March 31, 2011

March 30, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Bookish records

Who hasn't heard about the Guinness World Records? But have you also heard about some seriously awesome records regarding books?

Here are just some bookish records:

The smallest ever printed book measures 0.9 x 0.9 mm and is an edition of 'Chameleon' by the Russian author Anton Chekhov. The book was made and published by Anatoliy Konenko, of Omsk, Siberia, Russia in 1996. Each book consists of 30 pages, has three color illustrations and 11 lines of text to a page.

Bertha Wood (UK; b. 20 June 1905) had her first book, Fresh Air and Fun: The Story of a Blackpool Holiday Camp published on her 100th birthday on 20 June 2005.

The thickest published book measures 322 mm (12.67 in) in width and was unveiled by HarperCollins in London, UK, on 20 May 2009. All Agatha Christie's Miss Marple stories - 12 novels and 20 short stories - are collected and published in this volume.

The world´s largest fine for an overdue library book is $345.14 (£203.29), the amount owed at two cents a day for the poetry book Days and Deeds checked out of Kewanee Public Library, Illinois, USA in April 1955 by Emily Canellos-Simms. Although the book was due back 19 April 1955, Emily found it in her mother´s house 47 years later and presented the library with a check for overdue fines.

The most languages into which the same book has been translated is The Way to Happiness by L. Ron Hubbard (USA), which can be read in 70 languages as of 2010, including Hindi, Samoa and Uzbek.

And now, how about setting your own record?
You could try to climb 123 stairs in a minute whilst balancing a book on your head (record stands at 122 stairs) or you might want to write a book with a real long title (just keep in mind that the longest is 1,086 words long).
For more inspirations just head on over to the Guinness World Records site.

March 29, 2011

Quote Garden - A cup of tea

There is a great deal of poetry and fine sentiment in a chest of tea.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins.
Charles Lamb

Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.
Catherine Douzel

To a philosopher all news, as it is called, is gossip, and they who edit and read it are old women over their tea.
Henry David Thoreau

You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.
C.S. Lewis

March 28, 2011

A Writer's Life - Naming names

To some it might come naturally. Others will dwell upon it for days, or longer. This quest for the perfect name is probably tougher than for parents-to-be who're searching for a name for their baby. Then again, maybe not. After all with a baby there are two people trying to find a common ground. With a book you're usually the only person to decide. Of course you have to make a whole lot of decisions unless the book's a one-(wo)man-show. But back to finding those names.

Naming your characters is sometimes easy, yet there are moments when the name that first comes to mind just doesn't seem right at all and you end up searching for a suitable one for ever. Admittedly though, most of the time when I think up a character the name is part of the package. Or I've got at least a general idea in what direction the name will go. The hard part is when I have a character right in front of my imaginative nose and he or she remains this entity that refuses to be named and will consequently smirk at you every time you offer a name you find suitable, but your character simply disagrees with your opinion. Alright, in case anyone's wondering whether I hold long conversations, not to say disputes, with figments of my imagination, than you're spot on. I do. I guess my imagination has reached the point where characters really do have a life of their own and they not only prove it when they refuse being graced with a name they don't like, but they quite often take over reins throughout the story too. Makes you wonder who's the story-teller after all.

Though, back to the names. Every writer will have their own sources when it comes to giving characters names. Some even use name creators which I personally tried out just for the fun of it, but with no intention whatsoever to use the results the computer presented to me. Not even for names meant for alien creatures on alien planets. I mean, seriously, if you manage to create whole new worlds you should be able to create names for the inhabitants of said worlds too.

Now, how am I generally going on a hunt for names?

First of all I have a penchant for Irish names, and secondly I often, though not always, look out for the meanings of names before I decide which one fits. Most importantly though, a name needs to sound right, and feel right. And while I usually stick to a certain name from the beginning, it does sometimes happen that I will change it for one reason or another.

Oh and not to forget another detail – I don't repeat names. Quirky, I know. So if a name has been used once than it belongs to this character and will not be shared. Hopefully I won't ever run out of names, or rather the good names, that way. Then again, I could simply revert to solely writing science fiction and invent new names on a weekly basis. Problem solved.

March 27, 2011

Books Aplenty - Give or take a dozen

Compared to the last few weeks I've been quite lazy this week. I only read one book, Northlight (Deborah Wheeler) and it's not even a fat and heavy tome. Though in the end it's about the quality, not the quantity, and this book provided exactly that. A wonderfully drawn world with superbly devised characters this science fiction novel was one of the best books I've read in the last weeks, if not months. Admittedly it's been a bit wordily in parts, and for some readers this might even translate into a tedious experience, but that's something that worked well with this novel and pulled me right into the story. If you like strange worlds, and horses, I can only recommend to read this one.

As to my book loot this week, I received A Modern Witch (Debora Geary) through LibraryThing, and I won the eBook Icarus Rising (David Pauly) on I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

In addition I received a Mystery Box which I ordered from Christianbook – what can I say, I just can't resist surprise boxes – and while I'm still as frugal as humanly possible I had to spoil myself a little bit with the money I made through my online sales. I splurged on a gorgeous Thomas Kinkade key chain and coin purse, and I threw in the Mystery Box for good measure.
Admittedly not all of the books will go on my TBR pile though. The ones that do are The Enclave (Karen Hancock), Third Time's A Charm (Virginia Smith), Flabbergasted (Ray Blackstone), Splitting Harriet (Tamara Leigh) and The Final Crumpet (Ron and Janet Benrey). Two of the books (there were ten in the box) will make a fantastic prize for one of my next giveaways as much as I'm tempted to actually keep those too. And the other three I might give away or sell, we'll see.

