Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (34) + Pic of Emmy

Tuesday Thingers has a new home at Wendi's Book Corner. Many thanks again to Marie at Boston Bibliophile for starting up the meme and hosting for a remarkable 33 weeks. This week's question is: Here is a list of the main areas of Library Thing:

1. Home (http://www.librarything.com/, before you log in)
2. Home (once you log in, contains Your Home, Your Profile, Connections, Recommendations, Reviews, Statistics, Clouds, Gallery, Memes)
3. Profile (Recent activity, tags, comments, members with your books)
4. Your Library
5. Your Tags
6. Add Books
7. Talk
8. Groups
9. Local
10. Search
11. Zeitgeist (Stats, Top Lists)
12. Tools (Widgets, Store)
13. Blog

What area are you most familiar with? What area is your favorite? What area are you curious about? Are there any that you have not really looked at?

I most often use my logged in homepage, my profile, my library, add books, groups, and search. I am familiar with all the areas though, except local.


It always amuses me how many expressions cats have. The following expression is one we call "bratty kitty":

Monday, December 29, 2008

Book Review and Giveaway: The Memorist by MJ Rose

Meer Logan has been haunted by recurring visions of an antique box since childhood. So when her father finds a box that resembles the one she always drew, he contacts his daughter through The Phoenix Foundation (first introduced in The Reincarnationist) and she flys to Vienna to see it. The box appears to have connections to Beethoven and an ancient bone flute which is rumored to be a memory tool that has the power to unlock memories of past lives. And there are some who would do anything, even kill, to get their hands on it.

I found The Memorist to be a more satisfying novel than The Reincarnationist. Plot and character development were much improved and the conclusion was far more engaging. A great read!

Sorry for the incredibly short review, but I need to pack for my return trip to Germany.

The contest which I first announced on my review of The Reincarnationist has been extended until January 6th! So far, I will be giving away 3 Reincarnationist paperbacks and I'd love to give out all 5, so enter now either by commenting on this post or at the original post. If you live in the US or Canada, you can also win the grand prize which is both The Memorist and The Reincarnationist.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christmas Book (and DVD) Haul

You may remember this post where I talked about my holiday book wishlist. Well, now I can reveal what I got from the list!

Beth Kephart sent me a signed copy of her novel Undercover which I am so excited about. Thanks Beth, I can't wait to get started!

Alea sent me The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland! Coupland is one of my favorite authors so I am sure I will be reading this sooner than later :) Thanks Alea, you are a star.

Dar sent me Tales of Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan (got it today, thank you so much Dar - Daniel will LOVE it).

I did the bookstore rounds today and purchased some books with my gift cards. This is what I picked up:
Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse by Stephen King, Cory Doctorow, George R. R. Martin, and Octavia E. Butler

I also got a gift card to amazon from my awesome Aunt Linda and plan to purchase:
Ten Cents a Dance by Christine Fletcher
The Explosionist by Jenny Davidson

Linda also gave me a bag of books she's read already including:
Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah
Lost Souls by Lisa Jackson
Tithe by Holly Black
Identical by Ellen Hopkins

In the DVD department, I got:
Pushing Daisies Season 1
Chuck Season 1
Terminator Sarah Connor Chronicles Season 1
Mad Men Season 1
Message in a Bottle
Y tu Mama Tambien
I also got other gifts, such as socks, which you probably don't want to hear about! Did you get any books or DVDs for Christmas?
*** And now back to my Battlestar Galactica marathon. Almost done with Season 1!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Waiting on Wednesday (14) Shelter Me by Alex McAulay

Usually my picks are of books that are coming out in the distant future, but this week, I am picking one which comes out soon - January 6th (and apparently already available on amazon). According to Christopher Golden's blurb, "Shelter Me is a dark, breakneck-paced journey through wartime England, full of twists and thrilling turns you'll never see coming!". I love twisty plots, so that, and the gorgeous cover I've been admiring for months, are reeling me in!

Here's the product description from amazon:

Maggie Leigh just wants to be a normal teenager, but when German bombs tear apart London during World War II, her ultra-religious mother sees the destruction as divine punishment. She sends Maggie to a remote boarding school in coastal Wales, supposedly to keep her safe, but also to keep her in line. The school is creepy, the headmistress is a lunatic, and the students range from spoiled rich girls to speechless trauma victims. But when a tragic accident happens on the beach, Maggie and three friends are forced to flee the school, plunging into the nightmarish world of Europe during wartime. Now every decision Maggie makes is fraught with danger, and living to see another day depends on how quickly she can think and act...and how far she's willing to go.

Sounds exciting - and I won't have to wait too long for this one - YAY!


Merry Christmas Eve everyone! We are getting together with extended family tonight at 6 pm for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration. Got all my shopping done, but still have some wrapping to do! How about you?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (33) + Pic of Emmy

Today's question: Holiday gift-giving. Do you give books for the holidays? Did you participate in LT's SantaThing, either this year or last, or in other blogging gift exchanges? Were you happy with what you received?

