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Friday, April 30, 2010

Book Tour for The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder

Next week I will be posting my review of The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder by Rebecca WellsAs part of the tour promotion I have an interesting blog post for you to read here. This was a great book and something that made me think about life and the people I know and love. Life is precious and we should cherish every moment and enjoy life for what it is.

Below is a video of Rebecca Wells discussing Calla Lily and why she wrote about her and the beauty shop. Be sure to stop by on Thursday, May 6th for my review. For more stops on the tour please check the TLC Book Tours site.

I am an Amazon Associate.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Down and Dirty Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

What is a down and dirty review, you ask? Why it's just a quick review with no major analysis. Just what I liked and/or disliked and why. Easy, simple, and quick. Plus it's a good excuse to use this picture I found.

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: YA, sci-fi
Trade Paperback, 485 pages
Book Source: borrowed from the library
My Rating: 90/100

From the Publisher:

Their hidden world is about to be revealed....

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Clary knows she should call the police, but it's hard to explain a murder when the body disappears into thin air and the murderers are invisible to everyone but Clary.

Equally startled by her ability to see them, the murderers explain themselves as Shadowhunters: a secret tribe of warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. Within twenty-four hours, Clary's mother disappears and Clary herself is almost killed by a grotesque demon.

But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know....

My Thoughts:

This was a fun and entertaining read. The adventure begins pretty quickly with Clary's ability to see people that her friend Simon can't. From there on, the story is pretty non-stop with battles, escaping nasty demons, and the discovery that there is the whole world that most people can't see, except Shadowhunters. I think you can figure out the rest of that tid-bit.

Clary's guide through this new world is Jace, a hot Shadowhunter who is a bit too sarcastic, self righteous, and condescending for me. You battle demons and protect people I get it, but that doesn't give you the right to mock people quite often. At least that was my take. I probably could chalk this up to being a teenager.

Clary is pretty cool and likeable. For someone who is discovering this whole other side to herself and the world, she handles it all pretty well. Clary is as brave as she can be and is a good person. She checks herself when she realizes she is acting like an ass, and I consider her to be an excellent mediator. I have a feeling this will come in handy in the future.

This is book one of a trilogy, and it ends as such. No major cliffhangers but definitely some major loose ends. There are some blurbs about these books being optioned for a movie and I think they would work quite well given a good writing team is on the project. We all know the translation of book to movie is not always successful.

Overall I enjoyed this book. It was a fun ride that allowed me to escape work and make me want to stay up late at night to continue reading. No heavy thinking or analysis required on my part, and sometimes we need those kind of books.

My Rating: 90/100.  Fun and adventurous reading and I look forward to getting to book 2, City of Ashes  Sorry it took me so long to read this one!

Here is a link to Cassandra Clare website.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Support Your Local Library, Wish I Read That

I am an Amazon Associate.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Review: Lost Letter by Neil Mulligan

Lost Letter by Neil Mulligan
Publisher: BookSurge Publishing
Genre: Fiction
Trade Paperback 382 pages
Book Source: the author
My Rating: 90/100

The newly wed Jimmy and Maggie McDougal learn the news of Maggie's pregnancy just weeks after Jimmy is called to duty in World War II. Frequent letters and their deep love for one another provide comfort while they are apart. But, suddenly, Jimmy's letters to Maggie cease and the Army confirms the worst of her fears. Alone, Maggie raises their daughter, Mary, who never knows her father.

Some sixty years later, Maggie is diagnosed with a terminal illness and eventually moves in with Mary, who becomes her caretaker. At about the same time that Maggie learns of her diagnosis, the Army, during a base closure, discovers a World War II letter addressed to her. While Mary is coping with a dying mother, a demanding job and trying to learn as much as possible about the father she never knew, the Army is searching for the intended recipient of the World War II letter. Will Maggie succumb to her illness before the Lost Letter reaches her?

My Thoughts:
There are three major themes explored in this story:
*Love and loss
*Mother and daughter relationship between Maggie and Mary
*The care of a terminally ill person, or more importantly, a parent.

Mulligan does an excellent job at picking through the complex layers of all three themes. He brought my emotions to the surface many times throughout this story. Regarding love and loss, we have Maggie and her husband Jimmy, who was killed towards the end of WWII. We learn of their deep love through Maggie's stories about their childhood and adolescence together. Maggie tells Mary all of this because I think she finally accepts that she is dying, and it's one of the last things she can give her daughter.

