Islands Apart by Ken McAlpine

Islands Apart by Ken McAlpineTitle:  Islands Apart:  A Year on the Edge of Civilization

Author:  Ken McAlpine

Paperback:  256 pages (Advance Reader’s Edition)

Published: 2009

ISBN:  9781590305300

Acquired:  won in the May 2009 LibraryThing ER batch

Challenges:  ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge (under California)

A humorous and wise look at contemporary American life—and how time spent alone in nature can give us a fresh perspective and greater clarity about what matters most.

In this touching and often humorous book, author Ken McAlpine does what many of us long to do. Overwhelmed by the hectic pace of his life, he escapes to a beautiful, remote location where he finds the open spaces and solitude that bring him some peace of mind. McAlpine camps alone in the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Southern California, a place where time slows down, the past reveals itself in prehistoric fossils, and where a person can become attuned to the rhythms of the natural world and find their rightful place in it

For McAlpine the Channel Islands become a modern-day Walden Pond—an enchanting, isolated location from which to reflect on nature, civilization, and what matters most. Back on the mainland, McAlpine continues his explorations by seeking out experiences that reflect who we are and what we value today. His travels include spending time at a soup kitchen in Beverly Hills; a Catholic monastery; and visiting Arlington West, a veteran-run memorial to soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Islands Apart is an engaging meditation on what we can learn about ourselves and our world when we open ourselves to the wisdom of nature and begin to look more deeply.

-Product description at Amazon.com

I have had Islands Apart by Ken McAlpine on my ARC-alanche pile since June of 2009.  It’s one of my way-overdue ER books, and the second one I’ve completed this month (three more to go, woot).  When I first read the description and clicked the button to enter my name in the fandangled LT ER algorithm, I was intrigued by the premise of the book.  McAlpine wants to get away from it all, and find a quiet place to reflect on humanity… kinda like Thoreau with Walden, but on the Channel Islands in Southern California.

For the most part, I really enjoyed this book.  The chapters on time spent between the islands and the mainland alternate, so that it has a feeling of interaction with people and then reflection on our place in this world.  I liked this book so much, that I have struggled to understand how the two diverse world are suppose to relate to each other because a lot of the time it felt like I was reading two different books that were mashed together.  What do a hustler/wannabe actor, a tree-loving priest, homeless diners, veteran protestors, and preschoolers have in common with each other, let alone with the foxes, eagles, and xantus murrelets of the Channel Islands?

We lay claim to the things we come across in our lives, as if it is possible to own them, but you can no more own an island or a stoic gull than you can possess the fleeting moments that accumulate into a lifetime.  It is good to recognize life’s gifts, but foolish to hold them too tightly.

-Islands Apart by Ken McAlpine, page 201 (ARE)

I think what McAlpine was trying to do was to show that there is a deep desire in all things, in people and in nature, to know that there will be some piece of them left behind after they die.  To know that they won’t just fade into oblivion.  It is why we have children.  It’s why writer’s write, cavemen drew, why the park ranger’s work so diligently to preserve the foxes and murrelets and the ugly scrub that’s native to the islands.  It’s why the xantus murrelets continue to lay eggs in caves where rats destroy the embryo within before it’s even had a chance to firm up.  What’s more, in an effort to ensure we continue on, we do what we can to control what little bit we can, whether by planting a tree in the desert or by working long hours to invest every cent possible in a future hoped for. 

This book was a slower read, no matter how much I wanted to hurry, and I almost abandoned it at one point.  Despite absolutely loving the first 127 pages, when I hit the chapter on San Miguel Island, it was like falling into a pit of quicksand.  It’s the only part of the book that I hated.  I think it was too long, too boring, and interminable (a word I had to learn to spell to describe this chapter)  That chapter should just say, “Spent a week on San Miguel. Ian was cool. The elephant seals were horny buggers. The fur seals are mean little shits. And all the pinnipeds are louder than a Greek convention at Grant’s Farm! There’s bird poop everywhere, the ravens know how to pick locks… oh, and some dude killed himself because he thought this place was Heaven on Earth.” Next chapter!

I’m very glad I didn’t abandon it, because the next chapter, “Almost Famous”, was the best part of the whole book.  In this chapter, McAlpine explores the extent people go for the chance to be famous.  He spends long hours with James, a Captain Jack Sparrow working the tourists outside Grauman’s Chinese Theater.  I liked James, and you can tell McAlpine does, too, but I can’t help but wonder how much more he could accomplish if he would put his hard work toward something tangible.  At what point in time do you accept the reality that your dreams are just that, pipe dreams, and the real world is calling.  James wants nothing more than, and WORKS harder than anyone I’ve seen to achieve it, to be a star.  But does he have a viable and real future in it?  Sadly, I don’t think so.  I think he should grow up and get a job and find a way to contribute that way.  But… no one’s depending on him, he’s his own man, and he’s not taking public assistance, so who is he hurting?

