Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dellwood. My Review.

Dellwood is a horror story that starts very quietly but builds up to a heart-racing ending. It tells the story of Constance Tierney who had a horrible childhood she barely survived. Literally. Had it not been for the intervention of her grandaunt, she would have never grown to be a super wealthy, top mathematician. The story is complex, relying heavily on the backstory and three generations of the Tierney Family Tree, and incredibly well weaved. With mysteries is easy for the author to get lost in the excitement of revealing all to the reader too soon, or being way too cryptic. Ginny Gilroy manages to unveil the darkest secrets with a dropper, making the thirsty reader beg for more.

The first chapter is kind of slow and only hints at the secretive nature of the book, by the end of it I wasn't even sure Dellwood was truly a horror. Then came chapter two and all doubts dissipated. I found this chapter to be the one where Gilroy truly shines. The narrative is rich, there is so much tension in the air, and the mystery is palpable. My heart actually raced, which doesn't happen very frequently, and I knew I was hooked.

The book is narrated by an omnipresent narrator, like most books, but it changes to first person whenever someone has a flashback or the story turns to what happened in the past. These changes are confusing at times and during some of them the point of view is inconsistent. The backstory, however, is fascinating. Dellwood is ultimately a haunted house story where the ghosts of both, victims and victimizers, are trapped until a definitive act takes place. I kept jumping through the pages trying to find out more about those forgotten years and the way Gilroy intertwines the tidbits of information with the present situation of the characters is nothing short of brilliant.

Being a closet psychologist, I appreciated the lengths the author went to make the characters consistent with their personal baggages, something very few authors take the time to think about. Though the main character is clearly traumatized by the experiences she can't remember, the reader doesn't feel annoyed by her. Most of the characters are likable but not perfect and we feel the strong bond between them. I think, however, that the minor characters are treated more like pawns in a chess match and they felt a bit one dimensional; also the ending was not all that satisfactory for me.

I understand why Gilroy decided to make the final confrontation end the way it did, and from a metaphorical point of view it makes total sense, but from an entertainment point of view, I would've liked something grander. The final chapter is a sort of 'after the storm' narrative where we get to know what's happened with the characters after a few months. In my opinion this last epilogue of sorts adds nothing to the story and characters, and it doesn't present the reader with a nice bow at the end. I tend to like better stories that don't end with neatly tied bows, except when it feels like it. Since the previous chapter had concluded with a good sense of coming to a full circle, I don't think anything else was needed.

All in all, I can't say enough good things about Dellwood. It is a well-tought, character-driven, showstopper you can't miss. Expect much more from Ginny Gilroy, I'm a new fan.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Fun: Best Five Hilarious Shorts

Another friday comes our way and we are already thinking of all the fun stuff we can do in this long weekend that officially opens the summer season. Pools will be open, Grills will take its righteous place on thousands of patios, and gas/airfare prices will not stop us from going somewhere while complaining all along the way. Hail to the most revered season for students all over the country, and longest three months of the year for parents across the northern hemisphere.

In accordance to such a momentous weekend, I decided to share with you a list of my favorite five, most entertaining and hilarious animated shorts I've seen. I hope you will make the most of this long weekend and that this humble post will kick start it with a welcome laugh. Enjoy!

5. Heavenly Appeals. What I like about this short is that it delivers laughs with a message of hope that fits perfectly our current spirits. After our naughty summer, there's still hope for us to be redeemed. Grated that we find ourselves a mean angel... but hope still.

4. Project Alarm. When I was younger I used to set five different alarms throughout my room. I still managed to be late for work quite often. My girls have proven to be a much more effective alarm, specially if they're hungry.

3. Oktapodi. Next time you decide eating octopus, think about it twice. They have feelings, too, you know?

2. Pigeon: Impossible. Tom Cruise ain't got nothing against this pigeon.

1. The Lady and The Ripper. I chose this animated short directed by Antonio Banderas as my number one because it has it all, heart, laughs, and a sweet old lady that won't play nice.

What do you think about these videos? Do you have any favorite shorts to share with me? Well, that's what the comments are for! Don't make me beg.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Hunger Games, into the Deep III

Finally, it's time to talk about Mockingjay; my least favorite of the saga. If you lost my reviews of the previous two books, you can find them here and here. For everyone else, based on the comments I've received, I think many people found Mockingjay to be sad, completely different from the rhythm and narrative of its previous companions, and all together anti-climatic.

