NOTICE: (Updated March 5, 2010)

Beginning December 19, 2009, Books 'N Border Collies will be posting but only intermittently while I pursue personal goals. I plan to share some reading I'm doing, but there will be no reviews. I will, however, be sharing my exploration of vegetarian cooking and the cookbooks and websites I use to educate myself. I hope you enjoy it!


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

LLP: September 2009 Wrap Up

I forgot to do Lifetime Learning Project monthly wrap ups for July and August. Oops. I guess the summer flew by too fast. :-) It's the end of the quarter now, so let's take a look back at the goals I set in July and how close I came:

1) My main focus was the Reading Challenges I signed up for. Because the Countdown Challenge ended Sept. 9, I made that one my primary driver and aimed to finish it along with at least seven others. GOAL ACHIEVED! Yay for me!!

Decades Reading Challenge Completed: 9/9 **Finished July 2, 2009**

2nds Reading Challenge Completed: 12/12 **Finished July 12, 2009**

Pub Challenge Completed: 9/9 **Finished July 29, 2009**

Support Your Local Library Challenge Completed: 50/50 **Finished August 5, 2009**

1% Well Read Challenge Completed: 13/13 **Finished August 10, 2009**

The Countdown Challenge Completed: 45/45 **Finished September 6, 2009** (Yahoo! I did it!!)

100+ Reading Challenge Completed: 100/100 **Finished September 17, 2009** (The rest of the year is gravy!!)

New Author Challenge Completed: 50/50 **Finished September 26, 2009**

2) I wanted to finish up The Cambridge Introduction to Narrative. I never looked at it. Not even once.

3) I have at least three Knowledge Blocks in progress, including the one I originally wrote about regarding Art Forgery. I wanted to try to rein in my literary ADD long enough to finish at least one of those blocks and write about it. Nope. Didn't do this. But I thought about it! :-)

4) Continue picking away at books and lectures from my Teaching Company Course "Classic Novels: Meeting the Challenge of Great Literature". Nada on this one, too. I was very busy with those challenges!

I'll call eight finished challenges an enormous success! The rest was evidently too much to ask in concert with that. Live and learn. And that's what this is all about, right? :-) Tomorrow I'll post my Fourth Quarter Lifetime Learning Project goals, and I'm pretty sure I'm going easy on myself. After all, my Timberwolves are about to start playing some basketball, and they need me. GO WOLVES!!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


by Jane Austen

"Sense and Sensibility is a wonderfully entertaining tale of flirtation and folly that revolves around two starkly different sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. While Elinor is thoughtful, considerate, and calm, her younger sister is emotional and wildly romantic. Both are looking for a husband, but neither Elinor’s reason nor Marianne’s passion can lead them to perfect happiness -- as Marianne falls for an unscrupulous rascal and Elinor becomes attached to a man who’s already engaged." (From Barnes & Noble online).

This was it. My very first Jane Austen book. I have to admit that this particular book was chosen at this particular time because I have Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters here to review, which I am even more excited about. :-) Ah, the silliness of it all!

But before I indulged in the follow-up to the wildly popular Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, I decided it was my responsibility to read the original first. While I've shied from Jane Austen because, well, for the most part I'm not a "chick book" kind of chick, I really did enjoy Sense and Sensibility much more than I expected I would. It's not that the story is particularly engrossing, but the characters are so well developed that I couldn't avoid an affection for many of them (and an irritation with some them) that made me want to know about their lives, however unexciting they may be in comparison to other things I could have been reading. I love Georgette Heyer's books, and I would absolutely have drawn a mental comparison between the two had I read Austen first. They both have an uncanny ability with dialog and creating distinct, identifiable personalities with that alone.

I completely understand the devotion some people have to this author, and I will most assuredly be reading more of her work. But I have to admit that in my head I was constantly trying to guess where the sea monsters will come into play. And I'm hoping Lucy Steele and Fanny Dashwood get their due when it comes to said sea monsters. :-)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Check Out The New Light Show!

