November 29, 2008

The Reluctant Widow: Review

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Georgette Heyer sure knew how to tell an entertaining story and The Reluctant Widow is no exception.

Level headed Elinor Rockdale is just on her way to another placement as governess to a rambunctious little boy when she mistakenly steps into the wrong carriage. The man waiting when she alights makes an unbelievable proposal: marry his drunken cousin and he'll free her from her uncomfortable lifestyle. Of course, she refuses. This is madness! But when news arrives that the husband-to-be has only moments to live, Ned Carlyon persuades Elinor against her better judgement to tie the knot.

Now a widow, there's only the matter of selling the house and dotting some i's with the help of Carlyon and she's a free and independent woman. Until a few nights in the old house reveal that her husband might have been up to more than just drinking late at night.

I was hooked from the get-go with The Reluctant Widow. It's an interesting story with a strange turn of events. Elinor is just my kind of heroine. She's practical, takes everything that comes at her in stride, and always has a smart remark. Her interactions with Carlyon are priceless. I loved their banter. He's one cool cucumber. And although she protests too much, you just know she's loving this adventure.

There's a set of supporting characters who keep the story moving and add a lot of entertainment value. Carlyon's brother Nicky is a teenager who inadvertently finds trouble everywhere, even 'cousin' Elinor's house. His dog Bouncer has behavioural problems which include 'guarding' people by boxing them into rooms. And Elinor's old governess, Miss Beccles, thinks Carlyon can do no wrong.

The Reluctant Widow is a little bit of mystery, a little bit of farce but a fully, fun, fast read. This is probably my favorite Heyer so far.

November 28, 2008

Breathing. It's a Good Thing

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funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

I have total sympathy for anyone with a chronic lung condition. I don't know how you do it. I've taken breathing for granted, having always had good health, until this past week. I've never been sicker or more miserable. I'll save you all the gory details and just say that I think I'm on the road to recovery now. Whew! I'm so glad I'm not a smoker either, I can just imagine how much worse pneumonia would be if I was.

Unfortunately, being sick did not mean more reading. I haven't read a thing. That's bad.

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes. I really appreciate it.

I tried to find a cute lung picture for above but most of the stuff I found was scary, so here's a cute Dr Tinycat instead. Enjoy!

November 25, 2008

Sick

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I know I've been quiet but I have a good excuse. I've gotten sick. I'm taking all my medication and resting. I hope to be up and around soon. Talk to you all then!

November 20, 2008

BTT: Tell Me Lies

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Booking Through Thursday:

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

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



Well, isn't this timely ;) Honestly, I've never lied, but I try to be kind. I also keep in mind that other readers may not feel (and have not felt) the same way about the book. I often say, "this wasn't for me" which is true. And I avoid saying unhelpful things like, "this was a total stinker." I point out the flaws but also the positives and it's up to other readers to decide for themselves if they can overlook those flaws. Sometimes I can't. It's does feel kind of weird to say negative things about the books I've been given. I always feel a bit nervous sending out that email with the link to my review. I'm sure the giver would like a positive review but it doesn't always turn out that way. I don't think getting it for free should have anything to do with how I review books. It's a gamble and the author has to roll those dice.

I very rarely deal directly with authors, which makes it easier for me. All my experiences with authors have been positive so far. They've been very respectful. I prefer to go through publishers though. These aren't their babies. I'm careful to read their guidelines. Do they only want positive reviews? Or do they respect the reviewer's views whether they are positive or not? There's a freedom in the latter even though I've rarely had to do it.

All that said, I've been lucky, there are few books that I didn't like. I'd like to think it's because I'm pretty choosy. I don't have the patience to read what I don't like. I also have other things going on in my life so why would I want to read bad writing? There are just too many books I want to read and not enough time.

Earlier this week, I posted on this topic somewhat. I had a discussion with readers about self-published books. Check it out if you want to weigh in on that topic as well.

November 18, 2008

Negotiating With the Dead: Review

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I have a few books on writing in my collection. Some are strictly how-to's and are fairly dry manuals on how to get noticed as an author. However, Negotiating With the Dead: A Writer on Writing does not fall into this category. It's more of an attempt by Margaret Atwood to explain writers to the world. What makes a writer write exactly?

