Monday, November 9, 2009

Confessions of a Shopaholic- Sophie Kinsella

Confessions of a Shopaholic (Shopaholic, Book 1) Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
While I was standing at the Redbox rental kiosk, this seemed like a cute movie to watch while my husband wasn't home. After I watched the movie, I decided I wanted to read the book also. The premise is funny and I knew it had done well both as book and movie, so I thought I would see how the two compared. Honestly, there isn't much of a comparison. The book and the movie, while they have similar themes and some similar plot points, are very different. I like the movie a little bit more... I know... blasphemy. The movie had a stronger conflict and more drama; plus, I love Isla Fischer.

The book was cute, pretty simple and good chick lit. I'm not a huge chick lit person, but I do love a quick and easy read every now and then. Becky Bloomwood, the heroine, is a journalist who works for Successful Saving magazine. She is a strong financial voice, but her own financial life is in shambles. She's being harassed by a collector, can't stop herself from buying nearly everything in sights and is completely overwhelmed. Her harebrained solutions for conquering her debt range from winning the lottery to making fabric frames. Eventually she realizes that she does actually understand finances far more than she gave herself credit for and is able to use her knowledge to help others and herself.

Overall, this books was okay. Not the best book I've ever read, but a quick and easy read. The characters were endearing, though a little stereotypical. The plot was decent, but events were a little convenient at times. It was funny enough. Not amazing, but decent. Now, I love to shop. I love sales and could totally relate to that thrill of buying something. However, I wasn't really a fan of all of the name dropping of brands and stores. It just wasn't my style and got a little irritating after a while. I'd saw both the book and movie are worth reading and watching, especially if you have some time to kill while your husband is out of town, want a good girls' night flick, or something easy to ready while traveling.

View all my reviews >>

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mysteries of Pittsburgh- Michael Chabon

A couple of weeks ago, Michael Chabon was at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver for a reading from his most recent book Manhood for Amateurs. As he read selections from the book, I could see that his prose had grown since this first novel of his, but it still had the ring of truth and beauty found in all of Chabon's works. He is funny, witty and eloquent. He was a wonderful speaker and gave some great writing advice (to be blogged about later). I look forward to reading even more of his work.

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel (P.S.) The Mysteries of Pittsburgh: A Novel by Michael Chabon

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I am ridiculously jealous that Chabon was able to create a novel so beautiful his first time out of the gate. Mysteries of Pittsburgh is Chabon's debut novel and abounds with his lyrical prose and intriguing characters.

Art Bechstein has graduated from college and is spending the summer following working at a book store and playing with his new found friends. Arthur LeCompte entices Art into a world of interesting people and even more interesting parties. Between Art's new girlfriend Phlox, his increasingly sexual feelings for his friend Art and new friend Clevland's interest in Art's father's mobster ways, Art is lost and confused. This novel is reminiscent of Fitzgerald and a bygone era of sophisticated parties and debauchery.

Chabon's prose is lyrical and striking. His descriptions are always unique and the characters are beautifully written. I am always impressed by his way of viewing the world. The details that he sees are vivid and intriguing. I always turn to Chabon's work when I'm feeling like I need inspiration for my own writing. He has not disappointed me yet.

View all my reviews >>

Friday, October 16, 2009

The past oh.... two months

Well, I hadn't really realized quite how long I'd been away from the blog. So much for my grand plan of blogging at least four days a week. Ugh. I don't really have any specific stories or grand excuses for my absence. Life has just been a little insane.

School started back in mid-August and that definitely took some getting used to. I'm really not a morning person, so having to get up at about 5 to get to work just doesn't cut it for me. I'd much rather stay up until 3 or so and roll out of bed around noon. Unfortunately, school doesn't start at noon. :( Overall the transition back to work has been okay. I've been pretty exhausted and feeling stressed trying to get a handle on my job, but things seems to be calming down a little bit. I'm a literacy coach at a high school, which means that I monitor and teach students who are not reading at grade level. Unfortunately, there wasn't anyone really doing that job full time previously, so all of the files and data were a mess. It definitely took a while to organize it all and get into the swing of working. The kids have been decent and I generally like it, though I much prefer staying home and writing.

In writing news... well, nothing has really happened. I haven't been working on the book. I was working on revising a short story, but that has also fallen to the wayside in recent weeks. I'm really hoping to get back into writing this weekend and in the coming weeks. I just haven't felt inspired. I'm definitely questioning whether I have the chops to really be an author. Feeling a little depressed and down on myself about it... but I suppose all writers go through that. I'm just not sure if I'm good enough. No way to find out though unless I actually finish something and get it out there. Alas... I really wish some one or some thing from on high could just tell me if I should keep going or just quit now. Meh. I've also been half considering an MFA or PhD in Creative Writing. I definitely don't have the time or money to do either, but the thought is nice. I guess I just want some outward assurance that I'm on the right track, that I have some talent and might actually get published. Something...

Knitting has also been rather slow. I finished up the Sleepy Monkey baby blanket and gave that to Andrew's cousins. I have a few other projects that just need to get finished, but I've been working on knitting mittens and hats for Boulder's homeless resource center The Carriage House instead. They're pretty quick and it's satisfying to get something done. I have a couple of friends who are having babies in the spring though, so I'm going to need to come up with some more baby projects.

In reading news, I finished Mysteries of Pittsburgh by Michael Chabon. I'll post on that next week. I've also been reading the 2008 Best American Short Stories. I may or may not report on those. We'll see if I can find a non-irritating way to review a collection of stories. I'm still working on The Writer's Journey and plan to read another Chabon. Probably Kavalier and Klay.

Other than the general stress and self doubt, life is going okay. I might be having some eye surgery. I meet with the doctor again on Tuesday. If so, I'll definitely post on that since my own research into the subject has yielded little in the way of anecdotes. More to come Monday, when I hope to return to a semi-regular posting schedule... but we've all seen how that goes. :)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Still here

I'm still here... life has been insane. More to come, soon hopefully.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Bridges of Madison County- Robert James Waller

The Bridges of Madison County The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller

My rating:
1 of 5 stars

I will preface all of this by saying that I don't generally read romance, so please don't be offended. And, everyone likes different things, so don't let my review taint you if you want to read this novel.

