The Sunday Salon Is Closed? Oh, Noooz!

The Sunday Salon.com

Okay, before you get too excited, it’s NOT the whole thing that’s closed or closing, The Sunday Salon is just closed for new membership.

Let me explain.

When I started The Welsh Reading Challenge, it was my first book challenge, and I was doing it out of a love for my own heritage as well as giving myself a prod to read those books I’ve really been wanting to, but just not done it.  I hadn’t really expected very many people to join in, though I wasn’t closed to it.  So when a few people joined in, I got excited.  I looked around at everyone else’s challenges, especially those who were finishing up with their firsts and starting their second ones, so I could glean from their experiences.  One thing that was mentioned by a couple was that having a separate blog just for the challenge was a preferable way to keep the challenge better organized and thereby easier to navigate for participants.  So during Bloggiesta I decided to take the big step and give the challenge it’s own space to live and flourish.

I’ve been working on the challenge’s blog and adding pages and content, as well as beginning to get some offers for prizes (Thanks Ceri at Americymru!).  It’s been a bit of a reading distraction as I’ve been hunting up titles for the suggested reading page and worked a bit on a Welsh culture page called “Hiraeth” (which actually took a lot of reading and exploring).  Even when I have been trying to read, my mind drifts to the challenge and ideas for the blog to make it more fun (Pam at Bookalicio.us made the delicious suggestion of having a Welsh movie mini-challenge and we could sit around and drool over Ioan Gruffudd among others -what others? After she invoked the name of Mr. Fantastic, I was like Homer for donuts!  Mmmm… Ioan.. nom-nom-nom!), as well as informative.  It’s a labor of a lot of love, and even if no one else enjoys it, I do.

So when I thought about how to do a weekly wrap post to let everyone know what books were read with links to reviews and other Welsh-related stuff, I thought immediately about The Sunday Salon.  It’s a great weekly meme that many bloggers participate in, and the posts are linked through the site, yahoo tubes, as well as tweeted.  I jumped out of bed and ran the five steps to the computer to sign The Welsh Reading Challenge up!

Imagine my shock when I read this message:

as of January 3, 2010, we won’t be accepting new members in the Salon.

You see, apparently this fabulous meme has grown to over 500 blogs and is more than YahooPipes can handle.  LOL!  How fantastic is that?  To think that, right now all over the world, more than 500 people are at this moment writing a post like this one, or thinking about what they’re going to write, or reading other SundaySaloner’s posts after publishing their own.  I don’t know if The Sunday Salon is the largest meme on the Internet, but it’s amazing no matter what.

So what do you think?  Do you participate in The Sunday Salon?  How does it make you feel to know it’s closed?

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Welsh Reading Challenge Blog is Up!

The Welsh Reading Challenge 2010 blog is now online and ready to go 🙂

I’m so excited!  It is, of course, NOT done… are they ever done?  But I think it’s ready to receive visitors 🙂

I’m fairly pleased with the theme, a nice green and red coloring that goes well with the Welsh flag and our challenge button.  I’m open to suggestions on what more I can do with it, so feel free to let me know.

The Welsh Reading Challenge 2010

The Welsh Reading Challenge blog is open for business!

Also, I need a Mr. Linky, but the site hates me.  I paid for the gold subscription so I can make my own meme, since the Mr. Linky blog said I had to for WordPress… or something.  All I want is a nice, EASY, challenge to manage so I can spend as much time reading and researching for it without having to spend to much time learning GEEK.  I suppose that’s the wish of most book bloggers.

There’s a suggested reading page for titles that I’ve found, plan to read myself, or have been otherwise suggested but not necessarily reviewed.  There’s a separate page for the reviews, of which there are none at the moment, but I expect at least one soon… Charlie and The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl isn’t taking Mags and me very long to read 😉

I’ve also included a call for Welsh material in the “Contact Me” widget, and I made a dedicated email account just for the challenge in expectation of a flood of offers 😀  Okay, I hope… am optimistic… or just want to keep the challenge stuff separate from my regular reading and email.  I get a bunch of junk in it, and would hate to accidentally delete something good. 

