Friday, December 31, 2010

Fill In The ______ 2010

Found this fun activity via Consumed by Books, who found it at The Book Rat.

Pretty much you just answer the questions using the name of a book you've read in 2010. You can go for serious answers that most closely match what your real answers would be, or you can go with the funniest ones you can come up with for your available titles.

I went ahead and linked my answers to my reviews (except for 1, which was from before I started reviewing) so you can check them out if you're curious.

Have fun!

Describe yourself:
Moon Called
What can I say? I'm a night-owl.

Describe where you currently live:
Northanger Abbey
Okay, not really. But I am in the north.

What's the weather like?
Heat Wave
Can below freezing be considered a heat wave?

If you could go anywhere, you would go to...
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
Now that would be fun!

Your favorite form of transportation is...
Personal Demons
They're speedy, eco-friendly, and automatically reduce the number of other idiot drivers.

Your favorite time of day is...
It'd be a lot better if I had a job to be coming home from.

Your best friend is...
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
What better friend than a book that tells you not to panic?

You and your friends are...
Wizards at War
Don't worry—we made a truce for the holidays.

You feel...
Mostly Harmless
As opposed to Very Nuclear.

Life is...
Chocolates are nice, but hawt shapeshifters are nicer.

Your greatest fear is...
The Strangers Outside
Unless it's Ed McMahon and his crew—I want my giant check!

You would prefer to die by...
Wait, what?! O_O

Your soul's present condition is...
High Wizardry
I swear I'm high on life...

What is the best advice you have to give?
So You Want to Be a Wizard
I hear it's a very lucrative field!

Thought for the Day:
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Now I can open up my own fish store and supplement my writing! As soon as I have my nose removed.

You can find the full list of books I read this year HERE!

Hope You All Have A Safe And Happy New Year!

Welcome to the Family

Visit Scenic

After much deliberation, I've gone ahead and signed up this blog as an Associate of Amazon, Borders, and Powell's Books.

Pretty much this means is any time someone clicks on an Amazon, Borders (coming soon), or Powell's link, and then makes a purchase, I will be credited with a small percentage (6-8.5%) of their purchase. It doesn't even have to be the item at that specific link - so long as the browser window/tab remains the same, I get credited for 'directing' you to the site.

I want to stress that this doesn't mean I expect you to immediately click these links and buy thousands of dollars worth of stuff. There's no obligation on your part whatsoever. However, if while browsing my site you see something you're interested in buying, or perhaps you're reminded of something you've been meaning to buy, if you wouldn't mind locating one of my links (either in-post or on the sidebar) and using it to get where you want to go...I'd really appreciate your support.

I promise not to overwhelm you with ads, and keep the links discreet. I'm currently going through all my past reviews to edit the format and links. Pretty much what you'll see in each review is this:

~Title of Book Linked to Goodreads~
Series Name
Book #
By Author Name
Amazon ~ Borders ~ Powell's

And that'll be the end of it. Nothing too pushy, I hope. And nothing completely off-target, like random posts about plungers or baby bottles with tons of links throughout. Unless you guys want that type of thing...

Funds received from these Associations will be used primarily for future contests (especially shipping), purchasing books for review, and keeping bills (internet) paid.

Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, I'd like to point you to the left-hand side of the screen where you may have noticed a new Facebook widget where you can "Like" this blog.

That's right, The Wolf's Den has it's own Facebook account! There you will find pictures of books in-progress, reading updates, and discussion boards where you're welcome to talk about what you're reading, what you thought about books reviewed here, and make suggestions for the site. Who knows, maybe I'll even start a book club there. So head on over and check it out!

As always, thank you for your continued support. I couldn't do this without you.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Am I A Bad Person?

The other day, as I was perusing my regular list of blogs, I came across one that made me take a step back.

On Rachelle Gardner's blog, she posted a plea made by guest blogger, Marcus Brotherton. A hardcover a month, that’s all we ask. Essentially, he's asking for writers, readers, anyone interested in books or the publishing industry at all, to help the industry and spend $20 a month on books.

At first glance, I was completely on board. Sure! Anything I can do to help! We writerly people have got to stick together!

But then, I realized that I regularly go months without buying books. The majority of my reading comes from the library, where I can get just about any book if I'm willing to wait a couple weeks/months (depending on popularity and supply).

As much as I love books, that $20 a month is a problem for me. Being unemployed is a matter of making sure you get what you need. I've gotten to the point now that I have to double and triple-check every book I pick up to see if I'm really interested in it, or if I can live with checking the library.

And even the books I do talk myself into buying are usually pre-owned or discounted with coupons. A majority come from Goodwill or Used Bookstores, such that I'm not even sure their sales would make a difference in the publishing industry.

