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Rough draft of cover for Rene's gift

Default Ron
This is the initial cover design I'm working on for the book.


50bookchallenge 2014 - January Books!

Cross posted to 50bookchallenge

Yay! A new year and a new challenge! Last year, I surprised myself by reading 63 books and surpassing my goal. I'm not sure if I'll be able to duplicate that in 2014, but I'm going to try!

Here are the books I read in January...

1. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
The continuing saga of the Stark & Lannister families. Fast-paced with a lot of page time for Tyrion Lannister, who I've come to quite like.

2. The Ghoul Goblin by Jim Butcher
Another solid win for Butcher. Compelling story, beautiful artwork, solid dialog and really evil baddies. Harry gets out of Chicago, too.

3. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
BBC performance by an amazing cast of talented actors - Cumberbatch, McAvoy, Head - the list goes on. Going to read unabridged novel next.

4. Dawn by Eli Wiesel
The second in a trilogy, Dawn sees a young man face his own mortality & uncomfortable choices when he's forced to execute an innocent man.

5. The No-Nonsense Technician Class License Study Guide by Dan Romanchik
A necessary read for anyone wanting to obtain their ham radio license. Condensed breakdown contains everything you need to pass the test.

6. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Elijah Wood is Huck Finn. He nails the dialect, boyish charm and likeability of Twain's best character. Slavery commentary is eye opening.

7. Amulet #1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kabuishi
Beautiful artwork and alt-world storyline bring this book to life. Aimed at a younger audience, but still enjoyable for this adult. Rabbits!

8. Peter Panzerfaust Volume 1: The Great Escape by Kurtis J. Wiebe and Tyler Jenkers
Peter Pan set in Nazi Germany with a ragtag band of orphans as the Lost Boys. Solid story, great lettering, beautiful art bring this to life.

Books completed: 8/50

50bookchallenge Book List for 2013

Default Ron
Well folks, here's the list for 2013!

  1. Silent Night: A Lady Julia Christmas Novella by Deanna Raybourn

  2. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

  3. Dangerous by Amanda Quick

  4. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones

  5. The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  6. This Town by Sidney Blumenthal

  7. Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman

  8. My Sister’s Song by Gail Carriger

  9. Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman

  10. Marine Biology by Gail Carriger

  11. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

  12. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

  13. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

  14. Slight Shady by Amanda Quick

  15. Don’t Look Back by Amanda Quick

  16. Late for the Wedding by Amanda Quick

  17. Seduction by Amanda Quick

  18. Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach

  19. Extraction by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

  20. Lie by Moonlight by Amanda Quick

  21. Artemis Fowl: The Atlantis Complex by Eoin Colfer

  22. Artemis Fowl: The Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer

  23. Cold Vengeance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

  24. Bossypants by Tina Fey

  25. Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth

  26. Affair by Amanda Quick

  27. Etiquette & Espionate (Finishing School Series #1) by Gail Carriger

  28. Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him by Luis Carlos Montalvan

  29. A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

  30. The Mystery Woman by Amanda Quick

  31. An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde

  32. Murder in Chelsea by Victoria Thompson

  33. Shoggoth's Old Peculiar by Neil Gaiman

  34. The Red Plague Affair by Lilith Saintcrow

  35. Two Graves by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

  36. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

  37. The Walking Dead Vol 18: What Comes After by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard

  38. The Mirage: A Novel by Matt Ruff

  39. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

  40. Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

  41. Recalculating by Jennifer Weiner

  42. Shirley Jones: A Memoir by Shirley Jones

  43. Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Loureiro

  44. Heartless by Gail Carriger

  45. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

  46. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

  47. Timeless by Gail Carriger

  48. The Third Gate by Lincoln Child

  49. The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

  50. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

  51. This Time Together: Laughter and Reflections by Carol Burnett

  52. Games of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

  53. Fairy Debt by Gail Carriger

  54. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

  55. Dark Days by Manel Loureiro

  56. Midsummer Night by Deanna Raybourn

  57. Anthem by Ayn Rand

  58. World War Z by Max Brooks

  59. 1984 by George Orwell

  60. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

  61. Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

  62. White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

  63. A Clash of Kings


Ending the year of books

Cross posted to 50bookchallenge

Well, I finished book 62 New Year's Eve! I'm pleased with this year's challenge :)

