September 16, 2012

The Postman Files - It's a Koontz world after all!

No new books this week which isn't all that surprising seeing how I behaved in recent weeks and haven't gone on any book shopping sprees. Yet I did receive something, thus this blog post. And, come to think of it, it actually consists of five books!

Abby from Mini Books Jewelry sent me this custom-made bracelet as a thank-you gift for featuring her shop in my Bookish Etsy series. Obviously I had to pick one of my all-time favorite authors - Dean Koontz! And it turned out sooo lovely!! Thanks so much again, Abby!

The Reading Files - Things are getting hairy!

Hairy as in rapid hair growth during a full moon. Yep, I'm finally back to reading fiction after three weeks of plowing through my non fiction review stash. And apparently there was a theme I wasn't even aware of in the first place. Werewolves all around.

The Summoning (Kelley Armstrong)

Thoughts. How little it takes to get institutionalized. And there they were, a bunch of kids all with "problems" of the supernatural kind. Can't help myself, why let a werewolf tag along with the whole ghost theme? Not to mention the book reads as if the last chapters have been chopped off. A cliffhanger taken too far.

Last words spoken. "Liz? There's something I need to tell you."

Verdict. Promising paranormal plot with some flaws in plot and pacing!

Sisters Red (Jackson Pearce)

Thoughts. Nothing beats a good ol' fairy tale. Now how about a mix of both Little Red Riding Hood and Snow-White and Rose-Red in a modern setting? Loved the narrative style from both girl's perspective. Intelligently written, complex characters, now if only the story twist hadn't been all that obvious. Still, totally loved that book!

Random quote. My sister has the heart of an artist with a hatchet and an eye patch. And I, we both now know, have a heart that is undeniably, irreparably different.
(p. 340)

Verdict. A captivating and mesmerizing fairy tale retelling in an urban fantasy setting!

Claire De Lune (Christine Johnson)

Thoughts. Being a werewolf as disease that may be cured? Fascinating concept, yet the book itself disappointed. The kind of story that goes in one ear and out the other.

First line. She killed him in the darkest part of the night, before the dew had settled on the grass.

Verdict. Werewolf story with a twist yet boring execution!

Moonlight (Rachel Hawthorne)

Thoughts. Not much happening. No suspense whatsoever. On the upside it was a mellow read for a lazy afternoon which suited me just fine. And is it just me or does the girl on the cover look like the one who played Cybill's daugther in the sitcom?

Last lines. For now it was enough. For now it was everything.

Verdict. Fluffy *haha* light werewolfy novel!

Need (Carrie Jones)

Thoughts. It's always nice when werewolves don't have to face vampires. But pixies? Really!? Anyway, I really enjoyed the narrative which is sort of detached, yet totally supplements Zara's inner turmoil. Overall though, just not my cuppa tea.

Who knew? You can be afraid of a great many things. Strange things at that. Phobophobia is fear of phobias.

Verdict. Paranormal novel spruced up with pixies and werewolves!

Review - The Little Bookstore Of Big Stone Gap (Wendy Welch)

A book about losing your place, finding your purpose, and immersing yourself in what holds community, and humanity, together - books.
Wendy Welch and her husband had always dreamed of owning a bookstore. When the opportunity to escape a toxic work environment and run to a struggling Virginia coal mining town presented itself, they took it. And took the plunge into starting their dream as well. They chose to ignore the “death of the book,” the closing of bookstores across the nation, and the difficult economic environment, and six years later they have carved a bookstore—and a life—out of an Appalachian mountain community.
A story of beating bad odds with grace, ingenuity, good books, and single malt, this memoir chronicles two bibliophiles discovering unlikely ways in which daily living and literature intertwine. Their customers—"Bob the Mad Irishman," "Wee Willie," and "The Lady Who Liked Romances," to name a few—come to the shop looking for the kind of interactive wisdom Kindles don't spark, and they find friendship, community, and the uncommon pleasure of a good book in good company.
The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap will make you want to run to the local bookstore, and curl up in an arm chair with a treasure in bound pages.