The relationship between Maggie and Mary is complex as well. Both women are strong and fiercely independent. They value both their own and each other's need for space and privacy. They are also a bit reserved when it comes to expressing their feelings for one another. However, both ladies are able to put their tendencies to the side, since Maggie is terminal and has very precious time left. Maggie must move in with Mary, and although it isn't easy at first, they both realize this time together is a precious gift. The ability to spend every moment together until the end, is something to treasure.

With respect to caring for and dealing with a terminally ill person, Mulligan again brings the reader right into the story. Mulligan either did his homework or unfortunately went through this experience himself. Hopefully it's the former. All of the decisions and paperwork can be mind numbing, and as quickly as events happen, is as quickly as it is over. Advance directives people!

In the background of all of this, is the story of the lost letter. What happened? What does it contain? Will Maggie get it in time, before she passes? Sorry, but I'm not going to give you the answers, but I'm sure you can figure it out. Mulligan also describes Jimmy's experiences in the army. It is not pretty folks and you should thank anyone who goes to war and survives.

My only issue with the book was the writing was a bit off. The beginning felt choppy and clipped, if that makes any sense. Occasionally, it also felt as though continuity was missing. I may not be explaining it very well, but obviously it wasn't bad enough to deter me from finishing the story.

Overall, this was a very emotional read for me. I have dealt with a terminally family member, so some sections were tougher than others. I would recommend having a tissue or two on hand.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Romance Challenge

I am an Amazon Associate.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Suddenly Sunday (April 18)

Suddenly Sunday is hosted by Svea from Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog.  Please be sure stop by her blog for more Sunday posts.

Happy Suddenly Sunday everyone! Hope this finds all of you well and happy. I apologize in advance for the long post but I have lots this week. First, an update on my possible faculty position. As long as students sign up for the class, it is all mine to do with as I please. I was told to be creative and make it fun, so I have been thinking on that. As for me returning for my masters, the program has yet to be approved. If it receives approval, it starts in January 2011. It is definitely something I am interested in, however there are some tax considerations. Like my employer will wack my check at any time for some taxes. It's a long story, but something I need to figure out before I can go back. I'll keep you posted.

On the book front, my review for Lost Letter will go up on Tuesday. Good read, sad story. I also finished City of Bones by Cassandra Clare which was entertaining. I seem to have problems writing YA reviews though. I think it's because I get sucked into the adventure, and keep reading until it's over, never analyzing along the way. Or is it because they are teenagers and not as complex as adults? It's an interesting question to say the least. In any case, I will be writing some down and dirty reviews on City of Bones and some other books that have been languishing in my Drafts folder.

Now for the long bit, this weekend was the Free Library Festival at the main branch of the Philadelphia library. There was some food, author signings (but no one I was keen on seeing), and oh yes, books! As far as authors go, the only one I was interested in was Beth Kephart, but she was appearing today and I went yesterday. As far as books go I got 12 books. Yes, 12 books, and let me tell you, I could have bought more but I couldn't carry them. I already have a ton of books to read at home, and this totally breaks my whole reading resolutions thing. Oh well. Here are some pictures of what I got. And by the way, I totally swooped in when I saw them, like there was a stampede or something. (Sorry, but I can't get the last one straightened out.)

My best part of the day thought was the tour of the library. Now I have spent a fair amount of time at this branch, but this was a tour into the bowels of the building. It was AWESOME! I tried to take as many pictures as I could, because I'm a geek and thought if I liked it you would too. Here are some facts:

*Built in 1927 and the building next door (Family Court) is exactly the same. There are two exact same buildings, next door to one another like these, in Paris, France. I would assume the Philly ones are replicas.

*The amount of marble utilized in this building will probably never be duplicated in another due to the high cost of today.

*The plaster ceiling on each floor is different, and refinished whenever they have the money to do so. This is not often.

*They are still a major research library and will answer any questions if you call, especially for obituaries. They used to have a telephone research department before the Internet. People from anywhere would call with questions, maybe for cross word puzzles, and they would get you the answers. I remember seeing this department when I spent quality time here in high school.

