Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Beginnings on Friday: September 30, 2011


How to participate: There's nothing quite like the anticipation that comes from cracking open a book for the first time! 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 would like, 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 at A Few More Pages every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

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

I'm in the process of reading several books right now, so I'll share the beginning of the one I've been working on the longest (because it is longer than my usual reads at over 600 pages). The book is The Time In Between by Maria DueƱas. Here is the first line:

A typewriter shattered my destiny.

A short beginning and yet I cannot help but wonder how something as benign as a typewriter could change someone's life like that. So even though it is a fairly uneventful first line, it definitely piqued my curiosity.

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.



5 Best Books: Banned or Challenged

5 Best Books is a weekly meme hosted by Cassandra at Indie Reader Houston. This week's topic is Banned or Challenged books, which fits in perfectly since this is Banned Books Week!

I've posted about banned books before. I'm not a fan of restricting access to books - people should have the freedom to choose what they will and will not read. Book choices shouldn't be restricted by someone else's idea of which books are acceptable and which ones are not.

Anyway, so many fantastic books make the banned and challenge lists each year, from new releases to classics. So my list is going to contain a little bit of both. So here are my 5 Best Banned or Challenged Books (in no particular order):

The Harry Potter series. This was actually #1 on the list for 2000-2009 and happens to be one of my favorite series. My Christian faith is not threatened by these books.

Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane. The book that introduced me to the realities of apartheid. It resonates with me more than a decade after I read it for the first time.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. A frightening look at religion run amok in society that serves as a warning to the present day.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. What list about banned books would be complete without a banned book about the banning of books??

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. I just read this book this year, and have put off reviewing it until I read it a second time. It was that good that I want to read it again.

Those are my 5 Best Books: Banned or Challenged. I could keep on going because there are so many more fantastic books on the banned lists (like To Kill a Mockingbird and A Wrinkle in Time), but the best I can do is encourage people to support books that have been banned or challenged by reading them!

What are your top 5 banned or challenged books? Comment here or write up your own 5 Best Books post and link up at Indie Reader Houston!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Review: Heiress by Susan May Warren

Heiress by Susan May Warren
(Daughters of Fortune #1) 
Genre: Christian Historical Fiction/Romance
Pages: 363
Publication Date: July 2011
Publisher: Summerside Press
Source: I received a free review copy of this book to participate in a LitFuse Book Blog Tour.
Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Book Description (from the publisher):
They can buy anything they want— fame, power, beauty, even loyalty. But they can’t buy love.
The beautiful and wealthy heiress daughters of August Price can buy everything their hearts desire. But what if their desire is to be loved, without an enormous price tag attached? When one sister betrays another for the sake of love, will she find happiness? And what happens when the other sets out across the still untamed frontier to find it—will she discover she’s left it behind in the glamorous world of the New York gilded society? What price will each woman pay for being an heiress?
Set in the opulent world of the Gilded Age, two women discover that being an heiress just might cost them everything they love.
❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦

Susan May Warren wowed me earlier this year with her contemporary novel My Foolish Heart. It was my first time reading any of her works, and since historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, I was interested to try her newest historical novel, Heiress. It was a really good choice - Heiress is an exciting and complex historical novel that makes the Gilded Age and the early 1900s in America come alive!

Heiress follows two sisters, the daughters of an affluent newspaper publisher, who take very different paths in life. The youngest, Jinx, marries well (the man her older sister refused to marry) and gains wealth and status but also a loveless and unhappy marriage. The older sister, Esme, leaves her wealthy existence to make her own life on the frontier as the owner of a small-town newspaper, determined to prove to herself and to her father that she has what it takes to succeed in the newspaper business and in life. Each sister lives her life experiencing love and heartbreaking loss. When the two are brought together again by scandal and a murder mystery, they find understanding and support in each other that they hadn't expected. Each also gets a second chance at love.

There was so much more to this story than I expected! In Heiress, Susan May Warren has created complex characters with messy lives, who face struggles, failures, and still pick themselves back up to try again. This isn't a saccharin-sweet romance novel where the heroine overcomes a few simple problems to be with the man of her dreams. These women face very difficult obstacles and don't always succeed with flying colors, something I think anyone can identify with in the real world. I also love that none of the characters were too perfect--they could be despicable and self-centered at times as well as kind and giving, and that made them so much more interesting.

The settings were another big bonus for me. It was interesting to experience high society in Gilded Age New York through the eyes of Esme and Jinx because each of them saw it so differently! Esme's experiences out West also really caught my interest, partly because I just got done teaching a unit on the mining industries of the West in the late 1800s. The topic was fresh in my mind and this book's portrayal of it was exciting and gritty. The author really did an excellent job at weaving in historical details about clothing styles, social activities, the newspaper industry, mining operations, and more. I always appreciate when historical fiction authors take the history part seriously. She succeeded in making history come alive for me.

This was a fantastic work of historical fiction from an author who has wowed me yet again. I highly recommend this book to fans of Christian historical fiction and historical romance, and I cannot wait to read the next book in the series!

