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!!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bookish and Non-Bookish Thoughts...

I can't believe its already February and I've only blogged a handful of times.  Its crazy to me how lax I've been about posting, but I must admit that I love it.  I don't feel stressed or bogged down about blogging and as a result I'm actually enjoying reading other blogs again and leaving comments.  As for what else I've been up to (aside from reading up a storm):
  • Lent is here and that means sacrificing something.  This year I've decided to give up Facebook and Twitter.  I spend way too much time on both sites and feel that its time to take a break.  So, instead of checking news feeds and tweets, I will be reading or writing.  Most likely reading more often than writing. Wish me luck!
  • Another reason I've been MIA from blogging has to do with my health.  I have autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) and that tends to exhaust me, but lately I've been feeling some pretty intense pains.  So, I went to my doc and found out that my gallbladder doesn't look too great.  Turns out that most people with AIH wind up with dead gallbladders.  Talk about scary!  Now I need more tests.  Ugh!  Hopefully, my gallbladder is functioning at 20% or above, because then I won't need surgery.  Fingers crossed!
  • I've been listening to the 10,000 Maniacs MTV Unplugged CD like crazy lately.  I love Natalie Merchant's voice and was feeling rather nostalgic, so I've had this CD on repeat.    
  • I've been culling my books - again!  I already have a bag ready to give to my cousin.  He takes them to the local senior citizens' center.  This need to declutter my bookshelves derived from Oprah's latest issue of O magazine which was all about decluttering - spiffy in a jiffy, anyone?
  • I'm watching more TV lately.  Empire, The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul, Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and Child Genius are just a few of my favorites.  Of course I'm still watching The Mindy Project - who doesn't love Dr. L?  However, now with Mindy being preggers, I'm not really sure how the show will play out.  A baby just doesn't seem to fit with the usual crazy antics of the characters - maybe that's the point?  
  • I'm back at the gym.  Yep, I decided that after my recent medical drama (possible dead gallbladder) that I need to focus more on my health.  So, I have been waking up before its light out and heading to gym.  So far, I'm really enjoying it.  I fill my iPod with music that makes me want to move and just go for it.  Fingers crossed I can keep it up and make it a habit. 
  • I've been reading more Murakami.  I'm a huge fan of his work, but have yet to read all of his books.  I just don't want to run out of his stories, so I read them piecemeal.  Earlier this week I read his latest short story in The New Yorker titled, Kino.  I absolutely loved The Strange Library and had a craving for donuts afterward.  I must admit it was weird and fascinating.  I kept thinking that the beautiful young girl who helped him was his mom in some form.  And last night I read South of the Border, West of the Sun.  It was one of his most straight forward stories that I've read in quite some time and I didn't know what to make of it.  I was riveted with Hajime's meetings with Shimamoto.  I kept thinking that she was going to spring some crazy surprise on him.  I honestly thought that she was going to commit suicide when they went to the river.  I hated not knowing more about her.  And I wish I could have seen Izumi's face after that man said kids were scared of her.  Of course, after reading Hajime's description of it when he finally saw her I could understand what that man meant.  As for his family and the easy manner in which he was willing to give them up - well, my heart broke for them.  Hajime had to learn that the past is the past for a reason and that sometimes it is better off left forgotten.  Typical Murakami through and through.  I loved it!  
    And now, I'm off to read watch an episode of The West Wing.  I usually watch the series in the Fall every year, but for some reason I'm craving me some Sam Seaborn, Josh Lyman, and C.J. Cregg.  I'm not sure what book I'll read this weekend, but I'm leaning toward J.K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy or Jane Green's Summer Secrets.  What do you think?  Any recommendations on what to read next?  Ta for now.  Happy reading!!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Currently reading...

(Thanks to LibraryThing's Early Reviewers!)

"Anna was a good wife, mostly."

That is the perfect line to open this book with.  It tells you so much about the protagonist, Anna Benz - " an American in her late thirties, lives with her Swiss husband, Bruno—a banker—and their three young children in a postcard-perfect suburb of Z├╝rich." Anna is a woman who is struggling to connect with her husband, her children, the people around her, and her self.  She is adrift with a capital 'A'.  And she tends to tell herself that is a "good wife, mostly".  The "mostly" referring to her infidelity and lack of feeling.  Anna is lonely, disconnected, and filled with despair.  She truly believes that her first lover was her true love; which leads her to behave very badly with regards to her self and her family.  This book is truly a heartbreaking read on a so many levels.  You get to know Anna through her past and present story, along with bits and pieces from her therapy sessions - the latter of which are revelatory and illuminating.  I find myself dipping in and out of this story.  I want to finish it to find out what happens to Anna in the end, but I don't want the story itself to end.  I am hooked.  Right now I'm reading about Anna resigning herself to the fact that she has agreed to have a second lover.  She finds that she is now cheating on her husband Bruno with Archie ( a classmate ) and she is cheating on Archie with Karl (a childhood friend of her husband's) - talk about making a mess of things.  Of course her friend Edith would think that Anna's hit the jackpot by having two lovers.  After all, she keeps urging Anna to take on a lover - seems that having affairs is the answer to boredom and unhappiness according to Edith.   I have to admit that I almost feel sad for Anna. 

Anyhow, I must get back to reading this book.  I need to find out if/when Bruno will ever become wise to Anna's afternoon romps.  

Happy reading!!