Thursday, December 31, 2009

The IHM Top 5 of 2009

So, of the books I've read, here are my top 5 favorites of 2009 and a little bit as to why:

5. SILVER PHOENIX by Cindy Pon. I fell in love with Ai Ling as a character and admire her strength and persistence. I was also quite surprised by the book, not anticipating hearting it nearly as much as I did. I loved the way the events moved. It was action-packed and paranormal to boot and kept my interest. I was surprised because I don't have much experience or interaction with China or its culture, so I was expecting to be a little lost and a little frustrated, but Cindy did not leave me hanging. This is a lovely tale of spirit that cannot be broken.

4. EYES LIKE STARS by Lisa Mantchev. Bertie is one of my favorite characters of ALL TIME. This novel is truly original... there is nothing else out there like it. I can't even compare it to another book I've read. It is enjoyable in many aspects and though I've seen a lot of people say that you need to have read Shakespeare to enjoy it, I disagree. I had never read any Shakespeare before I read ELS, but I was familiar with his work through pop culture references... and I was fine. I LOVED this book and cannot wait for PERCHANCE TO DREAM. While I read ELS, it felt like I was watching a cartoon of it in my head. It was a vibrant and truly delightful read.

3. BEAUTIFUL CREATURES by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl. Even though it took me to read this book, it wasn't the book's fault. I was sick and kept falling asleep. I daresay that if I had been healthy during the 22 days it took me to read Beautiful Creatures that I may have loved it even more. I'm still working on a review to do it justice, so don't worry, one's coming. But, it is exceptionally written. The language is fluid and believable and I also love the characters. And, it's not predictable. I heart it when I don't have a book figured out by the third chapter and this is one of those books.

2. PROPHECY OF THE SISTERS by Michelle Zink. I loved everything about this book. Its impeccable writing, its characters, its world. I loved the apocalyptic tone. I loved that Lia was strong, capable girl and that she had a good head on her shoulders. And I loved that Alice did in her own way too. I love the dichotomy that these twins present. I gifted this title heavily this year because I enjoyed it so much. PROPHECY is the first in a trilogy and I cannot wait for THE GUARDIAN AND THE GATE to come out as well. This story is compelling and you will no doubt be grabbed by it as I was.

1. WILLOW by Julia Hoban. When I ask people if they've read this one, most of the time they say, "No, what's it about?" Then I have to rack my brain and say, "Cutting." because I can't think of anything else to say... I mean, that's what it IS about. But really, when you get down to it, WILLOW is about healing. It's a journey through the whole process of why Willow started cutting and how she starts healing. I put off reading this for a while because I was scared of how it would make me feel. But, when I did, I read it in an afternoon. I loved it and couldn't put it down. I left the book feeling better about humanity, feeling better about myself, feeling uplifted in ways I cannot truly explain with words. It is rare that a book sticks with you like this one did with me. If you haven't read it, go get it, right now. Forget your worries that you'll slip into a deep dark depression because of it (you won't, I promise) and just read it. Seriously.

Okay, those were mine. What were yours?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our Terms: p-a-s-s-e-l, passel

Main Entry: pas·sel
Pronunciation: \ˈpa-səl\
Function: noun
Etymology: alteration of parcel
Date: 1835
: a large number or amount

Monster always says, "Well that's a nice passel of kitties you've got there."

Now, you try it in a sentence!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Green Man on the Onion [Shareworthy]

I saw this little clip and laughed quite heartily, and since it's totally bookish, I thought I'd share it with ya...

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Ambitious Edition: Heist Society by Ally Carter

Title: Heist Society
Author: Ally Carter
ISBN: 1423116399
Release Date: 2.9.10

The Usual Questions:

Is this the first in a series?
I do believe it is.

What is the basic concept?
When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own--scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving "the life" for a normal life proves harder than she'd expected.
Soon, Kat's friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring her back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat's father isn't just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat's dad needs her help. For Kat there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it's a spectacularly impossible job? She's got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull off the biggest heist in history--or at least her family's (very crooked) history.

Is the cover art favorable?
I like it.

What are some of the author's other works?
Dude, Gallagher Girls

Check out Ally's website
Follow Ally on Twitter (@oficiallyally)
Friend Ally on MySpace

Saturday, December 26, 2009

You're The Expert: Books Received As Holiday Gifts

Obviously you're the expert on what you got in your stocking this holiday season, so tell us:
  • Which books did you get?
  • Which ones are you most excited for?
  • Buying any books with Christmas money?
I'm going to share a little here... forgive me. But, I'm excited about my books and I want to tell you about them!

My sister-in-law bought me three books, Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog, Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, and Pirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton. Monster bought me Fallen by Lauren Kate. I'm excited to read all of them, but I think I'm going to pick up Princess of the Midnight Ball first, maybe. I keep flip-flopping on my decision.

My book blogger holiday swap gifter, WilowRaven of Red House Books gave me Hush: An Irish Princess Tale which has been on my wishlist for a really long time too. I was soooo thrilled when I opened it! Thanks Emily :o) You are all kinds of rockin'!

Come Back! I Miss You!

I know a lot of you have had difficulty in the past with commenting here at I Heart Monster. I have to admit, I thought that the js-kit comments widget was cool. But then it stopped synchronizing with Blogger, and they told me it was supposed to stop synchronizing with Blogger. That kinda irked me. Then they stopped identifying the Gravatars, so even more annoying, and then they started tweeting and not recognizing people's email addresses or their websites anymore. It got to the point where Echo was just not functional for my readers, and that means it's just not functional, period.

I totally heart your comments. I really do, so I embarked on what became a month-long email and wiki-help quest to remove the js-kit Echo comments widget from my site. It took going public on their forum and titling my post in an inappropriate manner to get the help I needed. Finally, I got the help I needed to uninstall the widget, but I lost all of the comments that you guys left over the eight or so months that we had Echo here at IHM. I am sad that I lost all of that input, but at the same time, overjoyed that you should be able to comment with ease from now on.

So, I am very sorry that you had to put up with Echo, and I really hope you'll come back now that we're back to basic Blogger comments and tell us what you think about what's going on over here in our little corner of the blogoverse.

To those of you who stuck it out: Thank you for putting up with it. My sincerest sincere thanks, seriously.

