As many of you may know, I am no longer a New Yorker, so please check out my new blog A Library of My Own. If you are just reading Life and Times, you are missing out. Thanks!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Memories are made of these

Yep, we went camping again this year for Thanksgiving and had a ball. Per usual, I had our yearly family photo taken.

Obviously this isn't the one going on the cards, but my sister says it's the one that suits us the best. I'm not sure that's a compliment ;)


Yippee!! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving (those of you who celebrate) and are looking forward to December and the holidays.

I had fun picking the winners on this one because I can't wait for you to tell me what you think.

Thanks to my winners are:

Congratulations! Wanda, you've won two of my Dog Days of November contests, lucky you!!

I'll be emailing you for your addresses.

Thank you!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dewey - You are missed

I usually access the blogs I read via Google Reader so often I have to take the time to go to the actual blog site. Usually to post a comment.

But if you've been to mine, you'll notice I have a button that mentions Dewey.

When I first started reading book blogs, I noticed this one character named Dewey and her blog The Hidden Side of a Leaf. She was smart, funny, and wrote the greatest reviews. She was such a huge part of our book blog community. I remember it seemed like everyone knew Dewey.

Well, a year ago today she passed away and it rocked our little community. I was on vacation to Egypt and didn't know until I came back. I still have no words.

So I'll just say: Dewey, you are missed.

Read other tributes today:

* Kailana at The Written World
* Eva at A Striped Armchair
* Debi at Nothing of Importance
* Wendy at Caribous Mom
* Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot

The Art of Racing in the Rain - Garth Stein

I decided to do the review for Garth Stein's novel, The Art of Racing in the Rain, a bit differently than I normally do.

Back in this post I asked you all to ask me and my husband (Robb) questions about this book. Robb and I both read and liked it. Robb bought the book and I was asked to review the book by Sean from Terra Communications.

***Stick around because at the end of the Q&A there is a chance to win a copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain.

You all were wonderful and asked some great questions. So without further ado, here we go:

From A Bookshelf Monstrosity:

1. Do you look at your dog differently after reading this book?

After reading, I'm better able to admit my own dog's mortality (pretend I am laughing while saying that). And I appreciate more the memories and all the changes of the last 6yrs that my dog has been through with me. I know at some point I will have a different dog, but before that happens my dog now cannot say she has been bored being my dog. So yes, I do; the book reminded me of all the "why I have a dog / mans best friend / etc" reasons and sayings.

It definitely did! To a degree. I normally read my books during my commute to and from work. And each day after work I just wanted to give my dogs a big ol' hug. I laughed because Enzo is kind of cocky and philosophizes a bit. While my Charlie dog is kind of a big oaf, I could totally see our dog Anna being all cocky and thinking..."when I'm human." Before reading this book, my husband and I would joke that Anna's just waiting until she grows opposable thumbs and then she'll show us all.

2. Did you like how the story was written from the dog's perspective? Why or why not?

I do not think it would have been as good a story if told from any another perspective. As Denny, it would have been a too personal perspective; as Eve it would have been a different story time line; as Annika it would have some teen drama tragic thing recycled. Enzo held me observing from the sidelines. I could see what was going on, I was as much involved in the situation, outraged and saddened, but I could not do anything about it. Also, Enzo was able to cross story lines without the author forcing it along. He was in the Zoe's world, he was by Denny's side, he invaded the in-laws, and stood proudly at the coffee shop scene. Also, the dog was written a bit snarky and I enjoy that kind of thing.

I liked that this story was from Enzo's point of view. I didn't get caught up in all the semantics of it (how did he know things, how did he learn), I just enjoyed his perspective. That said, I probably would not have enjoyed this book had it been from someone else's perspective, say Denny. The story was a bit too drama, a bit too LifeTime movie which I'm not really into. I think coming from the perspective of the dog who really cared about his family absolutely made the story work.

3. Do you or your husband have a favorite quotation or passage from the book?

I usually dog ear and mark up pages with passages, quotes, scenes, names... for whatever reasons. I was just barely into this book when I realized I would be reading it again and decided to deal with all the note taking on round two so I could enjoy the book and enjoy reading the book. That being said, "Get to it, mother*^@+&~" really stands out for a variety of reasons.

I don't remember a specific quote but there is one point in the book that I almost cried, and oddly it had nothing to do with Enzo. I won't give it away but it had to do with Denny's parents. That's all I'll say.

