Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Reading Rocky Mountain Oasis

Rocky Mountain Oasis

Rocky Mountain Oasis by Lynnette Bonner is one of those books I liked but didn't love -- and I wanted to love it. It has a great set-up: a mail-order bride with a past she'd like to forget is saved from marrying a somewhat unstable drunk miner by his more upstanding and gentlemanly cousin. Because he's moral and upstanding and this is the Wild West, Sky has little choice but to marry Brooke himself. Sky soon realizes that this deeply wounded woman needs patience and care, and desperately needs someone in her life whom she can trust. In the meantime, there's opium and murder and a lynch mob; and Sky the farmer gets involved since he's also a former lawman. There's also redemption and healing and love.

So, I liked a lot of things about it; the murder and trial aspect of the story were especially interesting, especially since it dealt with the role of and treatment of Asians in the American West during the mid-19th century. And it was based on a true story, which lent an air of realism. I liked little things, like how Sky taught Brooke to shoot a gun and made her carry one all the time to protect herself.

But despite all my likes, the book didn't grab me; it was easy to put down when i got interrupted reading. And, while I really like a book told from a Christian worldview, I prefer a book that takes the "I want to tell a story and it happens to be about people who are Christians/spiritual/deal with spiritual things/etc." rather than "I want to send a Christian message and I'll wrap it in a story to do so." To me, the latter type of story-telling feels less organic. I'd read this author again, but I'd have to be in the mood.

Bottome line: a sweet, heartwarming, western-themed, Christian romance.

Friday, November 30, 2012

in the library

I can't claim any kind of direct association with this, but here's something super cool going on at the library I work at:  Rap Club

Libraries are awesome!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reading One Amazing Thing

One Amazing Thing, by
One Amazing Thing
This book is a series of vignettes from the lives of strangers trapped by an earthquake. To distract themselves from their grim situation, they each tell a story -- a defining momoment from their life. I enjoyed these snapshots into the lives of such very different people. And I liked that through these stories, we're reminded that while we may not have anything in common on the surface, at heart we are all human beings with shared emotional experiences. Love, loss, family, hope, despair, success, failure. The writing was lovely as well. It's a short book, but deep, and fully engrossing.
Bottom line: worthwhile reading.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Reading romance

Somebody To Love

The Last Boyfriend (Inn BoonsBoro, #2)

The Next Always (Inn BoonsBoro, #1)

I recently went on a mini romance-reading binge, sandwiching Kristan Higgins' Somebody to Love between the first two books in Nora Roberts' new Inn at Boonsboro trilogy. All three books were enjoyable: exactly what I expected and exactly what I was in the mood for. It was interesting reading all three so close together, because of course comparisons between the two authors were bound to be made, since they were all contemporary romances. Nora Roberts isn't an author I read a lot of, but I was intrigued by the setting of her new trilogy -- a small Virginia town and a family who was refurbishing an old Civil War-era building. What made it even more intriguing was learning that the inn and the town are real places. Now I want to take a literary road trip! I stuck around for the second book because of this charming setting and the likeable characters (including a ghost!). I'll be honest -- I do grow tired of Roberts' writing style after a while. Her characters are all a bit...too much, if you know what I mean. Pair that with some pretty unnatural dialogue and I start to get eye strain from the eye rolling. But, all that said, I did enjoy the books and will probably pick up the third.

Kristan Higgins on the other hand, gives me a much more well-rounded package. Great charcters, charming setting and great dialogue. Her books take themselves a little less seriously, and therefore have more of a sense of humor. But they're funny without being silly. I think I've read most of Higgins' novels, and this latest one is possibly my favorite. A riches-to-rags single mom and author of a ridiculously cheesy children's book series spends the summer in a tiny Maine town flipping a junky house -- the only thing that wasn't taken when her dad was arrested in an insider trading scheme. Her dad's newly unemployed long-time lawyer returns to his carpentry roots to help her fix the house up and get it ready to sell, despite the fact that Parker has never made a secret of her disdain for James. It's a summer of personal growth and relationship-building. And with a hot guy running around shirtless doing manual labor......what do YOU think is going to happen?

