Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Books I need to read...

I just opened my email and read The Orion Publishing Group's latest newsletter regarding #WonderWomen (March 2-8, 2015).  They are showcasing the works of  extraordinary female authors who have "achieved incredible things, in some cases against great odds and showing unbelievable bravery" in the run up to March 8 (International Women's Day).  How awesome is that? And of course, I wound up finding two books that I need to read ASAP thanks to their list.  Here are the books:
I found this book of short stories via an article ("Why Do They Hate Us?") written by Mona Eltahawy.  In her article she uses Rifaat's story titled "Distant View of a Minaret" to show just how powerless women really are in Egypt.  I was able to read the first two pages of the three page story and was hooked.  I need to read that last page!

According to  Goodreads: "More convincingly than any other woman writing in Arabic today, Alifa Rifaat lifts the veil on what it means to be a women living within a traditional Muslim society." So states the translator's foreword to this collection of the Egyptian author's best short stories. Rifaat (1930-1996) did not go to university, spoke only Arabic, and seldom traveled abroad. This virtual immunity from Western influence lends a special authenticity to her direct yet sincere accounts of death, sexual fulfillment, the lives of women in purdah, and the frustrations of everyday life in a male-dominated Islamic environment.  I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of this book!

The Vera Brittain book is about here experiences during WWI.  Goodreads describes the memoir as:

"Much of what we know and feel about the First World War we owe to Vera Brittain's elegiac yet unsparing book, which set a standard for memoirists from Martha Gellhorn to Lillian Hellman. Abandoning her studies at Oxford in 1915 to enlist as a nurse in the armed services, Brittain served in London, in Malta, and on the Western Front. By war's end she had lost virtually everyone she loved. Testament of Youth is both a record of what she lived through and an elegy for a vanished generation. Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as a book that helped “both form and define the mood of its time,” it speaks to any generation that has been irrevocably changed by war."  Doesn't that sound like a must-read book?  To me it does.  And I am eager to learn about Vera and the war through her writing.  There is even going to be a film version of her book released this year (it was already released in the UK).  I can't wait to see the film as well!

Here's the trailer for Testament of Youth:
Looks good, doesn't it?  I am really excited to dive into both books and let you know just how good they really are.  For now, I'm off to finish reading Helene Hanff's, The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, and Jane Green's upcoming novel, Summer Secrets.  Hope you are reading something great.  Ta for now! Happy reading!!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Daughter: A Novel by Jane Shemilt

(Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet, for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

Jenny knows she’ll never be able to find Naomi unless she uncovers the whole truth about her daughter—a twisting, painful journey into the past that will lead to an almost unthinkable revelation. . . .

my thoughts:

A predictable read that fell flat right from the beginning.  Truthfully, I wish that I had DNFed this book - it was that disappointing.  The story basically revolves around Jenny's dogged pursuit for the truth surrounding her daughter's disappearance.  I can dig that. I mean what parent wouldn't want to find out what happened to their kid if suddenly they are gone, right?  However, in this case its pretty obvious that this kid wanted to disappear.  Naomi is an unhappy teen who leads a double life unbeknownst to her parents.  So, as Jenny digs deeper into her daughter's (and family's) life she discovers things that shock her.  Except, they really aren't that shocking - well, maybe except for the gypsies - yep, they are the crowd that Naomi has fallen in with.  Anyhow, as Jenny falls apart, so does her family. A family that was already filled with too many cracks and was pretty much ready to dissolve.  And now that Jenny has finally seen just how bad things are at home, its too late to fix it all.   In the end, Jenny does find out what happened to Naomi, but she is left without her happy reunion. 

Sounds pretty interesting, right? Well, it wasn't.  There were too many cliches thrown in for dramatic effect and the story lines kept getting derailed by red herrings that never quite fit right.  The characters were stereotypical to a tee, which made them rather boring and uninteresting - basically, you didn't care what happened to them.  And the story itself was just too predictable to captivate.  In the end, The Daughter was just not my cup of tea.  However, you should check out what others are saying about this book, because as the saying goes "different strokes for different folks".  So, here's the TLC Book Tour schedule for: The Daughter
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Books I Want

Thanks to the latest issue of O magazine, I am jotting down three new book titles to my ever-expanding TBR list.  I swear that list is verging on being out of control.  But I couldn't help but find my interest piqued by these three books - they just sounded sooo good. 

about book: (summary from Goodreads)
In the heart of New York City, a group of artistic friends struggles with society’s standards of beauty. At the center are Barb and Lily, two women at opposite ends of the beauty spectrum, but with the same problem: each fears she will never find a love that can overcome her looks. Barb, a stunningly beautiful costume designer, makes herself ugly in hopes of finding true love. Meanwhile, her friend Lily, a brilliantly talented but plain-looking musician, goes to fantastic lengths to attract the man who has rejected her—with results that are as touching as they are transformative.

