December 31, 2008

Failure to Read & The Worst List: 2008

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Before I list The Worst list, I want to start with my Failure to Read list, which also could be called "It's not you it's me list." These are books I started and couldn't finish or books that never clicked with me.

Finished but not feeling the love:

Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I really wanted to like this collection of poems but it just didn't work out the way I planned. Maybe it's me and I'm not a poetry person but I found her work to be flowery. I thought her non-love poetry was more interesting though.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
I love Jane, really, I want a "What Would Jane Do?" t-shirt, but Mansfield Park just didn't do it for me. Mostly, it was that doormat Fanny (see below).

Failure to Finish:

Farworld by J Scott Savage
It was summer, I was distracted plus I felt a bit of pressure from myself to post something about it. I'm not really a YA fantasy reader anyway so I never did finish it.

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I loved East of Eden and wanted to loved this too. Maybe it was bad timing but with the economy in the news, reading this was too much of a downer. I will read it someday though.

Now on to the Worst List! I'm pretty lucky that it's not often I come across a stinky book. Either that or I'm easy to please. So my worst list is rather short.

The Worst

Most Annoying Character: Fanny Price from Mansfield Park. I much preferred her rival, Miss Crawford. She needs to get a little life in her, plus she gets the guy by default. ("Default? Woo hoo! The two sweetest words in the English language") The lesson here? Just wait long enough for your man to be so disappointed in love he's sure to look your way.

Dashed Expectations: I didn't have any expectations for The Amnesiac by Sam Taylor since I'd never heard of it before but once I started reading I wanted more from this book. Just when I thought we were going somewhere, the guy would 'forget'. Where is all the action?

Most Frustrating: The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing by Melissa Bank had to have the most confusing layout ever. It jumped around the life of a woman named Jane Rosenthal. However, smack dab in the middle another character appears who has nothing to do with Jane and then *ta-da* disappears, never to be seen again. Someone call Unsolved Mysteries! Then there is a confusing story told in 2nd person (huh?) about a woman with cancer. What is going on here?!

Strangest Ending: Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy. Headline: Gentle Dairymaid Turns Knife Welding Maniac. 'Nuff said.

So, there you have it! I hope you all had the reading year I did. It was pretty good.

December 30, 2008

2nd Annual book-a-rama Awards: The Best

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Last year I had some fun making a list of the best and worst books I read in 2007. I enjoyed it so much I decided to do it again this year. So here it is the 2nd annual book-a-rama Awards ©2008.

The Best

Again I get to look back at all my reads of the year and wonder if any have stuck out as extraordinary. I read quite a bit this year, many of them brand spanking new books. Let's take a looky at the best.

Best Survival Story: Classic riches to rags story. Girl is born a princess, thrown in prison for years, parents beheaded, brother tortured- fun stuff. Somehow Marie-Therese (daughter of Marie Antoinette) survives with her dignity intact. Hurray for her! I really enjoyed Marie-Therese: Child of Terror by Susan Nagel (although it bored my mom to tears).

Best Love Story: Ash and Juli from The Far Pavilions takes this award. Picture a dashing hero and an exotic heroine separated as children then reunited (and it feels so good) just as she's about to be married. Ash is an uber-heroic dreamer and Juli a realist but somehow they defy the cultural standards of both the East and West to be together.

Best Protagonist: Again it's got to be bad-ass Annie Seymour from Shot Girl, the latest installment of Karen E Olson's Annie Seymour Mystery series. Apparently she does have a heart, it's just buried way down there somewhere.

Best Quirky Novel: Really this award has to be shared by two books I read this year: First Among Sequels by Jasper Fforde and Yellowknife by Steve Zipp. I think it's a given that any Thursday Next novel is going to be quirky but Yellowknife was a surprise which leads to...

Best Pleasant Surprise: After sitting on a shelf for a year, I finally got to Yellowknife by Steve Zipp. I wasn't sure what to expect and I guess a fear of the unknown kept me from reading it. It didn't take long for this strange little book to have me hooked.

Best Depressing Yet Compelling Read: It's just one of those books that has engaging characters and great writing but, Dear Lord, can anything else horrible happen to these people? The book I'm speaking of I read for the 2nd Canadian Books Challenge: A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. A great book but consider yourself warned.

