April 2013

1, Which hour was most daunting for you?
Hour 9. It was past 11 pm here and I went to sleep.

2, Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?
Light and easy to read. Mysteries, fantasy, whatever you’re interested in.

3, Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?
No, everything was great.

4, What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?
The Mini challenges.

5, How many books did you read?
I completed two books I started to read before the read-a-thon and read completely one graphic novel.
Also, I started two books.

6, What were the names of the books you read?
Batman: Time and the Batman, The Stepsister Scheme, and Con & Conjure.

Started books: Lord of the Sands of Time and Working Stiff.

7, Which book did you enjoy most?
Hmmm. They were all good. Perhaps Con&Conjure was best because it’s the fourth in a series and I’ve already become quite attached to the characters.

8, Which did you enjoy least?

9, If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?
Thanks to all Cheerleaders!

10, How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?
If I have the time, I’ll participate, probably as a reader.

I’ve finished all of my goals:
Finished Con & Conjure
Finished listening the Stepsister Scheme
Read Batman: Time and the Batman.

I’ve started reading The Lord of the Sands of time and started listening Working Stiff.

Nisaba Be Praised hosts the MadLibs mini challenge:

Here’s what you’re gonna do:
1) pick a paragraph (not too long) from the book you’re reading
2) remove some/most of the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs, and either
3a) get a friend (in person, over the phone, over the internet–whatever!) to fill in the words for you mad-libs style or
3b) fill them in yourself from the spoiler-texted word list below
4) post your hilarious paragraph on your blog and link us to it or leave it in a comment here!

From my Lord of the Sands of Time:

“It’s a library ship,” enthused Alexandr. “They’ve got hundreds of thousands of volumes dating to the twenty-first century and even earlier. Can you believe it? Books made of paper. It’s astounding that they survived all the fighting.”

(of course I had to pick that paragraph :))

“It’s a Read-a-thon,” grooved Alexandr. “They’ve got hundreds of thousands of cookies reading to the bookish tricycle and even earlier. Can you slump it? Band-aids made of cupboards. It smacks astounding that they flinged all the fighting.”

I’m up again and reading!

Or rather participating in mini challenges.

Stacey’s Books hosts a mini challenge about covers. Here’s my list:

1, Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
2, Aviator’s Wife
3, The Homicide Hustle (great title, too)
4, Bake It Like You Mean It (I love chocolate)
5, The Secret of Happy Ever After
6, From the Kitchen of Half Truth
7, Dark Triumph (although the bug looks terrifying, too)
8, Walking Disaster
9, Fly Away

It’s past 11 pm here so I’m off to sleep.

The mini challenge with Yoga looked very interesting but I’m way too tired to do it now.

I’ve made good headway into my next book: the Lord of the Sands of Time by Issui Ogawa, translated from Japanese. I’ve read 40 pages so far and it’s very interesting alternate history SF.

It’s hour 4 and I’ve already listened The Stepsister Scheme for an hour and finished Con & Conjure. Next up is Batman and chocolate cookies.

Geeky Blogger’s minichallenge looks really fun:

Take your current read or the one you just finished.
ReTitle it with something clever
Post to your blog, twitter, facebook, or goodreads with your snazzy new title!

I just finished Con & Conjure. Retitled: Raine Benares dodging assassins, evil elves, enraged goblins and werecrabs.

The read-a-thon has started!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I’m in Finland.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Con & Conjure by Lisa Shearin because I only have 49 more pages to go!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Chocolate cookies, which I’m going to bake in just a few moments.

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
This time I’ve made my whole TBR the reading pool. I have so many books I’m itching to read.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?
I’ve participate in a few read-a-thons. This time I’m going to have modest goals:

finish Con & Conjure
listen the Stepsister Scheme for two hours
read Batman: Time and the Batman.

A collection of five mystery novellas.

Publication year: 2011
Format: ebook, Kindle
Publisher: WMG Publishing

Discovery was first published in 2008, Cowboy Grace in 2003, Jury Duty 2005, Patriotic Gestures in 2008, and Spinning 2000.

