"It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed." ~ Theodore Roosevelt

I wanted to share this quote. This quote is inspiring, as it simply points out we should try no matter the circumstances. Failure to try can only provide us with a weakness.

As one of the Viners, the crazy one I think.  The last three years I have climbed the 103 floors to the observation deck of the Sears Tower. This is challenging, tiring, fun and most of all rewarding.  The Climb is set up by Rehab Insitute of Chicago (RIC).  Each climber raises money that benefits RIC and the patients at RIC.  The most rewarding part about the climb is coming out of the staircase and to have patient's in wheelchairs that are unable to walk up the stairs, greet you with big smiles of appreciation. I know that the exhausting and amazing climb is well worth it.

I am still seeking donations for my climb and this year my cute little son is joining me. If you can please donate. Thanks so much. Please go to the website and see the great stories from other climbers and patients. It is amazing.

********************************SPOILERS*******************************This biography takes place in Italy during World War I. This particular portion of Ernest Hemingway's life from 1917-1918 when he was in Italy as an American Red Cross Ambulance Driver.

During his short time as an ambulance driver he was in Piave at the front. He was five days into handing out cigerettes, chocolates and coffee to the Italian soldiers in the trenches when one evening a trench morter shell killed the Italian private in front of him wounding him and wounding another soldier. Hemingway carried the other soldier to the first aid station in the process sustaining machine gun wounds to his right knee and foot.

This biography is written by Henry Serrano Villard an American Red Cross Ambulance driver and friend of Hemingways and also James Nagel a Hemingway Historian.

The main contents of the book are the letters that Agnes Von Kurowsky wrote to Ernest Hemingway when she was going from hospital to hospital in Italy to Hemingway whom was in the American Red Cross Hospital in Milan. Then the letters from Hemingway home to his parents.

I read this book in conjunction with "A Farewell to Arms". Which was a great way to read both books. As the love affair between Agnes and Ernie is the basis for the love in "A Farewll to Arms".

First, I have to start with how romantic the Italian countryside sounds. Even in the mist of war, I want to visit. Both Agnes, Ernie and Henry present a beautiful description of Italy. Most especially in Milan.

Secondly, this is a wonderful book to get historical facts about Italy and World War I. Very descriptive about the retreat from the Austrians. The relief when the American troops arrived and help the Italians win the war and gain back their country.

Agnes' letters toward the end of the war show how scary it was for the civilians. Many children and women where near several bombs that had not gone off and were innocent victims of curiousity. Agnes describes the wounds suffered by the civilians, and soldiers. Many whom suffered from jundice and maleria.

Hemingway's letters are descriptive about the front and his wounds he suffered. He also describes his wounds he received. Enough that as a Mum myself I would have wanted to go to Italy to be by my son's sides.

Most importantly, the romance between Agnes and Ernie. The Romance that later became "A Farewell to Arms", Hemingway's greatest Novel. The novel that would be banned in Italy because it accurately described the Italian retreat from Austrian soldiers. More importantly, the love that blossomed in a hospital in Milan. In the romantic countryside of Italy between a nurse and a patient.

Villard, whom kept in touch with Agnes and talked to her before her death, said that Agnes denied that Ernie and her were in love. However, Hemingway's letters home and Agnes' letters to Hemingway, and Henry's memory of watching the love begin to grow show us the truth.

Hemingway kept all of Agnes' letters. Letters in which she expressed her love to Ernie. Letters in which she discussed marriage. How she missed Ernie when she was transferred from Milan to different hospitals to the front. Ernie's letters home, in which he briefly tells his family he is in love.

Finally, the heartbreaking dear john letter, that broke Ernie's heart. The letter that forever stayed with Ernie and shaped his future love life. It is clear that Agnes and Ernie were in love. Was it the romantic Italian countryside? Was it two scared and lonely American's in Italy far from home, seeking comfort in another? Was it true love that was split apart by war?

It is clear the Ernie was deeply in love with Agnes. The love and the heartbreak brought both joy and pain to Ernie. It gave us "A Farewell to Arms". A must read as there is so much more to Ernie Hemingway and after reading this book I felt I understood more the pain of Ernie's heartbreak and his need to share his love and pain in Farewell. Beautiful biography on the great American Writer.

