January 31, 2010

Fun February: Blog Luv Fest

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Since Valentine's Day is in 2 weeks, let's have some fun!

I'm not a big Valentine's Day person. A card and some chocolate is enough for me. And someone else cooking for a night- but I'd use any excuse for that. Now that I'm a Mom, Valentine's Day has turned into another one of those holidays for kids. I help the girl with her Valentines and make cupcakes for her class. It's not so much about romance anymore. That doesn't mean we can't have fun with the day.

Over the next 2 weeks, I'll be posting special posts for Valentine's Day. Would you like to join me?

You can participate as much or as little as you'd like from February 1-14. Here are some ideas for posts:
  • Reviews of books or movies with a romantic or love theme
  • Valentine crafts
  • Valentine photos
  • lists of favorite love-themed books or movies (people love lists!)
  • love letters to your significant other, child, pet, etc
  • poems
  • a special romantic recipe
Get creative and come up with your own ideas! Then come back to this post or any post on book-a-rama featuring this button and leave a link to that post. Also please link to this post so everyone can find their way back here.


Feel free to use this button.

On Sunday February 7 and 14 (Valentine's Day, in case you didn't know), I'll post a Roundup of all those Valentine's related posts.

I hope you'll join me for the Blog Luv Fest. February is a blah month and I think everyone feels a little shack happy during the winter. Even if it's summer for you. 

Please post about this on your blog, Twitter, etc if you choose to join, or even if you don't :).


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January 29, 2010

100 Mile Fitness Challenge: Month 1

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Since it's the end of the month, I thought I'd do an update on the 100 Mile Fitness Challenge- in case you thought I forgot about it.

It's been a month of ups and downs. Overall I'm happy with my progress. I had an annoying cold 2 weeks ago and that slowed me down some, but I still pushed through and did my miles. I've been faithful to my treadmill with the help of Lady Gaga. And Mr Wii Fit has been helpful too though he gives me a hard time if I miss a day. I haven't lost any weight which is a bummer but I feel really good.

Here the breakdown:

*Week 1: 7 miles
*Week 2: 7 miles
*Week 3: 9 miles
*Week 4: 9 miles
_____________
Total: 32 miles

68 to go!

I was all set to go skating. I had new skates I bought last year and didn't wear. Shiny Reebok ones. Unfortunately, I forgot to get them sharpened and didn't realize it. I stepped out onto the ice at the rink and couldn't move! I was stuck like glue. My husband had to drag me back to the door. So I spent the next hour watching my husband and daughter skating around. I really don't think I could keep up with them anyway. When I do get out on the ice, I'll let you know how it went- hopefully not from a hospital bed.

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January 27, 2010

Wordless: Meowello!

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My Kitties!


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January 26, 2010

Austen...You're Soaking In It

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I'm lost in Austen this week. Sunday I watched the first episode of the latest TV version of Emma on PBS. It was quite enjoyable! Everyone was adorable in their period costumes. Emma is played by Romola Garai and
George Knightley by Jonny Lee Miller. I loved their verbal sparring.

There was a little Twitter party on the go while watching Emma. All the Austenites were tweeting away about the show. I ended up DVRing the episode so I can watch it again later; I missed so much while chatting. There was a lot said about the costumes. Emma looked spectacular in red and she wore a lot of it. I love red so I approved. I want to wear her clothes!



Also this week, I've been reading Austenland by Shannon Hale and enjoying the whole idea of having an Austen vacation. Kelly and I will be discussing that one soon. In the meantime, here's a question for you:

If you could temporarily immerse yourself in an Austen novel (the story, the clothes, the houses, the men), which one would you choose?


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January 23, 2010

I Like You by Amy Sedaris: Review

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So yeah, Amy Sedaris is bonkers. Really, really bonkers but in a good way. She has to be to have written I Like You. I Like You is sort of a instructional book for entertaining and cookbook. I say sort of because it's so frickin' weird. It's tagline is Hospitality Under the Influence. I'd say there was some partaking of chemicals when writing this one.You might not want to leave this one sitting around for small children to pick up, unless you want to explain to them what a bong is.

Amy offers suggestions for entertaining in all kinds of situations for all kinds of people: blind dates, alcoholics, children, sick people, the elderly, lumberjacks. She gives advice on how to set the mood, what to serve, how to get out various stains, how to get guests to give you money, etc.

