Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: The End of an Era

The Sunday Salon.com Happy Sunday, Saloners! It's the end of the year, and it's also the end of an era here at Reading and Ruminations. As I've mentioned several times recently, Reading and Ruminations is moving to WordPress. It's basically already moved; my Sunday Salon posts are the only posts I've been making here in the last few weeks.

So I thought I would take today to kind of do a wrap-up of this phase of my book blogging life.

I started this blog in January 2005. My good friend bookloversdiary had begun keeping a separate blog for the books she read (she has another blog, which I won't name to protect her privacy), and it seemed like a good idea to me, too. So I came up with the wholly unoriginal username shootingstarr7, which wasn't much of a departure from my existing username, shootingstarr. My first post was a review of three different books: A Monarch Transformed by Mark Kishlansky (which to this day remains one of my favorite history books), Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, and Hornblower and the Hotspur by C.S. Forester. As I was re-reading that first post, one thing became evident to me: my need for quality, full characters in a novel is not a new thing. My review of the Hornblower book discusses my love of the Hornblower character. It's interesting to note, though, that I was looking forward to moving on to the next book in the series. I own the full series, and never got beyond that third book. I never even started the fourth book, much less completed the series. Hm. I should consider going back to them.

I've also fallen out of the habit of reading non-fiction for fun. I should try to read more of it.

Anyway. As 2005 went on, I began blogging about books less and less, and in 2006, I didn't do it at all. 2006 was a pretty brutal year for me, though. I lost someone important to me to suicide early in the year, and it took me at least a full year to get over it, though I didn't realize at the time what horrible shape I was in. At any rate, this blog was silent. I came back to it in early 2007, but I didn't do too much with it. I did a few review posts, but almost nothing worth noting.

Something else happened in 2007: I discovered Library Thing. During the first few months, I didn't do much with it, but by April and May of 2007, I began adding all my books, and playing around with the site. In late 2007, I discovered the talk boards. And in turn, I began to rediscover book blogging.

I didn't start actively book blogging again until April 2008. I began to poke around people's blogs and see some great reviews, and it made me want to start writing my own reviews on a blog again (because you just can't respond the way you can to reviews on LT). And then I began to notice that some people were participating in this thing called the Sunday Salon. And the rest is kind of history. Posting to Sunday Salon forced me to remember to post every week, and I began to want to fill in the rest of the weeks with more posts. And I'm reading more now than I was a year ago. In 2007, I read 28 books, none of them particularly challenging. So far in 2008, I've read 48 books, with the hopes of finishing two more in the next few days so I can say I read 50 books in 2008. That's a great step in the right direction.

Because the Sunday Salon made me a more active, better blogger, it's really kind of fitting that my final post here at this incarnation of Reading and Ruminations be a Sunday Salon post.

2008 also saw some major changes to this blog. For starters, it got a name. Before I became part of the Sunday Salon, the title of this blog was "Reading Journal" or maybe "Shauna's Reading Journal." Not particularly interesting or inventive. I couldn't really tell you where "Reading and Ruminations" came from. I wanted something a bit bookish, and "Reading and Thinking" doesn't have much of a ring to it. Reading and Ruminations is a bit more polished.

I also tried to post a wider variety of content as well, though I don't think I succeeded in that as well as I would like. Ah well. Something to look forward for 2009 perhaps?

I'd like to take a minute to thank everyone who has stopped by this year to leave me comments and encouragement. I'd also like to thank those of you who took part in my giveaways this year. I've enjoyed meeting so many new bloggers, and I look forward to continuing our acquaintance in the future.

I was going to do a bit more of a 2008-specific retrospective, but I think I will save that for next Sunday's Salon post. So that's what we can look forward to for next week. A 2008 retrospective, and a look ahead to 2009.

Hope you all had a fantastic holiday week this past week, and I hope you all have a wonderful New Year's Celebration this coming week.
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Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: Giveaway Winners

The Sunday Salon.com

Happy Sunday, all. Today is the first day since last Sunday that I literally have nowhere to be, and the first day in several months with no obligations of any kind (that I'm aware of yet). So how should I celebrate? By announcing the winners of my Barnes and Noble gift card giveaway.

First of all, thanks so much to all who entered! I had 27 total entrants, so I will round my donation to Room to Read up to an even $30. This money will go toward child education and literacy in Africa and Asia, so thank you very much for your support!

Now, for the fun part. There are three winners. The first is the winner of a $30 Barnes and Noble gift card; the other two each win a $15 gift card.

The winner of the $30 gift card is...
Terri of Reading, Writing, and Retirement!


And the winners of the $15 gift cards are...
Rebecca of Rebecca Reads!


and

Brittanie of A Book Lover!


