Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wishlist Wednesday - Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire...

This week I'm wishing for a non-fiction book that I came across in December, Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization by Lars Brownworth. The cover caught my eye, and then when I saw the subject matter it really made me curious.

Book summary:
In AD 476 the Roman Empire fell–or rather, its western half did. Its eastern half, which would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire, would endure and often flourish for another eleven centuries. Though its capital would move to Constantinople, its citizens referred to themselves as Roman for the entire duration of the empire’s existence. Indeed, so did its neighbors, allies, and enemies: When the Turkish Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople in 1453, he took the title Caesar of Rome, placing himself in a direct line that led back to Augustus.

For far too many otherwise historically savvy people today, the story of the Byzantine civilization is something of a void. Yet for more than a millennium, Byzantium reigned as the glittering seat of Christian civilization. When Europe fell into the Dark Ages, Byzantium held fast against Muslim expansion, keeping Christianity alive. When literacy all but vanished in the West, Byzantium made primary education available to both sexes. Students debated the merits of Plato and Aristotle and commonly committed the entirety of Homer’s Iliad to memory. Streams of wealth flowed into Constantinople, making possible unprecedented wonders of art and architecture, from fabulous jeweled mosaics and other iconography to the great church known as the Hagia Sophia that was a vision of heaven on earth. The dome of the Great Palace stood nearly two hundred feet high and stretched over four acres, and the city’s population was more than twenty times that of London’s.

From Constantine, who founded his eponymous city in the year 330, to Constantine XI, who valiantly fought the empire’s final battle more than a thousand years later, the emperors who ruled Byzantium enacted a saga of political intrigue and conquest as astonishing as anything in recorded history.
Lost to the West is replete with stories of assassination, mass mutilation and execution, sexual scheming, ruthless grasping for power, and clashing armies that soaked battlefields with the blood of slain warriors numbering in the tens of thousands.

Still, it was Byzantium that preserved for us today the great gifts of the classical world. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, some 40,000 were transmitted to us by Byzantine scribes. And it was the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion until it was ready to take its own place at the center of the world stage. Filled with unforgettable stories of emperors, generals, and religious patriarchs, as well as fascinating glimpses into the life of the ordinary citizen,
Lost to the West reveals how much we owe to this empire that was the equal of any in its achievements, appetites, and enduring legacy.
I took an interesting Roman Empire class in college, and it sounds like this would pick up where that class left off.

What are you wishing for this week?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Review: Sugar by Bernice McFadden

Sugar by Bernice McFadden
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 229
Publication Date: January 2000
Publisher: Plume
Source: I won a signed copy from the author through a giveaway at her blog. Thank you Ms. McFadden!
Rating: 4 of 5

Book Summary:
Evoking the rich atmosphere of the deep South, Sugar tells the story of a young prostitute who comes to Bigelow, Arkansas, to start a new life. Sugar moves next door to Pearl, who is still grieving for the daughter who was murdered fifteen years before. Over sweet potato pie, an unlikely friendship begins, changing both their lives--and the life of an entire community.
In a world where happily-ever-after stories are a dime a dozen, it's nice to be able to pick up a book that portrays a more realistic world that isn't all perfect and doesn't always end syrupy-sweet. Despite what the title might lead you to believe, Sugar is not one of those syrupy-sweet books. Set in the deep South during the 1950s, it portrays the life of a prostitute as the difficult and scary life that it is. It also portrays the life of her neighbor, a mother who lost her daughter far too soon and has to live with the horror and sorrow of her murder every day. Both Sugar and Pearl have been deeply scarred by the events of their life, but these two very different women (one a church-going woman, the other a prostitute) begin to find friendship and healing together, despite the disapproving glances and comments of the other women in town.

Sugar is bittersweet. To learn the darkness of Sugar's past (thorough flashbacks) is to have a better idea of the choices she made (and was forced to make) in her life. As a mother, I really empathized with Pearl and the heartbreaking loss of her daughter. And the way the book ends was heart-wrenching too--I don't want to go into too much spoiler-y detail, but I was left wondering whether the healing they had experienced would provide them with more strength in their future journeys. I am glad to see that there is a sequel to this book because I am so very curious to see what is to become of Miss Sugar Lacey. This Bitter Earth continues Sugar's story and I hope to read it sometime this year.

As an aside, if books that contain sex and violence are not your thing, you might want to think twice about this one. It does go into Sugar's experiences as a prostitute and her feelings about it. It also describes violent and disturbing crime done both to Pearl's daughter and done to Sugar herself. I don't think the sex and violence are gratuitous (they fit in with the story and I don't think they are there to be titillating), but every person will have their own comfort levels about it. If you don't mind that this is a brutally honest depiction of two real and imperfect womens' lives, I think you will find Sugar to be a thought-provoking and vivid read.