I also relished the chapter “Lunch in Beverly Hills” where Ken spent time getting to know and gaining an understanding and appreciation for the homeless.  I have a personal interest in this issue.  You see, seven years ago, the girls and I WERE homeless.  We weren’t without a place to stay, there’s a large shelter here in town, and the people who run it are fantastic.  Thanks to them, I was able to take some time to look at my life and where I was taking my kids, and to reevaluate my priorities.  I want to go back to school to finish up my degree in Sociology so that I can get a job as a client-to-community liaison in a homeless shelter.  In this book, McAlpine says that homelessness is a complex problem, and that is very true.  Some people have chosen it as a lifestyle, others are there because shit happens, while still others are there because it’s better than where they came from.  We were in this last group, having left an abusive and volatile situation with the hope of something better.

I must admit, however, that I can very much relate to MRS. McAlpine, who told him at one point in his working on this book, “I hate you, you know.”  Ken is a white professional male, close to, if not already, middle-age, and has the means, ability, and the people in his life that affords him the ability to just take off whenever he feels like it to spend a week camping on an island or at a monastary, to just sit and think.  Kathy McAlpine makes the statement that she doesn’t have time to go off and think.  And I have to say this:  Where are the books where women just take off, leaving their children for weeks at a time with their fathers, so they can go listen to their inner voice? 

No Where.

Why?  Because we live in a society that, despite the lip-service of equality, that if Ken had been a Kendra, she would have been railed against as a bad mother who abandoned her kids to selfishly wander.  Mr. Kendra would have filed for divorce, and NOT wanted custody, so that Kendra would have had to either cart the kids around, (What a bad mother, not giving her kids a stable place to live) or leave them with someone (What a bad mother, she just dumps her kids and runs off). 

Okay, social rant is over.  In the interest of full disclosure, I hate Ken, too, and wish I could run off to an island and just sit and ponder, too. But, I still love the book, even if I am jealous. ;-)

I think Islands Apart by Ken McAlpine is a book that will stick with me for a while.  The Channel Islands are a beautiful place, and I recommend you take time to check out their website.  The Parks Department has put together an extensive, multimedia site with details of what’s being done to preserve as much of the indigenous species as possible, as well as the discovery of the best preserved and most complete fossilized remains of  a pygmy mastodon.

4 out of 5 stars

The Sunday Salon ~ Reading Can Be Such a Challenge!

 The Sunday Salon.com

Okay, I’ve been sitting back this last week and evaluating my last year in reading and blogging.  I’ve come to the conclusion that my mama was right, I need more organization!  LOL…  Seriously, I think I need to do a monthly proposed reading list and see how close I get, as opposed to a yearly one.  The yearly one ended up with me in the sprints for the first half of the year, then almost nothing from June through November, then sprinting to the end for the last six weeks.  I did actually make it to 75 books, with one to spare, even, but was it quality reading that way?  Some of the books I’ve read I don’t even remember, except what’s in my blog posts.

Which is another thing…  I used to think I was blogging reviews of books for other people to read, but I think I’m the one who has benefited the most from them.  I can look back to a book I read in 2008 and get an accurate feel for how I liked the book.  Sometimes, I don’t really even remember reading the book at all.  So blogging is as much for my benefit, if not more.

So, 2009 was my first full year of reading and blogging (In the Shadow of Mt. TBR began in June of 2008) and I tried to join a few challenges, to varying degrees of success.  First off, I completed the 75 book LibraryThing challenge, and I’ve already joined it for 2010 (The Kool-Aid Mom cracks the whip!).  I’ve also joined LibraryThing’s Books Off the Shelf challenge, a challenge to read books you already own *what a concept!*.  I’ve started out with the conservative goal of 35, but I think I’ll hit higher than that.  You can find my thread here, The Kool-Aid Mom’s Wet Dream of 35.

My reasoning for believing this will be a low figure is because I intend to clear out my intimidating stack of ARCs that have sat and loomed over my right shoulder for almost a year (before that, they were a smaller stack of books on the desk to my left, but after we couldn’t find the phone anymore, I decided to move it).  It mocks me, points out my failures, and never lets me get a moment’s peace.  So, 2010 is the year I will slay this beast once and for all!

**?**?**?**?**?**?**?*    Was that over the top?    *?**?**?**?**?**?**?**

And it is in this spirit of conquest that I have decided to join Teddy Rose’s ARC Reading Challenge 2010 at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time.  I’ve recently updated my ARC-alance Pile page to reflect where I am right now, and It’s a list of 65, which leaves me only 10 extra in the 75 books to play with.  Also, if I do the Manga Challenge again, then I’ll either go over the 75 (which is a good thing)  or I’ll have to take the manga’s out of the 10.  AND, I’m in the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge, which I signed up for 2 books, and it ends in June.  So, I’ll probably go over…. oh, crap!  forgot a book… fixed.  66 ARCs to read… you do the math on the rest of all that, I have a brain ache.