I got books for most everyone on my list (in some cases, it didn't make sense). I didn't participate in SantaThing because I knew I didn't need the extra weight in my suitcase. I did take part in a YA gift exchange and I got Invisible Touch by Kelly Parra which I am very excited about!


Looks like while I'm away, the cat will play! Daniel sent me this picture of Miss Emmy engaged in one of her favorite activites:

Monday, December 22, 2008

Book Review: Santa Responds by Santa Claus

Still looking for a present for that hard-to-buy-for person (with a sense of humor) on your list? You might consider Santa Responds: He's Had Enough and He's Writing Back. Here's an excerpt:

"Dear Santa,

How come you so fat?

Love, Ashton, aged 8."

"Dear Ashton,

How come you so rude? Seriously, haven't your parents taught you any manners? Or grammar?

(Santa then goes on to explain his girth is due to a love of carbs and alcohol, and though it may seem hypocritical for him to rag on others for poor nutrition choices, he's immortal, so he can afford to not eat right.)

Life aint fair, Santa"

Most letters/replies are at least mildly amusing, a few laugh out loud funny, and some probably offensive to someone out there. Santa attacks children with bad punctuation, those who are vague, those who lie, those who rat out their siblings, and those who are greedy, among a host of other transgressions. It can get a little repetitive, so it's probably best read in a group, picking a letter at random, with copious amounts of spiked egg nog on hand.

SANTA RESPONDS is available now in hardcover.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Who is that naked man?!

Going through my google reader just now I read at least two posts (by Bookish Ruth and Beth Kephart) giving shout outs to Henry Allford's New York Times essay about strange items found inside books. I'm inspired to share my best related story.

It all starts out with Naked George. He's Frankfurt's resident crazy man (and a former patient of Daniel's mother) who has a permit to walk around stark naked. Whenever we ran into him on the street, he'd stop to chat with us. One day, he told Daniel he wanted to visit our apartment but Daniel's mother had told us we shouldn't let him in because then he'd think he could hang out there all the time. Well, Daniel felt sorry for him, so he told him he could visit one time. To commemorate this wonderous occasion, George insisted we take a photo of him with Daniel. So we did. I had it printed and meant to give it to him, but then I couldn't find it so I sort of forgot about it.

Six months later, Daniel and I were in the bookstore and I grabbed a copy of the Lonely Planet Guide to the Baltic States to look up some hotels to prepare for our trip to Riga, Latvia. I was flipping through and saw a picture. I turned it over and yes, you got it - it was that picture of Daniel with Naked George. We had bought that same copy months before while planning an aborted Baltic States visit (we went to Romania instead) and returned it with a very interesting bookmark.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Hot Topic: Reincarnation and Guest Blog by MJ Rose

When Daniel I travelled to Burma, one of the highlights of our 3 week visit was talking with two monks at the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. We sat with them for about 2 hours and they told us about Buddhism, and what they told us about their views of reincarnation is pretty much the extent of my knowledge on the subject. It’s not something I personally believe in or promote, but nevertheless I do find it fascinating. The Burmese thinking on rebirth follow the 5 precepts (that is, what monks - and Buddhists in general - are forbidden to do):

1. No killing (if you do you'll come back as a dog - a fate worse than death if you consider how badly dogs are treated in Burma)
2. No stealing (or you'll be reborn as a poor person)
3. No womanizing (apparently only for men - because if you do this as a man, you'll come back as a woman)
4. No lying (or you'll come back mute)
5. No getting drunk (or you'll come back mentally ill).

Burmese also believe that if they do not live a good life, they'll be reborn as non-Burmese.

Obviously, MJ Rose, author of The Reincarnationist and The Memorist knows enough about reincarnation to plot two novels around it. She provided the following guest post about her experiences and the genesis of her books.

(Don’t forget to enter my contest to win a two book MJ Rose prize pack with a paperback copy of The Reincarnationist and a hardcover copy of her new book The Memorist. I am also giving away up to 5 paperback copies of The Reincarnationist. Read my review and enter here. Comment on this post for your extra entry.)

The Venerable Thich Nguyen Tang said: “To Buddhism, however, death is not the end of life, it is merely the end of the body we inhabit in this life, but our spirit will still remain and seek out through the need of attachment, attachment to a new body and new life. Where they will be born is a result of the past and the accumulation of positive and negative action, and the resultant karma (cause and effect) is a result of ones past actions.”

When I was three years old, I told my great grandfather things about his childhood in Russia that there was simply no way I could have known. He was not a Buddhist but a Kabbalist – and reincarnation is as much a part of mystic Judaism tradition as it part of Buddhism. As he continued to talk to me about these memories, my great grandfather became convinced I was a reincarnation of someone from his past. My mother – a logical and skeptical woman – argued with him about what she called his “old fashioned” ideas but over time and more incidents, she became curious enough to start reading up on the subject.