Related Linkage:
Reading Challenges: POC Reading Challenge, Women Unbound, Twenty Ten Challenge

    Friday, March 26, 2010

    Classics Circuit Review: The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer

    The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer
    Genre: Historical Fiction, Regency Romance
    Pages: 393
    Publication Date: 1962 (I read a 2000 reprint)
    Source: Paperback Swap

    Book description:
    Sir Waldo Hawkridge, wealthy, handsome, eligible, illustrious, and known as The Nonesuch for his athletic prowess, believes he is past the age of falling in love. But when he comes north to inspect his unusual inheritance at Broom Hall in the West Riding, his arrival leads to the most entertaining of ramifications.
    I have been seeing Georgette Heyer around the blogosphere for a while now (many of her books are being re-issued with pretty new covers), and I've been meaning to give her a try. So, when I saw that the Classics Circuit had chosen Heyer for the month of March I took the opportunity to jump on board and finally read one of her books. The Nonesuch is my first Heyer book read, and it will not be my last. I now understand why her books are still popular after all of these years.

    I will admit I had a bit of trouble getting drawn into the first 50 pages or so. Heyer tends to use a lot of period slang in this book, and that slang is more evident in the first 50 pages because it mainly consists of people having conversations. The conversations set up the action that occurs later in the book but they can be difficult to wade through. Here is an example of one of the parts that made me scratch my head:
    Upon my word, Waldo, I wonder that you should bear with him as you do! Well, I was used to think him more flash than foolish, but after listening to his damned insolence today I think him the most buffleheaded clunch I ever saw in my life! If there's one person anybody but a sapskull would have taken precious care not to rub against, it's you! Good God, where does he think he'd be, if you was to abandon him? Don't tell me he hasn't cost you a small fortune, because I'm not a gapeseed! Why you didn't lose your temper and tell him he'd had his last groat from you I shall never know! (26)
    I understand the context--that the person being called all of these terms I've never heard before is being criticized--but I had to sit back and re-read the page to make sure I wasn't missing something. The slang doesn't end at page 50, but I think it's a bit less enthusiastic and difficult to understand later on. The slang is the worst in heated conversations between the male characters. From what I've read in other reviews this month, this is a common feature of Heyer's novels.

    I found myself laughing out loud at times near the end of the book. I couldn't help but laugh at Miss Trent's misunderstanding about Sir Waldo's "wretched brats"--though I was a bit uncomfortable with the terminology. And Tiffany--what a character. She was the most insufferable girl, so self-centered and oblivious to anyone else's needs or desires. As unrealistic as she seemed, I know there are people like her out there in the real world. I enjoyed the characters, even if they were a bit clichéd at times--you had the rich but grounded role model, the mooching cousin, the sweet yet overlooked minister's daughter, the beautiful but selfish popular girl, and the smart companion/governess who never meant to catch the eye of the rich man.

    I can't even fathom the amount of research that the author must have done to be able to include so much period detail in her novels. I was impressed by the details she provided of the fashion, horsemanship, manners, and speech of the time. I now know why Heyer is considered the Queen of Regency Fiction. She practically pioneered the genre and did it with such excellence that it is no wonder her books have become classics.

    So, to sum it up, The Nonesuch was hard for me to get into at first because of the period slang and lack of action, but by the end I was enchanted and looking forward to my next Heyer novel.

    To learn more about Georgette Heyer, check out the Classics Circuit page on her here (brief bio and list of books). To read more reviews of Heyer's books, check out the March Classics Circuit schedule here.

    Wednesday, March 24, 2010

    Review: The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

    The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
    Genre: Fiction with a twist of fantasy
    Pages: 288
    Publication Date: March 16, 2010
    Publisher: Bantam Books

    Book description:
    Emily Benedict came to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother’s life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren’t solved in Mullaby, they’re a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across the yard at midnight. And a neighbor, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, offering them to satisfy the town’s sweet tooth—but also in the hope of rekindling a love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily’s backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

    I have read Sarah Addison Allen's first book, Garden Spells, and I thought it was quite good. It was one of the first books that I've read to utilize magical realism--taking a fairly ordinary real-world setting and introducing bits of magic and fantasy into it. I have been hoping to pick up another of her books and was very glad to be able to participate in the virtual book tour for her newest novel, The Girl Who Chased the Moon. Based on my past experience reading Ms. Allen's work, her newest book definitely did not disappoint!

    Ms. Allen has created a mostly normal world with fantastic (but not altogether unbelievable) elements. Emily's grandfather is known as the "Giant of Mullaby," there are mysterious lights that wander the town at night (which some people believe are ghosts), and a prominent family in town refuses to go outside at night for the mysterious reason of "tradition." Emily comes to town after her mother's death knowing nothing about her mother's childhood in the town. What she learns challenges what she thought she knew about her mother.

    The other main character is Emily's neighbor, Julia. Julia is a baker, biding her time until she can leave town and return to her old life in Maryland and open her own bakery. She befriends Emily even though she had a less-than-stellar history with Emily's mother. Julia's best-laid plans do not go as expected and her revelations and realizations are quite moving.

    I really liked this book. I devoured it from cover to cover and found the magical aspects of the story to be delightful. I was also very surprised by the big secret that the prominent Coffey family had been hiding. I had made guesses about what they were hiding but I was caught by surprise when their secret was finally revealed. Bravo, Ms. Allen! I do enjoy being surprised! If you are looking for a very original and enjoyable read, this book is for you! I recommend it!

    Sarah Addison Allen’s THE GIRL WHO CHASED THE MOON VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ‘10 officially began on March 1st and will end on March 26th. You can visit Sarah’s blog stops at during the month of March 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 to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of the book.

