Friday, December 31, 2010

Book Beginnings on Friday: December 31, 2010


How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be here at A Few More Pages every Friday.

Thanks to Becky at Page Turners for starting this meme and to Rose City Reader for inspiring it!

This week I am reading Letters From Pemberley: The First Year by Jane Dawkins (ISBN: 9781402209062). It is a collection of letters, so my first line comes from the first letter, dated 3 February 1813, from Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy to Mrs. Charles Bingley:

My dear Jane,
Can it really be only several weeks since our joyful nuptials and tearful farewells?

There is just something about this time of year that has got me yearning for more Jane Austen. This book has been lovely so far, and has even got me thinking I need to re-read Pride and Prejudice again. As you can tell by the first line, this book picks up after the end of that story, and I'm feeling like I need to revisit the original so I can enjoy it all the more.

So, what is the first line of your current read, and how did you like it? Please leave the link to your specific post, not just to the front page of your blog.


  1. Rikki (The Bookkeeper)
  2. Laurel-Rain @ Snow Connections & Impressions
  3. Helen's Book Blog
  1. Kathy @ Ms. Martin Teaches Media
  2. Bev @ My Reader's Block
  3. My Beloved Book Shelves

  4. This linky list is now closed.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Giveaway to Ring in the New Year!

On the day after Christmas I went on a bit of a cleaning and organizing kick, so I've got five lightly used books here that I'd love to pass on to some lucky readers. Here are the books up for grabs:

Dining With Joy by Rachel Hauck
(A Lowcountry Romance, Book 3)
Genre: Contemporary Christian Romance

The Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello
(Book #3 of The Raleigh Harmon Series)
Genre: Christian Suspense, Mystery

Amy Inspired by Bethany Pierce
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction

Heading Home by John Robinson
Genre: Christian Apocalyptic Thriller

From the Dead by John Herrick
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
(This one is marked as a review copy)

◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊

Interested? First place wins two books from the list above, second and third place will get one book each. Entries will be accepted up until January 3 at 11:59 PM, Pacific time. You must be 13 years or older to enter. I will be sending via USPS, and am not responsible for lost or damaged mail. I am willing to send internationally, so enter away!

This Giveaway has closed.
Congratulations to the winners!

You can earn extra entries by tweeting about this giveaway, posting it on your blog, or spreading the word in some other way on the internet.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Christmas!

A Merry Christmas - Volumes of Good Wishes - Books and Holly Antique Postcard


I hope you find some great books under your tree today!
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 Art History Reading Challenge: Failed.

I signed up for a *lot* of reading challenges during 2010, and it's inevitable that I'd fail some of them.


I signed up to read three Art History books in 2010, but I only succeeded in reading one: The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen - historical fiction novel about Renaissance artist Sofonisba Anguissola. I'm a little bummed that I failed the challenge, but I still have an interest in reading historical fiction about artists and art. Hopefully I'll pick up more books on this topic in 2011.

Book Beginnings on Friday: December 24, 2010

Sorry I didn't get this up earlier today! The hustle and bustle of the season (and my daughter's bout with the stomach flu) caught me off-guard.


How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be here at A Few More Pages every Friday.

Thanks to Becky at Page Turners for starting this meme and to Rose City Reader for inspiring it!

This week, I'm reading Star Crossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce (ISBN 9780545136051). Here are the first couple of lines:

I couldn't think. My chest hurt from running, and I wasn't even sure I was in the right place.

This was an attention-grabbing beginning. It definitely has an air of desperation or fear to it. So far, this has been a pretty enjoyable read.

So, what is the first line of your current read, and how did you like it? Please leave the link to your specific post, not just to the front page of your blog.


  1. Kathy @ Inside of a Dog
  2. Bev @ My Reader's Block
  3. Marianne @ Mari Quite Contrary
  4. Snow Connections & Impressions
  1. Bonnie Jacobs @ Bonnie's Books
  2. Carin (Caroline Bookbinder)
  3. Helen's Book Blog
  4. Yvonne @ www. fiction-books. biz

  5. This linky list is now closed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Review: The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore


The Heroine's Bookshelf: Life Lessons, from Jane Austen to Laura Ingalls Wilder by Erin Blakemore
Genre: Non-Fiction, Literary Criticism
Pages: 224
Publication Date: November 2010
Publisher: Harper
Source: Crazy Book Tours
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Book Description (from the book website):
An exploration of classic heroines and their equally admirable authors, The Heroine’s Bookshelf shows today’s women how to tap into their inner strengths
and live life with intelligence and grace.
Jo March, Scarlett O’Hara, Scout Finch—the literary canon is brimming with  intelligent,  feisty, never-say-die heroines and celebrated female authors. Like today’s women, they placed a premium on personality, spirituality, career, sisterhood, and family. When they were up against the wall, authors like Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott fought back—sometimes with words, sometimes with gritty actions. In this witty, informative, and  inspiring read, their stories offer much-needed literary intervention to modern women.
 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
"Reading books used to be just as transgressive as writing them. After all, good books sow the seeds of future actions. They feed us when we get divorced, walk out on jobs or unequal relationships, raise uppity daughters, and demand our due. They comfort us when we're lonely and give us the words we crave. Don't we owe the women who dared to provide them a bit of our undivided attention?" (xvii)
The Heroine's Bookshelf explores twelve themes and the novel heroines that exemplify those themes. From Lizzy Bennet in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice to Mary Lennox in Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Secret Garden, the reader gets to know not only each of the twelve heroines, but their authors as well. Each chapter focuses on a theme, among them Self, Faith, Fight, and Magic, and explains how each author and her heroine demonstrate each of these life lessons. For book lovers, The Heroine's Bookshelf is a rapturous exploration of the books we've enjoyed reading in our growing up years (and after) and the books we haven't read yet but clearly need to.