And so reincarnation was an idea I grew up with. A concept that my mom and I talked about and researched together. We studied what Buddhists and Kabbalists and Hindus wrote. We read scientific articles and skeptical arguments. We debated and postulated.If you had asked me at twenty if I believed, I would have said “I don’t not believe.” But I was fascinated. And remained fascinated.

In my early thirties I studied Zen Buddhism and learned to mediate. It was about the same time I started writing fiction and found myself very much wanting to write a novel about reincarnation. But it wasn’t until my mother died ten years ago that I finally began to make notes for that novel… a story about someone like her who started out skeptical but came to believe in reincarnation. At the time I was too close to the subject and missed her too much to work on the project. The grief was too close and too raw.

Then four years ago on the exact anniversary of my mom’s death my niece, who was almost three years old told me about experiences I’d had with my mother… experiences my niece couldn’t have known – moments I had never shared with anyone.There was no turning away anymore. That experience convinced me it was time for me to finally explore my ideas and questions about reincarnation through my novel.

Josh Ryder, the main character in The Reincarnationist has my mom’s initials, her spirit and her curiosity and like her, he’s a photographer. But there the similarities end. When Josh starts having flashbacks that simply can’t be explained any other way except as possible reincarnation memories he goes to New York to study with Dr. Malachai Samuels -- a scientist and Reincarnationist who works with children helping them deal with past life memories. In the process Josh gets caught up in the search for ancient memory tools that may or may not physically enable people to reach back and discover who they were and who they are.

Thich Nguyen Tang said: “So we can say that in Buddhism, life does not end, merely goes on in other forms that are the result of accumulated karma. Buddhism is a belief that emphasizes the impermanence of lives, including all those beyond the present life. With this in mind we should not fear death as it will lead to rebirth.”

I think writing is a rebirth like that. Thoughts reborn as words that in a way die for the author once they are put to paper but are then reborn again for the reader who picks up the book and experiences the ideas and thoughts of the writer in his or her own personal way.

M.J. Rose is the author of ten novels. Read an excerpt of her books at http://www.mjrose.com/.

Also check out:

Book Review and Giveaway: The Reincarnationist by MJ Rose

After barely surviving a terrorist bomb, Josh Ryder starts to have visions of 4th century Roman life which are so vivid and disturbing, he turns to a foundation specializing in past-life regressions for help. It is through them that he ends up at an archeological dig in Rome that not only contains the mummified remains of a vestal virgin/past-life lover but also some pagan memory stones which may help prove the validity of reincarnation once and for all. Naturally, these stones are stolen and Josh becomes one of many players in a high-stakes race to get them back.

Many other reviewers have compared this to Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code, and I have to admit that’s the first comparison I made while reading as well. Both focus on a controversial topic, have antagonists from the Catholic Church and feature exotic locations. This novel didn’t flow nearly as well as the Da Vinci Code, though the plotting is more believable.

I have always had an interest in archeology, and I really enjoyed the historical aspects of this novel – the forays into ancient Rome as well as the 1800s were rich with detail and interesting characters. It’s the present day story that could have used a bit more polish. Josh comes off as a strange combo of boring and creepily nuts and pretty archeologist Gabriella pretty much spends the entire novel reacting to tragedies by freaking out.

About midway through, I woke up in the middle of the night with an epiphany about where the novel was headed, based on the assumption that the memory stones were what the book was all about. I don’t want to go into spoilers, so I will just say that my assumption turned out to be wrong and I thought the resolution suffered for it.

Who do I think would like this? Fans of high concept thrillers, those interested in the idea of reincarnation, and yes, people who liked The Da Vinci Code (whether they admit to it or not).

And guess what? I have some copies to give away! The grand prize winner will get a two book prize pack with a paperback copy of The Reincarnationist and a hardcover copy of MJ Rose’s latest release The Memorist (which I am in the middle of now and enjoying even more). I will also give away one paperback of the Reincarnationist for every 20 people who enter the giveaway (up to 5 copies!). All you have to do is comment on this review. Comment on Author MJ Rose’s guest post later today for a second entry. The grand prize is open to US/Canada residents only, but I will send the paperbacks internationally. Enter by Saturday, December 27 at 9 pm CST. CONTEST EXTENDED TO JANUARY 6th!

FAR FROM YOU release celebration and contest!

Lisa Schroeder, author of I HEART YOU, YOU HAUNT ME, is celebrating the release of her upcoming YA novel, FAR FROM YOU, and hosting a contest with LOTS of great prizes!

