Thursday, December 31, 2009

A to Z Challenge Wrap Up

I actually finished the challenge back in November but as things were crazy in my life, and only got crazier, I just now squeaked in a review for my last book, which was "R".  I chose to A - Z Titles.  I wanted to do both but I was worried about reading fifty-two books.  Turned out I came in at fifty-one for the year so I probably could have done it but I'm glad I stuck with just titles. 

I faced a few challenges right off the bat.  I started out fine with "A" but quickly found myself reading out of order.  I received a few advanced reading copies that I really needed to get read so I decided it really didn't matter what order I read the books in.  I also found myself with books that I really didn't want to read.  That meant my carefully planned selection was changing.  It was fine, I just had to accept it. 

For 2010 I am going to read A - Z Authors.  I'm looking forward to reading a few books I've been saving up and I'm sure I'll get distracted again.  It's all right.  This is all for me. 

Here is my 2009 Final list for the A - Z challenge, with links to my reviews.  The one on my side-bar is going away tomorrow.  Time to start fresh!

A:  Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
B:  Baby Proof by Emily Giffin
C:  The Constant Princess by Philippa Gregory
D: Dewey by Vicki Myron
E: Eragon by Christopher Paolini
F: Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
G:  A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
H: The Host by Stephenie Meyer
I: I was Told There'd be Cake by Sloane Crosley
J: Julie and Julia by Julie Powell
K: Kissed by an Angel by Elizabeth Chandler
L: Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris
M: Misery Loves Cabernet by Kim Gruenenfelder
N: The Next Thing on my List by Jill Smolinski
O: One Perfect Rose by Mary Jo Putney
P: Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster
Q: Queen of Babble Gets Hitched by Meg Cabot
R:  The Rocky Road to Romance by Janet Evanovich
S: The Sunflower by Richard Paul Evans
T: Tribute by Nora Roberts
U:  Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
V: Vision in White by Nora Roberts
W: Whisper to the Blood by Dana Stabenow
X: X-Files Ground Zero by Kevin J. Anderson
Y: Yesterday's Embers by Deborah Raney
Z: Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

Now on to the next year!

The Rocky Road to Romance by Janet Evanovich

The Rocky Road to Romance, by Janet Evanovich, is a quick and breezy book.  It's full of fun characters and situations.  When Daisy starts working for Steve as a traffic reporter, she gets herself in all kinds of messes.  She struggles to find her footing in the job and when she witnesses something she shouldn't, she finds her life in danger.

If you are looking for a quick read with a cute story, you can't go wrong with this.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Truly, Madly by Heather Webber

Truly, Madly, by Heather Webber is a great book!  I was looking for something fun and witty to end the holiday season with.  I'm so glad I chose to pick up this book.  It's due to be released in February, 2010 and I highly recommend you pick it up.

The story centers on Lucy.  She comes from a long line of matchmakers but due to an electrical surge, she's lost her matchmaking abilities.  Instead, she can find lost objects by touching someone's hand.  She never embraces her gift as a gift, instead it's a disappointment to her that she can't follow in her family's legacy.  When Lucy's father leaves her in charge of the business for a couple weeks, she discovers that maybe her abilities are something special.  Lucy gets wrapped up in a missing child, a murder investigation, and a heavy flirtation with the PI in the office upstairs.   

The characters are completely enjoyable.  Even the pets are lovable with their fun little quirks.  There are at least two more books in the series and I can't wait to read them.  It's always nice to find new authors (to me) and a new series to look forward to!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to smile while reading a mystery.  It's recommended for adults or older teens as there is a bit of a love story.  Nothing explicit which is nice but a lot of kissing. . .

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Christmas Train by David Baldacci

I'd waited a year to read this book.  My mother gave it to me last Christmas but I didn't have time to read it.  All year long I toyed with wanting to read it but it never seemed right.  My decision to read Christmas books during the month of December allowed me the opportunity.

I don't typically go for the sappy, feel-good Christmas stories.  Fortunately this book wasn't like that.  Yes there was a happy ending, but the characters were charming and flawed.  The book revolves around Tom.  He's a fortyish journalist who loses his patience with the TSA and ends up losing his flying privileges in the United States.  Needing to get from Washington, DC to California for Christmas, he decides to ride the rails.

I've traveled short distances by train and while they were good experiences, they weren't quite like Tom experienced on his long -haul trains.  The story brings up a whole host of quirky characters, like the young couple planning to get married on the train and Agnes Joe, a lonely but feisty woman who isn't all she seems.  The biggest surprise for Tom was running into his long lost love, Eleanor.

Tom and Eleanor face challenges as they try to get to know each other after so many years apart.  They struggle to face the past and why they broke up.  They also face the weather, when the train gets caught in a winter storm.  Christmas is nothing like any of them planned, but it was better than they ever expected.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a little love, and a little adventure at Christmastime (or anytime really).  If you love trains, you need to read this book.  If you don't love them, read it anyway!  You'll want to have your own cross country adventure.

Teaser Tuesday - December 29

My effort to keep up on my blog was thwarted by life stuff.  Drat. 

I'm hoping - really hoping - to get back on track.  I'll do that by giving you a teaser from a book I'm really excited about.  Truly, Madly, by Heather Webber is a ton of fun.  Lucy comes from a long line of matchmakers.  She's lost her gift of matchmaking but has a new one - the ability to find lost objects.  Look for my review coming soon.  It's the first in a series and is coming out in February.  I am really loving it! 