So, other challenges…

I read about Beth Fish’s What’s in a Name? 3 Challenge on BermudaOnion’s 2010 Challenges post and thought it sounded cute.  Basically, it works like this:

1 book from each of the following categories:

  1.  
    1. A book with a food in the title: Clockwork Orange, Grapes of Wrath, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    2. A book with a body of water in the title: A River Runs through It, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, The Lake House
    3. A book with a title (queen, president) in the title: The Murder of King Tut, The Count of Monte Cristo, Lady Susan
    4. A book with a plant in the title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wind in the Willows, The Name of the Rose
    5. A book with a place name (city, country) in the title: Out of Africa; London; Between, Georgia
    6. A book with a music term in the title: Song of Solomon, Ragtime, The Piano Teacher

Making a total of 6 books for this challenge.  I’m going to try to get as many of them to overlap with my ARC challenge, but I’ve only gotten 3 that I can for sure make work:  The Crying Tree will fill #4, The Mysterious Receding Seas will cover #2, and Strange But True, America:  Weird Tales from All 50 States takes care of # 5.  I’ve been debating where “Father” counts as a title, since that’s not the man’s name, in which case I can read My Father’s Paradise for #3.  And would Spiced count as “A book with a food in the title”?  If I can slip those two in, then I just have to find a music term… WAIT!  The Organ Grinder‘s Monkey takes care of #6 :-D

So what’d’ya think?  “Father” and “Spiced” count?

The Sookie Stackhouse Challenge continues through June 30, 2010, and is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  As it stands I still have my original TWO (so pathetic!) books to read.

  • Dead Until Dark
  • Living Dead in Dallas
  • And I guess I’ll go ahead and go for the Manga Challenge.  Mags will demand I continue to read Fruits Basket with her, so I might as well fill a challenge with it.  LOL, too bad I don’t have ARC mangas :-D

    The goal is to read a minimum of 6 mangas. There will be the odd prize throughout the year and bonus points if you manage to watch at least one anime film or 3 episodes of a series.

    Well, the bonus will help A LOT, since we’ve been watching xxxHolic (I’m dying to get my manga for it, but it got lost in the mail… boo!), Oh! My Goddess season 2, and plan to watch Negima, as well as a few other anime serieses… serii? just series? SHOWS.  lol.  And they watch Fruits Basket anime constantly, so I’m good to go on the bonus ;-)

    Planned books at the moment:

    1. Fruits Basket volume 5 by Natsuki Takaya
    2. Fruits Basket volume 6 by Natsuki Takaya
    3. Fruits Basket volume 7 by Natsuki Takaya
    4. Ranma 1/2 volume 1 by Rumiko Takahashi
    5. Ranma 1/2 volume 2 by Rumiko Takahashi
    6. Vampire Knight volume 1 by Matsuri Hino

    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Okay, so in an attempt to start out this year a bit more organized, here is my planned reading for January (Subject to change at a whim, though I’m going to try to be stronger than whimsy ;-) )

    1. Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan - This was the Barnes & Nobles First Look book sometime last summer or so, and I’ve been “reading” it since then.  Okay, so I’m trying a little harder to actually read it now, but still… every time I crack the spine a gazillion interruptions fly in.  I feel like Elias being annoyed by the bees.  And when I’m left alone, and it’s nice and quiet, I get about 3 paragraphs read before falling asleep.  I swear, I’m shocked I don’t have a permanent crease mark running down my face like a vertical hold pattern!  It’s a really cool book, I just seem to keep slipping into unconsciousness with it.
    2. Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland - I got this book back in FEBRUARY as a LibraryThing Early Reader book.  FEBRUARY.  10 months ago.  I feel like I’m going to go to LT Hell for this, and it gets worse…
    3. The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green by Terra Wellington – A BONUS book in the February (or March, not sure anymore) LT ER round.
    4. The Blue Notebook by James A Levine – Won in the March batch of LT ER program.  This book thoroughly fascinates me and I’ve been wanting to read it… but just not done so.  Did I mention I have reserved seats for LT Hell?
    5. Holy Roller by Julie Lyons – Snagged in the April ER batch.  I don’t even look at the ER list at this point, because I feel horribly guilty for taking books that have sat so long, and other people never even get a book.  Yeah, I’m at the right hand of the MC in LT Hell.

    These are the ones I plan to get through this month.  You can see why they’re so urgent, as well.  If I get through these 5, I plan to read The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy and Strange But True, America by John Hafnor, as I have copies of these to give away.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Oh yes!  and don’t let me forget about Bloggiesta! Last year, I didn’t officially participate, but I did do a lot of the activities.  So this year I’m gonna throw my sombrero in the ring and partic-a-icpate.  This year’s event will be from January 8th-10th.  Here’s a quick description from the Maw Books Blog announcement page:

    Some of you may be asking what is Bloggiesta?  In short, it’s a blogging marathon.  An opportunity to cross those nagging items off of your to-do list and improve your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing.  Break out the nachos, enchiladas, drinks, mariachi music and whack a pinata or two!

    I’m gonna grab some tortilla chips and medium-heat salsa to munch along for the event, just to keep in the spirit of things.  Maybe I’ll even make Saturday here Taco Night… mmm… better yet, make my own taco casserole :-D  * homer drool drool homer drool *  ‘K, now I’m hungry.