Esty Shop

I started an Esty Bitsy shop.  I have a lot of bookmarks posted and will have bookcovers posted within the next week. Please feel free to visit

I wanted to wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. And Black Friday.  I avoided the stores, I did however take my family for pictures. Now I have made three pounds of Rocky Road and think I added the spoon licking to my butt and thighs.

Enjoy this time of the year with your family and friends.

When We Were GodsWhen We Were Gods by Colin Falconer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a great choice of book to read while travelling through Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Turkey - so many places mentioned in the course of Cleopatra's life that I found myself in, sometimes at just the right spot in the book - for instance ancient Antioch where we were the other day - where Marc Antony sent for Cleopatra. I had no idea exactly how much she travelled in the region. A completely fascinating woman who very nearly managed to combine the Roman Empire with her own as co-regent, first with Ceasor then Antony, both of whom she had children with. In terms of factual content the author claims to have tried to get as close to the historical facts as he could. To a certain extent this seems plausible and her life as its known is fleshed out very well. There were a number of gratuitous sex scenes and filthy one liners that had me rolling about laughing thinking I cant believe he put that in - something along the lines of Cleopatra commenting that Antony appeared to have 'raised an obelisk' in her honour being one memorable classic. I would tend to side with one of the back cover reviewers describing the book as 'sensual and imaginative' emphasis on the imaginative - but definately a very entertaining novel.

Interestingly the author also states that he wanted to get away from the Liz Taylor / Richard Burton hollywood picture - and you would think from the cover art of a very Greek looking Queen that this would be the case, but in fact to me his characters were exactly as played by Taylor, Burton and a camp Roddy Macdowel and I have a new found appreciation of the accuracy of a certain ammount of the plot line of the movie now - all except the triumphal entrance to rome seated on the Sphinx which didnt appear to take place in quite that manner.

If your after a bit of history based around the life of a fascinating historical character, with a healthy dose of imagination and some hilarious gratuitous smut this could be the one for you.

By Jon
For more information on my travels and a look at my photography do visit The Bear Essentials

View all my reviews

I have spent some time running from Gargamel. Had several close calls. I have survived on smurf berries and love.

On the serious side. Currently I am reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I am about 1/4 of the way through and loving it. I don't agree with all the theories of Objectivism however I do think some to the principal virtues and vices open up a new venue for my thought process.

This is not my first dystopian novel and I seem to like flocking to them. Something about the
concept is strange and yet scary.

I do like the main character Dagny. She is amazing. That girl that just won't let anything stop her. We need more women in the world like her.

I shall add my book review when I have finished. Which shall hopefully be soon. Hard to put Atlas down.

Becky here! As you may have noticed, the posts on this blog have been a bit MIA of late. Our last post here was in May, which in real life is only a couple months, but in Blog-Land, much like celebrity marriages, a few months is something like 19 years, and we've filled that with a plethora of emptiness and nothing.


So very sorry. Please accept our sincere apologies for the radio silence lately.

But maybe you, our most forgiving and loyal of followers and friends, would like to know what we've been doing with this time? I will do my best to fill in some of these gaps. I can't give everyone's details, but I can certainly fill in some of them. I'll leave the rest to the Viners themselves to fill in.

Rachel: This mysterious pair of slippers slips around like a shadow... Like a ninja, you never really know what she's doing, where to find her or where she'll make an appearance next, but she should make more of them. :)

Emilee: Our Smurf is also sporadically making appearances... Things seem a bit up in the air for her lately, we all hope they settle down and start getting normal again soon. 

Fiona: Our fearless yellow-feathered friend has started her own independent book & review blog, The Book Coop in which she talks about all sorts of interesting things in ways that I've never really thought about. :)

Allison: This one has also started her own blog, The Allure of Books where she somehow manages to read insane amounts of books and write an insanely good amount of content about them, and earned herself an insane number of followers in an insanely short time. O_o Crazy. :P

Jon: This Bear has also started his blog, The Bear Essentials, and when he's not jet-setting around the world taking awesome pictures, he's adding his adventures in jet-setting and photographic evidence of it to the blog, thus making the rest of us Viners green with envy.