So, I'm asking...does this make me a bad person? What do you think about utilizing the free (or cheaper) resources versus helping the industry?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Strangers Outside Are Drowning Their Sorrows

As a precursor, I feel the need to say that I don't particularly like horror. I don't watch horror movies, and I usually don't read horror books. When the author contacted me to review her self-published short story and novella, I was a bit leery, but decided perhaps I'd benefit from expanding my interests. After all, I've read Dracula without any negative repercussions. So long as there aren't any needles involved, nor people jumping out at me (I HATE that) from my screen, I figured I would be alright.

Thus, I may not be the best judge of horror, but I shall do my best.

The Strangers Outside

Two sisters, Jennifer and Louise, return to their remote holiday cabin after a day at the seaside. But little do they know they’re being surrounded. Shortly after their arrival, the girls will come face to face with THE STRANGERS OUTSIDE. When the assailants make their intentions known, things take a shockingly terrible turn and an intense battle for survival will begin. [Goodreads]

For a horror story, I was surprisingly not put on edge. Okay, so I did jump at a noise behind me while reading it, but I call that being because it was late at night.

We begin with introducing Jennifer and Louise traveling to their 'remote cabin' for a relaxing holiday. The entire first scene is there for the sole purpose of setting up their characteristics. We are told Louise is the elder idealistic of the two, who worries her younger sister won't let herself find happiness. Jennifer is the mopey younger sister who refuses to believe in luck or good fortune.

Once they get to their cabin out in the middle of nowhere, they stop for a dance-break, but quickly realize they're not alone. I guess seeing guys dressed in black outside your house with no rational explanation for being there isn't a red flag for these girls. They retire to their cabin for a few minutes, deciding they'll freshen up and go see a movie. But surprise, surprise, the Men-In-Black haven't left, and now more of them are appearing.

With their paths of escape now blocked, the sisters have to look to each other to survive.

I had a lot of problems with this piece. Without ruining the plot, I found the writing simplistic and unrefined. There was little flow, the dialog was robotic, and the little description there was was blunt. Story-wise, the concept is solid, but the execution is sloppy with the time elapsed bordering on insane and the exposition coming in one huge clump at the end.

As a short story, it was a quick read at only 24 pages. Unfortunately, the pacing made it a chore to read, and the characters didn't make things any easier. I honestly didn't care what happened to them and, after some of their bickering, was even rooting for one or the other to die. I know I'm new to this horror thing, but I'm pretty sure that's not how it's supposed to work.

Unless you have some extra time and money on your hands or you're looking for a spooky source for inspiration, I think I'd pass on this one. As I said, I think the story's there, but The Strangers Outside could have stood a good round or three of editing to get the tone to match the subject. On the bright side, I do think the movie that is being made off this work has a chance to be terrifying, so look out for that.

Approximate Reading Time: 30 Minutes

Drowned Sorrow

Megan Blackwood has just lost her son in a terrible accident. Now she has come to Moonlight Creek with her teenage daughter Jenna, hoping a change of scenery might help to put her life back together.

But something odd is going on in Moonlight Creek.

When rain falls over the village, its inhabitants commit grisly murders, leaving the place deserted with the first rays of sunshine.

Beneath the lake's surface, an eerie presence watches... and waits... Waits to reveal a tragic past drowned in mystery and fear. One that doesn't bode well for visitors.

By the time Megan realizes that her daughter's life is in danger, it may be too late to escape.

I will admit I put the bar pretty low for this one, hoping I'd enjoy it, and it worked out alright for the most part. The story was much more compelling, the characters were fleshed out a little better, and there was actual suspense in the plot. I think having it as a novella instead of a short story helped a lot.

I liked that there were more characters this time around. It made it easier when I didn't connect with the main ones, I could wait a few pages until I found someone I did like. On the other hand, by having so many characters we weren't ever given a fully formed character. All of them had their flaws, but with almost all of them I had a hard time finding redeeming qualities to root for. Realistic? perhaps, but it was pretty depressing to realize that none of these characters had anything but luck (and some of them didn't even have that) on their side.

Unfortunately, a lot of the same problems from The Strangers Outside returned here. The book read much like a movie script, with descriptions seeming more like concise notes for the director or actors. Here's one example from later in the story: Sensing impending doom, Megan hurried toward the village. Now, as a reader we expect to have her feelings described, backed up, and explained over the course of a couple sentences or paragraphs. Instead, we have her fear bluntly thrown out there, like a note to an actress that "you should look afraid here".

I also had a bit of trouble with the storylines. The pacing of the story was better, but at the same time was still off. There was definitely an ebb and flow to the suspense, but instead of propelling us toward the end, the separate characters' plots created stops in the action. The fact that they had little to do with one another didn't help at all, plus their ends came at different times, making the last quarter of the book extremely choppy in transitioning.

