Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bookish Images Monday 8/1/11--And the winner of my giveaway!

I'd love for you to participate in Bookish Images Monday.

Remember, you do NOT have to post a ton of images--one will be fine if that's all you want to do! (I just tend to go a little crazy.)

They can just be interesting or pretty book covers if you want. Or just pictures of books, bookcases, libraries or bookstores. Or they can be humorous, or vintage, or related to movies based on books. They just need to be book-related in some way.

Feel free to grab this button:

Book Images Monday

Be sure to post your link in the Mr. Linky below, leave a comment, and visit others who may participate!

I'm so pleased to announce that the winner of my give-away of Lisa T. Bergren's Cascade is:

Beckie B!

Beckie, I'll be contacting you my e-mail to get your mailing address.

I used to find the winner, so everything was fair and above-board. Thanks so much to everyone who entered! I'll be having another give-away sometime in the not too distant future, so stay tuned.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Review of Lisa T. Bergren's Cascade--and a Give-away!

My very first give-away! See details after my review

Romance! Danger! Intrigue! Political machinations! Violent medieval battles!

They're all part and parcel of the nonstop action that makes up Lisa T. Bergren's Cascade, the second in her River of Time series aimed at YA readers.

Being a big fan of time travel and of Bergren's writing, I was looking forward to this book.

The two modern-day sisters, Gabriela and Evangelia Bettarini, decide to go back to medieval Italy. This time, their Mom--an avid historian and archeaologist--takes the trip with them.

Naturally, Gabriela is delighted to be re-united with her medieval love, Marcello. But in less time than it takes to say "space-time continuum," the Ladies Bettarini are plunged back into the danger and intrigue of the enmity between Marcello's Siena and Firenze.

It doesn't help that the sisters' actions in the previous book leave them with a big target on their backs.

From Page One until the end of the book, the action is pretty much nonstop. I don't doubt that YA readers will love the nonstop chases, battles and life-threatening situations--there's not a moment for them to get bored.

As an older reader, though, I have to admit that I would have appreciated a few more lulls in the action. It seemed to me that the sisters barely had time to catch their breath before another life-endangering scenario ensued.

Younger readers will also appreciate the romance between Marcello and Gabriela, while I cringed a bit at a 17-year-old even thinking about marriage. But again, that's my take as an older reader.

And those are small criticisms. Bergren is a wonderful writer, her research into the era obvious in every authentic detail, and she's adept at narrating those fast-paced, often breath-taking action scenes as well as the quieter ones.

She's also created a compelling and lovable heroine in Gabriela, a modern girl whose feistiness and courage--not to mention skill with a sword from fencing lessons with her father--stand her in good stead in the violent and perilous age in which she finds herself.

As for the next book in the series--Torrent--the last few pages of Cascade ensure that we're going to want to be there when the Bettarinis next show up in 13-hundreds Tuscany.

Now for the give-away!

I'm giving away a brand-new copy of Cascade, by Lisa T. Bergren!

Here's what you need to do to enter:

--Comment below, and leave an e-mail address where you can be reached

For additional chances to win:

--Follow this blog on Google Friend Connect or Networked Blogs

Leave separate comments to let me know if you followed (or are already a follower), and if you like this blog on Facebook!

DEADLINE: You have until midnight Sunday, July 31st at 12:00 PM Central.

NOTE: This contest is limited to readers in the United States and Canada.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, July 25, 2011

Bookish Images Monday 7/25/11: Participate!


Don't you love this picture? I was drawn to it immediately.

I'd love for you to participate in Bookish Images Monday.

Remember, you do NOT have to post a ton of images--one will be fine if that's all you want to do! (I just tend to go a little crazy.)

They can just be interesting or pretty book covers if you want. Or just pictures of books, bookcases, libraries or bookstores. Or they can be humorous, or vintage, or related to movies based on books. They just need to be book-related in some way.

Feel free to grab this button:

Book Images Monday

Be sure to post your link in the Mr. Linky below, leave a comment, and visit others who may participate (so far, it's just been one or two!)