Best Shocking (Holy Crap Shocking!) Turn of Events Award: Of course a story about civil war isn't going to be roses and puppy dogs, but the shocking event that occurs in Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones made my jaw drop. No gentle lead up, just shock and awe.

Best Frightening Glimpse of the Future: "It was a pleasure to burn." We're talking books, people. In Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, firemen burn books while a few risk their lives to save them. It was frightening how accurate Bradbury's vision of future technology was. A little too accurate.

Best Vampire/Zombie Novel: Another two-way tie, Victoria Gardella kicks vampire butt in The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason while Robert Neville is the last man alive in I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. The Rest Falls Away is Buffy meets Georgette Heyer where I Am Legend is a post-apocalyptic vampire/zombie tale of survival. I enjoyed both even though they were two very different stories.

Best Girl Power Book: I had to think on this one but it's Coraline by Neil Gaiman. Okay, so Coraline shouldn't have gone through that door, but she keeps her cool and saves the day. A nice strong yet relatable heroine for girls.

I could probably go on forever. It was a great reading year with many awesome books. I can't wait to see what next year brings. But now....


THE BEST OF 2008
*****Confetti*****

The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
It's a book that has it all. Love, redemption, horrifying medical procedures...but with great writing and a compelling story. At the end, I was left with many questions but I like a book that does that.

Please check out my sidebar for reviews of all these books plus many more!

December 27, 2008

BTT: Brrr...Winter Reads

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I thought I'd pry myself away from the Wii and actually post on the old blog. I hope you're all enjoying the holidays.

Booking Through Thursday

What I want to know today is … what are the most “wintery” books you can think of? The ones that almost embody Winter?

I recently read Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton where winter is a major factor in the lives of the characters. Winter is almost a character in the story. There is a claustrophobic feel to the novel because it happens in the winter months.

Although much of the story doesn't happen in the winter, I always think of Wuthering Heights as a wintery book. In the first pages, the narrator is trapped by a winter storm and is forced to be an unwelcome guest at Wuthering Heights. He spends an uncomfortable night which includes an encounter with a ghost.

That's all I can think of at the moment. I have logy turkey brain.

December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas!

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We're all having visions of sugarplums dancing in our heads in anticipation of the Jolly Old Elf. So I'll leave you all with Clement C Moore's The Night Before Christmas.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, m
ount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like
a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimn
ey he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a
good-night!"


Merry Christmas!

December 22, 2008

I'm Filled With the Spirit...

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...of Christmas. At least according to Kailana I am! She gave me the Christmas Spirit Award. Thanks K!

Here are the rules for the Christmas Spirit Award:

"You must be a true Christmas lover to receive this award.
The person to whom you give the award must also be in love with Christmas.
Link back to the person who gave you the award.
List 5 things that you love about Christmas. If you can't limit it to 5 things, then keep going till you run out of space!
Pass the award along to as many people as you like. That can be 1 or 50. It's up to you! But keep the Christmas cheer going!
Let your recipients know that you have tagged them by leaving them a comment. Also, link back to the person who gave you the award."

1. Christmas trees, especially real ones (although I have a fake)
2. Cookies. Nom, nom, nom...
3. Christmas dinner with turkey
4. Presents (Giving and receiving. Come on you know you do too!)
5. Snowmen
6. Christmas lights
7. Pretty Christmas dresses for the chicklet
8. How excited the chicklet is about Santa
9. Christmas music
10. Christmas Specials

Lots of people were covered on the list but I'll nominate Bookfool (aka Nancy).

December 21, 2008

Random List Meme

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Just a boring Sunday here. I haven't read a lot in days so I thought I'd do this fun little meme I saw at Bookfool and Eva's blogs. It's a very American meme, in my opinion, so I'm adding a few Canadian things to it ;)

The things I have done are in BOLD!
1. Started my own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than I can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain (Err... a small one and it was more like hiking. I'm counting it.)
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sung a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched lightening at sea (Living near the sea and seeing it count?)
14. Taught myself an art from scratch (crochet, cross-stitch)
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown my own vegetables (Some very sad tomatoes)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitchhiked (I'm sure I did this once with a daring friend)
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset (I've seen many a beautiful sunset over the Bras D'Or Lakes)
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (I plan on changing that this year)
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught myself a new language (I know a little high school French)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had my portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud (ask my Mom!)
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (My Etsy shop counts)
58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching (Ridiculous that I haven't, we have tours everywhere here)
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book (Like Bookfool, it was an article for a book)
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had my picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating (I have caught fish though)
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous
92. Joined a book club (online)
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby

95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Rode an elephant
101. Walked on a glacier
102. Visited the land of Anne (Prince Edward Island)
103. Seen Parliament Hill in Ottawa
104. Seen the Northern Lights
105. Been to the Arctic Circle
106. Been to Banff

Wow, I haven't done a lot, but I'm quite a homebody. Feel free to do this yourself.

