Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Review: The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan With Doctors Without Borders

The Photographer is a must read for pretty much everyone interested in politics, recent history (takes place in the 1980's), social issues, or just a really great story.  It follows Didier Lefevre throughout his trip to remote Afghanistan in the 1980's during the war between Russia and Afghanistan.  The book is a combination of the photos taken by Lefevre and a graphic novel adaptation of the story of the trip. 

Lefevre accompanied a Doctors Without Borders group on a trip to a remote part of Afghanistan as the photographer.  He chronicles the entire trip, including crossing the border illegally, being stranded alone on a snowy mountain pass, brushes with death, and imprisonment in Pakistan.  It's an incredible read, made even more fascinating by the unique media used in the presentation.  I recommend this book to anyone, with the caution that the use of images/graphic novel format does not make it a children's book.  Some of the images are graphic and nothing is censored.  If you're turned off by photographs of the effects of violence, war, starvation, and disease, this isn't a book for you.  However, nothing is presented in a sensational way - for me the shocking images are done in the manner of professional photojournalism and serve to depict the reality of a terrible situation. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Crafts + Books - with pictures!

I'm going to do something I really planned not to ever do in case it makes people think I'm lame.  But I'm so proud of myself and my book-related craft that I feel like it needs to be posted on both blogs.  What could be more nerdy than spending all night ignoring your husband and housework for your books?  Ignoring your housework and husband while decorating your books AND watching Dr. Who season three!  I love me some Tennant.  Here's what I started with - some freebies I picked up in the recycling bin outside of the used book store (not technically this one, but some similar ones that I forgot to photograph before I decorated them:

Then I used my precious ModPodge, scrapbook paper, and scrapbook paper embellishments to turn them into these:

Which now have their own special spot here, with the birds and pear that I also created (ok, spray painted) and the book case I refinished:

What do you think?  Am I ready to open an Etsy shop?

Deadline for Giveaway Entries

Ok, so I'm officially setting the deadline for entries on all five giveaways as midnight Thursday. That way I can post the winners on Friday morning. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment with your email address and follow my blog! I'm about to start posting my reviews for books I read on vacation, so you may have to scroll down to find all the giveaway posts.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Summer Vacation Giveaway #4

Remember that time I promised a big Jennifer Lancaster giveaway on a Friday and then I didn't post or even get online until Saturday night? Sorry guys. Anyway, since I waited this long to post it (I have good reasons, I really do) I'm going to leave it open for longer than I intended. I'll announce winners at some point (read: when I get around to it) next week. Be a follower, leave a comment and I'll draw a random winner to get Bitter Is The New Black, Bright Lights Big Ass, and Such A Pretty Fat!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer Vacation Giveaway #4

Today's giveaway is a little bit heavier reading than yesterdays, but I would still classify it as vacation reading - just with a more serious topic. 150 years after a brutal murder, a photographer revisits the scene and becomes obsessed with the women who were killed. It's Anita Shreve, so you don't have to worry that it's going to be too deep, but she's pretty good for a diversion! Again, be a follower and leave a comment with your email to enter!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summer Vacation Giveaway #3

Today's giveaway - more chick lit! Remember, to enter all you have to do is follow the blog and leave a comment with your email. You can still go back and enter the earlier giveaways too!

The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc - check it out on Goodreads!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Updated Review of Stuff Christians Like with Contest

I've got some updates to my review of Stuff Christians Like provided by The Blog Tour Spot.

For my writer friends, they have a writing contest going on, with a chance to be a featured guest blogger on the Stuff Christians Like website, which is viewed by over 120,000 people monthly.

As noted by popular blogger and author Jonathan Acuff, "sometimes the stuff that comes with faith is funny"
. . .. . . Like surviving church as a single adult.. . .
And knowing how metrosexual your worship leader is.. . .
And how serious, a serious Wednesday can be.

In 500 words or less, write your own version of Stuff Christians Like and you could be featured on Jonathan's blog - which reaches over 120,000 readers each month and has been read by 1.4 million people since it began two years ago.

