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Monday, November 30, 2009

Interview and Giveaway with SFF/Romance author Kathryne Kennedy

Kathryne is the author of the upcoming December release My Unfair Lady. She is also the author of the The Relics of Merlin series. Please give her a warm welcome!


Thank you very much for stopping by and answering some questions for my readers. I know you are a busy woman and appreciate your time.

So let's get started.

Hi Jenny! Thanks a million for having me here. It really is my pleasure!

1.) You attribute your love of fairy tales as a child to your inspiration for fantasy writing. Do have a particular favorite fairy tale or collection? Mine is Sleeping Beauty.

I have to say that my favorite is Cinderella. There’s something so satisfying in having the heroine transform herself on the outside, to match her true beauty on the inside. There are many other facets to the story though, which is what I wanted to explore in My Unfair Lady. Does a woman really need to change herself for a man? Is that true love? Does changing your appearance truly make a difference on what lies within you? I enjoyed helping my heroine figure out these questions for herself.

2.) In My Unfair Lady your heroine is a bit unconventional and rough around the edges by London standards. Besides being great attributes for a character, is there another reason why you chose to make Summer this way? Would My Fair Lady be one of your favorite musicals?

I live in Arizona, so it felt natural to have Summer grow up here, albeit in the 1800’s. And I needed a very tough heroine, physically and mentally, to be a match for my hero, the Duke of Monchester. Growing up in a mining town and having to depend on herself shaped her character, and made her a perfect match for the duke…although it took them some time to figure that out. And because of Summer’s lonely upbringing, she came to regard animals as part of her family, picking up strays wherever she found them. Her ‘critters’ made for some fun moments in the book, and showed the depth of her compassion. They were a connection into the duke’s childhood as well, although it will take Summer some time to discover that. The duke has done a good job of building up a wall of arrogance and indifference in order to protect himself from the difficulties of his life.

I would have to say that My Fair Lady is *one* of my favorite musicals. I also love Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Hello Dolly, and Yentl (my favorite song is Streisand singing “Papa can you hear me?”).

3.) You do tremendous amounts of meticulous research for your Relics of Merlin series. How is that series coming along and do you write books like My Unfair Lady as a way to take a break from that series?

I do spend a lot of time on research, and I try to be as accurate as possible, but I’m only human, and luckily so far I don’t think I’ve made any goofs. :} So, thank you, I appreciate the compliment very much. It might be interesting for you to know that My Unfair Lady actually inspired the Relics series. The entire time I was writing it, I kept thinking how unfair it was that men inherited the titles, but if titles were based on magical ability, it might even things up for the women. And so the Relics series was born. The fourth book in the series is currently on hold, as I received an amazing opportunity to write a new series with Sourcebooks Publishing (the largest female-owned publisher in the industry).

Set in the Georgian era (back to research!), it’s also an alternate historical reality, where seven mad elven lords have found a way into the world of man, and have taken over England using their magical scepters. I just finished writing the first book in The Elven Lords series, The Fire Lord’s Lover, which is about a half-elven hero (picture Legolas in The Lord of the Rings) and his assassin bride. A bit more intense than the Relics series, it stretched my imagination in unbelievable ways. The Fire Lord’s Lover will be released in Spring or Summer, 2010.

4.) Besides Victorian England is there another time period you be interested in exploring and utilizing as a setting, such as ancient Greece or Rome?

Think I answered that above, since I’m writing a new series in the Georgian era. :} But another time period I would love to write about one day is ancient Egypt. I’m fascinated with mummies and pharaohs and tombs…and a lot of women were powerful back then. Imagine what would happen if the magic of their gods was real? My mind boggles.

5.) What is your writing process? Do you go to your office, sit down and get to work, or sometimes take your laptop to the park for inspiration? Do you think you have improved your writing process over time; realized what works and what doesn't?

I wake up and try to maintain that kinda dreamy state and immediately start writing, before any other distractions pull my head out of the story. I don’t listen to music or anything while I’m writing. It might just be me, but I have to imagine myself in the story, and then I tell my reader what I see. And I’m not sure if I really know what I’m doing yet, some days I think I do. :} But I do hope my writing has improved, since practice is supposed to do so…and I spend a lot of time practicing.

6.) What do you do to unwind? Any hobbies?

I used to play indoor soccer, until I received a bad neck injury. Since I had surgery on it this year, I haven’t been up to doing much. But I keep trying to talk my sister into taking clogging lessons with me when I’m fully recovered; I think it would be fun. But so far, no success in convincing her. I might get my husband to do it, but I just can’t imagine him clogging without giggling. He’s a big, brawny kind of guy.

7.) What books are you currently reading?

Oh, I’ve read some great ones lately! Soulless by Gail Carriger (A Victorian fantasy, yes!) and right now I’m finishing up The Trouble with Demons by Lisa Shearin. I keep looking for books similar to mine, with an equal mix of romance and historical fantasy, but other than a few (Shana Abe and Nalini Singh come to mind—wonderful stories! Although Nalini is more futuristic) I’ve had little luck.

If you or your readers have any suggestions on titles, I’d love to hear them! In the meantime, I’ll keep writing what I love to read.

8.) What can we expect to see you from next?

Good golly, I keep answering your questions ahead of time--you must be a kindred spirit. :} So I’ll add that I’m currently working on the second book in The Elven Lords series, titled The Storm Lord’s Daughter, which continues the journey of a character rescued in book one.

Thank you so much for your time Kathryne. I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to chat. Hope these questions were not too tough. Give your dogs some pets from me.

Have a great day.


Again, Jenny, it’s my absolute pleasure to be here! Thanks so much for having me, and for asking questions that I wanted to answer so much I kept skipping ahead. :} My two little Chihuahuas, Precious and Baggins, are snuggled up next to me, so they each got a scratch from you under the ear. They thank you.

For more on Kathryne feel free to stop by her blog or website

About My Unfair Lady, Historical Romance (Victorian),

A wild west heiress, Summer Wine Lee knows that she's not an acceptable bride for her fiance's knickerbocker family. She grew up in an Arizona mining town, cares more for her animals, keeps a knife with her at all times AND she has a highly improper secret from her past. Summer goes to London and asks the Duke of Monchester to change her into a real lady. Reluctantly, the Duke agrees… but the more time he spends with Summer, and the more social scrapes he has to rescue her from, the more he finds it impossible to change her into a proper lady. How could he, when he's falling in love with her just the way she is?


So here's the Giveaway scoop!

1. Open to residents of U.S. and Canada only. No P.O. boxes please.
2. Leave a comment with your email address so I can get in touch with you.
3. Extra entry if you leave a book suggestion for Kathryne.
4. Extra entry for posting about this contest on your blog or side bar. Leave me a link please :)

Contest ends at midnight on Monday December 14th.
Good luck everyone!

Thank you to Danielle from Sourcebooks for arranging this interview and giveaway.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

2010 Read Your Own Books Challenge

Read Your Own Books Challenge is hosted by Miz B from Should be Reading. And it exactly what the name says, read books you already own. This fits in perfectly with my own challenge.

