Monday, January 31, 2011

February Book Giveaway!

As a big thank you to everyone who has been following along on my reading adventures, I'd like to offer some books from my shelf in a giveaway.

This month I'm giving away the following books:

A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann
Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense
Click here for my review.

Dark Road to Darjeeling by Deanna Raybourn (ARC)
Genre: Historical Mystery/Romance
Click here for my review.

Alvor by Laura Bingham
Genre: YA Fantasy
Click here for my review.

Interested? I'll be picking a winner for each book. Entries will be accepted up until February 13 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. Winners will be contacted via e-mail. You can earn extra entries by spreading the word about this giveaway--see the form for details. I am willing to send internationally, so enter away! ENTER BY FILLING OUT THE FORM BELOW. COMMENTS WILL NOT BE INCLUDED IN THE DRAWING.
Giveaway is closed.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Readalong Conclusion & Review: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Classic
Pages: 416
Date Published: 1938 (I read a 1997 reprint)
Publisher: Harper Collins
Source: BookMooch
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Book description (from the publisher):
Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again...
With these words, the reader is ushered into an isolated gray stone mansion on the windswept Cornish coast, as the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter recalls the chilling events that transpired as she began her new life as the young bride of a husband she barely knew. For in every corner of every room were phantoms of a time dead but not forgotten—a past devotedly preserved by the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers: a suite immaculate and untouched, clothing laid out and ready to be worn, but not by any of the great house's current occupants. With an eerie presentiment of evil tightening her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter walked in the shadow of her mysterious predecessor, determined to uncover the darkest secrets and shattering truths about Maxim's first wife—the late and hauntingly beautiful Rebecca. 


Shortly after I wrote my first readalong check-in post (in which I mostly complained about the narrator), I started to love this book. The first half tended to be too introspective on the narrator's part, but the second half was so awesome that it made up for the things I complained about in the first half!

Here's a quick run-down of what's going on: The narrator is a young woman who has married Maxim de Winter, an older widower. She is unsure of herself and tends to the dramatic, and when they settle down to live in Manderley, Maxim's family estate, she imagines that she sees his first wife, Rebecca, everywhere. Everything is just as Rebecca had designed it, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, seems to loathe the new Mrs. de Winter simply because she is not Rebecca. An entire wing of the house is kept just as Rebecca left it, with her clothes laid out and bed made up. Everyone talks about how wonderful Rebecca was, and how different the new Mrs. de Winter is. But what really happened to Rebecca? Is Maxim really still so enamored with Rebecca that the new Mrs. de Winter simply cannot compare?

The second half of this book had so many unexpected twists that I was left breathless. It was surprising that Mrs. de Winter went from being timid and despondent over Maxim's seeming obsession with Rebecca to a more mature and decisive woman as she realized that Rebecca wasn't the perfect image that she had imagined in her head. I loved that Maxim's feelings weren't at all what they had first seemed, but I was shocked by what the truth was. I was a little surprised that Mrs. de Winter didn't feel any discomfort over what Maxim revealed to her about his first marriage. Then when Rebecca's body was discovered and the investigation into her death was reopened, it was non-stop suspense. We knew what happened, but would the authorities figure it out? But wait, we didn't really know all of the details! Even more shocking information is revealed that turns everything on its head! The ending was a little bit disappointing, but on final reflection I can accept it. The aspects of the ending that leave you conjecturing about what happened is actually rather satisfying. It is a book that will stick with you for a long time.

I only marked one quote in the second half, and I loved this little excerpt because it really hits home for me (a pretty shy, introverted person):
I wondered how many people there were in the world who suffered, and continued to suffer, because they could not break out from their own web of shyness and reserve, and in their blindness and folly built of a great distorted wall in front of them that hid the truth. (276)
*sigh* It's like the author knows me personally. It's almost comforting to know that I'm not the only one who feels this way. When I think more about what annoyed me so much about the narrator at the beginning, I think maybe it was that she exhibited some of the things that I dislike about myself. I feel a little ashamed to complain about her when I know I have been like that in the past.

Rebecca was a fantastic read, and I would consider it a classic. It was written 73 years ago and it is still in print, is widely read, and is a favorite on many people's lists. It has staying power. I'm really glad I joined this readalong. It gave me a push to read a book that has been sitting on my TBR shelf for a long time, and it was fun to interact with other people who were reading it at the same time.