Bottom line: you can't go wrong with any of these romances, with top points going to Somebody to Love.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Too many choices

I'm in a pickle. I have too many things I want to pick up and read, and it's making my brain hurt. I'm still working my way through the Experiment in Terror books -- but they're dark and creepy and twisted. I need to break up all that grittiness with something else a little LESS. So what do I choose? Romance? Fantasy? The book that's been languishing on my kindle or the ARC that's already come out? Sigh. Someone just put a book in my hand already!

Oh, and I'm fully aware that this is not a bad problem to have. :)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reading -- The Silver Linings Playbook

The Silver Linings Playbook  by Matthew Quick is the story of a man who is recovering from what appears to be a pretty severe mental breakdown. We don't get all the details spelled out to us until the end of the book, although the forshadowing gave me a pretty good idea of what had happened. Pat Peoples is trying his best to be kind, not right. To figure out how to relate once again to friends and family who are clearly not telling him everything about his situation and his slippery memories. And to figure out how to win back his wife. It's the story of two broken and dysfunctional people becoming friends -- and becoming better because of it. It's about the Philedelphia Eagles and that team's obsessed fans. It's about Pat's parents and their complicated and somewhat dysfunctional relationship. But, the title really sums it up best -- it's a story about finding the silver lining. About how life can beat the crap out of you, but it can also be really great too. I also appreciated that this book could have been cheesy but wasn't. There was some nice resolution, but not every story or relationship was fully resolved. For example, Pat's dad -- easily the most emotionally dysfunctional person in the book -- was still kind of a jerk at the end of the book. But the book was realistic in that it read like a snapshot of a person's life. Life doesn't play out in succinct little vignettes where every single loose end wraps up at one time.

Bottom line: read it if you like realistic fiction that recognizes the existence of silver linings. (no one said I wasn't cheesy!)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I heart romance

As read in the book summary:

"...when Mac, who can heal physical injuries with sex,...."

[face palm] the beauties of paranormal romance.

Monday, October 15, 2012

a funny

I was reading a review on GoodReads and came across this gem:

"The worst book I couldn't put down; the best book I've ever wanted to set on fire."

I think we've all read a book or two like that, no?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Fun at the reference desk

My primary duty at the public library where I work is adult outreach -- I provide readers advisory services and deliver library materials to homebound adults and residents of various retirement, assisted living, and nursing facilities. In addition to the activities surrounding that work, I also periodicaly work at our general reference and local history reference desks.

I really enjoy working the reference desks. Sure, some days are more challenging than others and some patrons are more challenging than others. But what I love are the fun questions -- the phone call from a lady asking me about beschemel sauce, polenta and hericort vert. And how to pronounce "that word that means fiscal cliff? The one they use on C-span and in the Huffington Post?" (for the record: the word is sequestration). I also live being able to help people do simple things like post an add for a car on craigslist. A car that "runs like a sewing machine, with a booming sound system and good tires."

Not every reference interaction is positive, so it's nice to notice the ones that are.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reading Nikolas & Company

Nikolas and Company: The Merman and The Moon Forgotten - Episode 1

Nikolas & Co.: The Merman and the Moon Forgotten, by Kevin McGill

This first book in the Nikolas & Company adventures is science fiction/fantasy/adventure, but most important: it's a lot of fun. The book plunks you right in the middle of the action: you're not exactly sure where or when you are, but a stage coach driver is being chased by magical and terrifying creatures who are after his mermen archeologist in South America unearths the oldest artifact on earth, while his foreman mumbles about traveling to the past in order to find his grandson the steward of Huron... a homesick science-boy in Colorado works on another less-than-successful technological experiment then starts hearing voices in his head...


