Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another great giveaway - Mary Jane Clark's Dying For Mercy

Even though I will be away for a few days, I am very thrilled to offer my faithful readers an awesome giveaway. Katrina A. from Wiredset has graciously offered to give away two copies of a new release by Mary Jane Clark Dying For Mercy. This is what the publisher says about the book:

When death shatters the serenity of the exclusive moneyed enclave of Tuxedo Park, New York, Eliza Blake, cohost of the country's premier morning television show KEY to America, is on the scene. While attending a lavish gala at her friends' newly renovated estate, Pentimento, Eliza's host is found dead—a grotesque suicide that is the first act in a macabre and intricately conceived plan to expose the sins of the past involving some of the town's most revered citizens.

Determined to find out the truth, Eliza and her KEY News colleagues—producer Annabelle Murphy, cameraman B.J. D'Elia, and psychiatrist Margo Gonzalez—discover that Pentimento holds the key. Nestled in the park's sprawling architectural masterpieces, picturesque gardeners' cottages, and lush, rolling landscape, the glorious mansion is actually a giant "puzzle house," filled with ingenious clues hidden in its fireplaces, fountains, and frescoes that lead them from one suspicious locale to another—and, one by one, to the victims of a fiendish killer.

As Pentimento gives up its secrets, it becomes clear that no amount of wealth or privilege will keep the residents of Tuxedo Park safe. But just when Eliza unearths one final surprise, she comes face-to-face with a murderer who believes that some puzzles should never be solved.

I am sure that many of you are familiar with Mary Jane Clark and her thrillers and I hope that many new readers will get to enjoy her books as well. To help you decide if you'd like the book here's the book trailer:

And now for the rules:

1. This giveaway ends on Wednesday, August 12.

2. All you have to do is leave me a comment with your email address.

3. The giveaway is open to all.

4. There will be two (2) winners.

Good Luck!

In case the luck is not on your side, you can always order the book here.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

"KIKI" Magazine - for girls with style and substance

When I went to Book Expo America 2009 back in May, I didn't fully realize the wide range of products I'd encounter there. It was amazing and I decided that, while all the major authors were already discussed, the publishers, authors and other products I learned about that have not received their fair share publicity in the blogosphere deserve a spotlight on my blog.

First one I want to tell you about is "KIKI" magazine. I don't usually talk about anything other than books on my blog (actually, it's more like never) but there were a few factors that made my decision to discuss this magazine pretty easy.

First of all, the people representing "KIKI" in the booth were one of the nicest and most friendly group I got to talk to at BEA. The enthusiasm for their product was obvious and quite contagious, I think they were a perfect example of what true passion can do to promoting a product. I really just wanted to stay there for the remainder of the day and chat.

Secondly, I am a mom of a girl who will soon be entering the world of teens. She is 10 right now and I think this age is one of the most important but also one of the most confusing to girls. They are trying to find themselves in the world and sadly the mass media, even the ones targeting this age specific audience, is doing more harm than good. I cannot tell you the countless times when I'd actually consider taking Karolina (my daughter) to the grocery store because of all the crazy magazines flooding the register area, many of them displaying all the dirty laundry and indecent pictures on the front pages. Even magazines for girls her age are filled with unreal images of teen celebrities, all rich, gorgeous, successful but all of them also discussing their intimate relationships with opposite sex starting at the very early age, wearing atrocious amounts of make-up, showing off hair done better than even I will ever dream of having and most importantly they all look like clones!

This is where "KIKI" steps in. It's a magazine for girls 8 and up and I read a whole issue and I can tell you than it's easily appropriate for even 12 year-olds. All the girls shown in this magazine are girls you see everyday on the street, at school and what girls should look like, no crazy make-up, very natural, and not crazy, skinny 'bamboo sticks' the celebrity world would want my daughter to believe is the norm. "KIKI" shows that it is not. As a matter of fact, its main mission is to give girls an alternative, a way out of the plague of body image, social status and material lifestyle issues. And I'm all for it.

Lastly, "KIKI" is really a cool, fun magazine (although I'm not sure if I'm even supposed to use 'cool' anymore).