Atwood expands on lectures she's given herself throughout her career about writing. She looks at the myths surrounding writing and writers. Is writing an art, a compulsion, a job? In the first chapter, Atwood explains how she became a writer and it's not some kind of traumatic event that compels her to write. It's pretty ordinary and quaint. This was the most enjoyable chapter for me, seeing a glimpse of the young author, telling stories with her brother.

The second chapter on the duality of the writer, one half takes out the garbage, the other writes, was also quite interesting. Then she lost me. Chapters 3 and 4 had a lot of Greek god name dropping and I kept losing my train of thought. She did get me back with Chapter 5: Nobody to Nobody which is a chapter about the reader and our roles in all of this. Without a reader, why write? Finally, Chapter 6: Negotiating with the Dead asks where the writer gets ideas and we're back to mythology, this time about hell.

So, Negotiating With the Dead has it's ups and downs. Atwood has a conversational style, like sitting around the kitchen table having a cup of tea, when she's speaking of her life. She's quite funny. However, she's heavy on the mythology and if you like that kind of thing, you won't mind but it was too much for me.

I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in the writing life.

2nd Canadian Book Challenge read.

November 17, 2008

Pom-Pom Fun

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So my girl was sick all weekend and after two days of Mario Kart and Barbie movies, I was ready for a change.

Today I gathered up some crafting supplies: yarn, googly eyes, pipecleaners, felt and glues. Pom-pom technology has come a long way since the days of yarn wrapped around cardboard squares, my friends.


Here's what we came up with.

Chicklet and Bomb the Monster. Bomb was my daughter's creation.

November 13, 2008

Let's Talk About...

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Self-publishing:

Self-publishing is the publishing of books and other media by the authors of those works, rather than by established, third-party publishers. -Wikipedia

I'm not going to add to yesterday's controversy (I've already made enough of an idiot of myself, thanks) but I am curious about self-publishing.

*What makes an author go this route? Has anyone done it? What was your experience: positive or negative? How did it affect your career? How do you market this kind of book?
*Readers, do you read/review them? What are your thoughts on them?
*Should they be read or reviewed differently than main stream books?
*Can you count blogging as self-publishing? What are your thoughts on that?

Just want to hear some thoughts.

Edited to add: Thanks to everyone for getting involved in this discussion. It was interesting to read your views and experiences.

November 12, 2008

Vote For Me!!

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Hi all! I'm going to shamelessly ask for your help. My Naked Tree Coasters are in a contest. Could you vote for #3 in the sidebar here?:

EtsyHookers Team Blog

Thanks guys!!

November 11, 2008

Lest We Forget

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Here's the trailer for the epic film about the World War I Battle of Passchendaele. I haven't seen it but it looks gritty.



"I died in Hell
(they called it Passchendaele); my wound was slight
and I was hobbling back; and then a shell
burst slick upon the duckboards; so I fell
into the bottomless mud, and lost the light"
-Siegfred Sassoon

November 10, 2008

Weekly Geeks #24

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I skipped Weekly Geeks there for awhile (I kept forgetting) but now I'm back. This one is really fun.

1. Choose a writer you like.

2. Using resources such as Wikipedia, the author’s website, whatever you can find, make a list of interesting facts about the author.

3. Post your fun facts list in your blog, maybe with a photo of the writer, a collage of his or her books, whatever you want.

4. Come sign the Mr Linky below with the url to your fun facts post.

5. As you run into (or deliberately seek out) other Weekly Geeks’ lists, add links to your post for authors you like or authors you think your readers are interested in.

George Eliot is my choice. I've always found her life and her writing interesting.

*George Eliot (1819-1880) is the pen name of Mary Ann (Mary Anne or Marion) Evans.
*Queen Victoria was a big fan of her work.
*She lived openly with a married man George Henry Lewes. (Don't you think 2 Georges would have confused things!?)
*She had a correspondence with such notables as Charles Darwin and Harriet Beecher Stowe.
*After her lover's death, she married a man 20 years her junior: John Cross. He jumped out of a window and died during their honeymoon. Yikes!
*George Eliot's grave is located in Highgate Cemetery in London

Some interesting pictures:

"She is magnificently ugly--deliciously hideous...in this vast ugliness resides a most powerful beauty which, in a very few minutes steals forth and charms the mind, so that you end as I ended, in falling in love with her." (Henry James) Err...thanks?