While reading I Like You, I thought some of it was useful and sensible. Then she'd say something so off the wall, I'd question everything I just read. It had the effect of making it difficult to decide if she's being serious or not. Anyway, I've read that the recipes are actually quite good. I haven't tried any yet. The pictures are less than appetizing. Some of them remind me of my Mom's old cookbooks from the seventies, kind of dark and photographed in that weird orangey light. I think that's the look she was going for though.

So, I don't know. If you are in the mood for a humourous look at entertaining, I Like You might be worth picking up but I wouldn't make it my only book on the topic. Unless your guests really like crafts made from pantyhose.

I bought I Like You from a discount site.




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January 21, 2010

Cover Girls

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The controversy this past week about the Magic Under Glass cover got me thinking. I'm not going to focus on the race issue because there are plenty of posts on that already and what do I know about it anyway. I'm going to take out my Mom Hat for this one, because I'm not just a reader, I'm a Mom too.

I've read the comments popping up on the related posts here and there and one comment really struck a nerve. A young bi-racial woman said she wouldn't have read Magic Under Glass with a darker girl on the cover because she'd assume the book was about 'issues'. This gave me pause. I wouldn't get upset with this girl; she's just giving her honest opinion. But how have we gotten here? How is it that when a young woman looks at a cover with a person of colour (someone who looks more like herself) she assumes the book is about issues? (Same could be said for a heavier girl too.) Not just a book about an average girl with average problems.

Then we have Heidi Montag who landed on the cover of People magazine. Why? No, she didn't save a busload of nuns from a fiery death. She wasn't the first woman on Mars. She hasn't cured cancer. She had 10 procedures that have made her look closer to a Barbie doll. That is how she got on the cover of People magazine.

I don't have a problem with plastic surgery. If I could afford it, I'd have a few things done. If it makes you happy, why not? But Heidi Montag is 23 years old! What could possibly be wrong with her that she needed 10 procedures after already having surgery a few years ago? Why does she want to look so artificial? It makes me very sad. What makes me even sadder is this is how she made it onto a magazine cover. How messed up is that?

No wonder girls think the way they do when this is the kind of crap they see everyday. Publishers say that this is what people want to see on the covers of books and magazines. That's a chicken and egg argument. Is it what people want to see? Or do people think they want to see that because they have been programmed to think it is? Maybe if girls saw some diversity on those covers, they wouldn't be running out to get those surgeries. They'd see that it's okay look like yourself. That there is nothing wrong with you if you don't have the perfect nose or long blond hair. Being an individual and not just another wannabe is who you should be. Afterall Barbie is a plastic doll manufactured in a plant, not an actual person.

I haven't read Uglies yet but maybe Scott Westerfeld has something there. I predict that in the future there will be no cover controversies because everyone will look the same anyway.

Photo: http://www.vierdrie.nl/

Generation A by Douglas Coupland: Review

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What can I say about Generation A by Douglas Coupland? It was...different... interesting. I'm still letting the story slosh around in my mind.

So what is Generation A about? It's the near future and all the bees have disappeared. This has terrible global consequences, as you can imagine. A fresh apple is a rare and expensive thing. When 5 young people are stung by bees in different parts of the world, they become the the subject of world wide interest. Most of the book focuses on the 5 characters reactions to the events that occur during and after being stung.

The story is told in the first person of each of the B5s (as they come to be known): Harj, Zack, Samantha, Diana and Julien. Coupland does an excellent job of giving each of them a distinctive voice. I felt like I really got to know them. If I had to pick a favorite, it would be a tie between Harj who is so funny and clever and Diana who has Torettes and a no-holds-barred way of speaking her mind.

As the novel, progresses the characters start telling stories, revealing to the reader their state of mind and how they see the world they live in. A world of technology, cheap drugs and disconnection. I enjoyed most of these stories; some were ironic, some depressing, some funny. The book got weird toward the end. Although I haven't read any other Coupland, I have seen his short lived TV series J-Pod and weird seems to be his thing.

I'm on the fence about whether or not I love the book. I certainly was engaged in the writing, which was excellent. The characters felt like real people. The only difficulty I had is the end. I'm not sure what to make of it. Though Coupland says that if a person asks,"What happens next?" then you've told a story. He certainly did that.