The characters evolved into different beings, and though it is a logical evolution and I could believe the transformation was due to the experiences they've had, I didn't like were they ended up.

My favorite character is Peeta, so I was not a fan of the treatment Collins gave to him. After Catching Fire it was clear Katniss was not cut out to be the strong hero I thought, but in Mockingjay it's just deplorable the state to what she is reduced. All the other characters I came to love were diminished to side-kicks or damaged goods and a new set of characters I didn't know and didn't trust became the central figures of the narrative.

The pace goes back to the slow positioning of the characters of book one and the plot turns into a war story, but since the point of view is that of Katniss and she isn't in capacity to actively participate, we miss every important aspect of it. All we can see are a series of shoddy characters trying to manipulate her into doing what they think is best 'for the war' and Katniss as a weak girl who's being pushed one too many times and has decided to let her mind float into oblivion.

Throughout the book we can see the clear hand of Collins inventing excuses so she doesn't have to explain too much about the war, taking characters to unlikely places and turning them into crazy people but then curing them out of the blue when the plot requires them to be able to fight. The mutts (bio-weapons created by The Capitol) are the most bizarre, absurd things I've ever heard about and people is killed unceremoniously, leaving the reader with a sense of incompleteness. The one character that shines is Gale. We've seen glimpses of his character before but in Mockingjay he moves to the logical next step with terrible consequences.

If anything is worth reading about this third book, it is precisely the message that conveys the tale of Gale. Too many times good people let hate or anger drive them and the price to pay can be too high. So I hope at least a few of those trillions of crazy fans screaming outside the movie theaters got the point and will change for the better.

Sadly, that is the only good thing I can say about the book. In the end I was let down by The Hunger Games Saga. When turning the last page I felt angry at Collins for not delivering and baffled at what is it on these books that has crated such a frenzy. I just don't get it. Let me be more clear, I understand wars are not glamorous, but I don't think Collins succeeded in painting a realistic war because she chose to narrate from the point of view of a character that didn't engage in it. I get that in war scenarios people drop like flies without saying proper goodbyes, really, I get it. But books are not simply depicting reality, they beautify or dramatize it in order to make it entertaining or to make a point, otherwise we would be reading a lot more conversations about the weather in books, and we don't. Finally, I believe that crude books or films about how hard life is, about death, hunger, war, and the future of our planet aimed at a young audience will have the strongest effect, but making a fuzz a la Twilight about a story that is ultimately so tragic is nothing short of ironic. It is as if people were screaming their heads off outside theaters because Brando looked so hot in Apocalypse Now. Really?

Anyway, there are many things more that I'd love to discuss with you about the treatment the characters received, about how I can't imagine why anyone would describe Katniss as a strong female role so opposite to Bella from Twilight, but for that I would need to abound on the details of the book and I promised this would be a spoiler free review. So come by next week with all you have and we can talk about what you loved and hated in the story, about the characters trades and their evolution, and about every little detail we have been holding to. I bet it will be interesting. In the mean time, read!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Fun: Kreativ Blog Award

I'm very excited to close the week with a nice recognition from a fellow blogger. Kathy Collier has awarded this humble blog with the Kreativ Blog Award a couple of days ago. I'm beyond myself. Sometimes writing this blog in the still of my office, without a sound but the chirping of the birds on my yard, is easy to forget that I am reaching another human being with my words, comments always help but receiving a blogging award always makes me feel I'm doing something right if people not only enjoy themselves and comment, but remember my ramblings when they are awarded. Amazing. Thanks to Kathy for giving such a bright end to my week, and remember to check her blog KSCollier; after all, she was awarded, too!

Now for the rules:
1.   Thank and link back to the person who presented you with the award. 
2.   Answer the ten questions below.
3.   Share ten random facts/thoughts about yourself.
4.   Nominate seven worthy blogs for the Kreativ Blogger Award.

This ten questions and ten random facts fall perfectly in line with my new 'Friday Fun' policy of posting 'The Best Ten...' lists, isn't it serendipitous? So, here we go.

