Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Cutest Dog in the World

What with Thanksgiving and all, I have been a bit distracted from reading. But I must share with you a new blog I found called the world from down here..
Ok, I didn't actually find it. It is my niece's new dog's blog...hey, dogs can have blogs...and since he is without doubt the cutest dog I have ever met, I thought you should 'meet' him too.

Hey Bandit...good Bandit....good boy...who is the cutest doggie in the whole world...yes, you are...yes, you are...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Is your blog an extrovert or introvert?

I am sure most of you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs personality types. I remember taking the test once...but I forget what the result was. Which may say something about my type.

Well, now there is a site called Typealyzer that says it can find what personality type your blog is. Just type in your blog's URL and out will pop your blog's 'personality' type.

Which might not agree with your personal type at all, they say, because it analyzes what you write, the text of your blog, and may say more about the personality you create there.
"How can a computer know who I am?
It doesn´t. But with a good amount of text it can make a pretty good guess. In addition, we all have different roles in different situations. By studying how people write, we can get an glimpse of what is on the mind of the person and what is characteristic of the person - or, as in the case of a blog - what is typical of the role/persona used when writing that blog. A person can have several blogs - and often have different roles for the various blogs - perhaps as a way to live out more sides of themselves.

What does a text say about the writer?
A lot more than most people might think. But it does NOT tell you who you are! A text is more to be likened with the clothes you´re wearing. The words and expressions we use, especially when we write for our own pleasure, tell about if we are more inclined to logical reasoning, personal values, fantasies or the reality for instance."

Not sure if there is anything to it, but it is interesting I think.
Sort of like those sites that tell you what muppet you are...and we all know that one had me right! "Brainy and knowledgeable" indeed! ;-)

So, my lovely shore breeze?
ISTP - The Mechanics
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

Well, driving on the Garden State Parkway is sort of like being a race car driver.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

wow...Tuesday again..there is like one every week!

I just want to say first of all that I really, really wanted to be the first to post my Tuesday Thinger. But I am at work, and at midnight I was working...and then I got hungry and made a sandwich and then I started, I am not first. But enough about my issues. Let's check out this week's question, via The Boston Bibliophile...

Today's question- Blog Widgets. Do you use them? Do you have them on your blog? Do you know what I'm talking about? :-) A blog widget is that list of books "From my LibraryThing" and such, that you'll sometimes see on someone's sidebar. If you use it, do all of your books show up or do you have it set to only show certain books? Do you have a search widget, which would allow your blog readers to search your library? Have you ever made a photomosaic of your book covers? You can find widgets and photomosaic information on the "Tools" tab in LibraryThing.

Well, if you are reading this on my web site, you should be able to figure that out yourself.
Ok, I do have the Recent Books From My Library Thingie. Actually, I do it more for me than for you, my dear readers. I am often surprised by what I see there and say to myself "Wow, I have that book? Aren't I lucky! I wonder if I read it..." If you all find it interesting, well, that is swell too!
A search widget? Hmmmm...I believe you can click on the Recent Books title and it will take you to my library, won't it? I will have to check that...
Of course, it will take you to the cyber edition of my library, not the one actually in my house. Now that would be a very, very cool widget! If that ever happens, do not knock over the towering TBR pile or step on my imaginary cat...Kitty. Good Kitty...(((purr....}}}
But do feel free to dust or tidy up.

Does it include all my books? Pretty much, except a few I see pop up now and then that are really just too stupid to admit to owning. I can't tell you what they are...because that would defeat the purpose of all the work it took to exclude them.

Have I ever made a photomosaic of my books? Well, no, I have not. In fact I was unaware of that feature until yesterday, when I saw it on someone else's blog. Sort of cool looking but I prefer a widgit where the titles are actually visible. How will I know what I have otherwise and keep them in nice neat, tidy lists?

Is it time to go home yet...

Monday, November 24, 2008

a review of Amata Means Beloved

Amata Means Beloved by Sister Mary Catherine Perry O.P.

A monk is he who directs his gave toward God alone, and who, being at peace with God, becomes a source of peace for others." St. Theodore Studite

Emily Barone is sure in her decision to become a member of the Mater Christi Monastery. Nervous, but confident that in this place, with these women, in this life, she will be able to find her place, to paraphrase the old Baltimore Catechism, to know, love and serve God in this world and to be with Him forever in the next.

Not that it will be without it's problems. Any community contains a variety of talents and personalities and some inevitable conflicts. And to give up a large degree of one's automony, to follow a strict rule of poverty and obedience, is easy for no one. But Emily, given the religious name Sister Mary Amata...because as the novice mistress tells her “Amata means beloved. I want you to know in a real way that you are beloved of Christ”...has another very big issue keeping her from giving herself fully to this life.
Her brother was killed, shot by a madman who shot a number of seminarians as they raked leaves on the lawn of their school one fall day, and then took his own life. Sister Mary Amata can not forgive the shooter and can not surrender her anger.

“What did you come here for? must give it all to God...even the deep wound in your heart. You must forgive.”

In discussing their vocations the prioress says,
“The longer I'm in the monastery the more I marvel at the mystery of a vocation. Over and over I see women come, enthused to give everything to God, to become saints and to save souls. Nothing will stand in their way. Then they enter the monastery and bang-0!- They are faced with their own weaknesses, frailties and sins. And they don't like it! They want to deny it, make it go away but they must face their frailty- they must face that they are part of the human race. Not only that, they have to realize and accept that only by God's grace is any of this life possible.”

Which is true for each of up, whatever our vocation.

