It Begins! September Book Buying Ban

Bella, from A Girl Reads a Book is hosting a Book Buying Ban in September on her blog. We’ve been joking about it throughout all of August and have been encouraging each other (sometimes through shameless shaming) to read the books we’ve already bought so that all those books we have gaining dust on our shelves will get some quality time and love.

I’ve been labeled the unofficial-official book buying police. I’m not sure how this happened, but all my spendthrifty bloggy friends always joke that they better keep their purchases secret from me for fear that I pull out my wagging finger (which I have actually pulled out a few times already)!
So here it is. I’m writing a post on how you can get through the month of September without buying a book. Here are a few tips:
  • Make a spreadsheet to help track what you most likely would have bought and how much you are saving. This can also serve as your October wishlist/shopping list (hopefully you will be reformed and will buy what you can actually read in October though).
    Price (amt. saved)
    The Windup Girl Bacigalupi, Paolo $9.99
    With the Old Breed Sledge, Eugene 10.49
    Howl’s Moving Castle Jones, Diana Wynne 6.49
    Total (saved) $26.97

  • Utilize the wishlist/plan to read on Shelfari, the customizable lists on GoodReads, or the wishlist on LibraryThing to make a fantastic wishlist for October.
  • If you really get an itch, get a jar and actually put money in it for every book you would have bought. At the end of the month you’ll see how much you’ve saved.
  • Make a NaNoWriMo progress bar to update your TBR progress. I think I’m actually going to keep my bar on my sidebar from now on to help with my acquiring habits.
  • Talk to other people and get encouragement from them to keep you from buying.
  • Follow the Twitter hashtag, #TBRMonth for support!
If all this fails, Fiona from The Book Coop has begged for this:

Note: This event is for fun. We want to give the authors’ books we have purchased some love after their books have been sitting gathering dust on our shelves. We bought their books for a reason so we all want to read them! Don’t worry booksellers and authors, we’ll be back in force at the bookstores in October!

My Final TBR Count:
210 Books

In the Shadow of Gotham – Stefanie Pintoff

Book: In the Shadow of Gotham
Author: Stefanie Pintoff (click author’s name to view her website)
Publisher: Minotaur Books
381 pages
               My Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

In the Shadow of GothamIt is 1904 and Detective Simon Ziele fled New York City to take a job in the small town of Dobson, New York after his fiancée is tragically killed. Soon after he arrives, the horrific murder of a young woman in her own home is committed in Dobson and it eventually leads Simon back the city and Columbia University where renowned criminologist, Alistair Sinclair helps him investigate a man he has studied that he believes is the prime suspect in the case.

In the Shadow of Gotham by Stefanie Pintoff was awarded the 2010 Edgar Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. I thought it was a really good first effort from Stefanie Pintoff. I quite enjoyed reading about the mystery and investigation of the murder in turn of the century New York. It was a time of emerging science so concepts we are so familiar with today like DNA, fingerprinting, toxicology screens, etc. were either not in existence or were just beginning to be used in criminal investigations. Simon is more familiar with newer techniques since part of his career was spent in New York City where these methods were being used.

I also really like the criminologist, Alistair Sinclair. Stefanie Pintoff made his character sufficiently complicated that I felt like I alternately rooted for and loathed him. Because he was extremely driven in the U.S. field of criminology, Sinclair often blurred the ethical lines for profiling criminals and potential criminals. However, during that time, ethics in science and behavioral sciences was still developing which made the story quite thoughtful and interesting and made me think, at what cost do we pursue progress?  To look back into our past and see the things researchers have done in the name of progress might horrify us today, but without their research would we be in the same place we are today? It’s a debate that I find quite interesting.

As far as the plot was concerned, I enjoyed that quite a bit too. The focus was on the investigation so there was a definite disconnect with the victim in some ways. I actually liked this about the book because this is how most detectives have to work when solving a murder. They don’t know the victim personally so piecing their life together through evidence is one of the few ways they are able to personify the victim. I had an inkling of who I thought was the murderer through most of the book, but I felt like I was piecing it together as it went along. I also didn’t really figure it out until it happened. However, most of the people in my book club did figure it out before the reveal. I will also note that the cover of the book has a quote from Publisher’s Weekly that compared Stefanie Pintoff to Caleb Carr. This was a big source of contention in my book club and one person in particular took exception to the comparison. I have never read Caleb Carr so I cannot compare the two, but I will say that I try not to compare authors unless there is blatant plagiarism or some other issue with material that I find really egregious.

Overall, I enjoyed the book quite a bit and thought it was well-written. If you like period mysteries in an urban setting, I highly recommend this book. I will definitely be picking up Stefanie Pintoff’s new book, A Curtain Falls in the future.

Guest Post #3 - Book Read 'Round the World: Carly from England shares her Book Hobo experience

Lost on Planet China = Purple Pin
Journeyed from Trowbridge, Wiltshire, England to Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Distance Traveled = 3471 mi / 5586 km
Total Distance Traveled to Date = 8297 mi / 13353 km

Guest Post #3
Carly from England

Carina at Reading Through Life has received her package from Carly so I can now post Carly's guest post! After you finish reading, make sure you check out Carly's awesome blog, Writing from the Tub (I just love her blog name) and Carina's blog, Reading Through Life

Carly is currently hosting a giveaway on her blog that closes September 1 at midnight, London time. Carina is currently doing a month long series of posts for Ramadan that have been really interesting reading. I'm loving them.

