Friday, July 31, 2009

Review: The Time Machine

The Time Machine coverTitle: The Time Machine
Author: H. G. Wells
Genre: Fiction, Classic, Sci-Fi
Pub Date: This ed. Jan 2005, Barnes & Noble, orig. 1895
Hardcover, 83 pages
Book Source: Purchased from BN.com

Synopsis

From BN.com: The Time Machine, H. G. Wells’s first novel, is a tale of Darwinian evolution taken to its extreme. Its hero, a young scientist, travels 800,000 years into the future and discovers a dying earth populated by two strange humanoid species: the brutal Morlocks and the gentle but nearly helpless Eloi.

My Thoughts

I always feel that one has to have a certain appreciation for classic literature, regardless of whether or not one actually likes it. I've been fortunate to read a lot of classic works that I have loved, and while The Time Machine may not be one of my favorite classics, it is certainly an impressive work of its time. Really, isn't any book that is still in publication over a hundred years after its first printing worthy of note?

The premise of this short novel is fascinating but at times I became so bogged down in the often-involved writing that I had difficulty getting into the story. At other points, the writing was markedly clearer and I found myself able to focus much more easily on the story. There is little to speak of in terms of characters and character development, but I will say Wells's presentation of the descendants of humankind certainly makes one pause to consider what might happen in the future. Wells leaves much open to the imagination and I really found myself trying to picture this distant future on Earth. Towards the end of the Time Traveller's 8-day trip in the future, events start to get pretty interesting as we are given a glimpse into how Wells pictured the end of the world. Really, these few pages were my favorite part of the story and I rather wish more time had been devoted to this, but at the same time I imagine Wells wanted to give readers food for thought. After the Time Traveller returned to his own time and told his story to an unbelieving audience, the story ends almost abruptly and leaving much to speculation.

I really appreciated what we see are the beginnings of Science Fiction. I can only imagine that as a debut work, The Time Machine must have created a bit of a stir at the end of the 19th century. It's interesting to see how people then pictured the distant future of the planet and the possible fate of humankind. This is a short book, at just over 80 pages, so even though it may become involved, it still doesn't take too long to read and gain a general understanding of what is going on. I definitely think it is worth reading as a Classic work, and a glimpse at the beginnings of Sci-Fi.

My rating: 3 stars

Other reviews of The Time Machine:

Things Mean a Lot ~ Rat's Reading ~ Becky's Book Reviews
Once Upon a Bookshelf ~ Age 30+... A Lifetime of Books
Reading Comes from Writing

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see your site listed above, please leave a comment below with the link to your review!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Review: A Circle of Souls

A Circle of Souls coverTitle: A Circle of Souls
Author: Preetham Grandhi
Genre: Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Pub date: June 2009, Sweetwater Books
ARC, 339 pages
Book source: Mr. Grandhi (kind thanks for the review copy!)

Synopsis

The sleepy town of Newbury, Connecticut, is shocked when a little girl is found brutally murdered. The town's top detective, perplexed by a complete lack of leads, calls in FBI agent Leia Bines, an expert in cases involving children.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Gram, a psychiatrist at Newbury's hospital, searches desperately for the cause of seven-year-old Naya Hastings' devastating nightmares. Afraid that she might hurt herself in the midst of a torturous episode, Naya's parents have turned to the bright young doctor as their only hope.

The situations confronting Leia and Peter converge when Naya begins drawing chilling images of murder after being bombarded by the disturbing images in their dreams. Amazingly, her sketches are the only clues to the crime that has panicked Newbury residents. Against her better judgment, Leia explores the clues in Naya's crude drawings, only to set off an alarming chain of events.

My Thoughts

I am always interested in a good mystery or thriller, so when Mr. Grandhi contacted me about reviewing his debut book, I didn't hesitate to accept the offer. I'm happy to say that I was not disappointed!

Perhaps what impressed me the most about this book was the level of detail that Mr. Grandhi included, yet wrote it in a way that does not bog down the reader. His background in child psychology is obvious and makes this story that much more intriguing and intense. He has a great ability to write the story from a child's perspective when necessary and his own love of children is evident--he really writes those elements of the book with great care. So in A Circle of Souls, instead of finding a story that proves cold and cynical as is so typical with crime novels, Mr. Grandhi has managed to inject a lot of heart and soul into the story. Leia Bines, Peter Gram, and the various law enforcement officials are all warm beings with a strong desire to help and protect children.

More than a crime novel, A Circle of Souls also has paranormal and spiritual elements, as a young girl's dreams end up being clues to solve a brutal murder of another child. Here, Grandhi turns to Indian beliefs in the role of the soul and predestination, among other traditions. It truly makes for a fascinating read and a bit of insight into the Indian culture.

In the end I didn't have a very difficult time concluding who the murderer was, but Grandhi's writing keeps you turning the pages to see everything resolved. The chapters are generally short and shift the focus back and forth between the two converging storylines, which is a great momentum-builder. I really thought that A Circle of Souls was a great debut novel and I look forward to seeing what Mr. Grandhi has to offer in the future.

My rating: 4 stars



Other reviews of A Circle of Souls:

Booking Mama ~ Cheryl's Book Nook ~ Brooke's Reviews
Book Reader's Heaven ~ One Librarian's Book Reviews

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see your site included in the list above, please leave a comment with the link!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Product Review: Bookshelf from CSN Office Furniture

I am happy to report that my Antigua 4 Tier bookshelf arrived from CSN Office Furniture yesterday afternoon! I started putting it together shortly after it was delivered, but due to an interruption I was not able to get back to it until this afternoon. In the end, I think it took less than an hour to assemble, which is GREAT in my book!

Here are a couple of pictures of the packaging...

