Thursday, September 30, 2010

National Book Festival Part 2 and my news

I really did intend to post this Monday night, but things got out of control this week.  In a very good way.  My news is that I took on a very last minute editing job for Robby Gallaty, who also happens to be my pastor.  The book, Unashamed: Taking A Radical Stand For Christ, comes out on October 15th, so I had about three days with the book between Sunday night and last night's deadline.  I can't really ethically promote it on here since I put a lot of work into it, but I will be posting about it.  And probably giving away a copy.  So yeah, actually I will be promoting it, just not reviewing the writing. 

Anyway, that kept me busy for a few days, but now I can finish my update on National Book Festival.  After we saw Suzanne Collins, we were exhausted and hot and very hungry, so we decided to find somewhere air conditioned to eat lunch.  We ended up at the Smithsonian where we had lunch and checked out the Natural History exhibits (they still have triceratops displayed as a dinosaur!).  My health has been acting up again lately, and we wound up scrapping all of our plans for dinner and visiting my cousin and decided to head straight back for Chattanooga around 4:30. 

Except we got lost on the metro. While we were on the wrong line, heading in the wrong direction, there were metro delays.  Which means we spent a good two hours on the wrong train and about half of that was sitting in a tunnel.  This is why I live in the South where we don't even try with public transportation.  Anyway, long, boring story short, we saw Suzanne and got our books stamped, saw the Washington Monument and the Capitol, and had a metro adventure. 

Thankfully, we made it back home in one piece and without hating each other.  It turns out that Bestie is one of the few people I can spend 20 hours in the car with over the course of two days and not want to murder.  So yay for Bestie and a fun trip, but boo for whatever is currently wrong with my body.  I've got quite a few books to review this week and I still need to finish my DBF posts, so look for those, plus a huge IMM catchup this weekend!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

National Book Festival

I made it back!  Were you starting to wonder if I survived my trip north?  I wanted to post sooner, but I've been going since the minute I got back on Sunday.  I had some health issues come up while in DC, but hopefully will be seeing a doctor this week.  In the meantime, I know you're all dying to hear about my trip.  This was the plan:

Friday: leave work at three, drive 8 hours to Woodstock, VA, sleep.

Saturday: leave Woodstock at 7, drive 2 hours to Vienna, VA, take the metro 30 minutes into DC.  Meet Suzanne Collins, make her our new BFF, see some sites, eat dinner with some book bloggers, and spend the night with my cousin.

Sunday: Breakfast with my cousin, more site-seeing, then the drive home

Here's what really happened, with pictures:

Friday: leave work at 3, go to Walmart to pick up the photo album from our HG shoot that we had made as a gift for Suzanne Collins.  Also buy all the things I forgot to pack.  Head north, but stop for a long dinner at Cracker Barrell.  Realize we are now three hours behind schedule and bust a move for Woodstock.  Hotel after midnight - go straight to bed.

Saturday: Get up early, head to Vienna.  Take the metro into DC.  This is the first time I had ever used public transportation other than the trolley in Little Rock.  I managed to spend a good half hour without falling down or throwing up, so it was a success.  Made it to the book fair without incident!
The Book Festival was, as we expected, VERY crowded.  We got there right as it started at 10, and it was already packed.  We headed straight to the book sale tent to buy our box sets of Hunger Games, but on the way we got a sneak peek of...
Suzanne Collins!  That's her with the reddish blond hair and the gray sweater.  She was backstage about to go read from Mockingjay and we walked right by.  Lots of fangirl squealing and stalker-like picture taking.  I have about a million pictures just like this one.  Still, we wanted to be close to the front of the line, so we purchased our books and headed to the signing area.

See those little white triangles in the distance?  That's where she was signing.  Also, see the boy in the red cap?  He's in a second line.  And see the boy in the orange shirt on the far right?  He's in a third line.  Over 8 lines ended up forming.  By the time the signing started they were turning people away at the end.  Thankfully we only had to wait in line for about an hour before it was our turn!

Right as we got to the front we learned that she had stopped signing (stamping) three books and would only stamp one, so that was somewhat disappointing, given we had just bought the box set specifically for that reason.  Also disappointing to realize we would now have to carry around the entire box set for the rest of the day with only one stamp.  But our excitement over seeing Suzanne completely made up for it.  She was super busy and the staff were really rushing her, so we didn't actually get to make her our BFF yet.  But we did give her our awesome photo album with my card in it, so I know she'll be calling me any time now.

I don't like making my posts super long, so you'll have to wait for my next one to see what happened next...Hopefully I will post again this afternoon, but I've got something pretty big going on right now that I don't want to discuss until it finalizes, but it's sucking up almost every second of my free time!