**Also, make sure that you sign up for the Book Read 'Round the World Giveaway. It is international and includes Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman and two pairs of origami earrings made by my wonderful cousin. It is open until October 1.

Hi everybody! It's Carly here from Writing From the Tub. I received my Book Read 'Round the World package from Carin (in Texas) and my gifts were awesome!

I received:
-A signed copy of Varian Johnson's 'My Life as a Rhombus' - *bigsqueal*

- A gorgeous coaster of the cafe where Carin's book club meets - I thought this was a lovely gift. Not only is it handy to place my cold beverages upon, it's also really personal which is a really nice touch.

-A pod grocery bag -- which starts off teeny tiny and folds out into a shopping bag. SO useful, I've used this so many times already to cart books around the library etc. It was produced by a business local to Carin as well, yay.
- A copy of The Onion -- a famous satirical newspaper. I'd actually heard of The Onion before, which I thought was a bit exciting. It really is hilarious and I loved reading it. I know some people tried to start a similar magazine in Bath a year or so ago but it kind of flopped.

- I loved the giant postcards, Carin! I've never been to Texas, even though I'd love to visit one day so it was really nice to receive the package from somewhere I'm not too familiar with. And I must try out cowboy cookies soon!

My Shopping

So, even though I'm technically living in a hamlet called Staverton - I decided to use Bath as my town, as it's the closest town to us and, if I focused on Staverton, I would literally have nothing to say. Oh, and we have no shops, so shopping would be a little difficult.

Instead, I headed down the road to Bath, which will always be fond in my heart, as I lived there for three years while at university and will always, always live close by. It's such a wonderful city, famous the world over for its beautiful Georgian architecture. Sometimes I forget what a great place Bath is, as I've been there for so long I kind of take it for granted. 

All year round, but particularly in summer, Bath is a huge tourist city. Between the months of June and September it literally takes about half and hour to walk through the main streets. Millions of tourists flock to Bath every year and it seems like every single one of them wants to take a picture of EVERYTHING. I may moan about them, but I do love our tourists; they're so enthusiastic about the city it's hard not to like them.

Being such a magnet for tourists, Bath has a lot of gift shops so I found it relatively easy to pick up some presents for Carina--I just hope she likes them! I'm slightly nervous after Carin's awesome package that mine might be a bit lame in comparison.

Answers to Carin's Questions

1. What is the main industry in your city?
The main industries in Bath are publishing (yay) and tourism. We're home to the Future Publishing group, who are huge and have buildings all over the city. They're the sixth largest publishers in the UK and publish over 150 magazines--fun facts J.

As I said before, the other main industry is tourism. Bath receives nearly five million tourists a year and is consistently voted the most beautiful city in Britain, which it is, for sure.

2. Are there any strange facts people would be surprised to learn about Bath?
  • Did you know...Bath is the only town in the city where people can bathe in naturally heated spring waters (in the Thermae Bath Spa, if you're interested).
  • Bath is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Bath is often mentioned in literature and its recorded earliest mention was in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
  • Any Buffy fans may be interested to learn that Anthony Head (who played Giles) lives in Bath and many people say you're not a true resident of the town until you've seen him. I've lost count of the numbers of times I've walked past him in the street or sat by him in a restaurant--the man is everywhere, seriously. Also, when I was in prep school my choir competed against his daughter's choir every year. I'm pretty sure her school always beat us.

3. What would you like people to know about the area you live that would make them want to plan a vacation to Bath?
Well, I think I've done quite a good job of plugging Bath but, if not, I have a few more things to mention! Firstly, Bath has an amazing selection of bookshops. We have a massive Oxfam bookshop which is great--a huge range of books sold at greatly reduced prices (most of them go for about £1) and all the profits go to charity, yay.

We've also got a two storey Waterstones that hosts a lot of author events. There's usually something going on there most nights so it's a great place for readers and writers to meet up. 

Last, but not least, we have two fantastic independent bookshops--Mr B's and Toppings. Both of these win frequent bookshop awards and a visit to Bath is not complete without visiting one (or both!).

Mr B's is tucked into a beautiful alley behind Milson Street, the main shopping street in Bath. The books are stacked on bookshelves so high I always, always need somebody to help me get my selections down. Mr B's is really more of a living room than a bookshop with antique chairs dotted around the place for you to relax with a favourite book and frequent offers of coffee or juice. It's great. Oh, also, there's a shop dog called Vlashka, awesome.

Then we have Toppings, which is definitely the place to go for author events in Bath. Upcoming guest speakers include Stephen Fry, Levi Roots, Michael Caine, Rose Tremaine, and Carol Anne Duffy--exciting. Probably more exciting if you're a Brit like me but STILL--exciting!

One sentence review
This was tough! I'm so used to rambling on and on in reviews that trying to get my point across in a single sentence proved rather challenging!

'A humorous, entertaining read about a Western man's search to find and experience the 'real' China.'