If you're a bibliophile you most likely thought about it yourself. Your very own bookstore. In The Little Bookstore Of Big Stone Gap Wendy Welch and her husband make that dream come true. In a spur of the moment decision they buy an old Edwardian home to open their own used bookstore. Of course it's a long way from a dream to a working business, especially if you have no business plan.
This is a quaint and wholesome story about a small town bookstore and its people. Putting their hearts, as much as part of their personal library onto those empty shelves, this venture proved to be a real page turner for me. Yet I'll be the first to admit that you should love books, otherwise this book might not captivate you as much as it pulled me in.
Both warmhearted and fun Wendy sure managed to put a smile on my face from the first page on. Not only can you feel the love for books between the lines, she is also a wonderful writer, not just bringing her experiences and observations to paper, but making them come alive in the reader's mind. I could literally see myself browsing those shelves, catching glimpses of the cats (and dogs) of the house, and mingling with the regulars. I'm in love with this place already!
Too bad the book doesn't include pictures of the shop which would have really rounded off the picture.
In short: A bookishly charming memoir!

5/5 Trees

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.

Review - America's Haunted Universities (Matthew L. Swayne)

America's Haunted Universities examines some of the most haunted locales in the country--U.S. university campuses. From haunted libraries to doomed dorms, journalist Matthew L. Swayne has scoured universities across the country to bring readers the most comprehensive look available at ghost encounters at these bastions of higher education. This guide explores the strangest and most enduring stories with first-hand accounts, historical analysis, and a re-telling of classic legends.
Readers will find stories about long-dead college faculty who still appear in a spectral sense on American campuses, coeds who met untimely ends, a haunted elevator, the carnivorous Penguin man, the ghostess with the mostess, and a poltergeist named "Monkey Boy," as well as many other chilling and bizarre entities and encounters.

There is more than one reason why you should be carefully choosing the University you want to attend. Some might be a good choice career-wise, but then there's all that poltergeisting which might be a bit annoying when you're trying to learn for exams.
Encounters of the spooky kind have apparently scared students throughout the years and in America's Haunted Universities Matthew L. Swayne now presents a collection of paranormal events in dormitories and classrooms, and of course libraries too.
Tongue in cheek and wildly entertaining, the author isn't trying to proof that these places are actually haunted, but instead he compiled a mix of unexplained occurrences that are often based on folktales and urban legends of the haunting kind. Of course a few real ghost stories might have slipped in as well, but maybe it's just an old building settling that explains the eery creaking and moaning in the walls at night.
I must admit I was happy to see that the author doesn't try to convince readers that all those ghostly encounters are the real thing. Though you're free to take every word at face value, if you wish.
While the book claims to be a comprehensive collection, to me it seemed a rather haphazard assortment of incidents, some all too brief, maybe a paragraph long, while others were more extensive. Apart from that, however, this has been a truly amusing read for me.
In short: A hauntingly fun read!

3/5 Trees

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.

September 15, 2012

Pajama Musings - I'm not really here

In fact I will be ... right about here ... give or take a few miles! That's in-flight entertainment for ya!

Not only will I be up in the air by the time this post goes live, I will probably also be in the middle of digesting the three and a half bites of delicious yummyness they call "food" on board *insert sarcasm*.

Of course digesting won't take up all of my time on that plane. And as most of you know by now, I can't read on a plane, just too noisy. So what's a traveler to do?

I might resort to taking a nap (yeah, right) or if all else fails (which it will) I shall indulge in some people watching ... bet Mr. Brown Shoes doesn't do that at home.

Good thing, that plane has to land eventually.

And then, finally, I can rest my weary head on a soft pillow, get a good night's rest, and dream of two wonderful weeks ahead of me, yay!


See y'all again on Monday, October 1st!

September 12, 2012

Bookish Etsy - All good things ...

... must come to an end!

In other words, this is the last Bookish Etsy post, at least for the time being. I guess you'll all agree that it's been a fun summer of discovering Etsy shops that offer all kinds of bookish goodness.

Starting with October we'll be back to the good old Beyond the Shelf feature in a slightly different, more snazzy design. And you never know, there might be the occasional Bookish Etsy posts every once in a while too. So yes, there will be more of the good stuff on a slightly irregular basis.

Let's take one last look at all the Etsy shops that have been featured this summer ... oh and, there are a couple of shops which still offer coupon codes for a few more days!

Use THEBOOKGARDEN to receive 10%-Off at Lettershop (valid through September 15th)

Use garden10 to receive 10%-Off at The Magic Closet (valid through September 15th)

Use GARDEN to receive 15%-Off at Novel Creations (valid until further notice)

P.S.: Blank widgets mean that the respective shop is currently in vacation mode!

