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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year 2011!

I wish all of you a happy and healthy new year.  May the books you read be excellent and take you away to far off places for fun adventures.

On the 1st I will be at the Mummer's Parade on Broad Street with my girlfriend.  We go every year and it is a great time.  I included one of my favorite string band's from last year so you can see what some of it is like.  Have a great day!

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Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Reading Resolutions Challenge: Considerable, not Epic, Fail

In November 2009 I wanted to set some reading goals for myself and thought, "What a great way to set reading goals, AND create a challenge?"  Hence, the 2010 Reading Resolutions Challenge was born.

Well, things did not go as well as I thought with both my goals and hostess abilities.  In the hostessing department I sucked....completely sucked.  My quarterly check-ups died after the first one.  I do not have a good excuse, but the truth is I either forgot or was wrapped up in something else.  Then I would remember and quickly forget again.  Bad hostess!

As for my goals, well here they are:

Read the following books:

Bleak House by Charles Dickens - Purchased not read

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins - Forgot

Middlemarch by George Eliot - Purchased not read

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - READ...YEA!

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery - forgot

A book by Hemingway - forgot

A book by Steinbeck - Purchased East of Eden not read

84 Charing Cross Road (added 11/22) - forgot

The Great Gatsby (added 11/24) - forgot

Do the following things:

Be more selective in accepting review books.
-meh, I was so so in this one.  I have gotten more selective as the year passed.

Be more selective in joining challenges. (I get dazzled by pretty pictures/buttons)
- I have been more selective with this one.  So far only 3 and that's all I plan on too!

Try to be more concise in my reviews. (They have gotten better over the past year, but there is always room for improvement.)
-Work in progress, but I did create Three Reasons Review which may help.

Be a better commenter. (Again, always room for improvement.)
-Definite work in progress, always :)

Read more from my shelves of books at home.
- Definite epic fail.  I have added to the shelves and not read much from them.

In some ways I improved, others not so much.  I did buy some of the books I want to read so that's positive.  My apologies for those who joined expecting progress reports and such.  However, the one great aspect was I met some new and interesting bloggers along that way, and that's always a good thing.  Therefore this was not an epic fail just a considerable one.  Besides 2011 is right around the corner.

The spirit of this challenge was to set personal reading goals and try to achieve them.  Hopefully you learn something about yourself along the way.  There is always room to try again so don't be surprised when the 2011 Reading Resolutions Challenges comes your way again :)

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Historical Fiction Challenge 2011

The lovely ladies over at Historical tapestry are hosting the Historical Fiction Challenge for 2011.   I read quite a bit of HF so how can I not sign up for this?

 Here is the scoop:

Each month, a new post dedicated to the HF Challenge will be created.  Write your review, go to the appropriate page at Historical Fiction and post a link to your HF review.  Any kind of HF is accepted (HF fantasy, HF YA, HF mystery/suspense, etc).  This challenge can overlap with others and runs from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011.

Choose which level you will participate at:

 Severe Bookaholism: 20 books

Undoubtedly Obsessed: 15 books

Struggling the Addiction: 10 books

Daring & Curious: 5 books

Out of My Comfort Zone: 2 books

I am participating at the Struggling the Addiction level of 10 books.  If I struggle that much then I will go over 10 but lets wait and see what happens.
Fore more information or to sign up, please visit the challenge home page here.

  1. Soulless by Gail Carriger
  2. What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris
  3. Queen By Right by AE Smith

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Review: Get Real and Stop Dieting by Brett Blumenthal

Publisher: Amazon Encore (Released Dec. 28, 2010)
Genre: Non-fiction, nutrition
Paperback, Hardback # pages
Book Source: the publicist
My Rating: 90/100

From the publicist:

In today’s high-speed culture, sensible nutrition has been sidetracked by convenience foods and fad diets. Fortunately, just in time for the holidays and the New Year, wellness expert Brett Blumenthal has created GET REAL and STOP Dieting! , a straightforward resource that demystifies the secrets of healthy eating once and for all.

Blumenthal’s book identifies simple principles for ditching dieting and making good nutrition a way of life, including:
· Tips on establishing proper portion size
· Shopping smart at the grocery store
· Making healthy substitutions in cooking
· Advice about exercise, hydration, and stress reduction
· 40 pages of simple, satisfying recipes

With over two decades of experience in the wellness industry, Brett Blumenthal and her book, “GET REAL and STOP Dieting!” are resources for adopting healthier eating habits and committing to long-term wellness. In addition to GET REAL, Brett is also the founder of the award-winning website and, most recently, She has received numerous awards for her work including: Shine from Yahoo!’s “Woman of the Year” for her influential blogging; Divine Caroline’s Love this Site! Award in the Body and Soul Category for Sheer Balance; Intent’s Best Healthy Living Site Award; and Healthy Heart from Nature Made. She resides in Cambridge, MA.

Whether striving to lose weight or simply interested in learning more about wellness, people from all walks of life will benefit from GET REAL and STOP Dieting!’s simple nutritional rules.

My Thoughts:

I accepted this book for review because I felt like I needed to clarify what I knew about nutritional needs and dieting.  Every time I turn around it is eat this, not that, olive oil is good, now it's bad, carbs: yes, no, maybe so, and so on and so on.  Therefore I figured what the heck, let me give this a try.  What's the harm?