It also seemed like the three plots (as well as a couple side-plots) had completely different settings. There was no consistency from one storyline to the next. In one case, the townspeople acted solely like zombies, while a few pages later another character had a normal conversation with one. It was like there were three different stories that had the same overall problem (lake/water = evil), so why not have them all take place in the same town at the same time? But really, other than some overlapping characters, there won't be anything similar about any of them. It made it especially hard to read at the end.

Speaking of the ending, at one point I was literally hissing, "Deus ex machina!" at my screen, I was that mad.

Ultimately, I still don't think this story is quite up to publishing standards. Good concept, better character-building, some improvement in pacing and mood-building, but still lacking full descriptions, realistic dialog, and overall polishing. Perhaps keep an eye out for later editions, but as is it still has a few drafts to go before I'd be willing to give it another shot. I've heard this is also being adapted into a movie, and, once again, I'd recommend looking out for it.

Approximate Reading Time: 3 Hours

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Whisper Stories in My Ear Challenge

I know, I know, I just posted a reading challenge not an hour ago... But in truth, I'd already had that one on my Reading Challenge page for almost two weeks (perhaps I should announce these things sooner?).

Anyway, as soon as I saw this reading challenge, I knew I had to jump in!

As some of you probably know from reading my reviews, I listen to audiobooks on a regular basis. Not by themselves, mind you. I listen to audiobooks while I read along.

But Vicki, how can you read so slowly? Don't you find it boring?

Well, I might, if I didn't speed up the audiobooks to match my reading speed. Windows Media Player allows for speeding up or slowing down playback (a very handy feature if you ask me) so that I can increase the speed anywhere from 1.01x to 2x the normal speed. I usually find a good pace between 1.7x and 1.95x, depending on the narrator.

But Vicki, how can you understand what they're saying? Don't they sound like chipmunks?

Actually, I usually don't have it fast enough for that. Once you get above 2x speed, the audio usually becomes too clipped and unintelligible for me. So, while the pitch of the reader does increase a bit, I find it still pretty easy to make out.

Also, having the book in front of me helps a lot. If I miss something in the audio, it's right there on the page, so I don't miss anything.

But Vicki, why use the audiobook at all if you're just going to read the book anyway?

You're just full of questions, aren't you? Well, I read along with audiobooks for a few different reasons, actually.

First, I find it helps a lot with internalizing the stories. It's been proven in teaching/learning that we understand lessons a lot better when multiple senses are involved.

Some people are very good with learning through auditory means, such as listening to a lecture; some learn best with visual representations, such as diagrams or videos; and some work best through hands-on (or kinesthetic) techniques, such as performing a lab or skit.

By combining auditory and visual senses, I find it much easier to internalize what I'm reading, and to remember what I've read.

I also find it helps me focus that much more on what I'm doing. Have you ever found yourself reading and realized it's been an hour and you have no idea what you just read? Perhaps you were thinking about what you need to get from the store, or someone just came home and you're wondering what they're doing in the kitchen. Having my eyes and ears both focused on a book helps me stay on point, and thus, finish that book much faster.

Finally, in the case of Fantasy or SciFi books, listening to someone else read them allows me to hear some of those stranger words instead of spending 5 minutes trying to sound it out myself. Names like ed'Rastekeresket t'k Gh'shestaesteh or Aurilelde have thrown me for a loop in the past, but with a narrator taking the guesswork out of it, I'm past the road-bump after a couple seconds and on I go.

But Vicki, aren't there any drawbacks to this?

Alright, but this is your last one. Yes, I will admit, there are a couple problems with my preferred reading method.

Firstly, I have to be by my computer. Because I listen to the books at a higher speed, I can't simply transfer them to my mp3-player and off I go. Likewise, it's hard to read ahead while I'm out and find my place in the audio (unless I stop at a chapter or something). Thus, I have to make time to sit at my computer and listen...which is easier said than done, sometimes. Still, finishing a book in 3-10 hours isn't too bad.

But Vicki—

Nope, that's it from you =P And now here's a short list of what I have planned:

1.   The Hunger Games ~ Suzanne Collins
2.   Catching Fire ~ Suzanne Collins
3.   Mockingjay ~ Suzanne Collins
4.   Wicked
5.   Son of a Witch
6.   A Lion Among Men
7.   The Lost Years of Merlin
8.   Eragon
9.   Eldest
10. Brisingr
11. Artemis Fowl
12. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
13. Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code
14. Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception
15. Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony
16. Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox
17. Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex
18. Ender's Game
19. Ender's Shadow
20. Shadow of the Hegemon
21. Shadow Puppets
22. Shadow of the Giant
23. The Amulet of Samarkand
24. The Golem's Eye
25. Ptolemy's Gate
26. Earth (The Audiobook)

That's way over 200 hours, and I'm positive I'll read others over the year too. So that's the plan...wish me luck!

Keep track of my progress on my Reading Challenges page.