I really enjoyed this book. The way that Ms. Blakemore discusses each book and author with such respect, while staying light-hearted at the same time... well, it all just came together in a lovely way. After reading the first chapter (on Lizzy Bennett in Pride and Prejudice), I happily sighed and hugged the book--something I haven't done to a book in a long time! Some of the other chapters didn't provoke the same reaction, but they were very interesting and inspired me to add several more books to my TBR list. For example, I have been meaning to read Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, but after reading Blakemore's chapter on how the book demonstrates Faith, I am even more motivated to dive into it in the coming year. Also, I had never really been that interested in reading Margaret Mitchell's Gone With The Wind, but after reading Ms. Blakemore's chapter on how it taught her that defeat is not an option, I am very intrigued to pick it up.

This was such a delightful and interesting book, and it has opened doors to books that hadn't really been on my radar before, but that now will make their way onto my TBR pile. It also helped me to revisit and see in a new light some of the books I've read and loved in the past. I would highly recommend this book to any female book lover, regardless of whether or not she has read any or all of the books profiled in it. It was great fun to read, and if you're looking for that perfect last-minute Christmas gift, The Heroine's Bookshelf would be a fantastic surprise for any book lover to find under the tree.

Related Linkage:





Reading Challenges: Everything Austen II

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The TwentyEleven Challenge!


I squealed with delight when I saw that Darren at Bart's Bookshelf is hosting another fun category challenge this year! His TwentyTen Challenge was a blast, so here I am gleefully signing on for the TwentyEleven Challenge!
So, the challenge becomes TwentyEleven and therefore the requirement will be a total of  20 books from 11 categories, this means there will be a slight changes to the rules though.

Rather than read 2 books in every category, you will need to read a minimum of 1 and a max of 2 in each. (Essentially meaning you can choose two categories where you only need to read one book.)

As always though, the categories are intended to be loose guidelines only, if you decide it fits, then it fits! ;)
The only other things I think you need to know are:
  • Each book can only qualify for one category.
  • Crossovers with other challenges are allowed.
  • Books read from 01/01/2011 to 31/12/2011 are eligible.
And the categories for TwentyEleven are:
  1. To YA or not YA…
    Okay, this one works like this… Tend to read more Young Adult than Adult Fiction books then read one or two adult fiction titles, vice-versa if you don’t tend to read much Young Adult.
  2. …With a Twist.
    This one focuses on sub-genres, read a lot of chick-lit, then try a paranormal romance! Fantasy? Why not give some Steampunk a go, like a bit of Space-Opera in your Sci-Fi then pick up a military Sci-fi book. Like your Contemporary Literature, give a Young Adult Contemporary a chance. Well hopefully you get the idea!
  3. Hot off the Presses.
    Read a book published (in your country) in 2011? Then it counts for this category.
  4. It Wasn’t Me! (aka Bad Bloggers*)
    Books in this category, should be ones you’ve picked up purely on the recommendation of another blogger count for this category (any reviews you post should also link to the post that convinced you give the book ago).
    * Bad Bloggers: Is hosted by Chris of Stuff as Dreams are Made on.
  5. Show it Who is Boss!
    Tackle that overflowing T.B.R. pile! Books for this category must be already residents of your bookshelves as of 1/12/10.
  6. Bablefish.
    Read books that are translated from a language that is not your own.
  7. Will-Power? What Will-Power? (aka: The Henry Ward Beecher Memorial.)
    You know that quote I have in my blog-header… “Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?” Recognise yourself in it? Then this is the one for you! Bought a book NEW during 2011? Then it counts for this category. Second-hand books do not count for this one, but, for those on book-buying bans, books bought for you as gifts or won in a giveaway also count.
  8. Mind the Gap.
    Need just one more book to compete that duology/trilogy/series then read it for this one! (Obviously as this is for that final book you need to complete it, then you can’t read two books from the same series! And it clearly can’t be your first or penultimate read!)
    Because not everyone reads a series in order, this is for the last book you need to read, not necessarily the last book in the series…
  9. Back in the Day.
    Re-read an old favourite or two for this category.
  10. Way Back When.
    Read books that were published before you were born for this one, whether that be the day before or 100 years prior!
  11. Slim-Pickings
    Got a novella you want to read? Then this one is the one for you! Any books between 90-150 pages count.
I'll keep track of my list in this post.
  1. To YA or not YA…
    May by Kathryn Lasky
    The False Princess by Eilis O'Neal

