Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hour 19 - Show it Off

A challenge from Dead Book Darling - show off and upload a photo of a book you're extremely proud of.

Here's mine - an autographed copy of my favorite romantic suspense, Don't Let Go by Marliss Melton:

Hour 18 - Book Jenga

This was too fun - thank you Curiosity Killed the Bookworm!

My book tower of remaining books:

Hour 17 - Bookish Travel

From Reader's Respite: "Tell me about the best location a book has taken you to. Perhaps a book really did inspire you to physically go some where.  Tell me.  Or perhaps a book took you somewhere in your mind so completely that you don't even need to visit in real life.  Tell me."

Oh wow, how to limit this to one book...Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan made me fall madly in love the The Strand bookstore in NYC. I pictured it in my mind's eye while reading and when looked it up on the internet, it matched perfectly.  Now it's part of my inner happy place. :-)

Hour 16 - Six Word Celebration!

From Estella's Revenge, celebrate the Dewey Read-a-Thon is 6 words:

Reading for 24 hours is bliss.

Hour 15 - Cheap Thrills Challenge

Challenge host Fiction State of Mind requested book recommendations for this one: any book that qualifies as Mystery, Thriller, or Horror and can be obtained for $3.99 or less.

I'd recommend The Turn of the Screw by Henry James - you can get it free from the Gutenberg Project.  It reads very old fashioned, but you have this growing sense of madness and horror and the ending is quite haunting.

Hour 14: AudioBook Dream Date

This challenge from The Geeky Blogger was surprisingly easy - I guess my subconscious has been thinking about it for a while.

My audiobook dream date would be Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning, read by Clive Owens. Swoon.

Hour 13: Best of Your Reading Year

Thanks, Lisa's World of Books for this challenge!

Best Book of Your Reading Year
Little, Big by John Crowley – this is Literature – heavy, daunting, exquisite, magical

Best Romance Book of Your Reading Year
Heart of Obsidian by Nalini Singh – perfect hero, perfect heroine, perfect story line, perfect series arc wrap-up, I could go on…

Best Main Character of Your Reading Year
Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie – both the main characters in this book were great, very believable, funny, and smart

Best Indie Author of Your Reading Year
The Gamble by Kristen Ashley – loved this book! 

Hour 12: Mid-Event Survey

I've made it half-way!!

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?

Nope - I'm good to go!

2) What have you finished reading?

Black Bird, volumes 12-15 by Kanoko Sakurakouji
3/4 through The Secret Keeper and wow is it getting good

3) What is your favorite read so far?

Black Bird, Vol. 12 - so good!

4) What about your favorite snacks?

Waffle fries!! (Thanks, sweetie!!)  The croissants my husband got me from Starbucks this morning were pretty darn good too.

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!

Yes!  Heather @ The Snake Wrangler

Hour 11: Self Portrait

Thank you Estella Society for an easy one!  My Punkin' Pie wanted to be a part of it since he's joined me for about an hour of the read-a-thon:

Hour 10: Book Trailers

Jehara is asking for our favorite book trailers, which I generally only get through the first 10 seconds of, but I think this one for Marliss Melton's Show No Fear would count as my favorite - it's short, the narrator's voice is yummy, and it always makes me grin and reach for one of her books.

Hour 9 - BookTube Challenge

Here my Hour 9 Challenge video - thank you Estella's Revenge for getting me out of my comfort zone!!

Hour 8: Books on Books Challenge

I can get 7 of Stacey's Books leaf-covered books:
The Uncommon Reader
The 13th Tale
The Reader
Bridget Jone's Diary
This Book is Overdue
The Know-It-All
My Reading Life

And here are my books with books:

Hour 7: Mad Libs

Yay! Mia & Jessica are back on Nisaba Be Praised.

And hosting a mad lib challenge.  Good thing I'm back to The Secret Keeper - this would be pretty impossible with manga.

My original paragraph:

Laurel closed the album.  She'd lost the spirit for narrating the past.  Instead she smoothed her mother's sheet across her chest and said, “I went to see Gerry last night, Ma."

Okay, so two famous people, 4 nouns, 3 verbs.

2 Famous people (thank you, Google):
Mary-Kate Olsen
Dr. Phil

Nouns (thank you,

Verbs (again, from madglibs):

New paragraph:

Mary-Kate Olsen closed the football. She’d lost the spirit for conjecturing the experiment.  Instead she deferred her mother’s sky across her sister and said, “I went to tantalize Dr. Phil last night, Ma.”

Okay, that was so messed up.

Hour 6 - skipped

I had to skip this one - it required a tea bag art project and I'm really bad at art and don't have any tea bags. :-(

Hour 5: Blackout Poetry

This challenge is from Elizabeth-Michelle.  Take a section of newspaper, magazine, or anything else you don't mind butchering with a black marker, and black-out sections so you're left with something very different and poem-like.  Here's my effort (thanks, VegNews!):

Hour 4: Spine Poetry

I love spine poetry - thank you CapriciousReader!! Here's a travel spine poem for you:

In case you can't see the picture:

Mountains beyond mountains
Postcards from the edge
A different kind of dream
The road to Unafraid

Hour 3: A Puzzling Challenge

This hour's challenge is brought to us by Just One More Thing and is a guess-the-cover challenge so I'm not posting my answers here. ;-)

Black Bird, vol. 12 by Kanoko Sakurakouji

I switched to manga in between chapters of The Secret Keeper since it's such a big book.  Vol. 12 of the Black Bird series is the best so far - very dramatic but with plenty of humor.  My favorite moment is when Kyo's grandfather tells him he needs to start picking out successors for his captured friends and bodyguards since they're as a good as dead and Kyo turns to him with a look of genuine confusion and says "Old man...I only speak Japanese. I don't understand Crazytalk."  And Misao's all "Gasp! Kyo!!"  Bwahahaha!