Related Linkage:
Reading Challenges: 1st in a Series Challenge, 2nds Challenge, Historical Fiction Challenge

    Tuesday, September 27, 2011

    Q&A with Alex Bledsoe, author of The Hum and the Shiver

    I am thrilled to be hosting an interview with Alex Bledsoe on the blog today. I gushed yesterday about how much I liked his newest book, The Hum and the Shiver, and if that didn't convince you to go out and get a copy of this book, maybe this fantastic Q&A will! Please join me in giving Alex a warm welcome!

    What inspired your book, The Hum and the Shiver?
    It was a conjunction of three things: Appalachian folk music, Celtic faery folklore, and the stories of the Melungeons of East Tennessee. Briefly, the Melungeons are an isolated ethnic group who legend says were already here when the first Europeans arrived in Appalachia. No one knows for sure where they came from or how they got here, although DNA evidence has gone a long way toward solving the “where” question. I thought, “what if they were a secret race of faeries hiding from history and minding their own business?” So I created my own isolated society, the Tufa.
    Who are the main characters in the story?
    The protagonist is Bronwyn Hyatt, a twenty-year-old Iraq War vet who was injured in combat and rescued on live TV. Now she’s back home in the mountains among her people, the Tufa, confronting both her recovery and all the issues that led her to leave home in the first place. There’s also a ghost waiting to talk to her, omens of death that seem to be targeting her mother, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend lurking around.

    Craig Chess is a newly-graduated Methodist minister trying, in his easy-going way, to make some inroads in the Tufa community. When he meets Bronwyn, unexpected sparks fly. Don Swayback is a part-Tufa reporter who’s lost enthusiasm for his job, marriage, and pretty much everything else; his assignment to get an exclusive interview with Bronwyn causes him to reconnect with his Tufa heritage.

    The antagonists include Bronwyn’s old boyfriend Dwayne Gitterman, a devilish old man named Rockhouse, and brutal state trooper Bob Pafford.
    You grew up in the Tennessee area, how did your childhood determine the setting of the story?
    Since two of the three major inspirations came from Appalachia, I couldn’t imagine setting it anywhere else. The beauty, mystery and magic of the Smoky Mountain setting seemed so appropriate that I kept it, and the rhythms of Southern speech are second nature to me. And while the issues that the characters face are universal, they’re expressed in a uniquely Southern way.
    What special research was involved in creating the story line?
    I listened to a lot of music, the real old stuff that was sung in the mountains for generations before anyone ever thought to write it down: “Shady Grove,” “Barbara Allen,” and so on. I also listened to the music being made in that area today, because it’s a thriving tradition. I read about musicians, and how they felt about music and what it meant in their lives. I researched faery folklore and discovered that they were far from the harmless little sprites we think of today. And I thought a lot about how “family” and “religion” are defined in the South, and how they affect every aspect of life.
    You describe your book genre as “gravel-road fantasy”. Can you provide additional information surrounding the genre?
    It’s “urban fantasy” in a rural setting. In UF, the magical elements appear in the mundane world of cars, skyscrapers and crowded nightclubs. In my book the setting is still modern, but it involves tractors, small-town convenience stores and barn dances.
    The main character, Browyn, is a strong, attractive heroine. Did you rely upon an actual person to develop the character and why?
    Her ordeal was inspired by the experiences of Jessica Lynch at the beginning of the Gulf War. But the character herself is entirely drawn from scratch. I wanted her to be someone who had endured a lot, but never let herself be a victim; as a teenage hellraiser she’d been nicknamed “The Bronwynator,” and deep down that’s who she remains. Now she faces a bunch of decisions she tried to avoid, and must figure out a way to be true both to her people, and herself.
    Who do you think would enjoy The Hum and the Shiver and why?
    It’s “urban fantasy,” but in the country instead of the city. So if you can conceive of a world where Charles de Lint and Rick Bragg co-exist, I think you’ll enjoy this book. Anyone who ponders what faeries would be like if they lived among us, understands the magic found in songs and music, and/or likes stories of people trying to do the right thing in a situation where “the right thing” isn’t always clear, will enjoy it.
    Thank you, Alex, for writing such a terrific book and for being at A Few More Pages today!

    About Alex Bledsoe:

    Alex Bledsoe grew up in Tennessee, and draws much of his inspiration from his homeland. He’s been a reporter, editor, photographer, and door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman. He is also the author of the Eddie LaCrosse books—The Sword-Edged Blonde (Tor, 2009), Burn Me Deadly (Tor, 2009), and Dark Jenny (Tor, 2011). He lives with his family in Wisconsin.

    Related Linkage:

    Monday, September 26, 2011

    Review: The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe

    The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe
    Genre: Contemporary Fantasy
    Pages: 352
    Publication Date: September 27, 2011
    Publisher: Tor Books
    Source: I received a free e-galley of this book for review for a blog tour organized by PR by the Book.
    Rating: 5 of 5 stars

    Book Description (from the publisher):
    No one knows where the Tufa came from, or how they ended up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, yet when the first Europeans arrived, they were already there. Dark-haired, enigmatic, and suspicious of outsiders, the Tufa live quiet lives in the hills and valleys of Cloud County. While their origins may be lost to history, there are clues in their music—hints of their true nature buried in the songs they have passed down for generations.