Here are some samples of what "KIKI" is all about from their summer issue:
That's 'Biz Buzz' with fun instructions on how to create your own website (something tells me I could use it myself).
And this is 'World Beat' with articles on Henna and Bindi, since the summer issue of KIKI visits Hong Kong and talk all about Mumbai.

*It has a great variety of topics: art, design, history, personal hygiene, profiles of girls from around the world and of all ethnicities, even business and finances.

*It gives girls learning opportunities in "design-you-own" activity section, and it's not only clothes they're designing, they can plan vacation, learn to build their own businesses and even design sports equipment.

*The design of the whole magazine is very lively but very put together too. It's easy to navigate the pages and the combination of photography, fun graphics and interesting content makes it a pleasurable read.

So what are you waiting for? Go ahead, visit their website: http://www.kikimag.com/ and judge for yourself if you don't believe me. And make sure you read the letter to parents from Jamie Glyche Bryant, the founder of "KIKI".

Saturday, July 25, 2009

2009 Audio Book Challenge Completed

Yay, another challenge down (I don't want to count how many more to go, although I'm sure it's still not as many as most of you signed up for). Anyway, I enjoyed this challenge, which is hosted by one and only J.Kaye, and I am definitely signing up for next year's edition. The only problem I had was with reviewing. I have learned that reviewing audio books is one of the most difficult tasks for me. There several reasons but mainly I felt that the books I listened to were probably much better read because the choice of narrators was simply bad. I don't know if authors have any say in choosing who will narrate their books. I hope that in the case of books I felt were ruined by narrators, the authors didn't choose them. Also, while listening to the books on audio I have noticed certain things that I would not pay so much attention to if I were reading them:

a) shaky to bad dialogue

b) excessive use of adverbs

c) repetitive use of certain words throughout the book.

The worst books of the bunch were High Profile by Parker and The Forrest of Hands and Teeth by Ryan. First one made me want to shoot myself when listening to the dialogue parts and the second one made me want to pull over and fall asleep. The best book was The Life and Times of Thunderbolt Kid by Bryson. I think the fact that Bryson chose to read his own book was a good one because he read it in exactly the way he wanted it to be read.

2009 Audiobook Challenge

1. The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster

2. One For the Money by Janet Evanovich

3. High Profile by Robert B. Parker

4. Hard Truth by Nevada Barr

5. Death of a Dreamer M. C. Beaton

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

7. Twenty Seven Bones by Jonathan Nasaw

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

9. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

10. The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb

11. Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

12. Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

Friday, July 24, 2009

Booking Through Thursday on Friday

I know that it's a day late but yesterday was hectic and I have no choice but to post it today (better late than never). This week's BTT theme is Preference.

Which do you prefer? (Quick answers–we’ll do more detail at some later date)

*It was actually extremely difficult to give short answers so I strayed a little here and there.

•Reading something frivolous? Or something serious?

Serious (although it really depends on my mood, sometimes I just need silly)

•Paperbacks? Or hardcovers?


•Fiction? Or Nonfiction?


•Poetry? Or Prose?

Definitely prose (I became averse to poetry back in college and still remain this way)

•Biographies? Or Autobiographies?

I'm not a fan of either, memoirs are my preference.

•History? Or Historical Fiction?

Historical Fiction

•Series? Or Stand-alones?


•Classics? Or best-sellers?

Classics (I got burned by best-sellers too many times)

•Lurid, fruity prose? Or straight-forward, basic prose?

Lurid prose, when it's well written and straight-forward but not basic prose.

•Plots? Or Stream-of-Consciousness?


•Long books? Or Short?


•Illustrated? Or Non-illustrated?


•Borrowed? Or Owned?

Owned (the only books I borrow are audio books)

•New? Or Used?


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme, started by Bermudaonion where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.
It seems that this week the spotlight is on Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris, even though I am not anywhere near to finishing it. She uses plenty of words that I am either not familiar with or have heard but until checked in the dictionary, weren't sure of the exact meaning.

"bifurcate" - to divide into two branches or parts

Here's how it's used in the book:

I was worried that my writing did seem to bifurcate for a time.