Jackie: Jacks has had some major changes in her life recently, but she's strong and awesome, and we're all super proud of her and the way she's handled everything! She's also starting her own blog, which I'm sure that she'll talk about when she's got it up and running. Stay tuned for that! :)

And finally me... I am working a lot, and my responsibilities are shifting around at work, which is challenging but kind of exciting too. I have also started my own blog, Escapism Through Books, in which I post reviews and random other stuff that crosses my mind... Ooh! Shiny!! :P

So there you have it. Updates on the Viner-Blogger gang... I hope that it was all you were wishing for and more. We promise to try to keep this blog updated more consistently in the future!

Sookie update... For any of those who care...

So, I went and saw Charlaine Harris yesterday evening. First off, the woman is hilarious. The entire thing was a question answer session before she did a book signing (I was 4th in line for the signing, yay me for picking a good seat).

Before she took any questions, she said, "Don't ask me any questions about Bill vs. Eric, or who I like best because I won't tell you." So I didn't bother asking when Eric gets staked, because that fell into her off limits category. She did say that it bothers her that people read Eric differently than she wrote him, and that they romanticize him. In her mind he is selfish and he is not a romantic hero. She also said that he would NOT do anything for Sookie if push came to shove. Then she said, "Maybe I shouldn't have told you that." So, I guess Becky had a better reading at what she was actually trying to get across with Eric. Although she does like Eric.

She also said that she is signed on for 13 books and that she is currently writing the 11th book. She said that the 11th book will address issues with the Faeries who were left behind. She said that she is in the process of deciding if she will write more books than just 13, and that the decision will be made very soon because she will have to start planning for it in the storyline. She doesn't want to just toss a couple of amazing extra chapters into book 13 so that she can extend it. A wise woman.

She is currently working on another anthology that should be released in February, and apparently there is going to be a novella that deals with Quinn. She said that there will be some amazing developments in it. I am really looking forward to it.

She said she is finished with the Harper Connelly books. I think those are the ones you hated, right Becky? She said she feels that she took that story to its natural conclusion.

****MAJOR SPOILER FOR BOOK 9**** Don't read this if you plan to read the Sookie books, but haven't gotten around to it, or if you are not at book 9 yet.

Ready? Ok.
She apologized profusely for killing off Claudine. She said that she was in a really foul mood and that a Fae war seemed like a really great way to kill off a lot of people who didn't have a part in book 10. She says she feels just awful about Claudine. After she signed my book I told her that I was really sad, because when Claudine died I thought maybe she was going to come back as an angel, because that is what she wanted to be, and she said it was very hard to do. I thought that making the ultimate sacrifice like that for Sookie might have bought her wings. I am really hoping now that I planted a seed in Charlaine Harris's mind, and maybe she will bring Claudine back. lol


I think that one of my favorite parts of it was when someone asked her how she got the idea for the Sookie books. She said, "Well, at the time I was writing mysteries and I thought that writing a cross-genre book would get me a broader audience and then I would make more money." We all laughed, and she said, "No, I am serious. I was earning about $5000 a book at the time and I really wanted more money." So she said, I'll put in telepaths, and vampires, just a little of everything. She said that she also shopped the books around and got tons of rejections. I think she said it took 2 years to get someone to pick them up. And then she said, "And for all those other publishers, all I can say is 'HA HA'." I was rolling.

So that is my Charlaine Harris experience. I didn't get any pictures because my phone kept freezing up when I tried and I forgot to take my camera. Needless to say, she is a lovely woman. Very Southern. She sounds just like Paula Dean.

F. Bear Slippers

So it is the General Elections here at the UK and sometime today I'll be making my way down to my old Infant school I attended between the ages of four to seven years, to vote. Funny that, considering at that age politics was hardly high on my agenda. I have a vague memory back then of Margaret Thatcher being Prime Minister, and then being kicked out - I was sitting on my mum's knee and dad was standing by the door watching the news. John Major became Prime Minister and I remember for the first time becoming aware that you actually had to vote these people in. After that moment's awareness I think I went back to thinking of Playmobil and Lego.

It's all rather depressing, truth be told, for there is no passion in the air - no one particularly wants anyone in it seems, rather voting to keep the worst in - or out, depending on your stance. People either seem to be afraid of the Conservative Party regaining power after 13 years (rather an unlucky number) or fed up with the Labour Party. So who knows what will be to come? I have a feeling we will be seeing blue.