Bookshelf packageHere we have the box. It wasn't too big or too heavy so I had no problem getting it upstairs into the room where it would be going. That's a good thing, since my husband wasn't home at the time I started putting this together!

Open Box picAfter opening the box, this is what I found: everything was neatly packaged and nothing was damaged! One thing I particularly like--see that little white square with the hardware in the middle? Rather than have all the pieces in a bag, they are packaged nicely so you can leave them sitting in their plastic compartments, just tear off the cardboard backing and everything's ready to be used as you need it. An allen wrench is also included, but it should also be noted that you will need a Philips-head screwdriver when putting this together, as well.

And now what you've all been waiting for....

The finished bookshelfThe finished product!

Room pictureHere's how it looks by the bed. It was a little bigger than I thought it would be so this isn't where I originally intended to put it, but I think I'm glad it worked out this way! Now this is my official home for my TBR books! It was nice to get them out of their somewhat precarious stacks on top of other bookshelves.

Overall, I am really impressed with this bookshelf. It's sturdy and attractive and goes together quickly with easy-to-follow instructions. My only complaint about the building process was that there were numerous instances where the pre-drilled holes for the screws did not line up with the pieces that were being attached. I know that is not an uncommon thing, but in this case it happened nearly every time I went to install the leg pieces. Despite that, this was still an easy bookcase to put together--probably one of the easiest I've ever built, in fact! One other nice bonus with this piece? It comes with floor levelers that you screw in to the bottom of each leg, so if you have uneven floors, problem solved!

All-in-all, this is a great little bookshelf that I know will get lots of use over the years, and I really appreciate CSN Office Furniture giving me the chance to review this item. Their shipping is fast (and in many cases, FREE!) and their items come safely packaged so you don't have to worry about damaged pieces. I will definitely be revisiting their site for future office furniture needs!

My rating: 4-1/2 stars

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the Book, Not the Movie)

Title: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Author: J. K. Rowling
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pub Date: July 2005, Scholastic, Inc.
Hardcover, 652 pages

Synopsis

The war against Voldemort is not going well; even Muggle governments are noticing. Ron scans the obituary pages of the Daily Prophet, looking for familiar names. Dumbledore is absent from Hogwarts for long stretches of time, and the Order of the Phoenix has already suffered losses.

And yet...

As in all wars, life goes on. Sixth-year students learn to Apparate -- and lose a few eyebrows in the process. The Weasley twins expand their business. Teenagers flirt and fight and fall in love. Classes are never straightforward, though Harry receives some extraordinary help from the mysterious Half-Blood Prince.

So it's the home front that takes center stage in the multilayered sixth installment of the story of Harry Potter. Here at Hogwarts, Harry will search for the full and complex story of the boy who became Lord Voldemort -- and thereby find what may be his only vulnerability.

My Thoughts (WARNING: Spoilers ahead)

When I started this blog, I never really thought that I would ever review any of the Harry Potter books. I've read and re-read them so many times and I know that many of you have read them as well, so I rather thought there wouldn't be much of a point in reviewing any I happened to read. As it so happens, I like to re-read a Harry Potter book when its movie is coming out, and because I am in the habit of reviewing everything I read these days, I figured I couldn't very well leave this one out.

I have to say that I truly think Rowling's entire series is a masterpiece that is already a classic in its own time. Vividly written, though not necessarily perfectly written, the tales of Harry Potter never seem to disappoint (yes, some are better than others), and the Half-Blood Prince is no exception. I have to say that I was glad that this book did not have the angst-ridden quality that The Order of the Phoenix did--that was probably my least favorite of these books. Of course, the story continues to get darker, as we come closer to understanding more about Voldemort (or should I say, You-Know-Who?) and what it will take to defeat him. In my opinion, Rowling is an expert at keeping a reader on his or her toes and turning pages to discover the unfolding events. Even though I have read this book at least once or twice, I still found my heart pounding during some of the more suspenseful moments, and it is always emotional to read about the death of everyone's beloved Dumbledore. And of course, there's Severus Snape--he's got to be one of the best characters ever composed on paper. Never have I read about someone and waffled back and forth constantly on whether or not to trust him (or her), and even still you cannot be 100% certain of the truth after reading this book.

One of the things that shines through in this book is the strong friendship between our main trio: Harry, Ron and Hermione. Through all the books and adventures, Ron and Hermione have stood by Harry, though that does not mean they have always agreed with him. And at the end of this book, when we know that Harry can't possibly return to Hogwarts for his seventh year, we can rely on Ron and Hermione helping him on the next and final stage of this incredible journey.

Reading this book has made me long to pick up The Deathly Hallows--the only Harry Potter book that I have not read at least twice (well, I did listen to part of it a second time on a car trip). Whenever I sit down to read one of these books again, I'm amazed that I could have forgotten the incredible world that Rowling has created and so brilliantly painted on these pages. Even before the movies were born I could imagine the scenes and the events that took place. I personally did not start reading these books until well after The Goblet of Fire had been released, but it did not take me long to realize that I was reading a series that could very well become my all-time favorite. And The Half-Blood Prince could very well be considered the most important book of the series, though my own favorite is probably The Deathly Hallows... In my opinion, any flaws that can be found with Rowling's writing pale when you realize the incredible story she has told in these seven books.

My rating: 5 stars



Other reviews of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (the book):

Book Nut ~ Bookish ~ Word Lily ~ In The Shadow of Mt. TBR
In Bed With Books

Reviewed this book (not the movie, please) and don't see your site listed above? Please leave a comment with the link to your review and I'll be happy to include it!

