MIA in 2010

2010 turned out to be a very tough reading and blogging year for me.  I don’t know if it was the out of sorts feeling I had while Hubby was deployed for five months or what but I totally sucked at keeping up with things.  At times it seemed as if I had become a slower reader and was easily distracted by everything and anything.  I fell into the habit of only reading before bed and that never is a good thing for me.  I get tired and after only reading a few pages its lights out.  Book club should have helped but it really didn’t.  I only read (if I liked it enough) the selected title and didn’t read other titles in the second half of the year.  

Good news is I’m still in love with my Kindle and 2011 will bring an iPad 1 or 2 into my hands thanks to my folks generous birthday gift on the 1st.  I will download the Kindle App to whichever version of iPad I end up getting (waiting for the MacWorld 2011 conference to see if Steve Jobs introduces the 2.0) and that will allow me to read without the lights on when Hubby goes to sleep.  I don’t really like book lights.  I am off to a good start in 2011 though.  I finished my book club’s selection for Sunday’s brunch just last night.  I’m going to try to read one book of my choice for every book club selection this year.  That is my reading goal for 2011.

There were some fabulous books that I read in 2010 though and I have listed them below.  The scariest ones, all for different reasons, were Room, The Blue Notebook and Born on the 4th of July.  All very realistic stories inspired by true accounts, like Kovic’s retelling of his experience in Vietnam and the aftermath of the war back home, these books still haunt me.

The Postmistress and The Help are books that I will always recommend to the reader looking for a great novel to lose themselves in.  They are simply fantastic.  Others I listed made the list because they were either extremely unusual, Raven Stole The Moon, or made me laugh my ass off, My Fair LazyHow To Be An American Housewife took me back to Japan and made me miss the country, culture and it’s people all over again.  

I have also taken the liberty of listing my 20 favorite tunes of 2010.  I rediscovered Pop music last year and I am so thrilled that it’s laced with hot beats, fun lyrics, melodic melodies and strong construction.  Thank goodness!  Country music didn’t disappoint and the highlight for me was going to the CMA Music Festival in Nashville, TN last June with one of my best friends, Jesse.

What were some of your favorite reads in 2010?  Tunes?  Discoveries?  Please share them with me and any readers I still may have after being MIA in 2010!   

My FAV reads of 2010 (in no particular order)

Room – Emma Donoghue
The Blue Notebook – Dr. James A. Levine
How To Be An American Housewife – Margaret Dilloway
Born on the 4th of July – Ron Kovic
My Fair Lazy – Jen Lancaster
Raven Stole The Moon – Garth Stein
The Postmistress – Sarah Blake
The Help – Kathryn Stocket


My FAV 20 Tunes of 2010 (in no particular order)

F You – Cee Lo Green
Club Can’t Handle Me – Flo Rida
Dynamite – Taio Cruz
Teenage Dream – Katy Perry
Just the Way You Are – Bruno Mars
Paris (Ooh La La) – Grace Potter and The Nocturnals
1983 – Neon Trees
Undo It – Carrie Underwood
Lover, Lover – Jerrod Neiman
Put You In A Song – Keith Urban
Smoke A Little Smoke – Eric Church
Empire State of Mind – Jay Z & Alicia Keys
Bullet Proof – La Roux
All About Tonight – Blake Shelton
Raise Your Glass – Pink
Telephone – Lady Gaga & Beyonce
Colder Weather – Zac Brown Band
Crazy Town – Jason Aldean
Roll With It – Easton Corbin
Stuck Like Glue – Sugarland

Due to restrictons on videos from YouTube I am unable to share any of the videos I wanted to here on Planet Books.  Sorry Dude!

A Bookish Double Date (triple if you count Garth Stein!)

