Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sins of the Flesh by Caridad Pineiro

Posted by Simcha 6:45 PM, under | 1 comment

Caterina Shaw is a world-famous musician, until cancer invades her body and the pain from a tumor makes it impossible for her to continue playing her beloved cello. Caterina is willing to do anything to stop the pain, even participate in an experimental treatment meant to eliminate the cancer. But the treatments don’t go as Caterina had expected and one night she suddenly finds herself outside, alone and naked, with no memory of how she got there, or even who she is. And although her mind is wild and fragmented, she is pretty certain that her body should not be changing colors or bleeding green blood.

Mick has been hired by Dr. Edwards to capture the dangerous killer who murdered his partner, hideously tearing him from limb to limb. But when Mick’s search leads him to Caterina, he finds himself doubting that this beautiful, gentle woman is capable of the crime which Edwards accuses her of. Cautiously, he takes Caterina into custody as he determines to discover the truth about Caterina and the murder of Dr. Wells.

But something is wrong with Caterina. Her body has been pumped full of various drugs and her blood cells have been altered, which is now causing her body to fail. Mick and his sister find themselves in a race against time to discover what has been done to Caterina so that they can reverse the process, in order to keep her alive. Mick must do whatever he can to save Caterina, not only because he suspects she is innocent, but also because he is finding himself falling in love with her.

Sins of the Flesh is an interesting book with a unique story line. Although the book is labeled as a paranormal romance, I would define it more as romantic science fiction, with its strong focus on science and medicine. It’s clear that Pineiro did a lot of research when writing the book, and while I certainly respect this, I did find the unfamiliar medical terminology to be confusing at times.

Sins of the Flesh started off strong, I soon found myself only mildly engaged as the pace of the story slowed down to a crawl, which was strange because there was so much going on. Considering that the police were searching for Caterina as a suspect in a murder case, and Mick was investigating the suspicious activities at the lab and Caterina was being hunted by another hit-man, it seemed like most of the focus was on Mick sitting by Caterina’s bed.

I also felt that the character of Mick didn’t quite come out as the ruthless, hardened mercenary that the author was aiming for. This probably has to do with the fact that right after Mick is introduced as a ruthless killer we are also told about the wonderful things that he has done for his family and that the only reason he is in this business is to help get is siblings through college. His obviously affectionate relationship with his family and his generosity with his friends negates the tough personality Pineiro is trying to convince the reader of. And so the message that Mick was softening up due to his feeling for Caterina, didn't really work so well because he didn't seem to be that tough to begin with.

My favorite character was actually Mick’s sister, Lilliana; a nurse who is involved in an abusive relationship. I thought she was the most interesting of all the characters, though her story didn’t seem to really go anywhere. While I suppose that it will be continued in the sequel, I think there should have been a more solid resolution to her story-line in this book.

Sins of the Flesh wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for. It wasn’t a bad book- the writing was pretty good and the premise was interesting- but it didn’t really captivate me either. And while this book wasn’t for me, it’s quite possible that other fans of light science fiction or paranormal romance would enjoy reading it more then I did.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tackling my pile of "other" books: Guernsey and Twenties Girl

Posted by Simcha 4:34 AM, under | 8 comments

:I've decided that this week I'll focus on tackling my pile of non-genre books that has slowly taken over my nightstand. With all the science fiction and fantasy books that I still need to read, and all the books I keep adding to my To Be Read pile, the non-genre books that I've been intending to read have sadly been sitting untouched. But this week I'm going to make amends and go through as many books in the pile that I can make time for.

So far I've read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows and Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.

I first heard about The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society when it was recommended by Books on the Nightstand, and since every book they recommend sounds so good, including the cookbooks, I immediately added it to my list. I actually would probably never have picked up this book otherwise, because I'm not a fan of books written in letter format, but for Guernsey, this style was perfect.

Book Description from back cover:
January 1946: writer Juliet Ashton receives a letter from a stranger, a founding member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. And so begins a remarkable tale of the island of Guernsey during the German occupation, and of a society as extraordinary as its name.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was such a delightful and enjoyable book that after finishing it I had the insane desire to start again from the beginning (luckily I controlled the impulse, since I have so many other books still waiting to be read). I was amazed at how the the authors managed to create a whole cast of wonderful characters, each with their own unique personality and voice, just through their correspondences. And while Guernsey is a relatively lighthearted read, it does deal with the hardships and tragedies suffered by the residents of Guernsey during the German occupation.

The copy of Guernsey that I read was borrowed from a friend but this is a book that I feel the need to own myself, partially so that I can lend it out to everyone I know. In which case, I should probably get two copies.

A while back, I had gone through a stage where I read quite a bit of romance and chic lit. books. And while I've pretty much recovered, there are a few authors that I discovered during that time whose books I still continue to enjoy. One of those authors is Sophie Kinsella, and I have been looking forward, for a while now, to reading her most recent book,
Twenties Girl.

Lara Lington has just been dumped by her boyfriend, and her new business is not going so well since her business partner, and so-called friend, went on holiday and never came back. The last thing she is interested in doing is attending her great-aunt's funeral, particularly since she barely even knew the woman. But as the ceremony gets underway, a young woman suddenly appears before Lara and demands that the funeral be stopped because her necklace is missing. Only Lara is able to see or hear the woman, and before she knows what's happening, she finds herself announcing that she believes her aunt to have been murdered, successfully bringing the funeral to a halt.

And that is only the beginning of Lara's adventures as she attempts to help the young woman, who is actually her great-aunt Sadie's ghost, find her beloved necklace.Thanks to Sadie's bullying, Lara soon finds herself picking up strange, handsome men, dressing in 1920's era clothing, learning to dance the Charleston and discovering the truth about love and about her family.