If you like your books with a lot of set-up, this isn't the one for you. But if you enjoy being plunked down into the middle of a fully developed and detailed magical world, then you should definitely check it out. In addition to the fun premise and the spot-on, action-packed execution, Nikolas and Company features the classic hero-and-his-misfit-friends. A reader who regularly picks up sci-fi/fantasy books will recognise many of the archetypes, but in a way that seems like welcoming an old friend. Although this first installment is rather short, McGill already begins to establish dimension to his farmiliar characters. Nik and his friends are dissatisfied and outcast -- homesick (Nik), picked on (his brother Tim), refugees (the friends). They are all smart and skilled and are loyal friends, so when faced with the possibility of another world and another time and lots of magic -- they more than willing to put doubt behind them and take the leap. My only minor issue with the book is the ending. I know the author originally wrote Nikolas and Company as one longer book, then decided to break it up into multiple; and it makes for a jarring ending-that's-not-really-an-ending.

The tone of this middle grade to early YA book is similar to the Percy Jackson books, and it's worth checking out or -- if it's not your kind of book -- passing along to your sci-fi/fantasy/adventure reading son/daughter/niece/nephew/student  Full disclosure: it was recommended to me by a friend of the author, and I'm glad I took him up on the recommendation. Bottom line: a light, fun and fast-paced read.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer reading

Froi of the Exiles (Lumatere Chronicles, #2)

Froi of the Exiles/Melina Marchetta

If you've never read a book by Melina Marchetta, do not pass go, do not collect $200, go straight to the library/bookstore/internet and get yourself one of her books. Marchetta started out writing contemporary young adult books, but has branched out to fantasy as well and does each beautifully. I think the key is in the skillful way she creates characters and her ability to make me feel all the emotions ever. When I recommneded Froi of the Exiles to a fellow fantasy-reading friend (i heart aliteration!), I described it as a fantasy book that just punches you straight in the gut in the best possible way. There is darkness and sadness, but there is also hope and joy.

The Spellman Files (The Spellmans, #1)
The Spellman Files/Lisa Lutz

I've also started the second book in this series, and it truly makes me laugh out loud repeatedly. The Spellman family runs a private investigation business, but that's just the framework for this crazy, hilarious family. You've got a "perfect" older brother who left the family business for law school, the-classic-rebel-is-my-middle-name middle child who is a born private eye, and the "surprise" baby sister who has negotiation down to a fine science. Only in the Spellman family do you learn how to tail someone before you graduate high school, and only in the Spellman family do you hone your investigative skills by spying on each other. But despite it's craziness, the books manage to not be cliche, cheesy, or slapstick.

44 Scotland Street: A 44 Scotland Street Novel (1)

44 Scotland St./Alexander McCall-Smith

In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that Edinburgh is one of my favorite places, hands down. I've been meaning to read Alexander McCall-Smith for years, so naturally when I saw this book (and subsequent series) set in Edinburgh I snatched it off the library shelf. It's a book that was originally written as a serial in a Scottish newspaper. McCall-Smith mentions in the forward that the challenge was writing each chapter with enough content to be read alone, but enough momentum to move the story along without too much of an episodic feel. I think he accomplished this beautifully. In addition to the excellent pacing and sence of place, the major strength of the book is the characters: unique, yet familiar; people you want to get to know, or at least get to know more about. This book was lovely and comfortable and the kind of book you want to savor.

The Paris Wife
The Paris Wife/Paula McLain

The Paris Wife tells the story of Ernest Hemingway, his first wife Hadley and their years together living in Paris. Told from Hadley's perspective, the novel begins when the two meet in Chicago and ends almost five years later with their divorce (although there is a bittersweet epilogue that fasts forward to the time around the end of Hemingway's life). This was a book club selection, and I must admit that I wasn't looking forward to reading it. Books about adultery, distructive relationships, and people who just keep on making terrible decisions really aren't my thing. However, kudos to Ms. McLain for bringing heart and humanity and empathy to what could be a sordid and seedy story. So, it's a mixed bag for me. I really enjoyed the first two-thirds of the book, even if I don't see the glamour in getting drunk or living the bohemian Parisian lifestyle. But during the last third of the book all I could think about were the stupid decisions being made, the complete and utter selifishness displayed by Ernest Hemingway, and how it would have been so easy for things to have turned out differently (see: Ernest Hemingway behaved like a [insert bad word here]. I'm definitely looking forward to our book club discussion!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Reading Follow My Lead

