Jane Austen
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray


Books I have read for this challenge:
1. Rugged and Relentless by Kelly Eileen Hake
2. The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
3. A Cold Creek Secret by RaeAnne Thayne
4. Haunting Jasmine by Anjali Baerjee
5. The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin & Alex Malarkey
6. Veiled Rose by Anne Elisabeth Stengl
7. Autumn Winds by Charlotte Hubbard


Hosts: 
Evie from Bookish - http://www.evie-bookish.
blogspot.com @SeoEvie
Nicole from All I Ever Read - http://www.nicoleabouttown.
com/ @Nicoleabouttown
Bonnie from Hands and Home - http://www.handsandhome.ca/ @HandsHomeBlog
Donna from Book Passion For Life http://bookpassionforlife.
blogspot.com/ @BookPforLife
Caitlin from WatchYA Reading http://whatchyareading.net @caitlingss
Rie from Mission To Read http://missiontoread.com/ @missiontoread
Vicky from Books, Biscuits & Tea -http://booksbiscuitsandtea.
blogspot.com/ @alouetteuette 
Christa from Hooked On Books http://christashookedonbooks.
blogspot.com @ChristasBooks
Jenna from Fans Of Fiction http://fansoffiction.blogspot.
com/ @fansoffiction
Angel from Mermaids Vision http://mermaidvision.
wordpress.com @mermaidvisions

Wrap-up POST Schedule:
January - Donna (Theme: Let It Snow + Book Cover Challenge)
February - Nicole (Theme: Un-requited Love/Love Gone Wrong + Advice Column Challenge)
March - Rie (Theme: Green or Pinched + Green Cover Challenge)
April -  Bonnie (Theme: Easter + Mini Challenge)
May - Christa (Theme: MayDay - Disaster Books! + Cover Disaster Challenge)
June - Jenna ( Theme: Camping + Sentence Challenge)
July - Rie (Theme: International Day + Cover Comparison Challenge)
August - Angel (Theme: Summer Memories + Send Your Fav Character On Vacation Challenge)
September - Nicole (Theme: Life Changing Books + Mini Challenge)
October - Caitlin (Theme: Thanksgiving Theme + Share-A-Book Challenge)
November - Vicky (Theme: Spooky Halloween + Book Puzzle Challenge)
December - Evie (Theme: Xmas Bliss + Book Bachelor Challenge)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Rules to Read By


I got a great idea from Intense Whisper, that I have never really thought about before. Bookworms tend to have habits they hold to like unbreakable laws when reading. I find that my personal rules hold stronger thanks to the demands of book blogging. I have an audience that may or may not actually read what I write and hold me accountable for what I opinionate about literature.

1. Read as many books of my own choosing as I am asked to review. I'm sure I am not alone in this when it comes to book blogging. I am asked to review an eclectic array of books, but rarely do I get asked to review the stuff that I am pining to read, so to the library I go. I usually have a scrolling list of books on order there, and I read the "review stuff", as I call it, while I wait for the library stuff to come in. But what about the books I own, but am not asked to review? Yea, that stuff just kind of gets lost in the background...

2. Read to at least page 80 of a book you can't stand. Why page 80? I have no idea, it just seems to be the magic number for me when it comes to page count. I stopped reading The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien at page 80, and since then I've stuck with that number. And in my defense, I don't do this very often, either. And I normally love J. R. R. Tolkien.

3. A book is my security blanket. I take a book with me everywhere. I feel naked without a book, even if I know I won't have time to so much as look at the cover. To the bathroom, the grocery store, on walks in the freezing snow and cold, to pick up my daughter at the bus stop, to super-important meetings, etc. Interestingly, this has sometimes sparked conversations about my blog and even netted me more books to read.

4. Read a review book at the same time as a library book, and vice versa. Yes, it's all a mind game to get my TBR pile knocked down. If I crack a new library book, then I also have to start on a new review book because I feel guilty for not only focusing on the review stuff. And if I elect to start a review book, then I also start a library book, because darn it, my blog is not just about homework. So rarely am I ever reading only one book at a time.

