January 31, 2012

Quote Garden - Trust me, I'm telling you stories

Autobiography is not important. Authenticity is important. The writer must fire herself through the text, be the molten stuff that welds together disparate elements. I believe there is always exposure, vulnerability, in the writing process, which is not to say it is either confessional or memoir. Simply, it is real.

I didn’t want to tell the story of myself, but someone I called myself. If you read yourself as fiction, it’s rather more liberating than reading yourself as fact.

Everyone who tells a story tells it differently, just to remind us that everybody sees it differently. Some people say there are true things to be found, some people say all kinds of things can be proved. I don't believe them. The only thing for certain is how complicated it all is, like string full of knots. It's all there but hard to find the beginning and impossible to fathom the end. The best you can do is admire the cat's cradle, and maybe knot it up a bit more.

Language is a finding-place not a hiding place.

In the library I felt better, words you could trust and look at till you understood them, they couldn't change half way through a sentence like people, so it was easier to spot a lie.

By Jeanette Winterson

January 30, 2012

A Writer's Life - Are you Right for Writing?

So you like to write. That's great!
(after all you should love what you do)

So you have wonderful dreams of what life as a writer must be like. Fantastic!
(imagination is everything)

But, and there is always a but, is writing right for you?
(just because you think it's for you doesn't mean it really is ... just think about your love for sushi - you'll scoff a whole plate of delicious dead fish and spend the next hours, uhm, rotating on the toilet; granted that might not happen while writing, at least not literally)

I came across this fun and spot on quiz on Holly Lisle's author page. Let's just say there are quizzes and there are QUIZZES ... this one being the latter! All you have to do is honestly answer ten questions and then you get a pretty good idea whether you're cut out for being a writer. Or not. Needless to say I don't really need to take that quiz, I already know I'm both creative and wacky enough to justify owning a mug with the word WRITER on it. I also own a matching shirt, but I digress. Obviously this didn't keep me from the fun of answering those questions and unsurprisingly I've got what it takes ... including a mug and a shirt.

Still not sure whether you want to check out the quiz yourself?
Here's a teaser ...

When you see yourself as a successful writer, what is the image that is clearest in your mind:
A. The rounds of publishers’ parties, autographings, and talk shows where you are lionized for your work of immortal literary genius?
B. Your name on the spines of a shelf full of beautiful books?
C. A vision of sending off a completed manuscript to a waiting editor or agent?
D. Your butt in your chair, your fingers on your keyboard, and your eyes on your monitor (or whatever tools you use to produce your stories or novels.)

You read:
A. The occasional newspaper, magazines, and remember having read books . . . but not recently;
B. You read in your free time if you don’t have something better to do;
C. You invented the term multi-tasking because reading IS your “something better to do — you usually have a book in hand no matter what else you’re doing at the time;
D. Your house doesn’t need insulation; the triple-stacked shelves of all your books will serve quite nicely, thank you.

Curious? Just head on over and don't forget to come back here letting me know how you fare!

Old Books in Need of a New Home

Welcome to the first edition of Old Books in Need of a New Home where I'll be giving away a nice sized box filled with books to one lucky person.

How does it work?
First of all, this isn't a regular giveaway which means the receiving person will be handpicked by me and not random.com as I want to make sure the books find the best home. Now you may wonder what you have to do to convince me you're the best choice for the homeless books. Easy. Just comment and let me know why you want them. In case there are several highly convincing comments I'm going to do the good old drawing of a paper slip from a hat to determine the person who'll receive the box.

What's in the box?
I aim to have a themed box full of books from a certain genre, with certain authors, etc. and by full box I mean up to ten books. That'll also depend on their format/size. Titles and authors will be listed along with the condition the books are in.
Themes I have in mind (so far) are chick-lit, mysteries, and YA. Most boxes will be filled with English books, though there might be the occasional box with German books only too.

What condition will the books be in?
They are not going to be spanking new. These books have been read by me and can be in any condition ranging from almost new to having been pawed through several times before. I will always state the exact condition the books are in so you can decide whether you want to enter or not. I realize not everyone likes used books, especially when they look the part, but fear not, I will also be giving away books that have been very gently read by me only and those look almost like new from the store.

Who can participate?
You have to be a follower of my blog (any way you want to, I'm not picky - GFC, RSS feed, e-mail, Networked Blogs, Bloglovin', Linky Followers or Goodreads) and you have to live in Europe! I really hate to leave out my international readers, but it's just too darn expensive to send a box full of books overseas.

What's in the box?
Chick lit, yay!

Alexandra Potter

Kate Harrison

Except for the hardcover I bought all the books used and their condition ranges from good to very good. Some of the books have yellowed pages as they are older editions.

And now, comment away!
Tell me why you want to win these books.
Tell me which country you're from (to make sure you really are from somewhere in Europe).
Tell me how you follow (like I said, I'm not picky, so simply follow the way you like best).
Tell me how I can contact you in case you're being picked as the winner.

This post will be open for a week, but time may be extended in case of low entries.

January 29, 2012

In My Mailbox - Empty? Guess again!

It's the end of January and still I'm able to present you with some bookish loot despite my book buying ban. Well, let's see how long this luck will last!

For Review
Surprised By Laughter (Terry Lindvall)

Ich habe den Todesengel überlebt (Eva Mozes Kor and Lisa Rojany Buccieri)

Thanks to The Story Siren for hosting the IMM meme!

The Reading Files - Pointy feet and fingers

And round two of reading cozy mysteries. Let me tell you, they are perfect in the cold season!

Murder Most Frothy (Cleo Coyle)
#4 Coffeehouse Mystery
Source: bought used
Genre: Mystery

Clare Cosi’s new friend, millionaire David Mintzer, has an offer no New York barista could turn down: an all-expenses-paid summer away from the sticky city. At his Hamptons mansion, she’ll relax, soak up the sun, and, oh yes, train the staff of his new restaurant. So Clare packs up her daughter, her former mother-in-law, and her special recipe for iced coffee for what she hopes will be one de-latte-ful summer …
Soon, Clare tends the coffee bar at her first Hamptons gala. But the festivities come to a bitter end when an employee turns up dead in David’s bathroom - a botched attempt on the millionaire’s life. Thanks to the Fourth of July fireworks no one heard any gunshots, and the police are stuck in holiday traffic. Concerned for everyone’s safety, Clare begins to investigate. What she finds will keep her up at night - and it’s not the java jitters …

Title & Cover: Once again lots of legs and pointy shoes, though this time I actually like the quirkiness of the bullet shooting through the froth on the coffee!
Story: This time Clare stays in the Hamptons and it doesn't take long before she stumbles over the first dead body!
Narrative: A light read with a summery vibe!
Characters: Not all too happy how the main characters are all being crammed into the plot - they deserve better!
Thoughts: Decent murder mystery and I found myself drooling over those coffee recipes (again)! Still can't stop grinning because of that funny cover!

