January Wrap-Up

Every month I intend to create a bloggie wrap-up.  I swear to myself I’m gonna do it next month.  Then, the first of the month rolls around and I read Fyrefly’s and DevourerofBook’s, among others, and I say, “Ah CRAP! I forgot to do a wrap-up post!  Dang it!  Okay, I’ll do it next month, I swear…”  And you’ll know how many times I’ve actually followed through on that when I say, “Yay! This is my first monthly wrap-up post!”  LOL.

K, I have ADD bad.  I get distracted so very easily.  Sometimes it’s TV or gardening or doing stuff with the kids, and sometimes it’s computer games like SecondLife or World of Warcraft or the latest, face book apps.  SecondLife pulled me away from everything for about 5 months straight, and now I can’t remember the last time I was on.  With WoW, I’d learned a thing or two from SL, and so I didn’t go so long or so deep, but still I was absent for a while, traipsing through Azeroth.  Facebook games are so getting old, and I’m down to a few that have to be tended daily:  Farmville, the café game and the pet games.  I’m mostly still doing those because my mom is actually on facebook, SHOCK! and the kids play, too, so I play with them.

Where was I even going with that?  Oh, ADD… lol, I swear, that wasn’t on purpose!  Okay, I’m lost now… that was funny, and I laughed, and lost my train of thought.  Oh well, must not have been too important.  That’s why I like to outline things, and why I hate stream of conscious storylines.  I get lost enough in my own thinking, I don’t need to do so in a book!

Moving on…

I decided during Bloggiesta, that the best way to do a wrap-up post was to write it all month long, keeping track of commentors and other things that happen, so I started this post about a week after Bloggiesta, because I got distracted and it took a while to get back to it.  Maybe that’s where I was going with that up there. :-D

Maybe ADD is why I hate long paragraphs?  It feels like being trapped in a room with no windows.  I often skim through the middle of them, or just read the first and last lines of it and move on.

Moving on…

During the Month of January I:

Started my first book challenge, The Welsh Reading Challenge, because I wanted to read more books relating to my own heritage, but needed a little prod to do it and keep on track. The fact people joined the challenge was GRAVY :-)

Joined a total of 13 reading challenges, 11 of which are being tracked on my Reading is Challenging! page, as well as two more at LibraryThing:  The 75 Book Challenge, and the Books off the Shelf ChallengeThe Sookie Stackhouse Challenge was in progress, though I don’t know if I can call it progress, since I have YET to pick up the first book. Actually, I picked it up, read 2 paragraphs, then put it back down… don‘t tell BethFish :-D.  This is the most challenges I’ve ever participated in, and I don’t expect to complete them all, realistically, but I’m hoping!

Spent a total of 21 hours working on blog improvements as part of Bloggiesta.  Thanks, Natasha! And after all the work everyone else did and the mini-challenges I wanted to do but didn’t get to, I now have a longer to-do list than when I started!

Created The Welsh Reading Challenge blog.  After reading how other bloggers who host challenges have found a separate blog is a better way to keep it all organized, I started the blog for TWRC during Bloggiesta, and had it open and ready for visitors about a week later.  We’ve also got a couple sponsors, some mini-challenges in the planning stages and some prizes on the way :-) Too cool!

Started a weekly award called The Kool-Aid Flavor of the Week.  I’m still trying to figure out the exact criteria for this, but right now it’s been for people who are doing something to make the world better.  Presenting Lenore received my inaugral award for her International Book Blogger Mentor Program, and She’s Too Fond of Books received the second for her post about Kiva.org and how micro-lending requires so little of us and can make such a difference in the life of someone overseas.

Joined the Tolkein Readalong.  I’ve been wanting to read the Lord of the Rings for a long time, but just needed the push.

Books read and reviewed in January:

Of Bees and Mists by Erick Setiawan ~ A magical and fantastic adult fable about love, self-respect and self-confidence, about doing what’s right and forgiveness.  I gave it 4 stars.  It counted toward my ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, and POC Reading Challenge.

Fruits Basket, Volume 5 by Natsuki Takaya ~ I love the Furuba series, and volume 5 introduced Kisa, the tiger, and Hanajima’s little brother.  I gave it 5 stars.  It counted as a food title for my What’s In a Name?3 Challenge, Manga Challenge, and POC Reading Challenge.

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland ~ Atrocious, far-fetched and just plain BAD. 2 stars.  It counted toward my ARC Reading Challenge and New Author Challenge.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl ~ Filled me with warm feelings of childhood and chocolate, and was a pleasure to read cuddled up with Maggie.  I gave it 5 stars.  It counted for The Welsh Reading Challenge.

