ANNOUNCEMENT
After a lot of thought, I've decided to take a break from blogging for the foreseeable future. With my little C creeping its way back into my life and possible long term treatment now, I need to take a couple of things off my plate for the time being, and the blog is going to be one of those things. As it is, it felt like it was becoming more of a chore than anything else. I need my reading time to be more enjoyable right now, more of the escape that I really need, and what I don't need is the little voice in the back of my head telling me how many reviews I'm behind and trying to come up with what I need to say about the book.

I simply want to read.

I'll more than likely occasionally post on here what I've been reading, and if there is something that really blows my mind, I'll probably have more to say about it and may write up a proper post, but for right now, things are going to be very quiet around here.

As always, happy reading!
2017 edit
I will continue to blog according to my health and ability, and connecting my posts thru Goodreads, so please be patient if things get quiet around here again this year.

2017 edit #2
I am happy to report that my bone marrow transplant was a success and that I'm feeling more like myself everyday. That said, I'm going to try to start blogging a little more frequently, but please bear with me as I still continue to recover.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Meg Waite Clayton

Meg reading from The Four Ms. Bradwells.




Author event: Release of Meg Waite Clayton's The Four Ms. Bradwells

So excited! Meg Waite Clayton is back in town promoting her new book, The Four Ms. Bradwells. I'll try to be posting as the night goes along!





Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - Centerpieces by Penelope Przekop

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that are eagerly anticipated.

My "can't-wait-to-read" selection for this week is:

Centerpieces by Penelope Przekop.

What is Centerpieces, you ask? It is the next novel from Penelope Przekop, one of my favorite up and coming authors. Penelope is going to be somebody to watch in the future. I read her first published novel, Aberrations, and it was one of my favorite books of 2008. Aberrations is also ranked #15 in women's fiction on Amazon as of this morning. I've read her online published novel, Boundaries, and have read an early draft of another novel, Dust, and both are equally amazing. I just found out this morning that she will be publishing Centerpieces through the independent printer, Hallway Press. This is really exciting news and I'm so happy for her.

As soon as I find out more information on Centerpieces, you can be sure I'll post it here!

Happy reading!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book release: The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton



Happy publication day to Meg Waite Clayton! The Four Ms. Bradwells is released today from Ballantine Books.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland and Milwaukee Last Week

Top-Selling Titles in Chicagoland and Milwaukee Last Week

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

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Title: Wither
Series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy, Book 1
Author: Lauren DeStefano
Copyright: 2011
Pages: 358
ISBN: 9781442409057
Publisher: Simon & Schuster BFYR
Author Website: www.laurendestefano.com
Twitter: @LaurenDeStefano, @SimonTEEN
Format: ARC paperback from publisher for review
Available: 3-22-11 (available now in some locations)
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

From Amazon:
By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape--before her time runs out?

In an attempt to eliminate disease and create a perfect person, science has doomed the human race. The first generation of this new miracle are healthy and live normal lives. However, it's their children and all following children who are doomed. All men now die at 25, women at 20. It's a genetic virus that scientists and geneticists are scrambling to find a cure for, but in the meantime society is slowly unraveling at the seems. Orphans will try anything to find home and shelter, even selling themselves to science; girls are kidnapped and sold to polygamous marriages in order to bear children. Rhine is one such girl who is kidnapped. At sixteen, she still has 4 years left to bear children for her new husband, Linden Vaughn, before she succumbs to the virus. At first all she can think about is escaping the Vaughn mansion and fleeing home to her twin brother, Rowan. Eventually Rhine begins to think that Linden is just as much a captive in the mansion as are her other two sister wives, all prisoners of Linden's father, Housemaster Vaughn, who seems to be willing to go to any means to keep his son happy and find a cure for the virus.

The premise of the book was really good, but there just seemed to be a whole lot of nothing going on here. We're thrown very quickly into the story with Rhine being kidnapped and chosen to be a bride, and then the rest of the book takes on a significantly slower pace. I also couldn't help thinking from the very beginning that Wither was the lovechild of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and Suzanne Collins The Hunger Games. I can't pinpoint exactly what made me think of this so early on in the book, but I couldn't help shake this thought as soon as it popped into my head.