I hated this book. In fact, I think I would give it zero stars if that didn't seem too mean. I thought it was absolutely terrible.

Very basically the novel is about a photographer who goes to Iowa to photograph some covered bridges for National Geographic. He gets lost, meets a farm wife whose family is away at the fair and they have a torrid affair for a week, exciting all of the passion that she has never felt and all of the commitment that he has never felt. At the end of the week they part and return to their normal lives but never forget their one true love.

There are a wide variety of things that I disliked about the book, so I think I'll just list them. 1. I hate (HATE!) the writing technique where the "writer" has been approached to tell some story and then proceeds to tell it and wraps the whole book up with "well, that's their story." I don't care whether you were actually approached and commissioned or something to write this book. Don't tell me.

2. The actual story is so contrite. It's played and there wasn't enough plot to it. Really? Boy meets girl, boy can't have girl, boy and girl always wonder what would have been.

3. There is no depth to the characters. I hated the descriptions. If I had to read the female character describing her love as "hard" one more time, I might have thrown up. I didn't care about them. I couldn't relate to them.

4. Waller switches between points of view like a forth grader. I had a really hard time following whose head I was in. The reader is bounced around so much, I started to feel dizzy. The transitions aren't smooth. It wasn't well balanced between POVs either.

5. Waller also gets preachy at points. He had his characters spout off some long monologue that you can tell is just the author expressing his own viewpoint. It wasn't good and didn't feel natural.

6. The ending was awful. It ends with an interview of some random guy that knew one of the characters. No, just no.

Now, one might ask, if I thought this book was so terrible, why did I finish it? Because I thought it would get better. It was a bestseller. I honestly thought that something good had to happen in it. Nope, wrong. I really don't know how so many people purchased this book. My only guess is that there are a lot of desperate housewives out there.

As an aside, I got this book from my husband's bookshelf. It apparently was a gift or something. I knew he had read it and when I finished I tentatively asked him if he had liked it. Thank God he said it was awful too. If he loved this book, that might have been grounds for a divorce.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Good Dose of Panic

I figured I haven't panicked here on the blog in a little while, so it seems about time. Knitting might some tomorrow... if I decide that I'm in a good enough mood to work on it.

I'm starting a new job here in a couple of weeks, back to teaching, though I'll be teaching at a new school and a new subject. That in and of itself isn't particularly panic inducing, but the way that it has evolved it. I currently have no classroom. Well, technically I have rooms in which I'll be teaching, but not one of my own and I don't even have an office. I'll not explain why I don't have an office, but I'm thoroughly unamused by the fact that I don't have anywhere to sit down and do work. I also have no curriculum. Again, that might not be terrible, but in addition to the no office thing, it's a little irritating. Also, my schedule appears to involve a longer day that I had originally thought I was getting into and I'm just generally mad at the whole situation right now. I really didn't want to go back to work in the first place. I'd much rather be sitting on my butt here at my desk working on my novel, but money just won't allow for that. And, when I got this job I thought it would be pretty perfect at jobs go. Too good to be true I suppose. So, we shall see how this all plays out. I'm trying really hard not to get very angry and to just be all calm and zen, but it's not really working for me. Maybe some good Thursday night TV will help. :) Ugh.

Eleven Great Links for Writers

Well, I know that Wednesdays are supposed to be for knitting, but since I skipped Writing Tuesday and also because my current knitting project is soaking in a bucket waiting to be blocked, I'm going to share some of my favorite writing links. It's like a top ten list but better, since it's eleven. :)

In my own writing news, the book is coming along. I'm working out some subplots and trying to get the beginning to line up better with the new ending that I have in mind. I'm also revising a short story that I'd like to start submitting sometime soon. So, we shall see.

But, if you're a writer, or at all interested in the publishing industry you have to be reading these blogs:

I love reading agent blogs and if you aren't already following Nathan, Janet, Colleen, Rachelle, Jonathan and Jessica go add them to you reader now. Their insights into the industry are invaluable and they offer lots of advice on queries and managing a writing career.

Moon Rat is the Editorial Ass(istant) who is hilarious and always brings a ray of light to a sometimes dismal publishing industry.

The Intern is an intern at a New York publisher and her posts are funny, insightful and always make me feel a little better about the fact that I at least get paid for my toils. She offers an inside view to the editorial meetings, which is definitely interesting.

Eric over at Pimp My Novel works in sales at a major publisher and he offers a different point of view of the publishing industry. His posts are very informative and I'm pretty sure he's the only blog of his kind on the web.

John Upchurch runs More Novel by the Week, in which he offers tips for writers varying from common grammar mistakes to definitions of obscure literary terms. He also trolls the web looking for fantastic new websites related to reading and writing.

And finally, last but certainly not least is the Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck. He gives updates on new agents, tells stories of how real authors landed their agents and keeps me in the loop of his Cover Band drama. :) He has interviews from some of the greatest names in the biz and it is a great blog for advice and information.

Hopefully this will keep you all satisfied in the writing department for at least a week. I'll try to post pictures of the latest knitting project later this week.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Wonder Boys- Michael Chabon

Somehow Mondays seem to be good for blogging. Who would have guessed? I've been working through The Bridges of Madison County and am still unimpressed. I hope that it gets better. But, this week I have at least finished a book and can give my full review of it. So... here goes:

Wonder Boys: A Novel Wonder Boys: A Novel by Michael Chabon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Wow. This wasn't my first foray in the the wonderful world of Michael Chabon, but it was his first adult novel that I have read. I had previously read Summerland which is a fantastic Young Adult fantasy. I'd seen the movie version of Wonder Boys ages ago and loved it, so I was definitely excited to pick up the book. I had high expectations and Chabon exceeded them.

