Thursday, December 31, 2009

Word Verification Balderdash - Dec. 31, 2009

cansion - a melding of the term mansion with the phrase "living in a sardine can" it describes a larger than normal apartment in a low rent building. Usually the most sought after units in the buildings.

endextr - The moment when the credits role on the HBO series Dexter (usually a sad moment when you have to wait another week for more)

exedwil - The codecil in a rich man's will dedicated to his former spouses. This usually involves trivial offerings such as toe-jamb, locks of hair or swamp land in Florida. Needless to say these are meant for the ex-wives that had fallen out of favour.

maying - the term to describe any activity done in the month of May.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Review: Some Dream for Fools by Faiza Guene

Hardcover: 176 pages
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Jun 3 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0151014205
ISBN-13: 978-0151014200

From the Publisher;

Ahleme, a young woman living on the outskirts of Paris, is trying to make a life out of the dreams she brought with her from Algeria and the reality she faces every day. Her father lost his job after an accident at his construction site. Her mother was lost to a massacre in Algeria. And her brother, Foued, boils with adolescent energy and teeters dangerously close to choosing a life of crime.

As she wanders the streets of Paris looking for work, Ahleme negotiates the disparities between her dreams and her life, her youth and her responsibilities, the expectations of those back home and the limitations of life in France.

I will admit, I had never heard of Faiza Guene before or her first book, Kiffe, Kiffe Tomorrow, though I'm very glad to have discovered her now!

Some Dream for Fools is an interesting mix of Algerian, French and American cultural and linguistic references (and I'm sure a bit of British was mixed in there too). From mentions of TV programmes to the day to day life dealings in the poorer side of Paris, the melange makes for interesting reading. To help the reader along, there was a useful glossary of the Algerian words used throughout. This made quite a difference in understanding the nuances of what the main character was referring to at times.

There is also an element of universal appeal to the story. Through Ahleme, we see the emotional side of the struggles that low income, working class people must endure to survive. This is a problem no matter where you live. Ms. Guene gives Ahleme's personality a tough as nails exterior while allowing her inner, humourous side to also shine. This gives her the smarts as well as the comic relief that will ensure her survival. Ahleme's insights are all too often on the money.

At times, I wondered if Some Dream for Fools was an autobiographical novel, though it is not advertised as such. Ahleme's experiences feel very real, as though the author has sat in a cafe, making up stories and giving fake names to make herself more interesting. Or, had to line up at 4 o'clock in the morning to have her permits renewed, to allow her to stay in France.

Some Dream for Fools is a witty story with elements of sadness that truly reflect life in all of it's ups and downs, regardless of where you live or how much you earn. It is a short book but very much well worth the read, if different cultures interest you.

Review: The Dragon Book edited by Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois

Hardcover: 448 pages
Publisher: Ace (TRD) (Nov 3 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0441017649
ISBN-13: 978-0441017645

From the Publisher:

The Dragon Book is an anthology of completely original stories that readers of all ages can appreciate. With never before printed fantasy stories about dragons, everyone can enjoy a selection of tales from today's top writers including New York Times bestsellers Jonathan Stroud, Gregory Maguire, Garth Nix, Diana Gabaldon and Tamora Pierce.

Whether portrayed as fire breathing reptilian beasts at war with humanity or as noble creatures capable of speech and mystically bonded to the warriors who ride them, dragons have been found in nearly every culture's mythology. In modern times, they can be found far from their medieval settings in locales as mundane as suburbia or as barren as post-apocalyptic landscapes - and in The Dragon Book, today's greatest fantasists reignite the fire with legendary tales that will consume your imagination.

This was my second foray into short stories this year, well really my second time ever. I would have to say that this time was more successful for me. The topic of the stories I read (and I will admit to not having read all of the stories in the book -yet), held my interest much more readily than my previous attempt, so I feel more well-rounded in my reading experiences.

I have previously shied away from short stories before because I felt there was no meat to the stories, nothing to hold my attention or things would end all too soon. That being said, I find it was partly true here also but only because these stories were so good I wanted more from them, particularly the story by Gregory Maguire. It felt to me like the first chapter in a very intriguing novel. But, alas, it isn't.

The great part of this format is that in times where you are between books or finding your current book is lacking, it is easy to pick up The Dragon Book, find a topic of interest - be it the traditional dragon/fantasy setting or a modern day tale with a CSI style dragon hunter - and feed your need to read something good.

For dragon fans everywhere, this is an excellent book that shakes things up a little, giving the reader a taste of things that may have been, things that might be now or may still be yet to come - all involving firing breathing reptiles.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My Christmas/Holiday Contest!

