February 27, 2013

Beyond the Shelf - What Should I Read Next?

Where to go? What Should I Read Next?

What's it all about? This site will analyse a huge database of real readers' favorite books to provide book recommendations and suggestions for what to read next.

Who should check it out? For those who just can't make up their mind about what to read next.

Time well spent? I dunno. It spits out some rather strange suggestions - one of the suggestions I received after entering Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz was a book by Danielle Steel *raises eyebrow in wonder* - though on the upside you won't just be offered books by the same author. Doesn't hurt to give it a try though!

One for the road ...

I dare you to figure out which book I entered to receive this list!
(this should be fun, ha)

February 26, 2013

Quote Garden - Wanna take a look at my manuscript?

You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist.
Isaac Asimov

My congratulations to you, sir. Your manuscript is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.
Samuel Johnson

What I had to face, the very bitter lesson that everyone who wants to write has got to learn, was that a thing may in itself be the finest piece of writing one has ever done, and yet have absolutely no place in the manuscript one hopes to publish.
Thomas Wolfe

It can be depressing when no one takes interest, and a lack of response makes the writer question why they’re writing at all. To have one’s writing rejected is like you, yourself, are being rejected.
Lizz Clements

A good many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor.
Ring Lardner

February 24, 2013

The Reading Files - Let's knit ourselves an alibi!

Apparently I let Stephen sleep on the shelf for yet another week, so no updates on murderous clowns despite my intention to finish that tome in the next days to A) get it off my plate and B) thoroughly impress all other participants in the Tea & Books Reading Challenge.

Of course I did read a bit and as I am once again in a cozy mystery mood, well ... just see for yourselves!

Knit One, Kill Two (Maggie Sefton)

Thoughts. Take a dead aunt, a missing quilt, and an overzealous realtor. Add a reluctant knitter with a a bit of an unhealthy coffee-addiction and a dog you can't help but love. Wrapped up nicely in a wonderfully fluffy if a bit too run-of-the-mill plot, this was utterly enjoyable!

Random quote. Strangling the wool? How'd she manage that? Kelly wondered. She'd started out arguing with it and wound up killing it.
(p. 77)

Verdict. A fun cozy read with plenty of swooning over yarn!

A Crafty Killing (Lorraine Bartlett)

Thoughts. Yet another crafty setting featuring a determined and emotionally stricken heroine who needs to keep Artisans Alley afloat after the previous manager dies. A bit too dark for my taste, not to mention most characters being unlikable enough to make me wish there were more murders.

Most thought (and spoken) word by the heroine. Swell.

Verdict. Average not all that crafty mystery!

Spackled and Spooked (Jennie Bentley)

Thoughts. A if renovating a house where a whole family's been murdered wasn't bad enough, there's still a skeleton buried beneath as well. Fun and engaging with a wonderful cast, though as far as the mystery goes I knew who-dunnit in the second chapter already.

Random quote. "Are there more?" I asked.
"It's not as if someone could loose an ulna and not notice. It isn't something you can take off and leave laying around, like that earring you picked up the other day. I didn't see any more, but if there's one human bone down there, they're all there, believe me."
(p. 69)

Verdict. Enjoyable yet utterly predictable mystery!

February 22, 2013

This isn't Fiction - Graphic Non Fiction, Gladwell, and Generosity

It may look like a Comic Book, yet it isn't. What else could it be then? Try GRAPHIC NON FICTION!

Non-fiction comics, also known as graphic non fiction, is non fiction in the comics medium, embracing a variety of formats from comic strips to trade paperbacks.

Trust me, comics aren't just for kids, especially in the case of non fiction comics I dare say that it will be easier for them to learn new things in the less than dry execution which combines both drawings and text. Of course, as I just pointed out, the same fun can be had by adults who are a little weary of the non fiction genre yet not avert to the occasional comic strip in the Sunday paper.

Take for example The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA (Mark Schultz, author; Zander and Kevin Cannon, illustrators) which beautifully conveys the basics of genetics. Not just for the kids, I say.

If you'd rather stick to the stuff for grown-ups then The Influencing Machine (Brooke Gladstone, author; Josh Neufeld, illustrator) might be just the thing for you, especially if you're interested in media and its maladies.

And you probably thought that if it looks like a comic it's got to be fiction, ha. Learning a new thing every day!

Want to find out more? 
Drawing on Reality and Comic Books as Journalism are two great articles on the subject.


Malcolm T. GLADWELL is a British-Canadian journalist, bestselling author, and speaker. His books and articles often deal with the unexpected implications of research in the social sciences and make frequent and extended use of academic work, particularly in the areas of sociology, psychology, and social psychology. He's probably best known for the bestseller Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005).

