Sunday, July 31, 2011

July Reading Summary

Another month bites the dust and can you believe summer is more than half over?  I had a much better reading month in July that I had in May or June, and I LOVED most of what I read as well. I read (13) books and reviewed (11) so far. 
  1. Break the Skin; Lee Martin - 4/5 (review) 
  2. The Game of Secrets; Dawn Tripp - 5/5
  3. The Kitchen Daughter; Jael McHenry - 4.5/5 
  4. A Kind of Intimacy; Jenn Ashworth - 5/5 
  5. The American Heiress; Daisy Goodwin - 3.5/5 (audio) 
  6. Sister; Rosamund Lipton - 4.5/5 (review) 
  7. Book of Lies; Mary Horlock - 3.5/5 (eBook) 
  8. State of Wonder; Ann Patchett - 4.5/5 (review book)
  9. Bossypants; Tina Fey (audio/library) 4/5
  10. Dreams of Joy; Lisa See - (audio and arc) - 4.5/5
  11. The Curse of the Holy Pail; Sue Ann Jaffarian - 5/5 (eBook)
  • Mice; Gordon Reece (write Review)
  • Favorite  Fiction Book - A Kind of Intimacy; Jenn Ashworth - 5/5 
  • Favorite  Childrens Book - n/a
  • Favorite Audio Book - Dreams of Joy; Lisa See (4.5/5) 
  • New authors -   8/11- YTD - 51/75
  • Review Books - 7/11 -YTD - 33/75
  • 5 star books - 3/11 -   YTD - 20/75
  • 4 star books - 6/11-    YTD - 45/75
  • 3 star books - 2/11 -   YTD - 7/75
  • 2 star books - 0/11-    YTD - 2/75
~~~~~ Challenge Progress ~~~~~
  • 100+ Reading Challenge - 75/100
  • Reading From My Shelves Project - 36/50
  • Audio Book Challenge - 20/20 - COMPLETED
  • eBook Challenge - 7/20
  • Europa Challenge - 1/4
August Reading Plans
  • Maine; C Sullivan
  • Europa Challenge Books
  • Alice Bliss; Laura Harrington
  • Frenchman's Creek; D. Du Maurier
  • Save Me; Scottoline (audio - finish) 
How was your month for books?

The Curse of the Holy Pail; Sue Ann Jaffarian

Author: Sue Ann Jaffarian
Publication Year: 2007 
Publisher: Midnight Ink
Edition: eBook
Source: Kindle
Date Completed: 7/23/2011 
Setting: California
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes

Odelia Grey is a plus-sized, 40-something year old, corporate paralegal.  Her specialty at the law firm is research, and although she is no PI, she has been known to get herself involved in some sticky situations. Odelia just can't resist the opportunity to solve a mystery. Her younger boyfriend Greg has just proposed to her, and she's feeling like she needs time to think it over. When she is nervous or stressed she overeats.

In this cozy mystery, the second in a series, Odelia is sent over to the offices of Sterling Homes to notarize some documents for the company CEO, Sterling Price.  While she is there Mr. Price shows her his lunch pail collection, which includes the rare and most valuable pail, the "holy pail" is the first one made, the Chappy Wheeler. Chappy Wheeler was a television cowboy from the late 1940s who was murdered.  Every owner of this lunch pail has ended up dead, and so the pail is said to be "cursed".

Although Odelia is impressed by the "holy pail" and intrigued by its legend, she only has eyes for the Zorro lunch pail which is part of the collection.  Later that day a package arrives at the office --the Zorro lunch pail, a gift to Odelia from Sterling Price.  Unfortunately, shortly after, Mr. Price turns up dead. He was poisoned, and the valuable Chappy Wheeler lunch pail is missing.
"A gigantic Oreo cookie hung on the front entrance of the Sterling Homes corporate headquarters. I shook my head, removed my sunglasses, and did a double take.  This time, I saw a huge black funeral wreath. I made a mental note to call for an eye appointment. Soon."
"A blond, petite, and very chic woman sat on the sofa next to where Jackson Blake stood. She was very pretty, with the sort of fashion magazine looks that money and a good surgeon could maintain for years."

Odelia cannot resist delving into Price's death by asking innocent questions and doing a little snooping on the side.  She puts herself in several unsafe situations in the process. There are no shortage of suspects: Stella, Prices fiancee, his unscrupulous adult children, his son-in-law, and even someone from the old Chappy W show.

