Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Vacation

As of today, I'm going to be taking a short blogging vacation for the holidays. I'll return in the new year with more reviews, book notes, and thoughts on art & architecture.

Before I go, I just want to say what a pleasure this year has been. Unlike other, better organized bloggers, I have no end-of-year wrap-up post, but I can say, off the top of my head, that it has been a fabulous year to read and write. I've read some great books, have been introduced to new, amazing writers, and have had a lot of fun getting to share my thoughts here, and read your opinions here and on your own blogs. So (if you celebrate it) Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! See you in 2010!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Thank You, Secret Santa!

I received my Book Blogger Holiday Swap gifts yesterday. A big thank you to my secret Santa, Casse of Catholic Kittie! In addition to lots of chocolate (yum!), she sent me For One More Day by Mitch Albom.

Thank you and Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Update 12/18

Every Friday, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

I recently started acupuncture to treat the tendinitis in my right arm. So even though I don't request many review copies anymore, I was intrigued by this one:

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine for Women's Health: Bridging the Gap Between Western and Eastern Medicine by Kathleen Albertson

I also picked up my next book club book:

The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

Today is my office holiday lunch and, this weekend, my husband and I are hosting our first ever Holiday Open House at our place. Any of you attending holiday parties this weeknd? 'Tis the season to eat a lot! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Charitable Gifts

I'm sure all of you are giving books for the holidays, right? If you'd like to branch out a little and give something else, I'd like to suggest two worthy causes that make excellent presents for loved ones.

First is Kiva. I've written about this organization in the past, but its worth mentioning again.

Kiva's mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva is the world's first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

There are Kiva gift certificates available for as little as $25, which will allow the recipient to make a loan to that could save a life. And then they get the money back, allowing them to make another loan! It's a gift that will last much longer than a fruit basket, I assure you.

The second charity gift idea is Heifer International. Heifer International is dedicated to relieving global hunger and poverty. It provides gifts of livestock and plants, as well as education in sustainable agriculture, to financially-disadvantaged families around the world. Through them, you can buy any number of different kinds of animals in your loved ones' name. The animals will be given to the poor all over the world, starting for as little as $20 for a flock of geese, ducks or chicks. Each family that receives a gift from Heifer International agrees to pass on a female offspring to someone else in need - allowing your initial gift to grow and do more good. Again, isn't that a much better gift than a scented candle?

I hope this has given you some ideas for great holiday gifts. If you know of any other charities that make excellent gifts, please feel free to suggest them in the comments.

Teaser Tuesday 12/15

Teaser 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
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
This week's book was recommended to me by a good friend:
"Roscoe," she said, "I want you to tell us exactly what happened."

Swire sat down near the fire, still heaving from his scramble through the slot canyon, oblivious to a nasty gash on his arm that was bleeding freely.
From Thunderhead by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
Nora Kelly, a young archaeologist in Santa Fe, receives a letter written sixteen years ago, yet mysteriously mailed only recently. In it her father, long believed dead, hints at a fantastic discovery that will make him famous and rich---the lost city of an ancient civilization that suddenly vanished a thousand years ago. Now Nora is leading an expedition into a harsh, remote corner of Utah's canyon country. Searching for her father and his glory, Nora begins to unravel the greatest riddle of American archeology. But what she unearths will be the newest of horrors...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Review: Your Hate Mail Will be Graded

As regular readers of this blog may already know, I am a big fan of science fiction writer John Scalzi. He even has his own tag here, I write about him so much! His Old Man's War series is just fantastic. I am also a fan and daily reader of Scalzi's blog Whatever. "Whatever" is one of the longest running blogs - the first entry was on September 13, 1998, way back even before the term blog was invented - and has 40k plus readers a day (I can't even imagine having that many readers!). So what is "Whatever" about?
Well, about whatever: Politics, writing, family, war, popular culture and cats (especially with bacon on them). Sometimes he's funny. Sometimes he's serious (mostly he's sarcastic). Sometimes people agree with him. Sometimes they send him hate mail, which he grades on originality and sends back.
Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded is a collection of "Whatever" entries, some dating back to the early days of the site, some from 2008. The topics range from the serious to the ridiculous, and include such topics as September 11th, advice for writers, and fatherhood.

It is apparent what the dominant political topics were during the years Scalzi wrote these essays: gay marriage, George W. Bush, the Iraq War, etc. And some of those essays, in particular, felt a little dated. But many of the other essays, like the one on his childhood hero, Carl Sagan, or the financial advice for writers, felt more timeless.

No surprise, I really like Scalzi's writing. As the blurb points out, there's a lot of sarcasm in the humorous pieces, which I like, though I recognize not everyone will. But Scalzi has, to me, a distinctive voice, that I just love. I think other readers (and not just science fiction fans) will enjoy this book as well.

Buy Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded on Amazon.

A softcover version of this book will be coming out in January from Tor.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Fridate Update

(Almost) every Friday, I update my library and share what new books I bought or received during the past week.

Dudes! Its been so long since I've done this! I only posted about NaNoWriMo during my November updates. Its not like I didn't get any new books, of course, but I certainly haven't gotten as many. I just wasn't reading as much last month. But here's what I did get:

Baking with Julia: Savor the Joys of Baking with America's Best Bakers by Dorie Greenspan

Kindred by Octavia Butler

The Elfish Gene: Dungeons, Dragons and Growing Up Strange by Mark Barrowcliffe (purchased by my husband)

Its my turn to host book club tonight - we'll be discussing The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I reviewed this week. Plus, Thursday night began the rush of holiday parties for me. This all means that this weekend will be a lovely flurry of making and eating food - including two kinds of pie! - and spending time with friends. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

"Waiting On" Wednesday

I saw an announcement in Shelf Awareness this week that I think many of us will be excited about:
The as-yet-unnamed third book in Suzanne Collins's bestselling trilogy that began with The Hunger Games in fall 2008 and continued with Catching Fire this fall has been set for next August 24. The U.S. hardcover edition (Scholastic, $17.99, 9780439023511) will be released simultaneously with a U.S. audio version (Scholastic, $39.99, 9780545101424).
I can't wait!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesday 12/8

Teaser 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
  • Share the title & author, too, so that others can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teaser!
From Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded by John Scalzi:
I fell for Carl [Sagan] with the sort of blissful rapture that I strongly suspect is only available to pre-pubescent geeks, a sort of nerd crush that, to be clear, had no sexual component, but had the same sort of swoony intensity. This was the guy I wanted to be when I was age eleven.
If you buy this book through Subterranean Press (the publisher), you also get a little chapter book - a novella, of sorts - by Scalzi, FYI.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Review: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book….

As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society [was] born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island. Juliet begins a remarkable correspondence with the society’s members, learning about their island, their taste in books, and the impact the recent German occupation has had on their lives.
I liked this book. I really liked the way the authors handled the epistolary style and I enjoyed the story. I can, though, point out about a dozen things wrong with this book that prevented me from loving it, though. The plot twists were visible from space, the off-screen lead character (Elizabeth, not the actual main character Juliet) was too good to be true, and the ending was pat. But I liked it! Does that mean there's something wrong with me? I guess not, since so many other people have loved The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society even more than I did. There are some sad moments, but overall this is a nice book to read when you want something sweet. Enjoy!

Buy The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society on Amazon.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Off My Game

Its so hard to get back into blogging after taking a break! And I skipped Teaser Tuesday today as I am still reading the same massive tome I posted last week (Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clark). But I'm not going away permanently or anything - I'll be back soon with new reviews and stuff.