The main part of the story deals with Rhine and her adjusting, with her two new sister wives, to their new life at the Vaughn mansion. Jenna, the oldest, at first refuses to let Linden touch her but eventually seems to soften toward him. Cecily, the youngest, is all to willing to escape her life as an orphan and fervently vies for Linden's attention and is all too willing to bear a child for him. Rhine seems to fluctuate somewhere in the middle, and Linden obviously bears the most affection for her, especially due to her resemblance to the love of his life, Rose. The problem here, I found, is that while we are given bits and pieces to the puzzle surrounding Housemaster Vaughn and his interference in everyone's lives, including his own son, there isn't a whole lot that happens that moves the story forward. Quite a bit seems to happen in the background, without much presented in the way to show it happening. For instance, the seemingly out of the blue (at least to me) love connection between Rhine and one of the household assistants, Gabriel. They only meet a handful of times and suddenly they seem to be completely infatuated with each other. As the story progresses, their relationship is then given time to grow, but their relationship growing so close, so quickly, at the beginning of the story seemed too convenient a plot point for me.

Another problem that I had with the story was one portion of the worldbuilding, and that had to due with the orphans. It's mentioned frequently that there are numerous orphans who live on the streets, and it makes sense since the parents are dying so young. Yet, it would seem to me that if the whole idea in this world is to try to keep the human race alive, there would be contingencies in place for these orphans, to try to find a way to help them live and not let them die on the streets. Maybe I'm missing something here, but it just seemed that this entire idea seemed a little off to me.

Given the problems I had with the story, I'm still impressed with the premise behind the idea. While this first volume ended in a way that I would have been willing to accept as the type of vague ending where the reader can take their own ideas on where the characters will be going next and leave it at that, I'm also interested to see where DeStefano is going to take these characters, and to me that's what really makes for a good book. So, problems aside, DeStefano sucked me into her world and I want to know what happens next.

Wither will be released on March 22, 2011 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (some stores may have it on shelves now).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Soulless by Gail Carriger

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Title: Soulless
Related Series: The Parasol Protectorate, Book 1
Author: Gail Carriger
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780316056632
Publisher: Orbit Books
Author Website: www.gailcarriger.com
Twitter: @gailcarriger, @orbitbooks
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars

From Amazon:
Alexia Tarabotti is laboring under a great many social tribulations. First, she has no soul. Second, she's a spinster whose father is both Italian and dead. Third, she was rudely attacked by a vampire, breaking all standards of social etiquette.

Where to go from there? From bad to worse apparently, for Alexia accidentally kills the vampire -- and then the appalling Lord Maccon (loud, messy, gorgeous, and werewolf) is sent by Queen Victoria to investigate.

With unexpected vampires appearing and expected vampires disappearing, everyone seems to believe Alexia responsible. Can she figure out what is actually happening to London's high society? Will her soulless ability to negate supernatural powers prove useful or just plain embarrassing? Finally, who is the real enemy, and do they have treacle tart?

SOULLESS is a comedy of manners set in Victorian London: full of werewolves, vampires, dirigibles, and tea-drinking.

To not put too fine a point on it, I absolutely adored Soulless! It is a smart, funny, sometimes sexy little morsel of steampunk romance brain candy. Now, first off, when you see the word "romance" in the description, please don't jump to the conclusion that I would have: that the book is chockablock with hot, steamy naughtiness. Now, in all honesty, it does have it's share of hot, steamy naughtiness (it is part romance when all is said and done, although it really has only one outright sex scene in the entire book), but it doesn't read like every action our heroine is taking is trying to lead her to her next tryst; this is Victorian England, after all, and there are certain rules and regulations one must follow before such scandalous behavior can ensue! What we have here, really, is a smart and sexy heroine who can not only hold her own against vampires and werewolves (she kills a vampire with her parasol, after all), but who can still manage to uphold the highest of societies standards and etiquette, often at the same time.

Soulless is a clever book, and the notion of vampires, werewolves and ghosts being accepted parts of Victorian society is a unique approach to the urban fantasy. How our preternatural heroine, Alexia Tarabotti, falls into all this as someone without a soul who can negate the powers of the supernatural makes her all the more an extraordinary character. In fact, all of the characters are well polished gems and each stands out in their own distinct way.

