Welcome Winter, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Merry Christmas!


Twelve Christmas angels met
Up near the Milky Way;
To discuss why joy was missing,
From the Christmas holiday.

It gave them so much sadness,
As they tracked the negative trend;
So each decided to do their part,
To bring this madness to an end.

Angel one would touch memories,
Reminding of the blessings of life;
Angel two would tenderize hard hearts,
Removing bitterness and strife.

Angel three would gather families,
From far reaches of the earth;
Then stir feelings of love and peace,
Giving hope and joy new birth.

Angel four would return Merry
And Christ to holiday greetings.
Angel five would clear calendars,
To make time for family meetings.

Angels six would flame enthusiasm,
Angels seven would spread cheer;
Angel eight would grow generosity,
Angel nine would diminish fear.

Angel ten would dispel darkness,
By lighting colorful decorations;
Angel eleven would draw the lonely,
To warm and friendly celebrations.

Angel twelve would have the hardest job,
Bringing wonder back to each heart;
And reminding all the people,
Of how Christmas had its start.

So with haste they met the challenge,
And made everything all right;
They restored the joy and happiness,
Before that Christmas night.

So Merry Christmas then to one and all,
May every tongue employ;
And thank you Christmas angels,
For bringing back the Christmas joy!


Written by Loyd C Taylor


2014 52 Books in 52 Weeks

Once again I'll be hosting another round of reading 52 books in 52 Weeks? Whether you are just joining in or continuing on for another round, the rules are very simple. The goal is to read one book (at least) a week for 52 weeks. Make the year easy and casual or kick it up by exploring new to you authors and genres. Challenge yourself to read at least some classics or delve into that chunkster (more than 500 pages) you always wanted to tackle. Do you have books gathering dust on the shelves just waiting to be read? Then now is the time. The goal is to read 52 books. How you get there is up to you. 


I have included several mini challenges to make it fun:

Read Around the World:  You can read books set in and/or written by an author of a different country each week.  You can hang out in one country, exploring their history and culture or strike out across the world, mixing and mingling.  It's entirely up to you how fast and how far and how many books you want to read.  Have fun exploring!  

Nobel Prize Winners in Literature:  read books written by winning authors

Well Educated Mind:  Continuing exploring the classics in 5 categories: Fiction, Autobiography, History/Politics, Drama and Poetry. 

52 BaW Reader Recommendations:  Read books recommended by participants in 2013

Dusty Mini challenge: Limit buying new books for 1 - 4 months and read 4 to 12 or more 
books gathering dust on your shelves prior to 2013. 

Chunky Mini Challenge -books more than 500 pages.


I've also some up with monthly themes and readalongs to kick it up a notch: 


  • January:     Haruki Murakami's 65th birthday - Wind Up Bird Chronicles Readalong
  • February:    700th Anniversary of Dante's Inferno - readalong
  • March:        Sully Prudhomme (French) 1st Nobel prize Winner -  birthday 3/16/1839)
  • April:          National Poetry Month
  • May:           Art History Mysteries - Monuments Men Readalong
  • June:          Steampunk month (gear con) (steampunk.com)
  • July:           Anniversary Thomas More's Death - Utopia /  Utopian/Dystopian reads
  • August:       World War 1 100th Anniversary / Fiction or Non fiction readalong
  • September: Banned Books Month
  • October:     Spooktacular
  • November:  Non Fiction November
  • December:  Inspiration reads
Yes, I plan on it being a busy reading year!   If you haven't joined in yet, now is the time to play!!!

Happy November!



Welcome to November and colder days and early nights, curling up in a comfy chair, with a good book or two or three!  November is also the month of writing craziness, National Novel Writing Month in which participants try to write 50,000 words in 30 days.  I discovered NaNoWriMo back in 2007 and have been doing it ever since.  James joined in last year and thoroughly enjoyed himself.  So he will be doing so again this year writing a fan fiction story combining several characters from different video games and movies. 


I'm being a rebel this year and totally reworking Eyes in the Ashes which I started three years ago. I've been working on it off and on, more off, than on,  for the past year and haven't gotten too far. Lots of notes though.   Layla, a minor character, turned into a major character and it became her story. I had multiple points of view and plot holes the size of Wyoming.   So, I decided to rewrite the whole thing and even gave it a new title - Silver Shadows.  Seems I have a color theme going with all my draft titles.  *grin*   I'm combining or eliminating other characters altogether.   I've been in a writing slump for quite a while, so hoping the challenge will get me back in the habit of writing everyday.

  
I'm also declaring November to be Nonfiction November.  I don't read a lot of nonfiction and have all these books sitting on the shelf feeling neglected.  Plus I created the C.S. Lewis and Inspiration Mini challenges for the 52 Books challenge at the beginning of the year and failing miserably at those. Decided now would be the perfect time to plunge into those books.  I'm going to keep it simple and not bite off more than I can chew, like I usually do. I'm committing to one a week.  Waiting in the wings are Lewis's Mere Christianity, St. Theresa's A Life of Prayer and  George Orwell's Why I Write.  For hubby, since he's already read the book and driving me crazy about reading it -  Yes, Your Teen is Crazy: Loving your kid without losing your mind by Michael J. Bradley.    