  2. …With a Twist.
    The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin
    The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier

  3. Hot off the Presses.
    The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld
    These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf

  4. It Wasn’t Me! (aka Bad Bloggers*)
    Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves (thanks to Ari at Reading in Color)
    Shadows on the Stars by T.A. Barron (thanks to Amelia at Imagination in Focus)

  5. Show it Who is Boss!
    The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent
    North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

  6. Bablefish.
     
  7. Will-Power? What Will-Power?
    Christmas at Harrington's by Melody Carlson

  8. Mind the Gap.
    Fiddler's Green by A.S. Peterson

  9. Back in the Day.
     
  10. Way Back When (pre 1978!).
    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
    Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

  11. Slim-Pickings
    The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball by Donita K. Paul
Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction, Romance
Pages: 226
Date Published: October 2010
Publisher: Waterbrook Multnomah
Source: I received a free review copy of this book through the Waterbrook Multnomah Blogging for Books program.
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Back of the cover blurb:
In a sleepy, snow-covered city, Cora Crowder is busy preparing for the holiday season. As she searches for a perfect gift, a fortuitous trip to Warner, Werner, and Wizbotterdad's (a most unusual bookshop) leads to an unexpected encounter with co-worker Simon Derrick. And the surprise discovery of a ticket for a truly one-of-a-kind Christmas Ball.
Every year, the matchmaking booksellers of the Sage Street bookshop host an enchanting, old-fashioned Christmas Ball for the romantic matches they've decided to bring together.
This year, will Simon and Cora discover a perfect chemistry in their opposite personalities and shared faith? Or will the matchmakers' best laid plans end up ruining everything this holiday?
 ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

This book is truly a magical experience. Cora Crowder is looking to discover the magic of Christmas. She's been searching for it for years, especially since her childhood definitely did not provide a good example in that area. She volunteers to help at homeless shelters, she buys her family gifts, she sings with her church choir, but she never really feels the Christmas spirit. Then one day she bumps into Simon Derrick at a quaint old bookshop. Simon is her boss's boss--a serious and formal man who she's never really gotten to know in her five years at her job. And then they seem to cross paths repeatedly. They get to know each other and they both begin to let down their guard.

While Cora lives alone with her cat, Simon lives with his extended family. After his father died, he became the breadwinner. Simon has a lot of responsibilities, and he has kept his personal life separate from his work life. But getting to know Cora and watching her become friends with his sister (who has Down Syndrome) has changed things.

The budding romance does run into some bumps in the road when Cora's untrustworthy sister shows up at her doorstep. Her arrival creates tension and disagreement between Cora and Simon. It also is the one thread of the story that gave me some trouble. How should a Christian react in their situation? I was left in the end not really knowing what the right steps would be in dealing with a manipulative and thieving family member. I kind of wish a stronger statement had been made in that part of the storyline, but it didn't detract too much from my enjoyment of the story.

This book has a magical undercurrent running through it. The main characters (and the reader) are never quite sure if Sage Street is real. There are many references to Wizards, and it is pointed out that "the Anglo-Saxon term 'wizard' simply refers to older, wise people, as in 'wizened'" (108). Regardless of the explanation, some Christian readers won't like the magic or the fantasy aspect of this novel. I quite enjoyed it, though. I think this is the closest thing to magical realism I've seen in a Christian fiction book, and I think Ms. Paul did a fine job of it.

Two Tickets to the Christmas Ball was like one of those surprise presents you find under the tree that turns out to be an unexpected treasure after you open the wrapping. If you're looking for a Christmas romance with a dose of Christian themes and a twist of magic, this book is for you!



Related Linkage:
Reading Challenges: 2010 Holiday Reading Challenge

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    My Thoughts on the 1971 BBC version of Jane Austen's Persuasion



    My mom bought this film for me as part of a set of BBC Jane Austen adaptations last Christmas. The only other film adaptation of Persuasion (my favorite Austen novel!) I've seen so far is the 1995 version, which I thought was OK. I have the newer film (2007) here on DVD too, which I'm planning to watch next.

    This version was a mini-series that aired in 1971. It stars Anne Firbank as Anne Elliot and Bryan Marshall as Captain Wentworth. I must admit that I liked this version! Sure, the costumes seemed a bit, well, early-seventies-influenced (whew some of those prints were bright!), but I liked that it followed the novel so closely. The film turned out to be about four hours long, but it was a miniseries of two episodes so it wasn't necessarily designed to watch all in one sitting.