Carriger's writing is laugh-out-loud funny in some instances and solid throughout. I found it a refreshing read and a highly promising good start for this debut author. I'm anxiously awaiting the second in the series, Changeless.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Raising by Laura Kasischke

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Title: The Raising
Author: Laura Kasischke
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 360
ISBN: 9780062004789
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Twitter: @HarperPerennial
Format:: ebook through NetGalley
Available: March 15, 2011
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 11-2-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, 1010 Challenge (Fiction category)

From Amazon:
From critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling author Laura Kasischke comes a new novel that is part Stephen King, part Donna Tartt, and wholly unputdownable.

The accident was tragic, yes. Bloody and horrific and claiming the life of a beautiful young sorority girl. Nicole was a straight-A student from a small town. Sweet-tempered, all-American, a former Girl Scout, and a virgin. But it was an accident. And that was last year. It's fall again, a new semester, a fresh start.

Craig, who has not been charged with murder, is focusing on his classes, and also on avoiding Nicole's sorority sisters, who seem to blame him for her death even though the police did not.

Perry, Craig's roommate, is working through his own grief (he grew up with Nicole, after all, and had known her since kindergarten) by auditing Professor Polson's sociology class: Death, Dying, and the Undead.

Mira has been so busy with her babies -- two of them, twins, the most perfect boys you could imagine but still a nearly impossible amount of work even with Clark's help -- that she can barely keep herself together to teach (Death, Dying and the Undead), let alone write the book she'll need to publish for tenure.

And Shelly, who was the first person at the scene of the accident, has given up calling the newspapers to tell them that, despite the ''lake of blood'' in which they keep reporting the victim was found, the girl Shelly saw that night was not bloody, and not dead.


Laura Kasischke's The Raising is a remarkably haunting book of love and suspicion; murder and mystery. Taking place at a college in Michigan, the story follows the lives of several teachers and students who have all been drawn together by the horrible death of Nicole, a straight-A, honor roll student. The general consensus is that Craig, her boyfriend, murdered her. Yet, Shelly, the first person at the scene of the accident that killed Nicole, claims that Nicole was still alive and that Craig was trying to help her. Perry, Craig's roommate, may know more about Nicole than he's willing to admit. In trying to deal with the grief that he feels around Nicole's death (they had been friends for years), he takes a class about death and inadvertently draws that professor, Mira Polson, into the intrigue surrounding Nicole's death. And why do people on campus still think they see Nicole wandering the school? Is is a ghost they are seeing, or something else all together?

Kasischke has a remarkable talent for drawing amazing detail out of what seems like a dream. Her writing can be very ethereal at times, but it never leaves the reader questioning what her meaning is, and in the case of The Raising, her writing style fits the emotion of the book perfectly. Imagine, knowing that something happened to the girl you love, and you think that you had something to do with, but you're really not sure and you can't remember and all you know is that now she's dead, and people blame you. I think I'd be walking around in a state of shock all the time. Kasischke really creates that sense of unbalance in Craig's life, as he's trying to piece together his life, while still trying to come to terms with what happened to Nicole.

If you've never read anything by Laura Kasischke before, Id highly recommend The Raising. It's a deceptively powerful story that will linger with far after you've finished reading it.

The Raising: A Novel (P.S.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry

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Title: The Lace Reader
Author: Brunonia Barry
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 390
ISBN: 9780061624766
Publisher: William Morrow
Author Website: www.brunoniabarry.com
Twitter: @BrunoniaBarry
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars

Go and read this book! Right now!

Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader is a novel that delves into so many realms, it is hard to know where to start. The first chapter introduces us to Towner Whitney, one of a long line of Whitney women who have been labeled "quirky" by the other inhabitants of Salem. The chapter opens:
My name is Towner Whitney. No, that's not exactly true. My real first name is Sophya. Never believe me. I lie all the time.

I am a crazy woman…. That last part is true.
It is an appropriate opening for the book, for it is a book of secrets, of family lies and of history; both familial history and geographic history, as we are given some background of the town of Salem and the events that created it.

Towner comes from a long line of "readers," women who can read you past, present and future in lace. There is a specific process to the reading of lace, which is explained throughout the book. Towner has given up lace reading after the death of her sister and the subsequent depression that forced Towner to escape Salem and move to California, the farthest place she can escape to in her mind. She is brought back to Salem after the death of her great-aunt, where she begins to discover that everything about her past may or may not be as she remembers it.

