Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2009 Ban On Spending Challenge

Drey from drey's library is hosting this super challenging challenge. I signed up and will be posting my list soon. However, I really don't know how I'll manage to read every single book from my TBR list (I do have too many of them) but it's just another great way to watch my pile getting smaller making room for more books! All the rules are here, so go and check it out.

New or Used?

I have had this question brewing in my mind for quite some time. And given that today is the last day of the old year and we will wake up in the new year tomorrow, it is a perfect time to post this issue. What kind of books do you prefer: new or used? Several weeks ago I read comments somewhere and noticed that majority of people prefer to buy a new book. I even read one person writing that she didn’t know where a used book was kept by the previous owner and the thought of reading it would be disgusting.
I really do not discriminate against one type or the other. My library holds probably equal amounts of both new and used books. Nowadays, due to my financial situation I have no choice but to buy used ones (I probably shouldn’t be buying any, but that’s just beyond my capacity for self-control). I also enjoy reading used books. They have a whole history of readership behind them. When I pick up a used book, I always pause for a minute contemplating just how many people had read it before me, who they were, if they loved it or hated it, if it changed their lives perhaps. As I scroll through pages I wonder whether there are dried tears on them or will I still hear a faint reminiscence of laughter or cries of shock and disbelief.
It’s a whole another story with new books. When my finances weren’t as tight as they are today, I would buy tons of new books. These were pretty much the only ones I got. I would buy new books as a show of support and appreciation of writers. They are the ones that supply me with hours of unadulterated joy and pleasure. Without writers, there would be no books. Oh, the horror! Just the thought of it makes me think of hell! Most importantly however, I enjoy reading new books for exactly the opposite reason from the one I have for used books. It makes me excited to know that I will be the very first reader of a book, that I have the story all to myself. I can feel the crispiness of the pages and smell that wonderful, new paper and fresh ink smell. You might call me crazy but somehow I don’t think you will. Something tells me that my experiences might be quite similar to yours.

And without further ado: HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My 2009 reading challenges

Following J.Kaye's example I am putting all my challenges in one post to make it easier for me to keep track of them (100+ Reading Challenge is the exemption as it is long enough for it's own post).

2009 Suspense & Thriller Reading Challenge (trying to categorize all books was a challenge in itself, I swear):

1. 'A Suitable Vengeance' by Elizabeth George (murder mystery) - DONE

2. 'Deadly Decisions' by Kathy Reichs (forensic thriller) - DONE

3. 'Slip & Fall' by Nick Santora (legal thriller) - DONE

4. An Unsuitable Job For a Woman by P.D. James (private detective thriller) - done

5. 'Friend of the Devil' by Peter Robinson (romantic thriller) - DONE

6. 'A Matter of Roses' by David Manuel (cozy mystery) - done

7. 'The Reincarnationist' by M.J. Rose (action thriller) - DONE

8. 'The Case Has Altered' by Martha Grimes (serial killer thriller) - DONE

9. 'Firestorm' by Iris Johansen (romantic thriller) - DONE

10. Nightwalker by Heather Graham (paranormal thriller) - Done

11. 'Vital Signs' by Robin Cook (medical thriller) - done

12. 'The Mosaic Crimes' by Giulio Leoni (literary thriller) - done

Winter Challenge (COMPLETED)

1. 'King's Fool' by Margaret Campbell Barnes - DONE

2. 'Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark' by Diana Lea Simpson - DONE