Side note – when I got the these-books-will-go-to-charity boxes ready for pick up this week I found five unread books in a corner which I haven't listed as TBRs either. Oh my. I risked a glance at the number of books that I plan to read one of these days, or at least in this lifetime, and the total is 291.
I remember early on this year I exclaimed there'd be 236 books to be read and I've managed to read 34 of them. Where on earth did those 89 books come from? I remember adding new ones almost every week, but apart from that one week, not so long ago, when I fell into a download frenzy, which is partly to blame, I honestly don't recall I've been book hoarding that much. Argh.

March 26, 2011

Pajama Musings - The girl with the cooking spoon

For someone as averse to kitchen chores as yours truly it may come as quite a surprise to learn that among all the many many books I own are also a few cookbooks. Admittedly I don't own tons of them, but yes, there are some taking up valuable shelf space.

Yep, the girl who needs a compass to find the kitchen owns half a dozen cookbooks.

Now you might wonder why I even have those few books when I'm obviously not putting them to good use. Well, that's actually a good question. Oddly enough I've been prone to buy them over the years for two reasons. In most cases simply because I liked all the yummy pictures and the particular book was such a bargain that I just couldn't pass on. And in one or two cases I had a weak moment where I thought that maybe, just maybe, I should do something about my non existent cooking skills. Last but not least, let's not forget those books I received as gifts. And you better not comment on that now.

Before anyone gets the impression that I'm merely able to cook water, or at the most, have the ability to prepare convenience food, let me assure you that in fact I'm not that useless in the kitchen. I'm able to prepare quite a number of meals and no one ever got insured or even killed eating them. I swear. What's actually to blame for this misconception concerning my cooking skills is the fact that I refuse to spend more than thirty minutes on cooking something, and that time starts the moment I open the fridge and ends when I turn off the stove. So when I cook, I cook fast.

And believe it or not, I'm even receiving compliments on the meals I make. Granted, I'm not 100% sure if people are just glad they survived the culinary trip and are consequently surprised to live on. After all, with the threat of possible poisoning, everything that doesn't make you puke right away, probably tastes good. Alright, I should seriously stop making fun of my cooking abilities, before even my blog followers start believing I shouldn't touch a cooking spoon ...

March 25, 2011

The Others - Terry Pratchett

These days I'm a lot more adventurous when it comes to new authors or genres that I usually don't read. I guess over the years I learned that being open for new kinds of reading experiences has, more often than not, been worth delving into unknown territory.

The first time I heard about Terry Pratchett has been one of those moments when I stubbornly refused to give it a try. Hadn't it been for an equally persistent friend who practically forced … uhm, favored me with one of his books on my birthday I wouldn't have known what I was missing out on. She knew I didn't read fantasy. Yet she didn't quite care, convinced that I must like Terry's books. That happened some 15 odd years ago and I'm still thankful that I was introduced to the wonderful Discworld novels.

The book that started it all was actually a 2-in-1 edition with The Light Fantastic and Equal Rites. Admittedly I liked the first one better, the one about the wizards, than the one staring the witches. Still, I was hooked either way and slowly started to hunt down Pratchett's books in bookstores. After getting all the “old” ones, I religiously waited for new ones to be published and was usually the first to lay hands on them the moment they hit the shelves. So far there are 37 Discworld novels, and yes, I have them all.

Those who are familiar with his books usually have their favorite series too. Mine must be the City Watch books, such as Guards! Guards! and Men At Arms closely followed by the Death books, such as Mort and Hogfather. Not to say the others aren't good though, in the end that's just a matter of your personal taste. And let's not forget there are also some stand-alone novels from the Discworld Universe with some of the recurring characters from other novels making a short appearance, while telling the stories of newly introduced and often very unique characters. Going Postal is one of those books I can only recommend.

What makes reading Pratchett's books so much fun is the perfect combination of the world he created and the memorable characters living in it. Seasoned with a great sense of humor. Served with a wonderfully engaging writing style.

And now. Go and read one of his books.

And alright, in case you're one of the lazy sort, you may try one of the TV adaptations of his books too. So far there are three: Hogfather, The Color Of Magic and Going Postal. While they're really not bad, I urge you to read the books first. You'll love them.

March 24, 2011

Review - Outside In (Maria V. Snyder)

The second in the series, Outside In by Maria V. Snyder once again delves into the dystopian / science fiction universe she created in Inside Out. While I never read the first book, which can often be problematic when reading books from a series, I had no trouble to delve right into the story.
After finding out that there's a whole new world outside the cube Trella lives in, and slowly settling into a live where “scrubs” and “uppers” are equals, explosions in key areas of the ship rattle its inhabitants. Are these acts by angry ex-scrubs or from someone else entirely? Maybe even someone from outside?
Narrated by Trella this is a truly engaging story story with well developed characters, great dialogues and twists and turns around every corner. Especially Trella's relationship with The Traitor aka her mother is nicely wrought and the romantic touch the story gets through her relationship with Riley fits right in with the plot. Most of all it's the girl herself that breathes so much life into the story as she's one of the rare characters who comes across as very real with her thoughts and emotions.
While not every YA novel can be equally enjoyed by both younger audiences and adults, this one is certainly a great read I can recommend to all ages.
In short: A fantastic science fiction novel that literally begs to be continued!

4/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the 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 - Invasion (Jon S. Lewis)

With Invasion Christian author Jon S. Lewis presents an adventurous science fiction novel in the first installment of his A C.H.A.O.S. Novel series.
What starts off with the death of Colt McAlister's parents in a car accident, soon develops into a fast paced story with a thrilling premise of conspiracy theory meets alien invasion. Together with his friends Dani and Oz, Colt soon finds out that this accident was actual murder and that there is still more at risk than the world could possibly imagine, because the invasion already started.
This book offers not only likable and well devised characters – especially the glimpse you get into Colt's emotional state after his parent's death is very well written – but the reader is also supplied with a lot of stunning action scenes and fun dialogues. And while there is a bit of a love story included too, it certainly doesn't get in the way of the main thing – an action packed plot.
Last but not least – written by a Christian author, the book does not fall into the category of Christian literature, with only few mentions of bible studies or going to church throughout the story.
While many YA books can be read by adults too, and I admittedly really liked this novel, I recommend it mostly for a younger audience.
In short: An enjoyable read with science fiction elements for everyone who likes action packed stories!

