Category sunday salon

2013: Sunday Salon – May Edition

Hello all… Long time no talk!

I confess that I haven’t been very into blogging lately. My reading has actually been good this year — I’ve finished 32 books. Unfortunately, my review writing has not been good — I’m 16 books in arrears! I actually have a few reviews that are already written, I just haven’t put together the blog posts.

I think a lot of it is my annual spring doldrums. I always have a hard time in the spring, and spend a lot of time playing games and watching TV in order to turn off my brain. But, I’m coming out of it, and feeling the need to get stuff done again. I had minor surgery last Wednesday (had my adenoids removed), and was lucky that it didn’t knock me too far out of commission. My throat’s still a little sore, and I have a secondary infection I’m having to deal with, but I feel well enough to go back to work tomorrow.

I did have one book that I’ve had to abandon recently. I started listening to Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult, and made it a couple of hours into the audiobook before I had to give it up. There’s a big deal made about the death row inmate, Shay, being like Jesus. That metaphor (allegory?) alone wasn’t enough to make me bolt, but the way it was done was. She was so heavy handed with the metaphor. Hey, Shay shows up in the cell block, and then wine starts coming out of all of the faucets! Look, Shay brought that bird back to life! Oh my, Shay turned one stick of gum into enough for everyone on the block! It’s a miracle! If Picoult had been a little more subtle, I think I could have climbed onto the messiah train, but I didn’t appreciate being knocked over the head with a wooden cross.

Thankfully, I’ve read a lot of good books so far this spring! I tore through 6 Lauren Dane romance/erotic romance books, nearly in a row, back in February and March. There have been several that came to me through book clubs — Wife 22 and A Long Way Gone being two of them. Right now I’m almost finished with Falling by Christopher Pike, which I’ve had a few problems with but I’ve found overall satisfying. I’ve also been picking my way through The Last Good Chance by Tom Barbash, which is good, but doesn’t fill me with any sense of urgency, so I’ve often left it closed on my nightstand in favor of whatever I’m reading on my Kindle. And finally, I’m reading The One I Left Behind by Jennifer McMahon, which I think is quite interesting.

What have you read lately?

2012: Monday Salon – What do you mean it's January?

Happy New Year! Okay, so I’m a little bit late. I’ve been trying to get my ducks in a row this new year, and so far I’m failing pretty miserably.

Christmas in the desert was good. I was either looking at stuff like this:

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Death Valley — Lowest point in the Western Hemisphere

Or stuff like this:

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Vegas, Baby!

Overall, it was a pretty good trip. The weather was beautiful (cool in the mornings and evenings, but 60s during the day) and the gambling gods were benevolent for at least part of the week. This was our first time in Las Vegas in a month other than August, and we couldn’t get over how crowded it was. Turns out, not as many people are interested in Vegas when it’s 112 degrees out. We left the strip on Friday, as most of the New Year’s crowd started streaming in. Crushing crowds of people give me The Panic, so I was not at all sad about flying home on New Year’s Eve.

Scott took his parents on a hot-air balloon ride for their Christmas present, and as a twist they actually had sky-divers jumping out of the balloon. They went all the way up to 5500 feet, which is much higher than Scott and I went on our ride this summer.

But now I’m home, and it’s time to buckle down.

2011 was a really rough year for me. Or at least, the 2nd half of it was. We had a lot of extended family issues that have bogged me down quite a bit, and I think my dour mood is what put the kibosh on a lot of my reading this past year. Even with the books I haven’t yet reviewed, I only read a total of 79 books, really low for me.

The books I have waiting to be reviewed are:

  • The Cut – George Pelecanos
  • Dead Beat – Jim Butcher
  • The Boy in the Striped Pajamas – John Boyne
  • The Red Queen – Margaret Drabble
  • Likely to Die – Linda Fairstein
  • Silent Night – Mary Higgins Clark
  • The Nerdist Way – Chris Hardwick
  • A Dangerous Mourning – Anne Perry
  • Fly Away Home – Jodi Picoult
  • (2012) A Perfect Blood – Kim Harrison

I am off to a good start with my reading this month. Not only have I finished A Perfect Blood, I’m almost finished Moloka’i by Alan Brennert and Shakespeare’s Champion by Charlaine Harris (on audio). Moloka’i is my book club read for this month, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it.

So my theme for 2012 is "simplicity". I’m not doing any challenges, and I’m focusing on books I really want to read. No more getting stuck in endless book club reads or review books when they’re not working for me. (Though I’m definitely not giving up my book club!) I’m also trying to get myself involved in fewer personal projects so I can clear my plate for more writing. I have a short story being published this year, and it would be lovely to have added to it by this time next year.

With any luck, I will have all of my books reviewed by the end of the week! Don’t be surprised when the first 9 are back-dated to 2011.

2011: Sunday (Friday) Salon – Merry Christmas Edition

Merry (almost) Christmas everyone! I’m posting this on Friday because if all has gone well, we are on (or nearly on) the road heading for Baltimore right now.

December has felt somewhat harried to me. I had several work projects that absolutely had to be done this week, and add to that Christmas parties, shopping, mailing, and other obligations, and it makes for one busy girl. I had the day off yesterday, and though I did have packing and things that needed to be done before we left, I took the time out to go to the movies and see The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Two thumbs up, by the way. I don’t think they messed it up at all, despite changing the ending a bit. I’d even say it was as good as the Swedish version.

