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There are TWO posts today...Sorry about that :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Review: The House at the End of Hope Street by Menna Van Praag

Hardcover304 pages
Publisher Pamela Dorman Books

From Goodreads: 

Distraught that her academic career has stalled, Alba is walking through her hometown of Cambridge, England, when she finds herself in front of a house she’s never seen before, 11 Hope Street. A beautiful older woman named Peggy greets her and invites her to stay, on the house’s usual conditions: she has ninety-nine nights to turn her life around. With nothing left to lose, Alba takes a chance and moves in.

She soon discovers that this is no ordinary house. Past residents have included George Eliot and Beatrix Potter, who, after receiving the assistance they needed, hung around to help newcomers—literally, in talking portraits on the wall. As she escapes into this new world, Alba begins a journey that will heal her wounds—and maybe even save her life.

My Thoughts:

There is a house in Cambridge, England, which appears to women who need a place of refuge when they discover themselves to be at crossroads in life.  Whether due to circumstances, a life event, or because the world around them isn't ready for their brilliance, these women need a safe place to get themselves together, and decide what path through life they should take.  These women need to recognize what is in their best interests, with a little help from the afterlife.  That's when the house on Hope Street appears to them.

When Alba experiences the worst event of her life, that's when the house appears and welcomes her with open arms.  There she finds the care taker, Peggy, and two other women in residence who also need the house's hospitality and wisdom, Carmen and Greer.  Each of these women must decide what to do next in their life, and also discover what will make them be true to themselves.  Who they really are.  The house helps with that, first by comforting them, then by offering them hints or suggestions of what they should do.  The house provides these women and those who have lived their in the past the love and support they need to get back on their feet.

The walls of the house are covered with photos of everyone who has ever stayed there, and many of them are famous: Agatha Christie, Vivian Leigh, Liz Taylor, Sylvia Plath.  They offer advice to Alba and they are all very funny.  The author has a little bio of each historical woman who is featured in the story, in the back of the book.  Back to Alba, she is so young and inexperienced with repeat to life, that she can't handle what is happening to her now.  She has family, but they are not supportive of her, and we learn all about that aspect too.  What a shame!  I won't give it away, but it explains a lot of how Alba grew up to be the way she is.  Besides the fact that Alba is brilliant, I think she has a photographic memory, but she also experiences things in color.  Alba has synesthesia; words and emotions are in color to her.  This was never fully explained or named, but a character in another book had this condition so I knew what it was.

Anyway, Alba is the main character in the book, but there are also two other women staying in the house, as well as the house mum.  All of these women have issues they need to work out, and the house helps them.  Filling their rooms with what makes them happy, like books, dropping helpful hints or quotes from the sky, and generally pushing them to explore themselves and come to the right decision.  And don't forget the photos of previous women who have stayed on Hope street who offer unsolicited advice.  They help too.  Everyone in the story eventually finds their path and the House at the End of Hope Street succeeds yet again.

Sorry if this review is all over the place, but there are so many wonderful aspects of this story and I  just loved it!  There wasn't one thing, truly, that I didn't like.  Not one character past or present that wasn't interesting and add something to the story.  The House at the End of Hope Street is a hopeful book that will you leave in a happy and loving place.  This one will be staying on my shelves because I can totally see myself re-reading it again.

Thanks to FSB Associates for my review copy.

© Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Suddenly Sunday: Spring is finally here!

Suddenly Sunday is a weekly event hosted by SveaThe 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. 

Happy sunny Sunday everyone!  Hope this finds you all well, happy, and healthy.  The sun is out and earlier this week I had to bring out the skirts because we had temperatures in the 80s.  Yes, the 80s my friends.  I did not mind however, because I am so tired of being cold, and shivering.  A little sweat does a person good.

The school semester is starting to wind down, and I'll be glad to have a few weeks off until summer starts.  This last batch of students are good and most of them are very motivated to complete the program and possibly sit for certification.  Coding is a way for adults to change the careers into one that has a shortage in terms of certified people.  Although you have to bust your ass, and pay your dues a bit, the dividends are worth it.  It's one of the only fields that has job growth, but you have to want to work to succeed.  And trust me, I've come across people that think things should be handed to them.  My regular job is busy as usual and filled with lots of politics, which I do not like.  Not one bit.  My gods people, make a decision and lets get on with it.  This is why I do not want to rise in the ranks too far, and am happy with where I am.  Teaching fulfills me when my day job disappoints me.

