Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best Books of 2013

This year has been one of the strangest reading years I've had in a very long time.  Professionally speaking, I've felt more pressure to split my reading up so that I can not only find great reads to take into the classroom, but also keep up on my A game and know about great literary reads for my AP students.  In the end, that means that I now have a new 3 part reading personality: a YA/Pop Lit. reader, a classics/literary reader, and an I-don't-care-what-this-book-is-as-long-as-it-helps-me-escape reader.

Having said that, let me share my three categories with you!  Let's start with my top reads in the YA/Popular Lit. category for 2013.

What was not to love about this book?  I loved the escape to Paris, the realism in the way the characters dealt with their situation, and yet the total, "Holy crap! I would never run away to Paris for one day like that!" that I felt when reading it.  Seriously, I loved this YA read in 2013.

I'm not often a huge sci-fi reader, but James Dashner's The Eye of Minds came out of nowhere and really knocked me off of my feet!  This book was insanely action packed and full of Inception-like ideas such that I couldn't stop flipping pages.  Honestly, I couldn't stop recommending it enough to my students and friends.  Now I have to wait around the next read...

 Okay.  Yes, I am a bit of a Man of Steel fan (*cough* Henry Cavill *cough*), but I've always been a bit of a Superman fan, believe it or not.  I just didn't remember some of these old school comics.  I've been picking up some of the new All-Star comics, but I wanted to go back and read up on some of the pivotal comics that shaped Superman mythology.  How can you pass up the one where Superman literally gives up his life to battle Doomsday?  I Rest. My. Case.

Now, let me share my favorite AP English/Literary Reads for 2013.  This was an interesting category for me.  I didn't set out looking for favorites in this category, but actually just sat down and picked out my favorite reads for the year and noticed how many of them fell under this category.  

This was voted Best of 2013 on Goodreads, so I don't think I'm alone in saying this book was amazing!  I still haven't even written my review because I haven't put full brain energy behind what I read, and now I'm not sure I can go back and really give it justice.  Needless to say, I really loved it.  This is probably my favorite of the three books he has written.

When I started reading Wolf Hall, I started to question all of the crazies who had given it 5 stars.  Seriously?  How in the world did they keep all of the characters straight, not to mention the simple pronoun "he" matched up with the right character!  I thought I was going batty at some points.  By the time I hit about page 300--and yes, that's a long way into the book--I started to feel connected to the story of Cromwell and Henry VIII's court.  I think I'm geared up to keep moving on to the second book now!

I'm now a Thrity Umrigar fan.  Sold.  Going back and looking up her previous novels.  Now.  I really found myself drawn in by this novel of four friends battling family, religious, and political tensions beyond our imagination.  The World We Found was sobering, yet powerful, and made me a fan of Umrigar for life.

This was just a short novella by Elie Wiesel about his open heart surgery last year, which might sound strange that I selected it as one of my favorites for the year, but it was so touching that I as still thinking about it.  Having gone through a life threatening surgery or my own, I was blown away by the beauty of language that Wiesel found for something like facing mortality.  Open Heart captures his own vulnerability in a really beautiful way.

The final category is really my Favorite "Escape Read" Category for 2013, which deserves an extra award for helping me unwind from the stresses of life!  I did notice that a lot of these books tend to fall into the romance category.  What can I say?  At the end of the day, let me get away from what I normally do with a fun, modern chick story.  Here were some of my favorites this last year.

This was my last review for 2013 and such a great one to go out on.  Honestly, I love Bridget Jones and felt that Fielding did a good job of honoring her story and staying true to her characters.  No, the situation was not ideal, but the story was still honest and real.

The Chocolate Thief was the book that snuck up on me from nowhere!  I saw several book bloggers raving about these books by Laura Florand, such as Angieville, and had to give them a try.  Around Fall Break, I checked this out from the library and devoured it in one sitting.  Now that's an escape read!  My only regret was that I didn't have a box of chocolates to eat when I read this sweet read!

Here was another read that I couldn't put down!  Blackmoore was a book that had me in tears and flipping pages almost faster than I could read.  This was a book that I handed out and passed around to my friends, but ended up losing to someone!  That was how popular it ended up being.  Such a great read.  I highly recommend it.

Megan Mulry has quickly become one of my favorite contemporary romantic reads.  I've loved this Unruly Royals series so much!  Her characters show a lot of range and I love to see what they are each going to do.  These are sexy little reads, so hang on for the ride!  I've loved each and every one of them, but I have to admit that I keep thinking about A Royal Pain, about Bronte Talbot.  Maybe it was because Bronte was the first one to learn her guy was a royal and that's an exciting prospect, but I really liked this first book and it was my introduction to Mulry's fun style.  I'm excited to read more in the coming year!

Okay.  Like everyone else, this book blew me off my feet and probably blew out a few tear ducts!  I had seen this one floating around a bit and really didn't think I'd be interested, but how in the world could so many people be giving it a solid 5-stars on Goodreads?  I finally folded and checked it out on audio book at the end of October to listen to back and forth from work.  The audio book was really amazing, but it was too slow to listen to, so I had to return it before I could finish it and had to buy a used copy of it to tear through the end of the book on my own.  Yes.  I cried and then reread the ending.  I'm still thinking about it.  That's a great read.

Well, that's my year!  2013 was a great year for reading and I look forward to seeing what 2014 has in store.  I hope you all have a great one as well and would love to hear what book(s) you loved this last year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

A Case For Bridget: Review of Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

Back in 2011 I explained, however briefly, my own connection/relationship to this quirky character, Bridget Jones in a blog post about the music from the film: "Fiction, to Film, to Fantastic Music Friday: Bridget Jones Diary."  So how do I put into words how many mixed emotions I had about this third book coming out?  First off, I immediately pre-ordered it in hardback, because I have the previous books in hardback and am compulsive enough in this situation that I had to complete my set.  I then sat back and watched and listened as the world exploded into mass discussions about bits of the leaked story and how unhappy they all were with it.  Listen, I couldn't NOT read this novel if I wanted to, and I would NOT choose to just let this story go.  In the end, I firmly believe we all have to look at what Helen Fielding meant to do with these novels.  She wrote a story about a character named Bridget Jones, and this is quite possibly the culmination of her story.  How could I let it go when I had let her into my life so fully before this?  Yea.  Wasn't going to happen.  Like it or not, I HAD TO KNOW what happened!