In these five stories all of the main characters are women and they have to deal with a mystery one way or another, although they don’t all solve crimes. However, I enjoyed all of them. The second one was my favorite.

In Discovery, Pita Cardenas is a lawyer in a small town and she accepts a client whose case seems at first impossible to win. However, Pita aims to just put food on the table and gather enough evidence that her client would agree to settle. But Nan Hughes doesn’t want to settle. Her husband was supposedly killed while trying to race a train. Nan doesn’t believe it no matter how many eyewitnesses the railroad has. So, Pita digs into the evidence dutifully and finds more than she thought she would.

In Cowboy Grace, the title character, Grace, has just survived a cancer scare. She realizes that she wants more from her life than what she currently has: her own accounting firm and a couple of female friends who don’t even ask her how she feels. So, she sells her firm to her only employee, moves, and changes her name. However, her past isn’t so easy to leave behind.

I also really enjoyed Jury Duty. Pamela has been summoned to court for jury duty. However, she has her own reasons not to want to sit in the jury.

In Patriotic Games, the main character, Pamela again, has lost her only daughter. Her daughter was a soldier and Pamela puts the flag out on her porch. Then someone burns her flag and other flags in her neighborhood. Big mistake; Pamela is a crime scene technician and determined to find out the guilty party.

In Spinning the main character Patricia has joined a spinning class in order to lose weight and get in shape. She’s about to give up when her instructor’s disgusted look gives her determination to not only continue but get even with him. However, things turn out differently.

The twelfth book in the historical mystery series.

Publication year: 2002
Format: Audio
Publisher: Belinda audio
Narrator: Stephanie Daniel
Running Time: 9 hrs and 38 minutes

This time the Honorable Phryne Fisher has two unrelated mysteries to deal with. Anatole Betrand is the owner and the chef in one of the best French restaurants in Melbourne. He’s around forty years old and has found an eighteen-year-old girl, Elizabeth, for himself. Unfortunately, Elizabeth has vanished and Anatole wants Phryne to find her. Elizabeth’s father is a “well-known racing identity” who is a terror to his servants and most likely a crimina. He sent the girl to a finishing school years ago. So, he doesn’t really know his daughter.

Phryne’s friends Cec and Bert tell her that two of their friends have died. Officially, their deaths are accidents but Cec and Bert are convinced that someone has murdered their friends. Cec, Bert, and the two victims are part of a group of seven soldiers who have kept in touch over the years. Since they haven’t done anything remarkable after the war, Phryne concludes that they must have seen something during their time in Paris, when they were together celebrating the end of the war. Cec and Bert reminisce about their time in Paris and Phryne also remembers her time just after the war. She was an ambulance driver during the war and after is she met some of the famous Parisian artist and modelled for a while in order to buy rent and food. She fell in love the first time, but unfortunately for a completely wrong man.

Also, Phryne’s Chinese lover Lin Chung announces that he’s been engaged to be married. His fiancée is a lovely, seventeen-year-old virgin from mainland China and she will arrive soon. Phryne has understood that this will happen and she would like to meet the girl and put her at ease. However, Phryne’s dependable servants, Mr. and Mrs. Butler, are resigning. Mr. Butler doesn’t want to live in a household where adultery is going on. Phryne is miffed and sets out to find a new butler.

It was great to see more of Phryne’s history and to glimpse into the bohemian side of Paris right after the war. As far as I can tell, Greenwood captures it wonderfully.

Even though Greewood writes with humor, she deals (again) with serious issues such as racism and attitudes towards immigrants.

The main cast are back and even Phryne’s adoptive daughters will have a larger role in the book than usual. Since meeting Lin Chung, we been told that his family will arranged a marriage for him so it wouldn’t be possible for Lin and Phryne to get married. I’ve been wondering about this; if Greenwood would make the prospective bride a criminal or otherwise unsuitable so that Phryne could marry her Chinese lover. Thankfully, this didn’t happen. In fact, it was dealt with tastefully, if perhaps a bit too easily. I was a bit sorry for the poor girl; she would be moving to another country getting married to a man she doesn’t know and the man is already in love with someone else and continuing the relationship. Hardly fair for her.

