Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year 2009!

Wishing each and every one a healthy and happy New Year filled with prosperity and great books to read!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

New Writing Projects

I've been moping around since NaNoWriMo ended on November 30. This year's WriMo was, as always, both exhilarating and brutal, and I miss it. Yes, it's nice to be able to read again ~ in fact, I've already finished Fool, a truly bawdy but really entertaining new novel by Christopher Moore based on Shakespeare's King Lear (review coming soon to Just One More Page) and am halfway through Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais, one of my favorite mystery writers, and Wolfsbane and Mistletoe, an anthology of "hair-raising holiday tales," featuring Sookie Stackhouse in a really lovely short story about what starts out as a really lonely Christmas. And, compliments of Hachette Books, I just received a copy of Gods Behaving Badly, a debut by Marie Phillips, which I can't wait to start. (Actually, I've read the first chapter and already it's made me laugh out loud.) You can read more about Gods Behaving Badly and enter a giveaway contest on my blog at Just One More Page.

Anyway besides being able to read again, it's also nice to be able to socialize and relax and blog. But, still, I miss the frenzied madness that is NaNo.

So, to try and end my general mopiness, I have joined a critique group. We're going to meet once a week and critique portions of each other's writing. It's a little scary to think of sharing my fiction writing with others, but they are fellow WriMos, so I think I can trust them to be kind, though I hope they are also honest. Just not brutally so.

I have also signed up for Forward Motion's writing course, which takes two (yikes! two!) years to get through but which could result in a submittable (is that a word?) novel.

Maybe, between the two projects, I will actually manage to finish writing a novel or two. How amusing that would be!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaNoWriMo November Has Begun!

Hi, Fellow Readers and Bloggers ~ For those who have not yet heard of it, November is NaNoWriMo month. NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month, and NaNoWriMo is a website dedicated to the thousands of people who take on the challenge of writing a 50,000 word novel during the thirty days of November. This year will be my third year of doing NaNo, and I won both previous years (2006 and 2007).

What do you win? you might well ask. Well, you win a virtual purple bar and the right to print a out a fancy certificate that says you are a NaNoWriMo winner. No publishing deal, no money, no prizes. Just the aforesaid purple bar, a .JPG of a winners' certificate, and the immense and priceless satisfaction that comes from having actually managed to write a 50,000+ word novel in one month.

Now, the reason I bring this up is two-fold. Firstly, I am, as I mentioned, doing NaNo again this November. Therefore, during every free moment of the entire month, I will be frenziedly typing my NaNoNovel on my lovely little AlphaSmart Dana word processor. Ergo, I will have no time to blog, much less read any novels about which to blog. Neither reading nor blogging for an entire month is a real hardship, but participating in NaNoWriMo is worth it.

Secondly, I will be doing a bit of writing about the NaNo experience at my Musings from the Dark Side blog, and I invite you to visit me there during November if you'd like to read about my crazy and wonderful experiences doing NaNo this year. When I emerge from my novel-writing frenzy in December, assuming I make it through NaNo alive (haha, just joking), I hope to resume blogging here at The Anything Blog, as well as on Just One More Page, where I will be reviewing my favorite mystery author Carol O'Connell's soon-to-be-released new novel "Bone by Bone." (I am sooo excited to have been given an ARC of it to read and review! It just arrived today, in fact, and it is going to be very very difficult to resist reading it until after November.)

So, to all those in the U.S., if I don't have a chance to blog here for awhile, don't forget to vote on Tuesday, be sure to honor our Veterans on November 11, and have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving! And to everyone here and in other parts of this great world, have a great month and please come back in December.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

New! Hatchette Book's Blog Talk Radio

This afternoon was just tooling around the web, looking for some suggestions for good books, and I came across this cool site where Miriam Parker hosts Blog Talk Radio shows with various authors. The first interview (with Michael Connelly) aired on Wednesday last.

Turns out, I missed the one with Michael Connelly (who is one of my absolute favorite authors), but I was able to listen to it by going to her site and scrolling down to the blue Blog Talk Radio dial. He gave a wonderful interview ~ talked about how he writes, how he finds things to write about, and how he feels about blog reviews. He also talked about his latest novel coming out soon, THE BRASS VERDICT. I so want to read this sequel to THE LINCOLN LAWYER, which I really enjoyed when I read it earlier this year. You know, Harry's going to be featured in THE BRASS VERDICT too!

Then, next Wednesday 10/29 at 1PM ET, Miriam's going to be interviewing Kathleen Kent, author of THE HERETIC'S DAUGHTER. Anyone who wants to can post a question on Miriam's blog and she will put you on the agenda. You can either call into the show at (646) 378-0040 or just listen online here.

I know where I'm going to be next Wednesday! Hope you can join in!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lists, Lists, Lists!

So I just Stumbled Upon a new website that contains nothing but lists, and, as I've written before, I just love lists. Two that I looked at were the 10 Most Disturbing Novels and the 5 Worst Presidential Candidates Who Lost. Both were eye opening and pretty funny, in a macabre kind of way (at least the one that listed the presidential candidates who lost).

BTW, I've found some interesting stuff through Stumble Upon, though I haven't had much time to explore the site.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Banned Book Week - Never Too Late!

Last week was Banned Books Week. I was a bit busy at work so didn't have time to get involved in the celebration, but in my view it's never too late.

From a post at the Book Therapy blog, here is a list of books that have been banned somewhere in the world at one time or another for one reason or another. I just love lists, don't you? This one is interesting because on most of them I have no idea for what misbegotten reason the book could possibly have been banned. But people who think it's their right to control how others think don't really need a reason, misbegotten or otherwise, I guess.

So, how many have you read?