Hour 2 Challenge: Book Tunes

River City Reading is hosting this first challenge. Her challenge is to pick a song that goes best with the book you're reading and explain why.

I'm reading Kate Morton's The Secret Keeper. While Morton has everyone in WW2 London listening to Glenn Miller, as I'm reading I've got The Car Chase music from A Beautiful Mind playing in my head for it's growing sense of darkness - you just know something really bad is about to happen.

Hour 1 Post - It's Back!!

The October Dewey Read-a-thon starts now!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Hampton Roads, VA

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

The waffle fries my husband will bring me. (hint, hint, sweetie ;-) )

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I love reading, video gaming, discovering great new restaurants, and my family.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

This is my second read-a-thon.  I'm planning on eating more real food vs snack food, moving around more, and my to-read pile is bigger with more variety.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The End

I did it! Crawling to bed now.  Can't wait for October! :-)

Hour 24: End of Event Meme

Which hour was most daunting for you?
Hour 22, being so tired and knowing I still had 2 hours to go.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
The Dramacon series was great, although I loved both of my historical romances from two of my favorite authors

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
I didn't like posting my email address to some mini challenge blogs.  Maybe if twitter names or blogs only were used as contacts, that'd be better.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
All the photo posting challenges - those were fun.

How many books did you read?
7 1/2

What were the names of the books you read?
Special A, vol. 12
Sweet Deception
Wild Ones, vol. 3
Wild Ones, vol. 4
Fool for Love
Dramacon, vol. 2
Dramacon, vol. 3
Winning Cassie Ellijay

Which book did you enjoy most?
Sweet Deception

Which did you enjoy least?
Wild Ones, vol. 3

If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
Thank you so much to the cheerleaders!

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
Oh, I totally want to do this again in October as a reader and maybe do a fundraiser too.  I don't think I'm quite ready to do anymore.

Dramacon, vol. 3 by Svetlana Chmakova

This series was great!  Excellent balance of romance, drama, angst, and career drive.  Makes me want to go to a real Comicon.

Hour 23 Mini Challenge: Guess the Author Photo

Thank you, wilderthan, for hosting!  Head to her site for the pictures.  And I don't know if I'm tired or what but I only recognize two pictures.

1. Ann Rice

5. Virginia Wolfe

Hour 22 Mini Challenge: If It Were a Movie

Wow, this challenge from Cabbit Corner is a tough one right now:
Pick a book from the reading challenge. Imagine this book was being made into a movie. Write a blog post/comment answering the following:- Who would you cast and why? (if book is already a movie, voice your opinion on casting and who you would have picked)- What music would you like on the soundtrack?- Director?- Scenes you would delete and why? Scenes you would add and why?

I'm reading the Comicon series right but I don't know any teen actors, so I'm skipping back to Sweet Deception by Heather Snow

Cast: James Macavoy as Derick Aveline because I think he could pull off the dashing but sneaky spy, Raquel Weisz as Emma Wallingford because she's curvy like the heroine and I just really like seeing her in movies
Music: I like the idea of classical composers like Beethoven and Mozart but with an upbeat twist to add excitement, like they did with the Sherlock Holmes movies soundtracks.
Director: Joe Wright who did Pride & Prejudice (Kiera Knightly version) - I love how he incorporated the British landscape into so much of the movie which I think is vital to the feel of this book
Scenes to add: Definitely a dark beginning scene depicting at least a hint of what happened when Aveline left England before the war
Scenes to delete: Can't think of any, this book was great.

Dramacon, vol. 2 by Svetlana Chmakova

This series seems so deep for a manga.  I'm very happy I have the next volume on hand to start right away.  This doesn't feel like fiction!

Hour 21 Mini Challenge: Mad Libs

Nisaba Be Praised is hosting this mini challenge - thanks, ladies, for being awake too!

I'm going with a paragraph from No  Rest for the Wicked by Kresley Cole:

Original, words in bold to be switched out:  "As she lathered her hair, she didn't think about the vampire. At all.  She ignored questions about why he'd been in that castle and what exactly had made him want to end his forlorn existence.  All that information, such as where he had been a warrior, was incidental."

So that's 5 nouns, 2 adjectives, 1 adverb, and 1 verb.  I'm going to use a random noun generator and the "hidden" lists on Nisaba to fill in the blanks. Now I have these words: Check, Intestine, Joint, Snowman, Touch, greasy, sneaky, awkwardly, slump.

Final mad lib paragraph: As she lathered her check, she didn't think about the intestine.  At all.  She slumped questions about why he'd been in that joint and what awkwardly had made him want to end his greasy snowman.  All that information, such as where he had been a touch, was sneaky.

- this is the kind of thing my boys LOVE.

