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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Musing Monday (March 1)

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about a story format.
How do you feel about books written in a differing format – whether this be journals or letters (epistolary), verse novels, or any other form? Is this something you enjoy? Or do you prefer straight forward chapter prose.
I am pretty ambivalent about format. I can pretty much deal with any type of format as long as it is close to prose. I love epistolary, stream of consciousness and journal type of books but I have always had trouble with verse. It has never registered with me and I tend to avoid it. I recently came across a YA novel that was in verse but passed it over because I simply cannot see myself reading a book in verse. Some of my favorites:

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Recollections of Rosings by Rebecca Ann Collins

Recollections of Rosings: The acclaimed Pride and Prejudice sequel series (The Pemberley Chronicles)
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
ISBN: 1402224508
Pages: 336 pgs
Genre: Jane Austen Sequel/Pride and Prejudice
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

Publisher’s Description:
Sisters Catherine Harrison and Becky Tate, daughters of Charlotte Lucas and Mr. Collins, have very different personalities and temperaments. Both grew up in the shadow of Rosings Park, domain of the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh, but as adults their paths diverged dramatically. 

When a catastrophe at Rosings Park brings Becky back to visit her sister, the two clash about their aspirations for the marriage of Catherine's young daughter, and both women are forced to confront the ghosts of the past-in particular, Lady Catherine's cruelty and deception.

As the shocking truth emerges, the Darcy and Bingley families rally. But it may be too late for the sisters to find the love and happiness they were denied so long ago.
My Review:
The Pemberley Chronicles are notable for three reasons-historical detail (and amazing writing), great romances, and Fairy Godmother Darcy who makes good things happen all the time. This book no exception. This was my favorite of the whole series.

The romance was very different from the previous books. It was not a story of new love but of two people that have been separated by outside forces (Lady Catherine’s machinations, of course) and never given the chance to fall in love. It was like watching what Elizabeth and Darcy would have been if Darcy had let Lady Catherine influence him.

Catherine Harrison was one of those characters that I remembered from the previous books and was not looking forward to reading a book about her. She seemed to be so weak and lacking of any backbone. When I started the book, I was actually hoping that the book would be more about her daughter, Lillian, because I thought she might be more of an interesting character than her mother but I am glad that I was wrong. Catherine surprised me and came into her own in Recollections of Rosings and her relationship with Frank Burnett, former Rosings librarian and friend, was one of the major reasons this book was such a good read. He was one of the sweetest, kindest and most genuine male characters that I have ever come across.

This would be a great read for any Jane Austen fan. You do not necessarily have to read any of the previous books to enjoy this one (even though you should because they are excellent).
*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Absolutely Chocolate: Irresistible Excuses to Indulge by Editors of Fine Living Magazine

Absolutely Chocolate: Irresistible Excuses to IndulgePublisher: Taunton Press
ISBN: 1600851339
Pages: 304 pgs
Genre: Food/Cooking
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

 Publisher’s Description:

For years, most cooks only worried about choosing between semi-sweet and milk chocolate when whipping up chocolate creations. These days, however, it's vital to know the origins, varieties, and unique characteristics of chocolates available. The experts at Fine Cooking magazine have taken the guesswork out of making more than 125 scrumptious sensations from layer cakes, tarts, and pies to muffins, cookies, and brownies to candies, sauces, and hot cocoa. Each recipe features must-know tips on choosing and buying just the right chocolate; step-by-step, cant-fail instructions; and authoritative advice from America's most respected experts. In other words, Absolutely Chocolate is absolutely fabulous!

My Review:

I am most definitely not a cook or anything remotely similar. The closest I get is boiling water for tea or making coffee. I am also not a big chocolate eater. Only on the rarest occasion will I eat anything with chocolate and even rarer will I like it. But I do love reading cookbooks and books about food, especially desserts and drinks.

First of all, the pictures were beautiful even on my Sony Reader. I think the best part of a cookbook is the pictures and this one is definitely not an exception. They were a bit dark but that is mostly an indictment on my Sony Reader (even though it is an awesome device). I also enjoyed the information about chocolate. It was very concise and informative.