From Nicole at Linus's Blanket:

4. Did you and your husband react differently to the dog narrating the books and what happened to the dog over the course of the story?

I think Enzo is a great character and that really showed through the one-sidedness of the narration. Thinking about it now, I can see how it's not just his story, but also the story of an "every dog". Lucky dogs get great families; unfortunate dogs get tragedy; unlucky dogs get passed and in/out shelters. Enzo lived these lives. When I got my dog, I accepted that I would be responsible for keeping her out of the unfortunate and on the positive side of unlucky as best able. I also know where her story is likely to end. So, Enzo's story, while heartstrung, is also a story about a lucky dog and that is something I can appreciate.

Hmmm. I haven't read Robb's responses yet to see how he reacted. I do think that he likes this book a bit more than I did. Maybe because he could relate to Denny as a male more.

From Mariska:

5. What was the first thing come out when you had finished reading this book ?

Probably the very first thing was the need to get home and pet the dogs, hug the wife, and take a moment to really appreciate my lot on this great spinning mass. That followed by a cynical "dreams can come true" moment and then an appreciation for a very well written book. All wrapped up in about 30 seconds after finishing.

Honestly, I did NOT like the end. I thought it was a bit too cheesy, happily-ever-after kharma thing going on. Looking back, I'm not sure if I agree with all the philosophizing that was in the book but it honestly wasn't that pushy while I was reading it. I do know that I liked the book and really liked Enzo. It made me sad to think that some day our Charlie and Anna won't be around. They are the first dogs I've ever had so it's going to be insanely sad when they pass. I can't even imagine how Robb is going to take it.

6. What is the best part of this book for you and your husband?

I did not know anything about the book when I picked it up. I had a travel day coming up, was in a bookstore, dog on the cover, and the promise of an interesting story perspective - so i grabbed a copy. I started the book at an ATL airport bar and finished it somewhere along the 1 train that same night. So the best part to me was enjoying the book and it's combined elements: a love story without being a love story; tragedy and doom; a hero survived; bite. Also, I think it is great how living life, full of variables, paralleled the unexpectednesses of driving cars, really fast, without dominating the book. (PS - If you have not heard it already, nice cover work Archie Ferguson).

I loved Enzo. I just wanted to hug him. And then hug Charlie and Anna. I would honestly read this again just because of Enzo. And for some reason, I loved that he got all caught up in the racing aspect (Denny is a race car driver...thus the title of the book). I thought I would get annoyed at the use of racing euphemisms. Kind of when someone keeps using sports terms and it drives you up the wall. But I really liked that part of the book. I think because Enzo used it and I could just see the joy a dog gets when in a car. Our dogs LOVE sticking their heads out of the truck while we're driving. It made me happy to think about all that.

From Janna Qualman at Something She Wrote:

7. How many times did you cry?

Several actually, the better moment crying while saddled up at a bar, 3 in the afternoon, and on a packed bus.

I only almost cried once. During the aforementioned parent part.

8. Would you ever name a dog Enzo?

Had I thought of it first, yes.

No. Not a big Ferrari fan. That said, for Denny's dog it was a great name. It honestly took me longer than it should have to figure out that Enzo was named after Enzo Ferrari.

There you have it! Thanks to everyone who asked us questions and to my husband Robb who graciously played along.

And thank you to Sean at Terra Communications for my review copy which I will now pass on to one lucky winner!! Robb will NOT part with his paperback copy so I'm going to giveaway my hardback copy.

To enter the GIVEAWAY you MUST:

1) provide email or way to contact you
2) tell me something you learned or pondered during this Q&A section

That's it! The giveaway is open for a week, through December 2nd and is International.

Good luck!

Just for fun, here's the four of us our first Thanksgiving together (our tradition is to go camping).

Also Reviewed by:
Urban Bachelorette

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Now & Then - Winners!!

Sorry I'm a bit belated in picking the winners. I got one of those fun super colds. we go...

And the 5 Winners are:

I will be emailing you for your addresses so they can mail those books out to ASAP.

And just for fun, here's what you all told me:

Favorite pet books:

The Art of Racing in the Rain
Marley & Me
Merle's Door
Wesley the Owl

Time Travel Boooks:

The Time Traveler's Wife
Eve: A Novel of the First Woman
The Devil's Arithmetic
The Reluctant God
The Outlander Series
Riddle in the Mountain
The Man Who Loved Jane Austen
The Time Machine

Time Travel Movie/Shows:

Somewhere in Time
Back to the Future
Kate & Leopold
Lost (show)
7 Days (show)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Random NYC Photo

The view of Times Square from a Marriott Marquis hotel room - when my sister came to town a while back.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Giv by Boston Teran - GIVEAWAY!