Wish us luck and see you on the other side in December!

Daylight Saving time ends tonight so don't forget to set your clocks back an hour if your state observes Daylight Saving Time. 

October Spooktacular Reading Month


Hello, yes we are still alive and kicking.  Life is still kicking us in the butt and just haven't had much time to blog.  Over on 52 Books, October Spooktacular reading month has begun. 

If you haven't read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein or Bram Stoker's Dracula, now would be a perfect time to do so.  Wait, come back. Not right this minute, but this month.  *grin*    I've read them already, and thoroughly enjoyed them, although was really quite surprised because neither was quite what I expected.  Which is actually a good thing, because it keeps one from getting bored.  The mantra this month is expect the unexpected.  

Spooky doesn't have to necessarily mean horror.  I'm definitely not into the blood and guts type of books, but do love a great nail biting, give me goose bumps, don't turn off the lights read.  And there are plenty of scary, spooky, chilling, thrilling books that are psychological fiction, paranormal or just plain old thrillers. 

In that vein, I have a few spooky books on the shelves I will be reading and essentially still continuing with a Frankenstein and Dracula theme. 

I've fallen in love with Dean Koontz and his Odd Thomas series so I am happy to say he wrote a series in which he reworked the Frankenstein theme.  I'll be tackling the first book Frankenstein: Prodigal Son. I'll let you know what I think or if I manage to make it through the whole book.


 Every city has secrets. But none as terrible as this. His name is Deucalion, a tattooed man of mysterious origin, a sleight-of-reality artist who’s traveled the centuries with a secret worse than death. He arrives as a serial killer stalks the streets, a killer who carefully selects his victims for the humanity that is missing in himself. Detective Carson O’Connor is cool, cynical, and every bit as tough as she looks. Her partner Michael Maddison would back her up all the way to Hell itself–and that just may be where this case ends up. For the no-nonsense O’Connor is suddenly talking about an ages-old conspiracy, a near immortal race of beings, and killers that are more—and less—than human. Soon it will be clear that as crazy as she sounds, the truth is even more ominous. For their quarry isn’t merely a homicidal maniac—but his deranged maker.
Next up is Kim Newman's Anno Dracula series.  I read the first one a couple years back and it was quite imaginative, so I'm going to dive into The Bloody Red Baron
It is 1918 and Dracula is commander-in-chief of the armies of Germany and Austria-Hungary. The war of the great powers in Europe is also a war between the living and the dead. As ever the Diogenes Club is at the heart of British Intelligence and Charles Beauregard and his protegé Edwin Winthrop go head-to-head with the lethal vampire flying machine that is the Bloody Red Baron…

From new to me author C.C. Humprey's is his historical thriller - Vlad: The Last Confession which according to Booklist: 
 

An unapologetic tale about a man who endured great losses and was driven by intense passion for his country and religion...the novel is aimed much more at readers interested in the historical origins of the Dracula stories than at those looking for another vampire story. As such, it succeeds admirably.

Neither do I think I could go wrong with Edgar Allan Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym and  Jules Verne's An Antarctic Mystery which was inspired by Poe's story and supposedly completes the mystery.  Plus H.P. Lovecraft's At the Mountain of Madness which was also inspired by Pym and takes place in the Antarctic.


What spooktacular books will you be reading this month?

Sunday Salon: Life in the household

Honey Bee
I guess you could say life has been busy as bees for us this summer. The past two months have passed in a flash and can't believe it's August already.  We are downsizing and have been busy cleaning out our garage and purging all the stuff that we haven't used in several years.   I'm almost at the point to start getting rid of all the old books  **gasp**  stored in the garage and those in my shelves that I'll never read again.  Shocking, I know.  If there is anything I hoard, it's books.  Note, I said almost. Give me a few more days and we'll see if the feeling passes.  **grin**.

In the midst of purging and decluttering, Hubby finally gave up his 1971 Cadillac which has been sitting in the driveway for several years.  He'd been dreaming of he and James working on the engine together, but James isn't technically or mechanically inclined.  He's rather write or draw and play video games. 

We've repainted and redecorated James room (turned it into a teenage room) and I'm waiting for cooler days to tackle the hallway, bathroom and living room. 

Our days have also been taken up with taking James to speech, occupational and physical therapy.  All on different days, of course.  Which has lead us to doing multiple errands while we are out, so we've been spending lots of time running around as well.

In the midst of all that, I've been taking an online creative writing course which is helping me get back into the writing mode after a long dry spell.  I've not been in the mood for reading new books and have just been rereading older books in my library by Nora Roberts, Patricia Briggs and Laurel K. Hamilton, among others. 

And now that it's August, it's time to start working on 8th grade lesson plans. The good news is we already received all his curriculum, so now just need to sit my butt down and start figuring out his schedule. Fun, fun, fun.



So what has your summer been like?

Happy Father's Day

Me and My Dad


James and John

Happy Fathers day to the special dads in my life!

