Showing posts from April, 2010

Abandon or Keep Going?

When you're reading a book that doesn't have your complete attention by a certain arbitrary point, say the first chapter or the first fifty pages or something, do you keep reading or abandon the book?

I used to have an almost compulsive need to finish reading any book I started. Maybe that came from being an English major as an undergrad, where I certainly had to read a few--okay, quite a few--books I wouldn't have read by choice. Or maybe it was just an OCD thing. Who can know for sure?

Now that I'm, ahem, older and not required to read something for a class, I usually abandon the book if the first chapter doesn't engage me in some way. Sometimes I'll flip to the end of the book to see if that encourages me to read the parts in between.

A recent example? I really wanted to appreciate Once on a Moonless Night by Dai Sijie. Love the title. Just couldn't get past the long monologue from a character near the beginning of the book about Puyi, the Last Emper…

This and That

Finally, a glimmer of what Lisa Marie Rice's next book is about, from the publisher's page for the author:

Into the Crossfire:
Look for my next book, coming out July 27, 2010, Into the Crossfire: Book # 1: The Protectors.

Sam Reston, Harry Bolt, Mike Keillor. The first of a trilogy of three men who are closer than brothers, three men who have sworn to protect women in jeopardy.

A trilogy to look forward to reading. Yeah!

I finally snagged Did You Hear about the Morgans? at a Redbox yesterday. So disappointing. I love Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker--just not together, and definitely not in this movie. Just a package of stereotypes in a not-funny movie.

If you've seen the movie, what did you think?

April 21st marked the 100th anniversary of the death of Mark Twain. Sort of puts you in the mood to give Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a re-read, doesn't it?

I'll leave you with a few of my favorite Mark Twain quotes:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, a…

The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips

The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips (2008) skillfully combines the stories of Venetian courtesan Alessandra Rossetti, who broke the Spanish Conspiracy in 1618, and modern-day American graduate student Claire Donovan.

Alessandra and Claire's stories and motivations unfold in alternating pieces as Claire heads to Venice as the chaperone for a teenager, but truly to uncover the story of what happened in 1618 in order to finish her dissertation. Add the pressure of a professor with a book ready to publish saying that Alessandra actually served as a co-conspirator in the plot to take over then-independent Venice.

And the descriptions of Venice--sigh.

My overall personal rating of The Rossetti Letter is a B.

Two Books by Sarah McCarty

Continuing on my Sarah McCarty kick. It's always a nice surprise when you find a "new-to-me" author you enjoy with a significant body of books already in print.

Both of these entries are McCarty's historical romances, the second and third books from the Promises series. Wyoming Terrority late 1860s and early 1870s. Plenty of erotic sex; what I've seen listed as "vanilla sex" by other bloggers because, while explicit, the sex involves one man and one woman.

Both books touch on race relations and the movement for women's rights.

In Promises Keep (2005), Cougar McKinnely, ex-Marshal, half-Native American/half-white, finds Mara Kincaid in Pleasure Emporium. Unknown to him, she's drugged and there against her will.

Trying to build a life for herself in Cheyenne, despite rumors of being found in a whorehouse, Mara eventually turns to Cougar when she needs to find a husband.

In Promises Prevail (2005), Clint McKinnely, Cougar's cousin, is seeki…

Pursuit by Elizabeth Jennings

Pursuit by Elizabeth Jennings (2008), aka Lisa Marie Rice, Kindle location 1161-1166, answering a question about the man who shot her:

Telling the truth could be fatal, and yet she couldn't lie to him. She nodded once, jerkily. "Yes," she whispered, her voice trembling. "He's alive."

The grooves around his mouth deepened. His big fists clenched once, hard, and relaxed. It was the only movement he made. He became, if possible, even more still. "No one will ever hurt you again, Charlotte. You have my word on it. I'm going to sit next to you now. Is that all right?"

Oh, God. Matt Sanders seemed to exert a magnetic field around him from where he was, a few feet away. If he sat down next to her, she'd fall right into it. Still, she hadn't the nerve to deny him anything.

"Okay," she whispered.

Sigh. Strong hero (injured former Navy SEAL Matt Sanders in this case) falls for intelligent, stronger-than-she-realizes heroine in …

Please Vote in My Twilight Poll

Despite being a longtime vampire fan, I'm Team Jacob all the way in the Twilight series. He just seems like a better overall choice for Bella.

Please vote in my poll and feel free to leave a comment on this post about why you voted the way you did.

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog

Fairy Tale by Cyn Balog (2009) is a re-read that, for whatever reason, I didn't blog about on the first go-round.

High school sophomore Morgan Sparks has an interesting life--she can see into the future (not her own, just for others), and she has the perfect boyfriend, her birthday twin and next-door neighbor Cam. Cam is a star football player, and, frankly, he excels at whatever he does.