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: Katie Fforde's Wedding Season

Wedding SeasonWedding Season by Katie Fforde

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I discovered Katie Fforde's books in the library a few years ago, and have always made sure to read her most recent.

Like the others, this book was fun, light and enjoyable. I especially enjoyed it because I've been watching the TV show "Fringe" on DVD, and after watching that, I need something light and fun before I go to bed!

This one is a bit different from previous Fforde novels, because it focuses on three women instead of just one. Sarah is a wedding planner; Bron is a hairdresser, makeup artist and cake maker; Elsa is a seamstress.

After a particularly successful wedding, Bron and Elsa join Sarah for a "make-or-break" event: the wedding of an enormously popular actress.

Will Sarah be able to forget a college heartbreak that has put her off romance for years, drop her guard and accept love from the handsome photographer, Hugo? But wait--isn't he already engaged? And how will she deal with the complication that her airhead sister has to get married on the very same day as her celebrity client?

Will Bron have the courage to leave her loser jerk of a boyfriend and her going-nowhere job in a salon to use her talents fully as a free-lancer?

Will Elsa be able to get past her shyness and lack of confidence, and tendency to wear nothing but black--and will the kind and charming Laurence play a key part in her future?

These are the questions, as the three girls deal with all the complications that arise over the celebrity wedding.

Even these are fun, and the book is almost a primer (in a fun way) on things like baking complicated fancy cakes, getting your colors done, and planning two very different kinds of weddings--one where the sky is the limit when it comes to money, the other where a very low budget must produce a lovely and memorable event.

And like all Fforde books, it's steeped in the kind of Britishness I love (there were even several uniquely British sayings and phrases that I was able to interpret only by the context.)

The book does seem to feature a lot of drinking, including drinking specifically to get drunk (apparently this is one of the goals of the British "hen parties," the distaff version of a bachelor party?). And there are a couple of very light, non-detailed love scenes.

But overall, I enjoyed it as one would a big, delicious piece of wedding cake. A book to read just for fun, entertainment and relaxation.

View all my reviews
I would recommend this book to adult women who enjoy well-written chick lit, especially of the British variety

I'm participating in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books!


Friday, July 22, 2011

Farewell to Borders

Yes, it's true. After trying to keep the company afloat in the wake of bankruptcy, Borders bookstores are closing their doors for good.

Being the avid book-lover that I am, this saddens me. I love bookstores. I love pretty much everything about them--except, perhaps, the fact that I want to buy everything in sight when I go to one.

I have some happy memories of the Borders here in Rockford. My daughter worked there for a few years, and overall it was a good experience for her.

For most of the time she worked there, Elizabeth had one of the best bosses I've ever heard of. Kevin had MS, and often had to work from a wheelchair. He was one of the kindest people ever, and certainly the most easygoing and encouraging bosses my daughter could have had.

She made a lot of friends at Borders that remain her friends to this day, and probably will stay in touch with her for quite some time.

I would sometimes have to go pick Elizabeth up from work. I would try to time it so that I'd arrive 30 minutes or even an hour before she got off work, just so I could relax in an armchair and catch up on all my magazine-reading. No one ever gave me the evil eye--it was perfectly permissible!

Then there were the days or evenings when we just went to Borders because we wanted to. We'd have a coffee drink and chat or read or both. It was relaxing and enjoyable.

There was a table in the break room from which employees could take books for free. My daughter brought home several terrific ones during the time she worked there.

There's still a Barnes and Noble here, but it's at the one major mall in our town, and it's not always convenient for me to go there. Besides, I just don't like it as much as I did Borders.

Farewell, Borders. You will be missed!

Monday, July 18, 2011

My Top 10 Books So Far This Year

Fellow book blogger Small World Reads' post reviewing the books she's read so far this year gave me an idea.

For the first time in my life, I am keeping track of the books I've read this year, thanks to I've set a goal to read 100 books this year. So far I've read 40.

So I decided to try to single out my top 10 favorites so far this year. (Remember, just SO FAR this year!)

Here we go--in no particular order:

Before I Go to Sleep, by S.J. Watson--Christine wakes up every day with no memory of the day before...and scant memories of her previous life. She starts keeping a journal to help her hold on to what memories she does have, and realizes her husband isn't telling her the truth about everything. Riveting.