*They have journals dating back to the 1800's possibly the 1700's. The guide was not 100% sure about the 1700's. They have six floors of stacks, which stretch the entire block on each floor. The building is one block all the way around. The stacks smelled so old it was intoxicating. I love the smell of books so I was in heaven. (My mom said it was probably dirt, dust, and mold, but who cares?)

*Serves as the main post office for the Philadelphia library system and the interlibrary loan system. There are 54 branches.

*First and possibly only city building with a green roof, which is on the side of the roof garden. Unfortunately the roof garden is no longer open to the public, but can be rented for special occasions. My mom used to hang out in the garden back in the day and she said it was wonderful.

View of the city and Logan Circle Fountains from the roof top deck.

Here is a picture of the popular lending section on the left and the literature section on the right:

I don't know if they do this tour all the time, but it was very cool and I would look into it of you are ever in town.

So that was my exciting weekend.  Hope you had some fun too and enjoyed whatever book you may be reading.  Take care and talk to you later :)  Happy reading!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Review: The Founding by Cynthia Harrod Eagles

The Founding

Re-Issued by: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction
Trade Paperback, 560 pages
Book Source: Sourcebooks

 From Sourcebooks:

Seeking power and prestige, grim, ambitious Yorkshireman Edward Morland arranges a marriage between his meek son Robert and spirited Eleanor, young ward of the influential Beaufort family. Eleanor is appalled at being forced to marry a mere “sheep farmer”; she is, after all, secretly in love with Richard, Duke of York.

Yet from this apparently ill-matched union, Robert and Eleanor form a surprising connection that soon will be tested by a bloody civil war that divides families, sets neighbor against neighbor, and brings tragedy close to home.

My Thoughts:

Edward Morland is a rich Yorkshire sheep farmer who has money but no titles or connections. To remedy this he forges an alliance with the Beaufort family (yes, the same Beauforts who were descended from John of Gaunt and thus closely aligned with royalty). Morland marries his remaining son and heir, Robert, to Eleanor Courteney, a woman with connections but no dowry to speak of. Luckily for Eleanor her upbringing and no nonsense nature enable her to manage with this difficult situation.

York is a tough and wild place to forge a new life, and Edward Morland is a tough as they come as far as in laws go. His choice of Eleanor pays dividend however, because without her, the Morland Dynasty would have never been. Eleanor is the one who makes the Morland family into a dynasty. She is the MATRIARCH (yes capitals are required) of the family and with her sheer will, determination, and tough choices leads the Morland family to prosperity.

For all of these wonderful accomplishments, Eleanor is quite a cold person. Her first impression of her husband Robert was quite poor and she treated him with disdain most of their life together. This is also due in large part to her unrequited love for Richard of York. Eleanor is a Yorkist through and through, and it often led to arguments with her own husband. Eleanor warms up to Robert towards the end, but for me it was too little too late. Robert for his benefit never truly realizes how is wife feels towards him, and goes happily through life loving and worshipping Eleanor. Robert may not be an aggressive person, however that is no excuse to treat him so coldly.

Regardless, Eleanor's ideas for growing the family business were spectacular, and she made very shrewd business decisions, which included marrying her children to improve the family business. Cold and calculating, Eleanor grew the family coffers.

As for the rest of the family, each one had their own personality however most of them were pretty forgettable. I didn't dislike any of the children or grandchildren, they were just part of the overall story. Eleanor had 13 children, and it did get a bit confusing form time to time. Fortunately there is a family tree in the front of book, which I referred to quite frequently.  As my friend Marie pointed out, it lists both dates of birth and death, so it can be a bit of a spoiler.  That didn't bother me though, as I had trouble keeping track in the first place.

This book is not so much about the War of the Roses, of which the Morlands have a part, but more of a story about a family and how they weathered the times in which they lived. I liked that the Morlands were far enough from Court that they got their information second hand from family members serving there. This story does have a Yorkist slant and is pro Richard III, which should come as no surprise. It is in keeping with Eleanor's character, and she is the focus of the story.

Love them or hate, the Morlands are quite a handful and I am looking forward to continuing their story. This is truly an epic story, that I'm sure will entertain as I read through the years. There are 33 books, you know.

My Rating: 95/100.  A solid A.  I liked the story, the way it was written and the family was inserted into history.  I look forward to continuinng through history with the Morlands.

See more reviews at The Burton Review and Passages to the Past.