Once again I interrupt the regularly scheduled programming for shameless self-promotion. :-) This is pretty cool though! It's the first video we've gotten of the new DIVA light show! This only scratches the surface of what it can do, but it's still pretty awesome. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 27, 2009


by Nick Hornby

"Rob is a pop music junkie who runs his own semi-failing record store. His girlfriend, Laura, has just left him for the guy upstairs, and Rob is both miserable and relieved. After all, could he have spent his life with someone who has a bad record collection? Rob seeks refuge in the company of the offbeat clerks at his store, who endlessly review their top five films (Reservoir Dogs . . .); top five Elvis Costello songs ("Alison" . . .); top five episodes of Cheers (the one where Woody sang his stupid song to Kelly . . .). Rob tries dating a singer whose rendition of "Baby, I Love Your Way" makes him cry. But maybe it's just that he's always wanted to sleep with someone who has a record contract. Then he sees Laura again. And Rob begins to think (awful as it sounds) that life as an episode of thirtysomething, with all the kids and marriages and barbecues and k.d. lang CDs that this implies, might not be so bad." (From the back cover of the Riverhead Books edition.)

High Fidelity has been praised all over blogdom and with good reason. It is just plain good entertainment. It is chick-lit from a guy's perspective. It's funny and emotional and gives us women some insight into just how a guy's mind works. Or might work, anyway. And, yes, they think about sex all the time. Mystery solved! :-) As I began reading, I was a little concerned that it would be the central theme of the story, but while it is nearly always present on the surface, Hornby handles it in a manner that is not at all off-putting.

If you haven't tried any of Nick Hornby's fiction yet, this is an excellent place to begin. I'll let you know about the rest of it as I get there, because I do plan to get there.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


by Paul Shirley

"NBA games are long. Really long. There are all kinds of breaks in the action, mainly of the media time-out variety, so there is plenty of standing around. Granted, I should probably be, oh, paying attention to what the coach is drawing up during these time-outs, but they are so long and frequent that even the coaches run out of things to say. It is at these times especially that I need a partner in crime -- someone who will see the humor in the fact that the poor girl in the dance contest being shown on the scoreboard screen is merely a prop for the obvious eventual winner, the middle-aged fat guy who lifts his shirt over his head to expose the world to his man-pregnancy. I need someone who will not be afraid to rate members of the dance team in descending order of the most realistic breast implants. I need someone who will help me keep track of my NBA All-Ugly Team. Most of the people who play think they actually need to concentrate on the games, so they cannot be bothered with my attempts at self-entertainment." (Can I Keep My Jersey?, pp. 277-78)

I know most of my readers will not be interested in this book, but those who have been with me awhile know of my love for my Minnesota Timberwolves basketball team. (Go Wolves!!) Well, training camp starts next week, and I am pumped for the new season to begin! To get a little fix before hand I decided to read Paul Shirley's Can I Keep My Jersey?: 11 Teams, 5 Countries, and 4 Years in My Life as a Basketball Vagabond. Most people have probably never heard of him. He's the guy generally playing overseas or spending most of his NBA minutes on the bench cheering on his famous team mates. I heard of him when he was a member of the Timberwolves training camp a couple seasons ago. He was released before the season started. Apparently things haven't changed much for him since he wrote this book.

He has, however, managed to channel the frustration of his career into a hilarious piece of work! He knows that even when things are awful he has an amazing job compared to most people, but he presents the unglamorous side of professional basketball in a manner that had me laughing out loud every other page. His cynicism and sarcasm can wear on the reader after a hundred pages or so, but the truth is the guy is really, really funny. He would have to have a stellar sense of humor to put up with some of the people and situations which make up his unsettled existence. This is a must read for basketball fans, a fun read for the general sports fan, and a riotous change-up for readers looking for something a little different for the Dewey Decimal System Reading Challenge. :-)

Friday, September 25, 2009


by Michael Cunningham

"The Hours is the story of three women: Clarissa Vaughn, who one New York morning goes about planning a party in honor of a beloved friend; Laura Brown, who in a 1950s Los Angeles suburb slowly begins to feel the constraints of a perfect family and home; and Virginia Woolf, recuperating with her husband in a London suburb and beginning to write Mrs. Dalloway. By the end of the novel, the stories have intertwined and finally come together in an act of subtle and haunting grace." (From the CD container.)