Lady in Waiting, by Susan Meissner--The dual stories of a contemporary woman named Jane, and Lady Jane Grey. Read my review here.

Operation Bonnet, by Kimberly Stuart--Fresh, fun story, with an adorably appealing heroine. Read my review here.

The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis--A time traveling trip back to the Middle Ages goes terribly awry. Read my review here.

Blackout/All Clear, by Connie Willis--Really has to be counted as one book, because you absolutely cannot read them separately! Time travel to WWII Blitz era goes, yes, terribly awry. Read my review here.

Waterfall, by Lisa T. Bergren--A YA book that I enjoyed immensely. Time travel to Italy in the Middle Ages goes--of course--terribly awry! A smart, brave, engaging young heroine. Read my review here.

Fairer than Morning, by Rosslyn Elliott--What I thought would be a run-of-the-mill historical fiction book turned out to be much more--truly compelling. Read my review here.

Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro--Moving, fascinating and thought-provoking dystopian tale. Read my review here.

Her Fearful Symmetry, by Audrey Niffenegger--A captivating ghost story that revolves around real-life London cemetery, Highgate. Read my review here.

Kept, by D.J. Taylor--Riveting, Dickensian-era mystery, thick with Victorian atmosphere.

Here's to the next 60 books!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Bookish Images Monday 7/18/11--Participate!

Last week I introduced a bloghop called Bookish Images Monday. Two lovely people joined me in participating!

All you have to do is post a picture/pictures or image/images having to do in some way with books, reading, book covers, even movies based on books. Sign my Mr Linky below with your link, comment, and check out anyone else who participates!

I realize some book bloggers are participating in other Monday memes, but it wouldn't hurt to do more than one!

Your blog doesn't specifically have to be a book blog to participate, and you don't have to post a lot of images--just one will do! Or, go crazy! :)

(By the way, my button mistakenly says "Book Images Monday" instead of "Bookish Images Monday" because I had a brain spasm while making the button. Maybe I'll correct it at some point!)

As I mentioned last week, you can find all sorts of cool images at Tumblr, weheartit, imgfave or Google images. Always give credit to the source where you found your image.

Do participate and have fun!






Top image via

Feel free to grab this button!

Book Images Monday

Friday, July 15, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters

"We want cattle who can finally become food," says the demon, "He wants servants who can finally become sons."

I originally posted this on my other blog, Notes in the Key of Life, on January 29, 2004.

I read "The Screwtape Letters" yesterday, and was once again struck by the wit and wisdom of C. S. Lewis.

Yes, I read the entire's actually a pretty slim volume...and no, I had never read it before. I was home sick from work, fighting this bronchial/sinus/icky thing that has been making me feel rotten for the past few days. And there was nothing to read. So I breached the haven of my daughter's bedroom and found the book, which had been one of her Christmas presents. (She had read a library copy before and loved it.)

In case you're unfamiliar with it, the book is in the form of letters from a mentor demon (Screwtape) to a less experienced one (Wormwood.) Screwtape gives Wormwood advice on how to handle his "patient," the human to whom he has been assigned. His advice on methods to use to keep this man away from "the Enemy"...which is how he refers to not only entertaining in a macabre sort of way, but convicting, as we see how often we as Christians cooperate with the real enemy's agenda.

A couple of things really stood out for me. One is how frustrated and bewildered the demons are by God's love for humans. "He actually likes the little vermin," Screwtape writes disgustedly at one point. That sentiment was repeated often.

Screwtape also talks about the fact that God wants to people the universe with little replicas of Himself...yet in making them more like Him, he also gives them back their own distinctness, making them more themselves than they ever were. "We want cattle who can finally become food," says the demon, "He wants servants who can finally become sons."

Another was (and this is a spoiler if you haven't read it) Screwtape's reaction to the patient's death. While furious that Wormwood has allowed a soul to slip through his clutches, he resignedly describes what the human must have been experiencing when his soul left his body. Screwtape is appalled that this "creature of slime" is now able to stand up and converse with spirit beings whose light the demons are unable to bear.

