May 31, 2011

Quote Garden - The importance of a piece of paper

Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky, we fell them down and turn them into paper, that we may record our emptiness.
Khalil Gibran

If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you.
Henry Rollins

All I need is a sheet of paper and something to write with, and then I can turn the world upside down.
Friedrich Nietzsche

Being a writer is a very peculiar sort of a job: it's always you versus a blank sheet of paper (or a blank screen) and quite often the blank piece of paper wins.
Neil Gaiman

For some of us, books are as important as almost anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.
Anne Lamott

May 30, 2011

A Writer's Life - Applause for the editor

It's been a while now since I mentioned working on a new project, the idea to which hit me sometime in mid December of last year. Not the typical thing I do with pen and paper, so at first I decided to just forget about it. Yet the idea wouldn't let go, despite my serious efforts to just ignore it. So I did what every self-respecting writer would do to find some peace of mind again. I sat down and started typing.

Roughly six months have passed since the idea sneaked up on me and basically attacked me from behind. It took several weeks before I finally gave in to it. And about two of three weeks ago I was able to send the draft to my self-declared editor (if she hadn't offered, I would have begged). Last night I received the revised manuscript back.

I was bummed. A little.

You see, the main problem, if I may call it that way, of this pesky idea was that I'd be writing in English. While my English is pretty darn good it certainly isn't perfect, which means that an editor was of utmost importance in this case. Even more than would be the case for a text in my mother tongue German. Anyway. I had read and re-read the whole text before sending it off and when my lovely editor told me "Nothing major- just a few minor changes." I was delighted. Then I opened the manuscript and nearly got a heart attack. The first few pages looked like someone used a chainsaw. Alright, I may be exaggerating a bit, but it was late, I was tired, and those pages gave me a bit too much visual input for my taste. I'm a perfectionist. I figured she would only find three mistakes in the whole text. So this was certainly a disenchanting experience. At first. Then I leafed through the 40-odd pages (at least the damn thing is short) and felt myself relax a little. Lots of pages weren't adorned with comments after all. But those that were, like I said, bummed me out. I know what you're going to say now, there is a reason why you should have someone do the proof-reading, because you will have blinders on as an author. And boy, my blinders where embarrassingly huge. On second thought it seemed like I put some mistakes there just to test whether my editor did a good job. Seriously. I know the difference between then - than, save - safe, lose - loose. Yet, there they were *cringe*. The good news is that apart from these horrible, and inexcusable, mistakes there really were only a selected few things that needed the red pen.

And I found out something quite interesting about my writing habits too. I have this tendency to start sentences with an "And". No kidding!

What it all boils down to is that my editor did a great job. Here's to my editor. Here's to Amy.

More about my little pet project in a 'lil while.
I promise.

May 29, 2011

Books Aplenty - I almost forgot ...

... all those many maaaaany LibraryThing books that I've been inadvertently ignoring for a few weeks now. But not any longer, because this week I only read books I received through this site. I have a reputation of reviewing all the books there, so I better not fail.

I started off with two books for teens Priscilla The Great and Priscilla The Great: The Kiss Of Life (Sybil Nelson). Those who know me are probably aware of the fact that I usually don't read that much YA or books for an even younger audience. At least I didn't until I realized how many great reads I'd be missing out on if I never gave it a try. These two novels, part one and two of what I can only hope to have a sequel, have been so entertaining and most importantly well-written, that I thoroughly enjoyed them even as an adult. Starting with a twelve year old who suddenly shoots fire out of her fingers this story could have gone many ways, but this one is certainly unusual. Definitely not your average girl-becomes-witch kind of book, which you might expect upon starting to read, but a fun X-Men kind of story. And I really have to say, I absolutely loved Priscilla's snarky personality. In short - she's cool (unless of course she fires up her fingers). A super fun book for young readers!

Fixing Cupid (Cristian Young Miller) sounded fun too. But then I started reading. Oh dear. Granted, the premise is a good one - a unique take on a modern day Cupid, named Jack - and should have made for an enjoyable light read with a chuckle or two along the way, but the humor is outrageously and horribly bad, making me cringe all the time. And don't even get me started on all the grammatical errors that attacked me on almost every single page *shudders*.

Summoning (Debi Faulkner) certainly made up for the disappointing previous read. I realize a lot of people don't like narratives where the author is jumping back and forth in time to tell the story, but I'm actually a big fan of it if it's well done. And it certainly is in this case. The main ingredients of the story are a young servant girl and a vicar selling not only his but also her soul to a demon. If this is just your kind of thing I can only recommend the book to you as it's not only engagingly but also beautifully written.

And now, here are new books I added this week.

I don't even know how to say this, but there's no way around it, so I'll just spit it out. New books from LibraryThing rolled in *sigh* namely, Borrowed Saints (Aaron Polson), My True Essence (Shawneda Marks), A Line Blurred (Bryan Healey), Laying The Odds (J.R. Tomlin) and Betrayed (Morgan Rice).

Than I've been lucky and won the eBook of Happy Birthday To Me (Brian Rowe) through a giveaway on The Eclectic Reader.

And *drumroll* you know that I don't get out the camera for anthing under three books in my actual mailbox, but I felt really tempted to do an IMM post just for this one. I've won a book of choice from Reviews By Martha's Bookshelf and I chose Across The Universe (Beth Revis) which has been on my wishlist for ages. I even received the hardcover edition, yay!

Review - The Quest For The Cure (Brent R. Stockwell)

Introducing the reader to the fascinating and important topic of the future of drug development, Brent R. Stockwell explores how scientists are trying to find new treatments for seemingly uncurable diseases and the need for innovative new approaches in his book The Quest For The Cure.
With an in depth look at both the medical angle, as well as the crucial role of the pharmaceutical industry, this is, for the most parts, a comprehensibly written book on the matter. Aimed at a general audience the narrative of the book is unfortunately varying strongly between easily to comprehend chapters and chapters in which I admittedly had troubles when it came to understand all the chemical and biological details the author provided. You could say, a little medical background knowledge certainly won't hurt when reading the book.
From the scientific achievements of the twentieth century, to the proteins involved in the search for medicines, straight to new approaches in drug design and promising emerging techniques of drug discovery, Stockwell gives the reader a wide overview on the topic. The author also shares his entrepreneurial experience with insights on the potential of studying combinations of approved drugs, giving the book an autobiographic touch. Personally I would have wished for less scientific details and a closer look at the industry as such. Nonetheless an interesting read in which I learned quite a few new things!
In short: An engaging book on the future of drug discovery!

