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Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson is on the most dangerous quest of his life. With the help of a satyr and a daughter of Athena, Percy must journey across the United States to catch a thief who has stolen the original weapon of mass destruction – Zeus’ master bolt. Along the way, he must face a host of mythological enemies determined to stop him. Most of all, he must come to terms with a father he has never known, and an Oracle that has warned him of betrayal by a friend.

My Thoughts:

I tried to write an ode to Percy Jackson because I adored this book so much, but I am just not that clever.  Plus, you have all probably read and finished this series already.  I am uber late to this party.  So let me just point out what and why I loved this book so much:

  • The use of Greek Mythology is interesting and cool; and something many stories do not feature.  At least not the ones I read.
  • The gods and goddesses always have children with humans, and I liked how the children of the gods plays out in the books.  
  • Humanizing Poseidon that way...I've always liked him the least until now.
  • The use of ADHD: why it's special and making it normal for the half-bloods...LOVED it!
  • The themes that are in the story for children who read this series. 
  • the adventure of it all.  This book was a page turner for me.  I am so sorry I didn't read this sooner, and more sorry I haven't moved on to Book 2.
  • Making Percy and his friends likable.  They are young yet mature in some ways.  
  • All of the secondary characters, even the baddies, added to the fun of the story and I can't wait to see how they turn up again.
You guys know all this good stuff already.  I just had to add my 50 cents.

The author's website:

My Rating: 100/100

Publisher: Hyperion Books
Genre: Teen/YA/Fantasy
Hardback 375 pages
Book Source: borrowed from the library

© Jenny Girl - 2011 "All Rights Reserved"

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Review: Insatiable by Meg Cabot

Sick of vampires? So is Meena Harper. 

But her boss is making her write about them anyway, even though Meena doesn’t believe in them. 

Not that Meena isn’t familiar with the supernatural. See, Meena Harper knows how you’re going to die (not that you’re going to believe her; no one ever does). 

But not even Meena’s precognition can prepare her for what happens when she meets—then makes the mistake of falling in love with—Lucien Antonescu, a modern-day prince with a bit of a dark side . . . a dark side a lot of people, like an ancient society of vampire-hunters, would prefer to see him dead for. 

The problem is, he already is dead. Maybe that’s why he’s the first guy Meena’s ever met that she could see herself having a future with. See, while Meena’s always been able to see everyone else’s future, she’s never been able look into her own. 

And while Lucien seems like everything Meena has ever dreamed of in a boyfriend, he might turn out to be more like a nightmare. 

Now might be a good time for Meena to start learning to predict her own future . . . 

If she even has one.

Three Reasons Review:

1.)Reasons you chose this book

I was offered the follow-up book to review in 2012, so I had to read the first one.  Also, when this book did the rounds on the blogs I listed on my tbr because I liked the sound of the book and the reviews were quite positive.

2.)Reasons you liked or disliked this book

A book about a woman who hates all this vampire crap in mainstream media, and then ends falling in love with one...what's not to love.  Meena was a very good heroine, and I liked her quite a bit, despite not being able to figure out how old she was.  Seems weird that age should matter, but to me it does.  I thought she was hovering around 30, but at times she seemed much younger.  Continuing on, the way in which Cabot incorporated the vampire myths (Stoker's Dracula) seemed realistic to me as well, and added to the story.  These vampires are old school; not shiny and vegetarian.  I liked that a lot!

The overall story arc was also interesting and I probably should have seen some of the twists coming at the end, but I didn't.  I really liked this book and thought it was a page turner.  The book wraps up this tale but it leaves it open for a sequel or series; probably a series.

Now for my dislikes.  Meena has a younger brother named John, and I hated him with every fiber of my being.  What a spoiled, insensitive child (who's in his 20s), who I am not sure really loves or cares about his sister.  Seriously, the things he said and way he acted...I get Meena has no family and tries to hang onto the one family member she has, but come on!  Tell your brother to man up and stop being such a tool.  That aspect bothered me quite a bit.  I've read John isn't too involved in book 2, so I'm happy about that.

Another character I disliked and was puzzled by at the end of this tale was Alaric.  Alaric enters Meena's life to protect her from Lucien.  He is misogynistic, no discernible communication skills, and again a tool.  Yea, yea, he had a crappy childhood, but as time passed he didn't learn any manners?  Anyway, you can tell the author is setting up a love triangle with Lucien/Meena/Alaric, which is fine, however by the end of the book, Alaric has become so besotted with Meena, that it is ridiculous.  I could not figure how this man went from an all about business, butt-hole, to a warm and fuzzy, person in love.   Meena apparently has some cat-nip like quality about her, that we don't know yet.  And it's this quality that attracts vampires and humans alike.  Curious to see how this plays out.

As for the other characters in the story, they were interesting and funny and helped to make the story work.

My last quibble would be that each chapter had a date and time for the events in that chapter.  Basically this whole story took place in like a week or so.  I got that and didn't need th date and time.  It actually confused me quite the timeline at the beginning of each chapter.

3.)Reasons for recommending

I would recommend this book, because despite some of the unevenness throughout, I enjoyed it immensely.  There were times I wanted to stay up late at night to continue reading, but I do have a day job. With so many vampire stories floating around nowadays, it is hard to be completely different, but I think Cabot has done a wonderful job in creating her own piece of vampire love story lore. Insatiable reminds a bit of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with some of its elements, but I'm cool with that.  I think Meena's story has great promise to become much more.

