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Monthly Archives: December 2009

Winners: To Desire A Devil

Congratulations to

  • Jaime P
  • Deedles
  • Beth
  • etirv
  • coffee

They’ve each won a copy of To Desire a Devil from Hachette Books via my giveaway.  This was probably my favorite romance novel of the year (I’ll be looking back over my 2009 reads soon, and will confirm), so I suspect the winners will enjoy it as well.

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Posted by on December 28, 2009 in books, giveaway

 

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Review: Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going HomeMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress was a fun read.

From the publisher’s web site:

Not long after Rhoda Janzen turned forty, her world turned upside down. It was bad enough that her brilliant husband of fifteen years left her for Bob, a guy he met on Gay.com, but that same week a car accident left her with serious injuries. What was a gal to do? Rhoda packed her bags and went home. This wasn’t just any home, though. This was a Mennonite home. While Rhoda had long ventured out on her own spiritual path, the conservative community welcomed her back with open arms and offbeat advice. (Rhoda’s good-natured mother suggested she date her first cousin — he owned a tractor, see.) It is in this safe place that Rhoda can come to terms with her failed marriage; her desire, as a young woman, to leave her sheltered world behind; and the choices that both freed and entrapped her.

I found it an interesting story. Rhoda Janzen had an eventful life, and I enjoyed hearing about it.

I loved her relationship with her sister and with her mother. Her mother was an interesting balance of open mindedness and of what we expect a Mennonite to be. It was clear that Rhoda and her mother loved each other even while living very different lives. Rhoda and her sister both left the Mennonite way of life, but they ended up living differently from one another as well.  These women accepted their differences, and

I wasn’t so thrilled with her husband, but I wasn’t supposed to be. I wish the relationship had been a little less extreme, but I suspect the author wished the same thing.

The book jumped between the various stages of Rhoda’s life. This helped build the picture of the woman that Rhoda became.

Mostly, I enjoyed Mennonite because it was well written and funny. The anecdotes were great, and the attitude towards her life was refreshing. If I had one complaint about this book, it is that I was hoping for more depth. I think the depth might have been there, but I lost track of it with all the fun I was having.

I’m thinking of suggesting this for a book club read. I think we’d enjoy talking about the specifics of the story, about the relationship between our childhood religion and current beliefs, and deciding if the book had depth or was simply an entertaining read.

I received this book from the publisher for review. I appreciate this opportunity.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2009 in books, reviews

 

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Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

AustenlandMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

From Goodreads.com:

Jane Hayes is a seemingly normal young New Yorker, but she has a secret. Her obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, is ruining her love life: no real man can compare. But when a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-crazed women, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become realer than she ever could have imagined.

Decked out in empire-waist gowns, Jane struggles to master Regency etiquette and flirts with gardeners and gentlemen;or maybe even, she suspects, with the actors who are playing them. It’s all a game, Jane knows. And yet the longer she stays, the more her insecurities seem to fall away, and the more she wonders: Is she about to kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

I read Austenland as a mild Austen fan– I’m not obsessed, but I’ve read all the books, most of them more than once, and I’ve seen multiple movie versions as well.

I very much enjoyed this book on several levels.

First, it was cute and fun, and was just a pleasure on that surface level.The descriptions of Jane hiding her DVD of Pride and Prejudice, of her dealing with her (contraband) cell phone, and her dealings with the other guests at Pemberley were light and funny. The recaps of Jane’s previous “boyfriends” (anyone she’d ever dated) were laugh out loud funny at times, even while being sadly real. Also, I like fish out of water stories, and Jane trying to fit into a (faux) Regency England qualified.

Second, I was entertained by the Austen references. I wonder how many more I missed.  I’m a fan of books about bookish things, and again, this book fit into that niche for me.

Third, I appreciated the slightly deeper perspective of the book, looking at reality vs. fantasy in relationships, particularly in their early stages. I enjoyed getting to know Jane through the recaps of her past romances– they painted quite a picture of her when put together. Even better were her reflections as she moved through her Pemberley experience– she really was making an effort to think through her life.

In the end, I liked this book because it was the kind of book I like.  I really enjoyed The Actor and the Housewife when I read it earlier this year for similar reasons.  Like that book, Austenland won’t be for everyone, but Austenland lives up to its description.