This is an amazing debut novel. Barry interweaves so many plot threads, it's as if she is creating lace out of her own story. The plot moves along nicely, and Barry gives you just enough of the characters' histories throughout the story that you don't feel like you are being weighed down by their backgrounds. The characters are believable and well-rounded. Never did I feel that she was stretching the suspension of disbelief to make them seem real. I could picture walking the streets of Salem, and meeting these people downtown.

The way The Lace Reader is written is beautiful! The story just sucks you in. Barry's prose just flows throughout the entire book, taking you on this amazing journey. I was amazed by how quickly I became a part of the world that she was creating.

I think I've been a little bit lucky, in that I've been to Salem on two occasions now, so I'm familiar with the surroundings of the story. While some of the places are fictitious, Barry has created a most accurate view of present-day Salem. The city itself is just as much a character in the book as its inhabitants. Barry has set her story in the mid-90s, before Salem became too much of a tourist destination. It was just coming into it's own, and Barry captures the essence of city perfectly.

I think that Brunonia Barry may have something of a witch in her. The spell that she creates with this story was mesmerizing. I couldn't put the book down! Luckily I was traveling when I read it, so was able to finish the book one day. I'm anxiously looking forward to the magic that she will create with her next book.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

His Majesty's Dragon, Temeraire Book 1 by Naomi Novik

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Title: His Majesty's Dragon
Series: Temeraire, Book 1
Author: Naomi Novik
Copyright: 2006
Pages: 384
ISBN: 9780345481283
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Author Website: www.temeraire.org
Twitter: @naominovik
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars
Finished: 3-21-10
Challenge: 100 Books 10, TIOLI

From Amazon:
Aerial combat brings a thrilling new dimension to the Napoleonic Wars as valiant warriors rise to Britain’s defense by taking to the skies... not aboard aircraft but atop the mighty backs of fighting dragons.

When HMS Reliant captures a French frigate and seizes its precious cargo, an unhatched dragon egg, fate sweeps Capt. Will Laurence from his seafaring life into an uncertain future–and an unexpected kinship with a most extraordinary creature. Thrust into the rarified world of the Aerial Corps as master of the dragon Temeraire, he will face a crash course in the daring tactics of airborne battle. For as France’s own dragon-borne forces rally to breach British soil in Bonaparte’s boldest gambit, Laurence and Temeraire must soar into their own baptism of fire.

I absolutely loved this book. I was trying to decide on a TIOLI challenge book for March (read a book by an LT Author) and I needed something that was more brain candy than anything else, and after reading a couple of other reviews/recommendations of His Majesty's Dragon decided I'd pick up the first book if I found it at the bookstore. Much to my now pleasure, they had a copy and I went ahead and broke my no new book buying rule for about the 100th time this year and picked it up. Needless to say, the next four are on their way from Amazon now.

Novik takes another look at the Napoleonic Wars in this series, one where dragons are an important part of all armies and their fighting forces. The dragons are harnessed at birth (when they emerge from their egg) with a human rider who becomes their captain, and together they become a fighting force with an entire crew that works to keep the dragon healthy and safe. When Capt. Laurence captures a French ship carrying a dragon egg, at first he imagines only what his share of the prize money will be, but when it is discovered that the egg will hatch before they reach port, the decision is made to try to harness the dragon right on the ship, something that has never been done before, as the Aerial Corps has always handled all eggs and the subsequent harnessing. Much to his surprise, when the new dragonet hatches, it completely ignores the man whose name was pulled to try the harnessing, and instead speaks directly to Laurence and allows him to do the harnessing. Now Laurence must leave the navy and with the newly named Temeraire, must learn the ways of the Aerial Corps. And I couldn't put the book down from here on out.

I loved the growing relationship between Laurence and Temeraire. Instead of just being mindless beasts bent on destruction, Novik has created intelligent and engaging characters in her dragons, and from the moment that Temeraire speaks to Laurence, I was totally lost in their growing friendship and trust. I think this, above and beyond anything else in the book, was what had me hooked from the beginning. There was just something about the way that Novik had Laurence and Temeraire grow closer that I just found totally mesmerizing. The other side stories were just as equally well-written, but it was the experience of watching Laurence and Temeraire grow into their partnership that held the entire book together so unquestionably. Of course, there is so much more to the story than just their growing relationship; there is also their training and the interactions on both Laurence and Temeraire's parts with their new comrades and the battle at the end of the book where we learn the true nature of Temeraire's breeding. It's just all so well put together, I loved every moment of the book and read it in 2 days.