"proselytize" - 1: to induce someone to convert to one's faith 2: to recruit someone to join one's party, institution, or cause

Here's how it's used in the book:

I have long appreciated the rock-bottom truth of Wallace Stevens's remark that poetry does not address itself to belief, and knew that I could not let my writing become mere proselytizing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

It's Monday and it's time for...Borrowed Words

I have been reading Kathleen Norris's Amazing Grace for quite a while now and it's not because it's difficult to get through but it's a book I choose to read for only a short time each day so I can ponder on the meaning of what I've read so far. There are plenty of quotes found in there but I chose one that especially makes sense to me. Today I give you words borrowed from Kathleen Norris:

Play is an important part of human development, but some games are meant to be outgrown. We are fortunate, as adults, if we can trace what we hold sacred back to our childhoods (...) But in order to have an adult faith, most of us have to outgrow and unlearn much of what we were taught about religion. Growing up doesn't necessarily mean rejecting the religion of our ancestors, but it does entail sorting out the good from the bad in order to reclaim what has remain viable.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Back in my days working for a big chain bookstore I would let myself be swayed in my reading choices by what the customers were buying. If I noticed a trend, I would start making a list of titles to be bought when the next paycheck came. I knew I wouldn't be reading those books right away but that i would let them ripen on my bookshelves until the right time arrived. So was the case with Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. It was very popular among the buyers and book lovers and I just couldn't resist the temptation.

Labyrinth is an intricate story of the Holy Grail and the Cathars spanning centuries. The reader gets to be let into the world of the Medieval Carcassonne and the modern day France via the stories of two women, Alais who lived in the first half of 13th century and Alice Tanner, a volunteer working at the archaeological site in the Pyrenees in Southern France. Alice, being slightly stubborn and acting before thinking, decided to go alone into a cave she just discovered while working. What happens to her there and what she finds triggers events Alice hadn't ever dreamed of (in her worst nightmares). All of a sudden, the police, a dangerous and influential lawyer, plus her friend Shelagh are mysteriously interested in the discovery and seem to go to any lengths to get from Alice the last bit of information on what she found in the cave. And so it is that Dr.Tanner finds herself running for her life, stumbling on secret upon secret and not knowing who her friends and enemies are. Rewind to 1205 Carcassonne and we meet Alais, a seventeen-year-old daughter of honorable and faithful Bertrand Pelletier, wife of chevalier Guilhelm Du-Mas, and a sister to traitorous and dangerous Oriane. They all lived in murderous times on Pope Innocent III's crusade against Cathars of Languedoc. Alais is a girl of independent and stubborn spirit much loved by her father, who entrusts her with safekeeping of a mysterious ring and a book right before he leaves to fight the French Crusaders. Alais's life takes an unexpected turn and many things happen that break her heart but also make her strong in the resolve to protect the secret of the real Holy Grail.

I am aware that the plot may seem a tad complicated but the novel itself is not so. Labyrinth is many things, it's a historical novel, it's a mystery, it's a faced paced thriller and it's a romance story of tragic love. But all these elements blend together surprisingly well and in the end there's no need for a reader to try to comprehend it all better. As a historical novel, it was very well researched and very interesting. I really felt myself pulled into the world of Cathar religion and their persecution, especially because I had known next to nothing about that part of Medieval history before I read Labyrinth. Mind you, I usually do not like reading books whose main purpose is to ostracize the Catholic Church for all the wrongs but in this instance I felt that Ms. Mosse presented merely what happened without any obvious bias for one side or another. I realize that we're talking here about fiction but we all know how sometimes feelings and views of authors can be transported on to the pages of a book due to a possible lack of writing skills. Anyway, the only feelings that were loud and clear in Labyrinth, were Kate's love for history and for the country she writes about. It's certainly contagious and without being overly descriptive, the passages on the landscape and history of the land were inviting me to be there.

