Saturday, September 26, 2009

Made it home safely!

I am home! Still have a couple of days before I start my new job, but I am still busy, busy, busy doing very exciting things. For example, tomorrow I am going to be cleaning my deck in preparation for resealing it, and cleaning out the gutters. Very exciting indeed! Between all the jobs to be done, and interstate guests, I haven't been able to find a lot of time to either blog or read! Tonight I have a couple of hours and then my next houseguest arrives, I think for a couple of days. Not really a hundred percent sure how long he is staying. I am sure I will be told when I really need to know!

I will have had two weeks off of work, but I think I will be going to my new job to get a rest! I have been back in Adelaide for the last few days, which is where I spent my teenage years. I have been known to go over there and keep a very low profile, only seeing a select few people, but this time I saw a lot of people from my past, and I had a fantastic time! I won't be hiding so much when I go over in future! I don't know why I felt the need to previously! Some deep seated fear or uncomfortableness I guess.

I was very grateful to receive a couple of awards despite my lack of blogging while I was away!

First I would like to thank Lizzy from Historically Obsessed who gave me the Superior Scribbler award! Thanks Lizzy!

Thanks also to Dolleygurl from The Maiden's Court who gave me a Top Blog Commenter Award!

In honour of having spent time in Adelaide, I thought that I would post the video of the new Guy Sebastian song. Guy was the winner of the first season of Australian Idol, and grew up not far from where I used to live! After being very popular for his first couple of albums, there was a bit of a lull in popularity terms, but I really like this new single, and it seems to be doing very well for him!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Guess what the boy got for his birthday?

I think I am going to have to request a new song soon though. I have heard Hit Me With Your Best Shot by Pat Benatar far too many times today already!

Happy 11th birthday baby boy!

And now, instead of sitting here, I really should be icing a birthday cake, and getting read for 16 people to come to dinner tonight!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Marg has succumbed

After months and months of resisting, I have succumbed to the lure of Twitter! So far I am having a ball though!

Now I just need to figure out how to add an icon to my sidebar!

I am there under the userid Margreads.

Library Loot

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and me that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Last week I did the Library Loot post with no loot to share. This week it is a different story altogether!

I may have actually cheated this week by not only borrowing books on my own library card, but also on my son's card as well! We went to the new library branch (oh, the new library smell) and there was a library full of new books, and I couldn't resist borrowing a couple of books even though I knew that I really didn't have enough room of my own. As tempting as it is, I really don't want to get into the habit of doing that too often.

Mr Linky is up at Eva's blog this week, so please be sure to share your library loot there!

My loot this week is:

Dreamfever by Karen Marie Moning
- This is the latest book in the Fever series by Karen Marie Moning. I haven't been blown away by the series as a whole, but I am happy enough to keep reading it until the end having already read the previous three books in the series.

The Kingmaking by Helen Hollick

I have been sent Pendragon's Banner for review. I know they say that you can read it without having read The Kingmaking, but I prefer to read books in order when they are connected.

Rumour Has It by Jill Mansell
- I've read a couple of Jill Mansell books so far this year and really enjoyed them. This was the latest release as far as I can tell.

Everything Beautiful by Simmone Howell

A few weeks ago The Book Smugglers held the YA Appreciation Week. In my post, I mentioned that I didn't know that many Australian YA authors, and this is one that was recommended by Ana.

Ironbark by Johanna Nicholls - It's not often that I pick up a book on impulse when I am at the shops but every now and again it happens. I saw this book at a shop a few weeks ago and I very nearly bought it, but in the end I decided against it. When I came home and checked the library catalogue they had it on order, but it has taken until now to actually arrive at the library.

Men of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong

I am pretty sure that if Kelley Armstrong started writing on the back of toilet paper, I would still want to read it. This book has been on order for the new library for what feels like forever! I am so excited by the prospect of reading it!

The Lost Prophecies by The Medieval Murderers - The Medieval Murderers are Bernard Knight, C J Sansom, Ian Morson, Michael Jecks, Philip Gooden and Susanna Gregory. This was a totally impulsive pick up. I mean, I couldn't leave a library branch without borrowing a new book could I?


The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss - I borrowed this a few weeks ago as a result of the review I read at Book Smugglers, but had to return it unread. Maybe this time!

3 Willows by Anna Brashares - I returned this unread a while ago. This time I have borrowed the audio book, and I am planning to read it during the very long trip to Adelaide this weekend. I am hoping that it will help the time pass quicker than it normally would. A ten hour drive in a car with my mother is not necessarily my idea of a good time!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read

  • Open to a random page

  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • Another week with two teasers from me. The first comes from page 244 of The Likeness by Tana French. I liked In the Woods when I read it a while ago, and I love that even though the main character from that book isn't present, so far at least, in this book, he is very much an influence. It's very cleverly done. Anyway, here's the teaser:

    Very few people are willing to ditch their whole lives and spend years bouncing around the world after some girl who pissed them off. Frank has this tendency to go for the more interesting theory rather than the more likely one, and I'd filed this one somewhere between Outside Chance and Pure Hollywood Melodrama.

