Saturday, January 30, 2010

A Few More Links - January 31

I have done a lot of web surfing over the past week (I'm an admitted blog addict) and started to think maybe I should link up some of the more interesting events, websites, and blog posts that I have come across recently. I haven't decided if this will become a weekly event or something I put together when I'm feeling in the mood, but I'm calling it A Few More Links.

Featured event:

Are you a fan of mysteries? Consider getting involved with Jen's Detectives Around the World theme week at Jen's Book Thoughts.

E-mail her and she'll send you more details on what you can do if you're interested in participating. I'm going to be participating! I do love a good mystery from time to time. I hope you'll jump on board too!

On TV:

✵ Part 2 of 3 of the PBS Masterpiece Classic Emma airs on Sunday evening at 9/8 Central. Join the Emma Twitter party during the show, using the #emma_pbs hashtag.

✵ American Experience on PBS is airing The Donner Party on Monday evening at 9/8 Central. OK, so not entirely linked to books, but there are some great books about it! A recent book on the event is Desperate Passage: The Donner Party's Perilous Journey West by Ethan Rarick.

Interesting reading: 

✵ The Neverending Bookshelf reported interesting results from an earlier survey held about blog contests.

✵ Ellz Reads sparked a fascinating conversation about library censorship.

✵ My Friend Amy tweeted a link to a blog post about Reading Addiction. Not sure if I should take it seriously or giggle at it.

✵ Pam at tweeted the link to a news story about a California School District's decision to ban the Mirriam-Webster Dictionary from their classrooms for being "sexually graphic" and "not age appropriate." I'm speechless. I wonder if they're going to ban the encyclopedias from the library too.

✵ Author Mitali Perkins has been doing a fascinating series on YA/children's books featuring persons of color on the cover or with persons of color as main characters. First she polled librarians and booksellers about the sales rates of books with PoC on the cover. Then she featured a list of books with PoC protagonists that are popular among teens in many communities. The discussion being formed in this is really fascinating and I've been watching it with interest.

✵ Debbie Reese at the American Indians in Children's Literature blog challenged the participants in the PoC Reading Challenge to commit to reading those books critically and to learn what critics of color are saying about PoC portrayals in literature.

✵ My Friend Amy blogged about being a Public Reader and asked the question, "Why do you read and why do you talk about what you read?"

✵ I was shocked by this article at The Millions called Confessions of a Book Pirate. Suffice it to say that I am not a fan of book pirates.

    So that's what caught my interest on Twitter and in my Google Reader over the past week (a few more links than I expected, but it's been an interesting week!).

    Have a great Sunday!

    Friday, January 29, 2010

    Giveaway in the Works...

    I'm working on putting together an "Alice in Wonderland"-themed giveaway in February, partly in response to the recent release of Melanie Benjamin's Alice I Have Been and the upcoming release of Tim Burton's new film Alice in Wonderland.

    So far, I'm planning to include a new copy of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, a lightly read ARC of Alice I Have Been, and some new Alice-themed bookmarks from the Padfoot and Prongs etsy shop. I'm also probably going to include a copy of The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor. And who knows, maybe I'll come up with some more fun things to throw in the mix.

    So, stay tuned!

    Is there anything else you think I should consider including in this giveaway? Feel free to make suggestions and I'll see what I can come up with!

    Thursday, January 28, 2010

    Review: Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford

    Genre: Paranormal Fiction
    Pages: 320
    Date Published: December 2009
    Publisher: Ballantine Books

    Book description:
    Two hundred years after her death, Jane Austen is still surrounded by the literature she loves—but now it's because she's the owner of Flyleaf Books in a sleepy college town in Upstate New York. Every day she watches her novels fly off the shelves—along with dozens of unauthorized sequels, spin-offs, and adaptations. Jane may be undead, but her books have taken on a life of their own.
    To make matters worse, the manuscript she finished just before being turned into a vampire has been rejected by publishers—116 times. Jane longs to let the world know who she is, but when a sudden twist of fate thrusts her back into the spotlight, she must hide her real identity—and fend off a dark man from her past while juggling two modern suitors. Will the inimitable Jane Austen be able to keep her cool in this comedy of manners, or will she show everyone what a woman with a sharp wit and an even sharper set of fangs can do?

    The best thing about Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford is the humor. This book pokes fun at the publishing industry and at the avalanche of Jane Austen spin-offs that this book itself is a part of. It imagines how Jane would have felt to meet some of these authors that are riding on her coattails, and in the instance when she absolutely loathes the author she gets a tasty snack as well. But Jane is a fairly benign vampire. She avoids completely draining people (and thus killing them) and refuses to make anyone into a vampire. She is generally conscientious about whose blood she drinks and where she bites them. And she is not really happy being a vampire and is definitely not fond of the man who made her this way--Lord Byron. The literary connections don't stop there, though. Apparently Byron was a busy blood-sucker and made a few other famous writers of the period into vampires too. Charlotte Bronte makes an appearance as a jealous rival.

    It is a fun read, but one I wasn't entirely satisfied with. First, I had a really hard time seeing the Jane in this novel (going by the name Jane Fairfax) as Jane Austen. Jane Fairfax just wasn't witty enough to be a believable Jane Austen for me. The other characters fell flat for me too. I didn't understood why Jane decided she wanted to try a relationship with the love interest (she never really seemed that attracted to him), and Jane's friend and employee was equally flat as a character. She was likable enough, but seemed a bit two-dimensional. Charlotte Bronte was a lunatic, and Byron was obsessive and annoying. I guess I just didn't click with any of the characters, which made the book less enjoyable.

    Jane Bites Back is funny--it really is--but as a whole it sort of fell flat for me. A lot of readers will probably love it, I'm just not one of them. There is a sequel to this book planned (Jane Goes Batty) that I will probably give a try because things were starting to get interesting at the end and because, let's face it, the book was funny and easy to read. Don't go into it expecting something deep and meaningful, take it for the humorous diversion that it is.

