Sunday, December 23, 2012

TBR Pile Challenge

I'm going to try to give the TBR Pile Challenge hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader. The challenge is to read 12 books that have been on your TBR Pile for at least a year. You also have 2 alternate books in case one or two of your 12 just don't work for you. So I have a list of 14 books to try to read next year. If you want to get in on the fun, click the TBR Challenge link above.  You have until December 31, 2012 to list your books and link them back at Roof Beam Reader.

Now on to the books that I've chosen from my TBR Pile:

  1. What If ?: The World's Foremost Military Historians Imagine What Might Have Been ed. by Robert Cowley
  2. Take a Thief by Mercedes Lackey
  3. The Handmaid' s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  4. Gloriana by Michael Moorcock
  5. Soldier of the Mist by Gene Wolfe
  6. The Soldier of Arete by Gene Wolfe
  7. The Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGion
  8. Fantasy Gone Wrong ed. by Martin Greenberg & Brittiany A. Koren
  9. Silverlock by John Meyers Meyers
  10. Cold Street by P.N. Elrod
  11. Unicorn Variations ed. by Roger Zelazny
  12. The Lion in Winter by James Goldman


  1. Night by Elie Wiesel
  2. Middleworld by J & P Voekel

Unlike last year, I'm not jumping into a ton of challenges. So far, this is the only one I'm formally joining. I just haven't had a chance to look around and see what else is up there.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review: Smash Cut

Smash Cut
Smash Cut by Sandra Brown

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book that's been sitting on my shelf for awhile, one that I won through GoodReads. Like many of the other books on my shelves, I'd been meaning to get through it for some time. It took a badly sprained ankle to do so and I wondered why I'd waited.

Julie Rutledge stands by helplessly while her companion, Paul Wheeler, is murdered in what seems to be a hold-up in the elevator of a hotel. But she knows that robbery wasn't the motive. Murder was. And the person responsible, Paul's nephew Creighton, has a rock solid alibi. She needs to find a way to make him pay. When she finds out that the Wheelers have retained high-profile lawyer Derek Mitchell to represent him, she does her best to discredit him. Instead, she finds a man that becomes enamored with her, and who realizes that Julie just may be telling the truth about how unbalanced Creighton really is.

Creighton is one of the creepiest villains I've come across in a long, long time. He's a psychopath through and through, expertly using the plots of his beloved movies to plan and execute his uncle's murder while laying the blame purely at Julie's feet. And his money and charm make it next to impossible for most people to see the truth. What was really scary was finding just how far back his depravity went.

The story started strong and exciting and from the first page turn, with more mystery being added to the mix with each chapter. Who was the mysterious woman that Derek met on his flight back from Paris? What is Julie hiding? Could Creighton be right about her? It had me wanting to turn to the back of the book and read the end just to figure out what was going to happen.

The book had me so engaged that I fought sleep and stayed up until midnight to finish it. Each page turn brought more excitement, horror, sexiness and intrigue. The only problem I had with the whole book was the surprise twist at the end. And not because of the twist itself (which I'm not going into so I don't spoil this for anyone), but because it really didn't seem to be alluded to through the rest of the story. I have no problem with twists, as long as I can go back later and say, "I should have guessed that!"

Even with this small annoyance, it was still a very solid book, heavy on the mystery and not overly sexed. I've enjoyed Sandra Brown's books in the past, and I was glad to find that this one did not disappoint.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Royalties on Volunteer Reading?

As I was perusing my blogs this afternoon, I came across a post on AbeBook's Reading Copy Book Blog talking about a blog post they'd read regarding SABAM (a Belgian responsible for collecting royalties money) trying to collect royalties from libraries every time a volunteer reads a book to a child. Yes, you read that right. When a volunteer reads a book that the library purchased, they want the library to pay royalties on it.  And it's not like these volunteers are doing large production readings.  No.  They are reading to children at a library story time.

I know that I'm not in Belgium, but it still makes my blood boil.  Yes, in this digital age it's important that writers, musicians and other members of the arts community don't get screwed.  But stopping a library from reading stories to kids to foster the love of reading?  Give me a break.

Don't they realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot?  For some, this story time is their introduction to books.  It's where they learn to love the written word and, hopefully, to become addicted to it.  As the writer at Reading Copy points out, these are kids that will grow up to be not only lovers of books, but purchasers of books.  In 15 to 20 years, and beyond, they will be spending their money on the latest sensation, anxiously awaiting the smooth feel of the cover, the weight of the pages within.  But SABAM is looking at today instead of tomorrow.

And, as I pointed out in my comment, it's more than just the money that the kids will spend by becoming bibliophiles.  Reading to kids, particularly from a young age, fuels the imagination.  Science Daily pointed, in an article from 2008, to a review in the Archives of Disease in Children.  The study concluded that children that are read to by their parents in an interactive manner are more likely to be better prepared for learning in school.  It speaks to describing the pictures, talking about the story and explaining things the child doesn't understand.  Now, I'm not sure about others, but the librarians that do story time around here read in exactly that manner.  So I'm going to extrapolate that it would work with volunteers reading to them as well as it does with their parents' reading to them.  Which makes these readings beneficial in many ways.

And I know this from experience that reading to kids helps kids be ready for school.  We've been reading to my eldest since he was born, thanks in part to Books from Birth (though, with the bibliophiles that my husband and I are, chance are we would have had quite a few books anyway).  We started bringing him to Story Time at our local library from the time he was 2 1/2 years old.  (My youngest started coming about then too - at two weeks old.)  My eldest was reading by the time we started going to story time.  He recognized words that a kid his age usually doesn't.  He's surprised teachers, librarians and other adults (including some of the ladies at church).  And right now, in kindergarten, he's reading at a 4th grade level.  I am convinced that if it weren't for the books that were read to him, and the way they were read to him, he wouldn't be such a fantastic reader.