Decaffeinated Corpse (Cleo Coyle)
#5 Coffeehouse Mystery
Source: bought used
Genre: Mystery

At the Village Blend, Clare Cosi's best baristas may refer to a decaffeinated espresso as a "why bother?", but Clare knows a good percentage of her customers prefer the neutered brew. so when an old friend of her ex-husband develops the world's first botanically decaffeinated coffee bean and smuggles it into the country, Clare believes it's a business opportunity she needs to investigate ... at least until the first dead body shows up.
With casualties piling up and a complicated blend of old and new loves muddying the waters, it's up to Clare to find the murderer before one of her near and dears takes the fall. Otherwise, her latest addition to the menu will prove to be a real buzz killer ...

Title & Cover: Finally no legs with pointy shoes, instead lots of arms and pointy fingers. If it weren't for the fact that those hands creep me out, this cover would actually be ok.
Story: With the first murder victims only ever showing up in the second half, this book has a heavy emphasis on the coffee shop and its owners!
Narrative: Fast paced and with an extra portion of humor!
Characters: The Village Blend cast has room to shine in this one. Needless to say, they are growing on me with every book!
Thoughts: I must admit, this one is my fav of the series so far, probably because I love to see the development of the main characters who are confronted with murders directly related to the coffee shop. By the end of the series I'm probably switching from tea to coffee ... just imagine!

French Pressed (Cleo Coyle)
#6 Coffeehouse Mystery
Source: bought used
Genre: Mystery

Clare's daughter, Joy, is immersing herself in the foodie culture with an internship at Solange, one of New York's hottest French restaurants - and she's getting pretty intimate the older, married Chef Tommy Keitel as well. Clare's not buzzed about the relationship, but what twentysomething takes romantic advice from her mother?
Resolved to keep a closer eye on Joy, Clare makes a deal to micro-roast and French press exclusive coffee blends for Tommy, a man she wouldn't mind seeing roasted and pressed. The the competitive kitchen turns cutthroat, and joy's a suspect. To clear her daughter of the crime, Clare knows she must catch the real killer ... even if it lands her in the hottest water of her life.

Title & Cover: My thought is that the person responsible for those covers must be from Outer Space. I mean, seriously, those fingers!? And that nuked coffee makes me wonder too.
Story: With how many different coffee shop related murder scenarios can you come up? A lot it seems and Clare's daughter Joy is a suspect this time around.
Narrative: Like the last one, the pacing was perfect and that touch of humor luckily remained as well!
Characters: Let's make it official, even with a lousy mystery I adore that family!
Thoughts: Despite what I just said, the mystery wasn't bad at all, though for me the series certainly lives of its characters! And ohhh ... those recipes!

The Psychopath Test (Jon Ronson)
Source: Pan MacMillan
Genre: Non Fiction / Journalism / Psychology

In this madcap journey, a bestselling journalist investigates psychopaths and the industry of doctors, scientists, and everyone else who studies them.
The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson's exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world's top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he's sane and certainly not a psychopath.
Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.

Title & Cover: Cover designer on LSD!
Story: Everybody's mad ... or maybe not?
Narrative: Fun and self deprecating, and at the same time smart and serious!
Characters: A whole lot of madmen and Jon trying to find out just how crazy everyone (including himself) really is.
Thoughts: Before I started reading, and even throughout the first chapter, I thought it was riding solely on the humorous wave instead of taking a serious look at what psychopaths are made of. Luckily I got both - what a wild, mad ride!

Review - All The Money In The World (Laura Vanderkam)

A contrarian guide to using your money to create the life you want.
In her last book, 168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam showed that when we really consider how we spend our time, it turns out we have more than we realize. Now she proves that the same is true for money. No matter how much we earn, there are smarter ways to apply every dollar toward the things that matter most.
For example, the average couple spends $5,000 on engagement and wedding rings, with little thought to resisting peer pressure. But what if they decide to spend $300 on rings and apply the rest to future date nights, weekend getaways, babysitters, and thinking-of-you bouquets? What would give more satisfaction in the long run?
Drawing on the true stories of individuals and families who've reached financial fulfillment, Vanderkam argues that perhaps money can buy happiness, if we spend it wisely.

What would you do if you had all the money in the world - not literally, but all you wanted - what would you change about your life? Laura Vanderkam is contemplating getting, spending, and sharing money in her book All The Money In The World - the main premise being that you can buy happiness!
Sharing her own experiences and those of people who one day decided they'd rather spend their money on this instead of that, the book will not advise you on how to safe money, but instead encourage you to reconsider just how to spend it to make your life happier. Admittedly I liked the underlying idea from the start. If I had the choice I'd rather travel the world for the money a diamond ring would cost, and I'm sure my adventures would make me happier than that ring could.
Smoothly and quite entertainingly written the book luckily does not read as if it came straight from the self-help section of a bookstore. On the downside, there's also a lot of statistics and fluff which I ended up finding a bit distracting. Vanderkamp is often rambling on and already half way through I got the feeling that an essay would have been sufficient to communicate the essence of the whole book. Still, don't let this discourage you, because the intriguing idea presented here is definitely worth exploring!
In short: How would you spend money to take a step towards a happier life?

3/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

January 28, 2012

Pajama Musings - Helping a Blogger Friend

Imagine you lost all your books. You come home one day and all that's left of your book stacks is a pile of ashes. Now imagine you came home and it's not just your books, but everything you own that's reduced to ashes. A horrible thought, right?

Yara from Once Upon a Twilight is in this situation right now after her house was destroyed in a devastating house fire a week ago. I know a lot of you have probably already heard about this. To others it will be shocking news. The only good news is that thankfully neither she nor her family have been hurt, but the loss of their house and belongings is nonetheless tragic.

Twilight Mom initiated a fund into which you can donate via PayPal. If you want to help out, even just a few Dollars, this will be more than appreciated!

Lani Woodland from Lala Land is also helping out and has organized a giveaway for those who donated to Yara's fund!

Mundie Mom's are organizing a Book Drive to help replace the books for Yara, her two small sons, and husband!

January 27, 2012

Book 101 - The Library

I've complained more than once about not having any decent library in my vicinity. Maybe I should simply move! To Washington DC or China, maybe St Petersburg or Ottawa. Why? Read on.

These are the ten largest libraries worldwide. Places you can literally get lost in, not just because you can get lost in all those wonderful books, but due to the fact that those places are huge.

Library of Congress
This library is known as one the biggest library in US, situated in Washington DC. It was founded in 1800. and stocks over 30 million books.