3/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the 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.”

Picture Garden - Makeover

Even inanimate objects can do with a bit of a facelift
just like this old bridge wished to be young again
and loosing its charm along the way.

March 23, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Nitpicking

Are you a nitpicker? I certainly am. After all, it's all in the details, isn't it?
Some tiny little mistakes might not catch your eye immediately, but then there are those that jump at you in such an obvious manner that it really makes you wonder why some authors don't invest some of their time spent on planning and plotting to create a list with important “landmarks” of their story and characters. I make lists. Really. It helps a lot. And it ensures that a character will have those green eyes from the first through the last page and not suddenly impress anyone with dark brown eyes instead.

The websites Bookmistakes and Slipups are dedicated to all kinds of mistakes that can be found in books. Not restricted to characters with changing eye colors, but also details like cars with four doors which in fact should only have two (not as though I could actually name a specific model now, hey, I'm a girl, I distinguish cars by their color) or flaws in history (there is something called research, argh).

Here are just some of the mistakes that will (or maybe not) make you chuckle (unless you're the author, than you have every right to cringe):

From Stephenie Meyer's Twilight
When Edward is telling Carlisle's history to Bella, he says that Carlisle actually found a coven of true vampires that lived hidden in the sewers of the city. The vampires couldn't have been hidden inside the sewers because there weren't any. The sewage system was only built around 1859, and Carlisle found the vampires around 1660-1670.

From Stephen King's It
Eddie's broken arm changes around, sometimes it's the left arm that's broken, sometimes it's the right.

From Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451
In the first part of the novel, when Montag is thinking about Clarisse, it says that he sees her shaking a walnut tree every once and a while, but hen it starts talking about how she leaves chestnuts in a basket on his front porch, and how she was rattling a chestnut.

March 22, 2011

Quote Garden - I've got an idea ...

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.
George Bernard Shaw

A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.
Victor Hugo

My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.
Anais Nin

When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools.
Michael Leboeuf

March 21, 2011

50 Followers Giveaway

My blog has reached 50 followers today
and ya all know what this means, right?

It's time for a giveaway!!

Want to win these goodies?

“Reading Lamp” and "Reading Is Sexy" magnet

Mandatory Entry (= 1 entry)

Publicly follow The Book Garden through Google Friend Connect
leave a comment with your answer to this question:
What is your preferred place to read a good book?

Don't forget to leave your e-mail address in your comment so I can contact you if you are the winner!

For additional entries (please leave a separate comment for each):

Write about this giveaway in your own blog and leave a link (= 1 entry)

Additionally you may follow my other blog The Travel Garden (=1 entry)

So you have up to three chances to enter.

This giveaway is open to readers worldwide.

The giveaway ends on April 9th and the winner will be randomly chosen on April 10th.

The winner will be announced here on my blog.

I will also contact the winner by e-mail and he/she has 48 hours to reply or an alternate winner will be chosen.

P.S.: I'm not going to be super-strict about the order of your entries to the giveaway, so if you should accidentally start by leaving a comment with one of the additional options to enter, that's ok - just don't forget to add the mandatory one afterwards!

A Writer's Life - My Book

Recently I stumbled over some relics from my early days of being creative. Poetry.

So, yes, as a teenager I obviously felt the need to write poems. A lot of them too. I also remember that I jotted down quite a number during class, while I should have concentrated on stuff like the economy of Brazil or probability calculus or whatever boring stuff they tried to teach us in school. Reading them now is really strange, because I remember the emotions behind them or how, in some cases, I simply played with words. Some of the poems still feel beautiful to me. Others seem crude.

I'm not even sure why I kept all those poems. You see, I had the habit of throwing out writings I considered junk, and trust me, my teenage phase was one long ride of awful writing that still makes me shudder despite the fact that the gruesome evidence is long gone. It was only in later years that I realized that, as a writer, you must go through those dark valleys called practice. My very own middle ages of writing. My coming of age. It all made me the writer I am today. And fortunately, while I might delete a sentence here or a paragraph there, I don't have to get rid of whole books because they, plain and simple, suck. While I matured, I've still got a lot to learn though, but that's just part of the fun when you love to write.

Though, back to my poems. I've never written any since my teenage days. Well, actually that's not quite true. In my twenties I had a short interlude where I toyed around with English poetry. I still have those too. And while they might not exactly move me into the vicinity of the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, a number of them are kind of neat, others just utterly depressing, some make me smile, while other's have lost their meaning.

My Book
This book has got a hundred pages
on every other I choose to write.
This book has got a thousand pages
on every other the words collide.
This book has got a million faces
and each has got my blue eyes.
My book hasn’t got any pages
but on the first I start to write.

I wrote this poem sometime in the mid 90s and it still touches me today.

March 20, 2011

Books Aplenty - The *drumroll* week

Last week's reading ended with an YA novel, so I thought why not stay right there and continue with one this week. So my first pick to read was Outside In (Maria V. Snyder) which dips into two of my preferred genres – dystopia and science fiction. As I'm fairly new to YA books I am always hoping it will prove to be an enjoyable read for an adult (that would be me) too. And while Invasion was definitely more appropriate for a younger audience I was thrilled that Outside In is really suitable for “older” readers too. Unfortunately I started out with this book without reading the first installment Inside Out, which means that I really have to get my hands on that one too. And I'm praying there will be a sequel. Sigh. How obvious is it that I liked this book and it's premise, and let's not forget the great characters? Especially Sheepy. Hehe.