You know I heart you (and your comments too),

I Heart Monster

Book Inspection: Girl In The Arena by Lise Haines

Plot Sketch: Lyn is the daughter of seven gladiators. What the heck does that mean? Her mother, Allison, married this guy Frank. He was part of the Gladiator Sports Association (GSA) when it first started out, when it was still underground. They found his body by the cemetery. A couple of weeks later, a couple of representatives from the primitive GSA came to give Allison some money and offer to help her get through the loss. Mouse, Lyn's second father, was one of them. Then GSA got legalized, and it blew up. Allison was a model Glad Wife who knew all of the rules and bylaws that the family had to live by. Including the one that says that a Glad Wife can only marry seven times, and then she's done. Finito. So basically, the story starts with Lyn's seventh father, Tommy, going up against a glad named Uber, and Lyn offering Tommy her dowry bracelet as a token during the fight. Oh and did I mention that dowry bracelets can only be touched by your father? If some other male touches yours, you have to marry him. So, Tommy loses Lyn's in the fight, and Lyn has to find a way to get out of marrying Uber. That's what the book revolves around.

Verdict: No Love. I wanted to like this book, I really really wanted to like this book. If you'll recall, I asked Santa for this book in my Dear Santa letter! This was one of those books that I finished at 1 in the morning and then got so fired up and pissed off about that I had to get out of bed and tell Monster (who was still up playing Star Ocean) all about the plot and how stupid and ridiculous the whole thing was. I haven't vented about a book this vehemently in a long, long time. For starters, Lyn shaved her head, and the girl on the cover who is obviously supposed to be Lyn had long flowing hair. WTF. Secondly, the book is titled GIRL IN THE ARENA. Dude, Lyn is in the Arena for like 20 pages. I thought I was going to read a book about this kick-@ss girl who tore up the women's gladiatorial circuit or something. Wrong. Additionally, I didn't follow most of the logic in the book. I can't go into much detail without spoiling it for you, so I won't, but let me just say this: D-U-M-B. I feel like I wasted my time. And I feel even worse about it because I was so excited for it.

The Gauntlet:

At what location does most of the story take place?
Boston area in an alternate version of reality where Neo-Gladiators are present and killing each other for sport.

What is the main character's name?
Lyn G.

Does I Heart Monster like the main character?
While I want to like her, I don't respect her or most of her decisions. I can't get my head around the logic behind most of her decisions and I guess that makes her a rather shallow character to me.

How long did it take I Heart Monster to finish the book?
actual reading time: about 7 hours otherwise about a week - it is the holidays after all!

Did I Heart Monster get stuck at any points in the book? If so, why?

Is this a good read for Monster?
There's no way he'll read it after my synopsis and smashing of it to him. No way at all.

What, if anything, would I Heart Monster change to make the book more interesting?
I would have liked to have seen the climax more detailed. It felt rushed. And I would have liked to have seen more characters that were relatable. This is supposed to be an alternate version of reality and I kept thinking that no one I know would act or react the way these characters did. Maybe it was supposed to be their circumstance that made them do the things they did, but I can't imagine making the decisions they did if I were in their shoes. Picture me reading the book and shouting, "Stupid!" "Ugggggh." and then shaking my head. Yeah, it was pretty much like that. I just hoped it would be worth it. I hoped wrong.

What was I Heart Monster's favorite line?
I'm the most famous person you'll ever meet.

How many chapters were in the book?


Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Children's Books
Publish Date: October 13, 2009
ISBN-10: 1599903725

Acquire It:


**sorry the cover picture is so small! I couldn't find a larger one.**

Friday, December 25, 2009

Ally Carter's Christmas Gift... Only The Good Spy Young

Sorry, I know it's Christmas morning and all, but I was a little (okay, super!) excited when I saw that Ally Carter announced her cover for the fourth Gallagher Girls book today. Look at it! Isn't it awesome? And of course, another clever title. I'm totally looking forward to this! It will be in stores June 15, 2010.

The IHM Christmas Compilation

You're The Expert:
*Tell us your favorite Christmas carol in the comments*

Book Inspection:

Minimal Investment:

Gift Ideas:

Guest Posts:

Our Terms:



Thursday, December 24, 2009

An I Heart Monster Christmas (warning: randomness ensues)

Christmas for me is like Christmas for many, with a few exceptions. Here are some random bullets about Christmas with Monster and me... I hope you enjoy.
  • All presents are opened on Christmas Eve. You gotta clear the tree for Santa, dude.
  • I grew up with boots under the tree rather than stockings hanging from the mantle, but I do stockings now as an adult.
  • Santa doesn't wrap his gifts... 'cause he totally doesn't have time to, duh.
  • In central Arizona, we don't really get "white" Christmases. Ours are nice though - you can totally do outdoorsy things with your fam!
  • Due to the previous point, there is no decorating with snowflakes or snowmen. Lotsa people do, but Monster, being from Wyoming where there are snowy Christmases, has forbidden them from our house. He says, "It's just wrong."
  • Even though I've never had the experience of chopping down a Christmas tree of my own, I have had occasion to have a "real" Christmas tree. But, in the ever-changing environmental impact debate, I just have a fake one now (which now I guess is more environmentally impactful than a real one, what's a girl to do?).
  • We alternate years between Arizona and Wyoming for Christmas, spending a year with Monster's family, and then a year with mine. Wyoming last Christmas --------->
  • We have a yearly ornament exchange one Sunday in December with my family and friends at my parents' house... it's a Secret Elf exchange and we all buy for the person that draws for us, then we meet for food and exchanges and we open and try to guess who got us our ornament. This year, I got a Lenore ornament. Total Score!
  • When we're with my family for Christmas, we gather on Christmas Eve and have our big dinner, then we open our gifts. When we're with Devin's fam, we open one gift on Christmas Eve and keep the rest for Christmas morning.
  • Things we do around Christmas include usually taking a trip to the Phoenix Zoo for their Zoolights presentation. Last year, we had a lot of fun watching the section that had lights timed to Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We also usually make at least one trip to the LDS Mesa Temple which is decorated with lights.
  • This year, my family is going to actually get together on Christmas Day (gasp!) and we're going to do a handmade white elephant exchange. We're testing it out to see how it goes.
  • The kittehs have their own stocking. I gave up on seperate ones for all of them because Kitty Claus just doesn't have the moolah to fill up five seperate stockings. They all share anyway! Speaking of kitties, I have a funny Christmas-ish story to share about them. Last year we were in Wyoming for Xmas and the babes had the Xmas tree all to themselves. They of course stripped it of all of its ornaments and I never found them all. There was this particular hand crocheted cupcake that was adorable that appeared to be lost forever. Not so. Today I found Sweetpea playing with it in the shower of all places. But they've been really good this year and have left the ornaments on the tree. They know about the Naughty List!
With that, I'll leave you to your super fun, totally awesome, wonderful wondrous selves and wish you a very very very Merry Christmas!