    My second teaser comes from page 162 of Duchess by Night by Eloisa James, a historical romance which is part of her Desperate Duchesses series. It's very different from the taught psychological crime novel that is The Likeness, that's for sure!

    "Alas, I bring ill tidings," Strange said, throwing himself into an armchair. "I've insulted young Harry here, and he's determined to leave the house since my mind is black as a privy. I do have that phrase right, don't I, Harry?"

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    Oh, pretty!

    I mentioned that I got a couple of flower arrangements when I left work last week, and here they are.

    Just like a London bus

    I have a dilemma today. Well, if I thought about it, I probably have more than one, but only one that I am going to blog about.

    A few weeks ago I posted the blurb for the new Paullina Simons book which is due out in November and now we have our first glimpse of the cover. Even though I didn't adore her last book, I have really loved all the others, and so I am still prepared to blindly buy the book and devour it as quickly as I can. I also am very prepared to part with my hard earned cash to go to an author event when she comes to Australia during November. Not even something I have to think about, especially seeing as I had such a great time last time I met Paullina.

    There are a couple of books that I am REALLY looking forward to getting this month. If I could only choose one (although I would seriously have to consider distancing myself from whoever had placed that restriction on me!) I would have to say that the book that I can not wait to get hold of is An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon.

    Now, I am seriously excited by the prospect of meeting Diana Gabaldon for the first time ever when she comes out here as well. I have got groups of friends organised to go to both events, some of whom will be attending both events with me.

    So, here's my dilemma. Paullina Simons has only got one appearance here in Melbourne, which will be on November 12 and I know all the details for that event. Diana Gabaldon will be in Melbourne for three days, starting from November 11. I only know the details for one event, which is a literary lunch which will cost $74, which as much as I want to see her is a little steep price wise.

    My dilemma is this. Do I go ahead and buy tickets for Paullina Simons, and take the chance that there will be other events for Diana Gabaldon that we will all be able to go to, or do I not buy anything yet, and then maybe not ending up going to either thing.

    What to do, what to do?

    Saturday, September 19, 2009

    A few random thoughts on Saturday afternoon!

    I finished up at my job yesterday afternoon! After nearly 10 years of working for The Salvation Army I am both a bit apprehensive and excited about the new opportunity that is coming my way soon! The major downside is that I won't get paid for nearly a month now, so I have to be careful not to go completely overboard in the next couple of weeks and spend all my termination pay. I am getting a haircut, and I am getting new glasses. Other than that I am going to try not to spend too much more once I have paid for my heating to be fixed and air conditioning to be put into the house.

    Because I was leaving I got two beautiful bunches of flowers that I will try to take photos of tomorrow, and some Borders vouchers! These people know me so well! In honour of leaving I also was taken to lunch three times, plus had a morning tea and an afternoon tea, which was really nice, and then went out for dinner last night as well with a group of friends. The second bunch of flowers came from one of the sites so that was really lovely of them!

    We actually had the lunch and presentation and everything on Thursday so yesterday was a bit of an anti climax in the end, especially seeing as I wasn't really saying goodbye because I am going to a 30th birthday party tonight for one of them, so will see everyone then!

    Now I have two weeks off. Originally it was only going to be one week off, but my new boss rang me during the week and said I could take another week as well. That actually worked out really well for me because the ex had rung and asked if my son could go and visit him, and we have had some issues in the past, so we are going to Adelaide next weekend for a few days. We will drive over and fly back, but at least if there are any problems this time, then I will be right there. Sometimes I wonder if I try too hard to do the right thing in relation to this situation with the ex, but at the end of the day it has to be the right thing for the boy as well!

    Changing subjects completely now...I went to the new library in my area today, and I have to say, it was a thing of beauty. Thousands of brand new books just begging to be picked up and taken home all with that new library smell. Of course, seeing as I already have so many items out, I can't really borrow anything at the moment, or at least that was what I was thinking! Then I had a brain wave. I can borrow items on my son's library card. I am not sure that I am not setting myself a dangerous precedent, but I was controlled and only borrowed a couple of items, one of which was an audio book to listen to on the drive over to Adelaide. That's okay right?

    I was a bit worried about not being able to fit much BBAW stuff in for the last few days, and it turned out to be that way. It's been a busy, busy week. Hopefully things will calm down a bit in the next couple of days and I will be back to normal blogging wise. I do have plans to do a giveaway of some handmade bookmarks, and my intentions were to do it as part of BBAW but I will probably try to do it in the next couple of weeks instead.

    Finally I just want to say congratulations to Book Binge for winning the BBAW Award for Best Romance blog. This is a thoroughly deserved win. This is one of my must read Romance blogs, and I can't tell you how many recommendations I have had from them! Congratulations Holly, Rowena and Casee!