Here are the rules:

* Pick a number of books you’d like to read in one year
* Choose those books from your OWN collection
* Read them between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2010

Some other guidelines for this challenge:

* Re-Reads are NOT allowed (the challenge is to get more of your own books read that have been sitting there waiting!)
* Audiobooks & e-books ARE allowed
* You do NOT need a blog to participate — you can leave comments on the post at Miz Bs with your progress

Really Old Classics Challenge

The rules for this challenge are simple:

To join the Really Old Challenge, commit to read at least one work written before 1600 A.D. between November 2009 and February 28, 2010.

Trying to expand my horizons here. I originally chose Dante's classic, The Inferno, but since I would have to buy a copy, I scrapped that idea. Therefore, I'm going with Gilgamesh. I found a free copy of the text online here.

Here's my review.

2010 Library Challenge

This challenge is hosted by the incomparable J.Kaye of J.Kaye's Book Blog. I participated in 2009, and I love my library. This one is a no brainer for me. Here is the home page for the challenge.

The rules are as follows:

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

2. There are four levels. I am doing The Mini – Check out and read 25 library books.

3. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Young Reader – any book as long as it is checked out from the library count. Checked out like with a library card, not purchased at a library sale.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

6. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

I'm shooting for the mini, but anything is possible.

Come join us here.

And post reviews here.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1.) The Secret History of the Pink Carnation

2010 100+ Reading Challenge

This is hosted by the fabulous J. Kaye of J.Kaye's Book Blog. Here is the home page for the challenge.

The rules are as follows:

1. The goal is to read 100 or more books. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

--Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post. To learn how to sign up without having a blog, click here.

2. Audio, Re-reads, eBooks, YA, Library books, Young Reader, Nonfiction – as long as the book has an ISBN or equivalent or can be purchased as such, the book counts.

3. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

4. Crossovers from other reading challenges count.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010. Books started before the 1st do not count.


1.) The Second Date by Mary Lydon Simonsen
2.) Island of the Swans by Ciji Ware
3.) Mr. Darcy's Great Escape by Marsha Altman
4.) The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer
5.) Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
6.) The Epic of Gilgamesh
7.) The Highlander's Sword by Amanda Forester
8.) The Stolen Crown
9.) Lumby Lines
10.) The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
11.) The Founding

Sunday Reflections (Nov. 29)

Hello Everyone!
Hope this finds you all well, and that a lovely weekend was had by all. I didn't get everything done this weekend that I wanted to, but at least some of the house is clean. I usually have my tree up and decorated this weekend, but since my doggie's couch is a bit larger than usual, we are having space issues. Therefore, this will be the first year we go with a live tree. Yes, a live tree, although probably a Chuck Brown version, again due to space.

And I am okay with this, because as much as I love this time of the year, and all the stuff that goes with it, it sucks having to take all those decorations down when it's over. It's a little depressing, and finding the time is difficult. So only my best ornaments will go on the tree and that will still probably take me all day to do :)

So on the reading horizon, I have an interview and giveaway starting tomorrow for Kathryne Kennedy's newest release, My Unfair Lady. I am reading it now, and so far so good, except for one passage in the book. It's a nice, easy breezy romance with a bit of mystery.

I am also reading Defenders of the Scroll by Shiraz which is really geared more towards young children, like ages 10 and up, I guess. I should have a review of that later this week, and also a review for The Recipe Club. I finished that last night. There are some tasty sounding recipes in there, and I plan to make one of them later this month.

Oh! And before I forget again, I just finished listening to Frankenstein. What a great book! I listened to it on a free podcast called Craftlit hosted by Heather Ordover. The podcast tag line is "A Podcast for Crafters Who Love Books". Heather is a former English teacher so she explains things and sets up the chapters. This made the listening quite interesting and I learned much more with Heather, than I would have if I just read the book on my own. The beginning of the podcast is some knitting stuff, so you can fast forward a wee bit until she gets to the book part. Heather has done several classics and I look forward to listening to some more. It makes my work-outs much more interesting.

I also have another contest coming on Thursday. Why? Because it's my 1st Bloggaversary!!! Woo-hoo! I will be giving away some of my gently read books so stop back on Thursday if you can.

Well I think that is plenty for one week, so enjoy the rest of your day and happy reading everyone :)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review: Children of Dust by Ali Eteraz

Author: Ali Eteraz
Publisher: Harper Collins, Harper One, October 13, 2009
Genre: Non-fiction, memoir
Hardback 337 pages
Book Source: FSB Associates

Book Description from Harper Collins:

Ali Eteraz's Children of Dust is a spellbinding portrayal of a life that few Americans can imagine. From his schooling in a madrassa in Pakistan to his teenage years as a Muslim American in the Bible Belt, and back to Pakistan to find a pious Muslim wife, this lyrical, penetrating saga from a brilliant new literary voice captures the heart of our universal quest for identity.

Children of Dust begins in rural Islam at the lowest levels of Pakistani society in the turbulent eighties. This intimate portrayal of rustic village life is revealed through a young boy's eyes as he discovers magic, women, and friendship.

After immigrating with his family to the United States, Eteraz struggles to be a normal American teenager under the rules of a strict Muslim household.

In 1999, he returns to Pakistan to find the villages of his youth dominated by the ideology of the Taliban, filled with young men spouting militant rhetoric, and his extended family under threat. Eteraz becomes the target of a mysterious abduction plot when he is purported to be a CIA agent, and eventually has to escape under military escort.

Back in the United States, with his fundamentalist illusions now shattered, Eteraz tries to find a middle way within American Islam. At each stage of Eteraz's life, he takes on a different identity to signal his evolution. From being pledged to Islam in Mecca as an infant, through Salafi fundamentalism, to liberal reformer, Eteraz desperately struggles to come to terms with being a Pakistani and a Muslim.

Astonishingly honest, darkly comic, and beautifully told, Children of Dust is an extraordinary adventure that reveals the diversity of Islamic beliefs, the vastness of the Pakistani diaspora, and the very human search for home.

My Thoughts:

This is a memoir of Eteraz’s life growing up as a Muslim first in Pakistan and then later as an American in the U.S. As Eteraz grows and changes, so does his understanding and practice of Islam. All people, regardless of religion, go through changes in their beliefs. As we learn more about life and people, either within or outside of our faith, our perceptions change and our behavior right along side it.

At different stages in his life, Eteraz practiced Islam differently, and it was in response to his environment. However, one thing always remained constant: his pure innocent belief in God or Allah. That never wavered or changed. Eteraz may have questioned ancillary things, like behavior towards women or dressing differently, but it was all to be closer to God. Eteraz just wants to be the best Muslin he can be.

One part of the book that struck me was when Eteraz and his family visit Pakistan in the summer and they go back to where they grew up. Eteraz is treated differently and suspected of not being a good Muslim. It is a shocking experience for him, and it speaks to our perceptions as a young child and then as an adult. We see things differently as we age, and sometimes you can’t always go back to where you came from.

What I really liked about this book was learning about Islam. For Muslims their religion is so deeply intertwined with their daily life, whereas in the U.S., or at least where I grew up, it is separate. I went to Catholic school, had religion class in the mornings and that was pretty much about it for religion. Unless you got into trouble and had to stare at a holy picture or something, but I wouldn’t know anything about that.