    **I won a copy of this book in a GoodReads giveaway.**


    Wednesday, January 27, 2010

    Review and Book Tour Stop: Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

    I have vivid memories of reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll--I even remember the musty smell of the library book that transported me to the crazy world of Wonderland. But I had never really thought about the author or whether he had based Alice on any actual person. Then, over the last few months, I saw a few mentions of Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin (which was released on January 12) and I became intrigued.

    Alice in Wonderland has lived on in our popular culture and our memories, but who was the real Alice? This book seeks to shed some light on the subject, and reconstructs what facts remain into this historical fiction novel telling the story of Alice's life. Alice Pleasance Liddell was Lewis Carroll's inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--she was actually the one who insisted that he write the story down. The description from the author's website summarizes the story a lot better than I can, so here you go:
    Few works of literature are as universally beloved as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now, in this spellbinding historical novel, we meet the young girl whose bright spirit sent her on an unforgettable trip down the rabbit hole–and the grown woman whose story is no less enthralling.
    Alice Liddell Hargreaves’s life has been a richly woven tapestry: As a young woman, wife, mother, and widow, she’s experienced intense passion, great privilege, and greater tragedy. But as she nears her eighty-first birthday, she knows that, to the world around her, she is and will always be only “Alice.” Her life was permanently dog-eared at one fateful moment in her tenth year–the golden summer day she urged a grown-up friend to write down one of his fanciful stories.
    That story, a wild tale of rabbits, queens, and a precocious young child, becomes a sensation the world over. Its author, a shy, stuttering Oxford professor, does more than immortalize Alice–he changes her life forever. But even he cannot stop time, as much as he might like to. And as Alice’s childhood slips away, a peacetime of glittering balls and royal romances gives way to the urgent tide of war.
    For Alice, the stakes could not be higher, for she is the mother of three grown sons, soldiers all. Yet even as she stands to lose everything she treasures, one part of her will always be the determined, undaunted Alice of the story, who discovered that life beyond the rabbit hole was an astonishing journey.
    A love story and a literary mystery, Alice I Have Been brilliantly blends fact and fiction to capture the passionate spirit of a woman who was truly worthy of her fictional alter ego, in a world as captivating as the Wonderland only she could inspire.
    Alice I Have Been is a fascinating and moving work of historical fiction that imagines what the real Alice was like. Ms. Benjamin has done quite a bit of research into what records remain about Alice Liddell and her friendship with Charles Dodson (aka Lewis Carroll). She proposes a possible explanation for the break in their friendship and gives voice to the frustrations and sorrows that Alice must have felt during her unusual lifetime.

    This book was a pleasure to read, once I got past Alice's childhood. For some reason, even though nothing bad/sick/scary happened, I was still really uncomfortable with the portrayal of Charles Dodgson's relationship with the young Alice. Scholars and observers are divided on what the actual nature of their relationship was. Some would claim that Carroll had an unhealthy fascination with young girls, while others explain that his photography of young girls was just a small portion of the many photographs he took during his lifetime and that he had normal relationships with adult women. The image of Dodgson in this novel was that he perhaps was in love with Alice on a certain level but never acted on it, and that Alice was infatuated with him as a girl.

    Alice I Have Been does a wonderful job of weaving together fact and fiction, and the Alice that emerges from the pages is a passionate woman whose life didn't end up quite how she had envisioned it. As a child, she wanted Dodgson to write down the story of "Alice's Adventures Under Ground" so she would never grow up--the story would keep her young forever. But as she grows older she wishes she could leave that Alice behind. Alice in Wonderland haunts her every move, and she begins to see it as an unhappy reminder of her childhood and events that knocked her life off-course. It is sad to watch her suffer, but at the same time her difficulties help her to finally face and embrace the past that she had been trying so hard to escape.

    I really enjoyed this book. It gave me a new topic to do a bit of amateur research on (just had to learn more about Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson!) and I really enjoyed learning more about the girl who inspired a book that I so enjoyed as a child. It was immensely interesting to learn about her life after Alice was published.

    Rating: ★★★★ 4/5 stars. I really liked it!

    If you'd like to read more about author Melanie Benjamin, click here to visit her website, and click here for a reading guide and some discussion questions.

    Melanie Benjamin’s ALICE I HAVE BEEN VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ‘10 officially began on January 4th and will end on January 29. You can visit Melanie’s blog stops at during the month of January to find out more about this great book and its talented author.

    To purchase the book, visit The Book Depository or an independent bookseller of your choice.

    Source: Special thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion for including me as a part of this tour and for providing me with a review copy of the book.

    Tuesday, January 26, 2010

    The Book List: Fiction Worlds I Want to Hang Out In

    Rebecca at Lost in Books has started a new book meme called The Book List that I thought sounded like fun. Each Tuesday she'll be asking for three books in a certain category. Participants will post their lists and link to their posts at her site. I just had to participate in this week's list:

    3 Fiction Worlds I Would Like to Hang Out In 

    1. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. OK, yes, I'm revealing myself to be a total geek. But I so wish I could have gone to Hogwarts. ;-)
    2. Little House on the Prairie. I'm not sure which book I'd want to be in, but I love the time period and I was absolutely smitten with the series when I was a girl.
    3. Narnia! Another childhood favorite that I still love as an adult. :-)

    So, which 3 fiction worlds would you like to hang out in? Go on over to Lost in Books and join us in this week's Book List!

    Sunday, January 24, 2010

    Mailbox Monday - January 25

    Every week Marcia at The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. It's a chance to share the books that came to your house last week, and to check out what other book lovers received. I always end up with several new books on my wish list after I go check out other people's mailboxes on Mondays.

    **This month, Marcia is donating $0.50 to Book Wish Foundation’s holiday campaign for every Mailbox Monday link left at her blog!**

    I ordered The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz from BookMooch on a review I read somewhere (I can't remember where!) that compared it to Veronica Mars. It sounds like a fun read.