My election distraction will be North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell - this is the third time I have read it and I love it more each time. It is a re-writing of Pride and Prejudice, set in the 1850's in an industrial town in the north of England. It focuses on the class differences between the North and the South, rich and poor - the Masters and the Workers. An incredible social story, written by a woman who though respected, is no longer well-enough known in comparison to her fellow authors such as Charles Dickens, who she knew personally.

Soon all will be over - we will have a new government, or we will hang on to the old... maybe a change of face will be good for the UK, who knows. After today, it will be out of my hands and all I can do is sit, read my book and wait for the result.

Reading on the vine has been a different reading experience for me.

We know we have a book arriving in the post and that soon we are to read it. Yet we do not know what the book is called, or who it is by, or even if it is a book we have heard of before. It might be from an unfamiliar genre, or it might be a book that we have so far avoided reading for various reasons. The fact is we know we have a book coming from a certain person - we know we are going to read it - we just do not know what it is.

I have never been part of a book group because I have never thought I could read a book that someone else chose for me especially if I thought I wouldn't like the book. I think the problem is that I tended to build up reservations or prejudices against certain books and then I wouldn't be able to read it. With the vine - there is none of that, it is simple - the book is chosen and you read it. You have no time to build up reservations.

And so I open my heart to this book and I don't care if it is not my kind of book, I simply do not think "will I like this book" or "will I hate it?" I simply open myself up to this book and it's taught me to be much more open minded then I was before. There is an extra factor to it of course - the book has travelled across the world and it represents a part of the person who chose to send it. So it is more then merely a book that I am reading to discuss with a group.

We're on our last leg of the vine with only one or two more books to be read before the circle is complete. And then we continue with a different format. Reading for the vine is a commitment and it can be time consuming though definitely enjoyable. Keeping a book a secret from people for so long comes with it's own problems of course - such as trying not to talk about it where its identity could be guessed at.

Has anyone here been a part of a book circle or a book group, how has this influenced your reading choices?

Being able to sit down and just read sometimes seems harder then it actually is. For instance, right now I should be reading The First Man in Rome by Colleen McCullough not sitting here writing a blog post, or being distracted by Twitter, Facebook and Goodreads. Where did all these social media websites suddenly come from?

So where do you go to find peace and quiet? For me it is not always peace and quiet I like - my favourite reading spots are in caf├ęs, over a nice cup of tea or a latte, or on buses and trains. It is these busy places, with the noise and chaos of other people's lives I find the most peaceful place to read. Sometimes, if it is too quiet I find myself distracting myself.

Often though, during the summer I like going to Haslar Naval Cemetery which holds the dead of the Navy from the mid nineteenth century to modern times. It was built sometime in the nineteenth century as the grounds of the Royal Naval Hospital Haslar becoming rather overflown with the dead from wars going back as far as Trafalgar. The hospital was opened in 1762 and only closed late last year after 247 years as a working hospital - first for the Royal Navy and then for the public as well. It is to become a place for veterans and dementia suffers apparently but I will hold judgement on that until I see it happening.

It isn't the most lively of places for certain, being a graveyard containing the dead from over a century ago but it is certainly a lovely place be - beautiful, peaceful and somewhere where you can hear yourself think. Only, after a little while of reading I always feel the urge to have a look around and read the names on the gravestones.

I am well aware this might sound a little strange to some, probably utterly boring to many - it is not a fascination with death I have, but rather with the lives of the people who once were, their experiences, their history and past lives.

The trouble is, I do find myself so easily distracted, so finding the right place to read is important. Where does everyone else like to read? Your comfy arm chair, on the loo, in the garden?

I am currently reading all of the following...


A Time to Kill

The Far Pavilions


Wives and Daughters

Its a strange place I find myself in. Usually I can't stand to read more than one book at a time. So how did I get to FOUR? I couldn't tell you. But it made me think about how interesting and varied everyone's different reading habits are. How many books do you guys usually try to read at once?

(Note: I didn't make The Far Pavilions picture bigger on purpose, but so far it is my favorite of the four...and possibly my favorite of the year so far. We'll call it a fortunate mistake.)

Dangerous Times

I used to be a member of BookMooch a long time ago but all that sending books out all over the world started to  make my bank account look a little unhealthy so I donated all my points to some charity and quit my account for good!