3. 'What Would Jane Austen Do?' by Laurie Brown - DONE

4. 'With Violets' by Elizabeth Robards - DONE

5. 'The Testament' by David Morrell - DONE

6. 'Blessings' by Anna Quindlen - DONE

7. 'The Book of Air & Shadows' by Michael Gruber - DONE

8. 'The Book Thief' by Michael Zusak - DONE

9. 'The Hellfire Club' by Peter Straub - DONE

10. 'Autobiography of a Face' by Lucy Grealy - DONE

11. 'Dragon Tears' by Dean Koontz - DONE

12. 'Mr. X' by Peter Straub - DONE

13. 'The Kingmaking' by Helen Hollick - DONE

999 Challenge



2. The Plague by Albert Camus - DONE


4. The frenchman's Creek by Dapne Du Maurier - Done

5. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - Done

6. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier - Done

7. Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - DONE

8. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton - Done

9. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier - Done


1. 'House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III - Done

2. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult - DONE

3. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein - DONE

4. Father Melancholy's Daughter by Gail Godwin - DONE

5. Blessings by Anna Quindlen - DONE

6. Andorra by Peter Cameron - DONE

7. Chocolat by Joanne Harris - DONE

8. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - DONE

9. Jane Austen Ruined My Life by Beth Patillo - Done


1. Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee - Done

2. Reading Lolita In Tehran by Azar Nafisi - DONE

3. A Child's Journey Out Of Autism by Leeann Whiffen - DONE

4. Medallions by Zofia Nalkowska - DONE

5. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy - DONE

6. Finding Grace by Donna VanLiere - DONE

7. A Lucky Child by Thomas Buergenthal - DONE

8. Lucky by Alice Sebold - Done

9. Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee - done


1.Blood on His Hands by Mark Sadler - Done

2. The case Has Altered by Martha Grimes - Done

3. Threshold by Bonnie Kozek - Done

4. Always Watching by Brandilyn Collins & Amberly Collin - done

5. A Circle of Souls by Preetham Ghrandhi - done

6. No Wind of Blame by Georgette Heyer - done

7. The Mosaic Crimes by Giulio Leoni - done

8. Nightwalker by Heather graham - done

9. Vital Signs by Robing Cook - done

Audio Books

1. Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith

2. Requiem for a Mezzo by Carola Dunne - done

3. Nefertiti by Michelle Moran - done

4. Twenty Seven Bones by Jonathan Nasaw - done

5. The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King - done

6. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb - done

7. The Life and Times of Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson - done

8. High Profile by Robert B. parker - done

9. Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich - done


1. Blessed are the Meek by Zofia Kossak - DONE

2. King's Fool by Margaret Campbell Barnes - DONE

3. Lady Anne and the Howl In the Dark by Donna Lea Simpson - DONE

4. The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham - DONE

5. The Red Siren by M.L. Tyndall - DONE

6. The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant - DONE

7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See - DONE

8. The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis - DONE

9. Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick - DONE


1.From a whisper to a scream by Charles de Lint - Done

2. 'Mr. X' by Peter Straub -DONE

3. Dragon Tears - DONE

4. The Hellfire Club by Peter Straub - DONE

5. Afraid by Jack Kilborn - DONE

6. Worst Nightmares by Shane Briant - DONE

7. The Return by Bentley Little - Done

8. The Trickster by Muriel Gray - done

9. Cell by Stephen King - Done

Young Adult

1. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan - done

2. The Day after Tomorrow

3. Wicked Lovely by Marissa Marr - done

4. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr - done

5. The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor - done

6. Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr - done

7. Always Watching by Brandilyn Collins & Amberly Collins

8. Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler - done

9. Willow by Julia Hoban - done


1. Soulstice by Simon Holt - done

2. Dark Desire by Christine Feehan - done

3. The darkest Fire, Lords of the Underworld prequel by Gena Showalter - done

4. The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong - done

5. Wizard by Trade by Jim Butcher - DONE

6. Passion Unleashed by Larissa Ione - Done

7. Morrigan's Cross by Nora Roberts - Done

8. Dark Prince by Christine Feehan - Done

9. Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins - Done

Spiritually Speaking Challenge (Completed)

1. 'Blessed Are The Meek' by Zofia Kossak (fiction) - DONE

2. Elijah's Coin by Steve O'Brien - DONE

3. Shame Lifter by Marilyn Hontz - DONE
4. Finding Grace by Donna VanLiere - DONE
5. Pursuit of Perfect by Tal Ben-Sahar - DONE
6. Nine Ways God Always Speaks by Mark Herringshaw & jennifer Schuchmann - Done

What's In a Name -2

1. The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale ('profession' in the title)

2. Nightwalker by Heather Graham (time of day) - done

3. 'Father Melancholy's Daughter' by Gail Godwin (a relative) - DONE

4. 'The Fourth Hand' by John Irving (a body part) - done

5. 'House of Sand and Fog' by Andre Dubus III (a building) - Done

6. 'The Plague' by Albert Camus (a medical condition) - DONE

Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge (COMPLETED)

1. 'Chocolat' by Joanne Harris (food name in the title) - DONE

2. 'Andorra' by Peter Cameron (place name in the title) - DONE

3. 'Reading Lolita in Tehran'

by Azar Nafisi (about a specific culture and/or authro whose ethnicity is different from mine) - DONE