I loved this cozy mystery. The writing is laugh-out-loud funny, and even when Odelia is in the midst of a dangerous situation there are humorous elements that catch you off guard.  The story is centered around everyday life: Odelia's boyfriend, pets, family, and job, with a mystery thrown in making this just a delightful, laughable treat.  I highly recommend this light and fun book. I just ordered the first book in the series: Too Big to Miss. There are  5 books in the Odelia Grey mystery series.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dreams of Joy; Lisa See

Author:  Lisa See
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Random House
Edition: audio book and ARC
Reader: Janet Song (very good)
Source: audio-Library/arc-publisher
Date Completed: 7/26/2011 
Setting: Shanghai, China and US
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes

Dreams of Joy is a story that begins where the author's previous novel, Shanghai Girls left off. The former covered the period of time from 1937-1957.  In this novel, it's 1957 and the author introduces sisters Pearl and May once again.  Joy is a student at the University of Chicago, who has learned the truth about her mother and her aunt.  Excited by all of the propaganda she has heard about changes in China, under Chairman Mao's leadership, she decides to leave school for Shanghai to help with the revolution and search of her real father, a famous artist called Z.G.

When Pearl learns what Joy has done, she heads to Shanghai days later in hopes of bringing Joy home.  However, with all the red tape, getting connected with Joy initially proves difficult, as she had already connected with Z.G, and the two had headed to a commune where Z.G was sent by the government to teach painting to peasants. The commune, Green Dragon Village was located  far out in the country. At first Joy is thrilled with being there and doing what she feels is making a difference. She even meets a young man named Tao, a peasant farmer, who she ends up marrying.  The marriage turns out to be a huge mistake.

It isn't long before the situation in China is terrible.  People were told to have more children so that there would be more people to help in the fields. What resulted were people starving, people forced into slavery, and even instances of cannibalism. Despite the disasters of all of the programs people were forced to implement,  they were required to paint pictures portraying the successes of the new programs.
Without giving away too many details, about what else happens, I'll just say that despite all of the bleakness in this novel, I was happy with the ending, although it seemed somewhat rushed. Pearl's love for Joy shined through again and again.

All of the characters were well developed, and although I liked Joy, I found her incredibly naive, and foolish. For example, she willingly surrendered her passport when she entered the country. The story is told from alternating viewpoints of Joy and Pearl. I loved learning about what China was like during that period of time, and although this is a work of fiction, I suspect that the author's descriptions were accurate for that period of time.  I liked this novel a lot, and think that reading Shanghai Girls first, is a plus.

Saturday Snapshot

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ AT Home With Books.
Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.
I got a new camera in June because I wanted to be able to take some beautiful bird photos, like Leslie.  It wasn't long after sitting on my deck with the camera around my neck for a few days, that I realized that:
  • (A) - we either had a lousy selection of birds around here
  • (B) - the birds didn't feel like posing for my new camera
  • (C) - the birds are not fond of the pine trees that surround our deck.
  • (D) - I need to buy a bird book!
Either way, these are probably the best bird photos you'll ever see from me....LOL  One day I got so excited as a yellow finch came to our birdbath several times, but by the time I got the camera out, he was gone :(
I don't think I'm patient enough for bird photography.

 Click images to enlarge
(some kind of dove?)
(some kind of black bird) LOL
Ticked off Ducks!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bossypants; Tina Fey

Title: Bossypants
Author: Tina Fey
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Edition: audio book 
Reader: Author
Source: Library
Date Completed: 7/24/2011 
Setting: n/a
Rating: 4/5
Recommend: yes

I've always enjoyed memoirs, and when I heard about Bossypants back in April, I knew that only the audio book would do for me - after all, it's read by the author herself, and with Tina's terrific sense of humor, I suspected I would be pleased.  My first intro to Tina Fey was during the last presidential campaign when her humor landed her major accolades as a Sarah Palin impersonator. I thought she was awesome in this role, and I have been a fan of hers ever since.

In her memoir, she begins by telling us how she was a "change of life baby", and the fact that she grew up in Philadelphia. She shocks us by saying that she was slashed in an alley by a stranger as a young child, but chooses not to elaborate on what happened!  She then goes on to share stories about growing up, a memorable story about her father and his Greek heritage and his quirks. There are also stories about her mother, brother, school, a honeymoon cruise nightmare, jobs she held and the difficulties faced by women in her field. Well,  you get the picture.