As I pointed out in my comment, it's not just about being prepared to reader either.  Libraries open up a whole new world of things for kids to learn and explore, and story time helps them on the way to that.  My boys have heard stories about animals hibernating in the winter (including bringing their own teddy bears to put to "sleep" for the winter), about apples and how to make apple pie.  They've learned about different holidays outside of their own religion, and about famous people like Martin Luther King.  They've learned folk tales from other lands and stories from their own heritage.    Hearing stories of dinosaurs has made my youngest want to seek out more information about them.  Hearing Blueberry Girl be read made my eldest seek out other books by Neil Gaiman.  The stories that they've heard at the library have broadened their minds, sometimes to places I would never have thought to go with them.  And I don't regret it in the least.

Honestly, I think that what the SABAM is doing is far from stopping criminals.  Instead, I believe that it borders on the criminal itself.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What are you reading? is a weekly meme hosted by Book Journey.  It gives us a chance to share what we are reading, just finished reading and plan on reading for the next week.

What I've Just Finished Reading

I lovedlovedloved Murder on Music Row.  Hopefully, I'll be getting a review out for it (and many others that I'm terribly far behind on) within the next week.

What I'm Currently Reading

Helpless is one of the books that I won through's First Reads and I'm trying to finish it up.
Torchwood: Rift War is a graphic novel, so that should go quickly.
Cinder is an audio book, so I'll be listening to that as I clean this week.

What I Plan on Reading This Week

Neverdark was sent to me to be reviewed, so I want to take care of that as quickly as possible.
Both Monument to Murder and Chosen (which is a graphic novel) are due back at the library soon, so I need to read them quickly.
The Dead of Night is the audio book version and I'll be listening to that when I'm done with Cinder.
Zombie Tag is a YA and a First Reads win, so that should be quick.
Smash Cut is my "adult" read, and a First Reads win.
Taste What You're Missing is my non-fcition read, and also a First Reads win.

I don't expect to finish reading all of them, but I should get through at least 3.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

In My Mailbox (1)

I've seen In My Mailbox around for quite some time and never seemed to get organized enough to do it.  This week, I'm admitting that organization isn't for everyone and I'm going to do this anyway.

So, for those unfamiliar with IMM, this is a weekly meme started by The Story Siren to showcase what books you've received.  You can do this on whatever time table you like - Weekly, Monthly, Daily, Bi-Weekly... whatever floats your boat.  Because there are a lot of book bloggers (myself included) that get a lot of great books that we don't always have time to read.  It's a way to let the world know that these great books are out there and that we want to read them... eventually.  For more information about IMM, click on the picture above to be taken to The Story Siren's page.

Now, on for the good parts... the books!

Received in the Mail - Contest Books
All of the above books were received in the First Reads program.

Received in the mail for review

This is the first time I've ever been solicited to review a book, and I'm pretty excited about it!  I haven't had a chance to pick it up and read it yet (I'm trying to get some library books out the door before they go back unread), but expect it soon.

Received Contributor Copy

I'm listed on as an author!  Or I will be, once my application to connect the Amber DiTullio on this book with my Goodreads profile.  It hadn't really hit me until I saw my name listed under authors.  Can I stop for a *squee*?

This book is independently published and contains essays written by members of the LJ Idol Community on Livejournal.  What is LJ Idol?  Part writing contest, part reality show with twists and turns.  It is currently in it's 8th season.  I contributed (under adpaz) but had to bow out early because of real life issues.  The writing is always superb and the entries will make you laugh, cry, think and shake your head.  And probably a lot more.

eBooks purchased from (links are for my Amazon Affiliate Program)

Several of these, as you can probably tell, were books purchased for my kids.  I need to do a lot of reviews and ratings for these!

Books checked out from the Library

We had my eldest's first State Pokemon Tournament yesterday, so I didn't get a chance to browse as much as usual.  These three will (hopefully) help feed my graphics novel need for a few days.

If you've read any of these books before, I'd love to hear what you have to say about them in comments!  With the sheer number of books that I have, it's sometimes difficult to decide where to go next, so recommendations are a plus!

Thursday, March 8, 2012


I used to be good with website coding.  I swear I was.  But ever since my kids sucked my brains out of my head by virtue of them being born, I can't remember too much.  So I'm asking for some help from the other book bloggers (or other bloggers, for that matter).

I want to pretty up my blog posts.  I've been porting everything over from Goodreads directly, but it doesn't include vital information, like the genre of the book or a summary of what the book is about.  It does link back to the Goodreads page, but I don't want my readers to go have to go back over there to find out what the book I'm reviewing is about.  I can just pull the info and put it in separately (like I did with my latest review for Tall, Dark and Hungry) but it looks bland.  I like the separate boxes that some of you use but I have no idea how to do them.  I don't have a problem with manually typing information in, but I need to know what I'm typing and that's where I break down.

So.... is there anyone out there who can give me tips and pointers, point me toward websites or widgets or anything else that might help me move my little blog away from boring and toward brilliant (some far, far day in the future)?  Anything that anyone has to offer will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

REVIEW: Tall, Dark & Hungry by Lynsay Sands

Title: Tall, Dark & Hungry by Lynsay Sands
Series: The Argeneau Vampires
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Source: Audio Book from my local library
Published: November 1, 2009
(From Terri had flown from England to help plan her cousin's wedding, but paying for a New York hotel room was like giving blood But she had an alternative: the new in-laws were offering lodging.Of course, the Argeneaus were a certifiably odd bunch. There was the sometimes chipper, sometimes brooding Lucern ? a ?vampire romance? writer. There was the wacky stage actor, Vincent. She couldn?t imagine Broadway casting a more ravenous singing-and-dancing Dracula. And then there was Bastien. Of this unique cast of characters, he seemed the tallest, darkest and hungriest ? and his effect on Terri was decidedly delicious. Just looking into his eyes made her want to serve up her innocence on a silver platter. And she had a feeling the love feast was about to begin.
My Review

I'm very grateful that my library has most of Lynsay Sands' Argeneau series for digital download. It's generally a quicker way for me to get my hands on the books and, in the case of the audio books, I can get other work done while I'm listening.