My reading tastes cover a fairly broad spectrum, and I really enjoy a good romance novel now and then...but I need a romance with story and character to go along with my swoon. So when Kate Noble was recommended by The Book Smugglers, I picked one of her books up. I'm glad I did! Follow My Lead was light and fun, but with enough substance to keep me going: the characters were three dimensional, the historical setting felt natural and added richness to the story, the pacing was spot-on, the dialogue was witty and relaxed, and the romance was believable. Fair warning: there are a couple of steamy scenes, but easy to skip over if you prefer. Bottom line: if you like a good, fun historical romance, you won't be dissapointed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

because I like to dot my i's and cross my t's

I like saying things out loud (declarations of the obvious) because it makes them more real. So...previously, most of my (admittedly inconsistent) reviews carried the heading "review - book title." But I've lately realized that I am more likely to jot down my thoughts on a book if I'm not internally constrained by the word review. If I don't put pressure on myself to be structured, but just talk about why I liked/disliked a book in a more informal fassion. Thus -- most of my reviews will now be just "reading book title." or maybe, if I'm feeling different "talking about book title." A change that really only matters to me, but one that will take the pressure off, and hopefully mean I'll talk about more of the books I'm reading!

Reading Pushing the Limits

Pushing the Limits, by Katie McGarry

I like being surprised by books. I received an ARC for Pushing the Limits (yay librarian perks!) and braced myself for some possibly heavy-handed, issue-laden, teen melodrama. What I got was a story about two broken and hurting kids who find the road to healing and love and peace. Even better, the story doesn't end with a "everything is perfect and fine and wonderful again!", but it ends with the characters taking those first steps. Moving forward on the journey to better and even great. Everything could have been cheesy and cliche - a foster kid who's been screwed by the system, a traumatized girl with amnesia, an overbearing father and "wicked" stepmother, a "good" girl and a hard-partying boy. But McGarry turns these characters into real people, and the delicate situations are treated with delicacy and respect. I liked that I cheered for Echo and Noah and sympathised with their perspectives, even when I wanted to tell them "it's okay to trust someone every now and then." And I loved their romance that was more than just was sweet and heartfelt. Instead of pulling each other down -- which they could have done -- Echo and Noah ended up bringing out the best in each other.

Bottom line - if you want a book that's got sympathetic characters, depth, heart and romance, pick this one up. (it's going to be released July 31, 2012)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Reading Insurgent

Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, is the sequel to the fun, thoughtful, action-packed Divergent. There have been mixed reviews of this latest installment in Roth's series, and I land in the camp of people who thoroughly enjoyed it. To me, the pace was in keeping with the first book and with the story -- never letting up, but not rushed. And the depth of the story never suffers from the awesomeness of the action. Like the real world, Roth's world contains a lot of gray - life is messy and complicated and rarely clear clut. But in the midst of that muddle, there's also a few things to hold on to as truth. And I really dig that.

The characters continued to grow and evolve; I love how complex Tris is. One minute, I want to smack her, then next I want to hug her. I often disagree with the decisions she makes, but I respect her, so I want to see how things work out. I also liked that we got to see Tris and Tobias fall in love in the first book, and in the second we get to see their relationship develop (without a there-just-for-tension triangle). We get to see more of Amity and Candor and the inner workings of the factions (slight spoiler - am I the only one who now pictures the people of Amity just being stoned all the time? Happy Bread!). I think it's worth noting that -- as my husband says -- this is the second book in a trilogy, and it reads like the second part of a trilogy. Some stuff happens, and one or two things get sort of resolved, but in the end things are possibly in a bigger mess than when they started.