    I won Among Thieves by David Hosp from Pam at Mom's Mutterings in December. An art heist thriller--I just couldn't resist entering the giveaway. :-)

    I received The Hidden Flame by Janette Oke and Davis Bunn and The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen for review from the Bethany House Book Reviewers program. The Hidden Flame is the second book in a series that I'm enjoying so far, set immediately after the death of Jesus. And I have adored both of Julie Klassen's previous books and have really been looking forward to reading her newest.

    So, what came to your mailbox last week?

    Review: Deadly Intent by Camy Tang

    Deadly Intent by Camy Tang
    Genre: Inspirational Romance, Suspense
    Pages: 224
    Publication Date: July 2009
    Publisher: Steeple Hill

    Book Description:
    The Grant family's exclusive Sonoma spa is a place for rest and relaxation--not murder! When Naomi Grant finds her client Jessica Ortiz bleeding to death in her massage room, everything falls apart. The salon's reputation is at stake...and so is Naomi's freedom when she discovers that she is one of the main suspects! Her only solace is found with the other suspect--Dr. Devon Knightley, the victim's ex-husband. But Devon is hiding secrets of his own. When they come to light, where can Naomi turn...and whom can she trust?
    Deadly Intent by Camy Tang is a fun mystery and romance all rolled into one. Naomi, a massage therapist currently managing her family's spa while her father recuperates from a stroke, finds herself the main suspect in the murder of one of her clients. The other suspect is her client's ex-husband and also the man who turns out to be the love interest in this book--Dr. Devon Knightley. As Naomi tries to figure out what happened, it becomes clear that someone is trying to frame her for the murder, and for several other incidents that occur afterwards. Naomi is never quite sure who she can trust, and the mystery of the killer's identity remains hidden right up until the end of the book.

    I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast read, and Naomi is a great character. I was grinning as soon as I read the first line (read about it here). Her family is rather entertaining (especially her aunt, who is up-to-date on the latest gossip and news regarding the spa's clients). I liked that I could not figure out who the murderer was and what they were up to. But in the end I still never really understood why they were trying to frame Naomi. The relationship between Naomi and Devon seemed a bit quick to me at first, but once I reminded myself that they had been acquaintances for a few years it was more believable. Both of them have some spiritual struggles in this book, and they both find their faith strengthened in the end. These two would be a fun couple to follow-up on--their families were so different that there surely would be a lot of fireworks on the holidays!

    **Thank you to Nora at Finding Hope Through Fiction! I won this book through a giveaway at her site!**
    This book qualifies for the Thriller and Suspense Reading Challenge and the POC Reading Challenge.


    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    Review: Scoundrel's Kiss by Carrie Lofty

    Scoundrel's Kiss by Carrie Lofty
    Genre: Historical Romance
    Pages: 344
    Date Published: January 2010
    Publisher: Zebra Books

    Teaser: "Her wounded warrior, the man who was as much his own enemy as she was to herself. Only together had they found a measure of quiet and sanity, of peace and forgiveness." (286)

    Blurb from the back cover:
    Turning his back on his old life as a rogue, Gavriel de Marqueda has joined a monastic order in Spain and taken a vow of chastity. Before he becomes a monk, he must pass one final test: help a woman who has lost her way. But when he lays eyes on Ada of Keyworth, he is tempted beyond measure by her sultry beauty and dangerous curves...
    Far from her home in England, Ada has been battling inner demons for more than a year. When she discovers that her only friend has abandoned her, she has no choice but to grudgingly accept Gavriel's help.  But Ada is not fooled. Though Gavriel wears the robes of a monk, Ada sees that he is a virile man who looks at her with a hunger that matches her own--one that begs to be satisfied again and again...
    I very rarely read romance novels, though I will read one from time to time if the storyline grabs me. Scoundrel's Kiss by Carrie Lofty caught my attention because of the setting (Spain) and the time period (1201). Plus Gavriel sounded like an intriguing character--a novice monk with a mysterious past.

    This turned out to be a very entertaining and suspenseful read. Ada's addiction to opium and the process she endures to detox from it creates an interesting start to the story and a believable bond between Ada and Gavriel. The appearance of unexpected pursuers and Gavriel's unexplained past brings an element of suspense to the story, and the way these two seemingly unrelated story threads come together is surprising and very well done.

    Being a romance, this book has a couple of love scenes, so if you're not a romance fan, this book probably isn't for you. But even for a romance, I have to say that the love scenes fit in so well with the storyline and that the story and relationships were more important than the love scenes themselves. This was a very good historical romance in a Medieval setting.

    This book is tied to Ms. Lofty's first book, What a Scoundrel Wants, which centers on Ada's sister Meg and her relationship with Will Scarlet (of Robin Hood fame). Ada was apparently a character in that book and there is some talk about the events of that book in this one, but it is not necessary to read the first book before reading this one. I haven't read What a Scoundrel Wants, but it will probably be the next romance novel that I read.

    **Special thanks to Lori Brighton - I won this book in a giveaway at her blog, Lori Brighton's online journal.

    Thursday, January 21, 2010

    Eye Candy - Fire by Kristin Cashore

    I believe this is the UK cover for this book--the US cover is pretty too but I like this version a lot more.

    Fire by Kristin Cashore
    Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
    Publisher: Orion Publishing Co.

    Book Description:
    She is the last of her kind...
    It is not a peaceful time in the Dells. In King City, the young King Nash is clinging to the throne, while rebel lords in the north and south build armies to unseat him. War is coming. And the mountains and forest are filled with spies and thieves. This is where Fire lives, a girl whose beauty is impossibly irresistible and who can control the minds of everyone around her.
    Exquisitely romantic, this companion to the highly praised Graceling has an entirely new cast of characters, save for one person who plays a pivotal role in both books. You don't need to have read Graceling to love Fire. But if you haven't, you'll be dying to read it next.
    If you prefer this cover, it looks like you can buy it through The Book Depository, which has free shipping worldwide.

