February 27, 2009

Dewey's Knit-a-Long Mini Challenge Update

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I finally finished my crocheted socks about a week ago. They weren't really hard to make but I made a lot of stupid mistakes by not paying attention and had to unravel them often. I even finished a sock before I realized that I had made a major mistake in the heel. There was much cursing. In the end, I was happy to be done with them even though one is obviously bigger than the other! As for comfort...meh. I don't think I'll be making many pairs of socks.

I'm on to my other project, a crocheted sweater. The pattern is marked experienced but so far I'm enjoying it more than the simpler socks. We'll see how it goes.

A Blue Friday

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I was going to post my links for Friday, but I just couldn't get into it. It hasn't been a great week around here. First, I caught the flu and was pretty miserable for a few days. Then my cat, who's been sick for some time now, had to be put down. It was tough but I knew it was the right thing when I saw how miserable she was. She was the sweetest cat. We'll miss you Cleo.

February 25, 2009

Blech!

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I have the flu. When the aches and chills go away, I'll be back. Until then, keep reading!

February 24, 2009

The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John leCarré

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Someone in book-bloggerland coined the term "dick-lit" and The Spy Who Came In From the Cold by John leCarré fits the bill. The men are men and the chicks dig them. Everyone is referred to by their last name, except for the big boss who goes by Control. They live off whiskey and cigarettes. Every conversation has a double meaning: "The banana's in the suitcase," "The turkey's on the lose." Okay I made that last bit up but you get my meaning.

Alec Leamas has one last job before he can 'come in from the cold' (that phrase gets worn out in this book). He just wants to hang up his spying hat and retire. The last job is a tricky one, to eliminate the heartless East German named Mundt. That's about all I can say... really I spent most of the novel completely lost.

I don't think the spy genre is my genre. I felt very little connection to Leamas. He hides his true character behind a mask of indifference. I could never figure him out. I also had a hard time following what was going on. Who was double crossing who? However, there is no doubt that this is really well written. LeCarré paints a grim picture of the spy business- no debonair James Bond with the cheesy one liners. LeCarré is saying that right and wrong in the spying game is irrelevant. I think the ending (as disappointing as I found it) drives that point home.

I could give John leCarré another chance at some point. The writing itself is worth the reading. Can anyone recommend another leCarré book to me?

February 23, 2009

Wicked By Any Other Name by Linda Wisdom: Review

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Stasi Romanov, 700 year old witch and lingerie shop owner, is being sued by an angry customer, after a love charm fails to charm. Trevor Barnes is the lawyer/wizard Stasi must face in court but Cupid has his own plans for the two of them. In the meantime, an evil force has taken over Stasi's town, turning the once tolerant townspeople against the witches. Trevor must work with Stasi and the witches to undue the wicked spell before the town turns into a modern day Salem.

Wicked By Any Other Name by Linda Wisdom is a fun, sexy read with lots of action. Stasi is a a lovable character with a strong desire to do the right thing- no matter what it might cost her. It was quite entertaining though I thought it lagged a bit at the end. I felt there was too much cheery dialogue at a time when they were all in peril. Other than that, I liked it, especially the nod to Salem at the end. My favorite part: The Librarian. I love that guy.

Recommended.

Thanks to Sourcebooks for the ARC.

February 21, 2009

Sima's Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger- Ross: Review

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For three decades, Sima has been running a lingerie shop out of her basement in Brooklyn, New York, helping women with the milestones- big and little- of their lives. She's seen and heard it all but one day a perfect pair of breasts takes her by surprise. They belong to the beautiful Timna, a young Israeli woman looking for work. Sima offers her a job as a seamstress and soon becomes overly involved in the young woman's life. As Timna tells her of her adventures in Israel and New York, Sima takes a look at her own life, the disappointments in her marriage, her inability to have children, the emptiness in her heart and wonders if it's too late for anything more.