Check out for examples and inspiration. Entires must be received by midnight, CST Friday, July 2. You can email your submission to info (at)

If you participate in this please let me know - I'd love to hear about stuff you think Christians like!

The book is awesome (check out my earlier review) and if you're interested in it, you can check it out here or here at the website itself.

PS: Make sure you scroll down and enter Day 2 of my Summer Vacation Giveaway!

Summer Vacation Giveaway #2

Vacation is just as awesome as I had hoped - yesterday we slept till noon, spent a few hours laying out by the pool, took naps, and had a Lifetime movie marathon. Since we got here Friday night I've read The Photographer, I Hate Other People's Kids, and Sister's Read. All of them were excellent and I'll be posting reviews at some point. But on to the good stuff. Today I'm giving away a book from my favorite "fun" genre - books about books. And this one is written by my hero, Nancy Pearl. It combines my love of all things book with my newfound love of the YA genre:

Book Crush - recommended reading for children and teens grouped into themes, moods, etc. This is part of a series of books by Nancy Pearl that include to books aimed at adults - Book Lust and More Book Lust. If you're into YA or if you have middle grade or teen readers, you need to have this book. To enter:
1. Be a follower.
2. Leave a comment with your email.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Summer Vacation Giveaway #1

I've got vacation pictures to post soon I hope, but for now, let's get started with the giveaways! I'm doing one every day until Friday, when I'll do a set of three Jen Lancaster books. Monday's giveaway is:

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons! This is an awesome chick lit book that tells the lives of a group of friends who form a book club. If you like Firefly Lane, Beaches, etc, you'll love this one. Perfect beach reading. Entry requires two things:
1. Follow my blog.
2. Leave a comment with your email address.
I'll post Tuesday's giveaway tomorrow night. I'll leave them all open through Friday and announce the winners next weekend!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Review: The Dead-Tossed Waves

So this is the second installment from Carrie Ryan in the Forest of Hands and Teeth series-ish. It's not a typical series because it doesn't follow one set of characters. In this (the second book) we follow the story of Gabry, (daughter of the main character from the first book). The books work well when read together, but definitely work find on their own too. I liked The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but I think I really preferred The Dead-Tossed Waves. I could identify more with the character and her fears, since I'm pretty much a scaredy cat myself. I also liked Catcher and Elias more than the "love interests" in the previous book. I'm trying to convince Luke to read these now - I think he will like The Dead-Tossed Waves better, so I'm having him start off with that one. My one complaint: now I have to wait till next March to find out what happens with Catcher and Elias. And I am SO excited that the last book will focus on Catcher. He's probably my favorite character so far!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

More Puppy Pictures

Since I know you're all dying to see them...enjoy some more pictures of my new baby:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Awesome Idea

It's finally mid-June which means I'm finally getting to go on vacation! Every year a family in my dad's church gives us a week in mid-June to spend at their "cabin" in the woods. When I think "cabin" the first thing that comes to mind is a KOA one bedroom log cabin in CO (with my friend Jody of course) with no AC and no running water. The kind of cabin the poor folks like me and my family stay in when we travel. Ugh. This is not that kind of cabin. This is the 5 bedroom with a jacuzzi and a theater room kind of cabin - so for a week we all lay around and pretend like we're fancy and do nothing but sleep and read and lay out by the pool and have 24 marathons (my mother has a thing for Jack Bauer).