Have a look at this video from Douglas Coupland's website. It's kinda long but very entertaining and includes fake ads for Solon and Channel 3 News and instructions on how to make an earth sandwich.




Thank you to Random House for sending me this review copy.

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January 20, 2010

Wordless: Music

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January 19, 2010

This Old Thing?: Pamela

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I haven't done a This Old Thing? in awhile but I decided to bring it back for the new year.

Today we have Pamela by Samuel Richardson. From the back cover:

Pamela created a sensation when it was published in 1740- and it has never ceased to be controversial.

Told in a series of letters, it is a story of a serving maid who is relentlessly pursued by her dead mistress's son. In defending her virginity so vigorously, Pamela, the first important English heroine to actually work for her living, rebels against the social attitudes which dictated that lower-class girls were not supposed to set a value on themselves.
 Even though it's written by a man it sounds like a good choice for the Women Unbound Challenge.

I picked this one up at the last library book sale. It was a $2. It's in very good shape.


Have you read Pamela? Did you like it? Have you found any old gems yourself lately?


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January 18, 2010

Shades of Grey, The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde: Review

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It's hundreds of years into the future and things are a lot different, but not in the way you'd imagine. In Shades of Grey: The Road to High Saffron by Jasper Fforde, The Collective strictly controls the lives of it's citizens, everything from when they eat to the careers they will have for the rest of their lives is written out in The Rules. And there is a rule for everything.

2.3.06.02.087: Unnecessary sharpening of pencils constitutes a waste of public resources, and will be punished as appropriate.
No one questions The Rules. The Rules are there for the protection of the people and there must be a good reason for every one no matter how silly or counterproductive it seems. Rules like the one that dictates the Great Leapbacks, where technology is gradually outlawed (they're down to Model T's at this point). Breaking of The Rules leads to demerits, and too many demerits lands you in Reboot (a type of prison) and no one wants to go there.

There is one important thing to wrap your head around in Shades of Grey: the social and financial hierarchy is determined by what colour a person is able to see. At the top are the bossy Yellows and the Greys are at the bottom. 

Eddie Russett is a Red on his way up. He's been courting a High Red and has plenty of merits. Everything was coming up roses until a prank landed him on Chair Census duty in the Outer Fringes of East Carmine. East Carmine isn't quite what he's used to. It's like the wild west. The people indulge in Loopholery to get around The Rules and the officials are corrupt. The disregard for The Rules shocks Eddie but not as much as he's shocked by Jane Grey. She's not like any Grey he's ever met before. She's belligerent and threatening. She's rebellious and he's falling for her.

Jane is about to show him a side of the world he's never seen before. Jane has Eddie asking himself and others questions about the world they live in. In The Collective questions are dangerous.

I didn't think I could like a Jasper Fforde novel as much as I liked the Tuesday Next series but I absolutely loved Shades of Grey. It is strange and weird. I had to stop reading frequently at first because reading it made my brain hurt. There was a lot of world building at the beginning that had me confused but by the time I got to the second half of the book, I couldn't put it down.

Eddie's an interesting character. At first, he's willing to fall in with what the world has planned for him even if it doesn't make him happy. Jane makes him realize that he isn't like everyone else. Shades of Grey has some of the most aggressive female characters in literature. Most of the male characters are afraid of them. I loved that!

Just like in his previous novels, there is silliness but the book does take on a darker tone toward the end. You can laugh at how the people in The Collective divide themselves but think of the ways in which people divide themselves today: race, religion, culture, politics. A future generation may find our divisions just as ridiculous.

This is just the first of a trilogy and I cannot wait until the next one, Painting by Numbers, comes out.

Highly, highly recommended.

I won Shades of Grey through the Penguin Book Club. Thanks!

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January 17, 2010

Dystopia-rama

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After reading The Hunger Games and Shades of Grey, I started thinking about my love of dystopian fiction. Why is it that I like to read about future humans in peril? I'm not even a big fan of dystopian movies but books, I like. I decided to pose the question on Twitter and received a variety of answers as to why others like it. For some, it's a vicarious thrill, others it's about contemplating the true nature of mankind in extreme circumstances.

For myself, it's curiosity. Just how bad can things get? and Boy am I glad I live here now.