In brief, Wonder Boys is about a college professor, Grady Tripp, who is also a bit of a has been writer. Tripp saw great success with his first couple of novels, hence the professor job, but has been unable to finish his thousand page epic Wonder Boys, due partly to his marijuana addiction, partly to his disastrous marriage and affair, and partly to the fact that he's just trying to cram far too much into this novel. When Grady's neurotic and addict editor rolls into town for the college's LitFest, the pair end up on an epic adventure involving a suicidal student, Tripp's ex-in-laws, a dead dog and a lot of drugs.

While the plot of this novel is hilarious and well crafted, I enjoyed the writing the most. What I wouldn't kill to have Chabon's gift. He is a beautiful writer and each sentence is so melodiously crafted that they are hard to get out of your head. He finds uniques ways of saying things and his comparisons are superb. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone because it's a great book, but I would especially recommend this novel to writers. Seriously, study how this man crafts a sentence, a paragraph, a book. It's beautiful and lyrical. Well worth the read.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, July 27, 2009

Reading Monday!

Well, not so great about keeping my schedule, but apparently I can keep a Monday appointment at least. In my own slightly pitiful defense, it has been a ridiculously busy week and I'm not going to make any promises for the current week. This next week is very busy too. But, no more excuses... here's my reading for the week.

I actually haven't made a whole lot of progress on either Wonder Boys or The Writer's Journey. I did start The Bridges of Madison Country, but have not gotten very far. So far it's okay, but I'm not very impressed with the writing.

So, since I don't really have books to actually blog about, I thought I would share some of my favorite book blogs and websites.

First up: Bookshelves Of Doom. This is a great blog run by a librarian, or self-described uber-librarian. She offers astute and funny reviews of books, some YA movies and life in general. She always cracks me up and somehow manages to find tons of amazing new stuff on the web. Definitely worth checking out.

Next: Henry Sene Ye Designs I don't talk about it much on this site, mostly because I already have a lot to cover, but I love design and art. This is the blog of a book cover designer. He shares his process in deciding on cover designs, contacting artists and putting it all together. I find it really interesting, especially seeing the failed designs.

Finally, one of the most fun new sites I've stumbled across: The Book Seer. Though slightly silly, I really like it. At this site you type in the title and author name of the most recent book you have finished and the site pulls from Amazon, Librarything and BookArmy to compile a list of recommendations. Now, I don't particularly need to add anything else to my TBR pile, but I like it nonetheless.

Hopefully you'll all enjoy clicking around these new sites! I'm going to try my best tomorrow to be back with some writing news.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Schedule and a Book Review

So, I've decided to try something new here on the blog, in the hopes that it will keep me more accountable to posting more than once a month. Following in the title of the blog I'll keep this schedule: Mondays will be for reading, Tuesdays for writing, Wednesday for knitting, Thursday for panicking :), and Friday for whatever else might come up. We'll have to see how this actually goes, but that's the current plan.

And for this Monday, here's what I've been reading.

The Writer's Journey by Chris Vogler
I haven't actually finished this yet, but so far so good. I'm really enjoying it so far. It's an interesting analysis of the structure of the stories that we as a human race love. They all follow the Hero's Journey. It's been recommended to me by a number of other authors and I think that it will be really helpful in the development of my plot. We shall see.

Wonder Boys- Michael Chabon
I'm also in the middle of reading this. I've seen the movie, and loved it, but the book is so much better. I've only recently started reading Chabon, and I'm not quite sure where he's been all my life. His writing is so beautiful and his images so striking that I nearly weep when I read it, seriously. He has such a unique way of putting everything. I only wish that I can someday rise to this level of literature. The story is hilarious. The comedy of errors that ensues from page one is fantastic without being completely improbable and the characters are ridiculously interesting. I'm really excited to finish this one.

The Notebook- Nicholas Sparks
Well, this book was on my Project 100 list and I believe I was one of the last remaining women in the US that hadn't read this novel. I'll preface all of this by saying that I'm not a huge romance reader, but having read and enjoyed Sparks' Three Weeks with my Brother, I was willing to give this a shot.

I'll not give away too much of the plot, but very basically it is about a young man of little means and a young woman of fantastic means who fall in love only to be separated by time and social circumstances.

What made this novel better than the typical love story is the framing of it, as a old man reading the story to an unknown woman. The story is touching and while predictable, still genuinely warm and fuzzy. I did enjoy it. It's a great quick read and especially good when you just want to read and not think too much. Sparks' writing is lovely, clean and concise and his characters are lively and real. While I enjoyed the book in general, I think that I enjoyed it more after reading Three Weeks because I knew how he wrote it and what was happening in his life at the time. Overall, it was worth the hype (and million dollar advance) that it received.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

If You Want to Write- Brenda Ueland; The Story of Edgar Sawtelle- David Wroblewski; For One More Day- Mitch Albom

Here's a drive by book review. I haven't been in my house for more than about 48 hours in the last two months. Unfortunately, that also hasn't translated into good blogging or reading time, but I have read a few books. Here are the super quick and dirty reviews.

If You Want to Write- Brenda Ueland
This was a decent book. I liked some of her advice, expecially about finding the microscopic truth in everything you write. It really had a quiet confidence to it. I don't know that I like it more than Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg, but it was pretty good. Worth the read for any writer.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle- David Wroblewski
I'm almost always a day late and a dollar short in jumping on the Oprah bandwagon. So, I'm sure by this point many of you have already read this book, or read a million reviews about it, but here's what I think anyway. I liked it. It was a nice sweeping style family epic that we haven't seen in a while. I felt it moved a little slowly at times, and I can't say that I loved the ending. However, Wroblewski's writing is fantastic and his characters are really intriguing and have a depth that most authors don't achieve. Quite good overall, but not earth-shattering.