Friday, September 24, 2010

National Book Festival and Blog Hop

Hey kids!  My big post for today is about National Book Festival which is happening TOMORROW!  Bestie and I are sneaking out of work at 3 today, driving all evening, and making it just in time to see Suzanne Collins in the morning.  I haven't planned out the rest of my day really, other than going to dinner with a group of book bloggers.  Is anyone else going?  If you'll be there, are you interested at all in meeting up?  I'd love to hang out with/meet as many other bloggers as I can!  You can send me an email (see link on sidebar) OR leave a comment with a way for me to contact you OR send me a tweet (also on sidebar).  Hope to see you there!

And now for the hop!  Welcome to my blog, feel free to take a look around, all of that!  Today's question is:

  When you write reviews, do you write them as you are reading or wait until you have read the entire book?

When I review, I wait until I've finished the book to start writing.  There are times when a sentence or paragraph or theme will jump out at me and I'll write it down or mark it in the book to use in my review, but I tend to wait until I've finished to get started writing.  I want to have the whole book behind me so I can see how everything fits together before I start to really evaluate how I felt about not just the story, but also about the writing and quality of the book.  You may have noticed that I really enjoy some books that may not be of the most literary quality and that there are some books that I don't personally enjoy, but that are beautifully written. If I wait till I've finished, I can usually judge those kinds of things more objectively.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Updated Review: Friend in the Storm

So a few weeks ago I made a mistake.  I thought I was reviewing a book for Zondervan, which is the publisher, but I was actually reviewing for them via LitFuse.  I published the review as soon as I got it and read it because it was such a beautiful book, but just realized my mistake today (which I have marked on my calendar as the day to post my review).  My apologies to LitFuse and to my readers for the mistake.  I've decided to repost my original review today since I want to keep the tour running smoothly.  I'm also adding in some information about entering to win a FREE Kindle at the bottom, so look for that!

A Friend In The Storm, by Cheryl Ricker, is such a great gift book. I normally really don't like gift books, with all the saccharine sweetness and lovey dovey quotes about friends or teddy bears or whatever. Ok, fine, you caught me, I love quotes about friends and teddy bears. Just not in gift book form.

But this one is actually different. If you are like me, then you are a librarian/un-trained therapist who hears about various student issues ranging from the bizarre (I had a psychic vision of my dog dying) to the very very sad (homelessness, domestic violence, etc). If you are like me you are also the most awkward person ever and have no clue what to say to people you barely know who have just told you something shocking/horrifying/heartbreaking.

So I'm planning on picking up a few copies of this just to have on hand to give to students who are truly suffering. First of all, the book itself is just beautiful. The cover is so sweet and simple, it's printed on high quality paper and bound nicely, and even has one of those ribbon bookmarks. In college, I put together my own little journal of quotes and Bible verses that I still read through when I'm down - and this reminds me of that, but prettier and published.

My one issue - the poetry contained is very Hallmark-y. Which is great if you're a fan of that kind of thing, but unfortunately I'm not. It's pretty much exclusively iambic tetrameter, which can really really start to grate on me after a while. To be perfectly honest, I skipped a lot of the poetry. For those who aren't huge fans of poetry, or who enjoy a more simple style, I don't think this would be a big deal.

One last recommendation: Don't put this book on the edge of your full bathtub while your huge orange cat tries to walk around the edges and catch bubbles. You will wind up with a very wet book and cat.

Thank you Zondervan for the beautiful book! Sorry I let the kitty knock it in the bathtub - search and rescue was successful and the book only suffered minimal water damage.

On October 4th, the author will be hosting a Facebook party and will be giving away a Kindle as well as signed copies of the book.  You can find all the information here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Book Review: Used and Rare

After Monday's post about shopping for used books, I thought now would be an opportune time to review a recent read in my favorite genre - books about books!  This one came to me courtesy of a friend from my internet book club (Hey there Nesties!) almost a year ago.  I should have picked it up a long time ago, but I've been saving it for a rainy day.

After I read Mockingjay, I knew it was the perfect time to pick this one up.  The topic (used and rare books) is something I'm interested in, but with a little less emotional devastation.  It's taken me a while to finish, even though it's very short (212 pages in paperback) because I've been reading a bunch of fiction along with it.  But it was the perfect post-Mockingjay read.  And the good news is that (at my favorite used book store, obvs) I found some other titles by the authors.

Basically the book covers the entry of two book lovers into the world of used and rare books.  They start off dabbling in used book stores, like me.  They pick and choose beautiful books in good condition that they want to stock their home library with.  As they explore further, they learn about collecting as a hobby and eventually make some pretty large scale purchases.  By the end of the book they've gone back to buying more casually, but the story of how they meet various collectors, buyers, agents, etc is fascinating if you're at all interested in collecting seriously or as a hobby. 

