Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My life is over

I have a Mac 15" titanium laptop. I love it. It's my favorite toy and the way I earn 99% of my income.

It died. Took all my files with it. I'm too depressed to even blog.

Life will never be the same.

Now playing on my iPod: Without You by Air Supply

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

The Golden Compass is book #1 in the His Dark Materials series. It will be released as a movie in December 2007. It's got a few big stars in it, like Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Kevin Bacon, and it's being advertised as a children's movie. This concerns me, but I'll get to those concerns later.

Lyra is content to run wild among the scholars of Jordan College, with her daemon familiar always by her side. But the arrival of her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, draws her to the heart of a terrible struggle—a struggle born of Gobblers and stolen children, witch clans and armored bears. And as she hurtles toward danger in the cold, far North, young Lyra never suspects the shocking truth: she is destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle.

That doesn't tell you a lot, so here's a bit more. First, the setting is a parallel universe to ours so while places and customs feel familiar, you can't assume that they are the same. Children are disappearing, being taken North by the Gobblers. The rumor is that they're killed. When one of Lyra's friends disappears, she decides to go after him but she is temporarily distracted by Mrs. Coulter, who at first seems sweet and nice, but she hides some really dark secrets.

Escaping from the Gobblers herself, Lyra travels North with the Gyptians and others, looking for the missing children. She has a compass called an aletheiometer, which lets her see the truth of things and predict what will happen. Through the use of this compass and her own courage and determination, Lyra eventually discovers the secret of the Gobblers and what they're doing with the children, but not why (at least, not in this book).

I would rate this book as PG-14, meaning absolutely not for children under 14. I would also suggest that parents read this book before giving it to their children or letting them see the movie. The book is very dark and brutal. There is some mild swearing. There is violence against children—kidnapping, torture, and one more thing that I won't tell you because it's integral to the secret of the book. It wouldn't, as in couldn't, happen in our universe because we don't have daemon familiars, but the terror of the children and the shock of this abuse is vividly described. There is a war going on, attempted killings, and a blow-by-blow, descriptive fight to the death between bears that seem more human than not.

The book is written in a very slow and "vintage" style, not the fast-paced, high action style we expect in todays YA fantasy novels. It takes a while to get into it, but once you recognize the pace and adjust your expectations the story moves quite well. The characters are interesting. I love Lyra. She reminds me of a mix between my daughters, when they were younger. I love the dialogue, the word choices, the sentence structure. Setting aside the darkness of the storyline, the writing itself is intriguing and fun.

The plot moves along in a believable way, until the very end (chapter 21), when the main character starts quoting parallel universe scripture and goes off on an "original sin" tangent that turns out to be a major motivator for the story. What?! This was, perhaps, the most disturbing part for me. I don't want my theology messed with. But aside from that, it's such a radical departure from the rest of the book that I just didn't buy it. There was no hint that this was coming. I felt like either the author wasn't quite sure where they were going or how to explain the mysterious Dust so they threw in religion; or that he purposely manipulated us through an otherwise good story just so he could preach nonsense to us at the end.

Up until chapter 21, I would have recommended this book to adults who like fantasy, with the strong disclaimer that it needs parental approval before children and teens read it. But after chapter 21, where I felt the plot fell to pieces, I'd say check it out from the library if you really want to read it, but expect to be disappointed in the ending.

Will I read the remainder of the series? I have to as part of my commitment to a new book review blog that will be launching in September—I'm the YA & fantasy reviewer (so I'd have to read it under either category). But if I didn't have to, no, I probably wouldn't.

Rating: 3.....................BUY NOW

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cognitive Dissonance

I've figured out what my problem is: cognitive dissonance; in my case, the internal stress created by the way I think my life should be and the way it actually is.

My perfect day:

6:00 a.m. — Wake up; exercise; scripture study; personal hygiene; sit on my front porch and think a bit.

8:00 a.m. — Start writing; blogging first to meet my commitments, then concentrating on my WIP.

11:30 a.m. — Lunch & laundry break

12:00 p.m. —Work in my other hopefully income producing businesses: publishing, editing, typesetting, UB

4:00 p.m. —Family, clean, dinner, etc.

6:00 p.m. —Play UB party or read or sit on my front porch and think a bit more.

10:00 p.m. —Go to bed

My problem is, I actually believe that some day I will have this perfect day. Then, if I can have it once, I should be able to have it every day.