Teaser Tuesdays: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

TeaserTuesdayslogoTeaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

~ Grab your current read
~ Open to a random page
~ Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
~ BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
~ Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

In honor of going to see Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince today, I started re-reading the book yesterday and should finish it up later this morning. In the meantime, here's a teaser--it happens to be a line from Fred & George's poster on their joke shop that makes me laugh every time I read it:

WHY ARE YOU WORRYING ABOUT
YOU-KNOW-WHO?
YOU SHOULD BE WORRYING ABOUT
U-NO-POO--
THE CONSTIPATION SENSATION
THAT'S GRIPPING THE NATION!

~
page 116 of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J. K. Rowling.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Review: The Lost Years of Merlin

The Lost Years of Merlin coverTitle: The Lost Years of Merlin
Author: T. A. Barron
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Pub Date: 2007 (this edition), Philomel Books, (orig. pub date: 1996)
Hardcover, 326 pages

Synopsis (from School Library Journal)

Young Emrys washes up on a Welsh beach with a woman who claims to be his mother. For years, they share a hovel, but Branwen tells him nothing about his past. One day he discovers that he has some unusual powers; using them to kindle a fire in Branwen's defense, he is blinded by the flames. However, he learns to see without eyes?using his "second sight." Desperate to know about his past, Emrys, now 12, sets off on an ocean journey. He lands on Fincayra, where he plunges into a dangerous quest to rescue the island from the destructive blight caused by a pact between its king and an evil power. In the process, he befriends a young Fincayran girl and a dwarf who becomes a giant through a brave deed. Emrys also learns the truth about his origins.

My Thoughts

OK, everyone, I have a confession to make. I've never really cared one way or another about Arthurian tales and legends. I don't hate them, nor do I love them--I've just never read beyond what we were required to in school. Although lately I have seen a few titles and reviews that are making me consider delving into the world of Arthur and Merlin. I suppose that you could consider this book the start of that journey.

Really, what drew me to The Lost Years of Merlin were comparisons to Lloyd Alexander's Prydain Chronicles, a set of books that I love. And naturally, I am interested in most fantasy novels that cross my path. While there is nothing particularly earth-shattering about this story, it is wonderfully well-written and engaging. I imagine that anyone who IS more familiar with the Arthurian legend would find this story of Merlin's lost years to be intriguing. It reads like your typical fantastic quest, and I suppose since I have read a good amount of the genre that I did feel a bit of predictability when reading. However, it by no means ruins the story. I simply wasn't surprised at most of the events that unfolded, and you know what, that's OK. With this story you find likable characters and the interesting premise that you are reading about THE Merlin from the tales of King Arthur, and the lost years of his youth.

By the way, for those of us who love and adore books (that's all of you reading this right?), there are great passages about books in this novel. Both Nymeth and Bart have included some quotes and passages that are worth mentioning, so you should check out their reviews as well! As for me, I am looking forward to continuing the series--as a matter of fact, when I was only halfway through this book, I knew I was going to have to read the rest of them so I went ahead and ordered the entire set, since Books-A-Million has them in their bargains section. There's just something about The Lost Years of Merlin that makes it a comfortable, reliable fantasy read--once again I find myself wishing I had come across this book when it was first published in 1996.

My rating: 4 stars



Other reviews of The Lost Years of Merlin:

Things Mean a Lot ~ Bart's Bookshelf ~ The Hidden Side of a Leaf
WORD for Teens

If you've reviewed this book and would like to see your site listed above, please leave a comment with the link to your review!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Cool Contest Alert: Fairies vs. Demons!!

Have you guys seen this fun contest that Lisa Mantchev and Michelle Zink are sponsoring???

Eyes Like Stars: Fairies and Demons Contest

You've got until August 8th to enter for your chance to win treasures of the Fairy and Demon Realms!! Check out the contest page for all the info and see just what the treasures are!!

In My Mailbox (07.20-25.09)

Photobucket

In My Mailbox is hosted by Kristi, The Story Siren. Be sure to visit her site to view other people's mailboxes, too!

I had what I consider to be a nice, normal week--just three books. First off, I won a book (yay!) from Amanda at A Patchwork of Books:

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler (ARC). Synopsis:

"Don't worry, Anna. I'll tell her, okay? Just let me think about the best way to do it."
"Okay."
"Promise me? Promise you won't say anything?"
"Don't worry." I laughed. "It's our secret, right?" According to her best friend Frankie, twenty days in ZanzibarBay is the perfect opportunity to have a summer fling, and if they meet one boy ever day, there's a pretty good chance Anna will find her first summer romance. Anna lightheartedly agrees to the game, but there's something she hasn't told Frankie---she's already had that kind of romance, and it was with Frankie's older brother, Matt, just before his tragic death one year ago.

And from the kind folks at HarperCollins I received a copy The Lost Chalice by Vernon Silver. Synopsis:

Sotheby's. New York City. June 19, 1990.

Nothing of its kind had been sold to the public in more than a century. On a warm June evening on Manhattan's Upper East Side, with the auction-house showroom crammed with the wealthy, the curious, and the press, history was made when an anonymous man in a green golf sweater paid an unprecedented three quarters of a million dollars to win the twenty-five-hundred-year-old chalice. After that night, this historical artifact disappeared, its whereabouts a mystery. Until now.

It is among the most prized of antiquities: the Greek artist Euphronios's wine cup depicting the death of Zeus's son Sarpedon at Troy. Lost for more than two millennia, the chalice—one of only six of its kind found intact—mysteriously surfaced in the collection of a Hollywood producer, who then sold it to a Texas billionaire. Coveted by obsessed private collectors, dealers, and museum curators, it was also of intense interest to the Italian police, who believed it belonged to their country, where it had first been dug up earlier in the twentieth century.

