Friday, March 30, 2012

TGIF! And...Happy Birthday to Me!

I'm going to let you in on a secret. Well, I guess I WISH it was a secret, but a lot of people know. Today is my birthday. Not just ANY birthday. A big one. Today I turn:


50!

My husband had a surprise party for me a couple weeks ago. TOTAL surprise. I don't feel 50. I don't want to be 50, but, what's the alternative? So, I'm celebrating, and inviting you to celebrate with me!

I love to travel, so Ginger's question was interesting to me, but DIFFICULT. I can think of a BUNCH of places that would be great.


Book Blogger Retreat: If you could gather up a handful of book blogger friends to spend a weekend away talking books, where would you go? Tell us about it.


I think I've decided on New York City. We'd go to The Strand Bookstore. We'd visit the New York Public Library. We'd go to a broadway show, and we'd have delicious dinners at wonderful restaurants and talk about books and drink wine.....Oh. Shopping....we have to fit that in somewhere...how long is this trip???

My ARC Giveaway ends SUNDAY. Check it out!





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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Book Review: The Springsweet, by Saundra Mitchell

I loved The Springsweet. But that didn't surprise me because I loved The Verspertine too. Mitchell is a beautiful writer; I loved the "wild west" setting. And, the romance is subtle and believable.

Continuing with some of the characters from The Vespertine, the story starts with Zora in mourning for Thomas for too long. Her mother encourages her to get back into society by inviting some of her friends to visit. Zora has decided she needs to go away -- far away -- to someplace where she can be helpful to others. At the Sugarcane Ball, she declares that she has been "ruined" by Theo de la Croix. Her mother sends her to the Oklahoma Territory to help out her Aunt Birdie, who has lost her husband and has a small child.

During the journey, Zora's coach gets robbed, and she is rescued by Emerson Birch, who takes her to her aunt's home, which is a "soddy" - a home made of dirt. And for some reason Birdie is not at all grateful to Emerson. In fact, she chases him off with a shotgun.

Zora settles in rather easily, I thought, to life in this poor, desolate place. She doesn't complain about the work or the lack of food, and works very hard to help her aunt. When Theo appears, things get complicated, because he is not making it a secret that he's here to court Zora. And, Zora can't seem to get Emerson out of her head.

The magical aspect of the story is very subtle, and well done. Zora discovers that she can see water under the earth, and therefore, can determine where the best place for a well would be. When Birdie hears of this gift, she sees dollar signs, and makes plans to publicize this service.

Things go wrong; things go right. There's tragedy and happiness. I loved the historical setting, and felt like I was inhaling the dust right along with Zora. I didn't really consider the romance aspect a "love triangle," since Zora was pretty sure what she wanted; she just had trouble determining how to get it.

The strength of The Springsweet is the writing. I don't know how to describe it, other than "smooth." The descriptions are beautiful and creative, but not stilted. You will just have to try it out to see what I mean.

The Springsweet is really a historical romance. Yes, there's a paranormal aspect, but it's subtle. It's beautifully written, and I would recommend The Springsweet widely to my teen girls. The end leaves an opening for another book involving these characters, as well as a return of some from The Vespertine, and I'm looking forward to it!

Published by Harcourt, April 17, 2012
Copy obtained from Around the World Tours
275 pages

Rating: 4.5/5





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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Review: Dancing at the Chance, by DeAnna Cameron

Dancing at the Chance is a rich, historical novel about vaudeville in the early 1900s and will appeal to those that wish to learn more about that period while experiencing a heartwarming, romantic story.

Pepper has lived in the basement of The Chance Theater for over 13 years, since she and her mother came to help with the costumes. After her mother died, Pepper continues to be the wardrobe assistant, until she gets a chance to actually be a dancer in the show--something she's dreamed about since she arrived.

Pepper is plagued by insecurities about her abilities as a dancer, though. And, because of her loose tongue, she continues to stay on the bad side of Stanley, the stage manager. She's in constant fear that she will be let go.