My one word of caution is for those who read exclusively fiction: this is non-fiction.  This is not a fast-paced adventure story.  It's about people who go to antiquarian book fairs and the people they meet there.  No wild stories or action.  Lots of talk about bindings and page foxing and classics.  I refuse to use the word dry because for me this is fascinating.  And this certainly isn't just a manual or a guide to collecting.  But if you don't like non-fiction or if you're not into old books or the classics, it may not appeal to you. 

However, this one is a definite recommend for serious readers, collectors, or those who love books about books.  You'll learn a lot about what is involved in owning, purchasing, and selling antique and rare books, and also enjoy the stories about the people the Lawrences meet along the way. 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another DBF Post

I decided I should probably try to finish my posts about Decatur Book Festival and the authors I saw there since I will be spending THIS WEEKEND in Washington, DC at the National Book Festival!  Can you tell I'm a little bit excited?  Bestie and I will be leaving Chattanooga early on Friday and driving all night to make it to Suzanne Collins' signing (stamping?).  So you can expect all kinds of fun posts about that next week.

We ended our first day at DBF with a panel discussion by Rachel Hawkins and Nancy Werlin.  Unfortunately, I had the same problems I had with the Zombies Vs. Vampires panel (couldn't see or hear) which were compounded by the fact that I was late (sorry Rachel and Nancy) and the fact that my sad little energy-deprived body was just barely hanging on at that point.  I can't really tell you much about about the panel other than that I sat by a little old man who looked remarkably like Johnny Wink, my favorite professor from Ouachita.  Again, my apologies to Rachel and Nancy - I'm sure the panel was hilarious and fascinating and my friends who were there tell me it was amazing.  I was the obnoxious girl who came in late.

I've already bought a million signed copies of Hex Hall and given them to everyone I know, so I didn't pick any of those up, but I certainly recommend it.  It's such a fun read.  As sad as I was not to have anything for Rachel to sign, I did manage to get my copy of The Rules of Survival signed by Nancy Werlin.  The next day I also picked up a signed copy of Extraordinary because I just couldn't control myself.  Crystal and Leah and Anna are pretty much BFF with Rachel, so I got to chat with Nancy for a minute, while they spoke with Rachel.  Then we all took a group picture, which I'm refusing to post because my eyes are closed and I look hot and sweaty.  But enjoy the pictures of my signed books!  And look for reviews soon!

And because I can't remember if I posted these before, look at sweet Sly posing with my zombie swag:

And last, not at all book related, but I'm posting it because it's way too cute not to - Luke gives Chief a bath:

That was three weeks ago.  Chief's back now hits me at my waist.  He is going to be a monster.  He's two weeks younger than Dexter, almost as tall, and weighs just as much. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Buying Books

My book-buying habit isn't really much of a secret.  Books are slowly taking over every room of our house.  We have seven full book cases, boxes in the garage, and I'm having to take clothes out of my closet to make room in there for storage.  We own well over a thousand books, the majority of which I have yet to read...but I keep buying.  And this is why...

I love used book stores.  I can't stay away from them.  The thrill of finding a book I want to read for a dollar or less is almost equal to the thrill of actually reading it.  Over the course of a year, I purchase maybe five books at full price.  I usually purchase over a hundred from used book stores.

And honestly it's kind of been a point of pride for me.  I have an amazing collection of beautiful books (I'm not talking about any ragged old paperback - I only buy top quality) that I have spent an incredibly small amount of money on.  It's thrilling.  I also feel like I'm doing my good ecological deed for the day when I'm buying a used book.  I'm saving a tree!  I'm keeping a book from the landfill AND I'm not driving up printing (and therefore paper-wasting) by buying new.  What's not to love?

But recently I started to think about buying used.  Not really a crisis of conscience per say (because I still plan to continue buying used) but just wondering.  How do authors feel about readers who buy exclusively used books?  What about publishers?  I may be doing a good deed for the earth, but by buying used, am I doing a disservice to authors/publishers?  I had never considered before that buying new means at least part of the money goes to support the author, publisher, editor, etc.  Buying used supports pretty much no one but the used bookstore.  Which is awesome, especially if you're using an independent used book store, but still.

So question of the day: Where do you buy your books?  And if you're a writer or work in the publishing industry, how do you feel about readers who buy exclusively used books?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Blog Hop!

Welcome to my blog!  I'm posting quickly this morning because we are celebrating Constitution Day in the library today and I have tons of programming going on.  The blog prompt for the day is:

In honor of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, let's take time this week to honor our favorite book bloggers and why we love them!

There are so many blogs I enjoy.  I'm just going to do a quick list, but check out my blog roll on the sidebar for more!