On the reading front, I have a confession to make.  I have been seduced to the dark side.  The dark side being an e reader!  Yes!  Hubby bought a new Kindle Fire HD, so I inherited his Kindle Fire.  I immediately downloaded a book from the library, one that I own in paper, and started reading.  Little weird at first, but I like not holding a book.  I'm not a complete convert yet, but I have been going through my stacks, and whatever I can borrow electronically from the library, I'm getting rid of the paper copy.  THAT really appeals to me.

I'm at this point in my life where I want to simplify things.  Get rids of items that are taking up space that I don't necessarily use.  Anything I haven't looked at or touched since 2008 has got to go.  I have many things that fit that bill.  But back to reading.  I do not intend to start accepting electronic review copies, or go to NetGalley and all of that.  If anything, going through my books reminds me of all of these stories I wanted to read before, and still do.  So, I'm clearing up whatever review copies I have, being super, super, super selective, going forward, and reading electronically when I can.  I'll intersperse the hard  copies I have in between.  That is a plan I can definitely live with!

Speaking of new releases and such, I am participating in the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour for Seduction by M.J. Rose in June.  However, connected with this new release is a contest to win a Victorian choker necklace seen here:

Interested in winning?  To enter, do one of the following or both if you prefer (open to U.S. residents only, sorry!):

1. Put the book on your To Be Read shelf on Goodreads:
Then, give me your account name and email so I can send it to HFVB for entry.
If you decide to pre-order, then please send a copy of your receipt to for entry.

That's not so hard is it?  Seduction sounded pretty good to me which is why I accepted it for review.  HFVBT really does have wonderful books on their tours.  I don't think I've ever been disappointed.

Well that's all I have for this Sunday.  What about you?  What are you up to today or this week?
Let me know!

Happy Reading and have a great week everyone :)

© Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

HFVBT Tour Stop and Review: The Chalice by Nancy Bilyeau

From the Tour Home Page:

Publication Date:  March 5, 2013
Touchstone Publishing
Hardcover; 512p
ISBN-10: 1476708657

Book Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

In the next novel from Nancy Bilyeau after her acclaimed debut The Crown, novice Joanna Stafford plunges into an even more dangerous conspiracy as she comes up against some of the most powerful men of her era. 

In 1538, England is in the midst of bloody power struggles between crown and cross that threaten to tear the country apart. Joanna Stafford has seen what lies inside the king’s torture rooms and risks imprisonment again, when she is caught up in a shadowy international plot targeting the King. As the power plays turn vicious, Joanna understands she may have to assume her role in a prophecy foretold by three different seers, each more omniscient than the last.

Joanna realizes the life of Henry VIII as well as the future of Christendom are in her hands—hands that must someday hold the chalice that lays at the center of these deadly prophecies…

My Thoughts:

Joanna Stafford lives during one of England’s more turbulent times, during the reign of King Henry VIII, between wives three and four.  The King has dissolved all of the religious houses, thus seizing their goods and enriching his coffers.  Henry is on the precipice of being excommunicated from the Church, and one of most closest advisers is Cromwell.  Really, could it get any worse?  Why yes!  Add to that the Reformation movement and Spain’s Emperor Charles the V becoming friendly with France, and this is the tinder box of politics Joanna finds herself in.

All Joanna wants to do is live a quiet life, raise her nephew, and build a tapestry business.  But no, this is not possible.  Factions at court are vying for control of Joanna because they view her as a means to an end; as a salvation against the dark forces of the King and Reformation.  Why?  Seers have predicted that Joanna is instrumental in helping the Catholic Church.  Without Joanna, Henry wins thus defeating Catholicism and the true heir to the throne, Mary Tudor.  Joanna is afraid of these prophecies, rightly so, and must make a decision: is she in or out with court intrigue and the shaping of the future of England?

Although all of these events are going on, this novel is more about Joanna and the person she is, than about this period in history.  That’s why I enjoyed the novel so much.  Many times with Tudor novels, the story inevitably gets sucked into the actual events with the characters as side pieces or window dressing.  In The Chalice while Joanna is instrumental in events I felt it was her and her hopes, dreams and fears that kept me reading on.  What will Joanna do?  Why is going to London?  How will this event shape Joanna’s views?  Joanna is a great character who is intelligent and a bit spunky.  Not too much mind you, but just enough for the era, and in consideration of the fact the woman was going to be a nun.  Yes, Joanna is an ex-novice.

