Monday, April 30, 2012

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (4.30.12)




It’s Monday What Are you Reading , hosted by Sheila, is the perfect way for me to begin my week and allows me to focus on what needs to be read and to see what I have or have not accomplished the previous week. I also enjoy discovering new books by visiting other participants blogs

I received the nicest card in the mail this week - a thank you from an author whose debut novel I read and reviewed here at Always With a Book. I was so touched that the author took the time to write this to me. In today's age of fast, convenient electronic communication, it's nice to know that the art of letter-writing isn't lost to all.



Books Completed last week
  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (library audio book)
  • What Doesn't Kill You by Iris Johansen (library book)
  • Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery (library book)
Reading Now: 
  • One for the Money by Janet Evanovich (mine)
  • Babyville by Jane Green (library audio book) - in car/house
  • The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (library audio book) - ipod
Next:   
  • So Pretty It Hurts by Kate White (library book)
  • The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain (review book)
Reviews completed last week:
Other Posts related to books:
Books for which I need to finish reviews:
  • Raising Wild Ginger by Tara Woolpy
  • Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson 
  • The Hot Flash Club by Nancy Thayer
  • The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
  • What Doesn't Kill You by Iris Johansen
  • Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery
Contest information:  
  • More giveaways coming soon!
What about you?  What does your reading week look like this week?  Whatever it is, happy reading and have a good week!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Review: The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

First line: It took a moment for Emily to realize the car had come to a stop.

From the back cover: Emily Benedict has come to Mullaby, North Carolina, hoping to solve at least some of the riddles surrounding her mother's life. But the moment Emily enters the house where her mother grew up and meets the grandfather she never knew, she realizes that mysteries aren't solved in Mullaby, they're a way of life: Here are rooms where the wallpaper changes to suit your mood. Unexplained lights skip across  the yard at midnight. And a neighbor, Julia Winterson, bakes hope in the form of cakes, not only wishing to satisfy the town's sweet tooth but also dreaming of rekindling the love she fears might be lost forever. Can a hummingbird cake really bring back a lost love? Is there really a ghost dancing in Emily's backyard? The answers are never what you expect. But in this town of lovable misfits, the unexpected fits right in.

My thoughts: This is the second book by Sarah Addison Allen that I've read and she is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors! I loved this story. It is a light, quick read with just a bit of magic woven throughout - I read it in one afternoon.

The story is centered around two women - Emily, who returns to her late mother's hometown searching for information about the mysteries of her family; and Julia, a woman who grew up and went away from the same hometown, only to return with an enchanting talent for baking cakes and pies so sweet that people can actually "see" how good they smell. There's even a nice mystery, as the secrets about the town are teased and finally revealed

This fabulous, wonderful, engaging book had me from the first page. It explores how the past and the future can loop and how each new generation has the opportunity to fix old wrongs. There's an element of a fairy tale in Sarah Addison Allen's writing, and yet she manages to tackle some pretty significant issues in this story. And while I am not normally a fan of anything having to do with magic, there is just enough in this book that it almost allows you to suspend reality and believe it could happen. It just has that quality of being a sweet, fairy-tale-like story.

I will certainly be picking up more books by Sarah Addison Allen. Have you read anything by her? What's your favorite?
 
(I received this book as a gift.)

Discover the Author:
Website /    Twitter  /  Facebook  /  Goodreads

Purchase the Book:
 
 

Friday, April 27, 2012

Book Beginnings Friday: Barefoot Season

Please join Rose City Reader every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.  Please remember to include the title of the book and the author.


 I'm reading Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery:

"I'm going off to war tomorrow. I might not make it back."



This is the first book in Susan Mallery's newest series: Blackberry Island. I started it yesterday and am loving it! Don't you just love the cover? I would love to have a reading spot like that! Have you read this one yet? Have you read anything else by Susan Mallery?


Review: The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella (audio book)

From the back of the audio case: Workaholic attorney Samantha Sweeting has just done the unthinkable. She's made a mistake so huge, it'll wreck any chance of a partnership.

Going into utter meltdown, she walks out of her London office, gets on a train, and ends up in the middle of nowhere. Asking for directions at a big, beautiful house, she's mistaken for an interviewee and finds herself being offered a job as housekeeper. Her employers have no idea they've hired a lawyer - and Samantha has no idea how to work an oven. She can't sew on a button, bake a potato, or get the #@%# ironing board to open. How she takes a deep breath and begins to cope - and finds love - is a story as delicious as the bread she learns to bake.