Hour 20 Mini Challenge: Haiku

5. More. Hours.  I can do this - I don't want to put my book down anyways - I should probably make myself a cup of hot chocolate or something.

Crazy Comma Momma wants me to write a haiku about the book I'm reading.  Almost done with Fool for Love by Eloisa James.

My haiku:
She wants kids but won't
Expect love. He is in love
And will convince her.

Awww, now I feel all sappy.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Hour 19 Mini Challenge: Picture Break

For this challenge The Bookish Diaries wants photos of the books I've read, the books I have left, the food I'm eating, and the place I've been reading in.

Books I've Read:

Books left (that's my Nook on top):

Where I'm reading - the couch now instead of the bed so my husband can get some sleep:

The snacks I started with that are now gone:

Hour 18 Mini Challenge: Cover Me

From Stacy's Books, this challenge involves choosing your favorites from the 2013 books Stacy has selected across 9 categories.  She also encourages everyone to pick their own that may not be on her list.  Here are mine:

Category 1: Best Tile
From her list: The Blue Ribbon Jalapeno Society Jubilee by Carolyn Brown
My "independent" choice: Ettiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Category 2: Best Dressed
From her list: The Elite by Kiera Cass
My "independent" choice: One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean

Category 3: Cutest Couple
From her list: Star Crossed by Jennifer Echols
My "independent" choice: None - I don't have a better one than that for 2013

Category 4: Most Delicious Cover
From her list: Bake it Like You Mean It by Gesine Bullock-Prado
My "independent" choice: Her choices really are the best although The Paleo Slow Cooker cover is starting to look pretty darn good, but that may be because I'm entering that tired = hungry stage.

Category 5: Cutest Animal
From her list: A Little Book of Sloth by Kay Cooke
My "independent" choice: Naw, I can't top that one - it's sooo cuuuute!

Category 6: Cutest Kid
From her list: I'll Take What She Has by Samantha Wilde
My "independent" choice: Although I do love the little feet on Child of Mine by Judy Walters, the Wilde's cover baby grin is fantastic.

Category 7: Best to Avoid in a Dark Alley
From her list: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers - she looks like a woman with a grudge and a knife - way scarier than a guy on a horse with sword
My "independent" choice: Lover At Last by J.R. Ward

Category 8: Best Tatto
From her list: Walking Disaster by Jamie McGuire
My "independent" choice: Falling Blind by Shannon K. Butcher

Category 9: Best Cover
From her list: The Last Camellia by Sarah Jio
My "independent" choice: The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston

Hour 17 Mini Challenge: Six Word Celebration

From Esetella's RevengeYour challenge is to creative a six-word celebration of Dewey's Read-a-Thon. 

Hmmm, six words.  I hope I'm doing this right.  Here: Tea, Snacks, and Stacks of Books.

I'm getting sooo sleepy - good thing I saved my favorite author for the midnight hours.

Hour 16 Mini Challenge: Turn the Page

From Reflections of a Book-A-Holic, turn to page 32 of the book you are currently reading and fill in the blank with the most entertaining phrase to complete the following sentence:
"I would rather read than ______ and day!"

My sentence from Fool for Love by Eloisa James:
"I would rather read than see him play off the airs and graces of their neighbors any day!"  Sorry, it either that or "die in childbirth".  Yay, historical fiction! :-)

Hour 14 Mini Challenge: The Casting Couch

This mini challenge is brought to you by My Little Pocketbooks.  Basically, you assign a real life actor to play the role of a character in the book you're reading.

Book I'm Currently Reading: Fool for Love by Eloisa James (and it's great - I love Eloisa's writing!)
Character name and description: Simon Darby is the famously/notoriously well-dressed heir to a title and a fortune unless his sister-in-law is pregnant with a boy. He's also the sole guardian of his two very young half-sisters with troubling behaviour issues since his father and step-mother's death.  He needs a wife with a fortune and mothering inclinations fast.
Actor: Richard Armitage
Why: Because after North & South you know he can pull off an exquisitely dressed gentleman of the 1800's while coming across more fierce and determined than dandy-ish.

Hour 13 Mini Challenge: Cooking the Books

This challenge is from Azuki's Book Cafe - thanks, Azuki!  I'm supposed to take a popular book title and twist it into a cookbook them with a revised title and introduction.  While it's really difficult to be creative at this point in the challenge (oh gosh, what am I going to be like at 3 AM??), here's mine:

Hard-To-Miss Fowl (original title: Artemis Fowl): Follow along with Ireland's famous 12-year-old genius chef as he explores the ins and outs of cooking chicken and not-chicken as he finally shares his secret "Fairy Dust" spice blend.

Okay, I tried.

Hour 12: Mid-Event Survey

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?
My eyes aren't tired but I am getting sleepy.

2) What have you finished reading?
Special A, vol. 12 by Maki Minami

Sweet Deception by Heather Snow
Wild Ones, vol. 3 by Kiyo Fujiwara
Wild Ones, vol. 4 by Kiyo Fujiwara

3) What is your favorite read so far?
Sweet Deception by Heather Snow - it was also the longest so far.

4) What about your favorite snacks?
Waffle fries my husband brought me from Chick-Fil-A & the hummus he made me (not together though)

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!
I've posted links to everyone hosting a mini-challenge, but I've also glanced over the following:
Sherry Ann's Book Blog
Fighting Dreamer
When Books Attack

Hour 11 Mini Challenge: Picture It!