The way cognitive dissonance works is the greater the distance between the ideal and reality, the greater the stress. The only cure for cognitive dissonance is to either change your beliefs or change your behaviors. The trouble is, I have one belief system that says to hold on to your dreams and keep trying and eventually you'll succeed and another belief system that says to quit trying to manage everything and just accept life on life's terms. Another dissonant cogtate.

Can I just say that on a scale from 1-10, my cognitive dissonance stress is 23?

But as I was whining about this in my journal this morning, I realized something. It is the discomfort that cognitive dissonance creates that leads me to act, to learn, to grow, to try new things, to create. Without it, I would probably do nothing.

I suppose I should be grateful for that. And I will be—I've penciled it in for 5:45 p.m. on my perfect day.

Now playing on my iPod: Somewhere Over the Rainbow, the Judy Garland version, which is the one true version of that song; unless, of course, McKenna is singing it. I like her voice better.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The End of an Era (No Spoilers)

I picked my copy up at Wal-Mart at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. (No lines.) I finished at 12:30 a.m. this morning, taking only the most necessary breaks.

I have written my review but I've been absolutely forbidden to post a it or a commentary of any type until Megan has read the book. (Passing it off to her today.) I would have waited a week anyway because I think it's so unfair to color something like this when there are so many people anticipating the end.

I did like what Sariah posted (no spoilers in hers either). I couldn't have said it better myself.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Pretties by Scott Westerfeld

Pretties is book #2 in the Uglies trilogy (which is now a quadrilogy due to this). Again, the theme is that pretty on the outside doesn't guarantee pretty on the inside, and sometimes you have to really fight for what you want—in this case, freedom. It also takes a look at what jealousy, betrayal and power can drive people to do and to become. Here's the back of the book promo:

Gorgeous. Popular. Perfect. Perfectly wrong.

Tally has finally become pretty. Now her looks are beyond perfect, her clothes are awesome, her boyfriend is totally hot, and she's completely popular. It's everything she's ever wanted.

But beneath all the fun—the nonstop parties, the high-tech luxury, the total freedom—is a nagging sense that something's wrong. Something important. Then a message from Tally's ugly past arrives. Reading it, Tally remembers what's wrong with pretty life, and the fun stops cold.

Now she has to choose between fighting to forget what she knows and fighting for her life—because the authorities don't intend to let anyone with this information survive.
Pretty Tally is sort of annoying at first. She and Shay are BFFs because neither one of them can clearly remember their time as runaways at the Smoke. But very soon Tally discovers that when she's "bubbly" (filled with adrenaline), her thinking clears and her memories return. She and Zane, her new boyfriend, do everything they can to stay bubbly, encouraging the other members of their clique, the Crims, to do the same.

In the first part of the book, Tally's challenges are overcoming pretty-head (fuzzy thinking), deciding if she wants a pretty life or a bubbly one, and dealing with the fall-out from her and Shay's returning memories. Then around page 250, the plot takes a huge 90 degree turn off into the middle of nowhere. I'm assuming Westerfeld will pick up and resolve all the loose ends in book 3, so I'm participating in the willing suspension of disbelief until I see how it turns out. I think he can do it. I'm really so hoping so because I loved book #1.

The action is still fast paced. A little slower in places and a little more intense in others when compared to book one. I wasn't quite as endeared to Zane as I was to David. The pretty dialogue just about drove me nuts, but I think that's the point.

There is, I think, only one mild swear word (can't remember which one it was) but I was surprised to see the actual word because everywhere else in the book Westerfeld says, "...she swore." Maybe they wanted a PG rating.

As in book one, there is no direct reference to sex. Tally and Zane are living together and waking up in the same room, but there are no descriptions or even hints of physical intimacy beyond kissing, and there's not a lot of that.

There is a lot of drinking and drunkenness going on in Pretty Town. These are teens, age 16 and up, so that was a little disturbing. But it's handled in such a way that it's clear only fuzzy-headed pretty-heads drink. As soon as Tally gets bubbly, she stops drinking. No one in the New Smoke drinks.

Pretties ends with another cliff hanger. Poor Tally, as soon as she gets close to freedom the bad guys get her again. That's not a spoiler because you know it will happen (there is a book 3, after all) and based on the title of book three, you can probably figure out what she wakes up as. But what I can't figure out is how Tally will escape her fate in book 3. Nor can I figure out exactly how and why this culture was created and why it continues. The big reveal at the conclusion of the series had better not be lame.