5. Write at least half the review before turning in a library book. I have a template for book reviews, and I need the book in hand to fill out most of the template, so obviously I can't turn it in until I have this filled out. It's not the entire review post, though, so half-done review posts can sit in draft form for weeks before I get around to finishing them. At this point, I'm only going on what I can remember from the book, so I often have to sneak a peek at other book reviews for a refresher. And no, I am not so easily influenced that another's review will color my own book review, give me a break.

6. No e-books. This one is just about practicality. I don't own an e-reader, though I want one badly. (Kobo in lilac, please!) I can't afford to buy one, and I can't stand to read e-books on the desktop PC. Though I have this posted right on my profile, on my blog for all to see, you would be amazed at the number of requests I get to review e-books. The one exception I have made is a Photoshop manual I have in e-book form on the computer for when I want to tinker around in my Photoshop program. I have not read the manual cover to cover, and I probably never will, but it is useful.

I'm a weird one, so I likely have many more that rule over my reading habits. Do you have any you read by?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge: Alex Awards

I recently learned about the Alex Awards, which are given each year to books written/marketed to adults that have special appeal to young adults (age 12-18). They often feature teen protagonists. Since I enjoy reading these types of books anyways, I thought this challenge would be a good fit for me, which is hosted by The Story Girl. I am joining at the second level with 4-6 books to read. The books that I can choose from can be found on the YALSA website.

Some of the books that looked interesting to me I listed here:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Soulless by Gail Carriger
The Dragons of Babel by Michael Swanwick
The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly
Gil's All Fright Diner by A. Lee Martinez
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
Candy Freak by Steve Almond
Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
Insatiable by Meg Cabot


Monday, December 5, 2011

Review: Keridan's Journey by Michelle Peterson

Book Details:
Keridan's Journey
By Michelle Peterson
Genre: Fantasy
Published Feb. 2011, WBD Books
Paperback, 264 pages
ISBN: 9780983045106


Synopsis:
          Project manager by day and artist by night, Keridan Patrick's simple world ended with the death of her mother. The father she never knew showed up after twenty-five years and introduced her to a new world cloaked in secrecy and myth. While fighting to keep some semblance of normalcy to her suddenly unpredictable world, she chanced to meet the mysterious Sahaj. Sahaj had ran for hundreds of years from the one soul he was destined to be with but was transfixed by the one he could not live without. Would old flames and new enemies stand in the way of love?
I stopped reading this book at page 88. I just could not stand the blatant lack of proper grammar and punctuation so prevalent on every page. Since I could not understand how something so bad could actually get published, I looked up the "book imprint" and realized that this is self-publishing at its worst. Michelle Peterson runs an art website and teaches art, then conceives of the idea to write her own book and create her own Imprint so that the book can be considered published. Really??
There are so many examples of bad grammar in this book, I don't know where to begin. Commas are so lacking, I want to cry. Specifically, when using prepositions or preposition-like modifiers, commas are needed. Also, compound sentences require the use of a comma. You would be surprised at how much a simple comma allows the reader to garner the true meaning of a sentence. Another example that illustrates how badly this book needed an editor is found on page 86: "I was left to wonder wear my tough skin went."  Yes, you read that correctly.
Another huge problem I had with the book is the author's complete disregard for the writer's tool of "show, don't tell." While I understand that sometimes the rule can be disregarded, this book lacks in "showing" so much that I have no connection to any of the characters, and none of the events transpiring can compel any interest or emotional response in me. For example, on page 13, Keridan is thrust into a dream to speak with her mother. It reads "The smells, the colors are only this vibrant in a dream." That's it. No description, no picture painted with words, nothing is detailed, except in the most basic of words, such as "forest grove with flowers", "fairy dress", etc. I don't know what any of the characters look like, nor can I tell the difference between any of them.
I usually love fantasy, especially because of the imaginative descriptions that defy reality and convention, but (see? Comma!) even with a great concept of using the Greek myths of Sirens to build a world, this book is too disappointing and frustrating to be worth my time and energy. In all honesty, this book reads like a first draft of a novel after NanoWrimo -- messy, disorderly, and badly in need of a rewrite.