    Tuesday, March 23, 2010

    Guest Post by Lynn Cullen, Author of The Creation of Eve

    Please join me in welcoming author Lynn Cullen to A Few More Pages today! She is the author of The Creation of Eve (on sale today!), which I reviewed yesterday (and loved), and she was so wonderful enough to field a question from me for this guest post.
    Katy kindly asks: what is the most challenging part about writing a historical fiction novel and how hard it is to write when you’ve never really experienced that time period?

    May I tell you a story in reply?

    When I was about nine years old, my aunt took me, along with my brother and her own daughter, on a daytrip to the Ohio countryside where she was born. A mother of five and a busy world-renowned composer of choral music, she had never singled me out before. In fact, I would never go on a trip with her again. But that summer day I was curious to see where Aunt Ruth and my mother and their family grew up. And so I slid into the backseat, bound for Eden, Ohio, as it was so picturesquely named.

    I was enthralled. The white clapboard family farmhouse, built in the 1800’s, had the privilege of overlooking the dirt road that divided Ohio and Indiana. A kid could throw an acorn from the front porch in Ohio and hit Indiana. Corn fields, with tasseled stalks higher than I was tall, stretched in all directions. Cows slept under a dusty oak tree (which made me think of my mother, who told me of making the mistake of riding their Bessie when she was little.)

    A stroll down the rutted road to the paved crossroad took us to their redbrick one-room schoolhouse. Through its cob-webbed windows I saw old iron and wood desks stacked up to the crumbling plaster of the ceiling. As we walked back to the car, grasshoppers sprang from the fields and latched onto our arms with their prickly legs. Otherwise, it was just us and the corn and the cows. I felt as if I had gone back in time.

    We drove the back roads to return to Fort Wayne, hitting the Dairy Queen for a Mr. Misty, what I thought then was the highlight of the trip. But Aunt Ruth didn’t take me home. She took me to her house, sat me down, and handed me a sheet of paper.

    Write about what you saw, she said.

    At first I was surprised, then annoyed. I’d had my Mr. Misty; I was ready to get back to my usual neighborhood street kickball game. But one didn’t say no to Aunt Ruth. Forced to write or miss the game, I wrote about being a girl from rural 1920’s Ohio, putting in all the sights and sounds that I’d experienced that day. After a few minutes, I forgot about kickball. I forgot about everything but writing. It didn’t hurt that when I was done, Aunt Ruth praised my work to the skies. But it would be decades before I realized the significance of that trip. It was the true beginning of my vocation for writing historical novels.

    Nowadays I don’t have to be forced or tempted with Mr. Mistys to write stories set in the distant past. It’s what I love to do, so I don’t find it hard. Time consuming, yes, and there is that extra challenge of making up a story while sticking with actual events. But that’s the fun part. I get to pick a character and read everything possible about them. I get to learn what was going on in the world at their time, what the customs and the dress were, what foods they ate, what they did on a typical day. At the same time I get to read all I can about everyone who was connected to them. And then I get to travel to the setting.

    Just like when touring Ohio with Aunt Ruth, I think about all the senses when I’m in these places. How do the mountains outside of Segovia smell? --Like moss, wet stone, and fresh piney air. What does it feel like to walk along a stream in the woods near Valsain? --The grassy ground is mushy, due to mole tunnels. What does the stone feel like of the buildings in Segovia? --Rough and chalky. It’s yellow, as is the soil. What does Castilian garlic soup taste like? --There’s a salty burst of fat on the tongue from the tiny chunks of pork, followed by the richness of poached egg yolk. How does a bird sound when trapped within the dome of the Cathedral in Toledo? --Let me tell you, there are few more heartbreaking sounds than the cries of a frantic bird echoing from cold stone piers of an ancient church.

    These pieces form a puzzle just waiting to put together. My task and my joy is to think of the story that links them together. I can’t imagine a more exhilarating game, and I’m grateful to be able to play it. Who knew that an afternoon road trip to the quiet fields of Eden, Ohio would be my start?
    Thank you so much Lynn for joining us today and giving us such a personal look into your writing process!

    About Lynn:

    Lynn Cullen is the author of the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, an ALA Best Book of 2008. Her previous award-winning novels and picture books for children include the critically acclaimed Moi & Marie AntoinetteThe Backyard Ghost, and The Mightiest Heart, for which she was named 1999 Georgia Author of the Year. An avid traveler and self-taught historian, she grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and now lives in Atlanta, Georgia. Her newest book, The Creation of Eve, is her first novel for adults. Click here to visit Lynn's website.

    Monday, March 22, 2010

    Review & Book Tour: The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

    The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen
    Genre: Historical Fiction
    Pages: 400
    Publication Date: March 23, 2010
    Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
    Rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Book Description:
    The Creation of Eve is a novel based on the true but little-known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance. After a scandal in Michelangelo’s workshop, Sofi flees Italy and joins the Spanish court of King Felipe II to be a lady-in-waiting to his young bride. There she becomes embroiled in a love triangle involving the Queen, the King, and the King’s illegitimate half brother, Don Juan. The Creation of Eve combines art, romance, and history from the Golden Age in Spain in a story that asks the question: Can you ever truly know another person’s heart?
    The Creation of Eve is an interesting book of historical fiction that takes a vivid look into both the life of a female artist in the Renaissance and the interesting lives of the Spanish court under King Felipe II from 1559 to 1568. Sofonisba was a rare and well-known female artist during the Renaissance who got a chance to study under the great Michelangelo. Most of her art consists of portraits, but some of her most charming pieces were painted of her family. One of my favorites is "The Chess Game," painted in 1555, which portrays three of her sisters (the littlest sister has the cutest smile on her face).