I was at a slight loss when I started listening to Tall, Dark & Hungry. I had listened to the first two books, but I just couldn't get my hands on the third. Usually, I don't let that bother me, so I downloaded the audio book anyway. I don't think not know the details of the previous book prevented me from enjoying this one, but it did take me a little longer to get all the players straight in my mind.

Now on to the book itself. This book was FUN. It started as a comedy of errors, in which Terri's decision to come early in order to help her cousin, Kate, and her future husband, Lucern, plan their wedding happened to coincide with her cousin's need to fly out of town for her publishing job. Rather than stay at Kate's empty apartment, Terri is invited to stay at Bastien' (Lucern's brother) penthouse. But of course, Terri's not the only one staying there. With the wedding coming up, Bastien and Lucern's cousin, Vincent is crashing there. As is Kate's co-worker, Chris. Chris was supposed to be on the trip that Kate was called away on, but he broke his leg and couldn't really take care of himself so...

The attraction is obvious from the start for both Terri and Bastien, but they are both gun-shy. Add in frequent misunderstandings, Bastien's need to keep the fact that she's a vampire from her, and the craziness of the wedding, it's a wonder that the manage to get together at all! And it has one of the funniest sex scenes that I've ever read. It was difficult to keep my chuckles from my kids as I listened and cleaned.

Of all the books, this one was by far the most enjoyable of the series thus far. I loved listening to each chapter, finding out just what could go wrong next. I'd recommending picking up the other three first (A Quick Bite, Love Bites and Single White Vampire) but it will be worth the wait to get to this one.

Review: Eternals Volume 1 TPB

Eternals Volume 1 TPB
Eternals Volume 1 TPB by Charles Knauf

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had originally been introduced to the Eternals through Neil Gaiman. (But then again, much of my new found love of comics is because of Neil Gaiman.) I didn't know that they were a reworking of a classic Jack Kirby set of heroes or that there was more to them than a fantastic story woven by one of my favorite writers. But I need to save this gushing for another day, when I do my review of Neil Gaiman's Eternals (since I reread it recently).

Eternals has been in my mind since I first picked it up, wanting to know what happened next. When I happened across the two sequel volumes by Charles Knauf (To Slay a God and Manifest Destiny) during a sale at my comic distributor, I had no choice but to pick them up.

While the story isn't as well woven or engaging as Gaiman's first new outing for them, they were still interesting stories to read. Watching the various Eternals come to terms with who they are, and why the Celestial was there, what it was doing... it did keep me turning pages.

The artwork was very well done, helping to tell the story as it should. There were some wonderful nuances of expression or background that I love to find in graphic novels, letting the reader know that the writer and/or artist is paying attention.

All in all, they were a good couple of books. I'll probably reread them again as well, especially since I own them. I may be able to give a better review the next time around, catching more than I did this time.

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Review: Always Remember to Tip Your Ninja: And Other Maxims for the Clinically Absurd

Always Remember to Tip Your Ninja: And Other Maxims for the Clinically Absurd
Always Remember to Tip Your Ninja: And Other Maxims for the Clinically Absurd by Jeremy C. Shipp

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know why I go out looking for new books when I have so many already on my reading list. But I do because I firmly believe that you can never have too many books. And the good thing with going overboard with eBooks is that I can find a lot of interesting books that are listed as free. I don't have to find room on my shelves, I can feed my addiction and it isn't costing me a penny. How great is that?

This morning, I was doing my usual perusal of possible free books that would make it into my owned pile when I came across Always Remember to Tip Your Ninja: And Other Maxims for the Clinically Absurd by Jeremy C. Shipp. I was in need of a little chuckle, so I bought it. And even though I should have been spending that time getting my boys ready for school, I couldn't resist flipping through it. Luckily, it isn't a long book so I was able to take care of my kids and finish a book that started my morning with laughter.

Within the electronic pages of these books, I found absurd statements, brilliant puns, and a few moments of, "Now how would that work?" There were very few that didn't elicit a chuckle and more than a few that caused out right laughter.

Is it great literature? Of course not. It's not trying to be. But for a book of humorous absurdities and plays on words, I can't ask for better. Now I can't wait for my husband to get home so I can press it into his hands with the command to read.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Review: Dinosaur vs. Bedtime

Dinosaur vs. BedtimeDinosaur vs. Bedtime by Bob Shea
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a big fan of Bob Shea and his books. We bought Big Plans after the boys kept taking the book out of the library every chance they could. So when my heart-sister, Barb, sent along Dinosaur vs Bedtime for my youngest (who is going through a dinosaur phase), I was excited to break it out and read it.

And none of us were disappointed. This book is much shorter on words than Big Plans, and for this book, it works. It tells the story in short bursts, showing scenes familiar to any parent of a toddler. Dinosaur faces off against many foes that are thrown in his way - spaghetti, bath time, talking grown-ups. In each and every case, Dinosaur is triumphant. And he has high hopes when he fights bed time. But as any parent knows, eventually, bed time gets the better of energetic little dinosaurs.

The artwork is simple and fun, bringing out the important points (from Dinosaur's point of view). And the words on the page are large, just begging to be yelled in an announcer voice. You just can't help yourself. This book is one that can't sit by and be told passively. It's a book to be experienced. And with the staccato bursts of words and multitudes of roars, it's something that kids can get involved with as well. My three year old loves to yell out the roars while my six year old loves to call out what Dinosaur is up against next. It truly is a book that we, as a family, love to read together.

If you'd like to hear Bob Shea tell the story behind how Dinosaur vs Bedtime was written, along with listening to him read it himself, you can find it here on Vimeo.

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Waiting on Wedensday

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme from Jill at Breaking the Spine.  It's a chance to spotlight upcoming releases that we wish were out nownownow!  This is my first time participating in WoW, but I'm hoping it will be far from my list.

My pick for this week is:


Release Date: May 1, 2012

Summary from

He's b-a-a-ack! Despite their best efforts, Carter and Sade Kane can’t seem to keep Apophis, the chaos snake, down. Now Apophis is threatening to plunge the world into eternal darkness, and the Kanes are faced with the impossible task of having to destroy him once and for all. Unfortunately, the magicians of the House of Life are on the brink of civil war, the gods are divided, and the young initiates of Brooklyn House stand almost alone against the forces of chaos. 