***Spoilers Ahead.  If you have not heard anything about what has had the interwebs up in arms about this novel, then my review might not be a good place to start.***

Review:  Life's not perfect.  Is that not one of the reasons that we somehow love and connect to Bridget Jones?  Things always get messy for her, and yet it worked out for her in the end.  We saw ourselves in her, and wanted and hoped for a certain amount of our own stupid imperfections to be overlooked.  For this reason, I walked into book three knowing full well that this was going to be Bridget's story.  Helen Fielding wrote these novels about Bridget to begin with, and that's what I expected and have grown to love.  I care about her and her silly hang ups, and in the end, am willing to see where they take her.  Because of that, this book honestly took me on a strange journey that I didn't see coming.  Maybe I'm a few years older than when I read those earlier happy-go-lucky twenty something tales, but I really loved this book, and shed some pretty heartfelt tears on several occasions in reading this book.  Bridget is still Bridget.  I don't know what readers expected?  We find that Bridget is still clumsy, making silly choices, thinking irrationally, and feeling lonely.  But, she has matured and been through a lot, which is shown to us over the course of the book.  That, I completely appreciated.

Yes.  Mark Darcy is dead.  There, I said it like Dickens said it in The Christmas Carol.  I mean no disrespect, but some of the biggest nay-sayers I've seen to this book have been so hung up over this fact that I want to lay that out as the fact that it is.  Yes, we're in the present day, and Bridget is now 50 with two small children to raise. The story doesn't take up immediately after the fact, and the children were too young to completely remember him, so no the story does not wax on poetic about it.  He's not eliminated from the story or some sort of afterthought, but realistically, what happens to a person/character when life isn't the "Happily Ever After" that they think it will be?  What we do end up getting in the story are appropriate flashbacks and scenes, that show how she has handled the loss and the rearing of her children.  Honestly, I thought it was handled well and on point for this character.  Where would we expect her to be five years after the fact? 

One thing that Fielding 100% nailed was the grieving process after a certain number of years.  Somehow Fielding captured these moments where Bridget would remember something about Mark, no matter how fleeting, and they were just perfect.  She didn't wallow in them, because she didn't have time to, but you could see how completely present they still were in her life.  Perfect.  That is real. 

Bridget does wander, wholeheartedly, back into dating.  It's rather uncomfortable to watch her efforts at times, but when you consider the uncertain Bridget in her 20s and then imagine this woman in her 50s with two children who has lost such an amazing husband, how would I expect her to bounce right back into dating with ease?  Of course, she has that certain air of insecurity that you wish you could shake out of her, that even her kids see in her.  (Is it the same insecurity she saw in her mother?)  Maybe these are things that, in a sense, we really do end up working on our entire lives.  We can insert our own moralities and ideologies onto Bridget, but from her own worldview, family, and friends, she's doing the best she can.

Sincerely, I loved Mad About the Boy and have no problem adding it to the rest of the collection.  Was it the ending I hoped for or envisioned?  No way, but honestly, life has a way of doing that, so I'm okay with it.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Review: Sugarhouse: Turning the Neighborhood Crack House Into Our Home Sweet Home by Matthew Batt

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "An improbably funny account of how the purchase and restoration of a disaster of a fixer-upper saves a young marriage

When a season of ludicrous loss tests the mettle of their marriage, Matthew Batt and his wife decide not to call it quits. They set their sights instead on the purchase of a dilapidated house in the Sugarhouse section of Salt Lake City. With no homesteading experience and a full-blown quarter-life crisis on their hands, these perpetual grad students/waiters/nonprofiteers decide to seek salvation through renovation, and do all they can to turn a former crack house into a home. Dizzy with despair, doubt, and the side effects of using the rough equivalent of napalm to detoxify their house, they enter into full-fledged adulthood with power tools in hand.

Heartfelt and joyous, Sugarhouse is the story of how one couple conquers adversity and creates an addition to their family, as well as their home."

Review:  Since I live in the Salt Lake area, I was intrigued by the premise of this novel when I saw it at the library, and am also a bit of a sucker for stories about grad students on a bit of a life journey.  In this case, it involved a major renovation.  In this area, those renovations can involve some major-league fixer-uppers, but worth a pretty penny if done correctly in the area of the valley he's written about.  In short, this novel was well worth the time and I will say up front that I really did enjoy it.

As an English major, Matthew Batt knows how to craft language.  His writing and observations about minute details in Salt Lake could be biting and funny at the same time.  Many of the chapters in his book stood out as individual short stories that I wanted to hang onto.  When he talked about searching for the perfect home in the valley, getting help at the local hardware store, or trends in construction he noticed in their home from 50 years ago, his storytelling really was so keen and spot on that I could hardly put the book down.  I'm not sure how he managed to make all of that so entertaining, but he really did.  I loved the details about ripping up the flooring to find lovely hard wood floors underneath that was riddled with nails from the laminate they had covered it with.  A nightmare that anyone who has restored an old home might recognize.  It was those details that made the story sing.

One strange part of the story that I didn't connect with was his detour into his grandfather's life.  That sounds odd, considering families generally shape a person's life and add interest to a story, however, I kept feeling like it was distracting from the story at hand.  I wanted the story to center more on his relationship with his wife and how she factored into this home they were working on.  Instead, the grandfather and family outside of Utah kept having this continued impact on the story that turned it into a type of "finding himself" journey that I hadn't expected.  Maybe that was the point, that they had been impacting this remodel more than anything else?  Since this was a true story, the author's family might have played just as much of a role in this remodel and in his marriage as anything else?  I simply felt my own curiosity pulling me back to his home and life he had "built" here in Salt Lake.  

The writing in this book was really top notch.  Certain sentences caught my attention, and I found myself rereading them,  and then marking them so that I could come back to them later on.  While I could understand the inclusion of the author's family, I would have liked more about his marriage that was started out in the beginning and in the title.  Overall though, a very interesting book with some great writing.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Sunday Blatherings: Let the Holidays & Reading Begin!

Yes, I am one happy girl today.  My holidays have officially begun, and I have a STACK of books to read! *Insert Jazz Hands Here*  Yes, a STACK! In fact, I listened to The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig (#10 in the series) yesterday while I was doing laundry and some massively ignored house work.  Talk about a nice introduction to the weeks ahead.