    Eye Candy is a feature that was inspired by Marcia at The Printed Page and Daphne at Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff, who often post about books with eye-catching covers.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    POC Reading Challenge

    I'm entering another reading challenge. My decision to add yet another challenge into the mix is based on my own desire to diversify my reading a bit. I hadn't really thought too much about it until the recent blow-up over Bloomsbury's whitewashing of book covers (Helen's Book Blog has a pretty good synopsis with links about it), and the most recent Diversity Roll Call (hosted by Ali at Worducopia), which asks bloggers to name their favorite read of 2009 by a non-white author. Upon inspecting my 2009 reading list, I was mortified to discover that I had not read one book by a non-white author in 2009. *diversity fail*

    So, I went looking for a reading challenge that would help me to focus on bringing some diversity into my booklist. I was excited to see the emergence of the new POC (Persons of Color) Reading Challenge. Basically, this challenge calls for participants to commit to read books by and/or about persons of color. For the most part, I plan to focus on books written by authors of color.

    My goal: Read 10-15 POC books in 2010.

    Why do I want to do this? Because reading books with a more diverse point of view enriches my reading experience. It helps me to better understand the world around me, and it brings me into contact with some really excellent and worthwhile books that may not be as well-known because they are not written by white authors (it is sad but true that POC authors are not as well publicized and that regardless of their books' excellence they are often pigeonholed into "genre" corners that limit their exposure to general audiences). Eva at A Striped Armchair will probably be a great resource for finding new books. She reads prolifically, and she has committed herself to reading the same number of POC fiction authors as white fiction authors. Her blog catalogs all sorts of interesting and diverse authors.

    But the best thing I can do is pay more attention--pay more attention to the authors that I've never picked up but should have. I want to learn more about the world around me. This will be a great way to do that.

    I'm brainstorming and just quickly putting down a list of books that I'm interested in:

    Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    Reservation Blues by Sherman Alexie
    Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School by Adam Fortunate Eagle
    Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
    This Bitter Earth by Bernice McFadden
    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
    I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
    Sweetsmoke by David Fuller
    Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
    Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man by Claudia Mair Burney
    Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
    The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston
    On Gold Mountain by Lisa See
    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
    Peony In Love by Lisa See
    The Red Princess Mysteries by Lisa See (Flower Net, The Interior, and Dragon Bones)
    The Red Umbrella by Christina Diaz Gonzalez
    The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin

    I'm so excited! There are a lot of books out there that I am looking forward to reading by POC authors. And I'm sure my list will turn out different than the one above. I'll keep track of the books I've completed below.

    1. Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (1/2010)
    2. Deadly Intent by Camy Tang (1/2010)
    3. Sugar by Bernice McFadden (3/2010)
    4. Glorious by Bernice McFadden (4/2010) 
    5. Watermark by Vanitha Sankaran (4/2010) 
    6. A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott (6/2010) 
    7. The Eyes of Willie McGee by Alex Heard (8/2010) - non-fiction history
    8. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See (9/2010)
    9. Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (9/2010) - non-fiction biography
    10. Strange New Land: Africans in Colonial America by Peter H. Wood (10/2010) - non-fiction history
    11. A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin (11/2010)
    12. Celia, A Slave by Melton McLaurin (11/2010) - non-fiction history
    13. The Trouble With Half a Moon by Danette Vigilante (11/2010)

    Review & Book Tour Stop - Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

    Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
    Genre: Historical Fiction
    Pages: 293
    Date: January 5, 2010
    Publisher: Amistad (An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

    Book Description:
    Situated in the free state of Ohio, Tawawa House offers respite from the summer heat. A beautiful, inviting house surrounded by a dozen private cottages, the resort is favored by wealthy Southern white men who vacation there, accompanied by their enslaved mistresses.
    Regular visitors Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet have forged an enduring friendship. They look forward to their annual reunion and the opportunity it affords them to talk over the changes in their lives and their respective plantations. The subject of freedom is never spoken aloud until the red-maned, spirited Mawu arrives and voices her determination to escape. To run is to leave behind the friends and families trapped at home. For some, it also means tearing the strong emotional and psychological ties that bind them to their masters.
    When a fire on the resort sets off a string of tragedies, Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet soon learn tragic lessons, that triumph and dehumanization are inseparable and that love exists even in the cruelest circumstances as they bear witness to the end of an era.
    Is it possible to love a book that explores the difficult issues of slavery, violence, dehumanization, and loss? Yes! I must say that reading this book was very timely for me. I just finished teaching a US History class in which one of my students was adamant that there were slaves and their masters who fell in love and that their masters didn't exploit them because they loved each other. I tried to explain that such a relationship would be a lot more complicated than that--that issues of power and powerlessness, of social acceptability, and so on would make things a lot more difficult than anything we could imagine in our lives today. This book underlines all of the reasons why I struggled with this student's assertions. It portrays the master-slave relationship in a realistic and very believable way that truly took my breath away.

    Wench explores the emotional and psychological complexities that slave mistresses faced during the Antebellum period in the American South. They were given favored status, sometimes their children were given special treatment by their fathers/masters, and there were probably some who even believed that they loved their masters, as main character Lizzie did. But they also occupied a position on the plantation that could be quite lonely. They didn't quite fit in with the other slaves because they received special treatment, and they were not on the same level as their white masters.

    Much of this story takes place at Tawawa House, an Ohio resort where a number of slave owners vacationed with their slave mistresses (a location that actually existed). It is in this place that these women finally feel like they fit in somewhere because they can relate to each other and are able to bond based on their shared experience. But even their shared experience varies--Lizzie believes she is in love with her kind master, while her friends Reenie, Sweet, and Mawu suffer from rape, incest, and abuse at the hands of their masters. Being on holiday in a free state of course brings thoughts of escape and freedom closer to the surface. And that was the second struggle the women faced--the decision of whether to run away or not. For some that decision was easy to make. For others, the decision was a difficult one, as it would mean leaving their children behind and risking their lives in the process.