I promise didn't skip Hour 10 - it was a quiz on Bart's Bookshelf and the answers had to be turned in on the site vs. your blog.

So for Picture It!, hosted by The Book Monsters, I've got a picture of the book I'm currently reading and where I'm reading it:

Seen in this picture:
Fool for Love by Eloisa James
Reading journal
Reading pillows
Read-A-Thon Flipping Huge Big Gulp
Stuffed animal from my son to keep me company

And yes, I made the bed before I took the picture. :-)

Hour 9 Mini Challenge: Clear the Cobwebs Yoga

Thank you Elizabeth-Michelle, that was exactly what I needed!  No books for this - she let me made me do yoga.  And I did all of the poses listed in a row.  The part where you go between the cat and cow poses felt like it did the most for my muscles, although I was very glad my boys had left the house for it.  The most dangerous one for me was the Legs-to-the-Wall pose - I almost fell asleep it felt so good!  My yoga break was about 15 minutes long.

Hour 8 Mini Challenge: Book Sentence Challenge

A joint challenge by Midnight Book Girl and The Fake Steph, for this one I had to create a complete sentence using book titles, then post a picture of it.  And this was way harder than the book title poetry challenge!

My sentence:

If you can't see the picture, the sentence is "Darkness unleashed the dangerous lord to die for your wicked ways in the woods."  Thank you Linda Howard for starting a title with a preposition!

Sweet Deception by Heather Snow

5 out 5 stars

Oh, this was so good!!  I loved this heroine - she's smart, quirky, and too honest for her own good - but still  kind.  I love her love and loyalty for the hero, Derick, she's known since childhood and the mathematical equation she devises to solve the problem of convincing Derick to stay in their home county of Derbyshire: S(A+B+C) = D2. That little 2 is supposed to be squared, (Derrick in Derbyshire).  S = Seduction, the rest you'll have to read the book yourself for.  This was the perfect blend of history and romance, sweet and steamy.  The third book in this series, Sweet Madness, is going straight on my to-read list.

Hour 7 Mini Challenge: Best and Worst Covers

Reading My Way Through Life is hosting this mini-challenge: choose a book you're planning to read for the Read-A-Thon and post what you think are the best cover edition of it and the worst.

I chose Chocolat by Joanne Harris.  My favorite cover version is the one I own - it's bright, magical, and yummy looking:

My least favorite cover is the hardcover edition, because, seriously, this cover tells you nothing - certainly nothing enchanting or chocolate-y.

Hour 6 Mini Challenge: Book Puzzle

Thanks to the creative mind of One Librarian, this hour's challenge is a book puzzle - see her site for a deeper explanation of what exactly that is, but basically, it's a kind of "guess the title" with picture clues.

Here's mine - it's easy-peasy:

And the book is..... 

Eloisa James's Fool for Love!  

Told you it was easy.  Sorry about the image for The Fool totally giving the clue away, but when I did an image search for joker cards all I got was Batman-inspired stuff.

Hour 5 Mini Challenge: Self-Portrait

This one's The Estella Society's fault.  :-)  The things I'll do for Barnes & Noble gift card...

Hour 4 Mini Challenge: Re-Title Your Current Read

I know, I know, I'm falling behind.  But I didn't want to stop reading to post!!  Sweet Deception by Heather Snow is SO GOOD, definitely worth waiting for.  But for this mini-challenge it needs a fitting new title - I don't know if I can do "clever" while still thinking about the last scene I read before putting the book down to check the Dewey blog, where the heroine gets her first real kiss from the hero.  Yummy.  Ok, new title: Smart Chick Gets the Boy Next Door Who Teased Her Mercilessly When They Were Little.  Historical romance revenge is sweet. Now leave me alone, the next chapter promises to be even better.

Thank you, Geeky Blogger,  for easy mini-challenge while I'm so lost in a book. :-)

Hour 3 Mini Challenge: Book Appetit

The Challenge: come up with a menu to go with your current read - thanks Book Journey!

My Book: Sweet Deception by Heather Snow

Well apparently, I'm reading the worst book in the world for food inspiration.  So far the hero & heroine haven't eaten or drunk anything.  This is a historical romance set in the 1800's British countryside, so we'll be drinking tea for our literary feast.  Derick (the hero) smells like bergamot and man to Emma (the heroine), and she smells like lavender and woman to him.  So we'll leave out the man and woman smells, and create a black tea with bergamot and lavender - I'm naming it The Derbyshire Blend in honor of the (real) county the book takes place in.  Okay, so we still need something to eat.  Other people have been eating around the main characters so we'll go with what they got: warm and hearty stew, served to the (Chapter 3 Spoiler Alert!) didn't-go-so-well search and rescue mission volunteers.  For the math genius heroine's sake, I'll make it with perfectly matched proportions of vegetables.

Hour 2 Mini Challenge: Book Spine Poetry

Thank you, Scuffed Slippers & Wormy Books for a fun mini challenge! I went with a romantic theme for my book spine poetry:

Back to the reading pile then!