Ten Questions:
What is your favorite song?
This one is hard, but I guess Christopher Cross' Arthur's Theme Song.
What is your favorite dessert?
Key Lime pay or Cheesecake in any of its glorious forms.
What ticks you off?
When you're upset, what do you do?
First, I glare at the infractor--usually, my husband--then I grind my teeth, and I end up raising my voice and pounding him with my witty ways. 
Which is/was your favorite pet?
I've had many through my life but right now I have a cat I adopted when it was a few weeks old (her mother died) and, to be sincere, I don't know what will be of this family when she departs for greener, higher pastures.
Which do you prefer to wear, black or white?
I love white but after almost ten years of wearing a white uniform during my years in Medicine, I hardly ever wear it.
What is your biggest fear?
To have something horrible happen to my girls.
What is your attitude mostly?
I'm positive but very pragmatic. I don't tend t waste my time daydreaming about things I think are too far away in my future or may never come. I try to concentrate in the present, and though sometimes I'm not immune to self doubt, I always pick myself up and move forward.
What is perfection?
Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Spending a day in my Pj's watching TV in the couch. Ah, those glorious days...

Ten Random Things About Me:
1. I'm the lamest history buff ever, but I'm working hard to get better.
2. In 1986 I was ten years old and watched The Night of the Creeps as a dare, which launched my life-long fear of zombies. I also hate leeches to this date.
3. Two years later I watched Dawn of the Dead adding to my psychosis the fear to wake up one day to a world overrun by zombies.
4. One of my cousins who loved He-Man and ThunderCats had both complete collections of action figures, including Grayskull Castle and Snake Mountain. I was always both, Cheetara and She-ra, leaving my sister with no option but to be Skeletor, since she wouldn't want to be any other character and my cousin was Lion-o. Snake Mountain had the coolest microphone, so we always (my cousin and I) mounted an attack on Skeletor, trapped him in the dungeons for the rest of the game, and sang songs with the micro. =)
5. I can't whistle.
6. I'm a very decent cook of mexican food. Not too bad for a girl who, at sixteen, couldn't prepare scrambled eggs to save her life.
7. In Mexico we all live with our parents until we get married, doesn't matter if you're twenty or thirty-five. I  was twenty-eight when my father walk me down the isle.
8. I have a terrible case of arachnophobia, yet I can pet snakes like if they were kitties.
9. I have to sleep with the closet doors firmly closed thanks to Stephen King's The Boogeyman.
10. When I was pregnant with my first girl I watched Dumbo for the first in twenty years and cried the whole time. Now, it is one of my daughter's favorite. Go figure.

And now, my seven Kreativ Award Winners:

Thanks to all my friend bloggers and followers for making this experience such a blast. And remember, next tuesday I'll be posting the review for the final Hunger Games book, Mockingjay. Don't miss it. Enjoy your weekend!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Hunger Games Saga, into the Deep II

A week ago I talked about how, after reading The Hunger Games Saga, I was left not feeling quite satisfied and more that a little hurt and cheated. As a way to work through my feelings I decided to do a series of reviews where the first three would be about the individual books, what I liked and what not, and a fourth one would delve into the details of why the story wasn't all that I'd hoped for. The first reviews will be clean of spoilers so everyone interested can read them. The last one will be an open discussion of the saga with no limitations, so if you want to participate and haven't read the books, I hope you are well in your way! Today feels like a perfect day to catch fire, don't you think?

Catching Fire.

With the second book Collins managed what very few authors do for me, she surprised me. No matter where I was, I could not stop myself from gasping pretty much every time Peeta opened his mouth, which means most every time I turned the page. Since I was expecting a completely different direction, one where the revolution was lead actively by Katniss (You can check my reason for this here), the turn of events really blindsided me, but let's go step by step.

The characters. Once again, we see the characters we know and we recognize them, they don't have drastic changes of heart and turn out to be different people from what we knew. They are consistent but there is... evolution, let's say. Some of them, like Peeta, grow as a consequence of the turn of events; others start to show the cracks that will be their undoing in the future. Then there's Haymitch who manages to keep an unrealistic balance between being a drunk when nobody really needs him, yet pull himself together when the times for action come. This is the real fault within the array of diverse, amazing characters. All of them are who they told us they were and to some degree of believability, except Haymitch that is. How is it that one person so addicted to a substance manages to get clean when needed be, and is functional to such a degree? Utterly impossible. Yet, the poor, old victor is so pitiable and likable, I was rooting for him and loved his acridness. The silent exchanges with Katniss and how much they understand each other was one of my favorite things of the whole saga. I guess Collins has a talent to write lovable villains because I ended up cheering for Johana and Finnick with passion. Snow is the real bad guy of the story and even him is a great villain. He isn't as complex as the rest of the cast and there are some of his decisions I still don't understand, but he doesn't rub his hands and laughs in a 'mwahahaha' kind of way.