There's nothing better than when I fall in love with a book. Sima's Undergarments for Women by Ilana Stanger-Ross is one of those books. The characterization is excellent. Sima and Timna live on the page. I can see Sima standing in her basement handing out wisdom to her clients. What I liked about Sima was how real she seemed. She's far from perfect. She's often jealous, and fretful. I could sympathize with her while wishing that she'd open her eyes to what she has in her life rather than dwelling on what she doesn't. In real life, that's hard for all of us to do.

Since the story is told from Sima's viewpoint, much of Timna's life is a mystery. Where does she go when she isn't at the shop? Like Sima, we can only wonder. A whole book could be written about Timna. She's beautiful but enigmatic and sometimes sad. At times she's a surrogate daughter to Sima but Sima also tries to relive her youth through Timna, imagining what she does with her time. It's so sad and frustrating to watch Sima try to build a mother/daughter relationship with this stranger.

Through flashbacks Sima's life as a young married woman is revealed to the reader. At first, she is hopeful and full of love for her husband Lev but as her obsession with having a baby grows, her marriage starts to disintegrate. It's painfully real. Some of the most awkward scenes are between Sima and Lev. He really takes the brunt of her frustration.

I don't think I can say enough about this book to do it justice. I'm so glad I decided to read it this week. Beautiful writing and honest characters.

Highly recommended

Ilana Stanger-Ross also has a blog. Check it out.

By the way, I won this ARC from Penguin Canada. Thanks Penguin.


February 19, 2009

BTT: A Method to the Madness

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This week’s question is suggested by Kat:

I recently got new bookshelves for my room, and I’m just loving them. Spent the afternoon putting up my books and sharing it on my blog . One of my friends asked a question and I thought it would be a great BTT question. So from Tina & myself, we’d like to know “How do you arrange your books on your shelves? Is it by author, by genre, or you just put it where it falls?


Okay, here's the deal. I'm a super-freaky neat-nick. I hate dust and hairballs and unmade beds but I have a secret: my bookshelves are messy. I blame that on the fact that I have more books than space for them. The book cupboard (it's an old armoire) is 2 rows deep and sometimes it's hard to remember what's back there. If I had bookshelves like Natasha, then I would make an effort to be neater.

Anyway, I think there is some kind of method in there somewhere but no one else could ever figure it out. Books I love are alphabetized (sort of), books I read and will part with in the future (but not now) are to the left, TBR books are in the middle, borrowed books are to the right. I think...

So my books are messy but I'm a neat freak, I wonder what that says about me.

I did just buy a print from Paperbones: Penelope. I love the bookshelves in this print. I have it hanging by the messy bookshelves. Inspiration maybe?

Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot: Review

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A woman in her early forties must put her life back together after her husband, Edgar, leaves her. A typical scenario in women's literature, except in Getting Over Edgar by Joan Barfoot, just 7 weeks after leaving, Edgar dies when a train hits his shiny red convertible.

After an awkward funeral, newly widowed Gwen skips the burial to get sloshed at a questionable watering hole. Young David works behind the bar and offers to drive Gwen home. Acting totally out of character, Gwen takes him to bed and that one act changes the lives of them both in unforseen ways.

Getting Over Edgar alternates between Gwen and David's viewpoints, as they lead their separate lives after their one night together. It's amusing to read their misguided ideas of each other and how those ideas spur them on.

I enjoyed reading this book although I looked forward to Gwen's chapters more than David's. David is creepy and pathetic and at times I just wanted to slap him. Somehow though he finds a tentative foothold on life. Gwen, on the other hand, finds her strength early on and heads out on her own. Her road trip is quite a ride.

Barfoot's writing reminds me of Carol Shields, in that it's insightful and about ordinary people. The ending didn't really surprise me. I thought it was being set up from the start, but I liked this story of two people beginning over where their previous lives ended. It's optimistic without being saccharin.

Recommended.

Read for The 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.



February 18, 2009

Scene of the Blog

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Hi all! Just wanted to share. Cathy @ Kittling Books featured my blog space in her new weekly feature Scene of the Blog. Check it out!

Author Chat: Linda Wisdom

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Linda Wisdom, author of Wicked By Any other Name, is guest blogging here on book-a-rama today. Thanks Linda.
Enjoy!