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr ~ I read this one with Mags, and since it was a re-read for me, I had Maggie sit down and write her first book review.  I did help her with grammer and spelling, but the words and thoughts expressed are totally Maggie… lol… including her expressing how much she disliked having to sit and write a review on a snow day from school when she could be outside playing.  Mags gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  This counted towards my We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge

Islands Apart by Ken McAlpine ~ Interesting reflection on life in our modern world and how our advances in technology are contributing to a decline in interpersonal relationships, as well as a disconnect from nature.  I gave it 4 stars.  This counted for my ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, and We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge.

The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine ~ Reading this felt like a prolonged hug from creepy Uncle Stan at the family reunion, but was a necessary evil.  Still, I stand by my 2.5 rating, which is based more on the writing itself than the book’s subject material.  I wasn’t wowwed by Levine’s writing, though it had some beautiful moments.  This book counted toward my ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, and POC Reading Challenge.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein ~ I finished off this month with a comfort read and old friend.  Even though it was a third read through, not to mention the numberous times I watched the 1977 cartoon of it growing up, it still held my attention and kept me in suspense, a sure sign of a classic book.  5 stars for sure.  This was for the Lord of the Rings Readalong and counts toward my 451 Challenge.

People who Commented:

Bluestocking from The Bluestocking Guide
Kathy at Bermudaonion
Wendy, the Literary Feline at Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Anna at Diary of an Eccentric
BethFish at Beth Fish Reads
Kailana at The Written World
Ita
debnance at readerbuzz
Care at Care’s Online Book Club (Hi, blogging buddy!)
Mona Everett
Aarti at B O O K L U S T
Annette
Sally906 at Sally906’s Reading Challenges
Sharon at Ex Libris
Eibhlin
Lynda at Lynda’s Book Blog
Ladybug at Escape in a Book
Aastacia
Amanda at Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit
Susan Evans at Well-Mannered Frivolity
Melanie at Cynical Optimism
Shannon at Flight into Fantasy
Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through Books
Janet at Fond of Snape
Vasilly at 1330v
Snowbell
Jack at Slightly off-center
Debbie at Debbie’s World of Books
Amber at Mommy Mania
Zee at Notes from the North
Meghan at Medieval Bookworm
Gina at BookDragon’s Lair
Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog
Jennie at Biblio File
Amused at Amused by Books
Michelle at Michelle’s Masterful Musings
Rebecca at Lost in Books
Lenore at Presenting Lenore
unfinishedperson at Unfinished Person
Marie at The Boston Bibliophile
Dawn at She is Too Fond of Books
Rhinoa at Rhinoa’s Ramblings
Traci at Traci’s Book Bag
Laza at Gimme More Books!
Grad at The Curious Reader
Sandra at Fresh Ink Books
BookMoot at BookMoot
Jackie at Literary Escapism
Janelle at Brimful Curiosities
Novroz at Novroz’ Life
Jennifer at Rundpinne
DanaB at Windows Wide Open
Nisé at Under The Boardwalk
Alayne at The Crowded Leaf
Violet at Violet Crush
Angie at Annie’s Home
JDaniel4’s Mom at JDaniel4’s Mom
Ann Marie
Joy at Joy’s Blog
Stephanie at Bad Mom
Emerald Yomi at Emerald Yomi
Debbie at Wrighty Reads (go lefties!)
Pippi at Pippi’s Postings
Memory at Stella Matutina
Petunia at Educating Petunia
Sarah at SmallWorld Reads
Lisa at Online Publicist
Myriam Kross
Guatami Tripathy at everything distils into reading
Ariel at Sycorax Pine
Nicole at Linus’s Blanket
Kay at The Infinite Shelf
jo at attalife
Dawn at For the Love of… Eloquence 
Kimberly at A Child of the King!
Mizhelle at Life Can’t Wait
Amateur Reader at Wuthering Expectations
Keely at The Un Mom
Rebecca Reid at Rebecca Reads
Molly at my cozy book nook
uninvoked at uninvoked 
Stacey at Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife
Lisa at Lit and Life
Vicki at Reading At The Beach
Callista at SMS Book Reviews
Farmlanebooks
Meg at write meg!
Marce at Tea Time with Marce
Jenny F at Have a Happy Day
Irene at Irene’s Desk
Wordlily at Word Lily
Beth at Weavings
Laurel-Rain Snow at Laurel-Rain Snow Creations

And that’s a total of 81 commentors so far (1/25)

Other fun facts:

Kitty Litter Cake (and Cat Litter Cake), Gary Larson (and The Far Side) and qoutes for The Book Thief are the most widely used search terms that bring people by, along with Confessions of a Shopaholic and Vampire Kisses bringing in plenty, too. “erotomania” surprisingly, brings in a fair share. Uh oh, do I have a stalker?