Overall, I liked the book. I don't mind that I shelled out full price for the paperback. I give it a 3.95, but I reserve the right to upgrade if Westerfeld wraps it up in a believable way. Megan is still reading it, so it will be interesting to hear her take on it.

Read review of Uglies.

Rating: 3.95.....................BUY NOW

Summer Reading Prize Winner #1

Suan won the prize—Sheep's_Clothing by Josi Kilpack!

Suan, if you'll e-mail your mailing address to me we'll get that right out to you.

Everyone keep watching for prize #2. That one will have choices.

*You can still join Summer Reading Thing 2007 and be eligible for these intermittent prizes. Go to this post and follow the directions. If you want to join but don't have a blog, go to this post and follow the directions.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

On a serious note

I noticed that my blog has been a little light-weight lately, what with all the book reviews and fun tests and memes. It's been a while since I've written a personal commentary on anything of substance. So I decided I'd take today to ponder upon some of the more serious topics touching our lives.

For example, what is with the wheel shaped microwave macaroni?

When you microwave macaroni, you have to stir it up in the box or else it just doesn't taste as good. No matter how careful you are, you always lose a noodle or two in the process. One regular shaped macaroni hitting the floor is a minor inconvenience. But when you lose a wheel, that's half you lunch!

Who bought these anyway?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


My oldest daughter, McKenna, and her company, Urban Botanic, were featured in a local magazine, Utah Valley Magazine. Twenty years ago, you'd have to take my word for it. But thanks to the miracle of the internet, you can actually view the entire magazine or just her page.

I won a prize in the Read Together Challenge. I really, really recommend that you participate in this if you can. It is so worthwhile and can really strengthen your relationship with your children. Megan and I are having lots of fun reading and discussing our books (New Moon—Meg, Me; Uglies—Meg, Me). We challenge each other to read more. I haven't even turned on the TV in two days! McKenna and Melanie are also starting to read some of our books. I can't wait to talk to them about them.

Tristi Pinkston, fellow Reading Thing participant and blogger extraordinare, is running a Summer Special on her Scentiments products—order $15, get two lip balms free. I am really liking the grapefruit facial wash, scrub & moisturizer. And I LOVE her lip balm—I can't decide whether I like the Vanilla Banilla flavor or the Buttercream best.

The Whitney Awards are looking for sponsors. If you have an interest in LDS fiction you might want to consider contributing. They'll accept donations of any amounts. I just sent a check.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Summer Reading Thing Prize #1

It's time for our first prize give away for Summer Reading Thing 2007.

To be eligible, you must have have signed up on this Mr. Linky and have posted your reading list on your personal blog.*

Simply leave a comment on this post.

I will close the comments and do a random drawing on at noon (MST) on Friday, July 20th.

Winner will receive a free copy of Sheep's_Clothing by Josi Kilpack.

*You can still join Summer Reading Thing 2007. Go to this post and follow the directions. If you want to join but don't have a blog, go to this post and follow the directions.

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Megan added this to her list of Summer Reading Thing books while we were vacationing. She really liked it, so I had to read it too. She's not allowed to have book reading fun without me.

I loved this book! Uglies is book one of the trilogy. Pretties (Uglies Trilogy, Book 2) is out in paperback and Specials (Uglies Trilogy, Book 3) is in hardback (paperback version due out Sept. 11; I guess I can wait). I think this action-packed and highly entertaining futuristic novel which examines the definition of beauty should be required reading for all teens, but especially for 14 to 18 year old girls. I think boys would like it too, if they can get past the fact that the main character is a girl.

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that?

Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can't wait. Not for her license—for turning pretty. In Tally's world, your sixteenth birthday turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally's new friend Shay isn't sure she wants to be pretty. She'd rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world—and it isn't very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

The plot is good. It's a coming-of-age story, young men and women against the corrupt adult authority, but with a few twists thrown in. This is a YA book (target 12-18), but I was captivated by it. The characters were very believable. I loved Tally—adventurous and independent without being obnoxious. There is no swearing. There are mentions of Pretties who go to the "pleasure gardens" at night, but it doesn't say what goes on there. There's hand-holding and a couple of kisses, but no sensuality. I feel absolutely comfortable letting anyone over the age of 12 read this.