59. 1984 by George Orwell

I initially read this book in high school and hated it so much that it put me off Orwell. In college, I had to read some of his essays, and it was then I discovered what a terrific writer he was. I've been meaning to revisit this book for several years, but just now got around to it. Wow! Being an adult and having a better understanding of politics, the world, etc. has made all the difference in how I enjoy this book. I completely get Orwell's dystopian world now. I understand the disenchantment and fear of the political machine. I've seen how easily a society can slip into mindless agreement with the voice of Big Brother. This cautionary tale rings true to some of our recent past, and I'm glad I've reread it as an adult. If you've never read it, or read it when you were younger and hated it, I urge you to go back and try it again. It's a fine work and I think it'll resonate with you.

60. How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

This delightful Christmas favorite was read to my nephew on Christmas Eve, right after we read "Twas the Night Before Christmas." He loved it - I don't know if anyone has actually ever read it to him before!

61. Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman

It's been a while since I've visisted the Sandman universe, so it was a treat to return to Dream and the rest of the Endless. As much as I love this series, I'd forgotten how completely disturbing the stories tend to be! Still, the artwork was gorgeous and Gaiman delivered beautiful and compelling vignettes about the Endless.

62. White Fire by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

The dynamic duo have once again delivered a thrilling mystery that churns along at breakneck speeds and leaves the reader guessing what comes next! This time, Agent Pendergast leaves New York City for the glitzy town of Roaring Fork, Colorado - a posh ski resort where Hollywood's elite spend their time showing off their money and prestige.

When an arsonist begins burning down million-dollar homes with the families still inside, it's up to Pendergast to find the killer and bring them to justice. But as he digs deeper, he discovers the town hides many secrets - some that tie its history to Sherlock Holmes of all people! As more homes burns, the FBI agent must hurry to uncover Roaring Fork's murky past before the arsonist strikes again.

Books completed: 62/50
Cross posted to 50bookchallenge

Life got a little busy toward the end of summer, and my posting of read books dwindled. So, here's a recap of August to now.

44. Heartless by Gail Carriger

This was a re-read, and I thoroughly enjoyed. Carriger creates a delightful steampunk world and she has a solid grasp on Victoria London. Her books always make me laugh.

45. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

As a young child, I watched the cartoon, but I never actually read the book. It was wonderful! I'm glad I read it as an adult, because I was able to grasp the sorrow and poignancy of the little prince and the narrator's plight. I don't think I would've realized what was going on had I read it as a child.

46. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Childreny by Ransom Riggs

Not at all what I was expecting, this book is compelling, haunting and even-paced read. If you like WWII history and a bit of the macabre, you'll enjoy this. Good news - the sequel comes out January 2014!

47. Timeless by Gail Carriger

Another re-read, I laughed out loud as I followed Alexia and Co. to Egypt. I'm now reading Carriger's YA The Finishing School series and enjoying it just as much.

48. The Third Gate by Lincoln Child

I'm a huge fan of Preston and Child's Pendergast series, but this was the first standalone novel I'd read by either author. Child creates a thrilling, fast-paced story that keeps you on the edge of your seat. If you like mysteries and have an interest in Egyptology, I can't recommend this book enough.

49. The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens

This is a young adult book I picked up solely because I liked the cover! Fortunately for me, it was a solid book with developed characters. Stephens crafted a wonderful backstory that made you truly care about the children in the book, and the elements of magic were perfectly done.

50. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

A dragon with a murky past must help a young woman whose talent threatens to expose a hidden life she didn't know existed. One of the best young adult books I've read in a long time.

51. This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett

Burnett's striking honesty and gentle jabs at her life and those in it takes the reader on a whirlwind ride of 1950s entertainment to the smash hit that was the Carol Burnett Show. If you're a fan, you will want to read this book.

52. Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Magic. Death. Incest. Death. Court intrigue. Death. Dragons. Death.

(I'll still be reading the next one, though!)

53. Fairy Debt by Gail Carriger

Carriger tries her hand a magical short that succeeds with magic, laughter and a few life lessons tossed in for good measure.

54. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Applegate based this story on the true life of a silverback that was kept in captivity and then slowly reintroduced to others like him at a local zoo. She creates a few characters to help him on his journey, and in doing so, pens a heartwarming - and sometimes heartwrenching - tale that reminds us of love and friendship and why we should take care of the humans and animals around us.

55. Dark Days by Manel Loureiro

The follow-up hit to Apocalypse Z, Loureiro returns to the zombie-infested country of Spain. The gritty story is well-written and never suffers from poor pacing. The only thing I didn't like was that he strayed from the first-person narrative that carried the first book, instead choosing to mix first-person and third-person. I felt this detracted from the overall story. But all in all, he's a strong writer who presents a unique view that's different the usual U.S.-focused zombie stories out there today. If you like zombies, you really need to read this series.

56. Midsummer Night by Deanna Raybourn

This novella in the Lady Julia Grey series takes the reader to Belmont Abbey as Julie Grey and Brisbane prepare to be wed. There's less intrigue than her usual fare, but the story is fun and sets up the pair's later adventure in Dark Road to Darjeeling.

57. Anthem by Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand makes George Orwell's 1984 seem like a party paradise. I enjoyed this book, and I can definitely now see how heavily her writing has influenced Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series. Rand gets her points across much better and in a far-less heavy handed manner. I might have to give The Fountainhead a try. (And note, I'm currently 2/3 of the way through 1984.)

58. World War Z by Max Brooks

This was an accidental re-read for me. I downloaded the audiobook thinking it contained "lost stories." It didn't. It was simply the entire book I'd already read. However, I really like the oral history approach to the zombie genre. Getting first-person accounts make it seem more realistic.

Books completed: 58/50

Christmast holiday wishes

Default Ron
It's that time of year again! Cross posted from holiday_wishes

Hi there! This will be my sixth year doing holiday wishes, and I always love seeing what wishes I can fulfill for people. I also love getting to meet people from all over the world!

I'm Talia. I'm 35 (soon to be 36 - one of those people blessed/cursed to have a birthday directly after Christmas) and live in Tulsa, Oklahoma with my dog and cat. They're awesome, and I'm excited to have another Christmas with them. I'm Native American and am fortunate enough to work for my tribe. I feel like I'm able to give back to my people, and that's a great feeling.

Please feel free to take a look at my list! If you're able to grant a wish, thanks a bunch, and if not, that's okay!

1. Blank postcards - I'm a member of, and I send approximately 15-20 postcards a month all around the world. Oftentimes, people have specific requests which I try to fulfill. The majority of those requests include Harry Potter postcards, Star Trek postcards, Lord of the Rings postcards, Disney postcards and other fantasty-themed cards. So, if you have any blank postcards - especially those - that you'd like to send, that would be AWESOME.

2. Stamps - As you can imagine, I go through a lot of stamps. International stamps (the majority of my cards) cost $1.10. Sometimes, I buy the cool $1.10 stamps, but a lot of times, I combine a nifty forever stamp with a .65 stamp. So, if you're feeling particularly generous and want to send me stamps, I'd totally love that!

3. Postcards to my cousin - I have a cousin who is currently serving a sentence in Texas. He is working hard to turn his life around, and he's succeeding. But because he's in prison, he doesn't get to see much, so he absolutely loves receiving postcards with cool stamps. If you'd like to drop him a postcard or Christmas card, he'd be thrilled. You can tell him his cousin Talia asked you to send it. Here's his address:

Jeffery Groblebe
Jordan Unit
1992 Helton Road
Pampa, TX 79065

4. Help an animal shelter - Both of my girls are rescues, and this a cause near and dear to my heart. You don't have to go and donate a lot of money. A lot of times, shelters really need easy things like towels and blankets, collars, food, or just people willing to volunteer their time. Please consider doing this.

5. Surprise package - Who doesn't like surprises in the mail? I love them! Surprise me with something cool - pens, stickers, chapstick, snacks, candies, soaps, lip gloss (I <3 lip gloss), the Mona Lisa. You know, simple things!

6. Mix CD - I love music. Shoot me a set of your favorite tunes and introduce me to something new!

7. MY PIPE DREAM WISH - I love Robert Preston. So much. He's my fave. He was Professor Harold Hill in the Music Man, and I'd be tickled pink if you sent me anything Robert Preston related!