For three days leading up to the book’s release date of December 23rd, you can watch VLOGs and hear some excerpts read from the book. The VLOG schedule is as follows:
Sunday, December 21st – Liv’s Book Reviews - http://livsbookreviews.blogspot.com/
Monday, December 22nd – What Vanessa Reads - http://whatvanessareads.wordpress.com/
Tuesday, December 23rd – Lisa Schroeder, author - http://lisa-schroeder.livejournal.com/ AND http://myspace.com/writerlisa

Help spread the word, and you might win a fabulous prize!

Copy and paste THIS entire blog entry into your blog between now and December 21st, then come back to Lisa’s blog at either Livejournal OR Myspace and leave a comment with the link to your blog and you will get TWO enteries to win a number of prizes.

Wondering what you might win? Here is the list (there will be multiple winners):
~ An Advanced Review Copy of THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH, by Carrie Ryan
~ An Advanced Review Copy of SOMETHING, MAYBE, by Elizabeth Scott
~ Young adult novel GIRL, HERO by Carrie Jones
~ Young adult novel, THE POSSIBILITIES OF SAINTHOOD by Donna Freitas
~ Young adult novel, UGLIES by Scott Westerfield
~ Pair of YA fairy tale retellings by Cameron Dokey (BELLE and BEFORE MIDNIGHT)
~ TWILIGHT movie soundtrack
~ $15.00 Barnes and Noble gift card along with some Harry & David’s chocolate moose munch
~ And of course, a signed copy of FAR FROM YOU

For more chances to win, watch one or all of the VLOGs and leave a comment on that vlogger’s page, and you get another entry. That means if you post the schedule on your blog AND comment on all three VLOGs, you can have FIVE entries for the contest!

A live drawing with winners announced will be done by Lisa Thursday morning, December 24th, in a special holiday VLOG.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Book Review: College Girl by Patricia Weitz

College girl Natalie Bloom, a senior at U Conn, spends most of her time in the library studying, wishing she were more outgoing so she’d feel comfortable enough to really make friends and date boys. When handsome, rich, pot-smoking slacker Patrick takes an interest in her, Natalie is thrilled yet terrified. Will he finally help her to break out of her protective shell or will he break her heart?

Natalie defines herself by her transfer status (she thinks freshmen year is when most college friendships develop and she missed the boat), by her family relations (she has 6 older brothers, one who committed suicide), by her socio-economic background (blue collar poor), and most of all by her lack of experience in the sex department (she thinks being a virgin at 20 makes her the freakiest of all freaks). There isn’t a lot of plot beyond day to day college life and Natalie’s “relationship” with Patrick which means the reader’s enjoyment of the novel relies heavily on whether or not they like Natalie as a character. Personally, I had trouble relating to her. I wouldn’t say she was poorly developed, but her perpetual insecurity and proclivity to make really bad choices increasingly grated on my nerves. It’s probably a bad sign that the parts of the novel I enjoyed the most were the academic snippets of her lectures and exams having to do with Russian history.

College Girl comes out in hardcover on December 26th.

Waiting on Wednesday (13) Death by Denim by Linda Gerber

Slightly different this week - why? Well not only are you actually getting it on Thursday (sorry, I was awake for 30 hrs straight and HAD to go to bed when I finally arrived in Wichita last night), but also I had been planning to post Death by Denim as my "WOW" pick and lo and behold, I found the ARC in my mailbox, signed by Linda herself. Linda even included a beautiful christmas card (my third physical card this year - the others were from Raquel who is in Surgut, Siberia, Russia teaching English and Julie & Ben who visited me back in September). Thanks Linda!

So what's Death by Denim all about? It's the third in Linda's Death by... series featuring Aphra Connelly and her spy mother. I very much enjoyed Death by Bikini (review here) and Death by Latte (review here) and since Death by Latte ended on a HUGE cliffhanger, I have been impatient to get my hands on this one.

This time, Aphra is in Paris! Here's the description from Amazon (light spoilers if you haven't read the first two):

Even though Aphra Connolly knows there are some very dangerous people on their tail when she met her mom, Natalie, in Paris, she envisioned the two of them strolling along the Champs-Elysées, sharing Nutella-smeared crepes and mother-daughter bonding. But the only strolling they’ve been doing is from one cheap hostel to another, and the “moments” they share consist of Natalie instructing Aphra on the finer points of anonymity and survival. When Natalie’s CIA contact in Paris is found floating in the Seine with a deadly message stuffed into his mouth, Aphra realizes that, like Seth Mulo and his family, she will never be able to stop running unless she confronts the situation head-on. Sneaking away from her mom and her CIA protector Ryan, Aphra tracks down a criminal mastermind in Italy, only to discover that Seth had the same idea, and her presence may have just put Seth in mortal danger. . . .

Oooh! Can't wait to dig in. Death by Denim comes out May 2009.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (32) + Pic of Emmy

This week's question: The LT Home Page feature. How are you liking it? Or not? Do you go here when you log into LT or do you use your profile page more?
This week's answer: I stay logged in so I'm always automatically directed to my LT home page. I usually go immediately to check out what's new in my favorite groups ARC Junkies, Early Reviewers, and Read YA Lit. I only go to my profile page when I have a new comment.


