RSS

Monthly Archives: March 2010

Mini Review: To Sin With A Scoundrel by Cara Elliott

To Sin With A ScoundrelMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me over a week  longer than planned to get my review posted because I just couldn’t figure out what to write in an in-depth review.  I finally realized that I was over-thinking this book, that a short, to the point review is all it really needs.

Yummy, fluffy fun.

Oh, ok, I’ll add more detail than that.

From the Hachette Book Group web site:

A reclusive widow known for her scientific scholarship, Lady Ciara Sheffield is shadowed by rumors that she poisoned her husband . . . A rakehell rogue notorious for his devil-may-care antics, Lucas Bingham–the Earl of Hadley–is not accused of murdering anything–save for the rules of Polite Society. The only thing they have in common is seeing their names featured in the lurid gossip columns of London’s newspapers. Until an ancient manuscript draws them together.

Ciara needs a titled fiancé to quell the slanderous speculations which may send her to the gallows. Lucas needs brilliant scholar to help his elderly uncle decipher the secrets of the mysterious manuscript. So when her friends urge her to accept the earl’s proposal of a temporary alliance, Ciara decides that she has no choice but to make a deal with the Devil. And so begins a seductive dance of sinful pleasures and hidden desires as the two of them waltz through the mansions of Mayfair. Lies, intrigue, treachery, sex. They find themselves facing slanderous whispers, unscrupulous relatives-not to speak of their own simmering passions, which quickly ignite into dangerous flames. It’s a potent mix and the result may be explosive-and perhaps deadly-if they don’t watch their step.

It’s a relatively typical Regency (on the spicy side of the genre). I’m always a sucker for a smart heroine, and this one clearly qualifies.

Our hero has fooled society (and himself) into thinking that he’s a silly, shallow rake. Of course, he’s really a smart, sensitive guy inside that gorgeous shell.  They are initially attracted, and the relationship  grows as they get to know one another.

There’s adventure, cute kids, entertaining sidekicks, and a look at a society with different trappings than our own.

A very enjoyable read.

Thank you to Hachette Book Group for providing me a review copy of To Sin With a Scoundrel.

Advertisements
 
1 Comment

Posted by on March 26, 2010 in books, reviews

 

Tags: , , ,

Review: Life Sentences by Laura Lippman

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

To me, Life Sentences was a strong 4 star book bogged down by trappings that didn’t work for me.

From the TLC Tours website:

Author Cassandra Fallows has achieved remarkable success by baring her life on the page. Her two widely popular memoirs continue to sell briskly, acclaimed for their brutal, unexpurgated candor about friends, family, lovers—and herself. But now, after a singularly unsuccessful stab at fiction, Cassandra believes she may have found the story that will enable her triumphant return to nonfiction.

When Cassandra was a girl, growing up in a racially diverse middle-class neighborhood in Baltimore, her best friends were all black: elegant, privileged Donna; sharp, shrewd Tisha; wild and worldly Fatima. A fifth girl orbited their world—a shy, quiet, unobtrusive child named Calliope Jenkins—who, years later, would be accused of killing her infant son. Yet the boy’s body was never found and Calliope’s unrelenting silence on the subject forced a judge to jail her for contempt. For seven years, Calliope refused to speak and the court was finally forced to let her go. Cassandra believes this still unsolved real-life mystery, largely unknown outside Baltimore, could be her next bestseller.

But her homecoming and latest journey into the past will not be welcomed by everyone, especially by her former friends, who are unimpressed with Cassandra’s success—and are insistent on their own version of their shared history. And by delving too deeply into Calliope’s dark secrets, Cassandra may inadvertently unearth a few of her own—forcing her to reexamine the memories she holds most precious, as the stark light of truth illuminates a mother’s pain, a father’s betrayal . . . and what really transpired on a terrible day that changed not only a family but an entire country.

I really liked the plot and the main character, and the look at her relationships with her parents and with her childhood friends.

The mystery was interesting and (mostly) well plotted and revealed. The question was whether Cassandra’s childhood friend Calliope really killed her child, and if so, why?

I’ve read several books recently featuring writers as characters, and I’ve been enjoying them. Cassandra is no exception. I enjoyed her reflections on her past, present and future and how they interrelate. Her approach to investigation also worked well for me in the story.

The other characters were overall a neutral for me. They were at times compelling and at others overdrawn. In general they didn’t pull me out the story, and so I could forgive them more flaws than I noticed.

The problems I had with the book had to do with the delivery. It felt to me there was an effort to be Literary, and it distracted from the story.