Technicalities. One again Collins uses the first person narrative as a weapon against us, only revealing tidbits of information. This time Katniss--and with her, us--knows there is more than the eye can meet, there are secrets being withhold but she just doesn't care and ignores the signs causing us to dread the outcome. Still there's not enough for us to predict the next turn in the story. In Catching Fire, however, there is much repetition of the backstory for the benefit of the new reader. That breaks the fluency of the story and distracted me from the images forming in my head. If the first time sounded unnatural for Katniss to re-explain herself the way she lives in, the second time is just atrocious and impossible to pass down. If you are talking to a new reader, include all that information on the blurb, so the old reader can lose himself in the story seamlessly.

Now to the overview. Catching Fire starts moving the story into the heavy stuff that we will be dealing with later on and it does it without effort. We can't feel the floor moving under us until it is too late and that's why I think it is so enjoyable. We meet a big array of new characters that are every bit as complex and interesting as the main characters and the verbal exchanges become more intense because of all the subtext that is implied. Katniss is too fragile for my taste, for a hunter she can't give a step without hurting herself. Not only that, mentally she starts to show clear signs of strain, always feeling guilty for everything that goes wrong in the world. I'm not saying it isn't believable because any sixteen-year-old would be mentally unstable after going through all those things, but it just doesn't match the idea that I had of this strong young woman who was to lead the world to freedom. But we'll talk more about that when reviewing Mockingjay. In the mean time, read!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Adventures in Motherhood

With Mother's Day just barely a couple of days from us, there's not much else everybody is talking about. The TV, the blogs, Facebook, Twitter, nothing escapes the sappy remarks of how much we owe to our mothers and how especial they are. It is all well deserved as they work their heinies off to make our life better, I know because I'm a mother, but there are also a lot of funny, ridiculous moments with moms as the protagonists. So I decided to tell you about one of my own; laugh at my expense a little, I know I still laugh a lot when I remember this.

It happened a few months after we moved to the US from Mexico, my daughter was eleven-months-old and we were just settling in on our new life. We were living in a small apartment close to a river and lots of green areas with squirrels and even deer. It was very pretty and quite a departure from my life in a city full of concrete. The one thing that kind of worried me were the news about fires. In Mexico all the houses are made of cement and bricks, so smoke detectors are rare and fires even more rare. Then, I stopped worrying so much after this event. It happened in the middle of one cold January night. I have a hard time falling asleep and one of the worst crimes punishable by physical damage to your body is to wake me up before it is time to start the day. So when my husband's alarm clock woke me up around 2:30 in the morning that day, I just want to bash his head in. Somehow I manage a somewhat gracious "What the heck is that? Turn off your stupid alarm."

"It isn't me!" Answers the poor man with an 'I'm-innocent' look on his face. Then, it dawn on me. The building's fire alarm.

"Holy shit!" I say, and in the fifteen seconds it took me to came to the realization and utter my elegant words of surprise, I had already jumped out of bed, ran to the closet, and put on my sneakers. My husband--bless his soul--still couldn't understand what kind of natural disaster could be occurring to get me out of my bed at such hour. But he also knows the second greatest offense in our relationship is to not act like 'Gina always knows what she's doing', so he keeps moving toward the closet. Slowly, he gets his slippers, the warm ones because out there there are two feet of snow on the ground.

In the mean time, I've already entered and exited the closet three times without being able to decide weather the situation requires a different attire. Maybe sweat pants? I ran to the closet on the hallway where we keep the winter jackets and come back into our bedroom with one for him, one for the baby, one for me, and the dog's sweater. But before getting my jacket on I decide I better get on those sweat pants. Who knows what the firemen will look like and, after all, if everything burns to the ground, I don't want to go around town in my Pj's.

"Well, grab the baby for Christ's sake!" I yell at him, who's looking at the dog's sweater in his hands with an expression that says, you've lost your mind, but he doesn't say a word.

