Thursday, November 11, 2010

Advent Calendars!

Twin has created the most adorable garland advent calendars!

She's actually been making these for a few years, and I always love they way they look hanging over the mantel or across the wall back when we lived in a little apartment with no fireplace. This year she's decided to sell the kit in her etsy shop -- so you can make your very own! The kit is a downloadable PDF with instructions and templates for two different designs.

You can read more about them on Twin's blog. My mantel is definitely going to be decorated with the Starry Trees design this year. :)

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Jenna Starborn, Sharon Shinn

Title: Jenna Starborn
Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: 2002, Ace
Category: Science Fiction / Romance
Rating: 7/10

I was really wanting to read Shinn's new book, Troubled Waters, but it's a hardcover so I didn't want to buy it and it's not available at any of my libraries. Sigh. So I read this one instead -- it's one of the few on Shinn's backlist that I hadn't read yet.

This is a science fiction retelling of Jane Eyre, which is a story that deserves retelling because it's so good. The plot follows the original story very closely, though the characters live on distant planets, Jenna is a nuclear reactor technician rather than a governess, and the unwanted wife's troubles are a bit different. I was torn between enjoying the futuristic version of the original story's events (which I know so well) and wishing that the plot was a little less similar. I've read Jane Eyre so many times that I knew exactly what was coming next.

Shinn captures the gothic, gloomy feel of Jane Eyre quite well, giving it a new spin by placing most of the action on a dark and inhospitable world. Jenna is as annoyingly good and moral as Jane is, though somehow you still end up liking her. My one real complaint about the book is actually also a problem I have with Jane Eyre: the overdramatic, "If I can't have you, I'll die!" ultra-romantic, overwrought action of the love story. I think this is why many people love Jane Eyre, but it's never sat particularly well with me. But it's a great story, nonetheless. :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Search, Nora Roberts

Title: The Search
Author: Nora Roberts
Published: Putnam, 2010
Rating: 7/10

La Nora's summer release for this year, picked up from the library for a nice weekend read. Her books don't really wow me (I think I've read too many for them to do that anymore), but they're almost always a pleasant read.

Fiona Bristow lives a peaceful existence on Orcas Island in Washington. She trains dogs for a living, including search and rescue dogs. One day she gets a new client with a very badly behaved puppy named Jaws. His owner, Simon, turns out to be quite the hottie, and Fiona ends up spending lots of time with both him and Jaws. The suspense plot in the book revolves around a serial killer who is mimicking an earlier killer who had tried to kill Fiona and failed. It soon becomes obvious that the new killer is targeting Fiona, trying to kill her when his predecessor had failed.

I found the suspense in this book to be quite tepid, which to be honest is just fine by me. When pages were devoted to the killer's movements and motivations, I was just reading through to get back to the good stuff. The good stuff being the descriptions of Fiona's life as a dog trainer, her relationships with her friend and mother-in-law, and the romance between her and Simon. While Simon is not really my idea of a hero (a bit gruff and overbearing to me), it was nice to read about these two very independent people as they learn how to make a serious relationship work.

Roberts's language is a bit on the overdramatic side for me, but she is a great storyteller.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Jubilee Trail, Gwen Bristow

Author: Gwen Bristow
Published: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1950
Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/10

I was browsing through AAR's DIK reviews a couple of weeks ago -- and found an A review for Jubilee Trail by Gwen Bristow. One of my favorite books of all time was written by Gwen Bristow (Celia Garth), and I realized that I'd never tried any of her other books. My library had this one, so I gave it a try.

Garnet Cameron turns 18 in the year 1844. She is the daughter of a nice, well-to-do family, who live in a nice house on Union Square in New York City. She has marriage offers from respectable men who, well, bore her. She wants adventure in a time when young ladies of good birth didn't get to have adventures. Then she meets Oliver Hale, a man who makes his living by trading along the Jubilee Trail, which stretches from St. Louis to California. When Oliver proposes, Garnet jumps at the chance to have an exciting life. And off they go on their way to California.