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 - Look Away Dixieland (James B. Twitchell)

As much as I love to travel, I also love reading about other people's wanderlust. I'm not one to go for the same old travel guides though, so when I had the chance to read James B. Twitchell's Look Away, Dixieland I knew I'd be in for a real treat. And I really was!
Presenting a different kind of journey through the Deep South of the US, what the author calls a historical-quest-travelogue, this is as much a historical guide book as it is an entertaining road trip. Fun to read and also highly informative the reader follows Twitchell along Route 84 to uncover facts about his great-grandfather, a carpetbagger from the North, whose fate is deeply mingled with this region's past. Though this book isn't just about traveling the road, but even more so, it's an introspective journey, furnished with wonderful witty and smart humor.
While the first part of the book is mainly about his great-grandfather's past, it is at the same time a compelling history lesson. The second part is more along the lines of travel experiences on his tour through the small-town South, and unique ones at that. Having been on a bus tour through the region myself many years ago, I certainly didn't get this in depth view of Dixieland. From swamps to quilt-making, from squirrel hunting dogs to Baptist churches, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip and even learned a thing or two on the way.
In short: Not your ordinary travel guide!

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.”

May 28, 2011

Pajama Musings - They've got to go

Inspired by Liz' from Consumed by Books who shared how she decided to get rid of books she'd never read anyway in her blog post On caving in I knew I had to do something along the same lines. While I might not exactly be on a book buying ban, I at least started to think more wisely about books I purchase. I'm walking a fine line between wanting and needing and so far I've been a very good girl. Unfortunately though, that doesn't mean that my TBR stacks are on the decline though.

Admittedly I have started to look at some of the boxes filled with TBRs in the past weeks and deep inside I knew that there are plenty of books I will probably never read. Most were bought on a whim when I went a little crazy buying used books on Ebay last year. We're talking several sets of €1,-/10 books so who was I to resist even if there were only two or maybe three books that actually interested me. I kind of figured the rest would be great too, but as it soon turned out, a lot of those extra books were just fluff.

Long story short, now this huge box sits here (to my left, only two steps away from my computer desk) and it's being used as a, uhm, side table, sort of. A resting place for stuff like a Christmas themed Mickey Mouse, a box of Mon Cherie chocolates, a belt I never use, some scarfs, plus a whole lot of shirts that have been waiting for at least a week or so to be finally folded and put into the closet. But I digress.

The point is ... if reading those books (or most of them, anyway) seems more of a bother than fun, I should seriously throw them out. And, believe it or not, I did it. I rummaged through the offending box and recovered a selected few books I really want to read one of those days.
The rest? Out.
And if you risk a glance at the photo, you'll have to admit that I did quite a job on my book purge.

Of course I then updated my library on LibraryThing and squinted on the number of unread books too. Still an awful lot, is all I'm saying. But, and that's the important part, lesson learned. While I still go overboard with all those free eBooks that come my way far too often, those won't take up any physical space. I am way pickier with physical books these days and will only ever buy those I know I will read. And now, off I go to finally make the number of TBRs drop under, uhm, threehundred ...

May 27, 2011

The Others - Jane Austen

Show me just one girl who's not looking for her very own Mr. Darcy ... even fiction heroines will do so occasionaly, such as Emily in Me And Mr. Darcy (Alexandra Potter) and of course there are countless more, but this particluar one is the only one I actually read.

Apropos reading, and you better brace yourself for I have a rather shocking confession to make *cough* I haven't read any of Jane Austen's novels in my life. Not even the one with Mr. Darcy. I saw one or two of the movie adaptations though, does that count? Probably not. Though before you turn away in disgust, I own all six of her books and they are quite savely on my TBR stack. This must count for something, right?

Jane Austen was an English novelist famous for her books of romantic fiction, set among the "landed gentry", and written with both realism, a touch of parody, and biting social commentary. And, to get back to good old Mr. Darcy, her plots usually highlight the dependence of women on marriage to secure social standing and economic security. She has certainly earned her a place as one of the most widely read writers in English literature and is still, apart from yours truly, widely read today.

Sense And Sensibility has been the first of her books to be published, though initially it was written under the pseudonym "A Lady". This, along with Pride And Prejudice, has certainly been one of her most popular books, back then in the 19th century as well as today. Dying young, her novels Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were both published posthumously, and a third book, which was titled Sanditon, was never completed.

While I obviously can't give my opinion on any of Jane's books, there are not only a lot of people who praise her books to the skies, there are also those who, well, have quite a bit of a dislike for her novels. Like Mark Twain.

Everytime I read 'Pride and Prejudice' I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone.
Mark Twain

I guess Mr. Darcy never grew on him. Or Elizabeth Bennet, for that matter.

May 26, 2011

Picture Garden - Poppies In The Field

"POPPIES IN THE FIELD"
Poppies in the field, shivers in red ...
... I've got the Melinda Miel song on replay in my head once again.

May 25, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Book Blog Directories

Have you ever been looking for a list of book blogs? Or, even more so, are you a book blogger who wants to get word out of your own little, or not so little, blog?

Today I'd like to introduce you to two wonderful sites where you can go looking for all the book blogs out there as well as get listed yourself. Of course there are other websites like these too, after all the idea as such isn't novel, but these are my personal favorites.


The Book Blog Directory is a great directory where you'll find the obligatory alphabetical book blog list and you'll even get to see the latest blog posts of all listed blogs which makes for excellent browsing. Last but not least, you can even surprise yourself a bit by visiting random blogs, plus add a button on your own blog with which you can show off a random blog every time your page gets loaded.

Parajunkee Design
Here you'll find a comprehensive listing of book blogs, separated by genre and listed alphabetically. The Book Blogger Directory's mission is to cross promote book bloggers, provide listings by genre and increase links to raise page rank.
This is probably the newest site out there and I have to say that the book bloggers who came up with the idea did a great job. To browse by genre is an excellent and very helpful option, which certainly separates this site from others. Also don't forget to check out the blog too, where new book bloggers will be frequently introduced in interviews.

So, go and get listed. Now.

Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop

Welcome to the

What is a giveaway hop? That's simple. Each participating blog hosts a giveaway and then we link up together allowing our followers to hop easily from one giveaway to another. For followers this means lots of chances to win free books and other goodies. For blogs hosting a giveaway it means lots of new visitors and followers. It's a win-win!

And now …
… curious about what you can win?

I'm giving away a “Reading Is Sexy” Beach Tote Bag (in case the winner should prefer another book related tote bag worth up to $ 28,00 that's ok too) from Cafepress. This roomy canvas fabric tote is perfect for bringing lots of books with you to the beach, pool or any other place you want to spend some time reading this summer.
Please note: I am in no way affiliated with Cafepress, I just happen to like the stuff they sell. Also, I will have the prize shipped to the winner directly through Cafepress to save on additional shipping costs.

All you have to do is answer the following question and leave your e-mail address with your comment so I may contact you in case you're the winner.

The question:
Reading is ... ?
(We've already established it is sexy, but what else is reading for you?)

Rules
Following my blog is no requirement, but greatly appreciated.
One entry per person.
Open worldwide.

Winner
One winner will be picked through random.org on June 1st and will then be contacted by e-mail as well as announced here on my blog. The winner will have 48 hours to respond and if he/she fails to do so I will draw a new winner.