I'm uploading this and then heading to the airport (Saturday) so this a schelduled dose of Emmy cuteness! The past couple of days she has been hanging out in a new spot: on Daniel's desk next to the heater. She loves it. (We have since placed a cushion there so she's more comfortable).

Monday, December 15, 2008

If you're going to San Francisco...

...be sure you tell your ride to park in the right terminal!

Yes, had a little adventure in the SFO airport because even though I was on a connecting flight from Atlanta, my sister-in-law parked in the International parking garage and then walked to find me. We ended up walking around lugging my suitcase full of books for a good hour and a half looking for her car. The signage is very bad (at least to a brain which hasn't slept in over 24 hours) and there was NO ONE around. It's like a ghost airport at 8 pm. Well, once we finally found the car, sister-in-law couldn't find her parking ticket. After she searched fruitlessly for a few minutes, I suggested we just drive to the ticket booth and take the consequences. Turns out they were able to tell what time she drove in by her license plate number. $14 for all that fun!

But despite that frustration at the end, I the rest of my trip went very smoothly. I watched Transsiberian, Mamma Mia, Pineapple Express and half of Baby Mama (wasn't in the mood). I also finished The Reincarnationist by MJ Rose (review, giveaway and guest blog coming up on Dec 19!) and started College Girl. My seatmate also had a stack of gossip mags and glossies that she shared with me so I'm caught up on all that. So which is it? Is Angelina having a girl? Or twins again? And is she using botox?! Say it isn't so!

I'll be back tomorrow for TuesdayThingers (and yes, there IS a new pic of Emmy), and then I'm travelling again on Wednesday (so there may not be a Waiting on Wednesday this week). Thursday I'll put my College Girl review and return to my regular commenting frequency. I have been skimming through my google reader but haven't had the chance to write more than a few comments - but I'm still out here!

One of the coolest things going on this week has to be Reviewer X's Girl Week. Check it out for a bounty of awesomeness!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Just Plane Reading

Today I will have two long flights - Frankfurt to Atlanta (approx. 10 hours) and then Atlanta to San Francisco (approx. 5 hours). I do like to indulge in the in-flight movies they offer on those cool seat back systems, but I also plan to get some reading done.

These are the books I'm carrying on:

College Girl by Patricia Weitz
The Reincarnationist by MJ Rose
The Memorist by MJ Rose
I, Lorelei by Yeardly Smith

Kind of ambitious, but we'll see!

What was the last book you read on the plane?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Noontime Book Chat: Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun (wrap up)

So I finished the Miles from Nowhere today. It was quite a different experience to read a few chapters each day and then discuss them. I thought it was a strategy that actually worked quite well for this particular book as it gave it some structure that it lacks on its own. Joon, the main character, is very aimless throughout the narrative and we are continually introduced to new characters who disappear as quickly as they appear. The only constants were Joon, pitiful conditions and the three lovely bloggers who hosted/joined in the discussion: J. Kaye, Alea and Ali. Thank you sincerely for accompanying me on this reading journey. It would have been lonely without you!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Noontime Book Chat: Miles from Nowhere by Nami Mun (Day 3)

Yesterday at Pop Culture Junkie we discussed Joon's descent into drug addiction, her violent outbursts, and some particular scenes where the line between reality and hallucination was very blurred.

Today, we'll be discussing the middle chapters entitled With A Boy, Avon and Frank - right here.

With a Boy was quite short and delved deeper into the consequences of Joon's drug use, specifically how it affected her roommate/love interest Blue Fly. What did you think about the fact that she didn't mind Blue Fly selling himself, but when she thinks he's cheating on her with his nurse, she flips out? We also see how her personal hygiene suffers and I found it amusing/sad how impressed she is with a shower full of assorted scented shampoos.

Avon is a long chapter dealing with Joon's Avon job (I was surprised that no one at the squatter apartment stole her samples!) and her unwanted pregnancy. This chapter has a lot of unpleasant content - what made you the most queasy?

Frank is another short chapter - one scene at a narcotics anonymous meeting (I assume that's what it is). Joon is in rehab for her drug use and meets Frank who claims to have been sober for 462 days yet he immediately invites Joon to go out drinking with him. Do you think he would've really gone through with it? What did you think of Frank saying Joon wasn't even close to being done with drugs? Do you feel hopeful for Joon at this point?

Ok, time to get chatting!

Scheldule reminder

Monday was at: J Kaye's Book Blog
Tuesday was at: Pop Culture Junkie
Wednesday is: here
Thursday will be at: Worducopia
Friday will be at: All four blogs!

