February 28, 2011

A Writer's Life - Attic

I must be completely insane.


Some time ago I had this idea for a book and inevitably the idea was of the persistent kind. Don't get me wrong. New ideas for books aren't unusual for this girl, but – and there is always a but – this isn't your average nice little thought or concept that may be implemented in the usual way. It's new territory and I feel like Captain Kirk, boldly going where I haven't gone before. I feel both elated and strangely worried about the whole thing. But seeing as how this idea wouldn't just disappear in thin vapor after a while, but got more insistent every passing moment, I decided to give it a shot. Let's just hope I won't feel the need for aiming that shot into another direction … if you catch my drift.


I must be completely insane.

But I already said that, didn't I?

And I'm still serious about this very statement.

To fully understand my apprehension you need to know this – I write my books in the German language which obviously makes sense as this is my mother tongue. My English ain't that bad either, but writing a whole book in the English language. Different kind of story. Literally.

Add the fact that I normally write fiction. And this new idea isn't fiction. Not really.

And if I weren't a bit neurotic and paranoid when it comes to letting other's in on my ideas, I could just spit it out here and now. But I won't. I still need to chew on the idea a little longer.

So if you'll excuse me now, I've got a little work to do in the attic.

Yes, attic.

Don't ask.

February 27, 2011

Books Aplenty - From chick-lit to bloke-lit

While last week has been a bit of let-down when it comes to the quality of the books I grabbed, this week surly made up for all the disappointment.

In One Good Turn (Kate Atkinson) many seemingly unrelated characters are suddenly involved in events following a case of road rage. During the four days in which the novel takes place, these characters and their own little plot lines start to overlap and eventually come together. Certainly a different kind of murder mystery compared to those I usually read, but I loved how intricately the threads that make up this story are woven together. So much love to detail and the twist at the end was so wonderfully unexpected. Loved it!

You may have already noticed that I really like reading chick-lit, and this time round I went for the male version of it. I'm pretty sure it isn't called bloke-lit, but as far as the content and fun goes it really is chick-lit from a male perspective.
But I don't want to keep you in the dark any longer. I refer to Mr Commitment and Dinner For Two (Mike Gayle) which were both fantastic reads – insightful (from the female perspective) and more than just a little laughter inducing. While I heard that Mike Gayle's first novel My Legendary Girlfriend is also his best book, and apart from knowing that I actually own a copy of it but somehow couldn't find it in my book stacks, I gave up the search and simply went for those two first.
My personal favorite must be Mr Commitment. Oh the wonders and workings of the male psyche. A marvelous read. Though I have to say that Dinner For Two wasn't bad either, though it was more your average kind of read in my opinion. Needless to say that I will need to find the missing book somewhere in my vast inventory.

This week I added quite a number of books to my TBR stacks.

Let's see … first of all there was yet another free download from Carina Press The Sevenfold Spell (Tia Nevitt).

And then I requested and received a number of NetGalley books too. Two YA novels – Invasion (Jon S. Lewis) and Outside In (Maria V. Snyder), plus several non-fiction books – God Soul Mind Brain (Michael S. A. Graziano), Paradise Lust (Brook Wilensky-Lanford), Sister Species (Lisa A. Kemmerer) and The Girl's Guide To Homelessness (Brianna Carp).

I guess I have been overdoing it a little with NetGalley, but oh well. So many interesting books … how can I resist?

February 26, 2011

Pajama Musings - Living in a dystopian world

I noticed a certain trend over the recent years.
First it was all about wizards.
Than followed the vampires.
And now dystopian novels are all the rage.
I'm talking about books for young(er) readers, mostly YA fiction.

Time to fess up – I never read any of the Harry Potter books, nor anything even remotely related to Twilight. I can offer you two reasons for this. No. 1 being that it's just not the kind of books I generally like to read. No. 2 being that I'm not exactly in the right age group either. Alright then, that obviously doesn't keep other adults, not necessarily young ones, from reading about Harry adventures and Edward and Bella's liaison. So maybe I should really just blame it on reason no. 1, because now the time has arrived that I seriously consider reading YA novels.

Following quite a number of book blogs feeding me bits and pieces of reviews on all kinds of books I ended up being drawn to some truly intriguing releases. Matched. Bumped. Uglies. Delirium. The Hunger Games. You name it.

So *drumroll please* I mightn't have bought any of these books yet, but I figured I should really give it a try and requested two on NetGalley. After all, age doesn't really matter when it comes to a good story, and hey, dystopian novels have always been something I really like.