To find the answer they need, the Kanes must rely on the murderous ghost of a powerful magician who might be able to lead them to the serpent’s shadow... or might lead them to their deaths in the depths of the underworld...

While many don't think the Kane Chronicles are as good YA reading as The Heroes of Olympus, I still really enjoy them and can't wait for the next chapter in the Kane sibling's journey.

Review: Secret Agent Josephine's ABC's

Secret Agent Josephine's ABC's
Secret Agent Josephine's ABC's by Brenda Ponnay

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Based on the title, I was expecting a far different book than what ended up being presented. I was expecting a fun search through the alphabet, finding letters in places the child wouldn't expect them. Instead, what I was given was a pretty standard, run of the mill alphabet book.

Each page showed a single, large letter with a picture of whichever word the author was using to show off that letter of the alphabet. In smaller letters below the letter and picture it would tell what the letter stood for (For example, on the page for V, there is the letter V in the center, a vacuum to the left partially obscuring the letter and in parenthesis and small type below it, it says, "V IS FOR VACUUM").

While the author didn't do traditional words for each letter (on Q using quetzal and on U using underwear), several are ones that I'd come to expect through the many, many, many alphabet books that I've read to my boys over the years. There are so many other A's out there beyond Apple and Ant. I enjoy finding different ones.

The artwork wasn't bad. Each page is a golden background with a large, lighter shade sunburst in the middle. The letters are in Times New Roman font and colored a brick red. Each item that is chosen as an example of the letter has eyes and a mouth (including the underwear, which is slightly disturbing). The only change beyond the example is where on the page it's placed. Sometimes it's the the side of the letter, sometimes above, sometimes behind. But for the most part, the elements are the same. In some ways, this is good - it provides continuity for younger children just learning their ABCs. But it also borders on the boring. The whimsical examples really are the only thing that saves it from being so.

All in all, it wasn't a bad ABC book, but it was far, far from what I'd expected. I was hoping for fun with the alphabet and instead got the same old, same old.

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Review: What The Fox Learnt

What The Fox Learnt
What The Fox Learnt by Aesop

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ever since I bought my Kindle, I have been searching through the free books to find some to read to my boys. They boy are enamored with Mommy's latest toy (though more because of the apps that I have downloaded than the books). I also feel that it gives me a chance to mix it up a bit when it comes to reading to them at bedtime.

They were both familiar with some of Aesop's fables, thanks to story time and random books pulled from the library shelves. But they hadn't heard any of these stories involving Fox before. The four stories contained within are short - a page or two of writing each with a beautifully drawn picture to go with each story - so we were able to get through all four stories relatively quickly.

The first story is The Fox and the Crow, where Fox gets crow to drop some bread that he'd like to eat by complimenting her wonderful singing voice. The moral for this one is, "Do not trust flatterers."

The second story is The Fox and the Goat, in which Fox tricks Goat into coming down into a well. Fox had fallen and, rather than ask for Goat's help getting out, tricks Goat into coming in with him then climbs out over Goat's horns. This moral is, "Never trust a man in difficulties."

While the first two stories showed Fox tricking others, the second two are more humbling for the crafty being. The third story is The Fox and the Grapes, which is the only one that I was previously familiar with. In it, the Fox is trying to reach grapes that are out of his reach. When he realizes that he won't be able to get them, he leaves mumbling about how they are probably sour anyway. While the phrasing of the words - "It is easy to despise what you cannot get" - didn't make as much sense to my boys, the idea behind it was one they struggle with.

The final story is The Fox and the Cat. This was, by far, my favorite of the set. Fox is bragging how he has so many different ways to escape the hunters, while Cat admits he only has one. When they here the hunters coming, Cat hides among the trees. Fox, however, is struck with indecision on which of his escape tricks will work best and ends up getting caught and killed. The moral, "Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon," is one that resonates with me because I'm often confronted with far too many things to that need to be done and, in my indecision over where to start, never get to any of them.

While the words of the moral are a bit above my three year old's understanding, the rest of the story is very easy for him to understand. The bite-sized portions also keep his attention better than some of the longer stories do. It's one that he has asked for repeatedly. My six year old understands quite a bit more of it, but the stories are too short for him. So this is one that is usually pulled out at nap time rather than bedtime.

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Monday, March 5, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday What Are You Reading? is a weekly meme hosted by One Person's Journey Through a World of Books.  It's a chance to let our readers know what we've been reading over the previous week and what we have on deck for the upcoming week.  I hope you enjoy this little glance into my reading world.


I actually have not finished anything this past week.  I've been a bit behind on my reading, though I'm hoping to catch up some.

Current Reads and Audios


Bloodlist (The Vampire Files, Book 1) by P.N. Elrod
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, Book 1) by Marissa Meyer


Torchwood: Rift War by Paul Grist
Helpless by Daniel Palmer

Reading to the Kids

Maze of Bones (The 39 Clues, Book 1) by Rick Riordan

I'm not sure yet what I plan on reading when these are finished. I've been trying to organize some things on my Goodreads to help me figure out what I want/need to read.  So hopefully by next week, I'll have some planned reads listed as well.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dusty Reads (1)

Dusty Reads is a weekly meme from Giselle at  Every week, those that wish to participate can post a book that's been getting "dusty" on their shelf.  The book doesn't have to be years old... just one that's been sitting there for a little while (a couple months or more) that you haven't gotten around to reading yet.

For full details of the meme and to get the above button, follow the link here.