    Things I liked: As I already mentioned, I liked that the film followed the novel so faithfully. The dramatic changes that were made didn't stand out that much to me, and I couldn't think of anything specifically important that was left out. I liked the way that the characters were portrayed, for the most part. Anne was prettier than she is often portrayed in film, but she also looked older than the 27 year-old character in the book (those wrinkles around Ms. Firbank's eyes threw me off). Anne's father and sister Elizabeth were a bit more subtlely portrayed than in the 1995 version, though you definitely get a feeling for how ridiculous and vain they are the more they are on screen (I laughed out loud at Admiral Croft's comments on the sheer number of mirrors in Kellynch Hall, and them again when Charles Musgrove makes the same kind of observation when he visits the Elliots at Bath). Bryan Marshall was a fabulous choice for Captain Wentworth--he was much livelier and expressive than the way he was portrayed by CiarĂ¡n Hinds in 1995, and handsome too.

    Things I didn't like: Louisa Musgrove was a total ninny. She was giggly and loud and just plain annoying in every scene--I had a very hard time understanding how anyone would find her interesting! There were also various places in this film that I fast-forwarded through because they were just too slow-moving. This mainly involved watching horse-drawn carriages start moving on a journey and come to the end of a journey. The long walk was also annoyingly long and uninteresting when it featured no talk and all walk. The hairstyles were a bit large (again I think influenced by the year the film was made) and the colors in the costumes a bit bright for my taste, but those were easy to overlook when I really got drawn into what was going on. One last thing that surprised me--there was no dramatic background music in this film. When these long walks or wordless carriage scenes were taking place, most modern films I think would have some kind of music to fill the silence. The only music I noticed was the score at the beginning and end credits and the music Anne played on the piano at various points in the film.

    In the end, I'm quite glad that I finally sat down to this film. It was a lovely adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion. If you decide to watch it I would recommend keeping your remote control nearby, though, to speed up some of the long walking and horse-and-carriage scenes.

    Related Linkage:
    I'm reviewing this film as part of the Everything Austen II Challenge.

    2010 POC Reading Challenge Wrap-Up


    So, after failing to read *any* books by authors of color in 2009, I made it my goal to read 10-15 books by or about persons of color in 2010. I met that challenge at 13 books, 8 of which were written by authors of color. It was a big improvement, and I'm so glad I took on this challenge! I like reading books with diverse characters and written by authors from diverse backgrounds. I'm really looking forward to this challenge again in 2011--if you're interested, just click the button above. The Challenge is taking new sign-ups for the coming year.

    My two favorite books from my list below were Shanghai Girls by Lisa See and Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez.

    Completed:
    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)

    Saturday, December 18, 2010

    Review: The Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello

    The Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello
    (Book #3 of The Raleigh Harmon Series)
    Genre: Christian Suspense, Mystery
    Pages: 325
    Date Published: March 2010
    Publisher: Thomas Nelson
    Source: I received a free review copy of this book as part of a LitFuse Book Tour.
    Rating: 4 of 5 stars

    Book Description (from the author's website):
    Forensic geologist Raleigh Harmon returns to her hometown of Richmond, Virginia and discovers nothing is quite what it seems in this former Capital of the Confederacy...
    Although her exemplary service in Seattle lifted her disciplinary transfer, Raleigh lands a hometown civil rights case riddled with problems that could get her sent away again. When she helps out a fellow cop, her life goes on the line, forcing her undercover in a sting operation. As Raleigh realizes the lines are crossing and double-crossing, her domestic life starts to unravel. Her mother's mental health cracks like ice, her closest friend grows cold, and her old boyfriend DeMott comes a-calling, hoping for more than chestnuts by an open fire.
    While the city glows with Christmas lights and carols, Raleigh is forced to rely on her sharpest skills to stay alive, hoping for that one clear moment when everything makes sense and the clouds roll away.
    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Raleigh Harmon is an FBI agent returning home just in time for the holidays. Her first assignment is to investigate a hate crime at a rap mogul's estate--a cross-burning that turns out to be much more complicated than it appeared at first. There is a lot of tension at Raleigh's office, since her boss keeps her on a short leash and finds an assortment of ways to punish her for something that happened in a previous book. Meanwhile, Raleigh's mother is acting strangely and her former boyfriend keeps turning up wherever she goes.

    This novel was interesting and suspenseful, investigating a criminal organization at the same time it touched on themes of racism, family, and sacrifice. Raleigh is focusing on the one hate crime case, but she has several mysteries (job-related and personal) that she's trying to figure out. The way everything came together at the end was satisfying. I also thought the author's writing style was wonderfully descriptive. The first page drew me in with its picturesque words and then the mystery grabbed me and wouldn't let me go.

    I quite enjoyed The Clouds Roll Away. It had a lot of unexpected twists and I was never quite sure what would happen next. This is book 3 of the series (which starts with The Stones Cry Out). This was my first time reading Sibella Giorello, and although I wasn't too lost while reading this book, I suggest that the series be read in order. I would have understood the relationships in this novel a lot more easily if I had done so. The faith aspect of this story is subtle and would be great for those who don't like their fiction too preachy. This is definitely a series that I want to read more of, and I'm looking forward to reading the first two books in the series as well as book 4, The Mountains Bow Down, due out in 2011.