According to Wikipedia a dystopia is "the often futuristic vision of a society in which conditions of life are miserable and characterized by poverty, oppression, war, violence and/or terror, resulting in widespread unhappiness, suffering, and other kinds of pain."

Sounds like a barrel of laughs, doesn't it? And yet, these are the novels that make me think, that get my heart pounding, that keep me up all night.

In most of these stories, the suffering and the pain in the future are because we screwed up right now. The author tends to point a crooked finger our way because we let it happen. Even if it's fiction, that always makes me feel a bit squirmy. I can't see the future but it's the what ifs that get to me. Sometimes the author comes right out tells us how it all went to hell and in others we have to figure out what it was. These are the most entertaining. I try to piece together how things got to that point. In Shades of Grey, the Collective calls it Something That Happened. What happened? They don't know...something. Something that changed everything.

Even though things seem hopeless, the reader wants things to work out, often they don't- for the protagonist. Hopefully the author gives us a sense that in the future another Something That Happened will happen to straighten it all out. That the oppressed will find freedom and that humankind can find happiness again.

Here is a list of my favorite dysopian novels that I've read so far:
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
  • The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
What dystopian novels are your favorites? What others would you recommend?


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January 14, 2010

Aluratek Libre Ebook Reader Pro: Review

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I've had my Aluratek Libre eBook Reader for a few weeks now. I've read one entire 400 page book on it  and have used it enough to share a few thoughts about it.

What it does

First the technical mumbo-jumbo.

Supports PDF (Adobe Digital Edition DRM/non-DRM), TXT, FB2, EPUB (Adobe Digital Edition DRM/non-DRM), MOBI (non-DRM only), PRC (non-DRM only)and RTF electronic book format

I downloaded a couple of books from the ladies at girlebooks for free in epub format. I liked this more than pdf format. The reader came with 100 free books on a memory card. All of them public domain and available on Project Gutenberg (pdf). Books can be loaded right onto the device's internal memory from your computer or to a memory card.

Text size can be adjusted from teeny-weeny to HOLY MOLY . I feel more comfortable somewhere in the middle. There is no backlight and it's an e-paper LCD display. I found the gray background a little dark but that might be just me.

Pages turn quite quickly; there's no lag time. There are 3 ways to do this: Click the pages icon on the bottom, push the sliding button on the side or insert the page number. Pages can be Bookmarked (a feature I love!).

It also plays music and holds photos. I haven't tried either because I have enough devices around the house for that already.

Though I didn't clock it, the battery life is said to be 24 hours and I'd say that's pretty accurate.

It came with a padded case.

What it doesn't do

All the fancy stuff that the Kindle does. You can't be out jogging and decide to download a book. You have to use your computer for that. You can't read newspapers or magazines on this device.

My Opinion

Let's face it. This is the Ugly Stepsister of ebook readers. She looks like a calculator and that Aluratek logo doesn't help much. But she has a great personality. It takes care of business and I'm completely satisfied with it. The biggest selling point of this device is that it's affordable. This was a Dell Deal of the Day: $149 Cdn. That's a lot better than most of the other devices available in Canada now ($100 less than the Sony eReader).

The only thing I want to do with an ebook reader is read books. I would not use one for reading newspapers or surfing the internet. I'm never far from my laptop so these things do not concern me. If I was taking a long trip, I'd have to make sure it was loaded up first, just in case.

If you are on the fence about ebook readers, concerned about price or just want to read books, then the Aluratek Libre is a good entrance device.

Disclaimer: I was not approached by Aluratek for this review. My darling husband bought it for me for Christmas (thanks Babe!).

If you have any questions, feel free to ask. Hopefully, I can answer. I'm not the most technically inclined person around.

To see it in action, check out this video:





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January 13, 2010

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton: Review

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I don't know why The Custom of the Country isn't a more popular Edith Wharton novel. Oh wait, I do: Undine Spragg. I could see why Undine might turn off readers. She makes Scarlett O'Hara look like Mother Theresa. I love a good b..., um, witchy character and she is that through and through.

The story starts with Undine Spragg dragging her socially awkward parents around New York. Undine's father is a very wealthy man after a series of successful financial deals in their hometown of Apex. Undine is determined to climb the social ladder of New York. She uses her beauty to entice a member of one of the Old Families of New York, Ralph Marvell, into marrying her. She's on top.