I have to tell you all about my AWESOME Saturday night!  It was date night with hubby and it was especially wonderful because Hubby agreed to join me at a book reading/signing event after dinner.  One of my favorite authors, Garth Stein had an event at the Bethesda Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD tonight.  He was there to discuss and read from his New York Times best seller The Art of Racing in the Rain and he was fabulous.  This was the first bookish event that Hubby has attended with me since I became “bookish” myself.  It was fun and we started our evening with a nice dinner at Tower Oakes Lodge and then made our way to Bethesda.  We walked around Bethesda Row, checked out Barnes & Noble, the Apple Store (all the iPads were busy with other customers/gawkers so we played with the iPhones) and even had a local celebrity sighting.  Every evening I watch the ABC local evening news with Gordon Peterson.  I grew up watching him when he was a news anchor on CBS but since moving out of the area and then coming back seven years later Gordon and his team moved to ABC, so I followed.

Anyway, I digress.  After our nice walk we headed over to The Bethesda Writer’s Center and took our seats with LibraryLove and one of her girlfriends.  I was very excited to be attending this event with Garth Stein because The Art of Racing in the Rain is one of my all time favorite books.  I had the great privilege of corresponding with Garth Stein a couple of years ago when his touching, enjoyable, heart wrenching and funny book told from the point of view of a dog named Enzo first came out.  You can check out my review HERE.  Garth wrote a great guest post for me HERE on Planet Books back in 2008.  Hubby, Rocky and I were living in Okinawa, Japan at the time and to have this opportunity to meet him in my hometown area, now that we are living back in the area was fantastic and very special.  Garth is from my parents hometown area of Seattle and his books take place there, which makes it nice for me to read them because I recognize landmarks and locations that make it into his stories.

I have to say that the whole event; the reading, the story telling, the history lesson, the Q&A and the signing, was perfect!  Garth Stein is a great public speaker and to hear him read from his book was great.  The audience was responsive to his jokes and sentimental references.  The event lasted ninety minutes and most of that time was spent listening to Garth talk, read aloud and answer questions from his fans.  I was thrilled that he answered one of my questions!  I asked Garth if he hugged his real life dog Comet throughout the writing experience because I hugged my dog Rocky while I read his book and what he thought Comet might say (if she could) about him and their family when it was her time to pass.  Garth responded with a chuckle and then said that Comet is a great dog but no Enzo.  That actually he dedicated the book to his childhood dog, Muggs, who he found inspiration from when writing Enzo.  He was particularly interested in the relationship Muggs had with Garth’s father.

When the time came for Garth to sign books I got in line with all three of his books, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Raven Stole the Moon and How Evan Broke His Head and Other Secrets.  While waiting in line I brought up a picture of Rocky on my BlackBerry to show Garth.  When it was my turn to approach the signing table I said hi and showed Garth the picture of Rocky and said he wanted to say hi too.  (I know I’m a total dork but oh well.)  I then proceeded in introducing myself and telling Garth that I was “Planet Books” and was the blogger who had lived in Okinawa.  Garth remembered me and generously signed all three of my books.  He even honored my request of signing my copy of The Art of Racing in the Rain to me AND Rocky.

I just have to say that if you have not read any of Garth Stein’s novels then you don’t know what you are missing and believe me, you’re missing something.  You don’t have to be a dog owner to enjoy and even love The Art of Racing in the Rain.  You just have to love wonderful writing, great storytelling, rich characters and books with heart.

{The picture you see here of the cover of The Art of Racing in the Rain is not the original cover.  I was so obsessed with this book when I read it that I posed Rocky on the guest bed in our house in Okinawa and posted it on Planet Books next to an image of the books cover art.  My sister was then inspired to work some PhotoShop magic and insert Rocky’s profile into the cover art.  So this is my own personal cover art picture of one of my favorite books with my favorite canine in the whole universe.}

Book Giveaway ~ Garth Stein’s Raven Stole The Moon

I am soooo excited to have the opportunity to host this giveaway!!  Thanks go to Sarah Daily at Terra Communications for offering up a copy of Garth Stein’s reissue, Raven Stole The Moon.  Sarah does ask that the contest be limited to residents of the U.S. and Canada.  I sure hope the person who wins this book loves it as much as I did!  The story is really great and unexpected. 