I always enjoy discovering a new author, but to be able to find a book that I can so easily get lost in as well is a complete treat for me, and I can't recommend His Majesty's Dragon enough. I'm anxiously looked forward to moving on to the second book in the series, Throne of Jade. This will easily be topping my list of favorite books of the year.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Aberrations by Penelope Przekop

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Title: Aberrations
Author: Penelope Przekop
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 336
ISBN: 9781934572030
Publisher: Emerald Book Company
Author Website: www.penelopeprzekop.com
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars

From Amazon:
Twenty-one-year-old narcoleptic Angel Duet knows her father harbors secrets. He loves and protects her, but his suspicious refusal to discuss her mother's death drives Angel to worship an image created from the little history she does have: her father's sketchy stories and her mother's treasured photography, studies of clouds that have hung in the their foyer for more than twenty years.

When her father's girlfriend moves in, the photographs come down, and Angel's search for truth becomes an obsession. As she struggles to uncover the past and gain control over the narcolepsy that often fogs her world, Angel descends into a dizzying realm of drugs, adultery, and confused desire that further obscures reality.

As Angel begins to expose a history she could never have imagined, she discovers her entire life has been anchored around lies. Accepting the truth, once found, is the key to understanding herself, her family, and her life. To truly awaken, Angel must realize that sometimes the gifts we receive are not what we want--and only in time do we see their worth.

At first glance,
Aberrations is the story of a young woman who learns to live with her narcolepsy, and who struggles immensely to understand how her mom died when she was born and to discover who her mother really was. But the debut novel of Penelope Przekop moves insightfully into a whole other dimension, showing the reader how each of us lives a life of aberration, that we each have some kind of stigma or conflict or handicap to overcome. We also discover that having the strength to first seek out the truth and then to live with it can be quite challenging.

A marvelous and unique coming of age story, Penelope Przekop's Aberrations is the story of Angel Duet as she discovers the who she is and how she can find the missing pieces of herself. It is a book about discovering who you are to yourself, and not what others want you to be, about accepting all the bits that make you who you are and about finding unconditional love, even if it isn't necessarily where you thought it would come from.

Angel Duet, 21, suffers from narcolepsy and has strengthened herself over the years by closing herself off emotionally from others, living a solitary existence with her father and the memories of her deceased mother. The only real contact she has emotionally with anyone else is Mac, the married doctor whom she is having an affair with. Through new friends that she makes at her summer job, Tim and Kimmy, Angel begins to see the rut that her life is in (as are the others). Each discovers that they hold a secret that they believe sets them apart from everyone else around them; Angel's narcolepsy, Tim is gay and Kimmy is a virgin. After Tim convinces Angel to come out one night with him to the local gay bar, she meets his cousin, Scarlette, and more confusion sets into Angel's life, as there is an attraction to Scarlette, but is it sexual or simply the comforting idea that in Scarlette, Angel can find her idea of mother?

The book is ultimately about unconditional love, and the want and need of everyone to find that. I believe it's a fairly universal need. Generally, that idea is found in the idea of mother and that is what Angel feels she is missing in her life. She searches for it everywhere; through confrontation with her father over the true nature of her mother's death, through sex, both with Mac and with Scarlette, through artificial means while using Ecstasy. When Angel finally finds her idea of mother, it isn't necessarily where she thought it would come from, but it ultimately was the perfect way for her to find it.

Each character has a slight aberration that sets them apart from what they consider, or what society considers, normal; but are the characteristics that make you unique an aberration, or just part of who you are, to be accepted and nurtured, both by yourself and others? Through Tim's newness of discovering friends that he can share his homosexuality with, through Kimmy's emotional growth, through Angel's discovery of mother, each character grows and discovers it isn't always necessarily the best thing to be the person that other's want you to be or to hide behind your secrets; ultimately the unconditional love that each of us is searching needs to come from within.