From page 118:

I should have just canceled the date, but I wanted to act as normal as possible.  As if I weren't about to unearth a murdered woman

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman is one of the most unique books I've ever read. As a child I was terrified of cemeteries and frankly, I'm not fond of them as an adult either. Imagine growing up in a graveyard, raised by ghosts. The story begins with a baby wandering (crawling) into a graveyard, not knowing that he was being pursued by a murderer. A kindly ghost couple vows to protect and raise the baby, and a resident vampire agrees to provide for him. The baby, now named Nobody, lives and learns surrounded by his ghostly family and friends.

The complete normalcy of Bod's life struck me. He wasn't afraid of graveyards or ghosts because it was all he knew. He found peace amongst the dead. There are many stories of orphans being raised by horrible monsters - usually human. Bod's family were dead but yet they loved him and cared for him. Go figure. It was a fresh perspective on the story.

I enjoyed this book immensely. It was beautifully written and I confess to crying at the end. It's a Newbery Award Winner and deserves that award. I don't know if I would have been okay with reading it as a very sensitive child but as an adult it was no problem. It's perfectly acceptable for children to read but I think it would be great to read to a child just in case as it is a little on the dark side of things.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thirsty by Tracey Bateman

, by Tracey Bateman was not anything like I anticipated. The big hook is that it's a Christian vampire story. Kind of. Yes, there are Christian themes, but it's not preachy in the slightest. It was subtle and because of that it will reach a wider audience. Yes, there is a vampire -actually two, but the story was really about a woman and her struggle with addiction.

Nina is a recovering alcoholic just out of rehab. She's divorced and estranged from her children. To make a new start, she moves back to her hometown to live with her sister. Her daughter comes with her for the week in order to try to get their relationship back on track. While in her hometown, she faces her parents for the first time in years, along with an ex- boyfriend.

The vampire, Markus, provides a friend for Nina as she struggles in her first days out of rehab. The correlation between an addict and a vampire is definitely present as Markus' thirst for blood parallels Nina's thirst for alcohol.

Don't expect Twilight. This is not a romance novel. This is a book about fighting the past, finding forgiveness and moving into the future. This is an adult novel but would be appropriate for some older teens.

I'm giving away a brand new paperback copy of this book! If interested please comment to this post. . . right. . . here.

To purchase the book for yourself you can go to

*This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - November 17

Today's teaser comes from the novel Thirsty by Tracey Bateman. It's a very different vampire story that is really less about the vampire and more about a woman's struggle with alcohol and dealing with her past.

From Page 208

The secret was so well preserved that the thought of opening up the jar of truth seemed foolish, dangerous even, as though the release of pressure might cause an explosion. Nina wasn't sure she was strong enough to let it out.

I'm giving away a copy of this book if anyone is interested. Just add a comment to the post below this one or click here and then comment.

Book Giveaway. . . Thirsty by Tracey Bateman

This is a very different vampire book. It's a Christian vampire book! That's different! I'll post my full review on Wednesday but the story is not typical of the vampire books that are popular right now. The story revolves around Nina, a divorced mother who is a recovering alcoholic. She just happens to move next door to a vampire. The Christian tones are very subtle and yet the focus on forgiveness is prevalent.

If you are interested in winning a brand new paperback copy of this book, please leave a comment to this post. Giveaway is open to those in the U.S. only as shipping costs can get pricey. I'll choose a name at random on Monday, November 23. Good luck!

Blogging Break

I always used to get so frustrated when I'd be enjoying a blog and all of a sudden there were no new posts. For days, months, etc. I always felt like they were responsible for keeping me entertained and it made me sad/worried/disappointed when there was nothing new for a long period of time.

Then I stopped blogging. I can't believe it's been a month since I last posted here. I know what happened. I got tired and stressed. That led to finding other ways to occupy my time which wasn't blogging. Then I went to Italy and that was a week gone. And then. . . Jet lag. Let's be clear here, it exists and it isn't pretty. I felt like I floated through the last week. I'm back now. Things are good. I'm motivated and I have several books to review. I'm going to get things kicking with a contest.

See the next post for the contest. . . . It should be above this one. Look up.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Giveaway Winner

I didn't have a huge response for my giveaway of The Sound of Sleigh Bells, Cindy Woodsmall, but I picked a winner out of the three entries. I used to pick the number and it was #1! Congrats to Tina B.

In a few more weeks I'll be having another giveaway for Thirsty by Tracey Bateman. Come back on Nov 16 and enter.

*Tina, if you didn't receive an e-mail from me, please let me know. I'll be sending the book as soon as I have your address.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall

I was lucky to receive a review copy* of The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall and was very anxious to read it. I know there are several books that take place among the Amish and I just haven't had a chance to read any of them. This was my first foray into the genre and I found it to be very sweet.

The book revolves around two people who are broken in their own ways. Beth has never recovered from the death of her fiance and continues to shun the idea of falling in love. Jonah was the victim of a tragic accident as a teen and never quite felt whole. Through a series of letters, a few mix ups, and a meddling relative, Jonah and Beth realize that they might just be what the other needs.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in reading a beautiful love story and learn a little more about the Amish way of life. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Don't forget, you can enter to win a brand new copy of the book by clicking here.

You can purchase the book here.

*This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - Oct. 13

This week's teaser comes from The Sound of Sleigh Bells, by Cindy Woodsmall. It is a sweet love story set amidst the Amish. My review will be posted tomorrow and you can also win a brand new copy of the book by leaving a comment to the previous post. . . Click Here.

From page 112

The concern in his eyes as he asked what was wrong magnified her emotions. She shouldn't be here, not if they meant to keep their relationship quiet.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Book Giveaway!

This week I am hosting a giveaway of The Sound of Sleigh Bells by Cindy Woodsmall!