My Rating: 93/100

Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Genre: Fiction, paranormal
Hardback 451 pages
Book Source: borrowed from the library

For more information about Meg Cabot please visit her website:

 © Jenny Girl - 2011 "All Rights Reserved"

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Review: 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Healthier, Happier You by Brett Blumenthal

Publisher: AmazonEncore
Genre: non-fiction, self-help
Softback, evenly square shaped at 380 pages 
Book Source: Amazon Encore publicist
My Rating: 93/100

From the publisher:

This “how-to” manual for achieving a state of optimal health and wellness outlines fifty-two weeks of small, yet productive changes that readers can make to live a happier, healthier life. Why fifty-two? By making one small change each week over the course of one year, this will ultimately lead to the big change of living a healthier, happier lifestyle - because ultimately it is the small steps that make the most lasting difference, rather than trying to overhaul an entire lifetime’s worth of bad habits all at once!

52 Small Changes addresses all areas of wellbeing, including nutrition, exercise, stress management, mental wellness, and even the health of one’s home environment. With weekly goals such as Taking Time to Stretch, Choosing Whole Grains, Spending Time in Nature, and Reducing Dust in Your Home, this enthusiastic guide to long-term wellness is a must-read for anyone ready to change their life for good.

My Thoughts:

You may recall I previously reviewed one of Blumenthal's other books, Get Real and Stop Dieting, about this time last year.  So when I was contacted about this one, I jumped at the chance since I enjoyed her last one so much much.  I am happy to say that 52 Small Changes is a worthy successor or cousin to Blumenthal previous book.

The premise of this book to make small weekly changes that lead to you having overall improved helath and well being.  Small changes over time are easier to accomplish and stick with, than big sweeping changes that are so forceful, that they may actually do more harm than good.  You don't have to do every change.  You can just pick a few out and do those for a while, or what ever you like.  It is a go at your own pace, design your own healthy living program.

Each weekly change is a few pages in length.  They start out with a quote that is related to the change, and it's sometimes humorous.  Blumenthal then lays out the reasons for the change, how to accomplish it, and depending on what the change is, some examples or ideas on how to incorporate it into your life.  For example, one of my favorites is Week 10: Take Time to Stretch.  Most people, me included, think only of stretching before or after a workout.  Stretching should really be done everyday, because our bodies get stiff and need to be stretched out.  Joints need to be moved and lubricated.  Stretching especially during the day at work, is a wonderful idea.  Blumenthal gives you stretching examples to do, advice on how to incorporate the moves into your day, and encourages you to continue.

Several of the weekly changes are probably ones you are already do, such as drink enough water each day, take a multivitamin, get enough sleep, so these you can check off.  As you get deeper into the book, there are nutrition related tips, and healthy mind tips as well, such as learning to say no (which is hard for me), control your clutter, find your own spirituality, etc.  Most if not all of these changes you've probably heard before, but having them in one place, written about in a conversational manner, is more helpful.  The book does not read preachy, new agey, or weird, just simple and to the point.

They may be a few changes you don't agree with, and that's okay too.  There was one in particular about avoiding food with specified additives.  I agree and see the benefits, but I can't totally follow this one.  It is just not going to work for me.  However, I can be more mindful of what I buy and consume.

Overall this book was interesting and I enjoyed reading it.  I'm not into self-help books but 52 Small Changes is easy to read and makes sense for me the average nutrition conscious person.  I also liked that I could read here and there, and not all in one sitting.  Small changes, small bites of reading :)

About the author:
Brett Blumenthal is from Cambridge, MA and is co-founder and CEO of Be Healthy, Inc., a wellness promotion company whose mission is to create a healthier America, one city at a time. She is also founder of Sheer Balance and The Healthy Road Warrior, which provide information, classes, and seminars, along with wellness coaching, to educate and motivate individuals interested in living a healthy lifestyle.

 © Jenny Girl - 2011 "All Rights Reserved"

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Suddenly Sunday (Dec. 18)

Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by Svea @ The Muse in the Fog Book Review. The purpose of Suddenly Sunday is to share all the exciting events that have occurred on your blog throughout the week.  

Hi my friends and dear readers!  How are you?  I hope this finds all of you quite well and enjoying the holidays.  Please don't get sucked into the hype of the commercialization of Christmas.  It will just suck the life out of you.  Anyways, it's been a while since I have posted or Suddenly Sunday'ed and I'm off today, so the timing is perfect.

Last Saturday was the start of my annual cookie baking event, cookiepallooza.  This year I had the help of a food processor to make all of the dough.  I read mixed things about using a food processor, but I let the dough rest overnight, and my cookies came out awesome.  Some of my best actually.  I also finally figured out my oven.  It runs super hot, so there were a few trays of crispy cookies, but I think this will be the last year for that. Also, I made more cookies than usual this year, which was great because I gave quite a few away.  However, there are many that are being consumed by me and the Mr. and lets just say we are starting to feel it.  Next year: less cookies for sure!  I do so love giving them away though :)

In other news, I need a new laptop because the screen died on me.  Luckily I have an old 15" flat screen in storage, so I have a funky set up going on the kitchen table.  I had hoped in between cookie batches to get some posts done, catch on blog reading and commenting, but it took a few days to figure out the issue.  I admit I was freaking out there for a while with no laptop, but it was nice to get away from the web too.

As for 2012 and my reading goals, I am saving that for a post.  I have done a lot of thinking about it, and have made some decisions.  Nothing major, just changing my book sources I guess.  I have also tried writing lately, with those Flash Fiction posts I see Blodeuedd participating in.  I would like to eventually post some pieces, but probably on a separate blog.  Also, I want to look into copyrighting my work first.  I know that sounds diva like, and I am not a prolific writer by any means, but if one of my ideas or themes was "borrowed" I would be super pissed that I didn't take the time to research legalities first.