The only thing I did not like was the "over" usage of the French language. Despite being a translator and speaking two languages fluently and another one on an intermediate level, it is probably one of my greatest pet-peeves in books: when a writer uses phrases, words or even whole sentences in foreign language, without translating them. So was the case with Kate Mosse. I am not a genius, okay. French happens to be one of the languages I do not speak or understand therefore when I had to get immersed in the quick action and dialogue only to come to an abrupt stop because the people talking switched to French, I was agitated. Ms. Mosse did provide a glossary at the end of the book but that only contains maybe half of the French and Occitane words actually used in the novel. I understand the need to use some of the language of the country the book is set in, just to maybe ease the readers into the atmosphere of the world written about, but are whole sentences (and sometimes even more than one at a time) really necessary? I don't think so. It is my honest and humble opinion that the writer would have been better off skipping the foreign phrases altogether.

Pfew, is this long enough or what? I think that if you like historical fiction, filled with mystery, secrets and adventure, you'll definitely enjoy Labyrinth. If, on the other hand you expect the like of The DaVinci Code because you're a fan, skip this one. Although Mosse's novel is much better and there isn't much of the sensationalist theories on the Legend of the Holy Grail here.

Friday, July 17, 2009

If you love them, keep them + The Divorce Party giveaway

Short description from publishers of what the book is about:
'The Divorce Party
brings together two immensely appealing women, one who is stumbling upon the end of her marriage, and one who is just beginning hers, both asking themselves: how much work is it worth to keep two people together. This is a multigenerational love story full of humor, candor, and a powerful message about how to commit to someone over the course of a lifetime.
Insightful, funny, and deeply moving, The Divorce Party will touch anyone whose heart has weathered an unexpected storm.'

The article below was written by Laura Dave, the author of the acclaimed novels The Divorce Party and London Is the Best City in America. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Glamour, Self, Redbook, ESPN the Magazine, and The New York Observer. Dave graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. In August, Cosmopolitan magazine named her as one of the eight "Fun and Fearless Phenoms" of 2008. She lives in California. I personally really enjoyed the article because I do have my share of marital troubles and it's good to be reminded from time to time about why my husband is my husband and why we are married, and why the good always beats the bad. I hope you'll enjoy too, whether you're married, engaged or single (because one day you will most likely be married or decide to share your life with this one special person).

5 Reasons to Stay with the Person You Love
By Laura Dave
Author of The Divorce Party: A Novel

One of my favorite quotes about love and marriage comes from Oscar Wilde: A Man can be happy with any woman as long as he does not love her. While that saying makes me laugh, Wilde is also getting to something important: Marriage is tricky. And in today's society where the martial woes of everyone from the Sanfords to John and Kate Gosselin are headline news, we are presented with every reason in the world to give up on our relationships -- and fewer and fewer reasons to stay. While researching my most recent novel, I sat down and spoke to women, men, and married couples about why they do stay. And, sometimes, why they wished they had. This is the best advice I've found.

1. Love is a decision
Watching Governor Sanford stand up over these past weeks and speak about how he found his soul mate in his Argentinean lover reminded me of something Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun and author, wrote about Sweat Lodges. She wrote that the only way to be in a Sweat Lodge -- to experience all that it brings -- is to sit far from the exit. Because if you sit too close, you will find a reason to use it.
The same is true of any long-term relationship. If you decide to look for an exit, you will always be able to find it: whether it comes in the form of another lover, or another life. But the couples I spoke with who decided to commit to their marriages and relationships -- to be present for them, to help them grow more sacred -- told me that they were immeasurably rewarded for that decision. The more committed they grew to their marriages -- the further they sat from the exit -- the more joy and peace they found there.

2. There is No Weakness In Forgiveness

I'm not happy anymore; or I'm disappointed; or I have doubts. Three familiar catchphrases that free us up to not work to bring a relationship back to a positive place. In fact, we are conditioned these days to believe that the brave thing is to move on when the honeymoon is over. But that very standard makes it hard for any long-term relationship to survive inevitable disappointments.
While some would argue that it is brave to pick up and start a new life when a relationship begins to ebb, the truly brave thing -- the hard and valuable thing -- is to figure out how to find a new flow together. As one couple, who is happily married after 40 years together, informed me, "The most invaluable gifts come on the other side of the bad periods. If we hadn't forgiven each other for the hard times, we never would have experienced such good ones."

3. Someone New Won't Be New For Long

One factor is consistent in all studies of marriages and long-term relationships: a main cause of divorce and separation is infidelity. Those that stray (statistically, women as much as men these days) sight many factors as reasons: a breakdown in passion, a breakdown in communication, a breakdown . . .