Besides our heroine, what also kept me flipping the pages was the action.  There is intrigue, shady people, prophecies being told, and characters being whisked away either to the Tower or to back rooms where the chess players of the court try to convince them of why their cause is the right one.  Mary Tudor stops by as well as a very famous seer towards the end of the novel.  (You would know if I gave his name.)  Bilyeau builds a palpable, realistic world for readers, and although The Chalice is the second in a series,  The Crown was the first, I did not feel  lost.  There were mentions of what happens in The Crown, but not enough to make me feel like I couldn't read it and be surprised or drawn in.  I will definitely go back and read The Crown.  The only area that may be lacking from not reading The Crown was Joanna’s relationship with Edmund and a Geoffrey Scoville.  I did not know all of that history, so I accepted what I read in The Chalice at face value.  I probably would have had a deeper reaction to those plot lines in the book if I had read The Crown.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed The Chalice and thought it was a page turner.  And since Bilyeau has stated she envisions a series of books about Joanna and her adventurous life, I am eagerly awaiting the next in the series.

To see what others thought of The Chalice, please visit the tour page or twitter feed:
Twitter Hashtag: #TheChaliceVirtualTour

About the Author

Nancy Bilyeau, author of The Crown, is a writer and magazine editor who has worked on the staffs of InStyle, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, and Good Housekeeping. Her latest position is features editor of Du Jour magazine. A native of the Midwest, she graduated from the University of Michigan. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.
For more information, please visit Nancy Bilyeau's website.  You can also follow her onFacebook and Twitter.  

 © Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

Saturday, April 6, 2013

April 2013 Culling of the Book Shelves

This month I have three new titles for you to choose from:

Scent of Darkness by Margot Berwin
Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan
Indiscretion (ARC) by Charles Dubow

And these three from last month are still available as well:
The King's Agent (ARC) by Donna Russo Morin
Raylan by Elmore Leonard
Blood Line by Lynda LaPlante

Here are the rules: 
  • U.S. addresses only and no P.O. Boxes.  (sorry!)
  • Leave a comment on this post with your email and your first and second choice of book(s) [no email address, no entry]
  • There will be two winners: 1st place will receive their first choice of book, and 2nd place will also get their first choice, unless it’s taken, thereby receiving their second choice of book.
  • Contest runs until midnight, EST, Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Good Luck Everyone!

 © Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

Thursday, April 4, 2013

HFVB Tour Stop and Guest Post by Delancey Stewart author of Through a Dusty Window

Dear Readers, please welcome Delancey Stewart author of Through a DustyWindow, which is a collection of short stories that take place in one brownstone in New York's Upper West Side.  I spotlighted yesterday in a post.

What inspired the collection – Through a Dusty Window?

When I was fourteen years old, my family traveled from California to the East Coast the summer before my freshman year in high school. I remember lots about that whirlwind visit, but one memory stands out clearly: I stood beneath one of the towers of the World Trade Center while my brother lay on his back taking a photograph straight up one of the tower corners. I said to my mother, “I’m going to live in New York someday.” She looked horrified. As a society, we don’t take much of what fourteen year olds say to heart. My mother didn't necessarily respond encouragingly – possibly because the New York City that I was enamored with was pre-Giuliani New York. The subways were riddled with graffiti, Times Square was hardly a family attraction, and you walked with your purse strapped firmly around you at all times. But my words were gospel to me, and I never forgot them.

When I was twenty-three, between jobs and relationships, I threw everything in my car and drove across the country. I landed in a New York that was particularly accommodating. The economy was thriving, jobs were plentiful, and the city was much safer than it had been previously. I only lived there for four years, but I feel like I grew up in New York in many ways.

The City had always held some kind of romantic appeal for me, and getting to finally call it home and walk the streets in pursuit of my own agenda was heady. Everything about the City was novel to a girl who grew up in Fresno, California. It was a universe away from my previous life. But the thing that struck me constantly as I explored was the constant and pervasive sense of history. The City is haunted in so many ways – the buildings themselves having stood as stoic witnesses to hundreds of years of cultural shifting and repositioning.

I wanted to capture that. I wanted to write about the fascination I felt when I peered guiltily into windows at street level, trying to see how people lived. I wanted to write about the curiosity that gripped me when I moved into a new apartment to find a curious gothic bureau just inside the door. I was informed that it had been remodeled accidentally into the apartment and could no longer fit through the narrow doorway. I wanted to explore the people who’d lived in that space before me, those that might come after.
Through a Dusty Window is my attempt to illustrate the many layers of life that exist in a city like New York. We can live there, arrogant in our pursuit of our own present-day ambitions. But there will always be echoes around us if we listen – echoes that can remind us of some of the lessons learned by those whose feet walked there before us.