Congratulations to all three of you. I will email you all later this afternoon to get your mailing addresses, but I don't anticipate that I will get anything in the mail until after Christmas.

***
On a completely different note, I've only managed to finish reading one book this week, but it was something of an accomplishment for me. Alias Grace has been on my shelves for a long time (five years), and I started reading it when I got it, only to be distracted (if I remember correctly, I was going through a period of serious depression at that time, so I didn't really have the ability to concentrate on anything). And so the book remained on my shelves for five years, just waiting to be read. So I started over earlier in the fall, and took my time with it. And now I've read it, and I enjoyed it a lot. My review is at Reading and Ruminations 2.0.

What about you? Do you have any books that have lingered on your shelf for years? And when you read them, was it worth the wait?

Since finishing that, I've moved on to American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld. I've had it since it came out, but haven't had the chance to start it before now. It's turning out to be a pretty quick read for me. My goal is to finish it before Christmas, and then after Christmas I'm going to try to read two quick, easy books so I can reach my 50 book goal.

Also, next week's Sunday Salon will be the last post made here on the original Reading and Ruminations. You'll be able to find all my posts in 2009 at the new home of Reading and Ruminations on Wordpress. The link is: http://readingandruminations.wordpress.com/

Have a great Sunday!
Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: Moving News and a Giveaway Reminder

The Sunday Salon.com

Happy Sunday, fellow Saloners! Hope you're all well, and that those of you in the Northeastern United States are starting to thaw out and get your power back. It's a little drizzly here, which is the most promising bit of weather we've had in weeks (we've been under a cloud of fog since late November).

So it's been a pretty eventful week here at Reading and Ruminations. Last Sunday evening, after my Sunday Salon post, an idle thought turned into something kind of big. In 2009, Reading and Ruminations will have a new home on WordPress. I've been less than satisfied with LiveJournal for my book blog for awhile, and the time has come to make a change. I'd toyed with the idea of making the transition a gradual one, especially since this LJ account has paid amenities that are supposed to last until next December. However, I set up the new account at WordPress last weekend and moved a few things, and realized that it would be too much work to do a year-long transition. So, by the end of the year, all of my posts will be made exclusively at the new Reading and Ruminations.

That's not to say I'll be taking this site down. All existing links to this blog will still work. It just won't see any new content after December 31, 2008. I'd complete the move sooner, but there are some final things that need to be wrapped up here, starting with my Barnes & Noble Gift Card Giveaway. I've already moved my 2009 challenges, as well as my Tuesday Thingers and Booking Through Thursday posts. I've moved a couple reviews, but I think it might be easier to just link to the reviews I made here. The Sunday Salon will probably be the last thing I move.

For those who would like to follow me at WordPress, the link to the new blog is:
http://readingandruminations.wordpress.com

In the meantime, a reminder about my giveaway: I am giving away THREE Barnes & Noble gift cards! Completely free! AND, I will be making a donation to charity for every entry made. There are currently 21 entries, which means my donation to Room to Read currently stands at $21. The giveaway is open until next Saturday, and I will announce the winners next Sunday.

Now, for the whole point of these Sunday Salon posts: books! I finished up two books this week: The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth, and Let it Snow, a three story YA collection by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle. I loved The King's Daughter. For me, it was everything that a historical fiction novel should be, and I tell you why here. And I thought that Let it Snow was a sweet, charming collection of stories, and I've reviewed it here. I've finished 46 books so far for the year, and I think I'm going to make my goal of 50 for the year. I'm currently reading two short story collections: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri and Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese. I'm going to finish reading Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood sometime in the next few days (I've got about 60 pages left), and then it's on to Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates.

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your Sunday. Don't forget to check out the giveaway!
shootingstarr7 reviews

Review: The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth



England in the 15th century isn't exactly a stable place to be if you're royalty. The Wars of the Roses leave the throne bouncing back and forth between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians. Princess Elizabeth of York spends much of her time in and out of sanctuary, hiding while her father, Edward IV, defends his throne. After her father's death, her younger brother is crowned Edward V- and he, along with younger brother Richard, are sent to the Tower of London by their uncle, who becomes King Richard III of England. What happens to the boys after that is one of the great historical mysteries, and no one is able to say for certain whether one or both of them died in the Tower. The final outcome of the Wars of the Roses is determined at Bosworth Field, and Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian, beats Richard III and becomes Henry VII of England. In an effort to legitimize his seat on the throne and end the wars once and for all, Henry marries Elizabeth.