A prime example of this was the wandering point of view. When done well, I like when I’m shown what different characters are thinking and feeling about the events in a book. I did like that aspect of Life Sentences, although I sometimes had to pull myself out of the story to figure out who a particular chapter was focusing on.

What I didn’t get were the shifts between first and third person. I’m left with the feeling that I should go back and figure out why the POV shifted when it did, and what it meant. When reading, I found it distracted me from the story.

On a different note, I also felt that the talk of sex was a bit crude at times. It wasn’t ever meant to be erotic in any way, and this is a book with adultery as a central theme, so the talk isn’t gratuitous. It just pulled me out of the story.  That could just be me.

I had one issue with the story.  There was a fact that was flagged multiple time as being Very Important to the story.  Characters would point this out, and it would be key to getting cooperation, or understanding what to do next.

I never understood the relevance.   The book was well plotted enough that I think the meaning was there.  Either it was too cloaked in the delivery or I was too clueless to pick it up– take your pick.

I enjoyed the book as a mystery and a character study.  I just wish I hadn’t been pulled away from those as much as I was.

I’m definitely interested in reading more of Laura Lippman’s books.  If you are as well, check out the Laura Lippman reading challenge at Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’?.  I’m considering it myself!

Part of what convinced me I want to read more was Laura Lippman’s Website.  I suspect her Tess Monaghan books will be just my style :-).

TLC Book ToursI read Life Sentences as part of a TLC Book Tour. Thank you to Trish for the book and the opportunity participate.

For other perspectives on the book, check out the other tour stops:

 
5 Comments

Posted by on March 23, 2010 in books, reviews, tour

 

Tags: , , , ,

Review: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures (The Caster Chronicles, #1)My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

From the Beautiful Creatures website:

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps, and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

When reading this, I actually regretted having read Twilight.  Don’t get me wrong– I enjoyed Twilight, even while recognizing its flaws.

Unfortunately, my time reading Beautiful Creatures was spent thinking how much better it was than Twilight. I do think that BC was better written, and I’m sorry that I was distracted from its world by these thoughts.

For me, the biggest strength of Beautiful Creatures were the two main characters. They were both honestly teenage without being obnoxious, or at least only occasionally annoying. Both Ethan and Lena had enough depth to be interesting.

The secondary characters were good, if mostly a little shallowly written. They covered enough variety to make up for that!

I also was intrigued by the magical world, with a mythology not directly related to any other I’ve encountered. Working withing an existing mythology isn’t a problem for me, but I liked the creativity of this one, particularly since it seemed well thought through.

The other thing that stood out to me while reading was how some of the common conventions of YA paranormal romances were turned on their heads– the primary example being the normal male teen and the powerful supernatural female teen!

This wasn’t a deep read, but it was a fun one.  I’m very eagerly awaiting the next book.

Thanks to Pam at Bookalicious, I went to see the authors at Books Inc. in Palo Alto a few weeks ago– I really need to keep an eye on the schedules of the bookstores that have events like this.

The evening was a blast!  Both women were a lots of fun, and I really enjoyed the background on how Beautiful Creatures came into existence.  Whether or not you’ve read the book, you should go see these ladies if you have the chance.

If you haven’t already, go check out the next book, Beautiful Darkness.  I love that cover!

 
3 Comments

Posted by on March 19, 2010 in books, reviews

 

Tags: , , , ,

Giveaway: Waking Up in the Land of Glitter

Waking Up in the Land of GlitterWaking Up in the Land of Glitter: A Crafty Chica Novel by Kathy Cano-Murillo is a fun book about a woman finding her place in life, with friends and crafts along the way.  For more information, see my review.

Hachette Books is allowing me to host a giveaway for 3 copies of Waking Up in the Land of Glitter!

Having an address (not a PO Box) in the US or Canada is a requirement. I’ll pick the winners on the evening of April 2.

So:

  1. Leave a comment to enter.  I’ll get your e-mail address if you are on WordPress or you enter it where requested.  Make sure it is valid!
  2. If you have additional entries (see below), you can leave them in the same comment.
  3. For another entry, let me know if you subscribe to my blog via RSS or e-mail, or if you follow me on Twitter. Thank you to my current subscribers, Welcome if you are new to my blog.
  4. One more entry if you let other people know about this giveaway! On your blog, on Twitter, another social site. Just let me know.
  5. As a bonus (for an additional entry) tell me what is your favorite craft (or artistic medium, if you lean more that direction).  I’m a scrapbooker that occasionally picks up a crochet hook, but I have to say, I love crafts!