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    Edited to add:  I solved my trouble with which books to put in the What’s In a Name?3 Challenge’s food and title title.  Since I’m doing the Manga Challenge, I’ll be reading Fruits Basket books and Vampire Knight, so those will cover the WIaN3 needed titles.

    Also, I’ve added another challenge to my reading for 2010.  I’m hosting it, as well, and that is The Welsh Reading Challenge.  I’m planning to read 12 books for that.  I’ve realized that if I get ALL my challenges done this year, I’ll have nearly 100 books read by the end of the year.  I can do it, but it’ll mean sticking to it all year and not getting bored, or distracted, or sidetracked, like I am prone to do.  The REAL challenge for me in 2010 will be to stick to my schedule and stick with it.  I think it’ll be good for me. :-)

    BTT ~ If the Corn and the Mashed Potatoes Touch, the World Will Implode!

    Follow-up to last week’s question:

    Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?

    Okay, I was not going to do Booking Through Thursday this week, I was going to start back on them next week, but I have to tell on myself… after all, confessions good for the soul, right? 

    I am obsessive about keeping things separate (except when it comes to the laundry, then everything gets shoved in the machine with as much hatred for the chore the clothing and washer can take without breaking).  I get panicky if my food touches.  I swear, if they’d make good china like the lunchroom trays, I’d eat off those.  My dad used to grouse about it at dinner, “It’s all going to get mixed up in your stomach anyway!” and I’d answer, “Yeah, but I don’t have to look at it there!”

    So YES, oh god yes! my books are separate.  Not just TBR and Read separate, but ARC and review piles here, audio books there, books on deck there, manga up there, Mt TBR here and here and there, unreads that aren’t yet TBR’s way over there, the kids’ books are in the living room so they can’t go near my books and spread their cooties to them… each kid has their own specific, all-yours books in their rooms, coffee table books over there… I used to seperate them even further according to genre, but my TBR shelves have become a free-for-all from acquiring so many so fast that I had to give that up.  

    So, do I qualify as mildly anal or OCD? 

    Oh, forgot to tell you, I alphabetize my canned foods, too.

    Bloggiesta ~ I Didn’t Play, but I Wish I hadda!

    blogiestaI hate housekeeping. 

    When I was a kid, and my mom was trying to force me to do my chores, I’d mouth off that I was going to get a maid when I grew up, so I didn’t need to learn how to do dishes or laundry or clean the toilet. 

    I’m still waiting for my maid.

    This past Friday and Saturday (June 19-20), Natasha at Maw Books hosted the first ever BloggiestaOlé!  The idea was to clean out the broken links, write the reviews you’re behind on, clean out the clutter, and in general bootify yer blog.

    Housekeeping.  For my blog.  Blech!  Needless to say, I didn’t sign up. 

    However, as I read through everyone else’s Bloggiesta updates and challenges, I found myself doing all the activities and wanting to fix up my blog, too.  I don’t wanna be the family in the trailer with four foot grass and the car on blocks while everyone else has mansions…  Wait, I wanna bootify my place, too!

    So here’s some of the things I ended up doing.

    1.  Updating Mt. TBR’s inventory page, adding a page for my ARC-alanche pile.  Unfortunately, I got about halfway through the TBR page when LibraryThing pooped out on me, so I’ve still got some more work on that.  It’s no where near what’s allon my TBR shelves.

    2.  Stealing a page from Stella Matutina, literally, I’ve written up a review policy for Mt. TBRand linked it in my “contact me” widget on the sidebar.  I didn’t really have a policy before… not one set in stone, anyway, just a  kinda-sorta flimsy plan.  This fact is made painfully obvious by the amount of books on my ARC-alanche pile.

    Other things to improve my blog, more on the cosmetic side of life:

    One of the things that irk me is that I can’t find a theme that I like… I mean, really like.  The colors on this one seem a bit pale, and the sidebar and main area run together for some unknown reason sometimes, but my problem is:  I wanna knew layout, but hate all the wordpress ones, halp?  Is there a site somewhere that makes them to paste in the CSS thingy like MySpace does?

    Another thing I’ve been wondering lately:  Is my site too busy?  Too many pics?  TMI?  Is it navigable and readable, or does it overwhelm and turn off?

    A third, and major… in my opinion it’s big, is that there will be a book review change.  I’ve learned that blog posts look a lot different on Google Reader, and I’m beginning to see that the whole itemized list of title, author, publisher and date and page numbers… blah blah blah… is unnecessary.  Who cares what year it was published and how many pages!  It’s making the post needlessly longer.  From now on, the reviews will have the title, author and ISBN only and smaller covers.  Personally, I like the ISBN handy to grab and paste to my wishlist instead of having to sift through similar titles and other books by that author.  Smaller covers, again something I’ve learned from Google Reader, because, while the big ones with detail are pretty, they take up soOOoo much space.

    Website Grader, FINALLY!  After months and months of trying to make the web grader inspect my blog, and every time the ‘tarded thing telling me my URL was invalid, I clicked the link “free seo tool” in the gray box to the right and MAGICALLY! it took the URL in the next page.  It was so frustrating to hear everyone tell all about the wonderful things they discovered through this thing, and I couldn’t even get past the front dang door!  BTW… I gots a 95 :-)

    Meta whota whata?