Waiting On Wednesday (12) Turning Japanese by Cathy Yardley

I was flipping through the St. Martin's Griffin winter 2009 catalog and this one caught my eye not only because it deals with Japanese culture (I lived in Fukuoka, Japan for a year) but also because they described it as the Japanese DEVIL WEARS PRADA (guilty pleasure book) and because YA author Lauren Baratz-Logsted blurbed it as "Adventurous, moving and just plain fun."

Here's the description from the catalog:

Meet Lisa Falloya, an aspiring half-Japanese, half-Italian American manga artist who follows her bliss by moving to Tokyo to draw the Japanese-style comics she's been reading for years. Lisa has everything planned - but hasn't taken into account that being half-Asian and enthusiatic isn't going to cut it. Faced with an exacting boss and a conniving "big fish" manga author, Lisa risks her wedding, her friends, and her fears for a shot at making it big.

Sounds like it could be really fun! We'll find out April 2009.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (31) + Pic of Emmy

Today's question: Most of us book bloggers like to write book reviews- if we don't love to write book reviews. When it comes to LT (and your blog), do you review every book you read? Do you just review Early Reviewers or ARCs? Do you review only if you like a book, or only if you feel like you have to? How soon after reading do you post your review? Do you post them other places- other social networking sites, Amazon, etc.?

I have reviewed every non-picture* book I've read since the end of April except for one: Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. The reason I didn't was because I happened to read Jen Robinson's review (or reaction to it as she calls it) right before I was about to write mine, and what she said was exactly what I would've said, so I left good enough alone. *(I read a ton of children's picture books that I don't review on the blog).

In most cases, I post my reviews either right after I finish reading or a day or two after (depending on how my scheldule is). If a publicist or author requests that I hold my review, I wait on reading the book too. I have A LOT of books to read, so there is no problem for me to find one that is already out or about to be released. That means I have a lot of MUST READ books that I haven't gotten to yet...but I am patient.

I post many of my blog reviews to LT (when I think about it) and a few to amazon (if an author requests it or if I loved it and feel like it is underrepresented there). I don't post more to amazon because I am wary of their system. Whenever I posted a less than flattering review, I would get a ton of unhelpful votes (I never had a review removed though). Sort of turned me off to contributing there to be honest.


NOTE: This may be the last Emmy pic of the year since I am flying to the US on Saturday and can't take the kitty with me. Or I could run pictures from the archive if demand is high (let me know in the comments).

Emmy spends about 16 hours a day sleeping and she likes to sleep on our laps/arms while we are working. Here is her "contribution" to Daniel's output:

Monday, December 8, 2008

Book Review: Have I Got A Guy for You, Edited by Alix Strauss

We’ve all had them – a really bad date. My worst was with a guy who lied about working in a restaurant to save money for MIT (in reality he was a high school dropout and set to be a waiter for life) and took me to a crack house (so he could pick up some drugs) where I observed a very large, very stoned man devour a bucket of fried chicken. I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was horrifying.

Have I Got a Guy for You is an anthology of short essays by women who were set up on bad blind dates by their well meaning mothers. The mismatches range in seriousness from the benign (a thirty year old being set up with a kindly grandfather) to the annoying (a date with a guy who complains of a sore throat and insists on writing his side of the conversation) to the truly dangerous (date speeds carelessly up a mountain after being denied a kiss).

These are perfect in small doses but tend to get repetitive if you read too many in one go. A big theme seems to be agreeing to go out with a guy because he is supposedly rich and expecting an expensive lobster dinner but then finding out the guy is a cheapskate and only buys deep dish pizza or greasy diner food. Most of the men are terminally clueless, dress inappropriately, have extremely bad breath or all of the above.

I think my favorite story was the one where the Indian mother signed her daughter up for an Indian online dating service and her date gave her a pop quiz on exactly what she wanted out of marriage with him as well as telling her exactly what he expected from her if she became his wife. Priceless!

Have I Got a Guy for You is out in paperback.

So tell me, what was your worst dating experience?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Tis the Season

I finished most of my Christmas shopping yesterday (not all books, but many) and today I made Christmas cookies at Roanne's with her and her son Theo. I've also started listening to Christmas music and wanted to share my playlist and get your suggestions.

We made two kinds: shortbread cookies with cookie cutters and these frosted christmas trees. In this picture, Theo is holding them upside down.

As far as Christmas music, I have two main playlists - one which contains Daniel's approved list and one to play when I am by myself . Let's start with the former:

God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman by Aimee Mann
Blue Christmas by Johnny Cash
O Little Town of Bethleham by Elvis Presley
Fairytale of New York by The Pogues
Rudy by The Be Good Tanyas
Away in a Manger by Sufjan Stevens
Good King Wenceslas by Loreena McKennit

And then come the songs I love but Daniel just tolerates:

O Holy Night by Emmy Rossum
The First Noel by Leigh Nash
What Child is This by Josh Groban
O Come O Come Emmanuel by Carter's Chord
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Tori Amos
Winter Wonderland by Tony Bennett
Ding Dong! Merrily on High by Chanticleer

I would love to find good versions of the following:

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
Do you hear what I hear?
Let it Snow
Silver Bells (thinking of getting the version by Relient K)
Oh Come All Ye Faithful (maybe the Faith Hill version?)
I Saw Three Ships
Rockin around the Christmas Tree (something not so cheesy)

What Christmas songs and versions are your favorites?