This is a short, lovely little gem of a book, the debut work of Sister Mary Catherine Perry, a member of the cloistered Dominican Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in Summit, NJ. Certainly, the monastic life, especially that of the cloistered orders, is not something many people are familiar with. To those unfamiliar, I think this book is a very nice, very real and certainly, considering the author, very authentic glimpse into their daily rhythm of prayer, work and community.
“In striving to live with one mind and heart in God, they seek to know and love God in the living of the traditional monastic observances of daily Holy Mass, chanted divine Office, lecto divina, private prayer, study and work.”
For those that might read another, longer work about the monastic life I would sincerely recommend two of my favorite books of all time, In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden and The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton.

Personally, I find it very reassuring to know every hour of every day, they are praying for our intentions. To quote a very good post on this subject at The Anchoress recently,
“What use is it? Charities in the world, missionaries, church movements, “active” religious orders who work with the poor, the disadvantaged, and so forth, their work is supported by the quiet prayers of the Monastics. When they rise at night - the time when so many are lonely, or lost, or deeply enthralled in their harmful behaviors - monastics are praying for exactly those people, and for all of us. It is prayer that is concentrated, not limited; prayer whose reach is far.”

As a little aside, Sister Mary Catherine's monastery support itself in part thought the handcrafting and sale of a small line of lovely soaps, lotion and lip balm which you can purchase at their web site. Everyone has a web site! It was while I was there, stocking up, if you will excuse the pun, on this perfect stocking stuffer, a trio of lotion, soap and lip balm, wrapped in holly decorated cellophane with a red or green ribbon, that I happen upon this lovely little book.

And you know I can never pass up a book!

Available on the monastery web site or from Amazon

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Today, November 22, 2008, is the 45th anniversary of the death of the wonderful writer Clives Staples Lewis...more commonly known, of course, as C.S. Lewis. He is author of such wonderful and varied works as The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce and non-fiction classics like Mere Christianity and The Problem of Pain and perhaps the most popular and well known of all, the children stories The Chronicles of Narnia. Something for every taste!

Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become. -C.S.Lewis

Thanks to Father Longenecker at Standing on My Head for the reminder.

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

John Masefield

Friday, November 21, 2008

a review of Rocket Man

Rocket Man by William Elliott Hazelgrove

Dale Hammer has two goals, to achieve his version of the American Dream and to be nothing like his father. But it seems both goals are about to come crashing down around his ears.

He is a successful writer ...that hasn't been able to write anything in years.
He has a job as a loan broker that barely pays the bills...and he is about to lose it.
He is a husband...who suspects his wife might be having an affair and is about to leave him.
He is a father...whose son seems to hate him and will barely talk to him.
and yes...he is a son...a son whose father was never there when Dale and his brother were kids and is now living in Dale's garage, jobless and thrown out by his latest wife.
The police are after him for supposedly cutting down the entry sign to the million dollar home development he lives in. The million dollar home he can't afford.
And finally, he has signed up to be the “Rocket Man”, the man in charge of setting up and launching the many, many rockets at the the boy scouts annual rocket show. It is a job everyone, including himself, thinks he will make a colossal mess of.

Yes, Dale is having a very bad week.

His dad sums it up pretty well.
“You are a smart man. You are smarter than me. You read more books. You are your mom used to laugh at me and how dumb I was, I know that.” he nod, examining his cigar. “But I had to go make a living and bring up my family and as smart as you are Dale, you haven't figured out how to do that. You sitting here in your big house with neighbors you can't stand, in your fucked-up financial situation, and your wife about to kick your ass right out the door. So who's the smart on, Kingfisher?”

Or then there is his wife...
”You always had to rebel, but you are forty-six now Dale. You are not the truculent artist anymore; you are just the middle aged fuck-up!”

Or the guy at his old coffee shop...
”You know, I heard a weird rumor about you. I heard you had moved to the suburbs. Someone said you had bought some big fucking house way in the middle of nowhere....but you know what I said, I said, 'Nah. He'd never fucking do that. Turn tail and run I mean. He's not that kind of guy.”

But Dale is starting to realize he is exactly that sort of guy, it seems. He is “the poor boy looking in the keyhole, wondering when I will be discovered.”

You might have noticed something else as well...the language of this book is a wee bit strong. Personally, I stopped noticing it after awhile, but it such things, the frequent use of the “F” word among others, offend you, well, then you might have an issue with this book.
And if you are the sort of reader {{who me?}} that likes to yell at the characters in books and movies, to just open their eyes and do something, well, then you might have a problem with Dale too, because he does tend to dither about.
But..that being said..there is something very likable about Dale and you do finding yourself pulling for him. He loves his wife and he loves his kids and he wants to make it right.
“I can justify just about anything really, crime, embezzlement, knocking down old ladies, but I just can't find the neat rationalization for hurting my children. Every great liar meets his match eventually, and I cannot save myself on that score.”

But will he be able to fix it all somehow, or will he just give up and run off, like he sometimes dreams of?
Well, let's say it come to an explosive end.

I enjoyed the book and would recommend it with some reservations. It's well written, with some great characters, but not everyone might enjoy it's rather dark, cynical sense of humor and it might not be everyone's cup of tea.

Rocket Man available here from Amazon

Thursday, November 20, 2008

review of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

It is London, January 1946, and the war is over. The years of fear, and death, and bombings are over and England is anxious to start moving on. Oddly for our heroine, writer Juliet Ashton, the war was a rather good time for her career. She had written a column for a newspaper about the exploits of one Izzy Bickerstaff during the war and now the tales of Izzy have been turned into a successful book, published by her friend Sidney Stark. Sidney is the recipient of the first letter from Juliet in this book, a book that is composed entirely of letters.