In order to win, just leave a comment with your first name and first initial of your last name. I will do a random "draw" on, Saturday, October 17th.

Book description:

Beth Hertzler works alongside her beloved Aunt Lizzy in their dry goods store and serves as a contact between Amish craftsmen and Englischer retailers. But remorse and loneliness still echo in her heart every day, and she still wears dark dresses to indicate her mourning of her fiance. When she discovers a large, intricately carved scene of Amish children laying in the snow in an Englischer store, something deep inside Beth's soul responds, and she wants to help the unknown artist find homes for his work.

Lizzy sees the changes in her niece when Beth shows her the woodworking, and after meeting Jonah, the artist, she is determined that Beth come to know this man whose hands create healing art. But it's not that simple - Beth has cut herself off from any possibility of romance. Will Lizzy's elaborate plan to reintroduce her niece to love work? Will Jonah be able to offer Beth new hope and a second chance at real love - or just more heartbreak?

To purchase the book, head over to this website:

This contest is open to US residents only because of shipping costs. I apologize but I just can't afford international shipping at this time.

Tribute by Nora Roberts

Tribute, by Nora Roberts, is another solid book by the author. The characters are enjoyable, the plot interesting, and overall it's a satisfying read. I'm a huge fan of Nora Roberts so I've read nearly all of her novels. I'm rarely disappointed.

Cilla is a former child star and granddaughter of one of the most famous actresses of all time. Janet Hardy is one of those actresses that after death became a legend but before her death was beloved. Cilla never met her grandmother but feels very close to her after moving to her "Little Farm" and renovating the neglected home. Add a charming neighbor with his charming dog and the stage is set for a romance.

Romance is only part of the story however, as someone really doesn't want Cilla to live in that house. She is threatened, run off the road, and terrorized by someone. With a mystery to solve, Cilla and Ford delve into her grandmother's past and try to figure out who may blame Cilla for her grandmother's sins.

If you are a fan of Nora Roberts, you've probably read this, but if not you should. I loved the character of Ford because he's a nerd and I can relate! If I have any complaint at all it is that I feel I have met the character of Cilla in other books. Ms. Roberts enjoys writing strong women but maybe they are all too strong? Maybe too similar? It seems that the men take on distinct personalities but the women are all the same. It's not a big complaint because I enjoyed the story but I just didn't feel there was anything new about the female lead.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Oct. 6

Today's teaser is from the book Tribute by Nora Roberts. Say what you will, the woman can create a good story. In this teaser, Cilla is explaining to Ford about her failed marriage.

Page 127

Wound up, she tossed out her arms, paced the room. "I jumped into marriage two seconds after I turned eighteen because finally, finally, here was someone who loved me, who cared, who understood. But I couldn't make that work."

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Oct 1

Today's Booking Through Thursday question is. . .

Two-thirds of Brits have lied about reading books they haven’t. Have you? Why? What book?

I think I probably have told little white lies at times. I don't do it to make me look better or more well read though! Here are a few examples. . .

A friend tells me I really need to read a book. I know of the book or the author and have absolutely no desire to read it. In order to not have to explain myself, I usually just say that I've read it, or I started it and didn't really like it all that much.

I start reading a book, don't love it, and ended up skimming through to the end. In my mind I didn't read the book, but I might tell someone I read it because I at least gave it a good try.

Some books, A Christmas Carol for example, have been made into 13,576,987 movies* and therefore I feel like I've read the book even though I haven't.

It's rare that I would lie, but those are a few instances when I might. Like I said, I wouldn't lie to make myself appear smarter or more intelligent. I could care less what people think of the books I read. What about you?

*That number is just a random guess. According to one website there are over 200 versions out there but I like my number better.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

One Perfect Rose by Mary Jo Putney

One Perfect Rose, by Mary Jo Putney, was a completely enjoyable read. As I mentioned on my teaser post from yesterday, I've had this book on my shelf for at least ten years. I went through a romance novel phase in my twenties and just stopped reading them at one point. I still hoped to get back to read a few so I kept a shelf of them. I was in need of an "O" book since both of my previous attempts turned out to be books that I didn't like from the start. I picked this off my shelf and was quickly absorbed into the story.

The story revolves around Stephen, a duke who receives life changing news and Rosalind, the daughter of traveling actors, who works as their stage manager. It is a romance with a lot of heart, a lot of humor, and a lot of wonderful characters.

One of my biggest problems with standard issue historical romance novels is the formula plot. Boy and girl meet. They immediately despise each other, despite their obvious chemistry. They finally fall in love and some misunderstanding/kidnapping/war tears them apart. The end of course is happy with the promise of lots of babies and long years of love. It's not bad overall but it does get boring.

One Perfect Rose didn't fit that formula at all. Stephen and Rosalind were smitten from the start. Both felt that they couldn't pursue a relationship because of separate issues, but they couldn't deny their attraction and while they wouldn't admit they were in love, they admitted their affection quite easily. There were moments when something would be revealed and I figured that the big break up scene would occur, but it wouldn't. That was nice. Yes, they had obstacles to overcome, but they did it together.

I highly recommend this book to fans of romance and to people who want to read a sweet story. It was great, one of my favorite books this year.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Sept 29

Today's teaser comes from a good old-fashioned romance novel. One Perfect Rose, by Mary Jo Putney is a historical romance, full of Dukes, Shakespeare, and high society. It's been sitting on my shelf for at least ten years and I read it because I needed an "O" book. I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far and wish I hadn't waited so long to read it.