I think that's enough catching up for one week.  Hope you have a lovely Sunday and let me know what you've been up to lately.  Happy Reading :)

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Walk About Town, Philadelphia Art Museum

Created by Natalie from Coffee and A Book Chic, this meme runs through December and is simple.  Take a few photos as you walk about town and post them.  Here's the link to Natalie's first A Walk About Town.

This week, my mom and I went to the Philadelphia Art Museum.  It was pouring rain but I stopped to take photos of the beautifully colored statues at the top of one of the wings:

and the front entrance.

Impressive isn't it.  We are going back in the Spring for the Van Gogh exhibit.
This one is outside my house and I just had to snap a photo.  They have been doing construction in the neighborhood replacing the gas lines and mains.  Apparently this the gas main in front of my house.  Love the instructional note complete with frowny face:

Oh it's spelled wrong too!  Ha!

So visit Natalie's blog and think about participating next week.  It might be easier with the holidays and all.  Enjoy your weekend friends :)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Guest post, Excerpt, and Contest from Jessica James, author of Noble Cause

Please give a warm welcome to Jessica James!  Today she is writing about the man behind the inspiration for her character Colonel Alexander Hunter.  An excerpt from her novel follows the post as well as information about a contest she is holding.  Happy Reading .

Noble Cause Awards
John Esten Cooke Award for Fiction
Next Generation Indie Contest for Regional Fiction
USA “Best Books of 2011” Finalist in Historical Fiction


For the love of history

I love getting the opportunity to talk to readers about my romantic historical fiction novel Noble Cause during Virtual Tours, but there is always the problem of coming up with an interesting topic.

When I set up this Tour Stop, Jenny sent me some questions to consider for possible subject matter, which included, “How did you get interested in Civil War?” and “Is there a particular historical person or place that you think is overlooked?”

Though I had been toying around with the idea of using some of the love letters I ran across while doing research as my theme, the idea of writing about the real-life soldier who inspired my main character soon took center stage. The fact that I knew a review of Noble Cause was running here on December 6—which just happens to be his birthday—sealed that commitment.

Though few people outside of Virginia know of him, no other soldier in the annals of the Civil War can conjure a more gallant, romantic and awe-inspiring image than that of Confederate Colonel John Singleton Mosby. The epitome of the Southern cavalier, Colonel Mosby was a charismatic officer whose small band of partisans outwitted and outfought the Union army on the fields and farmlands of Virginia.

I learned about Mosby when I lived in Virginia in the 1980s, and it was this chivalrous, courtly cavalry officer that drew me into the clutches of the Civil War and never let go. I spent the next decade or so researching the war and history of Virginia, and could not help but use the characteristics and traits of Colonel Mosby as the perfect hero for my novel. Here is a paragraph from Noble Cause describing my character Colonel Alexander Hunter:

In battle Hunter had no equal. The admiration he inspired in his comrades and the fear he aroused in his foes caused him to be adored or despised in legendary proportions. The gallant Hunter or the devil Hunter—it was all a matter of geography. But in Virginia, where he was considered the epitome of Southern honor and chivalry, it was just plain “Hunter,” a name itself equated to divine royalty.

The veneration bestowed upon him was well deserved. No heart burned more brightly with the fire of patriotism or with more intrepid resolve than Hunter’s. It was obvious in the way he fought, aggressively, fearlessly, exposing himself to the enemy’s fire, never regarding his own personal peril. He led by example, his invincible form forever seen where the carnage was greatest, ever ready to risk his own life on behalf of the sacred soil he cherished.

Such was the reputation of the real-life Mosby, who was born on Dec. 6, 1833. A lawyer in Bristol, Va. when the war broke out, he joined the military as soon as the Old Dominion left the Union. Transferring from the infantry to the cavalry, he was just 29 years old when first detached by General J.E.B. Stuart to operate behind enemy lines in 1862. Given the opportunity, he soon proved that a small number of men could launch surprise attacks by day or night with devastating impact—not only weakening the morale of the enemy invader, but using the weapon of fear to maximize their impact.

In fact, Mosby returned from one of his first expeditions with the following prisoners: one Union general, two captains, 30 privates and 58 horses. He accomplished this feat with only 29 men, riding into a well-fortified, Federally-occupied town and taking the prisoners without losing a man—or firing a shot. Needless to say, capturing a Union general within a few miles of Washington, D.C., was a feat unparalleled in the war and one that required exceptional daring and risk. He became known as “the Gray Ghost” by fearful federal forces, and his raids became the stuff of legend.

Mosby continued his operations and retained his “independent” command status throughout the war. This meant he was not attached to the regular army, had no formal headquarters, and his men could keep any “loot” captured from the enemy. I used the same type of independent command concept for Colonel Alexander Hunter in Noble Cause because of the mystique and romance that surrounded such a unit.

This type of rogue battalion actually dates back to the Revolutionary War, and was used by General Francis Marion—also known as the Swamp Fox—as depicted in the movie “The Patriot.” During the Civil War, it meant that when Mosby’s men were not in active combat, they often slept in the luxury of feather beds instead of in tents. After going on a raid, they would disperse into the countryside, making it impossible for the Union army to find them. Here is another excerpt from Noble Cause describing Hunter’s men:

“Truth be told, these men would not know how to pitch a tent if they were handed one or how to execute a lateral oblique if they were ordered to. Their camp was the saddle, and their homeland was the battlefield. When on a raid or a scout, they packed provisions for a day or three—sometimes solely in their stomachs—and when allowed to rest, reposed under the great canopy of moon and stars, or sun and wind, or rain and snow, whatever the case might be.