For One More Day- Mitch Albom
I might be a little biased on this one, having lost my own mother, but I loved this novel. It is so crisp and beautiful. The concept is intriguing and the pacing is spectacular. Albom creates a magical space and I bought it. The characters are very real and the plot is everyone's wish. Read it, definitely. It's a quick read and is quite amazing.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Very Quick

I'm off to a wedding this weekend, but I hope to provide a more detailed blog post next week. We'll see.
Here's the quick version:
finished all the books that I'm listed as reading on my Goodreads. Started The Yiddish Policeman's Union
Haven't been writing much. I have no plot, nothing actually happens in my novel. This is a problem that I am attempting to fix.
Started knitting a new baby blanket and new scarf. Pics to come.
Got a job for next year.
Went to NY for my cousin's graduation from West Point and hung out in the city for a few days.

Again... more to come, possibly with pictures and/or more details. :)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Winner Stands Alone- Paulo Coelho

The Winner Stands Alone: A Novel The Winner Stands Alone: A Novel by Paulo Coelho

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I list Paulo Coelho as one of my favorite authors, and I love a number of his books. While I liked this one, it definitely wasn't my favorite. That being said, I also think a lot of people just won't get it.

The Winner Stands Alone follows a number of characters through twenty-four hours at the Cannes Film Festival. Igor is a powerful Russian entrepreneur who goes to the festival to get back his wife Ewa, who left him. He is trying to catch her attention by destroying worlds. We follow a variety of characters: Igor, a notorious film distributer, an aspiring actress, model on the rise, and an unknown film director. Igor believes that his mission is one that must be carried out at any cost. I won't say a whole lot more about the plot, as I don't want to spoil it for anyone who would like to read this book.

I do think that Coelho paints an interesting picture of this world of excess. No one is happy in this novel, regardless of how famous they are or how much money they have. He illustrated the fleeting quality of life and I believe, tries to acknowledge what really should matter--not money and fame, but love and people. I think I'll read this book again in a few months and try to think about it more. While I did like it, I don't know if many people will. The vast majority of society clings to the idea that if we just had a little more money, or were famous, or more beautiful, then everything would be all right. Not so, says Coelho and while I believe this is an important message, I'm not sure that the world is ready to hear it, nor am I really sure that is what he intended, it's just my own interpretation.

At any rate, I would definitely recommend this book. It was a good read, and was structured in an interesting way. As a writer, I really appreciated the structure and his interesting points of view. It definitely read quickly, but like I said, I think I will read it again to delve into the deeper meaning.

View all my reviews.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Still alive... barely

So, I've been sick. Not for the entire two and a half weeks since I last posted, but it's a good excuse right? This won't be a long post but a quick update. I've been working on my writing. I'm heading to the Pikes Peak Writer's Conference this week and I'm really excited about it. I hope that I get a lot of great feedback on my novel and get to meet some new people! Should be fun.

I've been reading Brenda Ueland's If You Want to Write, loving it so far. I'm also reading Portrait of a Lady for my 100 Books Project. Didn't get very far in that one before Coelho's latest, The Winner Stands Alone, showed up for me to review. So... hopefully I'll have some reviews soon. :)

In knitting news... well, not much actually. I'm working on a project for a friend. I don't think she reads this blog, but just in case, I'm going to keep it stealth. It should be cute though.

And panicking, yep good dose of that. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing for work next year. I have a job teaching 6th grade Language Arts if I want it, but it's full time. So, I'm waiting around to see if any half time jobs come up that I might like better.

At any rate- I'll try to blog more about the conference when I get there. Also, I have a website going live soon. It will really only link you back here- but I'm increasing my web presence. Building that ever-important platform. :)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hilarious! :)

This is just too awesome not to share... and it's sort of knitting related, so maybe it makes up for my lack of knitting pictures recently. :) 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Project Fill in the Gaps

So I'm stealing (well, not stealing as she asked people to do it with her) this directly from Moonrat, but she stole it from a friend of hers... so really it's not stealing any more right? :)

Anyway... this is Project Fill in the Gaps. If I can figure it out, I'll be putting a button on this blog for it; that's big if though. At any rate, Moonie put together a list of books that she feels she should have read at some point. I'm copying her rules exactly for this project, so here they are. Feel free to steal from me if you wish.
I'm giving myself 5 years starting now and rounding up (ie almost 6 years...) so my goal will be to finish 75 of these 100 books by New Year 2015. There is a 25% accident forgiveness. So if I finish 75 of these books, I'll consider myself victorious.

Here are my criteria for selecting the books that appear on this list:
1. They were on the bookshelf in my bedroom and I hadn't read them.
2. They were on the bookshelf in my office and I hadn't read them. (I didn't venture to the basement with the 8 other bookshelves because I didn't feel like dealing with stairs.)
3. They were on some of the "books I should read" lists that I've printed over the years.
4. My husband rambled books at me and I choose some of those as well.
It was a very scientific method of choosing.

Without further ado... here's the list. If I misspelled or mis-authored something please let me know. I'll be posting reviews of these as they are finished both here, on Goodreads, and on The BookBook.