I have a sneaky suspicion that I would have appreciated Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway even more if I would have read Michael Cunningham's novel The Hours first. I know that seems backwards. They're not the same story, but the thematic resemblances are such that I think I would have been able to follow Mrs. Dalloway more effectively. Cunningham captures the stream-of-consciousness feel without the leaving you wondering what on earth you just read, making those very themes a little easier to tease out.

I know I was left a little in the dust by this book because I listened to it while battling a particularly wicked case of bronchitis, and high doses of cough/cold medicine occasionally transformed this work into merely beautiful words floating randomly around my subconscious. I did gather enough for The Hours to end with me marveling not only at its solemn dignity, but also that of Mrs. Dalloway.

Monday, September 21, 2009


by Viktor Frankl

"He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."

"Between 1942 and 1945 psychiatrist Viktor Frankl labored in four different concentration camps, including Auschwitz, while his parents, brother, and pregnant wife perished. Based on his own experience and the stories of his many patients, Frankl argues that we cannot avoid suffering but we can choose how to cope with it, find meaning in it and move forward with renewed purpose. Frankl's theory -- known as logotherapy, from the Greek word logos ('meaning') -- holds that our primary drive in life is not pleasure, as Freud maintained, but the discovery and pursuit of what we personally find meaningful." (From the back cover of the Beacon Press, 2006 edition.)

Man's Search for Meaning is more about psychology than it is about Nazi concentration camps, but that does not make Viktor Frankl's book any less inspiring. Like Primo Levi's Survival In Auschwitz, Frankl's discussions about his time in the camps focus more on how prisoners survived rather than how they died. Using his personal stories of living under the constant threat of death, Frankl explores humanity's deepest need: The need to feel their life or death matters.

This is a book that can be read over and over again, because there is so much here between the personal stories and the detailed discussion of logotherapy that what the reader takes from it will vary widely depending on where he or she is at that moment in his or her life. This first time around for me happens when I'm feeling that weird middle-age thing -- not feeling old, but understanding I'm no longer as young as I used to be and learning to accept that and accept the person I'm becoming. There are a million quotes I could use from this book to show you how eloquently Frankl probes a reader's deepest anxieties, but this was the one that stood out for me:

"[T]here is no reason to pity old people. Instead, young people should envy them. It is true that the old have no opportunities, no possibilities in the future. But they have more than that. Instead of possibilities in the future they have realities in the past -- the potentialities they have actualized, the meanings they have fulfilled, the values they have realized -- and nothing and nobody can ever remove these assets from the past." (p. 151)

I may not be quite to the "no opportunities, no possibilities in the future" portion of my life yet, but I know when I get there I already have some awfully cool stuff to look back on. And now it's time to create that quiet, comfortable place in my heart for which I yearn, for the wild child had a great time and it's okay to not want that anymore. And you know what? That feels really, really good.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

And The Winners Are . . .

We have our three winners of Jeanne Kalogridis' The Devil's Queen!

Gaby from Starting Fresh

Jo-Jo from
Jo-Jo Love To Read

Joanna from
It's All About Me

Thank You to everyone who entered and Congratulations, Winners!

Friday, September 18, 2009

These Boots Are Made For Walkin' . . . Or Not

Trish and JoAnn were curious if I was wearing my new gigantic boots while I was singing in the Bohemian Rhapsody video. I wasn't, because I didn't have them when the video was recorded. I was, however, wearing an awesome pair of platforms that look exactly like this only in silver:

Electrique Boutique, where I buy all my show boots, won't let me copy pics from there anymore, so if you want to see them in silver, click here. I'm thinking that growing up idolizing Kiss and Stevie Nicks has greatly influenced my choice in on-stage footwear. :-)

A Case of Nerves

I feel like my reading consumption has slowed during September, but I have a good reason! Tonight is the debut of the solo version of the DIVA Show! I've never been a nervous performer, but we've been working like crazy programing the new light show, learning new songs and trying to remember the lyrics to old ones. It's been a lot of work but worth it. This show is extra special to me. We gave the new light show a test run when Tony and I played Labor Day Weekend, and the crowd loved it! In fact, we were told we have a better light show than Def Leppard. Nothing like wild exaggeration to feed a person's ego! :-)

Anyway, the reason I'm a little concerned about tonight is because five days ago I came down with something that left me completely unable to sing. My throat was wiped out. I panicked, of course, but with the help of some antibiotics, cold medicine and very little speaking, I think I'll be okay. I just have to pace myself. Since I doubt I will be up for the vocal gymnastics required for Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" (insert a very annoyed sigh here), I thought I'd post a previous performance of it for your entertainment. A little bonus track that tonight's audience probably won't get to hear. That's because you all are special! :-) Enjoy!