December 18, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Giving Books

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Do you give books as gifts? To everyone? Or only to select people? How do you feel about receiving books as gifts?

I'm having the strangest sense of Deja Vu! But anyway...

Yes, I do.

Well, not everyone I know is a reader so, no, not everyone. I try to get the kids I know books but that isn't always easy. I never know at what reading level they are. Babies are easy though. However, I usually buy books for birthdays.

I've bought books for my girl this Christmas: a collection of Eric Carle (she loves him), Judy Moody Saves the World, and an Olivia gift set (2 books and CD). They aren't from Santa. Books (and pjs) are from Mommy and Daddy. I don't know why. I've just always done that.

How to I feel about receiving books?! Great of course! Books are the perfect gift for me.

Merry Christmas BTTers!

December 17, 2008

WW: Meowy Christmas

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December 16, 2008

Snow Couple

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I made these two with the intentions of selling the pattern on Etsy but that didn't happen. There was always something that distracted me (books). I think they came out well though. They look good on my table. I'm a huge snowman fan. How about you?

December 15, 2008

Ethan Frome: Review

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In Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton, the narrator, a newcomer to the small New England town of Starkfield, becomes fascinated by Ethan Frome. Ethan shuns the company of the townspeople. He looks beaten down and world weary. The locals make reference to 'an accident' and avoid his isolated farm.

One stormy winter day, the narrator finds himself in the home of Ethan and puts together the pieces of his story...

When Ethan was a young man, he was married to Zeena, a difficult and cantankerous woman. She invites her poor relation Mattie to live with them as housekeeper. Ethan becomes infatuated by the girl which can only end in tragedy.

Supposedly Ethan Frome is the most auto-biographical of all Wharton's novels, if that's true, her life must have been unbearably sad. She identifies herself with Ethan, a man torn between duty and love with disastrous results. There is a definite stifling quality to the writing. Ethan's unsolvable dilemma is a tremendous burden. It reminds me of a book I had to read in high school: The Mountain and the Valley, in which a man wishes to leave his small town but never can. A book I did not appreciate at all. However, I was drawn in by the story of Ethan Frome. He is a truly sympathetic character even though his choices are always wrong. Is this his fault or that of fate?

Wharton reveals a little of the story at a time, answering questions I had as I read. Why did he marry Zeena? Does Mattie love him too? What exactly did happen? The ending took me totally by surprise. I did not expect that!

The story is told in an interesting way. In the first chapter, the narrator speaks in first person, telling the reader of his impressions of Ethan until he enters the farm house. Then the narration switches to third person and tells Ethan's story as he experienced it. It's a short 170 pages but the writing packs a wallop. Every word has a purpose. Even winter plays a major part in this story. The locals agree that Ethan has spent too many winters at that farm house.

Okay, so it's not the most uplifting story but I'm still thinking of Ethan a week after I finished reading it. It's a haunting story.

Thanks to the Girlebooks for the free download.

Highly recommended.

December 14, 2008

Puppet: Review

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My sister-on-law lent me Puppet by Joy Fielding in the summer. I put it aside because I had so many other things to read and review. I finally got around to it this weekend. It took me no time at all to read.

In Puppet, Amanda Travis is a successful criminal lawyer in Florida. However, other than her career she has nothing going for her. She picks up strange men to take home to her sterile apartment. She drinks too much. She's bitter and cynical. Plus, she defends the most despicable of human beings as clients. All of this she attributes to her childhood. Her mother was a distant, cold alcoholic and her father spent all his time taking care of his wife. As soon as she could, Amanda left her past behind in Toronto and started her life over in Florinda.

Amanda's tried hard to forget her past but when her ex-husband calls to tell her that her mother shot a total stranger in front of witnesses in the lobby of the Four Seasons, she finds she must put the puzzle pieces of her childhood together to save her mother from herself.