    Some of the things in the report from Website Grader made sense, but some things left me very confuzzled.  like Meta.  Meta tags.  Meta description.  I’m missin’ out on the Meta deal, but have no clue on how to get hip and get with it!  How do I add the Meta parcels?

     

    File that under miscellaneous…

    I took time to add the newer awards I’ve received, added the Viral Video Wednesday button, and put my 4Rchallenge button and linked them all up, so now they’re all good to go :-)

    RSS feed ~ Fail?

     

      IDK… I’ve tried to use the RSS feed (thank gawd for Google Reader!), but this is what I see:

    My view of an RSS feed

    Is this what I’m suppose to see?  With all the code and stuff?

    *************************************************************************************

    So that’s where I’m at on all the “Keep the Bloggie Beautiful” stuff, though… I figure it’s probably a lot like my desk.  No sooner than I clean it all up, someone will dump a load on it and I’ll have to start over.

    Now here’s where I need your help, everyone…

    What kinds of things would you suggest to improve Mt. TBR?  Any help is appreciated!

    BTT ~ Kool-Aid Flavored Books

    Booking Through Thursday

    For something different, I’m borrowing a question from … here! One of the very first questions ever at Booking Through Thursday. Back from 2005 when Laura owned the blog but, because it was so new, it didn’t get as many responses as it does now … so, why not revisit?

    Here’s the question:

    Some people read one book at a time. Some people have a number of them on the go at any given time, perhaps a reading in bed book, a breakfast table book, a bathroom book, and so on, which leads me to…

    1. Are you currently reading more than one book?
    2. If so, how many books are you currently reading?
    3. Is this normal for you?
    4. Where do you keep your current reads?

    Yes, I am currently reading more than one book, which is normal for me. I can’t stand to just read one book. Part of this is because I get bored with just one story, I suppose it’s the ADD, but another big part of why is sometimes my main book isn’t convenient to lug around with me when I have errands to run.

    Right now I’m reading:

    • Love Over Scotland by Alexander McCall Smith. This is my main book, but I’m about 10 pages from the end. My next main book is A Wrinkle in Timeby Madeline l’Engle, a book that I have tried and tried to read and finish all my life, but as yet remains unfinished (Chapter 4 is the farthest I’ve gotten in the book).  I keep my main book in my bedroom (either , on my dresser, on the desk, on the milk crate by my bed, and sometimes actually in my bed.)
    • From the Corner of His Eye by Dean Koontz is my tote-around book, though I’ve kind of been carrying around Mischief Makers Manual by Sir John Hargrave instead. I’m about 80 or so pages into Koontz book, and almost halfway through the M3.  I keep Koontz in my purse, and the M3 is in my coat pocket.
    • How To Be a Villian by Neil Zawacki is my… erm… bathroom read. *cough* I’m about a third of the way through it.  I keep this one in the cubby behind the sink.
    • I was straightening up and organizing all my ARCs and books for which I owe reviews into a manageable pile, and started reading The Forbidden Daughterby Shobhan Bantwal. The copy I have is an unbound galley, so it lives in the mailer that I received it in. When I first got it, I was a bit put off by the fact it’s just a pack of paper, and I figured it would be hard for me to take seriously as a book, a prejudice that has turned out to be completely unfounded :-) It’s an excellent book.   It’s laying on my chest-o-drawers where my Books-on-Deck are kept.
    • I’m also reading Emma by Jane Austen as part of my Jane-a-thon (also kept on the chest-o-drawers), and I’ve started re-reading The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis, this time with the kids.  I keep this one in the kitchen on top the microwave, we read one chapter at a time after dinner.

    So that’s seven books that I am currently, actively reading (though I don’t know if Emma can count as an “active” read, I’ve kind of stalled out in it). I keep track of my reading on my profile page at LibraryThing, as well as on my 75 and 50 book challenge posts.

    So how’s your Number Game?  Join the fun at Booking Through Thursday!

    The Icy Hand by Chris Mould

    Title: Something Wickedly Weird, Vol. 2: The Icy Hand

    Author: Chris Mould

    Illustrator: Chris Mould

    Unjacketed Trade Hardcover: 176 pages

    Publish Date: September 2008

    Publisher: Roaring Brook Press (div of Macmillan)

    ISBN: 9781596433854

    The yellowy-white translucent light of a long-dead and well respected scoundrel began to form by the side of Stanley’s bed until it was the fully formed (but headless) figure of a man. Of course, Stanley was blissfully unaware of this. It was three in the morning and he was wrapped in his bedclothes preserving warmth and dreaming furiously.

    …The spirit felt for Stanley’s sheets, and when he was sure he held them in his hand, he unrolled the tight chrysalis with a prompt jerk. Thrashing wildly, Stanley rolled on to the floor.

    … His dead uncle lifted the forefinger of his right hand and drew four words, on inside each small square pane that ran along the bottom of the window. I need my head.

