Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bang Bang Book Challenge Round up

So I signed up for the Bang Bang Book Challenge back in August and nominated the following books to read:

Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik
Winston's War by Michael Dobbs
Flashman and the Dragon by George Macdonald Fraser
Seduction of the Crimson Rose by Lauren Willig
The Birth House by Ami McKay

and I even managed to read all of those books except for one. I substituted Briar Rose by Jane Yolen for Winston's War. Where I didn't go so well is in writing the reviews! You know, good intentions and all that.

The challenge finishes on 28 February, and I still intend to write at least a couple of those reviews because I have only finished the last couple of reads in the last few days, but for all intents and purposes I am finished with this challenge as well.

Life as we knew it by Susan Pfeffer

No shops. No TV. No Electricity. No Daylight. No idea if your family is alive or dead. Could YOU survive? When a freak asteroid knocks the moon from its orbit, horrific tides engulf parts of the globe, and life on earth changes overnight. For 15-year-old Miranda as power, communications and food supplies start to break down, a desperate battle for her family's survival begins.

I first heard about this book at Becky's Book Reviews around a year ago when she interviewed Susan Pfeffer and I immediately added it to my TBR list. I may have heard of it before that, but that was the post that made me add it to the list. One of the things that I try to do with any reading challenges is to pick books that are already on my list so when Carl announced this year's Sci-fi Experience, I figured that this would fit the bill. I have to say, I am really glad that I chose this as one of the books for the Experience.

This is a young adult book told in a journal format, and our main character is 16 year old Miranda who lives with her mother and brothers in Pennsylvania. Like everyone else in the world, Miranda and her family are transfixed as they watch the coverage of the moon being hit by an asteroid. It is a major news event but everyone is reassured by all the experts who are commentating on the event and life is expected to go on as normal. Sometimes though, the experts get things wrong, and in this case they get things very wrong.

With the moon off it's axis, the tides are effected, and the first sign of trouble comes in the form of huge tsunamis around the world, but not long after there are earthquakes and long dormant volcanoes erupting causing massive death tolls. There are increasingly regular power outages, to the point where it is more common to have no electricity than to have it, and the weather is also effected, going from one extreme to another throughout the period of the book.

As soon as Miranda's mother realises that there is a chance that things won't get better they set about stockpiling anything and everything that might help them get by but the biggest worry as things get worse rather than better is that despite all the preparations, there is not going to be enough for everyone to be able to survive.

Reading Miranda's journal as the events go on, we are exposed to her emotions and see how they change. At first it is very normal sixteen year old girl emotions about boys, and in particular her favourite ice skater, about the prospect of learning to drive, fights with her mum and a little confusion about the events in her family with her dad announcing that his new wife is now pregnant. Miranda goes through a range of emotions from anger to despair to acceptance to resignation, and yet throughout the book there are also enough moments of hope (for example the family's first Christmas since the fateful night when everything changed) and love. Pfeffer touches on several different topics such as first love, the way some people might turn to religion during such a time, vigilantism and death of loved ones, and large scale death such as we saw with the tsunamis. In some ways this felt a bit close too home given everything that has been going on here with the bushfires recently.

I normally have one book that is my reading on the train book, and another that is my reading at home book. I started this one on Friday morning when I was not far from work. There was then a problem on the train so I was stuck for half an hour or so so I was able to get a really good start on it. By the time I got home, I just wanted to get to the end to find out what happened. There was no way known that I was going to be able to wait until I got on the train on Monday to finish this book.

It was in turn moving, chilling, realistic and scary and totally worth reading! I was all ready to request the follow up book, but apparently it is not going to be released here until 2010 which is a very long wait.

Reading this book did make me wonder how my son and I would survive in this kind of situation, and the short answer is not very well. I don't know that I would have the presence of mind to be able to get things together, let alone the ready cash that Miranda's mother had. The other thing is that there is just the two of us and so we wouldn't be able to divide the jobs up, but at least I wouldn't have to look at my kids and decide which one had the most chance of survival and therefore give them more food. That and the fact that as Australians we wouldn't have the foggiest how to survive in blizzards or even just temperatures that cold! Brrr!!

When I was looking for the cover image, I had a look at her page at Fantastic Fiction, and I was surprised to see that this author had written so many books over quite an extended period of time. My library doesn't have any of the others, which is a bit disappointing because I will definitely be reading at least the next book!

By finishing this book, I have now completed this year's Sci-Fi Experience. I really enjoy this experience as it does make me read outside of my comfort zone a little, and I enjoyed both books that I read this year.

Rating 4.5/5

Other Blogger's Thoughts:

Things Mean A Lot
An Adventure in Reading
Stephanie's Confessions of a Book-a-holic
Bookfoolery and Babble
Rosario's Reading Journal

Strange coincidence

I don't think I have ever read a book where people eat tulip bulbs. Yesterday, I read about it in two separate books! Admittedly one was an episode where it was eaten by accident, but I was most surprised when I read it again in the next book!

Tulips are my favourite flowers, but I don't think I will be eating them anytime soon.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Feed my Inbox assistance?

Is anybody subscribed to this blog through the Feed My Inbox widget that I have in the sidebar?

If yes, can you tell me do you receive an email every day, regardless of whether I post something new, or only when I do post something?

I have added this widget to a blog which is only getting updated once or twice a month but apparently it sends an email every day regardless of whether there is new content or not, which is understandably a bit annoying to subscribers, and I would like to figure out if this is what is meant to happen or if it is an anomaly.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Grimspace by Ann Aguirre

By all accounts, Sirantha Jax should have burned out years ago…

As the carrier of a rare gene, Jax has the ability to jump ships through grimspace—a talent which cuts into her life expectancy, but makes her a highly prized navigator for the Corp. But then the ship she’s navigating crash-lands, and she’s accused of killing everyone on board. It’s hard for Jax to defend herself: she has no memory of the crash.