Congratulations to my Nephew


Attended my nephew's high school graduation in Texas. He's a cutie and always been a bit extra special to me since I was my sister's birth coach and was there when he was born. He'll be studying engineering with a minor in Math in college. 

Dallas World Aquarium


My sisters, one of my nieces and I had a girls day out and went to the Dallas World Aquarium while I was in Texas for my nephew's high school graduation.  It was the neatest place with a rainforest, plants and animals from Mayan folklore.  They even had dancers doing a mayan dance.  It was a lot of fun.



Albino Alligator

Black Jaguar

Carpet Anemone

Japanese Spider Crab - right out of a sci fi movie. It was huge.

Feeding of the Sharks

Rain Forest



Sea Dragon

Needlenose Shark


Fish - don't remember the name but beautiful

Mayan Painting

Owl

Red Flamingos

7th Grade - check!



It's official. James has finished 7th Grade. James says "part one of Junior high complete. Mission achieved."

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy mother's day!  Since I became a mother, I've learned that a mother's love is unconditional (or should be)  When my son was little, we used to read Lisa McCourt's I Love You Stinky Face and it's one book I never could get rid of.  The binding is taped together now because of how often we read it and to this day the sentiment in the story has stuck with us. Even though my son is now 13, he still ends the day with 'Mom, I love you no matter what.'   

Yesterday we went to Marshall Gold Discovery Park and explored, learning more about the gold rush and visiting the spot where James Marshall first discovered gold.  




 James Marshall learning about James Marshall





Happy Mother's Day!

April Wrap up - Spring makes its own statement



I'm so happy to bid adieu to April.  It's been a month of stress with taxes, lessons, fixing cars and cats, standardized and developmental testing which is why it's been so quiet here on the blog.  I'm optimistic May is going to be a lot less stressful since have four more weeks of lessons left and we are winding down 7th grade. Plans are in the works for a fun family gold mining trip and my sister and I going to Texas for my nephew's graduation while the guys have their own fun time at home. 

I've spent most of my free time with my head buried in a book and have been on a urban fantasy / paranormal kick. I discovered several new to me authors and read through all of Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock series.  Checked out Kelly Meding's Three Days to Dead, and Illona Andrews' On the Edge and delved into the 2nd book in Jeaniene Frost's Night Huntress series One Foot in the Grave.   Finally got around to finishing the Larisa Ione Deliverance series about the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypses. 

Immersed myself in Christa Faust's hard to classify paranormal noir pulp fiction detective story Money Shot.  Went back and listened to Patricia Brigg's Mercedes Thomas series books 1 through 6 (awesome in audio) before reading her newest book Frost Burned.   Nora Roberts hits it out of the park as always with her latest Whiskey Beach.  I feel in love with Menna Van Praag's magical story The House at the End of Hope Street and discovered a new magical England through Alex Verus story in Benedict Jacka's Fated. 

I started a readalong of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami with my 52 Books group and unfortunately I got sidelined when discovered my copy had missing pages.  Presently waiting for my replacement copy which should be here any day now.   

What's on the nightstand for May?

A few are calling my name including Stephen King's The Dark Tower IV Wizard and Glass, Joe Hill's NOS4A2, Dean Koontz's Odd Apocalypse plus Cold Fire,  Graham Moore's The Sherlockian, as well as Isabel Allende's The House of the Spirits and Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart.  A rather eclectic mix with a few more paranormals thrown in here and there.


"Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish."  ~John Quincy Adams

Cheers to a happy, less stress, more carefree May.

TLC Book Tour: Untold Damage by Robert K. Lewis

 
Synopsis:  Estranged from his wife and daughter, former undercover cop Mark Mallen has spent the last four years in a haze of heroin.  When his best friend from the academy, Eric Russ, is murdered, all the evidence points to Mallen as the primer suspect.  Now Mallen's former colleagues on the force are turning up the heat and Russ's survivors are asking him to come up with some answers. But if he wants to serve justice to the real killer, Mallen knows he'll have to get clean.  Turning a life around is hard work for a junkie, especially when a gang of low-life thugs wants him dead.  Bruised, battered, and written off by nearly everyone, can Mallen keep clean and catch a killer?



Untold Damage is a dark and gritty murder mystery and once I started reading it, didn't want to stop, even though it had me cringing at times with the graphic descriptions of heroin use.  The main character, Mark Mallen was an undercover cop, and after getting addicted to heroin, is released from the force.  He has hit rock bottom and his only thought is his next hit.  Reality comes crashing down on him when Eric is killed and he is framed for the murder.  Plus two enforcers from the drug gang he's infiltrated have discovered his identity and they are out to get him.  The story is fast paced, action packed and will leave you reeling as you root for Mark to redeem himself. 

Thank you to TLC book tours for asking me to be part of the tour and Robert K. Lewis for creating the story of Mark Mallen.  Find out more about Robert by visiting his  website or follow him on his blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Be sure to check out the previous stops on the tour.