I know I'm lucky in life, so I don't really need to post 10 things. I'd be happy with anything from the seven listed! If you can fulfill or a wish or just want to say hey, feel free to comment below. If you need my address, please email me a tmyres77 at live dot com.

Happy holidays to everyone here!
Cross posted to 50bookchallenge

Apocalypse Z: The Beginning of the End by Manel Loureiro

Before I get into the meat of the review, let me say that this was an excellent translation from its original Spanish form. There were one, maybe two, syntax errors in the 300+ page book. That's pretty remarkable.

Now, onto the book itself...

First off, I loved the format of this novel. It was written in a journal-entry style, so the author was able to gloss over hours or days without it seeming odd. This worked well, because it's easy to believe that someone who was holed up in their home, hiding from zombies, wouldn't have a whole to talk to about for various chunks of time.

Second, when Mr. Lawyer finally did leave his home, the chronological progression really helped propel the book forward. You had specific times, so you knew how long he'd been on the road, how longed he was captive, etc.

Never once did this book feel stale or cliched. I loved seeing the zombie apolcalypse from a different world perspective. Since the book takes place in Spain, it was interesting seeing how those folks reacted to the news coming in from Europe and the US.

It was easy to develop an emotional bond with the main character, and I think that because he had a close relationship with his cat, who featured prominently in the story. That human trait kept you tethered to him throughout his struggles.

This is book one of a three-book series, and I've already pre-ordered the Kindle version of book two, which comes out October 2013.

If you like the zombie genre, pick up this book. It's one of the best books I've read.

Books completed: 43/50


Cross posted to 50bookchallenge

Recalculating by Jennifer Weiner

This creepy little short was good. I’d never read any of her stuff before, and honestly, I picked it up from Audible simply because Susan Bennett narrated it.

For a .99 cent book, it wasn’t a bad read. The plot is pretty straightforward. Maureen, a victim of domestic abuse throughout her long marriage, finally gets the courage to off her husband, Tommy, as he slowly wastes away from cancer.

Several months later, she discovers a gift he left her stashed away in their attic. It’s a GSP. But Maureen quickly discovers her GPS is haunted by the spirit of her dead husband, and he wants revenge.

I think Weiner wanted this to be a goofy-yet-slightly creepy Halloween short, and it sort of works. But there are times when Maureen is extremely slow on the uptake and that detracts from the overall story.

If you want to be a little entertained and just want something that’s a quick read, you’ll probably like this book.

Books completed: 41/50

Shirley Jones: A Memoir by Shirley Jones

I've been a fan of Shirley Jones since I was 11 and saw her in "The Music Man." I've also had the pleasure of meeting her in person twice - once at a lecture and another time at one her concerts.

Although it's easy for people to confuse the actor with the role, I've always had a solid understanding that Shirley Jones was unlike the roles that she played on TV and in the movies.

That being said, I was quite disappointed with her latest book. Aside from the fact that it was not copy-edited very well (several misspellings and missing words), I felt the content was poorly organized. Generally, memoirs and autobiographies are linear. It just makes sense to organize the narrative that way. But Jones' book jumped all over the place - one moment she was a young child, the next a married woman, and then back to being a teenager.

The content itself was disappointing. Rather than present a thoughtful account of her upbringing, career and marriage, she chose to resort to shock-jock tactics, spilling everything about her sexual activies (including how she masturbates and to what), her sons' physical endowments, etc.

I realize that you don't want to sugar coat things in a memoir, but there are ways to be tasteful while still being honest. It's almost as if she wanted to distance herself from any squeaky-clean image that still might linger. For me, that forced crassness was distracting and frustrating.

In the end, I did learn more about Shirley Jones. In some cases, I learned much more than I ever wanted to know. Reading this book makes me want to sit down and write Julie Andrews an earnest thank you card for providing a lovely memoir that was thoughtfully and tastefully written and laid out in an easy-to-understand chronological order.

Shirley Jones should take note.

Books completed: 42/50

Aug. 5th, 2013

Default Ron

Just saying I'm alive :) I'll try to sit down and make a good post tomorrow!