Juliet is in search of a subject for her next book and not very hopeful, until she receives a letter that, unexpectedly, will do more than just provide a new subject but will change the course of her life. The letter is from a farmer, Dawsey Adams, on the island of Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands, about 30 miles off the coast of France. He has found her name in a used book and writes to ask her help in obtaining more books by the author Charles Lamb. In the letter he mentions how this book, and other books, came to mean so much to a group of the islanders, called the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, during the war. Guernsey was the only British soil occupied by Germany during the war and because all communication with England was cut off, the war experiences of the islanders is pretty unknown. And, of course, Juliet is intrigued by the rather unusual name of this Society and so begins a series of correspondence with members of this literary group and a few other Guernsey residents.

Hitler was obsessed with the occupation of Guernsey and fortified the small island from recapture by the British beyond all reasonable lengths. To do so, he build huge fortifications, gun battlements and tunnels along the coastline and to build them imported slave laborers, mostly from eastern Europe and maintained a large force of soldiers on the island. Food, especially meat, and other necessities like soap and fuel for heat became increasing scarce. Curfews were imposed, every animal produced sent to feed soldiers on the mainland. It was to be these two things from which the was born the Society . It is also how we first hear of Elizabeth McKenna, who is to be the central character of this tales in many ways, even though she never actually makes an appearance.

It is Elizabeth who draws together the first members of the Society to share the dinner feast of a hidden pig..and it is Elizabeth who creates the excuse of the book group when they are caught after curfew and whose story saves them from jail...or worse. Because while the war will prove to bring out the best traits and selflessness in some people, it will bring out the worse in others. Collaboration with the Nazis was not uncommon and some two thousand of the residents of Guernsey ended up in mainland concentration camps, many turned in for violations by their own neighbors.
It was a time of terrible choices. One discussed in the letters creates an image that sticks with me. Knowing that invasion was imminent, the island government asked for help from the British to sail thousands of the island's children to England, where they would be sent to rural, and hopefully safer, homes for the duration of the war. Just imagine being a parent, having to make the decision to put your little child, all alone, on a boat, to sail off to who knows where, for who knows how long, with just a tag with their name on it around their neck. Or to decide not to, and subject the child to what unknown horrors after the invasion. The description of those real events is, I think, one of the most moving in the book and one of several times in the story that shows good people having to make very difficult and terrible decisions in terrible times.

Not to say that this is book is all about war and horror and loss...because it is certainly not. It is also a story, at time quite humorous, about love and friendship and about the importance of beauty and art and books. Oh, our old friends. While the Society begins as a cover, it becomes a real and soon growing group of people who become friends and for many, have their first introduction to the wonders of books and reading. Books were very scarce, many having been ripped up to burn as fuel after all the island trees were cut down and burned, so each member is given a book to read from the limited supply and then talks about at the society's meetings. As well as sharing a 'treat' like a slice of that potato peel pie. It seems often each reader ends up with just the perfect book, although perhaps it is not so random. As Juliet writes in an early letter to Dawsey, “Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true.”

I think that for many people The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will prove such a book. It is a very nice and positive book and while not terrible short, at 278 pages, it is so well written and so interesting what it seems to just fly by as your read it. Not to say it is perfect. I found the whole story line about Isola and her letters a bit unnecessary and out of keeping with the feeling of the rest of the book...a bit too much madcap comedy chase for me...but that is a minor complaint.
This is a very nice story, well written, with excellent characters and tell a bit of the fascinating and moving story of the Bailiwick of Guernsey during WWII. It would really make you want to go off and do some addition research about Guernsey and make you wish you could visit the beautiful island described.

This is another book that would make a wonderful choice for that holiday gift buying list, but just remember, to quote the often amusing Isola, “ Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.” Wait...maybe that is not a bad thing!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society available from Amazon

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Happy Birthday!!

Oh my, I almost missed it!! It is a very, very important day!!
It is Mickey Mouse's 80th Birthday. He looks very good for his age. Perhaps he has had some work done.
Actually, I would argue that it is not so much his birthday as the day he first appeared in public, his debut. Of course, he was born earlier.

To quote the folks at
the Disney Archives
“Mickey Mouse is arguably the most famous of the Disney cartoon characters. Making his debut in "Steamboat Willie" at the Colony Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1928, Mickey went on to star in over 120 different cartoons. He also starred in "The Mickey Mouse Club" television show of the 1950s.

Mickey Mouse's original drawings used circles for his head, body and ears. 1939's "The Pointer" saw a bold, new design for Mickey as his body became more pear-shaped and pupils were added to his eyes to increase his range of expression. Later on, animators of the 1940s would add a perspective aspect to his ears, giving them a three-dimensional effect. This change, however, was short-lived. The Mickey Mouse of today appears much as he did in the early days with the exception of a costume change here and there.”

All very interesting...but I find it quite disturbing that they discuss Mickey as if he were not REAL, as if he were just a cartoon creation. But as we all know he is very real. I have shaken his hand at Disney World. I saw his house. Don't be telling me he is not real!! I will not listen {{la, la, la, la, la....}}

For your viewing pleasure, in his first film, The Mouse himself...

♫♫ M-I-C...See you real soon...K-E-Y...Why? Because we like you....MOUSE... ♫ ♫

Tuesday Thingers...and what is it with me and lists?

This week, I will try to answer the Tuuesday Thinger, via The Boston Bibliophile on Tuesday, for a change.
Popular this month on LT: Do you look at this list? Do you get ideas on what to read from it?
Have you read any of the books on the list right now? Feel free to link to any reviews you've done as well.