    The Clouds Roll Away KINDLE Giveaway


    Related Linkage:
    Reading Challenge: 2010 Holiday Reading Challenge

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Book Beginnings on Friday: December 17, 2010


    How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be here at A Few More Pages every Friday.

    Thanks to Becky at Page Turners for starting this meme and to Rose City Reader for inspiring it!

    My current read is The Clouds Roll Away by Sibella Giorello (ISBN 9781595545343). My review will be up tomorrow as part of a blog tour. Here are the first few lines--I couldn't resist including more because they are so wonderfully descriptive:

    Winter rode into Richmond on the chattering breath of the Atlantic. Each year the season blew itself into existence. The ancient elms crystallized and frost crocheted the birches into lace doilies. On this particular December morning, with a bright sun overhead, I drove out New Market Road past fields that glistened like crushed diamonds.

    I can just imagine the scenery. I really liked these first lines because they were so picturesque. It's almost poetic. I was rather surprised--I didn't expect these first lines from a mystery/suspense novel.

    So, what is the first line of your current read, and how did you like it? Please leave the link to your specific post, not just to the front page of your blog.


    1. Dutchie @ Bookish Ardour
    2. Kathy @ Inside of a Dog
    3. Laurel-Rain @ Snow Connections & Impressions
    4. Carin (Carolina Bookbinder)
    5. Helen's Book Blog
    6. The Book Project
    1. Redd @ Unbroken Wyld
    2. Bev @ My Reader's Block
    3. Anne @ headfullofBooks
    4. everything distils into reading
    5. My Beloved Bookshelves
    6. This linky list is now closed.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Review: Amy Inspired by Bethany Pierce

    Amy Inspired by Bethany Pierce
    Genre: Contemporary Christian Fiction, Literary Fiction
    Pages: 318
    Date Published: October 2010
    Publisher: Bethany House
    Source: I received a free review copy of this book through the Bethany House Book Reviewers Program.
    Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars
    Back Cover Blurb:
    Amy Gallagher, aspiring writer, has an unabashed obsession with words. She gave up a steady, albeit unexciting, job to pursue a life of writing. However, two years and one master's degree later, she finds herself almost exactly right back where she started. Discouraged by the growing pile of rejections from publishers and afraid that she has settled, Amy knows something has to change.
    Then she meets the mysterious, attractive, and unavailable Eli. Amy finds herself struggling to walk the fine line between friendship and something more with Eli, even as she tries to cope with the feeling that her friends and family are moving on without her. When the unexpected begins pouring in, Amy doubts the love and fulfillment she seeks will ever come her way. Forced to take a close look at who she has become, the state of her faith, and her aspirations for her life, she must make a choice: play it safe yet again or finally find the courage to follow her dreams.
     ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Amy Inspired reads more like literary fiction, and in my (admittedly limited) experience, I don't come across many Christian Fiction novels like this. I marked numerous pages in this book with little sticky tabs that had passages that particularly moved me or seemed especially insightful. Ms. Pierce definitely has a way with words. Here is an example. When asked whether she believes in heaven, this was main character Bethany's reply:
    Of course I said yes. But in moments when I really considered my faith I was sometimes alarmed by all of it--by what odd and miraculous things Christians believe. I pushed my plate aside, crossed my elbows on the table. "This will seem off-topic, but I've always been fascinated by science--anatomy, quantum physics, space and time theory. I don't understand these things, but the mystery is a part of what attracts me to them.
    That the world I live in now is complex beyond my understanding only encourages me to believe that there are wild possibilities in creation beyond even the things of this dimension of time and space. If this universe has alternate dimensions outside of our understanding, isn't it possible that we might exist in a life beyond this one, in another kind of dimension that is fuller and more alive than the one we know?"
    I loved this musing on heaven--and the admission that sometimes she was alarmed by the "odd and miraculous things" that Christians believe--I'd be lying to say that I've never felt the same way at times. This was just an example of some of the passages that grabbed me. I posted some of my favorite quotes from this book on my new Tumblog, so click here if you want a taste.

    The story takes some time to develop. Amy seems to bumble around trying to find inspiration and answers for a long time, but the way it happens feels authentic. Too often in novels the action is so steady and the characters so decisive and sure that sometimes it feels unrealistic. In real life, we fumble around while we try to get our feet under us to move forward. That's the way it felt with Amy.

    Amy's artist friend Eli is not your typical romantic interest. He doesn't pursue Amy because he is in a (rocky) relationship already. They don't have particularly romantic moments--many of their moments are quite awkward as they try not to get too close--but you can see them draw closer to each other over time, even through mistakes and confusion. Eli is an interesting character--sensitive and quietly appealing--but not the kind of guy that most women readers would necessarily pine for. He doesn't sound like my type at all, but his quiet presence seems to be just what Amy needs.

    When I first started reading the book I had mixed feelings. I didn't connect with Amy right away (though I definitely sympathized with her adjunct professor gig--I just finished grading final exams, yay!). As I read, though, the way Amy mused about her faith and her life drew me in. Ultimately, this book had a quiet dignity that resonated with me. I really liked it, and I think anyone who aspires to be a writer (or who has ever struggled with finding inspiration in a life that has begun to feel stale) would particularly enjoy this story.