We didn’t put up a tree or any decorations at all this year, partly because of the Gilly Monster (aka the 9 month old kitten) and partly because we’re not going to be home. Normally, "not going to be home" is not a reason to not put up the tree, but I’m also usually home from wherever we’ve gone at least by mid-week the week after Christmas. Meaning, I have a few days to take the tree down and clean everything up before I have to go back to work.

lasvegasxmasHowever, this year Scott’s parents are taking us to Las Vegas for the week for our Christmas gift. We’re flying out on Christmas morning, and back on New Year’s Eve. The first couple of days we’re spending in Death Valley National Park, and then the rest of the week back in Vegas, where I hope I have a little more luck with the slots than I did this summer! I’m excited to be in Las Vegas when it’s not 110 degrees outside, and looking forward to being able to walk outside without sweating to death. It’s actually supposed to be a very nice mid-50s the whole week. I thought it might be a little warmer, but I’m definitely not complaining. I can’t wait to see what sort of display they have in the atrium in the Bellagio for Christmas.

As far as reading goes, my weird reading pace has continued. I do have 6 reviews that still need to be written, plus anything I happen to finish while I’m gone. I’m a bit anal about posting reviews in the year the books were read, so I’m going to have to back-date those reviews. They’ll make it into my feed somehow!

It looks like my book total this year is going to be my second lowest since I started keeping track in 2005. I have no real explanation, except for the fact that I read several books that I got bogged down in for way too long. I’ve gotten away from the genres that are my favorite, so I think that this coming year I will be trying to read more crime/suspense books, especially those in series.

I’ll be taking my Kindle with me (of course), and right now I’m reading Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist Way. I don’t normally read self-help books, but I like Chris Hardwick (his Nerdist podcast is hugely entertaining) and he definitely turned around his life in an impressive way. Plus, you know I’m totally a Nerd. After that I need to start on Moloka’i by Alan Brennert, my book club read for January. This was my suggestion, so I hope it’s good!

My back-up hard copy book (I have to have something to read when the flight attendants make me put my Kindle away!) is my ARC of Kim Harrison’s A Perfect Blood. It’s not published until the end of February, but there’s no way I’m waiting that long to read it. I haven’t been this excited by an ARC in a while.

I hope you all have a fabulous Christmas and a happy New Year! I shall return in January with gusto.

2011: Just Blathering…

2011 has been a strange reading year for me. I am nowhere near the pace I usually set, and this looks like it’s going to be the first year I haven’t hit 100 books since 2005. Am I unhappy about this? Maybe a little. Mostly, I think it means that I haven’t done a great job choosing what to read. A number of the books I’ve had on my nightstand have been dense, long reads, and that really slows me down.  In most cases this hasn’t been a bad thing — I’ve read a number of good books that just happened to be dense — but in other cases, they are books I either didn’t finish or shouldn’t have finished. (The Sound and the Fury and The Sisters Brothers spring to mind) I’ve also been reading a lot of ARCs this year, more than I normally do. Another good/bad thing, as I have been neglecting books that are already on my shelves! I also haven’t been listening to as many audio books as I normally do. My podcast list has pretty much doubled in the last year, so sometimes I spend a lot of time between audiobooks catching up on podcasts.

I also have had a hard time finding time to blog this year. I certainly don’t plan to stop; keeping track of what I read is as much for me as it is for other people. But, it has meant that it’s taking me a lot longer to get reviews posted. And I haven’t been participating in many "extra-curriculars". I didn’t think at all about the read-a-thon a couple of weeks ago, and I have let all my challenges fall by the wayside. Good? Bad? I don’t know. Maybe it’s just more simple. I like simple.

Maybe I’ve just been spending too much time playing fetch with my cat.

That being said, I saw this meme somewhere this week, and thought it would be a good way to play catch-up.

The book I’m currently reading:
Per usual, I have a number of books on the go. In hard copy, I have been reading Margaret Drabble’s The Red Queen for my book club. I’m not going to get it finished in time for my meeting, but it’s good. Because I had a deadline for that book, I’ve left Daniel Woodrell’s The Bayou Trilogy on my nightstand with a bookmark in it. I also had to temporarily abandon George Pelecano’s The Cut on my Kindle, but I’ll be getting back to that tomorrow. In audio, I’m listening to Mira Grant’s Feed, which I thought was appropriate for this time of year. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how good it is. Finally, I have Anne Perry’s A Dangerous Mourning on my iPhone for emergencies. I’ve been reading that one for months.

Speaking of Kindles, I have pre-ordered a Kindle Touch. I may need an intervention.

The last book I finished:
Besides the books I temporarily abandoned, the last book I finished was Dead Beat by Jim Butcher on audio. I owe great thanks to whomever turned me on to James Marster’s narration of the Dresden Files books. He has saved the series for me.

The next book I want to read:
I have a copy of Chris Bohjalian’s newest book, The Night Strangers, sitting on my kitchen table.

The last book I bought:
A copy of Chris Hardwick’s The Nerdist Way was wirelessly delivered to my Kindle yesterday. Squee! (I have a little bit of a Chris Hardwick obsession right now.)

The last book I was given:
The final book in Gregory Maguire’s series, Out of Oz was left on my doorstep the other day by its generous publisher.

The last book I borrowed from the library:
I borrowed Outcasts United when OverDrive started delivering to Kindles. Worked like a champ!

The most recent e-book I read:
Finished? The afore-mentioned (and afore-reviewed) Outcasts United.

The book at the top of my Christmas list:
Y’know, I don’t really put many books on my Christmas list anymore. Mostly because anything new I buy in ebook. I’d rather just get a gift card!

2011: Monday Salon – The End of Summer Edition

Alas, my fun for the summer is over!