Then Cam seems to take flight while scoring a touchdown in an exhibition football game.

A flying boyfriend? What's the deal? And what happens when Cam's cousin Pip comes to stay with the family?

Morgan serves as a quirky, vibrant narrator for the story, which serves as a fair representation of the YA paranormal genre. If you're a big fan of the genre, you'll likely enjoy Fairy Tale. If not, steer clear.

Learn more about the book at the author's site here.

You can read my list of books completed for the 2010 YA Reading Challenge here.

My overall personal rating of Fairy Tale

El Patron by Michele Scott

I freely admit to being sucked into Michele Scott's El Patron (2010) by the cover and the following synopsis:

What began as an innocent love affair for one young woman, Marta Peña, in Costa Careyes, Mexico in 1969, sets in motion a series of events that spans the next thirty years. This is the story of South American drug lords Antonio Espinoza and Javier Rodriguez, and their violent quest for power. In a sweeping family saga, we meet the women who love them and the children they vow to protect at any cost. With a complex web of interconnected families, this gritty novel delves into the lives of a power hungry clan, following the rise of their business, the destructive path of their torrid and erotic love affairs, and the struggle to balance intense greed with devout family loyalty. Strong women face tragedies that test their will and their commitment to the men they passionately desire. As young girls grow into women, their traumatic pasts will drive their actions and force them t…

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (originally 1965) created a firestorm at the time of publication and continues to generate a great deal of interest forty-five years later. I think this is arguably one of the classics of the twentieth century, something that should stand the test of time.

Capote spent five years researching the 1959 murders of the Clutter family, including parents Herbert and Bonnie and their youngest children, Nancy and Kenyon, just outside of Holcomb, Kansas. (The two oldest Clutter children were already gone from the home, with one married and living in Illinois and the other attending college in Kansas City and planning to be married at Christmas. Incidentally, they changed the wedding to three days after the funeral because of so many family members already being in town.)

He creates an engaging masterpiece, complete with the creation of a surprisingly sympathetic, considering the author is the polar opposite, portrayal of rural Kansas. The less-idyllic lifest…

Miss Snark's First Victim

If you're a writer hoping to be published and haven't discovered Miss Snark's First Victim blog yet, give the site a look.

I'm one of the lucky first fifty submissions for the current event hosted at the site, so I'll have the first fifty words of Claimed posted tomorrow morning for helpful commentary from site readers.

Um, yeah; I'm already working on my courage about facing the negative comments. The rules say to be kind and truthful when critiquing others' work, though, so I'm hoping no one's cruel with their comments. And I'll get to post my own, hopefully useful--and definitely not cruel, thoughts on others' entries.

Anyway, worth looking at the site and potentially participating in future submission events if you're hoping to get published one day. The chance from an upcoming submission event to have a Secret Agent look at your work--truly cool.

The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent wrote The Heretic's Daughter (2009) in part based on family history and legend to honor her ancestor, Martha Carrier, one of the people killed in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692.

Told from the perspective of an older Sarah Carrier, Martha's daughter, looking back on her life in order to share with her own granddaughter what actually happened, the book starts with a very long description of regular life, starting in 1691. We see a family dealing with smallpox, living a shade above being homeless, and the unending work of farming at the time. We also learn about larger social themes, such as the role of religious conformity in Puritan society and the bonds and struggles of family relationships.

Then begins the descent into the madness of the Salem Witch Trials. Martha appears to have been targeted for being an assertive woman, one not necessarily enthralled by her religion.

Sarah and her three brothers also get arrested, as Martha warns Sarah will happen before her …

An Education

Finally caught An Education with Carey Mulligan and Peter Sarsgaard on a DVD rental over the weekend, and I completely see what all the fuss is about.

The casting is superb all-around, and the story is allowed to develop, almost unwind, at a reasonably slow, smooth pace. You completely believe you're watching an intelligent, insightful young girl (the character's sixteen and seventeen in the course of the movie) fall under the spell of a very charming older man. Too charming, of course, so you're always aware something very wrong is heading their direction.

Highly recommended.

The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate

The synopsis for The Betrayal of Natalie Hargrove by Lauren Kate (2009):

A steamy Southern beauty makes one fatal mistake.

Natalie Hargrove would kill to be her high school's Palmetto Princess. But her boyfriend Mike King doesn't share her dream and risks losing the honor of Palmetto Prince to Natalie's nemesis, Justin Balmer. So she convinces Mike to help play a prank on Justin. . . one that goes terribly wrong. They tie him to the front of the church after a party—when they arrive the next morning, Justin is dead.

From blackmail to buried desire, dark secrets to darker deeds, Natalie unravels. She never should've messed with fate. Fate is the one thing more twisted than Natalie Hargrove.