In this breathtaking tale of history, adventure, and intrigue, archaeologist and journalist Vernon Silver pieces together the extraordinary tale of the lost cup and offers a portrait of the modern antiquities trade: a world of tomb raiders, smugglers, wealthy collectors, ambitious archaeologists, rapacious dealers, corrupt curators, and international law enforcement. Spanning twenty-five hundred years, The Lost Chalice moves from the mythic battlefield of the Trojan War to the countryside of twentieth-century Tuscany, the dusty libraries of Oxford University to the exhibition halls of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, the cramped law-enforcement offices of the Carabinieri to the tony rooms of New York's auction houses to solve the mystery of the world's rarest masterpiece.

As Silver learns, the discovery of the chalice exposes another riddle—and an even greater missing treasure. Epic and thrilling, The Lost Chalice is a driving true-life detective story that illuminates a big-money, high-stakes, double-dealing world, which is as fascinating as it is unforgettable. Silver's thrilling tale opens a window onto Italian history, culture, and life rarely seen.

And as I'll be participating in an upcoming TLC tour I received a copy of Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch. Synopsis:

Jillian Westfield has the perfect suburban life straight out of the upscale women's magazines that she obsessively reads. She’s got the modern-print rugs of Metropolitan Home, the elegant meals from Gourmet, the clutter-free closets out of Real Simple, and the elaborate Easter egg hunts seen in Parents. With her successful investment banker husband behind the wheel and her cherubic eighteen-month-old in the backseat, hers could be the family in the magazines’ glossy Range Rover ads.

Yet somehow all of the how-to magazine stories in the world can’t seem to fix her faltering marriage, banish the tedium of days spent changing diapers, or stop her from asking, “What if?”

Then one morning Jillian wakes up seven years in the past. Before her daughter was born. Before she married Henry. Suddenly she’s back in her post–grad school Ikea-furnished Manhattan apartment. She’s back in her fast-paced job with the advertising agency. And she’s still with Jackson, the ex-boyfriend and star of her what-if fantasies.

Armed with twenty-twenty hindsight, she’s free to choose all over again. She can use the zippy ad campaigns from her future to wow the clients and bosses in her present. She can reconnect with the mother who abandoned her so many years before. She can fix the fights at every juncture that doomed her relationship with Jackson. Or can she?

With each new choice setting off a trajectory of unforeseen consequences, Jillian soon realizes that getting to happily ever after is more complicated than changing the lines in her part of the script. Happiness, it turns out, isn’tan either-or proposition. As she closes in on all the things she thought she wanted, Jillian must confront the greatest what-if of all: What if the problem was never Henry or Jackson, but her?

Sharp, funny, and heartwarming, Time of My Life will appeal to anyone who has ever wanted to redo the past and will leave readers pondering, “Do we get the reality we deserve?”

What was in YOUR mailbox this week?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Review: A Bride Most Begrudging

A Bride Most Begrudging coverTitle: A Bride Most Begrudging
Author: Deeanne Gist
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction
Pub Date: July 2005, Bethany House
Trade Paperback, 347 pages

Synopsis

Any ship arriving from England means good news for Virginia colony farmers. The "tobacco brides" would be on board--eligible women seeking a better life in America, bartered for with barrels of tobacco from the fields.

Drew O’Connor isn’t stirred by news of a ship full of brides. Still broken-hearted from the loss of his beloved, he only wants a maid to tend his house and care for his young sister.

What he ends up with is a wife--a feisty redhead who claims she is Lady Constance Morrow, daughter of an Earl, brought to America against her will. And she want to go straight back to England as soon as she possibly can. She hasn’t the foggiest notion how to cook, she dares to argue with her poor husband, and spends more time working on mathematical equations than housework. What kind of a wife is that? Drew's Christian forbearance is in for some testing.

Headstrong and intelligent, deeply moral but incredibly enticing, Constance turns what was supposed to be a marriage of convenience into something most inconvenient, indeed.

My Thoughts

I've been having a good run of luck with Christian Fiction lately, which makes me glad that I didn't give up on the genre entirely as I had been thinking of doing. Gist's debut novel is entertaining and fast-paced, in short, I couldn't put it down.

Being a debut novel, it is certainly not without flaws, but they did not detract from the story too much. While generally a well-written book, there were times when the language felt forced--as if Gist realized she needed to make sure the characters were speaking correctly for the time, so she threw in some key phrases and words for good measure. Sometimes the dialogues felt a bit awkward but with time, I think that is a skill that Gist can perfect.

The story itself may not be original, but the likable characters and great pacing make for an enjoyable read. As with most (Christian) romances, we have a great deal of miscommunication and lack of communication between the story's focal couple, Drew and Constance, but for once I didn't find it to be so frustrating, and it actually kept me turning the pages. And while this may be a work of Christian fiction, it is thankfully not one that outright preaches to the reader, and that is certainly the way I prefer it. In fact, there is nothing in the storyline that involves a character on a mission to convert someone to Christianity, which is also refreshing. Though a Christian, myself, I have never been particularly fond of the preachy fiction that focuses on converting and saving people.

Overall I thought that A Bride Most Begrudging was a strong debut work for Gist, and I look forward to reading her other novels, as well.

My rating: 4 stars



Other reviews of A Bride Most Begrudging:

Library Queue ~ Peace, Love, Vote Books ~ A Reader's Journal
A Peek at My Bookshelf ~ Relz Reviews

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see a link to your site listed above, please leave a comment with the link to your review!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thursday Thunks (07.23.09)

Welcome to the July 23rd version of Thursday Thunks!
(which we always seem to post on Wednesday)
Where we make you think a little bit before you blog!
This week we will answer some crazy questions brought to you by
Berleen, the number 22 and the color of the last road kill you saw.

1. You walk into a store and the cashier is being held up by a robber. The robber's accomplice is dead on the floor at your feet with a shotgun laying next to him. The robber does not see you, but the cashier does - what do you do?
Well, I like to think that I might grab the shotgun and catch the robber off guard, but I rather think it's more likely that I'll freeze and wet my pants.