1. The Bible
2. Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
3. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes *
4. The Koran
5. Arabian Nights
6. Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
7. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
8. Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
9. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
10. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman *
11. The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli *
12. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
13. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
14. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
15. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens *
16. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo *
17. Dracula by Bram Stoker
18. Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
19. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
20. Essays by Michel de Montaigne
21. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
22. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon *
23. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
24. Origin of Species by Charles Darwin
25. Ulysses by James Joyce
26. Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio
27. Animal Farm by George Orwell
28. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
29. Candide by Voltaire
30. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
31. Analects by Confucius
32. Dubliners by James Joyce *
33. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
34. Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway
35. Red and the Black by Stendhal
36. Das Capital by Karl Marx
37. Flowers of Evil by Charles Baudelaire
38. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
39. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
40. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
41. Sister Carrie by Theodore Dreiser
42. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
43. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
44. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque ***
45. Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx
46. Lord of the Flies by William Golding
47. Diary by Samuel Pepys
48. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
49. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
50. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury *
51. Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak
52. Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
53. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
54. Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus
55. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
56. Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
57. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
58. Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
59. Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke
60. Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
61. Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
62. One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
63. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
64. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
65. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
66. Confessions by Jean Jacques Rousseau
67. Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais
68. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
69. The Talmud
70. Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau
71. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson *
72. Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence
73. American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
74. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
75. A Separate Peace by John Knowles *
76. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
77. Red Pony by John Steinbeck
78. Popol Vuh
79. Affluent Society by John Kenneth Galbraith
80. Satyricon by Petronius *
81. James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl *
82. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
83. Black Boy by Richard Wright
84. Spirit of the Laws by Charles de Secondat Baron de Montesquieu
85. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut *
86. Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
87. Metaphysics by Aristotle
88. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
89. Institutes of the Christian Religion by Jean Calvin
90. Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse
91. Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
92. Sanctuary by William Faulkner
93. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
94. Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin
95. Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
96. Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
97. General Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud
98. Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
99. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Alexander Brown
100. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
101. Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman by Ernest J. Gaines
102. Émile Jean by Jacques Rousseau
103. Nana by Émile Zola
104. Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
105. Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin
106. Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn ***
107. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
108. Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Peck
109. Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark
110. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
111. Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume *
112. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
113. The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
114. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
115. The Witches of Worm by Zilpha Keatly Snyder

I am sad to see that I have not read that many of these books (I bolded the ones I have read and italicised the ones I have partially read; *=books I want to read and ***=books I have in my library). Some are books I have long intended to read but just haven't gotten round to yet. Perhaps one goal for next year will be to read one banned book a month.

Let's all do our parts to combat the book banning control freaks of the world by reading a banned book today!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Devourer of Books Celebrates 100th Review Milestone!

Congratulations to Devourer of Books who has reviewed her 100th book on her blog! She is celebrating by giving away up to five great books from her stash. Be sure to check it out and enter her giveaway contest.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Around Downtown L.A.

I'm so excited to learn about a bookstore just a few blocks from where I live in Downtown Los Angeles called Metropolis Books! I'm thinking of walking over there this afternoon, depending on if it's open on Sunday. Anyway, apparently in honor of Halloween, they are having a book promotion of Ghost Files next Saturday that I definitely plan to attend. Here's the info:

Saturday, October 04, 2008 05:00 PM
Ghost Society, The, will be promoting Ghost Files
Appears on/at: METROPOLIS BOOKS, 440 S Main St., Los Angeles, CA 90013

Here's the website for Metropolis Books (, and here's their blog:

Stayed tuned for more information about Metropolis Books and Ghost Files.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Book Group Expo 2008 -- October 25th and 26th in San Jose

The third annual Book Group Expo is being held in San Jose, California on October 25th and 26th.

More than 75 authors will be there, including Annie Barrows, author of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society; Andre Dubus III, author of The Garden of Last Days; Kate Jacobs, author of The Friday Night Knitting Club; Ann Packer, author of Songs Without Words; and Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. For a complete list of authors, click here.

There will be Literary Salons that include authors and various panel discussions as well as a Marketplace featuring onsite vendors ready to introduce you to products available to enhance your book group's reading experience, including wine, tea, chocolate and other savory and sweet treats to try and buy. Coming from out of town? Check out the discounted hotel rates at the official Book Group Expo hotels website.

Click here to find out more about Book Group Expo and to get your tickets.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Adventures in Reading

What was the most unusual (for you) book you ever read? Either because the book itself was completely from out in left field somewhere, or was a genre you never read, or was the only book available on a long flight… whatever? What (not counting school textbooks, though literature read for classes counts) was furthest outside your usual comfort zone/familiar territory?
And, did you like it? Did it stretch your boundaries? Did you shut it with a shudder the instant you were done? Did it make you think? Have nightmares? Kick off a new obsession?
I am a pretty adventurous reader, so I am often surprised by a book that I know is outside my "comfort zone." Sometimes the surprise is good, and sometimes, well, shutting it with a shudder is the mildest reaction I've had to some.
One of the books that I was certain I'd hate but which I read anyway, only because it was given to me by the Dean of the English Dept. at a college I worked at part-time when I was a senior in high school, turned out to be the very best kind of surprise. The professor told me that The Story of San Michele by Axel Munthe was his favorite novel of all time, but I was certain I wouldn't like it. It was written in the early 1900s, was a partly fictional biography of some doctor who built a bird sanctuary at San Michele overlooking the Bay of Naples, and, on top of that, was really long. Uh-huh. I was so not happy to have to read that huge tome, but I did it out of respect for the prof and fell in love! It changed the way I thought about literary novels, and it engendered a lifelong love of Italy.
Okay, that was then (about a half century ago) and this is now, and recently someone on LT recommended Hotel du Lac by Anita Brookner. I only picked it up because of that and because this year I had made a pledge to myself to read more literary fiction, both contemporary and classic. I fell in love with Hotel du Lac, too, and definitely see why it won the Booker Prize! That was probably one of the latest examples of a good surprise.
The other kind of book? I tend to put them out of my mind straightaway when I finish them ~ if I even bother to finish them at all. Like Einstein, I don't believe in cluttering my mind with unnecessary information!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Exciting News on the Literacy Tutoring Front!