National Library of China
Situated in Beijing, the National Library of China was founded in 1909. This library stocks over 22 million books.

Library of the Russian Academy of Sciences
Located in the heart of St Petersburg this library stocks over 20 million books. It was founded in 1714.

National Library of Canada
This library is located in Ottawa, was built in 1953 and stocks over 18.8 million books.

German National Library
This library is located in Frankfurt. It was founded in 1990 and stocks over 18.5 million books.

The British Library
One of the oldest buildings in London, this library was built in 1753 and stocks over 16 million books.

Institute for Scientific Information Russian Academy of Sciences
The library was built in 1969 and it is situated in Moscow. It stocks over 13.5 million books.

Harvard University Library
Situated in Cambridge, founded in 1638, this library stocks over 13.1 million books.

Vernadsky National Scientific Library of Ukraine
Founded in 1919, this library is located in Kiev. It stocks over 13 million books.

The New York Public Library
This library is situated in New York City and it was built in 1895. It socks over 11 million books.

Now that would be some libraries I'd sure like to roam. I've visited the British Library on my last trip to London, and it was so worth it. As I was on vacation I didn't go there to get my hands on any reading material, but I headed straight for their exhibitions. So next time you go to London, this library is definitely a must-see!

Before I go, one for the road ... not, not booze, what are you thinking? Some library fun facts!

Copyright by Knovel

January 25, 2012

Beyond the Shelf - Book Porn

Last year I already introduced you to Bookshelf Porn and today we're taking the next step. Let me introduce you to Book Porn which is pretty much the same thing, minus the shelf. To describe what all this porn business is all about I shall let some of the wonderful pictures speak for themselves ... and if this turns you on, you're in good company *wink*.

Copyright by Curiosity Kills Cats

Copyright by Bill Scull

January 24, 2012

Quote Garden - Just leave it to your imagination

Stories of imagination tend to upset those without one.
Terry Pratchett

I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.
Albert Einstein

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.
Sylvia Plath

You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.
Mark Twain

Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.
Stephen King

January 23, 2012

A Writer's Life - Connections

What's the next best thing to having your name on the cover of a book? Being mentioned on the Acknowledgment page of a favorite author, of course!

But let's start at the beginning ...

Sometime back in early 2011 I connected with a certain author on LibraryThing. One of this books, or rather his only book, is one of my all time favorites and I had just added it to my virtual library. Next thing I know, there's a message by said author announcing that his next novel would be out soon. I was thrilled. After waiting over a decade, and checking for new books every once in a while, I had almost given up, but lo and behold, the patience paid off!

Needless to say, when the book came out I didn't even wait for the paperback edition, but ordered the hardcover straight away. This tells you a lot about my priorities. When the book finally sat in my mailbox I couldn't even start on it as two days later I've been on a plane to the UK. Obviously starting to read and then not being able to finish it until I return back home was not an option. Yet once I was back again it was the first book I grabbed.

Did it meet my expectations? Was it worth the wait? Yes ... though there were a few things that bugged me. More precisely, there were a lot of German expressions or short dialogues that would only look good if you're in your second semester studying German. Not being coy about it I wrote the author how much I enjoyed his novel, but I also mentioned the mistakes I came across. He profusely apologized, admitting that he was unfortunately aware of a few, uhm, glitches. Then *drumroll* he asked whether I'd assist with a few of the translations if need be. Of course I said yes, and a couple months later aka a week ago, an e-mail sat in my inbox asking for some input.

Do I really need to point out how exciting this all was? I mean, I was honored to help out, even though it was only a hand full of expressions I've been giving a scrutinizing look and red pen treatment. And then came the cherry on the cake. My name will be on the Acknowledgment page of the paperback edition *squee*. I guess, by the look of it, I will now have to get my hands on that edition too, hahaha! After my book buying ban is over, obviously.

Well, now that I got you all guessing I should reveal who on Earth I'm even talking about, right?
The author? Glenn Kleier
The novel? The Knowledge Of Good & Evil
And both will be featured here too when the paperback comes out in early spring. So in case you're as much into religious-themed thrillers (think Dan Brown) as yours truly, keep your eyes peeled for some exciting ventures into the realms of heaven and hell.

January 22, 2012

In My Mailbox - And they keep on coming

I kinda feared my mailbox would loose the mailbox equivalent of a clothing size now that my book buying ban is in full swing, but nope - there were some nice treats to chew on after all!

Homicide In Hardcover (Kate Carlisle)
from SOS Aloha

For Review
The Psychopath Test (Jon Ronson)

Hit Lit (James Hall)
from NetGalley

If Walls Could Talk (Lucy Worsley)

Thanks to The Story Siren for hosting the IMM meme!

The Reading Files - A cup of tea for me

This week I was in a mood for some mysteries. Not the kind of mysteries that involve finding strange things in the back of the fridge though. Those mysteries might keep you guessing, alright, but I'm referring to mysteries best enjoyed with a cup of tea and a cozy blanket. Open fire optional.

Death By Darjeeling (Laura Childs)
#1 A Tea Shop Mystery
Source: bought used
Genre: Mystery

Meet Theodosia Browning, owner of Charleston's beloved Indigo Tea Shop. Patrons love her blend of delicious tea tastings and Southern hospitality. And Theo enjoys the full-bodied flavor of a town steeped in hirtory - any mystery ...
It's tea for two hundred or so at the annual historic homes garden Party. And Theodosia, as event caterer, is busy serving steaming teas and blackberry scones while guests sing her praises. But the sweet smell of success turns to suspense when an esteemed guest is found dead - his hand clutching an empty teacup. All eyes are on Theo ... who is now trying desperately to save her reputation and track down the real killer. If only she can make sense of it all - before someone else takes their last sip ...

Title & Cover: All the greenery slays the actual scene ... I usually adore covers of mysteries, yet this one doesn't make it on my list of favorites.
Story: Man drops dead after drinking poisoned tea which makes the tea shop owner Theodosia venture out to find the killer. Nicely spruced up with lots of tea talk!
Narrative: There is something quaint in the writing style, though in parts it's also a bit cumbersome in its descriptions.
Characters: Theo is an ok female lead, though admittedly my favorites are Detective Tidwell, and Earl Grey, the dog.
Thoughts: As enjoyable as it was for me, this cozy mystery won't get your heart-rate up all that much. If you love light reads, soaking in the atmosphere of the setting, this one's for you. If this sounds too unexciting, and you're not into tea either, you might want to pass on this one.