Not that I can complain. I’ve had 3 weeks of vacation this summer, and it was all great. (if you’re interested, click on pictures to go to the photo gallery)

First, in June we went to Salt Lake City to visit my husband’s brother and his family. While we were there, we visited some places in the city, and also went out to Wendover, Nevada for a little gambling and then Great Basin National Park. And, we went on a hot air balloon ride! It was near Park City (home of the Sundance Film Festival), so we stopped there for some breakfast and shopping afterwards.

balloon

Immediately after that (4th of July week), we went to Gulf Shores, Alabama with my parents for a week of beach and golf. Everything was beautiful (except for my golf game). I came home with more freckles on my nose than I’ve had in years. It was a long drive to and from, but completely worth it. (That’s my parents to my left)

ferry

Finally, 6 weeks later we were off to Vegas for the second year in a row. Scott and his pool partner won entry into the National 8-Ball Scotch Doubles Tournament again this year, and I was happy to go along for the ride. We stayed at Circus Circus this year, and while it’s not in the best location for seeing the whole strip, it’s perfect when you’re playing pool at the Riviera at 9 in the morning. We rented a car, so we were able to buzz around to whatever casino we wanted to check out. Scott discovered the wonder of free valet parking, and I say it’s about time! Nothing like pulling up to the front door of the casino, handing someone else your keys, and heading in. Especially when you’re parking your rented Nissan Versa hatchback next to a Bentley. No big winnings for us this year, but a great time was had by all!

vegas

As far as reading goes, all I can say is that I’ve been doing it! Not at my usual pace, but I did finish a book while in Las Vegas. Right now I have A Hard Death by Jonathan Hayes on my nightstand and The Pale Blue Eye by Louis Bayard on my iPod. On my Kindle I’m re-reading The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian for my book club meeting next week. I think I might end up with a different take on it this time around. I have 6 or 7 reviews in the queue to be written. Someday I’ll get caught up!

How was your summer?

2011: Sunday Salon – One Crazy Weekend

I don’t know about your weekend, but mine has been a doozy!

My sister and her husband and two kids were coming to visit us Thursday night until Saturday morning. We had plans to go to the zoo and then bowling on Friday — a lot of excitement for a 4 and 6 year old! Turns out, we had more in store.

After dinner on Thursday, we sent the kids (and the husbands) outside to get rid of some energy. Next thing we know, my husband is coming in talking about a hurt kitten and getting the carrier and taking it to the vet. I went outside to see what he was talking about.

cat1The kitten came right over to us (that’s how he found it — it ran out from under his car towards him), and I could see that he didn’t appear hurt or sick. But he *had* been abused. Someone had used clippers to shave all of the hair off his back, and cut his whiskers off. Later, we found he had some purple stuff on his bottom and a few of his nails (nail polish?).

We went around to a few neighbors to see if anyone claimed him or knew who he belonged to, but no one did. Plus, considering his condition, I wasn’t all that thrilled about finding who he did belong to. So, he ended up in our basement bathroom until we could figure out what to do with him.

I took him to the vet Friday morning to get him tested, to make sure we weren’t bringing something dangerous to our two cats into the house. We found out he was a boy, and weighed about 3 lbs, and was 12 weeks old (best guess). He tested negative for everything, but did have to be de-wormed and de-fleaed.

Somehow, he is still an incredibly loving and friendly cat. I even bathed him last night before moving him upstairs, and he only squawked once and barely struggled.

I contacted a local rescue organization, but they didn’t have room for him. The vet takes in kitten to adopt out, but they already have 25, so again, no room. I was able to move him out of the bathroom and into an empty bedroom upstairs for now.

The tricky part of the situation is that we’re leaving on a 2 week vacation on Thursday! I feel bad about leaving him alone, but we have someone who volunteered to check on him every day.

So…… Anyone want a kitten?

snuggle

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!

The reason I took my sister and her family bowling on Friday night was that Scott was starting his 8-ball doubles tournament. Last year, him winning this tournament was the reason we were able to go to Las Vegas. He finished up the first match just before we left the bowling alley, and unfortunately, he lost. Thankfully, it’s a double elimination tournament, and he and his partner went on to win two more matches that night.

The tournament continued on Saturday. I watched the final two matches, and it is horrendously nerve wracking! But, amazingly, they won again!! We’re going back to Vegas!

It’s going to be my 3rd week of vacation this summer, and I. Can’t. Wait.

So I probably should talk a little about books, huh? During all of this excitement, I actually managed to finish a couple of books. One was Trapped, a YA book by Michael Northrup. Another was Madapple, another YA book by Christina Meldrum. Both were good, but Madapple has a massive plot hole that I’m still considering. Since we’re leaving for vacation on Thursday, I don’t believe I’ll start another audio book until we return. I’m limiting myself to taking one hard copy book, and it’s going to be my ARC of Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. I’m really looking forward to it! Everything else will have to be read on my Kindle.

I am way way way behind on my reviews, so I’d like to get some scheduled to post while I’m gone. It all depends on how much time I have this week, and honestly, it’s not looking good. So if you don’t hear from me for a few weeks, no worries! I’ll be back!

2010: Sunday Salon – Merry Christmas Edition

treeMerry Christmas! Even though it is belated. I hope you all had a good one! We are spending Christmas with my family in Nashville, where they actually had a white Christmas for the first time in 17 years.  It wasn’t a lot, less than 2 inches, but it’s been enough to keep us inside.  Thankfully the boatload of snow that’s being dumped on the east coast has missed our house, so we should only have a few inches to wade through when we get home on Tuesday.