Okay, so I wish I could say that I don't have grading over the break, but I do.  Not the normal load that I have had in the past, and at least I have two weeks to pick away at it, and not just a millisecond or my bedtime to do it all.  I'm ready for sleep and plenty of reading.  I'm still not sure why this year is kicking my butt, but it is, and I just have to keep at it until I have breaks where I can collapse into a heap of fatigue.  Sounds delightful and cheery of me to share, doesn't it?  There is no Scroogery going on here!  There is only happy, good will!

Now, do I really have a "Top of" list for 2013???  That's the next thing I have to put my brain to this week.  Maybe I'll read something fantastic that I can add to the list.

What about you?  Have you read anything great so far that you know you'll add to the list? And, what will you be reading over this holiday break?

By the way, you really should check out Neil Gaiman reading A Christmas Carol at The New York Public Library in the link below.  It really made my day to get a little of that holiday cheer.  His reading starts at about minute 11:00.  Enjoy!


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Review: Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Synopsis:  Issy Randal grew up around her grandpa's bakery, where he understood the value of great-tasting baked goods and drawing in the community.  As an adult, Issy has been laid off, and from her corporate job where she was dating the boss.  She realized that the boss might not have been the "love of her life," as he kicked her to the curb pretty quickly after she left the job. 

With her time off and a bit of unemployment rolling in, she took the plunge and opened up a bakery, hoping to finally put her skills and talents to use.  With her new bakery, she found a new host of friends, a new neighborhood, and a host of money problems that only her cute, single banker could hopefully help her out with.

Review:  This is quintessentially a story about remaking one's life from a real low point and having faith in a dream unrealized.  Issy Randal is a young woman who grew up around her grandfather's bakery, where he pulled together a community after the war with his sweet treats.  Now, Issy was trying to get her grandfather to help her pull her own life together after losing her job, by remembering his recipes and giving her advice on how best to run a bakery of her own.

While the story is really about Issy and how she pulls together her life, I liked the back story with her grandfather.  There is the beginning of the novel when Issy loses her job (trust me, I'm not giving anything away there) that we are introduced to her boss and boyfriend, who really crushes her self confidence.  I hated to see how she allowed this one guy to break her!  It was so much better to watch the recipes and people she met through the bakery to transform her life, which is essentially what the real purpose of the book ends up being about.

Each chapter features a sweet treat and recipe, which then also follows another step in Issy's life.  Getting the bakery isn't an easy transition, as we can imagine.  Luckily--and ironically enough--Issy's banker is a nice, young single guy who takes a chance on her, but who also has his own interesting back story.  He finds Issy's sweet treats and story very endearing and wants to believe that she can make it, but wonders if she can really beat the odds.

On the whole, I found the story to be a quick and easy read.  There were sections of the book near the middle that lagged a bit, and where I did feel that I knew what was going to happen, but I can't say that this dissuaded me from finishing the story.   While I found Issy likable, I also couldn't completely relate to her in other ways.  She was a bit gullible and vulnerable, which is how the range of characters should be--as varied as there are people in the world, so I went with it. 

The recipes are sweet and made me wish I could bake a little better.  The story is a tad predictable, but still generous and giving.  I just always wish that I lived a little bit closer to a bakery or could read IN a bakery while reading a book like this!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Blog Tour Stop & Giveaway: In Love Again by Megan Mulry

Last week I posted a review on Megan Mulry's third in the Unruly Royal series, In Love Again.  Book three is a great "second chance" love story and adds a nice twist to the previous stories, with this book being told from the perspective of the royal (although, I can't say that seems to throw things off much in this case).

Here's a quick blurb about In Love Again:  


The Marchioness of Wick is about to get a second chance at life...whether she wants it or not. After twenty years in a loveless marriage to a duplicitous British aristocrat, Claire Heyworth Barnes finds herself broke and alone. Encouraged by her dynamic American sisters-in-law, the shy royal decides to start over in New York City. After landing a job with an interior designer, Claire reconnects with the first-and only-man she ever loved, Dr. Ben Hayek. Can they build a new love from an old flame? Or will a bitter past and a complicated future stand in their way?

Today, I'm excited to welcome Megan Mulry to my blog for a chat about her newest book!

When you started writing these books, did you anticipate writing about a different person in the family, their royal, and picture their individual stories?


 Yes, when I first sat down to write Bronte (A ROYAL PAIN), I knew I wanted to write a book about each member of the British Heyworth Family and the American they fall in love with. I don't really plot, but focus much more on character development (What type of person is this? How will they react in this type of stressful situation?) and then once I've got their personalities sorted I throw them together and let the story unfold. (Then lots of revisions and edits!) So I guess I picture them as people more than I picture their stories, if that makes sense.

Claire was an interesting mix of aloofness and vulnerability.  I really liked that Claire is a little older and with a little more life experience than some of the our younger characters.  Do you think that older characters, like Claire, deal with different emotional issues than younger characters (in terms of romance)?


Yes, but I think it's more than that. This book is different because Claire is different: whether I had told the story as an NA (New Adult) when she was 17 or as it is now, with her 38, it would have had the same tone. I thought about this question a lot and it gave me a sort of epiphany. I realize that each one of my books--even though they take place in the same fictional world and are told in third-person by the same narrator--ends up reflecting and projecting the characteristics and personality of the heroine. A ROYAL PAIN is neurotic and ambitious and eager, just like Bronte is. IF THE SHOE FITS is sparkly and young and bold, like Sarah James. IN LOVE AGAIN is softer--meditative and tender--just like Claire. I think my books are so character driven that it would be impossible for me to tease out the heroine's perspective from the actual telling of the story. (R IS FOR REBEL, my February release about Abigail Heyworth, further proves this point. She is going through some major soul-searching and her story totally reflects that.)

Benjamin is a dream.  I really loved that he remembered her all those years from when they first met.  He also seemed so incredibly vulnerable and scared of her, which was such a crazy combination.  How did you develop Benjamin?  Any fun tidbits about him?