But statistics also tell us that the chance of a relationship born from infidelity being successful is less than 1 and 100. Less than 1%. More often than not, the best thing someone new has going for him or her is being . . . new. And, once they aren't anymore, you are left in an even more precarious position.
Whoever you choose -- it always comes down to one thing. How hard are you willing to fight to make the relationship work? How easily are you willing to give your relationship away?

4. Often the Person You Are Running From Is You

Surprisingly, of all the reasons couples gave me for why they chose to end their marriage or relationship, the loss of love or mutual friendship was often notably absent. It often came down to something else: the desire to start a new life. To not grow old. Or, at least, to not feel like they were.
It is difficult to stay with the person who knows you best when you don't like what we see in the mirror. It may be easier to blame your partner than to take a hard look at yourself. But, at the end of the day, it isn't your partner's responsibility to change your self-image, or to fix your self-doubt. It's yours. And, if we want to like ourselves better, running out on a person who likes us the way we are isn't a wise starting point.

5. You Don't Need A Reason

Like anything worth having in this life, marriage and long-term commitment are hard work. Sometimes knowing that can be enough to help us not pick at the scabs while they are healing, to not make things worse as opposed to letting them feel better. As a lovely couple in Seattle Washington reminded me, things will feel better. "Be good to each other, be patient. If you allow it, love always lives through that."

©2009 Laura Dave, author of The Divorce Party: A Novel

For more information, please visit http://lauradave.com/

And now that you enjoyed this wonderful article, I have a little something for one lucky person. Anna S. from FSB Associates was wonderful enough to offer a copy of The Divorce Party by Laura Dave to be given away on my blog.

The rules are simple:

*leave me a comment with your email address (this is very important, no email=no entry)

*you have time until July 31st to do that. The drawing will be on August 1st.
*oh, one more important thing: this giveaway is open to international entries as well, so even if you don't live in the U.S. you're more than welcome to enter.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Follow-up to last week’s question:

Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?

Here's the thing: the circumstances force me to keep my unread books separate from my read books. I live in a very tiny cottage and, as you could see in my previous BTT post, I have tons of unread books. Easily in the hundreds. My read books amount to almost the same number but because I have no space for all of them to be together, I keep all the read books in plastic bins in the basement. It is my greatest sorrow that I can't display them and my greatest dream to one day own a house big enough to have enough space for all my books alphabetized by author on beautiful shelves all over my house. I personally think that shelves filled with books are best house decorations and make the house look inviting and a place you want to dwell in.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wondrous Words Wednesday

I finally decided to partake in this fun feature started by Bermudaonion.
Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where we share new (to us) words that we’ve encountered in our reading. Feel free to join in the fun.

The two words below are both found in Annette Vallon by James Tipton I am reading this week.

"taffetta" - a crisp, plain-woven lustrous fabric of various fibers used esp. for women's clothing

And this is how it's used in the novel:

I remember the feel of a silk sleeve on my skin, the lightness of taffeta when I danced, and the big riding cloak when I could feel the reassuring weight of a pistol in each pocket.

"melange" - a mixture often of incongruous elements

This is how it's used in the novel:

I was impatient for the steaming sauceboat, placed in front of him, with its melange of caramelized sugar, lemon and orange juices, white wine, and red currant jelly.

Blog Sponsorship - why I actually like it.

I started blogging about books for the same reasons many other bloggers out there did: I love books, I saw there was a big blogging community devoted to reading and promoting books and authors and I figured I could try my luck at it as well. I have never thought about any financial gain connected with my blogging, I just wanted to have fun. Therefore, when I was approached via email about a possibility of blog sponsorship I was flabbergasted that Uprinting.com would consider me 'important' enough to sponsor. And so far it has been great. I am not making any huge money all of a sudden, but I partake in UPrinting.com contests for the sponsored blogs where many cute things can be won, one of those things being professional looking business cards which I would love to have but I simply can't afford them. And lastly, I love the fact that this sponsorship doesn't require of me to placate my blog with ads all over the place. UPrinting's ads are unobtrusive and fit the background nicely so they're not glaring at me every time in log in.