I read this as part of the Everything Austen Challenge. This is the 4th item (out of 6) that I’ve completed– I’m probably not going to finish the challenge by the end of the month.

Thank you to Stephanie at Stephanie’s Written Word for organizing this challenge.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2009 in books, challenge, reviews

 

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Review: Deep Kiss of Winter by Kresley Cole & Gena Showalter

Deep Kiss of Winter (Includes: Immortals After Dark, #8; Alien Huntress, #5) One of the two stories in this book worked for me, the other didn’t. I hadn’t read either author before, and was starting mid-series in both cases.

From Goodreads.com:

KRESLEY COLE delivers a breathtaking tale of a brutal vampire soldier about to know love for the first time…and a Valkyrie aching to be touched.

Murdoch Wroth will stop at nothing to claim Daniela the Ice Maiden — the delicate Valkyrie who makes his heart beat for the first time in three hundred years. Yet the exquisite Danii is part ice fey, and her freezing skin can’t be touched by anyone but her own kind without inflicting pain beyond measure. Soon desperate for closeness, in an agony of frustration, Murdoch and Danii will do anything to have each other. Together, can they find the key that will finally allow them to slake the overwhelming desire burning between them?

GENA SHOWALTER puts a daring spin on a tale of huntress and hunted…and concocts a sensual chemistry that is positively explosive.

Aleaha Love can be anyone — literally. With only skin-to-skin contact, she can change her appearance, assume any identity. Her newest identity switch has made her an AIR (alien investigation and removal) agent and sends her on a mission to capture a group of otherworldly warriors. Only she becomes the captured. Breean, a golden-skinned commander known for his iron will who is at once dangerous and soul-shatteringly seductive, threatens her new life. Because for the first time, Aleaha only wants to be herself….

First, the good news. I’ll be looking for more of Kresley Cole’s work after reading Untouchable. I did worry at the beginning– there was a lot to pick up about the world she’d created, and I thought it might get in the way of the story. That was an issue for the first chapter, but then I had enough information to immerse myself.

The setup– two (supernatural) lovers, fated to be together, but held apart by their very natures– isn’t new, but I liked the way it was pulled together here. The idea of Danii as a creature of the cold, freezing anyone she touches, being burned in return isn’t one I’ve encountered before.

Be aware, the story is VERY hot, even before the lovers solve their problem (Maybe that should be a spoiler, but did you REALLY think they wouldn’t figure it out?). Take this as a warning or recommendation, depending on your preferences :-).

I did have some issues with the characters and the plot, but I was having too much fun to really care!

The second story, Tempt Me Eternally, didn’t work so well for me. I’ve said before that I can go with almost any premise, as long as the rules of the universe are laid out in the beginning. Vampires? Check. Creatures of the cold? No problem. Shape changers that take on the complete image of someone they touch? Why not! Aliens coming to Earth because there are women here and falling in lust with one across the field of battle? Nope. Can’t do it. Sorry.

I didn’t finish this one. It just wasn’t working for me, but you may feel differently.

Thank you to Pocket Books for providing me this book for review.

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2009 in books, reviews, tour

 

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Review: Buckley’s Story by Ingrid King

Buckley's StoryMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

Buckley’s Story was a heartwarming story of a cat and her person.

From the author’s website:

Buckley’s Story is the story of how one small cat changed the author’s life in ways she never could have imagined. In this warm-hearted memoir, Ingrid King shares the story of Buckley, a joyful, enthusiastic and affectionate tortoiseshell cat she meets while managing a veterinary hospital. When Ingrid leaves her job at the veterinary hospital to start her own business, Buckley comes home to live with her and Amber, another tortoiseshell cat who had adopted the author several years earlier.

Buckley is diagnosed with heart disease after only two years of living with Ingrid, and caring for Buckley through her illness only deepens the bond between cat and human. Interspersed with well-researched information about cat health in general, and heart disease in particular, the author describes the challenges and rewards of managing illness in a feline companion, and ultimately helping her through the final transition. Ingrid shares both the day-to-day joys of living with a special cat as well as the profound grief that comes with losing a beloved animal companion.

Buckley’s Story is a celebration of the soul connection between animals and humans, a connection that is eternal and transcends the physical dimension.