bottom line - a satisfying second part to an excellent trilogy.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A few books I've read lately

Wilfair, by Alysia Gray Painter
Redwoodian, by Alysia Gray Painter

These two books are moving onto my list of top 10 favorite books ever. A bold statement? Yes, but hear me out. They are quirky and odd, but saved from being too twee by their humor and heart. Are they slightly ridiculous? Yes, but in a way that completely speaks to my own ridiculousness. I smiled or laughed almost the whole time I read them. A socially awkward hotel heiress, her foul-mouthed best friend, two motel-owning cousins, extravagance,  a road trip and a funky as-yet-to-be-explained magical mystery: these books aren't for everyone, but they are definitely for me. Read them when you're in the mood for something fun.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?, by Mindy Kaling

I'm not usually a big non-fiction reader - and even when I do start the occasional non-fiction book, I don't always read the whole thing. But I thoroughly enjoyed Kaling's book. It's loosely a "how did I get here?" book, with some funny randomness thrown in. And I appreciate her respectfulness toward the other celebreties she talks about in the book - even the ribbing and jokes are clearly in good fun, the kind of teasing that occurrs between good friends. Kaling is - or at least comes across as - honest, sarcastic, funny, self-deprecating, and refreshingly grounded.

A Land More Kind Than Home, by Wiley Cash

This is a debut novel by a North Carolina author (local for me!), and I've got a feeling it's going to be getting a lot of buzz and accolades in the near future. Cash's novel is set in the Appalachian mountains and tells the story of a heartbreaking tragedy of the death of a young mute boy; and as the telling of that event unfolds, the reader also gets to see the backgrounds and history of those involved in event. The story is told through three different narrators, and is written in such a way that brings to mind the rich tradition of oral storytelling that has lived on for so long among mountain people. There's a distinct rythm and cadence to each chapter, a way of meandering through the present and past that is captivating rather than distracting. It isn't long-winded, and no part of the narration is unnecessary. Cash's storytelling is simply beautiful. And despite the fact that it's a sad story, there's never a sense of despair or grimness to the book. Instead, I walked away from it with the idea that somtimes, in this fallen world terrible things happen for no understandable reason. But we pick up, and we move on, and hopefully grow and learn and become stronger in the process.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review - Scorpio Races

Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

from Goodreads: It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die. At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them. Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

Maggie Stiefvater's latest book has been getting rave reviews for good reason - it's fantastic! I haven't read all of Stiefvater's books, but I did read the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. I enjoyed the Wolves of Mercy Falls, but it's true that this is her best work to date in my opinion. The story is both simple and complex, straightforward and layered. There is nothing extraneous in the setting, plot, world-building, descriptions or characters; but that serves to enhance rather than detract. I could truly visualize Thisbe, feel the mist on my face and the bite to the air. I could smell the salty sea and taste the November cakes (which, since Ms. Stiefvater has so wonderfully created a recipe for, I could actually one day taste!). I also love that while this book is fast-aced and full of action, I settled into it like a big down comforter. I could read just a few pages and be completely submersed in it.

Bottom line: read it.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Perspective - thoughts from the library

I work at a public library and I feel blessed to say that I love my job. Until recently, I've worked in the circulation department (checking books in and out, maintaining customer accounts, answering basic non-reference questions, taking fine money, shelving books, etc.). I have also done some reference work, and was recently promoted to a reference/outreach position. While I do love my job, let's be honest: it's a job. It's not perfect and some days are better than others. And some days, I just need to tell someone:

Things that annoy me:

1. The attitude "it's not my job" or, conversely "back away from my job." How about we all just work together to get done what needs to be done.

2. Rivalry between branches "they don't know how good they have it out there at X Branch." Or "Well, at Y, they do this. Why can't you?"

3. Condescension toward the circulation department. So often in libraries circulation is viewed with subtle condescension an with a lack of respect, I think because circulation staff aren't usually required to have a degree. But that's such a narrow and elitest view of things and really drives me crazy. I'd like to see what some of the other staff members would do if there was no more circulation staff.