    Although the reader gets to know the four women and their struggles, the story mainly revolves around Lizzie and her remarkable transformation. In the beginning, she doesn't even want to consider escape because of the love she feels for her master and for her children. She hopes one day to convince him to free their children from slavery. But as time passes, she becomes disillusioned with the life she and her children are living. She sees the evils that other masters perpetrate on their slaves and she begins to realize that her master will probably never free their children. Eventually, she begins to consider escape, but you'll have to read the book to find out if she actually does or not.*wink*

    This is an excellent book. Ms. Perkins-Valdez has done a superb job in her research. The historical period and the people portrayed in it feel authentic. The writing is beautifully descriptive. I don't know what else I can say--I liked everything about this book. I highly recommend it.

    Rating: ★★★★★ 5/5 stars. Excellent! It doesn't get any better than this!

    **Versailles and More is hosting an author interview and giveaway of this book! The winner will be chosen on January 24, 2010, at midnight PST.**

    About the Author:
    Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s fiction and essays The Kenyon Review, African American Review, PMS:  PoemMemoirStory, North Carolina Literary Review, Richard Wright Newsletter, and SLI:  Studies in Literary Imagination.  She is a 2009 finalist for the Robert Olen Butler Fiction Award.  A graduate of Harvard and a former University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow, Dolen splits her time between Seattle and Washington, DC.  She is a faculty member of the University of Puget Sound where she teaches Creative Writing.  Wench is her first book of fiction.

    You can visit Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s website at, her blog at or connect with her on Twitter at You can also read an interview with Dolen at The Hot Author Report.

    To purchase the book, visit Amazon or an independent bookseller of your choice.

    Dolen Perkins-Valdez’s WENCH VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ‘10 officially began on January 4th and will end on January 29. You can visit Ms. Perkins-Valdez’s blog stops at during the month of January to find out more about this great book and its talented author.

    Source: Special thanks to Pump Up Your Book Promotion for including me as a part of this tour and a big thank you to the author for providing me with a review copy of this book.

    This book qualifies for the Women Unbound Reading Challenge because it is such an accurate portrayal of the experiences and emotions of slave women in the American South. It also portrays the ways that these women, who had so little power over their lives, sought to control their own destinies.

    Tuesday, January 19, 2010

    Lovely Awards From Some Lovely Bloggers

    I have been so kindly given a few awards over the past couple of weeks and I wanted to recognize the wonderful bloggers who gave them to me and pass them on to a few more wonderful bloggers in the process. :)

    I was awarded the "One Lovely Blog Award" earlier this month from two bloggers I think are definitely lovely themselves: Helen at Helen's Book Blog and Cathy at WordVessel.

    The rules call for me to give the award to 15 other bloggers that I've newly discovered, but since I received this award in October I'm going to cheat and make it 15 bloggers or less. In no particular order, here are some great blogs that I've recently discovered and added to my Google Reader:
    1. All The Pretty Pages 
    2. By Book or By Crook 
    3. Christian Book Giveaways 
    4. Christian Historical Fiction 
    5. Medieval Bookworm 
    6. The Shady Glade 
    7. A Well-Watered Garden
    8. The Tome Traveller's Weblog
    9. Worducopia

    Nicole at Books, Books Everywhere (I love the name of her blog!) also presented me with the "Honest Scrap" Award. The rules call for me to list ten honest things about myself (I'll try not to repeat the ten I gave in November) and to pass the award on to ten more bloggers.

    Here are Ten Honest Things About Me:
    1. I love blogs. I love reading other people's blogs, I love writing on my own blog, I love browsing through my Google Reader to see what has been posted.
    2. My daughter is turning 3 years old on Tuesday! She is my youngest, and I'm so proud of her.
    3. My favorite band of all time is the Beatles. I love their Sgt. Pepper's album.
    4. I am really looking forward to our yearly camping trip already. We spend a couple of weeks every summer in our travel trailer--we are planning a trip to the Oregon coast this July.
    5. My pile of books to be read has become more of a mountain. I am looking forward to this summer so I can read a lot more of them!
    6. I have a green streak. We recycle paper, cans, glass, cardboard, plastic, etc. and I use cloth shopping bags at the grocery store.
    7. My favorite food is pizza, with lots of toppings. Mostly veggies, but I also love ham or canadian bacon on it too.
    8. My mom is my best friend and she comes to visit us every week.
    9. Hubby got me a booklight for Christmas (so I wouldn't keep him up at night reading), and then complained that it was too bright when I tried to use it. LOL
    10. I like rubber stamps! I enjoy stamping cards and envelopes with them. I just got a cute Thank You stamp that I have been using to make my own thank you cards.
    And now, to pass this award on to ten more blogs (or less) that I enjoy for being interesting and honest:
    1. Confessions and Ramblings of a Muse in the Fog 
    2. Cover Junkie
    3. Delightful Reviews 
    4. Heidenkind's Hideaway 
    5. Ooh...Books! 
    6. Reading to Know
    7. The New Dork Review of Books
    8. A Striped Armchair
    Have a great day!

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    Mailbox Monday - January 18

    Every week Marcia at The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. It's a chance to share the books that came to your house last week, and to check out what other book lovers received. I always end up with several new books on my wish list after I go check out other people's mailboxes on Mondays.

    **This month, Marcia is donating $0.50 to Book Wish Foundation’s holiday campaign for every Mailbox Monday link left at her blog!**

    I received two books from BookMooch last week, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi and Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn. I'm going to read the first one for the Flashback Reading Challenge, and I ordered Silent in the Grave because I won a copy of the second book in the series and I just can't bring myself to read series out of order. LOL! I've also read rave reviews for the series, which is historical fiction/mystery. I can also read it for the Thriller & Suspense reading challenge!