My Dusty Reads for this week is:


SILVERLOCK is one of the all-time great fantasy classics. In this richly picaresque story of a modern man's fruitful adventurings in legendary realms of gold, John Myers Myers has presented a glowing tapestry of real excitement and meaning. In essence, this is the tale of Silverlock's wanderings in the Commonwealth, the land of immortal heroes real and imagined, in search of his true destiny. In form, it is sheer headlong narrative, with occasional clangorous verses woven into its fabric. In content, it is something between a many-peopled, incident-studded story of high emprise, and a morality for our time. Always it is fresh and bold in concept, superb in its execution ... How A. Clarence Shandon came to the Commonwealth, exchanging his everyday name and Chicago-bound life for that of a traveler beyond time; what great ones of old legend and modern story he encountered, and to what purpose; what loves he knew and what fights he fought; what trials befell him in the Pit, and what truth he discovered when at last he won to the Hippocrene Spring--these are matters of such crowding variety and implicit significance as the reader must discover for himself ... And in the discovering, the literate reader will have a wonderful time. He will be amused by the wicked wit that illumines the vast panorama, and intrigued by the challenge it offers his own learning. Most of all, he will be impressed by its profound knowledge, of our cultural heritage, and stirred by its vital interpretations.

This is a book that was suggested to me by my friend Paul from Blog, Jvstin Style.  He highly recommends it, particularly for one who enjoys fantasy as I do.  I bought a used copy several years ago and have wanted to read it but far too many other shiny things have come my way.  It is, however, on my list of reads for 2012.

Teaser Tuesday

Life has finally slowed down for me, enough that I can start participating in some of the wonderful memes that are out among the Reading Blogger community.  Expect more regular updates in the near future! (Including book reviews for the many books I've read over the last several weeks.)

Today, I am participating in Teaser Tuesday, hosted by Miz B of Should Be Reading.  Anyone can participate. Here are the rules:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • I'm usually in the middle of several books, but for this week, I'm only going to choose one.  This is one of the books that I've won through Goodreads First Reads Program, though to be fair, it is one that I won awhile ago.  I'm trying to make my way through those as well.

    I looked at an expanse of wall over a fireplace that had been bricked up. On top of the fireplace were a few trophies =, and the wall was decorated with a number of glass-framed photis and a medal I assumed was his Purple Heart.

    The Amazing Adventures of John Smith, Jr. AKA Houdini by Peter Johnson

    Monday, January 16, 2012

    Review: Girl vs Ghost

    Girl vs Ghost
    Girl vs Ghost by Kate McMurry

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Isabel Lindley has always followed her best friend, Tripp, whenever Tripp found a new interest. But when Tripp's interest in witchcraft ends up giving Isabel a ghost of her own, she just wants out. But it doesn't look like things are going to be too easy - until she, Tripp and the Ghost Boy can figure out who he is and then help him go to the Light. Or something.

    This was a book that I won through the Goodreads First Reads giveaways and, thus far, it has become my favorite read of the almost 30 books I've received. (Ok, so it's only the third one that I've read, but I really enjoyed it.) The authors are able to mix just the right amount of humor, paranormal and teenaged-reality into the book that it had me not wanting to close the covers until I'd finished it.

    Each of the four main characters (Isabel, Tripp, Marc - the "ghost boy" and Parker, Tripp's nemesis) are people I could easily imagine having been in my high school. They are a bit on the stereo-typical side - the weird girl with the wild hair, the serious, driven geek, the haughty rich boy and the gorgeous latino boy. But they characters seemed to work well together and made me anxious to read more. I could also have seen myself being friends with a couple of girls like Isabel and Tripp when I was in school.

    I loved the sniping between Marc and Isabel throughout, with them only realizing at the end that maybe they don't want to be separated from one another. And then wondering if it was too late.

    The story kept a good pace through-out, none of it seeming to drag anywhere. The authors brought the reader along, teasing out bits and pieces of what happened to Marc and why and, in the end, slammed them with something they probably hadn't seen coming (at least, I didn't). I'll admit that I was having flashbacks to the Charmed episode, "Dead Man Dating", thinking that Isabel was going to fall in love with a ghost that would have to leave her. Instead, I was very satisfied to read the ending.

    The paranormal portions weren't too spooky, though the things on the backs of the students at the school were a bit freaky (basically, ghosts that hadn't crossed over but instead stayed and became bitter, bringing out the worst in the people they latch on to). I'm far from an expert in witchcraft (much of what I know is media based) but things seemed plausible. And the reason for Parker and Tripp's spellings messing each other up seemed like a wonderful way to draw everyone into this sticky wicket.

    The authors included the first chapter of the next book, Witch vs Wizard in the back of this one, and it's got me jonsing for the next one to come out. It will be out at some point this year, though I'm not sure when. This is one that, if I can't manage to get a copy through winning it, I will definitely buy. Because I can't wait to see what happens with these four next.

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    Review: Level Up

    Level Up
    Level Up by Gene Luen Yang

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Do you follow your dream or your family's? That is the question that Dennis Ouyang is asking himself as he debates his future. His father had wanted him to be a doctor - specifically, a gastroenterologist. But Dennis has a love, and a talent, for video games. At a major crossroads in his life, four angels come into his life to guide him along the straight and narrow. Sometimes sweet, sometimes terrifying, they want to make sure that Dennis fulfills his destiny.

    This is not Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham's first graphic novel. They gained critical acclaim with their previous graphic novel, American Born Chinese (which is on my TBR list). But it is definitely a fantastic look at balancing the desires of our families with the desires of ourselves.

    I'll admit that this gave me a glimpse into a life that is incredibly foreign to me. My parents had always wanted me to do what made me happy, and I've found myself doing the same with my boys. So to have a parent basically mapping out the future of their child seems wrong. It always had. But reading through this, seeing the bits of the why's behind the push by Dennis' father for his son to be a doctor. This book was more than just entertainment for me. It was also an enlightening book.

    The artwork is much cruder than anything I find within the pages of a DC comic, but it fit well with the story of a kid obsessed with video games. For all that the black line artwork isn't masterful, it tells the story that it needs to. It made the story feel more like a boy telling his story rather than a piece of fiction. And I liked that.

    The story itself was a wonderful journey, from the first moment Dennis saw a Pac-Man machine until the last panel where he showed what he can do. My heart broke when Dennis gave away his gaming systems. I wanted to smack him up along side the head when he was clueless. And the angels... they scared me pretty bad sometimes as well.