Now I know what Novel Nibbles are. Matchmakers 2.0 (Debora Geary) is a short piece of chick lit, highly entertaining with fun characters though much too short in my opinion. Lots of lovely brain candy potential there and it's disappointing (even though obviously done on purpose) that it's over before it's really begun.

A wonderful collection of short-stories, Coyote Ugly (Pati Nagle) was a book I've been overlooking for too long in my virtual TBR stacks and I finally ended up reading it in only two sittings. You'll have to be into fantasy and science fiction though to fully appreciate these stories. And liking the paranormal doesn't hurt either. At first I was surprised about the variety of genres and the different yet distinctive narratives, but it all fit together so perfectly that I was almost shocked how low the review ratings on LibraryThing are. Well, I'll change that with my own review very soon. Though, with my current backlog of reviews waiting to be written. Argh.

This week's loot is nowhere near what I managed to add last week. Thank you very much. And no, I'm not being sarcastic here. Alright, maybe a little bit.

I received two books through LibraryThing, namely Heirs Of Mars and The Burning Sky (Joseph Robert Lewis). In addition I won the eBook versions (why am I even pointing that out, after all 90% of books I receive are eBooks these days) of A Dead Man's Debt (Grace Elliot) on As the Pages Turn and Tomorrow's Guardian (Richard Denning) on The Slowest Bookworm. Then let's not forget a free download from a Fresh Fiction author, namely The Bride Price (Tracey Jane Jackson).

Plus *drumroll* I managed to snag Millie's Fling (Jill Mansell) through a promotion on Sourcebooks, woot! The best about that one is that I had it on my wishlist for quite some time now – ah, the joys of being patient and saving money!

And now *another drumroll please* I am proud to announce that I also received a book, yes, a real physical one, that I've recently won on Book Lovers Inc, a signed copy of Invitation To Ruin (Bronwen Evans) and while reviews of the novel aren't all that good I'm still thrilled simply because of the fact that this is the first signed book I ever received, yay!

March 19, 2011

Pajama Musings - Book hoarding

Everyone who's guilty of owning obscene amounts of books, please raise your hands. Well, alright, a free hand will do as the other one is surly holding on to a book. But seriously, looming and towering stacks of books adorn the homes of many of us book addicts and sooner or later the question is whether to go for a suspended ceiling (and consequently develop a hunch, because this reduces the height of the room considerably) or to get rid of books.
Yes, rid. You read that correctly.

Admittedly I'm often joking about the suspended ceiling, but unfortunately it's not a very realistic scenario for my apartment. My preferred alternative would obviously be to have my very own library in an old turn of the century house, but well, funds are a little low for that. Add the fact that such a library would deserve the finest hardback editions and not paperbacks that, often bought used, look like they've been dragged through half the continent before being shelved.

So we're back to the option of getting rid of books. I'm certainly not talking about all books, mind you. Books from my favorite authors and generally books I love will always have a safe place on my bookshelves, but then there are those that I read once and never look at again. And over time these start to take away much needed space for new books. You get the idea.

So I'm doing two things. I sell them and/or I give them away.

After fighting off the initial separation anxiety, I one day started selling books. And when I realized that the pain wasn't all to bad and how it not only translates into free shelf space but, even better, leaves you with money to purchase new occupants for said shelf, I was hooked. Of course this whole selling and buying and selling again thing is a bit of a catch-22 but you won't hear me complaining. Why would I? I love books.

Apart from selling I also give books away. You know the kind of stuff that's a serious shelf hugger? Well, that goes for books as much as for any other item that no one wants to buy. That means that over time I get sick and tired of waiting for sellers and give whole boxes of books away for charity. I will usually give other things away too, like nick-nacks or DVDs. The emphasis is always on trying to maintain at least a small walkable path through all rooms and not to transform this place into a junk yard of the papery kind.

Now I wonder, how do you cope with your own book mountains?
I'm really curious how other book lovers deal with this, so let me know.

March 18, 2011

The Others - Thomas Kinkade

Todays candidate for my Friday feature on different authors might seem a bit different at first glance. Granted, Thomas Kinkade is best known for his paintings, but some of my favorite books are “by” him, so he definitely deserves a place here.

If there is such a thing as a go-to book when I'm in a contemplative mood than it must be his Masterworks of Light book featuring many of his paintings and the stories behind them. I can sit here for quite a bit just soaking in all the details and learning more about the background of each painting. And let's not forget the inspirational part of it – I draw my ideas from many channels, but dipping into a Kinkade painting is definitely one I love best. I could seriously live in one of his paintings as na├»ve or weird this may sound to anyone else.

But did you know that there are “real” Thomas Kinkade books out there too? Granted, they are co-written by Kathrine Spencer, but definitely inspired by him not only through the cover featuring one of his paintings, but mostly through his ideas.

The most popular novels are probably the Cape Light books, On Christmas Eve being the latest. If you love Christian contemporary/romance novels you will certainly have heard about this series or have even read some of the books. I must confess my love for Kinkade never crossed the border to these books, but then again I have my go-to book and that's inspirational enough for me for now.

March 17, 2011

Picture Garden - A Touch Of Spring

Spring is making an effort on the still barren earth.

March 16, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Blogthings

Do you like quizzes?
Then you're going to love the ones that Blogthings has got to offer on the topics of reading and writing, i.e. Reading Blogthings and Writing Blogthings. So hop over and have fun now.

Here are just some of the results I got …

You Are an Ebook
You are ultra modern and cutting edge. You don't want to have to wait for anything if you don't have to.
You love technology, and you always are up for trying out the latest and greatest gadget.