Here's the list and my answer:
1.The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
2.Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by Vicki Myron
3.Nation by Terry Pratchett
4.Brisingr by Christopher Paolini
5.Anathem by Neal Stephenson
6.American Wife: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld
7.The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
8.The Story of Edgar Sawtelle: A Novel by David Wroblewski
9.Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland
10.Eclipse (The Twilight Saga, Book 3) by Stephenie Meyer

Another list I have read nothing on!! You might be beginning to wonder what I do read. Ok, well actually...I have read one book on this one, Nation, reviewed here. Didn't love it..
And I do own The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society...a book that I actually purchased. With real money. But I have not read it yet because I have that continuing rotation of ARCs and such to read. But I have heard such great things about it that I look forward to putting my feet up with that one. I can see it in the TBR pile from here.
And then there is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. If you remember, my dear readers, that was the one book on both the top ten books rated by the Amazon editors and the top ten most popular with Amazon readers. So I do hope to get to that one at some point. Anyone read it and have a review? I will have to go look...

Do I use the LT most popular list? No, not really. First of all, I am never really looking for book ideas. I just sit here and the books come to me. Actually, I seem to happen upon interesting sounding ideas all over the place, mostly from other reviews out here in the World Wide Web. I would much rather get a suggestion for books that might be interesting from a review or a discussion, where I might get the thumbs up from someone's whose opinion I respect.

Second, I am not terrible swayed by what is most popular. In fact, I often find I don't like what it the 'Big Thing', in books or movies...or music ..or just about anything. I am just a contrary sort. ;-)
But seriously (ok, seriously, I am a contrary sort) the whole issue of most popular or best sellers, in the book world is interesting. I did not even realize it was an issue until I read this post 'Is the New York Times Biased' by Allison Brennan on Murderati. It had never really occurred to me to wonder how the Time's or any of the Big Best Seller Lists are compiled. Or actually that they do not explain how the list is complied, which I find more disturbing personally. Now they are even more meaningless to me than they were before.

Bottom line, however they compose that list, I find that I often don't like them. The books, not the lists. In my opinion, being a best seller is no guarantee of being good. Shall I just mention The DaVinci Code again?
Once again, it seems I am comfortably enconsed in my minority opinion. Remember folks, you can not decide right and wrong, good and bad, by popular vote!

Monday, November 17, 2008

review of When Wanderers Cease to Roam

When Wanderers Cease to Roam: A Traveler's Journey of Staying Put by Vivian Swift

Some books to do not fall easily into a category and When Wanders Cease to Roam is one of those books. Part memoir, part travel diary, part daily observations of a calendar year in a small town on Long Island Sound, part amusing insights on things past, present and future from the mundane to the poetic, it is a tome filled with a wonderful variety of delightful nuggets.

After traveling around the world from the time she was 19, holding a wide variety of jobs and having a number of fascinating…and not so fascinating experiences…Ms. Swift decided when she was about forty to take a pause in her travels. A ten year pause along the coast of Long Island Sound; a pause that in her hands proves to be just as interesting as some of her more exotic adventures. To quote the author,
"I bummed around the world for twenty years before I suddenly decided to unpack my duffle bags once for all. On a whim I chose a small village on the Long Island Sound to be my happily-ever- after address. Little did I know that home would be the most extraordinary place I'd ever visit."
Well, in her hands and through her eyes it is.

The book is illustrated with about 300 of Ms. Swift's works of art, from her wonderful watercolors, to pen and ink line drawings and illustrations of everything from her cats to her neighbors to snowmen playing on a winter day. There is a page of her painting of eight varieties of snowflakes, another of 19 lost mittens she found over the ten years of her walks in the village, two pages devoted to lovely, colorful drawings of her collection of tea cups, many with a story, that makes my shelf of mugs at home seem so dull.

We travel with her from January, when we learn how to 'winterize' our minds, through March, which is both Tea Time and the time of 14 types of mud…all illustrated…May, the season of Secret Gardens to September, when she proposes The Acre of Earth Theory of Life.
"Everyone gets an acre of Earth when they're born... If you ever feel crowded into a corner by your life, you need to take a better look at your acre of Earth. It's bigger than you think."
Her 'acre' has extended from Zen Buddhist boyfriends in Paris, to rainy days in Dublin and mornings in the Sahara. The book ends when we have come full circle, back to the short, cold winter days of December. Along the way, we have brief visits with Thoreau, Dickinson, Willa Cather and Scooter, the ugly kitten. Every step is beautifully illustrated and it those illustrations that make this book so special.

Don't get me wrong; the text of this book is very good. At time it is poetic, at time philosophical and at times just very, very funny… and always entertaining. But the book is really just so attractive to look at and I absolutely love the watercolors. Gosh, I wish I could paint like that…or at all for that matter…lol

I totally recommend this absolutely charming book. It would be a lovely gift for someone in this coming holiday season, a wonderful idea when you would like to give something other than a bottle of wine or a fruitcake when you are invited over for that Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza/Festivus party. Or even better yet, just buy it as a gift to yourself, one that you can come back to and revisit as each month rolls by with Ms. Swift as your guide.
As for me, I am off in search of a quince tree to plant, because you know, October, just past, is Quince Month. Quince is "The Golden Love Apple, given by Paris to Aphrodite, leading to the downfall of Troy." A fruit with a history and I need to try that quince jam recipe!

Available from Amazon

Friday, November 14, 2008

better than Miss Piggy I guess....

You Are Scooter

Brainy and knowledgeable, you are the perfect sidekick.

You're always willing to lend a helping hand.

In any big event or party, you're the one who keeps things going.

"15 seconds to showtime!"