Pages:  288
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Released:  April 8, 2013
Setting: San Francisco 
Rating: 4

There Was an old Woman - Hallie Ephron


Synopsis: When Evie Ferrante learns that her mother has been hospitalized, she finds her mother’s house in chaos. Sorting through her mother’s belongings, Evie discovers objects that don’t quite belong there, and begins to raise questions. Evie renews a friendship with Mina, an elderly neighbor who might know more about her mother’s recent activities, but Mina is having her own set of problems: Her nephew Brian is trying to persuade her to move to a senior care community. As Evie investigates her mother’s actions, a darker story of deception and madness involving Mina emerges.


I love psychological thrillers and happened to stumble across Hallie Ephron's Never Tell a Lie and after reading it, wanted to read more, so was thrilled I received an email with William Morrow's offerings for the month and There Was an Old Woman was on the list.  It is one of those unputdownable books that'll make you want to read it over again to see if you can pick up the clues that you missed the first time.  The characters are very three dimensional and they will draw you into their world.   Ephron has a way of ramping up the tension, throwing in unexpected twists and turns that will hit you right in gut and getting the reader emotionally involved with the story.  Be prepared, because once you start reading it, you won't want to put it down.  

Pages:  304
Publisher: William Morrow
Released: April 2, 2013
Setting:  New York
Rating: 5

The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag

The House at the End of Hope Street


Synopsis: Knocked off kilter by the Worst Event of Her LIfe, Alba Ashby finds herself in front of a house in Cambridge, England, that she's never seen before. There, a beautiful older woman invites her to say on the house's usual conditions--she'll have ninety nine nights, and no more, to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in. She soon discovers that 11 Hope Street is no ordinary House. Past residents have included Virginia Woolf and Dorothy Parker, how have hung around to help newcomers---literally, in talking portraits on the wall. Here Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds---maybe even save her life.
     Imagine a magical house that only becomes visible when you most need it and provides you with the things you need most to figure out what to do with your life. Little notes full of words of wisdom fall from the ceiling, living portraits of past occupants more than ready to give advice, gifts such as a room full of books or a grand piano. And Peggy, the guardian of the home who wisely helps guide the women who stay at the home. The story follows Alba whose academic career has been ruined and has never lived up to the expectations of her family plus two other woman - Greer, a failed actress and Carmen, a Portuguese singer. The House at the End of Hope Street is a charming and enchanting read about truth, hope, trust and faith in oneself. 


    Menna van Praag, also the author of Men, Money and Chocolate, lives in Cambridge, England, with her husband and son.  For more information please visit    http://www.mennavanpraag.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

     Thank you to Leyane from FSB Associates for providing me with a courtesy copy of the book and to Menna Van Praag for writing such a unique story.  

Pages:  304
Publisher:  Pamela Dorn Books/Viking
Released: April 4, 2013
Setting: England
Rating:  4

Car versus Tree Limb

It's been incredibly windy the past couple days.  I was in the kitchen yesterday morning when heard a tremendous bang.  Walked outside to discover the birch tree had attacked my car.



It could have been worse and gone through the windshield or completely through the hood. Fortunately, even though my car is 16 years old, it still in really good shape and have comprehensive coverage.  Though it doesn't look so bad, the repair will cost $1000.   So my insurance company will be taking care of the damage (minus the deductible of course) and I get the fun of driving a rental car for three days while the body shop does the repairs. Thank you USAA - I love you!




Manuscript Found in Accra by Paulo Coelho






July 14, 1099. Jerusalem awaits the invasion of the crusaders who have surrounded the city’s gates. There, inside the ancient city’s walls, men and women of every age and every faith have gathered to hear the wise words of a mysterious man known only as the Copt. He has summoned the townspeople to address their fears with truth:


“Tomorrow, harmony will become discord. Joy will be replaced by grief. Peace will give way to war. . . . None of us can know what tomorrow will hold, because each day has its good and its bad moments. So, when you ask your questions, forget about the troops outside and the fear inside. Our task is not to leave a record of what happened on this date for those who will inherit the Earth; history will take care of that. Therefore, we will speak about our daily lives, about the difficulties we have had to face.”

The people begin with questions about defeat, struggle, and the nature of their enemies; they contemplate the will to change and the virtues of loyalty and solitude; and they ultimately turn to questions of beauty, love, wisdom, sex, elegance, and what the future holds. “What is success?” poses the Copt. “It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.”

* * *

Now, these many centuries later, the wise man’s answers are a record of the human values that have endured throughout time. And, in Paulo Coelho’s hands, The Manuscript Found in Accra reveals that who we are, what we fear, and what we hope for the future come from the knowledge and belief that can be found within us, and not from the adversity that surrounds us.

I loved reading The Alchemist a few years back so when Mr. Coehlo's publicist asked if I would like to review Manuscript Found in Accra, I jumped at the chance.  Manuscript Found in Accra, a philosophical literary story,  is a short book at 190 pages,  packed with many words of advice that although I was reminded of the books of wisdom from the bible, didn't quite speak to me in the same way.  