    -The Icy Hand by Chris Mould, pp 33-39

    When I first came across a banner for The Icy Hand by Chris Mould, I thought it would be an incredibly fun book. With a werewolf, a headless ghost, angry pirates back from the dead and a talking fish, how could it possibly go wrong?

    *sigh* Let me tell you how…

    Within the first 30 pages, this book was off to a bad start. Part of its problems are poor transitioning. There are times when it goes from one event to another, hours later, without any break. The pacing and tempo is either all over the place or completely M. I. A. from this book. My thoughts on this issue were that, given it’s listed for ages 9-12, maybe it’s a style that works for the younger, less patient audiences?

    So I grabbed my 9-12 year old (Maggie, age 10), and read her the books description. Like me, she thought werewolves, headless ghosts and pirates sounded promising. However, after only a few pages, she brought the book back to me saying, “It’s not my thing. I like stories with main characters in them.”

    Which brings us to another problem with this book. The characters are poorly developed and rather two-dimensional. It is possible that they were developed in book one, which I have not read, but I’m disinclined to believe that. Again, with the characters, this book is all over the place. They do this then that… sometimes seemingly without purpose.

    There is a bright spot with this book. The illustrations are fantastic. They’re dark and creepy, but still maintain a safeness that keeps them from being terrifying to small children. In some ways, the illustrations remind me of the Lemony Snicket series (though I don’t know exactly why), but they are uniquely Mould’s creations.

    While The Icy Hand by Chris Mould has a few problems, it’s not entirely unlikeable or readable. I’d be willing to bet, though, this is one of those books that would make a much better movie. I definitely think it’d be a really cool movie, but it’d probably be better to make one of the whole series instead of just one book. I give The Icy Hand 3 out of 5 stars.

    I found an interesting video to go with this post, but the embedding is disabled. Watch as Chris Mould creates the cover art for The Darkling Curse, another book in the Something Wickedly Weird series.

    The Sunday Salon ~ I’m Loadin’ Up the ARCs for April!

    The Sunday Salon.com

    Good Morning and Happy Sunday everyone :-D

    I’ve been busy reading and working hard to catch up with myself, and I’ve finally managed to be on track to accomplish my goal of 75 books by December 31st. I’m even a little ahead with 21% of my reading complete while there’s only 19% of the year spent. I read Wuthering Heights, The Appeal, Heart-Shaped Box, and Derailed this past week, and started The Book Thief Saturday evening. I doubt I’ll be breaking any reading records this week, though, since I have two dentist appointments, a choir concert, and a school meeting to go to, not to mention a serious need for spring cleaning, laundry, gardening, dishes and spring cleaning. I hope to at least get through Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, though.

    All this frenzied reading, though, has made me remember all the ARCs and other books I’ve committed to reviewing… about 35 books. I dug them all out of Mt. TBR today and stack them in the Books on Deck shelf which is now making me a little claustrophobic sitting between the two: Imposing and collapsing Mt. TBR to my left and towering and condemning Books on Deck to my right. My plan is to declare April as ARC month… and probably May and half of June, too. I’ve been feeling a bit irresponsible with all those books just sitting around and waiting on me to fulfill my committment. And now I feel a bit better.

    So, should I thoroughly shame myself by posting the list of the books I owe reviews for? Books that have been sitting on Mt. TBR, gathering dust, and being passed over and forgotten?

    *sigh* full-disclosure and acknowledging my problem and all that, in no particular order:
    1. Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland ~this is an LT ER book, and I can’t remember when I got it.
    2. Memoirs of a Fortune Teller and Vigilante Witch Hunter by Gary Turcotte. I received these books recently, and the second is the sequel book to the first.
    3. An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
    4. The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee ~ETA finished and reviewed :-)
    5. Mischief Maker’s Manual by Sir John Hargrave
    6. The Forbidden Daughter by Shobhan Bantwal. This is an unbound galley I received after a cold request. I have trouble in and of myself with an unbound galley, like it’s not a real book. Anyone else have that problem?
    7. Stealing Athena by Karen Essex. Yes, I really HAVE had it THAT long.
    8. The Power Makers by Maury Klein
    9. I, Robot by Howard S. Smith
    10. The Spirit of the Place by Samuel Shem. What? I thought I read that one…
    11. The Aviary Gate by Katie Hickman
    12. Surviving Ben’s Suicide by C. Comfort Shields
    13. Guernica by Dave Boling
    14. So Long at the Fair by Christina Schwarz. I don’t think I got this book in lieu of a review, I think I won in on a blog contest.
    15. First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader.
    16. The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale
    17. The Art of Listening by Seth Barnes
    18. Operation Blue Light by Phillip Chabot
    19. When a Man Loves a Woman by LaConnie Taylor-Jones
    20. My Father’s Paradise by Ariel Sabar
    21. Shadow of Colossus by T. L. Higley
    22. Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi
    23. Schooled by Anisha Lakhani
    24. The Mysterious Receding Seas by Richard Guy
    25. The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti . Yes, like I said… I have had them THAT long… I’m a bad, bad kitty.
    26. Red Letters by Tom Davis
    27. Blue Genes by Christopher Lukas
    28. The Necklace by Cheryl Jarvis
    29. Swimming With Strangers by Kirsten Sundberg Lunstrum
    30. Forbidden Tales: Sword by Da Chen
    31. The Icy Hand: Something Wickedly Wierd vol 2 by Chris Mould -finished and reviewed ;-)
    32. The Terminal Spy by Alan S. Cowell
    33. Nation by Terry Pratchett
    34. The Organ Grinder and the Monkey by Sam Moffie
    35. Last Night I Dreamed of Peace by Dang Thuy Tram

    ok… I think that’s it… for now… but I know I have a few more on the way. SO… any suggestions on how to organize this list? Any books I should read right away? Were there any that you particualarly liked or wanted to know about? HELP ME!!!! :-p