    It was so easy to be drawn into this artfully written novel that I had to remind myself that it was indeed fiction. Sofonisba is portrayed so realistically--mistakes and all--that I felt like I had gotten to know her personally. Ms. Cullen has obviously done a lot of research into both the life of Sofonisba and King Felipe II's family, and the Author’s Note at the end of the novel is something that I absolutely love to see in a work of historical fiction. Her Note provides a short review of Sofonisba’s life after the events portrayed in the novel, and explains what parts of the story are based on the historical record and what parts she has filled in with conjecture or fiction. I really appreciated having this reference so I could learn more about the real people behind the characters in the novel.

    This is a lovely book about a fascinating woman. I know that the “scandal” in Michelangelo’s workshop and the reasons for Sofonisba joining the Spanish court are fiction, but they were such a believable and painful series of events in the book. Sofonisba’s position in the Spanish court and her relationships within it were also finely written, bringing these members of the royal family to life. I enjoyed every page.

    If you are interested in viewing more of Sofonisba Anguissola's work, click here to see a virtual collection of some of her paintings compiled by Texas A&M Professor Pat Phillippy.

    If you'd like to read more about author Lynn Cullen, click here to visit her website. Click here to read Lynn's guest post about the challenges of writing historical fiction and time periods she has never personally experienced. It's a great post, so I hope you have a chance to check it out!

    Lynn Cullen's Creation of Eve Book Tour officially began on March 3 and will end on April 2. You can visit Lynn's blog stops at her TLC Book Tours page during the month of March to find out more about this great book and talented author.

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

    Source: Thank you to TLC Book Tours for including me as a part of this tour and to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of the book.

    Sunday, March 21, 2010

    The Future of Publishing.

    I just saw this over at The Shady Glade and just had to share with my readers. It's very thought-provoking. Thank you to DK Publishing for putting this together. :)

    P.S. Make sure you watch it all the way through!

    Friday, March 19, 2010

    Diversity Roll Call: Celebrating Women’s History

    I’ve been meaning to do this but have been too busy until now to put something together. Earlier this month, Diversity Roll Call at Color Online asked us to provide a short annotated bibliography of reference or history titles in celebration of Women’s History Month:
    Our girls and we, women, are bombarded with narrow, stifling images of ourselves. There is a lack of positive imaging. However, rather than simply complain, let us educate ourselves and take on the responsibility of promoting and supporting women. And there are those men who love and respect us who celebrate us as well so the question is, who and what should we be reading in honor of women?
    If you don't own or haven't read any reference titles, what memoirs, autobiographies or biographies do you recommend? What women's book impacted you in an indelible way? Do you have any favorite books by women about women? 
    Here are my suggestions:

    A really interesting textbook that provides a diverse and interesting look at American women's history is Major Problems in American Women's History, edited by Mary Beth Norton and Ruth M. Alexander. I know, it's a textbook and therefore ridiculously expensive (it's currently in its fourth edition), but you can find earlier used editions (I own the second edition) for a much more economical price. Anyway, I like that it covers many different issues and topics as well as provides both scholarly essays and documents written by women living during the periods being examined. It also does a nice job of incorporating into the study a diverse group of women from many different backgrounds as well.

    I admit that I have not had a chance to go through Unequal Sisters: An Inclusive Reader in US Women's History edited by Vicki L. Ruiz and Ellen Carol DuBois, but I've heard nothing but good things about it. Amazon's description says: "It provides an unparalleled resource for understanding women’s history in the United States today. When it was first published in 1990, it revolutionized the field with its broad multicultural approach, and continued, through its next two editions, to emphasize feminist perspectives on race, ethnicity, region, and sexuality." It is currently in its fourth edition (and is expensive because it is a textbook), but you can find earlier editions at more reasonable prices.

    Black Women in White America, edited by Gerda Lerner, is an anthology of rare letters, journal entries, articles and speeches by black women about themselves. In a country that has focused for so long on people who were white and male in its history, having a book that focuses on the words of black women throughout American history is refreshing and inspiring. It is nice to know that these documents are out there and have been saved and put together into one place for reference and for future generations to learn from.

    I know I've put together a short list of pretty thick books that cover a long period of time, but I thought they were interesting reference books that I wanted to share for Women's History Month.

    Thursday, March 18, 2010

    Some More Awards!

    So, I didn’t want to overwhelm you with one huge post with awards, so here’s part 2 of me catching up on my blog awards.

    Jacabur1 at Housewife Blues and Chihuahua Stories gave me the Stylish Blogger Award last week! Thank you!