The trouble with Undine is that she is never satisfied. Once she gets what she wants, she no longer wants it. Life with Ralph isn't what she thought it would be. He has his own ideas about family and propriety. On top of that, Ralph is poor by Undine's standards. To keep up with Undine's ridiculous overspending, Ralph works like a dog, yet combined with a generous allowance from her father, it's not enough. Undine manages to convince Ralph that she must go to Paris, alone, and like an idiot, he lets her. While in Europe, Undine lives the high life and sends the bills home. Then she starts getting ideas and sets her sights on European aristocracy.

Undine is the type of person that could fall into poo and come out smelling like a rose. She has the most incredible luck. In fact, she is the complete opposite of another Wharton character Lily Bart from The House of Mirth. Just when I thought it was all over for her, something would just fall into her lap! It's almost admirable how she can size up a situation and figure out how it can benefit her. She has a lot of her father in her and if she had been a man, she'd easily be a millionaire.

However, Undine is a cold-hearted, selfish, shallow person. She has no feelings for anyone but herself. She doesn't care what pain her actions cause other people, from her parents to her husband to her son. She leaves a trail of bodies in her wake. Though I believe that if someone told Undine this, she'd be genuinely surprised.

The Custom of the Country is a story for the 21st century as well as the 20th. Anyone who has seen an episode of My Super Sweet 16 has seen a Undine in the making. She's never been told no and won't take no for an answer. Everything she wants or owns has to be better than what anyone else has. She's a victim of her upbringing.

At times, I felt that if Undine had been expected to be more than an accessory to a man she would have been a better person. A character named Charles Bowen, who considers himself an amateur sociologist, makes this observation to a friend:

"I want to get a general view of the whole problem of American marriages."

Mrs. Fairford dropped into her arm-chair with a sigh. “If that’s what you want you must make haste! Most of them don’t last long enough to be classified.”

"I grant you it takes an active mind. But the weak point is so frequently the same that after a time one knows where to look for it.”

“What do you call the weak point?”

He paused. “The fact that the average American looks down on his wife.”

Mrs. Fairford was up with a spring. “If that’s where paradox lands you!”

Bowen mildly stood his ground. “Well–doesn’t he prove it? How much does he let her share in the real business of life? How much does he rely on her judgment and help in the conduct of serious affairs? Take Ralph for instance–you say his wife’s extravagance forces him to work too hard; but that’s not what’s wrong. It’s normal for a man to work hard for a woman–what’s abnormal is his not caring to tell her anything about it.”

“To tell Undine? She’d be bored to death if he did!”

“Just so; she’d even feel aggrieved. But why? Because it’s against the custom of the country. And whose fault is that? The man’s again–I don’t mean Ralph I mean the genus he belongs to: homo sapiens, Americanus. Why haven’t we taught our women to take an interest in our work? Simply because we don’t take enough interest in THEM.”

Charles has a point but Undine has no interest in Ralph's affairs. She's interested in her own. Undine's treats her marriages like business deals; it's not personal. The men are useful until they outlive their purpose, then they are discarded and she's onto the next one. In a way you can't blame her, it's the only career she can have.

The Custom of the Country is a feminist novel of sorts but it's also a satirical look at wealth: the rising nouveau riche of America and the fading old families of New York and Europe. They are all subject to their own follies.

I could go on more but I'll stop there. This is now my favorite Edith Wharton novel. It's entertaining and even shocking.

Highly recommended

I read this free edition of The Custom of the Country from girlebooks on my new ebook reader.


January 12, 2010

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins: Review

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Alright, so this is the 1000th review of Suzanne Collins' book The Hunger Games I'm sure, but having just finished it last night I had to write about it. I put off reading The Hunger Games because everyone was gushing about it and I tend to stay away from those books. Plus, the names of the characters really turned me off: Katniss? Peeta? Come on. Anyway, I nearly fell under the Twitter pressure when Jill wrote me a song and then I knew I had to read it.

If you don't already know, the plot of The Hunger Games is set in the future where the remains of North America is divided up into Districts and The Capitol. Katniss lives in the poorest District, 12, where she lives a hand to mouth existence providing for her mother and sister with her mad hunting skills. Long ago, the Districts made war with the wealthy Capitol and lost. As a punishment, every year each District must provide to two young Tributes to fight to the death in a reality show called The Hunger Games. After a stunning event called the reaping (reminiscent of Shirley Jackson's The Lottery), Katniss and a boy she goes to school with, Peeta, are chosen for the Games.