    TSS – Habits, Addictions, and I’m Back!!

    The Sunday Salon.com

    Alright, alright… So I’ve been away for a couple weeks months, and the few posts in between seem to get the same comments, “I was wondering where you’ve been! I thought you died!” lol… Not quite, but I found a virtual world called Second Life and found it rather addictive. Think: Everything the real world has to offer, and then add flying, teleporting… being a werewolf or vampire… or a middle-age princess or knight in King Arthur’s court… and you can see why it’s so addictive.

    I’m very much a creature of habit, BUT… my habits are so-SO-SO easily disrupted. My grandma’s death and funeral brought my mom up from Texas for a week long visit, which knocked me out of my reading habit. I decided to try Second Life because my best friend and her fiance (now husband…Yay!) were ALWAYS talking about it. So, on a whim, I created an avatar, signed on and was instantly caught up… so much so that I’ve been planning to buy a second computer and giving this one to the kids because I wouldn’t get off even for them to take their hour computer time (3 hours… I couldn’t even take 3 hours away!).

    And in the process of living in Second Life (a common expression on it is “My first life is getting in the way of my Second Life!), I met a guy. Now, if you knew me, you’d know what a LAUGH this is. I’ve always been adamant AGAINST online relationships… and here I am, in a relationship began online. Yeah… be careful what you say because you may end up eating your words… lol. BUT, it’s mostly good. Both of us have had some really bad luck in past relationships, so there’s a lot of fear and insecurities to get past, and I vacillate several times a day between ending it NOW to avoid the heartache that MAY happen and going headlong into it, hoping for the best. HOPE.. *gack!*… never been a good friend of mine.

    So, boyfriend lives about 2 1/2 hours from me and came to visit for the first time last weekend. Two and a half days of goo-goo eyes and my kids (who love him already, and likewise… a good chunk of my fears and insecurities eliminated right there) chanting “KISS! KISS! KISS!” then going, “EwwWWWwwwwWWww!” when we did, and my habit of Second Life was broke. I’ve been on for maybe, MAYBE, 8 hours in the last week.

    And what filled the Second Life spot? Back to the books :-D and reviewing (-: and blogging the memes \o/ (yay!). I had the commitment of a November 25th blog stop for Two Brothers: One North, One South by David H. Jones, and I had only read a chapter or so before his visit, so I had to cook through it to make the deadline. And while it was an excellently written and researched book, it wasn’t exactly my cuppa. However, it really reminded me of my serious LOVE of reading, and how I’ve always said that as long as you have a book there’s no hell you can’t escape. Hey, if I lost the internet or if Second Life was shut down for some reason, where would I escape to? But books are always there, always accessible, and provide a second life in the world within.

    And one of the fun things with my boyfriend is that he’s an avid reader. I’ve introduced him to The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, my number one Best New Author book and definitely on my top 5 reads for this year, as well as getting him into the Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer.

    He had read the first two books, Twilight and New Moon, and had just started reading the third, Eclipse, when he came down Friday. One reason for coming Friday was so we could go together to see the movie Twilight (I should review the movie, but I’ll have to watch it again… lol.. I was a bit, erm.. distracted the first time ;-) ). So when I finished Two Brothers, I picked up Breaking Dawn so I could keep ahead of him. Problem is, he’s reading them by audio book, which is faster than I can read. I HAVE to beat him, lol, so I picked up the audio book to read along. Hehehehe…. So I’m in chapter 16 and he’s in chapter 7, and if I read while he sleeps I should be able to beat him ;-) .

    And now I’m so excited to be back into the books… of course, now I’m getting the “Where are you? Are you dead?” messages from my SL friends, but Boyfriend can let them know ;-)

    So what’s next on my TBR right away pile? Well, after Breaking Dawn’s 700+ pages, I think I’ll read Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr. It’s a nice thin book, and I saw the movie when it came out… hadn’t realized it was a book until a few days later. Then maybe Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling… the movie will be out soon, so I want to get it read before then. Then… maybe Yiddish Policemen’s Unionby Michael Chabon (never read anything by him) and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, or vice versa. Also, I’ve been slowly working through Emma by Jane Austen, so I’ll get back to my Jane-a-thon, too.  AND… I’m ashamed to say, but somewhere in the last couple months I missed a blog tour stop.  I was suppose to be on Elizabeth McCracken’s An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination.  I couldn’t find the date I was suppose to post… if I would have looked at the letter in the book I would’ve seen it was for September 30th.  I think I didn’t start looking for the date until after my House and Home review was posted, so I owe that review quickly.  As well as owing a review of Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland for LibraryThing’s ER group.  AND all the other ARC books I compulively requested… which is a LOT :-\ .