Product Details
Pocket Star, December 2009
Mass Market Paperback, 336 pages
ISBN-10: 1416589449
ISBN-13: 9781416589440

From the Publisher:


Nothing sucks the romance out of world travel like a boyfriend who may or may not have broken up with you in a hotel room in Brussels. Jane Jameson's sexy sire Gabriel has always been unpredictable, but the seductive, anonymous notes that await him at each stop of their international vacation, coupled with his evasive behavior over the past few months, finally push Jane onto the next flight home to Half Moon Hollow -- alone, upset, and unsure whether Gabriel just ended their relationship without actually telling her.

Now the children's-librarian-turned-vampire is reviving with plenty of Faux Type O, some TLC from her colorful friends and family, and her plans for a Brave New Jane. Step One: Get her newly renovated occult bookstore off the ground. Step Two: Support her best friend, Zeb, and his werewolf bride as they prepare for the impending birth of their baby...or litter. Step Three: Figure out who's been sending her threatening letters, and how her hostile pen pal is tied to Gabriel. Because for this nice girl, surviving a broken heart is suddenly becoming a matter of life and undeath....

I thought my contests had all closed for the year, but I'm squeezing one in through the holidays and to celebrate the New Year!

I had read the second book in Molly Harper's Nice Girls Don't series a couple of months back (you can click here to read the review for Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men) and was very much looking forward to the next book in the series. Lo and behold, there it sat in my mailbox last night, along with.....a contest copy for one of my lovely followers!! Harper fills her books with sardonic wit and pop culture references that make you laugh many times over through the story. So enter, for goodness sake! You won't be disappointed!

My obligatory contest entering rules:

  • You must be a follower to enter
  • +1 for tweeting or blogging about my contest
  • +1 for following me on Twitter (@seolmara)
  • Open to addresses in Canada and the U.S. only
  • Contest runs until Jan. 11, 2010 and the winner will be drawn via

  • I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all of the wonderful people I've met this year for their great support of my fledgling blog. I would have been lost without you! Wishing everyone the best for the holidays and the coming New Year! (And, of course, best of luck with my contest!)

    Monday, December 21, 2009

    Review: Postscripts from Pemberley by Rebecca Ann Collins

    From the back cover:
    Kate O'Hare is not a typical Victorian woman. Her intelligence, vivacity, and beauty captivate all those around her, including the young and handsome Darcy Gardiner. But she cares more about science than about dresses, and her unusual behavior makes her a fresh and interesting addition to the Pemberley estate.

    Until her association with scientific controversies of the day and dark secrets from her past put her and all her newfound friends in harm's way. Will Kate's involvement in the public world, where many believe a woman doesn't belong, bring scandal to Pemberley? Or will her charm and wit be enough to banish the shadows of her past and hold on to Darcy Gardiner?

    Postscripts from Pemberley is the seventh book in The Pemberley Chronicles series written by Rebecca Ann Collins. From the moment I began reading, I could tell that the author has stayed true to much of Austen's original writing style. The feel of the Victorian era remains throughout, though Ms. Collins has some new material to work with.

    The story revolves around the generation of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy's grandchildren. The Austen characters also appear at times, and are still a large part of what happens, yet not the principles here.

    What's new to the mix are the storylines involving politics, chiefly the rivalry between Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone, as well as Charles Darwin's The Origin of the Species, which had just been published and was a very hot topic at the time. I'm not sure that Jane Austen would have gotten away with writing about these in her day, but for Ms. Collins it adds some definite substance to the book, making it about more than just gossip or proper etiquette.

    All these things aside, Rebecca Ann Collins also has some insightful things to say. I'm always envious of the people that can readily pick out quotes from books that are meaningful, yet I read the same material and seem to skip over these. Not so with Postscripts from Pemberley! A few pages into the main story I found this: "Remember only, Dear Jessica, that life is best enjoyed at leisure, without undue haste or desperation, with time for judgment and discrimination as well as enjoyment. We are not all blessed with the capacity of John Keats to drain life's cup to the lees in a single draught." I thought it was a point well made, well phrased, and very much as relevant today as it would have been in the mid-1800's.

    I was immediately engrossed in the story and liked the characters almost as much as Austen's (though I feel no one can touch the original Mr. Darcy). For lover's of Jane Austen or any other historical fiction, this is truly a book well worth reading!

    Thursday, December 17, 2009

    Review: The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes

    There's something watching over the residents at 66 Star Street in Dublin. What it is...well, that takes a while to figure out. The books starts with this "entity" checking out the residents, trying to figure out who its intended target is. The only problem being that there are so many involved, a little background is needed on all before decisions can be made.

    This is where it gets interesting.