2. We go to an ice cream shop for an ice cream cone. You say you are buying and I am going to stay in the car. You ask me what I want and I say "surprise me", what kind of ice cream cone am I going to get?
Probably mint chocolate chip. It's my favorite, so it can be yours to that day.

3. You have a dream that your co-worker, friend or whoever is hit by a garbage truck after they back into a ladder with a black cat on it. The next day you see that person standing by a ladder with a black cat on it and there is a garbage truck driving down the road.... what do you do?
Tell them not to back into the ladder. (Once I get over the initial shock. Hopefully that will be in time to avert disaster.)

4. What is the most money you've won on a lottery or scratch off ticket?
Ha! $6 and that was on a group ticket split among 5 people. We just reinvested it in some more picks.

5. A neighbor kid down the street comes to your door and offers to wash all of your windows outside for $10 - do you have him do it?
Um, no. Maybe I'll let him wash one or two for $10 but that's it. How's the kid supposed to get the second story windows, anyway???

6. Go to Google Images. Type in the name of the last movie you saw. Post the first picture that comes up.

Transformers2

7. Your local animal shelter calls you and says there are 3 dogs that need an immediate foster home for 3 days. If you do not accept, the dogs are put down that day. Do you take them in?
If we're talking about 3 days, sure, I can handle that. Even if we're talking about longer I'd probably do it, despite our small house. Hopefully they aren't big scary dogs, either.

8. What is the messiest room in your home?
A toss-up between our bedroom and the living room, and sometimes the kitchen.

9. Have you ever been to a wedding that participated in a strange tradition that you had never heard of?
Yep.

10. Name one sport that you just don't get.
Um, I don't know... Boxing? Sure... boxing = boring.

11. What was the last email that came into your inbox about?
A new follower on Twitter :-)

12. Have you ever purchased anything from a sex shop? Extra points if you tell us what it was....
Sheesh, lol. No.

13. Go back to that Google Images link... type in the last food item that you ate. Post the 2nd picture it comes up with.

My food is chicken fingers (had to think about it, it's been a few weeks) and here's the pic:

chicken fingers

14. Got any bumper stickers on your vehicle? What are they?
Nope, I'm not big into putting bumper stickers on my cars. Though I like reading other people's...

15. What meme question do you wish was never asked again?
Sorry, no clue.

Review: The Summoning

The Summoning coverTitle: The Summoning
Author: Kelley Armstrong
Genre: Young Adult, Paranormal
Pub Date: July 2008, HarperCollins
Trade Paperback, 390 pages

Synopsis

She sees dead people--and they see her.

Chloe Saunders used to have a pretty normal life. But that changed on the day she met her first ghost. Locked up in Lyle House, a group home for troubled teens, she finds out that there's more to the home's teen residents than meets the eye. Will Chloe be able to uncover the dangerous secrets of Lyle House... or will its skeletons come back to haunt her?


My Thoughts

I'm going to be honest here. I did not really get into this book until the last third of it or so. The rest of it just didn't hold my attention for some reason. However, that last third was so good that I am determined to continue reading this series.

There are several things I appreciated about this story--its premise, the focus away from the usual vampires and fairies while still being paranormal, the dynamic between the "troubled teens" and the Lyle House employees... At the same time, I found it rather unbelievable that Chloe would not realize or would simply deny that she was seeing ghosts, when it was pretty obvious what was going on. Overall, the characters could have used a bit more development, though obviously some were fleshed out more than others (Chloe and Derek, for example). The writing is generally good, though at times I found myself wishing it was more descriptive and captivating.

What really saved this book for me, though, was a big plot twist towards the end. Honestly, I never get tired of them although I know some people do. And with The Summoning, I really didn't see it coming. By the way, I should mention that I regret not having The Awakening right here to start, as the first book does end with quite the cliffhanger. All-in-all it was a pretty good read (not great, for me) but I see a lot of potential and I hope to pick up the story again soon with the second book. One other random note: I really love the cover of this book!

My rating: 3 stars



Other reviews of The Summoning:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Amicalola Falls (A Non-Bookish Post)

Hi everyone!

Sorry I missed my normal Teaser Tuesdays post yesterday, but I had a good excuse (or so I like to think). The hubby and I took a day trip to Amicalola Falls in North Georgia since we had the day off together. (It also happened to be our 3rd anniversary of our first date.) It was a perfect day for the hike--not too hot and nice and sunny, and we got to enjoy a picnic lunch. We even had a few wildlife encounters along the way, including three deer we managed to get some pictures of... Anyway, we had a great time but I was too exhausted to do much of anything after we got home, except for uploading some pictures of our day to Facebook. :-) But I hope to finish reading The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong today, and perhaps even get my review posted before the day is out, so be on the lookout for that!

Here's a sampling of pictures from our outing, as well as a link to my Facebook album with lots more pictures. Enjoy!





T'Aragam Tour: Interview with Jack W. Regan

Today I'm excited to be a part of the blog tour for Jack W. Regan's T'Aragam, bringing to you an interview with the author himself! You might recall that I rated T'Aragam 5 stars and it was my top pick for June, so I jumped at the chance to be a part of this book tour when I first heard about it...

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Welcome to Melissa's Bookshelf, Jack! When did you know that you wanted to write a juvenile fantasy novel? Can you tell us a little about your background to becoming a published author?

I work part time at a public library and, as such, handle more books in a day than many people do in a lifetime. It soon became clear to me that there was a gap in the reading material we were offering to our patrons. There are a ton of YA fantasy books out there and some for younger kids,
but there wasn’t so much out there for readers who weren’t quite ready or interested in the YA stuff, but growing out of the younger set. I wrote “T’Aragam” in part to fill that gap.