A couple of years ago, I started tutoring over at the Central Library's Adult Literacy Center. Considering how important reading is to me, it should come as no surprise how much it has meant to me to watch someone who has grown up without the ability to read discover the magic of books and reading. There is, literally (pun intended), nothing like it!

Unfortunately, I've been without a student since about May of this year when my then-student had to stop for awhile due to personal issues. Though it was nice to take a break over the summer, now that autumn is in the air, I'm eager to get back to it again.

Anyway, today on my lunch hour I went to the library to return a couple of books and, on the spur of the moment, thought I'd stop in at the Center to say hi and kind of remind them I'm still around and waiting to be paired with a student. It was one of those fortuitously fortunate decisions because sitting there looking somewhat downcast was a guy who, I learned, was hoping to be paired up with a tutor.

It turned out our schedules match, so we were paired up and will be starting our lessons on Wednesday, the day after tomorrow!

This isn't the first volunteer work I've done in my long life, but it is one of the most gratifying. The students in the program are highly motivated and very appreciative of the time and effort their tutors expend on preparing lessons and meeting with them. The Los Angeles Adult Literacy program requires that the tutor commit to meeting with the student 3 hours a week (1-1/2 hours twice a week) for at least six months. In addition to the 3 hours of class time, I usually spend at least one hour of prep time a week, but it could be more depending on how creative I feel like getting.

This is a wonderful program, and similar programs are in place in many other cities and towns across the United States. In case anyone has a few extra hours a week and would like to volunteer, I strongly encourage you to check out becoming an adult literacy tutor and give the gift of literacy to someone in your home town!
If you are interested and want more information, please be sure and leave a comment with your email address and I'll be happy to answer or find the answers to your questions.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Just One More Page

I had originally meant this blog to be mostly about books and reading, since that is my greatest pleasure in life (surpassing even dark chocolate, really!). Awhile back, I was reading over all I've written, and I realized that the blog has become cluttered with other subjects and issues, more or less hiding the posts about books amongst posts about goats grazing in downtown Los Angeles, personal musings about the meaning of 9/11, and other non-bookish subjects.

So, I decided to start a new blog that would be devoted to books ~ a place where I can share my views and reviews, have book giveaways and contests, and interact with others interested mainly in bookish things. So began Just One More Page.

I hope you will visit my new book blog and enter the drawing for Mr. White's Confession, and let me know what you think about the layout and content. So far I've only written two posts, but I plan to post at least two reviews a week, in addition to having contests and polls about books and authors, and other such diversions.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Literature Map Locates Authors For You!

Here's a neat little e-toy I learned about awhile back from BookCrossing: a "map" of authors which aligns authors you like with others, the theory being that, if you like the one, you will like the others that are closest in proximity. Try it ~ I'm not sure how accurate it is, but it's really fun!

Other information about the website:
the literature-map is a part of gnooks (check this out too!)
gnooks is apart of gnod (books, movies, music!)
gnod is a projectof marek gibney

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 - Just Another Day?

It is odd to think that seven years have gone by since the horrific day the Twin Towers in NYC were destroyed by evil madmen, taking the lives of thousands of innocent people ~ not to mention those who were killed at the Pentagon and the heroes who died in a field in Pennsylvania, thereby foiling the plot of the hijackers to crash the plane they were on into the White House. Odder still to think that, since that time, very little seems to have changed in the way Americans act and think.
Oddest of all is the fact that, except for the news program I watched while getting ready for work, nothing was said or done, either at my office or anywhere else in Los Angeles as far as I have heard, to commemorate the day, a day that will live in infamy as long as the last American who was living on that day remains alive, perhaps even beyond, though that may be a bit overly optimistic (witness how little interest there is in Pearl Harbor Day, not to mention the anniversary of the November day President Kennedy was assassinated, in my opinion two of the most traumatic and horrific days in recent American history ~ at least until 9/11/01).
As for me, it wasn't until late afternoon, when I couldn't stand the silence anymore and said something about today being the 7-year anniversary since 9/11 that the significance of the day was acknowledged. Anthony, who had been hurrying out to meet his sister for dinner, turned back and began talking about what he had been doing that morning and how he had found out about the attacks and how it had stunned and horrified him, especially since he'd been up to the top of one of the Towers only a week or so before 9/11, while on a Labor Day weekend vacation.
Nikki popped out of her office across the hall and asked if I knew one of our co-workers from another office who had, the morning of 9/11/01, been working inside the second of the Towers to be hit. Hearing about how this woman, knowing that the first building had been hit, had been all "so what?" about it, until friends and family started calling and begging her to get out right away, was chilling. Even then, she had delayed until a security guard ~ apparently one who was an independent thinker ~ urged her and her companions to leave. Nikki said they had been on their way down the stairs when the second plane hit their building, causing it to shake like an earthquake.
I related that I'd gone with my sister to Ground Zero in February of '02, and how, before we even knew the site was just around the corner, both my sister and I stopped in our tracks and felt a wave of energy pass through us, almost like what I imagine it would be like to run into a force field. We started to walk forward again, crying now, and, turning the corner, came face-to-face with the emptiness that had been The World Trade Center's Twin Towers. Later, trying to analyze what it was I'd felt, I could only believe it had to have been the force of the emotions of those who died there as well as those who had been there that day, watching in disbelief and horror, still lingering there months after the event.
After we'd shared our stories, Anthony left to meet his sister and Nikki went back to her office, but I think we were all relieved to have been able to talk about it, to acknowledge the gravity of the day and the immensity of the loss and also, and perhaps most important, our common humanity. As anyone who has gone through a terrible loss will tell you, it is only through acknowledging the grief that we are able to deal with the pain. I would go further and say that it is only through accepting and cherishing each other as fellow human beings that we will be able to ensure that 9/11 doesn't happen again.
As the sign at Ground Zero said, "We will never forget."