Your tastes tend to fall outside the mainstream. You often can't find what you're looking for at a regular store.
You aren't the most patient person in the world. If you see something you want, you've got to have it as soon as possible!

You Are Fantasy / Sci Fi
You have an amazing imagination, and in your mind, all things are possible.
You are open minded, and you find the future exciting. You crave novelty and progress.

Compared to most people, you are quirky and even a bit eccentric. You have some wacky ideas.
And while you may be a bit off the wall, there's no denying how insightful and creative you are.

Your Blogging Type is Confident and Insightful
You've got a ton of brain power, and you leverage it into brilliant blog.
Both creative and logical, you come up with amazing ideas and insights.
A total perfectionist, you find yourself revising and rewriting posts a lot of the time.
You blog for yourself - and you don't care how popular (or unpopular) your blog is!

You Are a Haiku
Like a tree swaying
You are simple yet changing
Living in the now

March 15, 2011

Review - The Girl's Guide To Homelessness (Brianna Karp)

In times likes these homelessness is something that can happen to everyone so easily that it's downright scary. The Girl's Guide To Homelessness recounts the story of Brianna Karp who found herself in this situation from one day to the next. Being stranded in an old trailer that she was allowed to park on a Walmart parking lot she started to blog about her life as homeless girl, soon trying to alleviate common misconceptions of homelessness.
Frankly, this memoir leaves you wishing that it is only fiction, because you'd never want a person to have to live through all of this. In other words, it is brutally honest, touching and shocking, and certainly not for the faint of heart.
Split in mainly three big themes, homelessness being one of them, Brianna writes about her highly dysfunctional family and her upbringing as Jehovah's Witness, as well as her relationship with Matt whom she got to knew through blogging. While these three parts obviously interconnect, the result unfortunately feels crude and imbalanced. Even taking into consideration that a memoir will rarely comprise of just one topic in one's life, some parts – especially about Matt – were, in my opinion, blown out of proportion. So, while the content as such moved me deeply, the execution left me somewhat disappointed.
In short: A touching memoir not only about homelessness but also about perseverance of “a homeless girl”.

3/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the 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 - God Soul Mind Brain (Michael S.A. Graziano)

Being both a Neuroscientist and a novelist, Michael S.A. Graziano delves into the subject of our perception of the world in his latest book God Soul Mind Brain: A Neuroscientist's Reflections On The Spirit World, explaining how the perceptions of the world depend on machinery in the brain.
In clear language and with helpful examples like the one of the red apple which, in fact, isn't red as color is just an invented attribute computed inside our heads, the author takes the reader on a fascinating journey through perception, illusion and consciousness, as well as explaining the machinery aka the brain that enables us to perceive. Presenting underlying concepts, rather than implementing a vast amount of scientific details, this is a truly fascinating little book which is highly comprehensible written as the technical jargon is really kept to the absolute minimum.
Despite what some might think when reading the title of the book, Graziano doesn't try to explain God away in the sense of dismissal, but instead tries to find a deeper understanding of the world. Closing the book with brief speculations on religion as cultural phenomenon the reader is left with a different approach to the origin of religious beliefs and in the end it is up the each individual how we perceive God. Through the mind, the heart, or both.
In short: A profound little book on how we perceive the material and immaterial world, including God. And apples.

4/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the 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.”

Quote Garden - If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.

Go to heaven for the climate and hell for the company.

Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.

By Mark Twain

March 14, 2011

A Writer's Life - Red pen

Remember my post from two weeks ago?
Yep, still rummaging in the attic.

While this might sound like dusty business *cough* it's actually more like a space adventure to me. New territory, you see. And because every good explorer needs to have their side kick I found myself one too. In fact, she volunteered and has now no chance of escape. Once you sign a deal you're in it.

But fun aside. My friend Amy volunteered to edit my text even though she didn't get out her red pen so far. I obviously asked her not to when I showed her my first draft, in fear that her red pen might have a field day. She did compliment my English though, which hopefully translates into her red pen not running out of ink before she's done with the whole text.
And apart from her editoral duties Amy also gave me my first feedback on the idea as such. She loves it, so it's got to be all uphill from here.

As this is really a new thing to me when it comes to writing - not just because of the language, but also because of the genre - I'm taking baby steps. Yet I'm currently standing at about half of the estimated amount of pages for this project. Alright. It's going to be a short book. I admit that much. Other than that, I will not give anything more away. Though, rest assured, I'll keep you all updated once this baby is on the way.

March 13, 2011

Books Aplenty - Too many to count

Curious about what I read this week?
Here goes.

I started off with yet another mystery novel (see last week) Play it again, Spam (Tamar Myers). As I've never read any Amish books before I was certainly curious about it. I mean I've seen that there are Amish novels out there, but they all seemed more of the contemporary/romantic sort, while this one promised a female sleuth solving a crime. Starting off with an unexpected humorous introduction to the main character, Mrs Yoder, it was all downhill from there. Her snippy personality already started to annoy me by page two. And as far as the story goes, well, there isn't much of a story. Unless you count Mrs Yoder's constant quarrels with the guests of her B&B and other town folk a story. And the only dead body that showed up in the book was the “bad guy” that got killed through a collapsing roof (divine intervention, definitely) on the last few pages. Bottom line – it never ceases to amaze me what kind of junk gets published.

When my new eReader arrived on Tuesday I decided to part from the looming stack of mysteries still waiting to be read and go straight for some of my NetGalley loot.

First came God Soul Mind Brain (Michael S.A. Graziano) which didn't quite hold up to the promise of the title as far as the content goes. This book is basically about how our perceptions of our own consciousness, of other minds, and also God, depend on machinery in the brain. A truly fascinating little book, highly comprehensible written for everyone to understand (the technical jargon is really kept to the absolute minimum) it doesn't try to explain God away, but it certainly offers a different approach to the origin of religious beliefs.