We had a fun Christmas yesterday with my parents and my sister, her husband, and 2 kids.  Unfortunately, my brother couldn’t make it because he was on 24-hour guard duty on base. But we ate, played games (both board and Wii), opened presents, and watched my 6 year old niece master the iPad.  Frightening. The only book in my Christmas goodies was one called Cooking for Geeks given to me by my husband.  It wasn’t unexpected — I didn’t put any books on my wishlist because I get most of my new stuff on the kindle now.  I got some new towels, a dutch oven, a new cutlery set, some clothes, and a few other little things.  There was a distinct "I need to replace these items in my kitchen and bathroom" theme to my wish list this year.  We’ll be having a 2nd Christmas with Scott’s family in a few weeks, and I think we’re getting a GPS.  I have google maps on my phone, but it’s really not the same as having a GPS.

We got my dad a kindle this year, so it was fun helping him get it set up. Tomorrow, my mom and I are going to go shopping and spend some gift cards!

Even though it’s not quite the end of the year yet, I thought I’d go ahead and share my favorite books from each month this year.  I have a couple more reviews to write, and challenges to post about, so the likelihood of me remembering to make a separate post about this is pretty slim.

So here are my favorites of 2010!

January: Shogun by James Clavell — It’s easy to see why it’s so well-known!

February: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grisson — Civil War fiction with a twist

March: Black Seconds by Karin Fossum — Haunting

April: White Witch, Black Curse by Kim Harrison — another great entry in the Rachel Morgan series

May: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Stieg Larsson — well worth the wait

June: Undertow by Syndey Bauer — a story of bigotry turned upside-down

July: The Anniversary Man by R.J. Ellory — What happens if you’re the victim who survives?

August: Broken by Karin SlaughterWill Trent in Grant County

September: Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See — a misunderstanding shapes two lives

October: Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippman — a series I wish I had started sooner

November: Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett — the book that launched Ken Follett’s career

December: The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton — gentle and welcoming, like an old friend

What were your favorite books this year?

2010: Sunday Salon – July Wrap-Up

Holy cannolis, it’s August already? I feel like I’ve been a busy busy bee this month.

For the Fourth, we went to Nashville to visit my parents and some other visiting family members.  Then, I spent 3 days in a training class.  Later in the month, I had a really fun lunch with Kathy, Jennifer, and Aths. Then, last weekend I went back to Nashville for a mini-vacation with my mom. In between all of that, I had to fight off another cold.  I’m starting to think I’m going to be sick every month this year! Also, I’ve been focusing a lot of time on my writing, and on critiquing for other people. I entered a short story in a contest last week, and I plan to submit it to some magazines as well.  We’ll see what happens.

I only reviewed 5 books this month, but I have several waiting in the queue to be reviewed. 

Reviewed:

In the queue:

  • Fool by Christopher Moore (audio)
  • The Black Ice by Michael Connelly
  • Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich
  • Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown
  • Broken by Karin Slaughter
  • Tell Me Lies by Jennifer Cruisie
  • Heat Lightning by John Sandford (audio)
  • Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
  • Catering to Nobody by Diane Mott Davidson

On the go right now, I have Broken by Karin Fossum, The Banker by Dick Francis, and I’m listening to Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer. Stalking Susan is the first book in a fairly new series (started in 2008) about a reporter in Minnesota named Riley Sparks, and I’m really enjoying it. I think it’s the best new series I’ve started in quite a while.

I’m not foreseeing August being any less busy than July.  On the 14th, we’re headed to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon for vacation, and I’m really looking forward to it. My Kindle is coming with me, so I definitely plan to get some reading done. Hopefully I can get some of those back reviews written too!

2010: Sunday Salon – June in Review (and Happy 4th!)

american-flag-2a June in general wasn’t a bad reading month for me, but the last couple of weeks have been a bit of a drag.  I finally finished R.J. Ellory’s The Anniversary Man, which was good (full review coming soon), but in a different way than A Quiet Belief in Angels. I thought Angels was lyrical and beautiful, but Anniversary Man had more of a police procedural feel to it.

I also finished Christopher Pike’s The Secret of Ka, but only because it was a galley.  My initial foray into the NetGalley service, to be exact.  I’ve read every YA novel Pike wrote between 1985 and 2000, and at least a couple of his adult novels, and he was easily my favorite author when I was a teen.  I found myself overwhelmingly disappointed in Ka. Truthfully, I don’t think it was the story as much as I think it’s mis-categorized.  It’s marketed as a YA novel, but it *really* felt middle grade to me.  And if I had known that, I wouldn’t have requested it. Anyhoo, I’ll save my elaboration for my review (not posted until September). 

As far as NetGalley is concerned, it was easy enough to get the book onto my Kindle (the only reason I signed up), but the formatting for the Kindle book was pitiful.  Whoever is responsible for the formatting of the Kindle-compatible book (I don’t know if it’s NetGalley or the publisher) should be ashamed of themselves.  If you read the book online though the web site, it looked great, but on my Kindle the chapter breaks were messed up and the capitalization was erratic and almost 100% wrong.  I’m not sure there was one sentence that had a capital letter at the beginning of it. It’s really not very difficult to convert a pdf to something that’s readable on the Kindle, so there’s no excuse.

And, to top off that dissatisfaction, I abandoned Sarah Graves’ The Dead Cat Bounce about 1/3 of the way through. I really wanted to like this series, with its setting in downeast Maine, but it just didn’t grab me.  I blame the financial motive for the murder. Those schemes just don’t excite me.  Regardless, I thought the book had a really great first two paragraphs:

My house is old, and rambling, and in some disrepair, and I think that it is faintly haunted: a cold spot forming inexplicably on the stairway, a scuttling in the hall.  Then of course there is the matter of the enigmatic portrait, whose mystery I had not yet managed to resolve on that bright April morning when, after living cheerfully and peacefully in the house for over a year, I found a body in the storeroom.