Feel free to suggest anything else I might have missed, especially since it is my first challenge.  I’m open to all the help I can get!

BTT ~ I’ll Flap You Silly!

btt button

Suggested by Prairie Progressive:

Do you read the inside flaps that describe a book before or while reading it?

I usually do glance at, and read part of, the inside flaps of the books or the back of the book before choosing a book, but ADD usually takes over and I get distracted by something – a sound somewhere, the cats and dog fighting, what’s that smell?  OOoooh, pretty colors….

What was the question?

you can find more Booking Through Thursday answers here.

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By the way, speaking of distractions and stuff, I did find yet another challenge to add to my growing list.  I’m really, really meaning to make this the last challenge, but I just couldn’t resist.  Sarah at Behold, the thing that reads a lot is hosting the We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge 2010.   Inspired by her love of all things 80s, she’s taken Billy Joel’s 80’s “History of the 20th century in less than 5-minutes” song, or “We Didn’t Start the Fire?” and made a reading challenge out of it.   We Didn't Start the Fire ChallengeParticipants are challenged to read books and learn about the topics mentioned in the song’s lyrics.  You can read fiction, non-fiction, or a combonation of both.

COMBO

Bronze Combo: Read any combination of 5 fiction or nonfiction books related to the song.

Silver Combo: Read any combination of 8 fiction or nonfiction books related to the song.

Gold Combo: Read any combination of 10 fiction or nonfiction books related to the song.

I’ll be going for the Bronze Combo, and I realized earlier today that my current ARC, Islands Apart, can fit into this one under “California”, as it deals with The Channel Islands off the coast of southern California.  And I have another ARC called Last Night I Dreamed of Peace which will fit in under Ho Chi Minh.  AND I saw “suicide” in the lyrics, so Surviving Ben’s Suicide will qualify for this challenge.  That just leaves me 2 to figure out, so I should be in good shape.

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I have to say THANK YOU to Sally906 for letting me know Roald Dahl was Welsh, because now I’ll probably have to add a “platinum” level to the Welsh Reading Challenge 😀  I came across a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the thrift store the other day and snatched it right up.  It’s a good time for a re-read, and Mags agreed.  We spent a couple hours tonight whizzing through the first third of the book -she wanted to go on, but I thought 11:30 on a school night was late enough. 

Oh, and one thing I have to say about the whole paper book vs. e-readers and digital books.  I just don’t think they’ll ever do away with the “real” thing.  I can’t imagine cuddling under the blankets with your child and holding the print-out or the little plastic doo-hickey and convincing them, “No, really!  This is the book!”  There’s something special about asking them to turn the page for you because your free hand is wrapped around them 😉

Reading May Be Challenging, But So Is Saying NO!

Literary Escapism New Author Challenge 2010Yeah, yeah… I’m already in book-deep with all I would like to accomplish with my reading this year, especially if I get distracted by some new fancy and forget to read for a couple months, but I couldn’t help signing up for a couple more reading challenges!

Well, one isn’t really a stretch for me.  Literary Escapism is hosting the New Author Challenge 2010, and I figured this would be an EASY challenge for me given the majority of my planned reading this year (and it’s pretty much all planned already) is reading ARCs by authors new to the publishing field and therefore new to me.

I want this to be an easy challenge, so you can pick to do either 15, 25 or 50 new authors.  It all depends on how fast you read and how adventurous you want to be.  For me, I’m trying another 50 new authors.  If you reach your goal halfway through the year, don’t stop.

So, if you’ve seen the ARC-alanche page, which I plan on reading everything on it by the end of this year, then you’ll see that signing up for 50 new authors is an easy thing since there are over 60 titles there 😉  AND I’ve already finished 2 with Erick Setiawan and Lori Handeland, so I’ve only got 48 more to go!