For Muslims, Islam is their history and culture. It is everything to them, and there is no separating that. Islam is their identity. It was easy for me to see the contrast between Catholicism and Islam because I don’t identify myself by my religion; heritage definitely, but not religion. That’s probably a byproduct of being an American and the whole melting pot thing.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. I learned a lot about what it means to be a Muslim and have a new found understanding of theses people and their way of life. I highly commend Eteraz for writing this book. It took a lot of introspection and courage to examine yourself in this manner and then share it with the world. Hopefully people will read this memoir and come away with a better understanding of what it means to be a Muslim.

Here is a quote which I think helps sum up the book, plus it's one of my favorites:

"You live; you worship. That's what this life is for. Rewards are in the next life. Riches are in the next life." pg. 33
My Rating: 90/100

Thanks to Julie from FSB Associates for my review copy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (Nov. 24)

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B from Should Be Reading.
The rules are as follows:
*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
*Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

I have two again this week.

"Come on. There must be an evil overlord. Where there's a princess, there's always an evil overlord or, like, a witch or dragon or something."
pg. 37 Defenders of the Scroll written by Shiraz

"Either you answer me, or I get to kiss you. That's the bargain. You choose."

pg. 97 My Unfair Lady (ARC) Kathryne Kennedy

For more teasers stop by here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Reflections (Nov. 22)

Well like everyone else, I also can't believe this week is Thanksgiving. Where does the time go? When I reflect back, I know the time flew by, but still, so quickly? At least we still have today, or whatever is left.

This was a pretty productive week for me, both at home and work. Busy reading Children of Dust and The Recipe Club. Two very different books but much needed diversity. Finished Children of Dust and will have a review sometime this week. It's a memoir, so it's out of my comfort zone but very good nonetheless.

Started Defenders of the Scroll the other evening. So far so good, but I'm only 20 pages in. It's a kids book, or more accurately a young adult book. Cover reminds of Saturday morning cartoons from the 80's, like Super Friends or something. Or He-Man, it's the Castle Grey Skull that is familiar.

I also announced a new challenge I am hosting next year, 2010 Reading Resolutions Challenge. You can read all about it here. I also have a contest for a copy of My Unfair Lady, starting next Monday the 30th, and I will celebrating my first Bloggaversary with a contest as well. That's coming up in early December. So there is a lot going on around here at the end of the year.

Have a good week everyone and enjoy your holiday :)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Review: Daughter of York by Anne Easter Smith

Author: Anne Easter Smith
Publisher: Touchstone (February 12, 2008)
Genre: Historical fiction
Trade paperback, 592 pages
Book Source: Second hand book store (The Book Trader)

From the author's website:

Daughter of York re-visits many of the characters from "A Rose for the Crown," as we follow Margaret, sister of Edward IV and Richard III, from the court of England where, as a pawn in Edward's political schemes, she is kept single until she is 22, when a Burgundian alliance is forged through her marriage to Charles the Bold, the new Duke of Burgundy.

Despite fulfilling her duty to her new country with intelligence and aplomb, Margaret never forgets she is an English princess and a daughter of the House of York. Her homesickness is exacerbated by having to leave behind the love of her life. Fate brings them together rarely after she becomes duchess to a man she only met a week before her marriage, and whom she discovers suffers from such a grandiose view of his place in history that he is capable of great cruelty towards anyone who stands in his way. He also prefers spending time on a battlefield than at home with his wife. She finds solace in the bond she forges with her new young stepdaughter, her friendship with William Caxton, learning to rule her new country, and her unusual confidante, a dwarf named Fortunata. But once in a while, she breaks the rules in the arms of her one true love...

My Thoughts:

This book covers a 20 year span in Margaret York's life. From Christmas 1461, a few months before the crowning of Edward IV, to 1480, three years after the death of Charles of Burgundy. All of the trials and tribulations of the York family are seen through Margaret's eyes. To her, family is everything and she loves her mother and especially her brothers very deeply. Margaret is proud to be a York. Being the King's sister makes Margaret a pawn, thus arranging the most advantageous marriage possible takes about six years. Margaret finally marries Charles the Bold when she is 23, but they have no children.

Margaret was very unhappy to leave to leave England. However through this marriage she comes into her own. Burgundy is a rich and powerful court, so Margaret's courtly training pays off. Although she is away from family and her beloved England, Margaret stays abreast of all her family's doings, and even convinces her husand to offer shelter to Edward IV while her other brother George, Duke of Clarence, helped to lead a rebellion.

Margaret is a likeable character. Her anxiousness to be married and settled, and her love for her family is palpable to the reader. Unfortunately, the plot of this book was way too s-l-o-w for me. I lost interest and skimmed quite a few chapters.

There were two aspects of the book whihc I did like. One, the portrayal of Margaret and her mother, Proud Cis as normal, likable people. My past encounters with the both of them always painted them in a negative light. Cis and Margaret are usually portrayed as evil, mean spirited witches. In Smith's book they are nice, family oriented people. I would not hesitate to sit down with a mug of ale and a trencher with them, no problem.

The second aspect of the book, is that I learned a bit about Richard III, Margaret's younger brother. I know very little about Richard III, and I believe most people have a love/hate opinion about him. In this book, he seems to be the most serious and forthright brother of the York bunch. I would love to read more about him, so if you have any recommendations please let me know.

Smith creates a secret love relationship between Margaret and Lord Anthony Scales. Unfortunately, the author's note at the end of the book left me disappointed upon learning the truth. I guess something had to be created for Maragaret since her real life was appparently pretty boring. Maybe that's why authors like to make her a witch.

As I said previously, I had to slog through this book due to the snail-like plot. The descriptions and secondary characters were richly described. Although, I wasn't crazy about Elizabeth Neville either. Now she just might be a witch.
I have heard good things about Smith's other two books, A Rose for the Crown, and The King's Grace. I think I just picked a dud.

My Rating: 80/100

Cross-Posted at Royal Reviews.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Review: King by Right of Blood and Might by Anna L. Walls

Author: Anna L. Walls
Publisher: Author House
Genre: Fiction, fantasy
Paperback 299 pages
Book Source: the Author

From Author House:

I would like to present you with my first endeavor, a book that I have written titled King by Right of Blood and Might. It is a story about a young prince who must learn how to run a country from sources other than his father. His father, the king, had been a paranoid recluse ever since his own father died and he ran his family accordingly. During that time, the infrastructure of the country collapsed and many of its citizens were enslaved and taken away. Knowing that he couldn’t teach his son the things he wanted and needed to know, King Aidyn sent his son to foster with the neighboring king to the south.

After my young hero learned the things he needed to learn, he had to assemble an army and return home to reclaim and rebuild his own country. His unique friendships afforded him an unprecedented opportunity to do that. All that remained to be seen is if he can hold it all together long enough to achieve his goals.

During this time, we watch his mother descend into insanity and his love for his betrothed grow. We also learn more about how things in the country reached this state and more about his family.

My Thoughts:

A major catastrophe has occurred on Earth and only about 20% of the population survives the initial event. The aftereffects are devastating and climactic events follow, further decimating the surviving population. It isn't until over a million years pass by that the Earth has heals itself and humankind is able to live and survive. That's where this story begins. The prologue covers all of this.

Harris Penn is the son of the inept and shut-in King Aidyn of Pennland. Harris is sent to Carolinas to be fostered by that King. While there Harris learns how a real King should act and run his kingdom. Harris matures quickly and becomes quite knowledgeable, which is good since events cause him to have to raise an army to travel back and save his kingdom and people from evil doers.