2009 Audiobook Challenge

1.'The Book of Illusions' by Paul Auster - DONE

2. 'One For the Money' by Janet Evanovich - DONE

3. 'High Profile' by Robert B. Parker - DONE

4. 'Hard Truth' by Nevada Barr - DONE

5. 'Death of a Dreamer' by M. C. Beaton - DONE

6. 'The Life and Times of Thunderbolt Kid' by Bill Bryson - Done

7. 'Twenty Seven Bones' by Jonathan Nasaw - DONE

8. 'The Beekeeper's Apprentice' by Laurie R. King - DONE

9. Darkfire. Lords of the Underworld prequel by Gena Showalter - done

10. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb - Done

11. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr - DONE

12. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr - DONE

'With Violets' by Elizabeth Robards

I read books because I enjoy them. I read books because they allow me to get away from the sometimes crushing reality. And I read books because I can learn a lot from them or thanks to them. ‘With Violets’ by Elizabeth Robards turned out to be a novel I learned a lot from. It is historical novel, taking place in France in the second half of the 19th century. It tells a story of Berthe Morisot, particularly the story of her affair with and love for Edouard Manet and what resulted from it. It is also a story of the beginning of Impressionism, the artistic movement of which I was aware yet I didn’t know much at all. A depiction of this revolutionary movement, despite being in a background, was woven by the author into the main plot so skillfully and interestingly that I could not help but find out more about Impressionism and its main artists. And while knowing that Mr. Manet was indeed a real historical figure, I also found out that the book’s heroin, Ms. Morisot, was one as well.
I will mention one side of the book that I was not particularly happy about first, so I can have it out of the way and move on to the good parts. I have to admit that all the French phrases were irritating. First of all, not all readers speak French. It is okay to throw in a simple word or two, like ‘Oui’ or ‘Je taime’ which I can understand, and it would be enough to put me in a correct mood of France and Parisian society. However, whole sentences which I do not understand make it difficult to appreciate what I’m reading. Second of all, because some French phrases are followed immediately by English translations, it automatically changes the mood from romantic to somehow robotic. My humble suggestion would be to either stick to English altogether or put in French words that are simple enough for a reader and don’t need translations.
Now, that the criticism is out of the way, I have to say that language is very rich, the author managed to insert an abundance of adjectives and make it seem that what I was reading was a true, Impressionist painting indeed.
Most importantly however, ‘With Violets’ gives us a very complex character in Berthe. A woman who must go through a lot of struggles to remain true to herself and to her artistic vocation. I really enjoyed her internal dialogues, her divide between two personalities: Propriety and Olympia (who was a model for Manet’s nude painting which in a way began the breaking away of art from the convention and was considered rebellious and unacceptable), and how these two finally blended into one, giving Berthe a clear picture of who she truly was. The quote below perfectly describes this brave, intelligent and conflicted woman.

“Inside me two Berthes war: one is the picture of Propriety. The obedient
daughter. The proper lady, quiet and contemplative; the other is an impulsive
woman I scarcely recognize – an ugly creature prone to being swept away, she is
not so compliant, discreet, or pensive – an Olympia of sorts.”

‘With Violets’ gives an insight into a heart ravaged by love for someone who is unattainable, an insight into a mind so driven by an intense emotion, a desire to possess what cannot be possessed that all reason ceases to exist, all logic is thrown away and one’s whole life is on the verge of destruction. But it also shows us how this emotional war taking place in Berthe’s heart and mind prepared her to be strong enough for what is to come: painting, breaking away from the artistic regime and following her intuition to create what she wanted, not what was expected of her.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Winter Challenge List

1. 'King's Fool' by Margaret Campbell Barnes
2. 'Lady Anne and the Howl in the Dark' by Diana Lea Simpson
3. 'What Would Jane Austen Do?' by Laurie Brown
4. 'With Violets' by Elizabeth Robards - DONE
5. 'The Testament' by David Morrell
6. 'Blessings' by Anna Quindlen
7. 'The Book of Air & Shadows' by Michael Gruber
8. 'The Book Thief' by Michael Zusak
9. 'The Hellfire Club' by Peter Straub
10. 'Autobiography of a Face' by Lucy Grealy
11. 'Dragon Tears' by Dean Koontz
12. 'Mr. X' by Peter Straub

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I have gotten a gift to cherish!

I know that it might seem too soon to be writing about Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve. However, my family and I still observe Polish traditions along with American ones. One of these traditions is opening presents on Christmas Eve. We pray first, we give thanks to God for everything good He's provided us with and for giving us His Son. We then break Holy Bread (Holy Wafer) and give wishes for one another. Afterwards we sit down to eat dinner coprising 12 dishes, for twelve apostles and twelve months. The dishes are all vegetarian or fish, no meat. After dinner we sit and sing Christmas carols. And last but not least, we open presents. And here I am finally getting to my main point. I have left comments on several blogs about how I never get books as gifts, even though everybody knows that this is what I love the most. Well, tonight, for the first time I have gotten a book and two beautiful journals to write in from my sister. The book "What Sisters Share" is exactly what I needed. It has really funny, really true and really heartwarming thoughts on sisterhood. And I am glad I got it because it reminded me how lucky I am to have a sister, crazy as she is (I actually think she is crazier than I am). The journals go perfectly with the book because it shows that she does now me after all and she knows what I like doing and what I need to be doing right now, because writing, as nonsensical as it sometimes might be, goes hand in hand with reading and I treasure them both.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The funniest book review ever, written by Charles Moore

I have come upon this review a couple of days ago on Being in an emotional state that I am the last thing I wanted to do was laugh. But then I read Charles Moore's review of "The Shadow God" and I forgot all about my hardships for the few minutes because I almost peed from laughing. Next, I proceeded to ask Charles for permission to post the whole review on my blog because I think that it is a shame should it stay on only. Thank God Charles agreed and here it comes. Enjoy!