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Catching Fire giveaway winners!


    We have winners!

    In order to choose the winners for the fantastic Catching Fire prize draw, I allocated everyone a number in the order that they commented, and then, using a highly scientific method (ie.!) I drew out the winning numbers.

    The lucky winners are:

    Olduvai from Olduvai Reads
    Robin_titan from BookandTVAddict
    Angiegirl from Angieville

    Congrats to all the winners! I will be in contact shortly to obtain your postal details. Please I do not receive the information within 5 days I will redraw the prize. Thanks.

    Library Loot with no loot!

    Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and me that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

    I have no loot, no loot at all to share with you all this week! That doesn't mean to say that I don't have any waiting for me, because by tomorrow I will have 9 items waiting to be picked up but I don't think I will get to the library until at least Saturday, maybe even Sunday! Unfortunately, in order to pick up those items, I am going to have to have some more booked Repo'd but I will think about that tomorrow!

    That doesn't mean to say that I don't have library news to share. Monday was a big day for library users in my area! A brand new branch opened, filled with lots of brand new items, in fact, around 40000 of them, with the local council having spent more than $1 million on the inventory! I have also heard that there is going to be another branch built in the next year or so which will be much closer to my house! Have to be happy with that!

    For me, it is like Christmas, as there were a whole heap of books that were on the catalogue but not available to request because they had been purchases specifically for the new branch! Of course, I have so many items out that I can't borrow any of them at the moment, but I will!

    As well as all those lovely new items to borrow they apparently have state of the art check in/out technology and a wi-fi zone as well.

    I haven't been there yet, but I am sure I can find a reason to drop down there soon!

    So, do you have any loot you would like to share with us all?

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Not that North and South!

    Normally if I am talking about North and South I am referring to the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South, and will inevitably be contemplating the droolworthiness of Richard Armitage but not today.

    Today, I wanted to reminisce about watching the John Jakes version of North and South way back when. I think I was a very young teenager when this mini-series came out so it is something of a surprise to think that I was even allowed to watch it, but watch it I did, and I just loved it!

    This was my first introduction to Patrick Swayze, and I was smitten from the start. He of course went onto bigger roles, like Dirty Dancing and Ghost, but for me, Patrick Swayze will always be Orry Main. It didn't hurt that there were so many other good things about this mini-series, like, for example, Parker Stevenson and James Read. It also inspired me to go and read the whole trilogy by John Jakes. If I could get these books from the library I would borrow them again and reacquaint myself with the Mains and the Hazzards and the changing world of America during the Civil War.

    RIP Patrick Swayze.

    Last chance reminder!

    This is the last reminder about my Catching Fire giveaway.

    Full details here. The prize will be drawn in approximately 24 hours from the time of this post (or once I recover from going to my son's school concert, whichever comes first!)

    Teaser Tuesday

    Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read

  • Open to a random page

  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • This week my teaser comes from page 254 of The Princeling by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, the third book in the Morland Dynasty series.

    She guessed it was partly to protect her: she knew in some obscure way that though he was within the Council, he was not in accord with them, that his idea was to remove Morton, whom he hated, and replace him with the ex-Queen as Regent for her own son. Though he had not discussed it with her, Lettice understood now something of the way his mind worked, and she could almost hear his voice saying, "The Queen would wield no power, but she would prevent anyone else usurping that power".

    This isn't my first teaser from this series. Way back in February I gave a teaser from the first book in the series, The Founding.

    Giveaway excitement - Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

    ********************STICKY POST***************************

    If you forced me to say that I could only choose one book that I loved in August it really would be easy. While I read quite a few books I really liked, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins really stands out. Thankfully I only had a short wait for the release of the follow up book, Catching Fire!

    Release day is here, and to celebrate, I am very excited to be hosting a fantastic Catching Fire giveaway. Three lucky winners will win a limited edition Catching Fire pack thanks to the good people at Big Honcho Media.

    First a little about the book:

    Having just passed the ultimate test of survival—the Hunger Games—sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark defied the Capitol and their harsh rules. But even as both won their families a life of safety, now the Capitol wants revenge. Despite her feelings for Gale Hawthorne, Katniss must showcase her love for Peeta on a cruel Victory Tour, and the stakes are higher than ever. Rumors of unrest are spreading quickly, and to Katniss and Peeta’s shock, they’ve become the face of a dangerous rebellion. But how will they be able to take on the Capitol and protect their families? In Catching Fire, the second installment of the Hunger Games, only one thing is certain: sparks will fly!

    So, what and how do you win?

    The prize pack includes

    - limited edition promotional T-shirt
    - collectible mocking jay pin
    - copy of Catching Fire

    The Catching Fire book promotion is open to participants with a United States mailing address only (international readers can enter if you have a friend in the States who can accept your prizes by mail!). Entrants under age 13 must have parent or guardian permission to enter. The Catching Fire book promotion runs from September 1 to September 15, 2009. Winners will be announced on September 16, 2009.