The majority of the story is Harris' journey home and the relationships he makes with allies along the way. Harris respects the different people and their cultures and demonstrates his leadership potential. He is a very likable King and becomes well respected. Harris gives everyone a chance to join his cause since he is forthright and honest, but in the end he takes care of business, ridding the land of riff raff.

Overall this story has very good bones but I did have a few issues with the book. The reader sees the progression and growth of Harris, but he seems a little bland or wooden. It doesn't make him unlikeable. I just don't "feel" for him as much as everyone else in the book. I loved all of the secondary characters, even the bad guys.

There is a spiritual or religious element in the book called the Mother, which I interpreted to mean the Great Mother, like Mother Earth or the Goddess. I have no problem with that, but this religion is never explained. The significance or reasons for the Mother's actions (she makes several appearances) are never laid out. So I felt a little in the dark in that respect.

What I really liked was the set-up of the story and the story itself. Walls has some really great ideas, and I could definitely see a sequel or continuation. This story takes place on the East Coast of the United States and Walls uses the names of states for the names of her countrys, Pennland and Carolinas. The districts in Harris' country also have names that hearken back to before the "Big One".

All in all this is a pretty good story. Walls writing could use some tightening up, some of the dialogue was a bit off or something, but not so much that it was hard to read. For her first self-published book, Walls does a pretty good job and hopefully this only the first of many more good books to come.

My Rating: 88/100

Thanks to Anna for sending me her book to review. Good luck to you in your future endeavors :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Announcing the 2010 Reading Resolutions Challenge

This is my first time creating and hosting a challenge. YEA!

Over the past year, I have come across a few books or authors I have never read and feel I really should. Some are classics and some are published within the last 20 years or so. Regardless, these are books that I feel I must make time to read soon.

I also was reflecting on my first year of book blogging. I have learned a lot about myself and the commitments of book blogging and reviewing. Getting involved with review copies and challenges is fun, but it can be a bit distracting. But through these mechanisms, I have met many people and made some wonderful friends. I think I just need better organization and maybe a list to guide me through the new year.

Hence, the idea of this challenge. I know I just stated the whole distraction of challenges thing, but for me, this one is different. Besides it's my creation.
I need a plan with some defined goals for the new year. So I figured I could do this and ask others if they want to join me.

As the name implies, 2010 Reading Resolutions Challenge, it's basically new year's resolutions for my reading. They can be anything you would like to accomplish in the coming year in the realm of reading, book blogging, or perhaps personal growth.

The rules are simple:

*Create your personal reading resolutions for the upcoming year in a post and link to it at the bottom. If you don't have a blog, that's cool too. Post your resolutions and updates in the comments of this post.

*Make sure to link back to this page so others can visit your pages and blogs.

*Get started on your resolutions! Once every 2 months, starting on February 15th, I'll have a post to check-in and see how everyone is doing. Kind of as a reminder to you to check your own progress.

*Challenge runs from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010.

There is no pressure or consequences with this challenge. I view it more as a personal challenge I can grow from. (Sounds corny, I know.)

If you have ideas or suggestions feel free to drop me a comment. This is my first time so I'm sure I've missed something.

2010 Reading Resolutions Challenge

Here is my reading resolutions page for this challenge. I may add to this as I remember stuff.

Read the following books:

Bleak House by Charles Dickens
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Middlemarch by George Eliot
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
A book by Hemingway
A book by Steinbeck
84 Charing Cross Road (added 11/22)
The Great Gatsby (added 11/24)

Do the following things:

Be more selective in accepting review books.
Be more selective in joining challenges. (I get dazzled by pretty pictures/buttons)
Try to be more concise in my reviews. (They have gotten better over the past year, but there is always room for improvement.)
Be a better commenter. (Again, always room for improvement.)
Read more from my shelves of books at home.

Stop by here to see other bloggers who are participating.

Article: Tales of Thanksgiving Food and Friendship

Ahh, yes. Thanksgiving. In my house growing up, it meant having two dinners, and being stuffed all day. Two dinners??? Yes, two. I'm Italian-American, so at 1:00 pm we would have the Italian meal: escarole soup, antipasto salad, cheese ravioli, meatballs, hot and sweet sausage, and garlic bread. There were 6 of us, my parents, me, my brother, and my paternal Grandparents. Then we would clean up and get ready for the second course.

The second course was the traditional turkey dinner, which my mom also cooked. Her brother (my Uncle) and his family usually arrived around this time. They came down every Thanksgiving and stayed the weekend. They lived across the state about 8 hours away. That made 10 and then my maternal Grandpop started coming and that was 11. I did not grow up in a big house people.

It was always a lot of fun and although my mom busted her butt, we would still have a good time and laugh. We especially laugh now. So in this same vein, here is an article about Thanksgiving stories from the authors of The Recipe Club.

Tales of Thanksgiving Food and Friendship
By Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel,
Authors of The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship

For some people, Thanksgiving evokes warm feelings triggered by memories of a close-knit family gathering, where relatives share traditions and a home-cooked meal.
For others . . . it's the beginning of a holiday season stuffed with lunatic relatives, family dysfunction, bitter recriminations, and heartburn.

We heard a wide range of Thanksgiving Tales this year while traveling around the country for our Recipe Clubs. Inspired by the plot and structure of our book, Recipe Clubs are storytelling and friendship circles in which women gather to share true-life food-related stories along with recipes. Recipe Clubs are not about cooking; they're about creating community and fostering friendship . . . they're about laughing and crying . . . they're about honoring our own lives and the lives of others. They show us how the simplest, sweetest, or funniest tales about food can turn into deep revelations about our lives.

Just about everybody has at least one quintessential Thanksgiving food memory that perfectly captures the complicated feelings surrounding the holiday. Here are some of our favorites:


One Recipe Club friend recalls the first time she ever cooked a Thanksgiving meal on her own. Her mother, who traditionally did the meal, was recovering from surgery. Her father was working. And her sister was flying in just in time for the meal, but not early enough to help cook.

So our friend rose to the challenge, proclaiming that she would do the entire meal, on her own. No problem -- until reality set in. She woke at dawn, shopped, chopped, and soon realized her oven was half the size it needed to be. By the time the turkey wanted basting the chestnut stuffing required baking -- and the brussel sprouts were definitely not cleaning themselves!

But things really went south when it came time prepare her grandmother's famous pumpkin pie. This was the pie recipe that had been handed down through generations. If it didn't come out perfectly, our friend knew she'd feel like a failure.
Of course, nothing went right. The pie crust was too wet, then too dry. There was too much nutmeg, not enough ginger. With every crimp of the dough her head swam with the imagined voice of her southern grandmother: "A woman is judged not just by who she is, but by what she can bring to the table."

When the pie came out of the oven, the crust was too brown, and there was a giant crack running down the middle of the filling. Our friend fought back tears, took a deep breath, and set the pie out to cool, knowing more clearly than ever that neither it -- nor she -- was, or would ever be, perfect.

But when it came time for everyone to gather at the table, something shifted. Her parents and sister praised her hard work and loved the meal. And our friend realized she had somehow been carried on the wings of the generations of women who had cooked before her, without complaining, to serve a Thanksgiving meal to their family. She felt truly thankful for all the work that her mother, grandmother, aunts -- indeed all the women she'd known through her life -- had accomplished each holiday. Triumphant, connected, and happy, she understood that food cooked with love is its own kind of perfection.