Minimal Investment: Ten Tips for Making Great Photo Greeting Cards for the Holidays by Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm

Ten Tips for Making Great Photo Greeting Cards for the Holidays

By Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm,
Authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures

If you want your family's photo greeting card to impress your friends this holiday season, here are 10 helpful suggestions from professional photographers Michele and Tom Grimm, authors of a brand new handbook, The Basic Book of Digital Photography.

1. Plan Ahead. Eye-catching photos take some thought, so envision the card you want to send before you take any pictures. Pick a setting with an uncluttered background. Decide what type of clothes to wear (causal or dress-up?) and what colors might be appropriate (red and green will enhance a Christmas theme). If you want to shoot outdoors, consider the weather and the time of day for the best light. Cloudy or overcast days are perfect for portraits without shadows; avoid bright sunlight that causes people to squint.

2. Get Your Camera Ready. Be sure to install new or freshly-charged batteries so the camera won't stop working in the middle of your shooting session. Also check that there is room on the memory card to hold plenty of new exposures. And remember to carefully clean the camera lens of dust and fingerprints; use a microfiber lens cloth. For pictures of the best technical quality, adjust the camera's "image quality" and "image resolution" to their highest settings. Finally, make certain the "date/time" setting is turned off so those numbers won't appear on the front of your family and ruin every picture.

3. Move in Close. Remember that friends mostly enjoy seeing the faces of your family and pets. Get close to them by moving the camera physically closer or adjusting the zoom lens to fill the viewfinder or LCD monitor with their faces. Aim the camera's autofocus target on the eyes; be careful it isn't pointed between the heads of people because the background will be in focus instead of the family's faces. Also, make sure there are no windows or mirrors in the background that are distracting or cause reflections, especially if you are shooting with flash.

4. Forget About Red-eye. If the sun is causing shadows on the faces of your family, or you are shooting indoors in dim light, we recommend using the camera's built-in flash or an external flash unit to provide "fill" light that illuminates your subjects more evenly. Avoid the "red-eye reduction" flash setting, if your camera offers it, because this makes a series of pre-flashes or a steady light that causes some people to blink or shut their eyes. "Red-eye," an annoying bright red spot occasionally seen in the pupils of the eyes, is easily eliminated later with your computer's image-editing software.

5. Use a Tripod, and a Friend. Put your camera on a tripod so it will remain in the same position after you compose the family picture. Recruit a friend to trip the shutter release instead of using a remote control or the self-timer to fire the camera yourself. Remind everyone to keep looking toward the camera and not glance away to see if the baby or dog is behaving; depend on your friend to snap the shutter when everybody looks their best.

6. Keep On Shooting. Someone in the family group is certain to blink, yawn, scratch or look away just as a picture is taken, so shoot again and again. One of the joys of digital photography is that it costs nothing extra to make a dozen or so exposures rather than just one or two. A warning: Your subjects will quickly get restless, so don't spend time between shots checking images on the camera's LCD monitor to see how they turned out. Pick the best image later when you view all the shots at full size on your computer.

7. Create a Collage When Family Members are Absent. Can't get everyone in your family together for a holiday card photo? A solution is to get and assemble individual photos of each family member into a collage or montage that becomes a single image. Many image-editing software programs -- probably including the one that came with your camera -- have a feature for easily merging photos. First choose a template from various designs that hold different numbers and sizes of images, then arrange your family's photos as you like.

8. Dress Up Your Holiday Photos with Borders and Type. Your computer's image-editing software also enables you to add borders and to type captions that become part of the family's holiday photo. Pick a border with a design and colors appropriate for the season. You can select different typefaces, sizes and colors, and position the text wherever you wish in the picture. Also, local and online photo centers offer holiday-themed templates for greeting cards that are easy to fill in with your own photos and text.

9. Print Your Own Holiday Photo Cards. Remember to design your photo card so it can be printed on standard sizes of photo paper and will fit in standard-size envelopes. To save money, select a "Picture Package" in your image-editing software to make several prints on one piece of photo paper -- such as two 5 x 7-inch or four 4 x 5-inch prints on a single 8-½ x 11-inch sheet -- and cut them apart. Also consider HP Holiday Photo Card packs with 20 sheets of 5 x 7-inch glossy photo paper and matching envelopes for $9.99.

10. An Easier Option: Order Your Cards at a Photo Center. If your mailing list is large, it usually is more convenient and economical to have your holiday photo cards printed at a local or online photo center. Many allow you to upload the photo image file online to a selection of card templates that you can personalize with family names and greetings. The cards and envelopes can be picked up a few hours later, or will be mailed to you. Search online for "photo greeting cards" to find a wide choice of photo-finishing companies, including,, and

©2009 Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures

Author Bios
Tom Grimm and Michele Grimm, authors of The Basic Book of Digital Photography: How to Shoot, Enhance, and Share Your Digital Pictures, are a husband-and-wife photojournalism team who have spent nearly four decades traveling the globe; the couple has visited every continent and more than 130 countries in search of the perfect photographic image. Their photographs and articles have been published worldwide in magazines and newspapers and on the Internet. The Grimms are authors and illustrators of thirteen adult and children's books.

For more information, please visit and

Our Terms: x-m-a-s, Xmas

Pronunciation: \ˈkris-məs also ˈeks-məs\
Function: noun
Etymology: X (symbol for Christ, from the Greek letter chi (X), initial of Christos Christ) + -mas (in Christmas)
Date: 1551

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guest Post: I'd Rather Burn in Hell than Freeze There


When I asked Camille at Archives of Our Lives to write a post on Christmas in Canada, I didn't expect to get something even close to this entertaining, but I should have, because, I mean, it's Camille. I hope you enjoy it and I hope you'll check out Archives 'cause it's one of my favorite non-bookish blogs to read!

Hello, I Heart Monster readers! My name is Camille, and I'll be commandeering this website today, if that's all right with you. I normally write on my own blog, Archives of Our Lives, but I have been sorrily neglectful over the past few weeks on account of a hellacious time in my life known as Finals Week---I am an English major in college, and this time of the semester is never very joyful for me. Honestly, I am surprised I haven't been arrested by the blogging police, or Reader Protection Services for my horrible behaviour lately. I deserve to go to Blogging Hell.