    Private Bronwyn Hyatt returns from Iraq wounded in body and in spirit, only to face the very things that drove her away in the first place: her family, her obligations to the Tufa, and her dangerous ex-boyfriend. But more trouble lurks in the mountains and hollows of her childhood home. Cryptic omens warn of impending tragedy, and a restless “haint” lurks nearby, waiting to reveal Bronwyn’s darkest secrets. Worst of all, Bronwyn has lost touch with the music that was once a vital part of her identity.

    With death stalking her family, Bronwyn will need to summon the strength to take her place among the true Tufa and once again fly on the night winds. . . .
    ❦❦❦❦❦❦❦❦

    Alex Bledsoe has written an outstanding fantasy novel set in a contemporary rural American community. Drawing on the mysterious origins of the Melungeon people in Appalachia, Bledsoe creates a similar group of people, known as the Tufa. The Tufa are a striking community of people, and hints are made that there is more to them than meets the eye. Their story slowly unfolds over the course of the novel, wonderfully incorporating existing mythology to give the story authentic roots in the past.

    Even though this is a fantasy novel, it has a distinctly contemporary feeling, which was brought to the story through main character Bronwyn's veteran status. She was injured in Iraq and she returns home to recover from her wounds. In the process she is forced to grow up and heal her family and relationships as well as her body. Cloud County in East Tennessee is a rural area that hasn't been that affected by the march of time, but the story's connection to current events feels fresh in the midst of a community that has been slow to change. It also forges an interesting connection between the here-and-now and a people with ancient roots.

    Sometimes the fantasy elements in a novel can overwhelm the story and the relationships within it. Not so with The Hum and the Shiver. One of my favorite things about this book is that the characters felt genuine, regardless of their mysterious history and extraordinary musical abilities. The characters' feelings were explored in a way that resonated with me. Bronwyn was rebellious and wild in her teenage years, and her return home forces her to reexamine that aspect of her past and to deal with it in a way that allows her to grow up and move on. I also really liked several of the other characters in the story--they were fleshed-out well and added considerable interest to the story. Two of my favorites were Craig, a Methodist minister struggling to establish a church in Tufa country and Don, a newspaper reporter assigned to interview Bronwyn that ends up learning much more about his own Tufa ancestry than he ever imagined.

    The Hum and the Shiver is a fantastic read, with contemporary issues and witty characters, with a good dose of mystery and fantasy mixed in. I like the way that an otherworldly feeling was tied in with the mysterious Tufa people (I admit I went Google-searching to learn more about the group that they end up being descended from--I won't say more because I don't want to spoil the mystery). I liked the way that music featured so prominently in the lives of the Tufa, and the rural Cloud County setting resonated with me, a small-town girl. I definitely recommend this to fans of fantasy in contemporary settings and to readers who enjoy seeing ancient mythology placed in the present-day.


    Related Linkage:
    Reading Challenges: Speculative Fiction Challenge

      Thursday, September 22, 2011

      Book Beginnings on Friday: September 23, 2011


      How to participate: There's nothing quite like the anticipation that comes from cracking open a book for the first time! 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 would like, 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 at A Few More Pages every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

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

      The next couple of days I will be reading Heiress by Susan May Warren. Here is the first line:
      With the wrong smile, her sister could destroy Jinx's world.
      I think this line gives a glimpse into a relationship that will probably be important to this story. The line makes me wonder what these sisters' relationship is like--are they close or do they have a difficult relationship? I know the story focuses on the sisters, but I haven't read beyond the first page, so I genuinely don't know if my hunch is right. I guess I'll find out when I get a chance to dig in deeper!

      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.



      Wednesday, September 21, 2011

      Eye Candy: Untying the Knot

      It's been far too long since I posted some bookish eye candy. Here's a cover that recently caught my eye:

      Untying the Knot by Linda Gillard
      Genre: Contemporary Romance

      Book description (from the author's website):
      A ruined castle...
      A ruined marriage...
      Two shattered lives...
      When love is not enough, who pays the price?
      A wife is meant to stand by her man. An army wife particularly. But Fay didn't. She walked away - from Magnus, her traumatised war hero husband and from the home he was restoring: Tullibardine Tower, a ruinous 16th century tower house on a Perthshire hillside. Now their daughter Emily is marrying someone she shouldn't. And so is Magnus...
      This appears to be a Kindle e-book available exclusively at Amazon. I quite like this cover--I love the photo, I like the font they've used, and I like what they did with the K in the title. Very well done! It definitely made me take a second look!

      So, what do you think of this cover? Have you seen any other awesome covers lately?

      Eye Candy is a feature that was inspired by Marcia's Cover Attraction posts at The Printed Page and Daphne's Cover Slut posts at Tanzanite's Shelf and Stuff.