    It's easy to enter. Simply leave a comment on this post that includes an email address where you can be contacted if you are one of the lucky winners.

    Good luck!

    If you would like to whet your appetite even more here is the trailer for the book:

    Celebrate Book Bloggers: Interview Swap

    Today is the day for the BBAW Blogger Interview Swap. I was partnered up with L Diane Wolf from Spunk on a Stick. I was very pleased to be assigned a new to me book blogger. I would have been happy with someone I already knew as well, but this way, I get to know someone completely new to me! I hope you enjoy the interview. My interview will be up at Spunk on a Stick later today as well.

    How did you come up with the title of your blog, Spunk on a Stick?

    I wish I could take credit for Spunk On A Stick, but my husband came up with that name. I’ve always been known as Spunky, but my husband came up with a theory. Chicken is good, but chicken on a stick (like one buys at state & county fairs) is even better. Thus, spunk is good, but Spunk on a Stick is even better! I began using that name online over three years ago and it just stuck. Now it’s my professional speaker name as well.

    If you were to describe your blog in 25 words or less, what would you say?

    It a hodge-podge of promoting tips, book & industry info, author features, photos & links, and little optimism from a feisty redhead!

    You write, you are a public speaker and you like to take lots of photos. Each one of those alone would be daunting to me, let alone all three. Which do you enjoy most? How do they give you different levels of satisfaction? How do you prioritise?

    It sometimes scares me! Some days I feel as if I live multiple lives. Two of those were goals I set when I was just fourteen – author and professional photographer.

    I am a visual person, so the photography satisfies that need. I used to do A LOT of stock photos, magazines, wedding, portraits – even an album cover! But author duties required that I cut back on paid photo gigs and now I rarely do portraits or weddings. It’s all for fun now, which has been a joy!

    I’ve been a voracious reader since I was two and began writing like a maniac in my teen years. Writing is the deepest, most eloquent way of expressing thoughts and feelings.

    Professional speaking is the best way I’ve found to share with others. When in front of a crowd, I have the opportunity to enlighten their world and make a positive impact on their lives. So many are terrified of public speaking, but for me, it’s intoxicating!

    Which one I enjoy most depends on which one is receiving the LEAST amount of pressure at the time!

    Prioritizing is the most difficult. It’s hard to chase more than one rabbit. The balance of effort I put into each area ebbs & flows like the tide. Before a book release, I’m focused on ‘author.’ When it’s time to send out brochures and seek more speaking opportunities, I become ‘speaker.’ And while I don’t have children, I have a husband and two cats, a small business outside of all this, a household to maintain, and I am very involved in my church.

    Let’s just say I’m still lobbying congress for a forty-hour day!

    You have been blogging for a long time now. How has your blog changed over the last 4 years. How do you keep your blog fresh, both for your readers, and for yourself?

    It has change A LOT in the past year alone! To ensure variety and consistency, I set up scheduled post topics for each day. That eliminated the oh my gosh, what AM I gonna post about today?! I also feature guest posts, so my followers don’t have to listen to just ME all the time. Sunday is a wild card, Monday a featured author or wildcard; Tuesday is Photo Tuesday (writing as related to photography); Wed. I post for CFBA; Thursday is a guest spot called The Thursday Excerpt; and Friday is my favorite – And Now For Something Completely Different! It’s a roundup of book news from around the Internet, along with a movie or music review, and the photo of the day. And yes, it kicks off with a Monty Python quote!

    As a blogger, I think having an author having a web presence is incredibly important. How does being a part of the book blogging community help you with your books?

    It helps me connect with book bloggers and book readers. This provides more than promotional opportunities, too – I get a feel for the market and what people do and don’t like through book bloggers. I’ve also connected with many authors, and we assist each other with ideas, tips, etc. There’s always something I haven’t considered before that I’ll read on an author’s blog or perhaps a new trick to try with my writing.

    Mostly, I just love people! It’s the friendships that matter. I’ve connected with some amazing individuals, so full of hopes, dreams, ideas, and inspiration, and it reminds me that each life is precious and unique.

    Over the last 12 months or so, one of the new phenomenons has been the virtual book tour. Given that you have just been on a virtual book tour for your latest release can you tell us what the pros and cons of such a tour are?

    This latest one was my FOURTH such tour in the past two years. And since I host authors as well, I can see pros & cons from both sides of the coin as well.

    Pros include the reduced cost (physical tours can be so expensive), the ability to reach a wider audience, the fact that once it’s on the Internet it’s there to stay, increases what I call ‘search engine fodder,’ can be done from the comfort of home, and for those visiting a tour stop I have a chance to convey my thoughts and receive feedback. Overall, there are just so many more fascinating people to meet!