And now, head on over to the rest of the blog hop participants!

May 24, 2011

Quote Garden - If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build'em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

If by Rudyard Kipling

May 23, 2011

A Writer's Life - The day I decided to get rid of Joe

It had to be. Really. No other way around it. He had to die. Of course his name wasn't really Joe. I'm just protecting his identity here. Let's just say, it's an awfully private aka quiet life Joe is leading now. Or maybe not life. More like afterlife with only a small chance of ever coming back. Then again ...

... I'm the writer. I can kill 'em off. I can get them back. If I want to. If the story allows me to. If it makes the plot even more intriguing. But basically, when I got rid of Joe, I knew what I was doing and it was important for the whole storyline. So who am I to argue with my inner plotter?

It will happen eventually. Maybe not in every book, but I honestly can't think of a genre where character's couldn't drop dead like flies if the author wants them to. Obviously there will have to be a dead body in a mystery novel. As far as historical romances go, not necessarily. I guess in that case it's enough to consider that all the characters are dust by the time you read their story. Technically speaking.

Every writer remembers the first one. The inner turmoil. The emotions flaring. The tears. And above it all the knowledge that there is no other way around it. It's the story that demands it even though you might still be reluctant to admit it. So you do what you have to do.

After all, people die in real life. Why shouldn't they on a piece of paper? The story should feel real. Despite a science fiction setting. It should breath and come to life. Even if a character must die. It won't exactly get any easier or be a totally tearless experience. Not for me, anyway. If you live and breath your own stories, you will laugh and cry with your characters. You bring them to life. And you sometimes you let them die. It's the way of the writer's world.

And Joe died. He knew it'd have to happen and never held it against me. And I cried like a fool. But then it was over. My tears dried. And all was good. For a while.

Needless to say, after the 37th revision Joe's back. Never died. Not the quiet afterlife he thought he'd get, after all. Though, be still my heart, Sally's days are numbered. But of course her name's not really Sally. And we're not talking vampires either, mind you. And once again ... I knew what I was doing and it was important for the whole storyline. So who am I to argue with my inner plotter?

May 22, 2011

In My Mailbox (3)

I could get used to my mailbox being stuffed with lots and lots of books the way it was this week. In fact, on Wednesday I even had to push'n'shove a little to get the whole loot out of my poor little mailbox. That's not a complaint. I just need a bigger box. Ha.

Been incredibly lucky with giveaways and the following books I recently won arrived this week ...

The biggest bundle was the Tales Of Terror Set (Chris Priestley) I snagged at Book Chic City. Then came a signed copy of Six Moon Summer (SM Reine) which I was lucky to win from Me And Reading. And I received Just Ella (Margaret Peterson Haddix) from Books From Bleh To Basically Amazing which I won in their awesome Fairytale Fortnight event.

What a week, yay!!

Thanks to The Story Siren for hosting the IMM meme!

Books Aplenty - So much to review, so little time

Alright, it's time to face the music ... ahem, the review stacks. You should think I've learned by now that it's not a good idea to run wild and request all those interesting galleys when a day only has a measly 24 hours. And, to be honest, my TBR review stacks ask for 72 hours days, at the very least.

Anyway, while I only managed to read two books this week, both were for review.

Look Away Dixieland (James B. Twitchell) presents a different kind of journey through the Deep South of the US. What the author calls a historical-quest-travelogue is as much a historical guide book as it is an entertaining roadtrip. Fun to read and also highly informative you follow his journey along Route 84 which he undertook to uncover facts about his great-grandfather, a carpetbegger from the North, whose fate is deeply mingled with this region's past. Not your ordinary travelguide!

The Quest For The Cure (Brent R. Stockwell) explores how scientists are trying to find new treatments for diseases and the need for innovative new approaches. With in-depth look on both the medical angle, as well as the crucial role of the pharmaceutical industry, this is certainly a well-written and most of all comprehensive book on the matter. Personally I would have wished for less chemical/biological information and a closer look at the industry as such. Nonetheless a fascinating read in which I learned quite a few new things!

And now, the inevitable list of new books I added throughout the week. More than two. Talk about decreasing bookstacks. Yeah, right!

Through LibraryThing I received Fixing Cupid (Cristian Young Miller) and Criticality (Edmund Alexander Sims).

Let's not forget the inevitable free downloads from Christianbook, in this case Eye Of The God (Ariel Allison Lawhon), Making Waves (Lorna Seilstad) and The Dead Saint (Marylin Brown Oden).

And then I've been lucky and won an eBook of Hedgeland (Ann Nyland) from The Wormhole.

And seeing how several physical books rolled in too this week, watch out for my IMM post where I present you the real loot, yay!

May 21, 2011

Pajama Musings - The worst library of them all

After reading Rikki of Rikki's Teleidoscope complain about her awful library in her blog post 9 reasons why our library sucks I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. If you think the description of her local library is bad, you should see the one in my hometown.

A friend of mine suggested I should check out libraries for "even cheaper reads" after I excitedly mentioned how great it was to buy used books. My online search was a long one and at first I only found libraries from local schools. I had admittedly almost given up when the thought hit me that maybe I should check out my hometown's website. And, lo and behold, there it was. The local library.

I live in a town with about 20.000 inhabitants and, to my knowledge, there is only one public library. Things could be worse. There could be no library at all.

The library opens on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 15:00 and 18:30. They offer roughly 8.000 fiction books, 3.000 non-fiction and 2.000 children’s books (according to the info on the hompage of my hometown). They have no website, they don’t even have a phone. And the building isn't what I would call centrally located. Needless to say I never dared to check it out, because I would probably run away crying. Or offend the librarian by asking "Uhm, where's the rest?". And then run away crying.

Not easily giving up I did some more research and ventured north and south of where I live.
South - a town about the size of my own hometown, with about 25.000 inhabitants, there is a relatively big public library that offers roughly 27.000 books, is open on four days a week, one being Saturday, and is right in the center of town just a stonethrow from the train station.
North (and let's not be shy, I'm talking about the capital here) - there are obviously dozens of libraries, but if I just went for the nearest one, things are definitly looking brighther. Open five days a week, with long hours every day, you can choose from 32.700 books for adults, 11.500 children's books and tons of other media (CDs, DVDs, games, etc) and basically you just need to get off the train and are there.

Apart from the fact that I obviously live in the town with the lousiest library in the whole country (or maybe the whole continent), I never checked these two alternatives out for myself. Getting on the train costs me both money and time so in the end it’s no-library-for-me ... but with my towering TBR stacks it's fortunatelly not the end of the world for this girl.

May 20, 2011

The Others - Anonymous

Ever read a book where you didn't know the actual author?
There are, in fact, numerous anonymous works out there, where the writer(s) either remain undisclosed or, in some cases, the author is simply unknown. Especially in the case of very old books, the author's name may have simply been lost over the course of history. But there are other reasons too why an author's name is kept secret - out of fear of persecution or to protect their reputation, especially when the books are of a political or controversial natur.