Reading Bucket List Challenge

So, come the new year, I'll be nearing my first full year of blogging! Yay! It's been fun so far, and I've gotten a lot of great advice and experience over the past year. Trying things out, finding out what works and what doesn't, has been a lot of fun. And come January 1st, I'll have a whole new year ahead of me...

Naturally that means that I will actually have a full year to complete some reading challenges! During this first year, my reading and reviews have been somewhat sparse, but I hope this new year will have less kinks ... be less kinky ... be somewhat smoother.

And so, without further adieu, here's the challenge I signed up for!

The Mad Scientist is certainly not one to stifle creativity, so her explanation and guidelines are extremely broad. The gist of it is to read a list of books that you've been meaning to get to, but haven't found time (or motivation) yet.

For those who need a little more in the way of guidelines, she does provide a Suggestion Page which has various themed lists such as Read 30 Genres, or Find 14 Settings.

As for myself, I'm using it as an opportunity to read some of the unread series I have sitting on my shelves:

Books I Own Are Bold
Unread Books Are Marked With *

Series I Own But Have Never Started:
~Alexander Cold Trilogy by Isabel Allende
1. City of the Beasts *
2. Kingdom of the Golden Dragon *
3. Forest of the Pygmies *
~The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud
1. The Amulet of Samarkand *
2. The Golem's Eye *
3. Ptolemy's Gate *
~The Wicked Years Series by Gregory Maguire
1. Wicked *
2. Son of a Witch *
3. A Lion Among Men *
~The Raine Benares Series by Lisa Shearin
1. Magic Lost, Trouble Found *
2. Armed & Magical *
3. The Trouble With Demons *
4. Bewitched & Betrayed *
~The Secret Texts Trilogy by Holly Lisle
0. Vincalis the Agitator *
1. Diplomacy of Wolves *
2. Vengeance of Dragons *
3. Courage of Falcons *
~The Lost Years Of Merlin Series by T.A. Barron
1. The Lost Years of Merlin *
2. The Seven Songs of Merlin *
3. The Fires of Merlin *
4. The Mirror of Merlin *
5. The Wings of Merlin *

Series I've Started:
~The Inheritance Series by Christopher Paolini
1. Eragon
2. Eldest *
3. Brisingr *
~The Lord of the Rings Series by J.R.R. Tolkien
1. The Hobbit 
2. The Fellowship of the Ring
3. The Two Towers *
4. The Return of the King *
~The Belgariad Series by David Eddings
1. Pawn of Prophecy
2. Queen of Sorcery *
3. Magician's Gambit *
4. Castle of Wizardry *
5. Enchanters' End Game *
~The Shadow Series by Orson Scott Card
1. Ender's Game
2. Ender's Shadow *
3. Shadow of the Hegemon *
4. Shadow Puppets *
5. Shadow of the Giant *
~Magic Kingdom of Landover Series by Terry Brooks
1. Magic Kingdom For Sale Sold!
2. The Black Unicorn *
3. Wizard at Large *
4. The Tangle Box *
5. Witches' Brew *
6. Princess of Landover
~Artemis Fowl Series by Eoin Colfer
1. Artemis Fowl
2. Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident
3. Artemis Fowl: The Eternity Code
4. Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception
5. Artemis Fowl: The Lost Colony *
6. Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox *
7. Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex *
~Dragonriders of Pern Series by Anne McCaffrey (and Todd McCaffrey)
1. Dragonflight
2. Dragonquest
3. Dragonsong
4. Dragonsinger
5. Dragondrums
6. The White Dragon
7. Moreta: Dragonlady of Pern *
8. Nerilka's Story *
9. Dragonsdawn *
10. The Renegades of Pern *
11. All the Weyrs of Pern *
12. The Chronicles of Pern: First Fall *
13. The Dolphins of Pern *
14. Dragonseye *
15. The Masterharper of Pern *
16. The Skies of Pern *
17. A Gift of Dragons *
18. Dragon's Kin *
19. Dragon's Fire *
20. Dragon Harper *
21. Dragonsblood *
22. Dragonheart *
23. Dragongirl *
~Xanth Series by Piers Anthony
1. A Spell for Chameleon
2. The Source of Magic
3. Castle Roogna
4. Centaur Aisle
5. Ogre, Ogre
6. Night Mare
7. Dragon on a Pedestal *
8. Crewel Lye *
9. Golem in the Gears *
10. Vale of the Vole *
11. Heaven Cent *
12. Man from Mundania *
13. Isle of View *
14. Question Quest *
15. The Color of Her Panties *
16. Demons Don't Dream *
17. Harpy Thyme *
18. Geis of the Gargoyle *
19. Roc and a Hard Place *
20. Yon Ill Wind *
21. Faun & Games *
22. Zombie Lover *
23. Xone of Contention *
24. The Dastard *
25. Swell Foop *
26. Up In A Heaval *
27. Cube Route *
28. Currant Events *
29. Pet Peeve *
30. Stork Naked *
31. Air Apparent *
32. Two to the Fifth *
33. Jumper Cable *
34. Knot Gneiss *

Giving us a total of 109 books! Yeah, I don't know if I'll be reading all of these next year... But my goal is to know if I like the books on my shelves, and if I don't, to clear room for other titles I know I like.