A review of For The Love Of St. Nick

For The Love of St. Nick by Garasamo Maccagnone

This is a small, brief book, the story of a family facing a number of crisis. Tiger's mother is dead, dying in childbirth when he was just three years old. His brother Johnny, the result of that birth, has some medical issues that make him delicate and subject to great bouts of fever. And their father, the Commander, is in the military during the Vietnam War era, reassigned when the boys are about 8 and 5 years old, from their familiar California home to a base in northern Michigan. It seems that the Commander to be involved in some sort of 'secret' air mission.
And all of these things will come to a dramatic head as their first Christmas in the snowy north approaches.
A lot of material for a very small book.

After I read the book, I went around and read reviews on Amazon and elsewhere, as I often do. It doesn't effect my opinion. I'm just curious. Well, it seems that everyone who reviewed it, granted not a huge number, loved it. Words like magical and heartwarming are used.
I am sorry to say that I just can't see that. One reviewer refers to the “quiet simplicity of the language” in the book. I found it often awkward and a bit unclear. And the climax, if you will, of the story was abrupt and just too much was tumbled into the last few pages. That was the time to draw it out more, to create that magic that I would have loved, because there is nothing as grand as a magical Christmas story. But it wasn't there for me, sadly.

I must say that it is an attractive little book, with a beautiful cover. I can see this as a children's book, with some artwork in the style of the cover illustrating the story. A bit less stark of a story.
Keep in mind that mine appears to be a minority opinion.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Seems I picked an interesting day to post about this whole topic of bloggers and authors and publishers. Not that it is the first or last time it all will come up no doubt.

But this is certainly an interesting example. It seem that the blogger at Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading? posted a negative review to a self-published book, to which the author replied in her comments. He is very upset. At one point he threatens a lawsuit for violating copywrite laws for quoting from the book. Which is ridiculous and makes him appear even worse than he had before. Is it just me, or is it very silly and foolish for an author trying to SELL us something to react like this?

Go read it all for yourself there and then the discussions at The Book Lady's Blog and Both Eyes Book Blog. Be sure to read all the comments, where there are a lot of interesting remarks.

Are There Really Free Books?

Certainly, for many of us bloggers, the idea of getting 'free' books is nothing new. Library Thing's Early Review program, ARC's...advanced review copies of books from various sources, Amazon's Vine program, Harper Collins First Look, cold requests...there are a lot of sources of books out there if you seek them out.

But the question is, in what sense are they 'free'? Those who send us the books, at their expense, expect something in return. Usually, some sort of publicity, one would assume. They want us to read it and review it on our blog or elsewhere, where others will read what is this hopefully glowing review and want to buy it. And then they will read it too and tell their friends and fellow book lovers and next stop- NY Times bestsellers list! So, yes, we have entered a sort of contract. Send me a book and I will review it.

But are the issues at stake here more complicated than that? Some people think so. Recently, in The Guardian, there was an article by Edward Champion called There Is No Such Thing as a Free Book. That title might be a hint as to Mr. Champion's opinion on the matter. In the article, he discusses the program that the Christian publishing house Thomas Nelson has started recently, in which they promise to send a requested book to a blogger who agrees to post a 200 word review, "positive, negative, or somewhere in between." Mr. Champion does not seem to have a problem with that, but what Michael Hyatt, the head of Thomas Nelson Books did next has him rather upset.
“But Hyatt got greedy and honed his quid pro quo. Last week, Hyatt announced on his blog that he would tweak his "experiment." Not only would any blogger requesting a free book be required to post a 200-word review on his blog, they would also have to submit the review to "a consumer detail page" along the lines of Amazon.
In addition, to get their copy a blogger now also needed to enroll in the Book Reviewer Blogger programme, submitting his or her name, address, phone number, and categories of interest.”

Somewhere there, Mr. Champion feels that a line has been crossed. He feels that there are troubling questions in this for the blogsphere.
“Will Thomas Nelson stop sending books to those who write negative reviews? Will the publisher demand 400-word reviews a few months from now? Will other publishers begin setting more extraordinary terms for hotter titles? And, most importantly, will the blogosphere ever understand that surrendering to marketing forces simply isn't a substitute for journalistic integrity?”

It is an interesting question I think. A good review that people read and find reliable may sell more books, a few or a lot depending on the size of the audience. And that makes the publisher happy, as it should, because after all, that is what they are in the business to do, sell books. But what of a bad review? Is there someone at publishing houses, in their publicity departments, that is going to cut off books or 'punish' someone who writes a bad review for their product? I think it is pretty unlikely. Surely, they have more important things to do that track the countless bloggers out there, with a giant spreadsheet of positive and negative and in-between reviews. If they want to though, I guess that is their right.

But I do think that there are serious questions here for bloggers to answer for themselves. And it goes to the very heart of what you see as the point of your blog or any book blog.
Yes, we enter a sort of contact with the publisher. We bloggers do this, I assume, because we love books and we enjoy recommending ones that we think are good.
The publishers, on the other hand, are in business to sell books. Not just any books but their books. So to a degree, our aims are in conflict. If publisher ABC put out a book, they want to sell it. If I read that book and think it's not very good, I don't want you to spend your money to buy it. I don't really see my obligation being to the publisher or to the author, but to the reader. I am not part of the publicity department of any company, even if they are really nice to me. I love books and I want people to read and love good books too. I don't work for them and my only obligation is only to be honest about what I think and then the reader can choose to take my opinion to heart or not.

But a recent interaction was a little bit of a wake up. A publicist offered to send me a book that I had mentioned on my blog to offer in a giveaway. Seems that is a common practice. No mention of a need to read it, no need to review it, just offer a giveaway. OK...but, well, that sort of sounds like buying advertising space to me. Not trying to sound holier than thou here but that is not the point of my blog, and heck it's no fun at all for me. What do I write in the is a book, sorry I have no idea if it's good or bad, but here is a book, who wants it? Again, that might be a publisher's business, but it is not mine.
I replied that I would be happy to read it, and write a review and then offer it in a giveaway. Of course, it may say “This book is awful...OK, who would like the copy?”, but I am fine with that. They did send the book, but if they hadn't, well, that was their choice and fine with me. But it just raised a bit of a question with the whole giveaway thing and how publishers handle it.