Luckily, the good people at have offered me salvation for my trespasses. They decided that it was time I whip myself back into shape, and as motivation, they have asked me to guest post here today. I'm delighted to do so, because, as I said, I am an English major in college, and I hope someday, somewhere, somehow, to get a gig as a paid professional writer in real life. Who knows...maybe even...a novel? I know, every college English major secretly hopes the same thing for her future, and maybe it's presumptuous, but what can I say? A girl's gotta dream. Hopefully I Heart Monster will feature my novel when it is finally published; it can't hurt to get my foot in the door now, though, right? I am all about planning for the future, not burning my bridges, being prepared...I was an excellent Girl Scout (though it didn't hurt that I could eat Samoas by the boxful).


I live in Canada. I have not always lived in Canada---I used to live in the desert of central Arizona. But now I live in Canada. As far as I can tell, there are not any huge differences between Canadians and Americans; a lot of people like to say that Canadians are much more polite than Americans, but I have met some rude Canadians and some extremely gracious Americans---I think it just depends on how people are raised, in spite of their national identities. I do my best not to stereotype people if I can help it---I'm an equal opportunity blogger.

However, just because I don't believe in common Canadian myths, that doesn't mean there aren't some differences between Canada and America...especially at Christmas time.

First of all, Canadians like to claim Santa Claus as their own citizen---they do "own" the North Pole, after all. They consider him as quite their own, in fact. One amazing Christmas tradition up here is that Canadian children can send their letters to Santa Claus (addressed to: Santa Claus at North Pole, postal code "HOH OHO" [Canadian postal codes are in letter-number-letter number-letter-number format, so of course Santa's code should read "ho ho ho"]), and they will receive a personalized letter back, in the language the letter was received (including Braille!). Don't believe me? Here's proof.

I can't wait to try it. Maybe next year.

Aside from that, though, I have not noticed any striking differences between Canadian and American Christmas celebrations. They all consist of nice family dinners, gift exchanges, amazing after-holiday sales (Boxing Day, on December 26th, is equivalent to Black Friday in the States), and time-and-a-half paycheques.

However, even though Christmas is not hugely different up here, there are enormous differences between winter in Canada and winter in the arid desert of Arizona.

Talk about climate shock...

Some of you may be reading from colder areas of the States, like, I don't know, Wisconsin, so this may not come as a big surprise to you. But for you lucky dogs in Phoenix, San Diego, Miami, and El Paso, Texas, I have compiled a list to show you just what you are missing by not residing as Santa Claus's next-door neighbor.

The Five Senses of Winter in Canada:

1. Sight: This time of year, everything in Canada loses all pigment---humans included---and turns completely white. Don't believe me? Here's a picture of the view outside my kitchen window, taken just moments ago:

Picture 4

No joke.

2. Touch: Everything I touch in Canada during the winter is freezing, freezing cold. Sub-freezing, even. Numbingly cold, even. I'm not kidding; you think I'm kidding, but I'm not. Here is a screen shot from last week's cold front, just to prove it:

Picture 1

Yes, you saw that right. Minus thirty five degrees, but minus fifty five with the wind chill. Honestly, when it gets worse than minus twenty, it all feels the same: numb. In Arizona, one might wear gloves to keep one's hands from frying to the steering wheel in the blistering heat; in Canada, it's just the opposite.

3. Smell: Go stick your head in the kitchen freezer, and you'll know what Canada smells like in the winter. It smells freezer burned.

4. Taste: I will admit that the ice-age temperatures up here make for some delicious comfort food. I mean, in Arizona, I never remember it getting cold enough to actually warrant a nice cup of hot cocoa---sure, I would try to choke it down, but it always seemed slightly ironic to cradle a steaming cup of cocoa while blasting the air conditioner and traipsing around in flip-flops. Up here, though? Cocoa is not only warranted, but it is pretty much necessary. Cocoa, cider, hot pumpkin soup, stroganoff, poutine, anything piping hot that will stick to the ribs---it'll do. And it is delicious.

5. Sound: The sound of Canada is, admittedly, completely peaceful and serene. When there is a foot-deep blanket of snow covering noisy streets and sidewalks, it almost feels surreal to be walking around in the quietude of it all. I have never experienced anything more peaceful than when I have donned my winter coat, scarves, gloves, and hat, and simply...gone for a winter walk. It is beautiful. It is calming. It is the definition of "peace on earth."

...that is, until the silence is interrupted by the grating, screeching clamor of cars slipping on slick roads and colliding with each other, with guard rails, with deer, with moose, with Santa Clause himself (nobody's safe). I have been involved in one such accident myself, and witnessed countless others by the cars just in front of me on the road. It is a horribly helpless feeling, to be stuck behind the wheel of an out-of-control car on ice.

When that happens, I really wish I was living back in Arizona. At least in Phoenix, if it gets too hot, the tires will only melt to the asphalt---that would simply be sticky and slow me down, not catapult me into oncoming semi trucks.

I guess that, given a choice between the two, I would pick burning in Hell as opposed to freezing there.

I'll have to make sure Satan gets the memo.

Just in case.

Thanks Camille! I thought visiting Wyoming in the winter was rough, but I now know I don't even want to visit Saskatchewan {edit: ALBERTA!} in the winter, ever. Check out Canada on Wikipedia or find out more in its CIA Factfile.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bury Your Fears! It's Sorry Night.

The Devouring
When dark creeps in and eats the light,
Bury your fears on Sorry Night.

Sorry night is tonight, December 22nd. After reading The Devouring by Simon Holt (read an exerpt) in October, I learned about Sorry Night and I just wanted to make sure you guys are ready for tonight and that you don't let the sun go down without preparing yourself to not be scared or fearful so the Vours don't get you.

What are the Vours?
Vours are evil creatures that take over human bodies and assume the victim’s personality while imprisoning the host’s consciousness in a nightmare-world called a fearscape. Outside of a human victim, Vours manifest as black oily smoke, but can retain this form only for a limited time. Because of their ability to cause hallucinations and psychically manipulate people, a Vour’s true shape is often hard to discern.
Detecting a Vour-possessed person isn’t always easy. Once inside of a person, a Vour assumes the victim’s personality, and has access to all of the host’s memories. A Vour-controlled person shows a few key symptoms, however. They include a fixation with sweet foods and heat, as well as an extreme sensitivity to cold (extreme cold might even cause discoloration and burns on the skin). These signs are most detectible in the recently possessed.
Vours, both in their human and inhuman forms, sense what we fear most. Using both psychic and physical means, they will inflict these fears to assail anyone who crosses them and sometimes merely to amuse themselves. Fear is intoxicating to Vours, and they are drawn to it like sharks to blood. (source)

How to Overcome Fear:
(some inspiration and motivation because I like my readers.)
"You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn't exist anywhere except in the mind." --Dale Carnegie

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." --Dale Carnegie

"Where fear is, happiness is not." --Seneca

"Of all the liars in the world, sometimes the worst are your own fears." --Rudyard Kipling

"Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of he main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom." --Bertrand Russell

"Keep your fears to yourself, but share your courage with others." --Robert Louis Stevenson

"Do not take counsel of your fears." --George Patton

"Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death." --Unknown

"The first and great commandment is: Don't let them scare you." --Elmer Davis

Sorry Night Hole
I found this great big hole in the ground. Just throw your fear into it by leaving it in the comments section and I'll make sure it gets covered and buried before nightfall. I'll start...