To be honest, I couldn't put this book down. I thought I'd get it read in a couple of readings, but after I started, the story moved so well and the writing was so beautiful, I didn't want to stop. The prose is lyrical and flowing and the story moves without shoving it's way through. The characters are real, with real problems and real emotion. The only drawback I had was the "southern-accent spelling." It kept distracting me as I kept trying to read in a southern accent as opposed to simply reading the story. But realistically, it could simply be me. Aberrations is a beautiful story, and I look forward to what gems Penelope Przekop will be giving us in the future.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter by Beth Kephart

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Title: Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter
Author: Beth Kephart
Copyright: 2000
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9780618033874
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Author Website: beth-kephart.blogspot.com
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars

This is a beautiful book on the power of friendship. Lovingly written and to-the-point, Beth Kephart has put on paper so many of my own feelings that I was never able to put words to. Not all friendships are easy, some are a challenge, but Beth shows us that we can take something away from each friendship and that even the challenging friendships matter.

I first read Into the Tangle of Friendship several years ago when it was first released. At the time, I was going through many life changes, discovering who I was and discovering new friendships through these life changes. There was so much in the book that spoke to me at the time, I was shocked. It was like Beth had reached in my head and pulled all the emotions that I couldn't speak and put them in her book. I found it just as refreshing reading this book again, now, where I am currently in my life. Some of the friendships that I formed then have moved on, others have remained; some have strengthened, some have weakened, but I cannot deny the fact that each and every one of these people mattered to me, in one way or another. I've learned lessons from each of them, and they have all had an impact of some sort on my life, and I can find parallels to so many of these friendships in Beth's book. It has helped me to look on some of these friendships in a new light, and even those that I feel have gone bad are still important in the lessons that they have taught me. I will be interested to read this book again in a few years to see where I am in my life and how the book will speak to me then.

Beth's writing is amazing. More than just telling us her story, she is painting us a picture with words. Lyrical, poetical, flowing; these all describe her writing.

You can read each chapter independently of each other, but taken as a whole, they do tell a story. This isn't the type of book to breeze through; read each chapter, sit with it for awhile to fully realize what it is telling you and treasure it. I think everyone will come away with something different from this book, as each of our friendships are different and unique in their own right, but I do think that everyone can relate to the ideas that Beth puts forth in her book.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton

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Title: The Wednesday Sisters
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Copyright: 2008
Pages: 284
ISBN: 9780345502827
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Author Website: www.megwaiteclayton.com
Twitter: @MegWClayton
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 5/5 stars

From Amazon:
Friendship, loyalty, and love lie at the heart of Meg Waite Clayton’s beautifully written, poignant, and sweeping novel of five women who, over the course of four decades, come to redefine what it means to be family.

For thirty-five years, Frankie, Linda, Kath, Brett, and Ally have met every Wednesday at the park near their homes in Palo Alto, California. Defined when they first meet by what their husbands do, the young homemakers and mothers are far removed from the Summer of Love that has enveloped most of the Bay Area in 1967. These “Wednesday Sisters” seem to have little in common: Frankie is a timid transplant from Chicago, brutally blunt Linda is a remarkable athlete, Kath is a Kentucky debutante, quiet Ally has a secret, and quirky, ultra-intelligent Brett wears little white gloves with her miniskirts. But they are bonded by a shared love of both literature–Fitzgerald, Eliot, Austen, du Maurier, Plath, and Dickens–and the Miss America Pageant, which they watch together every year.

As the years roll on and their children grow, the quintet forms a writers circle to express their hopes and dreams through poems, stories, and, eventually, books. Along the way, they experience history in the making: Vietnam, the race for the moon, and a women’s movement that challenges everything they have ever thought about themselves, while at the same time supporting one another through changes in their personal lives brought on by infidelity, longing, illness, failure, and success.

Humorous and moving,
The Wednesday Sisters is a literary feast for book lovers that earns a place among those popular works that honor the joyful, mysterious, unbreakable bonds between friends.

I received The Wednesday Sisters through the Early Reviewer at LibraryThing. It's an excellently written story about friendship and family (and especially how friends can grow into being more than just friends, they can become family too). From the moment I started reading, I knew that this was going to be a great book.

The story revolves around no-nonsense, athletic Linda, super smart Brett, quiet Frankie, Southern Belle Kath & shy Ally, friends who first meet every Wednesday in the park for play time with their kids, but where they eventually start to discuss what books they've been reading and the general small talk of forming friendships. Later, they discover that each has had a small desire in one way or another to become writers, so the Wednesday meetings change to writing critiques, as they each try to help the other into becoming better writers. The book is so much more than just about their writing, though. It's also about the hopes, dreams and challenges of young families and budding friendships. We get a glimpse into 5 years of their friendship and watch through their eyes as the world is changing around them (the story starts in the summer of 1967) and how they themselves grow as individuals with the rest of the world.