Why UPrinting.com isn't your average printing company:

Blog Sponsorships:
If you are looking to find a sponsor for your blog, UPrinting.com is definitely interested. We offer giveaways, advertising and more for qualified bloggers.

Non-Profit Sponsorships:
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Social Justice Projects:
The UPrinting Kiva account promotes small business growth in developing countries.

Green Printing:
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Monday, July 13, 2009

It's Monday and it's time for...Borrowed Words

Today I am posting a prayer whispered or said out loud by millions of people around the world everyday. I have been reminded of these words by a girl who's become a good friend of mine, the one you get help from when you need it most. The prayer is an inspiration to me and I know I don't say it often enough but I think it's time to start again. I give you the words borrowed from St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

where there is injury, pardon;

where there is doubt, faith;

where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;

where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;

to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Where in the world have you been?

This week's Weekly Geeks asks you to tell us about your globe trotting via books. Are you a global reader? How many countries have you "visited" in your reading? What are your favorite places or cultures to read about? Can you recommend particularly good books about certain regions, countries or continents? How do you find out about books from other countries? What countries would you like to read that you haven't yet?

I am definitely a global reader but I also think that when you read books you inadvertently become a globe trotter. This is the beauty of reading. Without stepping outside the house, I get transported to places and very often times (if you happen to read historical fiction) I wouldn't have a chance to visit in reality.

I honestly can't tell how many places I visited over the years of reading therefore what you see on the map are only the countries that I remember the most. And even to pick my favorites is quite difficult because every country has its charm and something special that cannot be found in any others. I most definitely enjoy reading books set in Japan and China, maybe because the culture is so foreign, so old and so rich in mysticism. India and Africa are also special treats for me. I have fallen in love with India and especially Indian writers when in college studying its literature plus literary works set in colonial and post-colonial period of India by British writers. Africa, especially Nigeria, came into my reading world in college as well, while working on my Master's thesis on Chinua Achebe who is a native of Nigeria. I was simply enchanted by the multitude of languages there (some 200 tribal languages and dialects in Nigeria only), beauty of tribal traditions and beliefs, and of its people. And then there is Europe, with so many countries to choose from it makes me dizzy: Ireland, Spain, Russia and Italy, just to name a few.

The books & authors that have stood out for the past few years are really worth reading as they did make me almost ache for the places they portray.

1. Shantaram by Gregory Roberts. It is a fictionalized account of the authors life in India. It is one chunkster of a book but I was taken in from the first page. I know that there are some opinions that argue that the line between fiction and truth is too blurred, it's hard to say what we should take as facts but I honestly don't care about that. It transported me to India I had never known before, the author's love for this country and Indian people was contagious and gave me no choice but share it.

2. All the novels by Jonathan Carroll. He is not a very well known writer in the United States but from what I remember, extremely popular in Europe. He uses magic realism in his novels, with a perfect mixture of metaphysical, magical and reality. Even though he is a native of New York City, he lives and writes in Vienna. Vienna is also the setting of a lot of his novels and they made me in turn want to visit this magical place with its old streets, enchanting cafeterias and brick buildings. The bullterrier in this photo is also present in many of Jonathan's novels.

3. Margit Sandemo and her Legend of the Ice People. My, oh my how I love this author and her saga set in Norway, spanning the centuries about the clan of witches. Even though it's supernatural, it is also combined with beautiful Scandinavian landscapes and culture. I first read all the books in Polish when I was a teenager and now, almost twenty years later I still remember it all vividly. Sadly the books are not available in the U.S. yet but they have been recently translated into English and are sold on the British market.
This is the map showing all the places I've been to (while reading):

As far as reading about the countries that I have not yet gotten a chance to, Australia is the one that takes the prize. I already have two books on my shelves about Australia and I am getting to them really soon: Bryce Courtenay's Four Fires and Colleen McCullough's Morgan Run.

Well, there it is, my travels around the world.

And to finish the post nicely I must say that I sometimes find myself talking with authority about this or that country and people would ask me, "How do you know that? Have you ever been there?" and I would answer, with just a little pride in my voice, "No, but I read the books.". Ha!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

Okay, I'll just come right out and say that this book was a big disappointment to me. I know that it puts me in the minority, probably somewhere right at the bottom of the list but I just could not make myself care for the story and the characters at all.