The Worst Book Ever Written--The Shadow God, by Aaron Rayburn, January 19, 2007
Charles Moore

"Trapped under a beam with the countdown ticking away, the monster just on the other side of the battered door, and my friends are trying to free me, I look up at them and yell, "Go on without me. I'll be alright. I'll hold him off while you escape!" And my friends, because they know my sacrifice won't be in vain, make their getaway and when the monster breaks through just as the explosives go off, I know I died saving the lives of my dearest friends."

That pretty much sums up my experience reading Aaron Rayburn's novel, THE SHADOW GOD. I took one for the team, so the rest of you would NEVER have to be subjected to this beast. I beg you, don't let my selflessness be for nothing. Heed my warning. This is the worst book ever written.

The back cover copy reads "Craig Johnson had two best friends, two caring parents, a hot girlfriend, and a nice truck--not bad for a twenty-year-old." Already we're in trouble. The author photo shows Rayburn in all his mid-20s virginal glory. Manson contacts, a black cap turned backwards with a red 666 monogrammed on it, he's posing next to what looks like a rubber demon. His bio includes the line "He also says that he owes a great deal of gratitude to the Devil . . . for filling his mind with such horrific images."

If this book is the most horrific thing the devil can come up, I think humanity is safe from the threat of hell.

There are so many things wrong with this book, I decided to keep notes so I could present them in an orderly fashion, with quotes to back me up. I don't want you to take my word for this novel's horridness, I'm going to let Rayburn speak for himself. We'll start with the plot.

Craig Johnson was cursed at birth when his parents left the town church led by the possibly-evil Father Spiers. Spiers then tricked Craig's father Matt into strangling him, only in the end, Matt had killed, not Father Spiers, but one of the doctors. So Matt's been in jail Craig's entire life. Shortly after Craig's 20th birthday he begins to notice a blue light emanating from his bedroom closet. He calls for his mommy (I'm not making that up, it's on page 14), but she doesn't see any light, so he plays it off like he'd seen a rat, and asks her to check in his closet. After she leaves, Craig is compelled to enter the light, which takes him to the Dark World, which is sometimes like a vast black void, paved of course cuz you have to have something to walk on in a void, and sometimes is like Craig's own neighborhood, complete with the houses of his friends. Those friends, Todd and Mark, are also pulled into the Dark World, but they make their escape and then begins the action as the three try to solve the mystery of the blue light and the dark world. To sum up--this book is 454 pages, okay?--Craig is the reincarnation of Abel, the Shadow God is Cain, and Father Spiers is Cain's acolyte, sent to prepare for his return to the real world. In the midst of all this Mark is killed and resurrected by Ridley, a club owner/satanist (he runs The Satanist Group Association. Again, I wish I was making this up!) and servant to Spiers and the Shadow God.

Craig's girlfriend, his mother, his father, as well as Mark's sister Margie and Todd's parents, are all killed and the cops think Craig did it. One cop does, anyway, Detective Jim Underwood, son of the doctor Craig's father Matt strangled to death 20 years earlier. DUN-DUN-DUN!!! There's a showdown where Craig is sucked into another portal to face Cain, who then becomes a dragon, and Todd jumps in to help his friend, they all die--except Craig--and we live happily ever after. Okay, I know it doesn't seem THAT bad from the plot. But I haven't begun quoting yet. Mark Twain said, "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug."

Rayburn wasn't even close.

"Spiers's eyes popped extraneously from their sockets, as his face turned from a deep red to a sickly purple."

"Extraneous" means "irrelevant." I don't think that's what he meant. At least, I hope not.

Here's my favorite:

"The lamp's glow was very weak compared to the blue glow emancipating from the basement."

Emanating, Rayburn, EMANATING.

When will people learn never to trust their SpellCheck without verifying it's the word they meant??? There are, in total, 11 instances of Rayburn using the wrong word, and believe me, each one is funnier than the last.

Okay, one more.

"It infiltrated his lungs, filling them with a kind of innovativeness he had never felt before."

To be honest, I don't know what word he meant, but I keep seeing Craig's lung filing patents for a dozen new inventions, getting promotions for discovering an even newer formula for Tide laundry detergent, or finding the cure for cancer.

Then there are the characters. Craig and his buddies are all 20, they're in college, and they have cars and money. Craig bribes the guard with hundred dollar bills when he's trying to get in to see his father in prison. Yet never in the entire book do these men go to class, nor to a job. Where did Craig get his "nice truck"? His mother works "odd jobs", so I doubt she co-signed the loan.

And the dialogue. Oh dear, the dialogue.

"That's probably the fiercest dragon known to man," Craig tells Todd toward the end. Because, you know, we have so many different kinds of dragons in the world with which to compare. Okay, so he uses the wrong word and his characters are morons. You can overlook a misused word here and LOTS of writers are horrible with characters. Hell, I'm guilty of this myself. But sometimes he just plain gets his facts WRONG:

"The stranger was beastly in size with thick, bushy eyebrows, a prominent protruding forehead, and a thick, black coarse beard. His gait was that of a mammal--a Neanderthal."