NOTE: The lights in this video are not the new show. I have to get some video of those for you! It's like a traveling discoteque!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


by Anne Fadiman

Sometimes as a reader it is exceedingly pleasant to curl up with a book that simply shares another reader's love of books. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader is one of those simple pleasures. This collection of essays makes all of us book junkies feel completely at home. We get it, no matter how crazy. My favorite essay was how she finally really felt married once she and her husband combined their book collections after five years of marriage. See? We get that! And compulsive proofreading of dinner menus? We get that!

If I had a complaint, which I don't, it would be that Anne Fadiman is so well educated and erudite that my inner bibliophile occasionally felt somewhat inadequate and intimidated while reading Fadiman's thoughts and experiences, a bit like I imagine Britney Spears must feel when she hears the singing of Celine Dion. That's my own intellectual insecurity speaking. I'm working on that. :-)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Help! I'm Purchasing Books and I Can't Stop!

After my confession about Harold Bloom being my secret hero, I started actively searching out some books in the various series he edits. One of those series is Bloom's Modern Critical Views, published by Chelsea House, which I believe currently consists of 82 Volumes, plus a number of others now out of print. I checked the volumes on Graham Greene and Richard Wright out of the library and decided I need to have these books. Shocking, I know. Unfortunately, these babies are about $45 each. Ouch. But thanks to third-party sellers on Amazon, I was able to get my hands on the Paul Auster and Vladimir Nabokov volumes for about $13 each! I'm in heaven! And I'm just getting started. I want the volumes on Cormac McCarthy, Philip Roth, Kurt Vonnegut, Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, Don Delillo . . . Shall I go on? :-) Suffice it to say I want them all. Good thing I truly enjoy Macaroni & Cheese, because that might be supper for the next year or so. LOL!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


by Michelle Moran

"The marriage of Marc Antony and Cleopatra is one of the greatest love stories of all time, a tale of unbridled passion with earth-shaking political consequences. Feared and hunted by the powers in Rome, the lovers choose to die by their own hands as the triumphant armies of Antony's vengeful rival, Octavian, sweep into Egypt. Their orphaned children -- ten-year-old twins Selene and Alexander -- are taken in chains to Rome. Delivered to the household of Octavian's sister, the siblings cling to each other and to the hope that they will return one day to their rightful place on the throne of Egypt. As they come of age, they are buffeted by the personal ambitions of Octavian's family and court, by the ever-present threat of slave rebellion, and by the longings and desires within their own hearts." (From the jacket flap of the Crown edition.)

In a nutshell, I think Cleopatra's Daughter is Michelle Moran's best work to date. While both Selene and Alexander do seem rather mature for their age in the book, Michelle explains in the author's note with the observation that they are the offspring of one of the most educated rulers in the history of Egypt. In addition, during a time when life expectancy was significantly less than it is now, for both natural and unnatural reasons in the case of royalty, one had little choice other than to mature quickly if one was to survive.

There are a number of characters beyond Selene for a reader to get attached to, not the least being her twin, Alexander, who was my favorite. I also enjoyed the portrayal of both Octavia and Octavian, the latter being complex enough to merit some sympathy despite the brutality of his rule.