    To accept the award I must share 7 things about myself and pass the award on to 5 other blogs I’ve newly discovered. Here are 7 things about myself:
    1. I recently discovered there is a name for people like me: Introvert. Hubby is more of an Extravert. LOL Opposites attract!
    2. I drive a mom-mobile: a Honda Odyssey.
    3. One of my favorite bands ever is The Beatles.
    4. This Amazon item made me laugh so hard I cried. It wasn’t just the item, it was the reviews and customer images that killed me.
    5. I joined Facebook, but I rarely go there anymore.
    6. My favorite chips: Barbecue Pop Chips
    7. My favorite cookies: Peanut butter chocolate chip.
    I’m passing this award on to:
    Kailia Sage at Reading the Best of the Best gave me the Beautiful Blogger Award last week too! :)

    The rules for accepting this award:
    1. Thank and link to the person that gave you the award.
    2. Pass this award on to 15 bloggers you've recently discovered and whom you think are fantastic
    3. Contact said Blogs to let them know they've won
    4. State 7 Things about yourself!
    Forgive me, but I’m going to use the 7 things above to count for this one too!

    I’d like to pass this award on to the following bloggers (yes, less than 15--that makes it more special):
    Thank you to the lovely bloggers who gave me these awards and thank you to everyone who visits my blog. You guys make this so much fun!

    Wednesday, March 17, 2010

    Wish List Wednesday: Happy St. Patrick's Day!

    The Wearing Of The Green Vintage Post Card

    It's Wish List Wednesday, St. Patrick's Day style! Here are a few books on my wish list with Irish characters or an Irish setting. :)

    Galway Bay by Mary Pat Kelly
    Here at last is one Irish family's epic journey, capturing the tragedy and triumph of the Irish-American experience. In a rousing tale that echoes the myths and legends of Ireland herself, young Honora Keeley and Michael Kelly wed and start a family, inhabiting a hidden Ireland where fishermen and tenant farmers find solace in their ancient faith, songs, stories, and communal celebrations. Selling both their catch—and their crops—to survive, these people subsist on the potato crop—their only staple food. But when blight destroys the potatoes three times in four years, a callous government and uncaring landlords turn a natural disaster into The Great Starvation that will kill one million. The family joins two million other Irish refugees in one of the greatest rescues in human history: the Irish Emigration to America. Honora and her unconventional sister Maire watch their seven sons as they transform Chicago from a frontier town to the "City of the Century", fight the Civil War, and enlist in the cause of Ireland's freedom. The Kelly clan is victorious. This heroic story sheds brilliant light on the ancestors of today's 44 million Irish Americans.

    Testimony of an Irish Slave Girl by Kate McCafferty
    Kidnapped from Galway, Ireland, as a young girl, shipped to Barbados, and forced to work the land alongside African slaves, Cot Daley's life has been shaped by injustice. In this stunning debut novel, Kate McCafferty re-creates, through Cot's story, the history of the more than fifty thousand Irish who were sold as indentured servants to Caribbean plantation owners during the seventeenth century. As Cot tells her story-the brutal journey to Barbados, the harrowing years of fieldwork on the sugarcane plantations, her marriage to an African slave and rebel leader, and the fate of her children--her testimony reveals an exceptional woman's astonishing life.
    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, March 16, 2010

    Trailer Tuesday - Once in a Blue Moon by Leanna Ellis

    So, I'm trying something new today--I'm going to post a book trailer. I'm thinking of doing this every so often when I come across a book trailer that I really like and want to share with my readers. This trailer is for Once in a Blue Moon by Leanna Ellis.

    About the book:
    Bryn Seymour was nine years old when her mother died under mysterious circumstances on the same day Apollo 11 made its historic lunar landing. Forty years later—divorced, working as an obituary writer, and duly cynical—she meets Howard, a conspiracy theorist who knew her mom and believes a small Texas town may hold clues to what really fueled her demise. Seeking closure, Bryn goes along for this men-in-black ride. But upon meeting Howard’s son Sam, an outspoken Christian, she can’t decide whose beliefs are more pie-in-the-sky.
    The gravity of life has pulled Bryn down for decades. But a perfect love could be her first step to soaring. It only happens once in a blue moon.
    Do you like book trailers?

    I often do like them (when they are done well), but not all readers do. Puss Reboots asked last week if you watch book trailers--click here to check out the discussion (and a trailer for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters).

    Monday, March 15, 2010

    I Feel So Fortunate…

    to have such lovely and kind readers! I received several awards over the last few weeks and it's time for me to thank everyone and send them on to some more bloggers. I’m going to give them out to just a few people, since they’re more special that way. :-)

    In January (ugh, I should have posted this one sooner!) Mrs. Q: Book Addict gave me the Blogger Buddie Award.

    This award is given to top commenters on your blog. I’m giving the award to the following bloggers:
    Lori at Some of My Favorite Books gave me the Fabulous Sugar Doll Blogger Award at the end of February.