Anonymously written works range from ancient inscriptions to myths of oral traditions which only ever got published in text form in our present day. No big surprises there. So what about more modern times, where print has already been invented and it would have been easy to put an author's name on the cover?

The newest one must be O: A Presidential Novel, published by Simon & Schuster, who claim that the book was written by someone who was "in the room" with the President.

Then there's Go Ask Alice which I remember reading when I was still in high school. In this case we now know that the book has actually been written by Beatrice Sparks.


Let's step back yet another century when Democracy was (at first) anonymously published. The actual author being Henry Adams.

Of a lot of anonymously published books of the 18th and 19th century the authors are known today. It's not quite as easy with the classics such as Beowulf or the Dresden Codex, to name just two.

Today, books are rarely being published by anonymous authors, instead they will simply use a pseudonym for their work. And usually the "secret" doesn't remain hidden all that long either. More often than not, the reason behind it is to get more publicity for a book and nosy journalists will find out who's behind a book evntually.

May 19, 2011

Picture Garden - Beware Of Hitchhiking Ghosts

"BEWARE OF HITCHHIKING GHOSTS"
Dear adult,
when crossing the street with your youngster,
please make sure they don't drag along some hitchhiking ghosts ...

May 18, 2011

Review - Blood Red Road (Moira Young)

The first thing you'll notice about Blood Red Road is the unusual writing style Moira Young has chosen for her novel. A bit of a struggle at first, but then I couldn't put the book down.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world Saba sets out to find her twin brother Lugh who's been abducted by The King, a violent and crazy ruler. Desperate to rescue her brother, she goes on a journey accompanied by her little sister Emmie and some unlikely new friends she meets en route. Mostly this is a full-fledged and wonderfully engrossing adventure story, with just a dash of romance.
Being more than a little rough around the edges, it's at first hard to like Saba, especially when you see how much she dislikes her sister, but following her journey through the wastelands you soon grow a deeper understanding for her as you watch her mature, value friendship and learn humility.
While the colloquial tone of the narrative is certainly different, it's exactly what brings the story to life. It's raw and minimalistic and deep at the same time. The violent, yet beautiful tale lives of this tone as much as it does of the a cast of flawlessly created characters that complement each other and the story. Can't wait for the next book in the trilogy!
Actually being a YA novel, I can wholeheartedly recommend it to adult readers too.
In short: A must-read for everyone who loves epic adventures!

5/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Simon & Schuster Galley Grab 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 - I'm Kind Of A Big Deal (Stefanie Wilder-Taylor)

The kind of humor that stand-up comedians throw at the audience can be anything from hilarious straight to way over the top. Being usually weary when it comes to the not always laughter inducing shows, I had no idea what I'd get myself into with I'm Kind Of A Big Deal.
In her book Stefanie Wilder-Taylor reflects on how she became a writer and comedian and she does so in a very convincing and most of all self-deprecating manner - in parts absolutely funny, then downright serious. The essays mainly focus on her career path starting early on in her life, but also dip into a private life which has been full of struggles, be it alcoholism or the relationship to her estranger father. Very open and honest, this book made for an unexpectedly interesting read that will entertain fans of Stefanie as much as anyone else. Yet I felt that some parts didn't quite fit into the general theme of the book, such as the open letters to celebrities which disrupted my personal reading experience a bit.
While I admittedly didn't know anything about the author, other than the short blurb the book provided, I was glad I have given it a try. It becomes quite clear why Stefanie's spot on observations and wry wit made her a successful author over the years.
In short: A funny and at the same time touching insight into the world of a comedian!

3/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Simon & Schuster Galley Grab 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.”

Beyond the Shelf - The Guardian

Now how does The Guardian (British newspaper) end up in today's feature? Let's see ... you can read about quite a lot of things on the site. Get the latest news, check the weather, or the TV guide. And then, of course, there is a lovely section dedicated to books.

Here you will not only get the latest on literary coverage, including news, interviews, reviews, audio, video and original writing from the most exciting authors around the world, it is also a place for readers to talk about literature, to review and rate the books they've read, and to compile and share lists of their favourites. And if that wasn't enough, you'll also find lots of quizzes. And I'm not just talking about any old quizzes here, but fascinating ones such as "How well do you know your pseudonymous authors?", the "Diana Wynne Jones Quiz", or the "Libraries in Literature Quiz".

These are all fun, but at the same time really informative too. So go and check them out!

And in case quizzes aren't to your liking, why not enjoy some pictures of famous authors behind their typewriters?

George Bernard Shaw at work in 1929

May 17, 2011

Quote Garden - The Book Shopper

It is clear that the books owned the shop rather than the other way around. Everywhere they had run wild and taken possession of their habitat, breeding and multiplying, and clearly lacking any strong hand to keep them down.
Agatha Christie

In the shop we buy and sell them, but in truth books have no owner. Every book you see here has been somebody’s best friend.
Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My husband claims I have an unhealthy obsession with secondhand bookshops. That I spend too much time daydreaming altogether. But either you intrinsically understand the attraction of searching for hidden treasure amongst rows of dusty shelves or you don't; it's a passion, bordering on a spiritual illness, which cannot be explained to the unaffected.
Kathleen Tessaro

The book can produce an addiction as fierce as heroin or nicotine, forcing us to spend much of our lives, like junkies, in book shops and libraries, those literary counterparts to the opium den.
Philip Adams

It is a good plan to have a book with you in all places and at all times. If you are presently without, hurry without delay to the nearest shop and buy one of mine.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

May 16, 2011

A Writer's Life - Ode to the Post-it Note

I take notes.
Lots of notes.
One should think I might jot them down in a notebook.
Well, sometimes I do.
But mostly I use post-its.
In fact they are all over the place.
I would probably go insane without them.
And while I don't have a cat ...
... I swear, sometimes my teddy bears leave me odd messages too.

May 15, 2011

Review - Those That Wake (Jesse Karp)

Presenting itself in a mix of dystopia and science-fiction Those That Wake by Jesse Karp could probably be best described as a combination of Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers and The Matrix.
On the search for his lost brother, Mal finds himself in a strange building, and Laura is at the same time suddenly confronted with her parents who don't remember her. The teenagers are not the only ones who share the fate of having been forgotten. In a small group they set out on a mind-bending journey trying to solve the mystery of what and why something in their over-technologized world made them “disappear”.
Apart from the truly intriguing premise, I loved how the characters and the world surrounding them are steadily and intricately built. Characters come to live immediately, after only a few pages they seem absolutely real. And needless to say that world-building is pretty much awesome too. Starting out in a realistic manner, the story slowly transforms itself into an almost paranoid venture to find answers. And all of this comes together in a writing style that captivated me from beginning to end. Admittedly I found the conclusion of the book a bit too simply construed, but this has been a great book nonetheless.
While being a YA novel, I'd personally recommend it to adults and more sophisticated teenagers only.
In short: An engrossing read for everyone who loves dystopia and science-fiction!