Now imprisoned and the subject of a ruthless interrogation, Jax is on the verge of madness. Then a mysterious man breaks into her cell, offering her freedom—for a price. March needs Jax to help his small band of rogue fighters break the Corp monopoly on interstellar travel—and establish a new breed of jumper.

Jax is only good at one thing—grimspace—and it will eventually kill her. So she may as well have some fun in the meantime…

I first heard about this book over at Ramblings on Romance just about a year ago, and even though I knew that it would be something very different for me, I bought the book. Since then the book has languished on my bookshelf waiting for the right moment to be discovered!

That moment came when I needed to nominate a book to read for the Sci-fi Experience. With the cross genre combination of sci fi and romance, it seemed to be a perfect fit. Since reading this book I have bought another sci-fi romance novel by Susan Grant, so it is a good thing that I enjoyed this one!

Sirantha Jax is a jumper, or at least she was, and she thinks she still is. At the opening of the book she is being held prisoner by her employer, with interrogators trying to find out what happened during the fatal crash that killed many people, including some dignitaries and her co pilot and lover Kai. When a group of mercenaries, led by the enigmatic March, break Jax out of her captivity, she has no idea what they want from her other than her skills as a jumper. She soon finds herself drawn into a plot against the government, and one that has her travelling from one world to another.

Jax is a complex character. She can be harsh and bitchy, emotionally brittle, but she is also intelligent, strong and very entertaining. She is a woman who has been pushed to the edge of her limits and has managed to hang on. She is also someone who at first is being forced to move on from a past that she is not yet ready to let go of.

As a hero, March is pretty darned good! He is dark and broody, damaged and aloof and yet highly principled and prepared to do what it takes to firstly get the job done but on his terms, and also to provide as much support for Jax as she is willing to accept, always knowing when not to push her too far. This is a delicate balance because the relationship between jumper and pilot has a much higher degree of intimacy than just crew member to crew member would normally entail.

I loved the secondary characters, particularly with the introduction of Velith towards the end. The action moves through several different worlds, and there was enough information to be able to separately identify the worlds and their individual dangers without there being an info dump in terms of descriptions of worlds and aliens.

The end of the book was wrapped up very neatly, but I am sufficiently engaged to want to read the next one! I should also point out that Aguirre has the first book in a new series coming out soon, called Blue Diablo, and you can see the ticker in my side bar!

Rating 4/5

Pancake Day flashback

This is exactly how I felt after lunch on Pancake Day - and I wasn't alone I can promise you! There were several of us in the office who were in a similar predicament!

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reminiscing about ARRC09 - Saturday

Before I get too far into this, I need to make the following comments!

1. I can not read my own writing! I did take notes on a few of the sessions, but not all of them. The big thing though is that some of those notes just look like scrawls! (Note to organisers - perhaps a note pad next time for disorganised people like me!)

2. I have spent years avoiding having my photo taken, so that now it is natural. Unfortunately that is probably not a great thing for events like this. The other thing about photos is that I either (a) need to learn to take better photos or (b) buy a new camera! I think you will be able to click on the image to make them larger and hopefully clearer!

3. I have been a couple of other people blogging about ARRC09 so there may be a couple of times where I direct you to other blogs for better details than I can provide!

The first ever Australian Romance Readers Convention (ARRC) officially began on Friday night, but I didn't attend the opening reception as I thought that I should probably spend that time with my son which kind of happened, but kind of didn't! (Book Thingo has some details about Friday night and general things about the conference) so Saturday morning saw me up and in the city by 7.30am. We won't talk about the fact that I struggle to leave by that time every morning during the week but that I was up and ready to go early for this particular event. Must be the motivation factor!

The room was packed to capacity as the conference proper got under way. The first speaker was Mary Janice Davidson. Once she realised that she was in Australia and not in Alaska, MJD was an awesome speaker to start the conference with. She was hilarious, talking about why being a writer sucks! Among the things she talked about were things like choosing to have the first Betsy book self published and then getting picked up by the New York publishers, about having limited control over things like book tours and covers. She also gave some really hilarious anecdotes about her own fan girl (or should that be stalker/deranged fan) behaviour towards Charlaine Harris, and an insight into a couple of her upcoming books and a future idea or two that sound great!

At this point it is probably right for me to confess that I have only read two of MJD's books, and they were both from the Fred the Mermaid series, and it's fair to say I didn't love them. I do think that perhaps I may give some of her other books a go, because now I have heard her speak, I think I can see how her humour is reflected in her writing!

Following this there was a panel discussion titled "What academics really think about romance fiction". Whilst this was a good discussion it had a very different tone to the opening talk. A few of the topics that were discussed were

  • The idea of romance as emotional pornography
  • The criticism of readers of romance who are predominantly female and the idea that these women should be doing something other than sitting around reading romance
  • The role of media in terms of how they view the male/female relationship
  • Books as a product, especially focusing on the covers, and titles.
The last point generated quite a lot of discussion, particularly around the Mills and Boon/Harlequin titles. It was at this point that the person who started off sitting next to me stood up to talk about titles - turned out it was Stephanie Laurens, talking about the way that there are certain words that sell books and therefore they are the words that marketing departments liked. She gave the example of an upcoming book of hers where the word Bride is in the title but there is no wedding in the book! Cristina Lee, Sales, Marketing and Publishing Director of Harlequin Australia, then reiterated those comments. As much as we may roll our eyes at titles like Ruthless Billionaire, Inexperience Mistress, (I didn't pick this for any particular reason, just needed to find a title to use as an example) the fact is that they tell the reader what they can expect and they sell!