George Eliot's Birthplace South Farm, Arbury, Nuneaton

This lovely statue of George Eliot by John Letts stands in Nuneaton.

Here's a list of her novels:
While many female writers used male pen names, they discarded them once they were 'outed'. George Eliot on the other hand always went by...well, George Eliot. Her novels still carry that name. She has the name of a dude, she is most definitely a lady. So, my tribute to George is this Aerosmith video, Dude Looks Like a Lady. Just for something different. Enjoy.




More:
Neil Gaiman
Random Author Facts

The Lace Reader: A Review

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I've had The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry on my shelf for about a year now. Why did it take me so long to read it? I don't know. It might have been the title. It conjured images of old furniture covered in doilies. To me anyway. I'm funny like that. So, I finally picked it up and I'm very glad I did.

Towner Whitney returns home to Salem, Massachusetts from Hollywood where she ran to escape her painful past. She's not back voluntarily. Her beloved great-aunt Eva is missing. Towner feels sure Eva will show up at any moment and can't wait to leave again. When Eva's body is found, it changes everything. Towner is forced to stay in Salem. The past she hoped to escape is right in her face: her agoraphobic mother May, her abusive uncle Cal who blinded his wife and now is the leader of a bizarre cult, and an drunken ex-boyfriend. To complicate matters further, Detective John Rafferty, hurting from Eva's death, has his eye on Towner. Towner is about as lovable as a cactus so he has his work cut out for him.

I don't think my synopsis does the book justice. There is a lot going on here. Towner tells a lot of the story in first person and we go along with what she is saying. However, when seen through the eyes of others like Rafferty we get the sense that not all is as it seems. Towner's journal becomes a big part of the story and you think you know the story but then the point of view sifts once again. It's a neat little trick that Barry does beautifully.

I did have a bit of trouble settling into this book at first. I found some of the dialogue a bit confusing (like I was left out of the in joke) and Towner is a difficult character to warm up to. However, after a few chapters I was pulled into the story and didn't notice any of these small annoyances.

The subject matter in The Lace Reader is quite dark, dealing with abused women and mental illness. Still, it isn't without hope. I was pleased to see that it wasn't all Men=Bad. Rafferty is a nice guy just trying to make things right. He's my favorite character. There is also the backdrop of Salem and it's brutal history. It adds a lot of flavour to the story with the witches and the lace reading. Another location might have made the powers of the Whitney women stand out but instead it just seems perfectly naturally.

I wasn't completely surprised by the ending. I didn't need to read lace to see where it was headed. Barry throws in lots of hints. That's not a bad thing. I quite enjoyed it and thought the whole book was based on a clever idea.

Highly recommended.

*This is an ARC of the book before it was picked up HarperCollins (Canada). They might have edited it.

Dewey and Nymeth Present: Secret Santa

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From Dewey:

Welcome to the second annual Book Bloggers Christmas Swap!

The second annual what?
Last year, Nymeth organized a Secret Santa swap between book bloggers, and this year I’m helping out.

How does it work?
You sign up by sending an e-mail to xmasswap08 at gmail. You have until the 18th of November to do so. You will then be randomly assigned as another blogger’s Secret Santa.

What you have to do next is send that person a little something - it can be a book, a journal or bookmark, a box of holiday cookies, a mixed CD, whatever you can think of. It doesn’t have to be anything pricey, of course. Second hand books are perfectly acceptable, as are homemade gifts.

A different person will be assigned as your Secret Santa, and you’ll only find out who they are when you get their package in the mail.

Something to keep in mind: Because there are book bloggers from all over the world, this is going to be an international swap. I understand that not everyone can afford to send a package overseas, though, so if that’s the case with you, please don’t feel that you can’t sign up. Just include a note saying so in your e-mail, and we’ll make sure you get a blogger who’s near you.