Curious? Find out more about this author on Goodreads.

We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We're a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don't really have an explanation for.


What kind of person are you? Glamorous, generous, and gentle, I bet!

Babushka's Beauty Secrets: Old World Tips for a Glamorous New You (Raisa Ruder and Susan Campos)

The Generous Man: How Helping Others is the Sexiest Thing You Can Do (Tor Norretranders)

The Gentle Art Of Domesticity (Jane Brocket)


My dear glamorous readers, think about this question without thinking and then tell me, have you ever read a non fiction comic?

February 20, 2013

Beyond the Shelf - BookMooch

Where to go? BookMooch

What's it all about? BookMooch is a community for exchanging used books where you can give away books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want.

Who should check it out? For potential "moochers" who want to obtain something without paying for it, or to borrow something without intending to return it.

Time well spent? Probably. You see due to the horrendous postage rates in my country joining is just not an option as sending one book will, on average, cost more than buying a whole new copy. The thing is that the idea itself is fantastic and I've heard a lot of good things about this site. If you're a BookMoocher, feel free to share you experiences below.

One for the road ...

2 by 2 Giveaway Winner

The lucky winner of the February 2 by 2 Giveaway is
who picked the book Pride & Prejudice!

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

February 19, 2013

Quote Garden - That line is dead.

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.
Douglas Adams

A deadline is, simply put, optimism in its most kick-ass form. It's a potent force that, when wielded with respect, will level any obstacle in its path. This is especially true when it comes to creative pursuits.
Chris Baty

A deadline is negative inspiration. Still, it's better than no inspiration at all.
Rita Mae Brown

People always ask me if I’m into sports, and I say, “Well, isn't writing a sport? If you’re doing it right, and you have a deadline, you should be sweating.”
Jarod Kintz

There's nothing an artist needs more - even more than excellent tools and stamina - than a deadline.
Adriana Trigiani

February 17, 2013

The Reading Files - Make that a Double Espresso!

Taking a bit of a break from my Stephen King tome I decided to go for some cozy mysteries this week. I've already read a handful of books from the Coffeehouse Mysteries last year, but had a few more lined up too. Being ever the unconventional reader I apparently have a knack for reading the books in a bit of a weird order, then again I enjoy this series so much I had to read the earlier novels too.

On What Grounds (Cleo Coyle)

Thoughts. What first looks like a horrible accident is anything but. A solid mystery with lots of coffee talk. Suffice to say it's wonderful to being formally introduced to all the Village Blend characters which I've already come to love from more recent books in the series.

Opening line of first chapter. The perfect cup of coffee is a mystifying thing.

Verdict. Promising first in a series which gets better with every book!

Through the Grinder (Cleo Coyle)

Thoughts. Dating can be deathly and even worse, all evidence points to Clare's new beau. While the first book was still a bit rough around the edges, this one flows like creamy espresso into a cup. Fun. Well written. Great chemistry. And it really grabbed me emotionally too.

Random quote. Death isn't something a person should face without a fortifying hit of caffeine. 
(p. 16)

Verdict. Gripping second book in one of my fav cozy mystery series!

Espresso Shot (Cleo Coyle)

Thoughts. It's not easy getting married when someone tries to kill you. Fast forward to the seventh book in the series and a mystery after my own heart with lots of twists and great character development. One of these days I really must try out the recipes in the appendix too!

Book quote. Coffee should be black as hell, strong as death, sweet as love. Turkish proverb

Verdict. Like always a highly enjoyable blend of caffeinated murder!

2 by 2 Giveaway

Welcome to the February edition 
of the 2 by 2 Giveaway!

Don't tell me you're not looking for Mr. Darcy?

Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)*
Me and Mr. Darcy (Alexandra Potter)

*Yep, the edition with the pretty cover!!

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 random.org on February 20th 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.

February 16, 2013

Pajama Musings - It's time. Again.

Apparently it's that time of year again. You know the one where snow may still fall yet mild temps make snowdrops appear in gardens. The time when hibernation is soon coming to an end. Or so you should think.

Anyway. Some of you might remember that I went on a hiatus for a full month early last year. Not to say this is becoming some kind of tradition here, but I have decided to step back a little from daily blogging and go on a semi-hiatus for at least a month, most likely two. The main reason being that I need a little more time for other things in my life right now, plus I do feel a bit burned out from my daily book blogging rut as well.

What does this whole semi-hiatus thing mean? First of all, I've still got a handful of posts scheduled for the next two weeks, my hiatus will not start immediately but in early March. Secondly, I will still be blogging, just a whole lot less than you're used to. Basically all my usual Sunday posts will go up as usual. That includes The Reading Files and The Postman Files as well as updates for both reading challenges I'm hosting and the occasional review too. As I've also signed up for a few giveaways along the way, those should additionally keep you all entertained.