It's 1907, and the old fashioned, small theater is almost dead. Bigger, more extravagant theaters, owned by large partnerships are squeezing out the small guy. Pepper, however, blames much of their failures on Stanley. When she finds out the owner's son is returning, her hopes grow. Before Robert was suddenly shipped away to school, Pepper and Robert were romantically involved. She has hopes that not only will his return cause the theater to be successful once again, but also that their romance will continue, as Robert promised.

As a reader, we know this is unlikely. The owner taking up with a performer? Not likely. But Pepper is young and naive, and we must experience her mistakes. There are a few interesting side characters, in particular Em, Pepper's mother's special friend, who tries to take care of Pepper. The performers fit the model -- some are arrogant, while many are incompetent. Some of them have both of these characteristics.

The first thought that comes to mind about Dancing at the Chance is "richly detailed."  I could see myself at The Chance, sitting in the audience, or backstage with the performers. The amount of detail was also a put-off, though. The actual events of the story proceeded very slowly; the action was not the emphasis in this one.

Cameron includes interesting historical personalities. It is the birth of motion pictures, and we are introduced to Edwin S. Porter, a famous movie maker of the time. We also meet Florenz Ziegfeld, who is just introducing his Ziegfeld Follies.

The romance is predictable. We know who Pepper belongs with, and it's just a matter of time before she figures it out too. The ending is simply perfect. The happiest of happy endings possible -- and that was OK with me. I love "feeling good" after finishing a novel, and Dancing at the Chance definitely gave me that feeling. This book doesn't have wide appeal to teens (it is billed as an adult book), but those fans of historical romance, especially if they are interested in theater will enjoy it.

Published by Berkley Trade, April 3, 2012
Ebook ARC obtained from the author
336 pages

Rating: 3/5


 
To celebrate the back-to-back releases of DANCING AT THE CHANCE and the reissue of THE BELLY DANCER, weekly prizes & a grand prize of a Kindle or Nook (winner's choice) are up for grabs on the author's website. Visit www.DeAnnaCameron.com and follow the contest link for details.





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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Book Review: The List, by Siobhan Vivian

The List is a compelling contemporary that deals with high school teen girls and their self image.

The premise is a bit of a stretch. Every year at the beginning of homecoming week, a list is posted all over the school with eight names on it. Two girls from each class - the "ugliest" and the "prettiest." Apparently this is an annual tradition, one that the administration has done nothing about. As I work in a high school, I find this hard to believe. But I do know that kids are cruel sometimes, and the way the rest of the story played out is plausible.

We are introduced to each of the eight girls in separate chapters, and then we see how they all deal with this fame. You would think that the "pretty" girls wouldn't have problems, but even they have a difficult time dealing with this notoriety.

Vivian did a great job creating unique, identifiable characters. There's the previously home-schooled girl, the athlete who apparently looks like a boy, the presumed homecoming queen, and the girl who embraces her ugliness. The characters and teen interactions really made The List.

There is, of course, the mystery of who made the list. And the new principal is even making attempts to find out. The reader does find out at the end, but I didn't really feel that was key to The List.

Teen girls who love contemporary stories about the struggles of being in high school should definitely seek out The List. It's a quick book, written in an easy style, and I'll put this one on my list for reluctant girl readers too.

Published by Push, April 1, 2012
ARC obtained from the publisher for review
332 pages

Rating: 3.5/5




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Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: The Goodbye Quilt, by Susan Wiggs

While I enjoyed The Goodbye Quilt immensely, it's not a book for everyone. And, as I mostly review young adult, or books appropriate for young adult, you should be warned that this doesn't fall into either category.

Perhaps I should start by explaining why I read this book in the first place. Well, my daughter is getting married, and I read How I Planned Your Wedding, which is written by Susan Wiggs and her daughter, Elizabeth. It was hilarious, and I wanted to read something by Susan -- she's a romance writer.

The Goodbye Quilt isn't a romance. It's a "niche" book, and I fill the niche.

Molly is going to college across the country, and she and her mother, Linda, are going on a road trip to deliver Molly. Linda is also making a memory quilt for Molly, using fabrics from all sorts of places from her childhood. As Molly drives, Linda works on the quilt. The story is told by Linda, and she regales us with stories of Molly's childhood as we go along.