(Read Carly's full review of Lost on Planet China)

I just want to thank Carin for organizing such a great event. I really enjoyed my part in the Book Read 'Round the World and I can't wait to read everybody else's posts and reviews of their stops. My package is on the way to Carina now so I hope it reaches her safe and sound soon!

Friday Coffee Chat (8) – Are you a bibliomaniac?

Are you a bibliomaniac?

We’re back! Last week, Jennifer from Girls Gone Reading had a special edition of Friday Coffee Chat where she wrote about books that helped her through some very hard times. It was a really inspirational post that had us all talking about some of the books that have helped us through hard times. So this week, we’re looking at the lighter side of some of our *ahem* buying habits. Jennifer is writing about bookstores that fail for her side of the Friday Coffee Chat so make sure you check out her blog as well!
**Note to booksellers and authors: I promise that the fourteen of us participating in A Girl Reads a Book's September Buying Ban will not break the bank. We'll make sure to get back to our buying habits (although hopefully somewhat restrained) in October!


You know how some friends have these crazy collections of things that you privately shake your head to? You know, the friend who has a craft collection that makes Hobby Lobby look like a mom and pop store, or how about the friend that has a shoe collection that could rival Ymelda Marcos’ closets of shoes? Well, recently on Twitter a bunch of us book bloggers have admitted that we have our own “collections” that others might think we are crazy to have.

I’ve asked two bloggers with sizeable collections to write up a short blurb about their TBR list of books they own. We’ve been laughing about our ridiculous collections that we can almost never hope to significantly reduce because let’s face it…we book bloggers LOVE books! However, our TBR Lists are so out of control that Bella from A Girl Reads a Book has promised to lock herself (and anyone who will join her) in her TARDIS for the month of September and not buy any books to give our poor neglected shelves full of unread books some much needed attention. I mean, I’m sure authors like us to buy their books, but I think they probably would love it if we actually read them!

Image taken from

Did you know that bibliomania is a real thing? According to, it is "A type of obsessive compulsive disorder where the patient compulsively collects books. The books bought are generally not even looked [at] but are simply bought and hoarded." Are any of us that bad? I'm thinking "no", but we might have bibliophilia which according to means, "A lover of books especially for qualities of format; also: a book collector".

A more modern term for bibliomania could be book hoarding (this is in my complete unprofessional opinion of course). It seems like many a book blogger has at the very least a mild book hoarding problem. Don't all those books looks super pretty sitting on our shelves?

We have to think about those authors and booksellers too who are just trying to make a living for goodness sake! We can't let them go hungry!

But at what point are our acquisitions too much? Fiona from The Book Coop says:
“I don’t want to get to the age of 80 and look at my shelves and still see 400 odd books on my shelves and regret that I could never have read them all. It’s this that drives me on. Firstly the space issue and secondly the fact that I own more books then I’ve read. So far, of all the books I can remember well enough to say I have read, there is 321.”
Bella from A Girl Reads a Book says:
“One day you are cruising along, happy as Larry with a few books, and then before you know it you've got 2,000+ books and you're being called a book hoarder. Well that is how it happened to me. I swear I woke up one morning and I suddenly had over 2,700 books.”
Read Fiona and Bella’s stories about their TBR Lists by clicking here (my story is there too).
You DEFINITELY want to read their stories because they are both quite fun and entertaining. These ladies are two of my favorite bloggers and I love the honesty and the ability to make a little fun of themselves in their posts.

So my questions to you readers this week are:

  • Are you a compulsive book buyer? Do you have to buy right away, or do you keep a wishlist and only purchase when you have space on your shelves?
  • Do you think it is ethical to go on a formal book buying ban for a set amount of time?
  • At what point do you cut your losses and just give books that have been sitting unread away to charity, friends, etc.?

(Good) Whippet Wednesdays - A Day Late

New Feature! (but on another blog)

A few of my blogging friends on Twitter hear a lot about the terror my dogs create in my life. I tell them it is often the dogs' cuteness that saves them from my stink eye (though not always). They've all convinced me to start a new blog so for those of you that are interested in hearing about my dogs' good and bad deeds, you can start following Max and Turbo's blog called:

So, for my second post (my first one is already on Dogstrosities), I'm doing a (Good) Whippet Wednesday post because they did something VERY cute the other day (oh, worry not...there has been badness since, but I am giving them the benefit of the doubt with this "good" post). Here it is:

Turbo was laying next to me on Monday morning and Max decided he wanted in on the snuggle action so he got up and just laid down on top of Turbo. VERY CUTE! Can't you see why I put up with the crazy things they do?!! I think this might be my favorite picture ever now! I may still occasionally put a whippet post on my blog, but for the most part, I will keep my dog posts confined to their own blog. 

I also admit, I'm posting this a day late because I'm going to try Intense Debate for my commenting system. I've seen enough complaints about Blogger's system that I'm going to try it. I'm not going to promise to keep it though. 

In My Mailbox (93) – Special Edition!