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.”

Review - Exchange (Dale R. Cozort)

With his novel Exchange Dale R. Cozort's presents an exciting mix of science-fiction and alternate history. At the core this is an adventure set in a world where places of Earth will occasionally be "exchanged" with parts of another world. Sharon Mack, a computer expert, is one of those who remain in what's called Bear Country until places are changed back into their respective worlds. Faced not only with a strange and dangerous world, where convicts stayed behind in a previous exchange and a cult who wants to permanently remain here, she desperately searches for her daughter who's been abducted by her ex-husband.
The fascinating premise got me hooked right away. The idea and especially the descriptions of the “exchanged” world are well written and devised and a fair amount of heroes and villains have been thrown into the mix too. Unfortunately though most characters remained rather two-dimensional and I had a hard time relating to Sharon, because some of her actions were just not believable. Especially the romance part seemed superfluous, or at least overdone in this case, as I highly doubt a mother looking for her child will fall in love with a handsome stranger that easily, or fast, for that matter. If it weren't for the, in some cases, weak characterizations, this could have been more than just an average read.
In short: An entertaining novel with twists and turns for science-fiction fans!

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.”

Books Aplenty - Time to catch up on reviews

While I managed to read four books for review last week, I did read another four this week, yet only two were actually for reviewing purposes. The other two, well, I have a good excuse for those. I simply couldn't wait to dig into The Hidden Magic of Walt Disney World (Susan Veness) and when Inside Out (Maria S. Snyder), my April RAK which Hilde from The Turn of the Page sent me, arrived during the week, all other books were completely forgotten and I started reading right aways and pretty much finished the book in two sittings.

If you're a such a big fan of WDW like myself than you must get the above mentioned book. No matter how often you might have been to the parks, there is still so much to discover what even people who've been here often will overlook many lovely details. Granted, some infos are a bit outdated, but all in all a fantastic read for hardcore Disney fans.

And do I really need to mention how much I loved my RAK? Guess not. I had the chance to read and review Outside In (Maria V. Snyder) a little while ago and I really wanted to read the first part too. If you love dystopia, or science fiction for that matter, don't let the fact that it's a YA novel hesitate, because I have long ago passed the YA age threshold and I loved the books. Both.

As for the books for review ...

Admittedly I had no idea what I'd get myself into with I'm Kind Of A Big Deal (Stefanie Wilder-Taylor) . I usually don't like the kind of humor that standup-comedians throw at the audience. Just. Not. Funny. Yet this book, in which Stefanie reflects on how she became a writer and comedian, wasn't over the top at all. In parts hilarious, then downright serious, it made for an interesting read. Some parts though didn't quite fit into the general theme of the book, such as the letters to celebrities, but that's just me.

And a girl can't live on non-fiction alone, so I delved into Blood Red Road (Moira Young) . I swear, after reading the first few pages I thought I'd never be able to read on, not to mention finish the book. Why? It's been written in such a colloquial way that I felt the need to get out my red pen and edit. But, this voice is what fits the story to a T, and you'll get used to it after a couple more pages. Set in an apocalyptic world. Great story-telling. Deep characters. If only the reason behind the epic journey has been a little weak in my opinion. Find out more as soon as my actual review goes up.

Any new books to add?
Of course there are new ones, how could you ever doubt there weren't?

Apart from the above mentioned RAK I also received two books (again for review) through NetGalley - The Third (Abel Keogh) and First We Read, Then We Write (Robert D. Richardson).

And seeing how long the last books from BookSneeze needed to reach me, I downloaded The Seraph Seal (Leonard Sweet and Lori Wagner) as eBook this time. Not sure whether I will continue doing so, but this one sounded so very intriguing that I had to have it right away.

Sourcebook offered a free download of The Four Corners Of The Sky (Michael Malone) this weekend, so who am I to resist?

Then, of course, LibraryThing provided me yet with even more books - The Broken Sword (Joseph Robert Lewis), Legacy (Chris Adonn), Priscilla The Great and Priscilla The Great: The Kiss Of Life (Sybil Nelson).

We have a winner ...

Thanks to all who've participated in the giveaway for The Diva Doctrine (Patricia V. Davis) and sharing with us what you would have told yourself if you had the chance to go back in time. It was truly fascinating to read all your great answers!

A big thanks also to Patricia who was so generous to offer a copy of her book to one of my readers.

Seeing how there weren't too many entries I decided that I could do the good ol' drawing of paper slips out of a hat.

And the winner is ...

Amy

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

Stay tuned for the next giveaway on my blog!
I'll be participating in the Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Page Turners.

May 14, 2011

Pajama Musings - The blogs I follow ... or not

I honestly don't know how it happend, but one fine day GFC informed me I couldn't follow any more blogs than I already do. I had just passed the 300 mark. After briefly googling to find out whether this is some kind of glitch or harsh reality, I knew I had to delete some of the blogs I follow from my list. No biggie. There were several which I was following only because of a giveaway (mostly cute stuff from Etsy shops I would have loved to have, but only very rarely won). So a lot of those had to go.

But somehow, or maybe inevitably, the number of book blogs I follow has also been constantly growing ever since. There are plenty of book blogs that are among my favorites, plus a couple *cough* more with high potential, and last but not least, a few where I don't even recall why I follow in the first place, but which somehow sticked around in my endless list ... and this list once again reached its max.

Actually I have been purging my blog list every now and then, ridding it of some blogs that only clogged my GFC newsfeed, but I wouldn't be writing about this today if this had been the end and not something that equals a never ending story.

So I talked myself into the mindnumbing and painstaking task of looking into each and every of the blogs I follow to see whether they're worthy to remain on my list. It took me not just a while, it took me hours, to get through all the blogs from A to D alone. The real shocker is that I'm already down to 259 and I believe I started out with around 297 or so. So yes, there are still a lot of letters in the alphabet which will further reduce the astronomical number.

An interesting question that will surly come to mind is whether this is fair to all those bloggers I used to follow and which have now one follower less all out of a sudden. Well, in a way, yes. If a blog doesn't meet my standards it has to go. Period.

So what do blogs have to provide me with to make me stay?

Entertainment
This might sound like I want a band playing just for me, or maybe you could read me a bedtime story every night ... nahhh, this is not what I mean at all. Entertain me with interesting posts, fun ones, ones that make me think, ones that make me want to check out new books, ones (memes, yay) that get me hooked so I will have to read them on a regular basis. In short - lure me in, keep up the good work and I'll stick around. Simple as that.

Regularity
It's not as though I'd expect at least one blog post a day, but if you post only twice a month, then twice a week, then twice a day, then twice a month again, you're starting to annoy me, especially if the content leaves something to be desired.

Consistency
I realize that sometimes you can't blog as regularily as you'd like to or even have to go on a blog hiatus, and I won't leave you for that. If the quality of your blog meets my taste and expectations I am more than willing to wait for you to finish an exam or return from vacation.