 *sigh* I loved him too. Writing an older hero presented some different challenges. I wanted him to be established, to have built a good life, otherwise I don't think he would appeal to the heroine. But he also had to have lost sight of his dreams along the way (wanting children and a strong family life), in order to give him so much vulnerability. I have a few friends who really wanted children and for one reason or another never had them. I think this is a really universal feeling of regret and it just sort of came into my mind (and I think my fabulous editor Lisa Dunick may have pointed it out). Ben needed more motivation than just being divorced and lonely. (For the record, I also have a few friends who are childless by choice and perfectly happy about it…always feel like they deserve a mention too!) In terms of fun tidbits, about a year and a half ago, I had emergency oral surgery and I went to a new dentist and he was such a lifesaver. (And handsome!) I decided then and there to make my next hero a dentist. Which was also a fun challenge because for some reason lots of people think, "Dentist? How are you going to make a dentist sexy?" (Uh…in the usual way, lol.)

Yes, I think you completely succeeded in making Ben, the dentist, sexy!  :)

 It was nice to see Claire connect with her daughter, and Benjamin be a role in her life as well.  Do you think that the daughter will appear in later novels down the road now that she is more present in her mother's life?

 Lydia, Oh Lydia! I am still very much on the fence about writing Lydia's story. I would love to write an interracial romance with her and Alistair; I think we need WAY more representations of interracial relationships in fiction and in all media for that matter. The thing that is holding me back is my fear that Lydia's story will be very bitter--with her history of drug abuse and probably other forms of self-abuse. Yes, she's on the mend, but I suspect she's going to be careless and mean to Alistair and I just don't know if I have the heart to go through that. He can handle her, of course. And recovering drug addicts totally deserve their HEA, so… Ugh! See? Can you hear me developing their characters as I write this? This is always how it happens! Basically, I'm afraid Lydia's book could cross a line into depicting the horrors of drug abuse that I'm not sure I am ready to cross just yet.

I want to thank Megan Mulry so much for stopping by today and for chatting with me about her newest release! 


Now for a little giveaway:  

Tell me about your first love!  Do you have a first love, and do you know what happened to them?  Would you ever want to meet back up with them?  Respond to this fun little question by Monday, December 9th by midnight (MST) with your response and email address for the chance to win one kindle ebook copy of In Love Again, U.S. only.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

After Holiday Sunday Blatherings

What a Thanksgiving Break!  I can't believe it has come and gone, and I have so much and so LITTLE to show for it.  *sigh*  (Meaning, I still have an 8" stack of papers that I didn't touch...)

This week was amazing.  Sleep ruled the roost around here, which should always top the list over a holiday break.  I actually started my break a little early by taking my Pop. Lit. students to see Catching Fire on Tuesday, since we read it as a class this semester.  What a fun way to start the break!  I always stress myself out--unnecessarily--about all the little details that come with managing money, students, and lesson plans, but it turned out great and the movie was really good.  I have to say that although the movie left out some of the scenes that I thought were interesting in the story, that the movie was pretty true to the novel and well done.  I'm eager to see how they roll out the last two films in the franchise.

For the break, I had a major list of things I needed to take care of, so I spent much of Wednesday running errands and going to doctor appointments.  I only mention it because it has been something I've shared here before.  I went to see my doctor again about these crazy migraines I fight on a continued basis.  I started taking a new medication called Topomax that has had a pretty negative impact on my memory.  Listen, I don't have brain cells to sacrifice!  As far as headaches and migraines go, it's a miracle drug, but I find myself forgetting basic language, which is NOT okay.  I'm an English teacher, so not having access to basic language can be a huge issue.  It's not really forgetting things, it's having this strange lack of access to certain language.  Ugh.  Not a fun trade off.  I'm going to lower the dose a bit and see if that helps the big "dope" factor (as I call it), but hope that the crippling migraines don't come back.  I know that many of you who blog and are big readers also suffer from migraines.  Have any of you had this issue?

Anyway, the rest of the break has been really nice.  My mother has been under the weather off and on, but other than that, it has been pretty laid back and relaxing.  I've really only managed to get through a couple of novels, which is not great for me, but will work for now.  We also went to see About Time, which was by the creators of Love Actually.  I thought it was SO good and would recommend it to all of my friends, 100%.  If you want a feel-good movie that will have you thinking about what matters, day to day, this was that movie.  It is rated R, which I know matters to some of my readers, so you would want to keep that in mind.  I thought the story between the father and son was really touching and had me crying by the end of the film, which was pretty surprising.  Overall, it was a touching film about taking advantage of each and every day, which carried so much more depth than the romantic comedy that we thought we were walking into. 

Although my list of reading accomplished over the break was pretty small, I'm happy with what I got through.  Here's what I read:

What books or movies did you get through over the Thanksgiving Break?  Or, what are you finishing up that you got started?

Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: In Love Again by Megan Mulry

My time away from my blog has been much too long, so I'm happy to be coming back because of book reviews.  Honestly, there couldn't be a better reason than to discuss a good read.  Today, Megan Mulry has her third in the Unruly Royal series out, so I'm happy to have had a chance to read it and pass it along! 

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "SECOND CHANCE...
The Marchioness of Wick is about to get a second chance at life...whether she wants it or not. After twenty years in a loveless marriage to a duplicitous British aristocrat, Claire Heyworth Barnes finds herself broke and alone. Encouraged by her dynamic American sisters-in-law, the shy royal decides to start over in New York City. When she lands a job with a famous interior designer, Claire accidentally reconnects with the first—and only—man she ever loved.

Benjamin Hayek has never forgiven Claire for the heartless way she left him when they were teenagers in the south of France. And even if he could, Claire's not sure she has the courage to contend with how he makes her feel. Can they build a new love from an old flame? Or will a bitter history and a complicated future stand in their way?"

Review:  Megan Mulry has a knack for writing a variety of female characters, which I know from reading her first two novels in the Unruly Royal series, A Royal Pain and If the Shoe Fits.  Each of the characters she has written have their own distinct direction they are going in life, with their own basket of issues and flaws, which is why we want to read these characters in the first place!  I really appreciated the distinct departure that Mulry then took in this third installment with Claire, who we had a glimpse of in the second book.  Claire is in her late 30's and going through a rather messy and painful divorce.  She has been left in shambles, but has been taught by her culture to have a stiff upper lip and never show her emotions.  This only leaves her isolating herself and shoving anyone who wants to help her, completely out of her life.  For those who have read book two, the instinct is to not like Claire, but we quickly learn that maybe Claire has been emotionally abused and left "hung out to dry" emotionally speaking? 

