Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A fun quiz I found.

I can't say I was surprised by the results. I always thought I should have been a man.

Your Brain is 33% Female, 67% Male

You have a total boy brain

Logical and detailed, you tend to look at the facts

And while your emotions do sway you sometimes...

You never like to get feelings too involved

The Weekly Geeks - my very first time!

It is time for my first installment of Weekly Geeks. I am a complete newbie, I have just found out about it but I think the idea is great and I hope to post often. Enjoy!

1) How do you feel about classic literature? Are you intimidated by it? Love it? Not sure because you never actually tried it? Don't get why anyone reads anything else? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books? Go all out, sell us on it!

I absolutely love classic literature. Sometimes I feel that no one writes nowadays as they used to in the old days. I can see the obvious love for words in there, the flawlessness of writing and the magical ability of a writer to create a world, characters and atmosphere with which I, as a modern reader, can still identify and appreciate. The classic I have truly loved from the first time I read it is Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. It makes me weep, like no other novel, every time I read it. Actually most of the classics I love and appreciate are French: Alexandre Dumas’ Queen Margot, Honore De Balzac’s Old Goriot. But there are others as well. Being Polish, I have my Polish writer on the list of favorites as well. His name is Henryk Sienkiewicz and Quo Vadis is very special to me. It won the Nobel prize in Literature, it was the first classic I read and the one that encouraged me to read more. So I guess I could say I have much to be grateful for to Mr. Sienkiewicz.
All the classic literature taught me more about life than all the textbooks I had to study in school put together.

2) Let's say you're vacationing with your dear cousin Myrtle, and she forgot to bring a book. The two of you venture into the hip independent bookstore around the corner, where she primly announces that she only reads classic literature. If you don't find her a book, she'll never let you get any reading done! What contemporary book/s with classic appeal would you pull off the shelf for her?

It would be a book I read last year and loved from the first pages. It’s The Religion by Tim Willocks. It has the appeal of Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas. The action is breathtaking, the many issues presented there are deep and thought-provoking, and the writing, once again, is flawless. I have a review of the book posted here so instead of cheating (copying and pasting), I invite you to read the original post.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

'Conan Doyle's Wallet' by Patrick McNamara

Horror, supernatural and paranormal fiction is among my favorite literary genres. It has been with me since I started to read on my own. First, there were fairies, magical creatures, talking animals and wishes-come-true. As I grew older, I started reading hard-core horror stories which never failed to scare me, but only for a little while and mostly just provided the thrill of being scared but not really taking any of it seriously. On the other hand, I have always stayed away from paranormal non-fiction. Precisely because it is non-fiction and what I would read may actually turn out to be true. Therefore, when Conan Doyle’s Wallet by Patrick McNamara landed in my hands I was wary about reading it, to say the least.

Mr. McNamara is a psychic-medium and his book, Conan Doyle’s Wallet is about his experiences as a medium/psychic. The idea for this book began to take shape after McNamara purchased Doyle’s wallet at Christie’s auction. Through the contents of the famous author’s wallet, Patrick established a spiritual connection with Arthur Conan Doyle. The book showcases Doyle’s revelations on spiritual life and provides a reader with deep questions about and equally deep answers to life on earth and life after death.

The ideas presented are definitely controversial and at times difficult to accept or comprehend. It is important to approach the book with an open-mind and as Mr. McNamara encourages, to at least be willing to question the improbable. The main concept is that of life after death and what happens to us when we die. As a psychic, Patrick gives a reader many examples and proofs that we are indeed spiritual beings, who take on a physical form and after death go back to being spirits. The book is very well written. The author uses simple language, which I personally appreciated the most. Without any convoluted phrases, difficult to understand words or sentences, it is much easier to allow oneself the possibility to comprehend and consider the supernatural concepts. My favorite was probably the wonderful in its simplicity explanation of the Law of Attraction. I have read countless books on that one and I could never quite get it, many writers struggled to write whole books about it and in the end I still thought: ‘Huh? That doesn’t make sense.’ Patrick McNamara’s explanation allowed me to finally breathe with relief, thinking instead: ‘Well, now that’s simple enough. Now I get it.’