This is a great book for parents and teens to read and discuss together. It really makes you think about beauty—what it is, who defines it, and how important it is. I found some wonderful discussion questions online.

I know I'll get some argument, but I liked this book a little better than Twilight because I could fully like and respect the main character instead of thinking she was an idiot most of the time. Plus, it is not a romance so the main point of the story is not getting some guy to like you. (puke!) It's about right and wrong, freedom of choice, respect for people because of who they are and how they behave, rather than how they look. I don't know for sure how the series will end up, but I sure like the direction it's going.

I give this book 4.5 (out of 5) without reservation (except for using leaped instead of leapt). I'm looking forward to reading Pretties (Uglies Trilogy, Book 2) as soon as Megan is done. (Hurry up, already!) And September better come fast, or I might have to break down and buy the hardback of Specials (Uglies Trilogy, Book 3) to see how this trilogy wraps up.

Which brings me to one more thing. Megan, don't scream. Just click here.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Blood Trail by Tanya Huff

Blood Trail by Tanya Huff is book #2 in the Vicki Nelson series. (I read these two books while traveling, so they never made it to the "What I'm Reading" section of my sidebar.)

For centuries they had coexisted with ordinary humans. But now death had invaded their London, Ontario farm. It was clear that someone had learned they were werewolves and was determined to destroy them. The only one they could turn to for help was vampire Henry Fitzroy. And, forced to hide from the light of day, Henry called upon Vicki Nelson for assistance. Yet, as silver bullets continued to take their ghastly toll, Henry and Vicki began to fear they might not be able to trace the blood trail of destruction down before it was too late...

Again, we have a lot of swearing and sensuality, but not as much gory violence as in Blood Price. I wish there was a "Clean Flicks" for books where you could buy an edited copy because I really liked 95% of this book. But the other 5% bothers me enough that I wouldn't want my teenagers to read it.

The 95% that I didn't hate was really good. This book was even better than the first in the series. The characters are developing well and becoming more interesting. I loved the portrayal of the werewolves. Daniel/Shadow was so cute he just about stole the show. I really liked the contrast between human societies and that of the werewolves. Human greed, prejudice and fanaticism create the evil in this book; the werewolves and vampires are the good guys.

Vicki is still tough as nails, yet vulnerable. Still funny. Still fighting with Celluci. Her relationship with Henry the vampire heats up and we see the love triangle developing. We also see the beginning of grudging respect between Celluci and Henry.

I was more uncomfortable with the 5% in this book than I was with the first book. I'm not sure if I'm going to read more of this series or not. It's pretty easy for me to decide to avoid books that clearly cross the line, even if they are wonderfully crafted (George R. R. Martin and Stephen King). But when it's just a toenail over my comfort zone (okay, maybe the whole toe)...I hate that! Also, they typos again. It was really bad. I can't believe DAW would put out something with this many mistakes in it. Where is their professionalism? Their pride? Their proofreader?

I give this book a 4.5 for story, but drop it to a 2.5 for swearing and sexuality.

Blood Price by Tanya Huff

I chose two more books to read on vacation that are the basis of another new television series, Blood Ties on the Lifetime channel. Unlike The Dresden Files, where I liked the TV show better than the book, I liked these books much better than the show (although I did start to like the show more as the season went on).

Blood Price by Tanja Huff

Former Toronto homicide detective, now private investigator, Vicki Nelson witnessed the first attack by the force of dark magic that would soon wreak its reign of terror on Toronto. As death followed unspeakalbe death, Vicki became enmeshed in an investigation that would see her renew her stormy relationship with her former police partner, Mike Celluci, even as she teamed up with writer Henry Fitzroy in a desperate attempt to track down the source of the attacks. For Fitzroy, the illegitimate son of Henry VIII, had a knowledge of realms beyond the moral acquired over the centuries he'd spent mastering his own insatiable need—the life-from-death cravings of a vampire...

Okay, this is one of those books that I liked but cannot recommend whole-heartedly. So let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. There is a lot of swearing and some of it is really offensive. There is some sensuality and implied sex, but we aren't forced to read about the details. There's some pretty gross and descriptive violence. And there are vampires and demons. I didn't like the way it kept changing POV too abruptly. The flashbacks to Henry's past were sometimes confusing. And there were so many typos that I was tempted to mark it up with my red pen, mail it to DAW and ask for my money back.