Into this equation comes Benjamin, one of the most dreamy (and I don't use that term often) characters I've read in quite awhile.  Yes.  I really liked Benjamin.  Maybe I'm just stressed out from work right now and found him to be such a solid, stand up character that he struck a chord with me on a personal level, but this really was a solidly great guy.  Yes, ironically he was from Claire's past.  Would we have it any other way?  But, he was someone who Claire had to try to learn to let her guard down around.  I also felt that he was such a solidly good guy, that it made it difficult for her stuffy character (from what we see on the outside) to find any excuses to get rid of him.  There wasn't much this guy did wrong, and it was okay in this case.
This really was a great character story that happened to be a romance. I like it when that happens. You know that the story is supposed to be romantic, but you felt that it was solidly about character development --which is most important anyway, right?  (Speaking of which...for my sensitive readers--because I know you're out there--it is a romance, so there are some sexy times.  There's your disclaimer.  I don't want you saying I didn't warn you!)  The story was more about two people whose lives had changed dramatically and were about to again, and we were along for the ride!  Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable read, and I liked the twist to look from the "royal" perspective rather than the commoner this time around.  This is a series I will continue to follow down the road.

In Love Again is out today.  You can check out her other books and about the author at Megan Mulry's webpage and her Facebook page.  You can also check her out on Twitter @MeganMulry 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Review: This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

Genre:  Young Adult
Published:  2 April 2013
Pages: 406 
Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O'Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie's Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media's spotlight at all costs?"

Review:  Jennifer E. Smith knows how to write books that grab at you and makes you love her characters.  As the writer of The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, I also got sucked in and cared about her main characters and wanted to follow them through from beginning to end, regardless of how "probable" the scenario they were put in.  

In this scenario, Ellie has met a movie star through a misplaced email, only she doesn't know that he is a movie star, nor that he has suggested her hometown for their movie set.  As the filming begins in her hometown in Maine, the loneliness and desperation he feels to meet this funny girl he has been exchanging emails with over the Internet has driven him to locate her and connect in real life.   Will the variables be too much for them, and will she be able to handle all of his fame?

The premise of this story was pretty out there, but still woven together so well because the characters had such interesting and quirky back stories, that you couldn't help but keep reading. Both were so vulnerable, and in weird ways!  I guess we don't always think that the rich movie star might be lonely and seeking validation and love, but that is exactly what Graham is doing.  All he really wants is to escape his Hollywood life to spend time with a nice, regular girl like Ellie.  How is it that he ends up being the one we feel so sorry for in the end?  Yet, Ellie also has a story that tugs at your heart strings, that unfolds over the course of the story that we all come to understand why she fears getting to know Graham.  In short--it's a little scary to date a guy who has paparazzi following him.  That, I do get!

I really loved this novel, almost as much as I did Smith's The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight.  Honestly, I just really love her fresh writing style that makes you feel as though you are in the story with her characters and helps you feel what they are feeling.  The story is more than going through the motions; it is about feeling all of their joys and fears with them.  I loved these characters and thought this was a fun premise to consider "what if" you fell for a teenage movie star?  Wouldn't it just be fun to test that out and see what would happen?!?  

This was a great, fun read.  If you're looking for a fun, clean, romantic YA read--this has a bit of it all, with a surprising storyline that you haven't quite seen before.  I really enjoyed it!  It's too cute.

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on a library copy of the novel. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday Blatherings: I'm Free!

Yesterday I spent most of the day grading.  Believe it or not, I actually used cleaning my house as a way of "rewarding" myself in between stacks of grading.  Yep.  That's how desperate things got around here.  My house is pretty clean now!

Today, I finished my end of term grading around 2pm, and immediately felt a bit like Dobby from Harry Potter.   Yes, I am now free!  Okay, so not completely.  I worry about who will come back and ask me about their grades and not be satisfied, but I can't be worried about that for now.  I'm just happy to have them all in!

My best friend "Doc" (as she likes me to call her) is here from Michigan, and we went to my mom's place for a great Sunday dinner.  Why do I share that?  Because I think I'm learning that it's the simplest things in the world that are the most delightful, such as the Sunday dinner around the table.

This week I'm excited to get back to my reading.  I have some book tours coming up, as well as new releases (Allegiant--which I'm hearing mixed responses to, About a Boy--Also, some mixed responses to) that I want to read ASAP.  I've been dying to dive into them, but they all came out when things got really busy for me.  Now I can finally start reading!  Anyway, here's what I have planned for my reading list:

I do have to say that Me Before You was my choice for audiobook this month and it has been a killer.  I saw that a lot of readers were talking it up on Goodreads, so I gave it a chance, not really knowing anything about it.  Pretty quickly, I could sense that it was going to be one of those books that was going to SLAY me.  I'm only about 1/3 of the way into it so far, but I'm already afraid that there is going to be a crying jag session at some point, and I'm only praying that it is as I drive HOME from work and not on my way TO work in the morning.  The audiobook version of this one is pretty amazing, so if you're at all hesitant about the performances on these, then this one is a safe bet.  I've really enjoyed listening to it, but can tell that it's going to be a tearjerker at some point soon!

Besides being free from grading, getting some sleep, visiting with my friend who is in town, and reading again, I'm excited to just catch up on life!  What's new in your world? 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Man Booker Prize 2013: The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The winner of the Man Booker Prize was awarded today to Eleanor Catton for her novel The Luminaries.  According to their site, she is the youngest award recipient to have won so far, at the age of 28.  According to the official site, the novel is a mystery about a group of gold miners in New Zealand in 1866.  My guess is that sitting at 832 pages, a good deal happens to make it about a lot more than just a little mystery.

I, for one, am always really excited to hear about the longlist and winner for the Man Booker Prize.   Sadly, I only made it through one of the novels on the longlist before the award was posted, and this was not it, but I'm eager to read this one for myself.

The other interesting news coming out about the Man Booker Prize is that they are going to now consider authors published in English and in the U.K., which of course opens the door to American authors.  I'm sure this has caused a stir in the literary world, which is an interesting conversation in and of itself.  I'm just excited to have more great novels brought to my attention!