Saturday, December 6, 2008

More winners!

Thank you to everyone for making my November Book Blowout giveaway such a success (well over 1000 entries in all, far more than I ever expected). I got lots of great book suggestions, found out about princesses I never knew existed, learned that most people who read this blog are on team zombie, and made a Penguin publicist very happy (she loved reading your responses).

The winner of The Gemma Doyle Trilogy signed by Libba Bray is Keri Mikulski! Keri recommended Two Way Street by Lauren Barnholdt and I'll admit I'm intrigued. This one is going on my Christmas wish list/to buy if I don't get for Christmas list. Thanks Keri :)

The winner of You are so Undead to Me is Shalonda who is 100% on team zombie and thinks unicorns are corny. She may be on to something there, but I'm reserving judgement until I read Rampant by Diana Peterfreund (set to drop May 2009). I recently found out Diana and Daniel have the same editor at HarperCollins. Very cool!!

The winner of the 6+ books from Penguin is Allisonmariecat who couldn't quite decide between Death By Latte, Confessions of a Triple-Shot Betty and Savvy. Good choices! Please let us know what books you end up getting Allison. (On a side note, Allison is the second person to win two contests on my site. I believe Kelsey is the other.)

And finally, the winner of Aurelia is Carol of Carolsnotebook. Her favorite princess is Fiona from Shrek. Mine, in case you are interested, is Beauty from the book Beauty by Sherri Tepper.

Congrats to all my winners! Please send me your mailing addresses asap. And if you didn't win, don't despair. I have a few more cool contests coming up this month. YAY!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Book Review: The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel

I have a friend here in Germany who is extremely “green”. Most people I know here recycle (it’s pretty hard to get around so that’s no surprise), shop for organic vegetables and fruit, and try to minimize their impact on the environment by taking public transport or riding a bicycle through the city. I even have several friends who mostly buy organic food and who use mainly organic cosmetics and other products. But this friend, who just had a baby, would rather take the time to puree her own baby food than let her baby eat even organic processed food. I thought of her when I heard about the Green Beauty Guide, a book that provides recipes for making your own organic cosmetics.

I invited her and another friend, Jay, for a girls’ night to try out the recipes. Unfortunately, she couldn’t get a babysitter (and she’s allergic to Emmy). So it was just Jay and me. We decided on the only two recipes that didn’t look too complicated, didn’t need fancy kitchen appliances (which I don’t own), and had ingredients that were easy to find in the organic food stores near my apartment (that excluded any recipe that called for an essential oil other than rose oil).

The Sugar Mommy Scrub all mixed up and ready to use:

The first one we tried was the Sugar Mommy Scrub. The only thing I needed to buy was the rose oil, which set me back 4 Euro. We put the ingredients in a glass bowl and whisked them together. Then we massaged the mixture all over our faces for a couple of minutes and washed it off. Jay didn’t like the oily feel of the scrub but we were both pleased with the results – I don’t think my face has ever been so soft.

1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 drops rose oil
1 drop vanilla extract

Degree of difficulty: very easy
Feel of mixture: a bit too oily
Scent of mixture: ok
Results: Excellent – very soft skin and no breakouts, even days later.
Likelihood of repeat session: High

Jay and me after massaging in the scrub (we sparkle like vampires from Twilight!):

We also tried the Lemon Cheesecake Whitening Mask. I had all the ingredients already for this one, but our manual whisking didn’t thicken the mixture, so you probably need an electric hand mixer (which I don’t have). This one smelled heavenly, but felt tight on our faces. We were directed to leave it on for 15 minutes, but Jay said it started to burn her skin so she washed it off earlier.

2 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons lemon juice
3 teaspoons plain yogurt
1 egg white

Degree of difficulty: medium (if you don’t have an electric mixer)
Feel of mixture: very runny and sticky
Scent of mixture: Excellent
Results: Ok, but nothing special
Likelihood of repeat session: Low

Jay enjoys putting on her Lemon Cheesecake Whitening mask (before the burn set in):

The Green Beauty Guide is more than just recipes however. Author Julie Gabriel also suggests store bought products that are good for your skin and helps you understand the nature of your skin and the beauty industry. I have an ARC of the book, which means I am missing chapters 10-16 and a list of toxic ingredients that help you weed out products in your bathroom that are doing you more harm than good. I’d definitely like to get the full version.