When not in the saddle on active duty, this gallant band of men protected themselves by disappearing into the homes of Virginian families equally devoted to the cause of Southern independence. It was on the generosity of these families the cavaliers relied for meals, and as a result, kings were neither better fed nor more reverentially treated.”

Colonel Mosby's numbers rose from a few dozen to almost a thousand by the end of the war. General Robert E. Lee cited this Virginia cavalryman for meritorious service more often than any other Confederate officer during the course of the war.

If you’re wondering what happened to Mosby, he not only survived the war, but served as U.S. Consul to Hong Kong for seven years, from 1878-85. He later accepted a job with the Southern Pacific Railway, during which time he met a boy of about 10 years named George S. Patton Jr. The story is often repeated that the old veteran shared some of the secrets of “guerrilla warfare” with the boy who would one day lead the 3rd U.S. Army into combat in Europe during World War II.

As you can see, I have quite a fascination with Colonel Mosby. If you have a favorite character from history, I hope you’ll share it here!


Excerpt from Noble Cause:

Background: Andrea Monroe is a staunch supporter of the Union, but through a twist of fate, ends up in the home of Confederate officer Alexander Hunter to recuperate from an injury. Though they spar continually about their opposing beliefs, in this chapter, Andrea is beginning to see Hunter in a different light.

Andrea lifted her gaze from a book to stare at the rays of soft sunlight drenching the lawn of Hawthorne in a rich golden blanket. She heard the front door close, then the familiar sound of Hunter’s spurs clanking across the porch. Seemingly unaware of her presence, he leaned one shoulder against the ionic column in front of her, and gazed meditatively over the gorgeous panorama of the valley he owned.
Andrea could not draw her eyes away from the indomitable figure. With one hand wrapped around a cup of coffee, the other stuffed indifferently in his pocket, his image suggested little of the intrepid character she knew so well. Dressed casually, without his officer’s coat, he seemed tranquil and relaxed. Yet his large muscular frame, with his strong, tan forearms and powerfully built legs, showed evidence of his ability to put up a fight.
She lowered her eyes to her book, but unable to concentrate, lifted them once again. He was striking, she mused, irresistibly masculine and, she admitted, very appealing. Tall, broad-shouldered and vigorous, he was the incarnation of force and strength. Yet he possessed the admirable traits of courtesy and refinement. A valiant soldier, he was likewise respected by others as a gracious and gallant gentleman, creating a puzzling veil of mystery that made him all the more intriguing.
Andrea cocked her head and scrutinized him. Most officers dressed flamboyantly. Hunter, on the other hand, always wore a uniform that betrayed nothing but hard usage. She could not help yielding him the tribute of admiration, for he was almost impossible to dislike.
Andrea looked away as her thoughts began to disturb her, and a sigh involuntarily escaped her lips.
“Oh, there you are,” Hunter said, turning around.
He moved toward her with a brilliant smile that lit his stern face, revealing a hidden handsomeness all the more captivating. Placing his cup down on the table opposite her, he took a seat. Andrea detected an uncharacteristic twinkle in his eye and tried to decipher its cause.

Tour Stops:

Friday, Dec. 9:

Friday, Dec. 9, 8-10 p.m.:  Chat on Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers

As part of my Holiday History Tour that continues the week of Dec. 12, I will be writing about different “Mosby landmarks” I have visited, over at my Life in the Past Lane blog ( They include a house in which Colonel Mosby had to climb out of the window into a tree in the middle of the night to escape capture. (Yes, the tree is still there too).

On Dec. 16, I’ll be giving away goodies that will include a copy of Noble Cause, a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card, and the e-book “From the Heart: Love Letters and Stories from the Civil War.”

There are numerous ways to enter—and no limit to the number of times you can enter.

  1. Leave a comment on any of the blogs on my Virtual Tour (including this one!)
  2. Follow my blog at and/or my main web page
  3. Leave a comment on my blog during the week of Dec. 12.
  4. LIKE my Facebook Fan Page at
  5. Spread the word on Twitter by posting:
Join the Holiday #History Tour! Enter 2 win signed award-winning #CivilWar #fiction RT! #books #contest #Romance

Thanks Jessica for stopping by and hope you read and enjoy Noble Cause as much as I did.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Review: Noble Cause by Jessica James

This is the tale of Colonel Alexander Hunter, a dauntless and daring Confederate cavalry officer, who, with his band of intrepid outcasts, becomes a legend in the rolling hills of northern Virginia. Inspired by love of country and guided by a sense of duty and honor, Hunter must make a desperate choice when he discovers the woman he promised his dying brother he would protect is the Union spy he vowed to his men he would destroy. 

Readers will discover the fine line between friends and enemies when the paths of these two tenacious foes cross by the fates of war and their destinies become entwined forever. (from Goodreads)

My Thoughts:

Andrea: born, raised, and educated in the South but whose loyalties lay with the Union
Hunter: a Southern gentleman who is fighting against government incursion and for states rights for Virginia

Although they seem like polar opposites, they are quite similar than they realize; both take extreme and probably stupid chances with their lives during war.  So when events and circumstances cause Hunter to take Andrea away to his Virginia home to recuperate from injuries, the situation is tenuous and dangerous.  Hunter and Andrea are both highly principled, smart, witty, and stubborn as mules.  Both come with personal histories that define who they are and their beliefs, thus their side of choice in the war.  However, over time Hunter and Andrea come to see the war from the other's point of view, and respect and admire each other even more.