The Twenties Girl was a really fun book that I just couldn't put down, and so I ended up reading the whole thing in one day. It has the same casual and humorous narrative as Kinsella's other books, as well as the awkward and cringe-worthy moments that she seems fond of putting her poor protagonists through. If you are looking for a lighthearted, romantic read, this book would be a great choice.

Next on my reading schedule is The Sex Lives of Cannibals, by J. Maarten Troost (which despite the provocative title, is really a travel memoir) and Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, which I bought six months ago and still haven't cracked open

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My entries to Peter Brett's photo contest

Posted by Simcha 3:23 PM, under | 7 comments

A couple of weeks ago I had posted about Peter Brett's contest for an ARC copy of The Desert Spear, his sequel to the Warded Man. To enter, you need to send in a picture of yourself, or someone else, holding a copy of the Warded Man, with extra points given to pictures with a creative or interesting background.

I mentioned in my post that I would like to enter the contest, and I offered some photo ideas that I had, including getting pictures with some of the nearby Bedouins or even with a camel (which are not uncommon in the area in which I live). Since
the desert is one of the settings in the Warded Man, I thought that some desert pictures would be very appropriate for this contest.

But last Friday I suddenly realized that the first deadline for the contest had arrived and I hadn't had any opportunities to take pictures. And so I sent my sister, who was over for the weekend, out of the house with my kids, along with a camera and
The Warded Man, with instructions to take me some award-winning pictures.

Considering the short-notice, my sister did a pretty good job and brought me back some pictures of my kids posed with the book against the beautiful desert backdrop. Feeling satisfied, I sent off the pictures to Peter Brett as my contest entries.

But apparently Mr. Brett was not satisfied with my entries. 'Where are those Bedouins and camels you promised in your blog?' he asked (OK, he was a lot more polite then that, but that was the general gist of the email). Well... I wasn't expecting anyone to actually hold me to what I write in these posts, but now I felt obligated to deliver. So this past Friday I roped in a couple of friends to go over with me to one of the nearby Bedouin encampments to take some pictures.

Although these encampments are right down the road, I've never actually been over to any of them, though I have always wanted to meet some of the Bedouins living there. But religious and cultural barriers are very thick in Israel and you don't usually cross over them lightly. But this contest seemed like a good excuse for me to take an opportunity to visit my Bedouin neighbors.

After parking along the side of the road, we climbed over the guardrails, at which point the matriarch of the Bedouin family and her son came over to see what was going on. My friend explained to them that we would like to come for a visit, and smiling broadly, the mother and son welcomed us over. But first we had to carefully cross a metal beam precariously laid across a deep ditch, in order to reach the encampment, which added a little element of danger to the adventure (only a little bit, though).

The mother and son welcomed us into their tent where they placed some mattresses on the floor, which they urged us to sit on. After I explained why we were there (I told them it's for a strange American thing, and they nodded knowingly), they cheerfully agreed to pose for some pictures with the Warded Man. As we chatted a bit, their 23 year old daughter, Tzar, joined us and graciously allowed herself to be photographed as well.

And so I finally have the photographs that I had promised to provide and I've gotten to meet some of the Bedouins living nearby, who turned out to be quite delightful. They didn't own any camels that we could photographs ourselves with, though, just chickens, which aren't quite as impressive.

Now you can show your support by going over to Peter Brett's website and telling him how wonderful you think these pictures are and how deserving I am of winning one of his ARC Desert Spears.

Something Rotten (Thursday Next, Bk 4) by Jasper Fforde

Posted by Simcha 2:56 PM, under | 4 comments

I was delighted when someone recently gave me Something Rotten, Jasper Fforde’s fourth Thursday Next book, but at the same time I was a bit apprehensive due to my disappointment with the previous book in the series, which I thought was focused more on puns than plot. But I needn't have worried. Not only was Something Rotten a great book, it turned out to be my favorite in the series, so far.

In the beginning of Something Rotten, Thursday Next is still in the Book World, continuing her hunt for the escaped Minotaur. But after Emporer Zhark crashes into the 1875 western town with his battle cruiser, Thursday decides she’s had enough fiction for a while and it’s time to return to the real world. And so Thursday packs up her two year old son Friday, and returns to her mother’s house in Swindon.

Back in Swindon, with the brooding Hamlet in tow, Thursday is determined to get her old job back as a Literary Detective and to redouble her efforts at having her eradicated husband returned to her. But things have changed over the two and a half years that Thursday has been gone and her old nemesis, Yorrick Kaine, has risen in power and has joined forces with the Goliath Corporation, who are now focused on turning their corporation into a religion. On the plus side, Goliath is now seeking forgiveness from everyone who they ever caused injury to, which means that Thursday may have a chance at getting them to return her husband.

Aside from problems with Goliath, Kaine, cloned Shakespeares, a missing husband and the possibility of an upcoming apocalypse, Thursday is also being targeted by the deadly assassin, the Windowmaker, who happens to be the wife of Thursday’s good friend, Spike (though he thinks his wife is really a librarian). So in addition to all of her many other problems, Thursday needs to think of a way to avoid being assassinated without causing the death of her friend’s beloved wife.

I just loved this book! It was filled with so many colorful characters and so many different creative story lines, that it was just like embarking on a wonderful adventure that you never want to end. I don’t know how Fforde managed to keep all the different stories going on from getting tangled up, but he somehow does it quite successfully while populating them with wonderful characters that really come to life on the pages.

