Thursday, December 23, 2010

Childhood Thrills (December 2010)

Childhood Thrills is a feature that recalls books I read in my childhood or adolescence that were special to me or "haunt" me in some way. I don't intend to re-read & review them, just simply share my memories and the feelings they evoke.


Big Susan by Elizabeth Orton Jones

I found this book when I was cleaning out my parent’s house a few years ago and was instantly overcome by nostalgia and wonder.  This was one of my favorite books when I was very small.

I had always wanted a dollhouse when I was little.  Unfortunately, I never got one.  However, the bookshelf in my bedroom had  cubbies so I utilized that instead. I made plates by popping the plastic out of soda caps and then used the soda caps for bowls. I made tables and beds using little boxes and scraps of materials. I made Christmas presents by wrapping up little cubes of paper.

I really wanted a dollhouse.  But my secret wish?  For my dolls to come alive and play with me. For something magical to happen with my dollhouse. 

Mrs. Doll plays the piano.
Whether this book gave me that idea, or I loved this book because it incorporated that longing, I'm not sure.  But it certainly gave me hope. The Doll family live in Susan’s dollhouse.  They understand that they are dolls and that Susan has to move them and speak for them.  They love her and love being played with.

Every Christmas Eve at midnight, something wonderful happens.  The dolls come alive until dawn on Christmas morning. (I’ve heard other legends like this too, namely that animals can talk at this time.) One year, when they come alive they see that Susan did not get the house ready for Christmas Day. There is no tree and no presents. At first they are disappointed but they love Susan so much they decide that they will give her a present instead and they clean the house from top to bottom. Then they do find a present. A little baby doll to add to their family.  They name her Little Susan after their beloved “owner” and the children offer their new sister all their old toys. The story up to here is enough to warm your heart, but then on Christmas morning when Susan comes to play with them again, (although they can’t speak or move), they see that there is a tree ready and presents waiting for them under the tree.
The Doll Family come to life and help Cook put her wig back on.
Not only did I adore this story of something magical happening, I loved the pictures in the book. They are so sweet! I also loved the simplicity of the gifts given, the appreciation and the feeling of family within the Doll household.

The Doll children give Little Susan their toys.

This book was first published in 1947 and this was the 4th printing from 1960. It has a stamp from my old elementary school and I wonder if one of my older siblings brought it home and never returned it.

My father in law used to build dollhouses. Ironic isn’t it? So now my dream of having my own dollhouse has come true.
My dollhouse.  Built by my father in law.

Inside of dollhouse.  A work in progress.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cool Yule Winner!

A lunar eclipse going right into the Solstice and then a beautiful full moon last night.  This morning when I woke up, it was still in the sky, setting low on the horizon framed by a huge oak in my backyard.  I learned a while ago, that I'm not so good at taking pictures of the moon, so I'll just have to keep the magical image in my memory.

Congratulations to Kate from Midnight Book Girl.  Kate has won a $10 gift certificate from  I first found her blog during one of the Blog Hops and I clicked on it because of the name of course.  But her great reviews kept me as a fan.  Please check it out by clicking the link or the button on my sidebar under "Blogs I Love."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

2011 Challenges

I love a good challenge and I love reading!  So what could be better than combining the two?  Below are the reading challenges I'm participating in for 2011. 

1.  Horror and Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge hosted by Book Chick City.  I like this challenge because I really wanted to use this blog to focus primarily on Horror books.  However, there are so many other books I want to read that I keep getting a bit off track.  I can however, utilize the books in this challenge to crossover into other challenges.  I also like being able to add the books as I go along.  A minimum of 24 books sounds a bit daunting, but I'm going to try.  Please click on the button to join!


2. Mini Book Challenge (2011) hosted by Lazy Girl Reads.  I signed up for this challenge because it's not daunting.  You just need to choose 4 books, Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something Blue.  That is such a cute idea!  Please click on the button to join!


3. 2011 Fantasy Reading Challenge, hosted by Darlyn & Books.  I've been drawn to the Fantasy genre for as long as I can remember.  I think I got this challenge in the bag!  Please click on the link to join!



4. Dusty Volumes Reading Challenge, hosted by me, Midnyte Reader.  This challenge was born because there are several books that I have always wanted to read, but have never gotten around to.  I don't want to seem like an ignoramus every time these works come up in conversation anymore!  Please click on the button for sign up and rules.

Let me know what challenges you are signing up for.  Maybe I'll have to add another to my list!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Have a Cool Yule.