Monday, September 8, 2008

Home on the Range - in Downtown L.A.

A strange sight met my eyes as I walked home from work this evening. In a small, previously weed-choked lot across the street from my apartment building in downtown Los Angeles, near a subway entrance and just down the street from the business center with its tall skyscrapers filled with high-powered lawyers, bankers, and investment brokers, grazed a herd of goats. Not just a few of the critters, mind, but dozens of them ~ calmly nibbling on weeds, rearing up on hind legs to get at the tender leaves of small trees, wandering from one denuded area to another that might have a few strands of greenery left.

The buzz is that the City of Los Angeles wanted to enlarge the nearby park, but the incline was too steep and the shrubbery and weeds too dense to make clearing it in the usual way ~ using men and machines ~ economically feasible. So they brought in a herd of goats.

Goats! In the middle of the city! What a fantastic idea! Good for the ecology, relatively cheap, quiet, and very, very thorough. Sometimes the bureaucrats get things right! Who'da thunk?

Here are some more pix of those cute li'l goats. (Who needs a County Fair, when you live in L.A.?)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Some Awful News

I just learned some awful news ~ HBO is coming out with a series based on the Sookie Stackhouse vampire novels by Charlaine Harris, and, from the trailer, it looks like it's going to be really good! Why is this terrible news, you ask? Why, because now I'm going to have to break down and get cable so I can get HBO so I can watch the show (which is going to be called "Trueblood," like the manufactured blood from the books that allowed vampires to "come out of the coffin" into mainstream America). Oh, yeah, and I'm also going to have to buy a new TV, since my old one is on its last legs, er, antennae. Last but probably worst, it's going to cut into my reading time something awful! I mean, even if it's only one hour a week, that's a lot of time over the course of a season that I won't be reading books.

All kidding aside, I can't wait to see this show, having read all the Sookie Stackhouse novels ever since falling in love with the first one, Dead Until Dark. They are pretty much my favorite light vampire reading (though the plots have gotten a bit darker lately).

I wonder who they're casting as Eric Northman, my favorite of Sookie's other-worldly "men." (And no, I never liked Bill, though the actor playing Bill is pretty yummy, actually.)

For anyone out there who hasn't heard of this series, it centers around Sookie Stackhouse, a bar waitress in rural Louisiana who can (unhappily for her own peace of mind) read other people's minds, making her sort of unpopular with most of the citizens of Bon Temps who would prefer to keep their innermost secrets to themselves. Four years earlier, vampires announced their existence to the world, and have been accepted in America (albeit somewhat reluctantly by some) as citizens, though they are not plentiful around . When Sookie meets the vampire Bill one night at Merlott's bar, she learns that she can't read his thoughts. Then, when she saves him from a couple of drainers who plan to drain him dry (vamp blood turns out to be worth a lot on the black market), she ends up, much to her surprise (and the disapproval of her friends and neighbors), dating him. Soon after that, other women who are into dating vampires begin to turn up dead, and Sookie's brother is a prime suspect.

I'm actually more excited about this new TV adaptation than when Dexter was made into a series.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Booking Through Thursday

Stories August 28, 2008
If you’re anything like me, one of your favorite reasons to read is for the story. Not for the character development and interaction. Not because of the descriptive, emotive powers of the writer. Not because of deep, literary meaning hidden beneath layers of metaphor. (Even though those are all good things.) No … it’s because you want to know what happens next?
Or, um, is it just me?

This kind of question is not one I usually think about. Perhaps I'm too shallow and too much the good-time girl, but I tend to read only books that "grab" me within the first 50 or so pages and make me want to keep on turning those pages.

Now that it has been brought to my attention though, I would have to admit that I do enjoy a good story, but it's also imperative that a novel have good characterizations, is believable (within itself ~ I like fantasy and sci-fi too), is well-written, and believes in itself.

Too many characters are one-dimensional, and that will ruin it for me no matter how exciting the story (think The DaVinci Code). If the protagonist has no faults, if he or she doesn't strive for some purpose and grow, or learn, by the end of the book, then what's the point? If the antagonist is evil with no redeeming virtues (unless it's horror, of course), then a storyline alone is not enough to hold my interest.
Oh, yeah, one more thing. I have to have at least some simpatico with at least one of the characters or, again, I'm probably not going to finish the book, no matter what the storyline is.

And speaking of that, a believable storyline does not use coincidence to excess. It doesn't allow the actions of one or more character to strain my credulity too much. Everything eventually ends up making sense within the world in which the characters and action exist. I can't tell you how many novels I've throw against a wall because one of the characters, out of the blue and without any foreshadowing or explicable driving force, does something so foreign to their nature that it is ludicrous. A timid woman begins to worry that life is passing her by and suddenly dresses like a slut and seduces a perfect stranger she meets in the first bar she goes into. Alone. A craven thief who's been on the grift for 20 years meets a gorgeous woman and suddenly turns honest, singlehandedly stopping a murderous gang from destroying the woman's business. A savvy kid knows there's something really really bad in the basement of the haunted house but goes down there anyway on the dare of a bully for whom he has no respect. A young girl is the only person in the City of Magicians who doesn't have magic though she's been tested eight ways from Sunday but saves the Master Magician against the Evil Necromancer by suddenly discovering her magic power. It doesn't rain in Regency London the entire Season, or at least not whenever the handsome rogue is trying to seduce the innocent but incredibly alluring debutante behind the bushes in the park of his Hampshire estate. One after another serial killer single-mindedly goes after the forensic pathologist in a procedural mystery. Yeah, right.