Related linkage:
Reading Challenges: TwentyEleven Challenge (Way Back When), Mystery & Suspense, Classics Challenge

    Friday, January 28, 2011

    Book Beginnings on Friday: January 28, 2011

    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 When We Were Strangers by Pamela Schoenewaldt (ISBN: 9780062003997). Here are the first few lines:

    I come from the village of Opi in Abruzzo, perched on the spine of Italy. As long as anyone remembers, our family kept sheep. We lived and died in Opi and those who left the mountain always came to ruin.

    I thought this was an intriguing beginning. Opi sounds like a small town where few people move to and few people leave. This book is an immigrant's story, and this beginning was a great way to start it off. I remember hoping that the narrator didn't come to ruin when she left the mountain.

    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. The Story Factory Reading Zone
    2. Lifetime Reading Plan
    3. The Fire in Ember - DiAnn Mills
    4. Helen's Book Blog
    5. The Seven Dials by Agatha Christie
    6. Laurel-Rain @ Snow Connections & Impressions
    7. Surreal and Sublime
    8. The Case for Falling in Love (Book Obsessed)
    9. Carin (Caroline Bookbinder)
    10. West Virginia Red Reads "Shiver"
    1. Kasumi @ . . . Resumiendo. . .
    2. Aleksandra's Corner
    3. Kathy @ Ms. Martin Teaches Media
    4. Yvonne @ Fiction Books
    5. Kathy @ Inside of a Dog
    6. Bev @ My Reader's Block
    7. Redd @ the Wyld Hollow
    8. Pagesofjulia
    9. Violette @ The Mystery Bookshelf

    10. This linky list is now closed.

    Wednesday, January 26, 2011

    My Favorite Reads of 2010

    While looking through last year's list of 98 books and 2 novellas (I'm such a dork to keep saying it that way), I decided to jot down a few that stood out to me. These would be my favorite reads of 2010, in no particular order (click the titles to go to my full reviews):

    Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. This was the first book I read for the year. I gave it 5 stars at the time and, sure enough, 97 books later it is still one of my favorite reads of the year. The story is bittersweet but the emotional investment I had with the characters (even when I didn't like their choices) made it great.

    The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. I read all three of the books in this series during the year. I thought the first book was the best of the three, but as a whole the series was suspenseful and terrifying, providing a chilling look at a dystopian world that entertains itself (and controls the masses) by forcing teens to battle each other to the death.

    The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. I enjoyed reading this author's first book, Garden Spells, a couple of years ago, and I enjoyed this title even more. The elements of magical realism brought a charming sparkle to the story, which is populated by characters I could really care about.

    Her Mother's Hope by Francine Rivers. One of my favorite Christian fiction reads of the year, the realistic characters won me over. Nothing is sugar-coated or easy in this book, and it portrays a set of family relationships that just breaks your heart.

    Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman. This book's gothic setting and story-within-a-story kept me turning the pages. I loved the mystery and suspense of it all, even if some of the twists felt a tad unrealistic by the end.

    Stay by Allie Larkin. This was the funniest book I read in 2010. A single girl trying to get over her best friend marrying the man she loves buys a highly-trained German Shepherd over the internet while in an alcohol-induced stupor. When a rather large dog arrives instead of the small puppy she expects, hilarity ensues. It's definitely a plus that the local vet is dreamy and sweet. Fun, fun read.

    Shanghai Girls by Lisa See. Another work of historical fiction that knocked my socks off. Set around the time of the Japanese invasion, it portrays a pair of sisters who survive the nightmare and escape to America and an unknown future. I am looking forward to the sequel to this one.

    The Fiddler's Gun by A.S. Peterson. You can't go wrong with soldiers, pirates, revolution, and a tomboy modeled on the Georgia War Woman. This was an action-packed novel with introspection to boot. Can't wait to read the sequel, Fiddler's Green!

    The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman. So not my typical read, but I thought it was one of the coolest books of 2010. The steampunk-fantasy (half-made) world that Gilman transports the reader to is fabulous. Another book with a sequel in the works that I can't wait to get my hands on!

    A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin. Seriously, I can't believe I hadn't read this before 2010. It would have been right up my alley when I was a kid, and even in my first reading of it I felt nostalgic.

    Mirrored Image by Alice K. Arenz. Romantic suspense so full of twists and turns that you hardly know what will happen next. This book made me want to delve deeper into this sub-genre.

    The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore. A book all about the love of novel heroines--how can a book-lover like me not love it?? I added so many new books to my wishlist and TBR just from this book alone that it deserves to be considered one of the most influential books I read in 2010.