Apart from these, probably rather obvious, requirements there are two more things to throw into the equation.

Reviews
I like them, alright, but blogs with a reviews-only policy ... uhm, nope. Not my thing. I'm not being judgemental about the quality of your reviews here, I just want "more", you know.

Giveaways
I looove giveaways, and nooo I am not the kind of girl who will follow a blog just for free stuff (at least not when it comes to book blogs). Need proof? I'm not living in the US, so I'm not eligible for most giveaways anyway, still I will stick around on many blogs, because of the great content and not because I want to win anything.

And now I know what some of you might be thinking - why not follow all those blogs, even the "less worthy" through Google Reader? Well, I guess I could do that, but my newsfeed is packed as it is and purging my endless list of blogs has been long overdue anyway, no matter if there's a 300 maximum which you apparently can't cross (even though I recall that once I had 308 before the system refused to add more blogs).

How about you? Do you ever unfollow certain blogs? And if so, why?

May 13, 2011

Blogger's digestive problems

I guess this Friday (the 13th, of all things) saw a lot of frustrated bloggers out there (at least those who couldn't sit back and relax, because the are on wordpress, hoho) who are not amused about blogger chewing up blog posts and refusing to spit them out again. And do I really need to mention that the ones that went missing on my blog not only include today's blog post but also two postings I had prepared for next week? According to blogger they are going to bring them all back ... well, I will only believe it when I see it. Worst that can happen is that I need to rake my memory a little so I remember what I've actually written in the posts that have gone missing.
But I really don't want to sound unthankful, so THANK YOU blogger for teaching me a very valuable lesson! "Make a safety copy of every single blog post!" will be my new blogging mantra!

The Others - Tess Gerritsen

Several years after reading two of Tess Gerritsens earlier novels I happend to come across The Apprentice, part two of her Rizzoli & Isles series. I don't really know why I never read more of her books, because they certainly weren't bad, but somehow it never seemes a priority to replenish my ever growing TBR stacks. Now though I had a mission. Hunting down the rest of the series.

Being a former physicist, Tess certainly knows a lot about the trade and this consequently makes for believable writing in her medical thrillers. Her two distinctive female characters, police detective Jane Rizzoli, and medical examiner, Dr. Maura Isles, are in the meantime solving their ninth case in The Silent Girl which will be out this July. But apart from the book series, these two have also made it to the TV screen on TNT.

Personally I haven't seen any episodes of Rizzoli & Isles yet which is mainly due to the fact that the series hasn't made it across to Europe so far. Given the chance I'd obviously want to watch it ... if it weren't for the fact that Maura Isles looks so completely and totally different from what I imagined from the books that I'd first have to come to terms with this character/actress match. No idea whether I'm alone with this notion, and obviously it doesn't mean the series sucks (after all I haven't seen it yet), but it seems just so, well, wrong, if you know the books.

For all of you who only know the book series about Rizzoli & Isles, you might also want to check out some of her stand alone novels such as Life Support which is a medical thriller, or - on of my personal favorites - The Bone Garden, which is part medical thriller, part historical romance. Plus, as an interesting tid bit, Maura Isles makes a cameo in this one too. Tess Gerritsen has also writen a few romantic suspense novel earlier in her career as a novelist, but those never really tickled my fancy. Though if you love the genre of thrillers, especially those with a medical theme, I can only recommend you try out on of her books.

May 11, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - LibraryThing vs. Goodreads

Earlier this year I introduced you to both LibraryThing and Goodreads as sources for receiving books for review. Today I want to discuss the main aspect of these two sites - providing an online library for your books.

I started out with LibraryThing about a year ago. Back then I didn't even know about Goodreads, though eventually I came across that website too. While I have catalogued my whole library on LibraryThing, my Goodreads profile gets only fed with reviews as, quite frankly, I prefer the "book storage" on LibraryThing by far. So if you asked me now which of the two I prefer, I'd have to say LibraryThing. As far as an online library goes it just suits me a whole lot better. Does this mean I don't like Goodreads at all? No, because here I more than appreciate the far better networking possibilities.

So, let's see how the two fare if you line them up next to each other.

- Adding books on Librarything is simple and wonderfully accurate with the many online sources the site draws its data from. You can choose the edition/cover/language/etc. of a book. Shelving books on Goodreads works the same way. If a book cover hasn't been uploaded, you may add one on LibraryThing as well as on Goodreads though in the latter case you need to have a librarian status.

- Tagging your books on LibraryThing equals shelving on Goodreads, which is a bit misleading if you ask me. I seriously thought shelves where equal to the collections you can create for your books on LibraryThing, but they're not. If you tag your books on LibraryThing, you can literally use tons of tags for each book, have a look at your tag cloud and see what tags other users assigned to a book too. And your "shelves" aka collections won't reflect the fact you're tag-crazy.

- LibraryThing allows you to export your data three different ways. For a long time Goodreads didn't have an export feature at all, but now you can also export your library from there (and move to LibraryThing, teehee).

- LibraryThing has a wide, and even fun, range of stats for your book collection. In comparison, Goodreads has only very rudimentary stats. And as of lately, LibraryThing added even more fun features, like telling you how high all your books would be if stacked on one pile ...

Oh, and I'd need 24 U-Haul book boxes if I wanted to transport my books from A to B, which I probably won't, seeing how the idea of 24 such boxes alone already makes me hyperventilate.

- And apropos fun, while Goodreads has features such as Listopia, Quotes and Quizzes, LibraryThing isn't quite so, well, entertaining.

- On LibraryThing you can compare your library with those of other users, see how many books you have in common and view other members' most recent reviews of books you own yourself (those show up on the right side of your reviews page). Nice, but not that special.
Goodreads though implements their social networking features a whole lot better. Best proof for this is that I have only a hand full of friends on LibraryThing, but dozens on Goodreads. I mean, it's fantastic to get their news/reviews/etc. in your newsfeed. Here you get the really interesting information right on the first page. This definitely beats LibraryThing where you don't get any updates on what's happening in your friend's libraries.

- You can join a lot of different groups on both LibraryThing and Goodreads. As I rarely stop by any of the groups I honestly don't know which site offers the livelier groups, but I'm going to assume they are pretty much alike in that regard.

- LibraryThing features Early Reviewers and Member Giveaways. Winning a book here is really easy and they usually come rolling in quite often. Downside is that they are usually eBooks. Goodreads offers First Reads to its members. It's exceptionally hard to win a book here, but that's because only physical books are given away and obviously a much smaller number is available compared to eBooks on the other site.

- Both LibraryThing and Goodreads offer widgets that you can use on your own blog or website. Here, Goodread again beats LibraryThing by lengths, as it offers a bigger variety of different customizable widgets.

- The membership on LibraryThing will cost you if you add more than 200 books, then again it's not really expensive as you can actually choose how much you want to pay each year. Just ignore the warning that with only paying $1,00/year your books are facing eviction. You also have the option to go for a lifetime membership if you wish.
Goodreads is absolutely free.