I found so many of the recipes appealing. Especially the ones that combine chocolate with a fruit or spice. My favorites were the Bittersweet Hot Chocolate, the Chocolate-Banana-Ginger Bread Pudding and the Chocolate-Orange Biscotti. I will never be able to make it for myself but when I buy this book for my mother, I will attempt to cajole a cookie or two from her.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sunday Salon (February 21)

I am so sorry for my absence this week. I had the flu. Yuck. It put me out of commission for most of the week. Every time I felt better, it came back. All books that I was planning on reviewing for this week were pushed back to next week. So basically, I have spent my week medicating myself and watching Olympic curling (which is awesome by the way…Go Canada!..and Sweden).

My illness also gave me time to think about this blog and it’s future direction and some changes that I want to make. I know it’s strange to change or alter your blog’s focus once your more than a year into it but…I can’t help it. Thanks to this blog, I have been reading much more. My reading total went up from about 50 books in a year to circling around 90. That’s quite alot. Perhaps due to my increases reading, I have been reading more of certain genres than others. Mainly, Young Adult fiction and romances (including Jane Austen sequels). I took a class on Young Adult literature at Pratt and it just sparked my interest and I have always loved romance novels.  Both of those genres are so dynamic and interesting. I am not going to stop reading and reviewing adult fiction but I am going to focus mainly on YA and romances. Every book I have currently for review will be reviewed, I promise that, but I would like to have more focus in the future.

2)I have also been thinking of starting a weekly event. I know that last thing we need is another but I am a listmaker…it’s almost compulsive, it really is. So my idea is to have a topical list meme every Friday called Five For Friday. My inaugural meme will be this Friday with Top 5 Classic YA Novels. I will take suggestions for topics. I hope you will all participate. :)

Books Finished This Week:
Absolutely Chocolate-Editors of Fine Living Magazine (e-book)-review coming on Monday
Reviews Posted:
A Christmas Carol: Special Edition-Stephen Skelton
Books Reading:
Once A Witch-Carolyn MacCullough (e-book)
Before I Fall-Lauren Oliver
Recollections of Rosings-Rebecca Ann Collins
Up Next:
Highlander's Sword -Amanda Forrester
Cowboy Trouble - Joanne Kennedy
Captivity-Deborah Noyes
Twilight series-Stephenie Meyer-I know, I know. I have recently discovered a love of the werewolves in the book. Especially Jacob, Quil and Paul. I also think Jasper is smushy. I have been converted.
Books Acquired:
Need-Carrie Jones

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

A Christmas Carol: Special Edition by Stephen Skelton

A Christmas Carol Special Edition: The Charles Dickens Classic with Christian Insights and Discussion Questions for Groups and Families by Stephen Skelton
Publisher: Standard Publishing
ISBN: 0784723915
Pages: 128 pgs
Genre: Fiction
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

 Publisher’s Description:

Celebrate the season with Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim, Jacob Marley, and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future—and discover how the greatest Christmas classic was based on the greastest story ever told.

This special edition includes the complete text of A Christmas Carol along with notes and discussion questions written from a Christian perspective.

My Review:

It is a personal tradition of mine to read A Christmas Carol at least once a year. Never at Christmas time though. I think that’s too much of a cliché and I am usually too busy avoiding familial interaction during the holidays.  But I do love A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is one of my favorite characters in fiction. He is cranky, he is angry, he is a curmudgeon and I love him. He makes me feel like less of a curmudgeon which makes me feel better about myself.

First of all, I love this edition because it is portable. My other edition is a huge unwieldy, very old volume that is not only heavy but feels like it is going to fall apart. I have had it since I was a child but it is getting kind of broke down in its old age.

The only problem is I am not religious. Yes, I was raised Catholic and still get dragged to a Mass once in a while but not so much that I can ever be considered a religious person. I believe in God but that is about it. Because of this many of the sidebar information did not really mean anything to me. I mean, there was some nice trivia that really interested me but the Bible references really did not appeal. I do read the Bible periodically for inspiration but when I am reading fiction, I do not want the paths to cross.