Well, I have returned to the addiction, put up 14 books tenderly selecting the option that people ask me if they are from abroad. Naturally putting up 14 books all at once is a mistake, I knew it was of course but I'm as addicted to giving books away as I am acquiring them. I already have 8 points. I need to go down the post office tomorrow and mail off some books then wait until I have some more cash to mail off some more.

Oh dear.

1. Harry Potter series

Seriously. I know they're everyone's favorite books...but its because they're AWESOME. I could probably spend like 3 days just talking about all the ways these books are wonderful and all the reasons I love them. If you haven't read're stupid. If you have, then you understand.

2. Anne of Green Gables series

Such gorgeous books. Anne was my first book love, and she continues her reign at the top. I love her so much. I read these books over and over again and love them just as much every single time. Also, don't tell Fiona, but Anne could kick Cassandra's (from I Capture the Castle) boo-tay.

3. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

A beautiful love story with a fast-paced and interesting historical fiction plot. I think this book has something for everyone, and it is one of my favorite books to push on unsuspecting victims. Of course the series is still continuing and is now ridiculously long...who cares. This one stands alone pretty well, you don't have to commit yourself to all 5 years of Outlander series reading time at once.

4. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

I list this in my top 5 because A) I need a classic in here so I don't look like a dummy B) I like it better than Pride and Prejudice and I love telling people about how Mr. Thornton could take Mr. Darcy in a sexy hero competition any day (bring it on!) and C) it just really is darn good.

5. A 3-way fantasy tie between The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss, the first 3 books in the Kushiel trilogy by Jacqueline Carey and the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

They are all fantastic, brilliant, and epic. They're all monumentally different from each other. I have a gargantuan author crush on Patrick Rothfuss (ask anyone), the Kushiel trilogy is radically different then anything else I've ever read, and Brandon Sanderson has already pretty much set himself up as an all time great epic fantasy author.

I have read so much good stuff in the past year though...I always want to add them to the list. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Soulless by Gail Carriger, and Halfway to the Grave by Jeaniene Frost all get Honorable Mentions.

I sincerely love and admire Edgar A. Guest and shall share a poem of his with you this lovely Monday.

Ballad of Woman's Lot

These are matters of mome small:
Whether the soup be burned or no,
Hair in papers when visitors call,
Bills too high and the purse too low,
Is it for children a proper show?
How can steak for the meal be got?
What to do for a stone-bruised toe?
Yet all are part of a woman's lot!

Man would flee from these troubles all:
Wehre do the new baked cookies go?
Thumb prints smeared on the parlor wall,
Stockings to mend and buttons to sew,
What of the clock, is it fast or slow?
A new cloth spoiled by an inky spot,
A baseball knocked where the zinnias grow,
Yet all are part of a woman's lot!

Into a megrim a man would fall
If he had worries like these to know:
Roller skates left in the dim-lit hall,
Books to be placed in a perfect row,
Birthday and wedding gifts to bestow,
Care of platter and pan and pot,
A victory garden to water and hoe!
Yet all are part of a woman's Lot!

Prince, the braggarts who loudest blow
Would faint through weather be cold or hot
Were life such troubles at them to throw
Yet all are part of a woman's lot!

Top 5 Books of All Time

1. I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith - I love this book even though I don't usually go for such overtly girly books. The novel was published in 1948 and was written whilst Smith was feeling homesick for England as she and her husband had moved to the USA during the 1940's. Perhaps this is why there is something very nostalgic about I Capture the Castle - telling the story of a young woman during the early thirties, who lived with her family in a broken down old castle as they struggle to get by in growing poverty and isolation. It tells of a time before the war and the ugliness so it must have been a lovely book for those young people to have read.

Mainly, what I loved about this book are the characters. It is so much a story about the people who inhabit the pages. It is not a fast paced book, I think it is rather a book that you come to love in and alongside. Cassandra's voice came alive in my head as she wrote. The opening line is: "I write this sitting in the kitchen sink." And from this moment you are there with Cassandra - sitting in that kitchen sink - or making a few quick observations and then coming back later to write them up. There is a sense of time and movement in her journal - of belonging and intimacy.

I Capture the Castle makes me feel happy, it makes me feel alive and I it makes you think about these characters and it makes you feel.