Page 135

If he made a list of of those he wanted to hide from, Claudia's name would be at the top. They had always gotten on well, but she had very firm ideas about the natural order of things.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Musing Mondays - Sept. 28

Do you keep a book wishlist, either on paper, Amazon/etc, or via a book database site (Shelfari, GoodReads, LibraryThing)? If yes, do you share this list with others (especially coming up to Christmas)?

I wish I had a better wishlist. I am just not that organized! I have several authors that I am always on the lookout for when I'm at book sales. I have on occasion brought a list with me so that I know what I have and what I need, especially when it comes to a series I am trying to complete.

If I see a book I want in a bookstore but am not willing to spend the money at the time, I have started taking a picture of the book with my cell phone. I have the title and author that way and can look for the book again. That's worked really well for me, even though I've gotten a few weird looks.

I don't usually ask for books at Christmas or my birthday. I would rather have a certificate to a book store. On occasion I'll mention a specific title but it's rare. I have very little impulse control and usually by the time I ask for the book and then wait for the holidays to roll around, I'll have bought it for myself anyway.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Sept. 24

What’s the saddest book you’ve read recently?

If we count actual tears, then Dewey, by Vicki Myron, would be the saddest book I've read this year. I do not handle animal stories well, especially when it deals with end of life. Dewey made me cry a lot.

The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, was sad in a different way. The subject matter was difficult and while the character of Susie was still a vibrant part of the book, every once in a while I'd remember that she was dead and I'd feel so bad for her family.

After, by Amy Efaw was also a sad book. I was so sad for Devon and how quickly she changed the whole direction of her life. I find myself still thinking about the book and wondering what happened next.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The X Files: Ground Zero by Kevin J. Anderson

I chose The X Files; Ground Zero, by Kevin J. Anderson, because it started with an "X". That's the only reason I would have ever picked this up as I'm not a big fan of books based on TV shows or movies. I was, however, a fan of the show so I'm aware of the characters and mythology. This book was fairly stand alone plot-wise. You don't need to know anything about the show in order to understand the book.

The story is all about nuclear weapons. A reader might be able to debate whether the author had any particular political statements to make. It was clearly portraying the nuclear weapons industry in a negative light, but I don't want to get into that. Mulder and Scully are called in to investigate the bizarre death of a nuclear physicist. He was killed in a flash fire, which could only be compared to that of a nuclear weapon. The fire was contained in his office and nobody else was injured.

A few more similar deaths occurred before Mulder and Scully tie the pieces together. They are eventually led to a small island in the Marshall Island chain where a new weapon is about to be tested. I don't want to give any more away but this is where the typical supernatural explanation takes place.

It wasn't a bad read overall. I found it to be a quick, easy read. The subject matter bored me a bit and it read like fan fiction, but overall, the author captured the characters voices and created a decent story. I'm not going to recommend this to the world but certain readers will enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Sept 22

Today's teaser is from a book I've already reviewed but better late than never right? Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli is a re-telling of the Rapunzel story. Zel's mother can control plants and makes a tree grow larger so that she can climb into the tower while Zel's hair is growing. Zel wants her mother to leave the tree large so that some of the forest creatures can come visit her. This is her mother's explanation.

From page 112:

"The tree must shrink in upon itself when I'm not here Zel. Otherwise what would prevent your enemy from climbing up, just as I do?"

My review can be found right here.

Musing Mondays - Sept 21

Excuse my tardiness this week. Here's this week's question:

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about reading music…

Do you listen to music while reading? Does this change if you’re reading in or out of your house? Do you have a preference of music for such occasions?

I do not listen to music when I read. I have a very hard time focusing on two things at once and music (especially music with vocals) distracts me from my book. I end up wanting to sing along to the music. I don't remember having that problem in high school when I had music on all the time, but it started in college. My roommate loved to have music playing (music major) and I liked it quiet. I'm not sure what kind of balance we ended up coming up with but we lived together for four years so somehow it worked out.

I can read while the TV is on however. When I am at my parents house I can read all through the news, football games, or QVC shows that my parents watch. That seems to be a lot easier to tune out!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

I've had The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, sitting on my shelf for a couple of years now. I knew I was going to enjoy the book but I just never got around to reading it. With the movie coming out this winter, I knew I wanted to get the book read first, and I'm very glad I did. I'm going to do my best not to spoil anything, but some of it can't be helped.

This is the second book I've read this year where the main character was dead. I don't think this will be a huge trend as the book has to be pretty well written for it to make sense. Fortunately, this book was. We are introduced to Susie Salmon as a living fourteen year old. Within a few pages, she is looking at earth from her Heaven and that's when we really get to know her and her family.

The book is not about solving the mystery of her death, we know who did it from the start. The story is about Susie's family and how they cope with her death. Without a body, her parents must find closure without proof. The author did an amazing job of making each character real. We get to follow the lives of both of her parents, her sister, her brother, her boyfriend, and a girl who was not yet a friend but became one even after Susie's death.

The Lovely Bones is a wonderful book and with Peter Jackson directing the movie, I think it will be great as well. I recommend that you all read this before seeing the movie.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - Sept 15

Today's teaser is from The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. In this scene, Jack is crazed with anger after a horrible tragedy in his family. I don't want to give anything away but it's very powerful. I'll be reviewing the book tomorrow. I really loved it.

From page 139:

He ran blind into her and knocked her down in the darkness. Her screaming filled his ear and poured into the empty spaces, ricocheting inside of him.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Musing Mondays - Sept 14

Musing Mondays (BIG) Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about reading trends…

Do you find yourself forming trends in your reading? Is this a conscious act, influenced by either your own interests or current publishing fads?

I would have to say that my reading this year has been quite eclectic and I'm very happy about that. My attempts to do the A to Z Challenge and New Author Challenge have led me to read books that I probably wouldn't have bothered to get to for a while. My participation in early reviewers' programs has also brought me some unique and different books.