I'm afraid of bodies of water.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Operative Factors: Read Wondrous Strange by Leslie Livingston for Free

Every now and again, Harper Teen will put up an entire book for free on their Browse Inside website. Today they put up Wondrous Strange by Leslie Livingston. I haven't read this yet, but Monster listened to the audiobook. His reaction to it made me wait to listen, so I've been putting it off. But how perfect is this? I can read it online for free? Oh, and so can you :o) How fun is that especially if you're out of school and snowed in or something? Thanks for the Christmas present, Harper Teen!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Christmas in New Zealand

New Zealand
Today's installment of diverse Christmas customs comes from Catherine of On the Nightstand who just so happens to be in New Zealand! I hope you learn as much from her as I did...

While Christmas songs sing of snow, and sleighs, and other imagery common common to winter, New Zealand's version of Christmas is more about beaches, barbeques and baches. This is because, being a nation in the Southern Hemisphere, Christmas takes place in our summer months. (Unfortunately, this does not automatically mean that it is going to be sunny - it's shaping up for a possibly wet Christmas again this year.)

Because of the difference in season, we've modifed our traditions to not only match the warmer weather, but also enjoy it. Starting in December, we slip, slop, slap and wrap (our mantra for the summer months especially) and head out for our Christmas parades to see the floats and, of course, Santa Claus himself. In the big cities we also have Christmas In The Park, an event with singing, musical acts and more. Christmas In The Park is also broadcast on TV, so everyone around the country can enjoy the big spectacle, in addition to going to their own, smaller and local events.

We do have Christmas trees here (and there, and everywhere), both real and fake, which we decorate. And we sing Christmas carols of all sorts, including our own: some, like A Pukeko In A Ponga Tree, are modified ones from other places, while others, like Te Haranui, are not. We also have a tradition of decorating native trees - we have taken to referring to the pōhutukawa as the "New Zealand Christmas Tree", due to it being in bloom right around Christmas time.

Christmas Day is usually a time for family and food. For my family it's sort of a family reunion with presents at the end - grandparents through to grandchildren all getting together and discussing the events of the previous year and also what they hope for the next. The main meal of the day is lunch this time, and the goal seems to be "stuff yourself silly, to the point where you just want to take a nap". Dinner is leftovers, and quite possibly optional.

The day after Christmas is Boxing Day, which is a day of chaotic post-Christmas sales, as well as a day of relaxing.

Thank you Catherine! I kinda always wondered about Boxing Day. Learn more about New Zealand at Wikipedia or its CIA Factfile.

You're The Expert: Holiday Baking

My family is of Swedish descent. We make little star shaped ginger cookies called pepparkakors for Christmas almost every year (photo credit to and see a recipe at A Cookie for Every Country). It's a tradition I look forward to.

This year, my friend T (who so aptly helped me with the review of Chocolate: A Love Story) and I have baked I think seven different cookie recipes from the Martha Stewart's Cookies book. Every single recipe we tried was excellent.

I'm going to try a peppermint cheesecake tonight, a recipe I found from Better Homes and Gardens... wish me luck!

You're the expert on you and your family and your holiday baking traditions, so come, share, tell us a little about you and yours!
  • What are your favorite holiday baked goods?
  • What baked good just makes the holiday for you?
  • Do you have any holiday baking traditions?
  • Any cookbooks out there that you can't live without during the holidays?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas in the UK

As a second installment in my quest for knowledge about other worldwide Christmas customs, I introduce to you Jo from Ink and Paper. Jo writes the most amazing fantasy reviews, and I hope you'll visit her to get recommendations for your fantasy lover as I do for Monster! She has written a very informative post for us about Christmas in her country, so I do hope that you enjoy!

When Shesten asked me to write a guest post about my Christmas family traditions and how we celebrate Christmas in the UK, I jumped at the chance! Who doesn’t like talking about Christmas? But then I realised, I only know about how my family celebrates Christmas, I don’t know about what anyone else does in their own homes, and it’s going to be a little hard to find out. But then I remembered that celebrating Christmas doesn’t just happen indoors, and there are a few things that go on around the country to get us all in the mood!

One of the big things that happens this time of year, all over the country, are the pantomimes. For those who don’t know what a pantomime is, it’s basically a play or a musical with kids as the target audience, which can be enjoyed by the whole family. Normally some kind of fairy story, pantomimes are known for the pantomime dames, men who play exaggerated versions of female characters, such as the mother, the step-mother, and the ugly sisters from well known stories, as well as audience participation with phrases such as “It’s behind you!” and “Oh, no it isn’t!/Oh, yes it is!”. Well known celebrities – TV actors, presenters, etc – take part in these fantastic pantomimes. This year, one of the pantomimes being performed is Aladdin, where your very own Pamela Anderson is playing the Genie of the Lamp!

Each year in December, a London building famous for holding arty events, Somerset House, has its courtyard made into an ice-rink. This year the Somerset House ice rink celebrates it’s tenth birthday. As its website says, “Skate beneath the stars in the heart of London this winter, as Somerset House ice rink celebrates its 10th birthday. A calendar of special events includes Breakfast with Tiffany, DJ nights and Penguin Club. Meet in the Skate Café & Bar to enjoy a celebratory drink or visit the Tiffany Tuck shop where jewellery, cupcakes and other treats are on offer. Open all day and into the night, Somerset House ice rink is London's favourite winter tradition.” (

We also have a Christmas tradition with Norway. Each year, Norway gifts us with a huge Christmas tree, which we decorate and have on show in Trafalgar Square in London. The following is taken from the website Norway - the official site in the UK:

The Christmas tree is perhaps the most important symbol of Britain and Norway's warm relationship. The first tree was brought over in 1947 as a token of Norwegian appreciation of British friendship during the Second World War. When Norway was invaded by German forces in 1940, King Haakon VII escaped to Britain and a Norwegian exile government was set up in London. To most Norwegians, London came to represent the spirit of freedom during those difficult years. From London, the latest war news was broadcast in Norwegian, along with a message and information network which became vital to the resistance movement and which gave the people in Norway inspiration and hope of liberation.