Let me first go over the plot, which is probably not necessary as most of the readers out there already have heard about it. But the plot summary is always in order. As the story begins, we meet Mary who lives in a tiny village surrounded by the Unconsecrated (another word for zombies) and the only thing that separates the world of zombies from the world of the living is chain link fence (ahem, how tall is that fence or how strong that it kept the zombies at bay for generations?). Mary is a teenager ready to be married and start her own family when her mother goes out too far into the Forest of Hands and Teeth (where zombies reign supreme) and gets bitten by one of the Unconsecrated. At this moment Mary's world as she knew it ceases to exist. Her brother Jeb, who can't forgive Mary for letting their mother live and become one of the zombies, gives her away to the Sisterhood, who have more secrets that the author bothers to share with the readers. Mary is miserable, she loves a person who cannot be with her and his brother is the one who finally speaks for her (proposes to her), but she doesn't love him and she wants to get away from the village and find the ocean her mother had talked about. Mary finally gets her chance when the village is breached, the Unconsecrated turn or kill all the inhabitants, apart from, of course the most important characters: Mary, Harry, Mary's brother Jeb, Mary's love Travis and her former best friend, Cas, plus a little boy Jacob (why he's thrown in there I have no idea, maybe to help preserve the human species in the future). Okay my head hurts already. The rest is history...or future.

To be fair to the author, I think that the story is interesting and her portrayal of Mary's despair and unhappiness engaging. To a point. But when I realized that Mary was going to be the only character described in depth and all others might as well have been zombies for all the insight given the reader, I lost interest completely. I am not sure whether Mary was supposed to come off as a self-absorbed, egocentric young woman or not. If it was intentional, then it has definitely been achieved. Then again, if I have to wonder about it then one way or another something just isn't right.

Another thing going against this book was that I listened to it on audio and the narrator killed the story. The whole book was read in a monotonous tone of reading the telephone book. I actually think that the person reading the introduction about who recorded the book, the title, the author and the narrator put more intonation and emotion into her voice than the narrator. I simply could not tell when Mary was happy, sad or horrified. All and all, the narration was very robotic and the only reason I kept listening to it was because I hoped that it would get better. It didn't.

Lastly, I am not a die-hard fan of Young Adult fiction. I do enjoy some books (The Book Thief, Hunger Games, Inkheart, to name a few) but because I do not love it, it's probably difficult to fully satisfy me and what faults I can justify in genres I love, I cannot overlook in this one. As far as the dystopian theme that is resurfacing in contemporary fiction goes, if it's done well I love it. But, yet again, I am more of a King's The Stand girl than The Forest of Hands and Teeth one.

Book Info:

Author: Carrie Ryan
Title: The Forest of Hands and Teeth
Published By: Random House
In: 2009
Recorded by: Listening Library
Narrator: Vane Millon

Thursday, July 9, 2009

BTT: Unread Books Challenge

It's my first BTT and I have finally decided to join in the fun especially that this week's theme is exactly what's been weighing on mind heavily for quite some time now. I saw the original post at Medieval Bookworm but she in turn got the idea from The Toddled Dredge.

“So here today I present to you an Unread Books Challenge. Give me the list or take a picture of all the books you have stacked on your bedside table, hidden under the bed or standing in your shelf – the books you have not read, but keep meaning to. The books that begin to weigh on your mind. The books that make you cover your ears in conversation and say, ‘No! Don’t give me another book to read! I can’t finish the ones I have!’ “
I have tons of unread books on my shelves, they are all waiting patiently for my attention and not saying a word. They are so good to me and I feel like a bad stepmother (hanging my head in shame). Anyway, instead of writing up a list which would take me a long, long time, I decided to simply show you.
You can see some ARC's here that have long been published. They're from my time as Border's manager when our store would get tons of them, all employees would stock up without a real obligation to read or review them. I know I will read them but I think that sending so many books to stores is a waste of money on publishers' side and they are better off sending them to bloggers.