This was a delight to read; smartly written and nicely paced, with believable characters living real lives. I think Meg Waite Clayton describes her own book best, when the Wednesday Sisters are critiquing Brett's book and Frankie asks, "How did you make it so funny and so touching at the same time(?)... It's a little bit of magic, that." When I read that line, I thought the exact same thing about The Wednesday Sisters.

Meg's new book, The Four Ms Bradwells, will be released on March 22, 2011 from Ballantine Books.

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Dog About Town by J.F. Englert



Title: A Dog About Town
Series: A Bull Moose Dog Run Mystery, Book 1
Author: J.F. Englert
Copyright: 2007
Pages: 271
ISBN: 9780440243632
Publisher: Dell
Author Website: www.adogabouttown.com
Twitter: @RandolphNewYork
Format: Paperback
Rating: 5/5 stars

From Amazon:
Harry is a man still mourning the loss of his beloved girlfriend, Imogen, who left him suddenly without a word. He’s also the owner of a plump, poetry-loving Lab, Randolph. Like most Manhattan dogs, Randolph spends his days sifting through a world of scents, his owner’s neuroses, and an overcrowded doggy run at the American Museum of Natural History. But now a bereft Harry has drifted into a circle of would-be occultists. Which might not be so bad if one of them wasn’t also a murderer.

But which one? With 100,000 times the smelling power of a human being, Randolph can quickly detect the scents of guilt, anxiety, and avarice—and he has no lack of suspects, from a seductive con woman to an uncouth professor of the decorative arts. Now, to protect his hapless owner’s life, Randolph might have to do the unthinkable—and start training Harry to catch a killer...

I first learned about J.F. Englert's Bull Moose Dog Run Mysteries through LT's Early Reviewer program, where they were giving away the second book in the series, A Dog Among Diplomats, this past month. The premise of the series or at least of the first book) is Harry's black lab, Randolph, helps guide Harry to help solve a murder mystery. That's what it seemed to be at first, at least. I was immediately attracted to this book due to the fact that I have a black lab of my own (her name is Mame) and I just thought the premise sounded cute, so I thought I'd give the first one a try.

What I discovered was a surprisingly well written book. A great deal of the story deals with a secondary (yet primary in Harry and Randolph's eyes) mystery, the disappearance a year ago of Harry's girlfriend and Randolph's mistress, Imogen. It is apparent from the beginning of the book that Harry has taken Imogen's disappearance hard, and it is brought up numerous times how it has affected his day to day life, and these are the parts of the book that surprised me the most, Harry's feelings and how he is dealing with the grief of loss.

The entire book is told from the POV of Randolph, who lets you know right away that he is a most peculiar and special dog, that he is sentient. He can read, write (using Alpha-Bits), has long-term memory and is all-around quite the intelligent dog. Englert handles explaining things from the POV of Randolph extremely well, even giving some insight into doggie behavior.

The mystery portion of the book is well played out, even though most of it is explained as the book progresses, but it is Randolph's way of explaining it to Harry that is the most fun (I don't want to give too much of this away, but I've left a clue in this review!).

It's certainly not a challenging read, but it is well-written and just plain fun! I'm looking forward to A Dog Among Diplomats release at the end of the month.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ghosts of reviews past, or I'm going on vacation!

So, I'm leaving on vacation tomorrow. My friends Brad and Sarah and I are taking a road trip to sunny Florida for the next week, so I won't be around. While I'm gone, however, I've scheduled some re-posts of reviews of some of my favorite books from the last couple of years; some books that may have flown under your radar and that I think deserve to be read.

Happy reading, everybody, and see you in a week!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Today in books, or a surprise envelope from Random House!

I got home today to find that I received another envelope of goodies in the mail, this time from Random House. I received a copy of Cherie Priest's new book, Bloodshot, and an ARC of the first book in a new fantasy series that I have never heard of before, The Iron Druid Chronicles. The series is by Kevin Hearne and the first book is titled Hounded. The description on the back of the book makes it sound like something I'm really going to enjoy! Hounded will be available May 3, 2011 from Del Rey Books and Bloodshot is available in bookstores now.

I'm thrilled to have received both of these books and am wondering if I can find some more hours to add to my day so that I can find time to read all these great books!

Happy reading, everybody!