In the past, I have definitely been sucked into trends. I went through a historical romance phase for a couple of years but eventually moved away from that. A couple of years ago I read several books about the Tudors and I still have a few on my shelves to read.

My tendencies are to find an author I like and read everything he or she has ever written. I used to focus so much on the authors I knew that I missed out on other wonderful books. I've moved away from that the last couple of years and this year I think I broke myself of that habit. I'll still keep reading my favorite authors but I spread them out.

Interesting question this week and I'll have to keep thinking about it. My future reading looks even more random as I've developed quite a system for choosing books in 2009. Time will tell if it works out. . .

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Zel by Donna Jo Napoli

Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli, is a re-telling of the classic fairytale, Rapunzel. I admit that when I started reading Zel, I expected a light fluffy story. I also admit that it had been a very long time since I've read the fairytale version. I should have refreshed my memory.

In Zel, Rapunzel is a young girl living a very happy life with Mother. She knows that Mother has a special gift with plants but she doesn't know the extent of her abilities or the reason she has the gift in the first place. When Zel meets a young count on one of her rare trips into the village, she expresses a desire to ultimately marry and have children of her own. Mother's fear of losing Zel is so great that she locks her in a tower. The story continues as Zel begins to lose her mind due to her confinement and lack of companionship. She is not aware that the count has been searching for her for years.

I didn't expect some of the darker elements of the story. There was a great deal of madness in Mother's attempts to protect her child and keep her with her forever. Zel's own madness is more understandable because of her circumstances. This morning I read Rapunzel by Paul O. Zelinsky for comparison and recognize many of the same elements to the story. What Ms. Napoli does is expand on everything to give us an understanding into everything.

Zel is a wonderfully written novel length re-telling of the classic. While it is a children's book, I definitely recommend it for young teens or older. There are adult situations later in the story and it may bring up questions. I recommend it very highly and also encourage you to pick up another version of the story to make your own comparisons. Mr. Zelinsky's gorgeous book won the Caldecott Medal and his illustrations are stunning.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Sept 10

What’s the most informative book you’ve read recently?

Informative? I don't read a lot of educational stuff! I'm definitely a fiction girl. I would definitely say that Sacred Hearts was informative. I learned a great deal about the life of a cloistered nun in the 16th century! Julie and Julia was also informative in that I learned that I couldn't cook like Julia Child if my life depended on it.

Honestly, I learn a little bit about something from every book I read. I can go through my list of books read in 2009 and pick something from each book that added to my head full of random trivia. This is why I'm good at trivia games. I don't know enough about anything for it to be very useful but I do glean information every day.

As for books that are really useful, I read them when I need them. The truly informative books aren't that much fun for me and reading is definitely an escape for me.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

I don't know what I thought Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld, was about but I had in my mind that it was some sort of supernatural story in which everyone turned pretty at the age of 16. I didn't expect a futuristic version of Earth. I found myself doubting if I would enjoy it as I'm not much of a science fiction fan when it comes to books. I persisted and found that the characters might have fancy futuristic gadgets, but that was about as technical as it got. The story is about life altering choices and friendship. It's heart is not in the technology of the future but about the human spirit that continues to live on even in a very changed world.

Tally Youngblood is a fifteen year old "ugly" who can't wait to become pretty on her sixteenth birthday. In this futuristic earth, prejudices are eliminated by forcing everyone to look similar, with flawless skin, toned bodies, and pretty symmetrical faces. Children grow up knowing that they will be pretty and most look forward to it. Tally's adventure begins when she meets Shay, another fifteen year old who isn't so sure that she wants to have the surgery. Tally learns some secrets behind the surgery to make everyone pretty. She is faced with her own doubts as to her future after meeting David and other uglies who have resisted the change.

After reading a few chapters of book, I found I could barely stand to put it down. There is romance, adventure, and everything else that a good story needs. I loved Tally's relationship with David and her sense of adventure, despite the somewhat sterile environment she grew up in. I can't wait to read the sequel, Pretties. The book is written for young adults and yet is completely intriguing for a "middle ugly" like me. I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - Sept 8

I can't believe it's Tuesday again! Time for another teaser. This week's teaser comes from Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I had no idea what to expect from this book but I really enjoyed it a lot. I'll be posting my review tomorrow.

From page 206:

Tally was glad she hadn't activated the pendant yet. She could hardly sit here enjoying the Smokies' admiration if she'd just betrayed them all. She decided to wait until tonight, when she was alone, to do what she had to do.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Musing Mondays - Sept. 7

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about audio books…

What is your preferred method of listening to audio books? Where and when do you listen to them?

I have to confess that I don't love audio books. I have a hard time staying awake which is bad when trying to listen to them in a car. They are like a bedtime story and make me want to close my eyes.

I once drove by myself from Denver to Las Vegas. It was a good 10 hour drive and I picked up an audio book to listen to on my way. This was back in the day of cassette tapes and every tape or so I'd have to stop and put on music to wake me up again. It was just not a good thing.

I'm willing to give them another try some day but it would have to be under the right circumstances. In most cases I'd rather read the book.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - Sept. 3

Today's topic is:

What’s the biggest book you’ve read recently?

(Feel free to think “big” as size, or as popularity, or in any other way you care to interpret.)

I'm going to go with "big" as size. . .

I think The Host was the biggest I've read as far as size goes. It was a big one. A good one but a big one. Eragon was big too. I don't usually go by size when it comes to picking out books but I will say it's always a bit of a relief to pick up a small little novel after reading a monster.