I think this would be an excellent book to read in a religious discussion group or perhaps in a classroom atmosphere. Maybe it was not the perfect version of the book for me but it would most definitely be perfect for others.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Musing Monday (Feb. 15)

Today’s MUSING MONDAYS post is about a reference material.
Do you keep reference books on your shelves at home? What’s your first port of call when you need information – the internet or a book?
 It is sad to say that I don’t have any reference books other than a spare dictionary and thesaurus. I recently threw out all of my encyclopedias that still listed the Soviet Union as current and I really do not see the reason to buy another set when everything is online. Wow! I really never thought I would say that.
I depend, largely, on the reference sources I can access with my New York Public Library card on the website. It pretty much covers all of my reference needs and, if by some chance, the online reference sources on the site don’t have my answer, I can always do a live chat with a librarian or go to the library myself. I do live down the street from one although I rarely visit. I never use wikipedia for anything other than the most insignificant of information. I just don’t trust it for anything important.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake

The Postmistress
Publisher: Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam
ISBN: 0399156194
Pages: 336 pgs
Genre: Historical Fiction/World War II
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

 Publisher’s Description:

It is 1940. France has fallen. Bombs are dropping on London. And President Roosevelt is promising he won't send our boys to fight in "foreign wars."

But American radio gal Frankie Bard, the first woman to report from the Blitz in London, wants nothing more than to bring the war home. Frankie's radio dispatches crackle across the Atlantic ocean, imploring listeners to pay attention--as the Nazis bomb London nightly, and Jewish refugees stream across Europe. Frankie is convinced that if she can just get the right story, it will wake Americans to action and they will join the fight.

Meanwhile, in Franklin, Massachusetts, a small town on Cape Cod, Iris James hears Frankie's broadcasts and knows that it is only a matter of time before the war arrives on Franklin's shores. In charge of the town's mail, Iris believes that her job is to deliver and keep people's secrets, passing along the news that letters carry. And one secret she keeps are her feelings for Harry Vale, the town mechanic, who inspects the ocean daily, searching in vain for German U-boats he is certain will come. Two single people in midlife, Iris and Harry long ago gave up hope of ever being in love, yet they find themselves unexpectedly drawn toward each other.

Listening to Frankie as well are Will and Emma Fitch, the town's doctor and his new wife, both trying to escape a fragile childhood and forge a brighter future. When Will follow's Frankie's siren call into the war, Emma's worst fears are realized. Promising to return in six months, Will goes to London to offer his help, and the lives of the three women entwine.

Alternating between an America still cocooned in its inability to grasp the danger at hand and a Europe being torn apart by war, The Postmistress gives us two women who find themselves unable to deliver the news, and a third woman desperately waiting for news yet afraid to hear it.

Sarah Blake's The Postmistress shows how we bear the fact that war goes on around us while ordinary lives continue. Filled with stunning parallels to today, it is a remarkable novel.

My Review:

I picked The Postmistress up at exactly the right time. I was in the mood for a historical fiction that was not all medieval, romantic or war-like. I was looking for something that was more modern and more literary fiction than romance. This was the perfect book for me right now.

There were some really interesting characters in The Postmistress. Not because they were at all eccentric or outlandish but because they were real and I could identify with something in each and every one of them. Emma and Will’s story was my favorite. They were such heartbreaking characters. I wanted so desperately for them to have a happy ending (and in a way they did). Frankie was also really great. She was perhaps the most active character in the novel and I really liked her. Her recordings were the main source of my tears when I read this book. Thomas’ was especially sad. His death scene was the hardest for me to take even though he was only a part of the story for a few pages.

The writing is beautiful. Some of the descriptions and language was so beautiful that I went back and reread the passage again for no reason other than the wording just struck me. The birth scene with Maggie and Will was plain old excruciating. It could have easily become gruesome (especially for someone who is clinically terrified of giving birth) but it wasn’t. Blake used a great amount of restraint in not over-describing the scene but conveying the pain that both Will and Maggie were in through great descriptions and language. Blake does subtlety so well.

Normally, when I read a book with a constantly changing point of view, I get frustrated. The novel usually ends up disjointed and unreadable. At least for me. I know some people love books like that but they usually result in confusion for me. I usually need a consistent narrator or clear transitions between point of views to be able to get into a book. This was not the case with The Postmistress. I was a bit troublesome at the start of the novel but once I acclimated myself to the shifts, I really started to like it. I guess if it is done well, it really doesn’t matter.