The majority of the book takes place at Hunter's ranch with Andrea and Hunter verbally sparring with one another at almost every occasion.  It is these discussion that not only demonstrate the change and growth in each person, but the various reasons and thought patterns of those involved in the Civil War.  Although the abolition of slavery was the impetus for the war, it wasn't the sole reason for the war.  States rights versus the Federal government was another, which was Hunter's main concern.  Abolition was Andrea's.  As the war dragged on, the reasons for the war changed as the people in the war changed.  The more trauma and savagery people experience the more ruthless they become.  War is not a game.  It changes people for better or for worse.  Hunter and Andrea were lucky because not only did they survive, but because the changes in each were positive, and they found each other during one of the most ugly times in the United States.

Jessica James did a wonderful job conveying the war.  There are a few battle scenes within the story, and the horribleness and brutality of the war is palpable.  There was one scene towards the end of the book that had me reading so fast, I was skipping over words to find out what happened. As for her characters, Hunter and Andrea, I thought they were drawn quite well, for the most part.  Both were easy to understand and very, very likable.  Opposites attract they say, but these two were so well matched, that I couldn't wait until they finally got together.

I do have two quibbles with this story.  One: Andrea's reasons for being against slavery, mainly her history, are told here and there in the story.  However, I felt as though I was still missing something from her back story;  like there had to be more to it than that.   My other quibble was that towards the end of the story, the verbal sparring got to be a bit much for me.  I realize that last big chunk had to be there for the plot, but I felt the discussion went on too long.  Otherwise, the story finished up wonderfully.  

I have not read many Civil War stories due to a bad experience many years ago, and I must admit that this book has me changing my mind.  I enjoyed this book immensely and would certainly read something else from Miss James again.

For more information about the author, Jessica James, please visit her website:

My Rating: 92/100

Be sure to stop by tomorrow for s guest post by Jessica James about the true life Civil War figure who was the inspiration for Colonel Alexander Hunter in Noble Cause.

Publisher: Patriot Press, April 2011
Genre: HF, Civil War
Hardback 384 pages
Book Source: the author
2011 Challenges Met: HF

Monday, November 28, 2011

Review: When Gods Die by C.S. Harris

# 2  of the Sebastian St. Cyr Mysteries

June, 1811. On a summer's evening at the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, the beautiful young wife of an aging Marquis is found dead in the arms of the Prince Regent himself. From her back protrudes a jeweled dagger that once belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie. Around her neck lies an ancient bluestone and silver necklace said to have been worn by the Druid priestesses of Wales. Legend credited the necklace with mysterious powers—until it was lost at sea with its last owner, the mother of Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin.

Still shadowed by rumors of his own dark past, Sebastian is lured into a dangerous investigation of both the Marchioness's death and his own mother's uncertain fate. He soon discovers that the idle, profligate Prince is not as innocent as his court handlers would have the public believe. With the aid of his lover, a celebrated actress with secrets of her own, and his new servant, Tom, Sebastian follows a twisted trail that leads from a seaside pleasure palace to the most depraved London slums, from the murdered woman's elegant townhouse in Mayfair to a medieval tavern run by an ex-slave.

As he edges closer to the truth, Sebastian finds himself thrust into a world of hidden passions and disguised ambition. And when one murder is followed by another, he confronts an insidious conspiracy that imperils those nearest to him even as it threatens to bring down the monarchy.

My Thoughts:

This was another face paced, suspenseful, and enjoyable read.  Since this murder throws suspicion on Old Prinny (the Prince Regent), we again have political suspects vying among those who had issue with the deceased.  To add even more mystery to the mix, the deceased Marchioness was wearing a necklace that was last seen on Sebastian's mother, before she died at sea.  What what?  Not only does Sebastian have to solve this murder without ruffling feathers, he must also deal with how this necklace turned up and his feelings regarding his mother's death.  When she died, life become extremely tough for Sebastian.  This aspect of the story makes the reader adore Sebastian even more.  Yes, he is rich and titled but even the aristocracy can have a messed up childhood.

We also can't forget Sebastian's "secret" relationship with Kat, the famous actress whom society deems seriously unfashionable to be involved with.  But Sebastian doesn't care what others think.  This is what allows him to solve these mysteries and still be so charming.  He fights for the innocent victims and ensures they receive justice.  As in the first novel, this story also contains chase scenes through the streets of London, confrontations, and lovable secondary characters, such as Sebastian's new servant Tom and his friend/old comrade/surgeon....sorry I forget his name;but that doesn't make him any less fun!

All in all this was another quick and enjoyable read, that drowned out the real world as I read it.  Although this is the second in the series, I do believe this is a stand alone mystery. I can't wait to get to the next one :)

The author's website:

My Rating: 95/100
Publisher: SIGNET (Penguin)
Genre: Historical fiction/mystery
Paperback 377 pages
Book Source: the library