I have seen blogs that don't really review but rather just sort of describe a book. I have read bloggers who say, happily, that never write a bad review. I don't 'get' that and it's not my cuppa tea, but if that's what floats your boat, grand.

But I want to be a salesman for books. Good books, exciting books, moving books, books that will change people, or make them scared or make them cry or make them laugh, books that they will remember for years and want others to read. That is my pleasure in a blog.
So does Mr. Champion have reason be be concerned or are we just taking it all a little too seriously? Feel free to say yes! Is it the more books out there and the more people blogging about them and the more discussion about books the better ..or is there more at stake than that? No, there are no totally free books. In fact, nothing in life is free: you just have to decide what you are willing to pay.

Well, I have a really good book that I have to finish reading....but I really would love to hear your opinion.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Here Kitty, Kitty... Hey, What happen to Tuesday??

Holy Moly!! It's Wednesday and I forgot to post my Tuesday Thinger. Someone could have reminded me....gosh. So, a day late and a dollar short, here is this week's question, courtesy of The Boston Bibliophile
Today's question: LT Things- t-shirts, bags,cue cats- are you into the "stuff"? Do you use a cuecat to enter your books, or do you enter them manually? What do you think of the stuff?

First, no, I do not have a cuecat to enter books. When I started, I was too impatient to order one and wait. And then I rather enjoyed going through the books, my wee dusty friends and sorting them out, putting them in piles with other like books. Literary friends if you will. I like to think of the travel books getting together and planning a trip to Venice in the spring.
Speed was not my greatest concern. Getting some sense of order was.
Now those Cuecats are cute, I will give you that. If they purred, I would buy one.

As to the 'stuff', well, yes, I do have a Library Thing tee shirt. Grey, my favorite color. The color of wise heads. Or so I tell myself.
What do I think of the stuff? Well, anything with the word library on it can't be all bad. And it is better than being nekked.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

....and The Winner Is.....

It is very early Sunday morning and time to pick the winners of the First Ever Caite's Lovely Shore Breeze Book Giveaway! I am sure that you are all on the edge of your seats. I am not because I do not want to drop my laptop...
So I threw the numbers in a hat...or at least cyberly with and drew out two winners and they are...

Wait, first, just let me say one thing. I sincerely thank all who entered the contest and I hope that you may come back and visit my wee blog in the future. Of course, the majority of you have not won. Sad, but the way it is. But I do hope that your interest might have been peaked by my review and therefore if you have not won, I would still encourage you to read A Thousand Veils. There is that great resource in your community called the public library, and at Mr. Murphy's suggestion, take yourself down there and request that they obtain a copy or two to loan out. Because in all sincerity. Mr. Murphy's desire "is for many people to read "A Thousand Veils" so as to spread the positive message contained in the book -- a message of hope and reconciliation."
Personally, I would suggest you go down to your local bookstore and order a copy or two. And if you enjoy the book, and I think that you will, I would hope you spread the word, write a review if you have a blog, tell your fellow book lovers if you do not, because as I think that I mentioned, this is a self-published book so it needs us, the reader, to help tell people about it. where was I...Oh yes, the winners.
Well, according to those little elves the winners are....{{drumroll}}
Julie D and Carey at The Tome Traveler.

Congrads and I will send you each an e-mail to which you can reply with your mailing info.

Friday, November 7, 2008

National Punctuation Day...and a review of The Elements of Style

Hey, why didn't anyone tell me that I missed it! As you all know September 23 was National Punctuation Day, right?
Punctuation, and spelling, are the bane of my blogging existence, which you, my dear readers, may have noticed. Exactly what are the rules for using commas? Have you semi-coloned today? Is the use of the dash ---- or the ellipse ... ever proper in writing?
Well, it is nice to know that I am not the only one with these issues as this column by Craig Wilson in USA Today discusses.

Yes, I think that he and I might have both been absent from school on the day that the proper use of the comma was discussed. And that is not even to start on the exclamation mark!
“My journalism professor, who loathed exclamation points, is rolling in his grave, and if he's not there yet, I'm sure an e-mail from me could send him there. His rule: Never use an exclamation point unless the sentence is about the end of the world, and the end of the world is tomorrow. Example: The end is near!
F. Scott Fitzgerald understood the exclamation point. He said, "An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own jokes."

Ok, and the problem with that is what? Someone should, afterall.

Well, you may be happy to know that in an attempt to deal with these and other writing issues, I recently purchased a copy of The Elements of Style, a classic on writing style and usage, by William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White. Yes, that E.B.White, he of Charlotte's Web fame. Strunk, a professor at Cornell, wrote and self published the book in 1918 and White, who had been a student of Strunks's, updated and revised the book and a new edition was published in 1959. To quote Wikipedia's article on the third edition,
“Fifty-four pointers are presented along with a list of common mistakes concerning individual words: Eleven rules of punctuation and grammar; eleven principles of writing; eleven matters of form; and twenty-one reminders for a better style in Chapter V, which White wrote with no input from William Strunk, who had died previously. The last reminder, "Prefer the standard to the offbeat", reads like a separate essay and contains advice on the proper mindset of a writer, such as urging the writer to try to please only himself and aim for "one moment of felicity", as Robert Louis Stevenson found, so that the writer's words would live on.”