I know I never went to college, but um . . . do you think Rayburn knows HUMAN BEINGS are mammals as well?

And later we learn that Cain and Abel were Neanderthals who lived in the stone age, feared dinosaurs, and that Cain was kicked out of the Garden of Eden for slaying his brother. Dude, Cain and Abel weren't born until a LONG time after Adam and Eve--the only two people who ever lived in the Garden of Eden--were kicked out.

And not only is this the worst book ever written, it's also the worst-written book ever.


"Of all the things to think, he never thought he'd think that."


"Already, he knew he wouldn't be able to do it. In fact, he KNEW he wouldn't."


Wasn't that already established in the previous sentence?

"Eubanks looked annoyed. He exhaled annoyingly and said..."

You know what? I could do this all night.

THE SHADOW GOD is the perfect example of everything that's wrong with publishing in today's world. Anyone with the notion--talent or not--can write a "book", then contact a place like AuthorHouse ("publisher" of this fine volume and, I'm sure, Rayburn's second novel which I don't care enough to look up the title to), and unleash this mess on an unsuspecting world. And then we wonder why no one reads anymore. Why should they? If this is the kind of stuff they're being subjected to.

Used to be a writer had to learn to WRITE before they could get published. Now, all you need is a couple thousand dollars and you got yourself a book. Talent? Who needs it? Skill? What for? Learning to write? Are you kidding me? Forget about it, I've got this here manyooscript and an address I can get it printed, I'mma be one of dem novelists. Riches, here I comes!!!

It's enough to make aspiring writers want to give up seeking legitimate publishing venues. Please don't. Just be sure to write better than this guy. God knows it won't be difficult. Or should I say, God knows it won't be deficit.

Friday, December 19, 2008

'Souvenir" by Therese Fowler

First of all I want to thank all my fellow, wonderful bloggers for friendly words and for keeping me in your thoughts these past several days. It means a lot to me and reaffirms my decision to even have a blog. I get to know you all through your writings and it is a wonderful feeling. Having a blog also gives me a chance to share my thoughts about books like ‘Souvenir’ by Therese Fowler. What a great book this one is. To give you a short description, the story revolves around Meg Powell and Carson McKay. Through their childhood and teenage years they were best friends moving on to being lovers and true soul mates. But then Meg was faced with a marriage proposal from another man and she made a choice to accept it and put her ‘puppy’ love behind (I write ‘made a choice’ because I believe we always have a choice even though those of you who already read it or will read might not agree with me that Meg had one). We meet Meg and Carson seventeen years later. Meg is stuck in an unhappy marriage but has a daughter whom she loves dearly. Carson is a famous and accomplished musician.
I liked the book because even though it was a quick read, or maybe due to it, the writing was very engaging and the main theme is remembrance of things past and living with the mistakes from the past. I could not reveal the important event in the book because that would spoil it for those who have not read it yet and would like to but I can tell you that it is something that happens to many of us and something that mobilizes us into doing things differently, living our lives in the present but minding our decisions from the past and trying to not make them again.
Some critics say that Ms. Fowler writes with the intensity of Jodi Picoult. I would say that yes her story-telling is intense but also gentle in a way that we are not slammed in the head with rapidly developing events but slowly introduced into the lives and hearts of the characters, giving us time to understand them, their decisions, past and present and to not rush into judgments. This is not to say that I wasn’t moved deeply by the book. I, in fact, wept as if I were Carson or Meg myself. But I am glad that I did because a good crying was something I needed for a long time and this book proved to be once again a therapy.

Monday, December 15, 2008

My first ever Reading Challenge is completed!

As the title explains I have just finished reading the last book on my From The Stack '08 reading challenge list. My last book was Diana Gabaldon's "Lord John and the Private Matter". I will not be posting a full review of this book. I do not have strong enough opinions on this one (either positive or negative). It was nicely written little historical/detective novel. The read was quick and pleasant enough. It just somehow felt like Ms. Gabaldon wrote it more as a sub-product of the "Outlander" series, not giving this book as much time or consideration. Nonetheless, it was a nice enough book to finish my first reading challenge with.

Things I Have Done

Originally this fun list was borrowed from Stephanie at The Written Word. But I first saw it on Softdrink's blog Fizzy Thoughts I really liked the idea so I figured I'll do mine (measly as it might be, maybe it'll give me the motivation to try and do new things). The things I have done are in bold.