An interesting storyline is, of course, subjective, but for me, anyway, angsty maundering is anathema to a good story. One does not need to go on and on about the emotional trauma a character is suffering to tell a deep story: witness The Stranger by Camus.

Okay, decent writing. Cliches, too many metaphors (unless they are there for a purpose, which I suspect is the case with, for instance, Special Topics in Calamity Physics), too much exposition, i.e., a lot of setting up at the beginning of a book ~ Magyk by Angie Sage, which I recently read, comes to mind here (just get on with the story and let me figure it out as we go along), misspellings/misused punctuation (sorry, I know it's trite, but a comma used in the wrong place or a "to" when it should be "too" can throw me right out of a story) ~ all these things make for bad writing, but the lack of those things doesn't necessary mean the writing is good.

Good writing doesn't have to flow like honey (think Hemingway). It doesn't have to sing (think The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time). It doesn't have to use creative ~ or any ~ metaphors (again think Hemingway). It does have to speak to me of things that are important, at least to the characters in the story. It's nice if there are meanings within meanings, depending on the kind of novel, but it's not necessary. Twists are good too, but the story must fulfill its promise. If it's a murder mystery, the mystery should be solved by the end. (I think that may be why I was vaguely dissatisfied with Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men, although I loved The Road, so that may not be completely accurate, or perhaps I'm mistaken and No Country is really a horror story.) If it's a romance, then happily-ever-after better be at least implied at the end. If it's a literary novel, of course, anything goes, but even there, a promise is a promise. To paraphrase Chekhov, "If there's a gun hanging over the mantle in Act 1, then it better have been fired before the end of the the last act."

A good book has a purpose and believes in that purpose, even if that purpose is only to entertain. The best, most memorable books have depth and meaning that come clear sometimes only long after they have been read and "digested."

Never Let Me Go is that kind of book. Another that fits the bill, both as entertainment and for the deep meaning that is perhaps partially masked by its form as science fiction, which in itself is a cleverly twisty device, is The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell. In fact, The Sparrow is a perfect example of a good book as delineated above: It has multi-dimensional characters with whom one can identify and care about, and these characters get caught up, very believably, in unexpectedly deadly situations and act (and react) in highly complicated yet totally understandable ways. It has a storyline that keeps you turning the pages to find out "what happens next" and has an ending that is anything but pedestrian. It has some of the best writing I've read recently ~ nothing high-flown or pretentious, just solid, from-the-gut, honest writing. And a deep, emotional impact whose even deeper philosophical meaning only became clear after the reverberations of the end faded.

Yeah, the story is important, and without a good story I don't usually feel much compulsion to go on reading, but I need all those other things too.

I know, I am so demanding!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

It's a Crime! Top 50 Crime Writers List.

I just love lists! The 3 best books of the past month. The 10 best books of the year. The top 25 favorite books of all time. Whether it's making up my own list of bests or seeing others' lists, I can't pass up a list.

On April 18, 2008, The Times Online published an article listing the"Top 50 Crime Writers" but I only just saw it. To say I was surprised not to see Michael Connelly and Rex Stout on the list is an understatement. To say I was disappointed that Cornwell and McCall Smith were on the list instead is similarly understated. But, as everyone knows, there's no accounting for taste in reading as well as everything else in life.

Anyway, turns out I've read (or tried to read) the work of 20 out of the 50: Paretsky, Tey, Coben, Crispin, Cornwell, Hill, Mosley, Allingham, Poe, Collins, Sayers, Rendell, Sjowall & Wahloo, James, Lehane, McBain, Doyle, Christie, and Simenon. McCall Smith was the one I tried but didn't enjoy. I'm particularly fond of the novels of Tey, Crispin, Mosley, Sayers, Sjowall & Wahloo, and Christie.

So, how many of these icons have you read? And who is/are your favorite(s)?:
From The Times Online
April 18, 2008

The 50 Greatest Crime Writers

1. Patricia Highsmith
Rule-breaking master of amorality
2. Georges Simenon
The Trojan horse of foreign crime-writing
3. Agatha Christie
The original Queen of Crime
4. Raymond Chandler
The most profound of pulp writers
5.Elmore Leonard
The Dickens of Detroit
6. Arthur Conan Doyle
Creator of the ultimate hero-and-sidekick team
7. Ed McBain
Thrilling writer of snap-and-crackle dialogue
8. James M. Cain
Godfather of Noir
9. Ian Rankin
Edinburgh’s gritty crime laureate
10. James Lee Burke
American spinner of bleakly lyrical tales
11. Dennis Lehane
A tender craftsman with a tough centre
12. P.D. James
Prolific and cerebral grand dame of British crime
13. Dashiell Hammett
The man who dragged murder back into the alley
14. Jim Thompson
Revered creator of corrupt cops and sociopaths
15. Sjowall and Wahloo
The mother and father of Nordic crime
16. John Dickson Carr
King of the “locked room mystery”
17. Cornell Woolrich
Tortured pulp novelist known for Rear Window
18. Ruth Rendell
Criminal mastermind of unparalleled breadth and depth
19. Ross Macdonald
Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled heir
20. James Ellroy
The most literary of American crime writers
21. Charles Willeford
Aficianados’ favourite who is ripe for a break-through
22. Dorothy Sayers
Lord Peter Wimsey’s witty creator
23. John Harvey
The man behind the jazz-loving Nottingham cop Resnick
24. Wilkie Collins
Godfather of the detective novel
25. Francis Iles
Pseudonymous writer of radical plots
26. Manuel Vasquez Montalban
Intellectual gourmand whose fiction mapped Barcelona
27. Karin Fossum
Norway’s foremost cold-climate crime writer
28. Val McDermid
Influential author of high-grade “Tartan Noir”
29. Edgar Allan Poe
Mould-setter for the modern sleuth
30. Derek Raymond
Hard-drinking, hard-writing British crime legend
31. George Pelecanos
Energetic, music-loving social crusader
32. Margery Allingham
Golden Age sophisticate who can chill or charm
33.Minette Walters
Unflinching chronicler of humankind’s dark side
34.Carl Hiaasen
Rapid-fire satirist of Miami vices
35.Walter Mosley
A bold American voice, not afraid to tackle race
36. Reginald Hill
Playful creator of British favourites Dalziel and Pascoe
37.Michael Dibdin
Late, great ironist who investigated Italy’s corruption
38. Patricia Cornwell
Shrewd pioneer of gruesome pathology
39. Scott Turow
Legal thriller-writer famous for Presumed Innocent
40. Dick Francis
Former jockey and king of equestrian intrigue
41. Edmund Crispin
Elegant and accomplished Oxford plotter
42. Alexander McCall Smith
Scottish Professor whose Mma Ramotswe has won
hearts and minds
43 Andrea Camilleri
Italy’s foremost crime export
44. Harlan Coben
Mature metroplitan stylist loved for his twisting plots
45. Donna Leon
American explorer of the Venetian underworld
46. Josephine Tey
Acute 1940s author whose books describe the danger of love
47. Colin Dexter
Former classics teacher who found fame with Morse
48. Nicholas Blake
C. Day Lewis’ crime-writing foil
49. Henning Mankell
Swedish novelist with a bleak take of modern life
50. Sara Paretsky
Spirited creator of feminist sleuth VI Warshawski