By the way, if you hurry over and sign up for this one, you could be the 100th person in Mr. Linky 🙂 (Mr. Monk would love that!)

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Terry Pratchett 2010 ChallengeDuring Bloggiesta, while doing the “comment on a new-to-you blog” mini-challenge, I found out there was a Terry Pratchett reading challenge and squirmed with delight… and pain.  I wanted to do it so badly!  I loved Nation by Pratchett, as well as The Color of Magic mini-series, and wished I could read a few of his books this year.  But, ALAS! my reading schedule is so full already, when and how could I slip in more?

Then I found out I’d only have to read ONE book for it, and surely I could slip in ONE book, right?

Marg at ReadingAdventures is hosting the Terry Pratchett 2010 Reading Challenge

The challenge will start from 1 December 2009 and run through to 30 November 2010. There are several different levels of participation for you to choose from:

1-3 books – Cashier at Ankh-Morpork Mint
4-5 books – Guard of the City Watch
6-8 books – Academic at the Unseen University
9-10 books – Member of Granny Weatherwax’s Coven
10-12 books – Death’s Apprentice

You can either be reading the books for the first time, rereading, or even watching the TV adaptations if you like! As long as everyone has fun I will be happy! Please also do not feel limited to only reading the Discworld books as any books by Terry Pratchett will count for this challenge.

I’m going for the Cashier level, but may end up a little higher, given you can watch the shows, too.  I wouldn’t mind watching The Color of Magic once or twice.. or ten times.. more.  Tim Curry, Sean Astin, that guy from Braveheart who played Hamish’s dad, and Rincewind.. lol.  I have to smile just thinking about Rincewind and Death (who was voiced by Christopher Lee) arguing. 

My planned reading for this so far is:

  • The Color of Magic -already on my “currently reading” pile
  • Good Omens co-authored with Neil Gaiman – I’m dying to get to this one!

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Jane Austen ChallengeHonestly, I’ve felt a bit lazy and guilty for not having a Jane Austen challenge on my list.  I failed miserably on last year’s challenge, but I think that was due to poor planning and organization.  Hopefully that’ll improve this year, so I’m signing up for another go ’round with Jane.  I still have Persuasion to read of her novels, and I have Sanditon, Lady Susan and The Watsons on my to-read list.  Plus Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is somewhere on Mt TBR.  AND I know I’m gonna read her anyway, so why not do it in a challenge.

Haley at the Life (and Lies) of an Inanimate Flying Object (what a name for a blog!) is hosting a Jane Austen Challenge this year.

–Levels:

**Newbie 2 books by J. Austen, 2 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

**Lover 4 books by J. Austen, 4 re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

** Fanatic 6+ books by J. Austen, 5+ re-writes, prequels, sequels, or spoofs (by other authors)

I believe this is a READING challenge, so movie adaptations and such wouldn’t be included, so I’m just going to shoot for Newbie level since, as I said before, my reading planner is already exploding.  My planned reading for this is:

  • Persuasion – already on my currently-reading stack
  • Lady Susan/The Watsons/Sanditon
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies with Seth Grahame-Smith

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Maybe I should change this blog title to “Confessions of a Reading Challenge Addict”?  Though, I KNOW some of you are even WORSE than me.  Y’all are a BAD influence!  LOL  Which is why I love ya 😉

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland

The Phoenix Chronicles book 1Title:  Any Given Doomsday

Author:  Lori Handeland

Paperback:  343 pages (ARC)

Published:  2008

ISBN:  9780312949198

Acquired:  Won in the August 2008 batch of the LibraryThing Early Readers Program

Challenges:  The ARC Reading Challenge 2010, New Author Challenge 2010

“You’re telling me the fallen angels are still on earth in the form of demons?”

“In a way.  Ever heard of the Grigori and the Nephilim?”  I shook my head.  “The Grigori were known as the watchers.  They were sent to earth to keep an eye on the humans.  They lusted after them instead and were banished by God to Tartarus, the fiery pit where all divine enemies are thrown.”  He shrugged.  “Basically the lowest, locked level of hell.”