And afterwards? I am not quite sure how to go from there, but right now I am seriously contemplating generally cutting down on book blogging to make room for other adventures in my life. Nothing is definite yet, so who knows how things will turn out. Not to worry though, I love this blog and I have no intention of giving it up completely.

I shall leave you with the words of Nina Sankovitch, author of Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading.

My hiatus is over, my soul and body are healed, but I will never leave the purple chair for long. So many books waiting to be read, so much happiness to be found, so much wonder to be revealed.

Now if you'll excuse me, it's time to make myself comfy in my own purple chair.

February 15, 2013

This isn't Fiction - Footnotes, Frankl, and the Flute

Some books have them, others don't. FOOTNOTES.

One of the many things that differentiates fiction from non fiction is probably the footnote. While you will occasionally stumble over footnotes in novels too, usually used as a literary device - Terry Pratchett who has made numerous uses of footnotes within his novels, often as set up for running jokes throughout the whole book - they are certainly most at home in the realms of non fiction.

A footnote is a string of text placed at the bottom of a page in a book or document or at the end of a text. The note can provide an author's comments on the main text or citations of a reference work in support of the text, or both. A footnote is normally flagged by a superscripted number immediately following that portion of the text the note is in reference to.

While I am the first to admit to not always (all right, rarely) reading footnotes, they do have an important purpose. Most often they are used as an alternative to long explanatory paragraphs within the text which can be distracting to readers. And then of course, let's not forget, they are being used as form of citation.

Personally I prefer endnotes as those make it easier to *cough* skip them, especially when the individual notes are longer than just a line or two. I've encountered many a footnote that spanned over more than a page, and frankly, I find it just plain distracting. Of course, footnotes can be even longer than that. John Hodgson's 19th century work History of Northumberland has a footnote that runs for 165 pages, and has been called "the longest footnote ever."*

* Can blog posts have footnotes? Apparently they can. Or would this be a middle note? It's not really at the end after all? Things to ponder, eh?


Viktor Emil FRANKL was an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist as well as a Holocaust survivor. His best-selling book Man's Search for Meaning chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate which led him to discover the importance of finding meaning in all forms of existence, even the most sordid ones, and thus a reason to continue living.

Curious? Find out more about his work on Goodreads.

We cannot, after all, judge a biography by its length, by the number of pages in it; we must judge by the richness of the contents...Sometimes the 'unfinisheds' are among the most beautiful symphonies.


I know you love reading, but how about some new hobbies? You could go fishing, or learn to play the flute, and when all else fails there is always fencing!

Sex, Death and Fly Fishing (John Gierach)

The Iron Flute: 100 Zen Koans (Nyogen Senzaki and Ruth Strout-McCandless)

Fencing: A Renaissance Treatise (Camillo Agrippa and Ken Mondschein)


Do you skip reading footnotes too or do you search for a meaning in them? or maybe you just put away those books and catch flies for next week's fishing adventure?

February 14, 2013

Picture Garden - Skip the Roses And Just Give Me a Garden

The Literary Blog Hop Winners

The lucky winners of the Literary Blog Hop are
Jennifer H. @ The Relentless Reader
who picked the book Aesop's Fables
Katie @ Doing Dewey
who picked the book The Odyssey!

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

February 13, 2013

Beyond the Shelf - Postertext

Where to go? Postertext

What's it all about? Postertext creates artworks that combine literature with imagery in the form of beautiful, elegant posters. The posters conjure key scenes from the narrative using the writer's own words to shape an image that captures the heart and spirit of the author's original vision.

Who should check it out? Book lovers who want to spruce up their walls.

Time well spent? I'd say so! Also makes for great presents for the reader in your life. And if you don't find your book of choice you can submit a request for it too.

February 12, 2013

Quote Garden - Re-re-reread ...

Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader.
Vladimir Nabokov

When you reread a classic you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than there was before.
Clifton Fadiman

My definition of good literature is that which can be read by an educated reader, and reread with increased pleasure.
Gene Wolfe

The ultimate luxury is to reread: to revisit a book to see how time has treated it, how memory has distorted it, or how my own passing years have cast a new light on it.
Michael Upchurch

Lists of books we re-read and books we can't finish tell more about us than about the relative worth of the books themselves.
Russell Banks

February 10, 2013

The Reading Files - It's a Grimm's world!

This week I spruced up my reading fare with some fairy tale foods. Nothing beats some light cuisine when you're in the middle of digesting a Stephen King chunkster.