So, FYI, I might not be getting to some of the new releases next year...but I hope to be cranking out a lot of reviews! Wish me luck!

Keep track of my progress on my Reading Challenges page.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

When You're On A Hunt, You Do Whatever It Takes

Being the second book in a series, this review may contain slight spoilers for the first book, Terrier. I'd suggest you read the book, or at the very least my previous review before reading this.

Provost's Dog Trilogy
Book 2
By Tamora Pierce
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

No one said growing up would be easy.

Beka's back, now graduated from Puppy-hood and patrolling the streets as a full-fledged Dog. Unfortunately, the Lower City hasn't gotten any easier to handle, especially with rumors of a grain shortage making prices and tempers rise. And if riots weren't enough to keep the Dogs busy, Beka's also on the hunt for a coin counterfeiter who seems set on collapsing the economy entirely.

Good thing Beka's not short of friends she can count on. Between her partners Goodwin and Tunstall, her magical cat companion Pounce, and her friends in the Court of the Rogue, she expects there's nothing that can keep her from catching the mastermind behind the counterfeits. But when the trail leads away to Port Caynn, Beka finds herself losing her familiar company in exchange for new faces. Sure, Achoo the scent-hound should come in handy, but what about this overly charming Dale Rowan and his lot?

It won't be enough for Beka to be her usual "terrier" self. She'll have to learn from Achoo to sniff out the criminals—to be a bloodhound.

Once again, I've got to hand it to whoever writes the jacket description for these books, whether it be Tammy herself, or one of the people at Random House. It's descriptive yet concise, intriguing yet mysterious, and perhaps most importantly, it doesn't spoil anything. Well, perhaps one thing...but it's not that big. I just couldn't help but quote it again, if only for the last lines.

Monday, November 29, 2010

BBC's Underestimation (Clarified)

According to a number of my peers, the BBC has decreed that a majority of us are terribly under-read. Of a list of 100 books, they state that most people have not read more than 6 books found on this list. Here's our chance to prove them wrong!

After doing a little research of my own...there's probably never been such a statement by the BBC. According to this site, this is a meme that has been going around Facebook and various other sites since early 2009. Recently it's made another run and moved on to book blogs (which is where I picked it up).

One commenter (and fellow skeptic) on that site shows his own research into the subject:

I started seeing the “BBC Top 100 Books” meme around Facebook over the last couple weeks, but the "BBC doesn't think you've read more than six of these" part didn't sit right with me.

There’s a BBC Big Read 100 List which was done in 2003. However, the list in the meme is quite different than the BBC Big Read list where some think it started. I thought there might be a list that was closer to the one in the meme. So, I did a little online sleuthing.

First I found this article that mentions a World Book Day survey in 2007 of "100 books Brits can’t live without." And then I found the complete list on The Guardian’s website -- Mystery solved -- it’s the same list as the one in the meme.

So, feel free to see how many of those hundred books you’ve read. As a reader, I always find it fun. However, know that the BBC isn’t judging you. The only thing you'll discover is if you’ve read the same books that a bunch of people in the UK couldn't live without.
So, sorry we thought the worst of you, BBC. But hey, at least you get a bit of free publicity out of this, right? And in return, we get a chance to fill our free-time and share our reading accomplishments.

•Copy this list.
•Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety.
•Italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read only an excerpt.
•Tag other book nerds.
•Highlight the ones that you own but haven't read. They are probably in your TBR stack/on your shelf at the back because someone said you should read them.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (required)
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien (3 books)
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling (7 books)
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
The King James Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty Four (1984) – George Orwell
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman (3 books)
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Complete Works of Shakespeare
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (required)
The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis (7 books)
Emma - Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The DaVinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding (required)
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck (required)
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker (required)
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce
The Inferno – Dante
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – E.B. White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad (required)
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Read - 15 (technically 28 counting those in series)
Started - 5
Own But Haven't Yet Read - 13+ (we own a large collection of classics, but I don't recall all the titles)

In short, I'm not fully impressed by this list. Sure, there are a lot of books I've not read, and many of those I have no interest in reading, meanwhile some of the ones I read were forced upon me in school. But the list includes repeats (Narnia & Lion Witch and Wardrobe) and counts series as one entry (HP, His Dark Materials, LotR).

So, how many of these have you read/attempted/bought?

Friday, November 26, 2010

One Good Deed

Okay, call me crazy.

I stayed up all night (finally caught up on Sanctuary and Glee!) in order to go to a 4am opening.

Our family hasn't gone to Black Friday sales in years, and I decided I needed to remind myself how horrible it is. I was pleasantly surprised at how not-horrible it was.