Although the story grabbed me right away, Amanda is a character who is hard to warm up to. She sleeps with married men because they are easy to discard. She looks at every man as a potential bedmate and thinks she can have whoever she wants. (And the men are complete dogs). I suppose this is to show how damaged she is but it's hard to sympathize with her. However, it doesn't take long to get over this and get involved in the story. It's quite a puzzle. Was the murdered man just a stranger to her mother? The clues are revealed slowly throughout the book and I was hooked on every page. I just couldn't put it down. I needed to know what was the big secret (and it's a doozy). The end was quite a twist and...er...twisted.

I did find some of the repetitive dialogue annoying and cliched ("Been there, done that." "Not going to go there.") but it doesn't detract from the plot. And the plot is what's worth reading in this book.

If you want a quick page turner, then Puppet is for you.

This could be bad...

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I've joined Twitter.

December 11, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: Do You Have the Time?

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Booking Through Thursday

1. Do you get to read as much as you WANT to read?
(I’m guessing #1 is an easy question for everyone?)

2. If you had (magically) more time to read–what would you read? Something educational? Classic? Comfort Reading? Escapism? Magazines?

1. Hahahahahahahaha! Um, what was the question again? If I could read as much as I wanted I'd give up sleeping, eating, bathing, peeing, blinking...you get the idea. I think that explains why I read while walking around the house. But, yeah, I have a house, a kid, pets, a husband, things that need taking care of. This week I haven't read in days! Imagine! I've been busy getting ready for Ho-Ho. I can't remember going this long without a book on the go. It's time to remedy that.

2. All of the above. I have piles of books waiting to be read so I'd have to start on that stack, then I'd take a trip to the bookstore, library, wherever. I love the classics so I have centuries of reading to do. I don't think there will ever be ENOUGH time.

So, how long have you gone without reading? I'm interested.

Advent Calendar: A Few of My Favorite Things

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I thought I had written myself out of ideas for the Advent Calendar last year, but inspiration came as I was listening to Christmas music. I decided to make a list of a few of my favorite Christmas things. Here goes:

*Favorite Christmas Carol* Good King Wenceslas. There are so many carols that I love but this one just has something about it that speaks to me. It isn't just a catchy tune; it tells a story. And the story is a good one. A great king leads his servant through a storm to find a poor man in need. I remember an animated special on TV every year as a kid and for some reason loved watching it.

*Favorite Christmas Movie* A Christmas Story (or Ralphie's Christmas). All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder BB gun but all the grown ups around him say, "You'll shoot your eye out." Weren't we all like Ralphie once? Of course, now as a parent I understand the adults' fears but as a kid I just wanted that one thing that would make Christmas the Best Ever! If you'd like to see A Christmas Story but don't want to sit for 2 hours, here's A Christmas Story in 30 seconds by Bunnies or you can enjoy a scene from the movie right here:





*Favorite Christmas Gift to Give* It's not just me being cheap but I love to give handmade presents. In my younger years, it was a necessity because I was broke but now I just like giving something I made with my own hands. In the past I've made snowman candles, decoupaged pots, bath salts and other things I've forgotten. I'm not sure how the receivers feel about my Homemade Christmas but I hope they know I give from the heart. Here are some 3-D star ornaments you can make yourself.

You'll need:
Double sided cardstock in pretty colours
Glue
Glitter
Hole Punch
Ribbon

Instructions:

I found instructions for making 3-D stars from Lost Button Studios. I reduced the sized to 80% and printed out a template. Cut out. Trace template to cardstock. Cut out. Follow instructions for folding. Cut out a large circle out of coordinating cardstock. Glue edges of star and place in center of circle. Hold in place and before glue dries sprinkle with glitter. Tap off excess glitter. After glue dries, punch hole in top and string a ribbon as a hanger. Voila! A pretty ornament to give to friends.

*Favorite Christmas Gift to Get* Books! Now I love to get handmade gifts too but nothing beats a book, especially something really unique. My parents were so great at getting me interesting books when I was growing up. One of those was an illustrated copy of Edgar Allen Poe's stories. I still have it. It's really beautiful.

