Friday, April 30, 2010

Hang Tags Giveaway results!

Another giveaway has come and gone.The winner has been chosen and notified by email.

and the winner of UPrinting Hang Tags giveaway is

And thank you for taking part in this giveaway to you and all who did.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

10 Little Things That Lead to a Happier Healthier Me.

Twitter Moms is this awesome network of moms who come together and discuss all kinds of things. I joined it very recently and every time I get the newsletter from Megan, I find something cool :)
This time I found 10 Little Things That Lead to a Happier Healthier You and decided to list my own 10 things. And, surprisingly enough, it wasn't all that easy but all the more rewarding because of it.'

1. The smiles on my children's faces. I look at them being happy and know that all is well with the world.

2. Prayer. When I know that there is Someone out there, that is stronger and infinitely better than myself, that I can always count on this Higher Power, this makes me feel safer and ultimately happier.

 3.  Spring with the lushness of green and warmth of sun rays. I love sun and I love green, both are healthy for me. They dispel the moodiness, green calms me down and sun gives me Vitamin D :).

4. Mani-pedi. I don't get them often, but when I do, I feel a thousand times better. It's a small thing but brings me so much joy especially when I can take my daughter with me.

5. Reading. This one is pretty obvious. Sometimes I read hard, heavy stuff to exercise my brain and sometimes I reach for easy, fun books to let my brain rest and relax. Both are miraculously beneficial to me (make me happy and healthy).

6. Sunset at the beach. Nothing is better for calming my nerves and even meditating a little than sitting on the still warm sand and just taking the setting sun in.

7. Fresh fruits. Apples (tart and crisp) all year round, but especially in September fresh from the trees, strawberries in June and big, juicy cherries in the summertime and sweet oranges in the wintertime.

8. Sleep. Nothing can be accomplished without a good snooze. If I don't get enough sleep at night, I have to squeeze at least a little nap in the daytime to function at my best.

9. A good run on the treadmill. I don't do it nearly as often as I should, but when I do do it, I feel like a million bucks.

10. Silence. Amid the chaos of everyday life, I need silence around me for at least a little bit. This way, I can quiet my racing thoughts and just be with myself.

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Tropicana Trop50 blogging program to be eligible to win 6 free Juicy Rewards points and a $30 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

Trop50 Little Things for Happy, Healthy Living
1000 Little Things for Moms from Trop50

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Book List: Intimidation

The Book List is just a short and fun meme hosted by lovely Rebecca from Lost in Books that allows you to share books and make a list of books! Who doesn't love lists?!?
This week's list is:

Three books that intimidate you.

I had to read it in my first year of college as part of English Lit course. Now, it all wouldn't be all that scary if it was here in the US but it was in Poland, my English was good but not great and I thought I went to study English philology to master this language before I tackled Old English. As it turned out, I was wrong. Not only did I have to read Beowulf in its entirety, in its original language (not the modernized version) but I also had to write an essay on it!!!! I don't think I will ever read Beowulf again.

Atlas Shrugged2. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I own this book, I have owned it for years now and it's not the size that's intimidating. I started reading it once, read about 100 pages and realized I had no idea what I just read about. I am hoping to one day try reading it again and maybe then I'll be more comfortable with this book.

The Illustrated Brief History of Time, Updated and Expanded Edition3. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

Need I say more?! My husband actually read it and understood the scientific babble in there but I refuse to even try. I know, I'm stupidly stubborn this way but I am awfully intimidated by science altogether.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Unusual Giveaway!

This is the first time I am doing this kind of a giveaway. Instead of books, this is a Hang Tags giveaway provided by generous UPrinting company. I think this is a cool idea and you can put your own name, picture or image of your design on them. If you have a blog, you could promote it with the Hang Tags. If you don't have a blog, you can still promote yourself or even better, use them to mark your stuff :)

Giveaway 411:

1.It is open until April 29th, midnight.

2. All you have to do is just comment with your email address so I have a way of contacting you if you're a winner.

3. You must be 18 or older to enter this giveaway.

4. It's limited to residents of United States only but a winner gets Free UPS Ground shipping.

All right. That's that. Good luck to you all and hurry up because we don't have much time (only 6 days).

Presumed Innocent Giveaway Results!

Presumed Innocent: A Novel
I know it's a little late but it's here nonetheless. I have chosen the winner of Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow.

It is FOKXXY from Lady Luck's Abode!

Congratulations (the winner has been notified by email)!