This book was actually not bad.  I was pleasantly surprised.  It is a very easy read, and gives common sense reasons for the five "Get Real" principles.  Eat more fruits and veggies, and the prepackaged foods that are so prevalent today are not nutritionally good or healthy for us.  Come on, you know that Kraft Mac and Cheese can't be good for you :)  The book also discusses fiber, protein, and the need to keep it whole, natural and healthy. 

The book also explains those confusing food labels and what serving size means.  There are some brand food suggestions given (Kashi Go Lean, Amy's Naturals) and some recipes for you to try in the back as well.  With respect to the recipes, some contain ingredients that are not easily on hand, like whey protein, but overall they don't seem too bad.  Here's an easy looking one:

Mediterranean Penne

1/2 cup whole wheat penne pasta-dry
1/2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic-minced
1/2 cup asparagus-chopped
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes-halved
Dried oregano
1/4 cup white cannellini beans-drained and rinsed
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil
Salt & pepper
1 Tbs grated parmesan

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil.  Add penne and cook fro 9 to 10 minutes or until done.  Drain the water but do not rinse pasta.
In same pot, add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, chopped asparagus, tomatoes, oregano, and beans. Stir.  Add basil, salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan.

Makes 1 serving.

This was a very quick read, and I finished it in one day.  The information it contains isn't ground breaking or new, but it did help me clarify my goals for eating well.  Plus some new recipes are always good.

So if you are looking for down to earth, no frills, eating guide, this is the one for you.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+


 I am an Amazon Associate.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I wish you all a wonderful and safe Christmas Day.  Hope you are spending time with friends and/or family, and just remember you are always your own best friend too.  Be well my fiends :)


I am an Amazon Associate.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Very late and more recent award acknowledgments

I suck at posting about awards.  I do.  It's not that I am not honored, flattered, or care enough.  I just suck at it.  For instance, two of the three awards below were given to me back in March.  MARCH people!!!  It is now November, and I been given one more award, which reminded me of these past awards I had sitting in my draft folder (along with some book reviews). 

So without further ado....

I was tagged by Michelle from Michelle & Leslie's Book Picks for the Sugar Doll Award. Thanks sweetie! Please stop by and get to know Michelle and Leslie. They are two wonderful readers from Hawaii that have embraced book blogging with arms wide open.

From Nikola at Nikola's Book Blog I received the Beautiful Blogger Award.  Nikola is a young 20-something guy, who is a fellow bookaholic.  Unfortunately, he has hit a bit of a rough patch lately, so please stop by his blog, read some of his older posts and leave a comment.  I'm sure it will cheer him up.

More recently, I received the Versatile Blogger Award from Emeraldfire at Emeraldfire's Bookmark.  She is a blogger who is new to me, although I think I have seen her avatar around the net.  She is quite the lovely Irish lass so please stop by and check her out.

Now all of these awards had rules specifying tell  x amount of things about you, that people may not know.  Therefore, I am combining everything and hopefully coming up with a list of things about me that may surprise you.

So here goes....

  1. Love Sci-fi TV shows but have a hard time with most sci-fi/fantasy books.  Sometimes the worlds are way too complicated, or writers give characters crazy ass names, and I can't keep track of who's who.  Favorite Sci-Fi shows of the moment: Fringe, Stargate Universe, Sanctuary, Warehouse 13.  On hiatus: Dr. Who and Torchwood.
  2. For all of the TV I watch, ABC only has one show I like: Castle.  He is ruggedly handsome.
  3. I knit while watching all of this TV, so my brain isn't total mush.
  4. I know way too much about Medicare due to my job.  If you ever have a question, feel free to ask.
  5. If money were no object, I would be an anthropologist.
  6. For as many friends I have online, I have very few in real life.  The ones I have are keepers though, so they are few and far between anyway.
  7. I am a klutz, like to the point that I sometimes think I should undergo neurological testing.  There has got to be something wrong, right?
  8. I am an eclectic person.  I like many different kinds of books, movies, music, and interests. 
  9. If I knew then, what I know now, I would have given either medical or veterinary school a try.
  10. I love school.  Always did always will.  You should never stop learning.
  11. I was a cheerleader back in the day.  I was also one of the tough girls too.
  12. I never follow the crowd.  I always do my own thing or heed my own advice.  My Dad's advice stuck.
  13. I was a waitress once upon a time, and had some of the funniest times of my life waiting tables.
  14. If money were again no object, I would travel the world visiting museums and such.
  15. I am very interested in learning how to shoot and handle a gun.  Call me crazy, I know, but I just feel like it's something I need to know.  Now, the Walking Dead on AMC might also have soemthing to do with this.  Just saying.

Thanks again to the awesome bloggers above for bestowing upon me these awards. 
Now it is my turn to share some love!  Here are recent new to me bloggers.  Please stop by and check out their blogs for some great content.

Coffee and Book Chick
Wicked Wonderful Words
Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity
Inside of a Dog
Have Your Cake and Read It Too

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Suddenly Sunday (Dec. 19)

Happy Sunday my dear readers.  I hope this last weekend before Christmas finds you all well and too stressed out.  Remember, do what you can and slow down to spend time with friends and family.  Christmas should be about quality time, not the most expensive gift.  Ok, enough life advice.

I had knee surgery on the 10th, and I am finally starting to move around much better.  Last weekend was not good.  The pain meds only took the edge off, and I was still uncomfortable.  Not showered,  uncomfortable, high, and slightly bored Jenny is not a pretty picture.  My parents stopped by Saturday night for coffee and cannolis, and to check up on me.  Yes, they had a good laugh at my expense, and I think it eased my mom's mind.  She brought me over a little green tinsel tree and some fresh flowers.  It was so sweet, and it did make me feel better.