The Grimm Legacy (Polly Shulman)

Thoughts. Imagine a library not filled with books but things, magical things. The Brother's Grimm did not just collect stories, they collected all the magical items they wrote about too. What an original idea and enchanting setting! More for younger readers, all right, but very enjoyable!

Last lines. And my sense of direction? I'm still waiting.

Verdict. A charmingly adventurous story of Grimm proportions!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Catherynne M. Valente)

Thoughts. Beautifully written every sentence is a piece of art. The kind of art you should frame and put on the wall. The kind of art you don't touch or, dare I say it, read. Utterly contrived and stilted, it is beyond me how a child would enjoy this book. I didn't either, throwing the towel after only two chapters.

First sentenceOnce upon a time, a girl named September grew very tired indeed of her parents’ house, where she washed the same pink-and-yellow teacups and matching gravy boats every day, slept on the same embroidered pillow, and played with the same small and amiable dog.

Verdict. Overrated fairy tale that is trying too hard!

As I already mentioned above I also managed to bite a nice chunk out of It by Stephen King which I am currently reading for the Tea & Books Reading Challenge. And I must say, it's really not so bad to read more than one book at a time. With tomes like this it certainly makes sense too. The only downside is that the book drags. I mean I like it when authors paint a detailed picture but this isn't a canvas, this is the Sistine Chapel, but not in a good way.

February 9, 2013

Pajama Musings - What would Noah do?

One of those controversial topics that will pop up time and again in the book blogging world is something I would like to discuss today. Contrary to most other debates (and rants, for that matter) my focus will not be on the mortal sin of cashing in on the holy ARC, but on how to treat it respectfully. In other words, I am going to ask myself (and you, dear fellow bloggers) the question - where do you park your ARCs? We might not know where Noah parked his after the flood receded, but that obviously had to do with its sheer size. Seeing how the bookish version of the ARC is far smaller, finding a nice place for them in our homes shouldn't be all that hard.

A short explanation to those of you who are absolutely clueless about what ARCs are - those are Advance Reading Copies of books soon to be published. These books are uncorrected proofs and are not for sale! For more info go here.

There are lots of things you are allowed to do with an ARC, and plenty of things you should never do. The latter case would include selling them. Apparently some buyers love the thrill of owning an ARC, viewing it as some sort of collector's item. Of course sometimes it may even happen that you think you purchase a finished copy of a book only to find an ARC in your mailbox. If you buy from private sellers, this isn't a thing unheard of. Now that we've established what not to do with an ARC, let's move on to what to do with it.

Read it.

Review it.

Shelf it.

Destroy it.

Woah! Did you read that correctly? You sure did. As much as the whole reading and reviewing and then safely storing those books away makes sense, to destroy them after the whole reviewing thing has been done, sounds awfully brutal. But it is indeed something that some publishers might ask you to do. Admittedly it has never happened to me personally, but I recently read about it on another blog (for the life of me, I don't remember which one it was).

Honestly, I don't think I could go through with it myself. I mean apart from the unspeakable crime of giving a book the ax, not even the most uncorrected proof copy, plastered with grammar and typographical mistakes, deserves such a fate. I think. And even if you're not as squeamish as yours truly - how to do it? Rip out the pages, put them in a shredder, then burn the remains? This is a horror story just waiting to happen.

Seriously, what's a book blogger to do? Seeing how I only own one ARC as publishers have, so far, usually sent me finished copies, I'm not confronted with any storage problems, but I know that many of my fellow book bloggers are faced with this conundrum. Even sharing them with other bloggers can be a double-edged sword sometimes, not to mention hosting a giveaway with the prize being an ARC.

My advice? Just keep the book on a shelf. Or if you really have no more room and need to get rid of them, ask the publisher who sent the ARCs to you. That way you can at least be certain you won't end up doing something that will make a publisher scratch you from their reviewer list.

So, tell me, where do you park your ARCs? Ever seen one turn up in a place where it wasn't supposed to be, eg on Ebay? Did you even get instructions from publishers on how to handle an ARC after you reviewed it? Please share.

The Literary Blog Hop

Welcome to the
The Literary Blog Hop
(February 9th - February 13th)
hosted by Leeswammes' Blog

Most giveaway blog hops seem to be directed towards young adult and romance audiences. Those hops are not so ideal if you want to give away more literary books, so here's the chance for all of you who want to stray a little from those vampire books and try something new.

I'm giving away a copy of Aesop's Fables and The Odyssey to two lucky readers! You must choose which book you want and I will draw a winner for each book.
Please note: This giveaway is open worldwide, but only for countries TBD offers free shipping to - please check here.

All you have to do is fill out the form!
This giveaway is now closed!

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.

Two winners will be picked through random.org on February 14th and will then be contacted by e-mail as well as announced here on my blog. The winners will have 48 hours to respond and if they fail to do so I will draw new winners.