What I've been really looking forward to was The Girl's Guide To Homelessness (Brianna Karp) which in the end left me torn as to whether I find it a good read or not. On one hand this memoir is brutally honest, touching and shocking, the kind where you literally wish it is fiction, because you'd never want a person to have to live through all of this. On the other hand the book is split in mainly three big themes, the homelessness being (only) one of them. Another part is about her highly dysfunctional family, plus her upbringing as Jehovah's Witness. And lastly, there is the part about her relationship with Matt which, in my opinion, has been blown out of proportion, especially compared to the rest of the book. These three parts do interconnect, but still, to me, the whole book seemed crude and imbalanced. So, while the content as such touched me, the implementation of it all in this book just didn't convince me. I really wish I could say I loved this book, but it honestly disappointed.

Then I decided to go for some fiction with the YA novel Invasion (Jon S. Lewis) which is an adventurous science fiction novel. Well written, with likable characters and packed with fast paced action scenes, this book offers a thrilling premise of conspiracy theory meets alien invasion. I really enjoyed this book. Even though it's not the best science fiction novel I've ever read, it's definitely a entertaining read, of course aimed at a younger audience, but fun for adults too.

I don't even know where to begin with this week's book loot. Seriously. It is really that bad.

First of all I realized that I completely forgot the illustrated Jane Austen books I downloaded for free from Sourcebooks last year. Forgot in the sense of adding them to my TBR on LibraryThing.
Emma, Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey, Persuasion, Pride And Prejudice and Sense And Sensibility
Plus six.

Secondly I splurged on even more eBooks (after all, now that I'm the proud owner of an eReader I should also put it to use).

I found out that Christianbook offers a nice range of free eBooks on their site. Not all are available worldwide, but a lot of them are. So, inevitably, I ended up downloading some of them. Relentless (Robin Parrish), Light Of Eidon (Karen Hancock), Fools Rush In (Janice Thompson), Stuck In The Middle (Virginia Smith) and Invisible (Lorena McCourtney)
Plus five.

Then there was Read an eBook Week which translated in two free downloads from Sourcebooks – Best Little Stories From The Civil War (C. Brian Kelly) and Wild Sight (Loucinda McGary) – and a few from Smashwords. Alright alright … “a few” in numbers would be eighteen. Oh my.
And I really do hope you don't seriously expect me to list those twenty books now.
Plus twenty.

To add insult to injury I discovered Calibre which allows you to convert different eBook formats into other formats (after all not every eReader supports every format). For years (no kidding) I had the first ten books of the Left Behind Series (Tim LaHaye) on CD-Rom and now I was finally able to convert the LIT files into EPUBs.
Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon, Assassins, The Indwelling, The Mark, Desecration and The Remnant
Plus ten.

That totals … oh, damn … you do the math for me, will ya … it's bad enough I will have to spend half of next week entering all these books onto LibraryThing.

March 12, 2011

Pajama Musings - My new toy

First things first. As much as it is fun to play around with my new eReader I already miss the joys of reading a physical book. I already miss the sensory delight of touching and even smelling a real book. Boohooo!!

Though, let's be fair. With all those eBooks waiting to be read – some for reviews, and others because I managed to snag interesting eBooks for free – purchasing an eReader made absolute sense. And while it's not the same compared to the wonderful experience of turning pages in a very real book, it does have a few advantages. Like the incredible amount of books that can be stored on this wee little device. Seriously, you can put hundreds and hundreds of books in such a tiny space, and one cannot complain about that.

Now you might wonder what kind of eReader I got. These days most people seem to gravitate towards a Kindle. I didn't even consider it. First of all I would have to order it from the US, which means that it will surly (at least my luck would have it) get stuck in customs, which substantially adds up to the total price. More importantly though, if something isn't working I'd have to send it all the way back. Trust me, it costs more than just a few bucks to send something from Europe to the US, so partly the Kindle lost due to the non existent availability at Amazon Germany. The other part I blame is that I'm always hesitant to buy things that are monopolizing a certain segment in a market. But then, that's just me.

But, fear not, there are plenty of eReaders available here, so it's not as though a Kindle would have been the only option. As far as technicalities are concerned, I wanted a no frills, simple device. I didn't look for anything fancy, because I don't need it. Period.

For example I don't see the need to have wireless access to some online shop to download books on a whim. Who needs that? Not me, that's for sure. I get all my eBooks online. And free, for that matter. As I have no intention whatsoever to actually buy eBooks I obviously don't need direct access to a shop while waiting for a bus. The way I see it, if I throw money on a book, I want the real thing. Simple as that.

So I decided to go for the Aluratek Libre. Not only the least expensive out there, but also providing me with just the things I was looking for. So far I read two books with it and I can't complain. The quality of the ePaper print is fine (while they say eInk is better) and pages turn quickly too (which eInk displays allegedly do not). While I will now switch from PDF to EPUB, which is more convenient for reading on a small device compared to in Adobe Digital Editions on the computer, I can actually view quite a number of different formats on the eReader too. Can even use it as mp3 player if I wish.

And now, off to play with my new toy!

March 11, 2011

The Others - Rachel Gibson

I must confess, I might not be heavily into romance novels, but I do like a good piece of chick lit every now and again. Rachel Gibson falls into both categories if you will, effortlessly blending the genres of contemporary novel with romantic comedy, and never really getting overly soppy.