Cruel Intentions meets Macbeth in this seductive, riveting tale of conscience and consequence.

I'd argue that protecting the truth about her time spent on the "wrong side of the tracks" and getting revenge for a past (major) wrong serve more as the motivation for what Natali…

The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah

This must be fantastic cover day at A Passion for Books.

I read such a variety of views of The Wrong Mother by Sophie Hannah (2009) on blogs that I had to read the book for myself. I find myself falling firmly in the "didn't enjoy this book" category. The cover is actually my favorite part of the book, which is really a sad comment.

My biggest complaint is that the story shifts to so many different points of view that I didn't feel like any one character received decent development.

--There's harried mother Sally Thorning, who had a one-week affair with a man a year ago. A man who now has a dead wife and child, and--wait--the man shown on t.v. as the grieving widower/father isn't the man with whom she had an affair. And Sally is a look-alike for the dead woman.

--There's the Geraldine we think we know as seen through the horrific snips from her diary. She's the dead woman, who police believe killed her daughter, Lucy, before killing herself.

A sni…

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

Although I really enjoyed the (on my part) much-anticipated Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles (2010), the magic from Perfect Chemistry isn't there. (See my review of Perfect Chemistry here.)

Set two years after Perfect Chemistry, Rules of Attraction has Alex's brother Carlos joining him in Colorado after getting into serious problems in Mexico. Carlos seems more hostile and bitter, more into the whole gang experience than Alex. And, not surprisingly, he has problems in Colorado, too.

Eventually, Carlos goes to live with one of Alex's college professors and his family when a judge rules that Carlos can't continue living with Alex in student subsidized housing. The professor's daughter, Kiara, originally Carlos' peer tour guide at his new high school, is exactly what he never expected to like--into fixing cars, best friends with a gay guy, lives in baggy shirts, etc. Frankly, she's nice.

Can Carlos leave the gang-influenced lifestyle behind?

And, yes…

This and That

Happy National (U.S.) Library Week!

Nice piece from Art Brodsky in The Huffington Post titled Our Public Library Lifeline is Fraying. We'll Be Sorry When it Snaps. A clip:

But it would be a mistake to say that the Internet replaces libraries. It doesn't. It's an adjunct. More than one budget officer has said that people don't need libraries because they can go online. First, many people can't go online due to their economic circumstances. Second, librarians help to guide research. A simple online search will not always achieve desired results, as anyone who does this well knows. And libraries still have those quaint old things called books, many of which aren't online. The printed medium still has a lot of attraction for many, from the youngest readers whose parents check out armloads of picture books, to the serious readers and researchers who realize there is more to find than what's online.

Also Happy (U.S.) Tax Day! [I know--that's an oxymoron.]


TBR Pile

Since I'm so busy not reading right now, I thought I'd post the next three books I'm looking forward to reading with links for more information.

How about you? What are you excited about reading?

Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles

The follow-up to her riveting Perfect Chemistry--and check out the cool cover!

Carlos Fuentes doesn't want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him in Boulder, Colorado. He wants to keep living on the edge, and carve his own path, just like Alex did. Unfortunately, his ties to a Mexican gang aren't easy to break, and he soon finds himself being set up by a drug lord.

When Alex arranges for Carlos to live with his former professor and his family to keep him from being sent to jail, Carlos feels completely out of place. He's even more thrown by his strong feelings for the professor's daughter, Kiara, who is nothing like the girls he's usually drawn to. But Carlos and Kiara soon discover that in matters …

Date Night

Date Night isn't the movie to go see if you're married and have even the slightest doubts about the quality of your marriage. Midlife crisis? Don't see Date Night, or you might find yourself motivated to make that call to a divorce attorney.

You get the basic idea from the previews: Married couple Steve Carrell and Tina Fey claim to be another couple in order to get a table at a swanky restaurant. Their claim than leads to a problematic case of mistaken identity, which should have created some hilarious consequences.

Although there were some funny scenes and some great casting (Mark Wahlberg in an I'm too sexy for my shirt role and James Franco and Mila Kunis as a PWT couple), the movie isn't nearly as funny as I anticipated. The show drags a little bit, too, especially in the early scenes.

Overall, the movie's okay, but nothing I recommend that anyone rush to see.

Tucker's Claim by Sarah McCarty

Tucker's Claim by Sarah McCarty (2009) is actually the third installment in the Hell's Eight series. Eight men, the only survivors of the raid on their town while still just boys, stand together through whatever life throws in their path in the rough-and-tumble Old West.

Texas Ranger Tucker McCade, half-white and half-Native American, has an interest in widow Sallie Mae Reynolds that he doesn't ever expect to lead anywhere. While being mixed race leaves him feeling unable to court her [note that he could be killed for even expressing an interest in a white woman], all that matters to her is the difference in their outlook on life. As a Quaker, plus serving as her town's physician since the death of her husband, she is all about peace and non-violence. And Tucker goes out of his way to find violence.