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland, page 47 (ARC)

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland was massively given out to LibraryThing’s ER program in August of 2008, and I’ve had it on my ARC-alanche pile since then.  It was out of laziness and distraction, but after reading it, I wonder if it was something more.  Maybe I was tapped into the Collective Conciousness and subconsciously knew it was a craptastic book.  Either way, I’m done with it.  Yay!

Oh my god… where do I begin.  Let’s start with the good things about it.  The plot is an interesting concept.  The Nephilim were the biblically mention sons and daughters of the forbidden union between the angels who were suppose to keep an eye on people and those whom they were suppose to watch.  The creation of this new race gave them a variety of supernatural powers and it is they who are the vampires, werewolves, gods, etc of our mythologies.  Opposing them is a federation of good who seek out and destroy the evil Nephilim.  Another thing I liked about the book was the action (not the action, btw) of demon hunting and solving the mystery of who killed Ruthie, everyone’s favorite mentor.

So where does it go wrong? 

There is vulgar and graphic sex scenes that go on for pages.  I’m not a prude, I can enjoy well-written love-making when it’s appropriate to the story, as in Bedlam, Bath and Beyond.  Even more barbaric and twisted sex like in Bentley Little’s The Store is okay, because it was a necessary part of the story.  But what soils the pages of this book is just gaggy.  The first event occurred within the first 50 pages in which the female narrator describes how she wants to give the guy a blow job.  Later she’s date-raped by the guy who’s suppose to be teaching her how to use her powers, then forcibly raped for a few chapters toward the end.  The sex is bestial and perverse, and isn’t gentle “love” until it’s too late.  No, you don’t have your heroine being raped all over the book, then try to slip in some sweet-lovin’ to make the reader forgive the rape.

And it’s not just the whole rape thing, but it’s the way in which it’s shown.  I swear these are straight out of some guy’s rape-fantasy magazine, because as she’s being raped, she reaches orgasm over and over, as if she has to be taken to have pleasure.  And if all that wasn’t enough, you get to the big boss bad guy’s lair and it’s Gor all the way.  Women waiting around wearing nothing but a chain around their waist, desperately hoping to be used next.  It just started turning my stomach after awhile.

Besides the rape and lack of any moral fiber of anyone, good or bad, except Ruthie who dies in the first chapter, there is the way the book is put together.  At times, the writing is less-than-descriptive (which never happens during the porn), events and sections of the story seem thrown together and not woven in well, and it seems like Handeland wanted to make sure to use ever supernatural being anyone has ever heard of, whether it worked or not.  Case in point:  The half-Nephilim (called breeds) who is a werehyena who fights the cougar (in rural WISCONSIN in April) that’s possessed by a chindi (what the hell is that?), but is defeated when it touches the turquoise necklace our heroine just happens to be wearing that was given to her by her “teacher” who is a skinwalker and hates her dhampir ex-boyfirend who turns out to be a dream-walker.  Oh, and the reason he’s an ex is because she had a psychic vision of him screwing a chick who turns out to be a fairy.

Stretch the limits of credulity much?

Yeah, so it’s an easy guess.  Since I did enjoy some parts of this book it’s not a complete hated-it! but I can’t really give it much higher than a 2 out of 5 stars.

Oh yeah, and I got a very strong feeling the two lovers here will turn out to be brother and sister.