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

  1. Leeswammes
  2. The Book Garden
  3. Sam Still Reading
  4. Candle Beam Book Blog
  5. Ciska's Book Chest
  6. Too Fond
  7. Alex in Leeds
  8. Under a Gray Sky
  9. Bibliosue
  10. The Book Club Blog
  11. Fingers & Prose
  12. Lori Howell
  13. Rikki's Teleidoscope
  14. Girl vs Bookshelf
  15. Lizzy's Literary Life (Europe)
  16. Booklover Book Reviews
  17. The Blog of Litwits
  18. Reading World (USA/Can)
  19. Seaside Book Nook
  20. Curiosity Killed the Bookworm
  21. The Book Diva's Reads
  22. Breieninpeking (Europe)
  23. 2606 Books and Counting
  24. Giraffe Days
  25. Lucybird's Book Blog

  1. Roof Beam Reader
  2. The Relentless Reader
  3. Read in a Single Sitting
  4. My Diary (Malaysia)
  5. Heavenali
  6. Dolce Belezza (USA)
  7. The Misfortune of Knowing
  8. My Devotional Thoughts
  9. Nishita's Rants and Raves
  10. Book Nympho
  11. Kaggsysbookishramblings
  12. Quixotic Magpie
  13. Lost Generation Reader
  14. BookBelle
  15. Under My Apple Tree (USA)
  16. Mondays with Mac
  17. Page Plucker

February 8, 2013

This isn't Fiction - Entertainment, Ehrenreich, and Eternity

Let meeeee entertain yooooou! That caught you a little bit off guard, admit it! After all, what on Earth has ENTERTAINMENT got to do with non fiction? Well, actually, quite a bit.

While it's usually quite easy to spot, say, a biography or a self-help book, it might be a bit harder, for the non fiction newbie at least, to define the sub-genre of Entertainment.

Entertainment is an action, event, or activity that aims to amuse and interest an audience, in this particular case, the reader. Literature contains many genres designed, in whole or in part, as entertainment.

What does this mean in regard to non fiction books then? Basically it's like this - think entertainment industry. Think Hollywood. Think about people working as actors, comedians, musicians, or the likes, then imagine them writing a book, preferably non fiction, of course. As so often is the case these books will usually merge various genres, so it's not all that surprising if a certain book falls into both the category of e.g. Biography and Entertainment.

Of course it does not necessarily have to be someone who escaped Hollywood to jump onto the author-train that qualifies a book to be classified as Entertainment, but in many cases the content of these books does revolve around the rich and famous, and with a bit of luck those tremendously funny (and entertaining) too.

Let's take a little stroll down Entertainment lane now ...

Feeling entertained yet? I would hope so.


Barbara EHRENREICH is an American feminist, democratic socialist, political activist, and a widely-read and award-winning columnist and essayist. She is probably best known for her 2001 book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.

Curious? Find out more about her work on Goodreads.

Some economists argue that the apparent paradox rests on an illusion: there is no real 'labor shortage,' only a shortage of people willing to work at the wages currently being offered. You might as well talk about a 'Lexus shortage' — which there is, in a sense, for anyone unwilling to pay $40,000 for a car.


Still not convinced that non fiction can be quite entertaining? Maybe I can tempt you with eternity, evanescence or emancipation?

An Eye for Eternity: The Life of Manning Clark (Mark McKenna)

Evanescence and Etiquette: The Search for Meaning and Identity in Japanese Culture (Charles Inouye)

The Caged Virgin: An Emancipation Proclamation for Women and Islam (Ayaan Hirsi Ali)


Feeling entertained already? Or more like nickled and dimed ... for all eternity?

February 6, 2013

Beyond the Shelf - Hiveword

Where to go? Hiveword

What's it all about? Hiveword is a web-based novel writing organizer that allows you to track your characters, settings, locations, plotlines, and much more quickly and easily.

Who should check it out? All those chronically disorganized writers out there.

Time well spent? To think I had lists for this kind of thing!? Admittedly I haven't had time yet to try myself out here (I'm currently in a short-story frame of mind where it's just not necessary), but I will definitely give it a go for full fledged novels. And yes, the basic organizer is free!

One for the road ...

“You can't wait for inspiration. 
You have to go after it with a club.”
Jack London

February 5, 2013

Quote Garden - You may read because ...