    A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin. Christian historical fiction set on the US homefront during World War II, with characters you care about and realistic problems. Wonderful reading. Lynn Austin is an author I want to read more of.

    StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce. One of my last reads of the year, this wonderfully imaginative YA Fantasy is the first book in a planned series. I was surprised by the wonderfully believable world-building (especially the politics!) in a world that has magical elements.


    So those were my top reads of 2010. I have no idea how I will be able to make a list like this next year when all of the books I've read so far this year have been fabulous. I'm looking forward to sharing them with you next month!

    Tuesday, January 25, 2011

    Trailer Tuesday: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

    This trailer made me giggle out loud. "Once upon a time, fairy tales were awesome!" LOL I think I am going to have to see if I can hunt down a copy. It sounds fun, and it looks like it won a bunch of honors.

    Book details:
    A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz
    Genre: Children's Folk Tales, Action & Adventure (ages 9-12)
    Book description (from the publisher):
    In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.
    Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011

    Downton Abbey on Masterpiece Classic

    Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

    If you love period films, you should be watching PBS Masterpiece's newest: Downton Abbey. The third episode airs tonight, I've embedded the introduction clip above and a small clip from the upcoming episode below. I can't say enough how much I love the characters. They run the gamut from admirable and kind to devious and sly. It is delicious. If you are behind on the episodes, you can also watch the first two episodes online.

    Watch the full episode. See more Masterpiece.

    Have you been watching Downton Abbey? What do you think so far?

    Saturday, January 22, 2011

    My Thoughts on Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

    Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
    Genre: Dystopian Fiction, YA
    Pages: 390
    Date Published: August 2010
    Publisher: Scholastic Press
    Source: I purchased this with my own money on the day it was released.
    Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

    Book description (from the publisher):
    Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge. Who do they think should pay for the unrest? Katniss. And what's worse, President Snow has made it clear that no one else is safe either. Not Katniss's family, not her friends, not the people of District 12. Powerful and haunting, this thrilling final installment of Suzanne Collins's groundbreaking The Hunger Games trilogy promises to be one of the most talked about books of the year.

    **WARNING: This post will contain some spoilers, though I've tried not to be too specific in my comments on the book. I'm calling it "my thoughts" rather than a review because I don't really want to go into a full-on analysis of the book since everyone in the universe knows about it and has probably read it by now, and there are tons of reviews all over the place. So this will just consist of a few of my reactions to the book when I read it in August.

    I had a hard time thinking of what to say about this book for a long time. My feelings about it were complicated. On the one hand, I was relieved to have some closure to the series. On the other, I wasn't totally satisfied by the execution of it.

    The thing that bothered me the most about this book was the disconnected feel of it. Of course, it focuses on Katniss, and she tends to be really out of it for various reasons throughout the book. That results in the reader being really disoriented as well, and cut off from the parts of the story that Katniss misses while she's freaking out or having flashbacks. I wish I could have gotten a clearer picture of what was going on, especially near the end, but for that we would have needed Katniss to not be in a daze and locked up while it was happening.

    The outcome of the Katniss-Peeta-Gale triangle was interesting. I wasn't expecting Peeta to change so much. I also had a hard time believing that he was suddenly OK at the end. I would have liked to see more development of his recovery–it was hard to accept it as easily as Katniss did. His whole experience with Snow in this book was horrifying. Gale turned out to be disappointing too. His attitude about the enemy and his decisions put me off.

    I thought it was a little bit strange that Katniss kept reasoning out people’s very convoluted and complicated motives out of what were very simple outward signs. I thought it was really smart in the first book, but in Mockingjay it almost seemed unreal that she could reason out such complicated motives in everyone around her. I couldn’t figure out if she was hitting the nail on the head or just being really paranoid. Wouldn’t it suck to live like that–having to read into every little nuance to see what’s underneath it? But it was like the Games never really stopped–it seemed like she was used as a piece in someone else’s Game around every corner.

    One last note, I would have liked to have known what happened to Haymitch after they returned to District 12 since he just kind of disappears from the narrative at that point. I was invested in his character by then and wanted to know how he ended up.

    In the end, I think the book was very thought-provoking and gave me a lot to consider. I think it is a great series, with an unexpected ending that I can ultimately accept. In the end, the main message I got from Mockingjay was that war is awful and devastating, and it changes people forever.