I'm a quilter. I have a daughter who went away to college, and will soon be married and moving out of my house. So you can see why I could very much relate to the story. It's well written, and was well-narrated. The pace was a bit slow at times, especially when Linda was taking us back in time, but I liked the meandering pace. Some might not.

The Goodbye Quilt is a short book -- only 224 pages, and that was also a plus. I don't know if I could listen to much more than four disks of this story. It's a story about a woman finding herself after her only child leaves home. There are many episodes of inner struggles to figure out what she's going to be, now that she doesn't need to be a mother any more. The ending was predicted, but still satisfying.

I still want to read one of Susan Wiggs' romances, but I am not sorry I read The Goodbye Quilt. Recommended to adult women, probably mothers, whose children are growing up.

Published by Mira, 2011
Audiobook obtained from the library
224 pages

Rating: 3/5




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Sunday, March 25, 2012

IMM - Another Exciting Week at the Mailbox...

Here's what I'm so excited about this week:

For Review:
The Springsweet, by Saundra Mitchell, from Around the World Arc Tours
I've already read this and loved it! My review will be posted Thursday.

The Selection, by Kiera Cass, from Edelweiss

Narc, by Crissa-Jean Chappell, from NetGalley

Yesterday, by C.K. Kelly Martin, from NetGalley

Purchased:
Into the Free, by Julie Cantrell, eBook

The Apocalypse Gene, by Suki Michelle & Carlyle Clark, eBook

I just this all of these sound great -- I just wish, as always, that I had more time to read! Thanks to The Story Siren for hosting. Thanks for visiting, and let me know what you are excited about this week.

Almost forgot to mention my ARC Giveaway. Check it out!





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Friday, March 23, 2012

Friday -- Time for Feature and Follow!

This weeks Feature & Follow Question is:


Q: What is the longest book you've read? What are your favorite 600+ page reads?


I read Gone With the Wind when I was pretty young. I really enjoyed it. I used to be a big Stephen King fan, and some of his books got pretty long. I haven't read him for a while, but I'm planning on reading 11/22/1963 soon (about 850 pages). After all the Harry Potter books had been published, I read all seven of them in a row -- a real treat, and definitely my favorite "long book."

I don't pay much attention to the length of books. I'm willing to commit, if the book is worth it. Of course, I'm not above DNFing if I'm not enjoying it.

Looking forward to your thoughts on this one. I'm sure I'm forgetting some good ones. Thanks to Parajunkee and Alison for hosting the fun! Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!





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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Spellcaster, by Cara Lynn Schultz

Fans of Spellbound will undoubtedly be entertained with the second installment, Spellcaster.


The story continues shortly after the curse has been broken (in Spellbound.) This book focuses more on the romance between Emma and Brendan, and there is also much more witchcraft, as Emma hones her skills and must use them to keep herself and her loved ones out of danger.

This time the danger is from a deranged person from Brendan's past -- I won't say more about it so as not to give away anything. There is a build up of the tension, as in the first book, as the characters try to figure out exactly what dangers they face. Angelique is once again an interesting character in this one, but really all of the other characters are just shells. They are needed for the plot, but we don't really know anything about them. The villain is satisfyingly evil.

Spellcaster has a great story, and the tension builds nicely. I did have trouble staying enmeshed in the story in the middle. I guess all the practice and preparations, the "getting ready for the showdown," just got a bit long. I also got really tired of hearing how gorgeously handsome Brendan is. I got it. Every time he shows up in a scene we are told how irresistible he is.

In two sections, Spellcaster is narrated by Angelique. I didn't mind this the first time, but the second time really broke the rhythm of the climax. Right at the most desperate moment for Emma, we cut to Angelique's perspective and go back in time a bit. It was really BAD timing.

Teen sex in YA novels doesn't really bother me, but it was nice to see a couple deciding on abstinence. And Spellcaster made it seem hard for Emma and Brendan, which it is, and I don't think we see that enough.

Anyone who liked Spellbound will enjoy Spellcaster. And, it isn't really necessary to read Spellbound to enjoy Spellcaster; it can stand alone fairly easily. Fans of magic and suspense, with some sizzling romance, should be pointed to Spellcaster.