Shades Of Earl Grey (Laura Childs)
#3 A Tea Shop Mystery
Source: bought used
Genre: Mystery

Indigo Tea Shop owner Theodosia Browning is finally invited to a social event that she doesn't have to cater - but there's more than champagne bubbling ...
Theo is mingling with the cream of Charleston society at the engagement soiree of the season. But as they eagerly await the dazzling new young couple's arrival, the groom meets with a freak accident. The exquisite wedding ring - a family heirloom from the crown of Marie Antoinette - is mysteriously missing. Theodosia suspects that trouble is brewing. But when she goes to the authorities, they treat her like she's been reading tea leaves - and that's the surest way to put Theodosia's kettle on the boil ...

Title & Cover: Lovely cover and really fits the story too!
Story: A cat burglar is on the prowl leaving a corpse in its wake. Once again Theodosia sets out to find out whodunit. Obviously with lots of tea talk and a handful of recipes to boot!
Narrative: Again there's something wonderfully quaint, maybe even old-fashioned about the writing, though compared to the first in the series, this one is a whole lot more smoothly written.
Characters: Three books into the series and the characters are certainly a lot more well rounded. Needless to say, Tidwell is developing into my fav character!
Thoughts: Like the first book, wholesome like a good cup of tea!

Latte Trouble (Cleo Coyle)
#3 Coffeehouse Mystery
Source: bought used
Genre: Mystery

As manager of the historic Village Blend coffeehouse, Clare Cosi can steam a fantastically foamy cappuccino and press a perfect pot of Jamaica Blue Mountain. But suddenly she finds herself dealing with a mystery that's just too hot to handle ...
To Clare Cosi's surprise, this fall's hottest fashion trend is anything caffeinated - because designer Lottie Harmon, a loyal coffeehouse customer, has just created an ingenious collection of coffee-inspired fashion accessories. so naturally Lottie chooses the Village Blend as the perfect backdrop for fall Fashion Week insiders to view her new line of "Java Jewelry".
When barista Tucker unwittingly serves a poisonous latte to a prominent figure on the fashion scene, Clare suspects that the real target may have been Lottie. Now she must protect her thriving business from negative publicity, Lottie from any further danger, and Tucker from murder charges - even if it means jolting the fashion world with some shocking secrets ...

Title & Cover: What's with those legs and pointy shoes!? Can't help myself, it's a strange cover!
Story: A latte kills the wrong person and the person who was supposed to die isn't at all what she seems. Add a pretty twisted murder mystery!
Narrative: Very fresh and contemporary, especially compared to the previously read Tea Shop Mysteries.
Characters: Definitely an interesting cast with just the right chemistry!
Thoughts: I'm more of a tea person, alright, but the plot itself was pretty good for a mystery. Those who love a whole lot of coffee jargon will probably love the book just for that.

All The Money In The World (Laura Vanderkam)
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Non Fiction / Lifestyle / Finances

A contrarian guide to using your money to create the life you want.
In her last book, 168 Hours, Laura Vanderkam showed that when we really consider how we spend our time, it turns out we have more than we realize. Now she proves that the same is true for money. No matter how much we earn, there are smarter ways to apply every dollar toward the things that matter most.
For example, the average couple spends $5,000 on engagement and wedding rings, with little thought to resisting peer pressure. But what if they decide to spend $300 on rings and apply the rest to future date nights, weekend getaways, babysitters, and thinking-of-you bouquets? What would give more satisfaction in the long run?
Drawing on the true stories of individuals and families who've reached financial fulfillment, Vanderkam argues that perhaps money can buy happiness, if we spend it wisely.

Title & Cover: George Washington with a smile ... I would have thought that picking the president from the $100 bill would have been more fitting though!
Story: Contemplating getting, spending, and sharing the main premise is that you can buy happiness, though it's not necessarily things that make you happy.
Narrative: Smoothly and quite entertainingly written, yet there's also a lot of statistics and fluff which I found distracting.
Characters: Folks who one day decided they'd rather spend their money on this instead of that.
Thoughts: Admittedly I like the underlying idea, though to be perfectly honest, an essay would have been sufficient to communicate the essence of the whole book.

January 21, 2012

Pajama Musings - Let the nightmares begin!

Let's make it official. I had my first book-buying-ban related nightmare early this week. There I was, sauntering through a flea market, books stacked high in my arms, and suddenly I realized that I'm not allowed to bring home this wonderful tantalizing haul. Frankly, I didn't expect any nightmares, or at least not so soon. After all I might have been splurging on books before the ban too, but not all that regularly. So while I've often went weeks without buying any books, at least I knew that if my basket was full enough for my taste I could click the BUY button any time. Now though I only have a wishlist I dare not look at, and three books from favorite authors which fortunately will only be out very close to the end of my ban. July 1st how I long for thee to arrive! Only 23 more weeks to go. And maybe this one dream was all of the side effects I'm going to experience from not buying any books *cough* yeah, right!

Anyone else crazy enough to go on a long book buying ban like I do? A full six month, that is. Anyone out there who already went through such a long ban and survived to tell the tale? Anyone ending up in the insane asylum, currently on leave, and willing to share their book-nutty thoughts? Feel free to comment away.

January 20, 2012

Book 101 - Fairy Tales

Who hasn't read fairy tales when still a kid? Who doesn't like them still? And then, of course, there are fairy tale retellings, presenting those old stories in a whole new look. But let's start at the beginning by using those famous four words ... once upon a time!
Copyright by Arthur Rackham

A fairy tale is a short story that typically features folkloric characters, such as fairies, goblins, elves, trolls, dwarves, giants or gnomes, and usually magic or enchantments. Despite its name, only a small number of the stories actually refer to fairies. I guess fairy tales just sounds better than troll tales or goblin tales. These days, the term fairy tale is also used for far-fetched stories or tall tales. Interesting to note: The German term "Märchen" literally translates as "tale" – not any specific type of tale.

In some cultures fairy tales merged into legends, where the narrative is perceived as being grounded in historical truth. Unlike legends they usually do not contain more than superficial references to religion and actual places, people, and events; they take place once upon a time rather than in actual times.

Fairy tales are found in oral and in literary form. The history of the fairy tale is difficult to trace yet there's evidence in literary works indicating that fairy tales have existed for thousands of years, although not recognized as a genre. The name "fairy tale" was first ascribed to them by Madame d'Aulnoy in the late 17th century. Many of today's fairy tales have evolved from centuries-old stories that have appeared, with variations, in multiple cultures around the world.

While fairy tales are seen as stories for children today, they were initially intended rather for an audience of adults, as the violence presented in many of the tales was not seen as suitable for children. Yet since the Brothers Grimm titled their collection Children's and Household Tales, the link with children has only grown stronger with time.

To me it seems that fairy tales are really for everyone. You can read them, you can watch them - Disney movies, anyone? - and if you want to get really creative you may even write them. Fairies optional.

Do you like fairy tales? If so, what are your favorites?