    Related Linkage:

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Time Travel Reading Challenge 2011

    I'm joining the Time Travel Reading Challenge, hosted by Alyce from At Home With Books. It's really simple--here are the rules:
    Decide how many time travel books you want to read and then read them before the end of 2011 - that's it! (The challenge goes from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011.)
    I really enjoy books that feature time travel. I'm aiming for 6 books in this challenge. I'll keep track of them in this post.

    Completed:

    Sunday, December 12, 2010

    POC Reading Challenge - 2011



    I'm continuing my dedication to reading more books by and about persons of color in the new year. I succeeded in reading 13 books for this challenge in 2010, so for 2011 I am aiming to read at least 15 books by or about persons of color. I am helping Pam and Ari out with the challenge again in 2011, so I hope you'll join us!

    Here are a few books I've got on my radar for the coming year (and/or on my TBR):

    Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie
    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
    This Bitter Earth by Bernice McFadden
    Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
    Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man by Claudia Mair Burney
    The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
    Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon
    Kindred by Octavia Butler
    Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
    The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. LeGuin
    Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
    Peony in Love by Lisa See
    The Bonesetter's Daughter by Amy Tan
    The Invisible Line by Daniel J. Sharfstein

    My list is a bit more manageable and focused this year. Last year's list was a bit overwhelming. I'll keep track of my books read in this post.
    1. The Invisible Line by Daniel J. Sharfstein
    2. Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda
    3. Bleeding Violet by Dia Reeves 
    4. The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin
    5. Black, White, Other by Joan Steinau Lester 
    6. The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison 
    7. The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier 

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    I'm Joining the What's in a Name Challenge 4!


    I really enjoy challenges with categories (like the Twenty Ten Challenge) so I decided to jump in and participate in the What's in a Name 4 Challenge, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.

    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    Here's How It Works

    Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:
    1. A book with a number in the title: First to Die, Seven Up, Thirteen Reasons Why
    2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Diamond Ruby, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Opal Deception
    3. A book with a size in the title: Wide Sargasso Sea, Small Wars, Little Bee
    4. A book with travel or movement in the title: Dead Witch Walking, Crawling with Zombies, Time Traveler's Wife
    5. A book with evil in the title: Bad Marie, Fallen, Wicked Lovely
    6. A book with a life stage in the title: No Country for Old Men, Brideshead Revisited, Bog Child
    The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

    Other Things to Know
    • Books may be any form (audio, print, e-book).
    • Books may overlap other challenges.
    • Books may not overlap categories; you need a different book for each category.
    • Creativity for matching the categories is not only allowed but encouraged.
    • You do not have to make a list of books before hand.
    • You do not have to read through the categories in any particular order.
    ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

    I'll keep track of my books in this post.
    1. A book with a number in the title: The Secret Lives of the Four Wives by Lola Shoneyin
    2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: 
    3. A book with a size in the title: Little Black Dress by Susan McBride
    4. A book with travel or movement in the title: Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
    5. A book with evil in the title: The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
    6. A book with a life stage in the title: Lady in Waiting by Susan Meissner

      Friday, December 10, 2010

      Classics Circuit Review: "The Two Heroines of Plumplington" by Anthony Trollope

      "The Two Heroines of Plumplington" - a novella by Anthony Trollope
      From The Two Heroines of Plumplington and Other Stories
      Genre: Classic Literature
      Pages: 58
      Date Published: 1882 (I read a 1981 reprint)
      Publisher: The Folio Society Ltd.
      Source: My local library
      Rating: 3 of 5 stars

      Story Description (from The Trollope Society website):
      Mr. Greenmantle, the bank manager at Plumpington, had a daughter Emily, who was in love with Philip Hughes, cashier at the bank. The banker, a thorough snob, objected to Philip as a son-in-law because he was not his social equal and had no money. On a lower plane a similar situation had developed in the home of Hickory Peppercorn, the local brewer. Jack Hollycombe, a malt salesman, loved Polly Peppercorn, but her father thought she could do better....Both girls had the sympathy and understanding of the village rector, the Rev. Dr. Freeborn, who invited both families and the two suitors to a Christmas dinner, and succeeded in creating such a warm spirit of friendliness that he soon after performed both wedding ceremonies.
      ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

      This story focuses on two women who are determined to marry for love and must convince their disapproving fathers to support them in their decision. Both young ladies are only children, and are clearly well-loved by their fathers. Unfortunately, their fathers think the men they've chosen aren't good enough for them, so they refuse to go along with their daughters' wishes. Polly Peppercorn wears down her father by putting away her pretty dresses and treating people like they are of a higher class than she is, telling her father that if he will not support her wishes (and give her intended husband the allowance he was refusing to give) then she must learn to live at a lower standard of living as Jack's wife. Emily Greenmantle wears down her father after she stops eating and becomes sickly. Both young ladies have the sympathy of Dr. Freeborn, who does what he can to put in a good word on their behalf with their fathers when he sees them. Eventually the women are successful in winning over their fathers and they all celebrate a lovely Christmas dinner together--fathers, daughters, and future sons-in-law all.