TSS ~ I’m Planning a Realignment

The Sunday Salon.com

This is the last Sunday Salon of 2009, and it’s got me thinking about how things has gone this year, as well as what I want to do next year.  For one thing, in looking back at all the books I’ve read this year (76 as of right now), it seems like it’s been a LOOOONG year, lol.  AND I started the year late, finishing my first book, Bedlam, Bath and Beyond by J.D. Warren on February 10.  I also took a detour into the land of Azeroth, discovering the world of MMORPG (the acronym for “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game”) when I decided to check out what all the WoW fuss was.  And while I still enjoy playing, I’ve gotten over it as such an obsessive distraction.  Recently, a friend of mine tried to get me into another game like World of Warcraft (or WoW is like it, since it was first) called Guild Wars, but I didn’t really dig it.  I also gave Warhammer a try, and was unimpressed by it, as well.  Books just beat any other medium of escape!

This past year I’ve read a variety of genres from sci-fi like Freedom’s Landing, Dune and Dune Messiah (not yet reviewed) to classics such as Silas Marner, Emma, and Northanger Abbey (not yet reviewed).  I’ve read horror, like Heart-Shaped Box, children’s books, like The Tutu Ballet, and serial books like Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Book 6 of the Harry Potter series), Marked (Book 1 of The House of Night series), and Brisingr (Book 3 of The Inheritance Cycle).  I’ve read books that have been made into movies, sometimes for the better, like Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day, The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttons, and Confessions of a Shopoholic.  I didn’t limit myself to fiction, either, and read The World Without Us, The Stettheimer Dollhouse, and  An Inconvenient Book (not yet reviewed) and read poetry and plays like Dr. Faustus and Custard and Company, too.

For the most part, I’ve enjoyed the books I’ve read this year and it’s hard to pick favorites.  But I shall try!  The following are my stars of 2009 (in no particular order):

1.  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak ~ My all-time favorite book, I fell in love with the story and Zusak’s writing style.  I hope to give his other books a read as well someday.  After finishing this book, I couldn’t stop thinking about it.  I couldn’t start another book for awhile.  I still find myself thinking about the beauty of the writing, the characters, and I want to reread it sometime soon.

2.  Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury ~ First off, I love dystopic books, it’s probably my favorite genre.  My definition of dystopia is:  Someone’s Utopia is another’s HELL.  I’ve been thinking a lot about this book lately, as I look at pictures I’ve taken of my 16-year-old this year.  In every one she’s got her mp3 player going in her ears.  At one point in time this year, all four of us were sitting in the same room, all of us listening to our own little soundtracks of our own lives.  We were all in huggable difference, and yet we were in different universes.  All I could think about were the seashells that Montag’s wife wore in her ears.  It was a disturbing and surreal moment.

3.  Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen ~ This book was vivid and well-researched, and it made me feel the magic of going to a circus as a child for the first time.  It had intrigue, romance, and the Great Depression.  The moving back and forth from the present Jacob Jankowski (who was 92, or 93, or 94.. he couldn’t even remember anymore) to the young Jacob who walked away from his vet finals after the death of his parents, becoming the vet for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.

4.  Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen ~ I recently finished this one, but in my rush to reach my goal of 75 books I’ve put off writing a review.  Hopefully I’ll get to it this coming week, but it’ll probably not happened until after the kids get back to school in the new year.  Northanger Abbey is my FAVORITE Austen book.  It’s witty and fun and Austen uses it as a great vehicle for arguing the criticisms of her day.  Reading this book was like watching myself as a teen.  I was soOOo Catherine Morland!  Dreamy, romantic who read way too many books and had no grasp of how the real world worked.

5.  Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper ~ Probably the book with the longest full title I’ve read:  Homer’s Odyssey:  A Fearless Feline Tale, Or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wonder Cat.  This is my pimping-book for the year, meaning it’s the book I’ve been telling EVERYONE I see to read.  In addition to mad reco’s, I gave away copies as Christmas presents.  It’s such an inspirational and heart-warming story that I just can’t stop talking about it.  I know I’ll reread this one again and again :-)

So, what are my plans for the New Year?  Well… I don’t really want to say I’ve made RESOLUTIONS because they never really work.  I’ve been thinking in terms of REALIGNMENTS.  I’ve gotten a bit lazy or distracted about things and have gone a bit off mark from where I wanted to go at the beginning of this year.  So, here’s what I’m wanting to do as we begin 2010:

1.  Um… I really need to do some house cleaning.  Bad.  I keep waiting for Miss Niecy to show up, lol, but I don’t think she’s coming.  Honestly, with all my online game-playing (WoW and facebook games being the main offenders) in the last few months, the laundry has piled up as have the dishes, and it’s starting to look like we have a dirt floor in the kitchen.  So, that’s first on my list of what I need to get done.