Fruits Basket Volume 5 by Natsuki Takaya

Kagura coverTitle:  Fruits Basket, Volume 5

Author:  Natsuki Takaya

Translator:  Althea Nibley

Paperback:  208 pages

Published:  2004

ISBN:  9781591826071

Challenges:  Manga Challenge, What’s In a Name?3 Challenge (food)

In this book we are introduced to Kisa Sohma, who is the tiger.  She enters the story when Tohru and Yuki are walking home and come across a drenched Haru carrying something in a blanket.  The bundle turns out to be a baby tiger, Kisa in animal form, and Tohru squeals “What a cute kitty!” in delight.  The “cute kitty” shows her how much she wants to be around people by chomping down on Tohru’s hand.  As it turns out, Kisa has run away from the Sohma house because she’s being made fun of at school.  She refuses to talk, and bites Tohru every time she tries to comfort her.  But Tohru’s persistance and kindness brings the girl around, and her explosive, “I LOVE YOU!!” accompanied by a warm, long hug turns her into a big sister in Kisa’s eyes.  Tohru’s past healing affection for Yuki, Kyo and Haru move them to compassion for Kisa and help her come out of her shell.

Other things in Fruits Basket, Volume 5 – Ayame… oh, Ayame! makes a visit, much to the consternation of both Kyo and Yuki, the latter telling his older brother he’d rather see him sink to the bottom of the lake than “bond” with him, to which Aaya replies, “I See!  We’ll ALWAYS be together as brothers then!”  LOL.. poor Yuki! 

We meet Megumi, Hanajima’s little brother, when the Prince Yuki Fan Club girls visit “wave girl’s” house in an attempt to find Hanajima’s weakness so they can get her out of the way of their destroying Tohru.  Megumi, like his sister, also has a power.  He can use a person’s name to curse them.  The girls run screaming from the strange siblings house in fear.  It’s also revealed in this scene that Hana has been a bit jealous of the Sohmas for taking Tohru away but, unlike the Fan Club girls, she understands if you love someone, you have to be willing to let them have their own life and other friends and not try to possess them.

Fruits Basket, volume 5 by Natsuki Takaya is one of my favorite Furuba books so far.  The characters are becoming more defined, and she’s relying more on the story and character interactions than on the slapstick shtick of the first couple books.  Not that I don’t find it hilarious when Kyo flies off the handle at Yuki, and I LOVE it when the cat ears and tail come out… Mags and I always giggle about that… but it’s more of a life and friends story that I feel a sense of becoming a part of their world, which always makes the best books, whether they’re regular novels or manga and graphic novels.  *sigh*  I give Fruits Basket, Volume 5 5 out of 5 stars.

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan

Title:  Of Bees and Mist

Author:  Erick Setiawan

Paperback:  405 (Advaced Reader’s Edition)

Published:  August 2009

ISBN:  9781615233502

Acquired:  Received from Barnes & Noble’s First Look online book club

Challenges:  ARC Reading Challenge 2010, New Author Challenge 2010

“If you have something to say, then say it,” said Meridia.  “I know you’ve been talking to Mama behind my back.”

A smile slow and calculating parted the girl’s lips.  The liveliness in her eyes extended to her mouth, which now took on a delight almost to fiendish for her thirteen years.

“You’re wearing… the necklace Mama gave you.  You wear it three, four times a week.”… Malin’s laugh leapt up with contempt.  “You’re just like the rest of them.  So easily fooled.  When I first met you, I thought you had it in you to stick it to her….  Can’t you see how cheap that necklace is?  I wouldn’t be surprised if she fished it out of  a garbage bin.  And yet you wear it like it’s the most precious thing you own.”

“I wear it because I like it.  Mama was generous enough to give it to me.”

“Have you listened to yourself lately?  Every other sentence you say is ‘ Mama this and Mama that.’  It makes me sick to hear you go on!  Well, she’s not your mother and she never will be.  Why do you bend to her every wish?  Why does everyone?  If you only knew the things she says behind your back.”

 –Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan, pages 128-129

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan is descibed on the back of the book as an adult fable, and I had to Google “fable” to understand how they could call it this, as my previous understanding of the term was “a short story told for the purpose to entertain an audience while teaching them a life lesson.”  You know, “Moral of the story is…”  But Of Bees and Mist is not a short story, and I’m not exactly sure if it’s got a moral. 

According to Google, there are two specific definitions of “fable” that can apply to this book:

A fable is a succinct story, in prose or verse, that features animals, plants, inanimate objects, or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized.