And they do explain the proper use of the comma! Oh, look, a list of commonly misspelled words!
The third edition is good enough for me..I am a little backward...but you might like to spring for the newer 4th edition or the very newly published The Elements of Style: 50th Anniversary Edition
A very useful, timeless and even, on occasion, a rather amusing book.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Best Books of Someone's Opinion!

The end of the year...and holiday book buying time...will soon be upon us, so it is time for The Lists. We...ok, I ... need help with buying the perfect whatever, so there is nothing like a fine list to help us. Best inkjet printer, best 40” LCD TV, best blender, best Hawaiian resort. Big or small, there is a “Best” list out there to guide us.

And admit it, they are just fun. Do we agree, do we disagree, do your think Aunt Millie might like that one?

So, it was with great interest that I read on Omnivoracious , the Amazon book blog, that come November, Amazon has come out with their Best Books of 2008 page, “featuring our Top 100 Editors' Picks, our Customer Favorites list of the year's top 100 bestsellers, dozens more top 10s in categories from Audiobooks to Teens, and--for the first time this year--our top 10 book covers and videos.
My, my, so many 'bests' all in one place, and book 'bests' to boot.

Now granted, I have a bit of a love/hate thing going with Amazon. I admit it; I buy the majority of books that I buy through Amazon. Best selection, best prices, so convenient. Even a huge selection of used books, brought right to the door by the Man in the Big Brown Truck..or that other fellow in the smaller white jeep, also known as the USPS worker.
But at what price? Is it destroying the small, local bookstore. Can any bookstore, even the big Borders and Barnes and Nobles stores compete? Do we risk losing the chance to spent an afternoon wandering the tables and shelves of a cozy store in return for saving a bit of money? And there is something a bit Big Brotherish about the site. Do I want 'someone' knowing every book that I bought and every subject that I 'viewed'. It's a wee bit creepy..even if it is helpful.
Maybe a topic for another day.

But back to the list of the top 100 books of 2008, chosen by the editors of Amazon. First of all, I didn't quite realize that Amazon had editors. But second, what I found shocking was that of the top 10, I had only heard of one. Not read it, but heard of it. I have said it before and I will say it again...I am not nearly as well read as I thought.

  • The Northern Clemency by Philip Hensher

  • Hurry Down Sunshine by Michael Greenberg

  • Nixonland by Rick Perlstein

  • The Forever War by Dexter Filkins

  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

  • The Likeness by Tana French

  • Serena by Ron Rash

  • So Brave, Young, and Handsome by Leif Enger

  • The Lazarus Project by Aleksandar Hemon

  • The Ten-Percent Plague by David Hajdu

On the other hand, you have the list of the top customer picks of 2008, books published this year and that sold the most through October.

  • Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

  • The Last Lecture by Randy Pauch

  • Brisingr by Christopher Paolini

  • The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

  • The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling

  • The Appeal by John Grishim

  • When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris

  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan

  • The Revolution by Ron Paul

  • The Host by Stephenie Meyer

Well, at least I have heard of several of these. Again, I haven't read any of them but I have heard of most of them! It made me feel a little better.
What I found rather interesting, was that the two lists, editor's choices and reader's choices, share only one book, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Which would seem to mean that this is the one book that I should put on my 'to buy' list.

So any opinions? Have you read any of these, are any on your list for best book of the year. If not, what is your favorite book of the year?
Do you think Aunt Millie will like any of them?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesday Thingers...or how Library Thing saved my life.

It's Tuesday, so let's see what other feature of Library Thing there is that I am not familiar with! Today's question, via The Boston Bibliophile is
Work multiples. Do you own multiple copies of any books? Which ones? Why? Can you share your list?

Do I?...why yes I do have a few. Several of them, like Dante's Divine Comedy, are part of a partial set of 1909 Harvard Classics that were my grandfather's. But to tell you the truth, I have never read those copies. The covers are a little fragile, so when I have wanted to read a book that I might have in that edition, I just bought another copy. The same is true of a partial set of Dickens that were once his. So, I have some dups there as well. I mean, you NEED several copies of A Christmas Carol...right?

Then there are a few listed that are a mistake. I mean LT's mistake not mine, which we will discuss in a moment. I notice that they list Part 1 and Part 2 of a few books, like Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend from the above mentioned Dickens set, as duplicates, which they are not. I will have to see about fixing that.

Then there are another set of books that I intended to buy two copies of. On occasion, I might have bought a paperback copy of a book and then wanted to have a 'nicer' copy because I liked the book so much. I admit it...I have a 'thing' about owning nice hardcover editions of some books. Take Lord of the Rings..I have the original paperback set that I bought and first read when I was a teenager. But Lord of the Rings is such a great book..or books...that they deserved better. So for years, I eyed the lovely Easton Press editions. Beautiful leather covers, acid free paper, gold edged pages...and one day I overcame my cheapness and bought them. But I still have an attachment to the old paperbacks...

And then there is the third group...happily a small group. They are the mistakes. They are the reason I first joined LT. They are the reason that I love LT.
Brideshead Revisted is my worse example. See, it is a book that I have always meant to read but have not yet. It is in the pile next to the TBR pile. So, one day I was reading an online discussion about Brideshead and thought "Hmmm..I should buy a copy of that!" So off I went to a bookstore...always a fun journey...and bought a very nice hardcover copy...came home to put it on my shelf...only to realize I already owned the exact same edition already!!
My books were out of control! I had no organization, no way of knowing what I owned. And then Library Thing came to my rescue and we have lived happily ever after since...

Ok, I am a book addict. I admit it. ;-)

Monday, November 3, 2008

a review of "A Thousand Veils" and a GIVEAWAY!