One Recipe Club friend recalled her first Thanksgiving after her divorce.
Since carving the bird had always been her ex-husband's job, she delighted in finding a new, turkey-free recipe. She settled on an apricot-glazed ham, and went to work cooking a glaze of brown sugar, cloves, and apricot nectar (an ingredient that gave her extra pleasure knowing her ex-husband detested it.)

When her grown children came for dinner, they were childishly upset not to have their usual 12-pound bird. But it was delicious, and in the end each one complimented the chef. On her way out, the youngest daughter told her mother, "maybe we all need to learn how to gracefully accept change."
For this new divorcee, serving ham became a way of asserting her independence, showing her children there was life after marriage, and teaching the whole family to find new ways to be together.


The truth is, we don't pick our relatives. So if the Thanksgiving gathering of the clan is an annual emotional challenge, you aren't alone.

In a recent Recipe Club circle of old friends and new acquaintances, we met a woman who admitted that for most of her life she dreaded Thanksgiving; all it evoked for her were memories of family fights. The contrast of what she knew Thanksgiving was "supposed" to be, versus what it was in her home, always made her feel ashamed and disappointed. And yet every November she felt compelled go home for a family Thanksgiving meal.

But one year, that changed, when her parents and brother decided to have Thanksgiving away from home. They journeyed together to Nantucket, where they ate dinner at a seaside inn. The inn served a New England clam chowder, rich with cream and warm on a cold autumn night. And they discovered that a new location, with new foods, away from the house where memories were often more fiery than the jalepeno cornbread, turned out to be just what the family needed.
Now, every year, back at home, they have a new tradition: serving New England Clam Chowder at their Thanksgiving feasts, each spoonful bringing back fond memories of a peaceful and loving family holiday.


Finally, a little tale of food and friendship.

A reader of our book told us that she had a choice this year. She could invite Uncle Tim and Aunt Zoe, the way she does every year, and spend the entire holiday worrying about whether or not the perpetually complaining couple were happy. She could include cousins Beth and Sean, knowing they would be competitive, putting down her choice of food, her way of cooking, her table setting. She could extend an invitation to her brother and dreaded sister-in-law, who would sit in silence the entire meal and pick at the food.

Or . . . she could shake things up and do something entirely different: invite only friends. True friends. People she enjoyed being with. Who made her laugh. Who spoke truthfully. Who shared her passions for good books, good wine, and good music.
She took the leap. She dumped the whiners, broke with tradition, irritated several family members -- and never looked back. The moral: good food and good friends are the perfect combination. Sometimes it's a good idea to trim the guest list before you serve the bird with all its trimmings.

©2009 Andrea Israel and Nancy Garfinkel, authors of The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship

Author Bios for The Recipe Club: A Tale of Food and Friendship

Andrea Israel is a producer/writer for ABC's Focus Earth. She was a producer/writer on Anderson Cooper 360, Dateline, and Good Morning America (which garnered her an Emmy Award). Her story In Donald's Eyes was recently optioned for a film. Ms. Israel is the author of Taking Tea. Her writing has appeared in many publications.

Nancy Garfinkel is co-author of The Wine Lover's Guide to the Wine Country: The Best of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino(Chronicle Books, 2005). A creative strategist, design consultant, writer, and editor for magazine, corporate, and non-profit clients, she has won a host of graphic arts and editorial merit awards. She has written extensively about food and graphic arts.

For more information please visit

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (Nov. 17)

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B from Should Be Reading.

The rules are as follows:
*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
*Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers

I have two this week, and both books are different yet similar in that they are about children growing up.

"Where are we?" I asked, my voice echoing as if through a thousand invisible hallways.
"We're in the seven heavens," she replied. (She being the author's mother)

pg. 71 Children of Dust, by Ali Eteraz

Luke sat alone at a booth, facing away but I could see him stealing glances in the mirror. I have to admit I loved the feeling I got when I knew it bothered him to see me with Ben.
pg. 134 The Recipe Club, by Israel and Garfinkel

For more teasers stop by here.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Children of Dust: Chapter 1 Excerpt

I was offered a copy of this book for review by FSB Associates, and I accepted because I like learning about different cultures and their traditions. A little part of me wishes I was a culturual anthropologist.

Children of Dust is an interesting read so far. I am up to page 75. Obviously Islam is a big part of this story, and some readers may be offended. In my opinion, learning about each other's cultures and their differences allows for more harmony and discussion in the long run. We are all humans and we are all different.

Anyway, below is an excerpt of Chapter 1 of you are interested.

Chapter I
by Ali Eteraz,
Author of Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan

My mother, Ammi, had just returned from Koh-e-Qaf, where women went when they were annoyed with their husbands. It was far up in the heavens, far beyond the world of men, above the astral planes of the jinns, and hidden even from the angels. Upon reaching Koh-e-Qaf a woman became a parri and congregated with others like her. Then all the parris gathered upon rippling streams and rivers of celestial milk. They bathed and splashed and darted around on rich, creamy froth.

I was just a seven-year-old child living in a tiny apartment in Lahore, Pakistan. I couldn't get enough of Koh-e-Qaf.

"What happens there?" I asked Ammi. "Please tell me! Please!"

"It's a safe place where I can gather my thoughts," she said. "When women go there, we don't take our earthly concerns with us. We don't even need our earthly clothes. Allah restores to us the cuticle skin we had when He first created Hazrat Adam and his wife, Havva."

Ammi said that Koh-e-Qaf was created secretly at the time the universe was made. Allah had asked each one of His creations whether they would be willing to bear the burden of free will. He asked the mountains and they said no. He asked the skies and they refused. He asked the sun and the seas and the plants and the trees and the angels. They all said no. But Adam, the first male -- "who took too many risks just like your Pops" -- accepted the burden. "And he didn't even ask his wife what he was getting into!" Upon hearing the news, a chagrined Havva went to Allah and told Him that men would make a big mess of things and "then take out their frustration on their wives." So, for all the wives of the world, Havva convinced Allah to create Koh-e-Qaf, a sanctuary for all time.

"Then she made Allah give long nails to women so they could remember their special place."

"That's not fair," I said, poking a finger through Ammi's curly black hair. "I don't have a special place to go to."

"You don't need a special place," she replied. "My little piece of the moon is more special than the whole world."

"You're just saying that."

"No, I'm not," she said. "Haven't you ever thought about what your name means?"


"Your full name. Abir ul Islam."

"So what? It's just a name."

"Not just a name."

I shrugged. Compared to intergalactic travel and teleportation and heavenly drinks, my name didn't inspire much awe.

"Come on," Ammi said, taking my hand as if she could read the disappointment on my face. "You don't believe me? Let's go see Beyji. She will tell you that you are the most special."

Beyji was my maternal great-grandmother. She lived in a white marble bungalow in Lahore. She was a saint because she had forgiven the woman who used black jadu to kill Beyji's husband. Beyji regularly met with the Holy Prophet Muhammad in her dreams. One year, during the Night of Power in the month of Ramzan, she got chosen as one of Allah's elect and saw a glimpse of the Light.