And the end of the book was absolutely perfect and unexpected; it was definitely my favorite ending of any of the books that I’ve recently read. After completing Something Rotten I’m actually hesitant in continuing to the next book because I can’t see how it could possibly be as good as this one was.

If you have been following Thursday's adventures so far, then Something Rotten is a must-read. And if you haven't yet given this series a try, then I highly recommend you do so, but start with the first book in the series, The Eyre Affair.

Read my review of The Eyre Affair
Read my review of Lost in a Good Book (Thursday Next, Book 2)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Wit'ch Fire by James Clemens

Posted by Simcha 3:37 AM, under | 7 comments

I recently noticed Wit’ch Fire, by James Clemens, is listed as one of the top fantasy books on Amazon and I recognized this title as one that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for a while, but which I have never been inclined to read. But after perusing all the positive Amazon reviews on the book, I thought it would be worthwhile to give it a try.

As the magic of Chi slowly drains out of the land of Alasea, leaving the people defenseless against their enemies, three mages come together in a desperate effort to ensure that someday the magic will be returned to Alasea and the people saved. The mages intend to create the book prophesied in the visions, through a magical ceremony, but something goes horribly wrong and all three mages disappear, leaving behind their guardian Er’ril, who suspects that their attempt was a dismal a failure.

Five centuries later, thirteen year old Elena is picking apples in her family’s orchard, when a severe stomach cramp causes her to fall out of the tree. Picking herself up from the ground, Elena discovers that she has begun menstruating and strangely enough, her hand is now a bright red which won’t rub off. Frightened, Elena runs home to her family who are exultant at her new status as a woman, though they have no answer for the strange color of her hand.

Late that night, Elena is woken up by strange sounds from outside. Looking out of her window, she sees two menacing strangers approaching her house. She runs to warn her parents, but it is too late. The strangers attack Elena’s family and Elena and her brother, Joach, are forced to flee into the woods to escape their predators.

But when the siblings make their way to town, where they expect to find refuge, they discover instead that the towns people have all been turned against them, and it’s only the sudden aid of a stranger that gets Elena and Joach out alive.

Soon Elena finds herself allied with an unusual group of travelers, including two shapshifters, an elf, an ogre and a wood nymph, each of whom has their own personal quest to fulfill but whose paths bring them together in order to find the answers they seek.

I thought
Witch Fire was an OK book, but not much more then that. The whole story takes place within just a few days and the pace of the book felt rushed to me, with one character after another being thrown into the mix but none of them being fully fleshed out. Elena and her brother were the only characters that were really three dimensional but once more characters were added, they both kind of faded into the background.

I also didn’t really understand what the magic system was here. It seems that those with a red hand are capable of certain powers, but what those powers are and how they work, was never clarified. Also Clemens use of common words with the addition of an apostrophe, such as wit'ch or magick, was rather irritating.

On the plus side, the book was well written and there were some interesting villains and creative magical creatures. I also appreciated the unexpected twist at the end. But the lack of character development left me rather unimpressed with the book and uninterested in following it up with the sequel.

I did actually take a brief look at a review of the sequel,
Wit’ch Storm, in which the reviewer mentioned that she felt the second book was better then the first, especially in regard to the character development. So perhaps I will give the sequel a chance at some point but I'm not in any particular rush at this time to do so.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Favorite Fictional Character: Hawkeye Pierce

Posted by Simcha 6:05 PM, under | 4 comments

Favorite Fictional Character
Hosted by Ryan at Wordsmithonia

This week's favorite fictional character is Captain Benjamin Franklin "Hawkeye" Pierce, from one my favorite TV shows, M.A.S.H.

MASH is TV shows from the 1970s that humorously portrays a field medical unit in Korea during the Korean war. I had discovered this show about ten years ago when I joined a gym and MASH was playing on the TV the first couple of times that I went. I soon got hooked onto the show and ended up going to the gym sometimes twice a day just to catch MASH, which was on in the morning and the evening. I was in really good shape that summer!

Hawkeye is one of my favorite TV characters, with his irreverent and sarcastic humor and creative pranks that would often shake up life at the army camp and help relieve the stress and trauma of war. Despite his decidedly unprofessional and unmilitary behavior, flashes of Hawkeye's strong conciseness and sense of humanity are often revealed, portrayed very skillfully by Alan Alda.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Brandon Sanderson at Goodreads

Posted by Simcha 6:02 PM, under | No comments

I just saw that next month Brandon Sanderson will be participating in a discussion of his book, Warbreaker, at the Goodreads Fantasy Bookclub. Since Warbreaker is one my favorite books from this past year, I'll definitely be showing up for the chance to discuss the book with the author himself.

Brandon has also put up on his website a short story that he wrote, Defending Elysium, which he considers his best short story and which also won the UPC Science Fiction Award. You can check it out here.

And if you are interested in finding out what Brandon Sanderson's favorite books from 2009 were, then take a look at his guest post at the The Book Smugglers.

And that's all the Brandon Sanderson news for today...

Posted by Simcha 4:58 PM, under | 2 comments

It's Tuesday...Where are You?
Hosted by An Adventure in Reading

I've actually been doing a lot of traveling today. I started off in Swindon where Thursday Next (Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde) was attempting to put together a croquet team for the upcoming Superhoop championship, so that the world wouldn't be destroyed in a couple of weeks, while at the same time avoiding the deadly assassin on her trail, the Windowmaker (the name is due to an error at the printers, when the flyers were made. And if you know what's best for you, don't mention it.) who happens to also be married to Thursday's good friend, Spike (but Spike doesn't know and thinks that his wife Cindy is really a librarian).