Short and sweet answer today.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

I've got a good book to review for you today! Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick, is a great new young adult book. At first glance I expected to compare it to Twilight. A mysterious biology partner, danger, romance. Sound familiar? Once you get going, it won't. Hush, Hush is a slightly supernatural thriller that is still based in the real world. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.

Nora is a high school student who lives a fairly normal life. She is very independent as her mother works away from home a great deal. Her father was murdered a year before the story starts. When she is paired with the mysterious Patch in her biology class, she is immediately torn between interest and fear. When Nora starts experiencing unexplained threats on her life, she finds herself turning to Patch, even though she suspects he is behind some of it. As the pieces fall into place she discovers that the reality of Patch is far beyond what she could have ever expected.

Once the action starts, the book moves very quickly. I wanted to keep turning the page to find out who or what exactly Patch was and who wanted to kill her. I found the truth to be very intriguing and different from other subjects I've read before. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys action, romance and a bit of supernatural mystery. As it's written for young adults, it is appropriate for teens and up. Enjoy!

Hush, Hush is set to release in October.

Teaser Tuesday - Sept. 1

Today's teaser is from the book Hush Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick. This is a book that has completely sucked me in. I've even been going to bed early so I could read! I'm almost done and I'm hoping for some answers to all the questions I've got.

From page 136:

I saw a hooded figure step back under a shadowed awning across the street. Freshly unsettled, I stood immobile for a whole minute before I pulled myself together and went to find Vee.

Musing Mondays - August 31

Musing Mondays (BIG) Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about books for children…

Do you buy books as gifts for children – either your own or those of friends or family? Would you buy books for all children, or only children who are already practiced readers?

I'm a little late with my answer this week but it's a good question so I'll give it a shot. . . I do buy books for children. I have three young children in my life (niece, Goddaughter, BFF's son) and I do try to buy them books. I'm not sure how much they are appreciated but I do know that I'll keep buying them.

One thing I was taught in my early childhood education classes was that it was better to have a few really good books than a lot of "just ok" books in a child's library. I think this is probably true. There are picture books that have stood the test of time and every child should own them.

As the kids get older (the two girls are in Kindergarten this year), I hope I can share my love of reading with them, even from a distance.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - August 27

What’s the lightest, most “fluff” kind of book you’ve read recently?

The lightest, fluffiest book I've read recently is Vision in White by Nora Roberts. It was just a sweet love story. It wasn't complex and it wasn't anything you would have to think about too much. Probably why I liked it! It was a fun read.

I'm looking forward to reading some more fluff soon!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

After by Amy Efaw

After, by Amy Efaw, is the story of Devon and what happens to her in the days after she gives birth in her bathroom and throws the baby in a dumpster. Before you turn away in disgust, consider that Devon is fifteen years old and has convinced herself that she wasn't pregnant. She's also a great student, star soccer player, and all around good girl. Does she belong in the juvenile court system, where she can have a clean record and the potential for a productive life after her sentence? She's being charged with attempted murder, was it premeditated or a reaction to a situation beyond her understanding?

My first reaction to Devon was anger. I was angry that she would do that to her baby. Eventually I realized that she never gave any thought to it being a baby. Certainly not her baby. I was angry that she was so lost in her own world that she couldn't grasp what was happening to her. I wanted to yell at her and tell her to listen! Pay attention! I couldn't relate to someone so distant, while faced with something so serious.

The beauty in this book is that as Devon begins to realize what happened to her and what she did, we - the readers - begin to realize why Devon reacted the way she did. We are given the information we want as Devon takes responsibility and remembers what happened. Her awakening out of denial is what makes us understand the why and how.

This is a book written for young adults and it is certainly appropriate for teens. The hard reality is that this happens all the time. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone. My only disappointment is that the Safe Haven program wasn't mentioned in the actual body of the story. It's a program that saves lives.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Interview with Robert Rave

I had a chance to ask Robert Rave, the author of Spin, a few questions this week. I'm honored that he took the time out to answer them! Thank you Mr. Rave!

1. The character of Jennie is just awful. Did you work for anyone like her or did you combine the bad qualities from several different co-workers into one horrible person?

I like to think of Jennie as deliciously evil. No, I didn't work for anyone like Jennie fortunately. However, I've certainly met a lot of characters when I lived in New York. Additionally, I heard countless horrible boss stories. I combined all of the stories and people I met and created Jennie.

2. When you moved to New York, were you new to the big city like Taylor, or was it an easy transition?

It was a fairly easy transition. I had lived in New York as a junior in college and I interned at "Good Morning America." However, the first time I came to New York to interview for that internship my mom flew here with me. It was our first time to the city and my parents weren't just going to send me from my small town to NYC. So for every interview I went on for internships, my mom either went to the coffee shop next door or sat in the lobby.

3. What made you want to write a novel? Was the desire to write always in you or is it a new thing?

I've always written shorts stories even while I was a publicist. Writing is something that I need to do. It's not a matter of want. I loved the characters that I had created in my mind for SPIN and I wanted to take them on an adventure.

4. As an aspiring writer, I'm interested in how authors handle the
writing process. Do you make detailed outlines or just let it flow?

I make an outline. For me that's the toughest part of the writing. My outlines are usually about five to eight pages in length.. I do the broad strokes of plot and the characters. It's my map for the book. After that's complete, I begin writing with the outline next to my computer, but I'm not rigid with the chapters. I let things flow--for me that's where the fun happens and I can really enjoy writing.

5. What is your favorite part of the writing process? I love the writing and hate the editing. What are your thoughts?

I love the writing. I don't mind the editing too much. I have such a great editor at St. Martin's Press that it's been a pretty painless process, and my attitude is that if it makes the work better I'm up for it. I'm constantly learning thanks to my editor.