Ammi led me past my grandfather's room, where he was busy listening to old Noor Jahan recordings, and toward Beyji's darkened quarters. We went inside and Ammi pushed me toward Beyji's bed. She wore a floral print shalwar kameez -- loose trousers with a tunic top -- and had cast a gauzy blue dupatta over her head. Taking my wrist with one hand and holding my chin with the other, she gave me a smile. Her gummy mouth murmured a series of prayers.

"Beyji," Ammi said. "This one doesn't believe me when I tell him that he's special."

"The most special," Beyji corrected.

"I told him that his name is Abir ul Islam."

"Such a beautiful name, isn't it?"

"He doesn't think it's such a big deal."

"Is that right?" Beyji looked at me for confirmation.

I made my case. "Ammi flies around like a parri and goes to Koh-e-Qaf. I just sit here." Beyji looked at me with compassion. She pulled a piece of dried orange out from under her pillow and handed it to me. "Come and sit with me," she invited. "Then ask your Ammi to tell you the story of your birth."

"What about it?"

"She'll tell you," Beyji said.

Ammi sat down on the other bed and rested a cup of chai on the palm of her hand. With two fingers she pinched the cream congealed on the surface.

"When I was pregnant with you," Ammi said, licking her fingers, "Pops moved to Saudi Arabia for work. When he was there, he went to the Ka'ba in Mecca and made a mannat. Do you know what a mannat is?"


"A mannat is like a covenant with Allah. You promise to do something if Allah grants one of your wishes."

"Like a jinn in a lamp!"

"Except God imposes conditions!" Beyji amended.

"Your father's mannat was that if his first child was a boy," Ammi continued, "he would be raised to become a leader and servant of Islam. Are you listening?"

"Yes," I said, orange sticking out of my mouth.

"Then you were born -- a boy -- which meant that the mannat must be fulfilled."

"Are you still listening?" Beyji prompted.

I nodded and adopted the serious expression that their intensity seemed to require.

"So we needed to give you a name that reflected your purpose in life," Ammi said. "There were many options, but Pops said that your name should be Abir. It means perfume. Full name: Abir ul Islam. Perfume of Islam. You were thus born to spread Islam as if it were a beautiful fragrance. Special, no?"

"It's just a name," I said skeptically.

"Ah, but that's not all," Beyji said, nudging me affectionately. "Keep listening."

"Then," Ammi continued, "right when you were born we moved to Saudi Arabia. When you were barely eleven months old, you and Pops and I went to dohajj -- the pilgrimage to Mecca. I dressed you up like all the other pilgrims. You looked so cute wrapped in all white. You had been trying to walk for many weeks, but I swear as soon as we got to Mecca you began walking properly. It had to have been that holy sand. You really took to Mecca. Walking around. Greeting everyone. You even ran away from me in the middle of the night. We were frantic until you were discovered hours later with a pair of Bedouins. It was like you were meant to be there."

"Did the Bedouins have goats?" I asked, my attention momentarily derailed.

"I think they did," Ammi said. "Anyway. One night I went to circumambulate the Ka'ba and took you with me. The place wasn't as crowded at night. There was a long row of Africans walking with their elbows locked like a chain. I stayed behind them until they made their turn and I found myself right at the border of the Ka'ba . . ."

"The House of God," Beyji said, her eyes shining. "I've been there twice in my life. It's the most beautiful thing in the universe. Astronauts will tell you that the world sits right in the center of the universe, and that Mecca sits right in the middle of the world, and that the Ka'ba sits right in the middle of Mecca!"

"There's a semicircular wall around the Ka'ba," Ammi continued. "It was built by the Prophet Ibrahim thousands of years ago. I forget the name of that space, but it's said that if you pray there, it's as if you'd prayed inside the Ka'ba. It was peaceful there that night. No one else was in the area. Imagine: millions of people wearing the same thing and chanting the same thing -- Labbayk Allahumma Labbayk -- all around us, and a mother and son just all alone with the Ka'ba. It was beautiful."

Beyji interrupted again: "Don't forget! Mecca was founded by a mother and son, too. At Allah's instruction, Hajira and baby Ismail were left there by the Prophet Ibrahim. They had no water, so Hajira put Ismail down in the sand to go and find something to drink. While she was gone, little Ismail kicked his feet and the Zamzam spring sprouted from the desert sand. A town was built there when some nomads discovered the spring."

Ammi nodded and continued: "I had you stand next to me and we made a pair of nafal prayers together. I asked Allah to place Islamic knowledge in your heart and make you a true servant of Islam. Then I removed your clothes, lifted you up, and rubbed your bare chest against the ancient wall -- back and forth a few times."

As I listened to the women, my heart beat fast and my face became warm. I felt connected to this distant place that I didn't remember. The reverence it elicited in my mother and great-grandmother poured into me.

"Then later, when I was resting," Ammi continued, "your Pops took you with him. He went to rub your chest against the heavenly Black Stone at one corner of the Ka'ba. He wasn't able to get to it because it's always so crowded with people trying to kiss it, but he pressed you against the bare walls of the Ka'ba itself. He made the same prayer I did, about you serving Islam."

"Subhanallah," Beyji said and put her hand on my heart. "One day you should go back to Mecca and kiss the Black Stone. It will absorb all your sins. But not yet. Go when you are older. Right now you are sinless."

I nodded eagerly.

"So," Ammi said. "Do you believe you are special now?"

I felt as if the entire universe was listening to my answer. God. The angels. Even the parris.

"Yes. I believe you. I believe that I'm special."

"By the way, did you know that when the Black Stone first came down from heaven it was white?" Ammi said.

"What happened to it?" I asked.

"People touched it and it became dirty," she said.

I imagined billions of hands touching a large, egg-shaped crystal over thousands of years and gradually making it black. Suddenly I pulled away from Beyji and stood up in the center of the room, feeling proud and powerful.

"I will take a towel and make it white again!"

Beyji kissed my hand and told me that I would be Islam's most glorious servant.

The above is an excerpt from the book Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan by Ali Eteraz. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2009 Ali Eteraz, author of Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan

Author Bio

Ali Eteraz, author of Children of Dust: A Memoir of Pakistan, was born in Pakistan and has lived in the Middle East, the Caribbean, and the United States. A graduate of Emory University and Temple Law School, he was selected for the Outstanding Scholar's Program at the United States Department of Justice and later worked in corporate litigation in Manhattan. He is a regular contributor to True/Slant; has published articles about Islam and Pakistani politics in Dissent, Foreign Policy, AlterNet, and altMuslim; and is a regular contributor to The Guardian UK and Dawn, Pakistan's oldest English-language daily. His blog in the Islamosphere received nearly two million views as well as a Brass Crescent award for originality. Eteraz has spoken publicly about the situation inside Pakistan, Islamic reform, and Muslim immigration. He currently divides his time between Princeton, New Jersey, and the Middle East, and is working on a novel.

For more information please visit

Friday, November 13, 2009

Review: Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell

Author: Jill Mansell
Publisher: Sourcebooks, November 2009
Genre: Romance,Contemporary, British Chick-lit (?)
Trade paperback, 448 pages
Book Source: the publisher Source Books

From Sourcebooks:

In Perfect Timing, straight laced Poppy Dunbar had always been content with doing things they way they’re supposed to be done, which included marrying predictable Rob McBride… Until she met Tom Kennedy the night before her wedding! Could she really be falling in love with a stranger?