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Queen of the Road

A few weeks ago, I entered a contest on the blog of Devourer of Books for a copy of Queen of the Road and, amazingly enough, I scored it! I started reading it and am finding it very enjoyable. When I'm done, I'll post a review. Right now, I just wanted to say thanks to Devourer for sending it to me and encourage everyone to check out her blog, which has a lot of really cool stuff on it, the latest of which was a contest for the best start-of-story hook.

The one I found most compelling and voted for, 30 Million Dollars, was last in the voting, which I do not understand, except that, for my taste, the quirkier the better, and it was definitely quirky.

Shelf Awareness

I just found a new (to me) website for book lovers and those who work with or around books, including readers and writers. It's particularly interesting to me, because I wasn't quite sure where to begin to look for ARCs, other than Library Thing. I haven't had a chance to explore all it has to offer, but from my preliminary look-see, it's pretty darn exciting! Here's the website:

There are contests you can enter to win books, and also a place for bloggers to register to receive ARCs. Along with reviews and a book store, well, hard to resist.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

An Evening at the Hollywood Bowl

For my recent birthday, my boss gave me two box seat tickets to see Etta James in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. Now, going out after work on a midweek evening comes about fourth or fifth down on the list of ways I like to spend my time (the first being reading a good book, of course, followed closely by hanging around LibraryThing, posting to my blog, and sleeping). But, it being a gift, I had no choice but to go. I invited a dear friend to go along with me, and we made our plans.

They were good plans, too. We'd leave the office at about 5 p.m., walk over to my place (I live about 5 minutes from work), freshen up a bit, pack the cooler with the Mediterranean feast I'd picked up the night before from the Whole Foods deli, take the subway (the entrance is just across the street from my apartment) to Hollywood & Highland and the shuttle from there to the Bowl. We'd be there in plenty of time to enjoy our dinner and dessert before the show started at 8 p.m.

Know that little saying about "the best laid plans?" Well, these particular plans ended up going way astray. Like, think stratosphere.

At first, all seemed well. We got to my place, packed our food and utensils, I changed from my work clothes into something more comfy, grabbed my 70s-look fringed shawl to use as a tablecloth and in case it turned a cool later on, and out the door we went. While we were waiting at the elevators, I began listing what I had brought, in case I'd forgotten something. My friend broke in with a grin, "And the tickets?"

The tickets! Oh, no, I had left them in my desk at the office!

Leaving my friend to wait for me in the lobby, I hightailed it back to my apartment, grabbed my key card (since 9/11, we need one to get into the office), and hotfooted it to the office. On the way back, I realized I had forgotten the dessert in the refrigerator, so I went back up to my apartment, stuffed the dessert container into my purse, and hurried back down to the lobby. Now we were running about 30 minutes late, and sweat was dripping down my brow.

We caught the Redline with no further problems and in 20 mins. found ourselves at Hollywood & Highland. We began walking toward where I believed the shuttles would be waiting for us, when my friend pulled out a little map she'd printed off the internet and said she thought we were going the wrong way. We consulted the map and, sure enough, it looked like we were. So, we turned around and scurried back along Hollywood Blvd. through the massive traffic jam of sightseers and costumed freaks (lots of black capes and masks around, plus a Jack Sparrow or two and a mime all covered in silver paint ~ I kept wondering how his skin could breathe and whether he'd drop dead of oxygen starvation (like the golden girl in Goldfinger, remember?) right before our eyes) who pack the boulevard around the huge theater complex every evening, summer and winter.

We got to where the map indicated the shuttle parking lot should be and ~ surprise! surprise! ~ it wasn't there. We asked a passerby, who said it was in the direction we'd been headed originally before we turned around. My friend and I just looked at each other in horror and, without even discussing it, flagged a cab.

Now, I don't know how it is where you live, but in Los Angeles, cab drivers do not like to pick up anyone who is only going a short distance. We were within walking distance of the Bowl, but it was all uphill, and my friend and I had run out of stamina. The first cabbie looked at us like we were bugs and pretended he hadn't heard us, so we found another who said, sure, he'd be happy to take us to the Bowl. At least, I think that's what he said, since he spoke mostly in a language I took to be Iranian or Armenian or Greek. The drive to the Bowl, which should have taken 5 mins., ended up taking us nearly a half hour due to the heavy volume of cars headed for the Bowl, so our cabbie made out pretty well after all, but I was almost hyperventilating by the time he dropped us off, and my friend's face was an alarming puce color.