January 19, 2012

Picture Garden - Come Away With Me


Dreaming of Books Hop Winner

The lucky winner of the Dreaming of Books Hop is
who will soon rest her head on a throw pillow of her choice from CafePress!

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

January 18, 2012

Beyond the Shelf - A Blog Fest from Kiel to Kaitaia

Last week I was approached by Dorothee, yet another German book blogger, whose blog life is a journey I happily added to my ever growing list of Austria and German Book Bloggers. She told me about the Blog Fest which is a collaborative web initiative in anticipation of the Frankfurt Bookfair in October, where New Zealand is the Guest of Honor. This Blog Fest is a celebration across geographic and temporal boundaries and an ongoing conversation - from Kiel to Kaitaia!

Frankfurt Bookfair 2012: An Aotearoa Affair highlights Kiwi and German writers in 2012, creating a space for interested readers and bloggers to connect and share related posts. If you are a Kiwi or German living anywhere in the world, or if you are from somewhere else but have settled in New Zealand or Germany, feel free to join and contribute. There will be a monthly Blog Carnival, a weekly countdown to the Bookfair, a feature author series and an interview series. In all of these, you’ll find an eclectic mix of writing and experience. You’ll find German, English and Maori. You’ll find published writers and writers just getting started. The aim is to cross boundaries through writing from various perspectives and languages, to stretch across landscapes and time zones, to share experiences both common and unique to these countries and the people living there.

About the Frankfurt Book Fair
The Frankfurt Book Fair is the biggest book and media fair in the world – with around 7,400 exhibitors from over 100 countries. The history of the Frankfurt Book Fair dates back to the 15th century, when Johannes Gutenberg first invented movable type – only a few kilometres down the road from Frankfurt.
In 2012, the Frankfurt Book Fair will take place from 10 to 14 October. The guest of honour is New Zealand. Previous guests of honour include Iceland (2011), Argentina (2010), China (2009), Turkey (2008) and many more, dating back to Latin America in 1976.
For more info, go HERE.

January 17, 2012

Quote Garden - Her majesty is one verb short of a sentence

If the real world were a book, it would never find a publisher. Overlong, detailed to the point of distraction-and ultimately, without a major resolution.

Whereas story is processed in the mind in a straightforward manner, poetry bypasses rational thought and goes straight to the limbic system and lights it up like a brushfire. It's the crack cocaine of the literary world.

Books may look like nothing more than words on a page, but they are actually an infinitely complex imaginotransference technology that translates odd, inky squiggles into pictures inside your head.

After all, reading is arguably a far more creative and imaginative process than writing; when the reader creates emotion in their head, or the colors of the sky during the setting sun, or the smell of a warm summer's breeze on their face, they should reserve as much praise for themselves as the do for the writer - perhaps more.

I would so hate to be a first-person character! Always on your guard, always having people read your thoughts!

By Jasper Fforde

January 15, 2012

In My Mailbox - Look, I've won!

I'm still waiting for a few books I've won in giveaways, and my mailbox got a nice chunk of bookish food again this week!

(Jennifer Laurens)

Thanks to The Story Siren for hosting the IMM meme!

The Reading Files - The end is near

Only two books this week. Don't look at me like that! One was a heavy tome. In fact, heavy enough to tone those upper arm and back muscles. Those of you who follow me on Facebook might have seen a status update earlier this week in which I'm contemplating how reading heavy books is also great workout for ... other parts of the female body. In short, holding such tomes may seriously avoid "droop" if you know what I mean!

The Passage (Justin Cronin)
Source: bought used
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic / Paranormal

First, the unthinkable: a security breach at a secret U.S. government facility unleashes the monstrous product of a chilling military experiment. Then, the unspeakable: a night of chaos and carnage gives way to sunrise on a nation, and ultimately a world, forever altered. All that remains for the stunned survivors is the long fight ahead and a future ruled by fear—of darkness, of death, of a fate far worse.
As civilization swiftly crumbles into a primal landscape of predators and prey, two people flee in search of sanctuary. FBI agent Brad Wolgast is a good man haunted by what he’s done in the line of duty. Six-year-old orphan Amy Harper Bellafonte is a refugee from the doomed scientific project that has triggered apocalypse. He is determined to protect her from the horror set loose by her captors. But for Amy, escaping the bloody fallout is only the beginning of a much longer odyssey—spanning miles and decades—towards the time and place where she must finish what should never have begun.
With The Passage, award-winning author Justin Cronin has written both a relentlessly suspenseful adventure and an epic chronicle of human endurance in the face of unprecedented catastrophe and unimaginable danger. Its inventive storytelling, masterful prose, and depth of human insight mark it as a crucial and transcendent work of modern fiction.

Title & Cover: I really really like that cover, though I could do without that red title bar - I know there are other cover versions out there, one similar to this one minus that red nuisance, but the one shown above is the edition I own!
Story: I thought this would be a dystopian novel. Virus breaking out. People dying. The works. Suddenly, vampires everywhere. Then things start getting really weird. And even weirder.
Narrative: In one word? Tedious. Long winded to a fault. The whole book is like a scrapyard of stories mended together with rubber bands. And for a book this size it's amazing how little is actually happening.
Characters: A lot of attention is given to present the state of mind and inner workings of pretty much any character. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but oddly enough it didn't help me connect with the characters either.
Thoughts: How often do editors tell authors to tighten up their manuscripts? Not often enough it seems. If this novel were only half as long (!) it wouldn't have made it onto my list of chunksters for the Tea & Books Reading Challenge, but the flow of the story might have improved a bit. Bottom line - this book simply didn't work for me. Bummer.

All I Know About Animal Behavior I Learned in Loehmann's Dressing Room (Erma Bombeck)
Source: bought used
Genre: Humor

Erma has discovered that the odd habits of the animal kingdom are strikingly similar to our own, and she reports her downright hilarious findings in All I Know About Animal Behavior I Learned in Loehmann's Dressing Room. Erma shows how close animals in the wild and humans really are, and how much we can learn from one another. The hippopotamus is a vegetarian and looks like a wall. Lions who eat only red meat are sleek and slim. Are nutritionists on the wrong track? From the garter snake transvestite, to the barn swallow who can't make a commitment, to the lion who mates eighty-six times a day, Erma reveals that we're not all that far removed from the animal world.

Title & Cover: Cute!
Story: Spruced up with curious animal facts, Erma shows how much humans and animals actually have in common. In fact, more often than not, it's only the clothes that separate the two.
Narrative: Her observations and dialogues are, as always, spot on and laugh out loud funny!
Characters: Say hello to a wonderfully likable and oddly familiar family, including an Aunt who's renown for her fruitcake ... the kind you can use for construction work!
Thoughts: Perfect for a quick and enjoyable read! Once again, Erma does not disappoint!