A great continuation to the series.

Please give a warm welcome to guest blogger Adam Shepard.

I left home at 29, just for a year, to travel around the world. I didn’t leave angry or lost or on a search for meaning. Likewise, I returned energized and inspired after having spent the greatest year of my life on the road. I learned Spanish, I went hang gliding, I ate way too many banana splits, and I grew a mustache and a mullet (on separate occasions, of course).

And now, I’m left with the photos of my experiences, the slight aftertaste of duck embryo in the Philippines still lingering, and memories of the wonderful people I met along the way.

The people. I think that being out in the world to see that good and evil exist everywhere, and that good exists in far greater supply, has validated many things for me. But mostly it has allowed me to stay on edge, to always be open to the possibility that, despite my experiences with those whose path I just crossed, the next person I meet could be a jerk or a wonderful new traveling companion.

And no lesson solidified that for me more than the immigration officer I met at the border heading from Honduras and into Nicaragua:

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00028]

So I finished volunteering in Honduras. The next stop beckoned, and besides, this country I’d spent the past two months in was becoming increasingly dangerous. Peace Corps volunteers had been beaten and robbed over the last couple of years, two of them killed. Then, one more was shot in the arm during a routine bus robbery, and the director of the Peace Corps, completely fed up, ordered the extraction of all of their volunteers from Honduras.

I took a ferry to Útila, one of the Bay Islands snuggled in the Caribbean, and after four days, earned my scuba certification. I started introducing myself in social settings as “Adam Shepard, certified scuba diver.”

Then I caught the bus for Nicaragua. An oversold bus schedule left me stranded in Tegucigalpa for a three-day layover. Tegucigalpa: the Honduran capital, the pit of the earth and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you ever find yourself mad at your life, fly down to Tegus, that bustling, decrepit place, and you’ll come to appreciate everything you have back home. The people are nice enough, but you’ll have a hard time noticing them over the odious city landscape—the dilapidated buildings almost leaning against one another as they decay, the grimy sidewalks, the pungent market stalls.

Then, to escalate my troubles, as I finally crossed the border from Honduras to Nicaragua, the immigration official at the window frowned and signaled me to a back room. Confused, I followed him back to a cramped office. He preferred to remain standing as he informed me that I’d overstayed my visa by five days. Despite his otherwise aggravated tone, I caught a flicker of sympathy on his face as I stared down the barrel of a very fat fine.

“You understand,” he said with a sigh, a placid demeanor now, frowning down at my passport as if it was just as much at fault as I was, “that this is a very big problem.”

There were no shady side rooms with men wearing latex gloves; he wasn’t going to lock me up in a dank prison cell for the weekend or call in his superiors to give me a shakedown. His tired eyes said he knew I wasn’t deliberately doing anything illegal; he knew my pack wasn’t stuffed with sacks of marijuana. But matter-of-factly, I’d overstayed my welcome. I’d misunderstood the CA-4 alliance among Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala, and I’d been in the region five days past the allotted ninety.

“Hm. I don’t understand,” I said sincerely, leaning forward and pointing to my passport. I was prepared to pay a fine and any other punishment as long as I could understand what I’d done wrong. “I was in Guatemala for thirty days, and then I came into Honduras. I thought my ninety days started over when I entered Honduras.”

Fidgeting with the shiny badge attached to his breast pocket, he explained the precise legalities of the CA-4 alliance, and I pondered about how the precise legalities of the CA-4 alliance were a bunch of bullshit. But so are all short-term tourist visas. “Get serious!” I wanted to scream. “I’m spending my money here, fine sir! So you want to limit my time and how much money I can spend here? I’m having fun! You want me to take my money elsewhere? Get serious.” I was baffled. I stared out the window at a flat, dry land giving way to rolling hills demanding yet more exploration. I blew a frustrated sigh through my lips. Why do they want me to leave? Do they think I’m going to hang out too long in Central America because I’m illicitly stealing someone’s job?