(hosted by The Story Siren)

(Sadly, this awesome mushroom mailbox is not my mailbox. I found it on Flickr and is courtesy of Zen)

This is a special Tuesday edition of In My Mailbox. Why Tuesday you ask? It is because I received a super cool package in the mail from Rikki at The Bookkeeper this week and I couldn’t wait until next week to share it with you all. A few weeks ago, Rikki sent out her package for the Book Read ‘Round the World event that I’m hosting and after I saw the pictures, I started drooling over the cool German book bag she bought for Sandie Lee at Imagination Cafe. So, being the wonderful person she is, Rikki said she would send me one too so we decided to swap tote bags! You can see what I bought for her on her special In My Mailbox post.

Schmöker roughly means Chunkster

Rikki ordered a fabric bookmark for me from German Etsy and it reads:
“Lesen statt fernsehen” which means “Read instead of watching TV”

She also sent me a bag with a bunch of famous buildings in Nürnberg on it that is super cute and has a little snap on it. She also sent a reusable grocery bag from dm, a drugstore in Germany. I used Google Translate to translate the phrase on the bag and ended up having to ask Rikki what it said because I got the phrase, “Here I am, I buy a human here.”

 I figured that Germans don’t eat soylent green so I asked Rikki and she said the store had modified a quote from Goethe which reads, “Hier bin ich Mensch, hier darf ich’s sein,” which translated to English is, “Here I am a human, here I may be.” dm took the quote and modified it to, “Hier bin ich Mensch, hier kauf ich ein,” which translated to English is, “Here I am human, here I buy.” (not buy humans of course. Rikki jokingly tweeted, “Better not come here! You might not go back home! lol.”) Hilarious. I love it.

The last thing in the picture was an awesome shopping bag (which wasn’t meant as a gift, but I thought it was cool so I put it in the picture) from a comic book store. I love the monster on it.

I couldn’t resist leaving this out. A friend of mine from Victoria, BC went on a cruise to the Caribbean and I asked her to pick up some Jamaica Blue Mountain Coffee for me when they ported in Jamaica. She was nice enough to bring back two pounds for me! I drove to Houston on Saturday to meet her and her friend at the airport and we ate lunch together before they had to board their flight. So nice! I love this coffee too!

Last, but not least, Trish from Love, Laughter and Insanity was giving away some of her old books on her blog and kindly sent me Septembers of Shiraz by Dalia Sofer and City of Thieves by David Benioff. I can’t wait to read them. They both look like fantastic books.

I’ve made such wonderful friends over the computer over the years and all of these ladies are awesome. Please check out Rikki’s blog, The Bookkeeper and Trish’s blog, Love, Laughter, and Insanity. Both of their blogs are among my regular reads!

The Tricking of Freya - Christina Sunley

Book: The Tricking of Freya
Author: Christina Sunley (click author's name to view their webpage)
Publisher: Picador
344 pages
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Tricking of Freya is the story of a young woman named Freya Morris who grew up traveling to visit family in Gimli, Manitoba and being told stories of her roots in Iceland. Her Aunt Birdie adores her and takes Freya under her wing whenever she visits Gimli--teaching her Icelandic and Norse mythology. However, due to Birdie's erratic behavior, the family's relationship with her is complicated and lends itself to mystery. It is this mystery that eventually sends Freya to Iceland to learn more about Birdie, the rest of the family, and Iceland.

Hallgrímskirkja by aevarg (Taken from
Although I have never been to Iceland, I have been to Scandinavia once. Although this book wasn't written yet, I wish I had read something like this before I went. The story is simply beautiful. Freya's journey is one of self-discovery which I enjoy being a descendant of somewhat recent immigrants myself. I have heard some stories about my family's history so I really enjoyed Freya's journey to Canada and Iceland to discover more about herself. There were little things like the references to pönnökokur and vínerterta that made me want to try Icelandic food, short tellings of Norse mythology that made me want to read more complete versions of the stories, and descriptions of both Gimli and Iceland that made me want to visit both places. I even sat and read Christina Sunley's blog about her journey to Iceland and looked up pictures of some of the places mentioned in the book. It made the book even more beautiful to read her experience and look at the pictures she took while in Iceland. I also enjoyed reading her interview at the end of the book because it brought to life just how wonderful the Icelandic people seem to be.

Miss Sunley's writing was beautiful. Birdie was a difficult character whose mental illness made it difficult to like her, but I loved her at the same time. She gave Freya her Icelandic identity which was invaluable but was also responsible for some less admirable outcomes in Freya's life. The book really does explain the toll mental illness can take on a family in ways that were sometimes quite raw to read. I did enjoy reading about it though because it gives a fair picture of what it must be like to love someone that can hurt you so deeply (even without mental illness, that is part of loving someone--we love every part of them even if we don't like some things about them). This aspect of the book was what impacted me most, and I think it's definitely something that is invaluable to read for those people who have mental illness that runs in their family. The book told this aspect of the story in such a dignified way that it really spoke to me.

I will admit that I figured out the mystery in the book about 2/3 of the way into it, but it didn't make me like it any less. The book was more about Freya's journey of self-discovery as an American of Icelandic descent, and her acceptance of who she was. The essence of the book was her growth as a person from childhood to adulthood, and how she resolved her past in her own mind. It was simply a beautiful telling of a woman who finds out who she really is in life as she processes all the moments of her life.