How are you coming with your home library? Do you need some good ammunition on why it's so important to read? The last time I checked the statistics ... I think they indicated that only four percent of the adults in this country have bought a book within the past year. That's dangerous. It's extremely important that we keep ourselves in the top five or six percent.
In one of the Monthly Letters from the Royal Bank of Canada it was pointed out that reading good books is not something to be indulged in as a luxury. It is a necessity for anyone who intends to give his life and work a touch of quality. The most real wealth is not what we put into our piggy banks but what we develop in our heads. Books instruct us without anger, threats and harsh discipline. They do not sneer at our ignorance or grumble at our mistakes. They ask only that we spend some time in the company of greatness so that we may absorb some of its attributes.

You do not read a book for the book's sake, but for your own.

You may read because in your high-pressure life, studded with problems and emergencies, you need periods of relief and yet recognize that peace of mind does not mean numbness of mind.

You may read because you never had an opportunity to go to college, and books give you a chance to get something you missed. You may read because your job is routine, and books give you a feeling of depth in life.

You may read because you did go to college.

You may read because you see social, economic and philosophical problems which need solution, and you believe that the best thinking of all past ages may be useful in your age, too.

You may read because you are tired of the shallowness of contemporary life, bored by the current conversational commonplaces, and wearied of shop talk and gossip about people.

Whatever your dominant personal reason, you will find that reading gives knowledge, creative power, satisfaction and relaxation. It cultivates your mind by calling its faculties into exercise.

Books are a source of pleasure - the purest and the most lasting. They enhance your sensation of the interestingness of life. Reading them is not a violent pleasure like the gross enjoyment of an uncultivated mind, but a subtle delight.

Reading dispels prejudices which hem our minds within narrow spaces. One of the things that will surprise you as you read good books from all over the world and from all times of man is that human nature is much the same today as it has been ever since writing began to tell us about it.

Some people act as if it were demeaning to their manhood to wish to be well-read but you can no more be a healthy person mentally without reading substantial books than you can be a vigorous person physically without eating solid food. Books should be chosen, not for their freedom from evil, but for their possession of good. Dr. Johnson said: "Whilst you stand deliberating which book your son shall read first, another boy has read both.

By Earl Nightingale

February 4, 2013

A Writer's Life - Ten Little Dark-Skinned Boys

Have you ever read a book that was all but politically correct? A book that had racism shine through like a blinding beacon? If you read a lot this will eventually happen to all of us. If you believe, as do I, that with writing comes a certain responsibility then you will be appalled by uneducated or even hateful remarks and descriptions in books. Not to say that for some story-lines it might not be necessary to depict eg a certain character as a racist, but there's a huge difference between a character being of a certain mindset or the person who wrote the book.

In January there's been quite an uproar in the book community in both Germany and Austria all thanks to a publisher removing controversial language from a classic children's book. The book in question was the 1957 tale The Little Witch by Ottfried Preussler which is apparently littered with "questionable" terms including words like "negro". For a better understanding of the whole debate I urge you to read the article in full.

I was appalled (again) but not in the way some of you might be thinking. My first thought was, and there's definitely the wordsmith in me talking, that this just isn't right. The book has been written decades ago and while it might not be "politically correct" today we should see it in its historic and socio-political context. Those are lovely stories which kids today deserve to read or be read to and if you're able to teach your child how to tie their shoes than you damn well better be capable of talking about why certain expression have been used way back when and why they're not ok today. I mean, is that so hard? For the above mentioned publisher it apparently is.

To me, despite the good intention behind it, this is simply taking things a step too far. And I seriously wonder what Mr Preussler had to say about all of this. If there is one word for it then it's censorship. You're neither doing children a favor nor are you going to make the affected author very happy. At least I wouldn't exactly be elated if sixty years down the road someone decided to censor certain expressions in stories I have written as they are suddenly considered to be littered with discriminatory language. I bet most authors will feel that way.

One particular example that comes to mind, and many of you will be familiar with the rhyme, goes, Ten little nigger boys went out to dine; One choked his little self and then there were Nine [...] One little nigger boy left all alone; He went out and hanged himself and then there were None.
Of course today the version replaces the offensive word with "soldier". Fifty years down the road that term probably won't be politically correct anymore either.

And then, of course, there's the case of Huckleberry Finn. For more info about the rather recent changes to the text, check out this NY Times article.

What's your take on all of this? Do you consider such changes an attack on artistic integrity or do you feel that literature, which is older or dated, needs to be "updated" to fit into what's conceived as politically correct in our society? Please share.

February 3, 2013

TEA & BOOKS Reading Challenge

I hope your kettle is already boiling, because it's time for the first challenge update! Time to get out those heavy tomes too, but not to use them as coasters for that tea mug, mind you.

While I've got quite a head start in the other challenge I host, all I managed to do for this one is to devise a plan. Yes, a plan. To be fair though, I did get started on my first tome too.

So what about that plan? You see I usually never read more than one book at a time and seeing how my first book of choice has got 1.376 pages, thanks to Mr. King who couldn't write a short book if his life depended on it, I decided that I would read it over the course of the next month, with other books strewn in for good measure. And, so far so good.

It (Stephen King)
In progress.

Now I know those tomes can be daunting, but remember - the first level is "only" two books and if you're smart about it you pick a tome with more than 1.200 pages because that counts as two books. Sounds good? I thought so.

Those of you who already participated in this challenge last year had the chance to leave some thoughts and suggestions which I would like to address today. Some things I already implemented into the current rules as you might have noticed, while others need a bit more explanation. Here goes:

- Loosening up on re-reads. Done. You may now choose books you're read before too.

- Opening to audio-books. Done. As long as you pick an unabridged version of a book which comes in at 650+ pages in print you're all set.

- Monthly updates. I know I know I've been kinda sloppy in the second half of 2012, but I promise to better myself and post once a month, already announcing the date for future updates in advance too.

- 700 were simply too many pages. Agreed. I reduced the amount of pages to 650+ this year and, as a little incentive, I introduced the 1.200+ pages counts as two tomes rule. Be warned though - I have no intention to chop off 50 pages each year I am hosting it. That would only make C.S. Lewis roll over in his grave if I dared using his quote then.

- A bit of leeway with the page count. That's a tricky one. I totally understand that a bit of leeway would help, especially when all the other books you read in the challenge are a lot longer and make up for the missing pages. But we all know (well, I do) how this will end ... I allow someone to read a book with, say, 620 pages, and then the next person comes along and asks about a book with 628 pages, and so on and so on. Sorry, no can do!

But there is a tiny loophole you may peruse. Someone once asked about the page count of eBooks which isn't always obvious on your eReader of choice. In that case you may check out the book on Goodreads and look up the page count of the print edition there. What I'm trying to say is this - in case your tome falls short a few pages, you may check the page count of other editions of your book on Goodreads (not the large print edition, please). I know from experience that the same book can sometimes differ by 100 pages between editions (especially if it's a big book to start with). If you find such an edition which passes the 650+ line then you're all set.

Before I gentle steer you towards the comment section I want to remind anyone whose curiosity just got aroused by this post, that you may still sign up for the challenge and get acquainted with the general rules over HERE.

Updates for the challenge will be posted regularly on Sundays near the end/beginning of a month and the next dates will thus be March 3rd, March 31st, April 28th, June 2nd, and June 30th.

Now it's time for you to share what you've read so far or which book(s) you are planning to read for the challenge! Don't be shy and comment away!

THIS ISN'T FICTION Reading Challenge

Welcome to the first update post to the challenge! Today I shall not scold anyone (yet) for not getting started on their reading, after all it's still early in the year so a little warming up to the whole idea of reading something that isn't fiction is allowed. However, by July I am going to morph into a mean challenge hosting machine who will not listen to any excuses along the lines of "My dog ate my non fiction book!".

To avoid that the dog (or cat or pet spider) gets all the blame I am going to try myself on the good old carrot-method first. Carrot? Why yes, of course. You know the carrot on the stick which makes the donkey move its ass? Well, by the end of the year there's going to be a giveaway and you will only be allowed to enter if you participated in the challenge. Emphasis on successfully.

All right, now it's time to share how far I have come in the challenge. I signed up for the highest level which means I plan to read 20 or more books. In January I managed to read six non fiction books already. Yay me!

Moranthology (Caitlin Moran)
The Wisdom of Psychopaths (Kevin Dutton)
100 Places You Will Never Visit (Daniel Smith)
A Curious Invitation (Suzette Field)
Can We Travel Through Time? (Michael Brooks)
Paranormality (Richard Wiseman)

Now, please don't let the amount of books I've  read discourage you. I am obviously addicted to non fiction so this isn't exactly out of the ordinary. And if any of you read as much as I have I will be officially impressed! In fact, if you've read at least one book so far I'm going to be one proud challenge host!

Before I let you loose on the comment section I want to remind anyone whose curiosity just got aroused by this post, that you may still sign up for the challenge and get acquainted with the general rules over HERE.

Updates for the challenge will be posted regularly on Sundays near the end/beginning of a month and the next dates will thus be March 3rd, March 31st, April 28th, June 2nd, and June 30th.

Now it's time for you to share what you've read so far or which book(s) you are planning to read for the challenge! Don't be shy and comment away!

The Postman Files - January Haul

Those of you who started wondering whether my postman went on strike or something, well, he did not. I received only a few books in January and decided to present them all in one haul at the end of the month. As I'm currently on a mission to battle those TBR piles, which consequently rules out any spontaneous splurges in bookshops, I will probably stick to these monthly posts from now on. That said, let's take a look at what rolled in.