That's all I've got time to link to now, but I hope to do more like this in the future, especially for newer, smaller blogs that deserve publicity!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Book Review: Think of A Number

Since The Replacement didn't do it for me in terms of scariness, I decided to give an adult thriller a try.  Think Of A Number by John Verdon is a mystery/suspense/thriller featuring a retired detective who is unwillingly pulled into the investigation of a serial killer.  The killer sends taunting letters to his victims asking them to think of a number and threatening to reveal their secrets.  Those who comply find out that author of the letters did, in fact, know the random number they chose.  Our main character, Dave Gurney, becomes involved when a friend receives the mysterious message and is subsequently murdered.

From that point on, it's pretty much a straightforward thriller - trying to catch the murderer.  I was hoping for intensity in this one.  I was expecting to be thrilled.  Sadly, I was in fact put to sleep.  The premise sounds amazing and I think the book could have been equally amazing, but we barely see any action.  Because the main character is retired, he is never present for any of the actual events.  He gets called when bodies are found, but by the time he gets there the police have gathered the evidence and done all the "action" parts.  Instead of getting to experience the action parts of the book, we hear a second hand account of what happened from various other police personnel.  The book finally picks up some speed in the last 50 pages, but by then you've waded through 350 pages of hearing what happened from a secondary character.

My other big pet peeve is when writers don't listen to Stephen King's excellent advice in On Writing and use Tom Swifties.  You can just say "said" when using dialogue.  I promise.  The biggest one in this book that jumped out at me was "he said as if appending an asterix".  That sounds very smart, but how exactly does that sound?  I've never heard someone say something and though "the tone in her voice is as if she's appending an asterix".  I did read an ARC, so some of those type of things may not be present in the final version.

I loved the idea, and I didn't mind most of the writing.  I think the book would have been a lot more exciting had we been present for at least some of the action.  For me, hearing a secondary character describe something that another secondary character witnessed just can't be as exciting as experiencing the action with the main character. 

So far, I'm really striking out with my RIP books.  I want scary, but not supernatural.  But I want to be scared.  Just not supernaturally scared.  Any suggestions?  I've got at least two more RIP books and I'm hoping to find something good!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW: Interview Swap with Hist Fic Chick

In case you've been living under a rock or don't read any blog other than mine (because I'm that awesome), this is Book Blogger Appreciation Week.  Today book bloggers are swapping interviews with each other. 

I was paired with Hist Fic Chick, which turned out to be providential because she will be at the National Book Festival next week too!  Yay for getting to meet other bloggers!  Her site is gorgeous and has inspired me to give some historical fiction a try, even though it's not a genre I typically go for.  Please take a look at her site and see for yourself and enjoy hearing her advice.  And I'm not the only one impressed: Hist Fic Chick has been shortlisted for Best Historical Fiction Blog!  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that she wins because her site definitely deserves it!