As always, Michelle's excellent research brings the time period home to the reader. It's a great place to begin learning about Ancient Rome, post-Julius Caesar. And if you haven't had enough once you're finished with Cleopatra's Daughter, may I suggest I, Claudius by Robert Graves?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Eight Great Blogs

Today for BBAW we're asked to highlight a few of our favorite blogs that did not make the awards shortlists. There are so many good ones it's hard to pick only a few, but here are eight blog friends you should all get to know if you don't already:

Dog Ear Diary -- Have you seen Jeane's artwork? Amazing! I am the proud owner of a beautiful giraffe bookmark that she created. And she reads really cool books, too. ;-)

Estella's Revenge -- Andi makes me laugh! And she is a smart cookie, too! She hasn't been around as much lately as we'd all like, but that awesome relationship and recent baby news explains it all perfectly. :-)

Musings of a Bookish Kitty -- Wendy's blog is just plain fun to read and she's fun to chat with, too!

It's All About Me -- Joanna was one of the first people to comment on Books 'N Border Collies and we share an enthusiasm for the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list.

Passages To The Past -- I love when Amy highlights upcoming historical books. She's so bad for my TBR pile!!

Peeking Between The Pages -- We all know and love Dar and Buddy, don't we? :-)

Rose City Reader -- I'm embarrassed! I don't even know RCR's real name! But I love her blog no less because of it. :-) She always has such interesting books she's reading, and I love all her lists!

So Many Precious Books, So Little Time -- Teddy was another of my first blog friends whose blog has come a long way over the last year. Go, Teddy!

There are so many, many more I could add to this list but I have to stop somewhere and "eight" rhymes with "great" so that's what I went with. Isn't that scientific of me? :-) To these eight and the other 200+ in my Google Reader: Thanks for all the fun! Here's to many more years of excellent blogging!!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Preparing for October Reading

I am not one to engage in seasonally themed reading, but I plan to make an exception this October. During my never-ending quest for more stuff to read, I came across The Grotesque, a volume in Bloom's Literary Themes. Needless to say, I could not resist and had it overnighted to me. Here is what the publisher, Chelsea House, has to say about the book:

"The grotesque, often defined as something fantastically distorted that attracts and repels, is a concept that has various meanings in literature. This new volume contains 20 essays that explore the role of the grotesque in such works as Candide, Frankenstein, King Lear, The Metamorphosis, and many others. Some essays have been written specifically for the series; others are excerpts of important critical analyses from selected books and journals."

I received the book Friday, and I couldn't be more thrilled with this purchase! I love this topic, and as I prepare to read Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekel and Mr. Hyde, and a few Poe short stories, I think this will be a valuable addition to my list.

I'm wondering if Clare Clark, Cormac McCarthy and Chuck Palahniuk might qualify as "modern grotesque"? That is something to think about as I explore!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


by David Sedaris

Times like this are when I really love audiobooks. Is there anything funnier than having David Sedaris read his own books to you? Not much, I'm thinking. While humorous as always, this series of essays felt bleaker than other works of his I have read, but "Six to Eight Black Men", an essay involving Dutch Christmas mythology, had me laughing until I cried, which was pretty embarrassing because I was listening to it at work. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim is not my favorite of Sedaris' works that I have read so far (When You Are Engulfed In Flames currently holds that position), but it is still well worth the time when you're in need of a chuckle.

Friday, September 11, 2009


by Nick Reding

"Crystal methamphetamine is widely considered to be the most dangerous drug in the world, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the small towns of America's heartland. In Methland, journalist Nick Reding introduces us to one such small town: Oelwein, Iowa, population 6,126. Like thousands of other rural communities across the country, Oelwein has been left in the dust by the consolidation of the agricultural industry, a depressed local economy, and an out-migration of people. Now in incredibly cheap, long-lasting, and highly effective drug has taken its hold." (From the jacket flap of the Bloomsbury edition.)

I thought the most captivating part of Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town was that it didn't just talk about the meth problem as a single issue. The stories of the addicts were heartbreaking, no doubt. But the book is equally if not more about the economic and legal environments that lie beneath. The story is meth addiction as the symptom, not the problem. The author goes into detail regarding the consolidation of the food industry and how it affected so many small towns. He talks about how Big Pharma lobbyists help pass laws in Washington, D.C., that ultimately help drug traffikers. He talks about national and local politics, both the official and unofficial kind, that exacerbate the problems while claiming to be solving them. And he explains it all in manner that I can actually follow and understand.