On the eve of battle, the people who chose to stay and fight, gathered to hear what the Copt and a Rabbi, Iman and Christian priest, leaders of the three religions in Jerusalem had to say about the battle.  But rather than prepare battle, the Copt wanted the people to question and talk about how they felt. 


"None of us can know what tomorrow will hold, because each day has its good and its bad moments. So, when you ask your questions, forget about the troops outside and the fear inside.  Our task is not to leave a record of what happened on this date for those who will inherit the Earth; history will take care of that.  Therefore, we will speak about your daily lives, about the difficulties we have had to face.  That is all the future will be interested, because I do not believe very much will change in the next thousand years."

And went on to address questions about defeat, solitude, feelings of uselessness, afraid of changing, beauty,  which direction to take, love, fate, sex, elegance, luck, miracles, anxiety, the future, loyalty, and enemies.  What do you suppose would be the questions on your mind the night before a battle?  Given that it is fiction, I couldn't help feeling that many of the things said by the Copt was new age platitudes and  fatalistic thinking, since the majority of people expected to die the next day in the siege.  I unfortunately didn't appreciate the story as much as I had The Alchemist. Perhaps if it had been written into a story with action, rather than just a question and answer session, it would have been better

Although I didn't appreciate the Copt's wisdom, there are many who did, so be sure to check out the reviews of those who did and TLC Book tour stops.

A Bookish Way of Life:  "Though these questions do address the current situation at hand, they also seem to be about the future as well - I found that to be inspiring and hopeful....terrific read - one that will make you think, reflect, and take action"

Mom in Love with Fiction:  " We all face times in our lives where the questions seem to outweigh the answers, a time where we are searching for wisdom. This book touches on so many of the topics that hold most of us back from becoming our best selves. It's a quick read, but it's packed with life-affirming and life-altering advice."


Released  April 2, 2013
Pages 190
Rating 2.5
Publisher: Alfred A Knopf/Random House




Sand Castle Bay by Sherryl Woods

Synopsis:  In a trade-off she’s lived to regret, Emily Castle left home years ago to become an interior designer. The youngest of three sisters, Emily desperately wanted to prove herself. Success, though, came at the cost of leaving behind the man she loved. 

For Boone Dorsett, losing Emily left his heart shattered, but another woman was waiting in the wings. Now a widower with a young son, Boone has a second chance with Emily when a storm brings her home. But with his former in-laws threatening a custody suit, the stakes of loving her are higher than ever. 

Will fate once again separate them—or is the time finally right for these two star-crossed lovers? 

I read very few contemporary romances, but when I do, one of my go to authors is Sherryl Woods. Her stories are relationship driven with characters who are interesting with complicated lives, yet far from perfect.  She has released a new trilogy Ocean Breezes about 3 sisters set in a small harbor town along the North Carolina coast.  

The first book Sand Castle Bay is all about Emily and Boone but also provides an introduction to her two sisters and their feisty grandmother, Cora Jane.    Emily broke Boone's heart when she chose her career over him and disappeared from his life.  She returns 10 years later, along with her sisters, to help out her grandmother whose restaurant was damaged by the most recent hurricane.   Both she and Boone have to figure out a way to work out hurt feelings and past betrayals and learn to trust each other again since Boone is a fixture in her grandmother's life, lives close by and owns his own successful restaurant.  She just can't run away again but must face the past and deal with the attraction they both still feel for each other. 

I enjoyed the first story and quickly fell in like with all the characters and look forward to reading the rest of the series - Wind Chime Point will be released April 30th and Sea Glass Island will be released May 28th.  

Released:  March 26, 2013
Pages:  384
Setting: North Carolina
Rating: 3.5

Sunday Salon: Happy Easter




Happy Easter! We have had a wonderful spring break and I've enjoyed being extremely lazy, reading and just hanging out.   All those things on my to do list -- are still there waiting to be done and I'm not going to feel the least bit guilty about any of it.  We have nine more weeks and 7th grade will be done.   It was a bit more stressful this year since we joined  Visions, our public home school charter, and followed their schedule which meant fewer breaks. The past few years we did 4 weeks on, 1 week off and usually ended mid June.  I discovered those breaks are absolutely necessary for all involved or we get extremely grumpy with each other and mom has less patience.  So we are going to allow for more breaks come 8th grade.  

Reading wise, I should be reading Manuscript Found in Accra which is being released April 2, but I got sidetracked with Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock Series and read Skinwalker.  Finished it, liked it enough to start the 2nd - Blood Cross. What can I say, I'm a sucker for paranormal fantasy series.  This month my reading was eclectic ranging from suspense, psychological thrillers, romance, science fiction,  paranormal and urban fantasies.