1) How long have you been blogging and what got you started?
I had just quit my very Devil Wears Prada-esque job doing PR for a high-end fashion company in May 2009 and knew I needed to take a break for the summer before I went back to working again. My decision to leave the company after two and a half years was somewhat last minute, so I didn't have anything planned ahead of time to occupy me over the summer, other than a few trips out to the beach (during which I read copious amounts of books!). There were a few blogs I read regularly that I really enjoyed, but not so many that focused specifically on my favorite genre, historical fiction. And one day it hit me: "Hey! I can do that!
The rest is history...I actually just celebrated my one year blogoversary in July!
2) Your blog focuses on historical fiction. What is it about that genre that you love?
History and English were always my two favorite subjects in school. I consider myself somewhat of a history-buff, but I'm certainly not one to kick back and relax with a stuffy academic account of history! Historical fiction grants the author a creative license that biographers and non-fiction authors do not have. Often times a good portion of a biography is already pure speculation as it is; HF authors have the opportunity to get inside their character's heads and explore these speculations on a deeper level, filling in the "gaps" of history with fiction. My favorite HF authors tend to be those who make a strong effort to keep the fictional aspects of their stories as close to the truth as possible.
3) Any other genres you particularly enjoy?
Chick lit is my guilty pleasure! And while in the past I haven't been much into vampire lit, I recently ordered the 8 book box set of the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris out of my love for HBO's True Blood. Narrative nonfiction is great, too, because it often reads like fiction, but tells a true story. The same goes with memoirs.
4) What is your favorite blog?
Wow, that's a tough call! But if I had to choose just one that I find myself recommending to people over and over, I'd have to say Devourer of Books. Jen and I really bonded during BEA, but I have long been a fan of her site. We have nearly identical tastes in historical fiction. Our reviews almost always draw very similar conclusions! And I like that although her blog does have an emphasis on historical fiction, it's not only historical fiction, so I often find great recommendations for books outside the HF realm that I can confidently recommend to friends who don't necessarily read the same genre as me.
5) Do you plan your posts/what you read in advance or do you choose books and post as the mood strikes? Do you think one way is better than the other?
I try to plan my posts in draft at least a week in advance (it doesn't always work out that way, though!). And I keep an editorial calendar in Wordpress to keep me on track. I plan the books I'm going to be reviewing for a particular month about four months in advance; I schedule them in after I've received a pitch from a publicist and then mark it as confirmed in my excel spreadsheet once I actually have the book in hand.
I think each blogger has his or her own system of organization and no one way is better than the other. You have to do what works for you and your schedule. I'm a really big list maker, and I get a little crazy when things are disorganized, both in my real life and on my blog, so pre-scheduling is key for me!
6) What is the biggest obstacle you've faced in creating/maintaining your blog?
This question actually really hits home right now! I recently switched over from a Blogger/Blogspot blog to self-hosted Wordpress. The transition itself wasn't all that difficult, but I had trouble getting all my posts from Blogger to redirect readers to the corresponding Wordpress post. So, say I had a post located at wouldn't link itself to the new site, so that readers of my old blog would be automatically redirected to the new place. I now have all the broken links fixed as well as the redirects (whew! finally!), but the formatting of some of my older blogger posts need to be fixed, and photos/graphics need to be re-inserted into the posts as well. I try to get a little bit of these tedious tasks done every few days so that slowly but surely, the new site will be officially no longer under construction!
7) Congratulations on being shortlisted for Best Historical Fiction blog in BBAW! Can you give us some tips on how you've been so successful?
Thank you so much, Julie! I was so excited (and surprised!!!) to find my blog on the shortlist, and to find myself in such excellent company. You know something, I never really considered myself "so successful" until I read this question (which made me blush and smile and turn all "who? *ME*?!"). So thank you for that ego boost! :)
In all seriousness though, without being totally cliche...authenticity is key. Be confident in who you are. Don't compare yourself to other bloggers, and don't try to imitate others' styles (most people can spot a copycat from a mile away, and people also love calling out copycats on twitter, so just don't even go there!). I think it's about finding your own voice. People enjoy reading your blog because of what YOU have to offer. I also think it's important to be an active member of the blogging community. Participate in challenges, join Twitter, comment on the blogs you love. If you can, try to attend industry events like BEA and the Book Blogger Convention. And of course, get your BBAW on!
8) What book would you recommend to someone who has never read a historical fiction novel before?
Good question! I always recommend the Josephine B trilogy by Sandra Gulland. It's about the life of Josephine de Beauharnais (later Bonaparte), the first wife of Napoleon and Empress of the French. The first book in the trilogy is The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. Each of the three books in the series is written in a first person diary format and Josephine is such a wonderful, loveable character. I'd also recommend Robin Maxwell's The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn. It's much better than The Other Boleyn Girl (although Philippa Gregory's books are nice page turners and I've really been enjoying her new Plantagenet series) and offers a great introduction to Tudor historical fiction.
9) Do you devote time to doing research on the people and periods you are reading about?
Absolutely. It's one of my favorite parts of reading historical fiction on a new-to-me historical character. After I've finished reading a fictitious portrayal, I can usually be found on Amazon ordering up biographies on the same subject, by the cartload! I've tried to think outside of the box a little bit in terms of blog my blog isn't only book-related posts. Readers seem to enjoy my "editorialized" recaps of different historical periods/people, and a lot of research goes into those posts.
10) What are some of your hobbies outside of books and blogging?
I'm a big film person. I don't go to the actual movie theater often, but my Netflix subscription is certainly put to good use! I play tennis, and I also sing constantly, though most of it gets done in the shower and not at actual venues. I used to perform a lot when I was growing up, but I've somehow fallen out of it. The NYC music scene is pretty competitive, and since I do it more as a hobby and not as a career, I haven't really gotten into my groove here. I also love to paint. Fittingly, I tend to paint lots of historical characters! I'm currently working on a portrait of Nell Gwyn - she was the scandalous and witty mistress of King Charles II of England. I'm a student at the Art Students League of New York where I get studio space and study with instructors. Oh! And this past weekend I picked up a new hobby - I was convinced by my friend Nicole (Linus's Blanket) to join a bocce team! It was so much fun, and we won our first game of the season!