    Cons are the amount of TIME it takes to plan a tour, contact hosts, submit guest posts & interviews, and visiting the site numerous times during the appearance. Sometimes there’s an issue with an author or host and information is not exchanged in a timely manner, or one becomes demanding and selfish, or there’s no promotion. If the author doesn’t bring in his or her people to comment (or the host’s followers fail to comment) then neither is getting a lot out of the deal.

    Overall, I think the positive outweighs the negative!

    Tell us a little about your books.

    My main work is a YA series entitled The Circle of Friends. It follows a group of sports-minded couples through relationships, college and into their early careers. Meant to inspire as well as entertain, these books have been described as “encouragement personified”. The stories intertwine as the characters learn that with belief and encouragement, they can achieve anything.

    My non-fiction title, “Overcoming Obstacles With SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting”, is an inspirational self-help book. I’ve tied all of my goal-setting and leadership seminar’s information together into one complete, enthusiastic package! Seven other authors also contributed to this title, which features the Five Keys to success and summary points for each chapter.

    What kind of books do you like to read and what is your favourite read of this year?

    LOL! I don’t get to read as much fun fiction as I used to, that’s for sure. I read a lot of marketing books now.

    My husband and I run the singles ministry at my church and we’ve been studying Gary Chapman’s The Five Love Languages – Singles Edition. I love Chapman’s books, so that’s probably been the favorite so far this year.

    Anything else you would like to add?

    I’m a social bug online, so besides my blog, people can connect with me on Facebook, Deviant Art, Twitter, My Space, My Cat Space, etc. And my two main websites are and

    I’m delighted to be a part of the book-blogging community. Please stop by and say hello!

    Thanks, Marg!!

    Monday, September 14, 2009

    Let's Celebrate Book Bloggers!

    BBAW is here for another year! That means that I will get to learn about loads of other book bloggers which I will definitely need to add to my already bulging feed reader! And it means that the blogs I already read will be doing lots of posts, and lots of giveaways, which will mean a bulging feed reader! From that summary, you would be mistaken for thinking that BBAW only means an overflowing, bulging feed reader, but it really does mean a lot more than that!

    Throughout the week there are a series of suggested themes for posting about. I will probably do them all, but I am not committing to doing that 100% at this point in time, especially in view of the fact that I finish up at my job on Friday and I have interstate visitors.

    The idea for today is to spotlight those blogs that didn't make it on the shortlists for the BBAW Awards. There are so many great blogs out there and trying to narrow the list down was painful, even just to choosing which genre to focus on! Romance? Historical Fiction? General reviews?

    In the end, in honour of my shortlisting in the Best Romance Blog, I decided to focus on a romance blog and then further narrowed it down to a romance blog that has an Australian flavour - Book Thingo, whose tag line is 'Reading (mostly) romance books down under'

    Book Thingo is a blog that was started just under a year ago. The three main contributors are Kat, Wandergurl and Decadence and the blog is just going from strength to strength. Originally I found the blog because I used to read Kat's personal blog, so when she announced the creation of Book Thingo I was already on board.

    I really like that Book Thingo has a definite Aussie flavour, but not only limited to Aussie books, authors or our publishing industry. These ladies know romance, and their reviews are not only informative, but they are comprehensive, fun and very easy to read. Their latest blog post title is 'Ten Books I SWEAR I will finish by the end of the year', a sentiment I am sure many readers will recognise! I sure do!

    I often add recommendations to my TBR list due to the reviews that I have seen from there. At the moment I have a book out from the library called Disco Boy by Dominic Knight. I haven't read it yet but I would never have even looked at it without having read the Book Thingo review. A romance written from a male point of view, by an Australian man who is a comedian for his day job - I wouldn't have thought so, but Kat's review convinced me that not only should I give it a go, but that it would be highly likely that I would really enjoy it! I will be reading this book in the next three weeks or so, so we will see!

    Currently Book Thingo is hosting the Books Alive Reading Challenge. Books Alive is an Australian government and book industry initiative that tries to encourage more Aussies to buy and read more books - always a worthy cause! Every year they issue a booklet of recommended reads and there are several challenge levels, one of which is to encourage you to read some of the titles chosen. I am doing the more general challenge of reading some books of my own choice!

    I was lucky enough to meet the gorgeous Kat earlier this year at ARRC, and I can't wait to catch up with her again at some point in the future! (She's the pretty one on the left) The gala dinner was just winding up when suddenly we realised that we hadn't had a photo taken! Normally I am not really all that keen on having photo's taken, but I had obviously had enough wine by that time to not mind! LOL!

    Sunday, September 13, 2009

    Giveaway reminder!

    Don't forget the awesome giveaway for a Catching Fire prize pack.

    The giveaway closes on September 15, so you have just a few days to get your name into the draw!

    Moonlight and Vines by Charles de Lint

    Familiar to Charles de Lint's ever-growing audience as the setting of the novels Moonheart, Forests of the Heart, The Onion Girl, and many others, Newford is the quintessential North American city, tough and streetwise on the surface and rich with hidden magic for those who can see.