Anyway, my awesome idea is that since I'll be enjoying vacation and some fun summer reading next week, I'll spread the love around by doing a give-away every work day of a fun summer read. But since I want more followers, you have to follow to participate...bahahaha. If you don't love me for my awesome posts, I'll force you to love me if you want my free books! I'm not sure what all I'll give away but I know that I'll do:

The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc
Book Lust
And on Friday my big giveaway will be a set of Jennifer Lancaster books

What do you think? I'm awesome, right? Flatter me, dears!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Review: Stuff Christians Like

This is the funniest book I've read in quite a while. At least the past two years. Almost every page had my laughing out loud. I read it in bed at night while Luke was reading Leviathon and he couldn't concentrate on his book because I kept laughing so hard. Then I'd have to explain to him why I was laughing and then we'd laugh more. It's basically like Stuff White People Like but about Christians. And it's all hilariously true. If you want a sample, check out the author's blog, but only if you have a few hours to kill because it will suck you in.
Not only was the author hilarious, but the whole book is presented in an "aren't we funny" kind of way not a "look at those freaks" kind of way. The author can make fun and not be offensive because he's in on the joke, if that makes sense. He's not making fun, he's just pointing out silly things we do. Seriously, just go look at the blog. And be prepared to stay there for a while.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Review: The Tension of Opposites

I was so excited about this book - and even more excited when Crystal let me borrow it! It's about Tessa whose best friend was abuducted two years ago. Everyone thought she was dead, but in the first pages of the book, she escapes her captor and comes home. Tessa is thrilled to have her best friend back, but in the past two years Noelle has changed. Tessa has put her life on hold waiting for Noelle to come back, but now that she's returned, things aren't the way she had imagined. There's the basic premise.

The story was good, but it really didn't live up to what I had anticipated. It wasn't bad and it was a quick, entertaining read, but I just didn't like most of the characters. And the main character seemed really self-centered. Maybe I'm wrong and she responds the way most teenage girls would respond in those situations, but it just seemed not quite right to me. My main pet peeve though was the depiction of the teenage male characters. With the exception of (who else?) Tessa's love interest and Noelle's brother, every single teenage male is scum. They are only interested in popularity, money, sex, and drugs. Except for Tessa's love interest of course. He is mature, responsible, hot, kind, loving, selfless, and doesn't even care about sex. Right. Either way, I think the depiction of 17 year old boys as either heartless and depraved or perfectly understanding and sensitive (but incredibly hot) is a little bit off.

My favorite roll-your-eyes moment was when the "good" guy tells Tessa that she should take off her shirt and lay down with him, not because he wants to see her boobies or because he has any sexual desire, but because he just wants to feel her skin against his. And she can see in her eyes that it's true. Barf. Am I completely cynical or is it hard for anyone else to believe that a 17 year old boy just wants his topless girlfriend to snuggle so they can feel close? Right. Nothing sexual about that.

I'm not saying I hated the book, but it just didn't ring true for me. It was entertaining and I read it quickly and was into it, but it wasn't a book I'll remember. One thing I did appreciate - the main character had loving, involved parents who knew what she was up to, met the boy she was dating, had rules, and generally cared about their daughter. You don't see a whole lot of that in YA fiction right now.

If you do read this one, check out the discussion taking place on Forever Young, my friend Jessica's YA blog. The details are in this post - it's taking place June 28th and 29th and will not only feature book discussion, but some interaction with the author! It's going to be lots of fun, and I'll be participating - you should too!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Book Review: The Forest of Hands and Teeth

If you told me in January that I'd read even one zombie book this year, I would have laughed. The Forest of Hands and Teeth marks my THIRD zombie book this year. Craziness! I'm seriously not a zombie-book-reading kind of person. But after shocking myself by enjoying World War Z and one of it's spin-offs (the Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks) and after reading and loving some YA books recently, I decided to give this one a try. I didn't even know it was about zombies until I started reading it.

Basically the plot revolves around a post-apocalyptic/dystopian world (I loooooove post-apocalyptic/dystopian fiction! Heather, I'm ready to read yours any day now...) where a zombie-making disease spread and there was a zombie-human war. In the Forest of Hands and Teeth, the people are living in a Puritanical society in a small village surrounded by fences that keep out the zombies (Think The Village + Night of the Living Dead). They've heard of an outside world, but no one knows if it really exists until the fences are breached and they have to set out through the Forest of Hands and Teeth to find refuge.