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      Review: Love on Assignment by Cara Lynn James

      Love on Assignment by Cara Lynn James
      (Ladies of Summerhill #2)
      Genre: Christian Historical Romance
      Pages: 336
      Publication Date: January 2011
      Publisher: Thomas Nelson
      Source: Crazy Book Tours
      Rating: 3 of 5 stars

      Book Description (from the publisher):
      The chance to break the big story is all Charlotte needs to secure her future. But when the truth comes out--it may cost her the love of her life.
      Newport, Rhode Island, in 1900--a glamorous resort town where the rich and famous go to see and be seen.
      Charlotte Hale isn't part of that world. She's a working girl, a secretary for a local newspaper, who dreams of becoming a real reporter. When her boss offers her an assignment, she jumps at the opportunity. She'll go undercover as a governess to invesitgate a scandal about her new employer, Daniel Wilmont, a young widowed professor of religion who writes a controversial column in a rival newspaper.
      Charlotte's qualms about misrepresenting herself to Daniel soon morph into a deeper quandry. How can she get the goods on a man who turns out ot be so honorable? How can she plot the downfall of a family that has inspired her to rediscover her faith? And how can she protect the man she now loves from a scheme she's been part of since the beginning?
      ✥✥✥✥✥✥✥✥✥

      Love on Assignment is a Christian historical romance novel about Charlotte Hale, an aspiring reporter who works as a secretary at a newspaper office. She gets a chance to prove herself as a reporter (and make the higher income she needs to take care of her aunt and sister) when her employer asks her to go undercover to investigate a possible scandal about a reporter at a rival newspaper. Daniel Wilmont is that reporter, who happens to be young, widowed, and a professor of religion. He is looking for a new governness while his mother recuperates from some health problems. He hires Charlotte for the position and as she gets to know him better she realizes that the rumors of scandal are untrue and that Daniel is an honorable guy. He also seems to be falling in love with Charlotte. How does she break the news to him that she isn't who she claimed to be? And how does she prevent her editor boss from manufacturing a scandal just to drag the man she loves through the mud?

      What drew me to pick up this book was the main character. Charlotte sounded like my kind of girl--strong, spunky, looking to make more of her life than what the people around her expected. Unfortunately, I had a hard time really connecting with her. The whole dishonesty aspect and her constant agonizing over it was off-putting after a while. And then there was Daniel, whose job alone caught my interest (college professors are cool!) but he turned out to be a bust as well. What drove me crazy about him was that he was so preoccupied with telling Charlotte that he could forgive her for anything when she was trying to tell him her secret and ask forgiveness, but he kept cutting her off and wouldn't let her finish. When the truth finally does come to light, he gets really upset with Charlotte (the opposite of his previous claims). He was a nice guy and all (which was one of the reasons that he was put into a position that looked scandalous), and he does redeem himself in the end, but I didn't really like him.

      Even though the characters just didn't do it for me in this story, I do think this would be a great book for book clubs and reading groups. It raises thought-provoking questions about honesty and choices that I think would be excellent for discussion. Readers should be aware that this book is a Christian romance and it has faith aspects to it (Charlotte becomes a Christian through her conversations with Daniel). It was a quick read that was enjoyable enough but not particularly moving or memorable.

      Related Linkage:
      Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction Challenge

        Thursday, September 15, 2011

        Book Beginnings on Friday: September 16, 2011


        How to participate: There's nothing quite like the anticipation that comes from cracking open a book for the first time! 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 would like, 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 at A Few More Pages every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

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

        This week I'd like to share the beginning for Road from the West by Rosanne E. Lortz, a book I'll be reviewing next month:
        The stars changed their courses the day that Tancred the marquis tossed aside his sword and strode off the field of battle.
        Now, this is a pretty intriguing first line. I am filled with questions after reading it: Why did Tancred stop fighting? Where was he going? How would others react to his action? I also think it foreshadows the future, since it indicates that his quitting the field of battle would have far-reaching consequences ("The stars changed their courses"). Nice beginning!

        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.



        Wednesday, September 14, 2011

        BBAW Day 3: Community


        Today is day 3 of Book Blogger Appreciation Week! I'm not participating in every day of blogging (I've got a class starting up this week so I'm super busy) but I'm trying to participate in a few of the topics & I'm holding a giveaway. Today's topic is Community.

        Keeping connected with the book blog community can be difficult for me at times. I get so busy with work and family activities that I barely have time to write posts for this blog sometimes, never mind trying to visit all of the blogs in my feed reader and leave thoughtful comments.

        But I do want to stay connected, even when I don't have as much time to blog-hop as I have had in the past. Here are some of the ways I've tried to compensate:

        I love being on twitter (@afewmorepages) because it seems like all of the latest news is there. Bloggers tweet about their newest reviews & blog posts and have interesting bookish discussions about all kinds of topics going on there. I certainly don't catch everything that happens on twitter (since I'm not on there all day) but I can get a nice sampling of what is going on when I am there.

        I know I mentioned that I haven't kept up on reading the blogs in my feed reader as often as I used to, but one of the things that I've done to try to have more quality interaction with other bloggers is pare down the number of blogs I'm following. I have unfollowed blogs that do too many weekly memes and I only follow new blogs that I'm genuinely interested in. I'm not going to follow just to be eligible for giveaways. And I give myself permission to mark all as read when I've gotten overwhelmed by unread posts.

        I also think that community activities are a fantastic way to stay connected with others in the blogging community. Dewey's 24-hour Read-a-Thon is a wonderfully fun group activity and I've also enjoyed BBAW and Armchair BEA as well. I've also quite enjoyed participating in a few readalongs, which I want to do more often because the discussions are fantastic. Allie at A Literary Odyssey hosts classics readalongs and Wallace at Unputdownables hosts a variety of readalongs, including non-fiction history--I hope to join in at both of these blogs again soon! Another community activity that definitely deserves mention is the Classics Circuit. I have read some great books and met some great bloggers through the Circuit and I'm looking forward to being able to participate again soon.