Calculated in Death - J.D. Robb (New York - 400) 
Never Let You Go - Erin Healy  (U.S. - 352)
Kitty Steals the Show (KN#10) - Carrie Vaughn (eb)
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - Philip Dick (futuristic S.F. - 256)
There was an Old Woman - Hallie Ephron (New York - 293)
Odd Hours - Dean Koontz (California -413)  

The Likeness - Tana French (Ireland - 466)
Hopscotch - Julio Cortazar (Paris/Argentina - 564)
Touch of a Demon (#5 Kara Gillian) - Diana Rowland (448)
Relentless - Cherry Adair (Egypt - 368)  

Angelopolis - Danielle Trussoni (New York/Paris/Siberia - 302)
Odd Interlude - Dean Koontz (eb)
Sand Castle Bay - Sherryl Woods (North Carolina - 384)
The Wanderer - Robyn Carr (Oregon - eb)
Deadly Sting (Elemental Assassin #8) - Jennifer Estep (eb) 

Skinwalker (Jane Yellowrock#1) - Faith Hunter (New Orleans - eb) 

I also had the 'eyes are bigger than my stomach' syndrome lately when it comes to book offers and will have quite a few reviews coming up in the next couple months.  This week is the release of the first book in Sherryl Woods new Ocean Breeze comtemporary romance series Sand Castle Bay and Paulo Coehlo's latest Manuscript Found in Accra

Writing wise, don't ask.  It's been rather sparse lately, including here on the blog and I'm working on improving.  Speaking of blogs, March marks my 6th year blogging on My Two Blessings and my 4th year hosting Read 52 Books in 52 Weeks.  We'll find a way to celebrate in April, perhaps with a giveaway or two.   

This week on 52 books it is book week 14 and highlighting Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that create the World's Great Drinks by Amy Stewart which lead me to Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother.  James and I have had many a conversation about Lincoln's mother and how she died from milk sickness so of course I had to buy it.  We'll also be doing a readalong starting April 7th of 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami1Q84 originally was published in three volumes in Japan in 2009-2010 and released as one book in North American in 2011. It is according to Murakami,  a mind bending ode to George Orwell's 1984. 


Have a Happy Easter and a wonderful Week! 




 
The Sunday Salon.com

Angelopolis by Danielle Trussoni

Book Flap Synopsis : A New York Times bestseller and global sensation, Angelology unfurled a brilliant tapestry of myth and biblical lore on our present-day world and plunged two star-crossed heroes into an ancient battle against mankind's greatest enemy: the fatally attractive angel-human hybrids known as the Nephilim. With Angelopolis, the conflict deepens into an inferno of danger and passion unbound.

A decade has passed since Verlaine saw Evangeline alight from the Brooklyn Bridge, the sight of her new wings a betrayal that haunts him still. Now an elite angel hunter for the Society of Angelology, he pursues his mission with single-minded devotion: to capture, imprison, and eliminate her kind.

But when Evangeline suddenly appears on a twilit Paris street, Verlaine finds her nature to be unlike any of the other creatures he so mercilessly pursues, casting him into a spiral of doubt and confusion that only grows when she is abducted before his eyes by a creature who has topped the society's most-wanted list for more than a century. The ensuing chase drives Verlaine and his fellow angelologists from the shadows of the Eiffel Tower to the palaces of St. Petersburg and deep into the provinces of Siberia and the Black Sea coast, where the truth of Evangeline's origins—as well as forces that could restore or annihilate them all—lie in wait.

Conceived against an astonishing fresh tableau of history and science, Angelopolis plumbs Russia's imperial past, modern genetics, and ancient depictions of that most potent angelic appearance—the Annunciation of Gabriel—in a high-octane tale of abduction, treasure seeking, and divine warfare as the fate of humanity once again hangs in the balance.

Back in 2011 when I read Angelology, I was completely blown away and the rich, complex story enthralled me so much I couldn't wait for the sequel to come out.  Perhaps I should have read the book again before reading Angelopolis to refresh my memory but didn't want to wait and dove into the story.  Maybe my anticipation of the story was too high because although it was just as richly written, the visceral connection I felt in the first book just wasn't there.  In most fantasy stories, I can usually suspend disbelief but there were too many instances in which I couldn't.  There were continuity issues which left me wondering what just happened when things suddenly changed in a scene and the characters weren't following through or how they could have possibility 'ignored the elephant in the room.'  And, as in the first book, there is more to the story which will be answered in the 3rd installment.   Which I'm looking forward to reading because I do want to know 'the rest of the story'. You'll have to decide for yourself, but definitely read Angelology first, then Angelopolis. Both will be on my shelves for a reread later on.

Thank you to Jane from Viking, a division of Penguin publishing for providing me with a courtesy copy of the book and Danielle Trussoni for her vivid imagination. 


Released:  March 26, 2013
Pages:  302
Setting: New York/Paris/Siberia
Rating: 3.5

Cha cha cha changes





New and improved doesn't always mean better.   I've been ignoring Google's little messages up until now about the loss of reader and igoogle because simply haven't  had the time to deal with it. No that's not true. I didn't want to take the time because I knew it would take time, lots of it.   As we all know, when it comes the computer, it takes time.  I've also been contemplating a new laptop but that's a whole other story.  Have been researching and reading and checking out what other folks have been saying about all the choices out there.