    Related Linkage:

    Friday, January 21, 2011

    Book Beginnings on Friday: January 21, 2011

    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 finishing up The Death Instinct by Jed Rubenfeld (ISBN 9781594487828), and it's got one of the best beginnings I've seen in a while:

    Death is only the beginning; afterward comes the hard part.

    The next few lines went on to impress me as well with their philosophical tone and thought-provoking nature:

    There are three ways to live with the knowledge of death--to keep its terror at bay. The first is suppression: forget it's coming; act as if it isn't. That's what most of us do most of the time. The second is the opposite: momento mori. Remember death. Keep it constantly in mind, for surely life can have no greater savor than when a man believes today is his last. The third is acceptance. A man who accepts death--really accepts it--fears nothing and hence achieves a transcendent equanimity in the face of all loss. All three of these strategies have something in common. They're lies. Terror, at least, would be honest.

    When I finished reading this section I sat back and thought about it for a little while, and actually thought of how fun it was going to be to feature it in Book Beginnings (LOL!). This beginning was definitely intriguing and did a fantastic job of pulling me in right away.

    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. yvonne @ fiction books
    2. {SeMi}CrAzEd
    3. Book Ponderings
    4. Kasumi @ . . . Resumiendo. . .
    5. Kathy @ Ms. Martin Teaches Media
    6. Laurel-Rain @ Snow Connections & Impressions
    7. Carin (Caroline Bookbinder)
    8. Bev @ My Reader's Block
    1. Passions Unleashed (Book Obsessed)
    2. Kristie @ live through books
    3. Literary Feline
    4. The Story Factory Reading Zone
    5. Helen's Book Blog
    6. Bonnie Jacobs @ Bonnie's Books
    7. Debra's Book Cafe

    8. This linky list is now closed.

    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    2010 Reading Stats and 2011 Resolutions

    I was really surprised when I saw that I finished out 2010 with 98 books and 2 novellas. Compare that with my total of 55 books read in 2009, and you will understand my surprise! Here are some more stats:

    Total number of pages read in 2010: 32,395
    Total number of pages read in 2009: 21,606

    This total is a bit more revealing than the book total. I'll go out on a limb and say that I probably read more chunksters last year than this year. My total number of pages read was only a little over 10,000 more.

    A quick run-down of my booklist tells me that, like last year, the genre I read the most of was Historical Fiction (42 at first glance). Other genres that I read (with some overlap if they fit into more than one genre) Christian fiction (29), Romance (20), Mystery/Thrillers (19), Contemporary Fiction (17), Science Fiction/Fantasy (18), Non-fiction (9), and Classics (6).

    An interesting breakdown, with a few surprises. For example, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I took on 9 non-fiction reads last year. It didn't seem like that many. I also thought that I had read more science fiction/fantasy books and mysteries, but apparently not. I was most disappointed to see that I read so few classics last year.

    I've spent the last couple of weeks thinking about how I want to approach my reading in 2011. I basically left January open so I could read books from my TBR and I've really been enjoying that. I have a few blog tours coming up in February, but I'm leaning towards doing more TBR reading throughout the year and taking fewer review copies. The time crunch of having to read and review within a certain time period starts to stress me out, so I think I'll be a lot more choosy this year.

    I also am in the process of rediscovering the beauty that is my local library (even as it has had hours and days of operation cut down to three days a week). They don't have a lot of books in stock that I want to read, but it is possible to request just about anything and have it delivered at the local branch. I want to patronize my library a lot more this year and perhaps find a way to support it financially through the Friends of the Library association.

    In regards to reading challenges, there are so many wonderful ones out there, but I felt the need to restrain myself from over-committing. I still joined a good number of challenges for 2011, but I don't want to feel pressured to complete challenges like I did last year. In other words, I want to take reading challenges a little less seriously. I would love to break the 100-book barrier in 2011, but I don't want to pressure myself too much to do that, either, so I'll just leave it as something cool I'd like to do but not something I MUST do.

    Thinking about what kinds of books I want to read more of in 2011, the main thing I want to do is read more classics. With all of the reading I've been doing in so many different genres, I'm starting to feel annoyed when I don't understand a reference to a classic I haven't read. That's easy to change, though. Plus, I think that classics are often fun to read. They've been around for a long time for a reason.

    That's what I've been mulling over in the first few weeks of 2011. So far I've been really happy with the books I've picked up so far this year and I'm looking forward to telling you about them.

    And just in case I haven't thanked you lately--thank you for reading my blog! It really warms my heart when I read your comments and I feel just a little less alone in this world. :)

    Happy reading!