The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth is Elizabeth's story. Elizabeth of York holds an interesting place in history: she is the only Queen of England to have been daughter, sister, niece, wife, and mother of kings of England. Yet she doesn't receive much attention- she certainly doesn't receive the same level of attention as the wives of her son (Henry VIII). But that doesn't make her any less important. It was for her sake that subjects were willing to accept Henry on the throne.

For me, The King's Daughter was everything that a historical fiction novel should be: it's a new take on a familiar story, and every single character is absolutely believable. I've mentioned that I studied history in college, and my interest has always been with British monarchs. But I don't know much about monarchs preceding Henry VIII, and this book made me want to run for my history books, and order books on monarchs that predate my books on the Tudors. My curiosity is piqued, and I want to know more.

One of the things I loved most about this novel is that it didn't fall into the traps that plague many historical novels: tawdry (and unbelievable) love scenes, and women with 21st century sensibilities. Certainly, there were strong women at the time. Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort, was one of them- and Worth's portrayal of Margaret Beaufort is historically accurate. But Elizabeth herself was kind of a doormat in some ways, and that's okay. Worth doesn't portray her as weak and insipid, but as the type of woman who knows to pick and choose her battles- and she does so with dignity and class. And in regard to my first point, there is one scene I can recall in the novel that involves physical intimacy, but it's not particularly titillating. There were scandals and intrigues enough during this time that it's not necessary to invent more.

I highly, highly recommend this book. I will be reading Worth's other novels, and I will likely be doing it sooner rather than later. It's one of the best historical fiction novels I've read in a long time.

Buy this book on Amazon

Rating: 4.5 stars
Pages: 388
Publisher, ISBN: Berkley, 9780425221440
AOGG Gilbert Anne

Contemplating a Change

I’ve been using Live Journal to blog about books for almost four years now, and for a time, I was very happy. Live Journal is the blogging service I’ve been using for my personal blog for more than seven years, and I’m still fully satisfied with it as a personal blog. However, I’ve been growing more discontent with Live Journal as my way of blogging about books. So, I’m going to try something new for a little while: I will be using both Live Journal and WordPress to book-blog for the next year. At the end of the year, I will decide which blogging service has suited my needs better, and the other will lie dormant.

I will not be double-posting everything. Reviews will be double-posted, but my Sunday Salon posts will remain exclusively at LiveJournal, at least for now. However, I will probably be making all of my Tuesday Thingers posts at WordPress. I haven’t yet made a decision about my Booking Through Thursday posts. I will, however, provide links between the two services so anyone who reads my blog on one service will not miss out on posts made on the other service. Likewise, giveaways will only be hosted on one service, though which service that is will be determined at another point.

I hope you’ll all bear with me as I experiment with the two services to see which is the best fit for my needs. Over the next several days, I will probably begin posting some of my existing reviews to WordPress.

You can find my new book blog (also titled Reading and Ruminations) here.
Sunday Salon

Sunday Salon: A Giveaway

The Sunday Salon.com

This isn't going to be a very cohesive post. I've got a lot going on and even more on my mind.

First things first: I am having a Barnes & Noble gift card giveaway! You must enter on the entry post, which can be found here. There are a couple rules, but the main stipulation is that it's only eligible to those in the United States. I'm donating a dollar for every entry to Room to Read, a charity that promotes childhood literacy and early education around the world. There are three gift cards up for grabs: one for $30 and two for $15 each. The giveaway ends December 20th, and I'll announce the winners on Sunday, December 21st.

Loss and grief have been a major theme of my week this past week. On Monday, as you all know, we discovered we lost Dewey, who has done so much for the book blogging community. She was a vital part of this community, and I know we'll all work together to continue the projects she started. I didn't know her the way so many of you did, but I still feel her loss.

More significantly for me, though, one of my brother's best friends died Thursday night. The coroner believes he died of an accidental overdose of painkillers- he was taking prescription strength pain killers because of a car accident, and he used a pain relief back patch as well. And apparently the combination was lethal. I've had a hard time focusing on much of anything since we received the news on Friday afternoon. My brother has had to be the person to tell everyone, and he's not yet had a chance to grieve. I know that he'll do it in his own time, but in the meantime, my mother and others are kind of pressuring him. And that's not helping him, either.

As you can imagine, I haven't gotten much reading done in the last two days, and unfortunately, real life obligations are going to trump reading obligations for the next few days as well. I'm still working on finishing The King's Daughter by Sandra Worth. I'm hoping to finish it Wednesday, with a review posted Thursday or Friday. Beyond that, well, we'll see what happens.

Hope you all have a good Sunday.