The collection features ten short stories, one set in each decade between 1910 and 2001. The stories share one thing in common – the setting in an Upper West Side brownstone. Through the characters portrayed, we see the movement of culture and experience some of the events that shaped New York and the world. The collection is intended to allow readers to enjoy a journey through New York’s history as voyeurs.
Through a Dusty Window: New York City Stories 1910-2001 is available on Amazon:

Delancey Stewart can be found at her blog:
Twitter: @DelanceyStewart

Thank you very much for stopping by Delancey and I wish you well with this wonderful book :)

 © Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Book Spotlight: Through a Dusty Window by Delancey Stewart

Today I'm spotlighting a book that I wanted to read, but couldn't fit into my schedule.  Be sure to stop by tomorrow for a guest post by the author Delancey Stewart.

Publication Date: November 15, 2012
Paperback; 108p
ISBN-10: 0615731023
It's impossible to live in a city like New York without feeling the presence of those who have preceded you - on those streets, in those subway cars, in that apartment. The city thrums with vibrations of lives and eras passed, and traces of that history are left imprinted in tangible ways everywhere we look.

Through a Dusty Window is a collection of ten short stories spanning a century of lives inhabiting one New York City brownstone on the Upper West Side. They are the culmination of the author's experience in that city, during which she wondered constantly who had occupied her apartment before her, and what stories they might have lived.

Ten vignettes offer historical perspective on real events from Prohibition to World War II; the Vietnam-era Summer of Sam killings to John Lennon's murder.

Through a Dusty Window allows us to be voyeurs, seeing the fascinating lives of others as they experience the history that New Yorkers today hear whispers of around every corner.

Praise for Through a Dusty Window

"I found this series of short stories to be delightful and read them in one sitting. I was impressed with the author's free flowing style which captivated me and drew me into the imagery of the book. I was particularly aware of the evolution of the social culture and I felt that the transition between the times of each story was handled well." - Jean Roberts, Amazon Review

"Every story was very well written (my favorite involved the Hindenberg) and my only complaint is that a few of them, such as the last one, ended too soon. This is a compliment, however, because it means I wanted more, much more." - John Darling (Author Jack Point) - Amazon Review

About the Author

Delancey Stewart is a fiction writer living in Southern Maryland. She's a military spouse and the mother of two small boys. When not writing, she can be found ballet dancing, eating ice cream, playing video games or building with Legos. 

For more information, please visit Delancey Stewart's website.  You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

To read what some bloggers thought about this book, please visit one of the blogs below:


Monday, April 1
Review & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Tuesday, April 2
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, April 3
Review & Giveaway at The Bookworm
Interview & Giveaway at Oh, for the Hook of a Book!
Thursday, April 4
Guest Post at Jenny Loves to Read
Feature & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Friday, April 5
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Review & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Monday, April 8
Guest Post at Broken Teepee

© Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

We have winners here!

Congratulations to the following peeps who won my recent contests:

Linda B - copy of Enchantments
Staceybuckeye - copy of Swoon
Charlotte - gently used copy of Girls Like Us
Pearl- gently used copies of Lost and Found and Picture This

I'll be in touch for your addresses Ladies and thanks for supporting my blog :)

© Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"

Monday, April 1, 2013

Posession Readalong: Chapters 7 - 10.25

 Possession readalong is hosted by Kim of Sophisticated Dorkiness and Lu of Regular Rumination

My thoughts on Chapters 1-6 here.

As you can see I only got to the beginning of Chapter 10 and I gave up.  Yes, I gave up.  I tried, Ms. Byatt, really I did.  I was 180 pages into your award winning story.  But you see, Randolph Henry Ash is a bore, and when it comes to his correspondence with LaMotte, I found myself reading his letters and thinking about work, other books I should be reading  and the like.  I even waited a few days and tried again, but snoozles and cuddling with my puppy were all I thought about.

I did skim ahead and see there were some interesting developments, but I couldn't hang in there for them.  Although not my cup of tea, I have to give you credit Ms. Byatt.  Your imagination and writing skills are stupendous.  The idea for the story is interesting, but to include correspondence between two different people, plus their writings that consist of poetry and short goodness your mind must ever stop.  Very creative and definitely nothing I have come across before.

Now I will make this up to you by reading another one of your works, and giving you a second try.  Specifically I have The Children's Book in mind.  Sounds more like my style anyway.  So my apologies to fellow read-alongers, for taking a dive on this one and not finishing it.  Hope you are enjoying it and are probably almost finished anyway.

Maybe next time :)

Book Source: Paperbackswap

© Jenny Girl - 2013 "All Rights Reserved"