Sure, I had to park in the parking lot of the store next door. Yes, I had a hard time finding what I went for. And okay, I spent most of my time waiting in line as the computers were overloaded... But everyone was very polite, there were no screams or pushing and shoving, and I was in and out in under 40 minutes with exactly what I went for.

I was even helped out by a courteous fellow customer (an older gentleman [perhaps late 30's/early 40's] wearing [yes] a Santa hat) who was browsing in the aisle next to me. I realized that I had forgotten to grab a SD camera card and was already in line and asked if he could pass me one. After a moment's confusion, he kindly picked one and passed it over. Thank you, kind, tall stranger in the Santa hat!

Now that my mood had lightened, I decided to try and pass along the good wishes by making friendly conversation with the cashiers. I asked jokingly if they were keeping tally. A confused look, then, "Um, of what?" Of the sales you've rung up! "Oh... No. Too busy for that." But he did smile all the same. And a minute later (as the computers were still having issues) he turned to those waiting in line and explained the situation, assuring them that he would get them through shortly. And I think he was still smiling.

Then, as I was walking back through the parking lot to my car, I noticed a shiny something on the ground. As I walked past, I realized it was an American Express card. About 10 steps later I turned and went back for it. Though I had no intention whatsoever of going into the store, I walked up to the greeter and handed them the card, saying I'd found it in the parking lot. "Oh, yes, I bet someone'll be looking for that." And while he was still examining the card, I went ahead and proceeded to my car.

So, it's Black Friday. Things can get crazy out there. That doesn't mean it's not worth showing a little civility, or even gratefulness. Thank your cashier, wish them a happy/sane rest of their day. If you see someone having trouble, trying to reach something, or find something you just saw, help them out. One good deed can brighten someone's day.

Now I just have to wait for the other stores to open so I can go out again... Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

In My Mailbox (8)

My sincerest apologies for the delay in posting, both reviews and general updates. I've got a few personal things to take care of, but I do hope to get these distractions out of the way and get back to reading/writing as normal. In the meantime, here's an IMM update.

In My Mailbox
In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren

In the past 2 weeks I've...

Magic BitesGood Omens
Magic Burns ~ Ilona Andrews
Good Omens ~ Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
From Goodwill

The Sorcerer's CompanionThe Magicians
The Sorcerer's Companion ~ Allan Zola Kronzek
The Magicians ~ Lev Grossman
And various other surprises.
From Jo of Fluidity of Time
Thanks Jo!

And Watched
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Part 1
(and LOVED it)

Monday, November 8, 2010

My Misadventures in NaNoWriMo

Week One didn't go so well for me. I spent the majority of Sunday and Monday in bed, then just felt drained for a couple days more. This gave me time to reflect on things...and I've decided I'm not going to follow through with NaNoWriMo.

I know what you're thinking,
"Don't give up!"
Or, as my region's liaison wrote,
"First, let's talk about if you're behind schedule. This is absolutely not a reason to give up! Why? Because even if you haven't written a single word, if you start today you will still hit 50K on the 30th if you write 2,083 words a day.
If you've already written some words you'll need even fewer every day to stay on track and win. I bet you'll find that your words-per-day to win are not as heavy a load as you were imagining."

Thing is, I have a few reasons why I'm dropping out:


In a rookie move, I decided to start literally from scratch on day one. No outline, no notes, no research. Creatively speaking, I should be fine, unfortunately I am too much of a nitpicker (left brain analyst) to let things flow freely. Which leads me to...


Because I've not prepared things to my own standards, my analytical side has red sirens blaring, telling me there's no way I'm gonna get things done. And if the voices in my head say no...well, I can't really argue with them. There's also the guilt factor of...

Prior Responsibilities

One of which is my blog. Not that I have a problem with leaving off for a month (as evidenced in September), but I've received a number of books that I've agreed to review, and I feel horrible pushing them off for as long as I have already.
Also, I have a job search to be doing and other family obligations that I cannot push aside for an entire month. And that seems to be the case with the schedule my muse has decided to set...

Muse Time Disagreements

For some reason, my muse is MIA during the daylight. I mean, I know I'm a night owl, but she doesn't show up at dusk, or even midnight. No, she decides to show up when I'm trying to fall asleep (3-5 AM) and keep me awake for 2-3 extra hours. Okay, I grant you she is a bit of a demon in nature, and I really shouldn't expect anything less, but it's really bugging me. Don't get me wrong, if that's when she wants to show up, I'm fully willing to submit to her time constraints. Just not when I'm supposed to be alive during the daylight hours.

So, that's where I stand at the moment. My official NaNoWriMo journey is over until further notice. Who knows, I might try to add a bit to my 270 words (after I re-write it because I totally got her voice wrong) and see if I can get my muse to comply to my wishes (she seems to love talking when I'm half-asleep). But I'm not really expecting much.