2011 Challenges Met: Mystery & Suspense, HF

Friday, November 25, 2011

Guest posting today

I am a Lady-in-Waiting at Royal Reviews and am guest posting today.  If you  have a minute, please stop by and visit.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Review: A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newpapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen, who scrawled “V” for victory on the walls of her lycee; the eldest, a farmer’s wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to one another, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazis occupiers.
Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women of the French Resistance and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, finding solace and strength in friendship; their common experience conquering divisions of age, education, profession, and class.
In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would survive. (From tour home page)
My Thoughts:
There are two parts to this book: before and after.  Part 1, the before, explains how the women met and how the Resistance movement in France began.  The early Resisters had Communist and Fascist backgrounds.  There were many small groups that initially worked independently.  The university people, printers, writers, each group had a niche.  They would write leaflets and articles about how the German occupation was wrong, how the French were starving, and how people were mistreated at the hands of the Germans.  Women were in a perfect position to distribute anti-German literature, especially as they went about their shopping, or continued to go to work at an office, etc.  No one would suspect a woman of such things.  These early women resisters felt the French were being wronged and set about organinzing resistance.  They were quite passionate.  Then laws against the Jews were enforced and still other women helped to smuggle Jews to safer territory.  
As the Resistance movement became stronger, the Germans set about spying and discovering who was involved.  The Germans were helped by the French police, and citizens who disliked or disagreed with the Communists and Fascists helped as well.  Several secret police forces in addition to the Gestapo, helped to round up these Resistance fighters and put them in French jails.  Beatings and torture for information were quite common.  The women hung in jail together managing the best they could.  Then the tide turned and the Germans decided to be rid of these female troublemakers once and for all.
"You are all condemned to die but the execution of your sentence will take a little time." (pg. 187)
Part 2, the after, begins when the French women disembark from the train that has taken them to the east, further inland in Europe.  They had no idea what awaits them as they enter Auschwitz, singing the Marseillaise, as they were wont to do when they demonstrated their solidarity and defiance.  Unfortunately they soon found out.  Their identities and dignity are  taken away by being shaved bald, medically examined, tattooed, and then dressed in dirty rags, thrown out into the cold and filth. They receive very little food or water, endure roll call for hours on end, standing in the snow, sometimes with no shoes or socks.  Fleas, lice, and disease are so rampant that it is unimaginable. It is not long before the women realize they may not make it out alive, and strive to stick together and look out for one another.  The bonds these women had formed in jail in France serve to get them through until they are eventually liberated, two years later.  The strong ones support the weak, in mind, body, and spirit.  They pool their meager resources together, if one needs something so badly to stave off death.  It is the women's determination to report the horrors they are witnessing firsthand in Auschwitz that drives some of these women to survive.  Someone has got to remember these poor souls who died and bear them witness to the world.  Someone needs to remember their names.
In a little over six months, 177 French women were dead. This left 53 women left.  In the end, only 49 of the 230 French women survived.  It's very hard to wrap your mind around, isn't it?  These women started out doing what they felt was right aiding the Resistance movement, with little or no hesitation.  They were all very strong capable women who could have looked the other way and went about their business.  But no, they stood up to the Germans, and many paid the ultimate price.  Many people have romantic notions about occupied France and the Resistance, and they are mistaken.  These people suffered badly for their beliefs.  I would like to say I would do the same.  I would stand against injustice, but I'm not so sure.  You never can be until you are in that situation.  If these women knew what awaited them, when they got caught, I still don't think they would have changed their minds or activities.  They were and are fighting for humanity. 
This book was engrossing and there were times that I wanted to put it down because the scenes are graphic and disturbing.  I felt this would be a disservice to these women and all they had been through.  The least I could do was read their story.  I learned many things about occupied France, and this book has inspired me to research more information about this time period and its events.  This book is masterfully written and I would recommend it to everyone, especially young people.  History repeats itself, so it must never be forgotten.
My Rating: 100/100 (These women have made an indelible impression upon me.)
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Non-Fiction, WWII
Hardcover 384 pages
Book source: TLC Book Tours
Thank you to TLC Book Tours for another enlightening reading experience.  Here is a list of the other tour stops:
 Tuesday, November 8th: Unabridged Chick
Wednesday, November 9th: A Bookish Libraria
Friday, November 11th: Elle Lit.
Monday, November 14th: Diary of an Eccentric
Tuesday, November 15th: Take Me Away
Wednesday, November 16th: Among Stories
Wednesday, November  16th: Melody & Words
Thursday, November 17th: Broken Teepee
Monday, November 21st: Jenny Loves to read
Tuesday, November 22nd: Picky Girl
Wednesday, November 23rd: Books Like Breathing
Monday, November 28th: Reviews by Lola
Tuesday, November 29th: Buried in Print
Wednesday, November 30th: Savvy Verse & Wit
Thursday, December 1st: In the Next Room
Friday, December 2nd: Wordsmithonia
Friday, December 2nd: Books and Movies

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Reclaim Your Reader Week Nov. 14th to 18th

This week I am participating in the first annual Reclaim Your Reader Week created and hosted by the Bumbles over at The Bumbles Blog.  The idea is to catch up your blog reading, commenting, etc, but basically no new posts on your own blog.  Spend this week catching up with others, and maybe meeting new people.  Sign ups are here.  Please enjoy my posts from last week and hope to see you around the interwebs.

Happy reading :)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What's Wednesday?

What’s up Wednesday is a weekly catch up event. I discuss anything that’s on my mind, or what may be happening in my life. It’s my take on “me time”. Feel free to join along in the comments or leave a link to your What’s up Wednesday post.

Weekly?  I have fallen off the wagon!  Gotta fix that for future posts.  Apologies for the late post.  I meant to do at work today, but had to empty my desk for exterminations being done overnight at the office.  Lets just say I quite a bit of flare on my desk, not to mention files and papers.  It's quite sad really.
Anyway, today is about knitting.  Yea!

First up is the SFBB, stupid effing baby blanket.  Why might you ask?  Well I am a selfish knitter, who likes to knit for themselves, and I don't mind the occasional project for others.  However, when one "expects" a blanket, and feels entitled, I get a little miffed.  A blanket is a big time commitment, and not an easy task, as you can see...

It won't cover the bed but it's good for the crib, car seat or carriage.  She was super appreciative, but I am  not a fan of blankets.  I also made her a bunny, because she wouldn't shut up about the last one I made for her son.  I ended up having the perfect yarn and it was a super fast project, so I didn't mind.

He is cute isn't he?  And his face came out nicely too.  I suck at faces.  All in all they were a hit at the shower, and the mother to be teared up so in the end,  I was happy to make her happy.  Even if I grumbled along the way :)

Monday, November 7, 2011

Review: Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs

(Book 1 in the Temperence Brennan Series)
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Inc. (1998)
Genre: Mystery/suspense
Paperback, 532 pages
Book Source: Paperbackswap
My Rating: 94/100
Recommended by: Nise from Under the Boardwalk

From the author's website:

Her life is devoted to justice — for those she never even knew.