“I’m an American citizen,” I said, searching for some tactic that would get me out of this dingy back room. “Does that count for something?”

He said, “Buddy, your mom smells like the poo of an African gray parrot, and your dad herds Peruvian goats for a living. I don’t give a turd if you are the most valuable batsman on Sri Lanka’s national cricket team. You have violated the CA-4.” At least that’s what he might have said. I couldn’t be sure. Dozens of Spanish syllables rolled off his tongue at a blistering pace, and I’m best with the slow-motion variety of Spanish.

I told him he had to ease up if we had any chance of sorting this out. Or, at the very least, provide subtitles.

“Well,” I offered. “I’m not sure exactly what to do. I obviously didn’t understand the rule here, and for that I’m sorry.”

I’m sorry. That’s what I said. I’m sorry. As if I’d dribbled mustard from my hot dog over the bleachers’ edge and onto his crisp, clean replica jersey at a soccer game. I’ll pay for the dry cleaning, sir. I’m sorry. This hombre, as affably as possible, was explaining to me that I’d broken international law, and I shot him a little “whoopsy daisy.”

“Yes, I understand that you’re sorry,” he pronounced with authority, “but you have to understand that this is a very big problem.” These security people live to give others a hard time. This is how it is all over the world, of course, but Latinos love being hard on Americans especially, because our visa policies for them are much, much stricter than the CA-4 is for us.

But I’d broken the rules, and this was a problem. “A very big problem,” he kept telling me. I limped along in conversation, steadily: “Well, I do understand that, but I’m not sure exactly what to do here. It appears that my options are limited.” I wasn’t mad or hostile. My tone, though laced with suppressed frustration, came out as calm as I could make it. I knew this wasn’t going to end well for me, but I also knew it wasn’t going to end with me sitting in a cell with a hole as a toilet, fighting for elbow room amid a gang of smutty outlaws. I’d resigned myself to the hefty penalty that loomed ahead, money shaved from my funds, which would likely land in the border official’s motor scooter fund, and then I’d be on my way. A day ruined, a lesson learned. “I thought I understood the law here,” I continued, “but I guess I didn’t. Listen, I feel bad. All I wanted to do was come to Honduras and visit and be a volunteer, and—”

“Volunteer? You’ve been volunteering?”

“Yes, sir. Two months in El Porvenir, and now I’m going down to volunteer in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.”

“Well, son,” he said, nodding. “All I can say is thank you for the service you have done for my country.” He reached his calloused hand out to shake mine. He scribbled something in my passport—which I couldn’t read then, nor can I now—signed it, and ambled off to help the next person in line.

I couldn’t believe it. The nominal per capita GDP in Honduras is just over 4 percent of what it is in the United States. Four percent! Put another way, it takes a Honduran citizen twenty-five years to earn an average U.S. citizen’s annual salary. That guy, that pudgy junior-grade border patrol agent, with his glossy badge and his fancy pleated pants and his lazy Friday nights at home with TV dinners, could have eaten heartily for three weeks on the money he knows I was getting ready to pull out of my pocket. And nobody would have known.

But he didn’t care about that. He smiled, shook my hand, and he let me go.

Adam Shepard’s first book, Scratch Beginnings, was featured widely in the national media and thenceforth chosen on the curriculum or as a common read at over ninety colleges and universities across the United States. His newest book, One Year Lived, recounts the year he spent out in the world: seventeen countries, four continents, and one haunting encounter with a savage bull. More information (and a picture of the mullet that Adam grew on the trip) are available at http://www.OneYearLived.com.

Booking Through Thursday

I saw a Latin edition of “The Hobbit” last time I was at the bookstore… Do you read any foreign languages? Do you ENJOY reading in other languages?

My native tongue is Finnish…
I’ve read in English for many years and I enjoy it. Most of my favorite writers haven’t been translated into Finnish so I wouldn’t have found them if I wouldn’t read in English. (That’s a circular argument, of course. :))

Also, I read mostly SF and fantasy. I’ve watched English language SF and fantasy shows before I started to read in English, so I’ve always associated science fiction and fantasy with English.

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