        Those are some of the ways I've tried to stay connected with the book blogging community. Click here to see how other BBAW participants do community. What do you do to keep connected with the book blogger community?

        Tuesday, September 13, 2011

        BBAW Interview: Meet Carol at Dizzy C's Little Book Blog!


        Today's activity for Book Blogger Appreciation Week is an interview swap. I have the pleasure of welcoming Carol (aka Dizzy C) to the blog today!


        Please tell us a little bit about yourself!
        I am Carol, stay at home mum, until my youngest goes to full-time school, living in East Anglia, England, with my lovely partner and 3 children. I have a girl of 17, and boys aged 14 and 4.

        After a spell at home whilst the older two children were young, I worked as a Teaching Assistant in a primary school for 7 years. Then after a family change I met my wonderful partner and I had another child, after a 10-year gap. As I had been a working mum for 7 years, 3 of those as a single parent, I found it difficult to adjust to being a stay at home mum for the 2nd time around. I needed something to keep my brain active, and having no time for previous craft and genealogy hobbies I decided to read more. Reading keeps me sane :)
        When and why did you become a book blogger?
        I started book blogging in July 2010.  I was surfing the net looking for book recommendations, when I stumbled on a book blog. I didn't even know what a blog was until then.
        I began following blogs for a while and very soon wanted to become part of the community to share my books with others and comment on their blogs.
        Which genres do you generally read and review?
        I usually stick to Historical fiction, Chick-lit, women's fiction and contemporary fiction.
        Which do you prefer: paperback, hardcover, or e-book (and why)?
        Paperback is the choice for me.  Hardback are ok if I am at home reading but too big to take out.  
        I still do not have an e-reader, but hoping Santa will bring me one this year.  I still want to read paperbacks mainly, but some books are coming out as e-books only and I don't want to miss them.
        Who are some of your favorite authors?
        Maggie O'Farrell, Ronald Dahl, Dr. Seuss, Linda Gillard, Carol K. Carr, Nina Bell, Sue Moorcroft to name a few.
        What are your top three reads of 2011?
        This is so difficult to narrow down to 3.
        • The Darling Strumpet - Gillian Bagwell
        • Star Gazing - Linda Gillard
        • 84 Charing Cross Road - Helene Hanff
        I'll have to go check these out! Thanks for being here Carol!
        Thank you for having me as guest on your blog today, Katy.
        Now, since I know you all want to go check out Carol's blog and connect with her on twitter and facebook, here are the links:
        Carol has interviewed me at her blog today, and you can check out interviews with all of your favorite book bloggers by visiting today's BBAW interview swap link-up.

        Monday, September 12, 2011

        Review: The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy

        The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy
        Genre: Christian Thriller/Suspense
        Pages: 352
        Publication Date: October 4, 2011
        Publisher: Thomas Nelson
        Source: I received an e-galley from the publisher for review through NetGalley.
        Rating: 5 of 5 stars

        Book Description (from the publisher):
        Before Audrey was the baker's wife, she was the pastor's wife.
        Then a scandalous lie cost her husband a pastoral career. Now the two work side-by-side running a bakery, serving coffee, and baking fresh bread. But the hurt still pulls at Audrey.
        Driving early one morning to the bakery, Audrey's car strikes something—or someone—at a fog-shrouded intersection. She finds a motor scooter belonging to a local teacher. Blood is everywhere, but there's no trace of a body.
        Both the scooter and the blood belong to detective Jack Mansfield's wife, and he's certain that Audrey is behind Julie's disappearance.
        But the case dead-ends and the detective spirals into madness. When he takes her family and some patrons hostage at the bakery, Audrey is left with a soul-damaged ex-con and a cynical teen to solve the mystery. And she'll never manage that unless she taps into something she would rather leave behind—her excruciating ability to feel other's pain.
        ✥✥✥✥✥✥✥✥✥✥

        When I first started reading The Baker's Wife, I wasn't sure I would like it. Audrey Bofinger has a gift of compassion that borders on the supernatural, and I tend to have a hard time with supernatural in Christian fiction if it's too much or unbelievable. Because of that I was nervous about this book at first, but ultimately I was able to accept it as an interesting part of Audrey's character because it didn't overwhelm the story. I think it also has connections with the real world--we may not be able to physically feel the emotional pain of others like Audrey does, but at times many of us are hesitant to interact with people on an emotional level for the same reason Audrey was sometimes hesitant: fear of feeling their pain.

        The premise of the book is that Audrey, while driving through the thick tule fog of California's Central Valley, apparently hit a scooter with her car and badly injured the rider. But the rider has disappeared, leaving a huge pool of blood behind. As the hours pass, they learn that the scooter belongs to Julie Mansfield, a high school teacher who is now missing. What happened to Julie? How could a woman who is apparently critically injured just disappear? The twist of the case is that Julie's husband, Jack, had been instrumental in having Audrey's husband fired from his job as the pastor of their local church. And Jack, being a police detective, becomes convinced that Julie's disappearance wasn't an accident but was part of a plot for revenge. Throughout the story the reader is pulled back and forth trying to ascertain where the truth lies.