Links of Interest
Christina Sunley's Book Tour in Iceland Blog (beautiful pictures included with her story)
Amy from Amy Reads review of The Tricking of Freya
Bibliophile's Icelandic Cooking, Recipes, and Food blog (I looked up some of the foods mentioned in the book and found her blog--she is from Rekjavik so it's real, authentic Icelandic food! How exciting!)

*Notice of disclosure: I received this book for review from Terra Communications.

Giveaway! Book Read 'Round the World

Book Hobo wants to thank everyone for following his travels by giving away a few things he's found along the way!

I have been promising a giveaway for a LONG time, and I've finally acquired all the items I wanted to for my first giveaway! 

I wanted to thank all the bloggers who have signed up for Book Hobo's travels around the world so they'll get an extra entry, but the giveaway is open to everyone around the world as well!

Here are the items:

Two pairs of origami earrings made by my wonderful cousin!
Both pairs will come with earring backs
  • The first pair are paper cranes--they are very beautiful, but I couldn't get them to stand out well in a photograph
  • The second pair are paper kimono earrings

One SIGNED copy of The Lunatic Express by Carl Hoffman
(A BIG "Thank You" to Mr. Hoffman for providing his book for this event giveaway)

The only reason why I didn't list The Lunatic Express as a book in the event is that it was in hardcover so it was a little heavier than I wanted it to be for shipping. Mr. Hoffman was nice enough to send me an signed copy to giveaway for the event. I've bought a copy for myself and will review it in the near future (please keep me accountable on this--2 weeks from now bug me to post one)!

Kim at Sophisticated Dorkiness has reviewed The Lunatic Express on her blog. Click HERE to read her review.

Click HERE to read my review of The Lunatic Express.

Giveaway Sign-Up! (Giveaway Closed)
  • This giveaway is International
  • You are NOT required to follow my blog (although it you like what you see, I don't refuse followers...hehe)
  • You MUST write in what order you prefer the prizes (ex. 1. The Lunatic Express, 2. Kimono Earrings, 3. Paper Crane Earrings)
  • Giveaway closes on October 1, 2010. Winners will be contacted by e-mail first and announced on my blog within one week of the closing date. 

Friday Coffee Chat (7) - Special Edition

~Special Edition~ 
Girls Gone Reading Back In Action

Today is a special edition of Friday Coffee Chat. Less than two weeks ago, Jennifer from Girls Gone Reading sent me an e-mail saying that she had to take a break from blogging and our weekly Friday Coffee Chat to care for her husband who had just had a moderate heart attack. I completely understood (family ALWAYS comes first) and told her to take care of both her husband and herself--we would all be waiting for her when she got back to blogging. Earlier this week, Jennifer told me that her husband was doing much better and that she was thinking of doing a Friday Coffee Chat post about books that saved her life. I thought that was a fantastic idea given what she has gone through the past few weeks so I thought I'd let her have this week's Friday Coffee Chat post to share these books that have been such an inspiration in her life and have her ask the weekly question to all us readers. I'm so glad that her husband is ok and that she has been able to come back to blogging so soon!

Please stop by her blog and let her know what books saved you and made you feel like you weren't alone in the world.

Click HERE to read Jennifer's Friday Coffee Chat post

Update: This post inspired Rikki from The Bookkeeper to do a post on the books that saved and helped her through life's challenges. Click HERE to read her post.

Very inspiring ladies! Thanks for sharing these books with everyone!

Against a Dark Background - Iain M. Banks

Book: Against a Dark Background
Author: Iain M. Banks (click name to view author's website)
Publisher: Orbit
613 pages
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lady Sharrow is a former antiquities thief and pilot that is being pursued by a religious sect called the Huhsz that believe that only with the death of Sharrow will their messiah be born. Sharrow decides to go on a journey to seek the eighth and final Lazy Gun which she believes will help her survive the Huhsz pursuit and end their vendetta against her. Sharrow was part of a team that disassembled the seventh Lazy Gun which caused a nuclear explosion of apocalyptic proportions and killed many residents of the city she was in. Now infamous for the event, Sharrow seems to only be loved by her small band of friends that pursues the Lazy Gun with her.

I wanted to like this book. The cover and binding were beautiful. I got sucked into the "judging a book by its cover" yet again with different results this time. While I didn't hate Against a Dark Background, the book fell short of its expectations for me. It's entirely possible that I shouldn't have chosen this book as my first Iain M. Banks read because his Culture series is his most famous and respected to date. I will be honest and say that the cover of this book popped out at me at the bookstore and this is why I chose it. I may also be unfairly judging the book because I remember trying to choose to read this book or Dan Simmons' Hyperion when it was my turn to select a book for my real life book club. I chose Hyperion, and it was fantastic which may have led to me having unrealistic expectations for this novel.

Let me say that I knew nothing about Banks' writing other than he is a respected science fiction author. This book was chosen for the July Book of the Month in my Fantasy/Science Fiction Book of the Month group on Shelfari. Without the discussion in the group I would likely have chosen to not review this book at all. It took me five weeks to read and when I finished I realized that large chunks of the plot had already disappeared from my memory.