During this discussion there was a slideshow of some romance covers from the 1950s and 1960s and there were some truly astounding covers and titles amongst them! (Click here to see some examples) One of the members of the panel was K S Nikakis. I had picked up one of her books from the library before mainly because she either does live or used to live in my area, but I didn't get around to reading it! Now I own it, although I will confess that I didn't buy it until Sunday afternoon and so it was too late to get it signed.

After morning tea, it was time for the first of the concurrent sessions, and I chose to attend the Paranormal session which was subtitled "The Immortal who loved me - why vampires, shifters and demons are so sexy". The short answer to this was basically because they are hot! The session was moderated by Kate Cuthbert (who runs The Australian Romance Reader website) on the far left and the participating authors were in order in the photo from left to right Keri Arthur, Sara McKenzie (who also writes historicals as Sara Bennett) and Mary Janice Davidson.

This was another highly entertaining session with lots of laughs and some fun snippets. One of the interesting discussions was about following the rules that you create for your world, and what happens if you box yourself into a corner in your world, but also that there is a lot of freedom in that you want to do something that sounds really silly or different then there is nothing to stop you when you are the one creating the world. There was also some discussion about where ideas come from (Keri Arthur mentioned having dreams) and then the authors discussed whether they work on more than one book at a time (MJD) or whether or not they can only be working on one book at a time (Keri Arthur and Sara McKenzie).

It was at this point that I was wondering how the heck is it that I haven't yet read Keri Arthur in particular!

After lunch it was time for another concurrent session, and this time I attended the Historical Romance. Anna Campbell led a discussion featuring (from left to right) Alison Stuart, Stephanie Laurens and Sara Bennett.

There is a really good summary of the discussions from this session over at Book Thingo (about half way down the page) so instead of recovering the same ground, I thought I would mention a couple of things about the three authors! Alison Stuart's books were two that I brought and got signed over the weekend, simply because they sounded so great as she described them in this sessions. Romantic fiction set against the English Civil War - not a period of time that you often hear about. One of her books won an Eppie award as well (for books that are e-published), so I am really looking forward to a good read when I do pick them up eventually.

I do feel like I am letting myself down as a historical romance reader when I admit that I have never actually read any books by Stephanie Laurens. She is definitely passionate about this as a genre and had very strong opinions on many of the topics. One of the more interesting points she made was about the term "bodice-ripper" being used to describe the whole sub-genre. She pointed out that technically these types of books were published only for a very short period of time back in the late seventies and early eighties, but that the reputation still tarnishes the sub genre even now.

Sara Bennett also writes paranormal romances under the name Sara McKenzie, but it was obvious that these are both pseudonyms because everyone on the panel kept on calling her a different name! I wonder if remembering who they were was an issue for the authors at the conferences who do use pseudonyms!

The final keynote speaker for the day was Stephanie Laurens who spoke about "The books we love to read", specifically genre fiction, whether we are talking about romance, crime, sci fi or any other kind of genre fiction, as opposed to literary fiction or general fiction. The question she asked was do we love to read books for the story, for the language or the subject. In short, genre fiction is all about the story and therefore as a genre reader the main question we need to ask ourselves is "is it a good story" and if the answer is yes, then we are likely to be satisfied, especially seeing as we read for fun, enjoyment, entertainment and because it makes us feel good. Genre fiction provides escape, enables us to use our imaginations and provides affirmation of many of the important elements in life thus empowering ourselves. Of all the keynote speakers, Laurens was the most intellectual in terms of content.

Laurens then officially launched Tempt the Devil by Anna Campbell, and Anna explained where the term regency noir came from (courtesy of Stephanie Laurens).

There is still loads to tell, but it will have to wait until tomorrow night as I am still trying to recover from the weekend! Need to get some more sleep.

Library Loot

This week I have only been to the library once! Normally I go at least twice but I guess with being in the city all weekend I didn't really have time to go any more than I did! When I did go, I picked up three books:

Winston's War by Michael Dobbs - I have borrowed this book at least twice before, and I really want to read it because I have read books 2 and 4 in the series, but it just hasn't happened so far!

Full Moon Rising by Keri Arthur - I had vaguely heard of the series that this book starts, but I was totally sold on the series as I listened to the author speak on the weekend!

The Dark Rose by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles - Not too long ago I finished the first book in this series and I am definitely planning to read more!

****Library Loot is a weekly meme hosted by Alessandra from Out of the Blue and Eva from A Striped Armchair

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Should be Reading:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

The book that my teaser comes from today is one which I am reading for the Art History Reading Challenge, Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach (page 143). I am cheating today and posting a couple more sentences than I am meant to, but I think it makes more sense this way.

Just bags of onions, that is what they look like. For them, Jan has paid as much as he makes, with luck, in a year's work. How homely they look. Yet they are more valuable than jewels, than paintings, than gold. Stored within those bulbs, fattened by sunshine and rain, is his future.

ARRC Guest Post

Just a quick post to say that I have written a guest post for The Good, the Bad and the Unread about ARRC. There will be more posts and photos posted here in the next couple of days, but for my initial thoughts head to TGTBTU!

Monday, February 23, 2009

I've seen 76 out of 239 films (aka I have a life)

I saw this over at Darla's and seeing as today has been such a movie day it seemed like a good idea, until I realised how few I have actually seen! Never mind. It's probably a good thing they don't ask about books that have been read because my I have a life statement may come back to bite me!