Reding has been accused of shoddy journalistic practices with regard to some details in Methland. The accusations may be true, I don't know. There is also a feeling of sensationalism every now and then. But then again, I don't have any clue what it's like to be in the situation these towns and people are in. How would I know if it's realistic or not? I hope I never find out. All that aside, I feel like my sheltered, middle-class, suburban eyes have been opened to some issues that I never really knew existed. Even if some of the details are wrong, awareness going forward can't be a bad thing.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

And The Winners Are . . .

Part I:

The winner of the Autographed Hardcover copies of Cleopatra's Daughter and The Heretic Queen is:

NIKOLA of Nikola's Book Blog!!

Part II:

The winner of the Autographed Paperback copy of The Heretic Queen and the beautiful earrings is:

JACKIE of Farm Lane Books!!

Congratulations to both winners!! And, Jackie, can I borrow those earrings sometime? :-)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Yesterday's Purchases

Remember when I told you that The Paris Reviews Interviews, Vol. II caused me to add about a million books to my Wishlist? Well, I spent an hour at Barnes & Noble yesterday making a small but interesting dent in that list. Here's what I brought home:

Burn This Book: PEN Writers Speak Out on the Power of the Word edited by Toni Morrison. I chose this one because I want to read more essays about literature. OK, and it was 60% off. :-)

Gimpel the Fool: And Other Stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Singer was one of the author interviews included in Volume II. I was particularly intrigued by a short discussion of "Gimpel the Fool", so I thought I'd start here with his work.

On Moral Fiction by John Gardner, another author interviewed in Volume II. This is part of the description from the jacket flap: "With a daring not obscured by the author’s extraordinary humaneness of spirit, the book argued that contemporary literature suffers first and foremost from a basic failure of the test of 'morality.' By 'moral fiction' the author meant fiction that attempts to test human values, not for the purpose of preaching or peddling a particular ideology or mode of conduct, but in a honest and open-minded effort to find out what best promotes human fulfillment." Gardner discussed some of his ideas from this book in his interview, and it sounded like something I would enjoy reading. Barnes & Noble has a new line of books called "Barnes & Noble Rediscovers Series" and this one just happened to be sitting front and center for a mere $9.95 in hardcover. Serendipity!

Hopefully none of these will have to sit around too long before I can get to them!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

About Ratings, or the Lack Thereof

I wrote a short while ago in the post "About This Blog" about the kinds of book posts I like to write here at Books 'N Border Collies, but I never mentioned a rating system. That's because I don't have one. Shannon Hale had a very interesting post on her blog recently that hit on this subject (among others). In case you hadn't seen them before, here were the questions she posed:

1. Do you find that the anticipation of reviewing the book has changed your reading experience?
2. Are you rating the book even as you read? Or do you wait until the end to sum it all up?
3. Does knowing you'll be reviewing it (or rating it) publicly affect which books you pick up in the first place?
4. Does the process of writing the review itself change how you felt about the book?
5. What is your motivation to assign a rating to a book and declare it to the world?
6. If you review a book but don't rate, why not? What do you feel is your role as reviewer?

As I mentioned, I don't have a rating system. I never did and I never will. When I finish a book I tend to move very quickly on the next one. I may have loved or hated the book I just finished or anything in between. It doesn't matter. I move on, but good books live on in my subconscious. A book I thought I didn't care for may prod me into thinking about it affectionately weeks or months later, whereas I may all but immediately forget a book I loved while I was reading it. I never know what I really think of a book until I put some distance between us. Therefore, I don't think it's useful to anyone for me to rate a book.

That being said, knowing I'll be writing about a book has no effect whatsoever on what I choose to read. I said in my earlier post that I don't consider what I write "reviews", ergo I don't consider myself a "reviewer". I accept occasional Advance Review Copies of books from publishers or authors, but with the exception of putting myself on a deadline to finish them on or soon after publication, I treat them the same as everything else I read. I make my choices based almost entirely on the desire I have to read the book at that time. Deadlines for ARCs and Reading Challenges are secondary factors when I'm trying to make a decision. And both of those factors will be all but going by the wayside in 2010. I have some interesting plans for myself coming up that I will share with you when it's time for next year's Lifetime Learning Project Plan!