One thing  that shines through again and again is Fey's sarcastic sense of humor. At times I found myself laughing out loud as I was driving in my car.  I'm sure people who saw me at traffic lights must have thought I was smoking something.  Because I was listening to the book rather than reading it, I do not recall all of essay titles, except her intro essay, "Origin" - how Tina Fey came about as a "change of life baby".

Although I did enjoy this audio book, at times I felt the essays just seemed too scattered, not following in particular order, and sometimes like a stand-up comedy act where random thoughts might come to mind.  Despite this, I would still recommend this audio book to anyone who needs a good laugh. Fans of David Sedaris, will likely enjoy this book. - Recommended

Waiting on Wednesday; Child Wonder; Ray Jacobsen

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's what caught my eye recently.....
Graywolf Press - Sept 27, 2011

A glorious evocation of a Norwegian childhood in the early sixties by an author short-listed for the 2009 Dublin IMPAC Award

Little Finn lives with his mother in an apartment in a working-class suburb of Oslo. Life is a struggle to make ends meet, but he does not mind. When his mother decides to take a lodger to help pay the bills, he watches with interest as she freshens up their small apartment with new wallpaper and a sofa paid for in installments. He befriends their new male lodger, whose television is more tempting to him than his mother would like. When a half sister whom he never knew joins the household, Finn takes her under his wing over an everlasting summer on Håøya Island. But he can’t understand why everyone thinks his new sister is so different from every other child. Nor can he fathom his mother’s painful secret, one that pushes them ever farther apart. As summer comes to a close, Finn must attempt to grasp the incomprehensible adult world and his place within it. Child Wonder is a powerful and unsentimental portrait of childhood. Roy Jacobsen, through the eyes of a child, has produced an immensely uplifting novel that shines with light and warmth.

Monday, July 25, 2011

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I chose to read based on the opening paragraph (s). This week's opening paragraph (s) is from a book that will be released on August 18th by Viking.

"My mum and I lived in a cottage about half an hour outside of town."
"It hadn't been easy finding a home that met all of our requirements: in the country, no neighbours, three bedrooms, front and back gardens; a property that was old (it had to have character) but at the same time had all the mod cons - a modern central heating system was essential, as we both hated to be cold. It had to be quiet. It had to be private. We were mice, after all. We weren't looking for a home. We were looking for a place to hide."
 (I've only read these (2) paragraphs so far, but the description overview of this psychological thriller really seems to appeal to me - hope it's a good one.)

What do you think about that INTRO?
Want to join in?  Just grab the image, and share the first paragraph (s) of your current book.

Here's an overview of the novel, in case you are interested:

Product Description

An electrifying psychological thriller about a mother and daughter pushed to their limits.

Shelley and her mom have been menaced long enough. Excused from high school where a trio of bullies nearly killed her, and still reeling from her parents' humiliating divorce, Shelley has retreated with her mother to the quiet of Honeysuckle Cottage in the countryside. Thinking their troubles are over, they revel in their cozy, secure life of gardening and books, hot chocolate and Brahms by the fire. But on the eve of Shelley's sixteenth birthday, an unwelcome guest disturbs their peace and something inside Shelley snaps. What happens next will shatter all their certainties-about their safety, their moral convictions, the limits of what they are willing to accept, and what they're capable of.

Debut novelist Gordon Reece has written a taut tale of gripping suspense, packed with action both comic and terrifying. Shelley is a spellbinding narrator, and her delectable mix of wit, irony, and innocence transforms the major current issue of bullying into an edge- of-your-seat story of fear, violence, family loyalty, and the outer reaches of right and wrong.

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the new books that arrived at your home the previous week.  It's a great chance to explore some great book blogs in the process.  Hosted this month at: A Sea of Books 

Last week's arrivals:
Have you read any of these yet?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

State of Wonder; Ann Patchett

Title: State of Wonder
Author: Ann Patchett
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Harper
Edition: ARC
Source: publisher
Date Completed: 7/22/2011 
Setting: Minnesota and South America
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes
"The news of Anders Eckman's death came by way of Aerogam, a piece of bright blue airmail paper that served as both the stationery and, when folded over and sealed along the edges, the envelope. Who even knew they still made these things? This single sheet had traveled from Brazil to Minnesota to mark the passing of a man, a breath of tissue so insubstantial that only the stamp seemed to anchor it to this world...................."