*Favorite Christmas Cookie* It's still my mother-in-laws Melt-In-Your-Mouth Shortbread from last year's Advent post. Here is the recipe one more time:


1 lb butter
1 cup sifted icing sugar
3 cups sifted flour
½ cup cornstarch
Cream butter, add sugar & gradually add flour & cornstarch sifted together. Whip mixture until fluffy & mixture breaks or looks curdled. Drop by teaspoons or put through cookie press onto cookie sheet. Bake at 300F until light golden brown (about 20 minutes).

*Favorite Christmas Candy* Here in Canada, every year the restaurant chain Swiss Chalet has the Festive Special: chicken, potato, cranberry sauce and stuffing. As a treat, they used to give mini Toblerone bars. A few years ago they switched to Lindt chocolates instead. You would have thought they committed blasphemy. "What?! No Toblerone!" Even Rick Mercer made a comment on his show about it. I was so disappointed. So, you've guessed it. Toblerone is my favorite holiday candy. Probably because it's so hard to share, I get to eat it myself ;) Nom, nom, nom...

*Favorite Christmas Tradition* It might sound dorky but my favorite tradition is visiting friends and relatives. This time of year is the one time people make an effort to see old friends.

*Favorite New Tradition* Now that I'm a parent, the best new tradition in my life is Christmas morning after Santa's visit. I get to relive that excitement I had as a child through my daughter. When I was her age, I was awake before the sun rose. Christmas Eve is so busy my girl is exhausted and I'm usually awake before she is, waiting for her to wake up. I love how Christmas brings the kid out in all of us.

So, what are your Christmas favorites?

Finally, I'll leave you with a photo of my cat who's not very impressed by a Santa hat.





****I got the dates mixed up so enjoy my post a day early****

December 7, 2008

Lord John and the Hand of Devils: Review

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Lord John and the Hand of Devils by Diana Gabaldon is a collection of three short stories following the adventures of Lord John Gray. ("A Novel" on the cover is misleading. This is not a novel.)

In Lord John and the Hellfire Club, a young man is murdered in front of Lord John. He promises revenge for the young man's death. While on the hunt, he is invited to join the mysterious fraternity of the Hellfire Club. This just might lead him to a killer. I can't say more since this is a very short story. I had the strangest sense of deja-vu and it took me a few pages to realize that I've read this one before. It was added to Lord John and the Private Matter. However, I had forgotten enough to enjoy this one. It has a twisted ending.

Lord John and the Succubus was also written for another collection (I hadn't read it though). Lord John is with the army in Prussia. Rumours of a 'night hag' who steals a man's essence run through the camp. John shrugs it off as local superstition until the death of an English soldier rattles the men. Lord John must get to the bottom of this mystery, is there truth to the stories? There is a bit of the supernatural element to this story even though Lord John is a man with his feet firmly planted on the ground. It's interesting to watch him puzzle this one out.

Lord John and the Haunted Soldier was written just for this collection. Lord John has been badly injured after a canon he was responsible for blows up, killing a man. To add insult to injury, an inquiry asks him difficult questions that cause him to doubt himself. Is he responsible for the destruction of the canon? While trying to clear his name, he stumbles upon a possible cover up involving several canons. He also must find the widow of the fallen soldier who was left penniless and in disgrace. I didn't quite enjoy this one as much as the others. There was something about the ending that I didn't like.

Lord John, originally a minor character in the Outlander series, becomes fully fleshed out as a person in his own right. There's something very endearing about him. He might not mean to get himself involved in these mysteries but his sense of honour compels him to see them through to the end, even though there might be some unpleasantness. Lord John is an interesting character in that he must hide his true nature while at the same time he is a human being in need of love and companionship. It is almost impossible for him to be gay at this point in history.

I loved some of the characters that make appearances in these stories. John's valet Tom Byrd is a fiercely loyal employee but he's not afraid to speak his mind. Harry Quarry also returns in 2 of the stories. He seems to be the complete opposite of John but a more loyal friend John doesn't have. As always, Gabaldon immerses us in the period. There's plenty of 18th century dirt and grit. The only trouble I had with this collection is the timeline. It's hard to pinpoint when the events are happening and how old John is during all of this.

Highly recommended to any Gabaldon fan.

Thanks to Random House.