Which reminds me of something that happened to me just a little while ago …

Maybe I expect too much, but to me it seems like common knowledge (as it will probably be for all book addicts) what dystopia means. When I recently dropped the word in a conversation I was met by some confused looks. The kind of look you'd get from me if you suddenly started reciting the divergence theorem. Some people live in a book world, others in a mathematical world. Anyway. I will certainly not hold it against anyone not being familiar with the word dystopia, but it sure surprised me. And after throwing 1984, Brave New World and Fahrenheit 451 into the discussion everyone was nodding in understanding anyway.

For the innocent among you – A dystopia (from Ancient Greek “bad, ill” and “place, landscape”) is in literature an often futuristic society that has degraded into a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian. Also known as anti-utopia or counter-utopia. Dystopian novels are most often associated with science fiction, as a futuristic world is easier to paint than one that currently exists. Yet not every screwed up society has to come from sci-fi books. Lord Of The Flies is a great example of a dystopian novel that is not science fiction.

February 25, 2011

The Others - Erma Bombeck

On a weekend, when I was maybe 12 years old, I searched through my parents books, because I had maxed out the pleasure of reading and rereading my own books and was looking for something new. I found a book with the title The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank, and well, having no better choice than that I started reading …

That was the wonderful beginning of my love for Erma Bombeck's books. In hindsight it might be a little weird that a girl, not even a teenager yet, would enjoy reading about the life of America's best-known housewife, contemplating home life with her family, at first as columnist, later on in her many books.
Erma started out as a reporter, then took a break for her family, and luckily for many fans worldwide, she resumed writing with weekly columns in the mid 60ies. From 1965 to 1996, Erma wrote over 4.000 newspaper columns chronicling the ordinary life of a midwestern suburban housewife, and in 1967 her columns were compiled and published under the same name as they appeared in newspaper's nationwide - At Wit's End.

Yet Erma was so much more than “just a housewife”, much more than “just a humorist and columnist”. She was real. And you could feel that when reading her books.
Some of my favorites are If Life is a Bowl of Cherries, What Am I Doing in the Pits?, When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It's Time to Go Home and All I Know About Animal Behavior I learned in Loehmann's Dressing Room.
When she died in 1996 I was devastated, not only because there would be no more new books of hers, but most of all because she's been such a wonderful, humorous and honest person. Call me sentimental, but I still miss reading more about her life even after all these years. And all her books I own (in both German and English, as I wanted to read the originals too when I got older) are definitely some of my most treasured books on my shelf.

I shall leave you now with one of Erma's many spot on observations ...

Seize the moment.
Think of all those women on the 'Titanic'
who waved off the dessert cart

February 24, 2011

Picture Garden - By The Brook

The water's still freezing cold, yet all I can think of are those sweltering days in summer when kids from the nearby Kindergarten will splash around in the shade of the bridge from where I took this picture.

February 23, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Project Gutenberg

If you've never heard about Project Gutenberg then it's about time you did. This project is a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works, or more precisely “to encourage the creation and distribution of eBooks”. Founded in 1971 by Michael S. Hart, it is the oldest digital library filled with mostly texts of public domain books. As of November 2010 Project Gutenberg claimed over 34,000 items in its collection.

With the goal “to provide as many e-books in as many formats as possible for the entire world to read in as many languages as possible.” most releases are in the English language, but many non-English works can also be found on the site, and they are all available in several formats such as plain text, html, epub, among others.

Project Gutenberg is also careful to verify the status of its eBooks according to U.S. copyright law and most books in the collection are distributed as public domain under U.S. copyright law. That said, take a look around on the site. You'll find a number of classics there that are worth being read or re-read.

Charles Dickens? William Shakespeare? Oscar Wilde? Jane Austen?
You name it. And now, go ahead, and have fun reading.

February 22, 2011

Quote Garden - It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.

Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, it is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.

Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.

The whole difference between construction and creation is exactly this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists.

There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.

By Charles Dickens

February 21, 2011

A Writer's Life - It's all about the accessories

The usual suspects
Obviously a computer is the number one accessory you need on your desk when you're a writer. Add internet connection when you're a blogger … or in need to look up vocabulary when MS Word is making strange suggestions.

Writing Utensils
Even if you do most of your writing on a computer, pens or pencils and of course paper are another accessory you need on your desk. No one jots down a few notes on their computer. Besides, it all started out with paper once, or rather with chisel and stone.

This accessory is almost as important as the computer. When you spend hours or days, depending on what you write, you will at some point need to print it out to edit it or, in some cases, ritually burn the outcome of your creativity.

The unusual suspects
The Mug
A writer needs fuel, like coffee or tea or whiskey. And a nice sized heavy mug is just the thing you need to fill with your liquid of choice to keep that engine going. Needless to say that a mug is THE must-have accessory for any writer.