So begins the State of Wonder, as the CEO of Vogel Pharmaceuticals, Jim Fox, delivers the bad news to Marina Singh, a research scientist for the company who had worked as a research partner with the late Eckman.

Anders Eckman was sent to Amazon some two years earlier to report back on the progress of a research and development project involving the possibility of continued fertility for women late in life, as was believed to be the case with the Lakashi tribeswomen living there.  The project has been headed by Dr. Annick Swenson for a over 10 years.  However, Dr. Swenson has failed to keep the company informed about how the project is going, and the CEO is feeling pressured to speed up the process so that the miracle drug can be submitted to the FDA.  Now with Eckman dead,  both Mr. Fox and Eckman's wife want answers. "Why was Eckman buried there, and did he really die of a fever?"

Marina, 42 and single had once studied with Dr. Annick Swenson, who is now in her 70's and has been in the Amazon for over a decade. Years earlier Marina left her training as an OB/GYN doctor for a position as a research scientist, after a surgery she was performing under Dr. Swenson went terribly wrong. She vowed never to treat patients again.  Jim Fox, as Marina calls him, thinks she is the person who must take over now that Eckman is dead. Marina, has been having a discreet relationship with Mr. Fox (as she calls him) for a number of years.  Marina agrees to leave her comfortable and solitary life doing research to travel to the primitive jungles of the Amazon, where death and illness are ever present.

Not only is Marina ill prepared for this trip, but her anti-malarial medicine, Larium, has been causing her nightmares about the very things that have haunted her since childhood.  In addition, her luggage is lost, and, once she arrives she is told by Dr. Swenson that she should not have come.  It isn't long before she is thrust into the jungles, and she learns what Swenson's research has involved.  In the process, Marina is forced to deal with many of the issues she has long avoided.

I've long been a fan of Ann Patchett, having read,  all of her books except Bel Canto, which I hope to rectify soon. As with her other books, this book is another winner.  I thought the strength of this book was the locale, contrasting the cold Minnesota winters to the hot and humid climate of the rain forest.  The writing was rich and descriptive, and beautifully detailed. At times I felt like I should be swatting some mosquitoes as I read this book.  I loved the element of suspense that strung me along for a page-turning experience, and which included a twist I had not anticipated.  The book dealt with some ethical issues, but I liked the fact that the author did not take sides or debate the issues, even though Dr. Swenson at one point stressed the merits of the project.

One complaint I had was the way that Mr. Fox seemed to so easily send Marina, a woman he obviously cared for, out into the dark unknown. A quiet, reserved woman, she seemed like such an unlikely candidate to investigate the death of her coworker, and to delve into what was going on with the project.  Initially, I thought he was spineless, but in the end, I realized Marina was the perfect choice for the assignment, as the entire ordeal forced her to deal with her past and with the issues that has troubled her for so long. An excellent story - read it.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ AT Home With Books.

Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.
It's been so hot hot hot here, but thanks to our sprinkler system, the hydrangea bushes are doing well. This summer there are about (10) blossoms this size in bloom on this bush, and at least another (10) buds. It gets only about  4 hours of full sun each day, and that seems to work well.

This potted hibiscus only had buds when we purchased it, so we were thrilled to see the mixed blossoms on one plant. This one gets full sun and thrives in it. Sadly, it's an annual, and I've never had luck bringing these in for the winter.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Book of Lies; Mary Horlock

Author: Mary Horlock
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Harper
Edition: eBook
Source: Net Galley
Date Completed: 7/19/2011 
Setting: Island of Guernsey
Rating: 3.5/5
Recommend: yes 
The Book of Lies tells two stories which took place on the island of Guernsey. The novel begins in 1985 with fifteen-year-old Catherine (Cat) Rozier writing a confession about how she killed her best friend, Nicolette (Nic). She also tells us that her own father is dead, and that she didn't kill him, although she thought about it. We also learn whatever happened to Cat's father is connected to Nic.
It seems Catherine isn't the only one who got away with murder on the island, which was occupied by the Germans during WWII.  At that time Cat's father Emile was a young boy when the German's invaded, and for many years of his adult life he was trying to sort out the truth from the lies as to what his own father and older brother Charlie's role was during the war.
As Cat writes her own story about how she was betrayed by her best friend Nic, another story which was documented by her father's brother Charlie, tells of how he was captured, starved and tortured by the Germans after someone he also trusted had betrayed him, when he was about the same age as Cat.  We also learn about the role the grandfather played during the war and what had happened to him.