1. Crime and Punishment- Fyodor Dostoevsky
2. War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
3. Great Expectations- Charles Dickens
4. The Scarlet Letter- Nathaniel Hawthorne
5. The Crucible- Arthur Miller
6. The Infinite Plan- Isabel Allende
7. The Pilgramage- Paulo Coelho
8. Obit- Jim Sheeler
9. Siddartha- Hermann Hesse
10. The Poisonwood Bible- Barbara Kingsolver
11. Anthem- Ayn Rand
12. Into the Wild- Jon Krakauer
13. Robinson Crusoe- Daniel Defoe
14. Jasmine- Bharati Mukherjee
15. A Room with a View- E. M. Forster
16. The Garden of Eden- Ernest Hemingway
17. The Remains of the Day- Kazuo Ishiguro
18. The Reivers- William Faulkner
19. Breakfast at Tiffany’s- Truman Capote
20. The Bluest Eye- Toni Morrison
21. Bee Season- Myla Goldberg
22. Cat’s Eye- Margaret Atwood
23. The Divine Comedy- Dante Alighieri
24. Les Miserables- Victor Hugo
25. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha- Roddy Doyle
26. Anna Karenin- Leo Tolstoy
27. The Canterbury Tales- Geoffrey Chaucer
28. Eldest- Christopher Paolini
29. Citizen Hughes- Michael Dronin
30. Guns, Germs, and Steel- Jared Diamond
31. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
32. Vanity Fair- William Makepeace Thackeray
33. The Matamorphosis- Franz Kafka
34. Persuasion- Jane Austen
35. Portrait of a Lady- Henry James
36. Travels with Charley- John Steinbeck
37. Violin- Ann Rice
38. The Man in the Iron Mask- Alexandre Dumas
39. Caramelo- Sandra Cisneros
40. Another Roadside Attraction- Tom Robbins
41. Titus Andronicus- William Shakespeare
42. Uncle Tom’s Cabin- Harriet Beecher Stowe
43. Gulliver’s Travels- Jonathan Swift
44. The Time Machine- H.G. Wells
45. Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson
46. The Invisible Man- H.G. Wells
47. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court- Mark Twain
48. The Importance of Being Earnest- Oscar Wilde
49. Catch-22- Joseph Heller
50. Invisible Man- Ralph Ellison
51. Waiting for Godot- Samuel Beckett
52. The Picture of Dorian Gray- Oscar Wilde
53. Absalom Absalom- William Faulkner
54. The Bridges of Madison County- Robert James Waller
55. Wuthering Heights- Charlotte Bronte
56. Sense and Sensibility- Jane Austin
57. Across the River and into the Trees- Ernest Hemingway
58. Under the Banner of Heaven- Jon Krakauer
59. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood- Rebecca Wells
60. Sula- Toni Morrison
61. Beloved- Toni Morrison
62. The Fifth Mountain- Paulo Coelho
63. A Star Called Henry- Roddy Doyle
64. The Inferno- Dante Alighiere
65. Islands in the Stream- Ernest Hemingway
66. The Valkyries- Paulo Coelho
67. Mansfield Park- Jane Austen
68. The Long Valley- John Steinbeck
69. The Winter of Our Discontent- John Steinbeck
70. Tortilla Flat- John Steinbeck
71. Portrait in Sepia- Isabel Allende
72. Ines of my Soul- Isabel Allende
73. Don Quixote- Miguel de Cervantes
74. On Writing- Stephen King
75. Wonder Boys- Michael Chabon
76. An American Childhood- Annie Dillard
77. The Lovely Bones- Alice Sebold
78. Tuesday with Morie- Mitch Albom
79. Dune- Frank Herbert
80. The Pillars of the Earth- Ken Follett
81. The Clan of the Cave Bear- Jean M. Auel
82. Angela’s Ashes- Frank McCourt
83. Ender’s Game- Orson Scott Card
84. Interview with a Vampire- Anne Rice
85. Love in the Time of Cholera- Gabriel Garcia Marquez
86. The Little Prince- Antoine de Saint-Exupery
87. The Secret Life of Bees- Sue Monk Kidd
88. Native Son- Richard Wright
89. Animal Farm- George Orwell
90. Brideshead Revisited- Evelyn Waugh
91. Fahrenheit 451- Ray Bradbury
92. One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest- Ken Kesey
93. Snow Crash- Neal Stephenson
94. The Notebook- Nicholas Sparks
95. Beowulf
96. Wonder Boys- Michael Chabon
97. The Mysteries of Pittsburg- Michael Chabon
98. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay- Michael Chabon
99. If You Want to Write- Brenda Ueland
100. Mumbo Jumbo- Ishmael Reed

I doubt that I'll read them in this order. Starting with War and Peace and Crime and Punishment seems like a little much. I'll try to remember to cross them out here as I go. :) And re-link this post in my reviews, but we'll see. Let me know if you plan on doing Project Fill in the Gaps too; I'd be really interested to see other people's lists. :)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Afraid- Jack Kilborn

Afraid Afraid by Jack Kilborn

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'll preface this review by saying that I don't read horror. I also don't read thrillers, but I loved the Jack Daniels books, by JA Konrath. And since JA and Jack Kilborn are the same person, I was excited to read his latest novel. Afraid is all out horror, and is designed to play on any fear you might have.

In the town of Safe Haven, something terrible has landed. A team of Red Ops has "accidentally" landed in this small town with one mission, kill everyone. An aging sheriff, lone firefighter and single mother are fighting for their lives. I don't want to say too much more, as it is a twisting and exciting plot. You really just have to read it.

I really liked this book. I'd heard that some thought it was too gory, and over the top, but honestly, Kilborn leaves a lot to the imagination, which just makes it that much scarier. I finished this book in one day, and while freaked out, didn't immediately think it was that scary. I was able to remove myself from the scenes in the novel. Or so I thought. It wasn't until a couple of days ago that I realized the reason I'd been having a hard time sleeping was because of scenes from the book. It definitely lingers... and scares far beyond the pages. Read it with the lights on.

View all my reviews.

JA/Joe/Jack Reads, Writes and doesn't Panic

Infamous and amazing writer extraordinaire JA Konrath, aka Jack Kilborn, is taking his one man show on the road. JA writes the fantastic blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing, which is essential to any writer's RSS reader. Konrath also writes the thrilling Jack Daniels series. Seriously... awesome. I don't read thrillers and I loved his books. I honestly thought they were far superior to the James Patterson book I read (I know, blasphemy). I'm a huge fan of JA, so when he was asking for people to review his new book Afraid (coming out March 31) written under the pseudomyn Jack Kilborn, and going on a blog tour, I knew I had to get in on that action. Check out my review of Afraid here. And read on for an interview with JA/Joe/Jack (hereon referred to as J^3 [that's J cubed for you non math nerds]). He's always funny, and sometimes serious. :)

Dana: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
J^3: An adult.

Dana: What else do you do in all your spare time? Besides scare people and write funny Facebook statuses. Any hobbies?
J^3: I collect hair.
You should come to my house. Between me and the cat, you'd be set for life.