Do you remember (one post ago) when I raved that I loved Boston Teran's Giv: The Story of a Dog and America, but I wasn't going to give my copy away?

Well, Jim over at Keeley and Hall sent me an email saying that they are sending me FIVE copies of GIV to giveaway. How cool is that?!

So you know the drill, go over and read my review and then enter my giveaway here. Please comment on why this book sounds interesting and leave me a way to contact you. For fun, let me know if you have any pets that have made a different in your life.

I love my international readers so the contest is open world-wide through November 25th.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Giv - Boston Teran

A while back, I was contacted by Jim at Kelley and Hall about reviewing a book by Boston Teran called The Creed of Violence. It looked really interesting so I said, sure! A short while after they sent me that book, they sent me another one of his books, Giv: The Story of a Dog and America. I wasn't under any pressure to read or review it, but I thought it would be a great addition to my Dog Days of November reads. So I grabbed it off my shelf.

And O. MY. GOSH. I loved it. I'm not sure if I loved it because I had no expectations or what, but what a beautiful book. Beware: If you are the type that might tear up while reading a book, this is one of those books. The idea behind the story is based on events in the author's life. You can read his idea for the book here.

The story follows the life of a dog named Giv. The book is composed as the story of Giv's life written by one of Giv's many owners, Sergeant Dean Hickok. From Giv's birth, by chance, fate, or luck, he gets passed on from person to person, from experience to experience. The blurb from the press release by Americans Speak says "The Forrest Gump of dog books." I'm not sure about all that, but boy does Giv go through some stuff. He's in Dallas with some struggling musicians checking out the book depository, he's there through Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and he's there for an Iraqi war vetran.

While the book is about a dog named Giv, it's also about the people he meets. Memorable characters. Heart-wrenching characters. It's about the free-will, undying spirit of man and man's best friend. I loved how the idea of the act of rebellion, not always a bad thing, was a piviotal aspect of the book and the character of Giv. Boston Teran wrote rebellion as "the power to choose freely who one will or will not be". I like that. As he points out, America was founded by rebels and there's a little bit of rebel in us all.

I find it hard to write about this book and not sound cheesy or blubbery...but I can't help it. I really loved it. I was really surprised how much I liked it. It's not a book I would have picked up on my own but I am so glad I was sent it.

As a side note: who is Boston Teran? Apparently no one knows! The About the Author section states that it's either a pseudonym of a well-known writer, or a group of writers, or who knows! Apparently Creed of Violence has been bought by Universal for the second-highest price ever paid for a manuscript and another novel, God is a Bullet is highly acclaimed and is being adapted to film as well. Interesting, right?

Has anyone else read this or have it to read? I'd love to hear another person's opinion. Or have you read any other Boston Teran novels? Thoughts on just who Boston Teran is?

I'd love to give away a copy but I'm going to make my husband read it. That and I want to keep mine. So go buy it, borrow it...just read it.

Charlie and Me

Charlie and me a long while back on Long Island. I'm testing trying to make my picture size larger thanks to Plays With Needles' post.

I think this size looks better:

My normal "large" upload:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Holiday Swap 2009

And now for something completely different:

Today is the last day to sign up for the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. Apparently this is the 3rd year of doing the swap but I've just now found it and decided to join in the festivities. How fun!

I'll have to figure some fun stuff to gather and give as a gift. If you want, go join in all the fun!

And I just found their twitter page: @holidayswap

Ask Away!

I'm going to try something a bit different for this review of The Art of Racing in the Rain. I've been putting off reviewing it because while I really liked it, I'm not sure what I am going to say that is much different than the many other reviews floating around out there. That and I really loved that my husband read it as well during the same time...and it was totally unplanned! He even has his own copy he bought because he didn't know I had one.

So...after that long schpeel...I want YOU to ask us questions about the book. You can ask me, or my husband, or our dogs...ok, they didn't read the book but you get the point.

BONUS: I am giving away my copy (details in the follow-up post) so if you enter the contest I'll give you FIVE extra entries for every legitimate question you ask.