The tree has become a symbol of the close and warm relationship between the people of Britain and Norway. Norwegians are happy and proud that this token of their friendship - probably the most famous Christmas tree in the world - seems to have become so much a part of Christmas for Londoners.

To read more about the trees, and the lighting of this year’s Christmas tree, click here.

How about a little more British Christmas history? The Christmas we all have come to know so well, the way we celebrate, is mainly down to the British author, Charles Dickens. The following is taken from the website David Perdue’s Charles Dickens’ Page:

Charles Dickens has probably had more influence on the way that we celebrate Christmas today than any single individual in human history except one.

At the beginning of the Victorian period the celebration of Christmas was in decline. The medieval Christmas traditions, which combined the celebration of the birth of Christ with the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia (a pagan celebration for the Roman god of agriculture), and the Germanic winter festival of Yule, had come under intense scrutiny by the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell. The Industrial Revolution, in full swing in Dickens' time, allowed workers little time for the celebration of Christmas.

The romantic revival of Christmas traditions that occurred in Victorian times had other contributors: Prince Albert brought the German custom of decorating the Christmas tree to England, the singing of Christmas carols (which had all but disappeared at the turn of the century) began to thrive again, and the first Christmas card appeared in the 1840s. But it was the Christmas stories of Dickens, particularly his 1843 masterpiece A Christmas Carol, that rekindled the joy of Christmas in Britain and America. Today, after more than 160 years, A Christmas Carol continues to be relevant, sending a message that cuts through the materialistic trappings of the season and gets to the heart and soul of the holidays.

To read more about Dickens and Christmas click here.

As for my own Christmas traditions, I’ll keep it short. We see a movie on Christmas Eve, we don’t open our pressies until after our big Christmas dinner, and, when at home, TV, computers, and games consoles are banned; instead we spend the time together as a family playing games, and it’s awesome! I wrote a post this year as part of the Virtual Advent Tour 2009, so if you would like to read more about my own family traditions, you can read my post on my blog.

And one final thing to look at, the Imagine Building in London is decorated each year with Christmas lights with a new design. Check out this year’s design!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guest post about Christmas in the UK, and I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! :)

Thank you, Jo! That was absolutely wonderful! Read more about the UK at Wikipedia or its CIA Factfile.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Who's Giving What? A Holiday Contest!

I recently emailed a few of my favorite bloggers and authors for a little help with this post. I gifted a few books for Christmas this year. A few of them were to myself (including Fallen by Lauren Kate and Need by Carrie Jones, but shhhh... don't tell, mmkay?) I gave my brother- and sister-in-law The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, and I gifted The first two books in the Gallagher Girls series, twice. Can you match which author/blogger is giving which book this holiday season?

Want to win a $20 Amazon Gift Card? Of course you do! To win, all you have to do is try to match these correctly. You don't have to guess correctly, but you do have to try. Try your skills in the embedded form below. As long as there's an Amazon for your country, I'll get you a gift card from that version of! Ends 12/27 at 11:59pm Arizona time. Good luck!!

Special thanks to bloggers Chelsea (The Page Flipper), Karin Librarian (Karin's Book Nook), Jo (Ink and Paper), Catherine (On The Nightstand), and Trish (Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin?) for helping out as well as authors Michelle Zink (Prophecy of the Sisters), C. Lee McKenzie (Sliding on the Edge), Sarah Ockler (Twenty Boy Summer), Storyheart (Across the Pond), and Rhonda Stapleton (Stupid Cupid) for helping me out with this post! It was great fun to see what you guys are giving!

An Argentine Christmas by Ella Press

I've "met" so many fun people by blogging this year, and so many of them are from such fun places from all over the world! I was curious about their Christmas customs, so I've asked a few of my bloggy friends to tell us about Christmas in their countries. I hope you enjoy reading these as much as I have, 'cause I learned a LOT. To start it off, we have the lovely Ella Press of The Clock Monkey. I hope you enjoy reading about Christmas in Argentina!

Hello everyone! I'm Ella, and I'm from Argentina :)

Living here is really nice (I won't say great, because I'd rather be somewhere else, somewhere more exciting!). I live in a big town -not a city, but getting there- in the South of the country, right where the Patagonia begins. My town, Viedma, is by the Negro River, and it's just 30 km from the ocean.

Which is great in summer. But the thing is, we have a Hot Christmas!

No snow for us down here during winter either, it only snows near the Andes (ever heard of Bariloche?) and in Usuhaia, place known as The End of the World.

This weather brings a lot of questions to the little kids, if we start talking about Santa, or as we call him here, Papá Noel.

For instance:

Q: Why does Papá Noel wear all of those big clothes? Isn't he hot?
A: No, honey. That's because he lives in the North Pole, and he's cold there. When he comes here, he takes his jacket off.

Q: If he comes in through the fireplace, where does he come in here? (only few people have fireplaces in Arg)
A: He comes through the key hole.
Q: But how? He's reaaaaally big!
A: The same way when he comes through the fireplace in other kids' homes. He has a special way of making himself tiny.

Q: What about his (sleigh?)? I don't see it anywhere.
A: That's because it's parked around the corner.

Q: Can I ask him to bring me the latest Playstation?
A: No, he doesn't have that much money. Remember, he has to give gifts to every child in the world!
Q: Money? But he makes his toys in the North Pole! With the elves!
A: *crickets*

Another thing about an Argentine Christmas is the Christmas Tree.

See, we don't buy REAL trees. We have fake ones. And we usually use the same one every year, unless it breaks. Then we might change it.

I've had the same little tree since I can remember.

When I was little, I used to go to my grandparents' to spend Christmas and New Year's. My gran's neighbour has a big patio with a pool and a grill to make asado (asado is like bbq, only better! Very Argentine!). We used to always go there, have dinner, make the toast, and as we little ones were playing with fireworks -not by ourselves, of course- there was always a grown-up that just dissapeared.

By the time he or she came back, they told us: Oh! Guess who just came? Papá Noel! You missed him! Didn't you see his sleigh in the sky?

And so we ran inside, anxious to get our presents, but disappointed that we hadn't gotten to see Papá Noel.

And that's a little part of what usually happens at a Christmas Party here, in Argentina.

Thanks for letting me share!