I've already ordered The Luminaries.  Will you be reading Catton's novel or will you wait to hear what others think?
The Luminaries, set in 1866 during the New Zealand gold rush, contains a group of 12 men gathered for a meeting in a hotel and a traveller who stumbles into their midst; the story involves a missing rich man, a dead hermit, a huge sum in gold, and a beaten-up whore. There are sex and seances, opium and lawsuits in the mystery too. The multiple voices take turns to tell their own stories and gradually what happened in the small town of Hokitika on New Zealand's South Island is revealed.  - See more at: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/and-winner#sthash.s7Ldu1yv.dpuf
The Luminaries, set in 1866 during the New Zealand gold rush, contains a group of 12 men gathered for a meeting in a hotel and a traveller who stumbles into their midst; the story involves a missing rich man, a dead hermit, a huge sum in gold, and a beaten-up whore. There are sex and seances, opium and lawsuits in the mystery too. The multiple voices take turns to tell their own stories and gradually what happened in the small town of Hokitika on New Zealand's South Island is revealed.  - See more at: http://www.themanbookerprize.com/news/and-winner#sthash.s7Ldu1yv.dpuf

Review: Cinders and Sapphires by Leila Rasheed

Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "One house, two worlds...

Rose Cliffe has never met a young lady like her new mistress. Clever, rich, and beautiful, Ada Averley treats Rose as an equal. And Rose could use a friend. Especially now that she, at barely sixteen, has risen to the position of ladies’ maid. Rose knows she should be grateful to have a place at a house like Somerton. Still, she can’t help but wonder what her life might have been had she been born a lady, like Ada.

For the first time in a decade, the Averleys have returned to Somerton, their majestic ancestral estate. But terrible scandal has followed Ada’s beloved father all the way from India. Now Ada finds herself torn between her own happiness and her family’s honor. Only she has the power to restore the Averley name—but it would mean giving up her one true love . . . someone she could never persuade her father to accept.

Sumptuous and enticing, the first novel in the At Somerton series introduces two worlds, utterly different yet entangled, where ruthless ambition, forbidden attraction, and unspoken dreams are hidden behind dutiful smiles and glittering jewels. All those secrets are waiting . . . at Somerton."

Review:  Set in a beautiful estate called Somerton, we are introduced to what seems to be the YA equivalent of Downton Abbey.  After what feels like a long absence from my favorite Downton characters, this was a nice return to the manners, society, and scandal that I was hankering for, all in the pages of a book.

Set around a diverse set of characters, both upstairs and downstairs, we mainly center around Rose Cliffe, who has been thrust into the role of a new ladies' maid.  She soon finds herself the center of a scandal in the home, one in which she has to dig deep to deal with.  That's not all though.  The Averley's have returned to their estate to money problems in 1910, as many other estate owners of their day, who were trying to figure out how to care for such large homes and grounds.  What were they to do with such properties and grown children who needed to be married before the scandalous word of their lack of funds got out? 

There seems to be a scandal for every single character in the novel, and a modern day solution in tow.  I won't lie when I say that I could see this being turned into a modern, melodramatic television show, made glossy and ready to roll out by the spring.  We have a love child, a gay character, a feminist, a girl who wants to marry for love, a girl who loves a man of another race.  Yes.  I get it.  Eek!  How dare they even consider being themselves!   As each of these characters rolled out though, I kept thinking, "Really? All in one family/story for that period?"  As far as a book goes, with any historical accuracy--I don't think all of these characters could possibly go as far afield as they do from the social norms and mores as are written.  However, that doesn't mean that I didn't smile and keep flipping pages.  I was interested in their stories and could still enjoy the novel and read it for its heightened, overly dramatic sensibilities. 

 Cinders and Sapphires is a really quick read and one that I rather enjoyed.  I'm not going to be referring this one out as a historical reference piece, but I will definitely share it for its fun factor.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dewey's Readathon: Finish Line--Late Post

Yes, I finished up the readathon. I stayed up so much later than I every have before, this time making it to 4 am.  To be honest, I was nearly delusional though, which made me feel old and irritated at said "oldness."  Why?  Because I've always been somewhat of a night owl, who could stay up until all hours of the night through most of my teens and twenties.  Gone are those days!  *sigh*  Yep.  I'm an adult, and this confirmed it.

Anyway, besides feeling old and tired...  I really enjoyed myself.  I read some great books and rotated my way through quite a stack.  When you rotate, you don't necessarily finish very many, but I think read quite a bit. 
  1. Which hour was most daunting for you?  11am to 1 pm???  I got SO sleepy that it was ridiculous.  I then hit the wall again right before I fell asleep around 4 am.
  2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?  The Chocolate Thief by Lora Florand was such a great read!  I started it late afternoon, and it took me through some rough hours into the night.  I was pretty determined to finish it last night, but found myself asleep with it at 4 am.  It was so good though, that I woke up, grabbed the book, and finished it this morning/afternoon!  The thing about that book was that it transported me to Paris (which is always great), THEN, it kept talking about these amazing chocolates--which was a torture unto itself.  The relationship in the book had me flipping pages too though, so it was kind of an all-round perfect read for a readathon as it kept me going for quite awhile.
  3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?  Really, no.  I have so much respect and appreciation for all of those who put it together and volunteer their time.  THANK YOU so much! 
  4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?  It was awesome, and I so appreciate all that everyone did to help make it a success!
  5. How many books did you read?  Technically, just TWO, but because I rotate books, I probably read a third one.
  6. What were the names of the books you read?  Insurgent by Veronica Roth and Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella.
  7. Which book did you enjoy most?   The Chocolate Thief as mentioned above.  It was such a fun read!
  8. Which did you enjoy least?  I don't think I had a least favorite read this year...
  9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A
  10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?  I will always participate, when I can!  I'd love to participate in a mini-challenge again in the future.  I haven't done one in awhile, but I'd love to jump back in and do one again, if I can!  :)
Thanks again to all of those who put this together.  We all appreciate you guys SO much!