    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    Review: A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin

    A Woman's Place by Lynn Austin
    Genre: Christian Historical Fiction
    Pages: 446
    Date Published: October 2006
    Publisher: Bethany House
    Source: BookMooch
    Rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Book description
    (from the back cover):
    They watched their sons, their brothers, and their husbands enlist to fight a growing menace across the seas. And when their nation asked, they answered the call as well... 
    Virginia longs to find a purpose beyond others' expectations. Helen is driven by a loneliness that money can't fulfill. Rosa is desperate to flee her in-law's rules, Jean hopes to prove herself in a man's world. 
    Under the storm clouds of destruction that threaten America during the early 1940s, this unlikely gathering of women will experience life in sometimes startling new ways as their beliefs are challenged and they struggle toward a new understanding of what love and sacrifice truly mean.

    This story follows the lives of four very different women brought together in the early years of World War II in a naval shipyard. Each one has been affected by the attack on Pearl Harbor, and they each go to work for their country for different reasons. They face difficult decisions concerning their families, their hearts, and their faith. In the end each of them find that they have grown and matured in more ways than one.

    This book wowed me. It was my second time reading Lynn Austin (I read Though Waters Roar in 2009), and with this book I am beginning to see why she is so highly spoken of in Christian Fiction circles. I've read other books set in the WWII homefront about women war workers in the past, and I think this one is my favorite so far. The characters are interesting and complex, the events didn't seem too predictable or easy, and the struggles the characters faced were difficult. There were aspects of each character that I could identify with, which helped me feel even more involved in the story. The faith aspect of the book was important and meaningful to the story as well--the women deal with significant spiritual questions throughout the pages.

    I don't have a whole lot more to say (it's been a few months since I read this), but I highly recommend this book, especially if you like reading Christian fiction set in the United States during World War II. If you have enjoyed books like Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington, you'll love this book. It was one of my favorite Christian fiction reads of 2010.

    Related Linkage:
    Reading Challenge: Christian Historical Fiction


      Monday, January 17, 2011

      Continuing Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice Through Letters

      I read Letters from Pemberley: The First Year and More Letters from Pemberley: 1814-1819 in sequence. I picked them up at a yard sale held by a teacher friend of mine. They seemed like they would be a fun diversion over Christmas break. I was not disappointed in that assumption, and in fact these books were wonderful companions on one of several long car trips we made over the holidays.

      I enjoy all things Austen (so far) though I wouldn't consider myself an Austen expert. I think I've read Pride and Prejudice three times in my life, and after reading this enjoyable set of books I have been greatly tempted to pick it up again. To me, what made these books believable (and acceptable) Austen continuations was that they were written as a collection of letters. It wasn't as if Ms. Dawkins was trying to step into Jane Austen's shoes and write in exactly the same style to follow these beloved characters. Instead, the letters move the story more into Lizzy's point of view since all of the letters are written by her. You don't get as much of a view of the whole story because of this singular viewpoint, but you get a good idea of what the other characters may have said to Lizzy in her replies to their correspondence.

      Of the two volumes, I ended up liking the second volume (More Letters From Pemberley: 1814-1819) the most. The events discussed in the letters were more dramatic and life-changing, and I found myself blinking back tears at one particularly heartbreaking time in Lizzie's life. I won't go into more detail than that, since I think part of the charm of reading these books was in not knowing how the characters' lives would turn out.

      I thought that the direction that Ms. Dawkins took the characters in these Pride and Prejudice sequels was believable and enjoyable. The two books were also very easy to read and understand. If you can't seem to get enough Pride and Prejudice in your reading diet, I would recommend Letters from Pemberley and More Letters From Pemberley without hesitation.

      Publication information:
      Letters From Pemberley: The First Year by Jane Dawkins
      Genre: Historical Fiction
      Pages: 224
      Date Published: 2007
      Publisher: Sourcebooks
      Rating: 4 of 5 stars
      More Letters from Pemberley: 1814-1819 by Jane Dawkins
      Genre: Historical Fiction
      Pages: 224
      Date Published: 2008
      Publisher: Sourcebooks
      Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

      **FTC: I purchased both of these books with my own money.

      Reading Challenge: Everything Austen II


      Saturday, January 15, 2011

      Review: A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann

      A Rush of Wings by Kristen Heitzmann
      Genre: Christian Romantic Suspense
      Pages: 382
      Date Published: 2003 - I read a 2010 reprint with a new cover.
      Publisher: Bethany House
      Source: The Bethany House Book Reviewers Program provided me with a free review copy of this book.
      Rating: 5 of 5 stars