    This is definitely one of the best non-super hero graphic novels I've read in a long time. While not a favorite of the level of Neil Gaiman's Sandman series, it's still a wonderful read and a must for any geek grappling between what they should do and what they want to do.

    *Note: This book was won in the First Reads Giveaway. I received a copy of this book without requirement of reviewing it, but I'm glad to be able to do so anyway.

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    Review: The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar: A First Kids Mystery

    The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar: A First Kids Mystery
    The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar: A First Kids Mystery by Martha Freeman

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    When First Kids Cammie and Tessa receive a diamond dog collar for the First Dog, Holligan, they know the huge diamonds can't be real? Can they? When one diamond, then the whole collar disappears, the girls think something may be up. Especially when it comes on the heals of the disappearance of a large diamond from the nation that the collar was originally sent from. That's when they put on their detecting hats and search the White House grounds to find out the truth behind Holligan's new collar.

    The Case of the Diamond Dog Collar was actually the first book I won through Goodreads' First Reads giveaway program. Since I love books of all shapes and sizes, I was excited to receive it. Originally, I planned on reading it to the boys, but as the holidays got more hectic and Teddy wanted me to start reading The 39 Clues, I decided that it was time to read it on my own.

    I wish I hadn't let so much time pass, because I was doing myself a disservice. Being a relatively short chapter book, it was a quick read for me. But it was a read full of humor and surprise. I found the enthusiasm of impulsive fashionista Tessa infectious. I loved the more sensible approach that Cammie had toward the whole thing. Seeing the girls' reaction to their grandmother's budding love affair made me smile. And I loved the fact that it isn't their dad that's the president, but their mom. Seeing the father as the stay-at-home parent (or kind of close to it) was a nice change of pace for most of the kids books that I read.

    The characters weren't quite as fleshed out as you would have seen in a more adult book, but it didn't bother me too much. Even without the depth that I expect from the longer novels I read, these characters definitely had some depth, character and personality. There are some of the adults that get short-shrift (the girls' parents, their Aunt Jen) but since the story centers around the girls, their dog and their cousin, Nick, they were the ones that should have had more weight to them.

    The character that stole the book, though, was Hooligan. I love reading about animals that are big, fun, play-piles. And that's what Hooligan is. He's got a bunch of enthusiasm and love and is the kind of dog I'd love to see running around the White House lawns.

    I also enjoyed the inside look at the Private White House. I don't know for certain if that is how life is in the White House, but it's something that I could easily imagine it being. The map that Ms Freeman included at the back of the book, detailing the White House grounds, and the afterword that she included talking about the White House, was a nice bit of educational inclusion that I love to find in books to share with my kids.

    All in all, the flaws I found in this book were minor and it's a book that I look forward to sharing with my boys as they get older.

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    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Giveaways and Goodies #1

    I have a fairly large blog reading list.  My blogs range from the geekish (like GeekDad and Slice of SciFi) to the bookish (like and The Book Vixen) to the crafty (like The Steady Hand and Bursts of Bubbles) to parenting blogs (like Do Sweat the Small Stuff and The Mom Pledge) and a whole host of others*.  I love learning cool stuff from these awesome blogs and the bloggers behind them and sharing a bit with them.

    One of the thing that many (though not all) of the bloggers that I read have in common is giveaways.  Many of them come from the ranks of the book bloggers that I read, in an effort to help authors promote their latest work.  Good books are too awesome not to share, and keeping mum about book giveaways that I know about would be almost criminal (even if it might increase my chances slightly of winning something myself. ;))

    So I'll be starting a feature here on Views from the Reader Side where, once a week, I'll share with my readers links to the great giveaways that I've found among my blog perusing.  (If you're interested in non-book blogs, you can check out my Giveaways and Goodies feature over at Sanity's Overrated.)  Along with the giveaways, I may pass along a few other bits of book-related info that I come across.  (Though not reviews.  There are so many great reviews, I'd be typing for days.)

    Without further ado, here are the giveaways, listed by date so you know which ones you need to check out sooner rather than later.

    January 16, 2012

    Happy Chaos by Soliel Moon Frye at The Writer Revived

    January 17, 2012

    From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant by Alex Gilvarry at Roof Beam Reader
    Angel Fire, The Darkness Gathers and Darkness, My Old Friend by Lisa Unger on Facebook

    January 18, 2012

    Author Interview with Misty Provencher and giveaway of eBook copy of Cornerstone at Book Passion for Life
    The Dreaming of Books Giveaway - There are over 200 bloggers giving away books.  Follow the link and you'll find the home-linky with all the bloggers listing books.  I haven't entered many yet, but I will be over the next several days.

    January 19, 2012

    Demons at Deadnight by A&E Kirk (2 giveaways, 1 paperback copy, US only, one Kindle edition) at The Unread Reader

    January 20, 2012

    Switched by Amanda Hocking at Mission to Read (US only, sorry!)

    January 24, 2012

    Author Interview with Cynthia Hand and giveaway of Team Tucker theme pack at The Story Siren

    January 26, 2012

    Destiny by Laura DeLuca at Hanging Off the Wire
    Word Catcher by Phil Cousineau at Hanging Off the Wire (US and Canada only, sorry!)
    Author Interview with Jaye Frances and giveaway of the Kindle version of The Kure at The Book Vixen

    January 27, 2012

    Random Obesessions by Nick Belardes at Hanging Off the Wire (US and Canada only, sorry!)

    January 29, 2012

    Beyonders by Brandon Mull at Cami's Books

    January 30, 2012

    The Fear Index by Robert Harris and Start Shooting by Charlie Newton at KnopfDoubleday

    January 31, 2012

    Author interview with Shelly Crane and giveaway of her eBook, Significance at Book Passion for Life

    February 29, 2012

    Book Passion for Life's The Book Depository Affiliates Giveaway #2 (Three winners will win one of eight (8) books)

    And, as always, don't forget the constant stream of giveaways on I've won close to 30 books through them and am finally starting to dive into them.  Look for reviews in the upcoming weeks.