My favorite part of The Postmistress is the fact that it is very woman-centric. The women were the only ones left standing at the end of the novel. Even though this is a novel that is very much about the start of a war, it is also very much about how women were impacted by it. I think that is a topic that is has been largely neglected. When we read a war novel we expect to read about battles and mayhem but I think the more interesting stuff happens on the homefront.

This would be perfect for a bookclub (even though I have never been a part of a bookclub). This would be the ideal book to read with a group of friends. Even those who are not a big fan of historical fiction will find something to like with The Postmistress.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Musing Monday (February 8th)

I’ve seen several bloggers mention reading multiple books this week. Do you frequently read more than one book at a time? Do you try to limit this to a certain number? Do you have different books for different purposes/topics?

I used to be able to read more than one book at a time. I used read 100 pages then switch but now, it gets a bit confusing in the noggin. I guess I am not as young as I once was. When I would go to review a book, I would find that I was getting details from each of the books mixed up.

It has been getting better now that I am reading three different genres at a time.  I tend to read one paperback and one ebook on my Sony Reader at one time. I have also been getting more and more into YA lately so I usually have one of those going as well. It helps to keep my reviews coming quickly as well as allowing me to read more of my personal TBR.

I still have to find the perfect reading schedule where I can get review books done, read my TBR and not stress myself out. I figure I will find it eventually even if it takes me a million years to find it.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (Southern Vampire Mysteries Bk 1)

Dead Until Dark (Original MM Art) (Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood)
Publisher: Ace Trade
ISBN: 0441019331
Pages: 336 pgs
Genre: Romance/Paranormal
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge, Vampire Series Challenge

 Publisher’s Description:

Sookie Stackhouse is just a small-time cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. Until the vampire of her dreams walks into her life-and one of her coworkers checks out....

Maybe having a vampire for a boyfriend isn't such a bright idea.

My Review:

I have to be honest…I would not have picked up these books without watching True Blood first. Vampires have never really been my thing. I hated Twilight until really recently and I mean really recently. Like this week type of recently. But, all of a sudden, I watch True Blood, read these books and watched the Twilight movie and every single book I buy has some sort of supernatural creature in it. Is that the way the obsession starts?

Sookie was such a treasure of a character. She was smart, spunky and an active heroine when she really could have just played the damsel. For some reason, this translated so much better in the books than in the show. I can definitely see myself following this series for 10 or more books. That’s strange for me because I tend to putter out interest wise after the 3rd book. I think that is purely because I really, really like Sookie. Her voice is strong throughout the book and she never descends into whiny, weak behavior like some heroines.

Now, I must mention that I am firmly an Eric/Sookie shipper. I like to think of Bill as just a bridge to get to the good stuff. However, he wasn’t so bad. He is no Eric but he was an adequate hero for now. He was tall, dark, handsome and, most importantly, broody. Usually that’s exactly my type and he kinda is. Eric plays a minimal role but I still love him. The latter books where he plays a much larger role will definitely be more appealing to me. I also really liked Sam. It is going to kill me to say this but I really hope Sookie ends up with Sam when the series is done. He is the most loyal and genuine out of all of her potential suitors. For some reason, I just can’t help cheering for the good guy and Sam is the best guy out of the bunch.

I am so glad that I picked this series up despite my avoidance of all things vampire. It was the perfect mix of action, romance, mystery and drama. It was one of those books that I couldn’t wait to get back to when I had to put it down.
*This book was bought by me for me. I am not making any profit from my review of this book other than my enjoyment.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Giveaway: Marsha Altman's The Darcys and the Bingleys Trilogy

Mr. Darcy's Great Escape: A tale of the Darcys & the Bingleys (Pride & Prejudice Continues 3)
This is one of my favorite P&P sequels and what makes it better is that it is a trilogy (The Darcys and the Bingleys, The Plight of the Darcy Brothers and Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape). Each book is better and funnier than the one before it. One luck winner will win the whole shebang.

Giveaway ends on February 10th. Please follow the rules because your entry won’t count if you don’t. Also note that extra entries are not required because they are ummm extras to improve your chances. I am going to try out a new method of entry with this giveaway. In order to enter, please use this form.