    In the World Fantasy Award-winning Moonlight and Vines, de Lint returns to this extraordinary city for another volume of stories set there, featuring the intertwined lives of many characters from the novels. Here is enchantment under a streetlamp: the landscape of our lives as only Charles de Lint can show it
    This is my second year of participating in RIP, but it is the first year when I have made an effort to read any short stories and thus participate in the Short Story Peril.

    I have previously read a few bits and pieces by Charles de Lint, but because my library doesn't have all the books in the series, it is a bit here and there. Even with that limitation, I recognised many of the characters who play recurring roles throughout many of the short stories in this book.

    Normally if I am writing a review of a short story collection I will talk a little bit about each story, and I will still do that in this post, but first of all I just wanted to speak more generally about Charles de Lint's writing, and the world that he has created in Newford.

    Over the last couple of years one of the stronger sub genres around has been urban fantasy. Series like Kelley Armstrong's Otherworld series, or Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson series come to mind for example. They are novels set in cities or larger towns where just beneath a seemingly ordinary exterior there are underground groups of vampires or werewolves, witches or warlocks or other paranormal creatures.

    Reading through this collection made me ponder on how the Newford that Charles de lint has created is almost an extension of the idea of urban fantasy, but where the emphasis is on the Urban and not on the Fantasy aspects like it is in some series. The Newford of his books is one where you will find yourself spending time with strippers, with hobos and with people who find themselves living on the edges of our society. That doesn't mean to say that there isn't fantasy, because there is, quite often recurring characters like the Crowgirls, but it is a more dangerous, less sanitised urban fantasy than we get in some UF books.

    The other thing that de Lint excels in is writing damaged characters. Personally I think that everyone is damaged to some degree - all of us feel inadequate or lonely at some point or another. Whilst many of the characters are very damaged and have ended up in far worse places than I could ever imagine ending up, there were several passages which I identified with very strongly. For example, in the short story Birds, when I was reading this section, I thought 'that's me. That's how I feel sometimes!'

    I know about pain. I know about loneliness. Talking with Teresa, I realize that these are the first real conversations I've had with someone else in years.

    I don't want to make it sound as though I don't have any friends, that I never talk to anyone - but sometimes it feels like that all the same. I always seem to be standing on the outside of a friendship, of conversations, never really engaged. Even last night, before I found Teresa sleeping in the doorway. I was out withe a bunch of people. I was in the middle of any number of conversations and camaraderie. But I still went home alone. I listened to what was going on around me. I smiled some, laughed some, added a sentence here, another there, but it wasn't really me that was partaking of the company. The real me was one step removed, watching it happen. Like it seems I always am. Everybody I know seems to inhabit one landscape that they all share while I'm the only person standing in the landscape that's inside of me.
    One thing that does come through strongly in de Lint's writing is his obvious social conscience and from his writing it would appear that he obviously has a heart for the marginalised in society as demonstrated in the short story The Invisibles:

    Invisible. It comes to me, then. The world's full of invisible people and our not seeing them's got nothing to do with magic. The homeless.Winos. Hookers. Junkies. And not only on the street. The housewife. The businessman's secretary. Visible only when they're needed for something. The man with AIDS. Famine victims. People displaced by wars or natural disasters. The list is endless, all these people we don't see because we don't want to see them. All these people we don't see because we're too busy paying attention to ourselves. I've felt it myself, my lack of self-confidence and how it translates into my behaviour can have people look right through me. Standing in a store, waiting to be served. Sitting in the corner of a couch at a party and I might as well be a pillow.

    Here is a very short summary of the stories in this collection:

    Saskia - a mysterious woman catches the attention of a writer and he finds himself trying to find out everything he can about her, using the Wordwood which is a huge database on the net, which appears to be writing itself. I loved the idea of Wordwood! I am sure I could spend hours on it.

    In the Soul of a Woman - Nita is a stripper who is trying to do what she can do to make ends meet whilst still maintaining her visitation rights. She meets Imogen who is a vampire with a death wish.

    The Big Sky - when a man returns home and finds a young woman in his house, he has no idea how much his life has changed. When he won't accept her help, he needs to find his own way, but it will mean a complete change of attitude.

    Birds - When Katja finds a young girl asleep in a doorway she wants to look after her. The young girl is looking for one thing, just one specific thing that will enable her to find peace.

    Passing - I had actually read this short story before but I don't know exactly where from. Lucy is a columnist with a Newford newspaper, and finds herself writing pieces about the gay community. Whilst she isn't gay, she finds herself attracted to Nina, a married woman who is in the process of splitting up with her husband. Nina asks Lucy to recover one item from her flat, a sword. What Lucy doesn't know is what Nina needs to have happen next.
    Held Safe by Moonlight and Vines - Lilly likes to spend time in the local cemetery looking for ghosts. Her friend, local tough guy Alex is less than thrilled with the fact that she places herself in danger, but it isn't until they can find the courage to be honest with each other that they can find what they are looking for.