The longest night of the year.  A time to gather around the fire and burn a Yule log to keep the night at bay.  A time for introspection and planning for the future.  A time to burn bayberry candles to insure a prosperous year. 

It is the time, according to stories, when the Summer King (The Oak King) is born or kills the Winter King (The Holly King) and accordingly the days grow longer. 

In honor of Yule, I'm giving away a $10.00 gift card to  Please see my contest policy on my Policies page.  The card will be e-mailed directly to the winner so please make sure to put your e-mail address in.

  • Write a comment letting me know if you've ever celebrated Yule and how.  If you haven't, how would you celebrate it?  You can Google "Yule" to find more background on the holiday and ways to observe it.  (Don't forget your e-mail address!  No address-no entry.)
  • One (1) winner will be chosen at random.
  • This contest ends at December 21, at midnight.  ~Although technically the sun enters Capricorn at 6:38 pm ; )


The Iron Daughter.

Title/Author: The Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa.

Genre: Fantasy/YA.

Publisher: Harper Teen.

Source: Purchased.

Favorite character: Ash.

Favorite quote: “I am a cat.” Grimalkin.

All in all: More of the same, but still fun, like your favorite soap opera. Familiar scenarios with a few surprises.

Synopsis: Half Summer faery princess, half human, Meghan has never fit in anywhere. Deserted by the Winter prince she thought loved her, she is prisoner to the Winter faery queen. As war looms between Summer and Winter, Meghan knows that the real danger comes from the Iron fey—ironbound faeries that only she and her absent prince have seen. But no one believes her.

Worse, Meghan's own fey powers have been cut off. She's stuck in Faery with only her wits for help. Trusting anyone would be foolish. Trusting a seeming traitor could be deadly. But even as she grows a backbone of iron, Meghan can't help but hear the whispers of longing in her all-too-human heart.

My thoughts:

I really did enjoy this continuation of Meghan’s journey in Faery but at the same time I was a bit conflicted at certain times while reading this book. I had just come from a journey with Meghan in The Iron King and now I was following her on another one to defeat another Iron “King”. Yet at the same time, there was a very good twist underlying this new development.

The very few other reservations; references to iconic images as opposed to being shown what is happening, a few occurrences that I thought were confusing or glossed over and, I did feel the first book had more lyrical descriptions. However, Kagawa’s imagination is still evident in the journey and in the characters.

There were some new faces that provided interest, secrets and moved the plot along. Meghan kept to her quest goal but at the same time had romantic issues to deal with. She still loved Ash, yet they were forbidden to be together. Part of me still wonders why. Is it just because the two Courts are enemies? Will there be earth shattering consequences if they get married and have a child or something? Why can’t they challenge this and get the rules changed?

Anyway, in the midst of her broken heart there is Puck who showed some heart throbbing moments (and some very funny ones). While the love triangle didn’t bother me, some have compared it to Twilight since Meghan entertains the thought of a romance with Puck when she is convinced nothing could develop between her and Ash. Some may feel it’s fickle, but honestly I see it as realistic. Why shouldn’t Meghan explore her feelings? Especially when Puck made his so clear. But I feel that Meghan’s feelings for Ash went deeper. Yes, she does describe his appearance but she also describes his character when she reflected on what she misses about him.

I understand that Meghan is only 16 but I was frustrated that she didn’t understand why Ash was keeping his distance at the Unseelie Court when she knew how dangerous it was there, when she was warned repeatedly and when she herself had seen what the Fay are capable of. Then she turns around and shows incredible maturity and grace at the school dance in the scene with Scott. As annoyed at her I was at the beginning, I was impressed with her in this scene. It showed me that she grew and learned about herself because of her journey. I don’t think it was something I could have done. Then, in the next breath she is jealous of Ash flirting with other girls. Okay, okay! I know she is only 16. I would have liked the reason why they went to the school dance to come about more organically however.

The ending was my favorite part. I was thinking as I was reading this book that I would like to see Meghan in the real world applying what she learned about herself in Faery. (That’s what I liked best about the dance scene.) So, I am really looking forward to finding out what happens in the next book. The Iron Daughter was heavy with hints and I want to see if my hunches are correct.

4 out of 5 stars.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Fear Nothing.

Title/Author: Fear Nothing (Moonlight Bay series #1) by Dean Koontz.

Genre: Horror/Thriller.

Publisher: Random House Audio.

Source: Borrowed from Library.

Favorite character: Christopher Snow.

Favorite quote: “Sometimes there is no darker place than our own thoughts, the moonless midnight of the mind.” –Christopher Snow.