After a falling piano temporarily solved this problem, I went over to Texas Hill Country where Keira Kelly (Matters of the Blood by Maria Lima) seems to have come into some powers involving necromancy and visions of the future, while also having to deal with her needy human cousin, Marty. Unfortunately, I got tired of Keira's company pretty quickly and so I went over to check up on Caterina and Mick in Philadelphia (Sins of the Flesh by Caridad Pineiro)to see how they were progressing in finding out what exactly had been done to Caterina to cause her blood to turn green and her skin to camouflage. While Mick had managed to sneak into the lab and steal some of the medication that Caterina seems to require due to the experiments done on her, the injections just make her feverish which is causing Mick to get worried. I think I'll follow Mick and Caterina around for a bit now- especially as things between the two of them are beginning to heat up...

You Belong With Me: Jacob Black Remix

Posted by Simcha 4:48 PM, under | 1 comment

I just had to repost this video that I came across at the blog, A Book Lover's Diary. It's really funny and definitely worth watching, whether you're a Twilight fan or not.

Although I enjoyed reading Twilight I just couldn't get through the movie, but now I'm curious to give New Moon a try.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dead in the Family update and sample chapter

Posted by Simcha 4:05 PM, under | 1 comment

Yesterday I noticed on SciFiGuy's blog the cover art for Charlaine Harris's upcoming Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead in the Family. Excited that information is finally available about the next book in the series, I headed over to Harris's site to see what other information might be provided. Unfortunately, Dead in the Family won't be released until May but a sneak peek of the first chapter of the book is available on the website.

Although I was terribly disappointed with the last book in the series,
Dead and Gone, I'm still looking forward to reading Dead in the Family, in the hopes that it will be as good as the earlier books in the series and make up for the horribleness of the last one. I still think that having Sookie tortured was completely inappropriate and the torture scene itself was lame and unconvincing, but from the sample chapter that I read it does appear that Harris will have Sookie dealing with the after-affects of the ordeal in the upcoming book. I just hope she does it in a believable manner. I'm also not excited about the fact that Sookie and Eric are now officially together. The sexual tension between them was a large attraction of the earlier books and I can't see this being maintained once they are a couple.

But since I really loved all the other eight books in the series, I'm willing to keep an open mind about Dead in the Family, and I look forward to it's release, though in a somewhat cautions manner.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

International Giveaways

Posted by Simcha 7:57 PM, under | 5 comments

Here are a few international giveaways that caught my eye recently:

Ann Aguirre is offering readers a chance to win a copy of her Hell's Fire proofs. To enter, tell her what you liked best about Blue Diablo, the first book in the series. This contest is really only for those who have read Blue Diablo and it ends Dec. 22st

The Book Resort is giving away a $75 Visa gift card to one VERY lucky winner. Contest ends Dec. 21st

at Alone in The Holy Land is giving away a copy of
Russell Kirkpatrick's Across the Face of the World. Contest ends Dec. 25th

Ramblings of a Bibliophile is giving away a copy of Bonshaker, by Cherie Priest, an interesting looking steampunk novel. Contest ends Jan. 1st

Dark Faerie Tales is giving away a copy of Deadtown by Nancy Holzner. To enter you must be a follower of the blog and leave a comment saying which animal you would shape shift into if you had a choice. Contest ends Tuesday, January 5th

Books at Midnight is celebrating her 200 followers by offering one international follower the book of their choice, under $15, from the Book Depository. Contest ends Jan. 15th

Books, Movies, Review Oh my! is giving away a copy of The Maze Runner by James Dashner. To enter you have to be a follower and extra points are given for promoting the contest.

For a list of more book giveaways visit Fantasy Dreamer's Ramblings

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Montana's Hebrew Speaking Bomb Dog

Posted by Simcha 3:18 PM, under | 2 comments

This has absolutely nothing to do with science fiction or fantasy but I came across this funny article and I wanted to share it.

So the Helena Police Department in Montana had purchsed a bomb sniffing dog from the Israeli Defense Forces because it was cheaper then buying a bomb dog locally. The only problem was that the dog, which was raised in Israel and trained in Hebrew, couldn't understand any of the commands given by his new American owners.

Even though Officer Foskat received a list of Hebrew commands to use, Mikey the dog just couldn't understand him. Poor officer Foskat even tried a Hebrew instructional audio-book to help him improve his accent, but to no avail. And so, at this year's Chanukah candle lighting ceremony, in the city's capital, Office Foskat approached one of the rabbis and asked for his assistance in communicating with his dog. Rabbi Chaim Bruk was happy to help, and now he is regularly on-call to help the Montana cop speak Hebrew to his dog.

And the article conclude:

    But the big winner is the rabbi, a recent arrival from Brooklyn who is working hard (against tough odds) to bring his Lubavitch movement to Montana. He has been scouring the state for anyone who can speak Hebrew, and is elated to have found a German shepherd he can talk to.
You can read the article in full here

As I read the article I could just imagine the frustrated police office crouched down next to his dog, attempting to pronounce one Hebrew command after another, while the dog looks on, with a perplexed expression on his face.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Favorite Fictional Character: Thursday Next

Posted by Simcha 8:16 PM, under | 3 comments

Favorite Fictional Character
Hosted by Ryan at Wordsmithonia

This week's favorite fictional character is Thursday Next, from Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series.

Thursday is a literary detective who solves crimes against literature that are too strange for the regular police force to handle, in this quirky alternative history series that takes place in Swindon, England.