      Book Description (cover blurb):
      Though her panic is real, Noelle St. Claire is uncertain what danger she is fleeing. Fragmented images and slivers of memory have driven her to abandon her wealthy, sheltered life in New York for the hope of a haven--remote and safe. 
      Noelle's arrival at the Rocky Mountain horse ranch owned by Rick Spencer and his brother Morgan causes more than a little stir. Beautiful, vulnerable, yet strangely secretive, Noelle is an enigma the two contrasting brothers seek to unlock. But as their attentions breach the wall she hides behind, the past becomes a menacing threat from which Noelle can no longer hide.

      Do you ever find it difficult to write a review for a book that you really liked? I have put off writing this review for way too long, especially considering it was a 5-star read for me! I tend to shy away from contemporary books that depict cowboys (no offense to those who love cowboys in books, they just aren't my favorite), but I decided to give this one a try because it is by an author that I have previously read and enjoyed (Kristen Heitzmann - The Rose Legacy). I'm really glad I did--the cowboys in this contemporary Christian romantic suspense novel didn't seem stereotypical to me, and it turned out to be a fantastic read!

      The way that the reader is introduced to Noelle leaves a lot of questions needing answers. Neither the reader nor Noelle know exactly what (or who) she's running from at first. All we know is that she is scared out of her wits and looking for someplace to hide for a while. Rick Spencer doesn't seem too happy to have her boarding at his ranch, but he also can tell that she is scared of something so he breaks his own rules and lets her stay in one of the rooms in the main house. Rick and his brother Morgan are two very different men, and they both develop feelings for Noelle. And while she has feelings for both brothers as well, making a decision on one of them results in very strained relations within their family.

      The danger and evil that Noelle was running from eventually hunts her down and provides a suspenseful and frightening climax in the story. But the story has become more complex by then and must continue on. With the danger gone, Noelle must decide whether she would rather remain with the Spencers or return to her old life in New York. It takes her a year to make that decision, during which the man who loves her is heartbroken and seriously questions his faith. Even with the danger out of the way by this point, the suspense is ratcheted up again as they both struggle with their faith, their decisions, and their hearts, wondering if they will be able to pick up the pieces.

      A Rush of Wings was originally published in 2003 and has been reprinted with a pretty new cover in 2010. This was a fabulous choice for reprinting by Bethany House. The suspense was great, the romance bittersweet, and the faith aspects very thought-provoking. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys romantic suspense.

      Related Linkage:

      Rebecca Readalong Part 1: The First 15 Chapters

      It's time for our first check-in for the Rebecca Readalong at A Literary Odyssey. This checkpoint examines our reactions to the book after the first 15 chapters.

      This is my first time taking on Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca. I've had mixed feelings about it so far. The best thing about it, I think, is the thoughtful and introspective way that the narrator tells the story. There have been some highly insightful observations about life in her musings. Here are two examples:
      They are not brave, the days when we are twenty-one. They are full of little cowardices, little fears without foundation, and one is so easily bruised, so swiftly wounded, one falls to the first barbed word. To-day, wrapped in the complacent armour of approaching middle age, the infinitesimal pricks of day by day brush one but lightly and are soon forgotten, but then—how a careless word would linger, becoming a fiery stigma, and how a look, a glance over a shoulder, branded themselves as things eternal. (34)
      This house sheltered us, we spoke, we loved within those walls. That was yesterday. To-day we pass on, we see it no more, and we are different, changed in some infinitesimal way. We can never be quite the same again. (44)

      But I've felt at a few times in my reading that the prose can also be somewhat of a downfall. I felt like the beginning--where the (nameless) narrator describes her dream about Manderley--was wonderfully descriptive at first, but then dragged on and on like it would never end. It was a bit too introspective and descriptive after a while. The other thing that has put me off so far has been the narrator herself. She has a tendency to be overly dramatic and that gets annoying after a while. I know it's all a part of her nature and it says a lot about her personality and her age, but at times (especially when she starts imagining the worst all of the time) it makes me want to reach into the book and shake her into reality. LOL

      I will say, however, that in the last few chapters leading up to Chapter 16, I am beginning to see that some of her fears are credible and that the suspense was starting to ratchet up several levels. I've heard that the second half gets quite exciting, and I think I'm starting to see that pick up. Where I wasn't particularly looking forward to the next chapter early on in the book, I am very much looking forward to seeing what comes next now.