        There are a number of thought-provoking issues that are approached in this novel, including broken relationships, abortion, revenge, forgiveness, and legalism. Audrey and her family seem like they are being unfairly targeted at times, but even though they are sympathetic characters they are not perfect and have flaws as well. I liked that the "bad" guy of the story wasn't a satanist or an atheist (my Christian fiction pet peeve), but a professed Christian who had become fanatical in his attempts to order and control his life in legalistic ways, demanding perfection from everyone around him. I liked it because it seemed more likely - I am more likely to have problems in my personal life with Christians behaving badly than with satanists or atheists.

        The Bofingers' bakery was such a great setting for much of the action. I loved that they were able to use their bakery as a mission field. They may have been forced to leave their church, but they were able to use their gifts in a new way, combined with their skills at baking. The bakery also provided an interesting point of connection with Diane, who turned out to be one of my favorite characters as she progressed from someone haunted by her past into someone who understood and experienced redemption and forgiveness.

        The Baker's Wife is a fabulously thrilling novel with unexpected twists and turns and non-stop suspense. The mystery keeps you turning the pages until the wee hours of the morning, especially when the investigation escalates into a standoff. I definitely recommend this highly suspenseful thriller, and I think the faith elements aren't too heavy-handed to scare off more casual readers of Christian fiction.

        Related Linkage:
        Reading Challenges: Mystery & Suspense Challenge

          Sunday, September 11, 2011

          9/11 - I will never forget.

          Source

          I wasn't really sure what to do to commemorate the 10th anniversary of 9/11 today. But after I woke up this morning I had the urge to simply share my memories of that morning. Even though that day and the days afterward were horrible, I don't want to forget, so I find it important to dust off this memory from time to time and examine it again. It's nothing special, I was on the other side of the country when it happened, but it's what I experienced at the time.

          I was in grad school, married for 3 years to a firefighter, and living in California. Hubby was at work that morning, and he called and woke me up in the early morning to tell me to turn on the news. A plane had crashed into one of the Twin Towers in New York City.

          I turned on the news, even though it was really, really early for me. The Today Show was on, and they were trying to figure out what had happened. At this point they still thought it had been a freak accident and they didn't know all of the details. As I continued to watch, the second plane hit. I was shocked, Matt Lauer was shocked; what in the world was going on?

          As events continued to unfold and information started to come in about more terrorist actions that day, I started to get nervous. Would the West Coast be hit with attacks? Would my husband be in danger? Would my little brother, also a firefighter, be in danger?

          When I watched the first tower collapse I lost it. I knew there were firefighters, policemen, and paramedics in that building when it fell, that there were possibly thousands of people working in that building who also did not make it out. The numbers being thrown around early on were devastating, terrifying, and awful. Then the second tower collapsed and I spent the rest of the day (and many days after that) in a daze, teary-eyed, glued to the television, and saying a lot of prayers. The haunting images of people walking the streets, covered in ash, are forever etched into my memory.

          To me, the most heartbreaking images in the days afterward were the flyers of the missing that were posted all over the streets. People searching for missing loved ones, desperate to hear from them, to find them. I couldn't imagine the feelings of those people, but I knew that at any time I could be one of them--any of us could be in that position. Life is unpredictable that way.

          I am still struck by the bravery and compassion of the people who, in the face of such devastation and terror, stepped forward to help. People who fought to stop terrorists on their own airplane to prevent another attack. People who went into New York to offer whatever aid they could, from first aid kits to water to hands on the rescue and recovery site. People who gave blood. People who donated money to organizations for 9/11 victims and their families. People who joined the military to fight to protect our freedoms and to try to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

          It was a confusing time; it was our generation's Pearl Harbor. It will continue to reverberate and shape our personal, economic, and political decisions for years to come. And even though sometimes it seems like we are forever divided and polarized by differing opinions and views of life and the way it should be, hopefully we can continue to come back to our common ground of remembrance of those who were lost and appreciation for the things in life that we hold dear.

          I lived on the other side of the country, but I will never forget.

          In loving memory of the 2,977 people who were lost on 9/11.

          BBAW Giveaway! Little Black Dress by Susan McBride



          Read my review!


          I somehow ended up with two ARCs of Little Black Dress by Susan McBride so I decided to give them away during Book Blogger Appreciation Week! One copy has been read once, the other is new and unread. Both of them are up for grabs, and I'm willing to send one of them internationally!

          This is my first giveaway using Rafflecopter, so I hope you find it as easy to enter as it was for me to set up!

          And be sure to visit the BBAW giveaway page to enter more great book blog giveaways!



          Thursday, September 8, 2011

          Book Beginnings on Friday: September 9, 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 would like, 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 at A Few More Pages every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

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

          This week I've been reading The Hum and the Shiver by Alex Bledsoe. Here are the first few lines:

          A screech owl stood on the porch rail, its tiny talons scratching against the wood. The dawn light made the tufts of its wind-ruffled feathers look jagged and bloody. The bird had a voice far out of proportion to its size, and was intimately acquainted with the night winds that guided the Tufa destiny. It was also, when seen during the day, an omen of death.

          Oh, wow. There are so many things to like about this beginning. The owl, the "jagged and bloody" imagery, a death omen, the first mention of the Tufa... I love it. Sure, the author had me with the owl (I love owls!), but I think this beginning is especially descriptive and did a fantastic job of grabbing my attention and making me want to learn more about this death omen and the Tufa.