September 11, 2012

Quote Garden - Reading? Seriously!

The true reader reads every work seriously in the sense that he reads it whole-heartedly, makes himself as receptive as he can. But for that very reason he cannot possibly read every work solemnly or gravely. For he will read 'in the same spirit that the author writ.'... He will never commit the error of trying to munch whipped cream as if it were venison.
C.S. Lewis

A big book is like a serious relationship; it requires a commitment. Not only that, but there's no guarantee that you will enjoy it, or that it will have a happy ending. Kind of like going out with a girl, having to spend time every day with her - with absolutely no guarantee of nailing her in the end. No thanks.
Mick Foley

Everybody should read fiction … I don’t think serious fiction is written for a few people. I think we live in a stupid culture that won’t educate its people to read these things. It would be a much more interesting place if it would. And it’s not just that mechanics and plumbers don’t read literary fiction, it’s that doctors and lawyers don’t read literary fiction. It has nothing to do with class, it has to do with an anti-intellectual culture that doesn’t trust art.
Percival Everett

If it is written and read with serious attention, a novel, like a myth or any great work of art, can become an initiation that helps us to make a painful rite of passage from one phase of life, one state of mind, to another. A novel, like a myth, teaches us to see the world differently; it shows us how to look into our own hearts and to see our world from a perspective that goes beyond our own self-interest.
Karen Armstrong

I guess a bit part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves.
David Foster Wallace

September 10, 2012

A Writer's Life - How 'bout a one liner?

Time and again I would pack a notepad and pen, all set on jotting down the adventures of my many journeys. The plan was always the same. After a long hard day of being out and about I would find a quiet minute to sit down and bring my thoughts about the past hours on paper. Of course it usually ended with me dropping into bed and dozing off within seconds. How could I think of writing when the next adventure awaited me in merely six hours?

I guess it goes without saying that I can't (not in good conscience anyway) call myself a travel writer. Yet I feel the irresistible pull to venture in that very direction once again on my next vacation. Now you're all ears, right? Yet before you get overly excited by the prospect of my travel memoirs, let it be said that I shall try a whole new angle. A short one at that. I'm not going to write down page after page of elaborate descriptions about me riding Splash Mountain, neither will there be explicit scenes involving me and a chocolaty dessert at the Bahama Breeze. It's going to be a one-liner show, folks!

Each day. One sentence.

Now that should make for some seriously fun introspective moments. Quote-worthy even! But let's not get ahead of myself now. This is the plan. I hope I will stick to it. And hell, it's just one line a day! How hard can it be?

Famous last words, eh?

Anyway, notepad ready, pen poised. I'm ready!


Here are some great travel quotes from my other blog, The Travel Garden ...

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.

September 9, 2012

Review - The Slumbering Masses (Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer)

Americans spend billions of dollars every year on drugs, therapy, and other remedies trying to get a good night’s sleep. Anxieties about not getting enough sleep and the impact of sleeplessness on productivity, health, and happiness pervade medical opinion, the workplace, and popular culture. In The Slumbering Masses, Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer addresses the phenomenon of sleep and sleeplessness in the United States, tracing the influence of medicine and industrial capitalism on the sleeping habits of Americans from the nineteenth century to the present.
Drawing on untapped archival sources and long-term ethnographic research with people who both experience and treat sleep abnormalities, Wolf-Meyer analyzes and sharply critiques how sleep and its supposed disorders are understood and treated. By recognizing the variety and limits of sleep, he contends, we can establish more flexible expectations about sleep and, ultimately, subvert the damage of sleep pathology and industrial control on our lives.

Oh to sleep! Oh to nap! Oh to be restless and unable to fall asleep! In his book The Slumbering Masses Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer, anthropologist of medicine and science, explores sleep in all its facets - from sleep medicine to the rise of solitary sleepers, from workplace naps to sleepwalking murders.
How could I, a big fan of taking an afternoon nap, resist such a promising read? Sleep doesn't come easy and I was amazed at the diversity and complexity of sleep disorders, as well as intrigued by the social formations of sleep. What is healthy sleep? What is disordered sleep? Even though in condensed form, it certainly shows that several years of extensive research went into this book. And amidst the historical and clinical data, there are also lots of interesting facts to be found.
While fascinating, unfortunately I also found the book a bit slow going in places, and admittedly I had to struggle through some parts. While I wouldn't go so far as to say this book isn't for the general public, I found the execution a tad too scholastic for my taste. This is the kind of book which you'd expect on your college reading list; it might not be accessible to anyone, but is definitely worth a read for those genuinely interested in a serious and deep discussion of the topic.
In short: An extensive survey on everything you ever wanted to know about sleep!