Which leads me to today's thought: job swapping! How about you walk a mile in my shoes -- or in this case, how about you do my job for a week. Not just a couple of hours, or even a day. That's not enough time to get a real good view of the other side. A week. Maybe then we could all take one more step toward workplace harmony.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Unbreak my heart

I just finished my second book by Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock. And if Finnikin and The Piper's Son are any indication, Marchetta knows how exactly how to break my heart and put it back together all at the same time. Part of it is her ability to make me feel -- I connect with these characters, even when I want to smack them upside the head for their stubborness. Part of it is the way she writes relationships -- family love, friend love, romantic love. The relationships in Marchetta's books are real and good and hard and flawed. And Marchetta writes about hope. If there is one thing that will predispose me to liking a book, it's hope in the midst of sadness and despair. Bottom line: count me a fan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review - Texas Gothic

Texas Gothic, by Rosemary Clement-Moore

Texas Gothic is a classic mystery with a paranormal twist. Amy and her sister Phin come from a family of witches and psychics, although Amy would prefer to keep that part of her life hidden. The two are spending the summer taking care of their aunt's herb farm in the middle of the Texas hill country, and at first, all Amy has to worry about are the tree-climbing goats are her sister's experiments. Soon, however, Amy is caught up in a conflict with (extremely attractive) owner of the neighboring ranch; rumors of ghosts; actual accidents and injuries; and a personal haunting by a spirit who may want to help her or hurt her.

I really enjoyed Texas Gothic. I liked the blending of traditional mystery with ghost story, and I thought the pacing felt right on. Although the resolution of the mystery wasn't anything groundbreaking, the "getting there" was interesting enough that I didn't need a big shocking ending. I enjoyed watching Amy struggle with the part of her life that she wanted to pretend didn't exist, and grow as a result of that struggle. I liked that the romantic part of the story fit in well with the rest of the plot and didn't overshadow it or seem like an afterthought; the antagonism and attraction between Amy and Ben felt natural. And it was nice to visit Texas!

Bottom line: a great read for anyone who enjoys mystery with a side of paranormal activity.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Mini Reviews

Lola and the Boy Next Door, by Stephanie Perkins is a delightful contemporary YA romance. The characters are fun, quirky without being overdone, and believable. The romance is believable, sweet but also pretty sizzling. I enjoyed visiting San Fransicso through the book -- it felt like visiting with a local, not a tourist. And the story never left me bored or skimming to get to the "good parts." It was all good parts! I liked Perkins' first book Anna and the French Kiss, but actually enjoyed Lola even more. Bottom line - a feel-good rom-com with plenty of heart and emotion.

The Piper's Son, by Melinda Marchetta is a great story of redemption and family and love in many forms. From a somewhat superficial standpoint, I liked that it was a YA book featuring post-high school young adults. People navigating life "after." I also liked that the primary secondary character (is that a thing?) was Tom's aunt -- an adult! Who isn't a stock character or plot device! Bottom line - this book has so many things I love: humor, depth, heart, love, redemption, and an ending that's just a beginning.

Room with a View, by E.M. Forster proved to be a comfort-food read along the lines of Jane Austen or L.M. Montgomery. Quiet and thoughtful, yet witty and full of keen human observation. Philosophical but unpretentious. The story moved along and kept you wanting to know what would happen, but it didn't rush. The cast of characters may have been a bit expected -- the conventional mother, the whimsical brother, the maiden aunt, the "vulgar" old country man, the pretentions Londonite, the stuffy clergyman and the kind clergyman -- but rather than fell cliche, they just felt familier, like old friends. And the love story truly resonated. As a bonus - Florence! I'm predisposed to love anything featuring Italy, and Forster didn't dissapoint. Bottom line - it's a classic for a reason.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Brief thoughts on - Cold Fire

Cold Fire, by Kate Elliot

Cold Fire is the sequel to Cold Magic (which I reviewed a couple of weeks ago). I have to say that I agree completely with Kristen at Fantasy Cafe: I really liked Cold Magic, but I LOVED Cold Fire. It has all the great things about the first book, with a lot more story and character. I really felt like I got to know Cat and Bee and Vai (and even James Drake, that b*^&#$!). I like that the characters make mistakes and bad decisions at times, and that life throws them curveballs. Sometimes people and situations aren't what they seem, and sometimes they are EXACTLY as bad or good as your gut told you.