A story about mythical or supernatural beings or events.

In Of Bees and Mist, Setiawan tells the story of two families of strong matriarchs who are brought together by the marriage of Daniel and Meridia.  Eva, Daniel’s mother, is a larger-than-life personality with poise and charm and sweeps everyone up into the palm of her hand by her charisma.  Once in her grasp, however, she expects them to do her bidding and never argue or suffer the consequences.  She takes particular aim at her own husband, Elias, as well as her youngest daughter, Permony, of whom she has always seen as competition for her husband’s affection.  She continually nags, berates and cajoles them for differing reasons and effects.  With Elias, she peppers him with swarming bees at all hours, particularly at night when he’s trying to rest (she naps during the day so she can keep at him) until he breaks from exhaustion and flies off the handle.  As to Permony, Eva treats her as the whipping girl and gets out her frustration and irritation on the young girl.  When Meridia comes along and takes up Permony’s cause, expresses her own opinion and shows herself to be both beautiful and intelligent, Eva can’t stand it.  She levels her sights to destroy her new daughter-in-law.

The second mother in the equation is Ravenna, who has gained a reputation in their small town as not being quite right in the head.  A great deal of the time, Ravenna lives in her own world, mumbling her own private language to herself while constantly cooking for no one in particular.  She lives her life behind a veil of forgetfulness, hiding from a past no one will talk about.  However, occasionally she finds her way to the surface, and is a force to be reckoned with.  Her essence and spirit has lasting power and Meridia is able to sustain herself in between Ravenna’s moments of sanity.  Whereas Eva has a vile and evil presence that drives people to bitterness and contention, Ravenna has a soothing and calming effect, bringing peace with her and driving out Eva’s bees.  It is between these two women that the battle of Good versus Evil seems to play out.

Along with the bees that pour from Eva’s lips to attack those at whom she directs them, there are other supernatural elements.  There are the three different mists that are characters in their own right in the book.  The white mist that encases the house that Meridia grew up in which keeps it the temperature and hearts within the home cold.  The yellow mist that comes in the evenings to take Gabriel, Meridia’s father, away to his mistress’s house and the blue mist that brings him back in the mornings.  There is a ghost that inhabits the mirrors, as well as fireflies that visit, protect and guide Meridia, and roses and marigolds that seem to war for dominance over Eva’s lawn.  AND, there is Hannah, Meridia’s best friend from childhood, who returns for visits with her as an adult when times are hard for her.  No one ever sees Hannah, but I don’t think she’s Meridia’s imaginary friend.

The worst evil Eva commits is to make a deal with a man whom she knows is wicked to marry her daughter in order to profit monetarily from the match.  Worse yet, when her daughter confesses to discovering the man to be part beast (a pig-man), and to raping young girls in their basement, Eva sends her back to him.  Telling her daughter she doesn’t want a scandal surrounding her name.  For Eva, saving face and her pride are her most precious treasures.

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Honestly, Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan is a complex story with many facets.  One of the things I found most amazing was that Setiawan hung so many guns on every room of a mansion in this book, and fired them all.  There are no strings left untied, everything was used.  Another thing I was impressed by reading Of Bees and Mist is the difference in storytelling between Western and Eastern cultural style.  This book really showed off the Oriental thought process of fluidity, connectivity and moments of experience, whereas in the Occidental custom, storytelling and philosophy is linear and cause-and-effect.  Because of this, Of Bees and Mist doesn’t follow the “this-then that-then that happened” but was more like friezes in the lives of the characters within, with the balance of their lives being weighed out in the end.

I may re-read this book later… I haven’t decided.  There were just so many aspects of the story that I think I’d could still get more out of it.  Overall, Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan is a fantastic story that sweeps the reader along.  I was surprised how much time and pages went by as I read.  Though I’m not exactly sure why I’m not giving this a 5 out of 5, it’s still a great book, and so I’m giving it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.