For the rest of the book, we are driven to read the dramatic events of The Hunger Games through our young heroine's eyes. Can she survive? Will she kill sweet natured Peeta to win?

I couldn't put down The Hunger Games. It had me from the first page. Katniss narrates the grim story through gritted teeth. She has a hard edge after spending years trying to keep herself and her family from starvation and it shows. The pacing is incredible. You barely have time to take a breath from chapter to chapter. There are twists, surprises and heartbreaking moments. It's also terribly violent.

After the first book in the series, I'm totally Team Peeta (sorry Jill). That could of course change when I read Catching Fire and see more of Gale, Katniss's other love interest. Right now though, I love Peeta's kindness and vulnerability. How very sweet that he admired her from afar for all those years. Say it with me, "Awwwww." There were times I felt he was too stupid to live and could relate to Katniss's frustration too.

Now Katniss. I loved her when she was The Hero; she was brave, she was cunning, she was amazing. I did have a problem with her when she was with Peeta. I was thinking, "This guys is pouring his heart to you and YOU JUST DON'T GET IT!" This made me crazy! Maybe in the next book she'll borrow a feeling and have an emotion of some kind.

If you like dystopian novel, then I think you should give The Hunger Games a try.

Highly recommended.

Thank you local library.

January 10, 2010

Bloggiesta Wrap-Up

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Whew! I've never done so much on my blog at one time unless I was changing templates.Thanks to Natasha and Bloggiesta I got a lot accomplished.
  • Updated "About" page
  • Added disclosure
  • Updated footer: Mini-Challenge hosted by Pam
  • Checked Website Grader again
  • Add 2010 reviews tab
  • Got own domain
  • Blogroll replaced with Recent comments
  • Edited my labels: Mini-Challenge hosted by Beth
  • Moved widgets around
  • Researched new gadgets for blog (recent comments)
  • Joined the new blogger forum: Mini-Challenge hosted by Kristen
  • Added Advertise tab
  • Backed up my blog: Mini-Challenge hosted by Jackie
  • Added a blog button and pics for challenges and tours
  • Deleted 1000+ old emails
  • Cleaned up Google Reader
  • Wrote Classics Circuit tour post
  • Fiddled with html
  • Deleted test blog
  • Cleaned my computer- literally- it was sticky
The biggest pain thing was changing to my own domain. I found that a bit overwhelming and had a break down on Twitter over it. Thank goodness for Froot Joos who totally saved my butt and kept me from tears.

Speaking of Twitter, it was a great device for Bloggiesta. Whenever I had a question, someone was there to offer help, advice or opinions. Thank you!

Now that's it's all over, I'm so glad I did it even though I was tied to the computer all weekend. Not that there was much else to do! By the next Bloggiesta I'm sure I'll have just as long a list then as I did for this one.

So how many hours did I do the challenge? At least 24! Time had no meaning for me in the middle of it.

If you Bloggiesta'ed, how did you do? Or has an event like Bloggiesta inspired your own blog clean-up this month?


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January 8, 2010

Bloggiesta Min-Challenge #1: Set Goals

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Welcome to Bloggiesta! To start off, Rebecca asks us to set some blogging goals.

  • More buddy read posts.
  • Find advertising to support my blog.
  • Find a better way to have meaningful conversations about books on book-a-rama
  • Read 100 books
  • I posted a similar list last week.
For Bloggiesta though, here's what I plan on doing this weekend:

  • Update "About" page
  • Add disclosure.
  • Update footer.
  • Checked Website Grader again.
  • Add 2010 reviews tab
  • Get own domain.
  • Blogroll? (It might disappear. Don't worry you are all in my feed reader.)
  • Edit my labels (too many).
  • General cleanup.
  • Research new gadgets for blog
  • Brainstorm
  • Change my "brand"?
I might add to that list as I go. Other participants might inspire me.

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    January 7, 2010

    All About Jeeves by PG Wodehouse (Audio): Review

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    I downloaded the All About Jeeves free audiobook from Simply Audiobooks back in November and forgot about it. A couple of days ago Heather from Age 30+ Books persuaded me to give it a listen. I'm glad I did.