I am definitely going to be giving this to a couple of my work colleagues who I can guarantee don't have a life, but I might need to leave it for a day or two because I am already in the bad books with the biggest movie buff I work with (we'll call him Poker King) . You see, every year PK asks us all to say (or guess) who is going to win the Oscars and he prides himself on getting the most right, and because we all can be just a little competitive, there will be some good natured ribbing about how bad the rest of us are.

This year, PK came third behind a girl from outside our department, and well, me. I think the fact that I beat him hurts a little bit, because I don't get to watch grown up films. Of all the major categories, the only nominations I had seen were Bolt, Kung Fu Panda and Wall-E. Yep! Only kids films.

Anyway, onto the meme!

SUPPOSEDLY if you've seen over 85 films, you have no life. Mark the ones you've seen. There are 239 films on this list. Copy this list, go to your own blog, paste this as a post. Then, put x's next to the films you've seen, add them up, and change the header adding your number. Have fun.

( ) Rocky Horror Picture Show
(X) Grease
(X) Pirates of the Caribbean
(X) Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest
( ) Boondock Saints
() Fight Club
(X) Starsky and Hutch
(X) Neverending Story
(X) Blazing Saddles
(X) Airplane
Total: 7

( ) The Princess Bride (I've only seen parts of this)
(X) Anchorman
( ) Napoleon Dynamite
(X) Labyrinth
( ) Saw II
( ) White Noise
( ) White Oleander
(X) Anger Management
(X) 50 First Dates
( )The Princess Diaries
( ) The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement
Total so far: 11

( )Scream
( ) Scream 2
( ) Scream 3
( ) Scary Movie
( ) Scary Movie 2
( ) Scary Movie 3
( ) Scary Movie 4
(X) American Pie
(X) American Pie 2
( ) American Wedding
( ) American Pie Band Camp
Total so far: 13

(X) Harry Potter 1
(X) Harry Potter 2
(X) Harry Potter 3
(X) Harry Potter 4
( ) Resident Evil 1
( ) Resident Evil 2
(X) The Wedding Singer
( ) Little Black Book
( ) The Village
( X) Lilo & Stitch
Total so far: 19

(X) Finding Nemo
(X) Finding Neverland (it's in my Netflix queue)
( ) Signs
(X) The Grinch
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre
( ) Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning
( ) White Chicks
( ) Butterfly Effect
( ) 13 Going on 30
( ) I, Robot
( ) Robots
Total so far: 22

( ) Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
( ) Universal Soldier
(X) Lemony Snicket: A Series Of Unfortunate Events
( ) Along Came Polly
( ) Deep Impact
( ) KingPin
(X) Never Been Kissed
(X) Meet The Parents
(X) Meet the Fockers
( ) Eight Crazy Nights
(X) Joe Dirt
Total so far: 27

( ) A Cinderella Story
( ) The Terminal
( ) The Lizzie McGuire Movie
( ) Passport to Paris
(X) Dumb & Dumber
( ) Dumber & Dumberer
( ) Final Destination
( ) Final Destination 2
( ) Final Destination 3
(X) Halloween
( ) The Ring
( ) The Ring 2
( ) Surviving X-MAS
( ) Flubber
Total so far: 29

( ) Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle
(X) Practical Magic
(X) Chicago
( ) Ghost Ship
( ) From Hell
( ) Hellboy
( ) Secret Window
( ) I Am Sam
( ) The Whole Nine Yards
( ) The Whole Ten Yards
Total so far: 31

( ) The Day After Tomorrow
( ) Child's Play
( ) Seed of Chucky
( ) Bride of Chucky
( ) Ten Things I Hate About You
( ) Just Married
( ) Gothika
(X) Nightmare on Elm Street
(X) Sixteen Candles
( ) Remember the Titans
( ) Coach Carter
( ) The Grudge
( ) The Grudge 2
(X) The Mask
(X) Son Of The Mask
Total so far: 33

( ) Bad Boys
( ) Bad Boys 2
( ) Joy Ride
( ) Lucky Number Slevin
(X) Ocean's Eleven
(X) Ocean's Twelve
( ) Bourne Identity
( ) Bourne Supremacy
( ) Lone Star
(X) Bedazzled
( ) Predator I
( ) Predator II
( ) The Fog
(X) Ice Age
(X) Ice Age 2: The Meltdown
( ) Curious George
Total so far: 38

(X) Independence Day
( ) Cujo
( ) A Bronx Tale
( ) Darkness Falls
( ) Christine
(X) ET
( ) Children of the Corn
( ) My Bosses Daughter
(X) Maid in Manhattan
(X) War of the Worlds
(X) Rush Hour
(X) Rush Hour 2
Total so far: 40

( ) Best Bet
(X) How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
( ) She's All That
( ) Calendar Girls
( ) Sideways
( ) Mars Attacks
( ) Event Horizon
(X) Ever After
(X) Wizard of Oz
(X) Forrest Gump
(X) Big Trouble in Little China
(X) The Terminator
( ) The Terminator 2
( ) The Terminator 3
Total so far: 56

( ) X-Men
( ) X-2
( ) X-3
(X) Spider-Man
(X) Spider-Man 2
(X) Sky High
( ) Jeepers Creepers
( ) Jeepers Creepers 2
( ) Catch Me If You Can
(X) The Little Mermaid
(X) Freaky Friday
( ) Reign of Fire
( ) The Skulls
( ) Cruel Intentions
( ) Cruel Intentions 2
( ) The Hot Chick
(X) Shrek
(X) Shrek 2
Total so far: 63