This past week has been better.  I have showered (yea), and I am moving around better.  Stairs are still tough, and my knee is still a little achy and swollen.  So easy does it.  My husband is going to store for me tomorrow to pick up baking supplies, because as long as I get everything to the kitchen table, I can sit there and stir cookie batter.  I HAVE to make cookies.  It's bad enough my house isn't really decorated.

Plus I am getting stir crazy.  Knitting and reading on drugs only occupies me for so long.  I just started watching Battlestar Galactica on Netflix.  Enjoying it very much, thank goodness.  Hubby has been great. Cooking meals, joking with me ti make me laugh, helping me move around the house.  However the both of us like our space, so I have been spending some time upstairs in the bedroom.  Plus it's a change of scenery.

On the reading front, I am currently reading Blue by Lou Aronica and The Perfect Bride for Mr. Darcy by Mary Lydon Simonsen.  The Darcy book is good so far, but I am having some trouble with the Blue book.  I know this is a very personal story for the author, so part of me feels bad, but so far I'm thinking the story is predictable, and a little off in some spots.  If what I think happens, happens, I feel terrible, because it is such a personal story and tragedy.  However, it's still a book that I must read and give an honest opinion of.  Conflicted....that's a good word.  I'm feeling conflicted.  More on that after I finish the book and post my review in January.

Otherwise, I have nothing going on.  Trying to change up my blog.  You know back to what is my brand, what do people think when they see me, my name, or blog.  The same story just a different tune.  I think I have it down.  I'm an eclectic gal and that's what I am going with.

So what is on your agenda for this week?  Any good reads?  If you are traveling home for the holidays, please be safe, and enjoy yourself.  Life is short so enjoy the ride.

Happy reading and talk to you later :)

I am an Amazon Associate.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Take a Chance Challenge 3

When I first saw this challenge last year or the year before that, it only ran for six months, I think.  Regardless, I wasn't able to participate and I was kind of bummed.  I like trying new things.  So what do I see when I check my dashboard today, a post from Jenners announcing her  Take a Chance Challenge 3 for 2011.  And it runs the whole year.  Woo-hoo!  I'm in!  So here are the rules from Jenners' blog:

Basic Information

•The concept of the challenge is to take chances with your reading by finding books to read in unusual or random ways. I’ve listed 10 different ways to find books below. Feel free to complete at many as you want. However, anyone completing all 10 challenges by December 31, 2011 will be entered in a prize drawing to win a book of their choice from Amazon.

•The challenge will run from January 1, 2011 until December 31, 2011.

•Crossover books from other challenges is fine. You can read books in any format.

•On January 1, 2011, I will post pages for each of the 10 challenges so you can link up your completed posts.

The 2011 Challenges

1: Staff Member’s Choice: Go to a bookstore or library that has a “Staff Picks” section. Read one of the picks from that section.

2: Loved One’s Choice: Ask a loved one to pick a book for you to read. (If you can convince them to buy it for you, that is even better!)

3: Blogger’s Choice: Find a “Best Books Read” post from a favorite blogger. Read a book from their list.

4: Critic’s Choice: Find a “Best of the Year” list from a magazine, newspaper or professional critic. Read a book from their Top 10 list.

5: Blurb Book: Find a book that has a blurb on it from another author. Read a book by the author that wrote the blurb.

6: Book Seer Pick: Go to The Book Seer and follow the instructions there. Read a book from the list it generates for you.

7: What Should I Read Next Pick : Go to What Should I Read Next and follow the instructions there. Read a book from the list it generates for you.

8: Which Book Pick: Go to Which Book and use the software to generate a list of books. Read a book from that list.

9: LibraryThing Pick: Go to LibraryThing’s Zeitgeist page. Look at the lists for 25 Most Reviewed Books or Top Books and pick a book you’ve never read. Read the book. (Yes … you can click on MORE if you have to.)

10: Pick A Method: Pick a method for finding a book from the choices listed below (used in previous versions of the challenge).

•Random Book Selection. Go to the library. Position yourself in a section such as Fiction, Non-Fiction, Mystery, Children (whatever section you want). Then write down random directions for yourself (for example, third row, second shelf, fifth book from right). Follow your directions and see what book you find. Check that book out of the library, read it and then write about it. (If you prefer, you can do the same at a bookstore and buy the book!)

•Public Spying. Find someone who is reading a book in public. Find out what book they are reading and then read the same book. Write about it.

•Random Bestseller. Go to and, using the True Random Number Generator, enter the number 1950 for the min. and 2010 for the max. and then hit generate. Then go to this site and find the year that generated for you and click on it. Then find the bestseller list for the week that would contain your birthday for that year. Choose one of the bestsellers from the list that comes up, read it and write about it.


So dem's the rules and below, I'll keep a list of what I read and which number it corresponds to.  Or maybe I'll link back the reviews to here....not sure yet.  But whatever works best.

To join me in the fun, visit the sign-up page on Jenners blog here:  Take a Chance Challenge 3

I am an Amazon Associate.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review: The Agency, A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee

The Agency, A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genre: YA, mystery, suspense
Hardback  355 pages
Book Source: borrowed from the library
My Rating: 94/100

From Goodreads:

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners — and an unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must infiltrate a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust — or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets — including those of her own past.