Witches Don’t Always Have It Easy by Linda Wisdom

I don’t believe it making it simple for my characters. What’s the fun in the story if there aren’t some obstacles there to mess up what could be a perfect life or even a hot sex life? And just because you’re a 700 + year young witch doesn’t mean you have complete control over your life.

Especially if Cupid isn’t happy with you.

Jazz had her problems, but nothing like Stasi in Wicked By Any Other Name when she’s served with a scroll from the Wizards Court that she’s being sued for fraud. All it takes is one little hexed sachet to ruin her day.

What I like about Stasi is that she has a soul for romance. She wants every woman to feel beautiful inside and out via the gorgeous lingerie she sells and inspired by the romance books she also carries in her boutique. And then there’s the bespelled sachets she tucks in with each purchase meant to encourage self-confidence and romance in the purchaser’s heart. And what woman doesn’t want that?

Except that’s Cupid’s territory and he doesn’t like anyone messing with his romance mojo.

Thus starts Stasi’s trouble. The human plantiff’s wizard attorney, Trevor Barnes, who has red hearts dancing over his head. The same red hearts that happen to be hovering hers. Cupid’s sign they’re meant to be soul mates. Stasi’s hiccupping iridescent bubbles all over the place, the lake is tainted with an olde magick, and the townspeople are looking at her and fellow witch Blair as if they’re spawns of the devil. For Stasi, it could be Olde Salem all over again and she didn’t like it one bit the first time around. Except she’s got Trev, Blair, Jazz, and Nick to help out along with Jake Harrison, the town handyman, who could have a few secrets of his own. It speeds ahead with Stasi in fear of the past being recreated in the present and people not who they claim to be.

I like to have fun with my characters and I feel I did that here. We have romance, lots of magick, suspense, along with Bogie, Stasi’s beloved magickal dog who’s patterned after my own Bogie and Horace, the eight inch gargoyle that likes to hang out in her boutique because well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out what keeps Horace there.

The best part of any romance is if it can make you laugh and/or cry. Personally, I’d rather make you laugh and hopefully brighten your day with magick that you can even find within yourself.

So go out and buy yourself a sexy piece of lingerie and pick up some scented sachets in your drawers. And whatever you do, don’t find yourself on Cupid’s romance radar. You might find yourself with more than red hearts doing the Macarena over your head.

But if you read Wicked By Any Other Name you might learn just what to do if it happens to you.

Linda


February 17, 2009

The Face of Vintage Kids' Books in the US

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I just had to post this link to Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Love about the new US Consumer Product Act. Scribbler is a true lover of vintage kids' books. On her blog, she writes about finding vintage books some of which she sells on Etsy. Her post The Death of Vintage Kids Books just about broke my heart. She writes about how this law will affect her.

Right now Scribbler is selling her surplus books on her Etsy shop: Vintage Kids' Books. There are some great deals.



February 16, 2009

Vote for Me!

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Hi everyone! I would love it if you voted for my Romantic Scarflette I made for my Etsy team (Etsyhookers) challenge. Here's the link. My item is #12. Thanks!!



February 14, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

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HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY!



February 12, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Author Chat

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Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by Barbara H.:

A comment on someone else’s BTT question this week inspired this question:

Do you read any author’s blogs? If so, are you looking for information on their next project? On the author personally? Something else?


I'm more likely to just stumble into an author's blog than follow them. It's usually through other bloggers that I find them. I'm might stick around though if they post funny observations, the day to day living stuff or discuss recent topics in the news or in the blogosphere. If it's just about their edits or other writing stuff, probably not. All relationships need a little mystery.

Here are a few good ones off the top of my head:

Colleen Gleason

Meg Cabot

First Offenders (Karen E Olson and friends)

Diana Gabaldon (though it's kind of Outlander-centric)

How about you?


February 11, 2009

Six Things That Make Me Happy

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Julie from BookingMama tagged me for the Six Things That Make Me Happy meme. I'm remembering to do it today (I should rename this blog The Forgetful Blogger!).