In the year since Temperance Brennan left behind a shaky marriage in North Carolina, work has often preempted her weekend plans to explore Quebec. When a female corpse is discovered meticulously dismembered and stashed in trash bags, Tempe detects an alarming pattern — and she plunges into a harrowing search for a killer. But her investigation is about to place those closest to her — her best friend and her own daughter — in mortal danger….

My Thoughts:

This is not the Temperance Brennen you know from Bones.  This is the original and she has some luggage with her.  This Tempe is much older, with a kid in college, divorced, and a recovering alcoholic.  Tempe is a bit damaged, and I like her for it.  She is not as clinical as the TV version.  This Tempe has feelings.

"The deaths of these women had stirred something in me.  I ached for their fear, ,their pain, their helplessness in the face of madness.  I felt anger and outrage, and a need to root out the animal responsible for their slaughter.  I felt for these victims, and my response to their deaths was like a lifeline to my own feelings.  To my own humanity and my celebration of life.  I felt, and I was grateful for the feeling."  pg. 411

This book was an interesting read.  It is set in Quebec, Canada in the early 1990s.  The police department has finally decided to install a computer system for their records.  Compared to today, it blows the mind a little, doesn't it?  Anyway, through Tempe's relentless insistence of involving herself in the police investigation, it becomes evident they have a nasty serial killer on their hands, and time is of the essence.   The murders are brutal indeed, so if you are squeamish, there are some parts you have to skip past.  Tempe likes to go off on her own little investigations, and that's where things begin to get dangerous. 

The story is told by Tempe in the first person.  There were passages in the story that were quite suspenseful.  I started to skip over words I was reading so fast.  As for the forensic anthropology aspect, I enjoyed that, and there was only one part that started to make my eyes glaze over.  Since it is first person through Tempe, the story contains her thoughts and how she tries to deal with these things in her life, her divorce, her daughter, trying to make a difference in these investigations, how people see her.  These insights are what made this Tempe so much more enjoyable to me.  She is real person with real fears and doubts like you and I.  She also makes the same stupid mistakes you or I might make.  Tempe is someone I would definitely like to have lunch with.

If you are looking for something a little different, something more than just a detective story, try this series.

For more information about the book series or the author, please visit her website:

Thanks to Nise for recommending this book/series!

2011 Challenges Met: Mystery & Suspense, Chunkster

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Suddenly Sunday

Hosted by Svea from The Muse on the Fog

Hello dear readers!  Hope you having a lovely November Sunday.  November already...can you believe it?!  These days are going by so quickly.  I'm sure you are all planning your holiday festivities like me.  What cookies to bake, parties to attend, etc.  In terms of reading, I haven't read much.  All my plans for spooky reading took a back seat to the Mysteries of Udolpho, but I don't mind.  That book was wonderful, and I'm glad I finally read it.

I also finally read The Luxe by Anna Godberson.  This review is due to post on Royal Reviews first, but will eventually appear here as well.  What a deliciously sinful book!  It was so fun to read, and I am debating about requesting the rest of the series from the library.  That and the remainder of the Hunger Games series.  I'm thinking I can squeeze those in before the end of the year.  I have plans for my 2012 reading already.  I'll save the details for later.

In terms of non-bookish stuff, October was a busy month for me.  I attended a training seminar for work which was three days of hard core learning.  Two online classes required completion before attending the seminar too.  It was intense but well worth it.  Work is always busy, and I recently learned my boss and I are undertaking a big humongous project.  It is daunting to be sure, but interesting and something I enjoy: education efforts.  Yea!  Maybe I should have been a teacher :)

On the social front, not much.  I like sticking close to home and relaxing with my hubby.  I did however attend the opera with my mom.  We went to a production of Carmen at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.  It was our first opera and it was a wonderful experience.  We had the cheap seats, so our view was slightly obstructed, but the music and singing was awesome!  I had a vague idea of what Carmen was about, but never realized she was such a trollop!  We will definitely go to the opera again.

Half of the experience was the Academy itself. (Link to history)  It is so old you can not help but imagine America's ton going to the opera and sitting in their boxes.  Loving historical fiction helps too.   The Academy opened in 1857 and was called the Grand Old Lady of Locust Street.  Although paintings may be touched up, statues polished, and seats recovered, the size, shape, design, everything is original.  When one speaks about the Academy, the chandelier inevitably comes up.  It weighs about 5,000 pounds and it is exquisite.  Here are some photos of the inside from my phone:

The detail on the statues holding up the roof

From the last row in the top most tier.

If you are ever in Philly., I would recommend trying to catch a show or something at the Academy.  It is a treat   Have a great week everyone :)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Review: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe

I apologize in advance for the long review but I feel it is the only way to do justice to this book.  The first part will be a bare bones plot summary, from Wikipedia.  It has some spoilers, so skip or skim if you like.  The second part will be thoughts and impressions I had while reading this remarkable literary work.

Summary via Wkipedia:

Emily St. Aubert is the only child of a landed rural family whose fortunes are now in decline. Emily and her father share an especially close bond, due to their shared appreciation for nature. After her mother's death from a serious illness, Emily and her father grow even closer. She accompanies him on a journey from their native Gascony, through the Pyrenees to the Mediterranean coast of Roussillon, over many mountainous landscapes. During the journey, they encounter Valancourt, a handsome man who also feels an almost mystical kinship with the natural world. Emily and Valancourt quickly fall in love.