Now I think I understand why my mom (who gave me Celia Garth) never gave me this one to read. I read this whole, looong book, but I was close to giving up lots of times. By the end I was skimming because while I really wanted to stop, for some reason I also wanted to know what happened in the end. I think this means that the story and plot was good, but that the characters were poorly done.

Garnet is naive, but plucky and brave in a way that is not very believable (and, imo, quite annoying). She, and all the other characters, struck me as sadly one-dimensional. Her adventures seem unrealistic too. And one thing that really disgusted me was several scenes in which the Indians encountered along the way are described as non-human. Now, this book was published in 1950, but that doesn't excuse it.

Honestly, this book made me wonder what I would think of Celia Garth had I read it for the first time now, instead of when I was a preteen. I know that my standards have gotten a lot higher.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Bibs for a Baby!

We found out a couple of months ago that Collin's sister is having another baby. Which means, yippeee! A baby to sew for!

My first projects for the little one were these cute quilted bibs. I found the pattern here. They go together really fast. And they're washable, so they can actually be used.

I'm working on a baby quilt now!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Death in the Stocks, Georgette Heyer

Author: Georgette Heyer
Published: 2009 (reprint), Sourcebooks, originally 1935
Category: Mystery
Rating: 5/10

I have been steadily reading Heyer books (with great delight) since I discovered her a few years ago. She has a huge backlist, which consists of historical romances, mysteries, and historical fiction. The romances, of course, are my favorites -- but I'm running out of new ones to read! So, I picked up this mystery when I saw the pretty re-issued edition by Sourcebooks.

Andrew Vereker is found dead, his corpse carefully arranged so he's sitting in the stocks on the green of some little English village. The police soon have more suspects than they can handle: the nephew who is heir to Vereker's fortune, a corrupt employee who was cooking the books, a mysterious stranger who was seen fighting with Vereker before his death. Everyone seems to be lying about where they were the night of the murder, and everyone seems to have hated the deceased.

I was sadly disappointed by this book. For one thing, I totally guessed who "done it" really early in the book, which either means I'm really clever or it was obvious. I think it's the latter, because I never know who the murderer is when reading mysteries. I'm nearly always surprised in the end. My second reason for not liking the book: I found all the characters extremely annoying. They struck me as lazy, spoiled, selfish, snobby upper-class Brits and I didn't like them. A couple of people grew on me toward the end, but it was waaaay too long coming.

The only saving grace for me was the intelligent, witty dialogue, which is classic Heyer. I'm undecided whether I want to try any more Heyer mysteries. Anyone have any advice? There are a couple of her romances that I haven't read yet -- will definitely have to track them down.

Monday, September 27, 2010

What I Did for Love, Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Author: Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Published: 2009, William Morrow
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 7/10

SEP books are a little bit hit-or-miss for me, but every few months I crave one -- mostly because I think Phillips has such a good sense of humor. Her books always have some great, funny dialogue.

Georgie York is a young actress who has been in the public eye since she was a teenager starring in a popular sitcom. At the beginning of the book, her life isn't going so well: her career has stagnated and she's just been dumped by her perfect actor husband (think Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt). Through crazy events I can't quite remember, she wakes up from a drunken Las Vegas night married to her old costar Bram Shephard. Bram is a serious bad-boy movie star (gorgeous but selfish and spoiled). Georgie is appalled to be married to him, but can't face the embarrassment of another high-profile divorce. Bram, on the other hand, is getting some great publicity and career boost out of the marriage. So the two make a pact to stay married for a year.

I think every one of is fascinated to some extent by the movie star lifestyle, and this book definitely satisfies that. I'm not one to follow Hollywood gossip, but even so it was still amusing to read about it all. It helps that the main characters are fairly down-to-earth and nice -- Georgie especially is way more normal than most stars probably are. There's a nice big cast of characters, and we actually get two little romantic subplots that are quite nice.