Monday, September 7, 2009

And They're Off!!

The voting for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is underway!! I didn't make any of the short lists, but I want to thank everyone who put in a nomination for me. There are so many great blogs out there these days it was wonderful to receive that recognition. Good luck to all the finalists!! I've already cast my votes and I can't wait to see who takes home this year's awards!

Book Giveaway: THE DEVIL'S QUEEN by Jeanne Kalogridis

**This drawing is now closed. Thanks to all the entrants and good luck to all!**

Yup. I'm doing it again!!

After the great response to the last time I gave away a copy of Jeanne Kalogridis' latest novel, the publisher most kindly sent me copies to give away! This time I have three hardcover copies of THE DEVIL'S QUEEN to offer up! (In case you're curious, here were my thoughts on the book.)

Leave me a comment on this post along with an email address if it is not easily available through your profile, and I'll enter you in the drawing. Everyone is eligible and in honor of BBAW coming up, I will take entries until 6:00 pm Central Time, Saturday, September 19, 2009. The winners will be announced Sunday, Sept. 20.

Good luck, Everyone!!

Sunday, September 6, 2009


by The Paris Review

The instructor for my The Art of Reading DVD course recommended these books, and I could just kiss him for it! I am going to love this series!! I'm thrilled to have Volumes 1 and 3 here at home and I enjoyed this volume so much that I've already preordered Volume 4 which will be released in October. I added about a million books to my Wishlist, including books by every author included in this volume and some other authors/books they talked about.

I really liked how the authors' personalities seemed to come through. The interviewers asked questions far more insightful than the usual fare, and the answers were quite enlightening. Some were very serious, some were funny, some were deeply contemplative, pompous or frivolous. A few were so over my head that I wasn't sure what on earth they were talking about. There was a little bit of everything and I was enthralled with every interview, even the authors I had never heard of.

What surprised me most was how much I enjoyed the Harold Bloom interview. I expected his to be one of the ones I could barely follow, but that wasn't that case at all. He was opinionated, of course, but seemed like he was fun to talk to. Despite the fact that he can be an arrogant bore in his own writings, he is my secret hero even though I don't always agree with (or even understand!) what he says or how he says it. But his interview was a great read and made me envious of all he has read and had the opportunity to ponder at length.

I highly, highly recommend these books to any reader who wants a chance to take more from their reading than just great entertainment. The authors included in The Paris Review Interviews, Vol. II are:

Graham Greene
James Thurber
William Faulkner
Robert Lowell
Isaac Bashevis Singer
Eudora Welty
John Gardner
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Philip Larkin
James Baldwin
William Gaddis
Harold Bloom
Toni Morrison
Alice Munro
Peter Cary
Stephen King

You think this list is great? Wait until you see some of the others!!

Friday, September 4, 2009


by Chuck Palahniuk

"Haunted is a novel made up of twenty-three horrifying, hilarious, and stomach churning stories. They're told by people who have answered an ad for a writers' retreat and unwittingly joined a 'Survivor'-like scenario where the host withholds heat, power, and food. As the storytellers grow more desperate, their tales become more extreme, and they ruthlessly plot to make themselves the hero of the reality show that will surely be made from their plight. This is one of the most disturbing and outrageous books you'll ever read, one that could come only from the mind of Chuck Palahniuk." (From the back of the Anchor Books edition.)

Anyone who has followed my thoughts on Chuck Palahniuk's novels here on Books 'N Border Collies will not be surprised to hear this: Haunted is sick and wrong in so many ways. I cannot recommend this book without washing my own mouth out with soap. But of all of his books I've read, this one carried the most poignant messages within all the offensiveness. Sure, you have to get past that opening chapter with the nasty scene in the swimming pool (Don't ask. Unless you're a Palahniuk fan, believe me, you do not want to know. I'm not even remotely joking.), but there are stories in here that dig so deep into the darkness of the human psyche it's almost physically painful. It makes you wonder about people, especially ones we think of as "normal". It makes you examine things hidden deep in yourself that you pray never get exposed to the public, thoughts and urges you've always kept civilly under control. But what if you couldn't? Or chose not to? Haunted, indeed.