Good luck!

While you are waiting to see if you won, go to the Crafty Chica web site for some crafty fun!

 
32 Comments

Posted by on March 11, 2010 in books, giveaway, tour

 

Tags: , , , ,

Review: Waking Up in the Land of Glitter: A Crafty Chica Novel by Kathy Cano-Murillo

Waking Up in the Land of GlitterCheck out my giveaway for  3 copies of Waking Up in the Land of Glitter!

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Waking Up in the Land of Glitter is a book that I have a hard time being objective about– both my positives and negatives are largely personal.

This is a relatively light book, the story of a woman figuring out who she is, and exploring crafts along the way.

From the Hachette Books website:

With glue guns, glitter, twigs, or yarn, the ordinary can become extraordinary . . . especially at La Pachanga. Owned by Estrella “Star” Esteban’s family, the restaurant has a rep for two things: good food and great art. La Pachanga brings people together-even when it looks like they couldn’t be further apart.

One ill-fated evening, Star jeopardizes her family’s business, her relationship with her boyfriend, and her future career. To redeem herself, she agrees to participate in a national craft competition, teaming up with her best friend, Ofelia-a secretly troubled mother whose love for crafting borders on obsession-and local celebrity Chloe Chavez-a determined television personality with more than one skeleton in her professional closet. If these unlikely allies can set aside their differences, they’ll find strength they never knew they had, and learn that friendship, like crafting, is truly an art form.

What I liked:

  • The characters. This is a big one for me. While i was entertained by Star, I identified with Ofie– her escape into crafts, her lack of skill at them, her inadequacy with the housework, her plus sized figure. I enjoyed the full cast of quirky but loving family members.
  • The craft aspect. I like crafts, and this gave me a hook into the story. I think the only other fiction I’ve read featuring crafts were cozy mysteries, and I haven’t encountered many of those, so that was unusual. I also liked the tension of arts vs. crafts, something I haven’t seen explored in fiction before.
  • The arc of the story. I liked that path that Star took through the book. She had a journey of self-discovery to make, and she brought a definate flair to it.
  • The setting. I spent my middle and high school years in Phoenix, but it was all in the suburbs, which are briefly described here. I never really saw the areas that had more personality, like those where this book happens. I think I missed out, although I doubt I would have appreciated that as a teen!
  • The humor. I frequently found myself smiling (and occasionally giggling) at the characters and the situations they found themselves in. There were also sad and touching moments, but the humor stuck with me more.
  • The cover actually glitters!

What I didn’t like:

  • At first I thought I didn’t like the writing. Then I changed my mind. It isn’t that I didn’t like the writing, but that the writing had an unusual flow to it for me– almost like reading a translation. I think this might have been deliberate– the flavor of a culture subtly different than mine. Even if so, I found it distracting.
  • The characters. I know, I’m listing them as both a plus and a minus. I really liked the outlines, but I wish they’d been filled in a little better. At moments they seemed like caricatures. They did learn and change as the book progressed, but it seemed a little too pat, too simple.
  • The decisions the characters made. Particularly before the story started, all of the primary characters made some boneheaded choices. I know, people make those kinds of mistakes, and they were necessary to set up the story. I kept reminding myself they were young, but I still didn’t like it!
  • How easy everything was. Once the characters figured out what their problems were, solving them was simple. I never find it quite that easy.

In the end, I enjoyed the book, even while being somewhat disappointed in some aspects of it. I’ll look for the author’s craft books at the bookstore– they sound like fun to flip through, and I could imagine taking one home with me. I hope she writes another novel– I’d certainly pick it up, whether it has the same characters or a whole new cast.

If you’d like to give this book a try, check out my giveaway for  3 copies of Waking Up in the Land of Glitter! You can also get a copy at Amazon, or most likely at your local bookstore.

Blog Tour Information:

I read this book as part of a Blog Tour for Hachette Book Group.  They provided my copy of the book so I could provide this review.

For other reviews, check out

 
2 Comments

Posted by on March 11, 2010 in books, reviews, tour

 

Tags: , , , ,

February summary: I blame the Olympics

February wasn’t a great reading month, but it was a terrible review writing month.  I blame the Olympics.  And real life.

I’ll try to do better in March!

Actually, I did read a reasonable number of books on paper, I just didn’t listen to many, and I barely wrote any reviews.

I read 9 books in February.  2 of them were audio books, 7 were paper.  This puts me at 20 books for the year, 14 on paper and 6 audio books.