I really enjoyed reading about the connection between the author and her special kitty. Even as the story turned more serious, the link between them was wonderful. Buckley (as well as her “sister” cat Amber) was lovingly described, and I felt I got to know this sweet, energetic little tortoiseshell kitty.

I also liked looking into Ingrid King’s life as she followed a new career path, and explored alternative medicine as it applies to animals. As a normally skeptical person, I admit to an interest in Reiki and the power of energy to heal. The book briefly passed my comfort level as Ms. King consulted a (psychic) animal communicator, but it wasn’t enough to impact my enjoyment of the story.

The author’s strength isn’t as a writer (although she did a competent job with the book) but as a cat lover with a story to tell, and as an insightful person looking at the relationship between people and beloved pets.

I’d recommend this book to animal lovers willing to walk this path into illness and inspiration.  Consider buying this book as a Christmas present for someone in your life that appreciates the bond between a cat and her special person.

This is a review stop for Ingrid King and Pump Up Your Book Promotions.   Thank you to them for this opportunity (and the copy of the book).  Check out the other tour sites on Ingrid King’s blog!

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2009 in books, reviews, tour

 

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November summary

November was a less than stellar reading month, both for quantity and quality. It wasn’t terrible in either respect, but it is my low point since I’ve been blogging.

I read 12 books.  5 of them were only OK, and I had been hoping for more from them.

On paper:

In audio:

The high point for the month was Sometimes We’re Always Real Same-same. I’ll also flag To Desire A Devil, as it may be my favorite romance so far this year.

I’m still behind on my review writing.  I’ve still got several books from the October readathon that haven’t been written up yet.  This hasn’t been a good blogging month, and I apologize to you.  I doubt that December will be better, but I hope to get my act together again in January.  Please hang in there with me!

I’m currently reading Tethered by Amy MacKinnon and listening to Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

I need to read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan for book club next Monday.  My other book club will be discussing Julie & Julia by Julie Powell.  Since I’ve already read it, I’m planning to read My Life in France by Julia Child.

I’ll be reading Buckley’s Story by Ingrid King and A Deep Kiss of Winter by Kresley Cole & Gina Showalter for blog tours.

I have mixed results on my challenges.

I’ll be tallying results from Clear Off Your Shelves Challenge at S. Krishna’s Books soon, but I made my goal just based on my October books, there should be no problem with my total.

Since I realized I have 6 more months than I thought on the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge, I’m in great shape there with 6 of 9 books read and 7 months remaining to read them in.

The Everything Austen Challenge is not going as well, as I have one more month to complete 3 items.  We’ll see what happens.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2009 in books, summary

 

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Tales for Delicious Girls by Barbora Knobova

Tales for Delicious GirlsMy rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

My rating may not quite be fair, since I think it is based largely on me not being the target audience for the book.  Tales for Delicious Girls was cute, funny and had entertaining stories. If it had been a straight memoir, I would have enjoyed it immensely.

Instead, she’s telling these stories as inspiration for dealing with dating and men. There are a few chapters that deal with female friendship and with loving yourself, but the primary focus is the ins and outs of new relationships.

I married my college sweetheart.  My high school and college dating life was much less interesting than what she described.  I’ve never really dated as an adult. I’ve never lived the life she describes, and neither have any of my friends.

I’m still stinging from one of the few references to a life like mine. It was in a chapter about men who are attracted to smart, intelligent, educated, independent women, but then are intimidated by those qualities; who don’t want an equal partnership. She refers to a man who dumps the wonderful woman described above, and marries a homemaker. He finds her boring, and has an affair with another smart, intelligent, educated, independent woman. What’s a smart, intelligent, educated, independent mom at home (like me) to take from this?

Most of the stories examine differences between men and women, or look at the role men play in a woman’s life.  A message about staying true to yourself comes through strongly.  Most of the stories are funny and well told.

I’ll pass my copy on to a single friend. I think she’ll really enjoy it, but I don’t think I’ll need to pick it up again.

This is a review stop for Barbora Knobova and Pump Up Your Book Promotions.   Thank you for the opportunity (and the copy of the book).  For other viewpoints, check out the other tour stops.  Other people had very different opinions of the book, and Barbora has guest posted at many sites, so you can get a taste of her writing and her viewpoint.

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2009 in books, reviews, tour

 

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