3/5 Trees

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.

Review - Consider The Fork (Bee Wilson)

Since prehistory, humans have braved sharp knives, fire, and grindstones to transform raw ingredients into something delicious—or at least edible. Tools shape what we eat, but they have also transformed how we consume, and how we think about, our food. Technology in the kitchen does not just mean the Pacojets and sous-vide of the modernist kitchen. It can also mean the humbler tools of everyday cooking and eating: a wooden spoon and a skillet, chopsticks and forks.
Blending history, science, and anthropology, Wilson reveals how our culinary tools and tricks came to be, and how their influence has shaped modern food culture. The story of how we have tamed fire and ice and wielded whisks, spoons, and graters, all for the sake of putting food in our mouths, Consider the Fork is truly a book to savor.

What did you have for breakfast today? Or more importantly how did you prepare it? I bet several kitchen appliances have been put to good use. Pans and knives, measuring and grinding, fire and ice (or rather, stove and fridge) - Consider The Fork by Bee Wilson isn't your ordinary guide into the history of food, but into the world of implements and technology inside the kitchen. It's not about what but how we eat, and if you find this to be a trivial topic, think again, because it's most certainly not. I promise, after reading this book you will never look at your spoon the same way again!
Skillfully the author weaves a tapestry of her own observations while cooking, mixing it with fascinating excursions into history, effortlessly seguing from everyday snapshots to the distant past. Thoroughly researched and wonderfully detailed, but even more so, engrossingly and smoothly written, this book is literally a real treat for everyone even remotely interested into a look at the technology behind everything we eat. As unimportant as the equipment of a kitchen may seem compared to the history of food itself, I was both surprised and delighted by this book. I have always had a great appreciation for books presenting a slightly different angle on historical aspects of things, and this one catered to my taste (pun intended) just perfectly.
In short: A mesmerizing and beautifully written journey into the world of kitchen utensils!

5/5 Trees

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.

The Postman Files - Let's rhyme a little!

Smallish book haul this week, but a lovely one which is good enough for me. Sending a big thanks to Rikki and Miki ... pardon the unexpected rhyme! Rikki sent me a book that's been on my radar for a while now aaand one of my most loyal blog readers, Miki, created a super cute handmade bookmark for my birthday! Thanks so much again!!

The Art Of Travel (Alain de Botton) German Ed.
from Rikki

The Reading Files - Houses filled with ghosts and books

And two more non fiction books. I guess next week some fiction is in order.

America's Haunted Universities (Matthew L. Swayne)

Thoughts. Things are getting spooky. And now you might want to reconsider which university you attend. Tongue in cheek and wildly entertaining, yet a bit of a haphazard collection of folktales and urban legends of the haunting kind.

Who knew? Former librarians are typically a scapegoat for paranormal activities. Talk about being attached to those books even after you've died.

Verdict. A hauntingly fun read!

The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap (Wendy Welch)

Thoughts. If you're a bibliophile you most likely thought about it yourself. Your very own bookstore. A quaint and wholesome story about a small town bookstore and its people. I'm in love with this place already!

Random quote. "Got some real valuable books here.", she said with satisfaction. [...] I peered into the box. Mouse droppings adorned the top. The corner of one paperback showed teeth marks. Mentally I armed for combat. (p. 74)

Verdict. A bookishly charming memoir!

September 8, 2012

Pajama Musings - Theirs been a few thing on my mind lately

Copyright by Shoebox

Now I cannot claim not receiving any comments on my blog for weeks on end, but to be perfectly honest I wouldn't mind getting more than I currently do. And just because your blog is comment friendly doesn't mean people will comment. Why? My pet theory is that blog readers are a notoriously lazy breed. Don't scoff at this statement ... I ain't seeing you typing a comment yet, do I?

*ohhh ... touched a nerve ... I can almost hear those fingers hit the keyboard and type a nice little comment*

Long story short, I still remember in the early days how I was pretty clueless about those little things that will encourage others to leave a comment. I might not be the high priestess of comments, but let me assure you, implementing some (or all) of the following suggestions is definitely a good start if you want to boost the number of comments others leave on your blog.