The Shirt
It doesn't necessarily have to be a shirt. You could just as well go for pajamas or any other garment which gets you in the mood for writing. Slip on your writer socks if you like. It's like the lucky underwear of an athlete, even though you should wash it more often than they do. While not the most obvious accessory, it is one you shouldn't underestimate. The Muse might decide not to kiss you if you're not wearing your come-hither shirt, socks, or whatever.

The Book
This can be any book that has a meaning to you. Have it close by when you're writing. It's motivation and stimulation and usually proves very helpful when writer's block is setting in too.

February 20, 2011

Books Aplenty - My oh my

As I've been neglecting the books I received from LibraryThing a bit over the past few month, I dedicated this week to three books I won through both the Member Giveaway as well as the Early Reviewers program. I remember once saying that, in my experience, those books I got through the former were often of surprisingly better quality than those received through the latter (the difference being that authors try to get feedback to their usually self-published books through the Member Giveaway, while publishers try the same through the Early Reviewers). Today I have to say - they were all more than just a bit disappointing.

Ever read a dime novel? Or rather, do you like reading dime novels? Than I've got the thing for you. Naked Frame (Robert Burton Robinson) is just that and not a penny more. Filled to the brim with all clichés of the genre – including the admittedly hilarious names such as Big Bill Smotherburn or Gabby Garnersdale – this wasn't as much a thrilling mystery novel as it was an annoyance and disgrace to all whodunit novels out there. The only thing that was actually ok about the book was the fact that it's been fluently written and I could read through it in one afternoon. Maybe I'm just not the right recipient for this kind of book. Others may love it. I didn't.

Friends of Choice (Linda Nelson) is a YA novel about a girl moving into another town with her family and trying to make new friends at the local high school. While the message is important – choose your friends wisely – the execution is really bad. Add the lousy editing, there were so many grammar and vocabulary mistakes … oh, don't even get me started. As far as the story is concerned, the characters remain flat in their wonderfully stereotypic glory, and while the book seriously dragged through the first part it only gained momentum towards the end where the real action took place. And then the author leaves the reader with an open end. Not of the good kind. It's seriously like someone forgot to add the last chapter.

I didn't give up hope yet and finally went for a book I got through Early Reviewers. I swear, after reading the first couple of pages I felt like throwing Speak To Our Desires (B.W. Clough) into a corner. If only I could have really done it, but with eBooks that's a bit difficult to achieve unless I throw the whole computer and that didn't seem the best idea. So I gave in and read on. Let's put it that way, while Naked Frame was at least short, this one's long, but the bottom line remains the same – dime novel, this time with private investigator falling for beautiful girl, desperately looking for her mother, the minute she sets foot in his office while “two big tears rolled down her flawless cheeks“. The only thing this book has going for it (yes, I do look for the good bits too) is the alternating narrative between the main characters. Other than that I'm going to skip those LibraryThing books for a while now and resort to those towering stacks of "real" books.

And yes, I've been adding two more books to my TBR stacks. The Spurned Viscountess (Shelley Munro) was a free download from Carina Press and From The Depths Of Death In The Midst Of Chaos (Edmund Alexander Sims) I received through LibraryThing.

We have a winner ...

Before I let you in on who's the winner of the 25 Followers Giveaway I want to thank you all for participating. I was intrigued by all your answers to the question about the Reading Tree and would like to share some with you.

“Low-hanging books would be all about political economy and intelligence, and the higher up ones would be delightful fiction.” by Marli,

“The very thought of a tree growing books for me is delightful and I imagine such a tree would bear different books in different weather. Perhaps fantasy adventure in the summer; mysteries and thrillers in the fall; thought provoking nonfiction to curl up with in the winter; and then some light romance in the spring!” by Lisa,

“Anything that makes me smile, think, question and gain knowledge.” by Jennifer,

“I would have books of poetry, books about love and books that make you happy when you read them! Mushy stuff!” by Linda.

Now I guess you might be curious about my own answer too, so … just like Lisa I'd love my Reading Tree to grow books according to the seasons, with light and funny like chick lit in spring, some adventurous science fiction in summer, suspenseful thrillers in fall, and in winter … well, I intend to hibernate in winter anyway!

So, the time has arrived to announce the winner!

Oh and before I forget – I decided to do the drawing of the winner the old fashioned way. I wrote your names on paper slips, and obviously if you had two or three entries your name ended up on two or three paper slips. Then I put them all in an old straw hat, gave those folded paper slips a good stirring and …

… picked the lucky winner!


E-mail is on the way and please get back to me within the next 48 hours!

To all of you who did not win this time - the next giveaway is practically around the corner!
Once The Book Garden hits 50 followers (only 12 more needed) I will host the appropriately named 50 Followers Giveaway!!