I’ve always had a love for books and have been writing since I was about twelve. At the behest of my mom, I entered a national essay contest at sixteen and won second place. I wrote and edited the high school newsletter, edited my college newspaper, and once out of college, began an online review service, all this time working on my writing: short stories, etc. I stopped doing reviews in 2004 to focus all my attention on writing. “T’Aragam” is a product of a lot of false starts, failures, long days, and late nights. But then again, that’s kind of what a writer should expect.

Where did you find the inspiration for T'aragam?

While the original seed of the idea just occurred to me one day, most of “T’Aragam” was created through blood, sweat, and tears. It would probably be more accurate to say that I went and found the inspiration, rather than it finding me. And I did this by putting the rest of my life on hold for the duration and just sitting at my computer, knowing I couldn’t leave until I completed my word goal for the day. And more often than not, by the time I reached the word goal, I was into the story and just kept going.

Do you have a favorite character in T'aragam? One that you find you relate to more?

Well, it almost seems like heresy to choose a favorite, but I guess I’d have to pick the main character, Max. While the other characters each have some characteristic I love (or love to hate), he’s the all-around best. Likable, smart, brave, and yet also supremely human. He has limitations and faults, just like the rest of us. He seems most real to me.

Do you have a favorite scene or quote from T'aragam that you can share with us?

My favorite quote is from the monster, Gloom, when he sees Max for the first time. “A child! You know I can’t stomach children!” To which Gramkin replies, “You don’t have to stomach him. He’s not dinner…this is Lord Ransome’s son!” I love silly humor like that.

My favorite scene is probably the sea battle between Captain Baggywrinkle and the ship from Grendale.

What about your own reading? (This is of course, assuming you still have time to!) Who are your favorite authors? Any books you find yourself re-reading? How (if at all) did they play a part in your own path to becoming a writer?

My all-time favorite author is Mark Twain. His sharp, often sarcastic humor is timeless. But most of the books I read are non-fiction. I read a lot of history and biographies. And I don’t usually re-read books, simply because I know I don’t have the time to read all the books on my list even once!

I think any book a writer reads affects their writing in some way. In fact, the best way to learn to write (besides actually writing, of course) is by reading good books. You absorb a sense of rhythm, sentence structure, and vocabulary.

And I imagine many others want to know... What's next for the world of T'aragam? When can we expect to see the story continued?

Hmmm. Trying to think what to say without giving anything away. Let’s just say that the ending of “T’Aragam” leaves several options open. Most of the same characters will return in some capacity, but there may be a few surprises thrown in along the way. The world of T’Aragam is, of course, still in grave danger and Max’s job is far from over.

The second book in the Max Ransome Chronicles will be titled, “Kingdom Heir” and is scheduled to release on December 1, 2009.

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Thank you again, Jack, for taking time out to answer some questions for Melissa's Bookshelf! That's exciting news that Kingdom Heir is due out at the end of the year, I know I look forward to reading it!!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Adding Another "Home" For My Books!

I don't know about the rest of you, but my book collection seems to steadily get bigger and bigger. I recently added some bookshelves that my parents were no longer using and I've almost outgrown them! What's a girl to do? Look for another bookshelf, of course! And this girl shops on a budget.

As it turns out, I was recently contacted by CSN Office Furniture to pick out a piece of their ample selection of furniture to review. I toyed with the idea of an office chair, as ours is looking a bit sad, but ultimately you know I couldn't pass up a bookshelf. The chair will just have to wait (although it was tempting, given the many options they have for office chairs!).

CSN Furniture LogoNow if I wasn't on a budget (and perhaps you aren't), I would be tempted to shop for something like this:

Large Bookshelf
Isn't it gorgeous??? But right now that would require a new, bigger house to go along with it. Not quite in the budget. :-) But I can dream, right? And honestly, CSN Office Furniture has a bookshelf to fit every need, whether you are looking for something large or small, wide or narrow, or even a corner piece. Ultimately I found a darling bookshelf that will work great in one of our guest bedrooms, which have become the main locations where I keep my rapidly growing book collection. Here's a sneak peak at the shelf I'll be telling you about down the road, what do you think?


I can't wait to put it in its new home!

Perhaps you don't need any bookshelves right now, but even if that's the case, CSN Office Furniture has a wide selection of chairs, desks, and other office furniture for every budget, taste, and style. Their web site is easy to navigate (always a plus!) with many options to narrow down your search to find exactly what you're looking for! Take a peek at their site and see what you can find for your home or office today!

Be sure to check back soon to get my thoughts on the bookshelf after it arrives!

Mystery Mondays: Review: A Deadly Habit

Title: A Deadly Habit
Author: Andrea Sisco
Genre: Mystery
Pub Date: July 2009, Five Star
ARC, 270 pages

Synopsis

When Probation Officer, Penelope (Pen) Santucci was a child, she dreamt of being a nun. She dressed in bed sheets and roller-skated regularly into the confessional of Father Daniel Kopecky. There she bared her soul, fabricating sins only a precocious eight-year-old could invent. As a twenty-seven-year-old woman, she's doing the same thing, sans the roller skates and bed sheets. Only this time, she isn't inventing stories. She's confessing her involvement in a murder; a murder she didn't commit, but one in which she is the most promising suspect.

Wisecracking, safecracking Pen lures an elderly priest and a young nun into committing felonies on their wild search for the truth. Hardly appropriate behavior for the dedicated probation officer, but while Pen believes in her job, she has little faith in the justice system. Unfortunately, Pen digs herself deeper into trouble and straight into a muddy grave, dragging her sexy attorney in with her. If they ever get out of it alive, he plans to wring her neck himself. That is, if the thugs who are after the money she found don't get her first.