But will her old life ever catch up with her? And if it does...will she want it back?

Read by: Rosalyn Landor

My thoughts: Never have I laughed as much during a book as I did while listening to The Undomestic Goddess. I have read all of Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series (which I loved) and have recently started reading some of her other novels. Are they all as funny as this one?

Samantha Sweeting is a workaholic who is soon to be named partner at her law firm. When it appears she has made an epic mistake at work, she finds herself running away from her old life. She takes a bus, gets off on a random stop, and ends up at Trish and Eddie Geiger's house. Through one miscommunication after another, Samantha ends up being hired as a housekeeper. She fails to consider the fact that a housekeeper is expected to cook and clean, something that is low on Samantha's list of qualifications. Cooking to her means "ordering in", and cleaning is something that miraculously has happened when she gets home from the firm and the help has taken care of things. It is one comedy after another as she tries to pass herself off as a gourmet cook. With the help of the good looking gardener Nathaniel's mother, Samantha learns the value of a slower paced life.
 
Samantha ends up on an unexpected journey where she learns some valuable life lessons and realizes her priorities are slowly changing. It is a fun, laugh-out-loud ride that at times, I could totally relate to. I am not much of a cook myself and when I do attempt to make a more sophisticated meal, I find myself at a loss as to what the terms mean. Luckily for me, I married a man who loves to cook - and what a great cook he is!

Have you read The Undomestic Goddess yet? Have you read any of Sophie Kinsella's other non-Shopaholic books? Which one(s) would you recommend? 

(I borrowed this audio book from the library.)

Discover the Author:
Website /    Facebook  /  Goodreads


Purchase the Book:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guest Post: Elizabeth Loupas



Please join me in welcoming Elizabeth Loupas, author of the new book, The Flower Reader to Always With a Book! If you missed my review, you can read it here. Today Elizabeth talks about the how she was able to write like Nostradamus.


WRITING LIKE NOSTRADAMUS
by Elizabeth Loupas

It’s hard to write about European courts in the sixteenth century without at least some reference to Michel de Nostredame—Nostradamus. His books of quatrains were kind of the Gawker.com of their day, particularly the blind items. He had a knack for writing flowery, cryptic semi-poetical French sprinkled with Latin, Greek, Italian and Proven├žal, which appeared to make predictions but in actuality could mean just about anything. Probably his most famous quatrain is:

 Le lyon jeune le vieux surmontera,
 En champ bellique par singulier duelle,
Dans caige d’or les yeux luy crevera:
Deux classes une, puis mourir, mort cruelle.

The young lion will overcome the old,
On a field of combat, in a single (or unusual) duel,
In a cage of gold he will put out his eyes,
Two wounds (“classes” is generally taken to be an example of Nostradamus confusing the issue with ancient Greek, in which “klasis” means “fracture”) in one, then to die, a cruel death.

Now this was originally published in 1555, and probably had nothing at all to do with the French king Henri II, who died four years later in 1559; in fact, in 1558 Nostradamus predicted a long and successful life for Henri. But in hindsight (which is always so kind to prophets) there were some startling coincidences:

1. Henri was wounded during a joust, which could be considered a “single duel” on a “field of combat.”
2. His injuries included two splinters from a broken lance, one piercing his throat, the other piercing his eye.
3. His opponent, the Count of Montgomery, was a captain in the king’s Scots Guards—and the heraldic symbol of Scotland is a red lion.
4. The king’s helmet might have had a barred visor resembling a cage, and might have been gilded. He was the king, after all. No one seems to have recorded these details at the time.

Coincidences or not, this single quatrain made Nostradamus’ reputation, at the time and down through the ages. So when I began to write about a mysterious silver casket filled with secrets, connected with the French-raised Mary Stuart in Scotland in the 1560s, what else could the secrets possibly be but fictionalized quatrains of Nostradamus?

I considered never actually revealing the content of the quatrains—writing in Nostradamus’ style is much trickier than it looks. But then I said to myself, “Self, after readers have followed the mystery of the silver casket through four hundred pages or so of adventures, they have a right to know what’s in the darn thing.” And that’s how the fictional “Quatres-Maris” (“Four Husbands”) prophecies were born.