          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.



          Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison

          The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemison
          (Inheritance Trilogy #1) 
          Genre: Fantasy
          Pages: 398
          Publication Date: February 2010
          Publisher: Orbit Books
          Source: Paperback Swap
          Rating: 5 of 5 stars

          Book Description (from the publisher):
          Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history.
          ✥✥✥✥✥✥✥✥✥✥

          This is a book that has been on my TBR for a while, and now I'm kicking myself for not bumping it up to the top of my TBR sooner! Seriously, guys, this book was fantastic and will be one of the books that makes my list of favorite reads for 2011. I liked the setting, the characters, the politics, the suspense--all get high marks from me.

          I found the setting of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms to be interesting and nuanced - there were treacherous politics going on not only in the human world but also among the gods. The Arameri, the family that rules the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms from their capitol in Sky, are people that you love to hate. They are in power mainly because they are favored by Bright Itempas, the god in power who has enslaved the remaining of the three gods and their children to the Arameri. So the Arameri have powerful slaves that help keep them in power, and their vicious nature and willingness to use and discard anyone for their own benefit is helpful in keeping them in power as well.

          This setting understandably has a lot of backstabbing and political maneuvering going on, and when our main character Yeine arrives on the scene, she has a lot to adjust to. Her mother, daughter of the king, left Sky and married a man in Darr. After her death, Yeine is named a possible heir to the throne. But she doesn't really want the job, and she has to compete with her cutthroat and dangerous cousins as well.

          And then there are the gods, who seem strangely interested in Yeine. The story of the gods and their falling out was fascinating and provided a crucial side-story to the novel that would tie into Yeine's story in a big way. The complicated and emotional relationships of the three main gods (Itempas, Enefa and Nahadoth) with each other and with their children were touching, confusing, and mind-blowing. The richness of the mythology was a big positive aspect of this story.

          I really liked how the truth about Yeine's role and her connection to the gods was unveiled--it happened gradually but not too slowly and I never was able to anticipate what the next twist in her story would be. I think the beginning dragged a little bit as I puzzled over what would happen, but by the end I could not put the book down. I was literally blown away by the ending and when I finished the last page I had the urge to set the book down and give it a standing ovation. I can't say enough about how great this was (it definitely was the high point of my fantasy reading this summer), and I highly recommend it to fantasy fans.

          Related Linkage:
          Reading Challenges: POC Challenge, Speculative Fiction Challenge, 1st in a Series Challenge

            Tuesday, September 6, 2011

            All About Me!



            Robyn at Robolobolyn's Universe of Books interviewed me yesterday at her blog in her brand new meme, All About You! Learn all kinds of things about me, including my favorite place to read, what my bookshelves look like, why I started a book blog, and what my guilty pleasure is! Check it out, and say hi to Robyn while you're there!

            Saturday, September 3, 2011

            2011 2nds Challenge Wrap-Up Posts!

            So you met your reading goal for the 2nds Challenge? Wonderful!

            Or maybe it's the end of the year and you didn't read as many seconds as you had originally hoped to at the beginning of the year? As long as you had fun, that's OK!

            This is the place where you can link up your wrap-up posts. What goes in a wrap-up post? You could just put all of your review links for this challenge into a post and call it good. Or you could go a step further and include some reflections on the challenge. Here are some ideas of questions you could answer:
            • What was your favorite book read for this challenge? Your least favorite?
            • Do you plan to read more books by the authors you had seconds of this year?
            • Did you learn anything new about yourself or your reading habits through this challenge?
            Again, answering these questions is totally optional. It's just kind of fun for your blog followers and for those of us who come visit your wrap-up post. :)

            Thank you for participating in the challenge! It's been fun and I hope to see you again for the challenge in 2012!

            2011 1st in a Series Reading Challenge Wrap-Up Posts!

            So you met your reading goal for the 1st in a Series reading challenge? Wonderful!

            Or maybe it's the end of the year and you didn't start as many series as you had originally hoped to at the beginning of the year? As long as you had fun, that's OK!

            This is the place where you can link up your wrap-up posts. What goes in a wrap-up post? You could just put all of your review links for this challenge into a post and call it good. Or you could go a step further and include some reflections on the challenge. Here are some ideas of questions you could answer:
            • What was your favorite book read for this challenge? Your least favorite?
            • Do you plan to continue all of the series you started this year?
            • Did you learn anything new about yourself or your reading habits through this challenge?
            Again, answering these questions is totally optional. It's just kind of fun for your blog followers and for those of us who come visit your wrap-up post. :)

            Thank you for participating in the challenge! It's been fun and I hope to see you again for the challenge in 2012!

            Thursday, September 1, 2011

            Book Beginnings on Friday: September 2, 2011

            I wanted to say a very special thank you to everyone who nominated Book Beginnings on Friday for the Book Blogger Appreciation Week's Best Book Blog Meme award! You can help it get to the short list by registering with the BBAW site and voting for Book Beginnings!

            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 would like, 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 at A Few More Pages every Friday and will be open for the entire week.