Dana: You've said many times that it took 12 years and 500+ rejections before you were published. What kept you going through all of that? Was there ever a point where you just wanted to throw in the metaphorical towel?
J^3: My wife was a huge source of support and inspiration. That's why, when someone asks what they need to do in order to get published, I tell them they have to marry my wife.

Also, liquor helps.
Again... come on over. The bar is always stocked. :)

Dana: Obviously, you probably like to read thrillers, but what else is on your list of favorites? Any books that you just couldn't make it through? If you had to recommend three books (not by J.A., Joe or Jack) that everyone should read what would they be?
J^3: I gotta send a shout out to my peeps here. Three books that everyone should read this year are Pressure by Jeff Strand, Abandon by Blake Crouch, and Killing Red by Henry Perez. These are all books I got to read prior to their upcoming publication, and I loved them

As far as my three favorite books of all time, they'd be The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, The Judas Goat by Robert B. Parker, and Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris.

If we're talking about classic literature, then I'd be walking away, looking for an exit.

Dana: What is your favorite brand of pen?
J^3: Black Sharpies.

Dana: Which would you rather be, the letter a or the number 7? Why?
J^3: I'm a writer. Gotta go with the letter.

Dana: While you were amassing all of those rejections, what was your day job?
J^3: I had many. My favorite was assisting a brewmaster. What a great job. Where else can you get paid to drink beer at nine in the morning?

Dana: There is a new trend in authors (okay, I know of you and Paulo Coelho, but two a trend can make) to give away free texts on their blogs. Do you think this has helped you? Hurt you? Would you recommend it for newbies or should we wait until the cow's been purchased before giving the milk for free?
J^3: Eventually, print will go digital the same way music did, and people will be downloading books for free anyway. But I believe it has helped my sales, and helped spread brand awareness.

I can't make any decisions for newbie authors. Well, wait a sec, actually I can. Send your book to every big agent in NY. If it has been rejected by all of them, go ahead and offer it for free on your website. At that point it can't hurt, only help.

Dana: And finally some very random questions- they'll be used for your psychological profiling later:
Mittens or gloves?
Gloves. The fingers need their freedom.

Spring or Fall?
Spring. I prefer things to get warmer than cooler.

Home or away?
Home. My wife calls my house "Joe's Little Playland." I've got over ten thousand books, movies, CDs, videogames, and magazines. If I didn't have to leave the house, I wouldn't.

Black or blue?
Black and blue. With multiple contusions.

And your favorite burger toppings?
Cheddar cheese, bacon, and a roll of fifty dollar bills.

A huge thanks to JA for coming over to my humble little blog. If you don't already own his books, go buy them. All of them. You won't regret it.

I am Awesome :)

Dana just took the What are you born to do? quiz.

Best at Everything: You are the social person who makes useful contacts. You introduce important people to influencial people and always reap some sort of reward as a result... but you dont enjoy the spotlight as much. You prefer to stay in the back as there is more room to stretch and you like the feeling that you are the one with the power and most of the time that is true... You will do well in almost any field. You know how to flatter without being too obvious and you can make just about anyone like you!

Fantastic... if Facebook tells me I'm awesome, it must be so. :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Seven Steps on the Writer's Path- Nancy Pickard and Lynn Lott

Seven Steps on the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment Seven Steps on the Writer's Path: The Journey from Frustration to Fulfillment by Nancy Pickard

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
Books on the craft of writing are a tricky bunch. I've found that I either think they are amazing and want to live by them, or that they're sort of useless. For once a writing book fell inbetween.

Seven Steps on the Writer's Path describes the journey that each writer (supposedly) takes from Unhappiness to Fulfillment. When I first started this book, and just glanced through the steps, I thought that I would be somewhere in Wavering or possibly Letting Go. As I read however, each step felt like exactly where I am in this moment. While it was nice that the steps were all very relatable, it also made it hard to really understand where I was and how I could apply the authors' suggestions to my writing life.

I really liked their examples of a writer's feelings and actions at each step and appreciated the interviews and comments from established authors. I wanted more concrete exercises to help work through each step. Some writing exercises would have been nice as well. Overall, it was okay, but it didn't motivate me at all and didn't give me a better understanding of myself as a writer. It might be a nice book to own, simply so I could read it at a more leisurely pace and only focus on the step that I think I'm currently in. It felt a little weird to read the whole thing straight through. A decent book to check out, but not a must read.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Summerland- Michael Chabon

Summerland Summerland by Michael Chabon

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Apparently I was one of the last three people on Earth who hadn't already fallen in love with Michael Chabon. I'd heard him touted on various blogs, and a friend had bought me The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and Wonder Boys is one of my favorite movies, but I'd never put all of those things together. It wasn't until I was subbing recently that I saw Summerland and picked it up. Having not read any of Chabon's other novels, I didn't have any expectations for this book, but I thought it was wonderful.

Summerland is an amazing fantasy, along the lines of The Lord of the Rings. Summerland is the story of a young boy, Ethan Feld, and his best friend, Jennifer T. Rideout, as they venture across different lands on a quest to prevent Coyote from destroying the entire world. Along the way, they pick up an unlikely band of friends, from a mini giant to a sasquatch. With their new friends they cross the four branches of the great tree: The Middling (our world now), Summerland (where fairies and other creatures live in eternal summer), Winterland (lots of strange creatures, but always winter) and The Gleaming (no one knows what lies here). They meet a variety of creatures from Indian legends and American Tall Tales. They play a number of games of baseball along the way (it's the only sport common to all of the lands) to earn their freedom to continue on their quest.