Even leaving the paranormal experiences aside, Conan Doyle’s Wallet is very educational and informative. Mr. McNamara gives us a nice biography of Sherlock Holmes’s creator. I was amazed to find out all the facts about Doyle about which I had no idea before (that he wrote historical novels, that he spent most of his fortune on spiritual journey and discovery, just to name a few), I was given a glimpse into the life of the famous magician Houdini and his quest to disprove the afterlife and, as my personal best, I was given perhaps a little bit of reassurance that there is no need to fear the spiritual beings or ghosts.

Conan Doyle’s Wallet should be read by all, the skeptics, the believers or the spiritual seekers as myself because even if you do not agree with the concepts put forward in there as a whole, there are bits and pieces that you can pick out of it and use to your advantage. The idea of afterlife may give you hope that not all is lost, may give you a direction of where your life should be heading, and last but not least may compel you to practice the commonly repeated but not always taken seriously karma, the ‘what comes around, goes around’ attitude to life.

Favorite quote from the book:

"The imbalance is immense between the material and spiritual aspects of life. The material world carries much more weight these days. There is too much pressure and loss of innocence; young people are growing up too fast, leaving a vacuum of respect and self-discipline, and spiritual connections."

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber

You would think that after months of exclusive study of Shakespeare’s work in college and years of reading I would have a better idea of the Bard himself. As it turned out during reading The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber, I have no clue. And that might be one of the reasons why I liked this book so much.

The Book of Air and Shadows is a great mystery. It starts with Jake Mishkin, an Intellectual Property lawyer hiding in a cottage in some remote place and writing down the events that brought him to the point of fearing for his life. The events were triggered by the letter written in the 17th century by Mr. Bracegirdle. The letter revealed clues to finding a play by Shakespeare that the world didn’t know existed. Of course if found, the treasure would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and there are many dangerous people who will kill to get it. The narrative switches between Mishkin’s recollections and the following of Albert Crosetti, a movie geek who happened to be the first person to lay his hands on Bracegirdle’s letter. The plot may seem complicated but even as such is easy to follow.

I have to say that The Book of Air and Shadows is no ordinary mystery novel. Gruber is very skilled on many levels as a writer. He created a great, action filled chase after the treasure, enough suspense to really keep the reader guessing till the end and also managed to inject just the right amount of clever humor into the story. I think this was actually a first for me, laughing while reading a mystery. But that’s not all. The characters of Mishkin and Crosetti are surprisingly complex and despite their many flaws I couldn’t help but like them. Both of them were complete laymen in regards to Shakespeare, yet managed to produce a lot of enthusiasm for the legendary writer during the course of action. Which brings me to my opening point. I am not positive about it, but the book certainly made me stop and wonder if Shakespeare’s personal life is indeed a mystery of the literary world. I will certainly do some more digging.

My personal favorite parts of the book were the documents written by Bracegirdle. For a literary geek it was a lot of fun and pleasure to try and read the 17th century language. Gruber managed to make them sound like originals to the point where I actually caught myself several times thinking that I was reading things written by a Shakespeare’s contemporary. I didn’t even mind the deciphering parts, which were crucial to the action but to me sounded like mathematical mumbo-jumbo at first (you can tell I am no fun of mathematics) but then it turned out to be another fun and intriguing side of the novel.

The Book of Air and Shadows is a fantastic read, never boring (Gruber manages to insult everything and everybody, yet because it is so fairly dispensed, I didn’t mind) and quite educational as well. Michael Gruber is a skilled writer, with great sense of humor and I will definitely be reading more of him.

My favorite quote from the book:

"against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain"

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A week-long FREE SEMINAR beginning Monday, January 26

This Year: Change Your Life!
Brook Noel’s Free Seminar can help you keep your Resolutions for this year and Beyond!