Make it simple for people to leave a comment. I hate nothing more than Captcha. And yes, in the beginning I used it too. It's obviously not such a small step from being annoyed by it on other blogs and realizing that you don't treat your own readers any better. Trust me, your fear of getting totally spammed is completely unfounded. I don't even remember the last time I received spam through the comments. And if you do insist on some kind of safety feature then why not implement a fun one such as Sweet Captcha which does the trick without being utterly annoying.

Invite your readers to comment. Your blog post might be utterly brilliant, but sometimes people just don't quite know what to say aka comment. Encourage them with one or two questions at the end of the post. This can be as specific as you want to - ask about your reader's take on things or if there is anything they might want to add. Personally I found this to be extremely helpful.

Interact with those who comment. Before Blogger made it possible to reply directly on someone's comment this was a bit of a chore, but today there is no excuse for not reacting on what someone else has got to say. Admittedly I am not always the fastest in doing this, but I do reply to most comments ... except for those "Great post!" ones, but this is excusable, I think.

Give incentives. Now that is something I personally don't, but quite a few bloggers do. Think along the lines of a lil' reward aka giveaway for one randomly drawn commenter each month. This is obviously nothing you must do to get folks to leave comments, though if you want to motivate your blog readers that way it's certainly not a bad idea.

Lastly, heed one more piece of advice - do onto them as you want others to do unto you. It's not just about your own blog! So go out there and visit  your fav blogs regularly, leave a comment or two and you'll see that many will visit your blog as well and leave a comment. Of course I should really take some of my own medicine in this case, ahem!

Anybody else familiar with lazy blog readers? Are you one of them? If you plan to just move along and not even leave a wee one liner for yours truly, then yes, it's you I'm talking about.

And how about my fellow bloggers? Anything you would like to add to my tips above? Please share!

Ya all know what I expect you to do now, right?


*distant sound of crickets*

September 7, 2012

2 by 2 Giveaway Winner

The lucky winner of the September 2 by 2 Giveaway is
Mary Preston
who picked the book Frankenstein: Prodigal Son!

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

September 5, 2012

Bookish Etsy - New clothes for the King, errr, Kindle

Being a bookaholic does not only translate into humongous TBR piles, it also means that we treat out books with much love and care. The same is true for those of us who own an eReader. We feed them and we dress them.

And off we go on a little shopping trip to style our eReader in the latest fashion ...

from Nimoo

P.S.: Most shop owners will create custom sleeves for your eReader (Kindle, Nook, etc.) and all you have to do is leave a note in the messages to specify which eReader model you own!

Copyright of all pictures belongs to the respective shop owners.

September 4, 2012

2 by 2 Giveaway

Welcome to the September edition of the 2 by 2 Giveaway on my blog!

Why hello Dr. Frankenstein!

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
Frankenstein: Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz)

Once this post goes live you have two days (48 hours) to enter by filling out the form!
Please note: This giveaway is open worldwide, but only for countries TBD offers free shipping to - please check here.

Comments do not count as entries - you must fill out the form!
Following my blog is no requirement, but greatly appreciated.
One entry per person.
Open worldwide.

One winner will be picked through on September 7th 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.

Quote Garden - We are all poets, really!

A poet is an unhappy being whose heart is torn by secret sufferings, but whose lips are so strangely formed that when the sighs and the cries escape them, they sound like beautiful music. People crowd around the poet and say to him: "Sing for us soon again;" that is as much to say, "May new sufferings torment your soul.
Soren Kieekegaard

Every poem is a coat of arms. It must be deciphered. How much blood, how many tears in exchange for these axes, these muzzles, these unicorns, these torches, these towers, these martlets, these seedlings of stars and these fields of blue!
Jean Cocteau

Listen, real poetry doesn't say anything; it just ticks off the possibilities. Opens all doors. You can walk through anyone that suits you.
Jim Morrison

The poet is the man of metaphor: while the philosopher is interested only in the truth of meaning, beyond even signs and names, and the sophist manipulates empty signs the poet plays on the multiplicity of signifieds.
Jacques Derrida

I wouldn't be surprised if poetry - poetry in the broadest sense, in the sense of a world filled with metaphor, rhyme, and recurring patterns, shapes, and designs - is how the world works. The world isn't logical; it's a song.
David Byrne

September 3, 2012

A Writer's Life - Let's work that net!