1. Started my own blog.
2. Slept under the stars.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii.
5. Watched a meteor shower.
6. Given more than I can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyworld/land
8. Climbed a mountain (quite a few actually, I almost got sick of all that climbing).
9. Held a praying mantis.
10. Sung a solo.
11. Bungee jumped (nothing will ever be motivating enough for me to do it).
12. Visited Paris.
13. Watched lightening at sea.
14. Taught myself an art from scratch.
15. Adopted a child.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty.
18. Grown my own vegetables.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France.
20. Slept on an overnight train.
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitchhiked (teenage years in Poland).
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb (not a lamb but a baby pig).
26. Gone skinny dipping.
27. Run a Marathon.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (for personal reasons, it's a rather painful memory now).
34. Visited the birthplace of my ancestors.
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught myself a new language.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David.
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight.
46. Been transported in an ambulance (unfortunately, having a baby wasn't the reason).
47. Had my portrait painted.
48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theatre.
55. Been in a movie.
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business.
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen.
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching.
63. Got flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma.
65. Gone sky diving.
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp (many times, I used live two hours driving away from Auschwitz).
67. Bounced a check.
68. Flown in a helicopter.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial.
71. Eaten Caviar (and absolutely hated it).
72. Pieced a quilt.
73. Stood in Times Square.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London.
77. Broken a bone.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person.
80. Published a book.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had my picture in the newspaper.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating.
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury.
91. Met someone famous (Rudy Guiliani)
92. Joined a book club (online).
93. Lost a loved one.
94. Had a baby.
95. Seen the Alamo in person.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake.
97. Been involved in a law suit.
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee (not technically a bee. A wasp, but I think it counts).
100. Rode an elephant.

Only 29. It looks like I might have some catching up to do.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

'Outlander' by Diana Gabaldon

I started reading ‘Outlander’ a few years ago despite my strong inclinations against reading romance novels. At the time my personal life was not going very well and as an effect I stopped reading this book abruptly due to frustration and anger. Those negative feelings truly had nothing to do with the book itself, only with me wanting to identify badly with wonderful romantic life of the main characters in the novel.
A few days back I had no choice but to start reading ‘Outlander’ yet again. I write ‘no choice’ because someone lent me ‘Lord John and the Private Matter’ which tells the adventures of a character from the ‘Outlander’ series. Being obsessive-compulsive about reading series books, I had to read the first one in Ms. Gabaldon’s before heading on to ‘Lord John’. And I am very glad that I gave ‘Outlander’ another chance. It is a wonderful novel. To say it is a romance would do injustice to it. The book fits many genres really, adventure, historical fiction, fantasy, just to name a few.
The heroine, Claire Beauchamp, is magically transported from 1945 Scotland to 1744 Scotland. There, many adventures await her but most importantly, she meets Jamie Fraser who will become the love of her life. Yes, I said it. I know it sounds cliché but nowhere can that cliché be truer as in this novel. Claire and James are one of the most endearing characters I had the pleasure to meet in a long time. Thanks to the author and her very skillful writing, I found myself adoring the two as separate, complicated, stubborn and feisty characters as well as a couple, joined in bodies and souls through the hardships they had to endure.
That same skillful writing gave me a true insight into 18th century Scotland. I read about the customs, the people, the culture without getting bored a bit but instead wanting to know more. I actually caught myself saying things like ‘Verra weel’ or ‘Dinna kin, lassie’ to my daughter a few times.
And then, to add to all that I got to read a true gem , a statement of a monk which I will carry with me because it astounded me with its simplicity and beauty:

“For that fraction of time it seems as though all things are possible. You can
look across the limitations of your own life, and see that they are really
nothing. In that moment when time stops, it is as though you know you could
undertake any venture, complete it and come back to yourself, to find the world
unchanged, and everything just as you left it a moment before.
And it’s as
though, knowing that everything is possible, suddenly nothing is necessary

Just for that one fragment the whole book would have been worth reading. But it is worth reading for so much more, for the laughter, for the tears, for the heartbreak, and for the joy.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

'The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature' by Elizabeth Kantor, Ph.D.

I can’t believe that I completely forgot about having ‘The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature’ in my library! I had read it before, as soon as I bought it, but then I have been filling my library up with so many other books that this one just got lost in them. I am glad that I found it again though. It is a gem of a book and for anyone who is interested in serious reading (which we all are, that’s why we blog about it :-) ) it is a must. Ms. Kantor serves us with quite a few brain teasers and I found myself exclaiming several times: ‘What! That’s baloney!’ or ‘I can’t believe it!’. However, the more I thought about more controversial issues, the more I started thinking there might be something to it. At the very least, things written about Shakespeare, Dickens or Austen provided me with a renewed interest in classic literature and an eagerness to reread it all with a new outlook. Some of the best parts of the book are what the actual professors from nationally accredited colleges and universities are teaching the poor students. I think that were the parts that got my blood boiling slightly.
Anyway, the content of the book certainly measures up to the title and I highly recommend it to all readers because we are nothing if we’re not politically incorrect. That’s why I treasure the art of writing. It is probably the only area of our lives where we truly can write whatever we want to without the fear of censorship (true, the author might not score big bucks but I still believe that money is not the reason why people write and best literature is always written as art for art’s sake).