Paper books read:

Audio books:

  • The Temptation of the Night Jasmine (Pink Carnation, #5) by Lauren Willig
  • The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares

There were several very good books this month, but Love Walked In was my favorite (I’ll review it after we discuss it at book club next week).  Knots and Crosses, Beautiful Creatures, and Little Giant were not too far behind, each in a very different way.

Right now, I’m reading Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos, which is the follow-up to Love Walked In, and I’m listening to The Crime Writer by Gregg Hurwitz, thanks to a recommendation from Jen Forbus.  Both are very good, and I’ll pick up one or the other when I’m done writing this post :-).

Coming up in March, I’m reading Making It Up by Penelope Lively for Book Club M and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak for Book Club L.    I’ve read The Book Thief several years ago, but I’ll be rereading it for this.  I have Waking Up in the Land of Glitter: A Crafty Chica Novel by Kathy Cano-Murillo and Life Sentences by Laura Lippman for blog tours, so you can count on seeing those reviews!

I hope everyone has a great March, in books and in the rest of your life!

 
8 Comments

Posted by on March 3, 2010 in blogging, books, summary

 

Tags: , , ,

Review: The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker

The Little Giant of Aberdeen CountyMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

If I’m not reviewing everything right now, why am I talking about the books that I’m not quite sure what to say about? Maybe because they are the most interesting to think through.

From Hachette’s web site:

When Truly Plaice’s mother was pregnant, the town of Aberdeen joined together in betting how recordbreakingly huge the baby boy would ultimately be. The girl who proved to be Truly paid the price of her enormity; her father blamed her for her mother’s death in childbirth, and was totally ill equipped to raise either this giant child or her polar opposite sister Serena Jane, the epitome of feminine perfection. When he, too, relinquished his increasingly tenuous grip on life, Truly and Serena Jane are separated–Serena Jane to live a life of privilege as the future May Queen and Truly to live on the outskirts of town on the farm of the town sadsack, the subject of constant abuse and humiliation at the hands of her peers.

Serena Jane’s beauty proves to be her greatest blessing and her biggest curse, for it makes her the obsession of classmate Bob Bob Morgan, the youngest in a line of Robert Morgans who have been doctors in Aberdeen for generations. Though they have long been the pillars of the community, the earliest Robert Morgan married the town witch, Tabitha Dyerson, and the location of her fabled shadow book–containing mysterious secrets for healing and darker powers–has been the subject of town gossip ever since. Bob Bob Morgan, one of Truly’s biggest tormentors, does the unthinkable to claim the prize of Serena Jane, and changes the destiny of all Aberdeen from there on.

When Serena Jane flees town and a loveless marriage to Bob Bob, it is Truly who must become the woman of a house that she did not choose and mother to her eight-year-old nephew Bobbie. Truly’s brother-in-law is relentless and brutal; he criticizes her physique and the limitations of her health as a result, and degrades her more than any one human could bear. It is only when Truly finds her calling–the ability to heal illness with herbs and naturopathic techniques–hidden within the folds of Robert Morgan’s family quilt, that she begins to regain control over her life and herself. Unearthed family secrets, however, will lead to the kind of betrayal that eventually break the Morgan family apart forever, but Truly’s reckoning with her own demons allows for both an uprooting of Aberdeen County, and the possibility of love in unexpected places.

If I’m not reviewing everything right now, why am I talking about the books that I’m not quite sure what to say about? Maybe because they are the most interesting to think through.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, even if it was an uncomfortable read at times.

I loved Truly’s character. She was a true misfit, but felt completely real in spite of how unusual she was. The character’s voice really came through in the story, even to me (I rarely notice things like that).

The other characters were… interesting. They should have all felt like caricatures, but they didn’t. The book felt real in spite of how extreme the characters are.

The relationships were fascinating. I was particularly intrigued while comparing Truly’s relationship with her sister Serena Jane, who lives a very different life than Truly; and her relationship with Amelia, who she is raised with.

Family relationships, romantic relationships, friendships– they all get turned inside out over the course of the book.   For me, they were what the book was really about.

I think I’ll recommend this book for one or the other of my book clubs– Little Giant just asks to be talked about.  The discussion questions might or might not be needed, but I’m always glad to have them, just in case.

There are a number of places out there with discussions of Little Giant, or more information. I’ll call out:

Thank you to Hachette Books for providing this book for review!

 
7 Comments

Posted by on March 3, 2010 in books, reviews

 

Tags: , , ,