Thursday is a wonderful character who is brave, intelligent, resourceful and, loyal. She hasn't had an easy life, with her brother having been killed in the Crimean War (which is still ongoing) and her father having been eradicated before she was born- though he still occasional shows up to visit, thanks to his skill in manipulating the time-space continuum. And then when she finally marries the man whom she is been in-love with for years, he too is eradicated by the evil Goliath corporation, so that no one but Thursday even knows that he ever existed ( I believe she manages to save him, but I haven't gotten to that book yet).

But despite all her travails, Thursday is constantly moving forward,
bringing the bad guys to justice and trying to find a way to help those she loves. Thursday's loyalty to her friends is one of my favorite characteristic of hers. During the war, when it was discovered that an error was made which led to the death of many soldiers, rather then retreating, as instructed, Thursday went back to save whoever she could. When her co-worker Spike, of the vampire demolition department, requests urgent backup which everyone else matter-of-factly ignores, Thursday runs to his assistance with no hesitation.

Thurday is the kind of person I would love to know and have as a friend. Despite the quirkiness of the books, Thursday herself comes across as so real that I'm repeatedly amazed that she is actually, and unfortunately, only a figments of Fforde's imagination.

Interview with Jessica from Shut Up! I'm Reading

Posted by Simcha 6:26 PM, under | 1 comment

She's only thirteen years old, but Jessica runs a successful YA book blog, Shut Up! I'm Reading, where she provides insightful book reviews, interesting interviews and entertaining commentary on her views on books and book covers.

Hi Jessica. Can you start off by telling me a little bit about yourself?

I'm a girl with a love of reading who decided to share her love with anyone who cares to read about it. Reading is one of my very favorite things to do.

Please tell me about your blog and what makes it unique

My blog, Shut Up! I'm Reading, reviews young adult books just about all of the time. Review-wise, I rate a book based on plot, characters, writing, ending, and overall enjoyment of the novel and then give it a 1-5 star review. I also try to throw in as many interviews and contests that I can manage. And, I have a feature called "Judging A Book By It's Cover" where I, as you guessed, judge a book's cover.

When did you start your blog and how did you decide to do so?

I started my blog in mid-June. I had played with the idea for a while, but it wasn't until I had been talking to some people on Shelfari, and just decided that I wanted to be a part of blogging. I really had no idea how big the community of book bloggers were, but that just made it even more appealing to me.

I had read in your introductory post that you are 13 years old, which would make you the youngest blogger that I have come across so far.
Do you find yourself facing any obstacles because of your age?

I've never really thought about it before. I suppose the only real obstacle would be having to share the computer with the rest of my family. That can be very frustrating. If I went to school then it would be a real challenge, but luckily I'm homeschooled so it's not too much of a problem.

What do you think of the fact that as a blogger you have the unique opportunity to interact with, and build relationships with authors? Are there any authors in particular that you are interested in reaching out to?

I think it's amazing! I live in the middle of nowhere, so I've never gotten the chance to meet an author that I've read a book by. And, although I don't have any strong relationships with authors through the internet at the moment, I have much more contact with authors then I ever would have before. Plus, it's especially fantastic for aspiring authors like myself.

I'd love to talk to Lisa Mcmann, Becca Fitzpatrick, Maggie Stiefvater, among with just about every YA author that's ever read a book I like. I'm not too picky.

What kind of books do you enjoy reading the most?

I love fantasy, urban fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal romance, all of these being young adult, of course. I rarely read adult, there's still too many young adult books that I haven't read yet!

Was there a particular book that had sparked your interest in reading?

I had a very odd relationship with reading for the longest time. I would love reading one minute, hate it the next. I guess I would just get burned out. But Twilight really got me back into the love of reading-a love that would last longer than it ever had before. I never knew that there were books like that before, and it opened up a whole new world to me. Even if you hate the series, you have to admit that it has gotten a lot of people reading and writing, which is always a good thing, right?

What do you enjoy doing when you are not reading or blogging?

I listen to music constantly. Mostly rock, alternative, punk, that sort of stuff. I also write (stories and song lyrics, mostly) whenever I find the time since it's what I hope to be when I grow up (a novelist, or a writer for Saturday Night Live). According to my mom, I am a "computer lizard", which is her way of telling me that I'm on the computer a bunch. And I act. And occasionally I get into a drawing kind of mood. Wow, I never realized how many hobbies I have. No wonder I feel like I have no time these days.

Did you have any experience in reviewing books before you started your blog?

I had done a few reviews for a homeschooling newspaper, and had written some very short reviews for Shelfari. Knowing that I was already reviewing books was a major factor in starting my blog.

What’s your favorite part of running a blog?

There's so many! I guess it would be being able to hear about so many new books, and being able to meet all of these incredible people who share my love of reading.

What advice would you give to other teenagers your age who might be interested in starting a book blog?

I guess all I can say is put your heart and soul into it, and it will get you far. And if you don't want age to be an obstacle for your blogging, then run it professionally. Not dead-serious or anything, but only teenagers want to read "typppinngg~LiKe~THIS!" and if you run your entire blog like that you won't get much respect from authors, publishers, and even most book-bloggers.

If you could spend a week in any book, which book would you choose and why?

City of Bones. (The first in the Mortal Instruments series.) It's so different and exciting, and I'd love to have some of the experiences that Clary had. (Not the near death experiences, but I think you get the idea.)

Thanks so much Jessica for taking the time to do this interview. I really enjoyed getting to know you and learning more about your blog Shut Up I'm Reading

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Book Day To Me: My Holiday Gift Swap Gift

Posted by Simcha 4:55 PM, under | 3 comments

I'm currently in book heaven.