Known for the interactive experiences she creates for program members, Brook will kick off a virtual tour starting next Mon., Jan. 26, with a free, week-long workshop that will help women manage their time, get organized, decrease stress, live by their priorities, and get 2009 off to a balanced and exciting start. For more info and to register for the free program, go to

To sign up for the free seminar, you can visit Brook’s Facebook page: Additionally, anyone who buys her book at Target or Costco stores nationwide can submit their receipt and in exchange they’ll receive a free month-long membership to Brook’s Make Today Matter Life Coaching System!

By leaving a comment, you have the chance to win a copy of Brook’s book, The Change Your Life Challenge! Let us know what you think of your own resolutions, or what has helped you change your own life over the years. One Lucky Commenter will win a copy of Brook’s Book, and can jumpstart the challenge to make today matter!

Monday, January 19, 2009

'High Profile' by Robert B. Parker on audio

I am one of those true geeks who prefer listening to books instead of music. When a few years back I discovered that there actually were books on audio, it was a magical moment for me. I have enjoyed audiobooks ever since. Until I listened to High Profile. I seriously had my 'doubting Thomas' moments then.

The book is a thriller. The premise is interesting enough. I did pick this one out of many after all. A high profile TV personality is murdered together with his lover, who was pregnant with the guy's child. Jesse, a chief of police in Paradise, MA is investigating the murder while dealing with his personal problems. He drinks too much, cannot let go of his promiscuous ex-wife and is involved with another woman, who in turn still loves her ex. Considering that Mr. Parker is among the bestselling authors on the market, one would think the book would be a quick, easy and interesting read (or listen?). The problem is, Parker apparently had some serious issues with how to write a good dialogue. And a bad dialogue turns into a nightmarish one when you actually have to listen to it. To give you an example of how it went throughout the whole book I will try to imitate a little of it:

'I checked on that guy you asked me about.' - Molly said

'What did you find?' - Jesse said

''Quite a few interesting facts.' - Molly said

'Like what?' - Jesse said

' Like he used to be married to our suspect.' - Molly said

'Really?' - Jesse said


Notice the 'said' word and you'll know what I mean. And it went on and on and on...and I thought it would never end. I was ready to drill screws into my brain if I heard another 'said'. For the first time in a very long time I was looking forward to descriptive passages because the dialogue was pure torture.

I know that listening to an audiobook is a very different experience from reading one and 'High Profile' is just one of the books that should never have been recorded. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll even pick any of Parker's books to read.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Yay! Another Award!

2009 seems to start off pretty well for me. Absolutely crazy Teena from Crazy Book Slut gave me One Lovely Blog award. I am psyched!

I am very happy and really touched that someone thinks that my blog is lovely.

I am supposed to give it to five other blogs but there are many more blogs than 5 that I truly think are lovely and I really don't want to serve myself sleepless nights feeling guilty that I awarded one blog and not the other. I suppose it's a little selfish but really all the blogs on my blogroll are lovely, each of them for different reasons.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

What key on the keyboard are you?

I saw this little personality test on Cathy's blog Kittling:Personal Observations and because I think it's cute and funny I did it myself as well. I can't say that I was satisfied with the result but one thing I agreed with was that I am impatient.

You Are "esc"

Some people might try to say that you're unreliable or flighty.

But you can't help it. You're always finding yourself in sticky situations.

You're willing to bail if things are looking bad. You are quite impatient.

For you, having to escape every now in then is the price of taking risks. And you're not about to stop taking risks!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Short Reading Challenges' Recap

The beginning weeks of 2009 are the weeks of firsts. At least as far as challenges are concerned. I have listened to my first 2009 Audiobook Challenge book, read my first Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge book and the first in my fiction category for 999 Challenge.