Note: I was asked by Sean at Terra Communications to read and review this book. My husband, however, just thought it looked like a book he would like and bought his copy.

**We both liked the book. My husband (Robb) is going to re-read it in the near future.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Now & Then - Jacqueline Sheehan GIVEAWAY

I was asked by Stephanie at Harper-Collins if I wanted to read and review Now & Then by Jacqueline Sheehan. I took one look at the puppy cover and said OK! I have a soft spot for "not-so little" dogs since I have one of my own.

This book is a bit of a trip. Take chick-lit, a bit of romance, Irish historical-fiction, and time travel and mix it all up, throw in a little bit of Irish wolfhound and you've got Now & Then. And I totally enjoyed it. **Warning: The dog plays a fairly small part in the story.**


Anna O'Shea is a bit of a mess. Her father abandoned the family, her brother has anger issues, her nephew has just landed in jail, and her husband left her for another woman after three failed pregnancies.

Joseph O'Shea is a bit of a mess. He's sixteen, unpopular at school, and only good at wrestling, not the most popular sport at school. His father just got into a huge car accident while on his way to pick up Joseph from jail and his aunt, Anna, is furious with him.

Enter the time-travel. How? Why? Read the book!

Anna and Joseph get whisked back in time to country Ireland, 1844. Just one year before THE potato famine. And they get separated. Anna is injured and is taken in by some of the country people. Joseph gets taken for a non-Irish Canadian and is taken in by a wealthy Englishman. And of course, they both fall in love with someone while in historic Ireland. Anna and Joseph have to find each other, figure out what happened and why, and how to get home...if they still want to go home.

What I liked:

I enjoyed the sections narrated by Anna. I really liked her and just wanted her to be happy. I loved the historical setting in Ireland. The way the Irish were suppressed by the British landlords and what they had to do to survive was fascinating and horrible at the same time. I love that it was kind of realistic too. Anna got beat up quite a bit which I don't think you'd find in a romance novel. I mean, at one point she looses some teeth. O yeah.

What I didn't like:

Ok. I think the cover and blurb is so misleading. I thought this book would be more dog-centric, right? Wrong. Well, mostly wrong. There is a dog. An Irish wolfhound name Madigan. He has more to do with Joseph's part of the story. But just a bit. Madigan's importance really only comes out at the very end. And speaking of Joseph, he was so annoying. I guess he's a sixteen year-old but still. Hmm...I guess that is it.

While it wasn't the story the cover led me to believe it was, it was still a fun time-traveling ride. I have to admit I'm a sucker for Irish history so that was a huge bonus for me.

Over at Harper-Collins, you can browse inside the book.

Stephanie also told me I could give away FIVE copies of Now & Then. How cool is that!?! It's open worldwide (if Harper can't deliver to you, I will) and it runs through Friday, November 20th. You must:

1) Give me a way to contact you AND...
2) Tell me your favorite time-traveling story (book, movie, etc) AND/OR pet story (book, movie, etc).

For more reviews, Jacqueline Sheehan is over at TLC Book Reviews

Here's her tour stops:

Monday, November 2nd: The Bluestocking Guide

Wednesday, November 4th: Yule Time Reading

Thursday, November 5th: Life in the Thumb

Monday, November 9th: Eclectic Book Lover

Thursday, November 12th: I’m Booking It

Tuesday, November 17th: The Brain Lair

Wednesday, November 18th: Bloggin’ ’bout Books

Monday, November 23rd: Stephanie’s Written Word

Monday, November 30th: Jenn’s Bookshelves

Tuesday, December 1st: The Tome Traveller

**Thank you Stephanie and Harper-Collins for giving me this book to read and review!

Random NYC Photo

Speaking of pups, here's a random photo of our pups in Central Park. We normally take the pups to our neighborhood's park and since we can't throw them on the subway, bus, or cab...they normally don't go to Central Park with us.

But in September I surprised my husband for his birthday by helping get two of his Vegas buddies to fly in to see him for the weekend. We had a gorgeous Sunday that weekend, grabbed the truck, and took them to see Central Park with the pups.

So after that incredibly long story, here's my husband, his friends, the pups, and a weird spirally hedge design in Central Park.

Dog Days of November

I got the idea of Dog Days of November from The Literate Housewife during her Dog Days of Summer stint.

My husband and I read The Art of Racing in the Rain and both really liked it and I've been meaning to review it. I just finished Now & Then yesterday and am reading Giv: The Story of a Dog and America.