There were things that were enjoyable in the book. Once I realized that the book had very British humor in it, I started to enjoy it much more. There was some wonderful banter between the characters which had me chuckling more than a few times--the dialogue was quite witty! Some of the situations were hysterical as well and were reminiscent of Firefly and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Most science fiction fans will look at my last sentence and say, "How was this book not fantastic when you mention that awesome TV show and book in the same sentence?!" For me, I wasn't able to connect with any of the characters except for the android Feril who I loved. There was an aloofness about most of the characters, and they all seemed to driven in very unemotional ways. I will say that their behavior lent to VERY good discussion in my Shelfari group. The two other people who were familiar with Banks' work said that he often writes characters like this. Their motivations don't necessarily give the reader any emotional connection to them or even emotional connections with each other. The theme is focused on individuality rather than collectively as a group. While talking about this with the other members of the group, I actually began to find the book more interesting and thought much more about it after learning this. It even fit in with the title of the book (which I will not spoil for you, but there is a subtle meaning in it which I missed but someone else in the group picked up on).

Did the discussion make it better for me? Absolutely. I thought the discussion was really meaningful so I definitely recommend this book for a book club. However, I wouldn't call it an enjoyable read. I think it challenges the reader in ways most books do not and will not. I think overall that is a good thing--we as readers sometimes need to challenge our thought process and philosophies while reading.

I would say that if given the chance to start over though, I would probably choose to read the Culture books first. I will give the first in that series, Consider Phlebas a try and see if I enjoy it more. If not, maybe Mr. Banks' work isn't for me. I do think there is an audience for his books though. His writing is fantastic and thoughtful, but I think for my personal tastes I have to be able to connect with the characters in a meaningful way. It doesn't matter whether I love them or hate them, I just have to care about them enough to have an emotional response which didn't really happen while I was reading this book. **Note: This is actually part of why I think the book is worthwhile to read. I think it was meant to evoke a lack of emotional response to the characters which is VERY challenging!

September Book Buying Ban!

I'm not gonna lie...I am the book buying police. Bella from A Girl Reads a Book confessed on Twitter a week or two ago that her TBR list was out of control. Not a virtual TBR list--these were actually books she owns. Want to know the number she gave us? 2,840!!!! That's right. She owns almost 3,000 unread books. So, in and effort to get her to read her own books before she buys even more, a group of us helped convince her (but really I think she made the decision on her own) that she should whittle her list down to a more manageable size. I mean, what kind of gems must she have in her library that she has yet to discover? 

Which brings this post to me. I am no saint. I own 101 paper books and 107 e-books (most of the e-books I got for free)! So even if I say that Bella has a book buying/hoarding/spendthrift behavior problem, I clearly cannot throw stones because I have the same problem. 

My proverbial cup runneths over! So what am I doing? I am joining Bella's September Book Buying Ban! Some of my poor, neglected books are going to finally be read.

Here are my rules:
  • I am not allowed to purchase or borrow any books during the month of September except for the following:
  • No requesting any new review copies
  • No entering giveaways or contests on blogs, Twitter, or otherwise
  • My goal is to get down to 80 paper books before I buy any others (with the exception of my book club books)
Crazy you say? Maybe, but Bella is also setting up a bookish swap at the end of the ban so we will be able to swap books, bookmarks, book totes, or any other bookish thing with someone participating in the ban with us at the end of September. Oh, and we also get to mercilessly make fun of each other's terrible spendthriftiness on Twitter for the entire month!

If you have a problem, come and join us in the book buying ban! We're all in it together and we're going to have a great time giving love to our unread books!

**Update: I miscounted and found that I have 102 paper books not 101.

Friday Coffee Chat (6) - Are You a Book Abuser?

Are you a book abuser?

We are doing things a little different this week for Friday Coffee Chat. Jennifer from Girls Gone Reading is taking some time off of blogging because her husband had a moderate heart attack this week so she is taking time to take care of him and herself for a bit. If you would like to post well wishes, she has put up a short blog entry about taking a break from blogging to care for him. Click HERE to see the post. 

This week, Rikki from The Bookkeeper is co-blogging with me on this subject because we have had some hilarious bantering going on after she posted The Literary Lollipop's 55 Quirky Questions for Readers on her blog. 

Rikki's Take

Hi everybody, I am Rikki from The Bookkeeper. Carin invited me to guest blog this week about a topic that we feel very strongly about. Actually, no, not true, SHE feels very strongly about it and has actually disowned me for disagreeing with her. Last weekend I found some support from Wallace from Unputdownables who partly shares my opinion. The three of us decided to put the topic out there and create a little poll on top of it. 

The topic is: How do you treat your books?

It all started with 55 Quirky Questions, a quiz made up by The Literary Lollipop. I posted the first 20 questions and answered them on my blog and a few hours later didn't know what had hit me. I had owned up to not only creasing the spines of my books but also - now get this - dog earing them. Carin, and not only her, was shocked. My argument was not the book is sacred, but its content, and that I can treat my books any way I want, won't count with her. Thank God, Wallace came forward and admitted she creased the spines of her books as well. A book must look as if it had been read and not just been lying around on the coffee table. Which brings me to the next abuse method. Some of us *pointing to Carin now* eat while reading and some of us don't. After tweeting for awhile I came up with the theory that creasers and dogearers don't eat and vice versa, in fact, those two vices are mutually exclusive. Hence the poll. We want to prove or refute my theory.