I run to the door and when passing in front of the baby's room I decide I better carry her myself because the man looks too lost. In the living room I grab the dog's leash and throw the cat into my husband's arms. And the last thing before I leave. I get a hold of our passports. As we go down the stairs as fast as we can, I think to myself, if we survive this I have to buy some kind of cart to put all the important documents that's easy to transport.

As we exit the building, I realize there's no one outside. "Well, where the heck is everyone?!" I ask my husband who is the last one out the door because he's trying to get the cat off his head.

Ten minutes goes by and not a soul joins us. It is so cold outside, I decide we can take the risk of my husband going back inside to check what's going on. You know, for the baby's sake.

"False alarm," he says a little later. "I found the doorman trying to turn the alarm off." He looks so tired and tomorrow he has to work. As we go back into the apartment he drops this jewel: "I thought it was strange that there was no smoke and it didn't smell."

"Why didn't you say something!" I tell him indignantly. 

"You didn't give me a chance! You came out running almost with a suitcase!"

Well, yes. Yes, I grabbed everything I thought of value that my arms could hold. If I hadn't been so preoccupied to save my whole house, I might've been more keen to take note of the absence of alarm signals. On the other hand, if shit would've hit the fan, I could've gone to the supermarket unashamed by my appearance and Beto would have gone to the office in pajamas.

So there you go. Never underestimate our abilities as mothers and women to react to disaster and still remain fashionable. Happy Mother's Day, y'all!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Hunger Games Saga, into the Deep

Here is the deal. Like everyone else, I have a lot to say about The Hunger Games Saga. Not all of it is good, but like many of you, I feel passionate about the story, reason why I decided to write a thorough review of each of the books with no spoilers at all, and then another one for the story as a whole with all the cards on the table. Meaning, you have a few weeks to read the three books and then participate in the fourth review where there would be no theme unspoken, no secrets kept. I'll post every Tuesday around noon and I'd love to hear what you have to say. I know there are fans who live and breath through the characters and others who could kill the next person who swears The Hunger Games are the awesomest book since the invention of the press. Either way, I'll be glad to hear what you have to say as long as we keep our hands and ugliness to ourselves.

A few years ago, when everybody was talking about the books and way back when there was no Hunger Games movie, I checked the first installment out of curiosity. I read the back cover and just couldn't feel it. It didn't grab me or speak to me, so I let it go. Every now and then someone would say how fantastic these books were and I went back to amazon, read the blurb once more, and let it drop. Finally the movie came and all hell broke lose. People comparing it to the greatest books ever written, the obvious mention of Twilight and how Katniss Everdeen was the ultimate strong female role. You know, craziness. I decided I had to see for myself what all the rage was and sure as heck I wasn't watching the movie first, so I bought the three books. I read them in the spam of one week, unable to put them down, and upon finishing the third one, my feelings are mixed. As a whole I didn't like the story, but each book in itself, I enjoyed the first two quite a lot. I thought about it and thought a bit more and then decided I had too much to tell to just write a simple review, hence the plan I previously laid out for you. I'm hoping this will clarify my own feelings about the story and will be fun for us to share. Here we go.

The Hunger Games.

When I was considering to read the books, not knowing if I was going to like them, I came across a review on Goodreads that stuck in my mind. It was a negative review of only the first book, she didn't thought the story had any message or uplifting trace, only a society so depraved it could watch its kids kill each other for fun. An uproar came after her calling her names and pointing the fact that she had obviously not read the whole saga. Her defense? The first book of a series should give the reader a taste of what's to come. One should know what we're up to after the first book is gone and in this case, I have to give it to her, The Hunger Games does not fairly represent the story as a whole.

I found this to be the lightest of the three books, I laughed a little, cried not so little, but had hope that better things were to come for Katniss and Peeta. The story is engrossing and the characters are well written. Katniss' relationship with her family and Gale is easy to understand and feel for; we know what lies in the line and why it is so important for her to step up and do as best she can. We also understand what she's to confront and how poor her chances are. We only get a taste of Gale, but still the first traces of what will define the story in the future are set in motion for us to see. By far my favorite character was Peeta. He's likable, sweet, and stronger than everybody thinks. The genius of telling the story through Katniss' eyes is that she is so clueless as to what is about to happen that it all comes as a surprise for us, too. There are no tell-tale remarks or whispers that foreshadow something to come, we are just hit by surprise. Haymitch is a pathetic guy we see grow if only just a little through the story and our hearts warm towards him as we progress in the story.