Teaser Tuesdays - August 25

Today's teaser comes from After by Amy Efaw. It's a book about a teenage girl who dumps her baby in a dumpster. It's a difficult topic but an important one.

From page 130

Devon cannot answer questions about people she's never seen, never learned anything about. Her mom is the only relative Devon's ever known.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Musing Mondays - August 24

Do you prefer to read stand-alone books, or books in series? Do you stick with a series the whole way through or stop after the first installment? Are there any particular series you enjoy?(question courtesy of Elena)

I like reading books that are part of a series. I enjoy re-visiting old friends. It's always hard for me to part with some characters so I like it when I can hang out with them again. . . and again. . . and again.

I've been spreading the books out lately. In the past I would have bought the whole set and read them in a row. Now I like to take breaks and read other things. This keeps me wanting more and It doesn't allow me to be desperate to buy the book when it first comes out in. I can usually wait for the paperback and save some money.

The series that I am in the midst of are the Sookie Stackhouse books by Charlaine Harris (up to book 3), the Women's Murder Club by James Patterson (up to book 4), and the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich (up to book 6). I've got a few others to start too but I'm not quite there yet.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Spin by Robert Rave

I wasn't sure what to think when I started reading Spin, by Robert Rave. I knew it was about the public relations industry which is not a field I know anything about. I was excited to start reading it and for good reason as it was something very different from other books I've been reading lately. I would just like to throw this out there. . . What the heck happened at the end??? I get it but I don't like it! (Note to author: Can you please write another chapter please?)

The book focuses on Taylor, a Midwestern boy who loves the idea of celebrity and everything that goes with it. He moves to New York City to work for a publicist. He's doing small time work, and is acclimating to the city, making new friends, and striving for more. He basically falls into a job with a high powered publicist, Jennie, who isn't exactly the greatest boss in the world. She is a drug addicted, alcoholic witch. She's awful in every way.

I enjoyed this book for the most part. Parts of it are very funny and witty. The author does an excellent job of defining his characters. I found myself very angry with Taylor for falling into some bad habits with his boss. He does things for her that I can't imagine ever doing for a job. I hated that he got caught up in some of it because it just didn't fit with the image I had in my head.

It's a good book, you should pick it up. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good fish out of water story. The difference in this book is that the fish acclimates to his new world. This is definitely a book for adults as there is heavy drug usage and sex references.

Read my interview with Robert Rave here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - August 20

What’s the best book you’ve read recently?

That's a tough one. . . I've liked so many!

South of Broad was a fabulous book in my opinion, it affected me emotionally and not many books do that. I also really loved The Late Lamented Molly Marx, it was unique and different. The Host is another that I really enjoyed.

I would say that those three books top my list for 2009 so far. They are three very different books and have stayed with me. I personally think that a book that I continue to think about for months and even years later, is a book that I can put on my list of favorites.

Teaser Tuesday . . . On a Thursday

Today's teaser comes from Spin by Robert Rave. Spin is about a young publicist working in New York for a really awful boss. It's an interesting, depressing, and yet entertaining insight into the lives of publicists.

From Page 90

"No, I just worry about you. You're new to the city and I know how easy it is to get sucked in. It's an easy place to lose your footing," she said with a voice of experience.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Musing Monday - August 17

How do you react to movies made of your favourite books (or even not-so-favourite books)? Do you look forward to seeing them, or avoid them? Do you like to have read the book before seeing the movie?

I enjoy it when one of my favorite books become a movie. In fact, I am more apt to see a movie if I've read the book. I generally know what to expect and I like trying to compare and contrast the book vs. the movie. I even like watching movies based on books I don't care for. Most recently I watched Julie and Julia. I wasn't thrilled with the book but I adored the movie.

I generally like to read the book first. If I don't, I rarely have the patience for the book. There have been a few exceptions but in general the book should come first.

Friday, August 14, 2009

South of Broad by Pat Conroy

South of Broad exhausted me. It really did. I couldn't get images from the book out of my bed. I didn't dream about it but thinking about this book kept me from sleeping.

I'm familiar with the name Pat Conroy and obviously have heard of his other work but I had never read any of his books. I want to make that clear, as I've read some mixed reviews, where South of Broad was compared to his other writing. This was my first foray into the world of Pat Conroy and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The book focuses on Leo, the narrator, who meets nine new friends on one day in June when he is eighteen. These nine people change his life. They form a friendship that takes them through the next two decades and beyond. It's the kind of friendship I've always wanted to have.

The first hundred pages or so were a little difficult for me. I had a hard time getting into the dialogue, possibly because I'm not familiar with the South Carolina accent. I'm sure there's a lovely cadence that makes it all work, but I struggled at first. The characters didn't say what I wanted them to say! Leo was too witty and clever. At some point it all came together and the story picked up. Stick around for the last hundred pages where everything comes together into one climax after another. Just when I thought it was over. . . It wasn't. There is a huge revelation at the end and it just gutted me.

If you like sweeping family sagas, you'll enjoy this book. These friends do become family, through their bonds, and through marriages. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - August 13

I somehow missed Booking Through Thursday last week, so I'm going to catch up by answering both last week's question and this week. So. . . let's go back in time to last week:

What’s the most serious book you’ve read recently?

I think the most serious book I've read recently was Sacred Hearts by Sarah Dunant. Wow. That was a serious book. The book is about a nun in a sequestered convent in the 15th century. The story revolves around her relationship with a novice who doesn't want to be there. It was a very good book but it wasn't a lot of fun.