    From Paperback Swap: Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier, because I keep seeing good reviews of it in blogger-land. I ordered The Bonds of Womanhood by Nancy Cott out of interest in the subject (this is non-fiction history written by a professional historian) and because I thought it would fit in nicely with the Women Unbound reading challenge.

    I won Jane Bites Back by Michael Thomas Ford in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway. I guess I wanted to see what the fuss is all about with the combining of Austen and paranormal elements. I won When You Went Away by Michael Baron from Deanna at Mom-Musings in a giveaway for participants in Royal Reviews reading challenges. I'm signed up for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. Thank you Deanna!

    So, what came to your mailbox last week?

    Friday, January 15, 2010

    Friday Firsts - Deadly Intent by Camy Tang

    The first line can make or break a reader’s interest. Just how well did the author pull you in to the story with their first sentence?

    I just finished reading Deadly Intent by Camy Tang (ISBN-13: 9780373443475) last night, and absolutely loved the first line:

    "The man who walked into Naomi's father's day spa was striking enough to start a female riot."

    I giggled to myself when I read this line, knowing this character (Naomi) was going to be fun. The first line says a lot--it gives us the setting, it introduces us to who would become the love interest, and it gives us a good idea of the main character's personality. I couldn't wait to continue reading after I finished this first line.

    Friday Firsts is hosted by Allison at Well-Read Reviews. For more information on how to participate in this weekly book meme, visit her site.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Book Review: Western Women: Their Land, Their Lives

    Since I'm super busy with teaching right now, I'm going to go academic on you today. I read this book in grad school (2001). These were my thoughts at the time. I apologize if you think this kind of thing is boring, but I also kind of hope someone will find it interesting and/or useful.

    Western Women: Their Land, Their Lives, edited by Lillian Schlissel, Vicki L. Ruiz, and Janice Monk, is a compilation of nine essays and accompanying commentaries that originated in Tuscon in 1984 at a conference hosted by the Southwest Institute for Research on Women in conjunction with the Arizona Historical Society. The essays are divided into two parts: "Starting Points," which focuses on current questions in women's history, and "New Directions," which introduces questions for future research. Both parts of the book emphasize the diversity of the West and the multicultural approach that must be taken to its study.

    The essays examine various topics of women's history in the Western United States (including domestic ideology, family, employment, marriage, legal rights, and historic sites) from various points of view (American Indian, Anglo, Mexicana, Chicana, and Metis). Each essay is followed by short commentaries responding to the issues raised by the author. The result is an interesting dialogue concerning what was then current research on western women and what questions future research should examine.

    The book begins with an article by Robert Griswold that examines Anglo women and the development of a variant of domestic ideology in the West. He utilizes divorce court documents to illustrate his argument that marital tensions "often developed because men did not meet women's expectations of appropriate male behavior, expectations shaped largely by corollaries of domestic ideology" (28). In the commentary, Katherine Jensen points out the need to examine other women besides middle-class migrants (like second generation Anglo women, prostitutes, and single women) to determine if their ideal of domesticity was similar, and Richard Griswold del Castillo compares Griswold's study with his own study of Mexican women. This is just an example of the useful discussion this book brings out. Also valuable is Sandra L. Myres's article, "Victoria's Daughters: English-Speaking Women on Nineteenth Century Frontiers," in which she compares the frontier experiences of women in the American West, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. The last article, "Beyond John Wayne: Using Historic Sites to Interpret Western Women's History," by Heather Huyck, also provides a fascinating discourse on the need for historic sites to interpret women's history, and ways in which it can be done.

    Western Women: Their Land, Their Lives is an important and interesting collection of essays on the diverse history of western women. While each essay examines a different topic, the general theme of the book focuses on the multicultural environment of the American West. It also challenges the traditional views of the West as a virgin land that planted the seeds of self-reliance, democracy, and individualism in the United States. Professional historians disagreed on the value of the book: some believed it to be a valuable, well-balanced anthology providing an insightful "sampler" of work being done in western history, while others thought the essays were dated and divided into ill-defined sections. In my opinion, the book provides useful insight on the research that had been done up to that point and the questions that were being asked in the study of western women. Ultimately, they prove useful to anyone interested, yet unfamiliar with this area of study.

    Here are the citations of a couple of reviews of this book published in peer-reviewed journals:
    • Journal of American History 76:3 (Dec. 1989), 900. (Glenda Riley, University of Northern Iowa)
    • Western Historical Quarterly 21:1 (Feb. 1990), 72. (Sandra Schackel, Boise State University)
    **Source: I checked this book out from the university library.

    Wednesday, January 13, 2010

    Wishlist Wednesday - Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

    I kept seeing this book around the internet, but I had no idea what it was about. Then there was an article about it in my local newspaper. I am intrigued. Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier came out on January 5.

    Book description:
    A voyage of discoveries, a meeting of two remarkable women, and extraordinary time and place enrich bestselling author Tracy Chevalier's enthralling new novel

    From the moment she's struck by lightening as a baby, it is clear that Mary Anning is marked for greatness. On the windswept, fossil-strewn beaches of the English coast, she learns that she has "the eye"-and finds what no one else can see. When Mary uncovers an unusual fossilized skeleton in the cliffs near her home, she sets the religious fathers on edge, the townspeople to vicious gossip, and the scientific world alight. In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary is barred from the academic community; as a young woman with unusual interests she is suspected of sinful behavior. Nature is a threat, throwing bitter, cold storms and landslips at her. And when she falls in love, it is with an impossible man.

    Luckily, Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly Elizabeth Philpot, a recent exile from London, who also loves scouring the beaches. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty, mutual appreciation, and barely suppressed envy. Ultimately, in the struggle to be recognized in the wider world, Mary and Elizabeth discover that friendship is their greatest ally.

    Remarkable Creatures is a stunning novel of how one woman's gift transcends class and social prejudice to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century. Above all, is it a revealing portrait of the intricate and resilient nature of female friendship.
    So, what are you wishing for this week?