    It seems Marian Keyes is a master of tease. She feeds the reader with morsels of information but just as things start to reveal themselves, she switches to another character and the process starts again. This method continues throughout until the final culmination. She brings these wildly different people together, criss-crossing their lives and experiences beautifully.

    There's also a point to be made within the pages of The Brightest Star in the Sky. It is a relevant, valid point that gives the reader pause to think about the horrifying reality of this particular facet of the story (though to give away any more would spoil part of the book.) She hits upon such delicate topics that are part of our modern lives. But Keyes discusses them with taste and feeling, doing justice to some of the more sad truths we encounter.

    Don't get me wrong, Keyes equally celebrates the joy and silliness in life, too. From calming trips through stationary stores or chemists to the healing aspect of chocolate, we see definite light versus dark elements.

    While the book is over 600 pages long, the "chapters" are broken down to 2-4 page entries which makes it a tantalizing read. It seems easy to read one character's perspective but once their short part ends, you don't want to put the book down. You want to read through to the next section involving said person, only to get caught up in everyone else's story along the way.

    What the entity ends up being, let's just say I was way off! But getting to finally discover its nature was a well read journey for me.

    For more information on Marian Keyes, visit her website at

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009

    And the winners are...

    The last two contests that were running on my blog closed on Monday. Without any further ado, here are the lucky peeps:
    For the 5 copies of Dear John by Nicholas Sparks, the winners are:

  • Twifan
  • Mel
  • Rebecca
  • Marie
  • Swedish
  • For the 3 copies of Exit Music by Ian Rankin, the winners are:

  • Carol
  • Stacie
  • Ryan

  • Congrats to all! E-mails have been sent to inform everyone. Thanks to all that entered and I'm looking forward to hosting more contests in the New Year!

    Tuesday, December 8, 2009

    And the winner is...

    I will admit here, I fell asleep at the wheel, so to speak. My contest for And Another Thing.. By Eoin Colfer finished up last week and I forgot to draw!! My apologies go out to all of the entrants. I hopped on the randomizer today and would like to congratulate...
    for winning! I'll be sending an e-mail shortly. Thanks again to all that entered.

    Monday, December 7, 2009

    It's Monday! What are you reading? (Dec.7, 2009)

    This weekly meme is hosted by the awesome J. Kaye and can be linked to here.

    This week, I'm going to attempt to finish The Brightest Star in the Sky by Marian Keyes. I am enjoying it so far though Christmas prep seems to be cutting into my reading time.

    Next up on the list will be The Wrecker by Clive Cussler then Murder in the Magick Club by Byron Lorrier.

    What's on your reading list for this week?

    Review: Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb

    Book: Hardback
    235 x 159mm
    384 pages
    ISBN 9780399155956
    03 Nov 2009
    Adult 18 - AND UP

    From the Publisher:

    When the newly promoted captain of the NYPSD and his wife return a day early from their vacation, they were looking forward to spending time with their bright and vivacious sixteen-year-old daughter who had stayed behind.

    Not even their worst nightmares could have prepared them for the crime scene that awaited them instead. Brutally murdered in her bedroom, Deena’s body showed signs of trauma that horrified even the toughest of cops; including our own Lieutenant Eve Dallas, who was specifically requested by the captain to investigate.

    When the evidence starts to pile up, Dallas and her team think they are about to arrest their perpetrator; little do they know yet that someone has gone to great lengths to tease and taunt them by using a variety of identities. Overconfidence can lead to careless mistakes. But for Dallas, one mistake might be all she needs to bring justice.

    Initially, I had a hard time with this book . The character of Eve Dallas is not one to be warmed up to. She has a hard, tell-it-like-it-is demeanor that made it difficult for me to put myself into her place. As I read on, I realized that this is a result of her own, very interesting, personal history. The subject was also a troubling aspect, as Eve is trying to find the killer of an sweet, innocent 16 year old girl.

    What was interesting is that this book takes place in 2060. There are many elements throughtout that make this different from a murder/suspense type book set in current times. Most of the time, I understood the purpose of the futuristic gadgets mentioned, but there were a few I'm still trying to figure out.

    With all of these factors being taken into consideration, the story and characters grew on me. It's kind of a cross between Criminal Minds and Police Woman. Eve is a strong woman and in the end is able to solve the mystery but not without glitches along the way. And yes, even in 2060, woman are apparently still being questioned about their leadership potential/ability.

    Overall, the story flowed well, though I think that knowing the back story would have aided immensely in many aspects. This being the 29th book in the series, it will be a while before I catch up on it, but from reading Kindred in Death, I will not hesitate to pick up another J.D. Robb book in the future.
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