February 19, 2011

Pajama Musings - The good, the bad, and the ugly

Those who know me are well aware of what I think about movies bases on books. Most of them suck. In some cases literally. Not as though I would have actually read one of the Twilight books, but I did see the first part of the movies and maybe the book is better and maybe I don't really want to find out if that's the case.

While contemplating books that made it to the big screen and those who were adapted for TV, I realized that I own quite a few DVDs that qualify for either one. And to be honest, there are some great ones and some that never made it into the DVD player a second time round.

Here goes ...
A Christmas Carol
Confessions of a Shopaholic
Garfield – The Movie
Hideaway (Dean Koontz)
Hogfather (Terry Pratchett)
Marley & Me
Phantoms (Dean Koontz)
Planet of the Apes
Pope Joan
Red Dragon
Schindler's List
Servants of Twilight (Dean Koontz)
Stand By Me (Stephen King)
The Color of Magic (Terry Pratchett)
The Color Purple
The Constant Gardener
The Da Vinci Code
The Stand (Stephen King)
Watchers (Dean Koontz)

I hope I didn't overlook any – and I swear I'm not hiding anything related to vampires or wizards in my DVD stacks – but even if I did (overlook, not hide, mind you) I am actually a bit surprised that I own so many books-gone-movies. And even more so, there are quite a few that are really bad. In a lot of cases though, and even I have to admit that, the movies really do the book justice or they are at least very entertaining.

That said I'll let you be the judge of which books-gone-movies deserve to be called good, which ones are bad and those that are plain ugly. There are certainly a lot of great ones which I might not own but which are fantastic to watch, and even more so, those which I wouldn't watch if you paid me good money for it.

Personal side note: While I never really got into Stephen King novels, the film adaptations of his books are actually ok; and as much as I love Dean Koontz' novels, the movies that were made of some of them are just real bad. But I'm not giving up hope yet. Maybe one day I will watch a brilliant adaptation of Odd Thomas ...

February 18, 2011

The Others - Bradley Trevor Greive

Ever feeling down and troubled and you need some … alright, let's not get distracted by song-tunes here. So back to the question – ever feeling blue? Than I've got the right thing for you. Not a song though, but a book.

I honestly can't remember how I even got to know Bradley Trevor Greive in the first place. Probably browsing in a bookshop looking for a present. I can't quite remember whether I found that present, but I sure found one of the loveliest ideas for gift books ever. So, in a way I did end up buying a gift, even though it was meant for myself.

The first in a line of similar books The Blue Day Book is probably still the best sold and most popular one of all of Greive's many books. It features a collection of amusing animal photos and inspirational text designed to "lift the spirits of anyone who has got the blues". What followed were more of these lovely and encouraging and most of all fun gift books. And yes, I've got them all. Well, alright maybe not all as there are books specifically aimed at mothers and fathers too, and while I theoretically could qualify for the first I'm certainly nowhere near the second. Anyway.

Here are some of my favorites:
The Book For People Who Do Too Much - Hard work has killed a whole bunch of people. It has also caused premature aging, baldness and explosive indigestion.
A Teaspoon Of Courage – Life comes with its ups and downs and the only way to face them is with courage. Not bluff, not bravado, not overstarched underwear, but true courage.
Friends To The End - They can be exasperating, sometimes embarrassing and more often than not late. But where would you be without those funny, loyal people we call friends?

And yes, these not only make great gifts for others, but also for yourself. I really love to reread Greive's books every now and again. To cheer up, to smile, and most of all to laugh.

February 17, 2011

February 16, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Distractions

Sometimes I'm immersed.

Then I'm distracted.

And in the latter case I can quite often put the blame on browsing the internet ... though I have to say, there are a lot of interesting sites to be found.

Like Webpages As Graphs which will show your website or blog, well, as a graph ...

Doesn't quite look bookish to me, but this really is The Book Garden in its psychedelic dandelion shape.

February 15, 2011

Quote Garden - All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream

Experience has shown, and a true philosophy will always show, that a vast, perhaps the larger portion of the truth arises from the seemingly irrelevant.

I became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity.

Were I called on to define, very briefly, the term Art, I should call it 'the reproduction of what the Senses perceive in Nature through the veil of the soul.' The mere imitation, however accurate, of what is in Nature, entitles no man to the sacred name of 'Artist.'

The true genius shudders at incompleteness - and usually prefers silence to saying something which is not everything it should be.

I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty.

By Edgar Allan Poe

February 14, 2011

A Writer's Life - Immersed

Sometimes I'm so deeply immersed in what I'm writing, I simply forget the world around me. And quite often this translates into forgetting … well … other things that would have needed a wee bit more attention.

Like …

… the tea that's been brewing for about an hour and which would probably make my tongue fall off if I dared to actually drink it after that time.