My Thoughts:

Mary Quinn is given a second chance at life at the tender age 12. Mary realizes the significant opportunity she has been granted and works hard to better herself and impress her benefactors. Mary is a smart, hard working, intelligent young woman, who wants more from life. She needs purpose. Mary feels as though she ought to be "doing something" with her second chance, and in comes the Agency.

The Agency is a discreet female spy network operating in Victorian London. Perfect for the time period because most Victorians would never suspect a woman of anything too intelligent. Why she would probably get the vapors from thinking too hard! Mary goes to work for the agency and her first assignment is the topic of the story. I loved Mary Quinn and this book! She is a wonderful character with ingenuity, a big heart and just enough spunk to get her through tough situations. What is also striking is her appearance. She is described as being exotic looking and Mary states she is Irish, which seems to be a good reason. I don't want to spoil the story, but Mary's ancestry is discussed, and I adored this aspect of her character. It is refreshing and different, and something I never thought of before. My heart went out to Mary when I learned more about her history.

As for the story and the characters, I liked all of them, even the villain of the story. In retrospect, some may figure out the mystery of the story faster than me, but there was more to the story than the mystery. As Mary grows into a competent young woman so does the other young character. She also surprised me quite a bit too.

I thought the writing was quite good and Lee totally sucked me into the story. The point of view did alternate occasionally but I thought it worked well. I liked the air of suspense and there were times when I was zipping through the pages. I read this book in four days which is pretty fast for me, but I would have read it in one sitting if I could have. It is a quick story, but packs a punch. This is the first book in a planned trilogy and I can't wait to read the next one.
For more information about Y.S. Lee, please visit her website:

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Support Your Local Library


I am an Amazon Associate.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Review: Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
Publisher: Harper Collins
Genre: Fiction
Trade paperback, 328 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 90/100

From TLC Book Tours Home Page:

When Valentine’s grandmother begins a new life in Italy, she places Valentine and her nemesis, her brother Alfred, “the Prince,” as partners at the Angelini Shoe Company, makers of handcrafted wedding shoes since 1903. A once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity takes Valentine from the winding streets of Greenwich Village to the sun-kissed cobblestones of Buenos Aires, where she unearths a long-buried family secret and finds herself torn between a past love that nurtured her and a new one that promises to sustain her, in this “dazzling” (USA Today) follow-up to Very Valentine.

My Thoughts:

Brava, Valentine picks up right where Very Valentine (my review) left off.  Trigiani doesn't skip a beat, which makes this one just as entertaining to read.  This time around there is a trip to Argentina which Trigiani describes in beautiful detail. The cityscape, the food, the atmosphere, Trigiani brings the reader along with Valentine on her trip, including her awful break-up with Gianluca.  Although to be fair, Valentine did take him for granted just a bit.

Her personal romantic failing along with those around her, makes Valentine realize that she must learn to balance her professional and personal life.  Life in general must be lived , and Valentine has two wonderful friends, Gabriel and June, who help her to see this.  Gabriel and June are awesome!  I love them both and wish I could sit down to coffee with both of them.

In Brava we find Valentine in the midst of bringing her mass market shoe design, the Bella Rosa, to production, which means working with her older brother Alfred, with whom she has never had a very good relationship.  Now that the two of them are working towards a common goal, they learn to see and accept each other for what they are.  This was a great aspect to the story and I was glad to see that these two became closer.  Family is important, especially when you are Italian.

Which brings us to another aspect of the book I liked.  When Valentine visits Buenos Aires, she makes a startling discovery about a branch of her family. Valentine accepts it and moves on, unlike some of her family members.  Valentine is an open, honest, good hearted woman, and without her, the Roncallis wouldn't be the same.  I think Valentine becomes the rock of the family that her Grandmother used to be before she moved to Italy.  Valentine truly is the heart of the family.

Overall this was a great read and would make for a great snowed-in book or beach read.  Also, you don't need to read Very Valentine first, although it would enhance your reading experience.  So if you are looking for escapism, pick up Brava, Valentine.  You will not be disappointed.

For more information about Adriana Trigiani please visit her website:

To help promote this book, Harper is also having a contest.  The prize is a 7 day tour of Italy.  Woo-hoo!  Visit this website for your chance to win:

For more reviews of Brava Valentine, please visit the master site for this web tour:

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on the tour :)

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Reading Romance


I am an Amazon Associate.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Suddenly Sunday (Dec. 5)

Hosted  by Svea from C&R of a Muse in the Fog

What's up my peeps?!  It had been forever since I did a Suddenly Sunday post.  I am way overdue and have lots to fill you in on.  Firstly I can't believe it is December.  2010 has flown by, and I am flabbergasted.  And apparently my blogaversary was Friday, December 3rd.  See how crazy life has been?  I thought it was coming up.  Oh well, have some cake and think of me please.

So work is busy and the personnel are as crazy as ever.  There has been so much drama lately, that I am about to bring in a camera crew, a la The Office.  Seriously, your eyes will roll themselves out of your sockets if you heard half the crap that goes down.  Makes it interesting but it can be tiring too. 

Busted my knee back at the beginning of November.  I have hurt my knees millions of times, but this time it is still ouchy after time has passed.  So I went to an Orthopedic surgeon.  And yes, having surgery on the 10th.  Just a scope, clean up the joint and smooth out my cartilage.  At least it's just a cartilage tear and not the meniscus.  I am out of work for 4 weeks, so that will give me plenty of time to catch up on the blog reading, commenting, and responding.  Oh yes and reading books knitting some sweaters.  I have plenty to keep me busy.