    And now for some goodies that I've found through my blog reading that I thought my fellow readers would enjoy.

    So that's it for this week.  I'm hoping to have more goodies next week to share, as well as a few new books to review and anything else that I may find to catch your attention.  Thanks for stopping by!

    * No offense to the many other blogs that I read and enjoy for not including you here.  If I included all the great blogs that I read, I would never get to my actual post.

    Sunday, January 8, 2012

    Review: People Who Don't Know Me Think I'm Somebody

    People Who Don't Know Me Think I'm Somebody
    People Who Don't Know Me Think I'm Somebody by Mike Parish

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    People Who Don't Know Me Think I'm Somebody is another win from GoodReads First reads. By the title, I wasn't sure what to expect of it - depression poetry? Existentialism? Randomness? Well, it was a bit closer to the last.

    But what it wasn't, at least by my definition, was poetry. Instead, it seemed more like random thoughts, posts to Twitter or Facebook, brief glimpses into the mind of the reader. As I read the thoughts written, I had the feeling that I was reading the thoughts of teenager, dealing with the crap that becoming an adult throws at him every day.

    While it hit far of the mark of what I was expecting, it was an interesting read for what it was. I like to look into the thoughts of others and these brief, sentence or two bits, gave me a nice view into Parish's head at the time he wrote them. It had very much a sense of immediacy, as some of the portions talked about his desire to publish these bits of "poetry".

    I also must applaud Mr Parish for the way he sent this. Like a few other reviewers have commented, he used the booklet (white paper, saddle-stitched) itself as the envelope. My address was written clearly on the back and the pages were held closed with a clear sticker. While some may have received theirs damaged because of this, mine came in pristine condition.

    In closing, I'd say that if you were looking for poetry, look for something else. But if you like to glance into the mind of someone else in small bites at a time, check it out.

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    Review: for she, who kept the other alphabet

    for she, who kept the other alphabet
    for she, who kept the other alphabet by Pablo D'Stair

    My rating: 4 of 5 stars

    The title of this folio is what caught my attention. I'd never heard of the author or of his poetry, but this title was intriguing. So I entered to win a copy and did, here on GoodReads.

    I received the folio yesterday. As advertised, it was a small booklet with each stanza of the poem on a new page. The paper it was printed on was a darker cream and the overall booklet was very stark.

    The poetry itself is free verse and very meta. It's not one that I "got" on a first read through, but one that I suspect will take on more meaning the more I read it. It's one, I think, that needs to be chewed over slowly rather than taken in a large bite and gobbled down whole.

    I hope to give it a more thorough review in a week or so when I read it again with fresh eyes.

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    Review: Little Shoes

    Little Shoes
    Little Shoes by Amy Sansome

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Two shoes, Finn and Maya, live inside a dark box at a shoe store. Their whole world is that box until one day, a little girl comes and opens the lid. Then they find a whole new world outside, with different sensations and different experiences. Oh, how their lives will change.

    Little Shoes was another book that I picked up for free on Kindle. As much as my Kindle is mineallmine, I do want to share some books with my boys on it. So I went looking for freebies. And this was the first one I came across.

    It wasn't the best children's book I've read to my boys, nor was it the worst. But it's one that I don't think my boys are going to be asking for more regularly. It doesn't seem to flow as well as many of the other books do, and some of the images that it brought to my mind, at least, were disturbing (the feeling of someone's foot sliding into Finn... shudder). I was also slightly annoyed at the author for having it be natural for Maya to recognize a mirror and then preen in it, all because she was a little girl.

    Still, it did have a few redeeming qualities. It was a good look at change in your environment and trying to figure out the answers (though I'm still not sure how the shoes came up with some of the answers they did). I did enjoy the last line as well - "And Finn added, "Yes, and it's our new home." - because it feels... comfortable, I guess. The thought of a new home for anyone is just a warm-fuzzy.

    The artwork was cute, with very big eyes and round faces. The colors are bright and vibrant. In eBook format, though, it doesn't seem to mesh too well. There will be a page or two of text, then a single page of a picture. It wasn't bad, but sometimes it threw off the rhythm of the story. Still, they were enjoyable to look at.

    As I said above, it's not a bad book, but it's not phenomenal either. At free, I'd suggest checking it out yourself and see what you think.

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    Review: Dragonsaurus

    Dragonsaurus by Sharlene Alexander

    My rating: 5 of 5 stars

    When a little egg rolls down from the mountain, an unusual creature emerges at the bottom. Is it a fish, like the first creature he sees? Or a snake like the second? The problems the creature has moving like either points toward no. But when an eagle flies by and tells the creature to follow him, it is only then that she finds where she belongs.

    I picked this up as an eBook freebie through my Kindle, thinking to have something new to read to my kids. Pete is dinosaur crazy, so reading anything involving dinosaurs would be a big hit. But I didn't know just how much I would enjoy the story.

    Yes, I had to suspend my disbelief a little to think that a dragon and a T-Rex would mate, but if I can believe in a T-Rex living with a family of pteronadons (Dinosaur Train), then pairing a dragon and a dinosaur wasn't too much of a stretch.

    Peter stayed engrossed through every sentence, curious about this little creature and what it would be. He pointed out various things he saw in the pictures with excitement. And, even better, when we were finished, he wanted to hear it again.

    Being a children's book, it is an incredibly quick read. And while I would have liked to have seen some parts of it go into a little more depth (such as the creature following a few more animals in it's search for who it was), I could understand that being a side-point to the story rather than the main part.

    The illustrations were nicely done - not too childish, yet not too elaborate for young minds and attention spans either. It's also not an illustration heavy book, so each one has the job of telling a bit more, and it does that beautifully.

    There is also an important lesson in here - whether the writer intended it or not. You are who you are, and that is very special. Your parents don't have to be the same (in the "real" world, they don't both have to be the same race, the same religion or - dare I say it - the same sex) to love you and think you're special. And if you try to be someone that you aren't, something will always get in the way of making it feel "right".