Today I received a package from my (not so)secret blogger from the holiday gift swap (she revealed her identity to me last week to check if I received the package yet) and it contained not one, not two but THREE books from my wish list!! I definitely got myself an awesome secret blogger person.

I'm now the proud owner of these three books:

The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost

I've been wanting to read this book for ages, ever since I heard about Troost and his humorous travel books. I love Bill Bryson and I heard that Troost's books are similar in style. I'm so excited to finally have a copy of this book.

Sins of the Flesh by Caridad Pineiro

I was intrigued by this book when I first read about it, a few weeks ago, and immediately added it to my book wish list, though I didn't expect to actually get a hold of it so soon. Can't wait to read it!!

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

I was particularly excited to find this book in the package, the fourth book in the Thursday Next series, because I haven't been able to find it anywhere in Israel. Now I can finally find out what happens to Thursday after she leaves the Well of Lost Plots. I'm really hoping she gets her husband back, in this book.

So thank you, thank you, thank you Heather, from, for sending me all these wonderful books.
Plus I love the pretty card you included. You are the best! And I'm reserving you as my secret santa for next year's holiday gift exchange (I'm not above greasing a few palms).
I just hope my gift recipient enjoys her gift as much as I enjoyed mine.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Peter V. Brett's contest: My ideas for a winning picture

Posted by Simcha 3:50 PM, under | 3 comments

Peter V. Brett has a fun contest for three ARC copies of The Desert Spear, the sequel to The Warded Man. To enter you have to send in a picture of yourself, or someone else, holding a copy of the Warded Man, with extra points given to pictures with an interesting background.

While this isn't the first such contest that I've come across, it is the first time that I actually own the book that is needed to participate and so I think I'd like to give it a shot. Plus I live in the desert and I'm sure I could come up with a photo with a great background shot that would be relevant to the book.

Today, on my way to Jerusalem, I saw a Bedouin on a nearby hill leading his flock of goats and I thought 'now that would be a great picture for the contest.' Though I somehow don't think the Bedouin would be too pleased if I intercepted him and his goats to request that he smile for the camera, while holding a book.

I'm also considering approaching the camel owner down the road, who stands around with his camel, waiting for tourists, and asking if I could get a picture of myself on his camel, with the book. Or better yet- a picture of him with the book.

I bet any of these pictures would make me a shoo-in for that contest.

The things I'll do for a book these days....

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Read the Book See the Movie Challenge

Posted by Simcha 7:15 PM, under | 4 comments

I've been looking for a new challenge to take on, since I completely failed to complete my last two challenges, NaNoWriMo and the YA Dystopia Challenge, and the Read the Book See the Movie Challenge looks like a good one.

I rarely have time to watch movies anymore and I've been wanting to watch
Blade Runner to see how it compares to Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which I recently read. I'm hoping that this challenge will give me the incentive to make some movie-watching time.

For this challenge you can choose the challenge level that you want. I think I'm going to go with the Double Feature, which means I need to read two books and watch the movies based on them. For the first movie I have already chosen
Blade Runner though I'm not sure about the second movie yet. Since one of my customers is a former Hollywood actor who was in the movie Dune I'm thinking of reading Frank Herbert's book (which could also serve as my monthly scifi book) and watching the movie, which would make my customer happy since he's asked me a few times if I've seen the movie yet.

Although the challenge is open to all genres I think I'm going to stick with scifi or fantasy. If you have any suggestions as to some good movies I could watch , I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Servant of A Dark God by John Brown

Posted by Simcha 6:45 PM, under | 3 comments

Servant of a Dark God, is John Brown's debut novel; a unique epic fantasy that was released by Tor this past August.

Talen resides on a farm with his father and two older siblings living a rather uneventful life consisting of working in the field, caring for the animals and trying to stay two steps ahead of his wily brother and sister. But all that changes the day that Talen sets off to do some trade at the nearby village and nearly gets killed by a mob of crazed villages who suspect Talen of being Sleth. Sleth, Talen knows from the stories, are people who accept the twisted power of the god Regret, and use it to suck the fire and soul out of others and then use the bodies of their victims in horrible ways. When a visiting Fir- Nor priest claims that some recent attacks were due to Sleth in the vicinity, Talen becomes the scapegoat.

When Talen is finally released, bloodied and bruised, he is determined that he himself will capture the escaped Sleth, thereby earning both reward money and respect. But Talen’s plans go awry when those Sleth children turn out to be hiding on his very farm, being protected by his family and putting all of their lives on the line. Suddenly Talen and his family find themselves being attacked on all sides as they are hunted by the local authority, the Fir-Noy priests and a mysterious, frightening monster who no one can stand against. Not only that, but Talen soon discovers that his family has been keeping secrets from him, deadly secrets that could get them all killed and which reveal that no one in his family are what they seem, including himself.

I enjoyed reading Servant of a Dark God, though on finishing it I’m not quite sure how I felt about the book as a whole. The story starts out lightheartedly with Talen being chased up a tree by his siblings after he hides some of their belongings. The story progresses at a good pace, slowly building in intensity but peppered with some amusing scenes and playful banter. At one point I had to take a break from the book because everything seemed so bleak and hopeless that I couldn’t see a way out for the characters, but I persevered, and was glad for it.