Special A, vol. 12 by Maki Minami

This series about a group of over-achieving high school students always make me feel like a total slacker, so I figured staring with this one would help motivate me for a 24-hour project.  I'ts been a few months since I read vol. 11 and I'm very grateful for Minami's cast of characters at the beginning of each book.  I love reading the Japanese names in "real" manga, although the nicknames, honorifics, and switching between first and last names gets confusing.  For example: Hikari Hanazono could be called Hikari by family, Hanazono by friends, Hikari-chan  by her best friend, and Hana-san by classmates who need her help.Four names and variations of those for one character - and this manga has 10 main characters so far.  Add reading right-to-left to the mix and you get why reading manga after reading a "regular" book is like switching to an analog watch after using a digital one.  Sometimes I think I can feel the gears in my brain shifting. :-)

This volume's story lines were pretty convoluted with the main story line (of Kei's grandfather pressuring him to leave Japan and, more importantly, Hikari in order to take over the family company in London) not continuing until the final third of the book.  There's one truly beautiful moment where kids from a rival school threaten Hikari (the heroine) as a way to get to Kei (the hero) as they see her as his only weakness. Kei complete turns the tables on them, leaving the bad guys knocked to the ground begging for mercy. In a great frame series with blazing eyes and flowing hair from both hero and heroine, Kei informs the trouble-makers "Who said Hikari's my weakness?  Hikari makes me a thousand times stronger."  Sniffle.

Read-A-Thon: Starting Out

So at 8 AM I snuggled into my reading pillow in bed with my read-a-thon breakfast of champions: a cup of black tea with cardamom and a bowl of mashed potatoes.  As I clicked on the bedside lamp, I announced to my still-in-bed-enjoying-his-Saturday-morning husband, "The Read-A-Thon is now in progress!"  "Great," he mumbled as he pulled the covers over his head, "Now you better not interrupt me while I cheer you on over here."  Fantastic start! :-)

Read-A-Thon Hour 1 Intro

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Virginia Beach, VA

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Sweet Deception by Heather Snow - it has been so hard to not start this book early!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
The curried lentil stew I made last night after reading the blogs warning about needing real food on hand. Thank you, read-a-thon veterans!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
Ummm, I like to read?  Well, you probably figured that out! Ok, I LOVE reading!  And my husband and my son.  And video games and hiking and kayaking, although I do way less of the last two since I started becoming allergic to everything.  S'okay though, I'll ALWAYS have books.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
This is my first read-a-thon, and I'm most looking forward to getting some of these books of my to-read list.  I'm also looking forward to bragging about participating in the read-a-thon. ;-)

Friday, April 26, 2013

It's Tomorrow!! <-again, not a book title

The 24-Hour Read-a-Thon starts tomorrow at 8 AM.  My nook is stocked and ready!

I've had several people ask me how many books I can read in 24 hours of straight reading - I really don't know!  I do have several manga books which are faster reads, so I'll at least read those 5.  I'm thinking of using my completed amount as a base line for raising money in October's Read-a-Thon.  For example, people could pledge a dollar or two for every book I read over my April number.  The Read-A-Thon recommends donating any money raised to literacy programs or your local library.

I do have a scheduled long break in the evening tomorrow because Dr. Who is on at 8 PM - this is date night for me and my husband.  If it's a re-run then I've agreed to keep our date by watching an episode of Black Books, which is perfect as it's set in a bookstore.

I keep telling myself to get some sleep but I know I'll just lie there checking my clock every hour to count down the time to 8 AM.  Squeee!!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Coming Saturday, April 27 <- not a book title!

Next Saturday is the bi-annual Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon.  I'll be participating for the first time and I'm so excited!!   Start times vary by time zone - I'll be starting at 8 am and reading until 8 am the next morning.  At least that's the plan.  My husband swears he'll cheer me on and keep his our son occupied.  I've got my bedside to-read shelf stocked, including 8 "can't-wait-to-read" book.

My bookshelf:

My can't-wait-to-read books are:

I want to finish at least two of these completely.  I'm also getting the next few books in the manga series I'm currently reading: Wild Ones by Kiyo Fujiwara,  Dramacon by Svetlana Chmakova, and Special A by Minami Maki.  The idea is to keep myself motivated by having short, fun books to check off the hours with (no Proust here).  I can't wait!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Amazing Grace by Megan Shull

4 out of 5 stars

Excellent, clean young adult fiction that gently covered issues of mental health, teen drinking, and environmentalism.  And it's set in Alaska!  I don't know why but I love Alaska books.  This is weird even to me.... One less than 5 stars because of the requisite teen angst (it is young adult fiction) I'm very very thankful to be past at this point in my life.

The Book of New Family Traditions by Meg Cox

5 out 5 stars

This book is basically a collection of briefly presented ideas for making memories and rituals out of both every-day and special occasions. I especially appreciated the ideas for memorializing a child's first day of school, giving a child both a new privilege and a new responsibility every birthday, and the section for traditions specific to adopted children. I also really like how easy to find event-related ideas are in this book. This one's been permanently added to our family bookshelf.

No Escape by Shannon K. Butcher

3 out of 5 stars

I think anyone who likes romantic suspense will enjoy this book, but I personally thought the suspense levels were too high due to too many people trying to kill the heroine. Because of this, I couldn't appreciate any romantic tension between the hero and heroine. I do like that the author brought up the issue of foster care and the children in it - I just hope readers with less exposure to it than myself come away convinced that good foster parents are desperately needed and can make a world of difference rather than that foster kids will possibly grow up to be murderous psychopaths.