Everyone else who participated but didn't win, thank you for taking part in this giveaway and for visiting my blog. I hope to see you soon  as I will have more giveaways on their way.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner (Maze Runner Trilogy (Hardback))I think I have mentioned already that I am not a particular fan of YA fiction, especially the paranormal/fantasy genre. There it is, I mentioned it again :) I do however read YA novels from time to time and from time to time there is a gem in there. This time the gem is The Maze Runner by James Dashner. And to think that I almost didn't pick it up at BEA (Book Expo America, which, BTW, is coming up soon and if you can, be there) last year! Thank goodness I stopped and waited in line because the wait was more than worth it.

The novel is what I would categorize as science-fiction Young Adult with dystopian elements. The main character, Thomas, wakes up one day in what looks like a lift. He remembers nothing besides his name. He doesn't know where he is, what happened to him other than that whatever it was, it wasn't good. When he is greeted by other boys approximately his age (at least by the look of it, since Thomas doesn't really know his own age) into what they call the Glade, Thomas gets the feeling that things are about to get much worse. None of the boys know why they have no memories of their previous lives and why they are in the Glade. All they know is that the Glade is surrounded by the Maze from which there is no way out and which at nighttime is a very dangerous place to be. They are protected from what's in the Maze by stone walls that shut tight at dusk and keep the boys safe. They also know that the lift has delivered a new boy every thirty days for two years now as well as weekly supplies necessary for survival. However, things start getting complicated with the arrival of Thomas as some boys seem to recognize him from their previous lives and on top of that, one day later the lift has another delivery and this time it's a girl, something that had never happened before. Even more disturbing is the message she brings with her that may have just squished any hope of the boys getting out of the Glade.

Wow! What a ride this book was! I am very, very impressed and completely hooked, since yes, there is going to be part two :) I loved the originality, which is hard to find nowadays in the age of Young Adult books with swooning girls, chasing after boys (and I'm not talking vampires only) and simplified plots that are all pretty much the same (it's as if you read one, you read all of them). The Maze Runner is actually a very intelligent book that makes you think actually, you have to engage your brain cells to follow what's going on and what might happen. The story is full of surprises and secrets, you never know what's waiting for you on the next page and in effect I guarantee you not one moment of boredom. Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway), Mr. Dashner wrote an action-packed "Cadillac" of YA dystopian novels. Personally, I liked better than Hunger Games. That's right, I said it :O! Why? Because even though there is part two coming up and I of course can't wait tot read it, The Maze Runner didn't leave me hanging frustrated like Hunger Games did. I know that there is going to be more to the story but at the same time I was completely satisfied with how the first installment ended and did receive a certain closure as a reader. In other words, I didn't feel tricked into buying part two but instead the plot, the writing and James Dashner's talent convinced me to want to read more.

I received this book during a BEA '09 author signing.

Make sure to visit James Dashner's blog, The Dashner Dude as well as the website dedicated to The Maze Runner.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Waiting On Wednesday : Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

I do not have very long to wait since the book below is going to hit the shelves next week, April 27th. I admit I haven't read all Allende's books but the ones I did were positively charming and this upcoming book of hers promises to be just such a little gem.

Island Beneath the Sea: A NovelPublisher's description:

Born a slave on the island of Saint-Domingue, Zarité -- known as Tété -- is the daughter of an African mother she never knew and one of the white sailors who brought her into bondage. Though her childhood is one of brutality and fear, Tété finds solace in the traditional rhythms of African drums and in the voodoo loas she discovers through her fellow slaves.
When twenty-year-old Toulouse Valmorain arrives on the island in 1770, it’s with powdered wigs in his baggage and dreams of financial success in his mind. But running his father’s plantation, Saint Lazare, is neither glamorous nor easy. It will be eight years before he brings home a bride -- but marriage, too, proves more difficult than he imagined. And Valmorain remains dependent on the services of his teenaged slave.
Spanning four decades, Island Beneath the Sea is the moving story of the intertwined lives of Tété and Valmorain, and of one woman’s determination to find love amid loss, to offer humanity though her own has been battered, and to forge her own identity in the cruellest of circumstances.

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende will be published in hardcover by HarperCollins on Tuesday, April 27th, 2010.