I want to make this contest a little challenging so when you leave your e-mail address in the comment section of this post also let me know what your favorite myth or folk lore legend is.  Raven Stole The Moon is centered around a Tlingit Tribe spirit, the Kushtaka myth.  One of my favorite stories from American folklore is the Legend of Sleepy Hallow and the Headless Horseman.  So, share with us your favorite story and leave your e-mail address with it in the comment section of this post by Friday, March 19th at Midnight EST to win Raven Stole The Moon.  Good Luck, Happy Reading & Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

Book Review ~ Raven Stole The Moon by Garth Stein

Summary ~ From the author of the acclaimed New York Times bestseller The Art of Racing in the Rain comes an extraordinary tale of grief, devotion, redemption, and timeless mystery.  When Jenna Rosen abandons her comfortable Seattle life to visit Wrangell, Alaska, it’s a wrenching return to her past. The hometown of her Native American grandmother, Wrangell is located near the Thunder Bay Resort, where Jenna’s young son, Bobby, disappeared two years before. His body was never recovered, and Jenna is determined to lay to rest the aching mystery of his death. But whispers of ancient legends begin to suggest a frightening new possibility about Bobby’s fate, and Jenna must sift through the beliefs of her ancestors, the Tlingit, who still tell of powerful, menacing forces at work in the Alaskan wilderness. Armed with nothing but a mother’s protective instincts, Jenna’s quest for the truth behind her son’s disappearance is about to pull her into a terrifying and life-changing abyss.
Well folks, Garth Stein has done it again!  Actually he wrote a fabulous book before he even wrote the wonderful New York Times bestseller, The Art of Racing in the Rain.  Stein’s new publisher, Harper Collins, has decided to rerelease his first novel that has been out of print for a few years.   The book I’m talking about is Raven Stole The Moon.  It’s a dark, sad, uplifting and incredible story about a family and what happens when tragedy strikes. Things are not all as they seem at first glance. 

I COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN!  Sorry for “yelling” but seriously, I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen to the main character, Jenna, and where her journey (I hate using that word but it applies here) would take her next.  The story revolves around the tragic drowning of Bobby, the young son of Jenna and her husband Robert, a couple years ago.  As the reader, we meet both distraught parents at a fork in their future road two years to the day after Bobby drowned.  They live in Seattle (a city I LOVE and have had the opportunity to visit many times because my parents are from that area) but the drowning occurred at a resort in Alaska.  Don’t worry, I haven’t given away anything! 

Garth Stein is a fabulous writer and really had me jumping in my skin throughout Raven Stole The Moon and I LOVED it.  It was surprising because I cried my way through The Art of Racing in the Rain and had such a different reaction to this very different book.  The only common denominator between the two novels is a dog.  In Raven Stole The Moon a dog, Oscar, plays a very important and surprising role and I really enjoyed the scenes that he graced.  The story also revolves around an Indian spirit.  The tribe is the Tlingit and the mythological spirit is the Kushtaka, loosely translated meaning “land otter man.”  Stein seamlessly weaves the stories of the Tlingit tribe into this fabulous work of fiction.

The characters are great, the story is superb and the descriptions of Seattle and Alaskan islands are vivid and true.  If you are a fan of folklore legend and like to get the blood churning in your veins while reading a great book than I cannot recommend Garth Stein’s Raven Stole The Moon enough!  There is not one lull from beginning to end and you will not want to put this book down so be sure to have all your chores and errands done for a couple of days and clear your schedule.  You’ll be so glad you did!

{Rating ~ 5 out of 5}

I would like to thank Sarah Daily of Terra Communications for approaching me with the offer to read and review Raven Stole The Moon.  I really appreciate the chance she gave me to gain awareness of Garth Stein’s book and to help bring him more attention which he truly deserves.

And The Winner of “The Art Of Racing In The Rain” Is…

… Lucile @ The Book..Spot !!

Congratulations Lucile!!  I used Random.org to get the winner and your name was chosen.  You have won a signed copy of Garth Stein’s beloved new book, The Art Of Racing In The Rain.  I will e-mail you in regards to getting your mailing address and so I can mail your book to you ASAP.  I hope you enjoy this wonderful story as much as I do. 

Everyone else, thank you so much for entering in this giveaway contest!  So many of you are interested in this book which I think is wonderful.  You also wrote some very kind words meant for me in your comments and I would like to thank you very much.  I am sorry that there could only be one winner. 