Room by Emma Donaghue (Yes, again)

I know this is the third time I've posted about this book, but I'm not playing around about how amazing it was.  It's still my favorite read of the year (even after Mockingjay's release!).  Today is the release date, so I just want to remind everyone that now is the time to go buy yourself a copy!  This is one that you'll want to own.  Or at least put it on hold at your library.  I can't recommend it enough.  If you're still not convinced (does that sound like Reading Rainbow or what?) take a look at these links:
This is an interactive 3-D view of Room.  You can click on different items in Room to find information about the author, an exerpt from the book, book trailers, and inspiration for the book.  My favorite section is the library that the author has created for Jack and Ma.  It includes everything from Robert Browning's "The Pied Piper of Hamelin" to Everything is Illuminated.
This is the author's webpage where you can see more of her other writings (she's also the author of Slammerkin) and find videos of her reading from Room

And you can also re-read my original review here.  I can't get over how amazing the book was and how gracious the author has been.  Did I mention that she emailed me?  Yes, I received an email from an actual Booker Prize shortlist author.  It made my life. 

Look for my BBAW interview with Hist Fic Chick later today!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: A Grief Observed by CS Lewis

I probably don't need to tell anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis how I feel about C.S. Lewis.  Coming up with a way to describe how much I've enjoyed his writing and the spiritual growth that I attribute to him is pretty much impossible.  This year I've reread The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce (amazing, just as they were the first, second, third...times), and last night I read A Grief Observed for the first time.

A Grief Observed was originally written under a pseudonym (N.W. Clerk) and is a chronicle in journal form of the emotions experienced by Lewis after the death of his wife from bone cancer.  It is haunting and beautiful and heartbreaking all at once.  If you've lost a loved one, there is something in this book that you can identify with. 

It's a fairly quick read, if you read it straight through.  I think I spent a total of about 45 minutes on the entirety.  However, this isn't a book that you read once, straight through and put away.  I will be keeping this one on my shelf and pulling it out for days (and years) to come.  I can already tell it's going to be like his others - books that I enjoy over and over again and gain something from every time I pick them up.

I particularly appreciated (enjoyed isn't a word you'd want to use to describe this type of book, although it is so beautiful it's hard to say I didn't enjoy it) the way we see Lewis progress through his doubt.  If you weren't aware, Lewis was a Christian and this book chronicles how he reconciles a loving God with the suffering and death of his dear wife.  The book is divided into four parts, and Lewis progresses through anger at God, questioning of his faith, and the hurt from well-meaning friends quoting cliches in an effort to comfort him. 

The foreward by Madeleine L'Engle perfectly describes the book.  She writes about how your experience with grief may not be the same as Lewis's, but you can identify with what he writes no matter how your experience differs.  A Grief Observed is intensely personal, and makes no effort to document the human experience of grief or make any broad statements about the state of grief.  Rather, it details one person's experience with the loss of his beloved.  It is beautiful and touching and I promise you will not be sorry you read it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Decatur Book Festival Post #3

Alright peeps, it's time to 'fess up. Which one of you googled "cute programmer" to find my blog? I think he's cute too, but he's cute and taken.

I've been getting some crazy keyword hits lately.  That one made me laugh.  And the picture made me resolve to start working out again.  I will be skinny for Christmas this year!  Hold me to it.

Back to DBF.  After seeing David Levithan and Terra Elan McVoy, we went to the Zombies Vs. Vampires panel, featuring Carrie Ryan and Alyxandra Harvey.  I have some serious love for The Forest of Hands and Teeth and The Dead-Tossed Waves, so it was awesome to get to meet Carrie and tell her about how her books changed my mind about zombie lit (along with World War Z by Max Brooks which I can't not mention in a zombie post).  We saw what we thought was a copy of The Dark and Hollow Places, and Heather was ready to make off with it, but it turned out to be just the cover.  Looks like I'll still be waiting for that one.  But the cover is gorgeous.  It's on Goodreads, so you can see it through my link.

I got my copy of The Forest of Hands and Teeth signed too of course, but I loaned it to Leah.  I was really sad because we got awful seats for the panel and couldn't really hear much of what was going on.  I know that we were supposed to be voting (audience participation!) between vampires and zombies, but I couldn't hear what we were voting about.  So that was sad.  And if I'm stuck at the back, someone tall inevitably sits in front of me, so I couldn't see either author or the moderator.  I'm sure it was amazing, but I can't say much about it, since I'm not really sure what happened.  But meeting Carrie was awesome and totally worth waiting in line.  I was awkward and embarassing as usual, but she was still sweet and gracious and I managed to get my books signed without falling on my face in front of her or passing out in line, so I say it was a success!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Blog Hop

Hey kids!  I'm going to go ahead and post my blog hop for the week tonight (hosted by Crazy-For-Books) because I'm only working a half day tomorrow.  Don't get too excited for me though - I only get a half day off because I'm running graduation on Saturday.  This week's Blog Hop asks us to post our favorite review from the past three months. 