Friday, December 12, 2008

Amazing Grace

I was tagged last week by Smash from and I finally got to do it. It's a lot of fun!

What does your music say about you?

Put your iPod, Windows Media Player, or whatever music player on shuffle.
For each question, press the ‘next’ button to get your answer.

You must write that song name down no matter how silly it sounds.

Title this post the same as the answer to the final question.

'Umbrella' - Rihanna

'Stuck in a Moment' - U2 (scary)

'Walk on' - U2

'One' - U2

'With or without you' - U2 (ok, so I'm a U2 fan)

'Unforgiven' - Metallica

'Unforgiven II' - Metallica (I guess we're in sync)

'Nothing Else Matters' - Metallica

'Sexy Back' - Timbaland (hmmmm)

'Bonnie & Clyde '03' - Jay Z & Beyonce

'All Cried Out' - Allure (that's eerie)

'Insatiable' - Darren Hayes

'Femme Like U' - K-Maro

'The Last Gospel' - Holy Trinity

'Ave Maria' - Josh Groban

'Amazing Grace' - Il Divo

You get to tag 7 other bloggers. I choose Cathy, J. Kaye, Jeska, Diane, Lynda, Bethanny and Amy.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

999 Challenge

Here's my list:

1. 'Sense and Sensibility' by Jane Austen (January - classic literature)
2. 'Arthur and George' by Julian Barnes (February - fiction)
3. 'Running with Scissors' by Augusten Burroughs (March - memoir)
4. 'From a Whisper to a Scream' by Charles De Lint (April - Sci-Fi)
5. 'Mary Queen of Scots' by Antonia Fraser (May - historical non-fiction)
6. 'The Boleyn Inheritance' by Philippa Gregory (June - hitorical fiction)
7. 'The Face' by Dean Koontz (July - horror)
8. 'Atlantis Found' by Clive Cussler (August - adventure)
9. 'Equal Rites' by Terry Pratchett (September - fantasy)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Spiritually Speaking Challenge - amendment

Silly me. In all the excitement of starting my first challenge I forgot that to sign up under Mr. Linky you need to put in your URL. So, if you do not have a blog, please email me at with your list as well as reviews of the books if you choose to write any. I will then, with your permission, feature your reviews on my blog (with your credentials of course).

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

'A Song of Ice and Fire', part four 'A Feast For Crows' by George R.R. Martin

As an aged, experienced and incurable reader, I buy books in great numbers. Sometimes I will buy a book that I have already read and I know that this is a title I want to have in my library forever to re-read it any time I want to. Most of the time, like many other readers, I buy books based on opinions of others or reviews I read or even just a brief synopsis of what the book is about, usually written at the back cover. During my bright career in a mighty bookstore as a ….inventory supervisor (hmmm) I would buy books that were being bought by customers most often. I also would buy an unreasonable amount of them then. One of the titles that caught my attention was a fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin. It comprised four books and yesterday I finally finished book number four: ‘A Feast For Crows’ and I will not be buying an upcoming part five.
I struggled with writing this review for the whole time while I was reading ‘A Feast For Crows’. I wanted to write an ok review simply because it is a part of a true epic and any writer who is capable of writing nearly four thousand pages without boring the reader to death deserves to have some praises written about them. Mr. Martin did manage to write a true epic and I know that he has hundreds of thousands of fans. One has to have one heck of an imagination to create all the complicated characters, all plots of revenge, raging wars and keep track of it all.
However, ‘A Feast For Crows’ made me immensely upset and frustrated. I really wanted to like it, I love reading fantasy, it is a genre I have read since my teenage years and I had hoped this book to be what I expect a fantasy fiction to be. I wanted hardcore magic (both black and white), supernatural beings and animals with great powers. I found only small instances of feeble magic, there was a mention of sinister supernatural beings that were threatening to overtake and destroy the human population and of big vicious direwolfs. But all that never really came to fruition, I thought that after reading the three previous books I would finally be rewarded for my patience in the fourth one and see these characters play a major role but I was disappointed. All I got was more killings, more fighting and some scheming. A lot of times I felt I was reading some poor replica of Bible’s ‘Exodus’ with descriptions of clans, this man was a son of that one and a cousin of another one and great-great-grandson of this one and married to the girl that came from yet another family of highborns, etc. I skipped many pages because of that, I didn’t see the point in reading something I couldn’t keep track of anyway.
All and all, even though there are supposed to be two more parts to this series I will not be buying them. And going back to the reasons for buying new books I mentioned at the beginning, maybe reading the praises at the back covers simply that convinced me to buy this one in the first place also created great expectations towards the series. One of them praised Mr. Martin as an American Tolkien and believe me Tolkien he is not.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