Thank you, Ella for telling us a little about what Christmas is like for you! If you're more curious about Argentina, check out its Wikipedia article or it's entry in the CIA Factfile. Oh, and I'm working on that challenge, so don't think I forgot! OH! And btw, I have changed my comments back to normal Blogger comments, so please feel free to come back and comment to those of you who were having issues!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Five Bookish Gift Ideas for the Animal Lover

We all have an animal lover in our life. There are several kinds! There is the person who loves their animals, their pets, who adores them and dotes on them and whatnot. There is the person who is dedicated to saving the animals before human encroachment can extinguish more. There is the person who loves their dog and the person who loves going to the zoo. There are areas where these people overlap and a lot of people that fall into more than one category. I've outlined five bookish gifts I think some of them might like:

1. If your animal lover is all about saving endangered species and saving the rainforest, then you might try Jane Goodall's new book/audiobook, HOPE FOR ANIMALS AND THEIR WORLD. I'm listening to it right now and it has made me tear up a few times with the great stories of resilience and perseverance on the parts of the species that came to the brink of extinction and the wildlife biologists that helped save them.

2. VAMPIRE TAXONOMY by Meredith Woerner might not be your first instinct for the animal lover, but I think it would make a great gift because of the way it's organized. Since it's layed out like a field guide for vampires, your friend or family member who likes nature and a little bit about the paranormal would most likely find this a very amusing, entertaining read.

3. Boo Radley, a wolfish dog who relays everything he sees to Lena's Uncle Macon in BEAUTIFUL CREATURES is a lovely, cherished character. Even though he's minor, he's loveable and crucial to the story. If they love their loyal companion, they'll most likely love Boo Radley and the characters he follows around. For another YA book with a central wolf-dog character, try MERIDIAN by Amber Kizer, Custos is an amazing character as well!

4. Happy Family is selling adorable totes with either a barn owl or an octopus on them (there are other less-animal-ish designs too). They'd make the perfect gift for someone who likes going to the library or bookstore and bringing home a lot of books. These range between $8 and $10. Or for the cat lover, try Paisley Magic's kitten screened tote or Medium Control's Watson Tote. (Photo from here.)

5. Bookmarks are always fun, but Blue Manatee's zoo animal themed bookmarks are extra fun. Plus, if you buy the set of 8, you could totally split them up and give them to multiple people if you wanted to. They're adorable, and functional, and any animal lover will love them. (Photo from here.)

Tell us what you're getting the animal lover on your list, even if it's not bookish!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

Five Gift Ideas for the Bookish Commuter (oh, and a giveaway)

I've put together five things that you can give a bookish
commuter that range anywhere from free to around $60.00. Let me know in the comments what you're giving your bookish commuter people this holiday season!

1. The Fulcrum Multi-Flex Booklight is the brightest booklight I have ever owned. Most of the time with my previous booklights, I've still had to squint to read the pages. This puppy lights up not only my book, but when Monster and I were in Yosemite this year, it lit up his book as well. Neither one of us had to squint. I heartily recommend this light as a gift, and am gifting this to a couple of people on my list this year. If your someone rides public transportation, this could be perfecto.

2. An gift subscription. Here's how Audible works: You pay a flat rate for a certain number of credits per month. You trade the credits for audiobooks. You can burn them, or put them on your MP3 player or even your Blackberry to take with you wherever you go. We bought my dad a subscription for his birthday a few years ago and he's still redeeming his credits even now.

3. Obviously, audiobooks. I've reviewed a few this year, but I highly recommend The Summoning & The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong for YA Lit lovers, and The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson for lovers of nonfic, mystery, suspense, and thrillers. Yeah, it's that broad. Oh, and if you're in the market for an audiobook, enter the giveaway below for a chance at a copy of Dear John by Nicholas Sparks on audiobook.

4. It's always nice to have a portable audio device so that you can listen to audiobooks even if you don't have a subscription to You can always download Librivox titles for free if you have something to play them on. Maybe visiting and burning a community-read title would be a great gift for the computer-challenged among us.

5. For those who drive, I don't think an extra auxilary input cable can ever hurt. It always sucks to want to listen to that audiobook on your mp3 player but not be able to find the stinking cable. Or worse, you lent it to your buddy and can't remember which one to get it back. And of course it's not something you think to get when you go to the store. If not a major gift, it makes a great stocking stuffer.

Audiobook Inspection: The Murder of King Tut by James Patterson

Size: 5 CDs (Hachette Audio CDs)
Length: 5 hours, 59 minutes
Author: James Patterson, Martin Dugard
Narrator: Joe Barrett

Plot Sketch: The plot is told from three different aspects, the first is that of Patterson himself involving the journey it took him to write the book. The second is that of Howard Carter, the man who discovered Tut's tomb. The third is that of Tut himself. Carter's story takes you from when he was a young man all the way until his discovery and exploitation of Tut's tomb. Tut's story takes you from a very young age to the time of his death and is dramatized. It involves his mother who was not truly his mother, his sister who later became his wife, and some rather ambitious peripheral characters that center around Patterson's murder investigation. I dare not tell you more because I do not want to ruin this for you!

Plot Verdict: I Heart It! I wouldn't call this nonfiction though. I think it's more historical fiction made as accurate as possible with the information that Patterson could dig up. That doesn't make it bad! It is intriguing and engaging and one of those audiobooks that will have you sitting in your car not wanting to get out and into your destination because you want to know what happens next. I loved it and have been heartily recommending it to all.

Narration Verdict: I Heart It. Joe Barrett did a wonderful job. The narration is top-notch and made the story come alive as I was driving through the streets of metro Phoenix. Seriously, an amazing narration, so much so that I can't determine whether it was the story or its telling that I was more enthralled with.

  • I visited the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. Did any of you see the exhibit? I'd like to know what you thought.
  • You can listen to an exerpt and/or download a podcast from Hachette.
  • Hear what Patterson has to say about his book:

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Minimal Investment (+giveaway!): 12 Days and 12 Facts for This Holiday Season by Carolie Taggart

12 Days and 12 Facts for This Holiday Season
By Caroline Taggart,
Author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

Ever catch yourself saying I Used to Know That?

Each holiday season brings another round of cocktail parties, family get-togethers, and corporate gatherings -- and invariably, lots of small talk. It's easy to feel overwhelmed when discussing politics, literature, and other intellectual "stuff," especially when what is thought to be general knowledge is often long-forgotten. Enter I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School. From English and Literature to Math and Science, from History and Geography to Religion and Other-Worldly Topics, this book leaves you equipped to handle any topic of conversation.

Here we've cherry-picked twelve fun facts for the holiday season -- one for every day of Christmas (or whatever holiday you prefer!) Quiz yourself to see how much "stuff" you need to brush up on before hobnobbing with the boss or office crush.