I really loved this book. I'm not a huge fantasy reader, but I loved Chabon's treatment of the classic quest plot. I really liked that it had such strong American roots, and almost would have wanted just a little bit more, such as when he describes American Tall Tales by their appearance. I would have preferred names, mostly because I wasn't familiar with all of the tales he spoke of. I liked the characters, and loved the relationship between all of them. I also like how each member of their party had a different reason for going on this quest. It felt quite authentic. Overall, this is a great book for young and old alike. It's an easy ready, though long, and is easy to connect to. I would love to see more fantasies tied to truly American elements, celebrating the heritage we have.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

East of Eden- John Steinbeck

East of Eden (Centennial Edition) East of Eden by John Steinbeck

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
So, whenever people asked me to pick a favorite book, a common question as both an English teacher and an author, I usually dodged it as best I could. Asking me to pick a favorite book is like asking me to pick a favorite pair of shoes. I just can't; I love them all too much. However, when pressed I would usually say East of Eden, even though I hadn't read it since high school, which has been, we'll just say a while. So, I decided to re-read this classic novel to see if it still held such a special place in my heart. I have to say, it does. Maybe not number one any more, but at least tied or possibly number two.

East of Eden can really only be described as sweeping. The novel follows Adam Trask most closely, from his childhood to old age, though all of the people who have an affect on his life: his brother, wife, neighbor and sons, are all developed fully as characters. Trask, after growing up angry and afraid of both his father and brother, is forced to join the Army and upon release takes his inherited fortune and moves to the Salinas Valley. With the support of his servant, Lee, and his prophetic neighbor Sam Hamilton, Trask survives being left by his wife (who sets up a whorehouse in a nearby town) and raises his twin boys.

This isn't a plot driven book. So, if you are looking for a thrilling page turner, keep on moving. However, East of Eden is like sitting down to a grand eight course dinner. The descriptions are fantastically detailed and the pacing slow. This is a book to be savored and enjoyed. The writing is both literary, lyrical and accessible and the plot and theme well carried out. There's a reason this book is a classic that has stood the test of time- it's beautiful. If you haven't read this book... do it now, and savor it like you would a really fine cut of steak- or tofu or whatever.

View all my reviews.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Slaughterhouse Five- Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse-Five Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I somehow managed to avoid reading any Vonnegut until now, and I had heard that you either love him, or hate him. I definitely fall into the former category. Now, I will admit that I was potentially swayed by the fact that my writing group said my own writing was like a nice, sweet Vonnegut, but that's beside the point.

Slaughterhouse Five is the portrait of Billy Pilgrim, an optometrist who has witnessed the firebombing of Dresden in WWII and been taken as a zoo subject by the alien planet Tralfmador. In the book Billy has become "unstuck in time" and bounces from one point in his life to another. We follow him from being captured in Germany, to his mental breakdown senior year of optometrist school, to his wedding anniversary and off to Tralfmador where he is on display at the zoo.

The novel is an interesting portrayal of war, life, and time. I was intrigued by the Tralfmadorians view of time. All moments are in existence at once. They see the whole span of time all at once. This is what enabled Billy to move between these moments with ease. Quite interesting. Billy was also a unique character. He isn't quite the lovable hero that you want him to be. He's sort of bumbling, definitely a coward and not entirely likable. However, he is interesting, and probably more real than most characters.

Overall, I really liked this book, almost more for the structure than anything else. It was really unique, gave an interesting perspective and (I thought) a fair treatment of WWII. Vonnegut makes you look at some of life's simple things with a different eye. It also didn't feel super hardcore sci-fi, which was nice. I found it to be a quick read and it was definitely worth it. It's a classic for a reason.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Yes... still alive. I'm subbing for two weeks during CSAPs, so hopefully I'll get a chance to write sometime, but not soon. What's to come when I actually do a post? Two book reviews (Slaughterhouse Five and East of Eden), two finished knits (EZ's garter blanket and a ruffle scarf- yes, the dreaded angora one), some writing updates and a couple of panic- or non-panicky things. :)

seriously... soon... maybe.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A real update...

Yeah... haven't blogged in a while. I'm sure it hasn't been missed too much, if at all, but I figured since I've only posted book reviews I would give a more normal post, just in case anyone is paying attention.

So, here goes. Life has been, well... as life often is: crazy. Sickness, uncertainty, business... all of it sort of piled up in this last month. Not a whole lot has changed, but here's the break down.

Reading: I have been reading, as evidenced by my book reviews. The books were pretty decent and kept me entertained, so that's a definite plus. I'm currently re-reading East of Eden. I love Steinbeck. And in a fit of trying to read all the books I've collected over the years, I started reading Flatland by Edwin Abbot. I've only just started that one, so nothing to report yet. It was simply the first book on my shelf that is alphabetized by author... so we'll see how it goes. Seems like it could be interesting.

Writing: I hit a real funk for a few weeks with the writing. I hadn't done any writing (including this blog) since mid-January. This past week it has perked up a bit. I finally brought in some new stuff to my critique group and overall everyone loved it. I got a great suggestion for a first line and some reorganizing and was told that I'm like a "warm and nice" Vonnegut. Hmm... interesting. :) I haven't read Slaughter House Five (I know... I'm not sure how I avoided that either) so that's going on my reading list next. I'm currently about two-thirds of the way done with the novel. Here's hoping that it's finished and ready to go out to agents soon!

Knitting: I've been in a knitting funk too. I'm currently making a blanket for my cousin's baby, due in April. It's EZ's garter stitch blankie. I love the pattern and was totally smitten for the first 3 1/2 pieces, but this last section is just taking forever. And....I still have the angora scarf, Andrew's socks, and the lace and bead shawl to finish. I've felt totally uninspired with all of them. I think I need to make something for myself, but I'm not quite sure what. I've been totally smitten with a glove pattern from Brooklyntweed and a mitten pattern that I dredged from the depths of the pattern stash. I'm tempted to make those, but the 60 degree weather we've been having here hasn't really motivated me too much. We'll see. Maybe I can get the blanket done tonight. If nothing else, I just found out another cousin is preggo, and a set of friends and one of my besties' baby is turning one in a few months. Maybe I'll just make baby things for them instead.