I came upon this poem a few years ago. It made me cry so beautiful it is. And so true as well. I am putting the picture of my sister and me when we were little kids because every time I read 'Desiderata' I think that if those two girls knew it then and tried to live by it, maybe they would be different women today.

written by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Spiritually Speaking Challenge

I like to seek and explore. My favorite area to do just that is the spiritual realm of our lives. Therefore, I have decided to turn it into a challenge. Why not! The rules of the challenge are:

1. Read 6 books from January 31st, 2009 to June 30th, 2009.
2. The main theme of all the titles you choose must be spiritual, metaphysical or self-help.
3. The books can be both fiction & non-fiction.
4. You don't have to have a blog to participate* (read up for a small amendment)
5. A new copy of 'Happiness is a Choice' by Barry Neil Kaufman will be raffled away at the
end of the challenge among the participants. You don't have to do anything special, just have
fun! And let's fate decide who gets the prize.

To give you an idea of what books are allowed in the challenge, I am posting my list:

1.'The Witch of Portobello' by Paulo Coehlo (fiction)
2. 'The Last Lecture' by Randy Pausch (non-fiction)
3. 'Color Me Butterfly' by L.Y. Marlow (non-fiction)
4. 'Autobiography of a Yogi' by Paramahansa Yogananda (non-fiction)
5. 'Blessed Are The Meek' by Zofia Kossak (fiction)
6. 'Such A Pretty Fat' by Jen Lancaster
7. Elijah's Coin by Steve O'Brien

Thursday, December 4, 2008

For the Love of Reading!

I have always loved reading and books. I make a distinction here as it is possible to just own books without having read them yet and just look at them and give a sigh of pleasure and content that they are yours, feel a stirring in your heart at the thought of so many secret worlds waiting to be journeyed through, so many beautiful stories to live through and the abundance of words, beautiful, tricky, sometimes tongue twisting words to learn, rediscover their meanings and just enjoy them.
My love for books is unconditional, non-discriminatory, I love them one and all. And then I read them and I realize that they love me back. They give back the love I have for them. How is it possible? Well, reading is my therapy. And I do not use this word lightly. In my short to medium length life, I have gone through many therapies, I have suffered many bouts of two crippling mental illnesses (one is depression, the other I will not mention for there is still too much stigma attached to it in my opinion) and I know I will suffer many more. I know today that reading has gotten me through all of that. When nothing else worked I would read. When the outside world was too much, I read. When I thought I would go irreparably insane I escaped into reading. Books gave me, over and over again, what the real world couldn’t give, books were to me what the real people couldn’t be. And then what a blessing! After having suffered destructive episodes, I would go back to the normal world and discover that I could read books for the sheer pleasure of it.
Yes, books and reading were and will still be my saviors. I owe much to them, they owe me nothing and yet they still keep giving.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

What's In a Name-2

That was fun, looking for the titles and a challenge in itself already:

1. 'Captain Alatriste' by Arturo Perez-Reverte ('profession' in the title)
2. 'Night Work' by Steve Hamilton (time of day)
3. 'Father Melancholy's Daughter by Gail Godwin (a relative)
4. 'The Fourth Hand' by John Irving (a body part)
5. 'House of Sand and Fog' by Andre Dubus III (a building)
6. The Plague' by Albert Camus (a medical condition)

Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge

Here are the titles:

1. 'Chocolat' by Joanne Harris (food name in the title)
2. 'Andorra' by Peter Cameron (place name in the title)
3. 'Reading Lolita in Tehran' by Azar Nafisi (about a specific culture and/or author whose
ethnicity is different from mine)

Monday, December 1, 2008

'Road To Cana' by Anne Rice

I have just finished reading Anne Rice’s second installment on the life of Jesus Christ, ‘Road to Cana’ and I must say I have mixed feelings on this one. The only reason I read it was because someone lent it to me saying that it was a great book and I absolutely had to read it. Since I am not the assertive type, I have problems with saying no to people I took the book and read it.
The premise of the book is admittedly a difficult one to grasp and to draw considerable readership at the same time. It is a religious novel, it is about God and His Son, and one thing I personally am grateful for, being a Christian, is that it was not blasphemous in any way. However, the writing style of Anne Rice did not appeal to me as much as it did while reading ‘The Witching Hour’. It somehow felt lacking and it isn’t even something specific I could put my finger on. The novel was maybe a little too short, it felt at times that the author just wanted to breeze through the life of Christ without really getting too deep into anything. The story is told in first person, that person happens to be Jesus and it was interesting to look at His life from His perspective. The things I did enjoy were the portrayal of Jesus as a human being, a person who didn’t quite grasp Himself who He really was and the success of Rice to show how Christ was at the same time just like everybody else, had the same temptations and emotions yet He was different without even trying to be from the very beginning.
All and all, I would recommend this book to people who believe in God, in Jesus, to people who are looking for a spiritual uplift. However, the agnostics and atheists, the skeptics and non-believers will most likely not fall in love with this novel.