So my verdict is -- slightly ridiculous plot, but still a satisfying read.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Maybe This Time, Jennifer Crusie

Author: Jennifer Crusie
Published: 2010, St. Martin's Press
Category: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 7.5/10

Jennifer Crusie is one of my all-time favorite authors, and we have been waiting a looong time for a solo book from her. She's been co-authoring books, but it's been years since we got an all-Crusie book. I should have been counting down the hours until this was published - but what with all my crazy summer, I'd pretty much forgotten about it. Until the other day I was browsing through my library's new books, and I saw it on the shelf! A loud gasp escaped me as I snatched it off the shelf and held it up like the holy grail. The little undergraduate next to me gave me a funny look. But that's okay. I took it home and had a lovely Saturday, reading all day long stretched out on the couch.

Andie Miller is ready to get engaged, but before she can go through with it she feels like she needs some closure with her ex-husband. So she visits him to return years of uncashed alimony checks. He's having a slight crisis -- he's become the guardian of some young cousins and he needs someone to take care of them. He offers to pay Andie a boatload of money to go out to their house in rural Ohio and see what's what. Andie's got a soft heart (plus she could really use that money), so she accepts. What she finds is an ancient, dirty, creepy house, a hostile and weird housekeeper, and two seriously messed up kids. It comes out that the house is haunted -- so not only does Andie need to help these troubled children, she also has to figure out how to exorcise some ghosts. And decide if she's still in love with her ex-husband.

This was a good read, though I don't think it'll be a favorite Crusie. It had many of the things that I love about Crusie's books: an extremely likable heroine, funny dialogue, and complex relationships that really seem genuine (Andie's relationship with Alice is especially well done). The love story is classic Crusie and very satisfying.

What didn't sit so well with me is the ghostly aspects of the book. It's not something Crusie has done before, and I'm just not sure it works for me. This may be just a personal thing -- I'm really not a fan of ghost stories. But the combination of light romantic comedy and dark, gothic thriller seemed an uncomfortable mix -- it wasn't scary enough to be a serious ghost story, but the ghost story was serious enough to make it certainly out of the realm of light comedy.

Still, it's a Crusie book, so I have no reason to complain. I plowed through it in a day and it was a highly enjoyable day. Here's hoping she writes many more. :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wake up, bloggy!

I am going to try to revive the blog! I've haven't really been posting with any frequency for years, but I want to start again. I've missed it. Life has finally settled down a little, I've been reading more again, so hopefully I can get a couple of posts up a week. We'll try anyway. :)

Some life updates, for those interested:

I haven't mentioned this guy yet, have I? I met my very own real-life hero over two years ago. He's better than any fictional hero I've ever read about. His name is Collin. He fully supports my reading habits, even though sometimes he likes to read the back cover copy in a dramatic voice and make fun of it. That's okay. I make fun of his fantasy sports, so we're about even.

Twin got married! Wasn't she a beautiful bride? And she's so happy! She had the most lovely wedding I've ever been to -- full of personal touches and happy people. Twin has disgustingly good taste, so the whole day was gorgeous. She's been posting about it on her blog.

I graduated from the library science program at UNC Chapel Hill in May. I'm a librarian! So exciting. Less exciting was the job search that followed -- but I was extremely fortunate and got a fabulous job as the Web Librarian at Appalachian State University. So Collin and I have moved to Boone, which is a small town in the mountains of North Carolina. And they pay me to play with the web all day! Score.

All right, I've just finished the new Jennifer Crusie book -- let's see how long it takes me to get a review up. :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

Blog Hiatus

I'm finishing up my masters degree (graduation on May 9!!). Obviously the blog has been on a break for a while, but I definitely plan to resuscitate it this summer. I really want to get back to reviewing books, and I should have lots more time for reading. Right now, I need to concentrate on finishing my Masters Paper and, um, getting a job. :)

Some great books I've read lately:

Michelle Moran's books about Egypt (love them!)

Julia Spencer-Fleming's Reverend Clare Fergusson mystery series (I've just read the first one and can't wait to get to the rest)

Sara Donati finished up her Into the Wilderness series with The Endless Forest

Jennifer Crusie's re-issued The Cinderella Deal

See you in a couple months!