I think the character building was very well done, with some of the characters slowly being revealed to the reader in the process of the story-telling and others growing and maturing as they discover themselves and what they are capable of. Sugar, in particular, is a wonderful character who faces the challenges thrown at her, head-on, and shows remarkable strength and bravery, as well as wit and humor. I enjoyed watching the relationship between Sugar and Talen tenuously develop. Talen, on the other hand, is full of self-doubt and fear. He just wants to hand over Sugar and her brother to the authorities, collect the reward, and avoid being killed. He is not your average hero, but he is a regular guy reacting in a realistic manner to the frightening situation he suddenly finds himself in. Although I wished he would give Sugar a chance and stop trying to think of a way to capture or kill her, I respected the fact that he does actually behave in a realistic way. And as the story progresses, Talen slowly matures as a character, coming to terms with the truth about his family and himself, especially as he realizes that he and Sugar are not so different.

The monster itself is also an interesting character. Each person he has consumed became a part of him and so he is aware that the very people he is hunting down were once his friends, but he will continue to capture them because it’s the only way he can save the souls of his wife and children, by acquiescing to the demand of his mistress.

The only problem with the book for me was that I never really got a good handle on all the various religions, gods and political factions that the story revolves around, or even a proper understanding of the magic system. I don’t know if this is due to the writing or maybe I’ve just overdosed on fantasy reading and made-up religions and governments. I never really grasped what the Divines were, what the Order was and how the Bone Faces fit into it all, or even what a Sleth was, all of which are central to the story. So while I was enjoying the story itself, a lot of essential information was going over my head which makes me feel like I only read half of the book.

Since I really enjoyed the characters, and watching them develop, I will probably be following them to the sequel,
Dark God’s Glory, which will be released in 2011, to find out where it takes them.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Favorite Fictional Character: Carl the Dog

Posted by Simcha 4:13 AM, under | 4 comments

Favorite Fictional Character
Hosted by Ryan at Wordsmithonia

My favorite fictional character this week is Carl the dog, from
Alexandra Day's series of children's picture books.

Carl is a Rottweiler who lives in San Francisco, and he is absolutely the coolest dog.

When Madeline's mother leaves Carl in charge, she knows that she is leaving her child in good hand (paws?). When Madeline was a baby, Carl would babysit her many times. He entertains her (which involves dancing and then sliding the baby down the laundry shoot), feeds her, bathes her and puts her to bed just as the mother gets home.

Carl also watches Madeline in the department store while the mother is shopping.
Together they read books, try on clothes, grab samples in the supermarket and release all the animals from the pet department.

And Carl even comes one day to nursery where he takes care of the whole class while the teacher gets herself locked outside of the classroom.

I, for one, would love to have a dog like Carl to help take care of my kids, something I was thinking about today while unsuccesfuly trying to find a baby sitter. Though I'm not so keen on the swimming in the fish tank idea.

Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge

Posted by Simcha 4:02 AM, under | 3 comments

While I like the urban fantasy genre, I’ve been having a hard time finding books within this genre that I actually enjoy, after having read everything by Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews and Charlaine Harris. So when a fellow blogger recommended Street Magic, by Caitlin Kittredge, I was happy to give it a try.

The last time Pete had seen Jack was when he had convinced her to join him in the cemetery to participate in a magical ceremony. Even though he was her older sister’s boyfriend, and Pete didn’t even believe in magic, she couldn’t resist any request from Jack Winter, and so she came. But despite her disbelief, something happened that night, something that brought forth a frightening creature from out of the crypt. A creature which killed Jack and left Pete mentally scarred.

Twelve years later, Pete has taken over in her father’s footsteps as a police officer and she is in search of a little girl who has gone missing. An anonymous tip leads Pete to Jack, whom she has believed to be dead all these year, and who is able to tell her exactly where to find the missing child. Tragically, the child has been badly damaged and is unable to tell the police what happened to her. When another child goes missing soon afterwards, Pete forces Jack to help her in solving this case.

But Jack is no longer the sunny, mischievous youth that Pete remembers. The years since that terrible event have turned him into a hard man who fights his ghosts with regular doses of heroin. But to save these children, Pete will do whatever she can, even if it means putting up with Jack’s inexplicable hatred of her and confronting her own ghosts from the past.

The description of Street Magic had sounded interesting and unique enough that I made an effort to get a hold of the book soon after hearing about it. And in the beginning it seemed like this could be a book that I would really enjoy. The first few chapters immediately drew me into the story and Jack and Pete seemed liked they would develop into really interesting characters. But unfortunately this didn’t happen and I never warmed up to the two protagonists.

Jack just turned out to be a jerk the whole book who repeatedly manipulated and used Pete for his own ends. And I couldn’t understand why Pete, a strong, smart and independent woman, was so solicitous of Jack and even sacrificed herself for him, when he had done absolutely nothing to deserve it. The two of them never even had a real relationship, other then Pete’s infatuation with Jack when she was sixteen, so I couldn’t understand their behavior towards each other through out the book. I also didn’t get any sense that the relationship between Pete and Jack progressed or developed at all, which I found very disappointing.

In addition, I felt that Street Magic would have been a much richer book if the author had included some colorful secondary characters, or even any secondary characters. I was hoping that Pete’s ex-fiance, who she argues with on the phone a few times, or her older sister, who blames Pete for Jack’s death, would make an appearance. But both of these characters remained shadowy figures in the sidelines, which I think was a big mistake as they could have added a lot to the story.

I was also disappointed with each of the fights that take place between Jack and Pete and their various attackers. While there was a certain amount of build up for each battle, the fights themselves would just fizzle out with the enemy getting killed in a very anti-climatic way. And I didn’t understand what the heck happened in the final battle, the one the whole story had been leading to.