No doubt in my mind, my best review in the past three months was for Emma Donaghue's Booker Prize Shortlist contender Room!

I'll be posting a recap of my review and some links next week when the book is released.

Book Reivew: The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

I'm taking a break from my DBF posts to fit in this review.  It's my first RIP V review and I'm pretty excited about it.

Can I just tell you guys how thrilled I was the day I got this in the mail?  It was a total surprise, but an awesome one because I'd really been wanting to read it.  The gothic looking stroller with the scissors and knives above it completely creeped me out, in an awesome way.

The book is set in a small town and centers around Mackie, who is allergic to blood and metal.  His allergy is so severe that he is dying.  We know from the beginning that Mackie is a changeling - he was replaced as a baby with a creature from another world.  Mackie is slowly drawn into that world as he looks for another missing child.

It's a hard book to review.  I was into the story, I read it quickly, and by the end I couldn't put it down.  I liked the main characters and I thought the premise was awesome.  But.

There were some major plot holes I just couldn't get past.  I'll try to do this without spoilers, so if I leave out a plot hole, it's because I can't explain it without giving something away.  The main one for me was if Mackie is allergic to blood, how is he living?  Does he have something other than blood running through his veins?  Not ever explained.  Also, why and how does the other world exist?  The town Mackie lives in has a sembiotic relationship with the other world.  We know that from the beginning.  Exactly what this relationship is, however, is never explained.  It's hinted at, but that only confuses the story more.  It's really hard to explain with no spoilers.

The book also let me down in the level of creepiness.  Given the cover image, I was expecting to be freaked out.  It just didn't happen.  Part of me wonders if that has something to do with my age and the fact that I've recently read several Stephen King books.  Had I read this book as a young teen, I would have definitely been freaked out.  I guess my creepiness threshhold has increased since my teen years.  I also think many teens are still well past me in terms of being desensitized to creepiness.  After all, they've grown up watching Saw and Hostel and all kinds of other nastiness (You do not want to get me started on how the downfall of our culture will be the sexualization of violence against women - I'm looking at you horror movies and people who pay money to see women tortured).  Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that the scariest part of this book is its cover. 

Still, while I wouldn't recommend this one on the basis of its writing or literary content, I did like the story.  And I was engrossed in it and cared about the characters and wanted them to discover the truth and save the day.  This isn't a Shiver or Hunger Games though.  I recommend if you're in the mood for complete and total mind candy.  And I mean  Good for a break after some very serious and dark books, but not something you want to really focus on.

A huge thank you to Razorbill and Penguin for reading my mind and sending me this book!

Book 1/4 for RIP V Book Challenge

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Decatur Book Festival Post #2

When I posted last night, I forgot to mention our first stop of the day, which was to hear Ellen Bryant Voigt talk about syntax.  I'm not much of a poet, but I do read some poetry, and my older brother had highly recommended hearing her.  She was close friends with George Garrett before his death, and David (older brother) was Mr. Garrett's personal assistant while he was in graduate school, so he had met her a few times before.  When I introduced myself to her afterward and had her sign my copy of Messenger, she knew exactly who David was and told me how nice and attractive he is.  Awww. 

The talk was good, but we were late and honestly I can't even pretend that I understood half of it.  But I loved what she had to say about the brain and she brought up some things I remember from taking neuroscience in college about how the brain processes music and sytax in similar areas.  One day I might be brave enough to try the book she's just written on the subject.

Before I went to the Festival I had a long email conversation with David, who knows much more about these things than I do, and he was iffy on getting books personalized.  He recommends asking the author to sign and date, rather than personalize.  So of course, I made sure to get every single book personalized.  I wouldn't be a good little sister otherwise, right?  Also, I have to say that as exciting as it is to find out that I own books that are worth something (FIRST AMERICAN EDITION BELL JAR????), I don't typically collect based on value.  If you do, you should email David and ask him about it because, like I said, he is much much more experienced and knowledgable than I am, being a famous poet and a doctoral student and a literary professor and all that.  And he loves it when I give random strangers his email address.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Decatur Book Festival Post #1

Hey internet peeps!  Miss me this weekend?  Not sure if I mentioned it (more than a bazillion times) or not, but I spent my weekend in Decatur, GA at the Decatur Book Festival.  This was my first year to go and it was amazing.  Seriously.  I left my camera at home and didn't get any great pictures, but now that I'm back I've been able to take picturs of all of my newly signed books.  I think I'll do an extended in my mailbox, so I can talk about each author and his or her presentation.  I'll post one or two each day until I run out.  I'll also be linking to the author's pages and the books' pages on goodreads.  From the goodreads pages you can find links to purchase from a variety of stores if you're looking to buy.