Social networking. One of the most important things when it comes to being both an author and a blogger. And obviously for a good reason. After all, they offer a powerful tool to reach your target aka readers. Yet sometimes I get this distinct feeling that many totally and completely overdo it. I mean, playing around with a dozen different social networks inbetween writing and/or blogging can't be all there is to life, right? Even if it's the "writing life" as I'd like to add.

Personally I feel that it's better to focus on not more than three social outlets, because that way you will be able to interact with others on a more regular and deeper level than, say, joining ten different online networks where you only visit once a month to leave a comment or two. Of course three is just what I personally feel is a good and manageable number, this could be two or seven for someone else.

Granted, with all the opportunities the internet provides it is hard to only pick a handful of social media sites, but remember, it's not about quantity, but quality!

So, which are my preferred sites to mingle with others?

My blog.

Yep, folks, that's it. My blog. So scratch that plural in the question above.

Of course you may also find me on Facebook (yep, finally caved and created a fan page for my blog this weekend, so head on over and like me if you haven't done so already), Pinterest (my latest addiction, I admit it, plus you can share so much about books there too), Goodreads and LibraryThing (both to keep my TBR piles in check and share my reviews, and I know actually only one would be necessary but I like both for different reasons).

I know some authors, and bloggers for that matter, whose lists of social networks are humongous, and admittedly yours truly has signed up for one too many herself in the early days. Of course then I ended up never having time to spend on those sites and that was that. These websites include the Blogaholic Social Network, Book Blogs, and She Writes. I'm not saying these sites aren't worth spending time on and interacting with fellow writers or bloggers, but ultimately they simply aren't a priority.

And then, how could I ever forget, Twitter. Still not on there and no intention whatsoever to change that. I'm not known for being a frequent updater on Facebook, so I already know that after three weeks filled with enthusiastic tweeting my account would look like the Mohave Desert. I know what I'm talking about. Google+ is the best proof for this. I signed up, got super excited, pretty much singing songs of praise for the new kid in town, and one day this feeling was replaced by boredom which happened to coincide with Facebook getting yet another major overhaul that made me return into its open arms.

What it all boils down to is this. Make social networks work for you, but don't let them take over your life. Use them wisely and don't act like a kid in the candy shop. That's about it.

How about yourself? Ever get the feeling that you're dancing at too many parties when it comes to social networking? How many sites are you using frequently? Which ones? And most of all, any other non-Tweeters out there? Let me know!

Old Books in Need of a New Home Winners

Alright folks, some old books have indeed found new homes! As you all know there were two boxes you could get your hands on, and not all that surprisingly most of you went for the YA themed box. I'll keep that in mind for future pre-loved book giveaways *wink*.

Winner of Box 1
Stephanie @ Bookfever

Winner of Box 2

E-mails are on the way!

I'm not sure yet when the next Old Books in Need of a New Home post will be up and what will be inside the box. Then again, that only adds to the suspense, right? Though in all likelihood I'd say it's probably going to be in November, and maybe juuust maybe I'll be giving away two boxes again!

September 2, 2012

Tea & Books Reading Challenge

How time flies when you're having fun in the sun! Or rather fun in the shade with tons of sunscreen slathered on. Welcome back after the summer break!

I have a confession to make. I didn't exactly plan not to post an update last month. In fact I've just been too lazy to do so, and seeing how I didn't get any reading done for this challenge you can hardly blame me. So, anyone else who didn't touch a tome, I promise I won't cast you accusing glances today. I will save those for the end of November.

Anyway, the grand total of chunksters read by me is four which translates into reaching the Berry Tea Devotee level. Of course this isn't the level I've signed up for aaand I still have two more tomes to go to reach my chosen level. That's ok though. After all there are still four months to go. Easy-peasy.

The interesting question would be which books to choose! I still have three thick tomes lined up, all by Frank Sch├Ątzing, all in German, and all incredibly daunting when it comes to the page count. Suffice to say, I'm going to steer clear of Limit which is a 1.328 pages chunkster and choose between the other two which aren't exactly lightweight either, but at least they don't break the 1.000 pages barrier. What am I saying? No choosing. I need two more books, so I'll just pick the slightly thinner *haha* volumes for the finish.

Of course I'm going to assume now that you've all been better readers than yours truly and have some good news to share with all the other challenge participants! Then again, maybe all you managed to do is get a sunburn. Like I said before, I'm not going to do any finger pointing. Yet.