The knee really bummed me out because I had to stop going to gym and I love the gym.  Who would have ever thought I would say that?!  The gym makes me feel good and it's an hour a day of no brain power.  Needless to say, I have been eating like a slob, and being grouchy on top of it, hence, no mood for the blogging and stuff.  So please accept my apologies for being a slacker lately.

On the book front, I have been reading some excellent books lately.  On Thursday, I am the TLC Tour stop for Brava Valentine, so please stop by for my review.  I have also been to visit my library (yea) and picked up some good books.  Currently I am on a zombie/vampire kick.  Between watching the Walking Dead (which I LOVE), listening to We're Alive (a live action podcast), and reading The Strain, no wonder I want to learn how to defend myself.  What else is a girl to do?  Plus I sit think, "If that was me, I would...".  You have to be prepared for these situations.

If you are looking for a new podcast, I would highly recommend We're Alive-A Story of Survival.  I found them on ITunes and loved it immediately.  It is live action reading with a bunch of people.  Think of those old radio broadcasts from way back when.  Basically its about a bunch of people who find each other and try to live and survive together.  The dialogue is fantastic and the characters are awesome.  You fell like it's people you know.  I must admit, there are times when I am scared for them, and sad when bad things happen.  There was one part, that I almost cried because I felt so bad for the character and what happened.  The writing puts you in story.  So if you are looking for something fresh and exciting, check out The Zombie Podcast.  

I think that's enough from me for now.  So keep on reading, enjoy the holiday season, and I see ya later ;)

I am an Amazon Associate.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mystery and Suspense Challenge 2011

The Mystery and Suspense Challenge 2011 is hosted by Book Chick City.  (My first 2011 challenge, yea!  )  To sign up do the following:
  • You MUST make a post on your blog about participating in the challenge - you then use the URL of the post to sign up to the challenge by adding it to Mr Linky at BCC's  post for this challenge.  DO NOT just add your blog URL - this will be deleted. Also please be aware that unless you show you are joining the challenge with a participation post your ARC will not be sent.
  • Post the challenge button on your side bar, ensuring it links back to the challenge page on BCCs website.

ARC?  ARC?  Yes, you read correctly, everyone who participates will receive an ARC of The Survivor by Sean Slatter, courtesy of Simon & Schuster.  Pretty cool, huh?
Here are the details of the challenge (copied from the challenge sign-up page):

•Timeline: 01 Jan 2011 - 31 Dec 2011

•Rules: To read TWELVE (12) mystery & suspense novels in 2011 (12 is the minimum but you can read more if you wish!)

•You don't have to select your books ahead of time, you can just add them as you go. Also if you do list them upfront you can change them, nothing is set in stone! The books you choose can crossover into other challenges you have on the go.

•You can join anytime between now and the later part of next year.

•At the beginning of Jan 2011, you will find a link to specific month to add your reviews. There will be a monthly prize too courtesy of the lovely Simon & Schuster - you must be signed up to the challenge and add the link to your review to be entered into the monthly prize draw.

Now, there are many different sub-genres of mystery and suspense - you can choose from the numerous sub-genres, from cosy mysteries such as Agatha Christie to the more hard-boiled kind like V I Warshawski by Sara Paretsky, or romantic suspense written by the likes of Linda Howard, forensic crime such as those written by Kathy Reichs and even paranormal/supernatural suspense such as Kelley Armstrong. I'm sure this challenge will have something for everyone! :) 

Book Chick City has also provided an explanation of the various sub-genres in a post on her blog.  Click here for the post.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it?  Come join the fun.
My Mystery and Suspense List
  1.  Soulless by Gail Carriger
  2. What Angels Fear by C.S.Harris

I am an Amazon Associate.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Review: Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani
Publisher: Harper
Genre: Fiction
Hardback  371 pages
Book Source: the library
My Rating: 90/100

From Goodreads:

Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, a vibrant cast of colorful characters who navigate tricky family dynamics with hilarity and brio, from magical Manhattan to the picturesque hills of bella Italia. Very Valentine is the first novel in a trilogy and is sure to be the new favorite of Trigiani's millions of fans around the world.

In this luscious, contemporary family saga, the Angelini Shoe Company, makers of exquisite wedding shoes since 1903, is one of the last family-owned businesses in Greenwich Village. The company is on the verge of financial collapse. It falls to thirty-three-year-old Valentine Roncalli, the talented and determined apprentice to her grandmother, the master artisan Teodora Angelini, to bring the family's old-world craftsmanship into the twenty-first century and save the company from ruin.

While juggling a budding romance with dashing chef Roman Falconi, her duty to her family, and a design challenge presented by a prestigious department store, Valentine returns to Italy with her grandmother to learn new techniques and seek one-of-a-kind materials for building a pair of glorious shoes to beat their rivals. There, in Tuscany, Naples, and on the Isle of Capri, a family secret is revealed as Valentine discovers her artistic voice and much more, turning her life and the family business upside down in ways she never expected.

My Thoughts:

Valentine is the "funny one" in the family.  She is a 33 yr old sweet, honest, Italian girl who also happens to be the only unmarried family member left.  A big no-no in this traditional family.  However, Valentine finds her self at a crossroads in her life:  no immediate plans of settling down, no "serious" job, but a serious desire to continue the family business of custom made bridal shoes.  Valentine is currently the apprentice at Angelini Shoe Company, but must help her Grandmother Theodora in saving the business.  The company is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and only modern day financing can save this olde world company.