Coming upon a body is an experience, like childbirth or a head-on collision, that takes the breath out of a person.  I went back through the passageway between the kitchen and the small, unheated room where in spring I kept dog food and dahlia bulbs, and where apparently I now stored corpses.

But alas, this series and I weren’t meant to be.

I’m currently down to only 2 books on the go: The Black Ice by Michael Connelly on my Kindle and Smoke Screen by Sandra Brown on audio. As far as the rest of the June, here’s what I reviewed:

I hope you’re enjoying your (holiday, if you’re in the U.S.) weekend! We are in Nashville, and will be heading downtown for the fireworks this evening. I have family in town, so it’s been a weekend full of fun, card games, and corn hole.

I’m thinking about starting a weekly giveaway to weed out some of the ARCs I don’t want (or need) to keep. So stay tuned!

2010: Sunday (Monday) Salon – Getting out of the Funk Edition

decorative-sun It’s been a loooooooong time since I posted anything conversational on this here blog. In fact, the last time I posted anything that wasn’t a review or Read-a-Thon related was the end of March.  Oy.

I’ve been in a little bit of a funk.  Winter and spring are surprisingly hard for me, the past few years.  I get stuck in routines (ruts, even), and the thought of doing anything different makes me cringe.  What little social instinct I have disappears.  I read twitter and facebook, but my posting dwindles drastically.  I have all sorts of intentions of posting stuff, but nothing ever gets written. And to top it off, one little annoying medical issue after another has kept me in waiting room after waiting room since February. Nothing serious, it just seems like it never ends. Even now, I’m suffering the after-effects of a cold I had 3 weeks ago.  My right ear won’t unplug! So annoying.

Now, the sun has come out, and summer is in full force. Hallelujah!

My reading has actually been pretty good.  In fact, I read four books just this weekend, finishing off the Sookie Stackhouse series. I’m a little behind the pace I’d like to be at (my goal for this year is 144 books), but I’m not unhappy with my progress.

In other good news, my illustrious husband has kindly arranged for us to have a partially paid for vacation this year.  To Las Vegas! We play in the APA pool league, and he and another teammate of ours entered a doubles tournament and won! The prize is entry into the national tournament, and money towards the trip.  It’s nowhere near enough money to cover the whole thing, but it’s enough to cover one of our plane tickets and a couple of nights in the hotel.  The actually tournament only runs 3 days, but we’re planning to extend the trip to a whole week. I’m quite excited.  Anyone have any recommendations for Las Vegas in general?  We’ll have several days for sight-seeing before he has to play pool. It’ll be the third week of August, so no desert hikes please :-)

So anyway, I’m trying to make an effort to post more non-review material here.  I’m especially interested in weekly/monthly memes, but imagine my surprise when I found there was no central listing of book-related memes!  I know they’re putting together something for BBAW, so I really look forward to that. In the meantime, what memes do you participate in?  What’s your favorite?

2010: #Readathon – Wrap-up

I don’t know about you, but I thought it was a pretty successful read-a-thon! Here are my final stats:

Number of books completed: 3 1/2  

Pages read: 668 + 2:28 on audio

Time spent reading: 10:10

Mini-challenges completed: Hour One meme

I don’t think that’s too bad! I had more total reading time than I had last read-a-thon, but I quit at about the same time (11PM). I just can’t do super late nights anymore! Especially since I’m out of the house until after 10 on Sunday nights due to APA league.  Missing all that sleep would kill me on Monday morning.

Which hour was most daunting for you? Funny enough, the hardest hour for me was Hour Two!  That darn benadryl.  I think getting out the of the house for grocery shopping in the afternoon helped me past that mid-afternoon sleepy-time.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? The book that held my interest best was In Ecstasy, and not only because it was YA.  It had two alternating points of view that kept you interested. Basically, anything you don’t have to think too hard about is good.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? I saw someone else (I wish I could remember who) suggest a better plan for the cheerleaders.  Things were pretty quiet around here until the evening. Also, I’m a fan of the memes! I would like more memes.  They give me something besides stats to blog about each time I update.

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I thought the official posts were short and sweet and to the point.

How many books did you read? I read from 7 books.  I completed one book that I started pre-read-a-thon, read two from start to finish, and gave up on one.

What were the names of the books you read?

  • Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
  • So Much For That by Lionel Shriver
  • Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress
  • Dark Entries by Ian Rankin (art by Werther Dell’edera)
  • Pretty Little Mistakes by Heather McElhatton
  • Beneath the Blood Red Moon by Shannon Drake
  • In Ecstasy by Kate McCaffrey

Which book did you enjoy most? That’s a hard call! In Ecstasy was good because it was short and sweet.  Dark Entries was good because it was the first graphic novel I’ve read in a while, and I thought the story was interested.

Which did you enjoy least? Pretty Little Mistakes

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? I will almost definitely participate in future read-a-thons as a reader, as long as the dates work out.

Thanks to the organizers and all the cheerleaders! I hope you had a great Read-a-thon!