Feel free to share how far you progressed in the challenge! And in case you've been an idle reader yourself, don't be shy and leave a comment too. I'd feel terrible if I had been the only lazy bum this summer, you know!

Dean Koontz Reading Challenge

And we're back after the summer break. Of course I'm going to assume that you've all been spending as much time on sunbathing as you did on reading! As for me, I read 77 Shadow Street in July and finishing this book means two things - first of all there's the annoying fact that Koontz definitely has lost his spunk. Somehow things really went downhill after what I'd like to call his master piece, Odd Thomas, and while I'm not easily giving up on favorite authors I'm having a real hard time looking forward to Koontz's next novel as I fear the worst.

Secondly there is also good news, because with this novel I finished the challenge!! I may now officially call myself Odd Thomas' Neighbor. Not too shabby seeing how the year isn't even close to being over. Anyone who might wonder if I am going to settle for an upgrade I have to tell you that right now I've pumped enough Koontz into my system for the time being, so I'll call it a day.

How about yourself? Have you been reading for the challenge and if so, which book(s) did you choose? Or maybe you're more of a last-minute reader and not even close to a panic? After all, still four more months to go!

The Postman Files - It was about time!

Nothing worth mentioning to be found in my mailbox for almost three weeks, but finally I can do a little bragging with new books again. I mean, it was getting a bit boring.

Under The Never Sky (Veronica Rossi)
from Review's by Martha's Bookshelf

Bought for Kindle
Forsaken (Jana Oliver)

Free on Kindle
Hollowland (Amanda Hocking)
Jenny Pox (J.L. Bryan)

The Reading Files - Let's eat a little, let's sleep a little

Guess I'm overdosing on non-fiction lately, but that's ok as I'm currently not in a fiction mood anyway. This suits me just fine, because I'm trying to reduce my review pile to a minimum before heading to Florida. If only writing those reviews weren't such an effort lately. Not as though I'd blame the books, those have been great. Oh well ...

Consider The Fork (Bee Wilson)

Thoughts. From pans and knives to fire and ice. This isn't your ordinary guide into the history of food, but into the world of implements and technology inside the kitchen. I promise, you will never look at your spoon the same way again!

Book quote. Cook, little pot, cook! (Sweet Porridge, Brother's Grimm)

Verdict. A mesmerizing and beautifully written journey into the world of kitchen utensils!

The Slumbering Masses (Matthew J. Wolf-Meyer)

Thoughts. Oh to sleep! Oh to nap! Oh to be restless and cannot fall asleep! Super fascinating topic, yet the execution is a tad too scholastic for my taste.

Lesson learned. What was known as "Pickwickian syndrome", named after a character in a Charles Dickens novel, back in the 1950s, is what we now call obstructive sleep apnea.

Verdict. An extensive survey on everything you ever wanted to know about sleep!

Review - Hollywood Unknowns (Anthony Slide)

Extras, bit players, and stand-ins have been a part of the film industry almost from its conception. On a personal and a professional level, their stories are told in Hollywood Unknowns, the first history devoted to extras from the silent era through the present.
Hollywood Unknowns discusses the relationship of the extra to the star, the lowly position in which extras were held, the poor working conditions and wages, and the sexual exploitation of many of the hardworking women striving for a place in Hollywood society. Though mainly anonymous, many are identified by name and, for perhaps the first time, receive equal billing with the stars. And Hollywood Unknowns does not forget the bit players, stand-ins, and doubles, who work alongside the extras facing many of the same privations. Celebrity extras, silent stars who ended their days as extras, or members of various ethnic groups--all gain a deserved luster in acclaimed film writer Anthony Slide's prose. Chapters document the lives and work of extras from the 1890s to the present. Slide also treats such subjects as the Hollywood Studio Club, Central Casting, the extras in popular literature, and the efforts at unionization through the Screen Actors Guild from the 1930s onwards.