Marriages of royal persons at the time of the story were legitimate political bombshells, and if the notorious seer Nostradamus predicted that Mary Queen of Scots would have four husbands while she was still married to her first one (who just happened to be the King of France), that would indeed be explosive knowledge her political enemies—and friends, for that matter, although in politics does anyone have real friends?—would lie, cheat, steal and kill to possess.

I pored over the real quatrains of Nostradamus for a long time, to get the right feel for the prophecies. And I do share them with the reader, in the end. But as to how and why, and who the four husbands are—well, that you will have to find out for yourself.


 
 
About the author: Elizabeth Loupas lives near the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. She is presently a novelist, freelance writer and amateur historian. In other times and other places she has been a radio network vice president, a reference librarian, a business-to-business magazine editor, and a tutor in English literature.

One of her passions is the art and poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites. This led her to the Rossettis and the Brownings, and the project nearest and dearest to her heart--her novel THE SECOND DUCHESS, based on Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess."

She hates housework, cold weather, and wearing shoes. She loves animals, gardens, and popcorn. Not surprisingly she lives in a state of happy barefoot chaos with her delightful and faintly bemused husband (the Broadcasting Legend), her herb garden, her popcorn popper, and two beagles.

For more information on Elizabeth Loupas and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE.  You can also find her on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.


Also, be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour and follow the tour on Twitter (hashtag: #FlowerReaderVirtualTour)

Thank you Elizabeth for contributing this great guest post and thanks to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for coordinating it.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blog Tour and Review: The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas


First line: I hated the queen, hated her down to the deepest marrow of my bones.

From the back cover: With her dying breath, the queen regent of Scotland entrusts a silver casket to half-Scots, half-French seventeen-year-old Rinette Leslie of Granmuir, who possesses the ancient gift of using flowers to divine the future. Inside the casket, and meant only for young Mary, Queen of Scots, are the darkest secrets of every Scottish lord and explosive private prophecies prepared by Nostradamus himself. Rinette risks her life to keep the casket safe, but she makes one fatal mistake: she shows it to her beloved young husband. On the very day the young queen comes home, Rinette's husband is brutally assassinated.

Devastated, Rinette demands justice from the queen before she will surrender the casket. Amid glittering masques and opulent weddings, courtly intrigues and Highland rebellions, the queen's agents and Rinette herself search for the shadowy assassin. They are surrounded by ruthless men from all over Europe who will do anything to force Rinette to give up the casket - threatening her life, stripping her of her beloved castle by the sea, forcing her to marry someone she hates, and driving her from the man she has reluctantly grown to love. In the end, the flowers are all she can trust - and only the flowers will lead her safely home to Granmuir.

My thoughts: This is the first book by Elizabeth Loupas I've read and I really enjoyed it. The Flower Reader is set in Scotland during the mid-16th century. What's interesting to note is that most of the main characters are all fictional and I loved how Elizabeth Loupas included a list of characters right in the beginning of the book, indicating which ones are fictional and which were not - very clever!

The Flower Reader is a historical mystery surrounding the court of  Mary, Queen of Scots' early years as ruler, bringing to light the power play between the young queen and her various advisors. It is also about Rinette's quest to find justice for her husband's murder. Along the way, she realizes that all is not what it appeared to be when it comes to friends and allies.  She is a strong, determined character and while not easily knocked down, does not always come out on top. The intrigue of Nostradamus' predictions and the missing silver casket make you question everyone's motives as suspicious, causing you to keep on reading to find out not only where the casket disappeared to but what the predictions are as well.

While at first, the ability to read flowers might seem strange, it worked well within this plot. Rinette can read the future from flowers and sees flowers and their associated personality traits when she looks at someone. She uses this gift to determine who she can trust and who should be avoided. It is this gift that intrigued me enough to want to read this story and I am so glad I did. Elizabeth Loupas does not force this supernatural gift on the readers, but rather intimates it is a gift very similar to just being able to read people.

I will definitely be picking up Elizabeth Loupas's other novel, The Second Duchess, as I enjoyed her writing style in The Flower Reader. It is very clear that a lot of research and details went into the creation of this book. 