( ) Swimfan
( ) Miracle on 34th street
( ) Old School
(X) The Notebook
( ) K-Pax
( ) Krippendorf's Tribe
(X) A Walk to Remember
( ) Ice Castles
( ) Boogeyman
( ) The 40-year-old Virgin
Total so far: 65

( ) Lord of the Rings Fellowship of the Ring
( ) Lord of the Rings The Two Towers
( ) Lord of the Rings Return Of the King
(X) Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
(X) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
(X) Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Total so far: 68

( ) Baseketball
( ) Hostel
( ) Waiting for Guffman
( ) House of 1000 Corpses
( ) Devils Rejects
(X) Elf
( ) Highlander
( ) Mothman Prophecies
( ) American History X
( ) Three
Total so Far: 69

( ) The Jacket
( ) Kung Fu Hustle
( ) Shaolin Soccer
( ) Night Watch
(X) Monsters Inc.
(X) Titanic
(X) Monty Python and the Holy Grail
( ) Shaun Of the Dead
( ) Willard
Total so far: 72

( ) High Tension
( ) Club Dread
( ) Hulk
( ) Dawn Of the Dead
(X) Hook
(X) Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe
(X) 28 days later
( ) Orgazmo
( ) Phantasm
( ) Waterworld
Total so far: 75

( ) Kill Bill vol 1
( ) Kill Bill vol 2
( ) Mortal Kombat
( ) Wolf Creek
( ) Kingdom of Heaven
( ) the Hills Have Eyes
( ) I Spit on Your Grave aka the Day of the Woman
( ) The Last House on the Left
( ) Re-Animator
( ) Army of Darkness
Total so far: 75

( ) Star Wars Ep. I The Phantom Menace
( ) Star Wars Ep. II Attack of the Clones
( ) Star Wars Ep. III Revenge of the Sith
( ) Star Wars Ep. IV A New Hope
( ) Star Wars Ep. V The Empire Strikes Back
( ) Star Wars Ep. VI Return of the Jedi
( ) Ewoks Caravan Of Courage
( ) Ewoks The Battle For Endor
Total so far: 75

( ) The Matrix
( ) The Matrix Reloaded
( ) The Matrix Revolutions
( ) Animatrix
( ) Evil Dead
( ) Evil Dead 2
( ) Team America: World Police
( ) Red Dragon
(X) Silence of the Lambs
( ) Hannibal
Total so far: 76

Now Add them up and...

Put "I've seen ...__ out of 239 films" in the subject line and repost it.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tired but happy

The inaugural ARRC is over. I had such a great time, but oh my goodness I am tired tonight!

I got a ton of new books, and discovered some new authors that I am definitely intending to read.

More later.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

These Books were made for Walking meme

Strumpet has posted this month's These Books were made for Walking question:

Is there a place that you have always dreamed of visiting specifically because of a book you read? It can be any kind of book: fiction, non-fiction, travelogue, you name it. If you have been to the place, did it live up to your expectations? If you haven't been, do you think you'll ever make it there?

Strumpet and I actually have the same city as at least part of our response, but because of different books!

I have wanted to go to St Petersburg since reading Paullina Simon's fantastic trilogy that starts with The Bronze Horseman. I can't tell you how much that book captured my imagination and made me want to go to Russia, and if I could make it during the White Nights of the Russian summer then that would be totally fantastic too! It certainly didn't hurt that not long after reading TBH, I then read Anna Karenina, which is predominantly also set in St Petersburg, but a hundred or so years earlier. Click here for images of St Petersburg.

I love it when reading a book makes me want to go there! There was a time after reading Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, I so wanted to go to Tuscany again. Not just a little bit, but desperately, desperately! I know that going cyber touring isn't the same as actually being there, but I am grateful that it is possible to just click on links and find all kinds of images to further whet the appetite.

In some ways there are lot of places that I would love to go back to as well as new places to go to. After reading Sharon Kay Penman's books, I would love to go to Wales for the first time, but there are so many books that I have read that make me want to go to plaes where I have been before because I think I would appreciate the history, and the experience so much more than I did when I was 24 and travelling the world. I am sure if I was to go to a lot of the same places again now it would be a totally different experience than it was back then!

While I have been lucky enough to travel quite a lot, my life is in a far different place now, and even though my feet get very itchy some times I have pretty much resolved myself to the fact that for the time being I am not really going to be going anywhere! Cyber tourism will have to do for me for now.

So here is a video made from the movie of Under the Tuscan Sun.

And I had to post this one just for the food alone!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Look at the pretty!

For more widgets please visit

Do you notice that Days = 0, and there is only a few hours until the first Australian Romance Readers Convention begins! I am planning to not only enjoy the sessions but I also am hoping to get hold of lots of new books! Yep, I am going book shopping! Normally I don't buy books, but borrow them from the library but this weekend, I have plans!

Because of ARRC, I am going to be a bit scarce around the blog world this weekend, but I do have at least one post scheduled so it won't quite be totally dead here this weekend!

Portrait in Death by J D Robb

After a tip from a reporter, Eve Dallas finds the body of a young woman in a Delancey street dumpster. Just hours before, the news station had mysteriously received a portfolio of professional portraits of the woman. The photos seemed to be nothing out of the ordinary for any pretty young woman starting a modeling career. Except that she wasn't a model. And that these photos were taken after she had been murdered. Now Dallas is on the trail of a killer who's a perfectionist and an artist. He carefully observes and records his victim's every move. And he has a mission: to own every beautiful young woman's innocence, to capture her youth and vitality - in one fateful shot...