… the laundry that's waiting to be freed from the washing machine, apart from some clever socks which plan and execute their escape quite perfectly every time.

… the friend I've just been chatting with online before getting distracted by an idea I quickly wanted to jot down, which consequently leads to getting disturbed by a phone call by said friend who just wanted to make sure I didn't drop dead behind the computer.

To name but a few.

And luckily, so far, there is no need to add this one to the above list.

... the readers of my blog who're all anxiously waiting for me to post something, and starting to speculate whether I have fallen victim to some book related accident, like getting buried underneath a collapsing book stack or being bored to death by some historical romance novel.

And now, gotta get my tea before it's too late ...

February 13, 2011

Books Aplenty - Shopping

Six weeks and counting. Yes, still as frugal as ever. And strong enough to read books about … shopping.

I found Cheap (Ellen Ruppel Shell) very insightful and thought-provoking. Living in a time where "cheaper is better" and given the current economic situation, it's bold to stand up and point out that low prices come at a high cost – to people, to the environment, and to society. Sure, we all like a bargain, but often, and when you look close enough, you'll find out that so-called bargains are anything but. Not as though I wasn't aware of some of the psychological tricks in pricing and marketing discounts, but I've sure fallen victim to those irresistible markdowns myself time and again. And yes, far too often investing in “cheap” ends up quite expensive for the consumer.

Circling the topic from two sides – the Seller's and the Buyer's – Shoptimism (Lee Eisenberg) is chock full with well researched information as well as written in a wonderfully engaging and fun style. The description of how Eisenberg accompanied and observed how his wife hunts for a new little black dress is both hilarious and a great introduction to the book. And while he didn't quite find the “Unified Theory of Buying” he's been searching for, he sure provides the reader with a lot to think about when it comes to our own buying habits.

But life's not about shopping alone. And while I didn't buy a new book (I would not dare, ha) I have a new one to add to my virtual book stack. The Color Of Heaven (Julianne MacLean) was a free download from Fresh Fiction, so yes, it pays not to delete those newsletters without risking a glance on what they've got to offer, yay!

February 12, 2011

Review - Ravenous (Dayna Macy)

Food can be a lot of things. Delicious. Nourishing. Yummy. But food can be much more than that. It can be protection, comfort, pleasure, and love. Like in Dayna Macy's case.
With her memoir Ravenous: A Food Lover's Journey From Obsession To Freedom she offers a downright honest look into what food meant and means to her, from early childhood up to the present. Admittedly this book wasn't quite what I expected it to be, starting off with a praise to different foods, which made me think that “Know Thy Food” would probably have been a more appropriate title. Slowly, the author then embarks on a journey to uncover the origins of her food obsession, starting off with the foods she loves, moving on to the exploration of food production (which was actually my favorite part of the book), and moving along to knowing and appreciating what you eat. And let's not forget that she even throws in recipes at the end of each chapter, which are celebrations of food in itself.
A vivid and beautifully described exploration of her eating habits and their roots, this book is wonderfully engaging as far as a memoir goes, but it also lacks deeper insights into the psychological aspects of food obsession, which, in my opinion, would have definitely moved the book from average to great.
In short: An honest read, an easy read, and unexpectedly delicious!

3/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review - Bottled And Sold (Peter H. Gleick)

While traveling abroad I often drink bottled water, usually due to the fact that the water from the tap tastes like liquid chlorine or like swamp water. Living in a country with one of the best water quality worldwide you should think I don't drink bottled water at all back home. I rarely do and now, in fact, I'm glad about it.
With his book Bottled And Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession With Bottled Water Peter H. Gleick gives a fascinating insight into the whole industry of bottled water production and its implications on frighteningly many aspects of our lives. Apart from the obvious, the impact on the environment, it definitely makes you think twice whether you shouldn't just stick to good old tap water when you learn that more stringent quality tests are performed on it than on bottled water.
This is a very comprehensibly written must-read book on the topic, highlighting not only environmental, but even more so, safety, health, and ethical concerns when it comes to the bottled water industry. While the main focus is on the US, the author also dips into and compares the industry with other regions, like Europe or Australia. Trust me, after reading this book you're going to seriously reconsider your drinking habits when it comes to water.
In short: A well written and highly informative book on the hazards of bottled water for both the environment and those who drink it!

4/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Pajama Musings - The waiting room

Lately it seems everyone's got some kind of, uhm, unpleasant experience with dentists. While one friend of mine just recently blogged about Toothache Day on February 9th – I'm not kidding about that one, there's obviously a day for everything – another urged me “Don't have your wisdom teeth pulled! Whatever you do, just don't!!” after having gone through some agonizing months where her hubby suffered from the aftermath of the operation and the incompetence of certain doctors. And last thing I heard is that her last remaining wisdom tooth started acting up now too. Anyway.
This post isn't about going to the dentist, yet it reminds me of one peculiar detail that can be found in seemingly every doctor's waiting room.