I personally hate, err dislike Google's Chrome. It's a very simple but important reason - I can't make changes on blogger through Chrome.  Believe me, I've tried. Which is odd since blogger and Chrome are both Google products.  And if I can't update my blogs, well.  Nuff said.  So Firefox remains my number one browser, and I love Adblock plus which between Norton Security and it, pretty much wipes out all ads everywhere.  Imagine my surprise when I went onto facebook using my nook and saw all the ads in the sidebar.  So nice to know what I haven't been missing. 

I've gone exploring and checked out NetVibes which was snazzy but way too slow to load.  Protopage just rubbed me the wrong way. I've fallen in like with Ustart.org and after playing with it a while, think it will make a good replacement for igoogle. Have taken the plunge and set it up as my home page.  

As far as the reader goes, I discovered Feedly who has stepped up to the plate to take over and seamlessly clone google reader and make the transition very smooth.  I'm getting used to it, but debating whether I'll just go back to old fashioned method of keeping the blogs I follow in my sidebar and clicking over from there.  Have already weaned myself from google reader and rarely look at it these days so won't be much of a loss.  

 When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.  ~Victor Frankl


Sunday Salon: Happy St. Patrick's




         Dia duit ar maidin! Happy St. Patrick's day.  It is a beautiful day and spring is approaching.  I'm looking forward to hanging out on the patio, pondering and enjoying nature again.  

         I just finished a book that really made you ponder -  Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar.   One of those book in which the characters discuss the meaning of life to death in a stream of consciousness fashion.  Plus one in which I needed the dictionary/encyclopedia several times to look up words and people.  Which made me realize I wouldn't have liked or finished the book at all 20 to 30 years ago because I wouldn't have appreciated or understood it.  I totally disliked the main character, Horacio Oliveira, and there were times I simply wanted to throw the book across the room in disgust. He had no redeeming qualities and I felt the same way about him as I did about Gatsby in The Great Gatsby.   But like a train wreck waiting to happen, had to finish the book. There were two ways to read the book - straight forward or in a Hopscotch manner jumping into 'expendable' chapters the author had written which were suppose to add to or explain some of what was going on.  I hopscotched around, letting the number at the end of each chapter tell me what to read next.  Which if you weren't paying attention, wouldn't realize you were in an endless loop at the end.  

         My brain was saturated upon finishing the book and needed time to rest. Couldn't even think of reading anything else.  James and I went to the comic book store and Barnes and Noble Friday afternoon and I was quite happy to discover the next book Touch of the Demon in Diana Rowland's urban fantasy Demon series.  Perfect book to dive into and escape for a while.  I also picked up a few next in the series books such as Patricia Brigg's Frost Burned, Laurel K. Hamilton's Hit List and Keri Arthur's Moon Sworn. So happy my son dragged me out to the store.


        I finished listening to the In Death  series by J.D. Robb.  Was at a loss wandering what I was going to listen too after a year and a half of the adventures of Eve and Roark. I'm so picky about the narrators and love Susan Ericksen. Checked out Lorelie King who narrates Patricia Brigg's Mercedes Thompson series and downloaded the first book Moon Called. Already read the series, so it's fun listening to it as well.   Enjoying it so far.  

         It's book week 12 in my 52 Books in 52 Weeks reading challenge and this week I'm highlighting  Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter:  Book # 7 in the list of great fiction from SWB's Well Educated Mind. Coincidentally, this is also the anniversary of the book's publication 163 years ago on March 16, 1850.  

         James has started a new blog based on the latest fan fiction story he wrote called Sonic the Hedgehog Z. which is a mashup involving characters from Sonic, Mega Man, Star Wars and who ever else can cook up. My son has a fascinating imagination. He also wants me to pass on to everyone the news that Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man are getting together in a comic book cross over event called Worlds Collide which will be published across three comic books - Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe and Mega Man and starts April 10. 

        Hubby just finished reading Lincoln's Last Days written by Bill O'Reilly and Dwight Jon Zimmerman.  He says it's excellent and one of the first history books he's read that is suspenseful, based on reality and simple enough for a child to read, but also good enough for an adult to read without being demeaning or feeling they are being talked down to.  He is encouraging both James and I to read it as well.  

       Life beckons. My HP Printer took a dump so just ordered and received a Brothers Wireless color printer with scanner and other nifty things. I have the fun of getting it set up today along with planning lessons for the week.  One more week to Spring break - Yahoo.  Although I'll be spending it doing the taxes.  But first - 50 more chapters to go in my book, so off to read.  Happy Sunday!




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Sunday Salon: Hopscotch






Happy Sunday!  It is the oddest thing....whenever the time changes I feel jetlagged?  The cats have been trying to get me up an hour earlier for the past couple weeks so they've already adjusted.  My body won't adjust until April which is when DST used to start until congress changed it in 2007.  My internal clock really is still geared to that. I know...whine, moan, complain when it's only an hour. 

Life wise, with 7th grade, comes STAR testing for James since we are now involved in  the school district's charter home school.  He's never done any of the star tests before so  we arranged to have him do the tests at home. Why?  Because of his aspergers he is easily distracted and can't concentrate in a new environment.  He also very sociable and put him in a new environment with 20 new kids and forget getting anything done. Hey! A new audience and they haven't heard any of his stories and....  He would be as much as distraction as he would be distracted.  