2. Shogun - James Clavell - This is a surprising book. It's hard to imagine me even reading a book like this. At first glance you might think this is just some blokey book about Japanese samurai, ninjas and war but this couldn't be further from the truth.

Kandice recommended this book to me - and I got it into my head to give it a go. My copy of the book was a good 1125 pages, but it is the shortest long book I have ever read. Clavell is a master storyteller - at every twist there is a turn and if you think you're going in one direction you'll be taken down another. You find yourself on a massive Japanese rollercoaster and unable to stop.

Shogun follows the story of Blackthorne, an English pilot during the 1600's who is ship wrecked along with his Dutch crew upon the shoreline of Japan. Blackthorne has to learn how to survive in a culture so vastly different from his own.

It is unexpectedly funny - in fact outright hilarious as I found myself laughing so loud people had to tell me to shut up! Just wait until you get to the duck scene, I shall say no more but boy did that have me laughing up a storm. 

The characters of Blackthorne and Mariko are two of the most memorable characters I have ever read and will stay with me for a long time. Reading Shogun is much more of an experience then just a good book.

3. Dogsbody and Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones - Oh okay okay I know, that is two books but I really cannot choose. Dogsbody is the first book I truly fell in love with at the age of nine and my love for it has not changed sixteen years later. Howl's Moving Castle is also one of the books that I love and who cannot love Howl (even though you know you should not)?

Dogsbody is about the Dogstar, Sirius who is punished for losing his temper, by being sent down to earth to retrieve something he lost. He wakes up on earth in the form of a puppy - and is later adopted by Kathleen, a lonely young girl living with her uncle's family. The story is actually surprisingly deep and reading it again after so many years I observed a lot I had missed as a young child. Jones has a skill for writing invisible threads of complexity, into a deceivingly simple sounding story.

Howl's Moving Castle is about Sophie, a young hat maker who is cursed by a wicked witch and anything more would really be a spoiler. I have read it many times and every time it makes me laugh and fall in love with the characters over and over again. It is hard to describe books by Diana Wynne Jones. They never sound fantastic on the outside, but inside they are exceptional. She is by far the best writer of YA/Children's fantasy there ever is. And I mean better then JK Rowling. Which brings me to...

4. The Harry Potter Series - These have been with me for near on ten years ever since I first read them at the tender age of 13/14. There is a lot of criticism of the Harry Potter books - such as the idea of a wizarding school not actually being unique. You don't have to be Einstein to arrive at that conclusion. Anyone read The Worst Witch? And there will be countless other stories about young, orphaned boy wizards who end up in a school for wizards. It is not an original idea. What makes Harry Potter, Harry Potter and not some other book like Willy the Wizard or whatever other half-baked load of crap there is out there?

Rowling meticulously planned each of these seven books so that when you read book six and look back to book three for example, you suddenly see a connection you may not have had before. She developed a world which people believed in, one that lives on in each of our imaginations, and characters whom we all felt we knew.

Harry Potter makes up a whole era of many people's lives - millions of people young and old waiting for the next installment and rushing out to buy it, queuing up for hours at midnight openings.

When Harry Potter ended - some part of my childhood ended with it. It was hard to believe I'd never again feel excited for the next one - never be left wondering whether Snape was a goodie or a badie (I always knew the truth!)  I don't think there will be another book or series that will captivate me like that ever again. But maybe it was because I was a child at the time I started the series? Maybe now that I am no longer a child I can no longer give myself to a book so effortlessly and freely?

5. The Stand by Stephen King - Picking the 5th one is the hardest. So many could go in this spot. The Otori Series by Lian Hearn, The Roth trilogy by Andrew Taylor... Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver, The Loop by Nicholas Evans. These could all be in my top five of all time. I have chosen The Stand though because it filled me up just like the other four filled me up. Maybe it isn't the BEST written book I have read, perhaps there are BETTER books in my read list, but The Stand wrapped me up and took me away and I guess that's what it takes to get on my top five. Not quality but how much I enjoyed it.

The Stand was my first book by Stephen King. I bought it totally on whim. (Partly because of Gary Sinise, partly because it had crossed my mind that I rarely read any American fiction). I never expected to even like it so I was pretty surprised by myself when I ended up loving it.