2.  I need to get back to cooking dinners.  Again, I’ve been lazy about not wanting to stop playing the games, and Domino’s has become #1 on my speed dial.  My kids are probably the only ones in the world that have said “Please, no more pizza!  I’m sick of pizza!”  And no,  frozen dinners don’t count as “cooking more”… lol.

3.  Get back to blogging regularly.  I’ve been bad about writing meme posts (which I enjoy) and writing reviews (which is sometimes a bit of work, but I also enjoy), mostly because *cough* it’d require me to get off the game and write them.  Yeah… like I said, I’ve been bad about the games here lately.

4.  Try to take things in balance.  I have a bad habit of going “all one thing at the expense of everything else”.  When I’m reading, that’s all I’m doing.  That’s how I’ve managed to read almost 20 books in a little over a month.  It’s pretty much all I’ve done.  When I was playing WoW, that was all I did, too.  All day, every day… sometimes for more than 24 hours straight.  I just don’t seem to know how to do moderation.

5.  Get through all my ARC-alanche pile.  Period.  Some of them have been on this pile for almost 2 years now.  I still have Stealing Athena, The Aviary Gate, Zoe’s Tale, and The Good Thief on it.  SOME are now available in AUDIOBOOK FORM.  I really need to focus on getting these books done.  I have FIVE LibraryThing Early Reader books to read, including Any Given Doomsday which I received back in February. 

So, how about you?  Any resolutions?  What do you hope to do in the year to come?

Mags and I love watching Style Network’s Clean House (the ones with Niecy Nash… not the other lady) and we love to veg in my bed together and watch marathons of the show.  Miss Niecy is lovely and hilarious, and after a few shows we can’t help but walk around doing Miss Niecy impressions… lol.  But, of course, it’s never as good as the original ;-) 

T’Aragam by Jack W. Regan

T'aragamTitle:  T’Aragam

Author:  Jack W. Regan

Paperback:  286 pages

ISBN:  9781442114593

Book Challenges:  ARC Challenge

From the website:

Young Max Ransome watched his father die, killed by marauding phantors as they swept through T’Aragam at the bidding of the evil wizard Zadok. Barely escaping with his own life, Max is thrust into a whirlwind journey as he races against time to save T’Aragam, the world he loves, from a dark dominion. Can Max overcome the horror of his father’s death and save T’Aragam from the grasping talons of its enemies?

Woven with a charming mix of zany humor and genuine danger, T’Aragam immerses the reader in a world of original characters and tightly-woven plot. Young Max leads the cast and is ably supported by, among others, a faithful medgekin friend named Gramkin, two monster brothers named Doom and Gloom, and an equuraptor named Dresden.

Coupled with quirky supporting characters, such as mercenary Captain Baggywrinkle, Lord Stench, and a perpetually hungry sea serpent named Bob, this cast of characters steps from the pages and pulls the reader into the story.

I am thoroughly entranced by this book.  It’s fantasy with wizards, phantors and equuraptors (part horse, part dragon, and few are alive who’ve seen them in person).  It’s also got a good comedic side to it with monster brother Doom and Gloom who are afraid of everything, including birds and boys, and Doom is particularly put off by the lack of tea time and unsanitary conditions of the dungeon.  There’s adventure, the battle of good and evil, and 13-year-old Max must decide between doing what is right, even if it leads to a horrible and long death, or to do what’s comfortable.  All of it works to make a very addictive read in this first book of The Max Ransome Chronicles.

Okay, some side notes from me… I’ve gotten a bit caught up in World of Warcraft lately.  After making fun of everyone I know who plays it, I thought I’d see what the deal was and found out I’m as big a dork as them.  What’s more, Maggie is even worse about it than me!  So reading T’Aragam has been like being “in game,” even though I was AFK.  I could picture it all and could relate to Max as if it were me in it… because I’ve done or seen similar things, or felt similarly while playing WoW.  And I can’t wait for more of this series. 

Another point is that you have to go to Podiobooks and listen to the Regan perform the audiobook (while there, feel free to make a donation… Regan gets 75% of it ;-) ).  It was listening to the first chapter of the audiobook that sold me on this book; Regan is one of the best performers I’ve heard.  I suppose it could be argued that the author would do the best reading, since they know exactly how it should sound, but I have two words to argue that:  Ray Bradbury.

While this book is technically a YA and geared for boys, I’d have to say that anyone who enjoys Tolkein and C.S. Lewis would enjoy T’Aragam.  I was impressed with Regan’s storycrafting, the fluidity of his writing without it becoming blah or going over the reader’s head.  I never wanted to put it down, and when I had to for life’s demands, my mind kepty drifting back to how Max was going to get out of whatever situation I’d left him.

For it’s ability to spirit me away to the land of fantasy and take me on an adventure, I give T’Aragam by Jack W. Regan 5 out of 5 stars, and am dying to know how much longer I have to wait for book two??

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