Can the differences between the two be resolved?

Although part of a series, you can read this book as a stand-alone without feeling lost or confused. If you've alre…

This and That

Did anyone buy the new iPad? If so, what do you think after a few days of using it?

The New York Times ran an opinion piece, How Green is My iPad?, that might be of interest to anyone using an e-reader. The conclusion:

With respect to fossil fuels, water use and mineral consumption, the impact of one e-reader payback equals roughly 40 to 50 books. When it comes to global warming, though, it’s 100 books; with human health consequences, it’s somewhere in between.

All in all, the most ecologically virtuous way to read a book starts by walking to your local library.

Yup, I love the last line!

I had the chance to catch a couple of movies through Redbox on Monday night.

I didn't even make it through Love Happens; just couldn't stomach that one. Anyone else see the movie and actually like it?

I enjoyed Julie & Julia, despite Meryl Streep's imitation of Julia Child's accent. Then I made the mistake of looking a little more into Julie Powell, her blog, etc. Don't do t…

Enslave: The Taming of the Beast by Cathy Yardley

Enslave: the Taming of the Beast by Cathy Yardley (2009) is another erotic variation on the beauty and the beast tale.

Nadia Bessonova, youngest of three daughters of an immigrant car thief, offers herself to Dominic Luder when he arrives at the family home to recover his outrageously expensive stolen car. Luder, once involved with the Mafia, lives as a recluse and carries the scars from one attempt on his life.

Although more than a little troubling in terms of the Bessonova family dynamic, I can certainly see the attraction between Nadia and Dominic. The side story about Nadia's sister Jelena is where even more of the erotic sex comes into play.

Overall, the sex scenes are well-done, yet I'm not completely buying the family/story line. There's no reason for the loyalty the daughters display to their father, unlike in usual versions of the tale. Not that this came out in the book, but I kept expecting to learn that the father actually molested one or more of the daughters…

What to Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French

What to Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French (2009) wasn't quite the usual set of twists and turns and confusions I expected to experience when reading a novel by the wife-and-husband duo, Nicci Gerard and Sean French. Instead, I assumed the most important "mystery" conclusions very early in the book, and I enjoyed reading this one primarily due to the changes in Ellie Falkner and the very adept descriptions of unexpected grief.

Basic premise: Ellie Falkner learns at the start of the story that her thirty-eight-year-old husband, Greg, has died in a fiery car crash. And he's accompanied by a woman, also dead--someone Ellie doesn't know, and no one involved in Greg's life admits to knowing the woman, either.

Who is the mystery woman? Was Greg having an affair? Was this really just a simple car crash? (A definite "no" on the simple car crash if you've read any of French's other books. Nothing is ever simple and straightforward in the worlds…

New Reading Challenge: The 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge

Go here to sign up for The 2010 Young Adult Reading Challenge

1. Anyone can join. You don't need a blog to participate.

--Non-Bloggers: Post your list of books in the comment section of the wrap-up post. To learn how to sign up without having a blog, click here.

2. There are four levels:

--The Mini YA Reading Challenge – Read 12 Young Adult novels.

--Just My Size YA Reading Challenge – Read 25 Young Adult novels.

--Stepping It Up YA Reading Challenge – Read 50 Young Adult novels.

--Super Size Me YA Reading Challenge – Read 75 Young Adult novels.

3. Audio, eBooks, re-reads all count.

4. No need to list your books in advance. You may select books as you go. Even if you list them now, you can change the list if needed.

5. Challenge begins January 1st thru December, 2010.

6. When you sign up under Mr. Linky, put the direct link to your post where your Young Adult novels will be listed. Include the URL so that other viewers can find this fun challenge. If you’d prefer to put your list in the side…

Swoon by Nina Malkin

Love at first sight must be glorious. I wouldn’t know, since at first there was no sight. Smell, yeah—the tangy, salty scent of horses. Plenty of other sensations too. But I’ll get to that. The point I want to make up front is that by the time I laid eyes on Sinclair Youngblood Powers—in the flesh, that is—I was already in love with him. Nothing could change that. Not even the fact that he was dead.

So begins Nina Malkin's Swoon (2009). A wonderful beginning to a book with a sarcastic, intelligent heroine, a hero with issues, and a plot that doesn't quite live up to the beginning and equally fantastic ending, which I obviously can't share here.

Basic plot: Sin, last alive in the late 1700s, inhabits the body of Pen, cousin to our psychic heroine, Dice, and begins causing all kinds of problems in small town Swoon, Connecticut. At a certain point, Sin actually gets his own body (think Golem), leading to all kinds of problems for Dice and Pen, who both love him. And Sin is t…