    My reading goal was 75 books by December 31st, and I’m at 54 books… which means I’ve got less than five weeks to read 21 books. Hmm… don’t know if I can do that now, that’ll be more than 5 books a week, but I’ll do my best to get as close as possible.

    So check back often, because the reviews are going to be flying up here quickly.

    Oh…

    and I’M BACK!!! :-D

    Tuesday Thingers -Reco Me This, and Reco Me That

    Today’s topic: Recommendations. Do you use LT’s recommendations feature? Have you found any good books by using it? Do you use the anti-recommendations, or the “special sauce” recommendations? How do you find out about books you want to read?
    I have looked at the recommendations feature on LibraryThing, but I’ve never went by it.  And the anti-recommender is the anti-Christ when it comes to telling my what I won’t like… I wrote a post about that a few weeks back called Does A Christian Have a Brain?  if read more on that.  The special sauce is interesting but, again, I don’t use it.
    Actually, the three ways I find out about the books I’d like to read is:
    1.  BookMooch Recommendations -though I’m not entirely sure if it just throws out a bunch of books or if it’s really guessing at what I’d like.  The thing suggests books I’ve mooched and posted, so I don’t know if it has a brain.  At least LT’s algorithm sorta-kinda makes some sense.
    2.  ARC sources such as Shelf Awareness, publishers’ and authors’ emails offering me books, and other “free” book places.  Hey, of course I’m gonna take free books!
    3.  From my fellow LT’ers and bloggers.  I take your recommendations over an automated guesser any day!  At least you have a soul.  At least you have emotions.  At least you have some sense of aesthetics.  What’s the bot going to tell me?  Because I have Nietzche I won’t like The Purpose Driven Life… which I actually do have in my library?  Yeah…. whatever. (that goes back to the unsuggester is the anti-Christ.)
    4.  Jan and Obie at my Waldenbooks… they know me so well! And Jan’s only been wrong once.  She suggested Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral, but I thought it was just mneh.
    5.  My momma.  Though, lately her taster is running on the off-side for me.  Lately she’s been reading about some retired old ladies running a B&B and solving crimes or something… I don’t know, maybe they are killing the guests.  I forget.  Maybe I watch too much Law & Order and read too much Stephen King.
    6.  Then, of course, there’s just little me, touching-feeling-looking at the actual book on the shelf and reading the back cover.  However, with Mt. TBR and Mt. TBarc at capacity, I can’t even go to the mall for fear I’ll be drawn into Waldens and won’t be able to resist the lovely books… they want to come home with me…. they jump on the counter and make me buy them….
    Okay, that’s enough silliness.

    Tuesday Thingers -The Voices won’t leave me alone!

    Tuesday Thingers ROCK!

    Since we’re past the Fourth of July and the summer season has officially started, what are your plans for the summer? Vacations, trips? Trips that involve reading? Reading plans? If you’re going somewhere, do you do any reading to prepare? Do you read local literature as part of your trip? Have you thought about using the LT Local feature to help plan your book-buying?

    My plans for this summer are simple: READ. Read whatever isn’t nailed shut, read whatever is in English (not up for translating German, French, Spanish or Vietnamese… though I have books in those languages in my library.), read all the ARCs on the desk, finish the Jane-a-thon, and making a dent in Mt. TBR by Christmas. READ.

    and review,    yes, that’s it…. My plans for this summer are simple: READ and REVIEW. Review all the books I read that aren’t nailed shut, in English, ARCs, Janes and on Mt. TBR. READ and REVIEW.

    and blog?    Well, yes.. of course BLOG… that goes without saying.  My plans for this summer are simple: READ and REVIEW and BLOG. Blog my reviews of the books I read that aren’t nailed shut, not in German, French, Spanish or Vietnamese, that are ARCs and on Mt. TBR. plus blog the memes?   Yes, and blog the memes.

    Why don’t you join any blog challenges?     Well I did join Fyrefly’s Ye Olde TBR(e) Challenge, what more do you want? I just started blogging!     Well you don’t have to get snippy about it, I was only trying to help!     I wasn’t trying to be “snippy”, I was just trying to get this blog written.     Well you hurt my feelings… you should say you’re sorry for that.     Alright! I’m sorry.     That’s right, you are sorry.     Can we get on with this Tuesday Thingers now? before it’s Booking Through Thursday?     a’right.     Where was I? Right, plans for the summer…     don’t forget about the giveaway!

    My plans for this summer are simple: READ, REVIEW, BLOG and GIVEAWAY! I’m having My First Ever Giveaway!! for a $20 Borders gift card. It’s been open for about a week, and I have about 300 entries. When I get 400 I’ll add a $10 gift card, and at 500 I’ll add a $5. Click the pic for details!.

    You could be a winner!

     

     

     

     

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