And now for this week. . .

What’s the worst book you’ve read recently?

Ugh. I read a book a few months ago that was so bad I never even reviewed it. Every time I started to write a review I felt like I was a horrible person talking bad about someone. The book is called The Gettysburg Ghost by Philip Rogone. It was written by a friend of a friend of a friend and it's very bad. It read like a first draft. I think the story has potential but it is in desperate need of editing. A lot of editing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Late Lamented Molly Marx by Sally Koslow

I really loved this book. I want to throw that out there first. I'm really excited to be able to share this book with some friends. I think it is unique and thought provoking.

Molly Marx is dead. That's not a spoiler, it's laid out from the first page. How she died is unknown. At first glance, I assumed that the book would be about solving her death. Was she murdered? Was it an accident? Suicide? We really don't know until near the end. The beauty is, that wasn't the point of the story. It's not a mystery novel. The how and why is there in the background but it isn't the reason to keep reading.

Not too many main characters are dead from the start. The story is told through Molly's eyes as she spends her time in the "duration" following her family and friends around. She is able to listen to their thoughts and while she can't interfere or communicate, her presence is occasionally felt. She watches as her family deals with her death. They grieve in different ways. She watches her husband and tries to decide if he genuinely misses her or if it's an act. She checks in on her young daughter wishing she were physically present in her life.

I found the author's idea of the "duration" to be very interesting. I don't want to give things away but I was intrigued by it, even though it doesn't fit with my personal beliefs. I love the idea that people with different beliefs can still "hang" together in the afterlife.

I highly recommend this book. . . to almost anyone!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Teaser Tuesday - August 4

Today's teaser comes from South of Broad by Pat Conroy. I'm only about 100 pages in but so far so good!

From page 279:

"What do you have against orphans?" Niles asks his wife. Now the room seems to be spinning out of control, a molecular planet freed from its own minimalist laws of gravity.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Julie and Julia by Julie Powell

Julie and Julia is a memoir about Julie Powell's quest to cook every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. This is one of those books that I wanted to LOVE but just didn't. I think it was a combination of things that made me not really like this book.

I admit to being influenced by the movie previews -and I still think the movie looks like it should be great. Because of those previews, I expected to learn a bit about Julia Child and I really didn't. We are given short glimpses into the life of Julia but it's not enough. I wanted more about her fascinating life and less about Julie's. Yet, it's Julie's memoir, her project, and it should be about her.

I was also a bit turned off by the multitude of swear words. Now I'm no prude and I can ignore a bit of foul language, even laugh at it, but there was so much! I can't even share this with my mother because I think she'd be offended by it.

Then there was the food. Oh my. Here is where I give credit where credit is due. Julie, you are a very brave woman to cook some of that stuff. I am extremely picky about the meat I eat, and I certainly can't think about it when I'm eating it. There is no way I would EVER be able to make aspic from calves feet, kill a lobster, or cook brains. No way. Ever. If I were to pick a cookbook to do a similar project, it would have to be one called "Recipes for People who will Cook Only Certain Meat Without Having to Think About Where it Comes From." If anyone knows of that book, please let me know.

So between the lack of Julia info, the abundance of the "f" word, and the yucky food, the book just didn't meet my expectations.

Booking Through Thursday - July 31

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What’s the funniest book you’ve read recently?

The funniest book I read this year was Pretty in Plaid by Jen Lancaster. Her books always make me smile and laugh out loud. If you haven't read any of her books I really recommend them. You can't go wrong.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Teaser Tuesdays - July 28

Today's teaser comes from Julie and Julia by Julie Powell. I admit to picking it up because the movie looks good and it started with a "J" which I needed for the A to Z Challenge. It's not at all what I expected. I'll tell you all more when I review it in a few days. I'm almost done.

From page 166:

If I was going to follow Julia down this rabbit hole, I was going to enjoy it, by God - exhaustion, crustacean murder and all. Because not everybody gets a rabbit hole.

Musing Mondays - July 27

I'm a day late. Oops. Yesterday's topic was. . .

Do you have an account with an online book database site (LibraryThing, Shelfari, GoodReads)? If so, do you have a preference? Do you use it for - your own record keeping? finding new books to read? social networking?

I have accounts with GoodReads, Shelfari, and LibraryThing. I confess that my favorite is Library Thing. I can't exactly pinpoint why but I found that keeping up with three websites all dedicated to the same thing is just too much. I found myself gravitating to LibraryThing. I like the Early Reviewers program, I enjoy the people I've met there, and I find the library easy to add to.

My library on there is a constant work in progress as books come and go. I try to keep track of what I've read and I do cross-post my blog reviews there. I also enjoy the forums and checking out what other people are reading. It's just a nice friendly place.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Booking Through Thursday - July 16

Do you keep all your unread books together, like books in a waiting room? Or are they scattered throughout your shelves, mingling like party-goers waiting for the host to come along?

I have a bookshelf in my living room with five shelves. The top shelf is my very favorite books ever. I just like to be able to look at them. The second shelf holds my travel books but I'm really thinking they are going to have to move. . . The third and fourth shelf are my "To Be Read" books. They are groaning right now, bowed at the bottom and way too full. That's why I think my travel books have to go. The bottom shelf is my collection of picture books along with toys for my niece.

I have two more bookshelves in my bedroom. One is a short little thing. I've had it pretty much my entire life. It is currently holding more "TBR" books - but ones that I've had a really, really, really, long time and probably will never be read. I go through it every now and then and pull a few out to get rid of.

The larger bookshelf in my bedroom is where I just shove books that I want to keep. Most have been read and they probably should be gone through again. It's a mess. A catch - all.