Let me start off with Chocolat by Joanne Harris. What a delectable novel! It is about Vianne Roche and her daughter Anouk who move into a little town of Lasquenet in France. There, they decide to open a chocolaterie, right across the street from the only church in town. Vianne is a mysterious character, with some psychic powers giving her the ability to know what her customers' favorite sweets are. Until the day Vianne and Anouk came to Lasquenet, they had been always on the move, never staying in one place for too long. Such a way of living was passed on to Vianne from her late mother, who was always running away from 'the Black Man'. Vianne thinks she meets 'the Black Man' in Lasquenet. He is Father Reynaud, a strict priest, whose rules are obeyed by almost everyone in the town. And so, when Vianne comes along, all of a sudden giving the villagers a choice, another social spot, making it clear that she is a non-believer and 'tempting' Reynaud's parishioners with chocolates during the Lent, she becomes Father Reynaud's number one enemy.

Chocolat is a small book, but just like a little chocolate truffle, it held a lot of delicious flavors. The writing is truly poetic, I did feel like I was eating my favorite dessert. Vianne is an adorable character, you can't help but like her. She transforms the little town filled with hypocrisy and bigotry. All the vices get easily exposed but so do the good traits in the residents. And one might look at the competition between the priest and Vianne as very controversial, being that the priest is shown as the most hypocritical character, but I think that Ms. Harris merely showed the difference between the good and the bad in all of us, our attitude to the change, our willingness to accept the unknown and to stay true to who we are, even in the face of great danger.

My first audiobook in 2009 was quite different. One For The Money by Janet Evanovich is a book known and read by quite a crowd. I never belonged to this readership, probably because I have this weird aversion to books that become 'million-dollar' treasures and are glorified by masses. But after having been asked hundreds of times if I read the book and having received starnge looks when I admitted I hadn't, I decided that if i can't read it I can at least listen to it. And I am really glad I did. Stephanie Plum is a girl I can't help but like. She is a ding-dong, getting herself into the most ridiculous sitiuations and yet, I completely identified with her. The book supplied me with a few laughs, many more giggles and even a thrill or two. I have to say that Ms. Evanovich did create a very likable character and supported it with good writing. It was light, entertaining and humorous. I will definitely go for no.2 and who knows, maybe I will even become a die-hard fan.

CHALLENGES: Well-Seasoned Reader Challenge, 2009 Audiobook Challenge, 999 Challenge, 2009 100+ Reading Challenge, 2009 Ban On Spending Challenge

Friday, January 9, 2009

My very first award!

J. Kaye (and I know you all know J.Kaye) honored me today by giving me Premio Dardos Award. I am thrilled to get it. It will always have a special place in my heart, along with J. Kaye, as she was kind enough to visit my blog from the beginning. I have known J. Kaye for only a couple of months but she is a wonderful person, she's kind, smart and funny. And I love her blog too!

And now for the award details:

This award acknowledges the values that every blogger shows in his/her effort to transmit cultural, ethical, literary and personal values every day.
The rules to follow are:

1) Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person that has granted the award and his or her blog link.

2) Pass the award to other 15 blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment. Remember to contact each of them to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

The blogs I am awarding (oh, this is so exciting!) are by people from whom I learned a lot about blogging, reading, appreciating life and that it's okay to laugh.

In 2009 I'm breaking my resolution.

Making goals and resolutions for the New Year has always seemed to be in fashion. I also decided to get on the train. For 2009 I am breaking my lifelong resolution to not make any resolutions as a new year comes. 2008 was a bad year for me. It was a classic Murphy’s law coming true in front of my eyes: if something can go wrong, it will. So this year I decided to give making a few resolutions a shot. I figured it won’t hurt to set some goals and then see what happens. Who knows, maybe I’ll even see some of them come to fruition.