All in all: Fun!

Synopsis: Christopher Snow is different from all the other residents of Moonlight Bay. For Christopher has made a strange peace with a very rare genetic disorder shared by only one thousand other Americans, a disorder that leaves him extremely vulnerable to the light. His life is filled with the fascinating rituals of one who must embrace the dark. It is only at night that he is truly free. An then he witnesses a murder in the night--a murder only he can solve. –

My opinion: The narration was absolutely excellent. Keith Szarabajka did an amazing job of differentiating between voices, breathing life into the characters and lulling me into the story and into Christopher’s life.
Audio Narrator Keith Szarabajka

In the early part of the novel, Christopher witnesses some odd events that eventually take him deeper and deeper into his town’s secrets and ultimately a conspiracy. As he tries to find the truth, he discovers that his parents were somehow involved, and that some of the citizens of Moonlight Bay are not who he thought they were. The only people he can still trust are his best friend Bobby, his girlfriend Sasha and of course his dog, Orson. Boy, Koontz really loves dogs!

There was quite a bit of telling in this book that took me out of the story.  However, it is Christopher's thoughts that pertain to the plot.  I do think that some of it could have been taken out to keep me more engaged within the moment. 

There is a good amount of tension and I was very curious to find out what was behind the subterfuge.   While I listened, I tried to think of all the reasons the odd things were happening. Aliens? Government experiments? Creatures from another dimension? When the reveal came, I was not blown away but was not totally  disappointed either.  ***SPOILER ALERT:  I was hoping for more of a supernatural reason but the one provided is creepy and the results that stem from this secret are frightening.   Fans of Koontz’ other books may feel that this plot is an offshoot of Watchers and even gives a shout out to the book. :END SPOILER ALERT***

The best thing about this book is the characters. I appreciate Chris’s dilemma and Koontz went into detail regarding his limitations.  Tasks that I take for granted; seeing a butterly, running to the store, switching on a lightbulb, Christopher can’t do because of his XP. His parents modified their house and lives to accommodate their child, using candlelight, low watt bulbs and dimmers. Christopher has to explore the outside after sundown and subsequently develops an appreciation and kinship with the night. Throughout all of this Christopher is a delightful character. The humor is remarkable. I have never laughed out loud so much while hearing a scary story. I enjoyed the banter between Chris and Bobby and I loved his conversations with his dog, Orson, and how he imagined the dog’s commentary.

His friend Bobby is a stereotypical surfer. He is laid back and tries not to worry about anything. His whole mentally is to enjoy life. Sasha didn’t give me too much except for the way that Christopher saw her, which was as a beautiful, sweet and loyal person. But maybe she’ll have more of a part in the following books.

I’m not sure if I would read the next book, Seize the Night, but I would definitely listen to it because I like the characters so much.

3 ¾ out of 5 stars.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Book Blogger Hop (December 10 - 13, 2010)

Book Blogger Hop

Season's Greetings everyone!  It's Book Blogger Hop time again!  

This meme is hosted by Crazy For Books.  Please check out her blog for complete rules.

This week's question is:  "What is the thing you like most about reading book blogs?  Is it the reviews, author guest posts, articles, giveaways or something else entirely?"

Answer:  I bet everyone's going to say this, but I like everything about reading book blogs.  

I am so happy to find a community where people love reading and discussing books as much as I do.  I mean come on, book bloggers get really into it!  Not only do they tell you what they like and/or don't like about a book, but they analyze, make teams for their favorite characters and even discuss the importance of covers as reflections of the novel and works of art in their own right.  

Author interviews?  Love 'em!  Because I love to write too and I find it inspiring, helpful and extremely interesting to hear what published authors have to say.  Having authors reach out on blogs make them so approachable and I love getting a glimpse of the person behind the story.

Articles and giveaways are icing also, but what I love most about book blogs are the people behind them.  I love their enthusiasm about reading, their friendliness and the fact that they are always willing to give advice to other bloggers.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dusty Volumes Reading Challenge

**Link your 2011 Dusty Volumes Reading Challenge reviews HERE**

Brush the cobwebs aside,
Pull the book from the shelf.
Blow the dust off the cover,
Then immerse yourself.


It was only a few years ago that I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.   Since I'm confessing, I haven't read Dracula or any of Lovecraft's works either.  (I know, shameful!)  If you feel literarily negligent dust off those old, classic books, stories or plays you've always wanted to read and join me in the 2011 Dusty Volumes Reading Challenge.