Valentine makes her mission to stabilize the company and in the process, she matures and comes into her own, as both a person and a designer.  Valentine realizes her potential, harnesses her craft, and figures out what she wants in a relationship and a man.  Valentine becomes comfortable with herself.  Does she save Angelini Shoes?  You will have to read the book to find out :)

This story is filled with wonderful moments of Val and her family.  These scenes may seem totally stereotypical, but they are spot on accurate.  I'm Italian so I should know.  The trip that Val and her Grandmom take to Italy is beautiful and I felt like I was there with them.  Trigiani's descriptions make it easy to picture, and I really  must move that trip to Italy up the vacation list.  The relationship between Val and her Grandmom is special and I think it's one many granddaughters share with their Grandmoms.  I did and it reminded me of my Grandmom whom I miss dearly.

Very Valentine was an enjoyable, lighthearted read, and a great way to escape.  I look forward to the follow-up titled, Brava Valentine, and will consider reading Trigiani's back list. 

I am a tour stop for the TLC tour of Brava Valentine on December 9th, so be sure to stop back for my review.  For more information about that tour, check out the tour homepage.

For more information about Adriana Trigiani please visit her website:

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Support Your Local Library, Reading Romance

I am an Amazon Associate.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review: The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick

The Forever Queen by Helen Hollick
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical fiction
Trade paperback, 656 pages
Book Source: Sourcebooks
My Rating: 90/100

From Goodreads:

Married to a king incompetent both on the throne and in bed, Emma does not love her husband. But she does love England. Even as her husband fails, Emma vows to protect her people-no matter what. For five decades, through love and loss, prosperity and exile, Emma fights for England, becoming the only woman to have been anointed, crowned, and reigning queen to two different kings, the mother of two more, and the great aunt of William the Conqueror.

3 Reasons Review:

1.) Reasons you chose this book

I read Book 2 of Hollick's Arthurian trilogy Pendragon's Banner, and thoroughly enjoyed.  Therefore, when another of her works was offered for review, I jumped at the chance.  I am still going to read her Golden Age of Piracy based books though.  Didn't forget about those :)

2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book

*Although this book is about Emma, it is also about the major players of England's history during this time.  Although these characters are required to tell Emma's story, the manner in which their parts/actions were written into the overall story was insightful and entertaining.  I felt it brought me fully into the story and those drafty "castles".

*Women of this time came from hearty stock.  Emma's delicate beginnings do not bode well, but as you witness her transformation into the Queen of her English people, it is truly amazing.  Emma becomes strong and formidable, and I wonder if Eleanor of Aquitaine didn't model herself after Emma.  One of my favorite scenes of Emma was when she showed her resolve as Swein Forkbeard marched by Winchester, Emma's personal holding.  Emma didn't have to say a word but she did anyway.  Emma knew what her people needed to see from their sovereign, even if her husband the King did not. 

*Which brings us to King Athelred, who is involved way too much in this story, but it is historically based after all.  I don't think I have ever read about such an ineffective leader, ever.  How Athelred managed to stay in power at all is beyond me.  How England survived Athelred's reign would probably be a better statement.

*Death was sudden and sever during this time.  Several characters died in this story and I would say I was sad to see that all except a few pass on.  Some deaths, such as those which take place early in the book (don't want to give things away) made me feel really bad.  I know they are fictional characters but I liked them and didn't want to see them go.  I should have known they were goners the minute they were introduced because despite the terrible times, they were very honest and nice.
*Hollick brings history to life.  Her attention to details and accuracy are impeccable.  Hollick immerses her readers into the story and I love how she brought this little know person, Emma, to life for me.  Actually I knew nothing of any of these characters before I read this book.  So I enjoyed learning about all of them. 

*I do have one reason I disliked the book, and it was due to it's size.  At 656 pages it's a chunkster, and a bit unwieldy to hold and read.  However, I don't believe you could have edited this story down without losing some of the goodness.  Maybe I'm being knit picky, but I'm honest.

*Oh I also love the realistic picture of the woman on the cover.  A Queen with curves, thank you! 

3.) Reasons you are recommending this book

I would recommend this book to lovers of historical fiction.  Have you ever heard of Queen Emma before now?  Didn't think so, so get yourself a copy of this one.  I also recommend this book for those of us who don't know much about early English history, like me.  When I read stories like this, they make me research more information about the actual events are people, and learning is always a good thing.

If you like more information about this book or the lovely author Helen Hollick, please visit her website

This book is currently on tour.  For other review and opinions, please stop by one of these lovely blogs:
The Forever Queen Schedule

















Culminating with a live book chat on Monday, November 22, from 7pm -9pm EST. at

Thanks to Danielle for sending me my ARC.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+, Historical Fiction

I am an Amazon Associate.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Review: Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott

Dark Moon of Avalon by Anna Elliott
Publisher: Touchstone, a division of Simon and Schuster
Genre: Historical fantasy fiction
Trade paperback 419 pages
Book Source: the author
My Rating:  85/100

From Goodreads:

She is a healer, a storyteller, and a warrior. She has fought to preserve Britain’s throne. Now she faces her greatest challenge in turning bitter enemies into allies, saving the life of the man she loves . . . and mending her own wounded heart.

The young former High Queen, Isolde, and her friend and protector, Trystan, are reunited in a new and dangerous quest to keep the usurper, Lord Marche, and his Saxon allies from the throne of Britain. Using Isolde’s cunning wit and talent for healing and Trystan’s strength and bravery, they must act as diplomats, persuading the rulers of the smaller kingdoms, from Ireland to Cornwall, that their allegiance to the High King is needed to keep Britain from a despot’s hands.