Just FYI, don't forget to check out my giveaway of James Dashner's newest book The Eye of Minds!  It will be running this week and I'd love to get you all in on the giveaway.   The publisher is offering two free books this week, which is awesome!  It really is a great read, so go check it out!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: MidPoint Survey (At Least MY Midpoint)

I've been reading now, off and on, for about 9 hours.  We're almost to hour 15 though, so we're well over half way... *sigh*  What can I say.  I'm doing all right at this read-a-thoning business, but I can't plaster myself to the couch and read for 24 hours straight.  Things happen, right?

Anyway, I did end up running to the library to pick up the audiobook of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, which everyone has been raving about.  I'm pretty excited to start listening to it starting on Monday.  On that little errand, I finished listening to Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella, which I'd been listening to over the past couple of weeks back and forth to work, so I was still able to keep going with my reading.

Let's do a quick Midpoint catch up though and then I'm going to do a little blog hopping.  This is the point where I tend to do my best reading, so I'm going to capitalize on it!  We'll see how I do.  I never make it to the finish line, so I don't know if I'll be back to update or not...

1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?  No.  I'm doing great now.  I'm a night girl, so I'm okay now.  I wasn't so great earlier this morning though and thought I was going to need a major jolt of caffeine to make it out of the afternoon!  :)

2) What have you finished reading?  Well, I finished two books that I was already well into before the readathon started.  I finished up, Insurgent earlier this morning, and then Twenties Girl this afternoon when I ran errands.  Other than that, I've been rotating books like crazy!

3) What is your favorite read so far?  I've really liked reading The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory.  Maybe it's just all the history that I'm curious about, or Phillipa's great storytelling, but I've really fallen into it.

4) What about your favorite snacks?  Diet Pepsi, Green Tea, and hot apple cider (not mixed together...yuck!).  Okay.  So those are drinks and not "snacks," but I like drinks more than food items when I'm reading.  I don't like to eat while I read as much as drink something while I'm reading, so the drinks are a must.

5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!  Not yet!  :(  I have really stuck to reading and twitter, for the most part.  Visiting a few blogs this evening is my goal, so off I go! 

Dewey's Read-a-Thon: Hour 10 Update

Okay, so it's really my Six hour update, but we're well into the readathon and I need to give a little update because I've finished my first book!

I had some serious issues getting going this morning though.  What's up with that?  After writing my initial post, I put laundry in, read a few blogs, looked at Tumblr, folded some laundry, sorted through my email, and added a few more books to my Goodreads account.  FINALLY, I got sucked into my first book about four hours ago though, and I was off and running!  Thank goodness!

Hours Reading:  My guess is really only around 4 w/ all the interruptions
Chapters Read:  Three chapters in Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe (which is what sucked me in), Six chapters in Revolution 19, and then I FINISHED Insurgent's last 17 chapters (about 170 pages).
Books Read:  1--Insurgent by Veronica Roth
Snacks:  A handful of Pirate's Booty earlier this morning and some Diet Pepsi is about it.  I was a little too distracted to grab a snack.  It's not a good habit, but I tend to not eat much all day on Saturdays, so I'm thinking it's about time to eat some dinner here pretty soon, especially since I skipped lunch!  I'm about ready to eat an apple and maybe have my Thai leftovers.  Yum!
Nap Close Calls:  One pretty serious ones around 11 am.  *Yawn*  The Diet Pepsi helped pull me out of it though! :)

Well, I'm off to run to the library real quick.  I have an audiobook to finish though, so all is well.  I can keep on "reading" while I'm out!  Let's hope that quick errand shakes some of my sleepiness off or I'm going to be fast asleep on the couch here in another hour or so... *Yawn*

How are you all doing?!?  I need to head out and do some blog hopping soon!

Dewey's Readathon: Getting Started!

Well, I thought I would be up and at 'em a lot earlier, seeing as we're on Fall Break right now, but I just could NOT get myself to fall asleep last night.  I think it was the anticipation of it all, right?  I did let myself read a bit last night to try to "get sleepy, so I thought about counting that as my starting line.  :)

Anyway, I'm up and have pulled myself together to get started for the readathon this morning, and am really excited to get going!  Here's my starting point then:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?  Salt Lake area

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?  That's hard to say.  I'm a bit of a "book rotater," and have a number of books on my list today that I'll be dabbling with.  I am excited though to jump into Just One Year by Gayle Forman though!  Also, since I've been fangirling pretty hard over Superman this year, I'm going to be finishing up the original three Superman comics and will be reading The Return of Superman--awesome!

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?  I'm a Peanut Butter M&M or a good old apple and popcorn sort of gal, so those are on my list for today at some point.  :)  Also, not a snack, but I picked up Thai food last night, which is ALWAYS better second day.  Yum!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!  Well, I teach a Pop. Lit. class, AP Literature, and World Literature.  Because of that, I'm constantly needing to read like a mad fiend.  That doesn't mean that I don't want to put down things for those classes and just pick up whatever in the world I want to!  :)  Today I might just rotate through things for my classes, and then pick up some things for me as well!

Other than that "work boringness" I am just coming off a birthday this week.  It wasn't a milestone birthday or anything, so I didn't really care.  I let it come and go without much fanfare.  I'm actually in the midst of planning a huge "go somewhere crazy"birthday for next year.  I'm thinking Paris.  Any votes out there?  New York City also has crossed my radar, but Paris keeps floating to the top of my radar (if I can afford it, that is).

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?  This is a tough one.  I've done quite a few readathons and I've done things different on a number of occasions.  Do I participate more online and sacrifice reading time or not?  If I don't participate, I feel isolated, but if I spend too much time online, then I sacrifice my reading time.  It's a huge catch 22!  As with anything, I'm going to aim for balance--as always!  I have been looking forward to today, and said no to so many other things just so I could participate, that I'm going to just take it as it comes.  I think I'll jump on every couple of hours and read what others are doing, and then post every four or six?  We'll see!

Okay, I'm off to get some reading done.  I can feel the reading bug setting in, so I'm going to catch it while it's grabbing me, but I'll be back soon!  Below are some of the books I'll be reading (since I can't take a picture of them...they're mainly ebooks).