What else should your e-mail include?
Other than your name, mailing address and willingness to send internationally, you should include your blog url and a short paragraph about what kind of gifts you like, so that your Secret Santa has an idea of what to get you. You could also include links to online wishlists, your librarything catalogue, etc. Anything that you think will make your Santa’s life easier!

Important dates: The most important date is the 18th of November. It’s very important that you sign up before then, because after that we’ll be assigning the Secret Santas, and once that has been done it would be complicated to include new participants.

As for when to mail your package, if you’re sending internationally it’s probably best to post it before the end of November. Last year, I suggested that people post theirs before the end of the first week of December, but that turned out to be a little late. If you’re sending within your own country there’s more flexibility, but remember that the mail tends to be slow around this time of year.

In any case, you should all know who your blogger is around the 20th of November, which leaves you at the very least ten days to get and mail your gift.

One more thing: if you could help spread the word by posting about this on your blogs, it would be very much appreciated!

****************************************************************

Speaking of gifts... Amy is starting a movement: Books for the Holidays.


November 9, 2008

7 Bookish Things About Me

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Okay, I totally forgot to do this. I remember being tagged but then forgot what it was I was tagged for. I guess I had a MMM: Mommy Memory Moment. My apologies to Ann, though it seems she's as bad as I am.

So here it is 7 Random Bookish About Me:

1. I used to be a Book Cheat. I'd read the ending before I finished to make sure would end the way I wanted it to. I stopped doing that though.

2. I've contemplated reading while driving. Just at stoplights. And I didn't do it, I swear.

3. I'll use anything as a bookmark, including other books.

4. I stopped reading for a few years in my early twenties. That was weird.

5. I read and walk.

6. Used books are my favorites. I like getting a deal on anything.

7. I keep books for years (decades even) either because I will read them someday or they are my favorites and I might want to read them again.

So that's pretty random and not very exciting but there it is! I won't tag anyone but feel free to do this one too.

November 6, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Whatcha buy me?

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Booking Through Thursday:

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


Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!


Two books from my childhood come to mind.

One Christmas, I received my very first 'real' book, Little Women. I can still remember it. I spent the holiday reading it cover to cover. It was just the first section (the happy part) when they were all still children. Little Women will always be connected with Christmas in my mind; Beth playing carols on the piano, Mr March arriving on Christmas Eve and of course the very first line:

"Christmas just isn't Christmas without any presents."

When I was little, my grandmother on my father's side lived all the way over in British Columbia. Every couple of years she'd come for a visit and stay a few weeks in the summer. She'd always bring us something. One year it was a book: Heidi. It was a little harder book than I was used to but I enjoyed reading about Heidi, her grandfather and the goats. Of course, that my grandmother gave it to me is why it is such a special gift.

The fact that I still have these books as an adult and that they've survived several moves, shows how much these gifts mean to me. I'm quite sentimental.

November 5, 2008

Guest Blogger: Karen E Olson

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Last year, I was lucky enough to be contacted by Karen E Olson to be part of her blog tour for Dead of the Day. We were both blog tour virgins. I was a bit nervous about it but it was a great experience and I guess it was for her too because she's back!

Today, as part of the blog tour for the newest Annie Seymour Mystery,
Shot Girl, I have a special guest blogger: Karen E Olson.

As a newspaper copy editor, I was charged with having to write headlines
for news and feature stories. This was never my favorite part of the job.
I love playing with the words, making sure everything was spelled right,
making sure the punctuation was correct, that the nut graph was where it
should be. But headlines? I wasn’t very good at writing them.

I learned how to write serviceable headlines: LOCAL MAN PROTESTS PLANNING
AND ZONING BOARD; SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRMAN TESTS PROGRAM; CITY WOMAN DIES IN
BOATING ACCIDENT. Sometimes I’d get lucky (a particularly snowy winter and
more snow in the forecast inspired me to write SAY IT AIN’T SNOW), but I
just never reached the heights some of my colleagues did. A good friend
wrote one of my favorites after a kid decided to try putting his tongue to
a flagpole like that kid in the Christmas movie: FROSTY FLAGPOLE TAKES A
LICKING AND KEEPS ON STICKING.