Looks like we have pretty much of a tie here and, in the end, it's really a matter of your personal taste. I admit that Goodreads is better in some aspects, but I still prefer LibraryThing as my personal online library. If you only know one of these two, go ahead and browse around on the other as well. Who knows, you might be ending up on both just like I did!

May 10, 2011

Quote Garden - The Happy Place

Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever.

There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates' loot on Treasure Island and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.

When you're curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.

Get a good idea and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it's done right.

You'll be a poorer person all your life if you don't know some of the great stories and great poems.

By Walt Disney

May 9, 2011

A Writer's Life - The non-fiction reviewing front

Like most other book bloggers I am reviewing a fair share of books on my blog. While most bloggers seem to focus on all kinds of fiction, with a heavy emphasis on YA novels, I am one of those rare creatures who specializes in non-fiction reviews. That's not to say I don't read fiction, because I do, but as far as reviews go I decided to go for non-fiction, with a bit of science fiction and dystopia thrown in for good measure.

Why I chose non-fiction? Hmmm, I honestly don't know ... it just seemed like it fit my blog and at the time I started book blogging I wasn't even aware of the fact that there aren't that many non-fiction reviewers out there. Imagine my surprise when I realized that my blog-hits would skyrocket whenever a new review goes up. Mostly it's been people who searched for a certain book on Google which made their way to The Book Garden and when I checked one or two of the books myself I was stunned that they appeared (almost) right on top in Google Search. I can only assume this is partly due to the fact that non-fiction reviews are few and far between. So yes, apart from getting a lot of page views for giveaways, I was amazed how many views my reviews received. My Business Is To Create (Eric G. Wilson) has been on top for months before a giveaway hop finally outpaced it. In fact, if I look at the list of the top ten blog posts of all time, there are the inevitable giveaways and five reviews huddled between, which quite frankly isn't bad at all. On the contrary, I think it's impressive.

I don't know how "popular" reviews on other blogs are and how many page clicks those get, but feel free to comment about your own experiences, because I'm certainly curious about them.

Oh, and in case you know of other book bloggers who review non-fiction, please share. I do know a selected few bloggers who will post non-fiction titles every once in a while, but all in all it feels mighty lonely out there on the non-fiction reviewing front.

Review - The Final Summit (Andy Andrews)

Just like in the preceding book The Traveler's Gift Andy Andrews once again brings Travelers from different times together in his newest book The Final Summit. This time around David Ponder gets summoned by the archangel Gabriel to find an answer to the question that will save mankind. And time is running out.
The premise aka quest for the correct answer certainly piqued my curiosity, but I soon found out that the implementation left somewhat to be desired. After a brief recap on Ponder's past travels, the reader is briefly introduced to historical characters, the only memorable one being Winston Churchill, which help find the right answer before time's up. Historical trivia and a bit of unnecessary humor, to lighten the otherwise serious topic, are thrown into the mix.
Presenting itself in a blend of fiction and non fiction the whole story's purpose is clearly to be inspirational, and while it has been written by an Christian author, it is far from being preachy. Being a fast read, the book is certainly not very deep, neither from a philosophical nor a religious viewpoint. Even more so, I felt the book lacks one basic theme - Belief. All it provides is a cheery can-do mentality and a rather vague answer.
In short: A fascinating question brought down by a poorly executed search for an answer, this book proved to be a rather disappointing read for me.

2/5 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.”

Review - The Band That Played On (Steve Turner)

Who hasn't heard of the Titanic's tragic fate? Most of us will have seen one of the many movies or even read one of the various books about this event. While there is plenty of literature available, only little is know about the band that played on board until the bitter end.
With The Band That Played On Steve Turner presents a fascinating look at the lives of these eight men, starting with their early careers, how they became musicians and were then ultimately hired to play on the maiden voyage of the Titanic. The reader will also learn about what survivors remember about those last hours on the Titanic and, ultimately, a lot of questions will forever remain unanswered – whether or not "Nearer My God to Thee" was played in the final moments or whether these men played voluntarily or under orders.
As far as biographies go this is certainly one of the best researched books I've ever read, with a good balance of facts and speculations on the events. Yet at the same time it is so highly detailed that it ends up being a little, pardon my expression, dry. For everyone interested in history and fans of the Titanic surly a must-read, the book did drag a bit during some chapters, but was nonetheless a worthwhile read.
In short: A highly comprehensive biography of the lives of the eight musicians that went down with the Titanic.

3/5 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.”

May 8, 2011

In My Mailbox (2)

Who would have thought I'd be able to have another In My Mailbox post so soon after my very first one? Not me, that's for sure. Obviously I'm not complaining about it either.
So what clogged my mailbox this week?

Lo and behold, my book requests from Booksneeze, which I seriously thought lost, did arrive after all. Both were sitting in my mailbox this week, actually even on the same day. And all of this despite the fact that The Band That Played On (Steve Turner) has been “on the road” for roughly two months, while The Final Summit (Andy Andrews) obviously made it onto a rowboat with faster oarsmen, still taking about six weeks or so. Frankly, I wouldn't have thought them missent to Australia if it weren't for the fact that Booksneeze requests never took longer than four weeks to reach me … oh, the mysteries of postal services. Though in the end, I'm just really glad both finally arrived.

Additionally I splurged a bit on two books I had my eye on for a little while now. I'm a huge fan of Disney World and simply couldn't resist. Say hello to The Hidden Magic Of Walt Disney World (Susan Veness) and The Complete Walt Disney World 2011 (Julie and Mike Neal). Really looking forward to sticking my nose in these two. I'd say, only visiting Disney World is better!

Once again, thanks to The Story Siren for hosting the IMM meme!

Books Aplenty - Reviews, here we come!

I've been an awful good girl this week. Not only did I read four books, those books were all for review. Like I said, been a good girl.

As my reviews will be going up during the course of the next week, I'm not going to babble all that much about them today and will share just a few random thoughts about them.

Exchange (Dale R. Cozort) is an adventure set in a world where places of Earth will occasionaly be "exchanged" with parts on another world. Fascinating idea. Two-dimensional characters. And the romance part was superfluous.

Those That Wake (Jesse Karp) is a mixture of dystopia and science fiction where people are suddenly confronted with the fact that they are completely "forgotten" by family and friends. Awesome premise with a touch of Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers meets The Matrix. Greatly devised characters. Not quite what I consider a YA novel though.

The Band That Played On (Steve Turner) is a tribute to the eight musicians that went down with the Titanic. Amazingly well researched the book certainly does those men justice, though, if you pardon my expression, the book was a bit dry in parts.

The Final Summit (Andy Andrews) is about the archangel Gabriel bringing together so called "Travelers" to answer "the question to save humanity". Interesting idea. Supposedly inspirational. Though it didn't captivate me at all. Others might like it, I didn't.