So I figured, what the hey. Let celebrate these dog-centric books by having a few reviews and a few giveaways. Yeah??

Stick around for these three reviews and giveaways for The Art of Racing in the Rain AND Now & Then.

And of course, can't help posting a photo of me and my dog, Charlie:
*Note: I do like my feet nice and toasty and no...I didn't burn my socks off.

Monday, November 2, 2009

100+ Challenge Update - October

October has been, by far, my best reading month ever. I've been trying real hard to get in some books so I can complete the 100+ Challenge. I've read 75 books this year so do you all think I can read 25 books in the next two months?? Eek!

63. The Last Dickens - Matthew Pearl
64. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
65. Sacred Hearts - Sarah Dunant
66. The Elegance of the Hedgehog - Muriel Barbery
67. The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Charles Dickens
68. The Strain - Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
69. Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys
70. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
71. Real Murders - Charlaine Harris
72. Seeing Redd - Frank Beddor
73. The Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway
74. Sunflowers - Sheramy Bundrick

R.I.P. IV Challenge - Completed

I finished Carl's R.I.P. IV Challenge. For all you who haven't heard of Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings, go check him out. You can also check out what I read last year for the R.I.P. III Challenge.

I chose Peril the First: Read Four books from any sub-genre of scary stories that you choose.

Here's my completed list:

1. The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Charles Dickens (Finished October 20, 2009)

2. The Last Dickens - Matthew Pearl (Finished October 04, 2009)

3. Dark Star - Alan Furst (Finished September 05, 2009)

4. The Harrowing - Alexandra Sokoloff (Finished September 01, 2009)

5. The Strain - Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan (Finished October 21, 2009)

6. Real Murders - Charlaine Harris (Finished October 26, 2009)

You can see what everyone else read over at The Review Site.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood - Charles Dickens

I became interested in reading Charles Dickens last unfinished novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood while reading Matthew Pearl's novel The Last Dickens. You don't have to read the Dickens novel to understand The Last Dickens, but I was just intrigued by the whole mystery. So I checked online and found the site The Literature Network where you can read it for free. I had a ball reading this little unsolved mystery.

The premise is this:

Orphan Edwin Drood is engaged to be married to fellow orphan, Rosa Bud. Their fathers had arranged the marriage a long time ago. Neither Edwin nor Rosa seem to be too enthralled with the idea. Edwin's uncle and guardian, John Jasper is the choirmaster, an opium addict, secretly in love with Rosa, and basically just a creepy guy all around.

Enter two more orphans, brother and sister duo Neville and Helena Landless. Neville is kind of a sweet guy who happens to get into trouble. And his sister is a loyal beauty. Neville develops a crush on Rosa as well.

During the course of the novel, John Jasper's actions seem very odd. He sneaking around, tours the cemetery/crypt (a good creepy part of the novel). And then Edwin goes missing.

Then a stranger comes to town, Dick Datchery, who becomes interested in this mystery. What is his deal? Will he solve the mystery? Did Edwin just take off? Did John Jasper do him in? Did Neville kill him off?

We never know....

I loved reading this. First of all, does Dickens just love orphans or what? And then there is the names! They crack me up. Like Rosa Bud....seriously? Here's some more characters: Reverend Crisparkle, Durdles (the creepy stonemason of the crypt), Princess Puffer (the opium queen), Miss Twinkleton, and Mr. Honeythunder. O my gosh.

After reading The Last Dickens and The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I am becoming quite the Charles Dickens fan. Masterpiece Theater is running some shows and I've watched Oliver Twist (another fun orphan) and am watching Bleak House (loving it!).

Do you like Dickens? What is your favorite that you'd recommend I read?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Random NYC photo

I finally got around to uploading some photos from one of my cameras. So here's another random NYC photo:
I love when the clouds are low and help illuminate the Empire State Building's lights.

Other random NYC photos here, here, here, here, and here

Auburn Game

Every year my husband and I meet up with some friends in Auburn, Alabama to catch an Auburn game. My husband is an Auburn alum so watching college football is his thing.

I love the Auburn campus. It's got such beautiful buildings:

I really like this one:
It was COLD this year! And it rained just a little.
You can see the ominous clouds:

They lost but we still had a good time.
***Quick shout out to Alabama Book Worm and Lisa at Books. Lists. Life. --WAR EAGLE!

Past Auburn posts: Auburn photos and Auburn puppies