1. Get spiritually and emotionally fit. I think that true spirituality have always been lacking in my life. I have also always been jealous of people who managed to be serene, calm and peaceful in the midst of the biggest chaos. Therefore, I started the Spiritually Speaking challenge which I hope will help me with this side of my life. Emotions are another part of me that I never was quite able to keep under control. And funny how it’s always been the wrong ones that manifested the strongest. The good ones kept quiet and very much to themselves somewhere in the corner of my mind, heart or soul. I will be reading The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie to maybe put me on the right track. It’s a first book that will stay with me throughout the whole year since it has meditations for every day. Now, reading these meditation is all nice and dandy but my biggest challenge will be to actually apply them to my life and not let myself think that it’s all BS and drop it.

2. Stand financially on my own two feet. And I’m not even talking ‘financially fit’, just not on crutches. Yes, I do have a profession. Being a freelance translator is something that I actually enjoy. It gives me an opportunity to be also a stay-at-home mom, to go to work in my pj’s and to be pretty much my own boss. Sadly, a freelance translator also means (in my case) a starving translator, having-my- bills-in-collection translator. I know that there are certain steps that I can take to change that and hopefully I will have enough guts to do it.

I know it is only two goals/resolutions. The list is short but I already have breathing problems thinking about them. People say that when you make plans, God laughs. It’s fine with me. I’m glad to keep Him in good spirits as long as He helps me on my path, if only because I give Him reasons to be merry.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

'Mr. X' by Peter Straub

Even though Peter Straub is considered a contemporary horror fiction writer, I would not call Mr. X a typical horror (if there even is such a thing). It is a story told by Ned Dunstan, who on his every birthday experiences seizures during which he witnesses gory murders committed by Mr. X. As Ned’s next birthday approaches, his mother dies and his own death is knocking on Ned’s door. In a short span of time Ned also finds out there’s his doppelganger lurking in shadows. He sets out on a quest to find out the true history of his mysterious family and gets into a lot of trouble on the way.
Mr. Straub has a superb skill in crafting both hilarious and scary characters. I found myself laughing at his clever humor several times. Straub’s real talent however lies in his ability to make a reader believe in the unbelievable. I was finding out one crazy twist after another, yet I never once questioned the probability of them happening in the real life. Despite the fact that I was not necessarily scared witless, I will gladly read many more of Straub’s books. Mr. X read like a perfect mystery/adventure novel with a twisted murderer, psychological suspense and even a little bit of romance. Before having read Mr. X I had always associated Straub with Stephen King, since I read two novels written by both authors (Black House & Talisman), but now I realize that Peter Straub is a great writer of his own, with his own, individual style.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Chunkster Challenge 2009

Think Pink Dana from Feeling Chunky returned this year with Chunkster Challenge. I just could not resist. It's a wonderful challenge, I love long novels, especially when they're really good and I don't want to part with the characters too soon. I signed up for option three. There total of four options. Visit here to learn the rules and sign up.
1. Maia by Richard Adams (1062 pages)
2. Shardik by Richard Adams (529 pages)
3. Possession by A. S. Byatt (511 pages)
4. Devices & Desires by K. J. Parker (635 pages)
5. Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis (767 pages)
6. The Host by Stephenie Meyers (631 pages)
7. East Of Eden by John Steinbeck (601 pages)
8. Illium by Dan Simmons (725 pages)
9. Olympos by Dan Simmons (891 pages)
10. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski (562 pages)
11. Underworld by Don DeLillo (827 pages)
12. Four Fires by Bryce Courtenay (986 pages)
13. Sade/A Biography by Maurice Lever (568 pages)
14. Schulz & Peanuts by David Michaelis (566 pages)
15. Einstein by Walter Isaacson (551 pages)
16. The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber (466 pages) - DONE
17. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak(553 pages) - DONE
18. Gauntlet by Richard Aaron (488 pages) - DONE
19. The Hellfire Club by Peter Straub (463 PAGES) - DONE
20. Wizard by Trade by Jim Butcher (598 Pages) - DONE
21. The Traitor's Wife by Susan Higginbotham (490 pages) - DONE
22. The Borgia Bride by Jeanne Kalogridis (509 pages) - DONE
23. The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins (626 pages) - DONE
24. The Boleyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory (514 pages) - DONE
25. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse (487 pages) - Done
26. Annette Vallon by James Tipton (480 pages) - done
27. God is an Englishman by R.F. Delderfield ( 634) - done
28. The Big Rock Candy Mountain by Wallace Stegner (563 pages) - done
29. To Serve Them All My Days by R. F. Delderfield (594 pages) - done

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My second book in 2009 - HELP!!!!.