Their admissions of love hang in the air, but neither wants to put the other at risk by openly declaring a deeper alliance. When their situation is at its most desperate, Trystan and Isolde must finally confront their true feelings toward each other, in time for a battle that will test the strength of their will and their love.

Steeped in the magic and lore of Arthurian legend, Elliott paints a moving portrait of a timeless romance, fraught with danger, yet with the power to inspire heroism and transcend even the darkest age.

My Thoughts:

This is the second book in Elliott's trilogy about Trystan and Isolde, which takes place in the days after King Arthur's demise.  This book picks up where the first left off, however, those who haven't read the first one, Twilight of Avalon, will not be lost.  Elliott also provides a list of characters and their relationships in the foreword pages, which can be quite helpful. 

In this piece of the story, the fate of Britain is at a turning point.  With no universally accepted High King, several high rankning lords, notably Lord Marche have banded together against one another.  Throw in bands of the marauding warriors and thieves into the mix, and anyone was left alive is a mystery.  This is a tumultuous time in Britain and in humanity in general, yet there is one shred of hope that Isolde and her people can cling to.  If Isolde as the previous High Queen and descendant of Modred and Arthur, can convince King Cerdic to join her side, then they may stand a chance against Marche and his men.

Isolde must travel across dangerous lands to speak with Cerdic, so she grudgingly asks Trystan to escort her there.  Although Trystan would not trust her safety to anyone else, he also does not want to be in close proximity to her.  It would stir up too many feelings he can't deal with.  Unfortunately, a close friend of Trystan's, Hereric, is injured and requires Isolde's healing skills.  Therefore Trystan strikes a bargain with Isolde: he will see her to Cerdic safely, provided she takes care of Hereric.  Neither one is thrilled with this arrangement, however Trystan is the only person Isolde can trust.

It is during this journey that things fell apart for me.  Trystan and Isolde are thinking and deciding about their feelings for one another, yet hardly speaking to one another about the situation, except to say "Here have some bread."  I understand this section is a journey not so much in the physical sense, but also in the mental sense, in that each one comes to terms with both themselves and their feelings for one another.  In addition, both Trystan and Isolde come into this "relationship" with a lot of baggage.  Trystan has a terrible family history and past, as well as Isolde.  Actually both have been physically and emotionally abused over the years, so the fact that these two are even mentally well balanced is a miracle.  It actually speaks to their character, that they can move on from the past to deal with the present and future.  As you can see there are heavy ideas being dealt with here, not to mention the fate of Britain.

I think it was all of this thinking and deep, dark, emotional concepts that derailed this book for me.  I read for escape and when I was reading this I needed some escape.  Having said that, I will still read Book 3 Sunrise of Avalon, because I want to know what happens.  What happens to Trystan, Isolde, and Britain?  How do they make sense of everything and survive these brutal times?  Elliott's writing is beautiful and the concepts she deals with strike a chord for me, even though I didn't like them.  I felt Trystan and Isolde's pain, but unfortunately I wasn't in the mood at the time.  A reader's mental state influences how receptive they are to the book they are currently reading.  Therefore, some time in the future I will try to re-read this book, and see if I feel differently, hence the middle B rating.   Plus the last line of the book throws the door open wide to how this story will end.

For more information about the author please visit her website:

Thank you to Anna for sending me a copy of her book.  I'm sorry I didn't have a better reaction to it, but I still enjoy your writing.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+,  Reading Romance

I am an Amazon Associate. I will earn a small percentage if you click the links and make a purchase.  Any earnings will be reinvested into this blog.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Introducing the Three Reasons Review Format

Over the past few months, Staci from Life In the Thumb, and I have discussed ways of making reviews easier.  Some books don't require an in-depth review or are too long and complicated, so that quick thoughts or comments about the book are easier for a review.  Through our conversations the Three Reasons Review was born.  (Staci will tell you she had very little input, but don't listen to her.  She listened to me and gave advice, which counts in my book.  Staci is just super modest.)

The Three Reasons Review is a simple way to get your thoughts out there about a book.  The reasons are as follows complete with fancy button:

1.) Reasons you chose this book

2.) Reasons you liked or disliked this book

3.) Reasons you are recommending this book

I hope you like this and please feel free to use this format and button on your blog too.  Life can crazy at times and any method for streamlining a review can be helpful.

Enjoy your weekend and happy reading my Pumpkins!


 I am an Amazon Associate.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Review: Of Bees and Mist by Erik Setiawan

Of Bees and Mist by Erik Setiawan
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Fiction
Trade paperback 416 pages
Book Source: TLC Book Tours
My Rating: 87/100

From Goodreads:

Of Bees and Mist is an engrossing fable that chronicles three generations of women under one family tree and places them in a mythical town where spirits and spells, witchcraft and demons, and prophets and clairvoyance are an everyday reality.

Meridia grows up in a lonely home until she falls in love with Daniel at age sixteen. Soon, they marry, and Meridia can finally escape to live with her charming husband’s family—unaware that they harbor dark mysteries of their own. As Meridia struggles to embrace her life as a young bride, she discovers long-kept secrets about her own past as well as shocking truths about her new family that push her love, courage, and sanity to the brink.

Erick Setiawan’s astonishing debut is a richly atmospheric and tumultuous ride of hope and heartbreak that is altogether touching, truthful, and memorable.