    This award asks winners to list ten random things about themselves and pass it on to ten more bloggers. I’ll list ten random things about myself, but will only pass it on to four bloggers.
    1. I have brown eyes, hubby has blue eyes, and both of my kids (ages 4 and 3) ended up with blue eyes.
    2. We're thinking about moving back to our hometown. If this happens, I plan to apply to become a basketball coach at the (small) high school.
    3. I love maple-topped donuts. Makes me drool just to think about it.
    4. I’ve been an avid reader ever since I was a kid. When mom gave us the option of reading or taking a nap, I always read.
    5. I wish I could have a dragon friend like Temeraire or Saphira.
    6. My first job at age 16 was river raft guide.Yep, I took people on whitewater rafting trips in the summer.
    7. I got married at age 19. Our 12th anniversary is coming up in April.
    8. Hubby cooks a lot, but he’s a fireman so he gets lots of practice at work (I think he cooks better than I do).
    9. We have a Lab-German Shepherd mix dog who turns 11 this year. She was our first child. :-D
    10. My dad was a P.E. teacher, and he just retired last year. He was also my first basketball coach. His love for sports has greatly influenced my love for sports.
    I’d like to pass this one on to:
    And thank you to Daisy Mom at Gerbera Daisy Diaries for giving me the Prolific Blogger Award! :) It’s awesome!

    Here are the rules to passing along this award:

    A Prolific Blogger is one who is intellectually productive... keeping up an active blog that is filled with enjoyable content.
    1. Every winner of the Prolific Blogger Award has to pass on this award to at least seven other deserving prolific bloggers. Spread some love!
    2. Each Prolific Blogger must link to the blog from which he/she has received the award.
    3. Every Prolific Blogger must link back to this post, which explains the origins and motivation for the award.
    4. Every Prolific Blogger must visit this post and add his/her name in the Mr. Linky, so that we all can get to know the other winners. (Click here for the Mr. Linky page.)
    Since I previously received this award (in February), I’m going to accept it and pass it on to just a couple of blogs (less is more, right?).
    Thanks again to those who bestowed these awards upon my blog! I'll be posting a few more awards later this week (I didn't want to overwhelm you with one gigantic awards post).

      Sunday, March 14, 2010

      Christian Fiction Online Magazine - Box O' Books

      Last month I received a fantastic, exciting, and wonderful box of Christian fiction books from Christian Fiction Online Magazine. I won their monthly Box O' Books Giveaway!

      (Psst... You can go to either one of the links above to enter this month's giveaway.)

      Here's what came in my box:

      From top to bottom:
      1. A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling
      2. A Slow Burn by Mary E. DeMuth 
      3. Becca By The Book by Laura Jensen Walker 
      4. Raising Rain by Debbie Fuller Thomas
      5. The Fence My Father Built by Linda S. Claire 
      6. The Last Day by James Landis
      7. Love Finds You In Holiday, Florida by Sandra D. Bricker
      8. The Familiar Stranger by Christina Berry
      9. Montana Rose by Mary Connealy
      10. The Sheriff's Surrender by Susan Page Davis
      It was so exciting that I have not read (and do not own) *any* of these books, and I'm totally looking forward to reading them all! They will most likely be in my summer TBR pile!

      I wanted to send a very big thank you to Founder and Publisher Bonnie Calhoun for her kindness. I really appreciate the books and will be sharing them with my mother-in-law and my mom too. :-)

      Saturday, March 13, 2010

      What Kind of Reader Are You?

      This quiz was totally fun, and I had to laugh to find that I am almost an obsessive-compulsive bookworm!

      What Kind of Reader Are You?
      Your Result: Dedicated Reader

      You are always trying to find the time to get back to your book. You are convinced that the world would be a much better place if only everyone read more.

      Obsessive-Compulsive Bookworm
      Literate Good Citizen
      Book Snob
      Fad Reader
      What Kind of Reader Are You?
      Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

      So, what kind of reader are you? Click here to take the quiz!

      Friday, March 12, 2010

      Book Questionnaire

      Call me a follower, but several blogs in my reader were doing this questionnaire (Wordsmithonia; Truth, Beauty, Freedom, and Books; and Imagination in Focus) last week, and I just had to join in.

      Rules of this survey - no two answers can be the same book and all books must be fiction.

      Book next to your bed right now: The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer
      Favorite series: Harry Potter
      Favorite book: Persuasion by Jane Austen (note: my favorite book changes from time to time)
      The one book you would have with you if stranded on a desert island: It's hard to pick a fiction book for this category - I would rather take a Bible with me.
      Book/series you would take with you on a long flight:  Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
      Worst book you were made to read in school: Lord of the Flies by William Golding
      Book that everyone should be made to read in school: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
      Book that everyone should read, period:  Again, a hard one - I keep thinking of non-fiction autobiographies that everyone should read. Here's a fiction title that everyone should read: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
      Favorite character: Jamie Fraser in Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series
      Best villain: The Wicked Witch of the West in L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
      Favorite concept series: I'm not really sure that I understand this category, but I'll take a swing at it with The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
      Favorite invented world: Narnia
      Most beautifully written book: A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
      Funniest book: Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

      You are welcome to participate! I'd love to see what your choices would be!

      Thursday, March 11, 2010 Sale on BBC Box Set and Movie DVDs!

      I know this isn’t *technically* book related, but I got an email this week alerting me to a big BBC Box Set and Movie DVD sale going on at If you’re wanting to buy a copy of a great BBC film adaptation of a classic book, this could be your chance! 

      Prices start at $7.92 with FREE SHIPPING, and the offer ends on 3/31/10.