With the publication of her first novel in 1998, Simply Irresistible, Gibson became aNew York Times and USA Today bestselling author, and many nominations and prizes later. The first book I ever read by her was Sex, Lies And Online Dating. Please don't ask me why I picked this title. I went for the book mostly because it was about a writer (it is part of the Writer Series with four loosely connected books, each focusing on one of four writer friends). I liked her fun and sexy writing style and went out to buy more of her books, including her debut novel of course. And needless to say, she's one of my go-to authors when it comes to sweet romantic reads with just the right amount of steamy scenes. Some might say, it's "only" brain candy, but let me tell you, it's barin candy at its best.

While the Writer Series is my favorite, Rachel also brought out the Hockey Series and several stand alone novels. Her next book Any Man Of Mine will be published in about a months time and while I didn't manage to snag it through NetGalley, after all I am focusing on non-fiction reviews, yet planning to branch out to science fiction and dystopia in the future (gotta love the word play) I'm sure to buy it once it's available on Amazon.

When she's not writing (which she thankfully is doing a lot), Rachel can be found boating on Payette Lake with Mr. Gibson, shopping for shoes, or forcing her love on an ungrateful cat.

March 10, 2011

Picture Garden - Woman In Green

This job looks like a major headache for the poor lady, though it's probably good for her arm muscles too.

March 9, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Online book shopping

Everyone who's guilty of shopping for books online, please raise your hand!
Ah … yes … I knew I wouldn't be the only one …

I realize a lot of us book addicts love to browse through bookstores, but then there is the convenience factor when it comes to buying books online. These days I rarely spend time in bookshops, but some years ago I did pretty much all my shopping there. The fact that I often had to order books and couldn't just buy them right away, plus the discovery of Amazon, soon made me convert to online bookshopping. No more running around. Just opening the door when the mailman rang once. Yes, once. When I expect a book delivery, I'm at the door real fast.

My preferred online shop for books is still Amazon, more precisely, the German and UK branches of the company as I live in Europe. Oddly enough it often saves me money to order directly from the UK even though English books are also available on the German site (in the latter case, delivery for books is free). Of course there are lots of other online bookshops around, national and international, but generally I stick to good old Amazon (not only when it comes to books, for that matter).

The Book Depository
Until maybe half a year ago I didn't even know about The Book Depository, but once I started reading several book blogs I inevitably came across this site. So far I haven't ordered from there yet. Frugality vows be damned. But seriously, I have taken a good look around and can only suggest to compare prices with Amazon. Sometimes they are the same, at other times you can save a buck or two. Of course I cannot comment on their overall service as I never once ordered there, but judging from what I read on other blogs, the site seems definitely recommendable.

Actually I didn't go the direct way when it comes to AwesomeBooks. Last year I decided to reduce the amount of money I usually threw on new books by buying used ones, I ended up on Ebay where this site also has a shop. Prices are great and delivery times were fast too. Before you get overly excited check the delivery charges for your country. As long as you live in a place where they don't charge you an arm and a leg for delivery this site is fantastic, even delivery costs for Europe are low, but not every European country falls into the “European country” category, and why countries like Malta or San Marino are on the list, while Austria isn't, is beyond me. In my case it was worth to pay those inflated delivery charges, as I still paid way less than I would have for the books in new condition. But now, quite frankly, I'm waiting for Austria to become European.
Also keep a general problem with used bookstores in mind. You have no idea in what condition the books will be. They often claim that books are in good condition, but obviously “good condition” isn't the same to everyone. While most of the ones I bought were ok, I received one that was in a condition that made me want to read it with gloves, and another had half a page ripped out (got a refund, mind you). So beware!

While there are lots of online shops, like the one mentioned above, on Ebay you can also find tons of bargains from private sellers. After discovering the wonderful world of used-book-buying I bid and bought enough books to last me a lifetime. Alright, maybe not a lifetime, because I do read a lot, but close enough. But as books are heavy, always keep an eye on those delivery costs, unless you live close enough to collect books in person. With delivery charges a book might no be a sweet deal after all.

March 8, 2011

Quote Garden - There Is Another Sky

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields -
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

There Is Another Sky by Emily Dickinson

March 7, 2011

A Writer's Life - Write what you know

So you want to write about a serial killer, but are a little worried about the advice aspiring writers so often get. Write what you know. Well, you haven't killed anything larger than a mosquito in your life. Does that qualify, you're wondering?

It's time to get rid of the far too common perception that “Write what you know” has to be taken literally. Granted, if you write a non-fiction book on lace-making or beer-brewing it comes in handy to actually know what you're writing about, but as far as fiction is concerned you shouldn't take this line literally, but instead as a cue to dip into another kind of knowledge.

So back to that serial killer of yours. You know more than you may think. Trust me. But first, forget about the mosquitoes. The resources within you are your emotions and instincts, not some blood sucking pests. There is no need to have actually done something to be able to put it down on paper in a believable way. Ever felt the urge to strangle one of your annoying colleagues? Now there's a good start. Channel that feeling and let your imagination run wild with it. On paper, mind you.

Another interesting aspect, and hurdle to some, is the gender of the persons they write about. Just because you're female doesn't mean you cannot tell the story through the eyes of a male protagonist (or vice versa). Keep in mind that gender is not absolute, and most importantly you will be able to dip into experiences and observations of the other sex when you want to create a male (or female) character.

Or what about creating characters who are totally different, in every conceivable way, from yourself? Just think about it – deep inside the sweetest old lady may be a ruthless murderer. Back to that serial killer, huh? People have layers, some are obvious, while others are well hidden, but the bottom line is that they are there whether you are aware of them or not. All you have to do now is take those things hidden out of the closet.