For one these kinds of dystopian, end of the world novels have never attracted me. The idea of 99 odd per cent of the population being wiped off the face of the earth did not fill me with excitement. Stephen King had never even been on my radar. I don't like horror but I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'm an idiot and shouldn't be trusted to pick my own books.

I'm not sure what I liked about it. I think it is, that King is able to write about something that is so far out there but make you believe it. He does like to go on an on and on with characterisations (I think he overdid it in IT) and is quite wordy and descriptive - but it works. He has such a strong voice you want to listen to him. I wanted to know about these characters - Stu, Fran, Nick, Tom, Larry, Nadine. My favourite was of course Stu.

The only thing I did not like, which is perhaps why this book should not be in my top five, is that I think the ending was rather weak - in fact let's just call it lame. But despite this, I still loved it which brings it back into a rightful position within my top five all time books.

And so that folks - is my Top Five of All Time list. Later I will come back with my other High Fives, so keep an eye out (or just close them, whichever.)

I am a total Book Madame! I love reading and I am also a bibliophile. I am extremely picky about my bookshelves.
First, my bookshelves all match. Second they are in alphabetical order by author. Finally, I have a special bookshelf in my room for my favorite authors and collectable books. This way I know that no one will touch my "special books".

I completely have OCD when it comes to my books. But they completely deserve the special attention that they get.

My favorite all time poet who also has earned extremely special status is Rod McKuen. Amazing american poet who is also a songwriter. He has a wonderful voice and his writing he just puts his whole heart and soul into his songs and poems. Rod wrote several pieces for Frank Sinatra, wrote music for the movie "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" and even the theme for Charlie Brown. His autobiography, Finding my Father is just amazing.

Ernest Hemingway is one of my all time favorite prose writers. A must read is "Farewell to Arms". And of course "Old Man and the Sea". And I must say that Ernest is very brillant and handsome!

My favorite humourist is Mark Twain. Who couldn't love his satire? "Huckleberry Finn" is my very favorite of his but I also love "Life on the Mississippi". I haven't read all of his work but plan on completing his extensive and amazing prose.

I also adore English writer Ian McEwan. He is great as his books leave you in complete amazement. I really enjoyed "Atonement" but I would say that "On Chesil Beach" and "In the Comfort of Strangers" are my favorite prose work form McEwan.

The greatest fantasy work is "Lord of the Rings" Tolkein has done an amazing job. He is completely brilliant. When it comes to Fantasy I also love Robert Jordan and his Wheel of Time series. In addition absolutely love Brandon Sanderson and the Mistborn Series.

Robert Jordan passed away before the Wheel of Time Series was completed. Jordan's wife picked Brandon Sanderson to complete the series. Wow! Sanderson has done a fabulous job. It is hard for me to be impressed but they both (Jordan and Sanderson) are amazing, descriptive and cleaver writers and they have done a great job. I would highly recommend reading the Wheel of Time Series.

I also love Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen, E.M. Forester, John Irving and Robert Frost. Reading is so statisfing. I just can't read enough!

Since I know that we all love a bit of book-porn now and again, I figured that I would go ahead and post my bookshelves here for your enjoyment. So, without further ado...
This is one and a half of two and a half bookshelves in my bedroom. The tall bookcase contains my Stephen King collection (top two shelves) and miscellaneous other books (bottom two shelves). The very bottom shelf is empty, because the cats enjoy laying in there. I would too, if I was small enough. :)

Here are some close-ups of these shelves.

The first picture is of my King Collection (the second shelf of which is shelved by published date) and three library books. I haven't read "Little Brother" yet, but the other two were both excellent. Highly recommended. :)

This next picture shows random miscellaneous books. As you can see, I don't have any particular shelving system, except that I keep my series books together. This shelf DOES contain a good bit of historical fiction though. And an apocalyptic fiction collection and a zombie collection. The second shelf contains my Percy Jackson series (except #5 which I've sent to Allison), the Abhorsen series, except #1 which is loaned out, and random other fantasy.

Next we have the 2nd bookcase in my bedroom, which is within arms reach of my desk. I have my "currently reading" library book "Sepulchre" there.

And again, some close-ups. First, a bunch of classics...