Monday, April 19, 2010

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

For this edition of borrowed words, I am quoting a piece about writing. I am not an aspiring writer but the quote really resonated with me and I believe that if you are a writer what's written below is 100%. At least, that's how I would feel if I were one. I like the words a lot, even though they're coming from Ghostwalk, a novel I was less than impressed with. I give you the words borrowed from Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott:

"Writing can be a haunting. There is something haunting about it perhaps because of that heightened sensibility, because you spend so much time listening for the words. You make a character out of nothing, a few words, fragments of people you know or have seen from afar, and once they are up and walking they don't just come and go at your will; they begin to be demanding, appearing at awkward times, doing things you couldn't have dreamed they could; they come upon you suddenly when you are asleep or making love...I am talking about people who exist only in your head but who appear in your living room when you have temporarily forgotten they existed, when you have closed your study door on them. It's a kind of possession. You begin to feel you are being watched."

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekly Geeks: National Poetry Month

For this week's theme, I encourage participants to to help celebrate National Poetry Month by:
  • Posting a favorite poem, or
  • Reviewing a poem or book of poems, or
  • Discussing a favorite poet, or
  • Posting a vlog of yourself reading a poem or find a video of someone else reading one, or
  • Writing a poem yourself- any form
Or come up with something I haven't thought of to celebrate and post it on your blog. Let your imagination run wild.

I am not a fan of poetry at all. I never have been and I don't think I will become one. However, there are poets and poems that affect even me and I like to come back to them from time to time. In honor of National Poetry Month, I would like to introduce you to one such poet. It's Wislawa Szymborska,  a Polish poet and a Nobel Prize for Literature winner (1996), translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. For more poems by this and other Polish poets, you can visit InfoPoland.

See how efficient it still is,
how it keeps itself in shape--
our century's hatred.
How easily it vaults the tallest obstacles,
How rapidly it pounces, tracks us down.

It's not like other feelings.
At once both older and younger.
It gives birth itself to the reasons
that give it life.
When it sleeps, it's never eternal rest.
And sleeplessness won't sap its strength; it feeds it.

One religion or another--
whatever gets it ready, in position.
One fatherland or another--
whatever helps it get a running start.
Justice also works well at the outset
until hate gets its own momentum going.
Hatred.  Hatred.
Its face twisted in a grimace
of erotic ecstasy.

Oh these other feelings,
listless weaklings.
Since when does brotherhood
draw crowds?
Has compassion
ever finished first?
Does doubt ever really rouse the rabble?
Only hatred has just what it takes.

Gifted, diligent, hardworking.
Need we mention all the songs it has composed?
All the pages it has added to our history books?
All the human carpets it has spread
over countless city squares and football fields?

Let's face it:
it knows how to make beauty.
The splendid fire-glow in midnight skies.
Magnificent bursting bombs in rosy dawns.
You can't deny the inspiring pathos of ruins
and a certain bawdy humor to be found
in the sturdy column jutting from their midst.

Hatred is a matter of contrast--
between explosions and dead quiet,
red blood and white snow.
Above all, it never tires
of its leitmotif--the impeccable executioner
towering over its soiled victim.

It's always ready for new challenges.
If it has to wait awhile, it will.
They say it's blind.  Blind?
It has a sniper's keen sight
and gazes unflinchingly at the future
as only it can.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee

The SurrenderedWe all know not to judge a book by its cover. But that's not the same as buying or wanting to read it, is it? And I mean it in both literal and figurative sense. After all, I can't judge a book before I read it but in order to even reach out for it, a nice cover is actually useful. Call me superficial, but yes, I do get encouraged or discouraged by the book covers. I am writing this slightly too long discourse on covers because of The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee, which in my opinion has the most alluring (I really, really love the simplicity) cover I have seen in a very long time and the content matched the packaging.

In The Surrendered we get to meet June Han who as a little girl became orphaned during the Korean war, Hector Brennan who joined the army and ended up fighting in the same war as a GI and Sylvie Tanner, a young wife of a missionary, a woman loved by both June and Hector and the one that bound them all together in a Korean orphanage. As a grown-up woman June sells everything she owns, including her antique shop and goes away in search for her son who is somewhere in Europe. But to find him, she needs to take Hector with her. They both came back to America after a short stay in an orphanage but split soon after. Now, thirty years later, they are forced to be together again even though all Hector want to do is forget Korea and June ever existed. But he joins June on the voyage to Europe and all of the events from thirty years ago come back to both of them, an invisible presence of beautiful but deeply disturbed Sylvie from the orphanage constantly lingering between the two.