Also, I went with some other bloggers, all of whom I consider very close friends and brilliant writers/readers/bloggers.  Check them out:

Natalie (my newest friend and anniversary buddy)

Heather, Anna, Natalie, and Crystal are all writers, so if you're looking to get some of the writing advice that was given at panels, check out their blogs.  I am (obvs) not a writer, so I was really there to just hear about the books, see the books, be around the books, etc.  Oh and several of them are doing signed book giveaways, so follow them!

So Friday night Leah spent the night with me here in Ringgold and managed to make it through the night without freezing to death.  Saturday morning we got up way too early and drove to Decatur to make it to Barbara Hambry's talk on syntax, which was brilliant and will be featured tomorrow.

After that we headed to Emily Giffin's talk.

She was so down to earth and gave lots of good background information on writing and how she got started.  She also convinced me that I wanted to read her books, which had honestly put me off a little bit before.  I got my copies of Something Borrowed, Something Blue, and Love The One You're With signed and I can't wait to jump in with Something Borrowed.

My sweet friends got my Emily Giffin books signed for me so I could run off with Leah to meet Heather for David Levithan and Terra Elan McVoy.

I brought David Levithan's Love Is The Higher Law and Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List with me to be signed.  After hearing Terra Elan McVoy speak/read I knew I definitely needed a copy of After the Kiss, which i was able to pick up from The Little Shop of Stories.  This panel/discussion was the highlight of my day on Saturday.  Both authors read from their books and interviewed each other about YA romance.  Even though YA romance may not be my most favorite genre, the authors were hilarious.  Seriously we were rolling on the floor.  And did I mention that Leah asked brilliant and insightful questions?  And that we were on the front row?  Awesome.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Blog Hop!

Blog Hop time again, hosted by Crazy For Books!  I must be getting old because I feel like every time I turn around it's hop time again.  Welcome to my blog, take a look around, and let me know what you think!

Our question for this week is "Do you judge a book by its cover?"

My answer is yes.  Not that a book's cover has to be especially beautiful or eye catching for me to read it, but you can pretty much tell the genre from a lot of book covers.  If I see a woman in a corset hugging a shirtless man, I can go ahead and assumed it's romance and not bother.  If I see a teenage girl in a fancy black dress with two holes in her neck, I can assume YA vampire book and not bother (nothing wrong with those genres, they just don't interest me).  You can usually also tell chick lit, thrillers, cozy mysteries, and self help books by their covers.  For me juding a book by it's cover isn't a bad thing.  I've found some great books because I liked the covers.  And it's a good way to browse past something you know you aren't in the mood for.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

August Review

Good news: August wasn't my worst reading month
Bad news: August wasn't my best reading month

Good news: DBF is this weekend!  I absolutely can't wait to meet up with Crystal, Heather, Leah, and Anna.  Nestie besties + signed books + awesome author panels?  Best weekend ever.
Bad news: I'm possibly going to have withdrawals from our Sunday night play date with Bestie and her hubs.  I'm also wicked jealous that she's going to the Harry Potter theme park.  But I get to go to DBF!  But she gets to see Hogwarts.  But I get to see the Nesties!  But she gets to drink butterbeer and buy all kinds of HP merch.  But I get to get my books signed!  I could do this all day.

Good news: my stupid bathroom cabinets are almost done
Bad news: my stupid bathroom cabinets aren't quite done.  I'm so sick of these cabinets people.  I thought I was finished last night.  Then I remembered I still have to spray paint the hinges and screws and reattach them.  And get new knobs and drawer pulls and reattach those.  And then I decided that even more beautiful than having the interior of the cabinets white would be painting the interior of the cabinets the same awesome blue/gray color that's on my bathroom walls, so when you open up the white cabinets, there's color inside.  This means repainting the interior of all cabinet doors and the interior of the cabinets.

Ok here are the boring stats for the month:

I read:
The Hunger Games (highly recommend)
Catching Fire (highly recommend)
Mockingjay (highly recommend but have a prozac handy)
Stash (recommend)
Pieces (do not recommend to anyone for any reason)
Miss Hildreth Wore Brown (recommend to those already familiar with Southern humor and looking for short, light anecdotes)

Total for 2010: 93 books
Total pages for 2010: 27,570
Money saved by reading books I own or borrowed from the library in 2010: $960.80

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

RIP V Challenge

So I pretty much never really participate in book challenges, because I always sign up and then forget about them until it's too late.  Or they take place over a weekend and I'm always busy doing things on the weekends.  BUT, I love the idea of reading scary books through September and October, and this challenge only requires four. 

It's a great chance to get away from my light summer reads and transition into some darker stuff for the fall.  I'd like to try to make at least two of them classics.  If you want to sign up, check it out here.