Friday, December 31, 2010

OUT WITH THE OLD!!!



I can hardly believe today is the last day of 2010! Where did this year go? For me, it flew by and I'm starting to make plans for 2011.

As far as this blog is concerned, I am going to make a few changes to (hopefully) clean it up a bit. First of all, I'm going to add some extra pages and move some of the items on my sidebars to eliminate a little of the clutter, i.e. my awards. Those pages will also come in handy for listing a variety of things, such as the books I've read or the challenges I take part in.

For my book reviews, I am going to do away with the rating system. When I write my reviews, I'm sure you can tell whether or not I liked the book and it's sometimes difficult to decide if a book is a 3 or 4 or 5. I'll save that for when I post reviews on GoodReads or Amazon.

I didn't do too well with my challenges, so I'm going to try harder this coming year. That means I may do less reviews for publishing companies so I can read some of the many, many books I already own. However, I do still want to read those books I'm asked to review.

The only challenge I feel I succeeded with was the A to Z Challenge. Of the 52 potential slots to fill, I completed 36 -- 15 authors and 21 book titles. I plan to participate in this challenge again this year.

As far as statistics go, in 2010, I read 53 fiction or memoirs (biographies included). That doesn't include the (28) non-fiction or reference books. I posted a total of 81 book reviews, which does include the non-fiction. That number is up from the 66 reviews in 2009 and 35 in 2008, so I'm definitely doing a lot more reading! I'm hoping to post at least 100 reviews for 2011.

I also plan on a variety of giveaways this coming year. Some will be new books from the publishing companies and authors who ask me to review their books. Others will be from my own "collection" as my storage unit is getting over-run with boxes of books. There will be other little goodies you can try to win along the way, too, all related to reading in one way or another! I've been asked by a few companies to review their products, but I really want this blog to be about books.

I'm happy to report I'll be starting out 2011 with a hit count of 10,000 on my blog! As of right now, it stands at 9985, so I expect the other 15 by the end of the day. That's thrilling to me as when I started this blog, I never thought that many people would be interested in it. Visitors have come from all 50 states and 74 different countries.

I'm truly looking forward to the coming year and I hope you'll join me here regularly. And be sure to sign up as a follower to keep up with all the exciting happenings planned for the New Year!

Have a safe New Year's Eve and I'll see you next year!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Specific Impulse


By Charles Justiz

From the back of the book:

“Space scientist, Carin Gonzales, and former submarine commander, Jake Sabio, are two strangers drifting separately through life when a mysterious explosion rocks them and brings them together. Now, the after-effects have changed both of them in unpredictable ways. Sometimes, they can see more clearly than before the explosion; while at other times they can smell more precisely and they move in ways that are clearly impossible. … To make matters worse, anyone else who felt the effects of the explosion is now inexplicable dead.”

This was an interesting story, indeed, but it was difficult to follow at times. The characters were likeable enough and their plight was one that made me sympathetic, but I often wondered how much of what they did was attributable to the virus caused by the explosion. Or was it their own talents as educated and capable people?

As they run from those who want to see them dead, they battle for their lives against this deadly and unknown virus that has been introduced to their bodies by an unusual explosion at the rim of a meteorite crater. Armed with their own wits and a robot in the form of an old, outdated computer, they travel to the backwoods to hide until they can be whisked up to another planet where they could potentially find the cure for what ails them.

They only have so much time, however, because that planet will be passing close enough to pick them up at a specific time. While they wait, their enemies are quickly approaching.

If you enjoy science fiction, you will probably like this story. I found parts of it intriguing. But I was concerned a little about the ending because it really didn’t make sense to me and I wasn’t sure at times how certain side stories fit into the whole scheme of the book.

I’ll admit, my life was pretty hectic while I was reading and maybe, I didn’t concentrate as much on my reading of this book as I normally would. But I’m also not really a science fiction fan and a book has to be outstanding to keep me involved.

That said, sci-fi fans would surely see this story in a different light and for that reason, I give it 3 books.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Classics: All You Need to Know from Zeus’s Throne to the Fall of Rome

By Caroline Taggart

From the back of the book:

“It’s no myth: The legacy of the ancient Greeks and Romans touches each of us in some way every day. In fact, the great thinkers from this period laid the foundation for much of our language, art, architecture, and science. Unfortunately, learning about such things can often be oh, so boring … With The Classics, author Caroline Taggart presents a lively refresher course of the most important ‘stuff’ you need to know.”

I’ve read several books in this series and they are simply delightful. I found this one particularly interesting because of the descriptions of the Greek and Roman gods.

When I was in ninth grade, we studied Greek mythology. However, I missed most of that class due to an illness that kept me out of school for almost a month. So, this was a great way to catch up on this topic after all these years.