Anyway, we got to the Bowl just in time to find our seats, say hello to the young couple with whom we were sharing the box, and set the table up before the first act came on.

Born and raised in Paisley, Scotland, Paolo Nutini is a 22-year-old singer/songwriter who sings R&B with a voice "husky with longing, rasping with need." He reminded me a little of Van Morrison, Mick Jagger, and Otis Redding rolled into one. The music was soul with little bit of rock, jazz, country, and blues thrown in. He obviously had some fans in the audience ~ every song was prefaced by squeals and entreaties from young women for their favorite song. The best part of the whole show, for me, was the old bald dude who played harmonica and other wind instruments and looked like he'd been rockin' out since before the parents of the other guys in the band were even out of grammar school!

Second act was Solomon Burke, "the King of Rock and Soul." He came out on a revolving stage, sitting on a throne-like chair, with a regal red robe over his glittering black suit, flanked by a dozen musicians and singers and two huge vases of hundreds of long-stemmed red roses. A henchman loomed by his side ~ a tall man dressed in a white suit ~ who kept wiping his bald pate with a huge black handkerchief. Burke has a great deep voice ~ it sent shivers down my spine ~ and a wonderful stage presence, though he never rose from his throne. He was so immense, I think he couldn't easily have stood. His youngest daughter (out of 21 kids!) sang backup, and she soloed with "I Will Survive" at his request. During the show, he invited some of the women up on stage to dance, and a couple of them had this cool dance routine going with the guy in the white suit. Before the end of the performance, he had his son (another backup singer) and the guy in the white suit hand out all the roses to the ladies in the audience who came down to the stage area to get one. My friend and I didn't go down, but the sweet woman who was sharing our box went down and snagged three ~ one for each of us.

The legendary Etta James did not come on until 10 p.m., which was I thought rather late, but the reason was soon clear. After a musical tribute to Isaac Hayes, Etta walked onstage with the same painful shuffle I employ when I first get up in the morning, and for a minute I wondered if she would make it to the mike. Then she reached her chair and, holding onto the back, made a risque little hip movement that brought a surge of laughter and a few whistles from the audience.

For a woman of 70 years who had recently lost 200 pounds, seated in a chair, she put on quite a show! She sang a number of songs, including her signature tune, “At Last,” “Something’s Got A Hold On Me,” and my personal favorite, “Tell Mama,” all accompanied by the sort of physical movements that would have made me blush, except she did it with such joie de vivre and innocent fun that I couldn't help but grin and clap and hope that I'll be as hot a mama when I'm 70, though it isn't likely since I'm nowhere near as hot now and never have been. Her set was relatively short but full of great music, laughter, and her amazing voice. Everyone leaving the Bowl seemed to be in an uplifted mood, laughing and talking animatedly about the show, and even showing courtesy to others occasionally.

It was a good evening, and worth all the effort it took to get there!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

More Book Giveaways

It may sound strange coming from someone who blogs, but I never knew there were so many great blogs out there. In fact, I've been struggling with the question of whether the world needs one more blog (mine), and wondering whether I should just give up on The Anything Blog. But then it occured to me that the number of bloggers, when compared to the vast number of potential readers out there in the e-audience, is a mere drop in the ol' e-bucket.

So, I'll continue to blog here while, at the same time, adding to the list of other blogs I want to keep up with, though I've got a lot of keeping up to do already!

Here's one I checked out this morning: Paul's The Blood of the Muse, which has a number of book giveaways, including a SIGNED copy of Jim Butcher's White Knight.

Another cool blog I just discovered is Dawn's She Is Too Fond of Books. Now, I happen to know where she got the blog name and adore Alcott's quote ("She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain."), but I never thought of using it as a blog name. I envy Dawn her creativity! Anyway, check out her blog and enter her contest for a chance to win a copy of The Gargoyle.

Good reading!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Another Gargoyle Giveaway!!!

Man, I cannot wait to get my paws on Gargoyle ~ so many great reviews praising it to heaven! Well, Bookish Ruth is another blogger bud of mine who is giving a copy away. I better get with the program quick and get hold of a copy to give away here, or I'll lose out on the fun!

Stay tuned, boys and girls. I'm working on that.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I Want to Go to Guernsey

Last month, I won an Advance Reading Copy of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrow from LibraryThing. It was exciting to win an ARC, but then I began to worry. I'd heard such great things about it from others who'd already read it that I feared it would not live up to my expectations. On top of that, it turned out to be written entirely as a series of letters & journal entries (which is not one of my favorite forms of fiction). Even the title started to annoy me ~ what the heck does potato peel pie have to do with anything? And what is a potato peel pie anyway? ~ so I put the book aside and continued to read the other four books I had going.

Before long, my conscience began to bother me. I had asked for the book, after all, and receiving an ARC is a privilege that carries with it duties, two of which are to read the darn thing and write a review. So, seeing as the novel was relatively short (274 pages in the ARC version) and the review need be only 25 words long, I picked it up one night when I couldn't seem to get comfortable in bed, figuring it would at worst put me to sleep.

Oh! I couldn't put it down! From the first page, it hooked me. Listen to the first paragraph of the first letter:

"Susan Scott is a wonder. We sold over forty copies of the book, which was very pleasant, but much more thrilling from my standpoint was the food. Susan managed to procure ration coupons for icing sugar and real eggs for the meringue. If all her literary luncheons are going to achieve these heights, I won't mind touring about the country. Do you suppose that a lavish bonus could spur her on to butter? Let's try it - you may deduct the money from my royalties."
(P. 1, ARC version.)

Three hours later (!), I made myself stop reading and turn out the light, but I picked it up again the next evening as soon as I got home from work and finished it before I went to sleep that night.