Remember that I am still running a giveaway for my ARC (advanced reading copy) of Allison Winn Scotch’s upcoming release, Time Of My Life through Monday at Midnight.  You can check it out and enter HERE


Book Blogger Appreciation Week Giveaway ~ The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein

This Giveaway Has Concluded


Book Blogger Appreciation Week (BBAW) (September 15-19) is here and to celebrate I’m giving away one of my favorite books of all time.  Garth Stein, the author of The Art of Racing In The Rain, was kind enough to send me a signed copy of his bestseller for a giveaway here at Planet Books.  I am so excited about this!!  I absolutely LOVE this book.  You can read my review HERE as well as Garth’s guest post HERE

~ To be eligible to win a signed copy of The Art of Racing In The Rain,  please leave your name and e-mail address in the comment section of this post below. 

~ To earn a second chance to win, blog about this giveaway and mention BBAWIf you do not have a blog please e-mail five people about this giveaway and include a link to this post.  Cc me on it so I know you sent it.  My e-mail address is PlanetBooksWorldWide@gmail.com

~ I am borrowing Booking Mama’s idea for a third chance to win.  Leave a comment with the title of a book you learned about and decided to read here at Planet Books.  This contest will conclude this Saturday, September 20th at Midnight EDT.

There are a ton of book bloggers hosting great giveaways this week in honor of BBAW.  My friend Lisa over at Books on the Brain has a great post with details about all the festivities this week which you can check out HERE.  You can also check out more about BBAW HERE.  Good luck and Happy Reading!!

Guest Post ~ Author of The Art Of Racing In The Rain, Garth Stein

Have I got a treat for you this happy Friday!  Author Garth Stein, of the acclaimed summer hit (and one of my new all-time favorite books; check out my review HERE) The Art Of Racing In The Rain is here with a guest post just for us.  Garth has taken time out of his extremely busy summer to talk about his book and where exactly the idea behind it came from.  You can learn more about Garth at his website, http://www.garthstein.com/.  You can also check out a website solely dedicated to his book The Art Of Racing In The Rain at http://goenzo.com/.  At the end of this post you will find three You-Tube videos.  The first one is the book trailer for The Art Of Racing In The Rain.  The second and third videos are interviews with Garth Stein himself. 


It’s the simplest question, to be sure:  “Where did the idea for your book come from?”  It is a question that is asked of every author, and it is one that deserves a thoughtful and thorough answer. 

But while the question is simple, the answer is usually not.  Because, yes, ideas have an ultimate source, like a long, meandering river; but, like a river, the outlet on the coast rarely reflects the spring in the mountain, thousands of miles away. 

When I am asked the question, I think of a cooking analogy.  Mirepoix.  Those of you who watch Food Network know about mirepoix.  It’s the simplest thing:  butter, onion, celery, carrots.  But when simmering these things together something magical happens.  The whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.  And by the time the stew is finished, there is no way to identify the individual ingredients–the ingredients have sacrificed themselves for the flavor!

And so, the beginnings of a novel….


The first idea for The Art of Racing in the Rain came more than ten years ago when I screened a film from Mongolia, “State of Dogs,” that was about the Mongolian belief that the next incarnation for a dog is as a person.  I remember being struck by the beauty and simplicity of the idea, and feeling the strong sense that, some day, I would do something with it.

It was years later that I heard the poet, Billy Collins, read his poem, The Revenant, which is told by a dog who has recently been euthanized.  When I heard his extremely funny and biting poem–and the very vocal and enthusiastic response from the audience–a light bulb went off in my head:  I would tell the story of a dog reincarnating as a person, and I would tell it from the dog’s p.o.v.!

But wait.  The very first idea for my book goes even further back, I think…..

In the summer of 1986, I had the great fortune to attend the Detroit Grand Prix.  Joining a friend who had all-access passes, I remember standing behind a concrete barrier of the street course and marveling at how small, yet incredibly powerful the Formula One cars were.  So quick and so close–no more than an arm’s length away.