    In the Pines - the main character in this book is connected to the main character in The Big Sky, something that de Lint does quite skillfully on several occasions through this collection. Darlene is a struggling country singer who does Dolly Parton covers as well. She is performing as Dolly when she sees her aunt in the audience, her aunt who has been dead for many years. The events portrayed cause Darlene to reevaluate her life and dreams.

    Shining Nowhere but in the Dark - when Jenny gives a young girl some spare change she doesn't realise that she is making friends with the Fates. They are interested in her because she doesn't dream, always taking care to block out her history.
    If I Close My Eyes Forever - Kira is a finder of lost things, not a private detective, so she is surprised when she is asked to find a woman. The person who is searching for her is her former lover and wants something back off of her. What Kira doesn't know about is the hidden lifestyle that is going to be revealed to her during the course of her search.

    Heartfires - Some old spirits masquerading as hobos find an old room and spend time remembering who they are and writing their stories.

    The Invisibles - When Andrew is in a diner with a friend he realises that he can see a woman that no one else can see and he is intrigued.

    Seven for a Secret - A group of hobos are sharing their stories when one of them reveals a huge and shocking secret from the past and which led him to his current place in life.

    Crow Girls - The Crow Girls, and the use of crows as symbols, are used throughout many of these short stories. In this one, Jilly's friend Heather's marriage has just broken up and now she has to work out what it is that she wants to do to support her children and herself. Along the way she also needs to rediscover the magic that can be found in simple things.

    Wild Horses - A young woman is searching for her brother who went missing a couple of years previously when she approaches Cassie for a reading. It is not the normal type of reading that Cassie does, but her special cards give her a place to start searching. Hopefully there is a chance for the truth to be revealed, and for some kind of peace reached before it was too late. In some ways this was a very bleak story, but it was one of my favourites.
    In the Land of the Unforgiven - When you know that horrendous crimes are being committed but that the law can't seem to touch the offender, you know that you shouldn't take matters into your own hands. When Cray does just that, he is prepared to do the time, but he finds that he has a different kind of life sentence. This is a short but powerful story.

    My Life as a Bird - A struggling cartoonist stumbles into a fairy tale. A grumpy, unlikeable, unclean dwarf comes into her life when she gives him some spare change, and now he must give her something in return.

    China Doll - When a former hitman and a social campaigner go up against a triad, they find that they can still make a difference even after they are dead.

    In the Quiet After Midnight - When a group of friends are sitting around chatting about the strangest thing that has ever happened to them, Angela's story gives one of her friend the courage to try to change her life.

    The Pennymen - when Eliza thinks she sees a penny on the ground she attempts to pick it up, but she finds that it is a pennyman instead. It looks like a penny but it has a face and arms and legs. When she tells her friend, she doesn't realise the strain it will place on their friendship as Sarah is petrified that it means that she will have to go through another person dealing with mental illness, just like her mother.

    Twa Corbies - an elderly woman lives alone and can't sleep. She is looking down on the street when she sees Sophie find a man's body. What she doesn't know is that the man's ghost tells Sophie about his former life as a knight.

    The Fields Beyond the Fields - the main characters in this story are the same ones from the first novel, thus bringing a sense of completion to the collection. Christy writes about fairy tales and legends, but he isn't all that open to the world of magic. As he searches for the magic, maybe old talents can be found as well.

    All in all this was an entertaining collection. As much as I enjoy de Lint's world and his writing it is not always easy to read them. I also can't help but wonder how many of these characters would be familiar to me if I had read all of the previous books in this series, instead of just having to make do with parts of the series.

    Other Blogger's Thoughts:

    Stainless Steel Droppings

    Saturday, September 12, 2009

    Millie's Fling by Jill Mansell

    When Millie Brady saves Orla Hart's life she doesn't realise how drastically it will change her own – not least because the boyfriend who was asking her to move in with him at the time stormed off in a huff. Actually, Millie's relieved. She's quite happy to enjoy a man-free summer in Cornwall. But bestselling novelist Orla has other ideas. She's determined - for her own reasons - that Millie should meet the man of her dreams. Dropped wallets, roller-skating gorillagrams, the world's most flirtatious boss and a helicopter in the back garden all conspire to produce a summer neither Millie - nor Orla - will ever forget.

    Years and years ago, I was given two Jill Mansell books as a present. One was Good at Games and the other was this book.

    It has been a sufficiently long time so that I couldn't remember too much about what happened in this book, all except for one scene. If anyone ever talked to me about a Jill Mansell book, I would always talk about the very last scene in this book, or more precisely, the very last line. It is not that it is a perfect ending,, although all the loose ends are tidied up nicely, and it is not that the line would be particularly funny taken out of context, but the last line finishes off this book in such a perfect tone and was so memorable to me that I could still remember it six or seven years after I originally read it. The closer I got to the end of the book, the more I was looking for the clues of how we would get to that last line. I guess it is kind of strange to begin a review talking about the last line of a book though!