Review - Dispatches From Bitter America (Todd Starnes)

FOX News Radio reporter Todd Starnes is a self-professed “gun toting, chicken eating son of a Baptist” whose Dispatches from Bitter America is “a collection of stories from my travels across this country (and) conversations I’ve had with regular folks who have deep concerns about the direction we are going as a nation.”
In his award-winning, satire-meets-serious writing style, Starnes jumps headfirst into the current culture war, taking on the topics that are dear to every American: religion, health care, freedom, country music, barbeque, and so forth. Along the way, he shares exclusive interviews with political commentator Bill O’Reilly, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, cooking sensation Paula Deen, and pop singer Amy Grant, always hoping to go from bitter to better.

Clinging to your guns and religion? Apparently this makes you a bitter American. In his book Dispatches From Bitter America journalist Todd Starnes contemplates what his country is made of. The five things he names certainly feed the stereotype many have of America - country music, guns, barbecue, the military, and freedom. One thing seems to be missing, but only on first glance - religion.
Expecting an honest view on America and its people I soon realized that these "dispatches" are basically a collection of a collective rage against the current government, and ultimately it is all about religion, or rather Christianity. America as a Christian nation? Not any longer. Today the emphasis is on being "a nation of citizens bound by ideals and a set of values".
I'm not bitter and too European, I guess, to relate to most of the presented "bitterness" though there were a few things that I do agree on, eg that it's not the governments business to tell parents what to feed their children. Yet what disturbed me are the very randomly chosen examples and occurrences that were all too often facticiously exaggerated, generously saturated with sarcasm, and drenched in fear. Satire? Not quite. Serious writing? Not really. I realize a lot of Americans will relate to the content of his book, sometimes rightly so, but the overall presentation left a lot to be desired.
In short: More on the conservative side? You'll love this book. Liberal? Read at your own risk.

2/5 stars

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

January 14, 2012

Pajama Musings - Let's take a walk, shall we?

So there I was, contemplating how to make the most out of every minute of the day, especially those dreadful times you need to get from A to B aka from a warm and cozy bed to the cold dark places of modern slavery, when I had an epiphany. Alright, maybe not an epiphany of the celestial kind, but close enough.
There she was. A girl walking towards me on the sidewalk, holding a book in her hands, reading. Granted, there haven't been all that many people around so chances that she might bump into someone were slim. I couldn't help but stop and stare. This girl is my hero. Seriously! How come I never thought of this before? I mean I've never been able to read on the train to work, trust me I tried, but the usual result was that I felt sea sick and that feeling wouldn't leave until late afternoon. On second thought maybe the train-induced sickness was replaced by common office-job sickness around noon, but I digress.

The point is, I walk a lot. As long as I don't need to drag home several big grocery bags I see no need to get out the wheels. Plus, walking makes for great photo opportunities too. Try that while driving and the next photo will involve a black frame and crying parents. Anyway. I never seriously gave the idea of maybe reading while walking much attention, but this has now changed. I don't care whether people will cast me strange looks (I wouldn't notice anyway with my nose stuck between the pages of a book) and while I might have to invest in knee guards (because, let's face it, I'm bound to run into something or someone eventually) this is such a genius idea that I simply need to try it out myself.

I once heard that if you read while you walk you can read a book in about 43 kilometers. That is unless you get hit by a truck first. So assuming I won't get hit by anything or fall over a ledge I will keep you updated on my 43 kilometer read-athon. Here's to exercising the brain and those leg muscles at the same time!

January 13, 2012

Book 101 - Young Adult

First, let me establish a fact that many seem to ignore these days - Young Adult is not a genre!
I have no clue who came up with this, and I'm sure you've seen it several times before, that YA is referred to as a genre. Well, it's not!

Young Adult fiction, often abbreviated as YA, is fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, roughly ages 14 to 21. The exact age group certainly isn't set in stone as YA is sometimes defined as "between the ages of 12 and 18", "texts written for the ages of 12 and up" or "literature written for ages ranging from 10 years up to the age of 20". Another suggestion for the definition is that Young Adult literature is any text being read by adolescents, though this definition is somewhat controversial especially considering the fact that many adults will read books that are viewed as YA as well. But maybe this just gives new meaning to being young at heart!

Although YA literature shares the fundamental elements of character, plot, setting, theme, and style common to adult fiction, theme and style may be subordinated to the more tangible basic narrative elements such as plot, setting, and character. The vast majority of YA stories portray an adolescent as the protagonist, rather than an adult or a child. Themes in YA stories often focus on the challenges of youth, so much so that the entire age category is sometimes referred to as problem novels or coming of age novels. The subject matter and story lines are typically consistent with the age and experience of the main character, but beyond that YA stories span the entire spectrum of fiction genres, from contemporary straight to science fiction. Writing styles of YA stories also range widely, from the richness of literary style to the clarity and speed of the plain and unobtrusive.

YA isn't a new phenomenon, instead a classification that only received its name in the past decades. Examples of novels that predate this classification, but that are now frequently presented alongside YA novels, are Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery) or Lord of the Flies (William Golding).

And to get back to the beginning, let me repeat that Young Adult is not a genre! I cannot stress this enough! It is ... wait for it ... a category defined by the reading age/level! Fantasy is a genre. Horror is a genre. A whole lot of things are a genre, but YA isn't one of them. 'nuff said.

Dreaming of Books Hop

Welcome to the
Dreaming of Books Hop
(January 13th - January 18th)
hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & Reviews by Martha's Bookshelf

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?

Once again I'm getting a bit more creative than simple giving away a book. Seeing how this Hop is dedicated to dreaming what could be more appropriate than a pillow on which you can rest your head while reading (or sleeping, for that matter). Long story short - I'm giving away your choice of any bookish Throw Pillow worth $ 20,00 from CafePress. These pillows measure 18'' x 18'' and are made of ultra-soft brushed twill with a sturdy canvas image area.
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:
What kind of books keep you up at night?

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

One winner will be picked through random.org on January 19th 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!

January 11, 2012

Beyond the Shelf - Bibliomania

Most of you already know Project Gutenberg where you can download tons of classics to your eReader of choice. But there are similar websites out there and one of them is Bibliomania.

The site offers free online literature with more than 2,000 classic texts along with literature book notes, author biographies, book sumeries and reference books. You can read the world's greatest fiction by authors such as Dickens and Joyce, Sherlock Holmes mysteries, all of Shakespeare's plays, or just dip into some short stories by writers such as Mark Twain, Anton Chekov and Edgar Allan Poe. This along with articles, interviews, and study guides to many of the books certainly separates what the formerly mentioned Project Gutenberg has to offer. Basically you can read, study and research on the site. Especially the latter is noteworthy with its sections on reference, biographies, non-fiction, and religious texts.