Unable to forget Tom or go through with the wedding, Poppy dashes to London and sparks a chain of events that completely changes her life. Poppy’s new life is filled with colorful friends and adventures. As misunderstandings, family secrets, and jealous quarrels ensue, can Poppy stop running long enough to figure out what’s—or rather who’s—in her heart before it’s too late?

My Thoughts:

This book is much more than Poppy and her story. The characters are all super likable and their individual faults only endear them to the reader. The main characters are:

Caspar, the hot, flighty, but caring artist

Claudia, the jaded and cynical woman who is just trying to find herself a good man, preferably rich.

Jake the nerdy and shy guy who is scared of opening himself up to another person

And last but not least, Poppy, the vibrant, honest, sweet kid (she's 22) who falls into great situations and has some crazy things happen to her. Poppy hasn't been kicked around by life yet, and even if she were, I think she would still see something good in it. That is what makes her so endearing. The promise that her life holds and her joie de vive. Poppy does mature a wee bit throughout the story, and I'm very glad she saw the light before it was too late.

Each one of these characters eventually recognize their shortcomings and correct them to find happiness. But their journey getting there was hilarious and fun. I felt like I was watching a show on BBC America. Mansell is British so she writes with British colloquialism. I enjoy that because it puts you right in the story.
(I think subconsciously I wished I lived in London.)

The chapters read quickly and I was sorry to see this story end. I believe Mansell is classified as chick-lit, but to me it was more romantic comedy. I don't read American chick-lit stories because I have trouble identifying or connecting with the characters, but with Mansell's book this was not the case. I really liked everybody in the book, even Claudia's mom.

Overall this was a great read and I would definitely read another of Mansell's books.

My Rating: 95/100

Thanks to Danielle from Source Books for my review copy.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Teaser Tuesday (Nov. 10)

Teaser Tuesday is hosted by Miz B from Should Be Reading.
The rules are as follows:
*Grab your current read
*Open to a random page
*Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
*BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
*Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Harris nodded sadly; the fact that his mother was happy to believe he was dead and obviously disappointed to see him alive was highly unsettling.
pg. 159 King by Right of Might and Blood by Anna L. Walls

What are you teasing me with today? For more visit here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Sunday Reflections (Nov. 8)

Hey All!
How are you? Hope this finds you all well. What a crazy week it has been in my neck of the woods. First off, my Phightin' Phillies lost in the World Series. It was sad, but considering their pitching was shaky to start the playoff with, one can't complain. If they would have lost to ANYONE else besides the Yankees, I wouldn't have minded so much. Such as life.

I am sure you have heard about Philadelphia's current mass transit strike. Yes, they went on strike at 3:00 am, so that people woke up the next day, and stood at the corner waiting for a bus, that was never going to come. If you didn't see the news in the morning, then you had no clue. I could go on and on, but I won't. Lets just say, this is a union town, and there is no sympathy for this union. I work for a health care system and even I pay for health benefits, so why shouldn't you contribute something? Oh yes, and my 401k is in the toilet too, what makes you're pension more special?

Anyway...even though the strike is putting a damper on my reading time, I am getting a lot accomplished. At least I think so. Getting some books read, have some reviews to type up and post. And, my 1st Blogaversary is coming. YEA! That means a contest of some sort for you! Sometime this week, I'll post about it.

So I'm currently reading:
* King by Right of Might and Blood by Anna Walls Good story by a first time author and publisher.
* The Recipe Club by Israel and Garfinkel I read a few pages of this here and there because its a series of letters back and forth between friends. Very easy to just pick up and read.

Reviews to be typed and/or posted:
* Perfect Timing by Jill Mansell A deliciously cute and funny novel set in London. (Did I just say that?)
* A Circle of Souls by Preetham Grandhi Quick thrilling read that makes you think a bit.

Well that's about it for for now. Hope your week past and week ahead are all that you hope them to be. Happy reading and try not to work too hard this week.
Talk to you later :)

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Review: A Circle of Souls

Author: Preetham Grandhi
Publisher: Cedar Fort; 1 edition (June 15, 2009)
Genre: Fiction, mystery, suspense
Trade paperback 339 pages
Book Source: the author

From A Circle of

The sleepy town of Newbury, Connecticut, is shocked when a little girl is found brutally murdered. The town’s top detective, perplexed by a complete lack of leads, calls in FBI agent Leia Bines, an expert in cases involving children.

Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Gram, a psychiatrist at Newbury’s hospital, searches desperately for the cause of seven-year-old Naya Hastings’s devastating nightmares. Afraid that she might hurt herself in the midst of a torturous episode, Naya’s parents have turned to the bright young doctor as their only hope.

The situations confronting Leia and Peter converge when Naya begins drawing chilling images of murder after being bombarded by the disturbing images in her dreams. Amazingly, her sketches are the only clues to the crime that has panicked Newbury residents. Against her better judgment, Leia explores the clues in Naya’s crude drawings, only to set off an alarming chain of events.

In this stunning psychological thriller, innocence gives way to evil, and trust lies forgotten in a web of deceit, fear, and murder.

My Thoughts:

This was an excellent relatively, fast paced story. Naya the little girl in the story is a sweetheart, and one of the nicest girls you will meet. She is young and doesn't understand what is happening to her. All Naya knows is that she must help Janet, the girl who visits her in her dreams. Dr. Peter Gram is Naya's champion and unbeknown to them, their destinies are linked.

Janet's champion is FBI agent Leia Bines. Leia must find Janet's killer before someone else meets the same gruesome fate. And that fate is gruesome people.

Both situations are part of a larger whole (oh! I just figured out the circle part. Think circle of life.), and even though the reader knows they are connected, it is still a suspenseful read. Each chapter is pretty short and to the point, but it leaves you wanting more. It was hard to put the book down. Even though I did figure out pretty early who the culprit was, the story was still a thrilling read. There's little bit if action thrown in at the end as well.

Each character is likable, and I even empathized with the killer. Yes, the killer too. I am not condoning the actions, but mental abuse leaves scars that no one ever sees. It can guide one's future behavior for better or worse. I'm just saying that you would be messed up too if you lived through the killer's past. No wonder there are so many senseless things that happen to people today.

I also picked up on some ritualism in the book, with respect to how rituals can help us deal with our emotions. When bad things happen, we return to routines or rituals to get us through. How we cope with disappointment and betrayal is important, and we need to have healthy ways of dealing with these issues. There is always a brighter side to life, even on the cloudiest of days.

The author is a psychiatrist and I like how he incorporated his residency and training into the novel. I work in health care and am a geek so I love that sort of thing. The manner in which Peter works with Naya is refreshing because I think psychiatry sometimes gets a bad rap. He really cared for Naya and wanted to do everything in his power to help her.

I do wish more of Naya's Indian heritage was included in the story, but that's just me. I liked that piece of the story quite a bit.

All in all it was an excellent story and I would definitely read another one of Grandhi's books.

My Rating: 90/100

Thankss to Preetham for sending me a copy of his book.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Article: I'll Take a Community With That Book, Please!

Happy Friday Everyone!