Thank you to Sourcebooks for my copy.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Historical Fiction

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

LOST: Happily Ever After

"This island is not done with you yet."

Excellent episode last night! I must admit I feel as though I got some closure or understanding last night. Things are working towards the end game of the show.
And it was an all Desmond episode! Loved it!
So here are my semi-coherent but random thoughts on the episode:

  • Love and lost love is the key here. True love apparently conquers all, even the island. Charlie and Claire, (who else would the beautiful dream blonde be?), Desmond and Penny, Daniel and the red head. At least the men know they are missing their true loves, and something is not right with their "world". The bomb did this and this was not the life they were supposed to have.

  • was good to see him again. His conversation with Desmond was enlightening and just brought everything together for the end. I believe Desmond remembered this and that's why he was compliant after his toasty trip. I think he knows what needs to be done now.

  • Desmond and Eloise's conversation reminded of the conversations they have had in the flashbacks. She is trying to steer him in a direction, he apparently doesn't wan to go in, since he doesn't listen to her advice. Eloise probably likes this version since her son is alive.

  • Sayid taking Desmond. Not sure about this, but I am stubborn and don't want to believe that Sayid is evil. Although he does look like a man on a mission.
Don't kill my Desmond!

That's it for now. I was concentrating on watching the show, but I would love to hear all of your thoughts.

For more viewer comments and recaps, please check out the LOST Book Challenge.

I am an Amazon Associate.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Winner of The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham

Congratulations go out to 


She is the winner of my giveaway for The Stolen Crown by Susan Higginbotham
Thanks to you all for entering and  continuing to support my blog.

Special thanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks for sponsoring this giveaway.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Review: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig

Publisher: Penguin Group Genre: Historical fiction, romance, adventure
Hardback 386 pages
Book Source: borrowed from the library

From Lauren Willig's website:
Nothing ever goes right for Eloise. The day she wears her new suede boots, it rains. When the subway stops short, she's the one thrown into some stranger's lap. And she's had her share of misfortune in the way of love. So, after deciding that romantic heroes must be a thing of the past, Eloise is ready for a fresh start.

Setting off for England, Eloise is determined to finish her dissertation on two spies, the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian. But what she discovers is something historians have missed: the secret history of the Pink Carnation-the most elusive spy of all time. As she works to unmask this obscure spy, Eloise has more and more questions. Like, how did the Pink Carnation save England from Napoleon? What became of the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Purple Gentian? And will Eloise Kelly escape her bad luck and find a living, breathing hero of her own?

My Thoughts:

Mystery, intrigue, romance, spying....all of the necessary ingredients for a great compelling read. The Pink carnation was all of these and each and every one of the characters, including the bit players, provided entertainment and joy.

The story begins in modern day England with Eloise, who is a grad student working on her thesis.

"Of course, that wasn't how I phrased it when I suggested the idea to my dissertation advisor.
I made scholarly noises about filling a gap in the historiography, and the deep sociological significance of spying as a means of asserting manhood, and other silly ideas couched in intellectual unintelligibility.

I called it "Aristocratic Espionage during the Wars with France:1789-1815."
Rather a dry title, but somehow I doubt "Why I Love Men in Black Masks" would have made it past my dissertation committee." (pg 3)

This little bit had me hooked because I love people with a sense of humor and sarcasm.

Eloise eventually discovers papers that put her hot on the trail of the identity Pink Carnation. The story then switches to the early 1800's. Although the historical story is the majority of the book, the male and female leads in both times are similar. What? You didn't think Eloise would eventually find a hot guy while searching for her facts? Anyway, the interactions of the lead characters remind me of Maddie Hayes and David Addison from Moonlighting, with their cute bickering yet hidden desire. Amy, the historical heroine, may be a bit dim from time to time, but she is quite a feisty gal. I liked her immensely; and the Purple Gentian....well he was a dream.

Although the story is quite predictable and the behaviors maybe not in tune with the times, it was a great story. Fun and entertaining, escapism at it's best. Only the historical story reaches a conclusion, sort of. One needs to read the next in the series to see how the contemporary story continues. That didn't bother me too much because I am only more than happy to continue on with this adventure.

My Rating: 98/100. I was hooked from jump and it was a hard book to put down

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Support Your Local Library, Historical Fiction, Reading Romance