1. The Kid. Not everyday is a walk in the park but seeing her happy makes me happy.

2. Great things in the mail. Whether it's books or a T-shirt from Cameesa, I love something fun in the mail.

3. A really good book: a can't put it down and must finish it now book.

4. Chocolate.

5. My husband... most of the time. lol! Just kidding.

6. My brand new boots (in black). I got them for my birthday, which is coming up this month.

I'm supposed to tag 6 people but if you feel happy today, do this meme.

February 10, 2009

Books, Blogging and Over Exposure

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While shopping for school supplies last summer, I noticed pallets upon pallets of Hannah Montana sandwich bags, not lunch bags, those little plastic baggies for sandwiches. I was shocked. Sandwich bags? Really? I felt Disney had gone too far in it's licensing. What next? All I could think was that they were going to squeeze every penny out of that kid while they could. This is not Miley Cyrus's fault either. I doubt she has much say in where her alter ego ends up.

When SassyMonkey(Karen) lamented that she was "tired of seeing the same books over and over again on blogs", I thought of Miley. Karen went on to post on her blog a clarification of what she meant. It's not the latest best sellers or the ones we all recommend to each other but the ones being hyped (or over hyped). I admit I'll read a couple of reviews of the same book but then skip them after that. No matter how brilliant the blogger you can only say so much about a book that hasn't already been said. Sometimes the same author post will show up on a number of blogs- not that you can blame them. How can anyone write 20-30 unique posts on the same topic? It would be exhausting.

Book blogging is new. Book blogging tours are very new. Publishers have discovered a great promotional resource. We're more than happy to get free books and they don't have to buy us lunch. We love talking to authors. I fully disclose that I have and will review books from publishers and blog tours.

Since like all new inventions, we should try them out for awhile then take them back into the workshop and tinkler with them a bit more, let's do the same here.

For bloggers who review ARCs and participate in book tours: What are the postives? What are the negatives? How do you feel when you see several bloggers reviewing the same book you have at the same time? Excited? Or frustrated?

Authors: Can a book be overexposed? Or is it all good?

Readers: How do you feel about all the multiple posts for one book? Do you read them all? Are you skeptical? Has it made you buy the book? Does it feel like an ad?

Publishers/book blog tour organizers: What are your thoughts?

February 8, 2009

Weekly Geeks: 2009 #5

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This week's topic: Judge a Book By It's Cover. I've Chosen The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.



This is my copy. Most covers I found were some variation of this one, the woman in a big red dress next to the wall.

Another lady in red, this one with her face obscured.

I don't know about this one. It would give the reader the impression that it's historical fiction instead of a futuristic nightmare. Pretty though.

This one is weird! The dude looks like Stalin.


This one is nice. Retro. It reminds me of a booklet my mom gave me about 'becoming a woman'.


This one features Margaret herself, but doesn't tell you a thing about the book. Fail.


A different lady in red. She's kind of hiding in the dark.


Although this one is a bit disturbing, I like it. It's very symbolic.

Which one do you like?

Great topic for Weekly Geeks. I had fun!

February 7, 2009

1984 by George Orwell: Review

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1984, Orwellian, Thought Police, unperson. Are you familiar with these words? George Orwell started a new vocabulary with his stark, dystopian masterpiece 1984. Having heard these terms my whole life, I wanted to know what the big deal was about 1984. It's not a big book but it packs a wallop.

In 1984, the nation of Oceania is constantly at war with other world powers. The Party, headed by Big Brother, keeps watch over it's citizens for their own protection. Winston Smith works for The Party, shredding old newspaper articles and occasionally rewriting them the suit the political whims of The Party. The workdays are interrupted by the Two Minutes of Hate, when all the workers rant at a video of Goldstein, enemy of Big Brother. All the while, they are being scrutinized through telescreens for any sign of dissent. Even at home Winston has no reprieve from the constant surveillance. He takes a chance after buying a journal and starts writing his true thoughts on Big Brother. It's both exhilarating and terrifying.

Winston believes he is the only person who feels this way until he meets Julia. Where Winston uses his writing as a protest against tyranny, Julia uses her body. Sex for pleasure is forbidden in Oceania. Having found a safe place for rendezvous, Julia tells Winston that Big Brother may watch them every moment but they can't get at their thoughts: "They can't get inside you." Or so it seems.