2010: Sunday Salon – Bad Luck Edition

I seem to have had a string of bad luck with books lately!  I’ve had to abandon three books in the past month or so.  So disappointing.  I’m not doing full reviews of books I don’t finish, but I thought I’d write a little about them here.

dewbreaker The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat

This collection of short stories just didn’t grab me. The first two stories were great, and then the book started to lose me. Maybe in a different frame of mind I would have had a different reaction. I think I expected the stories to be more closely related.

veracity Veracity by Laura Bynum

Unfortunately, this book and I didn’t click. I gave it 50 pages, and found that I just didn’t care about picking it up to read further. I think the book is well written and probably has an interesting story, it just wasn’t for me. I was definitely more interested in Harper’s childhood story rather than her adult story, and I may have stuck with it longer if more of that had been at the beginning. There wasn’t enough back story to make me care about Harper as an adult. But, if you are a fan of this genre, I think it’s worth grabbing the Kindle sample and seeing if it works for you.

dixiedivas Dixie Divas by Virginia Brown

I made it 50 pages into this bound manuscript, which means it was probably more like 75 in the actual book. This had all of the right ingredients — it’s a cozy mystery with a humorous tone where the "detectives" are a group of quirky southern ladies. But it ended up being too much.  Too much explanation, and TOO MUCH DESCRIPTION.  And not the clever, imaginative sorts of description.  This was the "there was a couch to the right with a painting above it and a staircase over to the left, flanked by a couple of lovely vases" type of description.  I was starting to feel like I knew the location of every doorway and staircase in town. And I got the point about how the main character’s parents were living a second childhood first, when the author told us they were, and second, the *first* time they started planning an outrageous trip.  I didn’t really need it pointed out over and over again.  So yeah, it was too much.  I might have stuck with it longer if it had been a regular sized galley and not a bound manuscript, but the slowness of the story combined with the unwieldiness of the book did it in.

In other news, I’ve signed up for the Read-a-Thon in 2 weeks. We’ll see if I do better than last time! What I *really* need is a blog-a-thon, as I’m currently 6 reviews in arrears.  I don’t think I’ve been caught up yet in the year 2010. I had some work travel and personal travel and then moved offices at my job, so maybe things will calm down a little and I can get some review writing done!

Have a great week!

2010: Sunday Salon – January Wrap-Up

Yeah, yeah, it’s Monday.  But I have a day off from work thanks to the 11 inches of snow that fell here Friday night (really don’t want to talk about that), and after a rather productive morning of finishing a book and getting groceries, I’m ready to settle down and do some catching up on the blog.

I only reviewed 6 books this month, which makes my total seem low.  But it’s an artificial low! Let me explain.  First, here are the 6 I reviewed in January:

Technically, I read The First Rule in December, but wanted to wait to post my review when the book was released.  Then we have Shogun! This took me roughly 3 weeks to read, but it was totally worth it.  It’s been a long time since I’ve read a saga like that.  Since then, I’ve picked up the pace a little.  In fact, I have 4 books that I finished (the last of them this morning) that are in the queue to review.  So I think my January total is a little closer to 9 than 6. Not as high as I’d like it to be if I’m going to make 144 by the end of the year, but we have a long ways to go!

The end of the month also marks the end of my first month as a Kindle owner.  I’ve been pretty pleased with it so far.  I’ve been able to put all of the ebooks I already owned onto it (with the help of Calibre, a fantastic e-book management and conversion program), and my experience with purchasing has been flawless.  I also got a case for it that I’m really happy with… this one from M-Edge:

kindlecase

I *love* this case.  I got the synthetic leather, in red.  I can stand my Kindle up and read easily while I’m eating lunch, which is when I do most of my Kindle reading.  It’s also easy to hold on to if I’m not standing it up.  My birthday is tomorrow, and I’m planning to take some of my birthday money to buy the light that M-Edge sells that slides into the case and can be stored there.

Now for the Kindle itself.  The things I really like about it are how easy it is to read, how easy it is to load files onto it, and how light it is.  But, like most devices, there are some things that could be done better:

  • The wireless settings.  I keep my wireless turned off most of the time, because the wireless networks I am in most often are protected networks, and it seems that the Kindle keeps trying to connect to them and in the process, drains the battery.  There’s no way to even put in a password.
  • Folder management would be nice, but I’m pretty sure I can live without it.  Something I would like to be able to do is jump to a certain page in my table of contents.  The search feature does help if I’m looking for a particular book in my list.
  • Sometimes, it freezes.  I’ll be reading a book and it won’t advance to the next page.  Most of the time I can unfreeze it by putting it into sleep mode and then turning it on again, but sometimes I have to reset it.  I don’t know if this is due to the sheer number of items on it (several hundred), but I’m nowhere close to filling it up so I hope that’s not it.

Overall, I’ve been super happy with it.  I *thought* I was happy just reading on my iPhone (and I still read on it when the opportunity is right), but the Kindle has shown me that reading on my iPhone was straining my eyes more than I thought.  With the case on it, I’m not afraid to take it anywhere.  I even take it with me when I play league pool twice a week.

The real challenge? Making sure I don’t neglect all of my paper books!

2009: Sunday Salon – The Snowcapalypse Edition

So if you haven’t heard, some of us got slammed by snow this weekend…

snow

Yes, that is 15 inches of snow.  It started at home around 1:30 or 2pm, which lead to a rather hairy drive home (I left work at 2) that I would be ecstatic to never repeat. We haven’t had this much snow the entire year for the past few years.  I’d forgotten what snowbanks look like.  But, all is well, and our cars can get out (they finally plowed our road this morning). Though mine still has a snow mohawk.

I don’t have much else to say, cuz I’m saving all the good stuff for my end of year post in a couple of weeks.  But, I did want to mention a couple of books I abandoned recently.

lastlastchance The first abandoned book this month was Last Last Chance by Fiona Maazel. I just couldn’t take the writing style — it was all over the place.  And that was just in the first chapter.  There just wasn’t enough that was believable. That doesn’t mean that you wouldn’t like it… It just didn’t click for me.

twobrothers The second abandoned book was Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones.  I was a little sad that this one didn’t click with me, because I’m sure that it’s quite good as far as the Civil War goes.  The problem I had with it was the really stilted dialogue.  I think the author was trying to be historically accurate, but I think you can achieve that and still have some life in your characters.