This review is part of the TLC Blog tour. Click here to find out more about author Julie Gabriel and to check out other reviews of this book.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Book Review: Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes

Erin Misrahe is no normal teen, though she is finally allowed to attend one class at a public high school. She’s been in and out of mental hospitals all her life due to a violent alter ego named Shevaun who comes out when Erin is stressed. When an old friend reappears in her life, he tells her that Shevaun is actually a vampire with powerful allies who want to sever Erin and Shevaun’s connection once and for all.

I read this novel with a great deal of fascination. Thanks to Shevaun’s memories somehow being a part of her, Erin learned several languages without even trying, is brilliant at fencing the first time she picks up a sword, and has other innate talents and knowledge that a normal 16 year old would not have. How this is all possible is one of the central questions of the narrative and one that apparently caused a lot of confusion for many readers (if you go by the reviews on amazon). The premise IS complicated, no doubt, and I know it’s hard to find the right balance between explaining too much (and risk losing your audience to boredom) and explaining too little (and risk losing your audience to confusion). For me, the amount of explanation was just right, but I guess some readers want/need more.

The story deals a lot with dreams, and because it is so dreamlike, many of the characters come off more as abstractions than flesh and blood mortals. Shevaun, a vampire created in the 15th century, is the most developed of the characters and the most interesting. Atwater-Rhodes is known for her shapeshifter novels, and this novel appears to exist within the same universe (see a Q&A with the author here), so fans of her other books will most certainly like this one too.

Persistence of Memory will be released in hardcover on December 9th.

On a side note, one of my favorite poems, Dream within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe, appears in the front of this book. I started to read it aloud to Daniel and he recited it from memory!! Wow!

Here it is:

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
This much let me avow---
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand
How few! Yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep --- while I weep!
Oh God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
Oh God! Can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Waiting On Wednesday (11) Radiant Darkness by Emily Whitman

A romantic teen Persephone/Hades story? How cool does that sound? I first heard about this at Fuse #8's HarperCollins Spring Library preview. Here's what Elizabeth said:

"Emily Whitman's Radiant Darkness takes a very interesting route with its tale. Hades is the kind of fellow a girl would want to give up natural sunshine for and (I was a little unclear on this but I HOPE it's the case) Demeter is the villain. How perfect is that? You're shacking up with your boyfriend/husband and here comes mom to hurl you back up to the surface where you do not want to be. Tell me a teen can't relate to that?"

And here's the description from the Frankfurt Rights Guide:

Persephone is the daughter of Demeter, the goddess of the Earth, but she is just like every teenager. She spends her days gossiping with friends, and looks forward to growing up. On the day it is tradition that a girl offers her childhood to Artemis in order to prove she is ready to be a woman, she is heartbroken when Demeter says she is not ready. Persephone is sick of her sheltered life and her controlling mother.

When a handsome stranger finds his way into their gardens, Persephone knows she should tell her mother, but she cannot. She has never spoken to a man before, and her attraction to the stranger is too much to resist. He returns to see her often and they meet whenever Persephone can sneak away. When Persephone discovers who he is, she is terrified—he is Hades, the God of the Underworld. Hades urges her to join him in the Underworld as his Queen.

I love mythology and Persephone's story has always been one of my favorites. It will be interesting to see where Whitman takes this! Radiant Darkness will be released April 2009.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Library Thing Tuesday (30) + Pic of Emmy

Today's question: What's the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it?

My answer is pretty typical. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. The first time I read it for my high school English Literature class and wrote a paper on it. I've read it a few times since, but not in the past couple of years. Probably time to break it out again.

The 11th most popular book on my list is The Time Travellers Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. This was the first book I bought in hardcover with my own money because I couldn't wait for the paperback. It's still on my shelf and gets loaned out a lot.


Emmy says:

Monday, December 1, 2008

Book Review: The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

Yann, a gypsy orphan raised by a dwarf in a magic show, meets convent raised Sido, the daughter of a ridiculously self indulgent marquis, near Paris on the cusp of the French Revolution. His love for her is as instant as his hate of their common enemy – the sinister Count Kalliovski. Can Yann find a way to save Sido from the count, her hateful father, and the upheaval of the revolution and subsequent Jacobin reign of terror?

Ever since doing a term paper on Charlotte Corday (the assassin of Marat, a key revolutionary figure and leader of the reign of terror), I have been fascinated with the French revolution and its aftermath. This novel is a successful historical thriller with elements of the supernatural woven in. Each of our three main characters is shrouded in mystery that is slowly revealed during the course of the narrative (though a few details are left open – perhaps saved for a possible sequel).

Some reviewers thought Sido was too passive as a character, but I thought she served the historically accurate storyline. Yann was well rounded enough to distract from Sido’s deficits, and I’m sure Sido would bloom once given the chance to live outside the extreme confines of her upbringing.

This is one I gulped down in one sitting – maybe you will too. The Red Necklace is out now in hardcover.