What's new?

Through the LibraryThing Member Giveaways I received No Alibi (Jenny Hilborn), Death After Midnight (Dean Fetzer), Rise Of The Raven (Steven R. Drennon), Memoirs Of An Antihero (Drew Blank) and Summoning (Debi Faulkner).

From Christianbook I once again downloaded a number of free eBooks this week, namely It Happens Every Spring (Catherine Palmer), Disaster Status (Candace Calvert), Too Close To Home (Lynette Eason), A Tailor-Made Bride (Karen Witemeyer) and Shrouded In Silence (Robert Wise).

Inevitably Sourcebooks had some eBook promotions as well, which ended with me downloading Songs For A Teenage Nomad (Kim Culbertson), SEALed With A Kiss (Mary Margret Daughtridge), One Lucky Cowboy (Carolyn Brown) and A Secret In Salem (Sheri Anderson).

Having just recently discovered Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab I also looted their monthly newsletter for interesting books to review. I picked Blood Red Road (Moira Young), I'm Kind Of A Big Deal (Stefanie Wilder-Taylor) and The Judas Gospel (Bill Myers).

We have a winner ...

... alright, in fact we have two winners!

Before I let you in on who the lucky winners of the 100 Followers Giveaway are, I want to thank you all for participating. It was interesting finding out about where you prefer to buy your books. As for myself, I am buying pretty much all my books online these days, but some years back (when I didn't have internet access, that is) I've been looting all the big bookstores in Vienna on a regular basis. I like the variety online bookshops offer as much as it's convenient to get everything delivered and I don't need to haul those heavy tomes home myself.

But now, without further ado, I present to you the winners ...

Tiffany Drew

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

Didn't win? You'll soon get another chance.
I'll be participating in the Splash Into Summer Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Page Turners. See ya then!

May 7, 2011

Pajama Musings - The Postage Rant

Who isn't aware of ridiculously high postage rates no matter which country you might live in. This quite often, and understandably, translates into giveaways only being open in certain areas, eg US only. With all the giveaways I had on my blog so far, I had prizes which I sent out personally. The rates were expensive, but more or less affordable. But these times are over now, because the Austrian Postal Service did not only raise national and international postage rates, they did so in a devious way which almost made me fly into a homicidal rage when I sent of a letter this week.

Devious? Well, on first glance things look deceivingly comprehensible with only five different types of rates for letters up to 2kg (anything above will be parcel mail due to the weight). Things do get a bit complicated though, because you need to be very careful about the measurements of the letter you want to send.

Homicidal? If you had to suddenly pay €3,80 instead of €2,50 you wouldn't be amused either.

To give you a better idea of just how bad it is, let's assume I'd want to send a paperback to the US. Let's say the book weighs about 300g or 10,5 oz ... let's also say the book itself is about 2,5cm or 1in thick and with a padded envelope it'd be maybe 3cm or 1,5in thick.

Sending such a book by economy mail would have cost me €5,45 last week (that would be about $7,60 with the current exchange rate). This week such an economy letter would cost - and you should seriously sit down now - €21,80 (which would be $30,50).

I am so NOT making this up!!!

And admittedly you could pack a whole lot more into that letter for the same price (up to the aforementioned 2kg), but the point is that if you only wanted to send this one book, you'd still pay as much.

This big jump in rates doesn't make sense to you? To me neither. Basically you have to pay the Maxi-Letter rate for everything that's thicker than 2,5cm, which equals an inch. So while it used to be a matter of how heavy something was, it's now a matter of ... well, I don't know ... insanity?

With postage rates like that it would, quite frankly, be crazy to even think about sending things overseas. So thank you for all the other wonderful options for giveaways, such as Amazon GCs or The Book Depository.

'Nuff said.

May 6, 2011

The Others - Erich Kästner

When you're not from Austria or Germany you've probably never heard about Erich Kästner in your life. Or so you might be thinking, just reading the name. I'm pretty sure you've come across some of his books one way or another, most likely through a movie adaption. But first things first, so I'll tell you a bit more about him.

Kästner was a German author, best known for his children's literature, using humour to expose human folly and social ills. His work includes books such as Emil And The Detectives, with which he first earned widespead fame, The Flying Classroom and Lottie And Lisa.
Especially the Emil books (yes, there were more books about those children detectives to follow) played an important role in popularising the sub-genre of "Children Detectives", later taken up by other writers of children's books such as Enid Blyton.
I believe I read almost all of his books several times as a kid and needless to say I loved them.

Still not sure how you may know any of his works?
You mightn't have heard of Lottie And Lisa before, but remember a movie called The Parent Trap. This Disney movie is based on Erich Kästner's book and it's been adapted for the movies several times. The one with Lindsey Lohan is the newest, but the one that came out in the 60s had a lot more charm if you ask me.
You could say that if it hadn't been for Walt Disney, Kästner would have never gained international popularity (despite the sad fact that you'll probably link the movie only to Disney and not the author himself).

As far as English translations of his many children's books are concerned, only a selected few of his books (see above) came out in English. Yet, if you want to read one of them you'd probably have a hard time finding bookstores that still sell them.

May 5, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness - May

Book Soulmates hosts this wonderful monthly event and this is the second time I participate! I sure had fun giving and receiving books last months, so here's to May!

If you love books, love to receive them, and love to give them - this might be just the thing for you too!

Rules
• Sign up each month you'd like to participate in.
• Show off your participation! Grab one of the buttons available :)
• Create a wish list and post it in the Google Doc located in each R.A.K post for the month. {Post on your blog, Amazon, where ever as long as there's a link to it.}
• If you choose to do a R.A.K for someone, check out their wish list and contact that blogger for their address.
• At the end of the month, SHOW US YOUR R.A.K!
Make a post saying 'Thank You' to whoever granted one of your wishes and share it with us :)

OPEN TO EVERYONE!
Let's keep our International bloggers in mind and in our hearts.
Remember, there's always the Book Depository and they offer FREE shipping!

My own wishlist can be found at the Book Depository.

Picture Garden - Lucky Charm

"LUCKY CHARM"
Could there be a more perfect good luck charm for a writer than this?

May 4, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Sprucing up your blog

You might have already seen this on other blogs, or even mine - a little button that tells you when the blog's birthday or anniversary aka blogoversary is. This is a neat little gadget you can get from the Blogoversary website. Just feed it with all the details of your blog and you'll receive the HTML code to put it in your sidebar.


Something else entirely is Read the Printed Word with which you take the pledge to, well, read the printed word. You can choose from several different types of buttons, whichever you like best. And while I admittedly do read eBooks, I definitely prefer real books, so this little button had to go on my sidebar too.


And in case you're not only a reader, but also a writer, I recommend this little button, or shall I say reminder, to you. Debbie Ridpath Ohi created the 1000 Words A Day Challenge to inspire writers to ... write. You don't have to aim for the 1000 words if you don't want to as there's also the option to choose 500 or 250 words.