Technical points. The pace is rapid and you can't wait to know what's to come. The language is clear and simple, yet interesting; it pulls you into the world Collins created without many distractions that break the enchantment. What we need to know about the background is laid out and distributed through the story without dumping it on you all in one page. The one drawback of writing in first person and in present tense--pay attention, most books are written in past tense even though the action is taking place right now. However, Collins used present, making it sound like Katniss' thoughts--is that some information feels unnatural. Katniss already knows the distribution of the districts and the facts of the Dark Days, yet she repeats those in her mind for our benefit. But we do needed this information and there was no other way, so I let this one slide.

I liked the transitions, seamless and easy to follow, days pass yet we never get lost in time or find the characters in places they were not supposed to be. In general, I have to make special mention of the excellent team of editors that checked fact after fact of this trilogy to keep it logical and consistent. Outstanding. Of course, a big kudos to Suzanne Collins, too, who did not fall pray to the temptation of making her characters act without reason.

Now, to perception. The way the story developed, how it centered on Katniss' motivations to keep fighting, her relationship with Peeta, her kindness and pain for all who had to die for the Capitol, all in the pages led me to believe this was to be the story of a girl forced to grow too fast but that, with the help of her support system, would rise to become a strong young woman leading a war for the liberation of her people. I couldn't be more wrong.

After reading the three books I cry FALSE ADVERTISEMENT, but I'll delve into that in the future. For the moment being I'll tell you The Hunger Games is highly addictive, interesting and very well written. I completely understand why it ignited the fire--pun intended--that it did. You should totally read it for its entertaining value, but do not expect a moral. This is not the book for that. The trilogy as a whole has a message, it just isn't on this book and, when it is all said and done,  it isn't a pretty, uplifting one.

To be continued...

Monday, May 7, 2012

Reflection Day

Today, with this post, we truly close the page on the A to Z Challenge, at least the year being. We survived the grueling schedule, the thirteen hours of work days trying to visit as many blogs as possible and failing miserably. How was it? Was it worth it? Are the natural questions. Well, I truly had fun doing it. I selected a theme that I feel about passionately and, even though I had to research a lot and do like a month of prepping, I learned a lot, too. My own list of TBR has grown to an unattainable number and my knowledge in the genre that I'm devoting my career to has increased. So yes, in that sense it was fun and totally worth it. I also received many comments from people who felt the same way as me and that is the cherry on top. To feel your work is being useful and interesting to other, what a high!

About other's blogs and themes. I found all kinds of interesting themes. I know the themes we chose reflect our interests but not necessarily the style the blog usually follows, hence I don't think I got to know much about other blogs, but I did get to find many other bloggers who share similar interests with me, or that I liked, or whose themes were just too good for me not to follow. That is another area where I think The Challenge is very successful, in helping us connect with others, helping us make new friends.

The not so successful aspects? Well, I found out that on day I visited many blogs I got in return many comments and visits, but if for some reason I could only visit a few, then the visits and comments for my own would suffer greatly. This means the influx of people comes mainly as a courteous response to those who visit your place, but not so much because we're following the rules. In the A to Z blog it's clearly stated that we are to start from the position our blog is and continue towards the end of the list in order. I did this besides paying back a visit to the ones commenting on my blog, and if others would've done the same, the influx of people visiting my blog would have been more or less constant throughout The Challenge. All is well, though, I know not everyone will follow the rules and that's just the nature of such a big event.

The amount of followers for my blog did increase but only time will tell if the number of constant visitors and commentaries increases as well.

All in all I'd say the challenge was a big success for me. Would I do it again? Mmm... I don't know. Ask me again next year. ;)

As a special note I want to say thank you to Chris Fries for all his support, for teaching me so many things about our trade, and for his friendship, which I hope will last for many challenges more. He, very kindly, nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award, which I could not accept since the rules state that you cannot be awarded it twice. But it is an honor that he had my blog in mind. Believe me when I say if you don't visit Chris' blog, you're missing something.

Good luck to all, an official welcome to all those new faces on the sidebar, and let's keep having fun!