Yet, this little book goes beyond that. The author discusses the classical languages, including the Greek alphabet and how it compares to the English letters. She also gives a variety of examples of modern-day words and their connection to the old languages.

To top it off, there are chapters on Greed and Roman history, math and science, plus philosophy and the liberal arts.

The book is well-written and captures your attention. If you want to learn more about these topics, this is definitely the book for you.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Price of Revenge


By Dennis Vaughn

From the back of the book:

"David Fox has a life anyone would envy – a flourishing career as a lawyer, a condo in Denver, and a beautiful girlfriend, Ellen – until he begins investigating a lawsuit against the Denver City Ballet. It seems like a commonplace allegation of misspent funds at first, but soon David finds himself caught in a web of blackmail, betrayal, and dark secrets."

This is Dennis Vaughn’s first book and he did a very good job of bringing the story to the reader. With well-developed characters, the novel hooks the reader right from the start.

David Fox’s reputation is put on the line by one of the lawyers he works with as that man does whatever it takes to protect his own career and position. When David is forced to leave the firm he’s worked at for many years, his personal life begins falling apart around him.

Not one to sit back and watch it all implode, he takes a stand to put things right. However, his actions, which could be taken as revenge, carry a high price tag.

The book touches on a variety of topics that deal with ethics – in the legal realm, as well as in the medical field. Vaughn definitely makes his readers think about how they would deal with these situations themselves and that adds a certain depth to the book.

I enjoyed the story, but at times, I felt it was a little drawn out. Vaughn could have stuck more to the facts and left some of the smaller details out, but it’s still a good book and I’d recommend it to my friends.


Monday, December 27, 2010

The Big Ten of Grammar

By William B. Bradshaw, PhD

From the back of the book:

“Have you ever hesitated when choosing between I or me? Have you had trouble figuring out tricky pronouns like who or whom? What about those always-troublesome commas – do they go before or after the quotation marks? If you’re anything like the rest of us, you struggle with these age-old grammatical issues.”

Enter William Bradshaw, a college English instructor, to help sort out these issues for you.

This book has the subtitle “Identifying and Fixing the Ten Most Frequent Grammatical Errors” and that’s exactly what it does. The main part of the book is divided into 10 chapters, each one focusing on one of those tricky grammatical errors. Plus, there is a bonus section in the back that offers some time-saving references to make it even easier for you to use this book.

Graham begins by telling the reader “this book is not meant to be a complete guide for English grammar.” It definitely focuses on what he feels are the top 10 errors found in writing.

I wish Graham had added some quizzes or writing prompts to the end of the chapters to give the reader an opportunity to practice the lessons. That would have moved this from “4 books” to “5 books” in my eyes.

The one thing this book definitely does, though, is add to your already stuffed reference shelf. And it should because – in my opinion – all writers need a comprehensive collection of reference material on the subject of English and writing.

I have lots of books and yes, I do refer to them often.

For example, I have several good dictionaries because there are times when I need to find a word and the definition may not be complete in one or another of them. I also have a wonderful thesaurus to accompany those dictionaries.

Then, I have style manuals, books about writing from a variety of authors. Also, you will find books about different genres and books that focus on grammar skills. That’s where “The Big Ten of Grammar” will now have a place.

This is an excellent guide and if you’re struggling with grammar issues, you should consider adding it to your shelf, as well. You’ll be glad you did.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas has come and gone

Well, another Christmas has passed and I really enjoyed the countdown here on my blog. I picked up a new follower and filled in my visitor flags for the U.S. (plus picked up a couple flags from other countries).

On top of that, my counter logged 734 visitors in the 21-day period. That's an average of 35 per day. Not bad!

To finish off the year, I have several book reviews to post, including "Water Ghosts" today. Then, I will start 2011 with a few changes that I hope will freshen up my blog.

I hope to meet some specific goals this coming year (more about that later). So, please continue to stop by.

Water Ghosts


By Shawna Yang Ryan

From the back of the book:

Locke, California. 1928. Three bedraggled Chinese women appear out of the mist in a small Chinese farming town on the Sacramento River. Two are unknown to its residents, while the third if the long-lost wife of Richard Fong, the handsome manager of the local gambling parlor. Left behind in China many years earlier, her unexpected arrival throws his already complicated life into upheaval. As the lives of the townspeople become inextricably intertwined with the newly arrived women, a premonition foretells a deep unhappiness for all involved. And when a flood threatens the village, the frightening power of these mysterious women is finally revealed.

“Water Ghosts” is based on a Chinese superstition that they carried to America when they established neighborhoods in California during their emigration to the States. They came to this country for many of the same reasons other groups did, mainly to find work to support their families.