Some of Rikki's books. Loved for their inner beauty (i.e., contents) and outer tastiness (she said a chinchilla is responsible for the damage). Rikki said these are the books in the worst shape in her home.

Wallace at's "loved" books. Wallace is Rikki's defender and champion in this debate! :)

So now the question:

How do you treat your books? Do you handle them with care or are they an everyday item that must be able to suffer a certain abuse?

And furthermore: If you crease and/or dogear them, do you also "leave your greasy paw prints" on them, or do you abhor food and coffee stains? Please answer our little poll...

Carin's Rebuttal

Yes, it's true....Rikki is a book abuser. She kills her books by cracking the spine--so much so that you probably can't even read the title of the book once she's done. Pages might even fall out because the binding is so horribly ruined by her antics. Just as bad, her poor books are beaten into submission by the pages being folded in to mark her place so that when someone else in her family goes to read it, the crease distracts from the words on the page. 

Sure, I might occasionally get a tiny drop of coffee on my books or a little bit of grease on the pages while eating some French fries (and by occasionally I mean maybe one out of every 10 books), but let's remember that those spine cracking, dog earing readers do this to EVERY book they own unless it's hardcover and the spine can't be cracked. 

Carin's bookshelf. A little wear and tear, but they look gently used. All of these have been read!

Books should be respected and cared for. When they sit on our bookshelves, our visitors should be able to look through our library and be able to read the spines of the books thereby identifying the book. More than that, I should be able to reread my books over and over again without the pages falling out or the pages becoming so creased that it becomes distracting to read the words on the page. I really like to try to keep my books looking as new as possible. I don't even like it when the corners of the book look "used". Does that lessen my enjoyment of it? Absolutely not! I still enjoy every word without having to worry about folding the page back to read the first few lines of the page or having the page...*gasp*...fall out! I can't even imagine having to tape a page back in my book. I think I might just faint if that were to happen!

My question for readers is:

What do all of you think? Are books meant to be used to the point where they are falling apart, or are books meant to be cared for like a fragile collector's item?

**Please note that Rikki and I are just engaging in good natured banter. We really do get along although I will put her in a corner to read her battered books if she comes to my house and I will smear my greasy lasagne fingers all over her books should I ever go to hers! Bwahahahaha!

Guest Post #2 - Book Read 'Round the World: Sandie Lee from Ontario, Canada shares her experience

The Enchanted April = Red Pin
Journeyed from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada to Groningen, The Netherlands
Distance Traveled = 3793 mi / 6104 km
Total Distance Traveled to Date = 7895 mi / 12705 km

Guest Post #2
Sandie lee from Ontario, Canada

I received word today that Iris at Iris on Books has received her package from Sandie lee at Imagination Cafe-Blog so I can now post Sandie lee's guest post about her Book Read 'Round the World Experience! After you finish reading, please check out both Iris and Sandie lee's awesome blogs!

Because Sandie lee edits a children's blog, her review for The Enchanted April is listed right before her guest post since the content would not be appropriate for her blog.

Sandie lee's Review of The Enchanted April

Could getting away from your everyday life actually leave you a changed person?
Four very different women all answer the same advertisement in The Times... 
"... those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine…" are about to embark on more than a simple vacation to the Italian Riviera.
They're about to learn some very valuable lessons about themselves and the people around them.

San Salvatore, a medieval castle calls to Mrs. Wilkins, Mrs Arbuthnot, Mrs Fisher and Lady Caroline Dester, who are all in desperate need of something; but what?

Husbands, loneliness, depression and cynicism are all part of the baggage that lands these women in the midst of a beautiful, old, magical castle.  Can they heed it's calling and tugging at their hearts? Will they actually grab onto a new way of thinking and a new way of life? Find out in, The Enchanted April.

This book was a wonderful read, written is a style that's long been forgotten, Elizabeth Von Armin, not only weaves a clever story, she also reminds us of what writing is all about.

Check out, The Enchanted April on or wherever classic books are sold.

Rikki asked some questions on her blog post about The Enchanted April for Sandie lee:

1. Mrs. Arbuthnot is thinking the following early on in the book. Do you agree with her statement?
"To be missed, to be needed, from whatever motive, was, she thought, better than the complete loneliness of not being missed or needed at all."
To answer your questions, Rikki, I agree with Mrs. Arbuthnot, somewhat. Not sure I'd want to be missed just for the work I do, or meals I provide...

2. Do you think that a mere change of location, beautiful as it may be, can cause such a profound change in people that they come back home transformed in a way as in the book?

Also, I do believe a magical place with all the beauty of nature and solitude the castle provided, could indeed change ones look out of his/her life - it would give you time to reflect and ponder.


Guest Post

I’m the Blog Editor for Imagination-Café Blog ( – a cross-promotional blog for Imagination-café ezine – 

This has been a wonderful experience for me.  I received from Rikki of Nuremberg, Germany, a beautiful book bag that says – lieber lesen (I’d rather be reading), several bookmarks, one being of the poem, ‘Loreley” by poet Heinrich Heine.  I also received a beautiful card explaining everything and a refrigerator magnet of the Nuremberg Imperial Castle.