    If you have little ones that love dinosaurs or dragons, I highly recommend picking this one up and reading it to them. Because I think it's a story they'll enjoy.

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    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Review: Noble Causes: Extended Family #2

    Noble Causes: Extended Family #2
    Noble Causes: Extended Family #2 by Jay Faerber

    My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    Noble Causes: Extended Family takes place five years after the first book - the only other book that I've been able to read. (My library, for some reason I don't understand, only carries the first book and this, which is one of the last.) Rusty and Celeste have divorced and now Rusty is seeing a hero by the name of Cosmic Rae. Race has somehow returned from the dead and the main story takes place at his and Liz's 1st Anniversary Party. Zephyr is quite obviously pregnant - and she lets everyone know it. Celeste is openly keeping company with Frost. And things for Doc and Gaia are business as usual.

    The Noble Causes series has a shorter-than-usual main story, followed by several one-shots that give the reader a glimpse into the minds, hearts and world of the characters. Sometimes that's a hit, other times it's a miss. In this particular volume, I actually enjoyed the one shots more than I did the main story line.

    The main story line, as I mentioned above, deals with the family at Liz and Race's 1st Anniversary party. Of course, there's the usual problems with the family - Zephyr showing off her pregnancy to give those that were talking in whisper about her glamoured, thinner self something to really talk about, a fist fight almost beginning between Race and Frost (because of a very risque ice sculpture that Frost made of Race and Liz in the middle of the party). The usual. But when an alien creature that affects the minds of it's host gets into the guest, things really become interesting.

    The story itself was ok. Some of this could be because I missed the intervening stories. But it just didn't engage me quite the way the first one did. The characters, were, however, true to form... or at least true to the form they were in the first book. I loved both Zephyr and Liz standing up for themselves, each in their own way.

    The artwork was up to the usual standards. There are some stand-out bits, however. The ice sculpture was very well done, being both modest and risque at the same time. And the look on Liz's face when Race is screaming to her in panel 3 on page 18 (by my count - there are no page numbers) is absolutely perfect. You can see the anger behind her eyes, yet you can also see that she is holding it back. There's something about the set of her jaw that says to me she knows Race isn't behind the words.

    The next story in the book is "Family Matters". In it, Zephyr is rebelling against her mother in a teen-aged fit and decides to run away from home. Where she goes is something I didn't see coming - and neither did the person she runs to - Frost. She thinks that since he has reason to hate her family as well, they should get along fine. But somehow, as she talks to him, he makes her see that her family really is the most important thing to her.

    The story was pretty good, though not my favorite in this collection. While I hadn't expected her to show up at Frost's, and I had expected him to sleep with her, most of it was a typical "you don't know what you've got 'til you're gone" kind of story. It was ok, but not stellar.

    The third story is a fun little piece called "Sweeps Week". The Nobles are, as we see here, a fictional superhero family being portrayed on television. The story takes us to through the various trials and tribulations of a successful (and cheesy) show - from stupid story lines to enthusiastic fans to cast changes. It's a fun romp and the surprise ending (the Big Boss coming in) is a wonderful surprise. Again, not my favorite piece in the book, but it was a decent read.

    Next up is "Live and Let Diode", a freaky little piece that brings us back to the early days when Icarus was still in the picture, when he first started to realize the hatred he held for Doc's children. Each glimpse into every day life - from fighting the baddies to mediating an argument between mother and daughter to listening to the Noble Children talk about a boring mission - is punctuated by a look through Icarus' eyes on the situation, and then the violent images of what he really wants to do to the Noble Children. It's the first steps into madness and it's a very scary place to be. Violent though it was, it was my second favorite piece because it really brought out the emotions.

    Next we come to a shorter piece entitled, "Rite of Passage". It is Krennick's birthday and his father has called his son to stand before him. On this most special day, Draconis has set up a special surprise for his son - a fight to the death with a couple dozen of Draconis' best warriors to test whether Krennick would be a worthy successor. While the story itself was an "eh" because of the set-up (I've never been a fan of fight to the death stories), there was one thing it did really well, and that was pacing. From the moment Draconis shouts the command for his warriors to kill his son, until Krennick stands alone at the end, the panels alternate between a couple of action-only panels and single panels where Krennick questions why his father is doing this while still fighting on. It was very beautifully done and brought the story along at just the right pace.

    Then we get to my least favorite story in the book, "Educating Doc". Doc is at a lecture, talking about how he supposedly first realized that crime fighting was serious business. He spun the story to put himself in the best light, but the panels that the story was written over told the real story. And it didn't mesh with me. Doc always struck me as more someone who was buried in his work rather than focusing on self-aggrandizement. So I couldn't believe that it was him telling the story in that way. It just didn't fit for me.

    However, the next story was, by far, my favorite story. "Pushing the Right Buttons" starts with the release of a sex tape in which Zephyr is the main attraction. While the media and the common man talk about it - whether it's true, if she's crying, how hot it is - her family is grilling her to find out why she did it. And all she'll answer is that she had her reasons. Even to Liz, the most understanding member of the family, she only repeats that she had her reasons. It's only at the end of the story that we find out just what those reasons were. And it's not rebellion. By the time I reached the end, I had my hand over my mouth in shock. I both applauded Zephyr and wanted to kill those who put her in this position. Because it doesn't get any lower. A very high quality story that shows things aren't always what they seem.

    "How the Servants Reclaimed their Demonhood" is the last story and one that I'm torn on. The story had me chuckling from beginning to end, thinking of the sitcom antics that having three demons formerly of hell as servants in a superhero household. But the artwork just didn't do it for me. The human characters were too angular, their features almost caricaturish. The way Gaia was drawn, I thought a dominatrix had entered the story (which made perfect sense, what with the demons and all) instead of being the head of the Noble family. It's rare for me to enjoy reading a story so much yet be put off by the artwork. So I'm still not sure how I stand on it.

    The book, as a whole, was middle of the road. While there were a few outstanding stories, they weren't enough to pull the book above average for me.

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