So with all that, why do I say I like it? Well, first, I just like speculative fiction—like vampire stories. As long as the vampires are sort of good and not too scary. (I could not make it through The Historian. Gave me the heebie-jeebies.) In addition, I like strong female characters who aren't afraid to go out into the world and make a difference. I like that Vicki Nelson is tough enough to fight the bad guys, even with the handicap of an eye disease (which I share--not the same disease, but the same results) that caused her to leave the police force. I like how she isn't dependent on anyone. Yes, she gets rescued by the men, but she does her share of rescuing them too. I like Vicki's sense of humor. I like how she and Mike Celluci argue. And I really liked the story line. It kept me guessing.

If you like vampire stories and you can skip past the swearing and gore, then you'll probably like this book. If a hard PG-13 rating is too disturbing to you (and this was a close call for me), then you probably won't like the book. Will I read more? Uh, yes. Already did. But I probably won't buy any more of them. I'll borrow from the library instead.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More Reading Challenges

I did some surfing to find a few more reading challenges because, like, I have no life of my own and so I must live vicariously through the mostly fictional words of others.

Also, I'm trying to get a lot of books read and ready for review before September when the Book Mom blogs launch. There will be six interlinked blogs which will do book family-friendly reviews. I will be the YA and sci-fi/fantasy reviewer.

So anyway, I found three other book challenges that looked pretty cool, so I'm joining up. Scroll down for more info.

Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge

The Armchair Traveler Reading Challenge, hosted over on A Life in Books sounded fun.

If you’re interested in joining, here are the guidelines:

  • The challenge runs from July 1 through December 31 during which time you must read six books that fall under the ‘armchair traveling’ theme.

  • Fiction or non-fiction works are fine, and do not need to be specifically travel related, as long as the location is integral to the book - I’ll leave that to your discretion. Locations must be actual places that you could visit, so no Middle Earths or galaxies far, far away.

  • Books may be cross-posted to other challenges, but you cannot count any books read prior to July 1st.

  • To join, make a post outlining your six choices and link to that post below. Because I like to have a little wiggle room, you can opt to switch out books throughout the challenge.

  • And yes, there will be prizes!

Here is my list of six:

  1. Eclipse (Twilight, Book 3) by Stephenie Meyer (FORKS, WA; I know this is a slight cheat, but I've never been to WA and the geography and weather are germane to the story.)

  2. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (Book 1) by Alexander McCall Smith (AFRICA)

  3. Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher (PERSIA)

  4. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd (SOUTHERN U.S.)

  5. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory (ENGLAND)

  6. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (INDIA/OCEAN)

Book Awards Reading Challenge

Since I have quite a few award winners in my stack of books to read, I've decided to participate in the Book Awards Reading Challenge as well.

Excerpted rules taken from the hosting site:
  • Read any 12 award-winning books from July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2008. Please look on the sidebar for eligible books.

  • Books may be cross-posted with other challenges.

  • There will be prizes. Everyone who completes 12 books for the challenge will be entered once into the drawing. For every book over 12 completed, you will receive one more chance for the prize. For example, if you complete 14 books, you will receive 3 chances.

  • Anyone may participate, but to be eligible for the prize, you must sign up by November 1, 2007. To participate in this blog, you must sign up before January 1, 2008.

My list of books:
  1. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000 Booker)

  2. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron (2007 Newbery)

  3. The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg (1997 Newbery)

  4. The Midwife's Apprentice by Karen Cushman (1996 Newbery)

  5. The Giver by Lois Lowry (1994 Newbery)

  6. The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman (1987 Newbery)

  7. The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon (2003 Nebula)

  8. The Golden Compass (His Dark Materials, Book 1) by Philip Pullman (*) (REVIEW)

  9. Ombria in Shadow by Patricia A. McKillip (2003 World Fantasy)

  10. Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2002 Mann Booker)

  11. Mirror Dance by Lois McMaster Bujold (1995 Hugo)

  12. The Snow Queen by Joan D. Vinge (1981 Hugo)
*The Golden Compass isn't listed on the Book Awards sidebar, but it did win: ALA Notable Book, ALA Top 10 Best Book for YA, Horn Book Fanfare Honor Book, Blue Ribbon book, Publishers Weekly Best Book of Year, Booklist Editors' Choice, ABBY Honor Book, 2001 Whitbread Book of the Year award, a prestigious British literature award, 1995 the Carnegie Medal (England), Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (Sweden; 2nd to Nobel prize), etc. So unless someone tells me I can't, I'm counting this one.)