I was asked these questions…

1)  Over here we always think Canada is mostly nature, lots of forest, few people (at least compared to Germany.  Is that so where you live?

Canada does offer a lot of untamed wilderness, however, we do have our large cities. My city is relatively small with only 75,000 people. We live surrounded by the Canadian Shield - Large rocks and forest - so we do indeed have lots of trees and small lakes/rivers. And of course the Saint Mary's River where the large freighter ships pass along.

2)  How is it to live in a bilingual country?  Does everyone have to speak both languages?  Can you get by with only one of them?  Do both groups of people (the ones who speak English or French originally) get along just fine or is there any tension?

Good questions! For the most part, there's really no noticeable difference. I don't speak French, as most people don't in my city and it's fine. However, our government did establish a law that all government office employees must be bilingual and also all the road signs. 

Not really a lot of tension between cultures in my city. We are kind of a melting pot of cultures here - French, Italian, Native Canadians, Asian etc. So we all mostly communicate in English and get along as a society.

I learned from my snippets that German folks normally do read books in the German language, however, some do read and speak in English.  In addition, I learned that Nuremburg has been rebuilt since it was destroyed in WWII, more beautifully and to visit the Church of St. Lawrence as well as the country inns for fabulous Franconian home cooking.


I absolutely fretted about my choice of gifts to send.  Rikki did such a beautiful job with her choices, I was totally second guessing mine, - I actually think it took me longer to buy the gifts than read the book.  I wanted the gifts to really show our Canadian culture and to be a wonderful surprise for the next recipient.

The Book Read ‘Round the World Event was wonderful, educational, and so much fun.  I looked forward to getting my package and reading the book as well as sending it off to the Netherlands.  I learned it isn’t easy to sum up ones city in a small package and it forced me to take a hard look at what I wanted to say about Canada and Ontario.

This experience has been so much fun, we’re thinking of implementing it on Imagination-Café magazine, for the kids – what better way to encourage reader and also foster goodwill with other countries? 

One Sentence Review

Four very different British women embark on a journey to a small, medieval castle in Italy.  Will they be willing and able to put aside their differences to co-habitat?  Will the “magical” powers of the castle change them forever?  Find out in. “The Enchanted April.”

Magic Bites - Ilona Andrews

Book: Magic Bites
Author: Ilona Andrews (click author's name to go to their website)
Publisher: Ace Fantasy
260 pages
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some time ago on Friday Coffee Chat, we discussed whether we judge a book by its cover. Well, I have to admit that I judged Magic Bites by its cover. When I received it, I wasn't interested in reading it at all, but after hearing some really good things about it I was more excited to give it a try. I was not disappointed. This book is fantastic!

Kate Daniels is a member of the Mercenary Guild. Mercenaries are called in to deal with situations involving magic that the police either can't or won't handle. When Kate's guardian, Greg is found dead, Kate sets off on a mission to find out what happened. She finds a case of strange killings Greg has been working on, and it leads her to the necromancers who control vampires and The Pack, a group of shapeshifters.

Urban fantasy can be hit or miss with me. Magic Bites was definitely a hit. The story was never boring and kept me entertained the entire time. It reads like a thriller with some magic, vampires, and shapeshifters thrown in. The necromancers and The Pack are both suspected in the killings Kate's guardian was investigating, and it is left up to her to figure out who is responsible before all hell breaks loose between the two groups. Some people might be burned out on vampires and werewolves, but I assure you...these are more your standard fare than those of the sparkling, buff teenage variety. They are menacing. I found myself thinking that Kate was in danger throughout most of the book and had that "edge of my seat" feeling throughout the entire read.

It only took the first few lines of the book for Kate Daniels to become one of my favorite female characters. The story opens with her drinking Boone's Hard Lemonade and watching television...and she drinks Boone's not because she's poor but by choice! Who does that?!! Only someone who is very secure with themselves and VERY cool. When I read those first few pages I immediately knew that this book would be more like reading The Dresden Files than reading a romance-y girlie urban fantasy book. Kate seems more down on her luck in the romance department and can definitely handle herself in a fight. I happen to love female protagonists that aren't all bosoms and eyelash batters. Call it the feminist in me, but I like it when writers make women capable of more than seducing a man. Kate Daniels fits that profile for me, and I want to read more of her story!

For those of you that like a little hint of romance, there's definitely some romantic tension, and the series seems to hint at that being a part of the story arc in the coming books (which I will most likely be picking up soon). My hope is that they continue to focus on Kate Daniels being a hardened merc with a little bit of a soft side.

The only thing that left me wanting in the book is that I wish there was a little more world building on the part of the neuromancers and The Pack. Since the books are relatively short, that might come later in the series. Overall I thought the book was fun and quick. If you're an urban fantasy fan, like women who can kick booty, or even want to delve into urban fantasy, I highly recommend Magic Bites. It's definitely a good way to spend a lazy Saturday!

*Notice of disclosure: I received this book for review from Penguin Books.
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