Edited to add: There are some changes coming to Reading and Ruminations; please see my post here.
VM Veronica PnP

Booking through Thursday: Playing Favorites



1. Do you have a favorite author?
I do. I'd definitely consider Jane Austen to be my favorite. I know a lot of people have a hard time with her, but reading Pride and Prejudice when I was 17 was the catalyst for turning to literary fiction and classics rather than continuing to read nothing but mass-market literature, which is what I had been reading to that point. And while I don't have a problem with people reading mass-market fiction, I think I'm much better off for reading more quality literature.

2. Have you read everything he or she has written?
I've read all six of the major novels, but I'm slacking when it comes to her minor works, such as her short stories. I own almost everything (save Lady Susan and The Watsons), I just haven't read it yet.

3. Did you LIKE everything?
Honestly, no. I don't love Mansfield Park. I love to go back and re-read her books, but MP is never at the top of my list. I found most of the characters to be grating and the main character, Fanny Price, just didn't interest me in any way. I really should re-read it. I might get something out of it now that I didn't when I was 18.

4. How about a least favorite author?
This is possibly very unfair of me, but William Faulkner. It's unfair because I really haven't given him much of a chance. I tried to read The Sound and the Fury when I was in high school. I got so frustrated with it that I gave up thirty pages in and have since sworn off everything he's written. I need to give it another chance, but I just haven't been able to bring myself to do it yet.

5. An author you wanted to like, but didn’t?
None that I can think of off the top of my head. Maybe Mark Twain. I feel like I should like him, but after two forced readings of Huckleberry Finn, I'm in no hurry to read anything else by him.

What about you? Which authors do you love? And which can you do without?

Don't forget to check out my Barnes and Noble gift card giveaway!
shootingstarr7 reviews

Review: The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason



Victoria Gardella Grantworth is a debutante. She's a little older than the other debutantes, since she spent the first two seasons of her eligibility in mourning (for her father and grandfather). And rumors abound that her ball will be attended by none other than Phillip de Lacy, the Marquess of Rockley. Handsome and wealthy, he has avoided society and debutante balls before Victoria's. However, Victoria has other stresses to contend with. She has inherited a talent for the family business, and she is the newest Venator of the Gardella family: she has been chosen to slay vampires. She is aided in her quest by her great-aunt Eustacia, the previous Gardella Venator, Eustacia's partner Kritanu, and Max, an Italian Venator who doesn't think Victoria has what it takes to really focus on the job at hand. The novel follows Victoria as she tries to navigate London high society while fulfilling her sacred duty.

A friend recommended The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason by stating that it was like a cross between a Jane Austen novel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. As someone who loves both, I had to overcome my usual disdain of mass market romances to order this book. But I did, and I enjoyed the book. It was different than I'd expected it to be, and the comparison to Buffy certainly wasn't mistaken. Gleason highlights many of the same themes that were prevalent in early seasons of Buffy, in terms of doing her job while maintaining a facade of normalcy.

For me, there was one major problem with the novel: Victoria's mother and her two best friends. These three women are almost a caricature: nosy, cackling old biddies with one thing on their mind: marrying Victoria off to the marquess. Certainly, there were "matchmaking mamas" eager to marry their daughters off to any eligible member of the ton. But to have three characters constantly together with not an ounce of sense between them was really grating. Oh, they all meant well, but the image formed in my head of these three women made them all quite annoying.

I will be continuing the series, mostly out of idle curiosity. And I'd recommend the book to fans of historical romance and vampire novels; it's well-written, and the story is good. However, those looking for a more serious read should probably give this book a pass.

Buy this book on Amazon

Rating: 3 stars
Pages: 347
Publisher, ISBN: Signet, 9780451220073
Balloons

Barnes and Noble Gift Card Giveaway

In honor of the holiday season, I figured it was time to host another giveaway. Once again, I will be giving away three Barnes and Noble gift cards! One will be in the amount of $30, the other two will be $15. Here are the rules:

1. You must leave a comment on this blog entry.
2. The comment must include the following information:
-your name (blog names or online aliases are okay)
-a URL for your blog, or your email address (this is so I can contact you if you win; I will not use your email address for any other reason. It is okay to write your email address out, ie., readingandruminations AT gmail DOT com)
3. Please tell me which books you like to read when the seasons change and it gets cool here in the Northern Hemisphere. This information tells me you read the rules (plus, you never know what good recommendations will pop up).
4. Unfortunately, this is only open to the United States and people with APO/FPO addresses. I will probably do another giveaway in January or February which will be worldwide.

You must include the first three things in order for your entry to count.

As an additional incentive, I will donate $1 for every entry made to Room to Read, an organization which promotes literacy and early education around the world.


THIS CONTEST IS OPEN UNTIL SATURDAY, DECEMBER 20, 11:59 PM (PST). I will announce the winners on Sunday, December 21. That's nearly three weeks.

Good luck!