      **(edited to add)** After reading Allie's post this morning, my memory was jogged about Ben, the mentally handicapped man the narrator met on the beach. Some of the things that Ben has said so far set off alarm bells in my mind. I suspect that Rebecca was not very nice to him, and that it was *she* who threatened to send him to an asylum. I am already starting to think that there is more to Rebecca than the narrator has imagined and been told. I'm looking forward to learning the real story about who Rebecca was, rather than the perfect image that the narrator has created in her mind.

      Friday, January 14, 2011

      Book Beginnings on Friday: January 14, 2011

      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!

      I'm reading a fantastic book right now that's been sitting on my TBR for months, and I wish I had started sooner! It's The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent. (ISBN 9780316024495) Here's the first line:

      The distance by wagon from Billerica to neighboring Andover is but nine miles.

      As first lines go, this one isn't that thrilling. But it does set the scene and the location of most of the book. I might not be super excited by a first line like this, but it didn't take long for this story to crawl under my skin and keep me up late.

      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. Tea(My Beloved Book Shelves)
      2. Helen's Book Blog
      3. Kathy @ Ms. Martin Teaches Media
      4. Kathy @ Inside of a Dog
      5. Book Obsessed {Coming Undone}
      6. Laurel-Rain @ Snow Connections & Impressions
      7. Kristie @ live through books
      8. Bev @ My Reader's Block
      1. Yvonne @ fiction books. 'Hearts Of Gold'
      2. Pages of Julia
      3. Carin (Caroline Bookbinder)
      4. Kasumi @ . . . Resumiendo. . .
      5. Kiki Jacobs @ Bonnie's Books

      6. This linky list is now closed.

      Thursday, January 13, 2011

      Another Readalong! Oliver Twist in February at A Literary Odyssey

      I'm kind of enjoying participating in Readalongs this year--they get me motivated to read some of those books I've had on my TBR but just haven't gotten around to yet. Allie at A Literary Odyssey is hosting an Oliver Twist Readalong for the month of February. I've never read this book, and ever since I read A Christmas Carol in 2009 I have been much more interested in tackling more Dickens. And if you sign up to participate by this Sunday, you are entered to win a pretty clothbound copy of the book!

      If you've been looking for an excuse to read this book, this might be a great chance to finally do it! :) Maybe I'll see you there?

      Wednesday, January 12, 2011

      Sorry I've been MIA!

      Hoping These Few Lines Will Find You Well Postcard

      I have really been meaning to get some more posts up, but I'm kind of buried right now in preparations for the start of Spring term at my community college (I teach online classes in US History). Unfortunately my class shells weren't loaded as early as I had hoped (so I could work on them over Christmas break) so I'm frantically trying to get everything updated before Tuesday. I have lots to say here about books I've read, but no time to type it up right now. I promise I'll get some more posts up once all my preparations are completed. Book Beginnings on Friday will go up as usual on Friday, but I may not have any other posts until next week.

      And quickly, just something cool that I always enjoy looking at on other blogs: a Wordle of this blog's RSS feed.

      Monday, January 10, 2011

      Classics Challenge 2011

      I always have the desire to read more classics, so I've decided to join the Classics Challenge at Stiletto Storytime. I'm joining at the "Student" level--5 classic books. (Review link-up is here)

      What am I hoping to read this year in classics? I'm already working on Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I plan to read a book by Charles Dickens (not sure which one yet), and I have Jane Eyre and The Portrait of a Lady staring me down from my TBR shelf. I also recently requested North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell from the library, so when that comes I can count that for this challenge as well.

      I'll keep track of my books completed in this post. :)

      1. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
      2. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
      3. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell

      Friday, January 7, 2011

      Book Beginnings on Friday - January 7, 2011

      Happy New Year! I hope you are beginning 2011 with a great book!

      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!

      I mentioned on Tuesday that I'm joining Allie's Rebecca Read-Along at Literary Odyssey, so that's my book beginning this week. (ISBN: 9780380730407)

      Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.

      This is my first time reading Rebecca, but the book is so iconic that I've heard the first line before and recognized it. I think it's a provocative first line--it's a simple statement, but when you're reading the book for the first time you aren't entirely sure if dreaming of Manderley is a good thing or a bad thing. I've read the first 13 chapters of this book so far, and I'm not sure what I think of it yet. The narrator seems a bit dramatic to me. I hear the second half is where it really grabs you, though.