Better Than Peanut Butter & Jelly by Marty Mattare & Wendy Muldawer

4 out of 5 stars

The most useful parts of this book to me were the chapters on the nutritional needs of vegetarian children, list of animal-free protien options, and "quick substitutions" chart.

Clean Food by Terry Walters

3 out of 5 stars

There are numerous unusual ingredients used in this cookbook but the author doesn't tell you where to get them or what they look like and I don't see how using imported specialty items is eating close to the source. Also there are no photographs of either ingredients or finished dishes. I was happy with how many of the recipes were gluten-free and most dishes do sound yummy, like Tofu Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Crust which we added to our very small list of dairy- and gluten-free Thanksgiving pie options (our local grocers carries gluten-free gingersnaps).

Sticky Fingers' Sweets by Doron Peterson

3 out of 5 stars

It was fun to read about her Cupcake Wars win, but I didn't see a single gluten-free recipe in this collection - something plenty of vegan baker offer.

Good Housekeeping Christmas Joys by Good Housekeeping

3 out of 5 stars

Mostly recipes (with lots of meat, dairy, and gluten) - I was hoping for more decorating ideas. The few ideas that are in here are pretty good but instructions on their creation are minimal.

Gourmet Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Lynn Alley

4 out of 5 stars

All but a few of these recipes are gluten-free. Four stars so far just on presentation and how good the recipes sound. Will re-rate when recipes are tested.

Allergy-Friendly Food for Families by Kiwi Magazine

5 out of 5 stars

Lots of vegetarian & vegan recipes - we especially like the "Polenta Mini Pizzas", "Greener Sloppy Joes", and "Coconut No-Cream Pie". I also appreciate the sections for "Party" (with finger foods and cake & ice-cream substitutes) & "Snack" recipes. My favorite feature of this cookbook is the "Cooking with Kids" pages sprinkled throughout the book on how to get your smaller children involved in the cooking process.

Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes by Mollie Katzen

This is one of those books I wish I could give two ratings. The clarity of recipe instructions is wonderful and they could easily be followed by a preschooler if read aloud. However there were may be 3 recipes in the entire book that my family could use due to our lactose- and gluten-free requirements. So while I would recommend this book to friends with budding young chefs, it's not a cookbook we'll be using.

Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef by Shauna James Ahern

I'd actually give this book two different ratings. The (true) love story is five stars all the way - engaging, funny, touching, and well-written. The recipes on the other hand I'd give between three & four stars for their difficulty, long ingredient lists, and the frequent use of lactose (something plenty of people who have Celiac are unable to eat in addition to gluten). As a working mother, these recipes were fun to read and dream about, but impractical to add to our repertoire.

Allergy Free Cooking For Kids by Antoinette Savill

If I lived in England I might like this book more and have actually attempted some of the recipes. Clearly written for a UK audience, measurements are in kilograms, grams, and mls and used ingredients I'm unfamiliar with. I figure soya milk is soy milk, but I've never seen soya cream (maybe if I lived near a Whole Foods?) nor can I buy quail eggs anywhere around here. Still, I appreciate the kid-friendliness of the recipes, especially all the allergy-free desserts with holiday themes.

Moosewood Restaurant New Classics by Moosewood Collective

This cookbook has more vegan & gluten-free recipes than the other cookbooks I've read. My husband and I were both impressed with their diatribe on the worthlessness of quick oats and instant oatmeal, so we finally cooked that free sample of steel cut oats we had. Moosewood is right - steel cut oats are complete worth the 20 min. cooking time and not remotely mushy. We did not share our oatmeal with the kids. :-)

I'm cautious about trying anything too unusual from this cookbook though after making the Savory Congee recipe - I followed it exactly and the result was only just okay, and the next day much too salty to be edible.

How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman

4 out of 5 stars

A comprehensive how-to cookbook – this is the perfect alternative to your non-vegetarian Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook or Betty Crocker Cookbook. Similar to the aforementioned classics, the most helpful parts of the cookbook are not the recipes themselves (which are relatively basic), but the cooking time charts, illustrated techniques, in-depth ingredient descriptions, serve-with lists, and many, many tips, tricks, and how-to’s between the recipes. Randomly opening the book a few times, I get: a 2-page chart on “Types of Vinegar” with columns for acidity, best uses, and substitutes; a half-page blurb on “Tips for Making Asian-Style Noodle Bowls”; and a list of “6 Simple Additions to Cooked Beans”.

My personal favorite feature of this cookbook is the Menus appendix, especially the Summer Southern-Style BBQ Dinner & Superbowl Buffet Dinner menus – two party styles that aren’t so vegetarian friendly.

One disappointment – there are no allergy-free ingredient finders or markers. If you do have food allergies, you’ll have to read through every recipe’s list of ingredients.

Recipes we tried:

Espresso Black Bean Chili – ***** - a new family favorite this makes a huge pot, perfect for make-ahead lunches. Very good the first day, fantastic the second.

Spicy Autumn Vegetable Burger - *** ½ - the first home-made veggie burger we’ve tried, this is a pretty good base recipe but it could use some adjustments. We thought it needed more flavor and some way to make it less mushy – next time we’ll try baking them first then grilling or broiling. High fiber ingredients include sweet potato, kale, and white beans –the next day we joked they should be re-named “The Easy Flow Burger”.