How do you feel about lists of characters included in books? Does it help or hinder in your reading?


About the author: Elizabeth Loupas lives near the Elm Fork of the Trinity River, halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. She is presently a novelist, freelance writer and amateur historian. In other times and other places she has been a radio network vice president, a reference librarian, a business-to-business magazine editor, and a tutor in English literature.

One of her passions is the art and poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites. This led her to the Rossettis and the Brownings, and the project nearest and dearest to her heart--her novel THE SECOND DUCHESS, based on Robert Browning's poem "My Last Duchess."

She hates housework, cold weather, and wearing shoes. She loves animals, gardens, and popcorn. Not surprisingly she lives in a state of happy barefoot chaos with her delightful and faintly bemused husband (the Broadcasting Legend), her herb garden, her popcorn popper, and two beagles.

For more information on Elizabeth Loupas and her novels, please visit her WEBSITE.  You can also find her on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.


Also, be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour and follow the tour on Twitter (hashtag: #FlowerReaderVirtualTour)

I received a complimentary copy of The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas from Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Monday, April 23, 2012

It's Monday...What Are You Reading? (4.23.12)




It’s Monday What Are you Reading , hosted by Sheila, is the perfect way for me to begin my week and allows me to focus on what needs to be read and to see what I have or have not accomplished the previous week. I also enjoy discovering new books by visiting other participants blogs

Thanks to all who shared advice on how to get audio books from library to ipod - I was able to do it...and it seemed to work!!! Now I will be able to listen to a book while I'm walking either on the treadmill at the gym or if it's nice, outside. 


Books Completed last week
  • The Hot Flash Club by Nancy Thayer (library audio book)
  • The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani (library book)
  • The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas (review book)
Reading Now: 
  • What Doesn't Kill You by Iris Johansen (library book)
  • The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen (library audio book) - in car/house
  • The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (library audio book) - ipod
Next:   
  • Barefoot Season by Susan Mallery (library book)
  • The Last Queen by CW Gortner (mine)
  • Babyville by Jane Green (library audio book)
Reviews completed last week:
Other Posts related to books:
Books for which I need to finish reviews:
  • Raising Wild Ginger by Tara Woolpy
  • The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen 
  • The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
  • Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson 
  • The Hot Flash Club by Nancy Thayer
  • The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
  • The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas
What about you?  What does your reading week look like this week?  Whatever it is, happy reading and have a good week!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

2012 Audio Book Challenge - Better late than never!!!

The Audio Book Challenge is hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner, and it goes from January 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012.I participated in this challenge last year and ended up surpassing my first goal (listen to 6 audio books) and second goal (20 or more) - I ended the year having listened to 23 audio books.

I'm joining at the Lover level, which means I need to listen to at least 25  audio books in 2012. I'll keep track of them here.  

***I'm joining this challenge late...but have already listened to 7 audio books so far this year and have decided to include them.

  1. The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen
  2. The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
  3. Heat Wave by Nancy Thayer
  4. The Silver Boat by Luanne Rice
  5. The Other Woman by Jane Green
  6. The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella
  7. The Hot Flash Club by Nancy Thayer
  8. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
  9. Babyville by Jane Green
  10. Home Front by Kristin Hannah
  11. Two for the Dough by Janet Evanovich
  12. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
  13. Three to Get Deadly by Janet Evanovich
  14. Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs
  15. Spring Fever by Mary Kaye Andrews
  16. Still Missing by Chevy Stevens
  17. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
  18. Gold by Chris Cleave
  19. On the Run by Iris Johansen
  20. A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama
  21. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah
  22. Four to Score by Janet Evanovich
  23. I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
  24. Love Anthony by Lisa Genova
  25. The Hot Flash Club Strikes Again by Nancy Thayer
  26. High Five by Janet Evanovich
  27. Chasing Fire by Nora Roberts
  28. Hot Six by Janet Evanovich 
  29. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

In My Mailbox (91) 4.22.12

In My Mailbox (IMM) is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi @ The Story Siren. Every week I'll post what books I've received either by mailbox/library/store. 



From the Library:


What Doesn't Kill You
by Iris Johansen


This is Iris Johansen's newest book, part of what FictFact is calling the Catherine Ling series. As soon as it was in the library system, I reserved it. It came in this past week and I am currently reading it (and loving it!!!).