I was very excited when the new year came along. At approximately 12:30 am I started reading my first book this year. It was a delight, I finished it the next day. Then I jumped right into the second one thinking "Wow, this year is off to a good start with books, I'll have half of my challenges done in no time!". Well, not really, as it turns out. I will not mention the title or the author but, for the first time in many years I did not finish a book. The biggest dilemma I am facing right now is if I should post a review or just completely forget about it. The book was sent to me from a publisher asking to review it and then post a Q&A segment on my blog. I have nothing good to say about this novel (I'm not even sure it deserves to be called that) so should I stick to the rule that if I have nothing nice to say, I don't say anything at all? What I'm thinking about doing is just letting the publisher know how I feel about this book and let him decide. But maybe you guys, as more experienced bloggers and reviewers, have some words of wisdom for me.

Friday, January 2, 2009

2009 Ban On Spending Challenge list

Here's my list. I figured I would just start listing all the books in alphabetical order and go down the list. I'll see how that goes. At least I'll save some money for once.

1. Wizard by Trade by Jim Butcher - DONE
2. Mr. X by Peter Straub - DONE
3. Chocolat by Joanne Harris - DONE
4. Andorra by Peter Cameron - DONE
5. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi - DONE

6. 'A Suitable Vengeance' by Elizabeth George - DONE
7. 'Deadly Decisions' by Kathy Reichs - DONE
8. 'Slip & Fall' by Nick Santora - DONE
9. 'Friend of the Devil' by Peter Robinson - DONE

10. 'The Reincarnationist' by M.J. Rose - DONE
11. 'Firestorm' by Iris Johansen - DONE
12. The Plague by Albert Camus - DONE
13. Blessings by Anna Quindlen - DONE
14. The Book of Air and Shadows by Michael Gruber - DONE
15. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak - DONE
16. Medallions by Zofia Nalkowska - DONE
17. Dragon Tears by Dean Koontz - DONE
18. The Hellfire Club by Peter Straub - DONE
19. Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy - DONE
20. Left Behind by Tim LaHaye - Done
21. The Birth Of Venus by Sarah Dunant - DONE
22. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See - DONE
23. The Borgia Bride by jeanne Kalogridis- DONE
24. Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick - DONE
25. The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins - DONE
26. Blessed are the Meek by Zofia Kossak - DONE
27. One Thousand White Woman by Jim Fergus - DONE
28. Father Melancholy's Daughter by Gail Godwin - DONE
29. Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult - DONE
30. The Boelyn Inheritance by Philippa Gregory - DONE
31. The Return by Bentley Little - DONE
32. Lucky by Alice Sebold - DONE
33. The art of racing in the rain by Garth Stein - DONE
34. House of Sand and Fog by Andre Dubus III - Done
35. Labyrinth by Kate Mosse - Done
36. Annette Vallon by James Tipton - Done
37. Morrigan's Cross by Nora Roberts - Done
38. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

39. Cell by Stephen King
40. From a whisper to a scream by Charles de Lint
41. The Case Has Altered by Martha Grimes
42. Rebecca by Daphne du maurier

43. Amazing Grace by Kathleen Norris
44. Trail of Crumbs by Kim Sunee
45. The Mosaic Crimes by Giulio Leoni
46. The Fourth Hand by John Irving
47. Vital Signs by Robin Cook
48. An Unsuitable Job for a Woman b P.D. James
49. The Trickster by Muriel Gray
50. A Matter of Roses by David Manuel