As Cat writes her story about what happened in (1984-1985), I found her to be a bit naive, but also a lonely teenager who longed for acceptance. She thought she had found that with the cool, pretty girl Nic as her best friend. Together they did the things many teens do and sometimes to excess: makeup, boys, drinking and other  high school antics, and then her best friend betrayed her.

The story alternates between Cat's story and Charlie's story decades earlier. I was not fond of how the story unfolded. Just when I was getting into Cat's story, the story would then change to a story about the war.  It might have worked a bit better if alternating chapters were used to separate the two stories.  The characters were well developed, and I thought Cat and probably more so, Charlie were sympathetic.  I do think this was a good debut novel, and I would recommend it with just minor reservations.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - July 20th

 Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's what caught my eye recently.....

(Nov 9th - Scribner)

On November 22, 1963, three shots rang out in Dallas, President Kennedy died, and the world changed. What if you could change it back? Stephen King’s heart-stoppingly dramatic new novel is about a man who travels back in time to prevent the JFK assassination—a thousand page tour de force.

Following his massively successful novel Under the Dome, King sweeps readers back in time to another moment—a real life moment—when everything went wrong: the JFK assassination. And he introduces readers to a character who has the power to change the course of history.

Jake Epping is a thirty-five-year-old high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine, who makes extra money teaching adults in the GED program. He receives an essay from one of the students—a gruesome, harrowing first person story about the night 50 years ago when Harry Dunning’s father came home and killed his mother, his sister, and his brother with a hammer. Harry escaped with a smashed leg, as evidenced by his crooked walk.

Not much later, Jake’s friend Al, who runs the local diner, divulges a secret: his storeroom is a portal to 1958. He enlists Jake on an insane—and insanely possible—mission to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. So begins Jake’s new life as George Amberson and his new world of Elvis and JFK, of big American cars and sock hops, of a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald and a beautiful high school librarian named Sadie Dunhill, who becomes the love of Jake’s life—a life that transgresses all the normal rules of time.
A tribute to a simpler era and a devastating exercise in escalating suspense, 11/22/63 is Stephen King at his epic best.

Monday, July 18, 2011

First Chapter Frirst Paragrah (s) Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I chose to read based on the opening paragraph (s).  This week's intro is from something light and hopefully fun. The book is a (2nd) in a mystery series (but it isn't necessary to read book # 1 - Too Big To Miss, first.  This one was a FREE Kindle selection last week, and a friend raved about it.

" By the age of forty-seven, I had technically broken nine of the Ten Commandments--although I'm still a bit fuzzy about the whole 'graven image' thing. For example, when I was eleven, on a dare, I stole several candy bars from a drugstore. And in high school, telling the fifth-period gym class that Sally Kipman was a lesbian would definitely be categorized as bearing false witness.  But in my defense, it was only after she told everyone I was fat because I was pregnant.
Still, I always thought I would make it to heaven with the sixth commandment intact; that going through life without killing another human being would be a piece of cake.
But I was wrong. And now here I am -- ten for ten.
And it all started with my birthday."
What do you think, does this sound like a light and fun mystery?

Want to join in?  Just grab the image, and share the first paragraph (s) of your current book.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mailbox Monday

Mailbox Monday is a gathering place for readers to share the new books that arrived at your home the previous week.  It's a great chance to explore some great book blogs in the process.  Hosted this month at: A Sea of Books 
Some new interesting books ....
Hope you received some great books as well.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Europa Editions Fever

I went a little crazy this week purchasing Europa Editions. I love the quality of these books.

My problem  is trying to decide which to read first. 
Have you read any of these? Help me pick!

Saturday Snapshot

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce @ AT Home With Books.

Photos can be old or new, and be of any subject as long as they are clean and appropriate for all eyes to see. How much detail you give in the caption is entirely up to you. Please don't post random photos that you find online.

How I spent (3) days at work this past week.

Academic libraries are busy weeding regular books
from their collections and adding eBooks.

These are (3) stacks deep and I'm only showing 
you about 1/2 of this weeks discards.

Kind of Sad, but these just never get use any more.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Sister; Rosamund Lupton

Title: Sister
Author: Rosamund Lupton
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Crown
Edition: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Date Completed: 7/14/2011 
Setting: London
Rating: 4.5/5
Recommend: yes

Arabella Beatrice Hemming (Bee) is a young English woman and art designer living in New York with her fiancee. One day she receives a frantic call from her mother in London who says that her younger sister Tess has gone missing.  Bee takes the next available flight into London, even though she is not terribly concerned as her sister has always been a bit flighty. 