1. 1 winner- U.S. and Canada only

2. All entrants must fill out the form whether or not you did any extras. Please use this form.

3. Only one comment on the giveaway post-include everything you did to enter.

Main Entry-Comment on this post with your email and any extra entries you have done.

Extra Entries-Comment on Marsha’s Guest Post-name and email necessary.

- Subscribe to this blog by clicking on the RSS Feed symbol  in the sidebar.

-Comment on the review of any one of the books in the trilogy (The Darcys and the Bingleys, The Plight of the Darcy Brothers and Mr. Darcy’s Great Escape)with the comment add name and email

-Stumble my blog or any post on it. –comment on any of the posts with your StumbleUpon username.

-follow me on Twitter–@bibliophile23–leave your Twitter username in the comment.

-If you blog about this giveaway I will give you another extra entry.

-Link to this blog in your blogroll.

Please do all of this in one comment unless you are commenting in different entries.

I will email the winners. If the email is not responded to within two days, I will pick another winner.

The winner is Marie Burton of The Burton Review

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Masqueraders by Georgette Heyer

The Masqueraders
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
ISBN: 1402219504
Pages: 336 pgs
Genre: Romance/Georgian
Challenges-Read’n’Review Challenge, 100+ Reading Challenge

 Publisher's Description:

Such a daring escape…

Their infamous adventurer father has taught Prudence Tremaine and her brother Robin to be masters of disguise. Ending up on the wrong side of the Jacobite rebellion, brother and sister flee to London, Prudence pretending to be a dashing young buck, and Robin a lovely young lady.

Could cost them both their hearts…

Then Prudence meets the elegant Sir Anthony Fanshawe, and Robin becomes the mysterious hero of the charming Letitia Grayson, and in order to have what they truly want, the two masqueraders must find a way to unmask themselves without losing their lives…

My Review:

Georgette Heyer is one of those authors that I want to read more of but never do. I own every one of her romance novels (excluding but obviously now including The Masqueraders) but I have picked up none of them. I keep waiting for my reading schedule to clear up but it never does. Heyer goes on that list with Laura Kinsale, Barbara Pym, Rosemary Rogers, Thomas Hardy and Anthony Trollope of the loved but never read authors (if you can love an author that you have never read).

I did not really think that I would like The Masqueraders as much as I did. The idea of a cross-dressing brother and sister going unnoticed among society seemed like a bad comedy I saw on late night HBO. Turns out, either my sense of humor is not a dead as I thought it was or Heyer is a comedy master. I think it may be both. Heyer does comedy with such a slight hand that it can be funny yet plausible at the same time. I know the comparison is sort of overdone but she is like Jane Austen in that respect. Very few writers can do humor without being over the top and Jane Austen is one of the only authors I know that are capable of that subtlety. I may have to add Georgette Heyer to that list.

The characters in The Masqueraders were real treasures. Prudence was an amazing character. She was smart, quick witted and had quite the logical head on her shoulder. Her love interest was also great although he did confuse me a bit. Sir Anthony (“call me Tony”) was described as “a very large man”. My mind immediately went to either an extremely tall, muscular man or portly in the manner of Henry VIII. It took me quite a while to decipher which visual I should have but I decided that either way he was quite the good match for Prudence but my mind still imagined the dashing version. The other couple in the novel, Letty and Robin, was also appealing but I became much more attached to Tony and Prudence even though Robin was a very squishy hero in his own right. My favorite character in the whole novel was Lord Tremaine, Robin and Prudence’s father. He was the type of comical character in the tradition of Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Woodhouse. He was the type of silly character that I could see popping up in a Jane Austen novel.

I really loved this book. I do wish that the respective romances had been a bit more prominent but that’s just me being a big girly romance lover. I would love to see this book made into one of those Masterpiece series because it would take a production like that to make a convincing movie based on this book.

The new edition by Sourcebooks is beautiful. The cover art is really attractive. I am in the process of replacing all of my older, yellowing editions with the new Sourcebooks editions.

*A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. My opinion is my own and has not been influenced in any way and any monies made from associate or affiliate accounts are recycled back into the blog.

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