Something About Me Reading Challenge

August 1 - December 31

The Something About Me Challenge has a cool twist. Excerpted from the host site:
This challenge will start on August 1st, 2007 [ends December 31st]. To join, you will choose up to 5 books that represent you in some way...books that would help us get to know you. Then, on or by August 1st, you will choose a personal list of the books you want to read from everyone's lists of books. You could choose because the book sounds like a good choice for you, or because you want to get to know another blogger a little better.
The five books about me are:
  1. Dune by Frank Herbert—my book of courage

  2. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd—my southern heritage

  3. Saints/Woman of Destiny by Orson Scott Card—the strongest woman I know

  4. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card—I hope to someday write a story this compelling

  5. Harriet the Spy by Loise Fitzhugh—the book that made me want to be a writer

The books I've chosen to read are:
  1. Uglies (Uglies Trilogy, Book 1) by Scott Westerfeld (REVIEW)

  2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

  3. The View from Saturday by EL Konigsburg

  4. The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory

  5. Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

If I finish these, there are 30 more on the list I want to read.

Just for fun, here are the books on the list that I've already read:
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle
  • All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl
  • Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
  • Anne of the Islands by L M Montgomery
  • Anne of Windy Poplars by LM Montgomery
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  • Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
  • Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank Gilbreth
  • Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by JK Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by JK Rowling
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • Le Petit Prince by Antoine De Saint Exupery
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz
  • Persuasion by Jane Austen
  • Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud
  • The Borrowers by Mary Norton
  • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  • The French Lieutenant's Woman by John Fowles
  • The Iliad by Homer
  • The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
  • The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
  • Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Monday, July 09, 2007

Which Austen character are you?

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

This is about right for me. I think.

Writing Challenge

Fellow writers. Here's a fun writing challenge at the Shady Glade (aka Alyssa, who is also participating in our Summer Reading Thing Challenge). Click here for details.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Storm Front by Jim Butcher

I had to go back to the bookstore for more books while on vacation because I'd read everything I brought with me, plus some. The first book I chose was Storm Front (The Dresden Files, Book 1) by Jim Butcher because it is the first in a series about Harry Dresden, wizard. These novels are what the new Sci-Fi channel series, The Dresden Files, is based on. I quite like the television series, so I thought I'd give the book a chance.
Lost items found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable Rates. No Love Potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

Harry Dresden is the best at what he does. Well, technically, he's the only at what he does. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal creativity or capability, they come to him for answers. For the "everyday" world is actually full of strange and magical things—and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in.

In this first book, Dresden is called in to consult with the police on a truly disgusting double murder. Ew. He also takes on a seemingly unrelated private case, helping a woman track down her missing husband who dabbles in black magic. While the plot was pretty good, and the book helped fill in some back story that the TV show leaves out, I was not as impressed as I'd hoped I would be.

The clever dialog from the show is hit and miss in the book. Bob, a semi-corporeal ghost on the show--and a fun character--is merely a talking skull in the book and not very funny. I missed the play in their relationship that is part of the TV show.

The book drags a bit in places. It also contains some sexual innuendo and naked body descriptions that I could really do without and which is completely unnecessary to the story line. There's quite a bit of swearing too. All of which is not part of the TV show.

I give the show a 4.25, but I only give the book a 3. Will I read more of the series? I don't know. I might try one more, but I will definitely check it out from the library, not buy it.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Princess Academy
by Shannon Hale

From the publisher:
A story about would-be princesses and the destiny of one small but determined girl.

High on the slopes of Mount Eskel, Miri's family has lived forever, pounjding a meager living from the stone of the mountain itself. Miri dreams of working alongside the others in the quarry but she has never been allowed to work there—perhaps , she thinks, because she is so small.

Then work domes from the lowlands: the king's priests have divined that the prince's bride—the next princess—will come from Mount Eskel. The prince himself will travel to the village to choose his bride, but first all eligible girls must attend a makeshift academy to prepare for royal lowlander life.

At the school, Miri finds herself confronting both bitter competition among the girls and her own conflicted desires to be chosen. Yet when danger comes to the academy, it is Miri, named for a tiny mountain flower, who must find a way to save her classmates.