    In All About Jeeves, Edward Duke performs all the characters in Wodehouse's comic stories. This audiobook includes Jeeves Takes Charge, Bertie Changes His Mind, The Chump Cyril, and Jeeves and the Hard-Boiled Egg.

    I wasn't sure what to make of Bertie Wooster at first (especially that weird laugh) but he grew on me. Bertie is a young English gentleman. He doesn't do much other than go out drinking and having a good time with his friends. In Jeeves Takes Charge, Bertie hires Jeeves as his valet and it's love at first sight. Jeeves concocts a cure for his hangover. It's like Mary Poppins has arrived.

    He very stealthily starts organizing Bertie's life. Bertie is a pretty easy going guy (even when he tries to take charge). The only thing that bothers Bertie about Jeeves is his obvious disapproval of his fashion sense. Jeeves has a quiet way of getting Bertie and his friends out of trouble. It amazes Bertie every time.


    Many times I was laughing out loud (good thing I was alone at home), at the things Bertie says. I will definitely be reading, or listening, to more of Jeeves.

    Highly recommended.


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    January 6, 2010

    Jane Eyre (Graphic Novel) by Charlotte Bronte: Review

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    I had planned to watch the Jane Eyre Miniseries for the All About the Brontes Challenge but I already reviewed that back in 2007. No fun in that! Why not experience Jane Eyre in yet another medium? When I joined the Graphic Novels Challenge, I knew I wanted to read Jane Eyre: The Graphic Novel. So the decision was made!

    This graphic version of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is published by Classical Comics whose agenda is "about enticing young readers to read." While I'm not a young reader, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The process of turning Jane Eyre into text for comic book panels was taken on by Amy Corzine. I think she did a fabulous job finding the most important quotes of the book to use. I particularly liked the conversations between Jane and Mr Rochester which are some of the most drool-worthy writing in English literature. (Be aware that this is the Original Text and not the Quick Text version.)

    The artist John M Burns's panels are full color and realistically drawn. The people look like people not cutesy cartoon versions of humans. Although Jane is neither plain or small in these drawings, Burns doesn't shy away from representing Rochester as the broken shell of a man he is at the end of the novel. He's no Toby Stephens. Burns also manages to capture some of the gothic feel of the original.



    It would be rather difficult to squeeze all of Jane Eyre into 132 pages but Classics Comics gives it a good go. They seemed to have found all the good stuff, although at times I thought the transition from one panel to another jarring. I would think, "They left out blank part. This happened in between." But I guess that's why you have to read the original to get the full Jane Eyre experience. All the romance and gothic creepiness.

    Highly recommended and read Jane Eyre (the original) while you're at it.

    Thanks to my local library for the copy.


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    January 3, 2010

    Non-Book Challenge: 100 Mile Fitness Challenge

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    Since it's a new year, it's time to start a new routine- that always goes so well. Right. But really, I'm going to make the effort to be healthy (good thing you all can't see me eating this giant Toblerone bar). So I'm joining the 100 Mile Fitness Challenge hosted by Trish.

    Here’s how it works:
    In order to complete this Challenge, you will need to “travel” 100 miles from January 1st through March 31st.

    Here's how you calculate your mileage:
    *Running or walking 1 mile outside or on a treadmill equals 1 mile.

    *15 minutes of other workouts equals 1 mile (elliptical, swimming, weight lifting, workout video, workout classes, etc.).
    I had to check my treadmill because I couldn't remember if it was miles or kilometers. It's in miles so that makes calculating a little easier. And today I did 20 minutes on the Wii Fit Plus. Yay! That's 1 mile down, 99 to go!

    I'm going to have to make up a chart or something though or I'll never remember my mileage.

    Want to join? Come on you can do it!


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    January 2, 2010

    Three Blogging Years! My Blogiversary

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    (I think this was my 3rd birthday. Love those red plaid pants.)

    On this day three years ago, I wrote my first post. I had no idea what I was doing. At the time, I was living in my mother-in-law's basement with a brand new laptop and time on my hands. Stephanie had started her blog and it sounded like a great way for me to escape from reality; the reality of a living in a tiny space underground with two other people.