To join:
  • Write a post about this challenge on your blog with a link back to this post.  
  • Include a list of the Dusty Volumes you hope to read in 2011.  They should have a publishing date before 1960.  You can add, subtract or change the list at anytime.
  • Grab a button and add it to your post or sidebar.  (Hint: adding it to your sidebar will earn you extra entries in future Dusty Volumes giveaways!  Plus, it would really make my day.)
  • Sign up on Mr. Linky below.  Please enter the link to the Dusty Volumes post on your blog, not your main blog page.  (If you link to your main blog page, unfortunately it will be deleted.)   
  • When you write a review on one of your Dusty Volumes please let me know by leaving a comment below with a link to your review.  OR, you can leave a comment on one of my Dusty Volumes reviews when I post them.  Added 12/19/2010:  Also, if/when you write your review it would be great if you could mention that it is part of the Dusty Volumes Reading Challenge.
  • If you don't have a blog:  You can just sign up using your name.  You can link to Goodreads, Amazon, Shelfari, etc.  OR, instead of linking to a review you can leave a comment with your thoughts.  
I have not verified all the books on these lists, but here are a few links to help you out:
~YA books published before 1960 from The
~Another list from

My Dusty Volumes for 2011:
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Best Ghost Stories of Algernon Blackwood by Algernon Blackwood.
Dracula by Bram Stoker.
Haunting of Hill House, The by Shirley Jackson.
I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. 
A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James.
Woman in White by Wilkie Collins.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Sign up here:

Link your Dusty Volumes Reading Challenge reviews!  Click Here.

Grab a Dusty Volumes Reading Challenge Button!




This is a goal I've had for a long time.  I'm so happy to be able to incorporate it with blogging and I hope everyone who joins me enjoys it as well.  This is my first challenge so please bear with me and if anyone has any suggestions, feel free to let me know.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

13 1/2.

Title/Author: 13 ½ by Nevada Barr.

Genre: Mystery/Thriller.

Publisher: Vanguard Press.

Source: Purchased at Barnes & Nobles.

Favorite character: Dylan.

Favorite quote: “Her eyes were of moss and lichen, vines over old wood, slow streams in Autumn, rich with tannin and fallen leaves.” -Marshall

All in all: Great! I did not want to put it down.

Synopsis:  In 1971, the state of Minnesota was rocked by the "Butcher Boy" incident, as coverage of a family brutally murdered by one of their own swept across newspapers and television screens nationwide. 

Now, in present-day New Orleans, Polly Deschamps finds herself at yet another lonely crossroads in her life. No stranger to tragedy, Polly was a runaway at the age of fifteen, escaping a nightmarish Mississippi childhood.

Lonely, that is, until she encounters architect Marshall Marchand. Polly is immediately smitten. She finds him attractive, charming, and intelligent. Marshall, a lifelong bachelor, spends most of his time with his brother Danny. When Polly’s two young daughters from her previous marriage are likewise taken with Marshall, she marries him. However, as Polly begins to settle into her new life, she becomes uneasy about her husband’s increasing dark moods, fearing that Danny may be influencing Marshall in ways she cannot understand.

But what of the ominous prediction by a New Orleans tarot card reader, who proclaims that Polly will murder her husband? What, if any, is the Marchands' connection to the infamous "Butcher Boy" multiple homicide? And could Marshall and his eccentric brother be keeping a dark secret from Polly, one that will shatter the happiness she has forever prayed for?

What I didn’t like/reservations:  Not much. I suppose if I really nitpicked, I could say the story has sort of been done before. But, this book still worked well on many levels. I did guess what was going on, but not everything. That being said, I’m not sure the author intended to keep the reader totally in the dark.

What I liked: Once again, one of the reasons I picked up this book was because part of it took place in New Orleans. Although it wasn’t a main staple of the story it was enough to take me back to a City I love and use settings that I recognized.

I really don’t want to give away too much of 13 ½ away.  It is mesmerizing and easy to imagine happening, especially the beginning. It starts with a murdered family in the late 1960s, and follows the youngest son Dylan dubbed “The Butcher Boy,” who is indicted and goes to juvenile detention. His older brother still loves him, is still protective and is his only lifeline to the outside world. In another part of the country, Polly, a young girl runs away from a battered home and makes a new life for herself in New Orleans.

It jumps back and forth to Dylan’s days in Drummond where he is serving in juvie and to 2007. Polly is now a grown and meets the love of her life. But she is intertwined in the past events of The Butcher Boy murders.

Although it is perhaps no secret that Polly’s new husband is linked to those murders, the thrilling part is not being quite sure how or why the tragedy occured. The most surprising part to me was other very peripheral characters who were also victims of the psychotic mind that drove this story.