Emily's father succumbs to a long illness. Emily, now orphaned, is forced by his wishes to live with her aunt, Madame Cheron, who shares none of Emily's interests and shows little affection to her. Her aunt marries Montoni, a dubious nobleman from Italy. He wants his friend Count Morano to become Emily′s husband, and tries to force her to marry him. After discovering that Morano is nearly ruined he brings Emily and his wife to his remote castle of Udolpho. Emily fears to have lost Valancourt forever. Morano searches for Emily and tries to carry off her secretly from Udolpho. Emily refuses to join him because her heart still belongs to Valancourt. Morano′s attempt to escape is discovered by Montoni, who wounds the Count and chases him away.

In the following months Montoni threatens his wife with violence to force her to sign over her properties in Toulouse, which upon her death would otherwise go to Emily. Without resigning her estate Madame Cheron dies of a severe illness caused by her husband′s harshness. Many frightening but coincidental events happen within the castle, but Emily is able to flee from it with the help of her secret admirer Du Pont, who was a prisoner at Udolpho, and the servants Annette and Ludovico. Returning to the estate of her aunt, Emily learns that Valancourt went to Paris and lost his wealth. In the end she takes control of the property and is reunited with Valancourt.
(link to summary)  [Sorry, but my summary was way too long and I tried several times to be concise, but couldn't do it.]

My Thoughts and Impressions:

 “…of beauty sleeping in the lap of horror” (pg. 55)

Radcliffe uses this line to describe the mountainous landscape that  Emily and St. Aubert are traveling.  However, this phrase could be used to describe the whole story contained in Udolpho.  Emily, our beauty, often finds herself in the lap of horror: becoming a young orphan, having uncaring and unfeeling family, the treacherous and mean behavior of aunt Madame Cheron, being subjected to the machinations of Montoni, the castle Udolpho and its mysterious occurrences, and the alleged misbehavior of her one true love Valencourt. 

When reflected upon as a whole, even though all of these terrible circumstances keep happening, it becomes comical because poor Emily just can’t catch a break!  Most novels have one or two disagreeable instances, but not for Emily.  The entire novel is one bad situation after another; like a soap opera, think General Hospital.  I think it’s this overall arc that led Jane Austen to satirize Udolpho in Northanger Abbey (NA).  Although I haven’t read NA in quite some time, the similarities between NA and Udolpho  are striking and a re-read of NA is definitely in order.  Austen uses situations from Udolpho, such as the mysterious death of a spouse, a rundown castle in search of a good dowry for repairs, for her antics in NA.  It’s all in good natured fun.  By the end of Udolpho, all of the mysterious occurrences are explained, and everything comes together nicely.  One key difference between NA and Udolpho is the heroine.

Emily begins our story being quite weak, crying and fainting at the least little disruption to her person.  Emily is also quite the blusher.  As events unfold however, Emily grows stronger, due in part to what she must endure.  She still tears up and faints from time to time, but at least it is less frequent and the causes of these episodes are legitimate threats to her life and liberty.  I believe Radcliffe was trying to reflect either women’s behavior at her time (1794) or the time of her story, 1584.  Either way, Emily becomes her own person by the end, and it was delightful to see her develop and progress to adulthood.   

Throughout Udolpho, there are both little and big mysteries in the story, with most of the action occurring when the story shifts to the castle Udolpho.  I won’t go into detail, but there were many scenes in which I was riveted to the page.  This was probably my favorite part of the book.  Udolpho became quite the page turner and I was not expecting that.  Some may say there is too much going on, however with the novel being so lengthy, the mysteries kept it interesting.

Besides the mystical/horror element, Radcliffe’s descriptions of the various landscapes set the mood for the reader.  This combined with her description of castle Udolpho conjured up feelings of dread within me just like Emily, knowing those thick stone walls held nothing but sadness and despair.  In addition, Radcliffe crafts all of her secondary characters so well, that they assist in pulling the story together, and drawing the reader further into the action of the novel.  All of the characters are quite unforgettable.  The reader will fear and despise Montoni as much as Emily.  As for Madame Cheron, as vile and mean as she can be, Radcliffe was able to bend and sway my feelings into a sympathetic light for Cheron, and that is the work of a skilled writer.  Radcliffe made it easy to escape into this literary feat.

Now you may think I have nothing negative to say, but there were a few things.  First, the time frame of the novel.  This story is supposed to be set in 1584, but it never felt that way to me, possibly because I always assumed Radcliffe wrote in her present time, that being the 1790s.  Another nagging aspect, were the interspersed poems throughout Udolpho.  Some interesting and related to the story, others, not so much.  The poems sometimes enhanced the story, but slowed me down after a while.  Broke my rhythm. Lastly the length of this novel.  When it was originally published, it was done so in several volumes, which help to explain why there are so many mysteries that need solving, and I guess the length as well.  Many have said the beginning is a bit slow, but I was fine with that.  It was the end for me that could not come fast enough.  I felt as though the story meandered a bit, and I was not that interested in the aristocratic characters that entered into the back end of the story.  These characters served a purpose but I felt they were forced or extended their stay too long.

All in all, I really enjoyed The Mysteries of Udolpho, and am so glad I read it and finished it.  Maybe it was Radcliffe's writing prowess, but I believe it has changed my opinion of Gothic Literature as being hard to read and get into.  I would certainly consider reading more of Radcliffe's work.

My Rating: 95/100

This novel was read and reviewed as part of the Gothic Lit Tour hosted by Rebecca at the Classics Circuit.  Please stop by there and check out some other fabulous Gothic novels.

Publisher: Penguin Classics
Paperback, 632 pages

Challenges Met: Chunkster Challange