To complicate matters, Barb and Lily discover that they may have a murderer in their midst, that Barb’s calm disposition is more dangerously provocative than her beauty ever was, and that Lily’s musical talents are more powerful than anyone could have imagined. Part literary whodunit, part surrealist farce, The Unfortunate Importance of Beauty serves as a smart, modern-day fairy tale. With biting wit and offbeat charm, Amanda Filipacchi illuminates the labyrinthine relationship between beauty, desire, and identity, asking at every turn: what does it truly mean to allow oneself to be seen?

about book:  (summary from Goodreads)
Chapel Hill college student Maria finds herself in a difficult and familiar predicament—unexpectedly pregnant at nineteen. Still reeling from the fresh discovery of her mother’s diagnosis with cancer, Maria’s decision to give her daughter up for adoption is one that seems to be in everyone’s best interest, especially when it comes to light that the child’s father hasn’t exactly been faithful to her following the birth of her daughter. So when her mother proposes an extended trip to sleepy coastal town Beaufort—the same town that the adoptive couple Maria chose for her daughter just happens to live in—Maria jumps at the chance to escape.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Maria finds herself listless and bored soon after her arrival in Beaufort, and a summer job seems like a cure. She has kept close watch on the couple she chose to adopt her daughter—they live mere blocks away—and, as fate would have it, accepts a position as their nanny. Maria ingratiates herself into the family—hesitantly, at first, and then with all the heartbroken (and eventually self-destructive) fervor of a mother separated from her child.

about book: (summary from Goodreads) 
 Ivoe Williams, the precocious daughter of a Muslim cook and a metalsmith from central-east Texas, first ignites her lifelong obsession with journalism when she steals a newspaper from her mother’s white employer. Living in the poor, segregated quarter of Little Tunis, Ivoe immerses herself in printed matter as an escape from her dour surroundings. She earns a scholarship to the prestigious Willetson College in Austin, only to return over-qualified to the menial labor offered by her hometown’s racially-biased employers.

Ivoe eventually flees the Jim Crow South with her family and settles in Kansas City, where she and her former teacher and lover, Ona, found the first female-run African American newspaper, Jam! On the Vine. In the throes of the Red Summer—the 1919 outbreak of lynchings and race riots across the Midwest—Ivoe risks her freedom, and her life, to call attention to the atrocities of segregation in the American prison system.

What do you think?  Have you read any of them?  Should I keep them on my TBR list or drop them?  Let me know. Or if you have any titles you think I should add to my TBR list, let me know as well.  Ta for now.  Happy reading!!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Currently reading...

(Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book!)

I am smitten with Katherine Heiny's book of short stories: Single, Carefree, Mellow. So far, I've only read two of the shorts in the book, but I can already tell that this book is my jam.  The writing is superb; the characters are unlikeable, relatable, and realistic; and the stories are fascinating, quirky, entertaining, and hilarious.  I am in love with this book!  In fact, I've decided to dole out the stories piecemeal - I'll be reading one a week.  After all there are only eleven and I'm already down two - yikes!

The first story I read was called The Dive Bar.  Its about a woman who agrees to have a drink with her married lover's wife.  Talk about awkward!  Suffice it to say that the drink does not go down well.  Then again, what did she expect, right?  In fact, what did the wife expect?  I found myself wondering why anyone would subject themselves to such a meeting and also thinking that the man in question was most definitely not worth all the fuss. 

As for the second short - How to Give the Wrong Impression - well, its my favorite so far.  Basically, a young woman is in love with her roommate.  She is infatuated to the point that she pretends they are living together like a couple and not roommates.  She doesn't correct anyone when they assume they are dating.  And she is always telling her co-workers stories about him as if they were married.  He on the other hand doesn't seem to notice her adoration of him.  In fact, he mentions a cute classmate of his and she urges him to date her.  Its pretty sad and funny at the same time.  Reading this story I couldn't help but be reminded of an old college friend of mine.  She was obsessed with this classmate of ours and was convinced that everything he did (or said) was for her benefit - like he was secretly in love with her or something.  So, she would always give the impression that he was pursuing her, when in fact he wasn't.  A touch or a glance always meant more than it really did in her mind.  I tried to get her to see sense, but she was infatuated, so all I could do was listen.   Reading this story I can see how easily someone can misread a situation.  Love isn't one-sided and this story clearly demonstrates that, along with the ways in which unrequited feelings are mishandled. 

And now, I'm off to read the next story titled Single, Carefree, Mellow.  Ta for now! Happy reading!!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

GIVEAWAY & REVIEW: The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen

about book:

Abigail Foster is the practical daughter.  She fears she will end up a spinster, especially as she has little dowry, and the one man she thought might marry her seems to have fallen for her younger, prettier sister.

Facing financial ruin, Abigail and her father search for more affordable lodgings, until a strange solicitor arrives with an outstanding offer: the use of a distant manor house abandoned  for eighteen years.  The Fosters journey to imposing Pembrooke Park and are startled to find it entombed as it was abruptly left: tea cups encrusted with dry tea, moth-eaten clothes in wardrobes, a doll's house left mid-play...