The author uses essays throughout the book to describe some heinous murders of our century, further presenting more mystery to the reader. Why are these essays included, who wrote or said them and what do they have to do with the final outcome.

The writing was rich with detail and clever. The characters were portrayed with feeling and the story moved along fluidly.

5 out of 5 stars.

Afterthought: Sometimes after I write a review, I like to go on Amazon or Goodreads to see what others thought about it. I was surprised to see that many people did not like this book. It seems that most of them are Nevada Barr’s faithful readers of a series of books she does starring a character called Anna Pigeon and that 13 ½ was too dark and depressing for them. This is the first book I’ve read by Barr so I had no pre-conceived notions about what kind of style or story to expect. This was a dark book, but I also like to watch Criminal Minds and CSI, so obviously I am drawn to these types of stories. I still stand by my review. I thought it was an excellent, entertaining read.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Hunger Games.

Title/Author: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Genre: YA/Urban Fantasy/Dystopian.

Publisher:  Scholastic Press.

Source: Purchased at Borders.

Favorite character: Katniss Everdeen.

Favorite quote:

All in all: I’m on the bandwagon. I loved it!

Synopsis:  In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. 

Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before—and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that will weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

Please note this review has many spoilers!

What I didn’t like/reservations: Peeta said he had a crush on Kat. Then everyone else said he was in love and even he didn’t correct them. Is a crush the same thing as being in love?

What I liked: I have to admit that when I hear so much hype about a book, I become dubious. However, Hunger Games had me riveted and I did not want to put it down. The society and world that Collins describes is easy for me to believe and envision. I felt as if I was watching the Reaping Ceremony from the crowd and that I was right by Kat’s side in the Arena. Nothing was convoluted. The story and the events were clear, well thought out and compelling. It was tense right up to the end. This was reality television gone deadly, but although sometimes harsh and gritty, I didn’t find it gory.

I loved Kat because she is relatable and an interesting blend of pragmatic and sensitive. She is determined, tenacious and clever. She is a survivor, which is imperative in the world in which she lives. The detail of how she hunts and gathers in the woods of her District to provide for her family played well into the plot and further illustrated that she was a promising contender without being unrealistic.

The characters were diverse, interesting and convincing as were Kat’s relationships with all of them. Kat shows she loves her younger sister Prim by taking her place in the Hunger Games without hesitation or reservation. Her relationship with her mother is complicated because although Kat loves her, she doesn’t trust her because of her despondence and neglect after their father died. I loved Kat’s stylist team and the way they cared about each other. Kat shows her conscience when she comes across a girl from her past.  I absolutely loved, loved, loved Rue and their relationship. The final scene between them was very touching.

Her feelings for Peeta were complex. She did care for him as she attests to at the end when they are both the last ones left in the arena. Her feelings are very strong. She not only cared for him as a boy, but as a person and friend.  I think she would have done the same thing with Rue as well.  I have to give her a break for being confused. She is in a life and death situation where she not only has to survive, but she actually has to kill people. On top of that she is supposed to think about romance? How does someone deal with all that? I don’t blame her for her confusion.

I am left still thinking about this book and the excellent plot. I can’t get it out of my mind. I hear it's going to be made into a movie.  I hope it lives up to the expectations that many have.  Check out Youtube for some fun fan trailers!

5 out of 5 stars.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Happy Blogidays!

Happy Blogidays

Grab the Happy Blogidays button!

I was "window shopping" in a few catalogues and I found some gifts that I thought book bloggers would appreciate.   So I came up with a meme for the Holidays, no matter which one you celebrate. The purpose of this meme is to pick out a few items that you would think would make a good gift for a book blogger or avid reader.

To Participate:

1. Enter your name and/or book blog name and the url to your Happy Blogidays post in the Mr. Linky below
2. Write a post about Happy Blogidays on your blog
3. Visit the other blogs to see what they've picked out.  Maybe you can find a gift to put on your list or to give to someone else!
Here are my picks.

1. Peeramid Book Rest: So you prop your book against the little shelf of this pillow.  You prop it on your lap and use the little tassle for a bookmark.  I'm really not sure how effective this would be or if it would end up being more cumbursome.

2.  Lead Me Not Into Tempatation sweatshirt.  They also have t-shirts.
3. Bookplates.  I found this cool site, where you can create your own from many pre-made designs.  They have animal pics, art deco or just scrolling artwork.  They also have a line of Zodiak labels.

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