Barefoot Season
by Susan Mallery


This is the first book in Susan Mallery's newest series, Blackberry Island.








The Weird Sisters (audio)
by Eleanor Brown

I downloaded this from the library and put on my ipod - thanks to all who offered their help last week on how to do this!!!








Purchased:

Banana Split
by Josi S. Kilpack 

This is the latest in Josi S. Kilpack's Culinary Mystery series.








What's in your mailbox?



Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review: Paradise Valley by Robyn Carr (e-book)

First line: Walt Booth was feeling lonely.

Synopsis from B&N: Marine corporal Rick Sudder is home early from Iraq—his tour ended abruptly on the battlefield. The carefree boy is gone, replaced by a man who believes his future is as bleak as his mirror image. But can the passion and commitment of a young woman who has never given up on him mend his broken body and shattered heart?

As the people of Virgin River rally around Rick, another recent arrival tests the tightly knit mountain town's famous welcoming spirit. Dan Brady has a questionable past, and he's looking for a place to start over. He'd like it to be Virgin River…if he can find a way in. But he never expects to find it in the arms of a woman who was as much an outcast as himself.

For a favorite son returned from war and an outsider looking for a home, Virgin River offers them a chance to make peace with the men they once were…and to find the dreams they thought they'd lost.

My thoughts: This is the 7th book in Robyn Carr's Virgin River series. I am loving this series and love getting to know all the inhabitants of Virgin River. If you haven't read this series yet, I highly recommend it, but I would strongly  recommend reading them in order as the characters grow from one book to another and many of the stories are carried over. 

Paradise Valley centers around four couples - Rick and Liz, Abby and Cameron, Dan and Cheryl, and Muriel and Walt. Rick is wounded in Iraq and returns a bitter, sullen young man, shunning all who care about him, including Liz and Jack. Dan Brady, who we have met in earlier books only as Shady Brady shows up after having turned himself in and served his time, and ends up making a connection with Cheryl Creighton, the former town drunk who has completed rehab and is living a sober life. Dr. Cameron Michaels ends up in Virgin River after having a really brief affair with Vanni's friend Abby with unexpected consequences. Walt is struggling with being separated from Muriel, who is in Montana filming a movie.

The theme of Paradise Valley is about rebuilding from a damaged background - Dan and Cheryl are coming back from some painful experiences and Rick is back in California recovering from a war injury. A point in Robyn Carr's favor is that the characters do not easily bounce back. Instead there is struggle and while the book ends with hope, it is clear the characters are due for more work in their individual futures.

I am looking forward to picking up the next in this series - perhaps we will see more of Dan and Cheryl? Or maybe a new person will be moving to this idyllic little town. Have you read this series? Do you have a favorite character?

(I bought this e-book.)


Books in this series:
  1. Virgin River                                  11.  Moonlight Road
  2. Shelter Mountain                         12.  Midnight Confessions
  3. Whispering Rock                          13.  Promise Canyon
  4. A Virgin River Christmas          14.  Wild Man Creek
  5. Second Chance Pass                    15.  Harvest Moon
  6. Temptation Ridge                        16.  Bring Me Home for Christmas
  7. Paradise Valley                            17.  Hidden Summit      
  8. Under the Christmas Tree       18.  Redwood Bend
  9. Forbidden Falls                           19.  Sunrise Point - due out end of Apr 2012
  10. Angel's Peak


Discover the Author:
Website /   Twitter  /  Facebook  /  Goodreads


Purchase the Book:

Save the Date: Audio Book Week




Jen from Devourer of Books has announced the dates for 2012 Audiobook Week - June 25 - 29. This is a fun week that celebrates audiobooks. There will be discussion posts, reviews, and giveaways!!!

Will you be participating?


Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Beginnings on Friday: The Flower Reader

Please join Rose City Reader every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.  Please remember to include the title of the book and the author.


 I'm reading The Flower Reader by Elizabeth Loupas:

I hated the queen, hated her down to the deepest marrow of my bones.



I have about 100 pages left in this and am having a hard time putting it down. It's filled with mystery and intrigue and of course, life at the Scottish courts. I will be posting my review and a guest post by Elizabeth Loupas next week as part of the blog tour. Have you read this one yet? 


 

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