He also observes that, when meeting these spirit beings, the human instantly feels recognition...not asking "Who are you?" but saying, "So it was you..."

Wonderful book, with a lot of food for thought. Some people criticize Lewis' theology, but when I read one of his books, I'm usually inspired anew by the wonder of being a child of God...and that moves me to love Him more. And that's a good thing.

Participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books:


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Do you care if a biography is well-written?

I'm participating today in Booking Through Thursday, and the question is:

There are so many crappy biographies … would you rather read a poorly-written biography of a fascinating life, OR an exquisitely well-written, wonderful read of one of a not-so-interesting life?

I had to think about this for a minute. Biography (along with autobiography) is my second-favorite genre, after fiction.

I love to read about the lives of interesting people. Delving into how they were raised, what made them tick, how they rose to all just fascinates me.

To get to those fascinating facts, I will, and have, read biographies that are written in a mediocre fashion.

But if I had my druthers, I'd want the best of both worlds: to read about the story of a fascinating person, written well by a wonderful author.

The images you see are two such biographies, albeit of two men who were vastly different. Jim Elliot, the missionary who lost his life bringing the gospel to the primitive Auca Indians, was a man who was sure of his faith and his destination.

Branwell Bronte was a tormented soul who was unable to attain success or happiness in this world.

Both books are brilliantly and compellingly written--prime examples of biographies of people who might not be in the highest strata of celebrity, but whose stories are written by master wordsmiths--Shadow of the Almighty by Elliot's widow, Elisabeth Elliot; The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte, by acclaimed novelist Daphne DuMaurier.

When I think of "crappy biographies," I think of those "unauthorized" paperbacks about Justin Bieber or Lady Gaga that you see at the grocery store. No, I won't be reading those. :)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Big news in Christian Fiction: The Christy Awards Announced

The 2011 Christy Awards presentation was held last night in Atlanta, honoring the best in Christian fiction in nine categories.

In the years that I worked for a Christian radio station and regularly interviewed Christian authors, I would have read several of the winners. This year I've only read two of the finalists (they didn't win in their categories): Susan Meissner's Lady in Waiting, and Ted Dekker's The Bride Collector.

However, I see some of my favorite authors among the finalists and winners. I've been wanted to read Julie Klassen's The Girl in the Gatehouse for a long time--I never seem to catch it on the shelf at my local library, and haven't taken the time to reserve it. I'm finally going to be getting my own copy shortly, though! I've loved the other books I've read by Julie Klassen.

If you head over to the list and see ones that you've enjoyed,reviewed, or can recommend, will you let me know? Thanks!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Bookish Images Monday: Participate!

I'm starting something new here. I know many of you already participate in Monday bloghop, but there's no rule that says you can only do one, right?

On Mondays, I'll be hosting Bookish Images Monday. Simply post 1 or more--however many you want to!--images having to do with books.

Remember, you do NOT have to post a ton of images--one will be fine if that's all you want to do! (I just tend to go a little crazy.)

They can just be interesting or pretty book covers if you want. Or just pictures of books, bookcases, libraries or bookstores. Or they can be humorous, or vintage, or related to movies based on books. They just need to be book-related in some way.

Great places to search for book images are Tumblr, Weheartit and Imgfave. Make sure you give proper credit to the source of your images.

If you'd like to participate, post your link below. If no one else participates, I guess it'll just be me!


Feel free to grab this button!

Book Images Monday

Friday, July 8, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: Maggie O'Farrell's The Hand That First Held Mine

A blogger's review is what prompted me to pick up The Hand That First Held Mine, by Maggie O'Farrell, at the local library. (Thanks, blogger, whoever you are!)

The book was immediately intriguing and easily held my interest.

But you know, sometimes I refrain from reading anything on the cover because I want to let it all unfold on its own, without me having any knowledge of what's going to happen. And it might have been a good idea for me to have just a bit more knowledge about the story.

The book begins with Elina, a Finnish artist living with her English boyfriend, Ted, in the present day. Intriguingly, Elina has just had a baby, but she has no memory of doing so.