The Cover: The cover is too dark, the image of the black leopard barely discernable, the font is childish and difficult to read as well as confusing with two different, clashing font designs -- it's just bad.


First Line: "The archaeologists gently brushed away centuries of earth hoping to reveal more details of the carved stone that lay beneath them."
The lack of a comma should have clued me in to what to expect of the quality of this book.


Read For: Outdo Yourself Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Review: Lion's Honey by David Grossman

Book Details:
Lion's Honey: The Myth of Samson
By David Grossman, translated by Stuart Schoffman
Genre: Mythology
Published 2005, Alfred A. Knopf Canada
Hardback, 155 pages
ISBN: 067697421x


Synopsis:
          Israel’s most lauded contemporary writer retells the myth of Samson, one of the most tempestuous, charismatic, and colorful characters in the Hebrew Bible. There are few other Bible stories with so much drama and action, narrative fireworks and raw emotion, as we find in the tale of Samson: the battle with the lion; the three hundred burning foxes; the women he bedded and the one woman that he loved; his betrayal by all the women in his life, from his mother to Delilah; and, in the end, his murderous suicide, when he brought the house down on himself and three thousand Philistines. “Yet, beyond the wild impulsiveness, the chaos, the din, we can make out a life story that is, at bottom, the tortured journey of a single, lonely and turbulent soul who never found, anywhere, a true home in the world, whose very body was a harsh place of exile. For me, this discovery, this recognition, is the point at which the myth — for all its grand images, its larger-than-life adventures — slips silently into the day-to-day existence of each of us, into our most private moments, our buried secrets.
I was a little surprised as to what comprised this book, as I expected to find a fictional retelling after the reproduction of Judges 13-16 of the King James Bible. Instead, what follows is a detailed commentary that examines and dissects the Biblical account, using even the original language to understand the full meaning of the text, with all of its nuances and allusions. As many times that I have studied the story of Samson in church growing up, there is apparently quite a bit that I never knew about such an interesting character in Hebrew history.
As any person chosen of God to do His will, Samson is a man plagued by his destiny and how it separates him from the rest of humanity. Though chosen of God from the womb to live as a Nazarite, he is still very much human with human urges. Almost constantly at war with himself, Samson seems to set himself up to be hurt by those he puts his trust in so that he may let loose his anger and rage against those who hold his people captive -- the Philistines. Like so many modern-day psychological head cases, much of his choices are also driven by a need for that hidden something lacking in his relationship with his parents. He looks for it in the wrong places and the wrong women, even paying a visit to a prostitute. He seems to use his strength and anger with an artistic flair, first setting up a group of Philistines at his wedding with an unsolvable riddle, and later finding rather unique ways of further punishing the Philistines, such as using the jawbone of an ass to kill a thousand of them. Furthermore, every verbal account from Samson is spoken poetically.
What I found most interesting is the way that David Grossman explored the account of Samson and Delilah. He alludes that Samson in fact knew the betrayal that Delilah harbored and welcomed it in order to finally shed his God-given destiny. While he ends his life in a final act of redemption, I have to wonder if he did complete the task that God had given him to "begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines."
Despite the intense detail that David Grossman goes into when writing this study of Samson, the book is a very good read and well worth my time.


The Cover: Both the title and the cover image are an interesting choice for the story of Samson, as most people think of his hair first.


First Line: "'Samson the hero' is what every Jewish child, the first time he or she hears the story, learns to call him."
This is an interesting tidbit to begin the commentary on the famous Biblical figure of Samson.





Read For: Read a Myth Challenge, Twenty-Eleven Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy 2nd Blogoversary to Me!