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

            My read this week was The Baker's Wife by Erin Healy. Here are the first two lines:
            The day Audrey took a loaf of homemade rosemary-potato bread to Cora Jean Hall was the day the fog broke and made way for spring. Audrey threw open the curtains closest to the dying woman's bedside, glad for the sunshine after months of gray light.
            This is a surprisingly serene and bittersweet beginning for a book that turns out to be very suspenseful (click here for the synopsis & to read an excerpt). It's like the calm before the storm, and when I first read it I definitely didn't expect the book to ramp up the way it did after this beginning. And thinking about that beginning after having finished the book, I like how it provides such a neat connection to certain back stories within 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.



            A Time-Honored Tradition of Selling Books by Nathan Everett

            Nathan Everett's newest book, The Gutenberg Rubric, combines libraries, terrorism, and the search for a centuries-old secret (a thrilling combination, yes?). Please join me in welcoming Nathan to A Few More Pages today!
            Today is the first day of my simultaneous virtual and “irl” book tour for The Gutenberg Rubric. At roughly 6:00 this morning, my wife and I loaded books in the back of our Prius and we headed east out of Seattle on what will be a 7,000 mile, 21-state book-selling mission. And, here at “A Few More Pages,” I’m beginning a virtual tour at the same time. Wow! Am I nuts?
            Well, I suppose so, but in making this trip, I’m following in the footsteps of some of the great door-to-door book salesmen of the past 500 years. I remember, as a child, the World Book Encyclopedia salesman coming to our door in Northern Indiana. We already had a copy of Colliers Encyclopedia that my parents had acquired when my three older sisters were in school. But the World Book salesman carefully pointed out that the world had changed. Men had gone into space. And with their payment plan, we would receive an annual Yearbook update to the Encyclopedia and the new Cyclo-Teacher that would help my little sister and me to learn. The last time I saw that encyclopedia set was when my mom was moving into a nursing home and we got rid of all 30 volumes of the Yearbook.
            But the thing is, that traveling salesman wasn’t the first book salesperson in the world. The invention of the printing press meant that there were suddenly books available to the common people. One story is told of Johan Fust, Gutenberg’s business partner, taking copies of the newly printed Bible on a selling trip into France. All would have been fine, but the greedy Fust attempted to sell the Bibles as hand calligraphied manuscripts that would have sold for as much as a small vineyard. The village elders—meeting together to examine the quality of the books—saw immediately that every one was identical. Puzzling over this, they determined that the only way this was possible was by means of witchcraft. Fust barely escaped the village with his life!
            Another story claims that on a book-selling excursion, Fust caught the plague and died—a just end.
            But for good or ill, the traveling book salesman has been around as long as printed books. Door-to-Door book selling was a by-product of the invention of the printing press. Before the invention of the printing press, there was no distribution system for books. Books were kept, not sold. On rare occasions where books did change hands, it was either as part of an estate or a commissioned work. Suddenly, in 1445 there were 163 new copies of the Bible in Mainz, Germany. Somehow, these books had to be put in the hands of willing buyers.
            The obvious choices were still the places where books had always been held—libraries, scriptoria, monasteries, universities, and churches. But these places already had most of the titles that were suddenly being printed. Publishing mandated creation of a new market. That market started with the rich and worked its way down over the first 50 years of printing (the incunabula) to the middle classes. People, rather than institutions, could buy books.
            And as Aldus Manutius soon discovered in Venice, the appetites of people extended far beyond religious texts. Classics, encyclopedias and even erotica were being printed en masse by the end of the incunabula.
            The distribution problem was resolved in three ways. First, traveling booksellers, began selling door-to-door or village-to-village. Second, street-corner vendors hawked their wares to passers-by. Finally, storefronts were established to house multiple copies of books that people could buy and carry home “in their saddle-bags.” The entire bookstore distribution system resulted from the invention of the printing press.
            As my heroes in The Gutenberg Rubric—Drs. Keith Drucker and Madeline Zayne—discover, the effects of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention go deeper into our culture and society than most suspect, and may conceal mysteries so volatile that people will kill to see them revealed… or concealed. Keith and Maddie are drawn into a secret society with ritual initiation prescribed by Gutenberg himself. Ascending to mastery in that Guild will give them access to knowledge that has been preserved for over 2,000 years. But even if they can master the key to that knowledge, will they live to tell about it?
            Fortunately, my book-selling journey does not carry the risks that traveling with a donkey cart full of books through France and Germany held in the 15th century. Nor do I have to undergo arcane rituals as I trek across the country—at least not that I’m aware of yet. But I feel that I am upholding a significant tradition of the publishing industry as I put off my role as author, put aside the role of independent publisher, and take on the part of the traveling book salesman. My message across the country: “I wrote a book. Let me tell you about it….”
            Many thanks for including A Few More Pages as one of your tour stops! I'm looking forward to reading The Gutenberg Rubric!

            About Nathan Everett:

            Nathan Everett lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest beneath a gray and dour sky. Fortunately, he doesn't usually let that color his mood. Nathan has been a writer and publisher for over 30 years. (We're not saying how much over!) He writes Fantasy, Mystery, Thriller, and Literary Fiction for both youth and adults.

            Nathan shares the life of a starving artist with his wife, daughter, and two rescued greyhounds. He is active in local theater, book arts, writer's association, and service.

            He only writes when it rains.

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