    To find out what other bookworms are wishing for this Wednesday, visit Wishful Wednesday, hosted by The Bluestocking Guide. Also check out the On My Wishlist meme at Book Chick City.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    The Book List : 3 Book Titles That Made Me LOL...

    Rebecca at Lost in Books has started a new book meme called The Book List that I thought sounded like fun. Each Tuesday she'll be asking for three books in a certain category. Participants will post their lists and link to their posts at her site. I just had to participate in this week's list:  

    3 Book Titles That Made Me Laugh Out Loud When I First Read Them

    1. I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert (Colbert cracks me up!)
    2. What's Wrong With My Snake? by John and Roxanne Rossi (Is my sense of humor a bit juvenile at times? Yes.)
    3. How to Avoid Huge Ships by John W. Trimmer (Seriously? How can you NOT avoid HUGE SHIPS??)
    OK, that was deliciously fun! Go on over and check out some more funny titles at this week's edition of The Book List!

    Review: More Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives by Guy Fieri

    More Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: Another Drop-Top Culinary Cruise Through America's Finest and Funkiest Joints More Diners, Drive-ins and Dives: Another Drop-Top Culinary Cruise Through America's Finest and Funkiest Joints by Guy Fieri

    Book Description:
    Guy Fieri strikes again with More Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, giving you a road map to road food that's earned its culinary citizenship in "Flavortown." Join Guy on a cross-country noshing parade, mapping out the best places you've never heard of—more than fifty establishments off the beaten path. Compete in a (no hands) apple-pie-eating contest at Bobo Drive-In in Topeka, Kansas, dip your taste buds in Sweet Spicy Love sauce at Uncle Lou's Fried Chicken in Memphis, Tennessee, and get a load of the killer four-cheese mac-and-cheese at Gorilla Barbeque in Pacifica, California. Filled with Guy's hilarious voice and rampant enthusiasm for these hidden culinary gems, More Diners, Drive-ins and Dives is the perfect book for lovers of the American food scene and fans of Triple D.

    This isn't so much a cookbook as a road trip through some of America's casual eating restaurants. It's a pretty fun read, especially if you're planning to visit any of the cities that are covered in the book. I'm a little disappointed that so many states are not covered, but it's still a fun book. Fans of Guy's show will love this book, just like they loved the first one. I gave a copy to my mom for her birthday in December.

    My rating: ★★★★ 4 of 5 stars

    **Source: I received a copy of this book in a GoodReads book giveaway.

    Monday, January 11, 2010

    Mailbox Monday - January 11

    Every week Marcia at The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. It's a chance to share the books that came to your house last week, and to check out what other book lovers received. I always end up with several new books on my wish list after I go check out other people's mailboxes on Mondays.

    **This month, Marcia is donating $0.50 to Book Wish Foundation’s holiday campaign for every Mailbox Monday link left at her blog!**

    Winner, winner, chicken dinner! It's like all of a sudden the mail is moving quicker and a bunch of books I've won over the last month and a half all arrived in one week! Here's what I got and where I got them from:
    So, what arrived in your mailbox last week?

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Review - You Did It For Me by Robert Hug

    "...whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." --Matthew 25:40 (NIV)

    You Did It for Me: Friendship and Kindess by Robert Hug is a children's picture book that focuses on Christ's words above, and encourages children to practice kindness to those who are in need. It's a rather heartwarming story, and shows the simple ways that being a friend can help brighten someone's day. My copy arrived with a nice introductory letter from the author, in which he states:
    "The intention of the book is to promote the virtue of kindness, which is one of my favorite things. I wanted to explain kindness not by telling or preaching, but by using simple everyday examples of how small kindnesses can make a world of difference in the lives of others."
    This is a cute book. It is simple, inexpensive, and has a good message that I hope my kids (ages 3 and 4.5)  will take to heart. They seem to like it and have requested it several days in a row.The illustrations are colorful and cheerful, and I really appreciate the diversity of the children portrayed in the book. The target audience is children ages 4-8. The book also comes with a free audiobook download that is accessible online.

    About the author:
    Rob Hug lives near Denver, Colorado, with his wife, Dana, and their three children. Rob provides computer support to several small businesses as well as customer support for a company that protects businesses from spam. He has a degree in Computer Information Systems from Metropolitan State College of Denver as well as several computer certifications. he has been a professional "IT guy" for thirteen years and likes to write in his spare time.
    For more information, visit the book's website at

    **I was given a copy of this book in exchange for a review through LibraryThing Member Giveaways.**

    Saturday, January 9, 2010

    Eye Candy: Sing Me to Sleep

    I came across this cover while surfing the 'net and thought it was beautiful.

    Sing Me to Sleep by Angela Morrison
    Release date: March 18, 2010
    Genre: Fiction, Young Adult

    Book summary:
    Beth has always been 'The Beast' - that's what everyone at school calls her because of her awkward height, facial scars, and thick glasses. Beth's only friend is geeky, golden-haired Scott. That is, until she's selected to be her choir's soprano soloist, and receives the makeover that will change her life forever. When Beth's choir travels to Switzerland, she meets Derek: pale, brooding, totally dreamy. Derek's untethered passion - for music, and for Beth - leaves her breathless. Because in Derek's eyes? She's not The Beast, she's The Beauty. When Beth comes home, Scott, her best friend in the world, makes a confession that leaves her completely torn. Should she stand by sweet, steady Scott or follow the dangerous, intense new feelings she has for Derek? The closer Beth gets to Derek, the further away he seems. Then Beth discovers that Derek's been hiding a dark secret from her. One that could shatter everything.

    Eye Candy is a feature that was inspired by Marcia at The Printed Page and Daphne at Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff, who often post about books with eye-catching covers.

    Friday, January 8, 2010

    Friday Firsts - Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

    The first line can make or break a reader’s interest. Just how well did the author pull you in to the story with their first sentence?