I read 1984 for both the For the Love of Reading Challenge and Dewey's Reading Challenge. Since Dewey had read this, I checked out her review where she interviewed her husband. He had some very interesting thoughts.

I had always that 1984 was about Communism but it's not. It's about totalitarianism which could happen in any government that has too much power. What's disturbing about 1984 isn't so much the lack of privacy but the government's desire to know the thoughts of it's citizens and then control them. At least, if you are being watched your thoughts are safely tucked away in your head. Big Brother has ways of getting them out.

1984 is brutal and violent, but the people seem to enjoy that brutality. In the first pages, a group of moviegoers cheer after seeing a film of a boatload of children being bombed to pieces. Violence is part of their daily lives. When I started reading the book, I imagined a world of yellowish-brown, dirty and bleak. Orwell describes an ugly world, even the people are described as small and beetle-like. Occasionally, there are moments of beauty: a bird on a branch, a field of bluebells, and a woman singing as she hangs laundry. Those moments stand out about against the ugliness.

Dewey admitted to skipping the section called the book, which is an explanation of history of the party and it's tenets. It is dry reading but is very important to the story. Winston starts to understand but "He understood how; he did not understand why." When at the end, he finds out why, my reaction was, "um...huh...that's just nuts!" I wasn't alone in that thought: "I know that you will fail" says Winston. Unfortunately, Winston, the individual, fails and it's seems that mankind is doomed, but Orwell, that tricky little devil, has one last trick up his sleeve. There is an Appendix on Newspeak, the language of The Party, it's an academic paper and it's written in past tense and seems to indicate that The Party has fallen out of power before 2050. It's been the subject of much argument. Has mankind been saved? Being an optimist, I believe that Winston's prediction that, "If there is hope, it lies in the proles" (the ordinary people) is right.

1984 both repulsed and fascinated me. When I finished, I felt like I needed to scrub my brain, but I couldn't stop thinking of it. I'm glad I read it. Orwell died a year after 1984 was published. I wonder if he had any idea of what an impact his book has had on the world.

Highly recommended.



Other Reviews:
Maree @ Just Add Books

February 5, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: TMI?

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Booking Through Thursday

Suggested by Simon Thomas:

Have you ever been put off an author’s books after reading a biography of them? Or the reverse - a biography has made you love an author more?


I don't think I've read any biographies on authors, not that I remember. I am looking forward to reading Elizabeth Gaskell's biography on Charlotte Bronte though (The Life of Charlotte Bronte).

Not a biography, but a fictional work based on an author's life is Daphne by Justine Picardie (my review). Daphne is about Daphne DuMaurier's obsession with Branwell Bronte. She had an interesting but sad life marked with the mental illness of herself, her husband and many family members. She had some big names in her family and the book makes references to J.M. Barrie. He doesn't come out so well in the book. It made me look at the author of Peter Pan a lot differently- and not in a good way. As for Daphne, it made me want to read everything she's ever written, including her biography of Branwell: Infernal World Of Branwell Bronte.

Edit: I did read a few Mary Shelley biographies for a university report. She had a fascinating life. I felt quite sorry for her.

February 4, 2009

K is for Kookie?

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Over at Hey Lady Whatcha Reading? Trish posted a meme in which participants are given a letter and must list 10 things beginning with that letter that they love. I enthusiastically asked to be a part and figured as long as I didn't get Q or Z, I'd be okay. Trish then sent me the letter K. I blanked. K, K, what do I love that starts with K? Um, kookie? No, that wouldn't pass with Cookie Monster, so I pondered it for awhile. Soon, I couldn't stop coming up with things I love that start with K!



1. My kid. Of course, I love my girl. She's quite a character!

2. Kittens or kitties. A little purring, puff ball, ah, I just want to cuddle them.


3. My kitchen. When building my house, decisions about the kitchen were both difficult and fun. We had to decide on everything from where to put the appliances to the hardware on the cabinets. I love how it turned out.