Amazingly, it has been two years since I began blogging, and I almost missed it! A wonderful follower's comment had to remind me of this very special date for me. This date warrants a post, of course, and a little review of what my last year in blogging has been like! (And have a piece of red velvet cheesecake on me!)
I love doing the book blogging thing as much as ever, and even with three girls under the age of 5, I still manage to find time to write about what I love most -- books! I have reviewed quite an eclectic mix of books in the past year. Some of my favorite reviews have been Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper, Chocolat by Joanne Harris, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King, and The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer. Probably my favorite book that I have read in the past year is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, which I read fairly recently. I try to read as many books of my own choosing as I review for publishers, authors, and publicists. That way, this blogging business will not feel like a job I am forced into, but something I choose to do because I love it. The "review" stack seems to sit at around 10-15 books, no matter how quickly I read through them, but I love getting those packages in the mail anyways -- and I think my local postal workers are just a little bit jealous over them.
I think that I have also become much more comfortable with my own writing, even when it garners quite a bit of criticism on Amazon or when I dare to venture into the politics of books (here, here, here, and here!). I may even dare to write my own fiction for a change this year; afterall, NanoWrimo has always fascinated me.
My follower count has gone up some, with 216 RSS feed subscribers, 108 Twitter followers, 174 GFC followers, and 15 on Networked Blogs, which is impressive, considering I cannot really afford to do any big giveaways out of my own pockets. I keep meaning to do an actual Facebook page for my blog, but that has not happened yet.
I am hoping to find the time in the next year to do a redesign of my blog -- time is ever the issue on any big projects like this. I debated branching out into other product reviews, but that was before I realized I was pregnant with my third child. Maybe when the girls are older I can revisit that idea, but for now I will simply stick with books, book, and more books! Hubby says books are like my "blankie" -- and he's fine with it (good thing!).

Happy 2nd Blogoversary, and many more!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

2012 Reading Challenge: What's in a Name 5

I completed this challenge for 2011, and I enjoyed it so much that I wanted to participate in it again. The What's in a Name 5 Challenge is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. The six categories for the new challenge is as follows:


1. A book with a topographical feature (land formation) in the title: The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
2. A book with something you'd see in the sky in the title: Storm Born by Richelle Mead
3. A book with a creepy crawly in the title: Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
4. A book with a type of house in the title: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
5. A book with something you'd carry in your pocket, purse, or backpack in the title: Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder
6. A book with something you'd find on a calendar in the title


Some of the books that I have on my Wish List that would fit this challenge are as follows:

The Elephant Mountains by Scott Ely
Spider's Bite by Jennifer Estep
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Book Details:
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
By Gregory Maguire
Genre: Fiction
Published 1999, HarperCollins Publishers
Paperback, 368 pages
ISBN: 0060987529


Synopsis:
          We have all heard the story of Cinderella, the beautiful child cast out to slave among the ashes. But what of her stepsisters, the homely pair exiled into ignominy by the fame of their lovely sibling? What fate befell those untouched by beauty ... and what curses accompanied Cinderella's looks?
Set against the backdrop of seventeenth-century Holland, Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister tells the story of Iris, an unlikely heroine who finds herself swept from the lowly streets of Haarlem to a strange world of wealth, artifice, and ambition. Iris's path quickly becomes intertwined with that of Clara, the mysterious and unnaturally beautiful girl destined to become her sister. While Clara retreats to the cinders of the family hearth, Iris seeks out the shadowy secrets of her new household -- and the treacherous truth of her former life.
I have been meaning to read this book for some time, simply because I loved Gregory Maguire's Wicked so much. This book I read considerably slower than I expected, though I still found the plot compelling. In this retelling of Cinderella, the reader follows the viewpoint of Iris, one of the "stepsisters" of the original tale. Iris is smart and artistic, but plain-looking -- a fact her mother never fails to point out endlessly. Iris's older sister, Ruth, is dumb and mute, which makes life at times both interesting and difficult for Iris and their mother, Margarethe.
The trio flee England for Margarethe's homeland of Holland -- the reasons for which remaining a mystery for most of the book -- and are forced to beg for shelter and work before falling under the mercy of a local painter. This is where Clara, the blonde changeling girl standing in the place of "Cinderella," is introduced. Her beauty is so ethereal that she lives a reclusive, sheltered existence under the extreme protection of her mother. Strangely, Clara and Iris seem to make up two sides of the same coin -- where one lacks the other excels in. Where Clara hides from strangers, Iris is adept at social interaction. Iris's vivid imagination makes up for Clara's lack of intelligence.
Margarethe's machinations first get her and her daughters into the same household under Clara's parents, as their servants. Then when Clara's mother dies through mysterious circumstances, Margarethe maneuvers them to become Clara's step-family, effectively pushing Clara's father almost completely out of the picture. Ironically, a picture is what serves as the glue for almost the entire plot, motivating all of the main characters to a particular behavior.
Clara is almost the complete opposite of what one would expect from the image of "Cinderella." She is spoiled, rich, obstinate, paranoid, reclusive, delusional, confrontational, and quite childish even in adulthood. Margarethe is a villain that is relate-able, as her choices throughout the book stem from an obsessive need to both survive and thrive. Though at times I intensely dislike the things that she spouts, I cannot hate her due to the suffering she endures from a certain ironic malady that befalls her.
The ending that is so familiar to the original tale seems to happen almost by accident -- and how easily Iris could have taken Clara's place makes me a bit sad for Iris. The ending to the book is also a nice surprise, causing me to rethink many of the scenes and the thoughts that could have been occurring to one of the central characters. Indeed, the ending makes the book almost worth a re-read.