Cross posted to 50bookchallenge

The Mirage: A Novel by Matt Ruff

B&N Synopsis

11/9/2001: Christian fundamentalists hijack four jetliners. They fly two into the Tigris & Euphrates World Trade Towers in Baghdad, and a third into the Arab Defense Ministry in Riyadh. The fourth plane, believed to be bound for Mecca, is brought down by its passengers. The United Arab States declares a War on Terror. Arabian and Persian troops invade the Eastern Seaboard and establish a Green Zone in Washington, D.C. ...

Summer, 2009: Arab Homeland Security agent Mustafa al Baghdadi interrogates a captured suicide bomber. The prisoner claims that the world they are living in is a mirage—in the real world, America is a superpower, and the Arab states are just a collection of "backward third-world countries." Other captured terrorists have been telling the same story.

The gangster Saddam Hussein is conducting his own investigation. And the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee—a war hero named Osama bin Laden—will stop at nothing to hide the truth. As Mustafa and his colleagues venture deeper into the unsettling world of terrorism, politics, and espionage, they are confronted with questions without any rational answers, and the terrifying possibility that their world is not what it seems.

I picked up this because I thought an alternate history of 9/11 would be interesting to read. But as I began to delve deeper in to the novel, I realized there was much more to it than that. It's hard to discuss the plot of the book without giving too much away, but Matt Ruff has done an excellent job of recreating the world we presently know as one that features Arab states as superpowers and America as a third-world country full of extremists, suicide bombers and militas. It's an interesting concept and one that hits uncomfortably close to home these days.

Ruff's writing is crisp, his narrative believable, and his characters are three-dimensional. You care about them and what happens to them as the story develops. That's not often the case for many writers, so kudos to Ruff.

The premise of The Mirage is extraordinarily interesting, and I can't imagine anyone who's a political buff or history fan not enjoying this book.

Books completed: 38/50

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

In an effort to include more classics in my selections, I began reading Oscar Wilde this year. My first two choices An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest introduced me to Wilde's clever wit and biting commentary on social London. So when I began this story, I expected much of the same.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that this story is on the opposite end of the spectrum from some of Wilde's lighter works.

Dorian Gray, a handsome young man who is a bit narcisstic and vain, serves as muse and idol for artist Basil Hallward. When Hallward's friend, Lord Henry Wotten, meets Gray, he is intrigued by the young man who has captured Hallward's devotion. Gray, for his part, becomes enthralled with Wotten's hedonistic view. When Hallward creates his best work yet - a breathtaking portrait of Gray that seems to perfectly capture the young man's beauty and youth - Dorian wistfully wishes he could remain forever young and let the painting age instead of him.

As Gray becomes more enamored of Lord Henry's views, his life begins to change, but his physical appearance does not, and thus, we realize his wish has somehow been granted. As Gray's debauchery reaches new lows, the young man's physical appearance remains untouched; however, the portait shows every sin the man commits.

To say this book was not all what I was expecting would be an understatement. It was dark, wicked and oftentimes perverse. But that's not to say I didn't enjoy Wilde's story and the moral lessons he tucked within the pages. Gray serves as a warning to all that a wicked life cannot go unpunished. But more importantly, Dorian Gray is a potent reminder that a beautiful exterior can easily mask a poisonous interior.

Books completed: 39/50

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

Although I know the story well enough, I've never actually read it until now.

Barrie's story is a remarkable tale of childhood innocence, arrogance and the bonds of family. While the story is familiar to almost everyone, Barrie's actual tale can be quite dark at times, with murders and death scattered throughout the chapters. His fondness for the Darling children doesn't preclude the narrator from his offering his perspective that they can be quite heartless and self-centered at times.

The narrator voice jumps back and forth throughout the story and sometimes even talks directly to characters and then to the reader. This was a bit off-putting, but that's a personal preference.

I think what I most enjoyed about this tale was the snark and wit that comes through the pages. It's not something that's seen in the Disney version. After reading this story, I realized the live-action Peter Pan film made in 2003 is probably the closest translation of the book.

This is a wonderful, fun story. If you've never read it, I encourage you to do so. You will thoroughly enjoy revisting a childhood favorite.

Books completed: 40/50