One driver was obviously quicker than the rest of them.  He started in the pole position and, after losing many positions due to a tire puncture, scrambled back into the lead and finished first.  I remember watching his green helmet flash by.  I remember the devoted fans in the stands waving their giant green, yellow and blue flags.  I never had the pleasure of meeting Ayrton Senna, but I did have the pleasure of watching him race…and win in glorious fashion.

And further:  I remember, as a child, sitting on the sofa in the rec room of our house with my father on a Saturday afternoon, watching racing on a black and white Zenith television, eating from a bag of sunflower seeds.  And at my feet, our faithful dog, Muggs, the Airedale to whom The Art of Racing in the Rain is dedicated.  She was hoping for the occasional dropped seed, I’m sure; but I like to think she also enjoyed watching the races with us.

And so there!  Tracing the river from the mouth to the source, we find the truth:  when I was five years old, I believed my dog understood what she saw on the television set.  That’s where it started. 

The reason I wanted to tell you this story is that there is magic in Enzo.  When I teach writing, I talk about the craft–the mechanics of writing:  plot, voice, dialog–and I talk about the art–the intangible, the magic, the inspiration, the moment where we lose ourselves in our work it is no longer ours. 

Writing The Art of Racing in the Rain was magic for me, full of joy and inspiration.  I can trace the elements of the story, but I can’t necessarily explain how all these things made Enzo complete.  That’s something that resists explaining, and demands indulgence.  Like a delicious stew, there will always be a certain mystery about it, but that mystery doesn’t detract from the flavor.  In fact, I think it makes the stew all the more memorable….

Happy manifesting,

Garth Stein


Book Review ~ The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Garth Stein

Summary ~ “Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver.  Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast.  USing the techniques needed on the race track, one can successful navigate all of life’s ordeals.”

I have to stop reading books that make me cry.  The Art of Racing In The Rain was an amazing book that has brought my relationship with my dog, Rocky, to a new level.  I think he knew what I was reading about over the last few days because he has been even more affectionate and loving towards me.  This book is such a cozy, wonderful, infuriating, and heart warming story, I didn’t want it to end but I couldn’t make myself read any slower because I had to know what would happen.

In the beginning we meet Enzo, the wonderful dog/narrator at the heart of this book.  He shares the story of his life with us and the events, big and small, that filled his days.  This book holds the story of a family, happy at times and wrecked at others, but never giving up on the love and hope that they have for each other.  Denny Swift is Enzo’s Master and he is a great guy.  An up-and-coming race car driver who loves to watch tapes of his races on the T.V. with Enzo and speak to him like he’s just one of the guys.  A guy’s guy who loves his family and will do anything in his power to make things safe, happy and wonderful for them.  Tragedy of course strikes this ideal family but not without humor told from the point of view of the family dog.

At times I wanted to put this book in the freezer like Joey on Friends did while reading both The Shining and Little Women.  Not because I was scared but because I was mad and needed a cooling off period from the story and the people in Enzo’s life. 

Enzo’s retelling of his life as a member of the Swift family was a joy to read.  Though twists and turns in the lives of his family made for sad reading at times, the fact that everything effected Enzo in similar ways was amazing.  Dogs are extremely perceptive and though this is a work of fiction, I believe that Stein must have quite a dog (Comet is her name) in his own life to draw inspiration from.

On a personal note, one of my favorite bands is Edie Brickell & The New Bohemians and one of my favorite songs by them is “What I Am.”  The lyric that comes to mind here is:

I’m not aware of too many things
I know what I know, if you know what I mean
Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box
Religion is the smile on a dog
I’m not aware of too many things
I know what I know, if you know what I mean, d-doo yeah

 {Rating ~ 4.5 out of 5}

The July Book Blowout Reading Challenge Has Begun

                            July Book Blowout

July is here!  Can you believe 2008 is half over?!  Unbelievable!  Well, to kick off the hottest month of the summer, I’m participating in Blue Archipelago’s July Book Blowout Reading Challange.  I have challenged myself to read eight books and I’m starting it off with Garth Stein’s “The Art of Racing In The Rain“. 

                               The Art of Racing in the Rain

This book has a book trailer to promote it too.  I don’t know if they are airing it on T.V. in the States but it sure is neat.  I’ve included it below for your viewing pleasure.