The novel is set in post-WWII London and on Guernsey, an island in the English Channel. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), Guernsey, which is part of Great Britain, was occupied by the Nazis during much of WWII, and there was apparently nothing the Allies could do about it. Beneath the deceptively easy-breezy writing style of the letter-writers, the main one of whom is the delightfully witty, spirited yet vulnerable author Juliet Ashton, the effects of the war (lack of such "luxuries" as eggs, sugar and butter, the bombings of London) and of the occupation and its effects on the residents and the island come to hideous life. What also comes to life is the way the hardships brought out the best (and sometimes the worst) in the islanders, and, most charming to me, the way books became a way to endure and even to transcend their fears and pain.

There were moments where I cried, moments when I laughed, but mostly I was charmed ~ by the people who live on Guernsey, Juliet and her friends from London, and even the deplorable Adelaide Addison and Juliet's suitor, all of whom I feel as if I know and wish I could spend more time with ~ and read the novel as if under an enchantment. Days later, I still find myself smiling at a remembered bit of the novel, or heartsore to think of the pain and suffering so many innocent people went through under the Nazis. It's that kind of novel ~ and that, in my book, is the very best!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Gargoyle Giveaway

I've heard rave reviews about "Gargoyle" by Andrew Davidson and have it on my TBR list. Now, blogger readerville is giving away her ARC copy at her blog at So many books, so little time…. Check it out! And check out her blog, while you are at it. It's really great, and I am envious of her creativity, but also inspired. Maybe next time you stop by here, you'll see some cool stuff too!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

To Kindle or Not to Kindle

I'll be going on a cross-country trip in less than a month to visit my daughter for a week. The airline I'm flying charges $15.00 to check one piece of baggage (highway robbery!), so I'm stressing over what to pack.

No, not clothes ~ I've got that covered (my bathing suit and a couple of summer outfits should do me just fine). When I travel, the question of what books to bring with me takes precedence over such mundane things what to wear while I'm there. I usually carry an iPod filled with audiobooks in my purse, two paperbacks tucked into my carry-on bag, and 6 or so paperbacks in my checked bag, but, with all the current restrictions, and now the price of checking luggage, I may have to rethink my strategy.

So, I was wondering whether to buy myself a Kindle so I can leave all those paperbacks at home on the bookshelves, but, well, I like real books ~ the crisp sound of the pages being turned, the way they feel warm and solid in my hands, even the smell of them. It doesn't seem like an e-book will be quite the same. And how is it on the eyes? After a day of staring at my computer monitor, my eyes feel like I've been rubbing them with sandpaper ~ and I can read for hours and hours at a time! On the plus side, I've heard that Kindle's have no backlighting, so they're easier on the eyes than a monitor. I've heard that you can get hundreds of books on that one little machine, and that alone is a pretty compelling reason to buy one. I've also heard they feel like a book in your hands. Well, maybe, but I bet they don't make that neat crackly sound when I turn the pages. And what happens when I'm reading while eating and spatter spaghetti sauce all over the screen? With a book, I swear at myself and wipe the sauce off as best I can with a napkin, then continue reading. How will that work with a Kindle? Worst of all, you know how when you're reading a book that infuriates you for being so awful that you feel you've just wasted all the time you've invested in it, you can throw it at the wall? How awful to forget you're holding a Kindle instead of a real book. Broken Kindle and dented wall. Yikes!

Besides, they're still awfully expensive.

Well, I have another week or so to decide what to do about this trip, whether I'll cave and buy a Kindle ~ or maybe I'll decide to buy that 8MB underwater digital camera I've been lusting after instead.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Stuck in a Rut?

Have you ever gotten on a kick, where the only books that seem to appeal are in one particular genre? I seem to find myself on a mystery thriller kick this week. It all started with "Conspiracies" by F. Paul Wilson, my first Repairman Jack mystery, with elements of the supernatural in it. After that, I read "The Turn of the Screw" by Henry James for the 1001 books-to-read-before-you-die challenge. It also contained a mystery with possible supernatural elements in, though I couldn't quite tell for sure, it's so ambiguous. All I know is that the ending is a stunner. Next came "The Lincoln Lawyer" by Michael Connelly, with a sleazy but likeable lawyer (I know, I know, how is that possible?) and a pretty good story. As soon as I finished that, I went straight into "Serpent" by David Wiltse, about a psycho killer who'd been abused as a boy. I don't think there's anything wrong with these kinds of novels, but they can get pretty gory and too much could get depressing, but so far I'm not depressed, only obsessed with reading more of them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Some Great Book News

I had some great news from LibraryThing a couple of days ago ~ I managed to snag an advance copy of "Miami and the Siege of Chicago" by Norman Mailer! It's a memoir of the wild days of the Republican and Democratic conventions back in 1968, and I am particularly excited about it because I lived in Chicago then and experienced some (though not all) of the craziness! Not that I remember all that much about it, because I actually did live through those heady days ~ the peace marches, the student demonstrations, the blind hatred and terrifying violence that surrounded the civil rights movement, the soul-wrenching murders of Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, all perceived through a kind of purple haze. Anyway, what few personal memories I have of that time are sporadic and perhaps even a bit distorted. It will be interesting to learn what was really going on then while I was doing, um, my thing.

Ten minutes later, another email arrived telling me that there was a problem and I wouldn't be getting an advance galley copy after all ~ not, in fact, until after the book goes on sale. At first I was disappointed, but I've gotten used to dealing with disappointment. Besides, the anticipation will make finally getting the book all the sweeter!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Journey Begins with the First Step

I've never blogged publicly before, so I'm a little nervous about starting and really don't have any idea what I'm going to write about, so I hope that anyone who honors me by stopping by will feel free to jump in with some advice or opinions on how to make it better.