Princess Academy is written for 10 to 13 year old girls. The story moves a little slowly at times, but that is a reflection of life on Mount Eskel. I love stories where the girl is the hero—not because she's beautiful or rich or lucky, but because she is smart and hard-working and determined to succeed. When my girls were growing up, I "planted" books like this one for them to read because I wanted them to get that message. It's what is on the inside that counts. No matter how small or insignificant you may think you are, courage and tenacity wins the day.

This is definitely a book that I will hang onto for my future grand-daughters.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Counting Stars by Michele Paige Holmes

This was the "stretch" book on my Summer Reading Thing list because I really hate romance novels. I think the reason I hate them so much is because when I was 16, my aunt gave me 4 LARGE paper grocery bags filled with romance novels. I think I read at least 60 of them that summer—more than enough to last a lifetime. So, even though some of my best friends are romance novelists, when anyone mentions reading one of those kind of books, my eyes sort of glaze over and I get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. But since this one has been getting a lot of positive comments, and mostly because Sandra liked it, I decided to give it a try.

I knew I was going to love this author starting on page one when she used the word "leapt" instead of "leaped." The current push to remove irregular verbs from the English language sets my teeth on edge! I refuse to allow "my" authors to do it. I know that I am in the quickly diminishing minority on this, but I don't care.

So anyway, when I read the words, "...he leapt from the Jeep..." I suddenly found myself predisposed to like this book. Even if it was a romance.

And it is a romance, but not at all your typical one—and nothing like those books I read, oh, so many summers ago. Here's the promo:

Jane was hoping for a date---maybe even a boyfriend. What she wasn't expecting was Paul Bryant's completely original and sincere pick-up line: Hi. I'm Paul. I have terminal cancer. My wife was killed in a car accident, and I'm looking for a woman to raise my children.

It was never Jane's plan to fall in love with a dying man and his two infants. But her seemingly simple decision to date someone outside her faith leads to one complication after another. With the stakes this high, is choosing to help Paul a choice to be alone forever?

And how can Paul feel so confident that this woman---who's never managed to keep a checking account for more than six months---should be the one to raise his children?

How can something that seems so unbelievably insane feel so completely right?

Sometimes love is found in the least likely places, and the greatest blessings are discovered while counting stars.
We get to this point fairly early in the story and then it is one twist and turn after another. You are kept wondering who Jane will end up with all the way to the end of the book. There is passion and heartbreak, an absolutely startling and unexpected incident that made me cry (although, looking back now, I can see I should have expected it), clever dialogue, scenes that made me laugh out loud (that's really hard to do)—and the only time I rolled my eyes was the mushy honeymoon scene.

People that know me well are going to be shocked by this, but, well, darn it, I really liked this book! I found myself impatient to get back to it when my real life intruded and I had to put it down. And (oh, how I hate to admit this) I am looking forward to reading her next book—which is also, clearly, going to be a romance.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Not for the Faint of Heart

Seriously. There will be grossness included in this post.

I like hanging out with Megan because we both have the same quirky sense of humor, short attention spans, and attraction to icky stuff that most people find slightly disturbing.

[Alert: I will be posting photos of the slightly disturbing stuff at the end of this post.]

So when I cut my hand while washing dishes Sunday night, Megan was right there in the middle of the blood and guts, handing me towels and instructing me to apply direct pressure. She was also the first to ask to take a peek and then suggest we very quickly take a ride to the emergency room.

Megan kept me entertained and distracted while waiting my turn and went with me back to the exam room because, as she said, "I want to see."

I had to get a tetanus shot, which was the worst of it all. But Megan assured me that the Sesame Street band-aid would make it feel much better.

When the doctor came in to do the stitches, I asked, "How many stitches do you reckon I'll need?"

Doctor replied, "How many do you want?"

Megan and I immediately replied in unison, "Make it an odd number."

Doctor: "Why?"

In unison again, "Because that will be cool."

The doctor thought we were a little strange, but she gave me 7 stitches anyway, even though it really only needed 6.

We took before and after pictures with our cell phones. [Don't scroll down if you don't want to see.]

Megan bravely watched the whole thing. I didn't because, well, IT WAS MY HAND. But she gave me a detailed blow-by-blow afterward. And to thank her for that, I promise to watch if she ever gets stitches and give her a creatively vivid, techni-color accounting of the whole procedure.

Now playing on my iPod: Don't Let It Show by Alan Parsons Project