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

5 out 5 stars

While I feel strange giving a book by Alicia Silverstone the same rating I gave, say, To Kill a Mockingbird, this book alone out of dozens I read in a two week period convinced me our family could go vegan and be healthier for it. Since the night my enraged preschooler passionately declared he hated "bad people who eat dead animals" in the middle of a steak house (think Jesus cleansing the temple of moneylenders meets Rosemary's Baby), I’ve read every book our library has on children & vegetarianism and while a few of them gave some good recipe ideas, The Kind Diet was the only one that got me excited and confident about this life-style.

Because of the limitations already on my family’s diet due to Celiac disease, the thought of my son cutting out an entire food group terrified me. Alicia’s book reassured me we’re getting so much of the protein and other vitamins & minerals we need through the foods we already eat because of our dietary restrictions, such as soy milk, almond milk and the high-vitamin content of our various wheat-free alternatives to bread & pasta. Her detailed break-down of the various nutrients a carnivore gets from meat and how vegans can get those same nutrients was extremely helpful and exactly what I was looking for but not getting in all the other books I read. I even handed the meat chapter over to my barbecue-loving, skeptical-but-indulgent husband – after reading it, he stared off into space for a while and said, “Well…that was convincing. I think she’s right. Ok, no more meat.” And that is why this book on veganism gets 5 stars.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Please Don't Come Back from the Moon by Dean Bakopoulus

Synopsis: A good example of American magical realism, this is the story of a factory-dependent suburb of Detroit where the jobless adult males begin disappearing one by one until they've all left. The remaining women and children refer to the men as having gone to the moon and learn to reorder their lives without husbands and fathers. The desertions have a devastating affect on the male youth who must become men much too quickly and without examples of any kind.

Analysis: I found the book depressingly accurate in its portrayal of the Michigan economy, yet too unstructured to be really captivating.

Karma Girl by Jennifer Estep

Synopsis: A romantic super-hero farce in an alternate reality of modern-day America where superheros and ubervillains are real and every town has their own yin-yang pair.  The story is from the perspective of a young female journalist who discovers her fiance and best friend in bed together AND finds out they're the superhero and ubervillain of the town.  In a most excellent revenge, she ousts them in her newspaper and goes on to make a name for herself nationwide by uncovering the true identities of super-characters.  She ends up in New York City and that's when the real fun starts.

Analysis: This book was great fun and well-written!  I promptly bought my own copy and put the next Estep book on my must-read list.

The Fairy Godmother by Mercedes Lackey

Synopsis: A Cinderella story where she becomes a fairy godmother rather than just being helped by one.  As part of a test administered to three princes, she turns the rudest one into a donkey, then takes him home to work on her farm.  One thing leads to another and he turns out to be her own Prince Charming.

Analysis: The story was very slow until the middle of the book when the princes finally make their appearance - great fun after that!

The Road to Unafraid by Jeff Streuker

Synopsis: The non-fiction account of a Christian soldier's journey past his fears and into Ranger training, the "Black Hawk Down" incident in Somalia, and ultimately into a new career as an army chaplain, helping the men he used to fight beside find God, hope, and courage in the midst of death and destruction.

Analysis: An inspiring story of faith and the protection of God in desperate circumstances. The account of fighting in Somalia to reach the downed helicopters is seriously intense - I felt like I was right in the middle of the firefight (which he was).

This Man's Army by Andrew Exum

Synopsis: The non-fiction account of Exum's making the decision to join the army, surviving Ranger Training School, then deploying to Afghanistan as a platoon leader with the 10th Mountain Division.

Analysis: Exum is an excellent writer and uses fascinating details and anecdotes. This was a great read to learn about Ranger training, army camaraderie, and the battle experience. Crude at times, but never unbelievable.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

Synopsis:  This is an account of two men, former friends, brought together by a funeral. They each make a horrific moral decision in the ensuing weeks, yet defend their choices while condemning the other.  The lead each other to Amersterdam where they've each paid to have the other euthanized, resulting in a "mutual murder".

Analysis: I didn't like either of the characters, and it wasn't until the end of the book I realized the author intended his readers to despise them - that for all their supposed bohemian-like free-thinking, they were selfish, immoral, and incredibly self-righteous. Despite the despicable characters, I enjoyed this book due to McEwan's writing style and dream-like plot development.

Words I Learned: 
acanthus = a plant with fern-like leaves, often decorating the top of Corinthian pillars
centripetal = directed or moving toward a center or axis
xenophobe = one unduly afraid or contemptuous of strangers or foreigners
punitive = inflicting or designed to inflict damages
scurrilous = vulgar, abusive
elegy = a mournful poem, especially one lamenting a\the dead
exculpate = to clear of blame
bathos = a ludicrously abrupt transition from an elevated to commonplace style

Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

Synopsis: An American chef of Iraqi heritage works at a Middle Eastern cafe and allows her cooking, friends from the cafe, and her beloved uncle to be her world until she is introduced to a handsome Iraqi professor with whom she begins a passionate love affair. Due to his influence - his longing for home and frustrations with political exile - she begins exploring her own Iraqi heritage through food, family history, the news, and Islam.

Analysis: This book made me hungry for Middle Eastern fare.  I'd love to be able to cook like the heroine.  But the heroine's sexual exploits (and not just with the professor) just never seemed to fit the tone of the rest of the story.