Coming up with titles for my books is akin to writing a headline. It must
be short, snappy, convey what’s going on in the story, and lure the reader
in, make the story seem worth the reader’s time.

SACRED COWS had no title for months. I’d tried to come up with something
cow-related, something journalism-related but to no avail. Finally, in
the middle of the night, I awoke and it was in my head. I scrambled to
write it down before I forgot it.

SECONDHAND SMOKE was originally BIRDS OF A FEATHER, since there are
chickens in the story. But Jacqueline Winspear has a book of the same
name, and it was nominated for some award, so I had to quickly abandon it.
I was editing a health and science story for the paper about secondhand
smoke when I said, Hey, what about that? My editor loved it.

DEAD OF THE DAY was originally WATERLOGGED. But it wouldn’t fit on the
cover. And anyway, you don’t want to give a reviewer the chance to write,
“Waterlogged is just all wet.” I was frustrated and told my friend Reed
Coleman about it, so he asked what the book was about. I explained that in
the first pages, the subject of the newspaper’s featured obit or “dead of
the day” wasn’t exactly dead. He looked at me and said, “You do know
that’s your title, right?”

SHOT GIRL was relatively easy. There’s a shot girl in the story. A girl
who sells shots in test tubes in bars and makes a lot of money. Granted,
there’s a double meaning to it, but SHOT GIRL is short, catchy and
definitely my favorite title to date. Maybe because it was so easy.

Does a title make you pick up a book? Does a title matter to you as
you’re looking for something to read?

Karen

A big thanks to Karen! I've always wondered how authors come up with titles.
Karen E. Olson is the author of the Annie Seymour mysteries. SHOT GIRL, the fourth in the series, is available now. You can find her on her website www.kareneolson.com and with her blogging cohorts at www.firstoffenders.typepad.com.
.

November 4, 2008

Wordless: Sunflower in the Snow

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Shot Girl: Review

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Annie Seymour can't seem to stay out of trouble. It follows her around, even when she isn't looking for it. In Shot Girl, during a bachelorette party at a bar, shots ring out and the body of a man is found in the street. As Annie stands over the body, she recognizes the man. It's her ex-husband.

Annie divorced Ralph Seymour 15 years ago. She thought she was done with him until he shows up at the bar. Now the police suspect she's had a part in his death. While researching another story for the New Haven Herald, Annie inadvertently finds out that Ralph was in a lot of trouble with the wrong kind of people. Any one of them might have had a reason to want Ralph dead. Could it have been the stripper 'Jack Hammer'? The shady preacher? Or the missing shot girl/intern?

As if this weren't enough, some old college friends want her to join them in mourning the death of Ralph and she wants none of it. Plus, Annie's on-again-off-again boyfriend Vinnie dropped a bomb: the "L" word. How's she supposed to get to the bottom of Ralph's death and clear her name with all of this going on?

This is the 4th Annie Seymour Mystery and I'm still liking Annie Seymour. She hasn't changed much. She's still foul mouthed and tough. Sometimes though, her cynicism made me crazy. Vinnie must have the patience of a saint. I think this book shows why she is so cynical and, at times, judgmental. I was glad to see a part of her that was missing from the other novels. It showed that she really is a human being.

As always, Karen E Olson writes a fast paced and engaging story. There are so many twists and turns, it kept me guessing until the end. Told in the first person, Annie only reveals bits and pieces to the reader at a time. I always felt like she was holding back something and didn't want to put the book down until I found out what that was. And like Annie, I wanted to know what happened to Ralph.

Highly recommended for the Annie Seymour fan.

Please visit tomorrow when Karen E Olson will be a guest blogger as part of her blog tour for Shot Girl.

November 3, 2008

First Snow of the Season

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Yep, it snowed on Sunday. Just a little and it melted within an hour, but it was enough to send kid outside to enjoy it. I couldn't resist the photo opportunity.

I also found out that the library is having a book sale next week. "All-right!"

Stay tuned. Wednesday I have a guest blogger: Karen E Olson!

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