I just started reading Shogun by James Clavell.  It’s definitely a chunkster, at 1210 pages and very small print, so I’ll probably be reading it through the end of the year.

Other than a couple more book reviews and some challenge posts (yes, more challenges!), I probably won’t be posting much until the end of the year.  We’re going to Baltimore for Christmas, and I’ll be bringing my computer, so who knows.  Scott is going to be helping his dad with some remodeling while we’re there, so I may have some time to kill after the Christmas weekend is over. 

Happy Holidays to everyone! May Santa bring you a lot of books! :-)

2009: Mailbox Monday – Monday #30

This is sort of a combo Mailbox Monday and Sunday Salon, because I fully intended to write a Sunday Salon post yesterday.  I actually had two paragraphs poked out on my iPhone while at my APA match last night when I tried to save a draft and then lost everything.  The WordPress iPhone app obviously still has some issues. I was too ticked off to write it again.

Anyway, I hope all you Thanksgiving celebrators out there had a good Thanksgiving! We traveled to Ohio and visited with my dad’s family.  We basically did nothing but eat, play games, and sleep from 8pm on Wednesday until we fell into bed at 1am Saturday morning.  Our food of choice was pie, and our games of choice were Euchre, poker, and a game called Time’s Up. There were 32 of us for Thanksgiving dinner and from 10-20 of us (depending on the time of day) at my aunt’s all day on Friday. My family is very loud and boisterous, so it was a raucous good time.

I brought some books with me, but the only reading I got done was either during the drive or while acting as a pillow for my cousin’s sleeping 1 month old.  It’s always nice to get a good baby sniff fix. I finished Last Rituals by Yrsa Sigurdardottir and we listened to Island of the Sequined Love Nun by Christopher Moore, which was better than some of the other Moore books we’ve listened to lately. I’m also halfway through The Book Thief, which I need to get finished for book club Thursday night. I like it so far, though it takes a little bit of time to adjust to the author’s style. Unfortunately, I have a feeling that most of my book club is going to hate it, because they probably will see the style as frippery.

Also, it is the time of year for challenge sign-ups! I have a whole mess of challenge posts starred in my Google Reader, so I’ll be posting about them in the month to come.

Now, for the mailbox! I had a few things come in this week — two books from Amazon Vine, and then some others from PaperbackSwap:

veracity firstrule

fastwomen  outlawdemon temptation

Veracity and The First Rule are the Vine books. I’ll be reading The First Rule fairly quickly, because my mother-in-law will flip over it.  I’d like to pass it on to her at Christmas.  The Outlaw Demon Wails will be read pretty soon as well, because I’ve been waiting for this to come up on my PBS wishlist for quite a while.

Mailbox Mondays are hosted by The Printed Page.

2009: Sunday Salon – Read-a-Thon Retrospective

Well I’ve completed (sorta) my first Read-a-Thon! I really only read for about 8 hours total, but I knew when I started that there was no way I’d be staying up all night, and I had some other obligations.  But I had fun squeezing in what I could!

Which hour was most daunting for you?

Other than the 11pm hour when I called it quits, 2-3pm required a nap.

Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I think anything that’s really fast paced is good for Thonin’.  I didn’t read him this time, but James Patterson would probably be perfect.

Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Nope!

What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I thought all the giveaways were really amazing.

How many books did you read?

I read from a total of 6 books, and completed 1.

What were the names of the books you read?

  • How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standiford
  • The Ultimate Weight Solution by Dr. Phil
  • Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
  • The Maze Runner by James Dashner
  • Seize the Night by Sherrilyn Kenyon
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Which book did you enjoy most?

How to Say Goodbye in Robot was really quite good.  I also liked Seize the Night, because it’s quick and steamy.

Which did you enjoy least?

Dr. Phil.  I’m still debating if it’s worth it to read the whole thing.

How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I would love to participate again as a reader! I have to admit, I’m not a very good Cheerleader.  As long as the date works out for me, I should be able to do it!

And a BIG thank you to everyone who stopped by here and posted encouragement! Getting those comments in my inbox was a nice boost!

2009: The Sunday Salon – I’m hooooooome

Hey, look at that.  I’m back, and blogging.  What a novel idea!

I’ll probably post up some vacation pictures for you all at some point.  We had a really good time, but I came home exhausted.  We went to 5 national parks in 5 days, and by day 6 I was ready for some rest and relaxation.  We hit Mesa Verde, Arches, Canyonlands, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone.  I think Arches was the prettiest, but Yellowstone was the most exciting.

Reading-wise, I am still *way* behind in my reviews.  Here’s what’s coming up!

  • The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson (later today)
  • Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore
  • Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran
  • Wish You Were Here by Rita Mae Brown
  • Silence of the Grave by Arnalder Indridason
  • Hunter’s Moon by C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
  • The Spire by Richard North Patterson
  • Full Bloom by Janet Evanovich
  • The Fury by Jason Pinter
  • Coyote Blue by Christopher Moore
  • Vixen 03 by Clive Cussler

The good news is that I have most of these reviews written, I just need to get the posts put together.  In addition, I have three or four new challenges I’m joining that I need to post about.

The thing I’m hemming and hawing about most these days is the upcoming Read-a-Thon. I’ve never participated in one before, and I’m seriously considering it this time around. There’s no Hokies game that Saturday, and it looks like we’re probably going to my in-laws the *next* weekend, so I’ve got a good opportunity. Have you done the Read-a-thon before?  What are your thoughts?

2009: The Sunday Salon – On a Tuesday!