Yes, they are double stacked, I just don't have enough shelves or room in my tiny house.

This is my TBR on a cute little wooden shelf I got at one of the Yard Sales. Believe it or not, I do stick to the books I put on this shelf. So, these titles (at least most of them) will be reviewed on my blog soon.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

June Reads

With all that's been happening (look up my previous post), June went by very quickly for me. Unfortunately, I have been very slow with reading as other things occupied my mind. Slowly, I am trying to get back to at least take better care of my blog and the blogging community (and of wonderful posts I missed reading). With my state of mind I have learned that one of the best things I can do is keep up the habits (the good ones, of course) and stick to daily routine. So that's what I'm trying to do. The first thing right after posting this, will be opening my Reader to finally visit all the blogs and read what I've missed. But for now, here's what I managed to read in June:

1. One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus - I thought I would like it more than I actually did.

2. Firestorm by Iris Johansen - it was a quick read, a typical, fast paced thriller but unfortunately very forgettable. Actually I already forgot what exactly it was about.

3. Friend of the Devil by Peter Robinson - I am happy I discovered this author, he has a whole series about a British detective and it's similar to P.D. James which I also enjoy.

4. Worst Nightmares by Shane Briant - I wasn't sure whether I should classify this one as horror or thriller, but it fits both categories I suppose. All and all, a good read and, unlike Firestorm, I still remember what it was about.

5. Father Melancholy’s Daughter by Gail Godwin - I think this one is a book to be read more than once in order to be truly appreciated. It's definitely a literary fiction, concentrating on characters and (subject I always like to read about to see how accurate the portrayal is) depression. The writing is at times very deep and profound, I have pages of text underlined to refer back to.

6. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult - I like Picoult but this one just didn't sit right with me. All's fine until the miracles start to happen and we're looking at the secong coming of Jesus. Not really something I would expect from Picoult and honestly she didn't pull it off all that well either.

7. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory - Oh, my poor girls at The Girls On Books blog are getting mad at me, since this review was supposed to be posted two weeks ago. I find it very difficult to put a good review together but I promise it will be up on Monday.

8. The Return by Bentley Little - my first Bentley Little book and I was disappointed. It read more like a bad sci-fi than a good horror and I only hope his other books are better since I own two more.

Audio books:

1. Twenty Seven Bones by Jonathan Nasaw

2. The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King - I didn't like the book, it was quite boring and at times I just wanted to shut the player off and be done with it. I think however that it's not the author's fault and the series is worth reading but just not the right type to be recorded (at least that's my hope since I have five others in this series).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Okay, it's time to write something.

As you have noticed (if there are still any readers out there who bother to visit my blog) I have not been quite up to par with my blog maintenance, posting, visitng other blogs and commenting. The main reason is this: a couple of weeks ago I found out I was pregnant and a week ago it was confirmed by my doctor. I should be ecstatic about the news but instead I am still struggling with it. You might ask why, you might say it's great news, it's a blessing, many women are not that lucky...And I agree. From a logical standpoint, I know I have to be happy about it and I want nothing more than to feel joy. The problem is, I suffer from chronic depression and unfortunately pregnancy is not a magical cure many people think it is. Quite the opposite. I am very worried about people around me who have to deal with me. Every day I am ridden with guilt on top of my depression deepening with every day that goes by.
I have a ten-year-old daughter and I honestly thought that she would remain my only child. Even though I love her more than life itself and we have a great relationship, I do not consider myself a mother material. Whenever I am around little children, I get anxious and nervous. I even have major issues with babysitting my 3-year-old nephew occasionally. Naturally, I worry how I will manage a baby in my own home. Not to mention the financial struggles I am going through. I have stopped making any money whatsoever, the state of economy is glaring at me in my profession. Sure, translator sounds fine but when a company has to make cuts, a document needed translation is the first one to go. I have learned that this is something most companies can do without.
Geez, I am crying already as I am writing this post because I honestly had never imagined that my life would be as it is. I am so jealous of other women who I see happy, smiling, having so much energy to do so many interesting things where I find it difficult to get up in the morning and the thought of washing the dishes alone makes me tired. Everything seems like an insurmountable task and it makes me so sad...