"What about the creative state? In it a man is taken out of himself. He lets down as it were a bucket into his subconscious and draws up something which is normally beyond his reach. He mixes this thing with his normal experiences, and out of the mixture he makes a work of art. It maybe be a good work of art or a bad one--we are not here examining the question of quality--but whether it is good or bad it will have been compounded in this unusual way, and he will wonder afterwards how he did it. Such seems to be the creative process. It may employ much technical ingenuity and worldly knowledge, it may profit by critical standards, but mixed up with it is this stuff from the bucket, this subconscious stuff, which is not procurable on demand. And when the process is over, when the picture or symphony or lyric or novel (or whatever it is) is complete, the artist, looking back on it, will wonder how on earth he did it. And indeed he did not do it on earth."
Edward Morgan Forster

All you have to do now, apart from picking up pen and paper, is to let a bucket down into your subconscious.

March 6, 2011

Books Aplenty - Time for an eReader

This week was dedicated to mystery novels, the shorter kind of under 300 pages, because otherwise I wouldn't have managed to read four books. Somehow though it seems it was one single reading experience as all the books were – apart from different murders – very similar themed, and most of all of rather similar quality too. Unfortunatelly.

The first read Nice (Jen Sacks) did stand out though, yet only because of the quirky premise of a girl getting rid of her boyfriends by killing them (as she hates to hurt the guys by telling them to bugger off) which is subsequently witnessed by a professional killer, who helps her with disposing of one of the victims. It was a bit weird, certainly different, and wouldn't it have been for the flat characters, this might have been quite a good book.

Murder At The Class Reunion (Triss Stein) and Following Jane (Shelley Singer) were really along the same lines as far as mystery novels go. Both were like a sluggish river leading you from a murder to rather predictable endings. And I'm afraid so, those are the kind of books that I manage to (almost) forget within days of reading, so I probably won't even know I ever read them in a month. That's a bad sign when it comes to the quality of books. Really.

The last one was In-Laws And Outlaws (Barbara Paul) and while I feared it might be pretty much like the above two (which in fact it was when it comes to the theme) it at least featured some characters with more edge and a story with a lot more depth. The deaths of some kids (grisly ones, at that) were more than tragic and quite frankly, the deaths in the other books didn't really bother me. At all. Compared to the other books, this was at least your average read.

To no one's surprise I once again added some new books to my TBR stacks, and to make matters worse, they are all eBooks. Not as though I'd be complaining, because *drumroll* I caved and finally ordered myself an eReader – 'bout time anyway – still, I realized I need to seriously catch up on all my eBooks. And now I will finally be able to do just that in a more relaxed way than just with my nose glued to the computer screen. Yay.

So, I got a number of books through LibraryThingRemedy (Heid C. Vlach), Northlight (Deborah Wheeler), Republic: A Novel Of America's Future (Charles Sheehan-Miles) and Matchmakers 2.0 (Debora Geary).
And to round things off I also won an eBook from a blog giveaway this week, namely The Only Thing I See (Jessica Barksdale Inclan) from book'd out.

March 5, 2011

Pajama Musings - A day in the life of a bookcase

I'm pretty sure this might be something my own books do when I'm in the middle of my well deserved Saturday afternoon nap ...

March 4, 2011

The Others - Larry Donner

The night was ... humid.
Or moist?
Maybe sultry?
Whatever the night might have been, Larry Donner is suffering from a bad case of writer's block due to his resentment towards his ex-wife Margaret who stole his book and garnered mainstream success with it. While she's living the good life in Hawaii, he's now stuck with a writer's class full of annoying and far from talented students, one of them being Owen Lift.
And while we've still not established what the night was, Margaret is suddenly missing and thought dead, with Owen claiming he did her in just as Larry proposed. And now it's Larry's turn to do something about Owen's mother …

Sounds familiar? Some of you might know the movie Throw Momma From The Train and those who don't I can only recommend watching it. It's not only fun, it also let's you catch a glimpse into the life of an author. Let's face it – sometimes we all feel a bit like Larry, even though not all of us might be punished with an ex-wife, or ex-friend, or ex-whatever, running off with our book-ideas. And in the end Larry manages to sit down and write his novel. Only to be surprised by Owen who proudly presents his own book. On the same topic. But I don't want to spoil the fun for you in case you haven't seen the movie yet.

You might wonder now why I chose Larry Donner for my Friday feature on authors. Well, the book publishing world doesn't consist of established, famous wordsmiths alone. Next to the Stephen King's and Nora Robert's of the world, there are the Larry Donner's out there (plenty of them, in fact). So, here's to the Larry in all of us who are writer's at heart.

Blog Makeover

I decided it was about time to get rid of the boring old design (courtesy to those prefabricated blogger templates) I used on this blog for so long.

Searched around a bit.

Played around a bit.

And here we are.

I absolutely love the new look - it's wonderfully simple and it fits the theme of The Book Garden just perfectly!

Hope you like it too and feel free to comment on the new look!
I'm curious what ya all think!!

March 2, 2011

Beyond the Shelf - Argh Ink

One of the wonderful things about authors is that many have chosen to have their own website these days. Not all will be that interesting or even entertaining though, but then are those you definitely have to bookmark, because they are simply fantastic.
One such website is by author Jennifer Crusie who you might know through novels such as Fast Women or Faking It.

While you will find the obvious content on her site too (such as a list of all her books, duh) there really is a whole lot more to discover.

First of all though – Jenny's also got a blog. She might not blog on a daily basis, but often enough, and while I might not read every single post on other blogs I follow, I always read them all here. Just. Too. Much. Fun. Seriously. Just as sassy as her novels are. And even the name of the blog Argh Ink is genius. Or maybe you need to be a writer to think so, but I really love it.

Secondly there are a whole lot of things to be found in the More Stuff section of the website. Ranging from interesting - recipes mentioned in her books - straight to hilarious - list of Stupid Things Romance Heroines Do (you need to scroll all the way down on the page, it's the last featured list).

And for the aspiring writer there's a lot to be found in the For Writers section, filled with essays on topics like writing in the romance genre or publishing.

March 1, 2011

Quote Garden - The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost