Monday, December 31, 2007

WRAP UP: 2007 A - Z Author Challenge

I finished all but four books which isn't too bad since I didn't start counting until July. Here was my final list.

A—The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
B—In Watermelon Sugar (Richard Brautigan)
C—Girl with a Pearl Earring (Tracy Chevalier)
D—The Madonna’s of Leningrad (Debra Dean)
E—The Black Dahlia (James Ellroy)
F—Place Last Seen (McGuinn Freeman)
G—The Queen’s Fool (Philippa Gregory)
H—The Town that Forgot How to Breathe (Kenneth J. Harvey)
I—Dead Sleep (Greg Iles)
K—The Beekeepers Apprentice (Laurie R. King)
L—The Devil in the White City(Erik Larson)
M—A Dog's Life(Peter Mayle)
N—So Many Books, So Little Time (Sara Nelson)
P—Sister India (Peggy Payne)
Q—Blessings (Anna Quindlen)
R—Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers (Mary Roach)
S—Franny & Zooey (J. D. Salinger)
T—Women of the Silk (Gail Tsukiyama)
V—La Magdalena (William Valtos)
W—Good in Bed (Jennifer Weiner)
Y—Falling Leaves (Adeline Yen-Mah)
Z—The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

A ~ Z Reading Challenge 2008

Adding another challenge

Align the first letter of an author's last name or the first letter in the title of a book to its corresponding alphabet letter. Books may only be used once. Grand Total 52 books. I only go to 45 this year so we'll see how it goes. The fun is in getting there!

This challenge is hosted by Joy (Thoughts of Joy): A~Z Reading Challenge

Someting About Me Challenge WRAP UP

Well it did come down to the wire but I did finish the challenge! I read the following five books

  • The Gallery of Regrettable Food--James Lileks

  • Place Last Seen--Charlotte McQuinn Freeman

  • A Walk In The Woods--Bill Bryson

  • The Echo Maker--Richard Powers

  • So Many Books, So Little Time--Sara Nelson

This was the first challenge I joined when I started blogging in July and its the first one I've finished. I'm not going to finish the A-Z Author Challenge. I'll be four short.

My favorite part of the challenge was the beginning. It was difficult but eye opening trying to figure out the 5 books that represented me. It was also a lot of fun trying to figure out what books from that huge list I wanted to read. There are books I added to some challenges for next year from that huge list.

My favorite book from those 5 was The Gallery of Regrettable Food. It was just so much fun and really made me laugh during a time when that was hard to do. There were not any of the books I disliked, I would recommend all of them.

Thanks for the great challenge Lisa! I hope you come up with another good one soon!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Book Review: The Gallery of Regrettable Food

Author: James Lileks

Pages: 191

Date: 2001

Genre: Non-Fiction, Comedy, Pop Culture

Personal Rating: 5/5

From the back cover:

WARNING: This is not a cookbook. You'll find no tongue-tempting treats within -- unless, of course, you consider Boiled Cow Elbow with Plaid Sauce to be your idea of a tasty meal. No, The Gallery of Regrettable Food is a public service. Learn to identify these dishes. Learn to regard shivering liver molds with suspicion. Learn why curries are a Communist plot to undermine decent, honest American spices. Learn to heed the advice of stern, fictional nutritionists. If you see any of these dishes, please alert the authorities.

Now, the good news: laboratory tests prove that The Gallery of Regrettable Food AMUSES as well as informs. Four out of five doctors recommend this book for its GENEROUS PORTIONS OF HILARITY and ghastly pictures from RETRO COOKBOOKS. You too will look at these products of post-war cuisine and ask: "WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?" It's an affectionate look at the days when starch ruled, pepper was a dangerous spice, and Stuffed Meat with Meat Sauce was considered health food.

Bon appetit!

I thought this book was absolutely fantastic based mainly upon it's uniqueness. Basically Lileks makes fun of recipes he has found dating from the 50's to the 70's. It had incredible photos of the dishes, retro fonts and colors, and a cool layout. I laughed out loud several times. He shows pictures of each dish and then "talks" about that dish. Most of the dishes are just plain disgusting. There were two chapters near the end that dragged a little but besides that it was a very fast read. I plan on keeping it on my coffee table so people can grab it for a good laugh.

Ladies, serve toast--and well-groomed twins in tuxedos will want to have sex with you!

Perhaps that circle is not a cross section of a spine, but a blowhole (ahem) of sorts--of a false eye to confuse predators. Put it on the floor and watch it frighten the dog.

This looks very much like a magnified cluster of warts. Although warts don't usually come with parsely.

I don't know, and I don't want to know. I just don't. It's a cucumber fun house, perhaps: notice how they seem to be pressing against the sides of the mold as if demanding our attention. Help! We're being felt up by smelly salmon in here --let us out

James Lileks has a website "The Official Institute of Good Cheer" on which the Gallery of Regrettable Food is based.

Pressure is On!

Something About Me Challenge--One book left!!!!!!

A-Z Author Challenge--5 books left. I won't finish but I'll give it a run for it's money.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Still Adding Books to My Shelf

Have you ever had a little hole somewhere inside of you and nothing seems to fill it? Not your husband, family or pets. Not your hobbies or faith. There is just something not right and you just cant quite catch up to it Well I have one of those holes right now and buying books makes me feel a little better. I was diagnosed with a sleep disorder (but they don't know which one--I need more test). Even though I know what my "hole" is I can't make it better. Here are the books I picked out today

  • All Creatures Great and Small (James Herriot)
  • I Know This Much Is True (Wally Lamb)
  • Fall On Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
  • The Confiessions of Max Tivoli (Andrew Greer)
  • Astrid & Veronika (Linda Olsson)
  • The Egyptologist (Arthur Phillips)
  • Kabul Beauty School (Deborah Rodriguez)
  • A Rip in Heaven: A Memior of Murder and Its Aftermath (Janeine Cummins)
  • Through a Window (Jane Goodall)

Oh yeah...I forgot about these from Amazon last night

  • The Masque of the Black Tulip
  • The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
  • Heretic: The Templar Chronicles
  • Napoleon's Pyramids
  • The Book of Air and Shadows
  • Society of S
  • Judge Sewall's Apology: The Story of a Good Man and an Evil Event: TheSalem Witch Trials and the Forming of the American Conscience

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Switching up my 2007 Author Challenge Books

I'm giving up on The World According to Garp for now. I can't get past page 60. I just have too many other books to struggle through one. I do think I'm going to try it again this summer when I'll have longer periods of time to sit at one time and concentrate.

So for my "I" author I'm now using Greg Iles--Dead Sleep. I read 24 Hours and liked it so hopefully this will go a little smoother. I'm also switching my "U" author to John Updike--Terrorist and my "O" to Tim O'Brien--The Things They Carried. I'll read We Were the Mulvaney's for the 2008 challenge instead.

My hubby is going to be in Thailand for the next two weeks so I'll probably get a lot of reading done. I actually have to take him to the airport in an hour or so.

Books that SANTA left for me this year

I don't know where to start reading

  • The BLACK SWAN: The Impact of the HIGHLY IMPROBABLE by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
  • go ask ogre: Letters from a Deathrock Cutter by Jolene Siana
  • Evolutionary Wars: A Three Billion Year Arms Race by Charles Levy
  • The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney
  • I Love Everybody (and other Atrocious Lies) by Laurie Notaro
  • Peony in Love by Lisa See

I'll give a little synopsis of each when i have a quick minute

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


It is about that time to decide what was great and what wasn't so great that I read this year.


  • The Book Thief by Mark Zukas
  • Snow Flower and The Secret Fan by Lisa See
  • Marley and Me by John Grogran
  • Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama
  • Poison Study byMaria Snyder

  • Girl With the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (boring)
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (the only book I didn't finish and I really wanted to like it! I'm a biology teacher)
  • The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie King (it seemed to dribble on and on)
  • Three Junes by Julia Glass (it just wasn't there for me)

  • Sister India by Peggy Payne. I read it for a challenge for authors with double lettered names and it turned out to be pretty interesting
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I just don't feel it lived up to all the hype. How many of us can drop our entire lives to move to India and live in an Ashram to find inner peace?

Overall, a good year of reading. Its hard for me to find a book I really dislike. I'm still trying to finish my 2007 author challenge so this list might change.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Nineteenth Century Women Writers Challenge

This challenge is being hosted by Becky at Becky's Book Reviews.

The rules are pretty broad--women writers who wrote or were published in the 19th century (1800-1900). All genres count and she has several sites with recommendations on her blog if you need suggestions.

She recommends six books, but since I'm not as fast as all these other amazing ladies I'm aiming for 4.

  1. Kate Chopin--The Awakening and Other Short Stories

  2. Charlotte Bronte--Jane Eyre

  3. Emily Bronte--Wuthering Heights

  4. Louisa May Alcott--The Inheritance

I know it's pretty hard to believe I have not read some of these books yet but now is the chance!

Saturday, December 22, 2007


Author: William Valtos

Pages: 397

Date: 2002

Genre: Fiction

Personal Rating: 3.5/5

From the back cover:

Private Investigator Theo Nikonos is back. Having been acquitted of a double murder charge, the paranormal detective has left New York and is spending time in Spain, recuperating from his harrowing experience--and recovering from the loss of the woman he loved.

A chance encounter with a mysterious young nun, known only as La Magdalena, turns Theo's vacation into an investigation that unearths the little-known and mysterious world of early Christianity. A conversation with a priest, who tells a story that is stunning in its scope and heretical in its context, turns deadly. Theo realizes that there is someone who will do anything to prevent the revelation of who La Magdalena really is. And who she is will shatter the foundation of the Christian world.

Since The Da Vinci code I’ve been interested in reading books that tie history and religion together into fictional stories. This one had several people waiting for it on the paperbackswap wishlist so I added myself. I was also hooked by a quote on the back cover

“They have confiscated my notes and correspondence, and forbidden me from any
further contact with La Magdalena.” Padre Serrano tilted his head and looked at
me with renewed curiosity…
“Perhaps you were sent to succeed where I have failed.”
“Succeed: I asked?” “Succeed in what?”
“In bringing her story to light. It is an astounding account, on which challenges them most cherished Christian beliefs.”
He paused.
“If it is true.”
He paused again.
“And if you live to write about it.”

Theo Nikonos has to decide (scientifically) if La Magdalena is Mary Magdalena reincarnated. He comes across evidence that would be impossible to fake. Of course there are many other players in the game who are after La Magdalena and you don’t know for sure who is on the side of good and who is one the side of evil until the end.

From the tone of the book Valtos seems to think the Vatican/Catholic church knows a lot more than what it lets on and often acts in its own best interest as opposed to the interested of the people. However, they will say they are acting in the interested of the people.

The story is predictable in some aspects…forbidden lover, chase through cities, escape from seemingly impossible situations. But it has more interesting aspects that allow you to over looks those parts.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I Can't Stop Buying Books...

At least this time I did buy some as gifts for other people!

Relic (Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child)
The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)
Red Prophet (Orson Scott Card)
Prentice Alvin (Orson Scott Card)
Alvin Journeyman (Orson Scott Card)
The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
Bel Canto (Ann Patchett)
The Twentieth Wife (Indu Sundaresan)
The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien)
Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
House of Sand and Fog (Ander Dubus III)
My Blue Notebooks (Liane de Pougy)
The House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
The Scarlet Letter (Nathaniel Hawthorne)
A Farewell to Arms (Ernest Hemingway)

For others...
Before You Know Kindness (Chris Bohjalian)
The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Zafon)
Falling Angels (Tracy Chevalier)
me times three (Alex Witchel)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Author: Adeline Yen Mah

Pages: 274

Genre: Memoir

Personal Rating: 4/5

From the back cover:

Born in 1937 in a port city a thousand miles north of Shanghai, Adeline Yen Mah was the youngest child of an affluent Chinese family who enjoyed rare privileges during a time of political and cultural upheaval. But wealth and position could not shield Adeline from a childhood of appalling emotional abuse at the hands of a cruel and manipulative Eurasian stepmother. Determined to survive through her enduring faith in family unity, Adeline struggled for independence as she moved from Hong Kong to England and eventually to the United States to become a physician and writer.

A compelling, painful, and ultimately triumphant story of a girl's journey into adulthood, Adeline's story is a testament to the most basic of human needs: acceptance, love, and understanding. With a powerful voice that speaks of the harsh realities of growing up female in a family and society that kept girls in emotional chains, Falling Leaves is a work of heartfelt intimacy and a rare authentic portrait of twentieth-century China

I wanted to read this memoir since I’ve become interested in the Chinese culture surrounding women. I’ve read a few other books that I’ve enjoyed (Women of the Silk, Snow Flower & the Secret Fan) and I was hoping to enjoy a memoir in addition to fiction.

I was amazed or I should say I couldn’t believe how poorly and unfairly she was treated by her family…for her entire life. I felt bad because she just wanted to be loved and was continually trying to impress them or do what they wanted in hopes of pleasing them and winning their affection. It never happened. Her stepmother is one of the cruelest people I’ve ever heard about.

Adeline does find happiness in America with a husband, family and job. I feel that her happiness was always overshadowed by her perceived failure of being loved and betrayed by her family.

The royalties from Falling Leaves have been donated by Adeline Yen Mah to a foundation to enable students to study at universities in Beijing and Shangai.

Monday, December 17, 2007

2008 Author Challenge

Time to begin making my list for 2008 authors.

A--The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)
B--A Clockwork Orange (Anthony Burgess)
C--The Silver Rose (Susan Carroll)
D--The Theives of Heaven (Richard Doetsch)
E--Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Echo)
F--Veil of Roses (Laura Fitzgerald)
G--American Gods (Neil Gaiman)
H--The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime (Mark Haddon)
I--A Widow for One Year (John Irving)
J--The Phantom Tollboth (Norton Juster)
K--Lost Names (Richard Kim)
L--The Giver (Lois Lowry)
M--Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (Chistopher Moore)
N--The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
O--The Things They Carried (Tim Obrien)
P--The Shipping News (Annie Proulx)
R--The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy)
S--A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
T--The Accidental Tourist (Ann Tyler)
V--The Rasputin Relic (William Valtos)
W--The Glass Castle (Jeannette Walls)
Z--The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Ruiz Zafon)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

I Bought Books Today

Like I need more books. My husband looks at me like I'm crazy. I love having books. I love the way they look, how they feel, the sound they make when you flip the pages. Weird? Hubby also keeps asking why I keep buying more and more books. Besides getting get ideas from blogs here with great reviews I think I like the hunt. Going into a store and finding something that has been on my paperbackswap wishlist for months. Finding a book someone blogged about and I normally would never have picked up. Getting a good deal! (5 of my books today were each a buck)

Heres what I ended up with
  • Empire of the Ants (Bernard Werber)
  • Foucault's Pendulum (Umberto Eco)
  • the wasp factory (Iain Banks)
  • The Greatest Game Ever Played (Mark Frost)
  • Lucky (Alice Sebold)
  • The Rasputin Relic (Valtos)
  • I, Mona Lisa (Jeanne Kalogridis)
  • The Awakening (Kate Chopin)
  • the 6th Lamentation (William Brodrick)
  • Snow Falling on Cedars (David Guterson)
  • Breath, Eyes, Memory (Danticat)
  • Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

Not a bad haul for one store!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Author: Sara Nelson

Pages: 232

Personal Rating: 3/5

From the back cover:

In early 2002, Sara Nelson-editor, reporter, reviewer, mother, daughter, wife, and compulsive reader-set out to chronicle a year's worth of reading, to explore how the world of books and words intermingled with children, marriage, friends, and the rest of the real world. She had a system all set up: fifty-two weeks, fifty-two books . . . and it all fell apart the first week. That's when she discovered that books chose her as much as she chose them, and the rewards and frustrations they brought were nothing she could plan for: In reading, as in life, even if you know what you're doing, you really kind of don't.

I have to admit I did not think I would enjoy this book at all. Reading about someone else reading? It sounded boring to me. I also thought it started slowly and I almost put it down (Nelson actually talks about knowing you’re a grown up when you can put down a book unfinished because you don’t like it). Nelson really doesn’t summarize the plots of the books. She talks more about how they impacted her life or the impression they made or what they reminded her of. It was also interesting to hear her views about other people as readers.

What I Liked: Nelson reminded me of the memories books trigger in you. Where you were, a certain person, what you were doing at that point in your life. Some books you keep going back to like an old friend. She wasn’t afraid to be honest about the good and bad aspects of her life. There is an appendix that lists the books she was planning to read and the books she did actually read. I added several books to my to be read pile

What I Did Not Like: Nelson is a book snob. She seems like she wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere reading a Stephen King novel. She actually picked her books to take on a vacation based on how she thought she would look to the other women on the trip. She wanted to impress them. She considered (or did) ending friendships over bad book recommendations because of what they said about the person who recommended them.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Decades Challenge 2008

Read 8 books from 8 consecutive decades. Hosted by 3M: Decades Challenge

1990--The Giver: Lois Lowry
1980--A Prayer for Owen Meany: John Irving
1970--Sophie's Choice: William Styron
1960--A Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess
1950--Flowers for Algernon: Daniel Keyes
1940--A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Betty Smith
1930--Murder on the Orient Express: Agatha Christie
1920--Whose Body? Dorothy Sayers

I feel like I'm cheating since several of these are cross-listed with other challenges. Once I get going if I have more time I'll switch them out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Young Adult Challenge

I'll have to narrow this down to 12 but it was based mainly by what I have on my TBR pile. So many good choices...

Any recommendations?

Tentative list of books

  1. Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
  2. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
  3. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
  4. The Five People You Meet in Heaven (Mitch Albom)
  5. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)
  6. Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes)
  7. The Girls (Lori Lansens)
  8. The Giver (Lois Lowry)
  9. Rosemary's Baby (Ira Levin)
  10. Uglies (Scott Westerfeld)
  11. ?
  12. ?
  14. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (John Boyne)
  15. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
  16. The Kiterunner (Khaled Hosseini)
  17. We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver)
  18. The Rule of Four (Caldwell and Thomason)
  19. The Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien)
  20. The Dive from Clausen's Pier (Ann Packer)
  21. Me Talk Pretty One Day (David Sedaris)
  22. In Cold Blood (Truman Capote)
  23. The Kitchen Boy (Robert Alexander)
  24. A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier (Ishmael Beah)
  25. Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follet)
  26. The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Zafon)


1. Stargirl (Jerry Spinelli)
2. The Girls (Lori Lansens) completed 1.5.08
3. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (Betty Smith) completed 3.23.08
4. The Giver (Lois Lowry) completed 1.27.08
5. Flowers for Algernon (Daniel Keyes) completed 3.8.08
6. Uglies (Scott Westerfeld) completed 5.15.08

7. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
8. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon)
9. Rosemary's Baby (Ira Levin) completed 3.17.08
10. Things They Carried (Tim O'Brien) completed 6.7.08
11. The Boy in Striped Pajamas (John Boyne) completed 3.20.08
12. Gathering Blue (Lois Lowry) completed 2.27.08

Messenger (Lois Lowry)completed 4.6.08
Holes (Lois Sachar)
Dicey's Song (Cyntia Voight)
The Curse of the Romanovs (Staton Rabin)
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (J. K. Rowling) completed 6.8.08
Number the Stars (Lois Lowry) completed 6.19.08

This challenge is being hosted by Joy: Young Adult Challenge

Saturday, December 1, 2007

What's In a Name Reading Challenge

Just signed up for this today. You need to choose six books that fall into the following categories

A book with a color in its title.
White Oleander
The Blackstone Chronicle

A book with an animal in its title.
Crocodile on the Sandbank (Elizabeth Peters)
Snakebite Survivor's Club: Travel Among Serpents (Jeremy Seal)

A book with a first name in its title.
Sophie's Choice
We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver)
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff (Christopher Moore)
Rosemary's Baby (Ira Levin)

A book with a place in its title.
A Parisian from Kansas (Philippe Tapon)
Dreams of My Russian Summer (Makine)

A book with a weather event in its title.
House of Sand and Fog
Snow Falling on Cedars
Shadow of the Wind

A book with a plant in its title.
Veil of Roses (Laura Fitzgerald)

This challenge is being hosted by Annie: What's In A Name Reading Challenge

Here is what I actually ended up reading:

A book with a color in its title
White Oleander (Janet Fitch)

A book with an animal in its title
Pig Island (Mo Hayder)

A book with a first name in its title
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff (Christopher Moore)

A book with a place in its title
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)

A book with a weather event in its title
The Shadow of the Wind (Carlos Zafon)

A book with a plant in its title
Veil of Roses (Laura Fitzgerald)

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