My Thoughts

Thanks to Bostick Communications for my ARC of A Deadly Habit.

Well, you all know how I love a good mystery, and it's even better when it happens to be a mystery that is full of humor. A Deadly Habit is Andrea Sisco's debut novel, and in my opinion it is a great start! Pen Santucci is a hilarious amateur detective, trying to clear herself of her soon-to-be-ex-husband's murder. You never know what might come out of her mouth, but chances are she would have been better off keeping it shut. Her sister, Germaine (the nun) is another great character--she lives a life devoted to God but can't resist getting involved with Pen's search for the truth. Yes, you really feel for Pen's lawyer, Marco, who is doing all he can to make sure his client isn't charged with murder, but has to be her keeper, as well. But he is determined to help Pen through this, if only due to the fact that he owes Father Daniel Kopecky a favor. I think Father Kopecky got a little more than he bargained for when Pen came to confession, though.

Yes, a great set of characters really helps to make this story work. As for the mystery itself, it's pretty well done, with just enough given to the reader to let them have a guess at figuring out who really murdered Pen's jerk of husband, Paul. The main focus is really on Pen's crazy antics to discover the truth. I also rather liked that while you sense an attraction between Marco and Pen, it's not really addressed in great detail in the book, just a few lines here and there, leaving you to wonder what may come of the pair. It's become so common to weave in romances between principle characters in suspense/mystery books these days, it was refreshing to be left hanging about that this time around.

While I normally prefer books to be written from a third person point of view, the fact that A Deadly Habit was written entirely from Pen's point of view did not really hurt the book. It actually gives further insight into Pen's character and why she is the way she is. (Hmmm, did I mention her crazy mother??) Overall, the writing is generally easy to read, if a bit choppy at times--to me that is easily overlooked and did not hamper my enjoyment of the story.

If you enjoy mysteries or are looking for a book to give you a few laughs, I'd recommend checking out A Deadly Habit, due out this month. For a sneak peak, you can even read the first chapter here. And an additional note from Andrea herself--she loves talking with book clubs, so if you have any interest in having Andrea visit your book club (via phone or in person) please visit her web site and drop her a note!

My rating: 4 stars

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Book Blogger Appreciation Week!

BBAW button
Recently Amy from My Friend Amy announced the Second Annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week: September 14-18, 2009! Here's the information on the front page of the official BBAW web site:

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Last year over 400 blogs came together to celebrate the art of book blogging during the first ever Book Blogger Appreciation Week! I am so pleased to announce that the second annual Book Blogger Appreciation Week will be taking place September 14-18.

WHO Anyone who blogs about books is invited to participate. In fact, we want everyone who blogs about books and reading to be a part of this week!
WHAT A week where we come together, celebrate the contribution and hard work of book bloggers in promoting a culture of literacy, connecting readers to books and authors, and recogonizing the best among us with the Second Annual BBAW Awards. There will be special guest posts, daily blogging themes, and giveaways.
WHEN September 14-18, 2009
WHERE Here at the new Book Blogger Appreciation Week Blog! (Please note that this year there are three separate blogs and feeds—one for the main event, one for giveaways, and one for awards.)
WHY Because books matter. In a world full of options, the people talking about books pour hard work, time, energy, and money into creating a community around the written word. I, Amy, the founder of Book Blogger Appreciation Week love this community of bloggers and want to shower my appreciation on you!

WANT TO PARTICIPATE?
Please help us spread the word about Book Blogger Appreciation Week by posting about it on your blog, stumbling this post, twittering about it, and telling everyone you know that it’s time to have a party and celebrate book bloggers!

Please register by filling out the registration form! Registering ensures your inclusion in the BBAW 09 Database of Book Bloggers and enters you into the drawing for the BBAW 09 Grand Prize!

Come back often as there will be many updates! And follow us on Twitter!

AWARDS
BBAW Award Nominations open July 15th on the BBAW Awards Blog.

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How exciting--this will be my first time participating since I've only had my blog since February of this year! It seems like such a great community-building week, though. I finally went and submitted my nominations this morning, even though I had registered as soon as I saw Amy's post. I wanted to put a lot of thought into my choices and as you all know there are so many incredible book bloggers out there, it's not easy! Be sure to register and make your choices known, too!! :-)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

In My Mailbox (07.13-18.09)

Mailbox
In My Mailbox is hosted by the fabulous Story Siren. Visit her page to check out other bloggers' mailboxes, too!

I had a great week, with a big order of bargain books from Books-A-Million (7 books for about $30!) and a couple of ARC's for review as well. One of which I am VERY excited about to the point of being giddy:

Fire by Kristin Cashore. Pub date: October 5, 2009. Synopsis (as this is an ARC, this is subject to change):

It is not a peaceful time in the Dells.

Young King Nash clings to the throne, while rebel lords, in the north and south, build armies to unseat him. War is coming. The mountains and forests are filled with spies and thieves.

This is where Fire lives, a girl whose startling appearance is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.

Everyone... except Prince Brigan.

And another ARC that sounds intriguing...

A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi. Pub Date: June 2009. Synopsis:

The sleepy town of Newbury, Connecticut, is shocked when a little girl is found brutally murdered. The town's top detective, perplexed by a complete lack of leads, calls in FBI agent Leia Bines, an expert in cases involving children.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Gram, a psychiatrist at Newbury's hospital, searches desperately for the cause of seven-year-old Naya Hastings's devastating nightmares. Afraid that she might hurt herself in the midst of a torturous episode, Naya's parents have turned to the bright young doctor as their only hope.

The situations confronting Leia and Peter converge when Naya begins drawing chilling images of murder after being bombarded by the disturbing images in her dreams. Amazingly, her sketches are the only clues to the crime that has panicked Newbury residents. Against her better judgment, Leia explores the clues in Naya's crude drawings, only to set off an alarming chain of events.