Simultaneously, we meet Lexie, who is living in the 1950's. Lexie is a beautiful, feisty young woman who wants to leave her Devon family and move to London--and fortunately for her, she just happens to meet a man who will help make that happen.

When I started reading the book, I thought it was going to focus mainly on Elina and Lexie, in their separate eras, and somehow link the two. I thought Ted was just sort of a marginal character. I was wrong.

The two stories do, of course, end up intersecting. And although I was starting to get an idea of where it was going, it still had one of the those deliciously jaw-dropping moments--I think I literally gasped out loud.

My one complaint about the book is that it makes Lexie sort of unlikable. I would have liked to have been able to root for her a bit more. Although she was admirable in some ways, she just wasn't lovable.

As for Maggie O'Farrell's writing? This is the first time I've ever read anything by her, and I loved her style. For instance, there are two babies in the book, and she captures a baby's behavior more beautifully and perfectly than I believe I've ever read.

I really enjoyed this book and plan to read more by Maggie O'Farrell.

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books. Click the icon for more info!


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Booking Through Thursday: Dog Days?

Participating today in Booking Through Thursday--and the question is:

...what animal-related books have you read? Which do you love? Do you have a favorite literary dog? (Snoopy, anyone?)

You know, I probably haven't read a book specifically about an animal since I was a child.

However, I love the way Dean Koontz incorporates dogs into almost all of this books.

This from Wikipedia:

Koontz is an avid dog lover, and canines (typically an unusually smart Golden or Labrador Retriever) often feature prominently in his works: Fear Nothing, Seize the Night, The Taking, Watchers, Dark Rivers of the Heart, Dragon Tears, One Door Away from Heaven, Ticktock, Twilight Eyes (towards the end of the book) and The Darkest Evening of the Year are prime examples.

I can't fully recommend all Dean Koontz books, especially his earliest ones. The earlier ones can get a little crazy.

But many of them are terrific, suspenseful, and even thoughtful and insightful reads, and his portrayals of dogs are nothing short of loving.

Go here to participate in Booking Through Thursday!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

WWW Wednesdays: What's in your book stack? 7/6/11

I'm participating today in WWW Wednesday, hosted by Should Be Reading. Here are the questions:

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

• What are you currently reading?

I'm actually reading two books right now! It just depends on what kind of mood I'm in when I pick up a book. Or sometimes, just whichever one happens to be handy!

They are two vastly different books: The Hand that First Held Mine, by Maggie O'Farrell, and Wedding Season, by Katie Fforde.

I picked up The Hand that First Held Mine at the library after reading more than one blogger review praising the book.

As for Wedding Season, I've enjoyed several other Katie Fforde books. They're a step above your average chick lit--fun, light-hearted, and British. I happen to adore British books!

• What did you recently finish reading?

Too Rich for a Bride, by Mona Hodgson.

• What do you think you’ll read next?

Cascade, by Lisa T. Bergren. I really enjoyed the first book in the River of Time series. I'm even planning my very first book give-away for when I post my review!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: Mona Hodgson's Too Rich for a Bride

I underestimated this book.

When I first started reading Too Rich for a Bride by Mona Hodgson, I thought it was just going to be a lightweight, fluffy romantic historial fiction read. You know, boy-and-girl-meet-cute, boy-and-girl-fall-in-love, and so on.

Instead, I discovered that this well-written little novel makes important points about greed, ambition, trust and doubt.

Ida Sinclair is driven by her desire to succeed as a businesswoman--an unusual and formidable goal for a woman in late 1890's Colorado.

Tucker Raines is an appealing character--a young preacher who just wants to pursue the ministry, but finds himself saddled with the struggling business of a father who is in ill health and seems to want nothing to do with him.

Ida and Tucker do meet kind of cute, but there are obstacles to them getting together--not the least of which is Ida's determination that men have absolutely no place in her life while she climbs the ladder to success.

I enjoyed this thoughtful, insightful story. It was the first time I had read anything by Mona Hodgson, and I came away with a genuine respect for her writing. I will definitely read more by her.

I recommend it, especially if you don't mind your historical romances infused with Christian faith.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Blogging for Books. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

I'm participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books--click on the icon for more info!



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