    Our main character is Millie. She works for a very uptight travel agency in Cornwall, and shares a house with her friend Hester. Her boyfriend is about to ask her to move in with him when she notices a woman standing on the edge of a cliff. Regardless of what her boyfriend thinks Millie talks the woman away from the edge, and so in the process saves the life of well known novelist, Orla Hart. Orla is in an unhappy marriage, and her latest book has just been completely savaged in a review and so she is feeling quite desperate.

    When Orla crosses paths with Millie again, Millie finds herself out of a job, as well as minus her boyfriend (no great loss there) and so Orla decides that she is going to try something completely different for her next book - she is going to write about Millie's life. Now Millie and her housemate have just vowed to have a summer free of the complications that having sex brings, so that isn't necessarily going to provide the novelist with a lot of fodder, so she steers several good looking young men her way. Her new job as a gorilla gram also provides many ideas, as does Hester's long standing crush on Millie's new boss, even though she has a loving boyfriend who is currently working at the other end of the country.

    Millie tries to navigate her way through her love life, all the while falling for a man who is emotionally unavailable, Hester finds out that she doesn't necessarily want what she thinks she wants, and Orla finds more out about herself.

    One of the highlights for me is the dialogue between the characters, especially between Millie and the major male character. What starts off as a very awkward introduction blossoms nicely and their dialogue is sometimes light and entertaining, and at other times much deeper, and the author has a deft touch in knowing when to include each type of dialogue.

    At around 560 pages long, this is not a short book by any means, but it reads as a much shorter book than it really is. I find myself getting lost in Mansell's books, and I am looking forward to reading another from her.

    For a reader who doesn't normally do rereads, I think the fact that I can see myself reading this book for a third time at some time in the future speaks volumes.

    If you are looking for good chick-lit, you can do yourself a favour and pick up one of Jill Mansell's books. Luckily Sourcebooks is currently releasing some of this author's books which were previously not easily available everywhere.

    Other Blogger's Thoughts:

    Booking Mama
    S Krishna's Books
    A Bookworm's World
    Diary of an Eccentric

    Thursday, September 10, 2009

    Library Loot

    Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Eva and me that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

    This week the Mr Linky is up at Eva's blog.

    I very nearly didn't have any Library Loot to post about this week. You see, I have a problem that I know I have shared before. I am a library addict. I am forever juggling due dates, and always on the website requesting another book to be put on hold.

    This week however, I had a bit of an issue. You see I already had a lot of books out (just 2 less than the upper limit), and then all of a sudden eight holds came in all at once. The vast majority of those books are books I really, really want to read, but before I could borrow those eight books, I was going to need to take back at least six of the books that I already had out! Oh, the pain. Trying to decide which books I only wanted to read a bit as opposed to really, really wanting to read was a very difficult process.

    In the end I managed it and so I do have some loot, but there is nothing to say that I won't have that same issue again in a couple of weeks!

    As a result though, I have a challenge for all you Library Looters! Obviously when we borrow a book from the library we call it loot, and when I borrow a book again I call it reloot, but now I need a word for those books that you have to return without reading. Any ideas?

    Here's my loot for this week (and please note no reloot):

    Away with the Fairies by Kerry Greenwood

    I don't know why exactly, but this book was in transit between the two branches of my library for about 3 weeks when normally the transit happens overnight. Actually, I think that this is another copy that has come in and the other book is still in transit somewhere. I fully expect the status to be changed to either Trace or Lost very soon!

    Night of Flames by Douglas Jacobson

    I read and very much enjoyed this book earlier this year. Over at Historical Tapestry we are participating in an upcoming blog tour and I just wanted to refresh my memory a little!

    Passage by Lois McMaster Bujold

    This is the third book in the Sharing Knife series. I finished the second book not too long ago.

    Tears of Pearl by Tasha Alexander

    The fourth book in the Lady Emily Ashton series of mysteries set in the Victorian era.

    The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig

    I have been reading this series for a few years now. This book came out early this year, but it has taken this long for my library to get it in. I will talk a little about the reason for this in next week's Library Loot post!

    City of Glass by Cassandra Clare

    In the last five weeks or so I have read the first two books in this series, so it is an obvious choice to pick up the third book. Originally this was the concluding book in a trilogy but as I understand it there is going to be another book in the series out next year.

    The Vampire Diaries by L J Smith

    Still can't get enough of vampires! I had this on request already when I saw the LJ Smith Reading challenge, so now I have signed up for that as well.

    Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

    I had this on request before it was announced as a short listed contender for The Man Booker prize, and I am really looking forward to reading it! I do so love to read historical fiction!