4. In a related note, my new kitchen table. Now we can have more than 2 people over for supper.

5. My KitchenAid mixer. How I love this machine! I don't know how I did without it.

6. Knits, as in sweaters. I'm always cold so I love me a warm sweater.

7. Kids, the baby goat kind. Last summer, we visited a petting zoo where they had pygmy goats. They were the cutest things, especially the babies.

8. Kenny's Pizza. It's a local pizza place. Great pizza and I love their turkey subs too.

9. Kahlua. I'm not a big drinker, but when I do I prefer a little Kahlua in milk.

10. Finally, kisses. Whether it's from my hubby or my girl, got to love kisses. And the chocolate kind are pretty awesome too!

If you've been to Trish's blog, you probably already played but if you want to play here. I'll assign you a letter! It's fun!

The Age of Innocence: Review

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Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence is a story of Old New York manners and traditions. Newland Archer, having just announced his engagement to young May Welland, falls hard for her cousin, the enigmatic Countess Ellen Olenska. Ellen's appearance in New York society is shocking. She has left her blackguard of a husband in Europe to return her own family. If Ellen expects open arms, she's in for a rude awakening. Newland himself must choose between family duty and true love. Just how will this all turn out?

As always, Wharton writes about people in a pickle. Always they seem to have extraordinarily bad timing. Always they get in the way of their own happiness. The Age of Innocence belongs to a time when societal obligation invariably supersedes personal fulfillment. At times, the novel was a satire; the traditions of the upper crust verged on ridiculous. Most of the time, I found it painful to read of the unwritten rules that couldn't be broken. The most frustrating of all was how no one ever spoke of anything 'unpleasant'. Maybe if they had, they would have had a better understanding of one another and more compassion.

Although Newland is the protagonist of the story, I found him to be the weakest character. As a man, he had more options than a woman in his place would have. Instead, he caves into the expectations of the family. He gets played, by just about everyone, but especially the women.

Women didn't have any political or financial power but they ruled Society. An invitation to the right party could make or break you. Ellen's grandmother fights hard to have her accepted, but Ellen is not really one of them. She sees the rules of Society as something not too be taken too seriously. They amuse her more than anything. After a short time, the family gets tired of Ellen. The more Ellen tries to free herself from her old life, the more her family tries to push her back in.

May is a character who is not what she seems. She appears to be all innocence, someone Newland can mould into the perfect wife. He finds that it's not that easy. May has learned the rules and manners necessary to get what she wants. He has briefs moments of realization that he's just a puppet, but it's short lived.

I'm not sure how I feel about The Age of Innocence. The writing is beautiful, of course, but I found it hard to relate to any of the characters. I sometimes felt sorry for Newland but most often found him arrogant and weak. The women were interesting but I could never figure out how they really felt about anything. In the end, I would recommend The Age of Innocence for it's view of Old New York Society and the terrific writing.

February 2, 2009

Winner!

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The Winner of The I Suck At Challenges Challenge draw is:

the review from here


Congrats!

February 1, 2009

'I Suck at Challenges' Challege: Update 1

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It's February 1st and time to start The "I Suck at Challenges" Challenge. Below is the list of participants. Please have a look. Am I missing anyone?

12 Steppers:
Heather
N Vasillis
Marg
Nely
Sheri
Josette
Jessica
Leya
Tammy
Teddy
Literary Feline
Kathrin
Jodie
the review from here
Jules
Intergalactic Bookworm
Grilsgood
Whitney


Slackers:
Bookfool
Ali
Ragdoll
Confuzzled Shannon
Word Freak
And Me

Since this is only the first day, how are you feeling about your challenges? Confident? Hopelessly behind? Please leave a comment.

This past month I've read 2 books for 2 challenges. Not great but not awful.

Now about the promised giveaway. I'm drawing for some of bookmarks and bookplates from a couple of my favorite Etsy shops: Ma Petite Papeterie and Little Brown Pen. I'll draw a name tomorrow morning and post it then.


Remember I will be posting a reminder post towards the end of the month. Let us know how you're doing on the challenges. I'll do an update post on March 1st.

Good luck!