Well, I'm off now!  Let's see what I can get through in the next hour or so.  I'm hoping I can finish one of the books I'm already part way through...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Book Giveaway: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Yesterday, after posting my review of James Dashner's amazing new read The Eye of Minds, Random House contacted me with an amazing offer to pass along to my readers.  They are offering two free copies of The Eye of Minds, and here's all you need to do to enter:
  •  Go to twitter and follow @jamesdashner
  • Enter in a comment below and just say hello!  Please make sure you leave a current email address so I can contact you.
  • The contest is only open in the U.S. and will close next Friday night, 10/18 at midnight (MST)
Join in today!  I'll be back to announce the reader on 10/19.  Good luck!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Review: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Released: 10/8
Synopsis:  From Goodreads, "An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.  And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.  But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever."

Review:  Mind--blown! 

Let's just start there.  I'm not generally a sci-fi reader, but was a bit intrigued by the premise of cyberterrorism--what the heck is that, right?  I like the internet as much as the next technology driven, iphone/pad/mac-toting person, so a book that explores the possibility of people being tormented by "Killsims" and a virtual bully who can literally leave people dead at the end of what was supposed to be a casual cyber game, is a bit mind boggling, and a bit frightening.

In the story, we're introduced to Michael, who is this gamer with some pretty amazing skills to code and hack through firewalls and systems.  The thing is, as you read the story, he seems to really take you through his "gaming" in real time, like a person just walking through it in real time.  At the same time, he can hack away at the coding of these games in such a way that he can change the course of the game and what happens at any given moment--which is what makes Michael so valuable and important in the fight against the cyberterrorism.  

Michael and his friends Bryson and Sarah get roped in by the VNS to fight a supposed powerhouse in the world of cyberterrorism, named Kaine.  To do this, they had to set out on a major journey in the "VirtNet," which mainly took them through a series of journeys and virtual battles to "hack" through code to find their enemy.  The issue really becomes, who or what is Kaine, and what does he/she/it really want to begin with?

To say that I liked the book is true, but not really hitting home.  It's not a kick-back-and-enjoy sort of read, in that it's tense, contains an awful lot of violence,  and really makes you stick with it to figure it out.  There's that moment where you feel like you're comparing it to something you've either read or watched before, but then it does something totally unique that throws it in another direction.  The characters really never stop moving in the story, and they never allow us a chance to take too much time to understand how or why they do what they do.  Half of the time you feel like you literally have a moment to breathe before the character is moved on to the next sequence of events.  That only speeds up the action and adds to the crazy pacing of the novel, which is over much too soon!

On the whole, mind--blown.  I liked it a lot.  In fact, I walked it in to the Popular Literature class I teach and read the first nine pages to my students.  When I finished, they were angry with me for stopping!  Literally, those first nine pages were enough to suck them in.  I have to agree with them!  I definitely recommend this for teen readers, for sure, or anyone who likes strong sci fi/action novels.  It does have a good deal of violence in it, but no more than many dystopian novels that are out currently.  It is a really smart novel, and one that I will be eager to read future installments of down the road!

*FTC Disclosure:  This review was based on an Amazon Vine ARC of the novel.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Night Reads: Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-Thon Coming Up!

Happy Friday!  It's a bit late tonight, but I'm happy to say that things are settling back to "normal" around here (if that's possible).  I'll always be busier than I would like to be, but if I'm not sitting on a Greek island somewhere, with my feet up staring at a beautiful Mediterranean sunset, then I'll always be too busy.  Things are good though right now.

I was excited to see a tweet posted about Dewey's Read-a-Thon coming up on October 12th.  We'll be off for Fall Break that weekend, so I'm pretty excited to jump right in and enjoy a nice day off reading.  What could be better, right?  I haven't had a lot of luck with making it through one, but I'm all signed up!  Check it out if you're interested in joining in.

Well, here's what I'm reading at the moment.  Since I'm a book hoarder and read about 20 books at a time (yes, it's an illness), here are just a few of the ones I'm reading at the moment...and very well could still be working on next week:

What are you reading this weekend and are you going to jump in on the readathon next weekend?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Blog Tour: Sea Queen's Daughter by Ellis Drake

Today I'm excited to have a great up new author on my blog, Ellis Drake.  In the last year I've had the chance to read four other novellas by Ellis and really enjoyed the range of mysteries and stories that she's written.  In her newest, The Sea Queen's Daughter, she takes on a great adaptation of the fairytale of The Little Mermaid.

Here's a short summary of the tale:  On a barge anchored in the middle of the Adriatic, Marco Lorendan meets a mysterious and beautiful woman. His fascination for her is sealed when she saves him from drowning and then disappears into the sea. Is she dead, or simply lost? Marco is determined to find out.

Living beneath the waters of the lagoon, Serena can change into whatever form she chooses, but cannot change her fate: to die in an ancient ritual that goes back to the founding of Venice. Serena wants to live in the human world with Marco, but will she save herself if it means the destruction of Venice?

Here is my Q&A with Ellis today here at One Literature Nut:

I know that Venice is famous for its glass work.  Since you had Serena craft her mask into this masterful glass piece, first, did you do that on purpose?  Also, being the artist that you are, were you picturing anything in particular with it?

In the opening scene, I wanted everything about Serena to be strange and magical, so naturally the mask she wore had to be of a unique, fanciful material. Glass was an obvious choice because of its associations with Venice and because glass masks didn't exist—they would be too heavy to wear all the time. Most masks were made of paper and were very light, because you literally could not go out in public without a mask during Carnevale, which by the 18th century went on for six months out of the year. So the more common masks like the bauta had to be comfortable, relatively cheap, and disposable. Of course, Serena's supernatural so she doesn't have a problem with wearing an impractical glass mask.

As for what the mask looked like, I vaguely modeled it off an Ancient Mesopotamian statue that some scholars believe represents the Sumerian moon goddess, Inanna.

Is the legend behind this story an actual legend? I'm just curious where it came from.

The legend about the founding of Venice and the reason behind the Doge's annual Marriage of the Sea is something I made up so I could include the Ascension Day ceremony in the story. In actuality, the Marriage of the Sea started as a celebration of a military victory—or so they say.

Are you planning to set another story in Venice?

You never know! I'd love to write about Giacomo Casanova, one of the most fascinating people in history. Venice has such a rich culture and complex history that the possibilities for stories set there are endless.

Thank you so much to Ellis for dropping in today!  Please check out The Sea Queen's Daughter and drop by her site at http://ellisdrake.blogspot.com/ to learn about her other novellas and writing.