I guess this isn't so much a review as a statement of you-should-go-read-this-now-because-it's-awesome! If you want to read more coherent and in-depth reviews check out Fantasy Cafe or the ladies over at Book Smugglers.

Bottom line: I'll probably now read anything Kate Elliot writes!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

A little light reading

These days it seems my reading happens in short bits of time. I'm either finding myself too busy for a large chunk of reading, or I just get distracted with odds and ends: cleaning the kitchen, laundry, dusting, playing on the know. So I found myself in the mood for books that you can get into and enjoy even when you don't have hours at a time to read them. Two authors that I've found who are perfect for this type of mood are romance novelists Kristan Higgins and Julie James. They are definitely two different styles of romance, but both authors have a very readable, breezy writing style that pulls you in. The characters are well-drawn and likeable, and the romances are sizzling. Higgins' books tend toward funny, small-town, boy-next-door kinds of story-lines. James writes sophisticated, big-city heroines who are smart, savvy and sarcastic (and the men who match).

So if you find yourself in the mood for contemporary romance, pick up a book by Kristin Higgins or Julie James.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review - Cold Magic

Cold Magic, by Kate Elliott

Cold Magic is the first in a fantasy trilogy set in a alternate-history version of Europe sometime similar to the beginning of the industrial revolution. Science and magic are beginning to butt heads, as are the ruling class and the the people who want freedom from both the politically powerful princes and the magically powerful mages. Cat Barahal and her cousin Bee are part of a poor, but in some ways influential and valuable family of information brokers. They spend their days attending University and learning to take their place in the family business. Until one day powerful mages come to claim Cat as part of an old agreement, and Cat finds herself in the middle of political intrigue. She also discovers that nearly everything she knew about herself, her family, her history and the world aren't what she thought; that the truth's she thought she knew are actually pretty far from reality.

I really loved this book. First off, alternate histories are fascinating to me; I've always loved the "what-if" game. And it makes the world familiar, yet exotic at the same time. Elliott really did a great job of setting up this alternate world, giving it depth and color. I also loved the characters. Cat was tough and strong, but believably so. The supporting cast of characters were also interesting and diverse. And I felt like everyone was going somewhere. The plot was intriguing and well-paced. There were several facets of it as well -- the politics, Cat's discovery of magic, her journey with the mages, her relationship with her family -- but it never got too confusing or muddled. Although I will admit I did get a little lost in the political history and background, but that's more me than a fault of the book, I think. And I think the set-up was an important part of this being the first of a trilogy.

Bottom line: I can't wait to read more! The perfect book for readers who like their fantasy with a side of adventure, a little bit of history and a dash of romance.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's a New Year

Looking back on my previous year of blogging is an exercise in humility. I started off this blog with the best of intentions: I had a schedule, wherein I could easily post once a week. I signed up for a challenge, which I hoped would keep me motivated. But you happens. New jobs, new responsibilities, new schedules, new priorities. I didn't complete my challenge, and I didn't meet my 2011 blogging goals. But you know what -- who succeeds the first time? It is what it is, and the important thing is to move forward and set more goals. Evaluate and adjust. So for 2012, I'm sticking with an old goal and adding a new one:

1. Post once a week. A thought on books or libraries or writing....or just a thought.

2. Finish my novel by Dec. 31. It's scary to me to say this one out loud. That's a lot of pressure. But it's pressure I need. I've even promised a few friends that on January 1 they need to put their hands out with the expectation of receiving a fully completed draft of said book.

I hope your 2012 is a year full of adventure and laughter and good stories.