    I finished Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez (ISBN: 9780061706547) a few days ago, but I wanted to feature it in Friday Firsts today. I'm going to be reviewing it on January 20 for a virtual book tour stop here.

    Here's the first line:

    "Six slaves sat in a triangle, three women, three men, the men half nestled in the sticky heat of thighs, straining their heads away from the pain of tightly woven ropes."

    I'll admit, I had a hard time understanding exactly what the first line was talking about at first. Having the words "slaves," "pain," and "ropes" in the same sentence, my mind automatically jumped to the thought that they were tied up. But after further digestion of the line (a couple of re-readings of the sentence and then continuing down the page), I realized the women were braiding the men's hair. *blush* I felt a bit foolish that I didn't get it right away. Good first sentence? I suppose. It is definitely a very descriptive sentence, which holds much promise for what is to come.

    Friday Firsts is hosted by Allison at Well-Read Reviews. For more information on how to participate in this weekly book meme, visit her site.

    Thursday, January 7, 2010

    Historical Fiction About Real-Life Figures

    I'm not really reading that much right now. It's the first week of the quarter, and this very minute I'm procrastinating. I should be working on my lecture for tomorrow, but I am looking for an excuse to put it off just a little bit longer. So, here I am, with some random thoughts about historical fiction.

    One thing I think I am coming to realize when I AM reading is that while I love historical fiction, I'm sometimes a bit leery of historical fiction based on real people's lives. Fictional characters set in historical times don't bother me much because the lines between truth and fiction are fairly clear. But when a fictional story is told about an actual person, I get a little bit nervous, especially if that fictionalization portrays the person in a different (or more scandalous) way than the standard historical record. This is probably just the history teacher in me talking, but I think I worry that some readers will not be able to pick out what is truth and what is fiction, and that the fiction will become the truth to those readers. I tend to go out and try to learn more about historical figures that I've read about to try and sort the truth from the fiction when I have questions. Certainly other readers do the same. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if historical fiction prods many readers to go out and pick up non-fiction titles to learn more about the figures they've been reading about (it's true for me, anyway).

    I am definitely NOT saying that I think writers should not fictionalize the lives of people who lived in the past. Fictionalized accounts of lives that we don't know much about are, when done right, entertaining and often incorporate real details about that person's life and the time period into the story. I think I just feel better about it when an author talks about the ways in which they have departed from the historical record in an afterword or preface. I really enjoy it when an author explains that there is some disagreement among scholars about an aspect of a person's life and that they have taken the side they think is most interesting or the side they agree with in their portrayal. I don't know, maybe it helps me to understand where that author is coming from? I know most historical fiction authors do a lot of research in their writing process, and I am always interested in hearing about that part of their process.

    Anyway, this is not a post criticizing any authors or any novels portraying historical figures, or saying that novels about historical figures should have disclaimers; it's just me giving voice to something that I've been mulling over for a week or so.

    What is your take on historical fiction about real-life figures? Do you take it for what it is--fiction--or do fictionalizations make you question what is truth and what is fiction? Does historical fiction about real-life figures become a gateway to you learning more about their lives?

    Wednesday, January 6, 2010

    Wishlist Wednesday - Darcy's Story

    This week I'm wishing for Darcy's Story by Janet Aylmer. I came across it at Costco in December and almost bought it for myself, but decided to wait since we would be spending so much on gifts in December already.

     Book Description:
    When Elizabeth Bennet first met Mr. Darcy, she found him proud, distant, and rude—despite the other ladies' admiration of his estate in Derbyshire and ten thousand pounds a year. But what was Mr. Darcy thinking?
    Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice has long stood among the most beloved novels of all time. The story of Elizabeth Bennet's blossoming romance with "haughty, reserved, and fastidious" Fitzwilliam Darcy has enchanted readers for nearly two centuries. Yet, Mr. Darcy has always remained an intriguing enigma—his thoughts, feelings, and motivations hidden behind a cold, impenetrable exterior . . . until now.
    With the utmost respect for Austen's original masterwork, author Janet Aylmer loving retells Pride and Prejudice from a bold new perspective: seeing events as they transpire through the eyes of Darcy himself. One of world's great love stories takes on breathtaking new life, and one of fiction's greatest romantic heroes becomes even more sympathetic, compelling, attractive, and accessible, all through the imagination and artistry of a truly gifted storyteller.
     So, what are you wishing for this week? 

    To find out what other bookworms are wishing for this Wednesday, visit Wishful Wednesday, hosted by The Bluestocking Guide. Also check out the On My Wishlist meme at Book Chick City

    Tuesday, January 5, 2010

    Thaw Blogsplash - Bloggers Needed!

    Fiona Robyn is going to blog her next novel, Thaw, starting on the 1st of March. The novel follows 32 year old Ruth's diary over three months as she decides whether or not to carry on living.

    To help spread the word she's organising a Blogsplash, where blogs will publish the first page of Ruth's diary simultaneously (and a link to the blog).

    She's aiming to get 1000 blogs involved and if you'd be interested in joining in, email her at or find out more information at

    Sunday, January 3, 2010

    Mailbox Monday - January 4

    Every week Marcia at The Printed Page hosts Mailbox Monday. It's a chance to share the books that came to your house last week, and to check out what other book lovers received. I always end up with several new books on my wish list after I go check out other people's mailboxes on Mondays.

    I came across several interesting books while browsing in my local Dollar Tree store. I sometimes can't believe what I find there, but it's hit and miss. Picked up a couple of copies of An Ordinary Man by Paul Rusesabagina (it's wishlisted at PBS), the man whose life inspired the film Hotel Rwanda. I've never heard anything about the other two, but they sounded interesting and I couldn't resist picking them up at a dollar a piece: Deafening by Frances Itani and Basilica, The Splendor and Scandal: Building St. Peter's by R.A. Scotti. Not so great for my teetering TBR piles, but we'll survive.

    So, what was in your mailbox last week?


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