Before you get overly excited you should know that currently the site is not being actively maintained. Bibliomania.com Ltd no longer has any employees but the ex-employees keep the site running and have hopes of re-launching the site should funds become available. Still, there is plenty to read and learn here and maybe the site will be active again one day.

January 10, 2012

Quote Garden - Rides a black and white horse

I am a book.

Sheaves pressed from the pulp of oaks and pines
a natural sawdust made dingy from purses, dusty
from shelves.
Steamy and anxious, abused and misused,
kissed and cried over,
smeared, yellowed, and torn,
loved, hated, scorned.

I am a book.

I am a book that remembers,
days when I stood proud in good company
When the children came, I leapt into their arms,
when the women came, they cradled me against their soft breasts,
when the men came, they held me like a lover,
and I smelled the sweet smell of cigars and brandy as we sat together in leather chairs,
next to pool tables, on porch swings, in rocking chairs,
my words hanging in the air like bright gems, dangling,
then forgotten, I crumbled,
dust to dust.

I am a tale of woe and secrets,
a book brand-new, sprung from the loins of ancient fathers clothed in tweed,
born of mothers in lands of heather and coal soot.
A family too close to see the blood on its hands,
too dear to suffering, to poison, to cold steel and revenge,
deaf to the screams of mortal wounding,
amused at decay and torment,
a family bred in the dankest swamp of human desires.

I am a tale of woe and secrets,
I am a mystery.

I am intrigue, anxiety, fear,
I tangle in the night with madmen, spend my days cloaked in black,
hiding from myself, from dark angels,
from the evil that lurks within
and the evil we cannot lurk without.

I am words of adventure,
of faraway places where no one knows my tongue,
of curious cultures in small, back alleys, mean streets,
the crumbling house in each of us.

I am primordial fear, the great unknown,
I am life everlasting.
I touch you and you shiver, I blow in your ear and you follow me,
down foggy lanes, into places you've never seen,
to see things no one should see,
to be someone you could only hope to be.

I ride the winds of imagination on a black-and-white horse,
to find the truth inside of me, to cure the ills inside of you,
to take one passenger at a time over that tall mountain,
across that lonely plain to a place you've never been
where the world stops for just one minute
and everything is right.

I am a mystery.

Rides a Black and White Horse (Lise McClendon)

January 9, 2012

A Writer's Life - Everything's gonna be alright

I hope my lovely red-pen wielding editor in charge is reading this. What am I saying? I'm going to send her the link straight away and give her something to worry about at the start of yet another dreary work week. Fear not, my dear Amy, everything's gonna be alright!

In fact that's, appropriately enough, the title of one of the short stories I just finished. For the curious and unaware of my current writerly (does that word even exist?) mission - I am in the middle of intricately plotting my first short story collection. And, indeed, the first story I put onto paper has been adorned with this catchy Bob Marley song title.

As much time I usually invest in finding names for characters, titles come to me naturally. When ideas approach me, they are already equipped with a sign that spells out their name. This is pretty helpful especially seeing how some writers never seem to get a hang of finding the perfect title for their work. Working title? Nah. Not for me, anyway. I might refer to them that way, but in almost all cases I stick to the initial title. I would probably kill if someone suggested that I change a title. Hmmm ... I think I can feel yet another sweet little idea approaching, an idea that's begging to be included in this collection!

Anyway, to those of you who missed my post about the projects I plan to tackle this year, this short story collection will be titled down below and in between and nope, I didn't overlook that there might be the need to throw in some capital letters, it's all written in small letters on purpose. Why? I'm quirky, and I seeing how this is my baby I can pretty much do this which ever way I want. That's why!

Now you might wonder, what kind of short stories? So many genres, so many possibilities. Let's just say that liking the Twilight Zone* will help you appreciate my stories. I know poor Amy is already worried over the possibility of having to edit horror stories, but I'm not chopping off body parts by the dozen, I swear. It's all about subtlety. Besides, horror has many faces. My stories will sneak up on you, quite innocently, and when you least expect it ... you won't know what hit you, ha. But what hits you won't be body parts, like I said, but twists and turns and surprises. Seeing how editing itself is sheer horror to me I wouldn't want Amy to fight off blood thirsty zombies. Then again ... I never thought I'd find back to the realms of the horror genre ... ah, ignore me, Amy, I'm just rambling *cough*.

Apropos short stories. Apropos Twilight Zone. Yay or nay?

* The Twilight Zone is an American television anthology series created by Rod Serling. Each episode is a mixture of self-contained drama, psychological thriller, fantasy, science fiction, suspense, or horror, often concluding with a macabre or unexpected twist.

January 8, 2012

In My Mailbox - The week of last book orders

Yes, I'm on a book buying ban! No, I didn't manage to kick my resolution to the curb so quickly!
The thing is that I sent out some last minute orders at the end of December, and they only arrived now. That said, I present to you my last self-bought book haul for the next, well, six months! Plus one wonderful gift thrown in with the mix!

Enclave (Ann Aguirre)
from my Secret Santa

Limit (Franz Schätzing)

The Summoning (Kelley Armstrong)
Lifegame (Alison Allen-Gray)
The Devouring (Simon Holt)
Furnace: Lockdown (Alexander Gordon Smith)
Everlost (Neil Shusterman)

Thanks to The Story Siren for hosting the IMM meme!

The Reading Files - Come away with me

I started into the new year with zombies chasing me ... alright, maybe not real zombies, and I haven't been running much either, yet I've managed to read five books within five days, so it seems like the book fairies put a spell on me! Oddly enough I haven't been reading any horror/fantasy/paranormal stuff which might explain why I mention both zombies and fairies in this intro.
Anyway, after Day Five I went on a short reading hiatus, spending two days typing away as if a hoard of ... so I spent those days writing instead of reading. Got a head start with my reading anyway, and no one died of spending their days writing only. Of course it would put an interesting perspective to this blog post if yours truly was poltergeisting around on the keyboard. Long story short - here's what I read this week!

A Week At The Airport (Alain De Botton)
Source: bought used
Genre: Non Fiction / Travel / Philosophy

In the summer of 2009, Alain de Botton will be invited by the owners of Heathrow airport to become their first ever Writer in Residence. He will be installed in the middle of Terminal 5 on a raised platform with a laptop connected to screens, enabling passengers to see what he is writing and to come and share their stories. He will meet travellers from around the world, and will be given unprecedented access to wander the airport and speak with everyone from window cleaners and baggage handlers to air traffic controllers and cabin crew. Working with the renowned documentary photographer Richard Baker, de Botton will produce an extraordinary meditation upon the nature of place, time, and our daily lives. He will explore the magical and the mundane, personal and collective experiences and the interactions of travellers and workers all over this familiar but mysterious site. Like all airports, Heathrow (the 15th century village of Heath Row lies beneath the short stay car park) is a 'non-place' that we by definition want to leave, but it also provides a window into many worlds - through the thousands of people it dispatches every day. "A Week at the Airport" is sure to delight de Botton's large following, and anyone interested in the stories behind the way we live.