      (I don’t earn anything for posting about this – it’s just a good deal I saw that I wanted to pass along!)

      Wednesday, March 10, 2010

      Wishlist Wednesday - Eric Carle's Dragons Dragons

      This week I'm wishing for a children's book, and I will admit that it is sort of for me. LOL! I'm wishing for Eric Carle's Dragons, Dragons because, well, I like dragons. I think they are really neat fantasy creatures, and this book also includes "other creatures that never were." I think Carle's unique artistry probably meshes really well with this topic. And I also think the cover looks great!

      Book Summary:
      Fiery dragons, playful centaurs, the mysterious garuda, the web-footed bunyip. These and other mythological creatures abound in Eric Carle's latest creation, Dragons Dragons. In this companion volume to Animals Animals, he celebrates mythology and legends from around the world, and breathes life into the creatures that inhabit them. Illustrating poetry from such authors as Anne McCaffrey, X.J. Kennedy, Myra Cohn Livington, and John Gardner, Eric Carle invites readers of all ages to enter the fabulous world of Dragons Dragons & other creatures that never were.
      Did I mention that I really love the cover?

      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, March 9, 2010

      The Book List: Books That Take You Back to High School

      Rebecca at Lost in Books hosts The Book List. Each Tuesday she asks for three books in a certain category. Participants will post their lists and link to their posts at her site. This week's list looked like fun:

      3 Books That Take You Back to High School
      1. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck - This was my first foray into John Steinbeck.
      2. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift - I loved Jonathan Swift in high school. Besides this book we read his short story "A Modest Proposal," which was an absolutely brilliant work of satire.
      3. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer - Although this was a slog to get through, I thought the characters were fascinating. My favorite character was the Wife of Bath.
      So, what are 3 books that take YOU back to high school? Go on over to Lost in Books and join us in this week's Book List 

      Monday, March 8, 2010

      Princess Bookie's Recreate A Cover Contest!

      For some reason, I really like doing this kind of thing (I created a random pretend cover here). So here's my entry in Princess Bookie's Recreate A Cover Contest! (Click the cover to see larger version)

      (Background image: Cemetery by Josée Holland Eclipse)

      Shadow Hills by Anastasia Hopcus is being released in July 2010.

      The synopsis helps explain the choices I made for the cover (since I haven't read this book yet):
      Since her sister’s mysterious death, Persephone “Phe” Archer has been plagued by a series of disturbing dreams. Determined to find out what happened to her sister, Phe enrolls at Devenish Prep in Shadow Hills, Massachusetts—the subject of her sister’s final diary entry.
      After stepping on campus, Phe immediately realizes that there’s something different about this place—an unexplained epidemic that decimated the town in the 1700s, an ancient and creepy cemetery, and gorgeous boy Zach—and somehow she’s connected to it all.
      But the more questions she asks and the deeper she digs, the more entangled Phe becomes in the haunting past of Shadow Hills. Finding what links her to this town…might cost her her life.

      What's Coming Up?

      Over the next couple of weeks I'm going to be pretty busy with my paying job--grading essays and exams and such (I doubt I'll get any reviews done over the next week or so), but I've got a busy lineup later this month. Here's what I have scheduled:
      I'm also hoping to read and review Sugar by Bernice McFadden sometime this month or early next month. And I still need to finish The Hidden Flame by T. Davis Bunn and Janette Oke, and I want to work on Cym Lowell's Riddle of Berlin.

      My goodness, I have so many fun reads ahead of me! And this doesn't even include what I've already got scheduled for April! :-D

      Sunday, March 7, 2010 Screening Room Special: Type Matters often has really interesting features at their site. Here's one I really enjoyed, a video about fonts called Type Matters.

      Fonts. Obsessed? Couldn't care less? Either way, they affect the way that you feel about what you're reading. They're an added layer of communication that we are often unaware of. Fonts and book design add richness and character to our reading experience. And we wanted to hear from the people who spend their days focused on how to complement the work of writers published by Penguin.

      Do you have a favorite font?

      Saturday, March 6, 2010

      A Few More Links: March 6

      Woo hoo! I put together another links post before the end of the month! Shocking!

      Bernice McFadden is celebrating the release of her newest novel, Glorious, with a big book blogger contest for blogs with 50 followers or more! Her book is set "against the backdrops of the Jim Crow South, the Harlem Renaissance, and the civil rights era," and it "follows the life of Easter Venetta Bartlett, a fictional Harlem Renaissance writer whose tumultuous path to success, ruin, and revival offers a candid portrait of the American experience in all its beauty and cruelty." I've honestly been looking forward to reading this book, so I was really excited just to be able to get involved.

      • In Christian Fiction: What is Going On? My Friend Amy took a closer look at Christian Fiction - the covers, the stories, and whether CF publishers try too hard to stay within a box and don't stretch the boundaries enough. 
      So, that's what caught my attention this week in the blogosphere. I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

        Friday, March 5, 2010

        Friday Firsts: The Nonesuch by Georgette Heyer

        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 am working on reading my first Georgette Heyer novel, The Nonesuch.
        Here's the first line:

        There was a twinkle in the Nonesuch's eye as he scanned the countenances of his assembled relations, but his voice was perfectly grave, even a trifle apologetic.