In better news, I HAVE committed to writing this story.
(I know, a bit of conflicting information, right? Stay with me here.)
I've gone ahead and created my book's cover, as well as a (rough) tagline:
Most people think being fired is the end of the world.
For Kali, it's only the beginning...
I know, I could've/should've spent the time making this actually writing the story, but I needed something tangible, something I could see. Now I just need to fill the insides with equally amazing words!

I just need to get things in order first. To help me, I've enlisted the help of some (what else) books that I've acquired over the years:
I've read pieces and parts of the first two for classes, and the third looks simply amazing, even though I'm not specifically writing "Fantasy".

To help me out a bit more, I purchased this book earlier this year:
I'd originally planned on using it through NaNoWriMo, but I think I might benefit from its services better at a slower pace.

I'm sorry that this month's plan (or lack of a plan) didn't pan out, but I'm still very excited. Kali's story will be written (else I might not ever sleep again) and she'll be unleashed upon the masses.

If there are any other NaNoWriMo's reading this, or other people who would enjoy a bit of inspiration, here's an amazing song/vid I discovered last week. Best wishes!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

In My Mailbox (7)

In My Mailbox
In My Mailbox is a meme hosted by The Story Siren

In the past 4 weeks I've...

Bloodhound ~ Tamora Pierce
From My Library

Magic Lost, Trouble FoundArmed & MagicalThe Trouble with Demons
Magic Lost, Trouble Found ~ Lisa Shearin
Armed & Magical ~ Lisa Shearin
The Trouble With Demons ~ Lisa Shearin
From Goodwill

Received for Review
Zan-GahZan-Gah and the Beautiful CountryThe Strangers OutsideDrowned Sorrow
Zan-Gah: A Prehistoric Adventure ~ A.R. Shickman
Zan-Gah and the Beautiful Country ~ A.R. Shickman
From Bonnie Lenz of Earthshaker Books
The Strangers Outside (e-book) ~ Vanessa Morgan
Drowned Sorrow (e-book) ~ Vanessa Morgan
From Vanessa Morgan

And Won
Vampires: The Occult Truth
Vampires: The Occult Truth ~ Konstantinos
From Donna of Bites

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (7)

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question actually came from... OMG Me!

What are your feelings on losing followers? Have you ever stopped following a blog?

Well, believe it or not, I have lost one or two followers in my 8 (Really?! Wow 8!) months of blogging. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

My first thought is usually along the lines of,
"Oh no! What did I do wrong?!"

Of course, this is mostly brought on by my self-esteem issues, and after
a firm talking down by the voices in my head
some reassurance from my cats
my confidence returns I usually experience a short stint of,
"Who was it?! I'll make them come back!"

Luckily (for me and for them), that line of thought passes quickly. Eventually, I just take a deep breath and go about my business as usual. After all, I can't control who likes what I write any more than they can control what I like to write.

As for stopping following blogs...

I posted a long time ago about my first Blog Hop experience
and the mistake I made in following EVERY SINGLE BLOG in the hop.

For me, following is an interactive experience. I follow my blogs daily through Google Reader and I feel committed to reading every blog I follow.

In following over 250 blogs, I've found there's definitely a fine line between having a large variety of blogs I enjoy and having an overwhelming wave of posts I'm obligated to.

I'm currently in the process of whittling down what blogs I follow. I wait until a blog builds up at least 15 posts, which seems to be a good sample-size, then I read through them and see if they catch my interest. Do I enjoy their writing style? Am I interested in the types of books they review? If I find it a chore to get through the 15 posts, or nothing grabs my interest, then I go ahead and unsubscribe.

It's really nothing against those blog owners, and I'm sorry if their heart falls a little when they see that lowered statistic. I just feel I'm not the right fit for that particular writer, and that I'm lying to them if I call myself a follower.

What about you?

Following Jennifer's answer, she issued this amazing challenge:
This challenge will take some dedication on your part this week. I want you to find ONE blog in the Hop list that you genuinely WANT to follow (try to find a new blog, if you can!) and make at least 5 comments on their blog this week on 5 different posts. Get to know this blogger and what they post about.

Next week, as part of your Hop post, I want you to post about your experience with this challenge. Just tell us what you thought of the challenge, who you found to follow and link to the posts that you commented on. I hope you will participate and help us all to build our community! Let's dig a little deeper and get to know each other! Remember, the point is to be genuine! Not to follow for the sake of following! Because, if you are genuine, you are much more likely to get people to follow you back. Trust me on this.

So? Are you up to it?

Feel free to post a link to your own blog in the comments,
and be sure to check out other blog-hoppers at Crazy-for-Books' blog!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pierce in Portland + NaNo Notes

Last week, on the 18th, I had the opportunity to meet one of my author idols, Tamora Pierce.