And now from Books-A-Million:

The Lost Years of Merlin by T. A. Barron. Synopsis:

Winter's longest night is rapidly approaching as Merlin faces the most difficult challenge of his life—to unite all the peoples of Fincayra against an invasion by the evil warlord Rhita Gawr. But how can one man, in two weeks' time, gather them all—the dwarves, the canyon eagles, the walking trees, the living stones, and more—when none of them will listen? And now, in the midst of this seemingly insurmountable task, comes the mysterious Sword Arms, who is hunting down Fincayra's children.

Only if Merlin can unite the battling forces deep within himself can he save the children, unify the Fincayrans, and regain the long lost wings that will enable him—and his people—to choose their true destiny.

Storm Born by Richelle Mead. Synopsis:

Eugenie Markham is a powerful shaman who does a brisk trade banishing spirits and fey who cross into the mortal world. Mercenary, yes, but a girl's got to eat. Her most recent case, however, is enough to ruin her appetite. Hired to find a teenager who has been taken to the Otherworld, Eugenie comes face to face with a startling prophecy-one that uncovers dark secrets about her past and claims that Eugenie's first-born will threaten the future of the world as she knows it.

Now Eugenie is a hot target for every ambitious demon and Otherworldy ne'er-do-well, and the ones who don't want to knock her up want her dead. Eugenie handles a Glock as smoothly as she wields a wand, but she needs some formidable allies for a job like this. She finds them in Dorian, a seductive fairy king with a taste for bondage, and Kiyo, a gorgeous shape-shifter who redefines animal attraction. But with enemies growing bolder and time running out, Eugenie realizes that the greatest danger is yet to come, and it lies in the dark powers that are stirring to life within her.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Synopsis:

Melinda Sordino busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops. Now her old friends won't talk to her, and people she doesn't even know hate her from a distance. The safest place to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that's not safe. Because there's something she's trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have to speak the truth. This extraordinary first novel has captured the imaginations of teenagers and adults across the country.

Fringe Girl by Valerie Frankel. Synopsis:

Adora's place in the pecking order of her posh high school is decidedly on the fringe: Pretty but not beautiful, comfortable but not rich, popular but not the ruling class. But for her latest social studies project (and to exact a little old-fashioned revenge), she decides to put what she's learned about political revolutions to good use.With the help of her friends, Adora stages her very own uprising. And guess what? Victory is hers! Before she knows it, the snotty cool kids have been overthrown-and suddenly Adora is the leader, reveling in her newfound power and popularity. But a few unexpected events are about to trip up the new order-and Adora's noticing that sometimes it can be lonely at the top.

Dreamland by Sarah Dessen. Synopsis:

Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real. Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known. He's magnetic. He's compelling. He's dangerous. Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else--her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?

This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen. Synopsis:

Remy always knows when to give a guy "the speech"--right after the initial romantic rush, but before anything gets too serious. She's had her fair share of boyfriends, and she's learned all there is to learn from her mother, who's currently working on husband number five. So why is it that Remy can't seem to dump Dexter? It can't be his name. It can't be that he's messy and disorganized. And it certainly isn't that he's a musician, just like Remy's father, a man she never knew because he left before she was born. could it be that Remy's romantic rules to live by don't apply anymore?

I also got a copy of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, but it turns out it was an illustrated version for children, silly me. Sadly, it's also falling a part, but I may try to donate it if I can glue it back together.

What was in YOUR mailbox?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Review: Keeping The Moon

Keeping The Moon coverTitle: Keeping The Moon
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction
Pub Date: this ed. May 2004, Speak (Penguin)
Trade Paperback, 228 pages

Synopsis

Fifteen-year-old Colie has never fit in. First, it was because she was fat. Then, after she lost the weight, it was because of a reputation that she didn't deserve. So when she's sent to stay with her eccentric aunt Mira for the summer, Colie doesn't expect too much. After all, why would anyone in Colby, North Carolina, want to bother with her when no one back home does?

But Colby turns out to be a nice surprise for Colie. Almost without trying, she lands herself a job at the Last Chance Bar and Grill. There she meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel--two best friends who teach her what friendship is all about, and help her learn to appreciate who she really is.

My Thoughts

I rather wish I had come across Sarah Dessen when she published her first book, That Summer--I really think that her books are great reads for teen and 'tween girls. However, that doesn't stop me from enjoying them years after the fact.

Keeping The Moon deals with an issue that I think most girls struggle with at some point--their weight and appearance. As always, Dessen handles the story tastefully and realistically. It's interesting to see how she has evolved from her first book in this, her third book. For me, her stories are a welcome departure from most of the books I gravitate toward--mystery, fantasy and paranormal. Every now and then I just enjoy a book about people that might have lived next door to you, or perhaps you knew them in school.

Another aspect of Dessen's works that I appreciate is her ability to weave strong, positive messages into the story. In Keeping The Moon, she notes that confidence comes from within and that you make yourself into who you want to be--no one else can decide that for you. So even though this may be a light read (perfect for summer, I might add), you come away with a positive message and feeling after reading it. Overall I really enjoyed the story, though at times I wish it were fleshed out a bit more. I often find that with Dessen's books--they tend to be shorter reads that are over before you know it. And really, that's probably not a bad thing given how many chunkier books are out there for the young adult market. So if you're looking for a light read with a positive message, this might be the book for you.

My rating: 4 stars



Other reviews of Keeping The Moon:

An Adventure In Reading ~ YA Fabulous ~ 52 Books and 52 Weeks
Hope's Bookshelf ~ What Vanessa Reads ~ All Five Stars

If you have reviewed this book and would like to see your site listed here, please leave a comment with the link below!