However, there were some differences, such as many of them left their wives behind while they established themselves. Some eventually returned to bring their loved ones to America; others never did.

Shawna Yang Ryan has done a very good job of bringing these traditions and superstitions to life. She obviously did her research and did a wonderful job of putting it into words.

This is truly an interesting tale, but it requires paying attention to what’s going on. That, in itself, makes it a little complicated as I tend to have interruptions when I’m reading … after all, my 21-month-old grandson is usually running around nearby.

But that shouldn’t discourage you from reading “Water Ghosts” and learning about this centuries old superstition in the Chinese culture. Give it a try!


Saturday, December 25, 2010




Birthday of a King

In the little village of Bethlehem
There lay a child one day
And the sky was bright
With a holy light
O'er the place where Jesus lay. 

Alleluia
O how the angels sang!
Alleluia
How it rang!
And the sky was bright
With a holy light
'Twas the birthday of a King. 

Humble birthplace
But O
How much God gave to us that day!
From the manger bed what a path has led
What a perfect holy way. 

Alleluia
O how the angels sang!
Alleluia
How it rang!
And the sky was bright
With a Holy light
'Twas the birthday of a King.

Friday, December 24, 2010

On Christmas Eve

By Thomas Kinkade and Katherine Spencer

From the book jacket:

“Lucy and Charlie’s relationship has been on the rocks. With the newfound confidence that comes with her nursing career, Lucy realizes she doesn’t need to put up with Charlie’s nonsense anymore. But just as she’s about to call it quits, a lost-looking teenager crosses her path. … Seeing that the girl is sick and alone, Lucy takes her in despite Charlie’s protests.

Betty is a busy woman, but with a grown son embarking on his own life, and an ex-husband starting a new family, she realizes she’s been too busy to find a life partner of her own. That is until Santa bears an unexpected gift at the Rotary Club’s Christmas party: himself. … Has the holiday cheer gone to her head, or is she really attracted to a struggling magazine writer who plays dress-up?”

I hadn’t read any of the Cape Light novels before, so this was a good opportunity to try one. The authors made the book interesting and even though it was full novel length, it was a fast read during this busy time of year.

Although I could tell who was writing which part of the book, I still enjoyed it and the cover is gorgeous with one of Thomas Kinkade’s lovely paintings.

This book is really two stories in one and both are fun reads. However, they don’t really seem to connect, so I wish the authors would have written them as separate books. That took a bit away from the book as I kept waiting to see how they would blend together.

And that’s why I gave this novel only 4 books instead of 5, which would have put it on the list of one of my favorite holiday reads. Still, it’s well worth your time to pick this one up or choose it for a gift this Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Holiday Trivia

 
  • The first “Book of Carols” was printed in 1521.
  • Wencelas (907-929) was the king of Bohemia and was noted for his piety, compassion and generosity. The carol about him dates from the 19th century.
  • It was the English who started the custom of kissing under the mistletoe in the early 17th century. It was customary for a man to remove a berry each time he kissed a girl under the mistletoe. When there were no more berries left, no more kisses were exchanged.
  • The Christmas classic “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was written by Clement Clark Moore in 1822 as a gift to his children.
  • Electric lights for Christmas trees were first used in 1895.
  • “It’s a Wonderful Life” appears on TV more often than any other holiday movie.
  • “Rudolph” was created by Montgomery Ward in the late 1930s for a holiday promotion.
  • “Jingle Bells was originally written for Thanksgiving.
  • If you received all the gifts in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” you would receive 364 gifts.
  • The first state to recognize the Christmas holiday was Alabama.
  • Christmas became a national holiday in America on June 26, 1870.
  • During the Christmas-Hanukkah season, more than 1.76 billion candy canes will be made. Candy canes began as straight white sticks of sugar candy used to decorate the Christmas trees. A choirmaster at Cologne Cathedral decided have the ends bent to depict a shepherd's crook and he would pass them out to the children to keep them quiet during the services. It wasn't until about the 20th century that candy canes acquired their red stripes.
  • During the Christmas buying season, Visa cards alone are used an average of 5,340 times every minute in the United States.
  • The Christmas season begins at sundown on 24th December and lasts through sundown on 5th January. For that reason, this season is also known as the Twelve Days of Christmas.
  • The movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (2000) features more than 52,000 Christmas lights, about 8,200 Christmas ornaments, and nearly 2,000 candy canes.
  • The Puritans forbade the singing of Christmas carols.
  • Mrs. Claus, Santa's wife, was first introduced in 1889 in the book “Goody Santa Claus on a Sleigh Ride” by the poet Katherine Lee Bates.
  • Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States on June 26, 1870.