A Thousand Veils by D.J. Murphy

Fatima Shihabi was raised by a loving father and family, a self described 'child of the desert', in an isolated rural town in Iraq. She learned from her oldest brother, Omar, a love of language, as he would read endless passages from the Koran to her, telling her that “You must lose yourself in these cadences, Fatima, the exquisiteness of these lines. There's no greater beauty in the world.” Fatima felt a need from her earliest days to express her experiences of the world, in stories and ultimately in her poetry, and her experiences about what Omar would call the “Others”.
”A writer has to mirror the concerns of ordinary people” he told her. “Force humanity to look itself in the face, so that maybe, on day, one glorious day, it may decide to tidy itself up, make itself right.”
It would be these two things, her love of writing and poetry and her need to champion the cause of others, especially women and children under the regime of Saddam Hussein, that would bracket her life.

Her poetry, written in secret, would strengthen her enough to save her life and her mind when she was given in marriage to an older man, who abused her both mentally and physically. From her adolescence, she followed the wishes of her father and then her husband to wear the veil, the long black traditional abayah.
“ Long before her adolescence was over, she came to perceive the subtle irony of draping a black cloth over a sentient being whose very identity was associated with self-expression. After all, it was not simply to hold a mirror to humanity that she wrote, but to change it, if only by degrees. Thus, having accepted the veil, she soon resolved to renounce it, at least in spirit, and reinvigorated her efforts to observe and engage the Others...She could hardly reconcile her soaring imagination with the physical confines of a black cloth.”

It was that imagination and that engagement of the Others that would be the source of her conflict with the Hussein government. After she was divorced by her husband, for bearing a daughter rather than a son, one of her brothers in Baghdad got her a job writing for the most influential newspaper in Iraq, about issues concerning woman and children. She was well aware of the dangers of even the slightest criticism of the government. Everyone knew of people who were taken to prison, with no charges, and horribly tortured and some who simply disappeared, presumed killed by Hussein's secret police. She was careful, but not careful enough and in time was arrested and sent to the infamous Al Khatabi Prison. After three months of torture, her brother was able to get her released but she knew that next time, imprisonment would mean her death.

But the situation in Iraq, after 9-11, with UN sanctions in place, was getting worse and worse, limited resources going to the most powerful and leaving little for hospitals or schools, children suffering the most, and Fatima could not totally silence her voice. She became involved with an underground group that had some of her articles published oversees and she was always ready for the call that would mean that she was to be arrested again and killed and that she must flee the country. When the call comes, she leaves her daughter in the relative safety of her brother Abdeljelil's house and makes it across the desert to Saudi Arabia. And it is there that her real adventure begins. No country will give her refuge and she will be returned to Iraq and her certain death if she can not find help.

Help comes in the person of a Wall Street lawyer named Charles Sherman, persuaded by his law partner Art and by Fatima's brother Omar, now an American professor, to take on her case. Charles is a man with his own ghosts, having narrowly escaped death in the World Trade Center, his mind seared with the horrible images of that day. He is a very rich and powerful and successful man, but one who comes to realize that he has chosen to wear his own veils from the world. His encounters with Fatima and her family and their experiences together will leave him a changed man, in many ways.

A Thousand Veils is an excellent book, certainly one of the most enjoyable and most thought provoking ones that I have read this year. It is many things...the personal stories of Fatima and Charles, their friendship and growing affection for each other. It is a discussion of some of the cultural and ideological differences between the Arab world and the West, a story about politics and world we live in. It is a thriller, with Hussein's secret police racing across Paris and the Alps and people fleeing across the desert with helicopters in pursuit. But ultimately, perhaps, it is a story mostly about love and family and to what lengths we will go to protect them, and it is a story about friends and how those friendships can change us all into better people. How individuals can come to better under this complex world and how individuals can
make a difference in the world.

This is Mr. Murphy first novel, and one based, he says, to some degree on a true story. And a wonderful story it is. The characters, both the major characters of Charles and Fatima and the many minor characters, like Charles' girlfriend Sarah, his law partner Art, Fatima's brothers Omar and Abdeljelil and her daughter Latifa, are all well developed and realistically portrayed. The plot is tight and logical and moves at a good pace; the description of the various locations, from NYC to Paris to the prisons of Iraq, clearly painted. It is a well told and moving story.

This is the sort of book that you just can not put down. This is the rare sort of book that I looked forward to having time to pick up to read again and one that I was sad to see draw to a conclusion. A well rounded, satisfying conclusion...but I was sad nevertheless. A book that I can give a strong recommendation to.

I am very thankful to Mr. Murphy for sending me a copy of his excellent book to read and review and therefore I will fulfill his wishes to pass the book on, as he requested, to someone else who will read and review it as well. I must say that I do rather hate to give it away...well, I guess I will have to just buy another copy perhaps....but a promise is a promise. ;-)
And I know that whoever receives it will get a very good book.
So, if you are interesting in winning a copy of A Thousand Veils, in my very first ever book giveaway, just post a comment here, with a link to your blog or some other sort of contact info. If you link back to the review and contest on your blog, you will get a second entry. Shipping to US or Canada only please. As part of the Book Giveaway Carnival over at Bookroom Reviews, I will pick the winner at random from those posted by midnight Saturday, 11/08, and post the name of the winner on Sunday.

Good luck and take a minute to enter...I think that you will love this book!

**An Update** You know, as I thought about this book and read your many comments expressing an interest in it, I decided something. First of all, I didn't want to give up my copy, because I want to share it with some family and friends. And I just want to keep it. :-)
So, I have purchase TWO brand new copies and will give both of them away to TWO lucky winners. So you have doubled your chance of winning. Or I did. It's a win, win, win situation.