      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. 'A Dead Man's Debt' by Grace Elliot
      2. Kathy @ Ms. Martin Teaches Media
      3. Kathy @ Inside of a Dog
      4. Helen's Book Blog
      5. Bonnie Jacobs @ Bonnie's Books
      6. Laurel-Rain @ Snow Connections & Impressions
      1. Book Obsessed {How to Marry a Duke}
      2. A Kettle and Some Cupboards
      3. Pages of Julia
      4. Bev @ My Reader's Block
      5. Lethal Justice by Fern Michaels
      6. Carin (Caroline Bookbinder)

      7. This linky list is now closed.

      Thursday, January 6, 2011 Anniversary Giveaway! - YA, Paranormal and Historical Fiction Book Reviews

      I don't often blog about giveaways on the blogosphere and such, but this one is totally worth mentioning! Pam at is having a two year blog anniversary. I *heart* Pam! She is not afraid to tell you like it is and reviews all kinds of great books. (Plus I adore her blog design--the cool antique-y details are awesome!)

      For her two year blogging anniversary, Pam is giving away tons of great books and advance readers. The Grand Prize is a NookColor! I would be totally psyched to win a Nook Color or any of the fabulous book prize packs, and I bet you would be too. So what are you waiting for? Head on over to to enter!

      Quick Reviews of 2010 Reads: Young Adult Fantasy

      Since I'm a little behind on posting reviews of some of the books I read in 2010, I thought I'd write some quickie reviews. Today, I'm focusing on Young Adult Fantasy.

      Child of the Dark Prophecy by T.A. Barron (Book 1 of The Great Tree of Avalon trilogy)
      ACE Books, 2004.
      Pages: 357
      Source: Paperback Swap
      Rating: 4 of 5 stars

      When the stars in the Wizard's Staff constellation begin to fade, the race begins to find Merlin's true heir, the person destined to save the world from the one prophesied to bring an end to it. Amelia at Imagination in Focus brought this series to my attention, and I'm glad I picked it up. I enjoyed the unusual world that Barron created here (a world founded by Merlin that is based on a single tree, with seven lands existing on the roots) and the mythology was interesting as well. The way the health of the land was tied to everything--the colors, the magic, etc.--sparked my imagination. I sort of felt like I was missing something by not having read Barron's Merlin books, but since I haven't read them I don't know how related they are to this trilogy. I would recommend this book to any reader who enjoys high fantasy. I plan to read the next book in the series (and already have it waiting here on my TBR shelf).

      *~ Author's websiteRead an excerpt ~ Purchase at The Book Depository or IndieBound (affiliate links) ~*


      Alvor by Laura Bingham
      Sweetwater Books, 2009.
      Pages: 276
      Source: I won a copy of this book from PageTurners Blog.
      Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

      While hiking in the hills behind their Pennsylvania home, teenaged twins Erin and Bain discover their magical abilities, enter a fantasy fairy world, and train to become elves. I wasn't sure what to expect from this book (the cover initially caught my eye), but it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The whole elf training concept was great--I thought it was pretty original and interesting. My favorite aspect was that when Bain disappears, Erin sets off to find him. The rescue gets a bit complicated, but it was quite suspenseful. I loved that Erin develops a connection with a dragon--one of my favorite mythical creatures! This seems to be the first book of a trilogy, so I'll be looking forward to reading the next installment, which is planned to release in April.

      *~ Author's websiteRead an excerpt ~ Purchase at The Book Depository or IndieBound (affiliate links) ~*


      Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (Book 7 in the Harry Potter series)
      Arthur A. Levine Books, 2007.
      Pages: 759
      Source: I bought this brand-new on the day it was released.
      Rating: 5 of 5 stars

      This was certainly a re-read for me (I immersed myself in it the first time on the day I purchased it). I picked it up again in anticipation of Part I of the film version. It was just as good as I remembered it to be. Even though the main characters spend so much time in the woods, frustrated, there is still an extraordinary amount of action in this book. And although I knew what would happen, it still brought tears to my eyes when Snape's true nature was unveiled, when Harry makes the ultimate sacrifice, and when we learn the fate of Tonks and Lupin (among other tear-inducing events). This was a fabulous conclusion to the series, a series that continues to hold the top spot in my all-time favorites list.

      *~ Author's website ~ Quotes from the book ~ Purchase from The Book Depository or IndieBound (affiliate links) ~*



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