Next, contemporary fiction, and one of my sets of "Lord of the Rings", and some books that I have no room to shelve yet. =\ My Grisham collection is here, along with the beginnings of my Koontz and Crichton collections. Right up top is one of my favorite books ever, "I Know This Much Is True" by Wally Lamb... Read it. Love it.

Next we have other miscellaneous books...

Next we have the bookcase in the living room. This one weighs a gajillion pounds, and is from Ikea. Pretty, yes? The cats love it. :) See?

Some more shots of this one... First, my Harry Potter collection. I have one US set, and one UK set. :D Also, up top, you can see my Hitchhiker's Guide collection, my Complete Shakespeare, and Complete Poe sets. The statue on the left is a cat gargoyle with yellow light up eyes (you put a candle behind it's head), and the sphere on the right is a little model of Hogwarts with a ring of pewter dementors that sits on the globe. The car, which is hard to see, is a contribution of my boyfriend's - it's a collectors edition Saber graffitied model car. (He's got another in the box.)

Next... More miscellaneous books: My omnibus edition of "Lord of the Rings", my Jane Austen collection, my Colleen McCullough collection, most of which consists of the "Rome" series. Kristin Cashore's "Graceling" and "Fire". The bottom shelves contain more fantasy, Paolini's books, Eoin Colfer's "Artemis Fowl" series and my "Narnia" omnibus. Then we have "The Book Thief", some more classics, "Anne of Green Gables", "The Little Princess", "The Count of Monte Cristo", "The Secret Garden", "1984", "I Am Legend", a second copy of "Little Women" and Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn" series.

Finally, we have my boyfriend's contribution to the "public" shelf... A lot of game guides, art magazines and a non-fiction book along with a vegetarian cookbook. He's got more books (graffiti & additional art books mainly) in his computer/art room.

And last but not least, a nosy Girl cat.

1. Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood.

Brilliant, take a shuffle in Iris' slippers for a day. Fantastic, cutting commentary on aspects modern life as well as a beautiful sweeping historical memoir with puzzles and riddles that keep you guessing right up to the last chapters, even when you're pretty sure you've got everything all sewn up. Very clever stories within stories. You will be missed Iris.

2. The Hours by Michael Cunningham.

A stunningly beautifully written book, touching and clever. It was such a joy to read, one of those that you turn each page lovingly, stroking the pages, treasuring it.

3. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.

I adored this book from the start, the language is so lush, rich and almost didn't matter where the story was going it was so dripping with beautiful wordplay. And like someone else said about the 'spiraling' time line, kept you working your way towards the plot unraveling - a bit forward, a bit back, pieces at a time. A joyful experience, I haven't smiled so much with a read for a long time. As others have said its funny its not an uplifting storyline, but its an almost incidental fact when the imagery and playfulness is like this.

4. Shogun by James Clavell.

Bloody brilliant - re read after a 20 year gap after GR peer group pressure and upgraded from 3 to 5 stars. Pleased to find memory of goldfish so remembered almost nothing from previous read and that had seriously done an injustice with previous rating,

The writing isn't always first class but at the same time Clavell perfectly en-captures the delicacies of the Samurai code of honour and Japanese life at that time. Its gruesome and bloody and coarse but the plots and counter plots and intrigues keep you on the edge of your reading chair the whole way through. And you change with Anjin-san as you get to know the Japanese better and your standpoint on who are the more barbaric changes the more you read on. Mariko-San became one of my favourite literary heroines. Im not usually one for war novels but there was so much more to this and i loved never knowing whos side anyone was on and wondering what the next carrier pigeon would bring. The mind boggles at how many seppukus and decapitations and gruesome deaths happened throughout the book but you have to admire the sense of honour and duty and commitment to their cause that these characters had.

There's even some philosophy in there..i found myself trying to imagine rocks growing while trying to struggle through Christmas shopping hoards of people without hitting someone!

You even get to pick up some Japanese on the way!

Top marks!

5. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.

Bloody Brick-Tastic! Possibly the best book I've ever read, certainly the longest. 1243 pages of action, revenge, retribution, planning, plotting, secrets, affairs, Parisian glamour and romance. The pace barely lets up, its pretty much a page turner all the way through, and the second half has plenty of OMG moments. I never would have attempted something so daunting seeming if it wasn't recommended by GR friends, i seriously thought it would have to be one of the stuffiest old books going. Wrong, wrong wrong!... read it!

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