The Cover: I love the cover, with its allusions to the original Cinderella tale and the picture-window effect.


First Line: "Hobbling home under a mackerel sky, I came upon a group of children."
Aside from the fact that I had to look up mackerel (yup, the fish), this is an unusual way to begin a story, but I am still intrigued.


Favorite Quote"In the lives of children, pumpkins turn into coaches, mice and rats turn into men. When we grow up, we realize it is far more common for men to turn into rats."




Read For: I Want More Challenge, Read a Myth Challenge, 101 Fantasy Challenge

Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne

Book Details:
Blackberry Summer
By RaeAnne Thayne
Genre: Romance
Published 2011, Harlequin Books
Paperback, 376 pages
ISBN: 9780373775934


Synopsis:
          What she didn't need was a tragic car accident. As a single mom and the owner of a successful bead shop, Claire leads a predictable life in Hope's Crossing, Colorado. So what if she has no time for romance? At least, that's what she tells herself, especially when her best friend's sexy younger brother comes back to town as the new chief of police.
But when the accident forces Claire to slow down and lean on others—especially Riley McKnight—she realizes, for the first time, that things need to change. And not just in her own life. The accident—and the string of robberies committed by teenagers that led up to it—is a wake-up call to the people of Hope's Crossing. The sense of community and togetherness had been lost during those tough years. But with a mysterious "Angel of Hope" working to inspire the town, Riley and Claire will find themselves opening up to love and other possibilities by the end of an extraordinary summer….
The community of Hope's Crossing is quaint in its friendliness and familiarity of the different individuals with one another. Though the town operates as the hub of a large resort, it does not lose its charm as a small town. So when the type of crime that is more prone to big cities happens here, it causes its citizens to be less welcoming to its newest inhabitant and chief of police, Riley McKnight. Riley faces an uphill battle both socially and romantically, as he is drawn all over again to the stubbornly independent Claire that was attracted to growing up. The big difference this time is that Claire likes him back! They play the typical game of I can't believe he/she likes me, and do I really like him/ her that is so common in romance novels. In the mean time, Claire dreams up a way to put the town in better spirits, while defending Riley's place there.
Claire is easy to like, with her bead store that attracts such colorful characters, and the patience she exhibits in all of her relationships, from the one with her mother to the ones with her ex-husband and his new, pregnant wife. I even like how her injuries drive Riley to constantly offer to help her in any way possible.
Riley's honesty is at times comedic, shocking, and even alluring. He has charm to spare, but keeps most of it bottled up because of a difficult past.
The book was more entertaining than I have come to expect from the typical Harlequin, but in many ways not very unique from the standard plot line. While I did enjoy reading it, I doubt that I will remember much about the book.