I am so tempted to start this review by making just one statement - Nora Roberts writing as J D Robb is an absolutely exceptional author!

With this book we are now 15 or 16 instalments (or 18 including short stories/novellas) into the series at which point you would think that we would know our main characters in particular really well, but in this book, we see Roarke redefined as he finds out something from his past which shakes him to his core, and we see Eve really struggling to balance between being a wife and being a cop. For the first time really we see Eve have to put her husband before her work and look after Roarke. We have seen Roarke do this consistently, but it is significantly rarer for Eve to be the one in this role.

This book took me through a whole range of emotions. I laughed out loud at the interaction between the characters, particularly between the antagonistic relationship between Summerset and Eve. They snipe at each other, but the thing that ties them together is Roarke, and when he needs them they know that they can rely on each other to take care of him. I also continue to laugh at Peabody and McNab and the fact that Eve really doesn't want to know anything about their ongoing relationship!

I also cried quite a few times in this book (always awkward on the train). When Eve has to talk to the family members of the victims you know that for all her hard arsed cop routine, her heart is breaking. I also cried loads in a scene involving Roarke and the journey he undertook during this book. Can't say anymore because it is a huge spoiler but oh my goodness - totally moving!

Notice I haven't said anything about the mystery yet? That's not because it wasn't interesting, but only because to a certain degree it was overshadowed by the interactions between the characters.

One of the best In Death novels yet. Whilst I do highly recommend this novel, and it could be read alone, I think that just to see how far the characters have come it is best to start at the beginning of the series with Naked in Death.

Rating: 4.5/5

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Library Loot!

A month or so I took a big step, and cut down the number of books that I have out from the library from more than 50 books to just over 30. I am doing quite well at keeping the total down to a managable level, although I am have borrowed quite a few books this week. I have taken quite a lot back as well though!

The interesting consequence of having less books out is that I am able to read more of the books I already own, or I don't have to worry so much about the due date if I do choose to read a library book. Now this sounds like a good thing right? In actual fact, it is problematic. Last night I changed my mind about 6 times about which book I was going to read next, and it took about half an hour to finally decide! I never had to worry about that problem as much before.

So these are the books that I have checked out from the library in the last week:

Mutiny on the Bounty by John Boyne - I know that there are lots of blog posts about John Boyne's other book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, but I don't recall seeing anything about this book any where.

Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie - I read the first book in this series a while ago. It's time to read the second book I think!

Wife for Hire by Janet Evanovich - I enjoy these rereleased romances. They are very silly, but good fun and quick reads.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I think I will read this as part of the Book Awards Reading Challenge.

The Low Road by Chris Womersley - This is the April book for a group that I have recently joined which focuses on crime novels.

Imitation in Death by J D Robb - Next book in this great series!

****Library Loot is a weekly meme hosted by Alessandra from Out of the Blue and Eva from A Striped Armchair

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Should be Reading:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

I am actually kind of in between reads at the moment. I finished the book I was reading in bed last night, and my train book this afternoon, so this teaser comes from the book that I am planning to start in the morning - Victory of Eagles by Naomi Novik (page 222):

He nodded to the colonel of the regiment, and himself turned and walked over to the dragons, to make a show of speaking with Rowley. No-one spoke, and the men filed in perfect order - with something even of a hurry - abourd the beasts: the rest of the army had been roused up to see if happen, and the dragons lifting off with the soldiers all aboard: with only a little prodding from the sergeants, the men aboard all jeered cheerfully at teh regiments marching below as the dragons sailed away.

Monday, February 16, 2009

To you know who....

... for you know what.

It by Stephen King

The first part of this post is the guest post that was posted over at Book Smugglers on December 22. The second part contains my final thoughts on this book and will contain spoilers!

They were just kids when they stumbled upon the hidden horror of their hometown. Now, as adults, none of them can withstand the force that has drawn them all back to Derry, Maine, to face the nightmare without end, and the evil without a name.

I have a confession to make. I am writing this post even though I haven't finished reading the book that I was dared to read. I heard that collective gasp! How can I write a review of a book I haven't finished yet? Well, I guess that I can't really, but I can write about my reading experience, and why it has come to this sorry state of affairs!

A little bit of background. Some time ago Thea was posting at DIK about her favourite books, and I was surprised to note that I hadn't read any of them. Whilst I certainly haven't read every book going, there is generally one or two books on each person's list that I have read. Fast forward a few days, and I had been dared to read any one of the books on Thea's list, and for some reason, that I can't really fathom, I chose It by Stephen King. I think maybe that it was because it was the book that was farthest away from my comfort zone. I read across a fairly wide range of genres, but horror is not one of these. Most of the others are books that I will likely get to one day.

Did I realise at the time how big this book was? Not at all. I was very surprised when I went to the library and picked up a book that was 1100 pages along, but I wasn't daunted. I love chunksters - books that tell stories that are huge in scope and in size. Was I expecting to be scared? Not at all - I mean the few slasher movies I had seen had made me laugh, or want to vomit as opposed to scream in fear, and I didn't expect this experience to be any different.

Now, I know my reading patterns pretty well I think. I always have two books on the go. One that I read on the train every day, and another that I read at night. Whilst the number of pages that I get through at night can vary, I am pretty reliable when it comes to the train books. Depending on the size of print etc, I can generally get through between 200 and 250 pages each day. So, 1100 pages to read, 200 pages a day, means that it should have taken me about 5 days, plus a few last pages at home to read. Plenty of time to finish the book and write up my post. Loads of time.