    Things have changed a great deal since then, both personally and within blogging. Over the past three years, I've built a brand new house in a new town. Moved out of the basement. (The light! She burns!) My daughter started school, that's an adventure in itself. Gained new pets and lost a beloved cat.

    I've learned a great deal about blogging too. I remember losing all my blog photos because of something stupid I did early on. I couldn't change my blog template or add a widget. I made a few boo-boos along the way but it wasn't the end of the world. Blogging has been a hands on learning experience. If you want to blog, you got to just go for it.


    It might sound cliche but in three years book blogging has changed a lot. I sound like some old timer, "Back in my blogging day..." but it's true. Things change so fast. I think life on the internet is more like dog years: one year in real life= seven years on the 'net. So my blog is legally allowed to drink in the US! Party on!


    When I started blogging, nobody Twittered and Facebook wasn't a household name yet. Book Blog Tours hadn't become wildly popular and the number of ARCs (Advance Readers Copies) available out there was a lot smaller. Now there's Google Wave, Blog Talk Radio, Skyping and Book Blogging Nings. The technology has changed too. The number of devices you can read books on has grown, from iphones to Kindles you can read on anything.

    The number of book bloggers was smaller too. It was a lot easier to visit everyone I 'met on the net'. Now with hundreds of book bloggers in my Google Reader I barely get around to read everyone's latest posts in a week. I've made friends though. The people I've met at the beginning of blogging are still the ones I look forward to reading everyday.

    Because of blogging, I've become a much more adventurous reader. I discovered new authors and new genres. Just this year, I started reading graphic novels and young adult fiction. I tried more audiobooks as well. Now with my new e-reader, I hope to read more ebooks.

    In 2007, I didn't know what an ARC was (it seems like everyone in starting a book blog knows what it is now). I just reviewed the books I had at home or borrowed from the library. It took me nearly a year before someone offered me an ARC to review (thanks Karen!). Now I'm offered books quite often. This has a positive and a negative side. On the positive, free books (!), I read the latest releases and I've discovered new authors and new genres. On the negative, I have very little time for the books I'd like to read that I already own and I end up blogging about the same books everyone else is. Lately, I've put off reading books I see on others' blogs because I don't want to be just like everyone else!

    Thinking of this makes me want to join the "Reading Deliberately" movement which I read about on Literate Housewife's blog. For me this means:
    • thinking carefully about book requests before I accept them
    • thinking carefully about the challenges I join
    • read the books I really want to read
    • read more of my favorite kind of books (classics for example)
    • read the books on my bookshelf
    • be a better member of the online book club (read the books!)
    • read 100 books in 2010
     On a personal level, I want to:
    • exercise more
    • eat better
    • stop neglecting my other hobbies (scrapbooking, crocheting)
    • be a better mom and wife
    • stop sweating the small stuff
    I don't know what the new year is going to bring but I hope it will as interesting and entertaining as the last 3 years. I hope you all will stick with me!

    Martini Photo credit: imelenchon from morguefile.com

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    January 1, 2010

    Challenge Roundup for December 2009

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    Apparently I forgot to do this last month. Oopsy. Don't be mad at me.

    It's a new year and so many challenges are ending and starting up. How did you do? Did you meet your goals? Have you joined any new challenges?

    I'm puttering along. I'm not feeling the pressure just yet. If I haven't starting reading my challenge books, I do have a plan for reading them.

    The 3rd Canadian Books Challenge hasn't got me stressed yet. I've read 5 books so far which is better than the last few years. Hopefully, I won't be scrambling come June to get them all read.

    The All About the Brontes Challenge starts today and I already have a book read! I read The Life of Charlotte Bronte early for The Classics Circuit so I'm counting that one. I have a bunch of books waiting for that one.

    The Life of Charlotte Bronte also counts toward The Women Unbound Challenge. I've also starting reading The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. It's really good so far.

    I just signed up for The Graphic Novels Challenge for the first time ever. I'm excited about this one even though I haven't made a list. I did request Jane Eyre from the library though. Yay!

    I also put my hat in the Rory Gilmore Project but I haven't anything with it. Since it's ongoing I won't worry too much about it.

    That's how it looks right now. I'm sure I could join many more but I must control myself. I have to keep my reading pleasurable and not worry too much about deadlines. It's my New Years Resolution. How about you? Any resolutions in regards to your reading challenges?

    Leave a link!


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