Soon after Bee's arrival, her sister is found dead in a abandoned public restroom; she has cuts on her arms.  We also learn that she has recently given birth to s stillborn baby.  The police are quick to rule Tess' death a suicide probably as a result of postpartum depression, but her sister Bee is certain that Tess did not commit suicide, but was murdered instead.

Bee is determined to dig deeper into the life of her sister, and she discovers several things: Tess was receiving nuisance calls, she was seeing a married man who wanted nothing to do with the baby, and she was undergoing gene therapy because their brother died of Cystic Fibrosis.  If it was a murder, there could be several possible suspects.

I loved the way this story unraveled. Bee was telling her sister what was happening. The characters were interesting, and the plot twists kept me guessing, something I enjoy in a good psychological thriller. It was also a story which showed the sometimes powerful bond between sisters, and between a mother and her daughters as well.  This was a very very good debut novel.  Lots going on that held my interest. Recommended.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The American Heiress; Daisy Goodwin

Author: Daisy Goodwin
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: MacMillian Audio
Edition: audio book 
Reader: Katherine Kellgren (very good)
Source: Amazon Vine
Date Completed: 7/13/2011 
Setting: US and England
Rating: 3.5/5
Recommend: yes

Cora Cash is one of the most beautiful and richest Gilded Age debutantes. At her coming out ball in Newport, Rhode Island, her mother, a domineering, and obnoxious social climber, has a mishap with leave her face disfigured, and although her face is altered, her contemptuous  personality remains unchanged.  The fact that Cora feels deeply for her American suitor Teddy Van Der Leyden, means nothing as far is Cora's mother is concerned. Teddy comes from a prominent family, but Mrs. Cash believes that only an English Nobleman will due for her daughter, because if Cora becomes the wife a wealthy aristocrat, Mrs Cash' social status will be elevated as well.

Cora, who wants to get away from her domineering mother, agrees to accompany her to England, soon after the ball. Her black servant Bertha, who is totally dedicated to Cora accompanies them.  Soon after arriving, Cora is thrown from a horse and is injured.  As fate  would have it, she spends her time recuperating at the home of the handsome and eligible, Ivo, Duke of Wareham.  It isn't long, a few weeks, before the Duke proposes marriage to Cora.

Their marriage is not a "and they lived happily ever after" story.  Married life is difficult for Cora. Although she wants to be a good wife, her husband turns somewhat aloof and secretive.  Cora begins to wonder if her ever got over his former love interest, or was it Cora's money that appealed to him.  Cora also has to deal with being scorned and looked down upon by her mother-in-law and others.

Cora was a likable character, but for an intelligent girl with lots of money and status, she seemed extremely naive. He life among the British was one disaster after another, and she couldn't seem to anticipate any of it.  Cora's mother on the other hand, was as obnoxious as her mother-in-law, snooty society elitists. Her husband Ivo was a piece of work.  Cora's servant Bertha was an endearing character --I liked her a lot.

The audio book was fun to listen too, and the reader was very good. (She had the snob voice perfected).  I liked all the historical details about the customs, the estates, the balls and clothing, but parts seemed a little bogged down and I was occasionally tempted to fast forward certain sections. I also thought the ending seemed a little open ended, so I am wondering whether there might be something else planned.  Fans of historical, period novels might find this a fun summer read.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday - July 13th

 Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we are eagerly anticipating! Want to participate? Post your own WOW entry on your blog, and leave your link at Breaking the Spine. Here's what caught my eye recently.....

The Very Picture of You; Isabel Wolff
October 2011 - Bantam

Where the eye sees the brushstroke, the heart sees the truth.

From Isabel Wolff, the internationally bestselling author of A Vintage Affair, comes a beguiling novel about artistic inspirations, family secrets, and the courage to turn one’s life into a masterpiece.

At thirty-five, Gabriella Graham—“Ella” to her family and friends—has already made a name for herself as a successful portrait artist in London. She can capture the essential truth in each of her subjects’ faces—a tilt of the chin, a glint in the eye—and immortalize it on canvas. This gift has earned Ella commissions from royals and regular folks alike.