After reading reviews where people talked about being afraid to sleep with the lights out, I was expecting a good, scary read. And it was a good, entertaining read. I read it quickly and cared about the characters and wanted to know what happened to them. But I was a little bit disappointed by how not-scary it was. I think I would have enjoyed the book more had I not been expecting to be scared through the whole thing. It was something of a let down to get to the end and realize that the scary wasn't coming.

But that doesn't mean the book wasn't a good read. I was entertained and sucked in to the story from the beginning. The characters weren't perfect, but they were relatable and mostly likable. If you're a fan of YA or if you're a fan of dystopian literature, I say give it a try. I'd like to hear what other people thought of it, since it's been on my mind for the past few days. I think being unable to get a book out of your head is one mark of success for the author. I've already got the second book in the series on hold and I'm looking forward to reading it with different expectations this time.

Book Review: Infernal Devices

Infernal Devices by K.W. Jeter is the book I was reading last week when I posted about the genre of steam punk. A lot of articles I read about steam punk recently listed this book, written in the 1980's, as one of the definitive books of the genre and credit it with forming the foundation for steam punk. Since I've decided to check the genre out, I decided this would be a good one to start with.

This one was hard not to judge based on its cover. It looks kind of pulpy right? The cover that I read just looked boring (a guy looking at a pocket watch). It's out of print now, but I hope they'll redo the cover if it is ever re-printed because I was totally turned off by it. The book itself, however, was pretty good. It was funny in an Oscar Wilde kind of way, which I really appreciate. The humor also reminded me at times of Young Frankenstein (the Mel Brooks movie). There was some bawdy humor but it was done in a clever way (as opposed to the "haha an old lady said penis" way that I think many newer comedies seem to think hilarious).

The plot was pretty interesting and involves lots of clockwork, a Brown Leather Man, secret societies, the cult of St. Monkfish, and flying machines made out of sheep. If you're only into "realistic" fiction, this isn't the book for you. But if you have a taste for the absurd and you're interested in the steam punk genre, I think this is a good one to try out. The Victorian-era-style writing and the setting stay true to the genre and the story is fun. Give it a try if you're interested in the genre and enjoy writers like Oscar Wilde or Charles Dickens.

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Meet the newest member of our family!

I know, he's the cutest ever, right? This is our new Great Dane puppy, Dexter. I wanted to name him Boo Radley, but Luke shot me down. At least Dexter is somewhat literary right? He came home this weekend and I am in love. Of course, Sly is still my main man, but the puppy is precious and we adore him. More pictures? Ok, since you insist...

I have a bunch of book reviews, but I've been way too busy playing with Dexie to get online and post them - so look for some tomorrow. Also, got to show off my new house (and puppy) to my buddy Leah. Who wants to come visit next? AND I got to go to a Backstreet Boys concert with Crystal! Hopefully I'll get some of those pictures posted soon!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Steam Punk

Ok, so how best to describe steampunk as a genre? It's a subgenre of science fantasy and speculative fiction that typically takes place in a Victorian time period, most frequently set in England. It's frequently an "alternate history" where technology has progressed in a very different way (and often earlier) and most parts of the world still use steam power (hence steampunk). Sometimes, especially in more recent works, they include elements of fantasy and the supernatural, such as vampires (of course what doesn't include vampires right now?)

Some good examples of Steampunk in literature:

His Dark Materials Trilogy
Perdido Street Station
The Anubis Gates
The City of Ember

And in movies:
The City of Lost Children
The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Howl's Moving Castle

This is a new literary genre for me although I've been familiar with steampunk movies for quite a while. If you are a fan of Sci-Fi Original Movies or miniseries (yes, I am) then you've most likely seen a steampunk movie once or twice. They're usually poorly done on a low budget but they are still (to me at least) fascinating. All this to say, I recently picked up one of the original steampunk books credited with starting the genre in the 1980s. It's called Infernal Devices and I'm kind of loving it. Don't expect to see me wearing Victorian dresses and goggles anytime soon, but I think I may be looking more closely at this genre over the next few months. I hope to finish and review Infernal Devices within the next few days!