So here I am 11 days later, and I still have just under 300 pages to go, and I have to say that I struggled to get through the first 500 pages. If it wasn't for the fact that firstly, I hate not finishing books that I start, and secondly, I was dared to read the book, I would have put it down. Not with the intention of never finishing the book, but certainly with the intention of reading something that caught my imagination a bit more than this book did. So what is it that didn't work for me, that made the read such hard work. Firstly, I do think that part of the reason is that it is so far away from what I normally read. Secondly the amount of detail. Yes, the details of what happened are necessary, but this book is way too long, with mentions of some memories that really didn't need to be there. The third thing is the characters. I do feel as though I connected to a couple of the characters, and Richie made me laugh, albeit in a somewhat uncomfortable way but really Big Bill seems too perfect (except for the obvious stutter), and Eddie, Stan and Mike seem are necessary to the plot, but not characters that I could easily relate to.

Part of the reason for choosing to read this book is that it is written by Stephen King, who has a reputation for excellent writing. I have never read anything by him before, and I will say, that now that I have made it through the first half of the book I am enjoying his writing. He is very skilled at using language to make it easy for the reader to differentiate between the events that happen in the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s. His method of moving from the present to the past are seamless, and extremely well done. I don't remember reading a book where a chapter ends halfway through a sentence, and the next chapter starts with the second half of the sentence. I find myself surprised that as a technique it really works.

I also think that his representation of growing up in small town America seems very good, even if that small town is Derry, where there is definitely something strange going on. I love the technique he is using of only revealing a little bit to each of the characters as it is revealed to the readers - the jigsaw being built slowly but surely heading towards what feels like a crescendo where either the jigsaw is going to be completely destroyed, or the picture so complete that it is like the photos mentioned in the book where you can see the characters moving as you like at the static picture.

Do I get the horror elements in the book? Yes, and no. I get why people are freaked out by clowns after reading this book. I have to say though, the scariest elements in this book have not been the birds, or balloons, or clowns, but have rather been the human interactions. Bev's confrontation with her husband, the kids fights, both individually and as a group with Henry Bowers and his friends, Eddie's mother, and others. At this point I am fearing what will happen with both Tom Rogan and Henry Bowers, and I am a bit scared at the thought of what the final showdowns, both in the past and in the present will be like. These kids have already been tormented so much, and as adults are already remembering so much trauma.

Am I going to finish the book - absolutely! There is no way that I am reading 800 pages of an 1100 page book and putting it down. I have a few expectations of where I hope the book goes. As a reader who has a bit of a bias to romance, I know what I am hoping for in the ending. I don't think I am going to get it, because to be honest Stephen King isn't known for his romance now is he. I am hoping that Ben gets a chance with Beverly. I think Ben and Bev are the two characters that I connect to most. I wasn't a fat kid, but I am a fat adult, and there is definitely a common theme in Bev's story to my own. I am hoping that this group of friends who have reconnected again after so long don't lose each other again.

I want It to be destroyed. Having said that I have no picture in my mind of what Derry would be like without It being part of it - somewhere boring and mundane probably.

Most of all, I just want to finish the book. You can be sure that I will be sharing my final thoughts.

At this point in time, if I had to rate the book it would be somewhere between a 3.5 or 4 out of 5. I usually give a pretty standard good read a 4 so it is definitely a reasonable grade for a book that has (finally) sucked me into its world.

I love the idea of Book Dares, and would gladly participate in another one at some point in the future, despite the fact that I don't think I will be in a hurry to read another book from this specific genre, or from Stephen King any time soon. Never say never, but it would most likely be when I have run out of other books to read, which isn't going to happen any time soon.

Thanks for the dare Ana and Thea!




So finally, six or so weeks down the track I have finished reading It, and I am pretty darned pleased without myself that I have! Once I wrote the above post, I realised that I had other books that I needed to read and I put it down, always with the intention of picking it up again. It was just a question of when!

Overall, I enjoyed this book enough to give it a pretty decent rating of 4/5 but there are some parts that I just did not get at all, particularly in relation to the end of their time as young people. I get that the bond between the group was beginning to unravel after they had fought against It, but the sex part didn't work for me because it didn't seem to draw them closer together in the end. I was happy with one aspect of the ending, but I guess I didn't understand why the now grown up kids would forget about each other again.

Given everything that was going on here last week, I did find the story of the final battle and partial destruction of Derry not so much scary as superfluous. If I wanted to turn on the TV I could look at just as much if not more horror than what I was reading in the book.

I will read another Stephen King book eventually, although I have no idea which one. Any suggestions?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

It's been 7 days

This time last week we were waking up to the news that 14 people had died and a few houses had burned.

A week on, the death toll is 181, and still expected to rise further, approximately 2000 homes are gone, more than 7000 people are homeless, and whole towns have been destroyed. Twelve fires are still burning out of control. The power of Mother Nature is astounding. Unfortunately some of the fires were deliberately lit, and it appears that one of the bigger fires started due to a power line problem, but once they started, the conditions were just right for a fire disaster and that is exactly what happened.

There have been amazing videos which just tore the heart out of the viewer, watching the fire and embers surround peoples properties and hearing those people say goodbye to their loved ones, just in case they didn't make it.

On Friday, for the first time since the fires started, you could smell the smoke in the air in Melbourne, and the sky was hazy. The moon was red and it just felt so eerie. It was a potent reminder that while the initial force of the fire has been mostly harnessed, there were still people whose properties and lives were at risk.