The Cover: The cover is attractive and a nice change from your typical Harlequin novel, but after reading the book, I don't agree that the theme of summer really applies.


First Line: "Lousy, stupid horoscope."
This is a humorous way to open the book, and now I am curious to know what would compel the narrator to have this thought, as well as what the horoscope actually was.


Favorite Quote: "Here, there or anywhere. But this wasn't a Dr. Seuss book and Riley was definitely not green eggs."



Read For: Off the Shelf Challenge

*I received this book free of charge from the publisher for review purposes.*

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Challenge Completed: Read a Myth Challenge

I am a sucker for a good myth or fairy tale retelling, so I enjoyed completing the Read a Myth Challenge for 2011. I managed to read three books from the Canongate series that this challenge is based on, plus a few of my own choosing. In addition, at least one of the books had to be non-fiction and my choices had to span more than three countries. The countries I pulled from were Canada, England, the U.S.A., and Israel, with only one book being an actual translation. I read at the Level 4 Ogma: The God of All Myths, with 8 books total.
Here are the books I read for this challenge, with their reviews:


1. Beastly by Alex Flinn (U.S.A.)
2. American Gods by Neil Gaiman (England)
3. The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood (Canada)
4. A Short History of Myth by Karen Armstrong
5. A Midnight Dance by Lila DiPasqua (U.S.A.)
6. Abandon by Meg Cabot (U.S.A.)
7. Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire (U.S.A.)
8. Lion's Honey by David Grossman (Israel)


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Challenge Completed: Off the Shelf Challenge

I managed to finish my biggest challenge for 2011, the Off the Shelf Challenge. I had to read 30 books off my own shelves, which was the "Making a Dent" level. I indeed made a dent, but I still have lots more, so I will be looking for a similar challenge for 2012.
Here is the list of books that I read for this challenge, and their reviews:


1. Heavenly by Jennifer Laurens
2. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
3. Marion Zimmer Bradley's Ravens of Avalon by Diana L. Paxson
4. A Pointed Death by Kath Russell
5. Blue by Lou Aronica
6. Redemption by Laurel Dewey
7. River Marked by Patricia Briggs
8. The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
9. Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee
10. Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites ...and Other Lies You've Been Told by Bradley R. E. Wright, Ph.D.
11. There's Lead in Your Lipstick by Gillian Deacon
12. Eternal Rider by Larissa Ione
13. The Life Ready Woman by Shaunti Feldhahn and Robert Lewis
14. The Lens and the Looker by Lory S. Kaufman
15. Just One Taste by Louisa Edwards
16. The Doctor's Forever Family by Marie Ferrarella
17. The Bronze and the Brimstone by Lory S. Kaufman
18. Savage Nature by Christine Feehan
19. If God, Why Evil? by Norman Geisler
20. Holy Guacamole by Dan & Denise Harmer
21. A Midnight Dance by Lila DiPasqua
22. The Comeback Cowboy by Cathy McDavid
23. Whole Foods to Thrive by Brendan Brazier
24. A Heart Most Worthy by Siri Mitchell
25. Wedlocked by Bonnie Trachtenberg
26. Economic Meltdown by Karen McHale
27. 101 Gourmet Cake Bites by Wendy Paul
28. Pumpkin Roll by Josi S. Kilpack
29. Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne
30. Sweet Chic by Rachel Schifter Thebault


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: Lion's Honey by David Grossman

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:
1. Grab your current read.
2. Open to a random page.
3. Share two “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
4. BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!).
5. Share the title and author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!


My Teaser:
          And maybe this is what motivates Samson, and not only in this instance. He goes through life like a walking enigma, marveling over his secret, his riddle. He enjoys approaching the dangerous brink of being found out by others. Yet, on second thoughts, this word 'enjoys' is inaccurate: more likely he is driven to this: compelled to confront this feeling, this bitter-tasting knowledge that he is impenetrable, that he cannot be released from his strangeness, nor from the mystery within. - pg. 69, Lion's Honey: The Myth of Samson by David Grossman


What are you reading this week?

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