December 6, 2008

Weekly Geeks: For Dewey

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From Becky:

I was thinking that it might be nice for those bloggers who are Weekly Geeks to pay tribute to Dewey in the next week or so. To take the time to post to their blogs a "Weekly Geek" post about Dewey--maybe share their favorite posts from her site, maybe share a memory or two about participating in weekly geeks, the bookworms carnival, the 24 Hour Readathon, or one of Dewey's challenges, maybe just share a favorite memory of Dewey in general, what they'll miss most, how they'll remember her, etc. I'm going to try to post mine this Saturday--but bloggers anywhere and everywhere are encouraged to post whenever they want.

When I read the news of Dewey's passing, I was shocked to say the least. Now that I've had time to think about what it means I realize the hole she has left in the book blogging world. We started blogging at about the same time but I was always amazed at how Dewey took to blogging. She jumped in with her whole spirit. The number of community building projects she started, many she handled all by herself, is astounding. At this moment an entire community of book bloggers is trying to figure out the huge task of continuing Dewey's projects. Please drop on by at the Book Blog Ning for more information.

What makes me the most sad when I look at her blog is her Book Coveting posts. She would make a weekly list of books she wanted to read. I think we all have a list like that and we believe that someday we will get to them all. But of course this isn't really possible. We will never leave this life having read all we ever wanted. There are always new books being written and new authors to discover. I hope Dewey is somewhere with all the books she could ever desire and that her book coveting list continues to grow forever. That's heavenly!

My favorite memory is of the very first Read-a-thon. I was a cheerleader and was it ever fun! I loved visiting everyone and encouraging them to read, read, read. Dewey was such a great organizer. We were all kind of just getting our feet wet. This could have been great or a big flop. It was a blast! I'm sure it was a success because of Dewey. You'd think she did it everyday.

Anyway I hope you all join me in this special Weekly Geek!

December 4, 2008

BTT: 5 for Favorites

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1. Do you have a favorite author? Probably Diana Gabaldon

2. Have you read everything he or she has written? I think so, even the Lord John stories.

3. Did you LIKE everything? Sure I LIKE everything she writes. Now I do think that some were better than others and looking back some things bugged me but she's pretty consistent.

4. How about a least favorite author? Easy. Henry James. I struggled through Wings of the Dove because he has grammar issues. There are run on sentences that go on for full paragraphs.

5. An author you wanted to like, but didn’t? I'm still thinking Henry James. Edith Wharton was a big fan and I wanted to like him but I just couldn't.

Yeah, that was short.

December 1, 2008

The Painted Veil: Review

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Lift not the painted veil which those who live, Call Life -Percy B. Shelley

Eleanor Roosevelt once said that women are like teabags. We don't know how strong we are until we're put in hot water. Kitty Fane is quite a teabag because she's up to her neck in the stuff. In The Painted Veil by Somerset Maugham, after marrying a mild mannered doctor and moving to China, Kitty is bored and falls for the charming diplomat, Charlie Townsend. Kitty's husband Walter finds the pair in the act and in his anger makes Kitty come with him into a cholera epidemic. It's a clear case of murder-suicide.

Alone with a man who once adored her and now despises her, Kitty has nothing but time on her hands and her own thoughts to keep her company. She starts to think about her life and how she became the shallow creature she sees in the mirror. She looks to the people around her, Waddington and the French nuns, for answers to the bigger questions in life. What is really important?

I have seen the movie version which is a tragic romance but the original book ends quite differently. It's difficult to like Kitty at first. She's very vain and self-absorbed. She believes that she can get her husband to do whatever she wants. Consequences are for other people. She gets a reality check when she is alone in a diseased ravaged village. Maugham starts to build her character. We see her grow as a person. Of course, she isn't perfect and she makes some major mistakes. Even at the end I wonder if she does the right thing or if she's acting out of selfishness. At least she tries.

The Painted Veil is an easy book to read. It's short and has some very beautiful writing. Told entirely from Kitty's point of view, it's a character study of one woman's search for her true self after reality is forced upon her. I'll definitely read more of Maugham

Unbelievably Sad News

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I just can't believe that Dewey from Hidden Side of the Leaf has passed away. How does this happen? One minute she's posting about the books she plans to give away and then she's gone. I have a hard time grasping it. Dewey was such a generous, funny person. I got that just from her blog. She will be missed by us in the book blogging community. She did so much to bring us together. I will miss her too.
RIP Dewey


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