Panic: Ahh... finally something I haven't been putting off. :) The job thing has been, well, interesting to say the least. I'm sort of on hold with the Assistant Editor position. We'll see how that pans out. I just recently got a letter from the district and I have until March 4th to tell them if I am returning or not. I was feeling more amiable to it until I subbed today... little monsters. We shall see. The Superintendent of HR is apparently very excited for me to come back and really wants to talk to me about it. Maybe I can swing a really cool part time creative writing for Seniors or something of the sort. We'll have to see. I've really been trying to be all zen-like, but it's been difficult. Whatever, at this point, I'm a writer until someone else starts paying me to do something else. What will be will be I suppose.

In other news, the hubs and I are talking about remodeling the kitchen, which should provide some fantastic blog fodder should we actually go through with it. :) I'll keep you all posted.

Kiss- Ted Dekker & Erin Healy

Kiss Kiss by Ted Dekker

My review

rating: 3 of 5 stars
I had never read anything by either of thsee authors before and so I really had no idea what to expect. Overall it was a decent book. Sort of like sushi: good and hard to put down, but you don't really remember eating it when you're done and are still hungry for something more.

Kiss is about a young woman, Shauna, who is the daughter of a man running for President of the United States. At the very beginning of the book Shauna is talking to her brother and phsychiatrist about confronting her father. We don't know what she is confronting him with, but it sounds serious. Next the reader knows, Shauna is in a coma, her brother is a parapalygic and all hell has broken loose. Shauna doesn't remember the car accident, or the six months previous. Gradually she begins to uncover part of her story and realizes that she had blown the cover off of an accounting scandal that financed her father's campaign. Her father knew nothing of it, but his business partners were behind her accident and drugged her afterward to try to erase her memory. The drugs however, had an odd side effect: Shauna can now steal other people's memories. Shauna uses this new power to recreate her accident and confronts her father, who for the first time in her life, stands by her side.

I surprisingly liked this book. It was a really quick read, very hard to put down. Within the first fifty pages I thought I had everything figuered out. It seemed like it was going to be really predictable, but it wasn't at all, which was a nice surprise. The characters were a little flat, and at times the paranormal got difficult to swallow, but overall it was a decent read. I'm not usually one to pick up a paranormal thriller, but I would definitely try another one after reading this. It was interesting and easy enough that I really didn't have to think too much about it. Overall, it was worth reading and I would recommend it to others.

View all my reviews.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency- Alexander McCall Smith

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency (No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, Book 1) The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
The very short summary of this novel is that Mma Precious Ramotswe has used her inheritance to purchase a house and start a detective agency. The novel chronicles some of her cases, ranging from a lost dog to retrieveing a stolen child from a witch doctor. It also relates her past, how she grew up, her relationship with her father, her marraige, birth and death of her child as well as her current love.

I was sort of surprised by this book. I really had higher hopes for it. I have to admit, that I did like Smith's writing and style. It had a definite ease to it and I love how he incorporated so much of African culture without it feeling like a textbook. I think I was most disappointed by the pace of the novel. It was quite slow at the beginning. I wish that Smith would have sprinkled Mma Ramotswe's backstory through the entire novel, rather than focused it at the beginning. I also with that Mma Ramotswe had just a little more depth. I think she could have benefited from more time spent on her personality; she seemed quite flat in spots.

I did enjoy the book overall, but it wasn't as good as I expected. I loved the setting and the overall premise, but it needed just a little bit more. It was worth reading, but I don't know if I'll read any of the other book by Smith.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Patterson Review

Cross Country Cross Country by James Patterson

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
So, this may be blasphemous, but I thought this book was pretty lame. I have to admit, I don't normally read thrillers or mysteries and this is my first Patterson book, but honestly, I don't think it lives up to the hype. Granted, I read the book in two days, but not because the storyline was particularly compelling. It was more because the chapters are so short that I just had to keep going. Patterson does a good job of ending each chapter with a question or cliffhanger, but overall it wasn't well written and wasn't well developed. The novel is very forgettable. The storyline was mildly interesting, but then got rather convoluted and difficult to follow. There were almost too many twists. I didn't get a sense of the characters either and really didn't care about them, which made reading difficult. Now, if I had read the rest of the series, it might have been better, but I didn't and I was told that each book stands on its own. At any rate... I'd go pick up J.A. Konrath instead.

View all my reviews.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Year!

Well... it has again bee a while, but at least I have the holidays as an excuse this time. My Christamas and New Years were lovely, spent with friends and family and overall great.

I have seen a lot of bloggers going through 2008 month by month or reviewing in some other fashion. I won't be doing that for a few reasons: 1) I can't necessarily remember every thing that happened 2) I hate looking back and would rather look forward and 3) I'm pretty sure no one reads this so no one really needs a refresher. :)
Instead I'll be looking forward to what I hope to accomplish in 2009 and be giving brief updates on recent happenings. So here goes...

Reading: I am currently reading House of Dark Shadows by Robert Liparulo. It is a YA mystery/thriller. I'm only a couple of chapters in, but so far it's okay. I am also rereading East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I always list this one as a favorite novel, but hadn't read it in years. So, I'm rereading to make sure that I still like it and to see if I can glean any writing wisdom from Steinbeck's style. So far... still love it. Who says you always have to show not tell. I love his telling, beautiful. I also finished The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards. Check out my review over on The Book Book.

Writing: Well, originally I had hoped to have my first draft finished by the end of the year. That didn't happen, but I do feel pretty decent about how it's coming along now. My astrologer says that this year ma be a banner year for writing/publishing, so I have my fingers crossed. I really hope to have it done, agented and with editors by April or so. I know that's super fast, but here's hoping.

Knitting:Barf... I am super sick of all of my projects (prayer shawl, angora scarf, Andrew's socks) but I am forcing myself to finish them before I start something else. Which means I man never start something else. I just don't have the motivation now. But, I am joining the Boulder Handweaver's Guild and hope to make some things to sell at their annual sale. Also, I'm being interviewed by Interweave Knits for an assistant editor position. We'll see how that goes.

Panic: Much the same... but feeling slightly better about life in general. Everything does happen for a reason... everything. :)

Anyway... I'm off to do some actual work. More later... how later? Who knows. :)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...