So in conclusion, despite its strong start, I ultimately found Street Magic to be a disappointing and unsatisfying book and I’m unlikely to be tempted to pick up the sequel.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Reading interrupted

Posted by Simcha 5:52 PM, under | 2 comments

For the past week I've been reading Servant of a Dark God, by John Brown, and I had intended to finish it today so that I can get the review written. Instead I'm going to turn off my laptop and curl up in bed with Street Magic by Caitlin Kittredge. I had seen Street Magic recommended a couple of days ago and I idly picked it up yesterday as a diversion during a tense point in Servant of a Dark God. But the book has completely drawn me in and now I must finish it before I can get anything else done. So my review, and all of those brilliant posts I was going to put up today will have to wait until tomorrow.

Goodnight everyone and happy reading!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

More International Book Giveaways

Posted by Simcha 6:40 PM, under | No comments

The Book Smugglers are hosting Kathryn McKenna from Simon an Schuster UK and she will be giving away a copy of each of the following books to on lucky winner: The Thirteen Curses by Michelle Harrison, The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld, The Island by Sarah Singleton, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins, Dark Life by Kat Falls and Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles. All these books look really good and you just have to fill out a form to enter. Contest ends on Dec. 12th

Misfit Salon has two copies of Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book and two copies of Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Letters to give away. Both these books sound hysterical and I'd love to win one of these myself. These books can be won in two different contests, both of which end on Dec. 14th

The Bibliophilic Book Blog is giving away a Sony Pocket Ereader to one lucky reader and some kind of book prize pack to a runner up. (If you enter this contest, tell them I sent you) Contest ends Dec. 15th

Bibliofreak Blog is giving away a Kindle. There are bunch of different ways to enter and get extra points, from posting the contest on your blog to making a YouTube video. Contest ends Dec. 18th.

Jessica at Book Bound is celebrating her 100 followers by awarding three winners with the book of their chooice from the Book Depository. Contest ends Dec. 18th

Brizmus Book Blog is celebrating having over 100 followers by selecting two winners who can choose to receive one of these books: Hush Hush, Evermore, Ender's Game, The City and the Stars as well as some other surprises. To enter, you just need to leave a comment but there many opportunities for extra entries. Contest ends Dec18th

Parajunkee is giving away lots of awesome books to two different winners. Books include: The Maze Runner, The Hunger Games, Hush Hush, Cry Wolf, Graceling, Fire and many more.Contest ends Dec. 30th

Dark Faerie Tales is going to choose four winners who can select the books they they would like to receive from a long list of amazing looking titles. Contest ends January 5th

My Book Wishlist

Posted by Simcha 4:01 PM, under | 3 comments

As a Hanukkah gift to myself (one of the downsides of being an adult is I rarely get presents anymore) I've decided to treat myself to a couple of books from my ever-growing To Be Read list. Since most of these books are not even available in Israel, I would need to order them from outside the country (oh how I miss American libraries! Those amazing buildings full of free books in English), probably through The Book Depository which offers free international shipping. So I've compiled for myself a list of the books that I want to read the most, to help me decide which books to order. Though I've now seen that compiling a list has not made in any easier for me to decide which books to choose. They all look so good....

The City and the City by China Mieville

I've read some really good things about this book, which sounds really unique and intriguing and i'ts been in my TBR pile for some time

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

This is the fourth book in Fforde's Thursday Next series, of which I've read all the previous books, and I'm frustrated by not being able to find it in any bookstore in Israel.
Thursday's husband is still eradicated and I need to find out what happens next. I've even bought book #5 already and so getting book four is of vital importance.

The Crown Conspiracy by Michael Sullivan

This is another book that I've been hearing good things about from some serious fantasy book blogs and websites and the blurb sounds interesting enough that I'd like to try it:

They killed the king. They pinned it on two men. They chose poorly.
There is no ancient evil to defeat, no orphan destined for greatness, just two guys in the wr
ong place at the
wrong time...Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats in a plot to murder the king. Sentenced to death, they have only one way out…and so begins this epic tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and leg

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I've read some really great YA dystopia books lately and so when I heard this one recommended on Books on the Nightstand, I immediately added it to my pile.

The Sword-Edged Blonde by Alex Bledsoe

Although this book came out in 2007 I never heard of it until recently, when I saw it mentioned by three different blogs. I seem to be adding a lot of fantasy detective novels to my pile, when I've always shied away from mysteries, but the reviews for this book sounded interesting enough that I'd like to try this book for myself.

Street Magic by Caitlin Kitteredge

I added this book to my list last week after I saw it recommended on Melissa's blog My World. Although I enjoy Urban Fantasy I've been disappointed by most of the the book in this genre that I have read lately, and so I'm always on the lookout for new authors to try out in hopes of finding some urban fantasy that I could really enjoy. I've never read anything by Kittredge before but I'd like to give this book a shot. It certainly sounds interesting enough .

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines

I've never read anything by Jim Hines before but I enjoy books that retell fairy tales and this retelling of Cinderella, and her life after the wedding, sounds like a lot of fun.

Non-Genre Books

There are a couple of non-fantasy books that I've desperately been wanting to read but which I haven't made an attempt to buy because most of my reading time has been going towards scifi and fantasy books. But these books are ones that if I get I would make sure to find the time to read.

The Hands of My father by Myron Uhlberg

I love a good memoir and this book, about a boy in Brooklyn growing up with deaf parents, sounds fascinating.

Lost on Planet China by J. Martin Troost

I'm a big fan of Bill Bryson and his books on travel and I'm always on the lookout for authors with a similar writing style, so when I heard about Martin Troost and his humorous travel books, I added this book to my list. The Amazon reviews of the books are mixed enough that I have been holding out on ordering it though I really would like to give this author a try.

So now I just have to narrow these books down to two or three that I want the most, and to avoid visiting any sites that might tempt me with new books to add to my list.


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