The handsome local curate welcomes them, but though he and his family seem acquainted with the manor's past, the only information they offer is a stern warning: Beware trespassers drawn by rumors that Pembrooke Park contains a secret room filled with treasure.

This catches Abigail's attention.  Hoping to restore her family's finances - and her dowry - Abigail looks for this supposed treasure.  But eerie sounds at night and footprints in the dust reveal she isn't the only one secretly searching the house.

Then Abigail begins receiving anonymous letters, containing clues about the hidden room and startling discoveries about the past.

As old friends and new foes come calling at Pembrooke Park, secrets come to light.  Will Abigail find the treasure and love she seeks...or very real danger?

my thoughts:

Pembrooke Park is the place to be!  If you want mystery, suspense, and romance all rolled up into one fantastic story, then you need to read The Secret of Pembrooke Park by Julie Klassen.  This is one Gothic Regency romance you won't want to miss!

Abigail Foster believes that she is to blame for her family's recent financial ruin.  She urged her father to invest in her uncle's bank and now they are in the poorhouse.  Well, poor in the sense that her sister will still be able to enjoy the season (husband hunting society style) and they will have to downsize their staff to only five.  Of course, house hunting on a budget is not easy, so when they are introduced to a solicitor who is keen on providing them with accommodation they are bit skeptical.  Turns out Abby's father's distant relative has a manor that they would like the Fosters to let for twelvemonth at a pittance of price.  Insecure about her financial savvy after her last epic fail, Abby feels she must prove herself once again to her father.  She decides that this too-good-to-true offer is a must and urges her father to agree to it.  She even sacrifices her dowry so that her sister can buy new dresses for the season.  Abby just wants the best for her family and believes that Pembrooke Park is the answer.  So, she heads to their new digs to get it all in order for her family's arrival.  The house has been abandoned for nearly twenty years, so it is in quite a state.  Under Abby's management, the staff brings the house up to snuff and soon she is enjoying walks around the estate, meeting her neighbors, and developing a new crush.  Life is looking up for the Fosters.

Except, Abby's heart still beats for her childhood friend, Gilbert.  Only he's been making the rounds with her sister during the season, so he is no longer an option.  And then there is the biggest problem of all - the rumors swirling around Pembrooke Park.  Seems that it houses a hidden treasure so valuable, people are willing to lie, cheat, steal and even die for it.  Abby asks her neighbors and staff about the house's and Pembrooke family's history, but no one will tell her anything.  They are all afraid to talk about the past.  As for Abby, she is lonely in that big house.  It makes too many unusual noises late at night.  She finds footsteps in dusty hallways and doors left ajar (when they should have been shut).  And she keeps receiving old journal entries in the mail with notes attached from someone purporting to be a Pembrooke relative.  There are so many unsettling events, that Abby is eager for her father to arrive at the house.  Unfortunately, his arrival also brings an unexpected guest - someone Abby was warned to keep out of Pembrooke Park.  Talk about drama!! And I haven't even mentioned Abby's crush - Will Chapman.  He's the local curate who lives right next door to Abby and she is rather keen on him.  The only problem is that she's not so sure how he feels about her.  Then again as the story progresses, Abby finds herself admired by more than one suitor.  Hmm...looks like Pembrooke Park just might be the ticket after all.  If only, the house would quiet down, along with all those unseemly rumors.

And that is all I shall write about this wonderful book.  If you want to find out what the mystery is surrounding Pembrooke Park and whether or not Abby winds up married, then you must pick up a copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park and read it ASAP!  You will love getting lost in Julie Klassen's words and world!  In fact check out the details below regarding Klassen's amazing giveaway!!  You may just be lucky enough to win a copy of this book.  Good luck!!



In celebration of the release of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, four chances to win copies of Julie's books and other Jane Austen-inspired items are being offered.

Three lucky winners will receive one trade paperback or eBook copy of The Secret of Pembrooke Park, and one grand prize winner will receive one copy of all eight of Julie's novels: Lady of Milkweed Manor, The Apothecary's Daughter, The Silent Governess, The Girl in the Gatehouse, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Tutor's Daughter, The Dancing Master, and The Secret of Pembrooke Park, one DVD of Northanger Abbey (2007) and a Jane Austen Action figure.

To enter the giveaway contest, simply leave a comment on any or all of the blog stops on The Secret of Pembrooke Park Blog Tour starting February 16, 2015 through 11:59 pm PT, March 9, 2015.  Winners will be drawn at random from all of the comments and announced on Julie Klassen's website on March 16, 2015.  Winners will have until March 22, 2015 to claim their prize.  The giveaway contest is open to residents of the US, UK, and Canada.  Digital books will be sent through Amazon or Barnes & Noble.  Good luck to all!

How awesome is that?  So, don't forget to leave a comment!  Here's the schedule for the tour of: The Secret of Pembrooke Park  Check it out!!