        This first line has promise. The title character sounds like a charming, perhaps mischievous fellow in this first line. I'm only 88 pages into the book now, and although I've struggled a bit with some of the period slang Heyer has been using, I am enjoying the story so far.

        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, March 4, 2010

        Review: Love Your Heart by Tim McGraw & Tom Douglas

        Love Your Heart by Tim McGraw and Tom Douglas
        Genre: Children's book
        Pages: 32
        Date Published: February 2010
        Publisher: Tommy Nelson

        Book Description:
        The second book in Tim McGraw’s My Little Girl series is a heartwarming story of a little girl’s selfless act of kindness.
        Tim McGraw and songwriter Tom Douglas once again join forces to write another book about the precocious Katie and her dad. Katie has many talents, but she wonders which one will win her school’s talent show. With the help of Dad and her faithful dog Palio, and after several amusing mishaps, Katie finally chooses one talent that includes Palio. But at the talent show, she decides to drop out of the contest to help her friend, showing kindness is the best talent of all. Katie’s proud dad reassures her that she did the best thing and that while he loves many things about her, he loves her heart most of all.
        This book is adorable. Katie is a fun, realistic girl who loves to sing, juggle with her dog, and do cartwheels. And her dad is supportive and loving, even when she makes a mess. There are two main themes that I picked up on in this book: that God gives us a lot of talents, and that kindness is the best talent of them all. The story starts out fun, and then becomes really heartwarming when Katie decides to help her friend in the talent show rather than perform her own talent. A fun book for Dads and daughters to enjoy together, especially if they have a great dog like Palio.

        The story is great and the illustrations are fun as well. Abigail Marble has done a nice job in illustrating the book with warmth and feeling. The layout of the pages I thought at first would be too busy (the print is large and often in different colors and type sizes and fonts), but once you start reading it is not overwhelming. The book does have a mention of God, but it does not focus on theology or Bible stories--it weaves belief in God into the story. My daughter likes the book, but I'll admit at her age (3) it has not become a favorite, just an occasional read. Perhaps when she gets a little bit older she will request it more often.

        **I received a copy of this book for review from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through their BookSneeze book review bloggers program (for more information on my reviews, please view my disclosure policy).**

        Wednesday, March 3, 2010

        Eye Candy: Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

        I really, really like this cover. It caught my eye the first time I saw it. The woman on the cover is beautiful and I like the way the image has been made to look old on the edges (it looks like an old daguerreotype) and is set with a row of slave quarters along the bottom. Great cover--it draws me to want to read the story inside.

        Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
        Genre: Science Fiction
        Pages: 267

        Book Description:
        Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back again and again for Rufus, yet each time the stay grows longer and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana's life will end, long before it has even begun.
        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.

        Tuesday, March 2, 2010

        The Book List: 3 Best/Worst Sidekicks to a Hero

        Rebecca at Lost in Books hosts The Book List. Each Tuesday she asks for three books in a certain category. Participants will post their lists and link to their posts at her site. This week's list looked like fun:

        3 Best/Worst Sidekicks to a Hero

        I had a hard time thinking of my answers for this one, partly because I didn't want to include Harry Potter (which Rebecca already used). So, I racked my brain trying to come up with some heros and sidekicks from books I've read recently. My list ended up being 3 Best Sidekicks (couldn't think of any Worsts).

        1. Temeraire and Laurence in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series. I couldn't decide who is the sidekick and who is the hero, though--they're more like partners. This is a bit of an unusual choice, since Temeraire is a dragon, but I adore Temeraire. :-)
        2. Mansur to Adelia in Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin. He is Amelia's Arab protector who poses as a doctor in Adelia's stead (it would be scandalous for a woman to practice medicine in Medieval England) while they try to solve the mystery of who is murdering the children of Cambridge.
        3. Kahlan and Zedd to Richard Cypher in Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series (my opinion is based on having read the first 4 books in the series). I could almost call these "worst" because they sometimes do the stupidest things in hopes of helping Richard, but then end up bungling things up (mainly Kahlan LOL). But I like them all, and if they didn't have stupid moments then they wouldn't be as enjoyable to read.
        So, who are your 3 Best/Worst Sidekicks to a Hero? Go on over to Lost in Books and join us in this week's Book List

          Monday, March 1, 2010

          A Few More Pages In Wonderland Giveaway WINNER!

          After a grand total of 129 entries, I now have a winner in my A Few More Pages in Wonderland Giveaway! With the help of my handy-dandy spreadsheet and a random number generated at, the winner is:


          I've already emailed her and she has emailed me back, so the books and bookmarks will be on their way to her house by the end of the week! Congratulations Precilla!

          Thank you everyone for participating in the giveaway! It was wonderful to meet you all--both friends I've met before and new friends--and I thank you for spreading the word about the blog and my contest.
           Happy reading!

          Blogsplash! Thaw by Fiona Robyn

          Ruth's diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

          Ruth's first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.

          These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

          The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

          I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

          So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

          Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat — books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

          Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about — princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

          I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say, ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for,’ before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.

          **(FYI, Thaw is out now if you can’t wait and want a hard copy in your hands– you can buy it at  The Book Depository).


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