This is my first book by Chang-Rae Lee and I must say it was quite an experience. I still can't decide how much I really like it because this novel had so many layers to it. I can tell you one thing, it's a very sad book and not necessarily in a way that will make you weep like Picoult's books may, but the whole atmosphere is rather depressing especially when you look at the whole story. There aren't many redemptive moments in the lives of June and Hector despite or maybe because of what they lived through. So it's definitely not a light read to take with you to the beach. However, it's a book that gets better everytime you read it. Do you have songs that you love to listen to now but when you first heard them, you weren't so crazy about them? They are not the kind of songs that everybody likes and sings right away but then they get soon replaced with another hit, but rather they are forever lasting, quality musical pieces that sound better and better every time you listen to them.The Surrendered is like such a song. I believe that it is meant to be read many times over and with each time, there will be more meanings and more qualities discovered.

I definitely took to Mr. Lee's writing, it has this haunting quality to it, sometimes even dream-like (even if it's more of a melancholy dream than a happy one) that really appeals to me and is what I look for in a good literary fiction. There are a lot of heartbreaking moments, sometimes even shocking, especially when reading about June and her family, and what war had done to them. The saddest realization is that the horrors of any war stay on and are very much present in the lives of the people who survived long after the war is finished. And I guess at some point they surrender.

I have received a copy of this novel via Shelf Awareness.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

2-in-1: Fireworks Over Toccoa & The Gift of an Ordinary Day

1. Fireworks Over Toccoa by Jeffrey Stepakoff *

Fireworks Over ToccoaThis book has been making rounds all over the blogosphere, so I will not be getting into details as far as the description goes. Lily got married way too young to a man she loved (or so she thought) days before he had to go to Europe to fight in WWII. She spent next three years getting ready for his return until only days before the reunion Lily meets Jake Russo, an Italian immigrant who travels around the country making fireworks displays. He is now in Toccoa, Georgia preparing yet another display when Lily meets him and they both fall in love.

I am in the minority on this book, I'm afraid. I wasn't all that crazy about it. The premise of the novel is actually quite captivating. The idea of such an unexpected love affair in 40's Georgia when the whole country is pretty much touched by the war was what made me pick up the book in the first place. However, I think that the characters were flat and the relationship between Lily and Jake kind of cliche. It almost seemed to me like the author just wanted to get the story on paper ASAP without really delving into any deeper issues. Jake especially could have been such an interesting character with his war experiences and how he dealt with it all afterwards, but I feel that Mr. Stepakoff for some reason didn't want to elaborate on the characters at all and focused on just the quick love affair instead. All in all, the book was too short and simplified for my tastes.

2. The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison **

The Gift of an Ordinary Day: A Mother's MemoirKatrina Kenison is a mother of two almost grown-up sons who are on the verge of leaving the family house for good. She is facing the proverbial 'empty nest' and that's what spur her to write about what really matters in life. She writes a memoir in which she takes us through her kids' childhood and teenage years, through selling one house and going off in search of another. There are struggles, triumphs, disappointments and surprises along the way and somehow most of the days Katrina gets reminded that she has exactly what she's supposed to have and is exactly where she's supposed to be.

I really enjoyed reading this contemplative memoir. Ms. Kenison's meditative prose put me in a state of calm and appreciation of my own life. She gives off this vibe that she could be your friend because maybe of the normality of her life, her experiences that are ordinary but also relate to other mothers and wives out there. The best part of it is, despite Katrina's life being just like everyone else's, she makes it extraordinary through her beautiful prose and all of a sudden I found myself enjoying a rainy day (I hate rain normally) or a birdsong in the morning (something I never pay attention to). There is something special in Ms. Kenison's writing that can turn the most mundane into an experience worth reading about.

* I received this book from Shelf Awareness

**I picked up this memoir during my visit to BEA'09 from the publisher.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott

GhostwalkYou know how you sometimes buy books based purely on the opinions of others or the buzz that's being created about a specific title? Well at least I do. Sometimes I don't even read the full description or synopsis and just 'go with the flow'. With some books, it works surprisingly well. With others, not so much. Ghostwalk by Rebecca Stott unfortunately turned out to belong to the latter group. And I really mean 'unfortunately' because I had high hopes as far as this novel was concerned because of how many people were talking of it in positive terms when it just came out.