I received this article below from a friend of mine at FSB Associates. I'm posting it because I read it and think it is true. We are always talking about our book blogging community and our friends. I have learned so much from both. I have met independent author/publishers. I have learned about imprints and publishers, and why genres of books are published by certain publishers, etc. This whole field is fascinating to me.

As we blog about the books we have read and hopefully enjoyed, we are also performing a marketing service for authors and publishers. Word of mouth is the best free advertising one could get, and that is basically what we are doing, whether we realize it or not. Most of the books I have right now, I discovered from someone else's blog.

Basically, the times are a changing people. And we the readers/bloggers, have more much more say and influence than we used to. Just remembered that with power comes responsibility. But I think we are all pretty good with that anyhow.

So why I am reprinting this article?
#1 I was asked if I would like to, and I was. Plus I thought it was interesting.
#2 The books I receive from FSB Associates are usually ones I would never read. They are outside of my comfort zone, but because of their offers, I have expanded my horizons. I have thought about things I never would have before, and sought more information on new subjects. All in all it's been a win/win. I think they are on the right path. And they seem like good people just trying to do a good job.

Okay, so enjoy the article and sorry if I rambled. It's Friday and I'm getting out of town for the weekend. See you later :)

I'll Take a Community With That Book, Please!
By Fauzia Burke

With today's search empowered readers, do we need to market and publish books differently? Does general publishing makes sense in an age of Google searches, micro communities and niche marketing?

Today's readers are tech savvy and resourceful. They know how to get the information they need and have higher expectations from publishers and authors. They don't just expect a book, they expect a community with their book.

I often hear publishers say that there are "very few brands in book publishing." But to thrive in today's competitive, niche markets, perhaps brands are exactly what we need. What readers choose to read is personal and an extension of who they are. Shouldn't their book choices be supported by a publisher, a brand that is invested in their interests?

Many small publishing companies have done an enviable job of branding themselves and building reader communities around their books. Take O'Reilly, TOR and Hay House. You may not read their books, but you know what they publish. Their communities trust them. People who share their point-of-view flock to their lists. These companies publish for a niche community, and are trusted members of their community. They provide extra resources, and often their authors are members of the community itself. TOR has even launched a bookstore to meet their readers' needs. These publishers show passion for their books and an understanding of their readers, and as such their readers reward them with loyalty.

Publishing books for the community

Besides reader loyalty, publishing for micro communities may have other long-term benefits as well. For example, the focus would help publishers save money on marketing. Marketing through online communities is less expensive and much more powerful than trying to reach the general public and hoping to find the right match. The publisher's Web site wouldn't have to cater to a wide variety of people, it would be designed to serve the needs of a small group. Instead of expensive advertising, they could announce the book to the community that has already bought into their brand. Publishers and authors could enlist the support of the community to spread the word (which will always be the most efficient method for marketing books.) The logo on the book spine would mean the readers have a promise that the book is worth reading. The readers would know that the publisher looked at over a thousand manuscripts all on the same topic and is offering them the very best.

So are large, general publishers at a disadvantage with today's search-empowered, community oriented readers? I think so. General trade publishing is for everyone, yet there is no "everyone" out there. Readers are part of micro communities. They want good books, and they need publishers who will support their interests and passions.

The bottom line is that publishers and authors need to evolve their marketing and publishing strategies to accommodate for a new kind of reader. A reader whose expectations demand more interaction and community. A reader whose loyalty you can have once you have earned it. A reader who wants more than a 6 week marketing campaign so you can sell a book. This new reader requires an investment of months and years.

Is that too much to expect? Perhaps. But this is your new reader, and she will stay with you if you stay with her.

Stay tuned for Web marketing tips in future weeks, or follow FSB on Twitter to see our results in real time:
©2009 Fauzia Burke

Author Bio
Fauzia Burke is the Founder and President of FSB Associates, a Web publicity firm specializing in creating online awareness for books and authors.

For more information, please visit

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Review: Salt and Silver by Anna Katherine

Author: Anna Katherine
Publisher: Tor Books, April 2009
Genre: Paranormal romance, fiction
Paperback 368 pages
Book Source: purchased at Borders

From Amazon.comThis lively tale of demons and gods, the debut effort of Katherine Macdonald and former Tor editor Anna Genoese, opens six years after witty, sarcastic Allie, a trust fund baby turned Brooklyn diner manager, inadvertently generates a door to hell in the diner's basement with the help of her childhood friend Stan. Leather-clad demon fighter Ryan shows up in response and soon becomes Allie's love interest. Now new doors are beginning to appear, leaving the human world vulnerable to invaders from the underworld. As Allie, Stan and Ryan join forces with a witch and rival clans of demon hunters in hopes of restoring balance between supernatural beings and human "mundanes," Genoese and Macdonald mix multiple mythologies into a charming, biting cautionary narrative about taking responsibility for one's actions.

My Thoughts:

Allie is the sarcastic, sweetheart proprietor of Sally's diner, and the owner of the doorway to Hell in it's basement. Ryan is the quiet, hot, bad ass demon hunter who shows up instantly to protect both Allie and the world from the demons who emanate from said door way to Hell. You could cut the sexual tension between them with a knife, and rightly so. It has been brewing for six years. That's a lot of smoldering looks and lonely nights, especially after putting your life on the line almost every night fighting demons.

One day everything changes because Allie's Door disappears, throwing the delicate balance of Hell Doors off. Thus begins the quest of Allie and Ryan: to find an answer to the funky Hell Door problem. Other hunters assist with their quest which requires a journey to Hell through on of the Doors. This is where the story really takes off, because we learn a lot more about Allie and Ryan and their respective pasts. Not only must they battle actual demons and roadblocks, they must battle their inner demons as well. Both Allie and Ryan mature along their journey; Allie realizing she is taking responsibility for her past actions and Ryan letting people get close to him. They learn about themselves and each other.

Now back to the story. The paranormal demon parts do not flow very well, in that I was a bit confused from time to time, as if I missed a part somewhere. This could be due to the fact that Allie is the narrator, and as such, does not have full knowledge of the demon history and rules. Ryan likes to protect Allie from the bad stuff (aww). The choppiness of the paranormal tid bits may also be due to the author collaboration as well. Either way, just let that go and read the story. You will not be disappointed. The big battle scene at the end is like something out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, carnage and destruction everywhere, with one cool chick in the middle of it all.

Here is a taste of the writing:

Here are some important facts about the Door. One: It was Amanda's idea to open it, not mine. Two: It was a joke. We didn't even realize we were opening a Door into Hell, because we were super-drunk at the time, and, seriously, joking around. Now that I know what Doors do and how they work...well, I never wanted something so bad that I'd open a Door for it. Because three: The reason anyone would want to open a Door to Hell in the first place-with the death, and the blood, and the bioluminescent goo that you can't actually ever clean off the floor no matter how harsh the chemicals or how many black cats you drive across the stain (and that's a fun story) - the reason you do it is because the you things.
pg. 5

Ryan pushes the cookie toward me anyway, even though I shunned his cookie! I shunned it. But it's the vanilla half of a black and white cookie. It is inevitable that I am drawn to it. I reluctantly take a bite.
pg. 114

Allie and Ryan are two halves of a black and white cookie. They need each other and complement each other perfectly. They are a sweet, kick ass couple.
Salt and Silver was a very entertaining read and I would certainly pick up another of "Katherine's" books.

My Rating: 90/100