The writing test was this past week and our counselor/teacher is so wonderful and patient with him.   I sat in the living room while they worked in the kitchen, listening to their conversation.  He'd write for a few minutes, then stop and ask her an off topic question. She'd patiently answer, then steer him back to his work.  Next month is the 2nd part which involves the English and math testing. Meanwhile, we'll do a couple practice tests so he knows what to expect.  

Reading wise, I just finished Tana French's The Likeness.  Booklist says it best so not going to reinvent the wheel right now:  

 "French’s debut novel, In the Woods (2007), introduced Dublin Murder Squad detective Cassie Maddox and earned unanimous critical praise. Cassie is back, and French has written another winner. The body of a young woman is found in the ruins of a old stone cottage in a dying village outside of Dublin, and the dead woman and Cassie are virtual twins. Lacking suspects or leads, the victim is reported by the police to be injured but alive, leaving Cassie to step into the dead woman’s life as a Trinity College graduate student and the housemate of four other students. Despite the tensions of being undercover, Cassie quickly learns to love her quirky, insular housemates and her new life in a once-grand house, even as the Murder Squad investigation yields little. Someone stabbed her doppelganger to death, and Cassie must find the killer. The Likeness has everything: memorable characters, crisp dialogue, shrewd psychological insight, mounting tension, a palpable sense of place, and wonderfully evocative, painterly prose."
One of those unputdownable books, at least for me.  So much so, when I should have been writing the 52 Books blog post for week 11, I was reading instead.   Today is the start of the Hopscotch Readalong by Julio Cortazar which is really two books in one. You can either read in regular chapter order or follow his hopscotch order and start with chapter 73.  I'm going to follow his order and see what happens.

Life beckons. Happy Sunday!  

  

Sunday Salon: February Wrap up


The sounding refrain seems to be where did February go?  It passed far too quickly in my opinion.  Spring is approaching and hopefully with the beginning of Daylight Savings Time new week and the arrival of spring, my writing mojo will come back. I've not been feeling very inspired lately and more into reading about writing, rather than writing.  However, my guys have been at me to write and James is wanting me to get back to writing Green Cross so I can write a scene which includes my Hero talking to a bikini clad beauty on the beach who will do acrobatics for him.  Yep, he's 13. What can I say.  Plus hubby is wanting me to finish editing Eyes in the Ashes.  Will work on getting into an inspired mood this week.  

February reading wise, I discovered Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series and devoured most of the series reading up through #9 Kitty's Big Trouble.   Kitty is a werewolf with a talk show and she gets into all kinds of trouble - great characters and the storyline is addictive. I've also fallen for Dean Koontz Odd Thomas series and read the next two books in series  - Forever Odd #2 and  Brother Odd #3.  Also working on Robert Jordan's  Wheel of Time series which are chunksters so reading one a month at this point and finished # 3 The Dragon Reborn.  I've had City of Ashes in Cassandra Clare's Immortal Instruments series sitting on the shelf for quite a while and finally got around to reading it.  It took me a bit of time to get back into the characters, but once I did, the story went smoothly.  Not sure if I will continue the series at some point.   

Dusty books wise finished Death and Restoration by Iain Pears in his Art History Mystery series. Have enjoyed reading all of them and think this is the last. Will have to go back and check. Also read Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop which was about a Catholic Bishop establishing a church in the new established territory of New Mexico and thoroughly enjoyed it.  Plus Deborah Crombie's Scotland yard mystery about a drowned rower in No Mark Upon Her. Lots of twists and turns in this one.   And new to me author Hallie Ephron (what took me so long) and her psychological suspense mystery Never Tell a Lie which was creepy good.  Finally read the novella Comedy in a Minor Key by Hans Keilson which wasn't much a comedy but a dark story about a dutch couple hiding a jewish man in their home during the war.  Small book but packs a wallop.


Non fiction wise I finally finished Echoing Silence: Thomas Merton on the vocation of Writing - edited by  Robert Inchausti.  It was a mixture of various essays from all of Merton's books and his correspondence with various writers and his thoughts on writing which varied depending on his mood. It was interesting and made me want to read all his other books.  Which lead to me now reading New Seeds of Contemplation which has much to comtemplate so taking it slowly. 

In my A to Z challenge have progressed through the D's and now working on the E's.  I'm currently reading another dusty book Never Let You Go by Erin Healy which is a small town christian supernatural psychological and scary good. 

And I signed up for a coursera class that just sounded really intriguing which will begin tomorrow called Know Thyself:
An investigation of the nature and limits of self-knowledge from the viewpoints of philosophy, psychoanalysis, experimental psychology, neuroscience, aesthetics, and Buddhism.  Readings are drawn from classical Western, non-Western, and contemporary sources.


For the 52 Books challenge, we are taking our armchair travels down into South America and will be doing a readalong starting March 10 of Hopscotch by Julio Cortozar which is a free wheeling, stream of consciousness book in which you can read in chapter order or follow the random pattern set out by the author, hopscotching around.  Should be interesting. 

Cheers to March and Happy Reading! 


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