      I enjoyed this story to a certain extent, but it was a bit dry for my taste. I've never read Trollope before and I wasn't really sure what to expect, but this story just didn't grab me. There wasn't very much action--much of the story consisted of conversation and planning--and I had a hard time staying interested. I think part of the problem was that I never really connected with the characters. These girls were well-off and both claimed they would be willing to marry without their fathers' financial support, but their actions to win over their fathers didn't win me over. Sure, I thought their fathers had silly reasons for not supporting their wishes for marriage, but I also felt like the girls' actions were not that heroic. In order to get what they wanted, Polly wore boring dresses and Emily made herself sick. I think part of my ambivalence to the story is that I am of a different generation, and I just didn't get it. It seemed manipulative, but who am I to judge? Women didn't have as much freedom of choice then as we do today.

      So, alas, this story didn't rock my world, but I'm always willing to give an author a second try. Is there a book by Anthony Trollope that you, my friendly readers, would recommend for this Trollope newbie?

      Related Linkage:

      Book Beginnings on Friday: December 10, 2010


      How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be here at A Few More Pages every Friday.

      Thanks to Becky at Page Turners for starting this meme and to Rose City Reader for inspiring it!

      This week I'm reading The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore (ISBN 9780061958762). Here's the first line of the introduction:

      In times of struggle, there are as many reasons not to read as there are to breathe.

      Of course, the next few lines explain why the author feels it is so important for her to read in times of struggle. I liked it. It set the stage well for what is to come.

      And since I loved the first chapter so much, here's the first line of that:

      It is a truth universally acknowledged that going back on a proposal of marriage isn't the best way to start the day.

      This line is wonderfully fun, especially since the first chapter focuses on Jane Austen and her Pride and Prejudice heroine, Lizzy Bennet. I'll admit that when I finished the first chapter I happily sighed and hugged the book.

      So, what is the first line of your current read, and how did you like it? Please leave the link to your specific post, not just to the front page of your blog.


      1. Brooks @ Literary Brooks
      2. Helen's Book Blog
      3. Lady Q: Across the Universe
      4. Laurel-Rain @ Snow Connections & Impressions
      5. Kathy @ Ms. Martin Teaches Media
      6. Redd @ Unbroken Wyld
      7. Carin (Caroline Bookbinder)
      8. Bev @ My Reader's Block
      1. Bonnie Jacobs @ Bonnie's Books
      2. Kasumi @ . . Resumiendo. .
      3. Christina (Babbling Book Reviews)
      4. Rose City Reader
      5. Pagesofjulia
      6. This linky list is now closed.

      Thursday, December 9, 2010

      Review: Contagion by Joanne Dahme

      Contagion by Joanne Dahme
      Genre: YA Historical Fiction, Suspense
      Pages: 399
      Date Published: October 19, 2010
      Publisher: Running Press
      Source: Star Book Tours
      Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

      Book Description (from the publisher):
      Rose Dugan is a young and beautiful woman living in Philadelphia in the late 19th century passionate about keeping Philadelphia’s water reservoir clean and healthy. But when Rose starts receiving threatening letters, warning her to convince her husband to shut down his plans for a water filtration system or else, things take a turn for the worse. A conspicuous murder and butting heads cause Rose to search for the culprit, the truth, and a way to keep the people of Philadelphia safe from contagion in more ways than one.
      ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

      Most of the important action of this book takes place at the Fairmount Water Works in Philadelphia--the characters go home and to other locations in the city, but Fairmount is the most important place to the story. But really, why not? The location is beautiful, and Ms. Dahme portrays that beauty quite ably. Here's an 1842 watercolor of the place we're talking about:


      Isn't it pretty? I wish I could see it in person.

      The story takes place at a time when typhoid is a very real fear. Most of the characters in the story have lost at least one family member to the disease. Rose Dugan's contractor husband Patrick wants to build filtration plants for the city to help clean the water. Sean Parker, who works at Fairmount, wants the existing sewage regulation laws to be enforced so that his Water Works isn't abandoned. The struggle between those who are in favor of expensive filtration plants and those who are against it takes on special meaning for Rose, who begins to receive threatening letters telling her to convince her husband to stop pursuing city contracts for filtration plants. When her best friend is murdered at the Water Works, Rose is convinced that it wasn't just an accident. In the midst of this turmoil is the reality of Philadelphia politics, which is filled with dishonest politicians and a corrupt Republican party machine.

      The idea of this book really captured my imagination. When the spectre of possibility that typhoid might be used as a weapon was raised in this book, I was riveted. What an interesting idea, and the execution of that part of the story was thrilling. Ms. Dahme's expertise as a Watersheds Programs Manager for the Philadelphia Water Department really shines through. There were some great passages in this story that really kept my attention and made me want to read more.