Something I learned: Islam uses the crescent moon to symbolize hope and the beginning of a new time.  The crescent is the first sliver of moon seen after the new moon.

Words I Learned:
mellifluous = smooth and sweet
perspicacious = having penetrating mental discernment
sough = to make a soft murmuring or rustling sound

Evening in the Palace of Reason by James R. Gaines

James R. Gaines is a former editor of Time and People magazines - I found his writing style captivating.

Synopsis: Frederick the Great was a music-loving warrior king who took pride in being on the cutting edge of Enlightenment philosophy - the idea that man's reason can solve all mysteries and religious faith has no role.  Bach, a Baroque musician and devout Lutheran, was in his 60's when he was summoned to Frederick's court, and his life and philosophy were in direct opposition to the king's.  Bach represented everything considered old and outdated, particularly his music style (learned counterpoint) and his faith.  In his court, the king attempted to humiliate Bach by requesting he improvise a six-part fugue on an impossibly difficult theme.  Bach wrote "A Musical Offering" as a victorious response.

Analysis:  I loved this book.  It was very interesting and entertaining.  It bogged down slightly for me in the passages on intensive musical theory.  The message of the book, to me, was this: both men had difficult, even traumatic, lives and both had the potential for genius if in different areas.  However, Beach was securely rooted in his faith and commitment to God, while Frederick was entrenched in bitterness and self-indulgence.  Arguably, nothing truly good and lasting came of Frederick's life, but Bach's music continues to inspire musicians and listeners alike.

Things I learned:
From Ch 4.: Counterpoint mathematically matched harmonies - it was supposed to duplicate the "music of the spheres" or the celestial dance of the planets orchestrated by God.  The supreme example of this music theory is the canon form - like Pachelbel's "Canon in D".  Bach was Pachelbel's apprentice from the age of 9 to 14.

From Ch. 6: Baroque used music to illustrate lyrics. For example, music soaring higher with text that says things like "He is risen" or plunging lower with concepts like death and sorrow.  The idea was to use the music to "invoke specific emotional and moral messages." (p. 85)

From Ch. 7: Due to his father's increasing abuse, Frederick attempted to run away to Paris with his best friend (and possibly gay lover) Katte.  The king discovered the plot and had Frederick thrown in jail accused of treason.  The king's generals and advisers managed to talk him out of executing Frederick, but instead the king forced F. to watch as Katte was beheaded.  F. promptly suffered a nervous breakdown.

From Ch. 8: In Bach's time, the great debate in music was intellectual purity vs. aesthetic pleasure which matched the new moral debate of community vs. individual interest.

From Ch. 13: When Hitler came to power, he held Frederick as a hero, even having a portrait of F. over his desk.  When Hitler began his Aryan crusade, he laid flowers on  F's tomb and gave the mission its inaugural speech from there.  The only lasting influence F. had on the world was the militaristic spirit of Germany.  His Enlightenment ideology, particularly his ideas about music, were ridiculed and rejected by Romanticism, the follower of Enlightenment philosophy. Bach died shortly after his meeting with the king but his music was embraced by Romanticism and influenced many important composers (including Mozart and Beethoven) for centuries.

Mythology by Edith Hamilton

Synopsis of the Introduction (even if you don't read anything else from this classic, read the introduction!):
Greek myth shows us what early Greeks were like.  The Greeks were the first to make gods in their own image - not bestial, like Egyptian and Babylonian gods, and very human in their actions and motivations rather than perfect like the Hebrew God.  Magic is practically non-existent in Greek mythology: the stars (astrology) do not influence events, there are no ghosts, and priests are never important.  Mythology is not a blueprint of Greek religion; rather they are either explanations of natural events (a form of early science) or stories told for entertainment.

The Gods (name format is Greek name/Roman name):
Greek gods didn't create the universe but vice versa.  First there were the Titans, who included Hyperion, Mnemosyne (goddess of memory), Cronus/Saturn, Atlas, and Prometheus.  Cronus brought into being Zeus/Jupiter, Poseidon/Neptune, Hades/Pluto, and more.  Zeus married Hera/Juno and has a ton of kids through her and other neat-ankled (seriously, that's one of the primary ways the hot babes are identified in mythology apparently) gals.  His kids include Ares/Mars, Apollo, Aphrodite/Venus, Artemis/Diana, and Hermes/Mercury.  Poor Hera goes around wreaking havoc on the lives of the women he cheats on her with, although often they had no idea what was happening (which in my opinion is the primary source of some serious squick factor in Greek mythology).  At some point Zeus forms a gang that includes his siblings and children, also known as the Olympians, and goes to war with the Titans.   The Olympians win and banish the Titans to various off-world hells and torments. Most of mythology centers around the exploits, affairs, and battles of these gods with each other and humans.

The Romans had many gods with practical duties, but none had personalities as developed as the Greeks.  When Rome conquered Greece, they transferred these personalities and myths to their gods with similar powers - thus the two names for everyone.

One interesting myth:  Dionysus at some point was a new god who visited a king to make him a believer.  The king refused to recognize his deity even though chains fell off Dionysus and jails wouldn't hold him.  In the book of Acts (from the Bible's New Testament), when Paul & Silas were supernaturally released from their prison, the Roman jailer would have know this story and been aware there was a new (to him at least) god at work.