My Thoughts:

Setiawan uses magic to weave his tale of domestic dysfunction and unhappiness. The Mist represents the the unhappy, loveless, and cold home that Meridia grew up in, literally and figuratively. The constant battling between Meridia's parents causes Meridia to latch on to the first safe refuge she stumbles upon, that being Daniel. Not to say that Daniel wasn't a sweet boy, he was. However, I think her unhappy life at home causes Meridia to overlook glaring inconsistencies in the behavior of Daniel's family when she meets them. The Bees represent the constant needling and manipulation employed by Daniel's mother Eva, on her family. In Daniel's house, it is all about Eva. Whatever Eva wants, she gets, and all must please her. No if, ands, or butts. Eva treats her oldest daughter like gold, meanwhile her youngest daughter is treated like a sewer dweller. It is a deplorable family situation, and there are insights given in the story for Eva's behavior. Unfortunately, I could care less what the reasons are: you don't treat people that way.

The bulk of the story is Meridia and Daniel's marriage and how they work, sometimes together, to get out from under Eva's thumb. Meridia does eventually realize how much her parents actually love her, and that all of their fighting was with each other. She was merely a causality of war. As for Daniel, I'm not sure if he ever really figures out his mother. Besides, no one ever wants to believe the worst of their mother, even when they deserve it.

While I enjoyed the way in which Setiawan uses magic to convey the characters feelings and moods, the underlying story, the domestic dysfunction, became boring for me. Yes, I finished the book, but I felt kind of meh as I read it. At times Meridia stands up for herself and Daniel, yet I don't think Daniel ever really sees how manipulative his mother is. I understood the magic of the Bees, but even so, if Daniel loved Meridia so much, he should have believed her more often. There was one instance when Meridia and Daniel do give Eva a piece of their mind. Unfortunately, the situation evolves into Daniel having to choose a side: Eva or Merida. That's never good. Another interesting facet, Meridia and Daniel communicate very poorly with one another, which is part of the problem with their respective set of parents. I wanted to grab Meridia, shake her and say, "Just tell him already how you feel and how he is making this happen. Communicate effectively girl!" But I guess that's part of the overall story. Neither Daniel or Meridia had good role models for marriage so how could they know what a good marriage is?

Setiawan writes beautifully, and I liked the way magic was incorporated into the story. The magic makes for a good backdrop and provides for interesting side descriptions.  Quite clever and inventive. But as I said, the underlying story was a bit boring, so that's why I gave it a high B rating. 

For more information, please visit Eric Setiawan's website or his Facebook page.

For more reviews and other tour stop information, please visit the main tour page.

Thank you to Trish from TLC Book Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour.

2010 Challenges Met: 100+

I am an Amazon Associate.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Review: The Princeling by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

The Princeling by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Genre: Historical fiction
Trade paperback, 448 pages
Book Source: Sourcebooks
My Rating: 90/100

From Goodreads:

Elizabeth I is on the throne and Protestantism is sweeping the land, threatening the position of the Catholic Morlands. John, the heir, rides north to the untamed Borderlands to wed the daughter of cattle lord Black Will Percy. But he finds he must first prove himself through blood and battle. John's gentle sister Lettice is given in marriage to the ruthless Scottish baron, Lord Robert Hamilton, and in the treacherous court of Mary, Queen of Scots, she learns the fierce lessons of survival. Through birth and death, love and hatred, the Morlands fight to maintain their place amongst England's aristocracy.

My Thoughts:

Ah, the continuing saga of the Morland family, where the women rule the men and the family is most successful for it. In this installment, we revisit Nan from Book 2, The Dark Rose. Back then, Nan was a Lady in Waiting to her dear friend Anne Boleyn. Now, Nan serves the woman she once held as a baby, Queen Elizabeth I. We only get small glimpses of the Tudor court, and equally small exchanges between the Queen and Nan. What is important, is hoe dear to the Queen Nan is. Elizabeth didn't have many close friends, and Nan is one of lucky few. The Queen adores Nan, therefore when Morlands adhere to their old Catholic faith, albeit secretly, the Queen looks the other way. As long as the Morlands are not openly brazen in their faith, they will escape sanctions. This is a testament to Nan, and truly marks her as the matriarch for the Morland dynasty during this period.

What I enjoyed the most about this book, besides the mostly strong female characters, was how the story checks in on each of the Morland family members. We may never get extensive character development, but to see how each person weathers their circumstances, and what happens to them in the end, is enough for me. There are way too many members of this family to have extensive character development, and I think the story threads that CHE writes about each member gives the reader e good glimpse of the people these Morlands turn out to be. It is difficult at times to keep names and relationships straight in one's head, but by checking the family tree, and going with the flow allowed me to enjoy the story.

I also enjoyed the various story threads with this generation: the branching out of the Morland dynasty's relations to the Borderlands, hence the title The Princeling; the adventurous travels of one member who joined Francis Drake on his travels (wonder if this comes up again in later books);  the marriages of the later generations and such.  I fancy this ongoing story about the Morland dynasty, because it is more about the family and their journeys through life, with the actual historical events in the background, not as the main focus.  Overall this book was an enjoyable read and much better than the last one.  I look forward to the next chapter in the Morland family history. 

For more information about this series or Cynthia Harrod-Eagles, please visit her website:

Thanks to Danielle from Sourcebooks for my ARC.
2010 Challenges Met: 100+,  Historical Fiction

I am an Amazon Associate.