This is just a quick note to let you know that the ol’ blog here will probably be pretty quiet until after the first of the month.  I’m working on an intensive project at work, and by the time I’ve finished starting at Excel and databases and PHP all day, the last thing I want to do is sit down and write book reviews.  So, I have the following reviews on tap in my brain:

  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  • The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
  • Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore
  • Silence of the Grave by Arnaldur Indridason

On top of the work project, on Saturday we’re leaving for Utah for the rest of the month! And the chance of me blogging while I’m gone is about 5%. But, I am bringing some good books with me…

  • Cleopatra’s Daughter by Michelle Moran
  • True Blue by David Baldacci (if I get it in time)
  • Spire by Richard North Patterson
  • A yet to be determined book from my non-review TBR pile
  • And I have books on my iphone for backup if I finish these!

So enjoy the rest of your September, and keep reading! I’ll be back the first week of October.  And I’ll still be on Twitter from time to time.

2009: The Sunday Salon – July Wrap-Up

July was a HUGE reading month for me, partially because I was on vacation for a week.  In July I read:

14 books! Plus 3 or 4 more that didn’t get reviewed until August (the last of those reviews will be up this week).  Out of these books, my favorite was definitely Naamah’s KissOn Writing was also quite good, but obviously for different reasons.  Disappointments? Skin Trade

I also finally posted some challenge wrap-ups.  Marked completed were:

Additionally, I updated the 2009 ARC Reading Challenge and joined two more!  The Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge and the Random Reading Challenge.

Right now I’m reading Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason and listening to The Memory Collector by Meg Gardiner, which I have to admit I’m quite disappointed with.  Not completely disappointed, but it’s not as good as I’d hoped. I just finished (and need to review) Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell.  The next book up will be The Girl Who Played With Fire by Steig Larsson. 

I’m trying to be more even about what ARCs I choose to read when, so I’m dividing them into 4 categories — books from Amazon Vine, books from LibraryThing, books from publishers/publicists, and books from authors.  I’m going to be rotating through each category. I find that I tend to neglect some of the publicist/publisher books, so I need to work those in more.

Around the house, I’m nearly finished with my “put every book I own and every book I’ve read (in the past several years) into LibraryThing” project.  I had a lot of books in LibraryThing (1000+), but some of the stuff I owned I’ve now swapped, a lot of the stuff I own and have read was not catalogued (especially if I read it more than 4 years ago), and a lot of the books I’ve brought into the house recently were also non catalogued.  I also took the opportunity to weed some books out of my TBR collection that I’m no longer interested in reading.  These went directly onto my PaperbackSwap shelf (room). SO, I’ve physically touched every book in the house and have taken note of what LT collection(s) they belong in, and now I just need to put that info into LT.  I expect that will take me at least another week or two, and then I have some reshelving to do.

Is a book lover’s work ever done?

2009: The Sunday Salon – June Round-up

June wasn’t a hugely prolific reading month for me, but 9 books isn’t bad!

Out of these, I’d say my favorite was City of Thieves, though April & Oliver and Kitty and the Midnight Hour were also stars.  Doomed Queens was fun, and I expected more from Bad ThingsI Smile Back probably appeals only to a narrow audience.

I’ve got three main reads on the go right now.  I went to the library last week, and the last borrowed book I have left to read is Do Not Deny Me by Jean Thompson, a collection of short stories.  I don’t read short stories very often, so this is a change-up for me.  On my phone I’m reading Night Play by Sherrilyn Kenyon.  I tend to put guilty pleasure reads on my phone.  The audiobook I’m listening to is the new Stephanie Plum book, Finger Lickin’ Fifteen.  It’s pretty great so far, and I’m a little over halfway through.  Lots of Ranger (rowr).

I’ve been trying to do some clean-up around the blog now that we’re halfway through the year… mostly closing out finished challenges.  I still have a few of those posts to write, hopefully soon enough to be posted next week. Cuz we’re going on vacation! Nothing fancy, just a day at Niagara Falls, and then 4 days in Maine with my family. It’s my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary, so there’s going to be a big party.  Other than that, we’ll probably hang out with family and play golf. There’s going to be a lot of time on the road, so I expect I’ll get some reading done, plus at least one audiobook. I doubt I’ll be posting much, if at all, because I expect my internet access to be spotty at best. I’m just hoping to have cell coverage!

Speaking of “clean-up”, I’ve taken on a new project.  I’m not sure about its chances of success.  Several years ago, before things like Shelfari, GoodReads, and LibraryThing came along, I built my own online book database application.  My purpose was not only to inventory everything I had, but to keep track of what I’ve read.

Since then, I’ve started using Shelfari, GoodReads, and LibraryThing, and my little database is starting to seem redundant. I also haven’t been very good about removing things that I no longer own, since I now swap a lot of stuff when I finish it.  So the whole thing is somewhat out of date.  On top of that, right now I have it built so that I can put in an ISBN number and it will pull a lot of the pertinent information about the book out of Amazon for me.  I think that function is about to break, because Amazon is changing their system in August.  I’m not sure I understand it enough to fix what I’ve got.

SO.  My main goal is to get everything into LibraryThing, into its proper collection.  To do that, I need to go through all my shelves again and make sure the things I own are listed and the things I don’t are not (or at least are listed as read but unowned). As I’m doing this, I’m going to try to weed down my ridiculous TBR list by pulling out books that I’m not excited about reading anymore. 

I started this yesterday, and have been wandering around my living room and bedroom with a clipboard, which I find rather amusing.  So far, I’ve pulled out 10 books that I either have on audio and prefer to listen to rather than read or just don’t care about anymore.  Only 600 to go!

I hope you’ve all enjoyed your weekend!

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