      Unfortunately, other parts of the book were not as exciting. There were a few things that didn't really work for me in Contagion. First, the story is told in a dual-first-person narrative, from the point of view of the heroine, Rose Dugan, and Sean Parker, who works at the Fairmount Water Works and turns out to be our hero. I didn't really like this kind of narration in this instance--it took me a while to get used to the changing points of view. Second, some of the Water Works details were tedious, most notably in Sean's first chapter. I understand the need to provide some background information on the most important location to the story, but it was a bit overwhelming to start with when I was just trying to get used to the dual-first-person narrative.

      Probably what most annoyed me, though, was that as a character Rose was a bit unbelievable. **SPOILER ALERT** I know she is young and that she idealizes her handsome husband, but she was way too easily convinced of his explanations for everything. Anytime she voiced suspicion he had an easy reply, and she always believed him. I thought he was shady from the very beginning and yet she placed all of her trust in him right up until he locked her in a mausoleum. I kept wondering why such a smart girl would not be more suspicious of him with all of the clues she kept uncovering and questioning him about. She was just so wishy-washy with him--she wanted so badly to believe him that she turned a blind eye to his nefariousness. But that made the story frustrating for me--I figured out what was going on very early and had to wait too long for Rose to open her eyes to it. **END OF SPOILERS**

      My favorite characters in the story ended up not being the the two main characters in the story (Rose and Sean) but were several of the supporting characters. Julian worked for the Dugans--he often drove Rose around town and made sure she was safe. He was one of my favorites because Rose could always depend on him. My other two favorites were Detective Buchanan and Officer Russo, the two men who investigated Rose's best friend's death and helped uncover the conspiracy regarding the city's water supply. They were surprisingly free from corruption and had some funny parts in the story.

      Contrary to how it might sound, I did like this book. I thought it could have been executed better without the dual-first-person narrative and with a more believable heroine, but overall I liked the suspense aspect and the premise. I have a special interest in water issues (one of my research interests in graduate school) and that aspect of the story really captured my imagination. If you like historical fiction and suspense, and find late 19th century politics interesting, you would probably really enjoy this book. But if you don't like dual-first-person narratives or get bored quickly with too much description, you might have a really hard time getting past the second chapter.

      Related Linkage:

      Tuesday, December 7, 2010

      Sunday, December 5, 2010

      Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge 2011



      I'm joining the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge (hosted by Book Chick City) again. I loved it this year and am looking forward to it for the coming year. The challenge calls for participants to read 12 Mystery & Suspense books in 2011. There are monthly prize drawings for those who link up their reviews, and there is even a book prize from Simon and Schuster UK for everyone who signs up for the challenge: The Survivor by Sean Slater.

      I've got a lot of books that could fit in this challenge on my TBR shelves, so here's a tentative list of some of the books I'd like to read in the coming year:
      • The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee
      • Among Thieves by David Hosp
      • First the Dead by Tim Downs
      • Indian Killer by Sherman Alexie
      • The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
      • Murder, Mayhem, and a Fine Man by Claudia Mair Burney
      • Murder on Nob Hill by Shirley Tallman
      • Widows and Orphans by Susan Meissner
      • Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie
      I'll keep track of what I've read on this post.

      Completed:
      1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
      2. The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld
      3. The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear
      4. A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr 
      5. The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer 
      6. The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy 
      7. The Hypnotist by M.J. Rose 

      Friday, December 3, 2010

      Book Beginnings on Friday: December 3


      How to participate: Share the first line (or two) of the book you are currently reading on your blog or in the comments. Include the title and the author so we know what you're reading. Then, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line, and let us know if you liked or did not like the sentence. The link-up will be here at A Few More Pages every Friday.

      Thanks to Becky at Page Turners for starting this meme and to Rose City Reader for inspiring it!

      This week my first line comes from A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann.

      Noelle pressed her back into the textured wall and tensed, her breathing fast and shallow.

      I thought this was a rather good beginning to a book that gets more and more suspenseful as you get further in. Why is Noelle so tense? It sounds like she's panicking. A Rush of Wings is Christian Romantic Suspense, and I'm starting to think that Romantic Suspense is a genre I'd like to read more of, and that Kristen Heitzmann is an author I want to revisit. I've really enjoyed this one.

      So, what is the first line of your current read, and how did you like it? Please leave the link to your specific post, not just to the front page of your blog.


      1. Kathy @ Inside of a Dog
      2. Kathy @ Ms. Martin Teaches Media
      3. Laurel-Rain @ Creative Moments
      4. Helen's Book Blog
      5. Marianne @ Mari Quite Contrary
      6. Carin (Caroline Bookbinder)
      7. Bev @ My Reader's Block
      8. Kasumi @ . . . Resumiendo. . .
      1. BlackEyedDog @ {SeMi}CrAzEd
      2. Christina (Babbling Book Reviews)
      3. Bonnie @ Bonnie's Books
      4. Buffy @ Situations Where You May Need It
      5. Violette at Mystery Bookshelf
      6. Rikki (The Bookkeeper)
      7. Homespun Tales
      8. Pagesofjulia
      9. This linky list is now closed.

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