Old magazines.

Granted, it's been a while since I volunteered for a check-up at, say, my dentist. And apart from remembering the distinct smell that welcomes you when entering a dentists office, another thing pops to mind when I dare to think about this not really alluring premise.
Chairs around a table filled with old magazines.
And I mean real old ones.
I think there's a medical waiting room magazine supply house that sells these old, and occasionally ancient, magazines. To be fair though, it probably doesn't make sense to invest in any new ones, because people are usually too nervous to realize that what they're reading happened months, if not years ago. Could have been yesterday just the same. No one really notices anyway.
I never once saw anyone actually reading in these magazines. Just browsing through, throwing it then on one of many piles, grabbing another one, and continuing this browsing-throwing-grabbing until their name's been called. These magazines are a distraction, I realize that, and surly better than being left alone with your own torturous thoughts on what the doctor may find (especially when we're talking about a dentist).
Lately though a lot of doctor's offices provide you with a flatscreen that features … no, not the latest news, or maybe a football game, or a cartoon, but infomercials on anything health related. This certainly reduces the continuous rustling noise of turning pages, multiplied by the number of people in the waiting room, and translates into several unfocused pairs of eyes staring at the screen. If you ask me, they could show 20 year old stuff on these screens and no one would notice either.
I guess once one of those peacefully sleeping wisdom teeth start acting up I will find out whether the waiting room ambient has changed. Maybe there will be all new magazines provided for the waiting lot. Though I wouldn't notice it. Not with an imminent dentist appointment.

February 11, 2011

The Others - Andreas Eschbach

Funny how I always remember where I bought a book that I came to love. That was of course long before I did almost all of my book shopping online. It certainly makes the whole book browsing experience a little less charming, but so much more convenient. Anyway, I recall how I've been doing some book arranging during a down-time at the bookstore I worked at while I was still at Uni. That did not only do my arm-muscles some good, it was also great to find out about new books or authors. One such book was Das Jesus Video by German writer Andreas Eschbach.

Dipping into the genres of science fiction its plot revolves around the search for a hidden video camera that is believed to hold digital footage of Jesus made by a time traveler. One of the core themes in the book is that the picture of Jesus that the modern world as a whole, and the church in particular, have created, may be very different from what the actual man was like. Also, Eschbach points out that in the end, the message is much more important than the man. That's just the (very) short premise of the book.

Sounds intriguing? I thought so. Now, go and learn German. I'm serious. This book is so great that I can recommend learning a different language. If this doesn't tell you something about the quality of the book. Most of all it tells you that I will never understand the publishing world, as the only one of his books that got translated into English is The Carpet Makers, which was his debut novel.

Oh and a word of the wise. Das Jesus Video was adapted for television in 2002. In short – the movie sucks. It's so far off the original concept of the book, changing vital parts, that I really cannot recommend watching it to anyone. English, German or whatever language you happen to speak.

But that's not all there is to Eschbach. After reading this novel, which was, not very surprisingly, also his breakthrough, I quickly got my hands on other books by him. Starting out with fantasy novels he then moved on to write mostly in the science fiction genre, with a touch of the fantastic and a lot of thriller in it. Just the kind of thing I like.

In fact I'm desperately waiting for his latest novel to get out as a paperback edition, while still having two of his books, which happen to be satisfyingly fat tomes, on my TBR stack. And in the meantime I'll keep my fingers crossed that more of his great work will find their way to English readers too.

February 10, 2011

Picture Garden - The Rose

A crisp but sunny February morning
makes me long for spring - taking its first breath
and letting roses come to life in gardens.

February 9, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Giveaway Hops

Welcome to the wonderful world of blog giveaways. So yes, it's not only websites where you can win free books, there are a whole lot of blogs out there where you can do the same.

I Am A Reader, Not A Writer is a blog that hosts a whole lot of fabulous Giveaway Hops throughout the year. The next one is the Follower Love Giveaway Hop which takes place from February 8th through February 13th. Over 200 blogs have signed up to host a book related giveaway and they are all linked up together so you can easily hop from one giveaway to another. While I will only participate in this one as someone who really wants to win *ahem* I intend to sign up for one or more of these giveaway later this year too.

As for trying to win - this is probably the first time that I'm actually glad that not each and every single giveaway in this hop is international (because a lot of giveaways out there are usually only for US or US/Canada). The good thing, of course, is that a lot are open worldwide. Otherwise a whole lot of book-crazy chicks like me would be devastated.