Im Herzen Wiens (Erich Vorrath)

Solstice (Donna Burgess)

Bought for Kindle
New Moon Summer, Blood Moon Harvest, Moon of the Terrible, Red Rose Moon (The Cain Chronicles: Episodes 1-4) (SM Reine)
Darkmoon (The Cain Chronicles 5) (SM Reine)

I must say, I'm very proud of myself for only buying two books this month. Don't give me that look. It's only two, I swear. The first is admittedly a collection of the first four novellas in the series, but it counts as one book. You hear me? One. 

And, finally, some books for review too. After all, I had already read and reviewed all my NetGalley books by the end of 2012, so it was time to send out a handful of requests, some of which have already been approved.

For Review
A Slap in the Face (William B. Irvine)
Vivid and Continuous (John McNally)
Why We Write (Meredith Maran, Ed.)
from NetGalley

The Reading Files - How about a trip to The Mall?

After overdosing on non fiction in the past couple of weeks I had to wind down a bit and what would be better suited than shopping til I'm dropping? So off to The Mall it was and when I could shop no more aka dropped and splayed my ankle it was straight to The Ward ... maybe I should have kept on the non fiction side of entertainment after all!

The Mall (S.L. Grey)

Thoughts. Terrifyingly surreal and utterly gross, this book grabs you and won't let go until the bitter end. Much more than your average horror story this one has a message too. Consumerism, self-perception, and finding an unlikely place to belong. Amazing!

First line. My first instinct is to grab his hand, snap back his index finger, and floor the fucker.

Verdict. A dark and intense horror story of a different kind!

The Ward (S.L. Grey)

Thoughts. Maybe a sequel, though more like a copy of The Mall presented in a different dress. There's the same sinister feel yet too many similarities to make it unique and I certainly missed a connection with the protagonists. Certainly not bad, but I recommend to stick to its predecessor!

Last words spoken. Shall we commence?

Verdict. A luke-warm imitation of The Mall!

And then I got started on my first chunkster for the year, It by Stephen King. That monster has got 1.376 pages. And it weighs roughly half a ton. I seriously need someone to hold that thing for me while reading. In lack of any volunteers I decided to tackle this book step by step over the course of the next four weeks. Shockingly enough (for me, anyway) this means I will read more than one book at a time. Let's see whether I can stick to this plan. In case I don't, the next Sunday post won't be up, uhm, for a while ...

Review - Paranormality (Professor Richard Wiseman)

Bestselling psychologist Richard Wiseman unravels the science behind our beliefs in telepathy, clairvoyants, mediums, ghosts, and more ...
'People are emotionally drawn to the supernatural. They actively want weird, spooky things to be true ... Wiseman shows us a higher joy as he deftly skewers the paranormal charlatans, blows away the psychic fog and lets in the clear light of reason.' Richard Dawkins
Professor Richard Wiseman is clear about one thing: paranormal phenomena don't exist. But in the same way that the science of space travel transforms our everyday lives, so research into telepathy, fortune-telling and out-of-body experiences produces remarkable insights into our brains, behaviour and beliefs. Paranormality embarks on a wild ghost chase into this new science of the supernatural and is packed with activities that allow you to experience the impossible. So throw away your crystals, ditch your lucky charms and cancel your subscription to Reincarnation Weekly. It is time to discover the real secrets of the paranormal.
Learn how to control your dreams -- and leave your body behind.
Convince complete strangers that you know all about them.
Unleash the power of your unconscious mind.

Find the book at Pan MacMillan and on Goodreads!

We experience the impossible, or so we believe. Oddly enough things don't seem all that impossible anymore when someone explains the mechanics behind them which is exactly what Professor Richard Wiseman does in his book Paranormality.
Broaching a variety of topics commonly attributed as being paranormal, be it fortune telling or out-of-body experiences, talking to the dead or prophecy, this turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging read that allows a close-up look into how and why we tend to be drawn to the supernatural. From the psychology of suggestion straight to finding patterns in coincidence this book is filled with scientific and psychological facts and spiced with a healthy dose of humor too. And the lessons in learning some "tricks of the trade" are definitely a nice touch.
Some of the presented phenomenon are a little easier to debunk than others, say, how fortune tellers carefully observe people - also referred to as "cold reading" - before throwing out some vague and/or double-headed statements that all predict the likely. Overall though I found myself intrigued by the explanations for some phenomenon, eg why we sometimes believe to have prophetic dreams.
Seeking answers to the inexplicable? Needing some fodder to annoy your paranormally inclined friends? Then I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to you. Trust me, after reading this you'll never look at the Quija board the same way again.
In short: A light yet insightful read on the science behind the supernatural!

4/5 Trees

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Pan MacMillan. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.