But closer to home, Ella finds the truth more elusive. Her father abandoned the family when she was five, and her mother has remained silent on the subject ever since. Ella’s sister, Chloe, is engaged to Nate, an American working in London, but Ella suspects that he may not be so committed. Then, at Chloe’s behest, Ella agrees to paint Nate’s portrait.

From session to session, Ella begins to see Nate in a different light, which gives rise to conflicted feelings. In fact, through the various people she paints—an elderly client reflecting on her life, another woman dreading the prospect of turning forty, a young cyclist (from a photograph) who met a tragic end—Ella realizes that there is so much more to a person’s life than what is seen on the surface, a notion made even clearer when an unexpected email arrives from the other side of the world. And as her portraits of Nate and the others progress, they begin to reveal less about their subjects than the artist herself.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in Isabel Wolff’s vibrant and textured story, these words are brilliantly crafted to convey the humor, mystery, and beauty that exists within each of us.
Do you like the sound of this one?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Kind of Intimacy; Jenn Ashworth

Author: Jenn Ashworth
Publication Year: 2011 
Publisher: Europa
Edition: Kindle eBook
Source: personal copy
Date Completed: 7/10/2011 
Setting: British Suburb
Rating: 5/5
Recommend: yes - it's wonderful!

Annie Fairhurst, 27 and newly single has just relocated to a British suburb with her cat, Mr. Tips. Annie is an obese and socially awkward young woman, who actually seems content with her size and who she is.  It is important to her to make a good impression with the new people she meets, so she has immersed herself in personal development books about socializing and making conversation.  She's vague about her past, and when she does talk about it, you are never quite sure if she is telling the truth.

In her efforts to make friends and get to know her neighbors she decides to throw a housewarming party. She sends out 30 invitations, prepares a hedgehog centerpiece with pickled onions for eyes, and raisins for the irises, sets out her cow shaped milk pitcher, among other treats, and is ready for the party to begin. She thought the centerpiece would make for some good conversation.  Although the party is a disaster in the eyes of those she was trying to impress, she thinks it went well.  She even believes the friendliness of her next door neighbor Neil, is really a romantic crush on her. The fact that Neil has a cute, 19 year old live-in girlfriend named Lucy, is not even a factor in Annie's eyes, because she knows if Lucy were gone, they would be together.
"Sometimes I liked to imagine that Neil's bed was pushed up against the wall like mine, so near that I could hear his breathing. There was nothing inappropriate with my imaginings, far from it. Just the thought of hearing someone nearby helped me to sleep."
 " The newspaper he gave her felt like a lover's token, a little indication of his concern for me. "
An unreliable narrator, as the story progresses, the reader gets some insight into Annie's past: her very sad childhood, her problematic marriage, and the risky behavior she has engaged in,  all in attempts to find love, acceptance and companionship.  It's clear she is delusional and pretty much the "sociopath next door".   Each new chapter shows you just how twisted and laughable her logic is.  Just when you think she's gotten herself into the worst mess possible, something new happens, and it isn't long before her past catches up to her.

Annie is a whacky gal, who I found endearing in a bizarre sort of way.  At times I pitied her, and her desperate attempts for love and acceptance.  The story is dark and addictive. An unforgettable birds-eye view of the dark side of a fractured mind.  I LOVED this book, and it is without a doubt, my favorite book read in 2011.

(If you are serious about wanting to read this book, DO NOT read the Publisher's Weekly review of it -- it contains MAJOR SPOILERS).

First Chapter First Paragraph (s) Tuesday Intros

Every Tuesday, I'll be posting the opening paragraph (maybe two) of a book I chose to read based on the opening paragraph (s).
" My name is Catherine Rozier, please don't call me Cathy. If you do I'll jump. Don't think I'm bluffing. It's a 3000-foot drop and even though I'm fat, I'm not fat enough to bounce."
" I'll dive headfirst into ye ancient Guernsey granite outcrops and then my mashed-up body will be washed out to sea. Of course, if I get the tides wrong I'll be stranded on the rocks with seagulls eating my eyes. I know for a fact they'll eat anything."
 " Killing myself wouldn't be too clever, but then neither was killing Nicolette.  It's been a fortnight  since they found her body and for the most part I am glad she's gone. But I also can't believe she's dead, and I should because I did it.  Yes. That's right. I killed Nicolette on these very cliffs and I'm frankly amazed that no one has guessed......................................................."
 What do you think of this intro - would you read it ? 

Want to join in?  Just grab the image, and share the first paragraph (s) of your current book.