1. On building sentences: Just what is a "clause"? (Not to be confused with Santa Claus.)

Answer: A clause contains a subject and a verb and may stand alone as a sentence or as part of a sentence (when it is often called asubordinate clause): Santa Claus loves cookies but can't eat them without milk.

2. How many bones is the spine made up of?

Answer: 26 small bones called vertebrae (Be careful lifting all those heavy holiday boxes.)

3. Acclaimed author Charles Dickens (1812-70) wrote which Christmas classic?

Answer: A Christmas Carol. The miserly Ebenezer Scrooge tries to ignore Christmas and is haunted by the ghost of his former partner, Marley, and by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come, who show him the error of his ways.

4. The fist chapter of this famous book opens with "Call me Ishmael." Name the book and author. (Hint: it makes a whale of a gift!)

Answer: Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Melville is also the author of Pierre and the unfinished Billy Budd.

5. There's a name for the process of watering your Christmas tree? Who knew?

Answer: Grab the kids and give them this science factoid as they nurture the family tree: Osmosis is a form of diffusion that is specific to the movement of water. Water moves through a selectively permeable membrane (that is, one that lets some types of molecules through but not others) from a place where there is a higher concentration of water to one where it is lower.

6. Can you name all 6 wives of Henry VIII, father of the Church of England?

Answer: (Listed in order) Catherine, Anne, Jane, Anne, Catherine, Catherine. They are often remembered as divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. Sure makes you think twice when complaining about bad relatives.

7. Who was the 16th President of the United States?

Answer: Abraham Lincoln (R, 1861-65) and yes -- he really was born in a log cabin on a winter's day. Notably famous for many reasons including his Gettysburg Address: "Four Score and Seven Years ago our fathers brought fourth upon this continent a new nation conceived in Liberty . . . "

8. 'Tis the season to be jolly giving! Don’t forget to tip well this season -- etiquette coaches will tell you that means no less than 18%. So just how much should you tip on a bill of $50?

Answer: Percent means by a hundred, so anything expressed as a percentage is a fraction (or part, if you prefer) of 100. So 18% is 18 parts of 100, or 18/100 or .18. If your bill is $50, multiply 50 by .18 to get your tip total of $9. If you're feeling generous, a 20% tip would require you to multiply 50 by .20, for a total of $10.00

50.00 x .18 = 9.00

50.00 x .20 = 10.00

Percentages can also be holiday-relevant when it comes to figuring out in-store sales. In this case, you want to multiply by the inverse of the percentage listed. So if you have a $50 sweater that's on sale for 25% off, multiply 50 by .75 for your total of $37.50. That same $50 sweater on sale for 40% off would equate to $30, or $50 multiplied by .60.

50.00 x .75 = 37.50

50.00 x .60 = 30.00

9. Brr, it's cold outside. But just how cold does it have to be to get some snow around here?

Answer: Did you know that the freezing point of water is 32 degrees Fahrenheit? Keep an eye on the temperature and watch your footing for ice on the ground. (See previous fact about those treasured vertebrae!)

10. Everyone knows Santa and his elves live in the North Pole. But what about the South Pole (aka Antarctica)?

Answer: The South Pole was discovered by Roald Amundsen (1872-1928, Norwegian), who was also the first to sail though the Northwest passage, the sea route from Pacific to Atlantic along the north coast of North America. Antarctica is the only continent that contains no countries -- instead, it is a stateless territory protected from exploitation by an international treaty. A good place for the elves to protest low wages?

11. Which Ocean is bigger: the Pacific or the Atlantic?

Answer: The Pacific Ocean is larger at 69,374 square miles -- that's almost double the Atlantic, which comes in at 35,665 square miles. Making it even more astonishing that St. Nick can cross the globe in just one night.

12. Remember the reason for the Season! Can you name a few things that both Judaism and Christianity have in common?

Answer: Both are monotheistic religions that share the first five books of the Christian Old Testament. Both religions view Jerusalem as a sacred site, the former for the Wailing Wall (contains the remains of the temple that was thought to be the place where God resides on earth) and the latter for Christ's burial and resurrection site.

Happy Holidays to all!

©2009 Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School

Author Bio
Caroline Taggart, author of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School, has been an editor of non-fiction books for nearly 30 years and has covered nearly every subject from natural history and business to gardening and astronomy. She has written several books and was the editor of Writer's Market UK 2009.

For more information please visit

And, as a bonus... FSB has provided a copy of I Used to Know That: Stuff You Forgot From School for a giveaway! This would make a PERFECT stocking stuffer, so I'm only leaving this open for a week. Ends 12/17 11:59PM Arizona time. Enter to win by entering your info in the form below.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Groove to This: Spy for Hire

Luck Spy For Hire

The Moontower Spy For Hire

Motorcycle Spy For Hire

Band: Spy for Hire
Latest Album: Speak In Numbers

What They Said: Based in the Atlanta/Columbus GA area, Spy For Hire are comprised of Ryan Rulon on vocals and guitar, Andy Rich on lead guitar, James Salter on bass and Jared Meharg on drums. Formed in 2004, the band has a bond that goes back to Ryan and Andy’s high school days. Ryan explains, “Andy and I bonded over a lot of the D.C. hardcore/Discord Records music, things like Fugazi and Shudder To Think. We were the only two guys in Columbus who listened to that. We also listened to a lot of the British shoe gaze music as well; My Bloody Valentine and Swervedriver. But we’ve always had a love of pop as well, things like Hall & Oates, Madonna and Tears For Fears.” He adds, “We love a lot of music, but we’re aiming to be far more than the sum of our influences.”

What We Think: Heart Them. Spy for Hire has an organic feel. I finished listening to the sample tracks and wanted more, right away. They've got a great sound, one that could fit into so many facets of my life (see below). Luck is absolutely my favorite and is in rotation on 3 different playlists, but all of the tracks that I heard are above-average in my book. Their incandescent sound is uplifting and upbeat and you should definitely give them a listen. I wish they'd play a show on this side of the US so that I could see them live because from what I've seen on YouTube, they'd be a great band to see in person.

Where I'm Listening:
Gym-- Treadmill or Stationary Bike
Car-- Errands
Home-- Upbeat Chill
Hike-- Familiar Trail

Take Action:
Watch on YouTube
Visit SpyForHire.Net
Become a Fan on Facebook
Visit Spy For Hire on MySpace
iLike Spy For Hire
Download Speak In Numbers on Amazon or iTunes

Tracks provided by Ariel PR.