Whilst for the people who were involved in this fire, there is no respite from the reality of losing your home and your friends and loved ones, there have been times this week when I have just had to turn off the news and do or watch something else because the sense of loss and horror is just overwhelming.

In the aftermath, what we have seen is the very generous nature of Aussies and their friends. There have been huge amounts of money raised and mountains of goods donated, and this is only the beginning.

To give some kind of perspective to how close many of these towns are to Melbourne itself, the photo below is the view from Kinglake, one of the towns devastated by the fire, and the scene where many people lost their lives. Kinglake is 99 miles (160 kilometres) from Melbourne.

Photo from the Herald Sun

Friday, February 13, 2009

B-b-b-Benny and the Jets!

With all the news this week, there have been moments when I have just had to watch something other than the news. On Tuesday night I watched the first episode of True Blood, but I have also watched 27 Dresses a couple of times.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Library Loot!

Only a couple of pick ups from the library this week, which is really helping at keeping those totals of books checked out under control.

The books I picked up were:

Beguilement by Lois McMaster Bujold - the first book in the Sharing Knife series

The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint - it's been ages since I read a Newford book.

Calamity Jane by Kathleen Bacus - this book was recommended on a list that I am on as a book that people will like if they like the Stephanie Plum series of books by Janet Evanovich. I could use a laugh right about now, so I will give this one a go.

The big news this week is the book that I took back to the library tonight. I was originally challenged to read It by Stephen King by the awesome girls over at Book Smugglers. When it came to deadline time, I still had a lot of book left to go, so I wrote about my experience reading the book and then put it down with every intention of picking it up again. Fast forward 8 weeks and I can finally take the book off of my currently reading list because I finished last night! Go me!

I am planning to add a few paragraphs and then post my guest post here as a review shortly!

****Library Loot is a weekly meme hosted by Alessandra from Out of the Blue and Eva from A Striped Armchair

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

I am not quite sure why but I somehow missed Teaser Tuesday last week! To make up for that, I have two teasers for you this week!

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Should be Reading:

  • Grab your current read.
  • Let the book fall open to a random page.
  • Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
  • You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
  • Please avoid spoilers!

The first teaser comes from page 246 of Grimspace by Anne Aguirre:

Beneath his intellectual exterior lies a ruthless bastard. And this is the first time I've seen it. I experience a frisson of unease, as if I've been sailing along a smooth sea, unaware of dangers that lurk unseen.

The second comes from The Founding, the first book in the super long Morland Dynasty series. I have no idea why I am starting yet another series (in fact, both of these books are first in a series!), but I have been wanting to read it for ages:

There had never been so few children in the nursery, and Eleanor was suddenly made aware by how thin a thread the Morland futures hung. She decided then and there that she must look around for suitable wives for both Ned and Edmund, and must speak to the King about a match for Thom.

I am so excited!

While the last few days have been really tough in terms of watching the news and seeing the horrendous damage and stories, right at this moment, I am totally, totally excited!
You see, I am going to ARRC!! Yay!! And more importantly, there are going to be people I know there! I was hoping to catch up with Kat O and maybe Tez Miller who are online buddies, but there are going to be people I already know as well, and it is kind of funny how I found this out!
One of the things that ARRC have set up is a Lounge, where once you have registered you are given a link so that you can chat to other delegates who will be attending. Whenever I talk about work on here or elsewhere online, I tend to write something along the lines of "I work for a major church based charity" and leave it at that. The other night I was halfway through typing that when I thought, you know what, I am just going to say I work for who I work for. Next thing a message came through saying "I work for them too'. I looked at the name and had a total lightbulb moment when I thought...I know who that is!
So today, we have had a quick chat about the authors we like and the fact that we are going to ARRC and how exciting it all is!
She told me that I look like someone who reads Biographies and literature and that she is completely shocked that I am a romance reader, and whilst I am not surprised that she reads romance, I was totally surprised that she is a Paranormal romance devotee!
In the midst of all the bad news around, this little incident totally made my day and I can't wait to see her and her friend, who I also have met a few times in the past!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Fire update

I am trying not to be on too much of a downer on the blog at the moment, but the fact is that the ongoing bushfire tragedy is basically at the forefront of everyone mind at the moment. This is now officially the worst natural disaster in Australian history.

There are both terrible, terrible stories coming to light now, but as well there are amazing tales of survival and bravery. The fires continue to burn out of control and there are still homes and lives under threat.

There are stories of entire towns being wiped out. There is a town called Strathewen that had a population of 200 people. There are fears that 30% of the population in that town have been killed. 30%. It just seems totally unfathomable.

Going into work today felt quite surreal. I remember feeling this way a couple of times before, most notably during the aftermath of the Bali terrorist bombings and September 11. It just feels so strange to be going about your normal lives when you know so many people are suffering so badly.

Once I got to work, it was to find that one of my staff has a sister who has lost absolutely everything. Whilst they all survived, it was a very close thing for her nephew who only survived by jumping in a water tank.

Another staff member lived 5 streets away from where some homes were lost, and yet another evacuated on Saturday just in case when a few homes in her suburb went up in flames.

One of the programs that my employer runs has been completely destroyed, so even if our staff were not directly in the path of the fires, they and others like them may have lost their livelihoods for a short time, or maybe for the long term.

Again, none of these affect me directly, but it still feels pretty close to home given that I know people who know people.

Amongst all the terrible stories, there are stories of incredible bravery and of miraculous survivals, and so many of our volunteer firefighters, some of whom have lost their own homes, are still battling to fight the fires that are still burning. And Aussies are being incredibly generous. Our phone lines were overloaded today as people tried to ring into our organisation to give donations.

** Image from TimesOnline


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