So I did enter a couple already, slowly working myself through the list, but not nearly done yet. It'll probably take me until the last day to enter them all (even if I can only do the international ones), because I usually remain at a blog a little time and browse around there too. You see, that hop isn't just great to win free books or giftcards for Amazon or the Book Depository, it's also a fantastic way to find interesting book blogs out there.

And while the list of blogs I'm following is constantly getting longer and my fingers are crossed so I may win *pretty please* why don't you head on over to I Am A Reader, Not A Writer yourself to join in the Follower Love Giveaway Hop.

February 8, 2011

Quote Garden - A time to read

"Tell me what you read and I'll tell you who you are" is true enough, but I'd know you better if you told me what you reread.
François Mauriac

The time to read is any time: no apparatus, no appointment of time and place, is necessary. It is the only art which can be practiced at any hour of the day or night, whenever the time and inclination comes, that is your time for reading; in joy or sorrow, health or illness.
Holbrook Jackson

Reading - the best state yet to keep absolute loneliness at bay.
William Styron

'Tis the good reader that makes the good book; in every book he finds passages which seem confidences or asides hidden from all else and unmistakenly meant for his ear; the profit of books is according to the sensibility of the reader; the profoundest thought or passion sleeps as in a mine, until it is discovered by an equal mind and heart.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Society and Solitude, 1870

To read a book for the first time is to make an acquaintance with a new friend; to read it for a second time is to meet an old one.
Chinese Saying

February 7, 2011

A Writer's Life - The notebook

It's funny, but sitting here and happily typing on my keyboard I get quite a bit nostalgic thinking back to the times when I would write in a notebook. Ink on paper. That was of course ages ago, when I didn't even own a computer, and the only thing in my possession that did have a keyboard was a semi-antique typewriter my Mom had used many many years ago.

This one looks remarkably like the one I briefly used during my "notebook time" and, shockingly enough, even during my first year at Uni.

Apart from all the advantages that typing on a computer offers, I do miss the good old times of hauling my notebook with me everywhere I went. Maybe it was also the combination of this far more personal outlet of creativity that a pen and a sheet of paper provide, and the places where I took those requisites to, well, write. I guess most of the time I sat in coffee shops for hours on end, sipping on a cup of tea, maybe nibbling on a croissant, and filling those empty pages. Of course I should have been spending that time at school instead, but Ferris Bueller sure left his mark on me and, quite frankly, the time I spent writing was certainly more productive than the time spent trying to stay awake in class.

Maybe it's due to the fact that school's long over and notebooks are outdated, but these days I do most of my writing at home with the help of my friend the computer. I say “friend” so as to keep him or her – and what gender do computers have anyway – favorably disposed to my persona. You never know with these techy tech things, do you? A notebook on the other hand … no fear of loosing files or other disasters.

Apart from the nostalgia behind all of this I realized something else entirely. While I did make the occasional footnote here and alterations to sentences there, I had a tendency to put down my stories quite neatly. These days it's just so easy to type like no one's watching and than to make little adjustments here and big revisions there. Back in the days there was the added need to keep the whole text as eye-friendly as possible. These days, well, it's easier to read something typed instead of written in some undecipherable scrawl like mine allegedly is.

I wouldn't want to trade my keyboard with a notebook when it comes to the convenience the first has to offer, but I have made it a habit again to drag a small notebook with me even if it's merely for jotting down notes and not for the actual writing.
I get the best of both worlds now. And I like that.

February 6, 2011

Books Aplenty - To eat and drink

This has been a week of concentrating on consumption.
Not shopping, mind you.
Food and drinks.

I started off with a thirst for Bottled And Sold (Peter H. Gleick) which gave me a fascinating insight into the whole industry of bottled water production and its implications on frighteningly many aspects of our lives. Apart from the obvious, the impact on the environment, it definitely makes you think twice whether you shouldn't just stick to good old tap water. Granted, in some places where water tastes like liquid chlorine I will stick to bottled water, but other than that … drink fountain anyone?

Then I followed up with a hunger for Ravenous (Dayna Macy) and, wait a second, have you just noticed that both book titles include the word obsession? Anyway. Admittedly this book wasn't quite what I expected it to be, starting off with a praise to different foods. The author then embarks on a journey to uncover the origins of her food obsessions. An honest read, an easy read, even recipes get thrown in with each chapter. “Know Thy Food” would probably be a more appropriate title.

And would you believe it?
I almost don't, so I checked again.
But no. No new books this week.