Their performances contributed to many movies which wouldn't have been realized without them. Unknown and unnoticed they added substance and atmosphere, yet they did not exit in the credits nor did it matter whether they even had talent. In his book Hollywood Unknowns Anthony Slide delves into the early days of the film industry, highlighting the big part extras, bit players, and stand-ins actually played.
The author manages to convey the vibe of the film industry wonderfully well, fills it up with well researched accounts and surprising tid-bits, all spruced up with photos showing extras at work. Granting detailed insights into what happened behind the scenes as much as in front of the camera, Slide does not shy away from accentuating the dark side of the industry either, broaching subjects such as sexual exploitation or racial issues. I found this book mesmerizing and disillusioning at the same time.
I admit, particularly the small details made this read so engaging for me, eg how casting telephone operators adopted a form of abbreviated speech and the most depressing one syllable you could hear was "Nerk" signifying "no work". Or how about extras needing to own certain outfits to even stand a chance to get a part. You mightn't need talent, but certainly the right wardrobe.
An amazing portrait of those nameless faces lost in the crowds. Film buffs, you'll need to read this one!
In short: An utter delight for all film aficionados!

5/5 Trees

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.

Review - The American Dream (Lawrence R. Samuel)

There is no better way to understand America than by understanding the cultural history of the American Dream. Rather than just a powerful philosophy or ideology, the Dream is thoroughly woven into the fabric of everyday life, playing a vital role in who we are, what we do, and why we do it. No other idea or mythology has as much influence on our individual and collective lives. Tracing the history of the phrase in popular culture, Samuel gives readers a field guide to the evolution of our national identity over the last eighty years.
Samuel tells the story chronologically, revealing that there have been six major eras of the mythology since the phrase was coined in 1931. Relying mainly on period magazines and newspapers as his primary source material, the author demonstrates that journalists serving on the front lines of the scene represent our most valuable resource to recover unfiltered stories of the Dream. The problem, Samuel reveals, is that it does not exist; the Dream is just that, a product of our imagination. That it is not real ultimately turns out to be the most significant finding and what makes the story most compelling.

How would you define The American Dream? Limitless possibilities? The good life? Pursuit of happiness? In The American Dream Lawrence R. Samuel explores this constant presence in the minds of the American people as the one thing defining their culture.
From the beginnings of the Dream during the Great Depression to the times of counterculture in the 1960s straight to the present the author highlights the origins of the Dream, how it evolved over the years, and its relevance today. Of course I've heard about The American Dream before though I admittedly didn't know all that much about this integral part of what shaped the American identity. Mostly compiled through journalistic records the book offers a fascinating, in-depth read for anyone interested in the topic. What I personally enjoyed the most were the excursions into pop culture, showing how The American Dream reflects in both literature and on the big screen. I also like how the author ponders whether there is such a thing as an European or even a Global Dream. Overall I found this book to be a great illumination of the topic, yet I must admit that I found it to be a bit on the dry side too.
Will The American Dream be still there tomorrow? Is it really, as the author suggests, only a myth, existent in our imagination? A doubtlessly thought-provoking conclusion which everyone should answer for themselves.
In short: Concise if somewhat prosaic study on The American Dream!

4/5 Trees

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.

September 1, 2012

Pajama Musings - Books are in the air!

September. The month when school starts again (at least where I live). September. The month I was born in. September. The month when summer slowly melts into fall.

I've always loved September. I never quite felt the same about school though. Still I remember the first weeks at school quite fondly. I was set on being a good student, doing my homework in a timely manner, in other words the usual delusional thoughts I had every year. Inevitably my enthusiasm usually left me by early October. If I was lucky.

Yet there was something I always cherished when a new school year started. The books. Yes, school books, but nonetheless books. Maybe this is something not to be bragged about but I will do so anyway. I loved my school books. Or maybe it was just this intoxicating scent of new books.

Copyright by 123RF

Depending on the schools I went to copies for each class were handed out in school or we received vouchers and got them in bookshops nearby. I almost don't dare say this, but I was always terribly disappointed when I had to actually wait for a book a week because it wasn't in stock *gasp*. Luckily though that happened very rarely and I was a happy little camper hauling home tons of books for the school year. I smelt, I sniffed, I inhaled deeply. And now that I think about it, I have this suspicion that they added some kind of aroma to the typical new-book-scent which secretly enhanced the joy of learning. You see, interestingly enough the scent and the allure of holding (and once again sniffing) those books evaporated at about the same time. Makes you wonder doesn't it?

After this, in hindsight, kinda weird little confession (I'm too lazy to write a whole new blog post so I guess I will just have to deal with your reactions, be it raucous laughter or pitiful glances) I wonder - am I the only one who treasured her school books? Well, at least until their alluring scent evaporated along with my motivation, haha *cough*. Please share!