Title & Cover: *stifling a yawn*
Story: An impressionistic and philosophical contemplation on the nature of travel!
Narrative: Wonderful and unexpected! As delicious as a rich chocolate cake!
Characters: The author shares his literary - sometimes serious, often amusing, always dramatic - view on the individuals he meets.
Thoughts: I never liked airports. Especially Heathrow! Now I've come to the understanding that actually it's the flights that I detest. People watching at the airport? Count me in!

Checkout (Anna Sam)
Source: bought used
Genre: Non Fiction / Memoir / Humor

Can you scan 800 barcodes an hour? Can you smile and say thanks 500 times a day? Do you never need to go to the toilet? Then working at a supermarket checkout could be just the job for you. Anna Sam spent 8 years as a checkout girl. Checkout - A Life on the Tills is a witty look at what it s really like to work in a supermarket: the relentless grind and less-than-perfect working conditions, along with people-watching and encounters with every kind of customer from the bizarre to the downright rude. Sam's story has won her fans all over Europe, turning Checkout A Life on the Tills into a huge international bestseller, published in 10 languages.

Title & Cover: Like a 5 year old's art class project. I've seen worse though!
Story: Checkout girl shares it all - from annoying buyers to malfunctioning conveyor belts. Nice (or pathetic?) touch how she mentioned on the last page that now her book would be sold in supermarkets too.
Narrative: Pretty much fits the cover!
Characters: I'm sure the folks she met sitting at that till were quite, uhm, colorful ... not as though she really brought that point across.
Thoughts: A very light read, and that's putting it mildly! If you want a really hilarious and well written book on the topic, go for Retail Hell (Freeman Hall) or Malled (Kelly Caitlin).

The Secret Shopper's Revenge (Kate Harrison)
#1 Secret Shopper Series
Source: bought used
Genre: Chick-lit

New mum Emily wants revenge on the stick-thin assistants who laugh at her post-baby tummy and post-baby budget. But frumpiness has its advantages when you're wielding a secret camera - and sending the damning footage straight to head office. Store manager Sandie has a lifelong love of the world of retail - the glitz, the glamour, the stockroom. Then she's fitted up by an ambitious assistant and secret shopping is the only way to keep her one passion alive. Glamorous widow Grazia can't leave behind the high life, despite her chronically low bank balance. The more she's buying - and spying - the less time she has to mourn her husband or her fair-weather friends who've dumped her. They're Charlie's Shopping Angels, controlled by a mysterious figure who sends them assignments. But when they're sent to stitch up a doomed shop owned by Will, the angels begin to feel divided loyalties . . .

Title & Cover: I kinda like that pink glittery ribbon thingy, but the dotted blue background? Yikes!
Story: Three women, each with their own struggles, find themselves as Charlie's Shopping Angels, and soon enough, as friends too.
Narrative: The story is being told from three angles/POVs which works well in bringing out the individual characters.
Characters: They're all as different as they get, my favorite being down-to-Earth Sandie. The chemistry in their friendship is ok, but I've read better.
Thoughts: A light and fun read! Certainly not all that deep, but definitely entertaining!

The Secret Shopper Unwrapped (Kate Harrison)
#2 Secret Shopper Series
Source: bought used
Genre: Chick-lit

Christmas is coming, and while the bells are ringing, the tills aren't. But Sandie - the rising star of the retail spying world - is busier than ever, rooting out the best and worst in festive customer care through her company. The former Charlie's Shopping Angels are helping out, too. Glamorous widow Grazia is going undercover under the duvet at boutique hotels, in between dating a succession of toyboys and trying to remember which lie she's told about her age. Meanwhile, not-quite-yummy mummy Emily investigates the child-friendliness of the high street with the help of three-year-old Freddie, when she's not working flat out with her partner to save their fledging village shop from the un-festive credit crunch. The shoppers are back, but is the happiness they've worked so hard for, about to disappear faster than a Louis Vuitton handbag in the Harrod's sale?

Title & Cover: Now that cover's more like it (especially compared to the one of the first book in the series) - simple yet wonderfully Christmassy!
Story: The three secret shoppers are back, this time though a fourth girl is thrown into the mix as well. And Charlie's back with a vengeance!
Narrative: Instead of three POVs there are now four in this second book in the series, which is a tad too much for my taste, but oh well!
Characters: There is more of an emphasis on Sandie and the new girl Kelly. Admittedly that was alright by me seeing how Sandie turned out to be my fav character already in the first book.
Thoughts: It's good as far as sequels go, yet I would have wished for more secret shopping and less "personal problems", but that's just me.

Dispatches From Bitter America (Todd Starnes)
Source: NetGalley
Genre: Non Fiction / Journalism / Politics

FOX News Radio reporter Todd Starnes is a self-professed “gun toting, chicken eating son of a Baptist” whose Dispatches from Bitter America is “a collection of stories from my travels across this country (and) conversations I’ve had with regular folks who have deep concerns about the direction we are going as a nation.”
In his award-winning, satire-meets-serious writing style, Starnes jumps headfirst into the current culture war, taking on the topics that are dear to every American: religion, health care, freedom, country music, barbeque, and so forth. Along the way, he shares exclusive interviews with political commentator Bill O’Reilly, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, cooking sensation Paula Deen, and pop singer Amy Grant, always hoping to go from bitter to better.

Title & Cover: That must be the best about the book! No joking!
Story: Mr Starnes and a whole lot of other "bitter Americans" against pretty much everything that's going on in the government courtesy to the 44th President of the USA.
Narrative: He's being described as a mix of Paul Harvey, Lewis Grizzard and Erma Bombeck. I love Erma! And this comparison really hurts.
Characters: Americans. Bitter ones. With guns. You get the idea.
Thoughts: Honestly? After reading the book and checking out Todd Starnes' Facebook page I wasn't surprised he "likes" Sarah Palin. Let's just say, if you like Sarah Palin, you'll like that book too! What am I saying? You'll probably put this book next to your Bible!!

Today I'll get started on my next book, a chunkster for my Tea & Books Reading Challenge. Seeing how many pages I read in total this week, I should be able to plow through The Passage (Justin Cronin) by the end of next week. May the book fairies be with me and the zombies keeping me on my toes as well! With heavy tomes you need to take any help you can get, right?