February 5, 2011

Review - The Quotable Chesterton (Kevin Belmonte)

While I never read any of the works by G.K. Chesterton I did know the man from various quotes and sayings that I came across over the years. Impressed by the ones I knew and curious about those I didn't I delved into The Quotable Chesterton which is both an introduction and a long-overdue anthology on the literary giant of the early 1900's.
As much as it is really a book that you should taste in pieces and not in one go, I did just that, as it's been hard for me to put down this wonderful collection of quotes, ranging from serious discussions of Christianity and philosophy to literary criticisms and fiction. And most importantly, it's not just an enjoyable read, but also one that makes you think, especially because Chestertons ideas are still relevant today.
The collection of quotes from his various works is divided into quite a number of themes, which is presented as an essential A-Z compendium of his ideas. While the idea behind the book is just marvelous I was a bit disappointed by the short essays about Chesterton, as they did not offer any deep insights into the man's thought and character, but were merely bridging one quote to the next.
In short: This excellent selection of quotes from the British writer is not only a wonderful introduction to his writing, but even more so a compendium of Chestertons wit.

4/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Pajama Musings - Rated PG

Granted, my blog isn't aimed at a young audience. Young as in children. Still I would have said kids could read it without any warning labels. So imagine my surprise when I checked out this website where you can find out your blog's rating. Ratings like those in movies – G, PG, PG 13 and R.

Alright, I didn't quite make it to the R rating, even though I do wonder what kind of words I should sneak into my posts to achieve that … hmmm …

Anyway, here's my result …

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Surprised? So am I.
And only because I dared to use the word “sex” twice and “hell” once.

And because I am of the curious kind, I also checked for my other blog The Travel Garden and, lo and behold, I got a G rating. No bad words. Yay. Then again, as long as long-distance-flight isn't considered a bad word and remains simply a bad experience, this rating sure makes sense.

OnePlusYou Quizzes and Widgets

Oh and before I forget!
You can even check your Facebook profile, which is of course what I did too.
And once again, rated G.
Damn' it … who would have guessed I am such a good girl?
Than again, I guess that one propelled me into the PG 13 area.

February 4, 2011

The Others - Sophie Kinsella

I guess it's safe to say that pretty much everyone will have heard about the Shopaholic books by Sophie Kinsella. At least when you're female and love to shop you'll certainly do and will probably have the whole series stacked on a shelf anyway. Like I do. No surprise there. And obviously when you love shopping and books, there couldn't be a better combination than sticking your nose into the Shopaholic books. Better to read than to spend money, eh?

While I indeed started off with one of the Shopaholic books after a friend recommended it to me as being truly hilarious, I did not only devour the whole series, I also read the stand alone novels by the author, which show the same wit and bubbly writing like the series.

Still, Becky Bloomwood is my favorite from all of her characters in the books. Probably because I see a bit, alright a lot, of myself in her. And while I haven't bought a green scarf (yet) I am the proud owner of the DVD to the book.
So yes, I love the Shopaholic movie too. Usually I'm skeptical about the quality of movies based on books, but this one is lovely and fun to watch whether you read the books or not.

What many people do not know is that Sophie Kinsella is actually a pen name, and that she published several novels as Madeline Wickham which is, you may have already guessed, her real name. And yes, there is a reason why she chose different names for her work – if you've read novels by Kinsella and Wickham you surly noticed that it's a completely different writing style. But trust me on this, the quality is the same only the taste of the reader may differ.
Personally I do prefer Kinsella, but Wickham isn't that far behind.

February 3, 2011

February 2, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - InkyGirl

One of my favorite websites must be InkyGirl by Debbie Ridpath Ohi who's a published writer and illustrator based in Toronto, Canada. She's the founder of Inkspot and Inklings, one of the very first online writing communities and electronic newsletters.
And in addition to writing a daily publishing industry news column for Writersmarket.com, she spends her time on writing and illustrating books for young people.

Last but not least – there's her website!!

While there is a lot to discover on her site, what got me hooked in the first place were her InkyGirl and Will Write For Chocolate comics.

And yes, Debbie is not only to blame for random fits of laughter when reading her comics, but also the fact that I boldly and (mostly) successfully brave the 1000-Words-A-Day-Challenge.

Used with permission from Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Inkygirl.com

February 1, 2011

Quote Garden - If life is a bowl of cherries ...

Shopping is a woman thing. It's a contact sport like football. Women enjoy the scrimmage, the noisy crowds, the danger of being trampled to death, and the ecstasy of the purchase.

There is nothing more miserable in the world than to arrive in paradise and look like your passport photo.

I haven't trusted polls since I read that 62% of women had affairs during their lunch hour. I've never met a woman in my life who would give up lunch for sex.

My theory on housework is, if the item doesn't multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?

Marriage has no guarantees. If that's what you're looking for, go live with a car battery.

When a child is locked in the bathroom with water running and he says he's doing nothing, but the dog is barking, call 911.

When humor goes, there goes civilization.

By Erma Bombeck