Lydia Brooke, a writer and a historian, returns to Cambridge for a funeral of another historian, Elizabeth Vogelsang. Elizabeth was close to Lydia in two ways. She helped her with research for a book and she also happened to be a mother to Cameron Browne, a former lover of Lydia. The death of Elizabeth is deemed either a suicide or an accidental drowning but Lydia knew her to be a person who wouldn't kill herself and as more details are revealed, accidental drowning sounds fishy (forgive the pun) as well. It turns out that Elizabeth was working on a biography of Isaac Newton and his life not as a scientist but an alchemist, a label all other Newton experts refuse to pin on him. She never got to finish the book and now Cameron asks Lydia to finish it. As Lydia delves deeper and deeper into the world of seventeenth century Cambridge and of alchemy, she realizes that there is a lot more to Elizabeth's death and that finishing her book may not be an easy task. She also realizes that when she finished her relationship with married Cameron years ago, she never really was quite done and soon their love life starts afresh as if it never ended. Lydia has some personal revelations to deal with while real danger lurks and some other forces she's not fully able to explain appear to hinder her work to finish the book.

Simply put, I was not impressed with Ghostwalk at all. I'm not sure what Ms Stott tried to accomplish here and from the looks of it, Ms Stott might not know herself. It's supposed to be a fiction book, with made up contemporary characters and real persons from the seventeenth century including Isaac Newton. The idea of Newton meddling with alchemy was very intriguing to me and I think it would have worked had the author not included pages upon pages of the supposed biography of Newton within the novel. So there I was reading a ghost story, mixed with a love story when all of a sudden I get blindsided with chapters that seemed to be taken straight out of a very boring non-fiction book on glassmaking, Newton's life written in a very dry tone that could put a night owl to sleep. That's why I think that the author wasn't sure what Ghostwalk was supposed to be. It's as if she couldn't decide whether to write a fiction or non-fiction, so why not do both. It's just that for me it didn't work at all.

Another thing that didn't work for me was a first-person narrative. In general, I think it's no easy feat to pull this off and Rebecca Stott probably shouldn't have used it for her debut novel. Because of Lydia narrating the whole story, there pretty much is no character development present. Besides maybe Cameron, all other characters fall really flat and evoked in me zero emotions. I just couldn't bring myself to care for someone who felt like a stenciled puppet not a true person. Also, while there is a ghostly atmosphere here and there,Ghostwalk has really not much to do with ghosts and apparitions and if you're looking for a horror story, this is not one. The only thing that I did like were the descriptions of Cambridge which made me really yearn for visiting it one day. But that alone wasn't enough to redeem the whole book in my eyes.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: back from hairdresser and ready to read.

It is hour 12 now, we are mid-way there and I have not done so well with reading. But my hair looks really good (she cut the bangs a little too short for my liking but I love the color) and I actually got to read while sitting in a chair getting 'pimped out'. I am still on Mercury in Retrograde and it really is quite fun to read about the life of a working girl in New York City.  I had to give my son a bath and then feed him tons of times, lol, but I am hoping to get a lot more reading in the nighttime than I did in the daytime.


Books read - 1 (still reading)

Pages read since last update: 77

Total pages read: 189      

I will probably not be writing another update for a few hours but I'm hoping to have the current book done.

I hope you all guys are hanging in there and having fun!!!!                                                                                                    

Dewey's Read-A-Thon: 3.5 hours done, 20.5 more to go.

I am still having a lot of fun, it's only been three and a half hours of reading and surprisingly I did manage to read through about 90% of the time. I have finished reading The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw and am now reading Mercury in Retrograde by Paula Froelich. As I suspected, it is a fun, light read and even though I just started, I am already liking it. The Swimming Pool, on the other hand, was kinda depressing but still a good read.

Pages read from 8 am to 11:30 am:

The Swimming Pool: 82

Mercury in Retrograde: 30

Total pages read: 112

Happy reading. I will now try to read other blogs and ten go for my hair appointment.

Let the fun begin.

It is now 8am and I am ready to read (well, I'm always ready for that). I hope to last a little longer this year than last time. Having an infant is kind of a blessing this way because I no longer sleep so much at night and consequently I hope to read at night as I nurse him (it's amazing on how little sleep one can go on when necessary). But for now let's concentrate on what my nearest plans are:

1. I am going to finish reading The Swimming Pool by Holly LeCraw (a really good book so far)

The Swimming Pool
2. Next, I'll move on to Mercury In Retrograde by Paula Froelich (I am hoping for a nice, light read that won't take up too much time).

Mercury in Retrograde: A Novel

That's that for now. I read tips that Irish from Ticket to Anywhere had for read-a-thoners and decided that posting updates every few hours instead of every hour is a very good idea. Therefore, my next update will be around noon, right before I have to go to my hair dresser.

Happy reading everyone! Hopefully I'll be able to visit some of you.