The event was held downtown, at The Old Church, and was attended by (I'm guessing) upwards of 200 teens, parents, and avid fans of an older variety (such as myself).

There were even a couple cosplayers dressed as Beka Cooper and Barzha Razorwing (Stormwing Queen).

Tamora PierceTamora PierceTamora Pierce

After a short reading from Bloodhound and introduction of her experience as a writer, she then opened the floor up for questions.

Time was short, as it was a school night, so not all the questions were gotten to. Luckily, she was quite talkative afterward during the signing. I had wanted to ask her, "Is there a good rule of thumb for deciding whether or not to kill off a character?" ...But I chickened out and merely asked her, "If you could go to a book signing by any author, alive or dead, who would it be?"

She replied without hesitation:
Neil Gaiman or Stephen King

Tamora PierceTamora PierceTamora Pierce

Of course, as you can see, my picture taking skills leave a bit to be desired. This is partly the fault of the location—lighting was horrible—and partly my own fault for not coming out and asking for a picture.

Oh well, just something to shoot for the next time!

Tamora PierceTamora PierceTamora Pierce

You can listen to (and download) a podcast of the event here.

Keep in mind that she wandered around the stage (and away from the microphones), so you might need to adjust the volume throughout.

And here are my spoils for the evening:

Signed Alanna
♀ rule!
Alright, technically I got this one signed 2 years ago in Chicago...
But here's what I got that night!
Signed Wild Magic
Good luck at NaNoWriMo!
Signed First Test
♀ rule!
Signed Trickster's Choice
May you always get
the right idea
at the right time-
Which leads me to my next point...

I'm participating in this year's NaNoWriMo!

Or, at least I'm going to try.

I know I still have work I need to be doing, and I hate to just up and abandon the blog for a month (again)...

Well, there I go, already making excuses for myself.

Alright, bottom line.
I'm going to try to have fun with it.
I'm going to try for the 50,000 word mark.
I'm going to try and continue reading and reviewing.

And I would love for your support.
If you're participating, go ahead and look me up,
Add me as a Writing Buddy!

And wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dig Your Teeth In And Don't Let Go!

I've been a long-time fan of Tamora Pierce's books. In fact, she was one of the first (if not the first) authors who introduced me to the realm of fantasy and strong heroines. Before now, I would say my favorite heroine was Tris from the Circle of Magic series: she's stubborn, bookish, a bit plump, and easily riled, but her loyalty and friendship are true.

However, even with Tris as my favorite character, the Tortall books have always been my preference. Alanna's bravery captured my heart, Daine's abilities won my adoration, Kel's determination earned my respect, and Ali's cunning stole my imagination. But even more, the world was one of medieval grandeur. It was rich and detailed, but at the same time open to imagination and interpretation. It was both historically realistic and fantastical with magic and mythology woven in.

Not only that, but with each series, characters we had already grown to love would make reappearances. It was always a joy to see a familiar face even as you're reading along with another heroine's journey.

This time, however, we're given a series set about 150 years before Alanna's journey began. That security blanket is gone, and we're forging ahead alone once again...

Provost's Dog Trilogy
Book 1
By Tamora Pierce
Amazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks

(After 2 hours of trying to craft my own summary, I've decided that the original book copy is probably the best starting point...)

In 246 H.E., the Provost's Dogs guard Tortall's capital city. Beka Cooper is one of their newest trainees—a Puppy wet behind the ears but eager to learn. But Beka will have to learn faster than she bargained for because she's assigned to the Lower City, Corus's toughest district. It's filled with pickpockets who are fast as lightning, rogues who will knock your teeth out with a smile, and murderers with hidden plans.

Luckily, Beka's got a few tricks up her sleeve. Gifted with the ability to hear murdered spirits, she's already discovered two separate killing sprees. Unfortunately, the dead aren't very detailed, and going on half the facts can get a Dog killed. It'll take all of Beka's smarts and skills if she's going to track down these murderers. If she doesn't get killed in the meantime....

I must admit, Terrier was a wonderful break from the slough of paranormal YA I've been reading recently. Nothing against any of those books, mind you, but this book was a welcome breath of fresh air. It has action, mystery, investigation, and just that tiny hint of magic that lets you know anything's possible. The magic is there, but it's more of a whisper than a major player, leaving the characters to rely on more 'conventional' methods.

Even though, as I said earlier, Tris was probably my favorite character, Beka and I instantly clicked. She's smart, headstrong, loyal, but at the same time unbearably shy around her superiors to the point that she can barely get out a full sentence. Yet, because we're in her head, we know she's not an idiot and she doesn't mean to waste anyone's time, and she's kicking herself for not being stronger. Now, who can't relate to that?

Oh, you caught that? That's right, this book is written in 1st person—the first of the Tortall books to be done so. Though some might see it as merely a conformity to the fad that is running rampant through current YA fiction, I cannot stress enough how wrong they would be.