Published by Harlequin Teen, March 27, 2012
eBook ARC obtained from NetGalley
384 pages

Rating: 3/5




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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

ARC Giveaway!

ARC GIVEAWAY!
I'm giving away some ARCs I've read and would like to pass on. You can choose which one or ones you would like to win. Just so you know... The Technologists has a plain cover -- not the one pictured below.

Quaranteen, by Lex Thomas  Releasing on July 10, 2012

The Girls of No Return, by Erin Saldin. My Review.
The Technologists, by Matthew Pearl. My Review
Remember: NOT the cover pictured!
The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson. My Review
Following isn't necessary, although I'd appreciate it if you would take a look around my blog if you haven't and see if it's something you might be interested in. Thanks!

You DO need to be at least 13 years old. You DO need to have a US mailing address. You need to fill out the form below, and you need to know that I will personally be mailing these books to the winners and I'm not responsible if the post office loses or damages the books (and I certainly HOPE that never happens!) Giveaway ends April 1st, so sign up NOW!  Good Luck! 






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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review: Gamble on Engagement, by Rachel Astor

If you are in the mood for a funny, light-hearted, quick romance, then Gamble on Engagement is the book for you. It is the second in a series, however, and while you could read it without reading the first, you really don't want to miss Bridesmaid Lotto, the first book.

Josie McMaster (otherwise know as McMaster the Disaster) is off to London to ghost write an autobiography for an unknown famous person. She won't find out who it is until she's actually on the plane. She ends up at a luxurious location in the English countryside with every amenity she could want. And even though she's never written a biography before, she has three months, so she figures it will be a cinch!

Suffice it to say Josie's London adventure is as action-packed and potentially disastrous as all of her adventures have been. She includes entries in her "Disaster Diary" to add to the fun. I love Josie's voice. She has no filter, and says pretty much anything she thinks. And never stops, which adds the humorous element.

Jake doesn't really appear in this book at all, except for a short visit and some phone calls, so we don't get much romantic heat. Gamble on Engagement is also very short, which is good and bad. Astor could have added a bit more depth and detail at the end. Things tie up quite abruptly. And the "insta-love" at the end (not Josie, but other characters) wins the prize for the quickest romance I've ever read!

However, I simply love the McMaster Disaster series for what it is -- a sappy, happy, fulfilling romance. These are inexpensive ebooks, and I'm ready to purchase the third one, The Wedding Wager. Have some fun! Check these out.

Published by Amazon Digital Services
Purchased eBook
157 pages (estimated) (qualifies for my Books You Can Read in a Day Challenge!)

Rating: 3.5/5





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Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Memories: Sherlock Holmes



Welcome to my meme, Monday Memories, where I feature favorite books we've loved from the past. You can link to an old review, or write something new about a beloved book from your past. Really, what's important is not the book, but why it is memorable to you. So, have fun reminiscing, and leave a comment below, so we can all enjoy your memories.

I also wanted to let you know about another wonderful blog that you should check out. Ashley @ Books from Bleh to Basically Amazing does a weekly post called Memory Monday. She has been posting about her childhood memories of books. What's great about Ashley's site is that she is asking for guest posts for her Memory Monday event!  So hop on over there and check it out.



At one point, when I was in high school I think, I grabbed a collection of the Sherlock Holmes stories off our shelves at home. It wasn't the one pictured...as I recall it was padded, "leather," and had gold printing and designs on the front.

These were wonderful stories. I was fascinated with Doyle's creative abilities. Both main characters, Holmes and Watson, were uniquely crafted. I liked how some of the stories were connected together. I think they could be considered somewhat formulaic, but each one contains surprises and new examples of Holmes' brilliant deductive abilities.

I highly recommend these to teens as well as adults who love mysteries. And of course, the historic setting is exceptional too. These are timeless stories, and you don't have to read ALL of them!


Share one of your cherished book memories!

You can do a Monday Memories post on your blog. Copy my button and link back here, so others can see all the other posts.  Leave a comment below with the link to your post.

Or, just leave one of your Monday Memories right here in the comments.

Be sure to visit some other blogs that have posted their links. Thanks!






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