Friday, August 17, 2012

46. Beauty and the Beast

There is something wonderfully pleasing about picking up a childhood favourite as an adult.  To revisit old friends and relive adventures with a fresh eye brings a sense of comfort.  While flipping through my Kobo VOX I noticed that I had a copy of Beauty and the Beast in there.  Credited to Anonymous, this was not the sing-song Disney version  - which I never really took to - but one that felt quite grown up.  With formal wording and the suggestion of emotion, I fell back into a familiar space where I could curl up in my oversized chair and, snuggled in a hand sewn quilt, allow my imagination and empathy take me into that old-world setting.  It is a place where promises are still intrinsic with honour and a good heart can triumph.

 This  version seemed to be an expansion of the one I lovingly read by Marianne Meyer. The illustrations drew me in then and today it remains my favourite visual for this tale. With soft lines and rich colours, Mercer Meyers illustrations breath life into the characters and speak more of Beauty's spirit than the words could do. I am drawn to her capacity for appreciation, shown during her days at the Beasts home for the riches in the house, the artistry of the gardens, the birds she befriends and the for the kindness and restraint she recognizes in the beast.   Meyers illustrations reflect the emotions I have when reading this story.   Usually classified as a fairytale, I have always thought of this as a love story.  A pure and honest love story. I have a mini-swoon each time I read, or even remember it.

45. Jemima J. by Jane Green

Jemima Jones is overweight. About one hundred pounds overweight. Treated like a maid by her thin and social-climbing roommates, and lorded over by the beautiful Geraldine (less talented but better paid) at the Kilburn Herald, Jemima finds that her only consolation is food. Add to this her passion for her charming, sexy, and unobtainable colleague Ben, and Jemima knows her life is in need of a serious change. When she meets Brad, an eligible California hunk, over the Internet, she has the perfect opportunity to reinvent herself-as JJ, the slim, beautiful, gym-obsessed glamour girl. But when her long-distance Romeo demands that they meet, she must conquer her food addiction to become the bone-thin model of her e-mails-no small feat. 
With a fast-paced plot that never quits and a surprise ending no reader will see coming, Jemima J is the chronicle of one woman''s quest to become the woman she''s always wanted to be, learning along the way a host of lessons about attraction, addiction, the meaning of true love, and, ultimately, who she really is.

*possible spoilers (if you look hard)
I had read this novel  in 2001 or so and had very fond memories of it.  It was my introduction to author Jane Green , who has become one of my go-to authors..sort of like comfort food for rainy days.  Revisiting it this week, I found myself surprised at how dated certain aspects were: the introduction of the internet, mention of celebrity couples Tom Cruse and Nicole Kidman  and Demi Moore and Bruce Willis as a happily married ideals, and the detailed descriptions on fashions (now outdated, even in text). 
I also noticed in this reading, the use of a voice-over narrator that had been forgotten since my last visit.  I couldn't decide if it was quirky in a soap opera way - the author talking to the reader in between first person narration by the two main characters, or annoying in that same soap opera way.
These two points aside, I still enjoyed the story.  I find my perception has changed over the years as well.  During my first reading ten years ago, I identified greatly with Jemima  and cheered her on at every turn.  This time around, my cheers were interspersed with flashes of reason and logic regarding her weight-loss regime and her evolving self-image.  On the surface  the changes she made were great fodder for the genre but I found myself impatient for Jemima to reach her epiphanies and find her equilibrium in the world.  The ending still held the satisfaction I was seeking, although this time around it felt short as I found I wanted more details between the last chapter and the epilogue.
Ten years later the heart of this book  held up for me.  I wonder how I will view it in another five or ten years?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

44. What a Gentleman Wants by Caroline Linden

Marcus Reese, Duke of Essex, has spent most of his life pulling his twin brother out of trouble. An occasional thank you would suffice; instead, his resentful sibling forges his name to a marriage license and presents him with an unwanted wife. She's a vicar's widow with a mind of her own who may be the first person in Marcus's well-ordered life to make him feel. . .completely out of control.
Hannah can't help but curse her own idiocy. Dire straits have led her to the altar with a gentleman she hardly knows. Played for a fool, she's embarrassed, furious, and worse, married to an equally outraged stranger--an exasperating man who unleashes all manner of emotions in Hannah, not to mention unwanted desire. Reluctantly, she agrees to play the wife until he can sort out the mess. But the nearness of the undeniably attractive Duke and the passion in his black eyes unsettles her well-guarded heart--making her want to do so much more than "act" the role of blissful bride. . .
This was a pleasant read with well written characters, humour and all the drama and refuse-to-admit-we-have-attraction a good romance requires.  I particularly enjoyed that the female characters did not fall headlong into stereotypes of the period or genre.  They remained feminine, somewhat bound by societal rules but also had intellect, compassion and strength.  Hannah, as a vicar's widow, is able to explain some of her meeker behaviours on upbringing and her station during her first marriage yet leaves no doubt as to her true feelings and is willing to bypass propriety when warranted.  Linden writes her as a flushed out character who has a belief code that she lives by but who also has true emotions, reactions and considers    her instinctive reactions against public expectation rather than  swooning or turning to hysterics as other authors would have her do.   Marcus and David Reece are also more than stereotypes once you turn a few pages, bringing dimension to the various relationships in this novel.  The inclusion of Hannah's daughter, Molly, is handled very well.  She serves as motive for Hannah's actions and as a means to explore the personalities of several characters by way of their interactions with her.  Any good romance needs some drama to sustain it and Linden opens the story with a dramatic trickery that forces our reluctant lovers together.  She is correct in knowing that more adventure is needed later to urge the characters to their final realizations, but the sub plot concerning counterfeit money and a nefarious challenger to out hero did not fit as well as it could have.  Hinted at from the beginning, too little detail was given to the reader until the end.  It made it hard for this reader to care very much about this part of the story.  The only merit I found in this 'mystery' was in the brief interactions between brothers David and Marcus and then between  Hannah and Marcus.  I did enjoy seeing the brothers interact as a team rather than their usual adversarial relationship.  A nice Saturday read...and yes, I am curious about the continuation of the Reece family romances in What a Rogue Desires (David's story) and A Rake's Guide to Seduction (little sister Celia's story).  Perhaps I'll look one of them up some other Saturday.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

41-43. Kobo romance freebie reading spree

When I first bought my Kobo Vox I rushed to take advantage of the free books available.  They generally fell into two categories: lengthy classics and Harlequin-type romances.  This weekend I decided to move some of those romances from the "to-read" shelf to the "read & done" shelf.  Here's the list:

The Bride's Baby by Liz Fielding
Mercenary and the Marriage Vow by Doreen Roberts
Perception by Angela Verdenius
Once a Cowboy by Linda Warren
Hide in Plain Sight  by Marta Perry
Dancing in the Moonlight by Raeanne Thayne
Baby Bonanza by Maureen Child
Baby, I'm Yours by Stephanie Bond
Speed Dating by Nancy Warren

Most of these titles follow the standard formula for Harlequin books: Contentious first meeting, instant lust, sudden unexpected feelings of love on her part, refusal to admit feelings on his part, numerous misunderstandings, angst, and in the final pages they actually talk, realizing they could have solved all this and got on with their lives on page 5, and happily ever after.  Sometimes this can be an enjoyable 1-2 hour long read but often I finish shaking my head and eyes sore from rolling so much. Clichés, sickly-sweet sentiment, ridiculous misunderstandings.  I find that unless there is a substantial plot to accompany the romance story I become close to infuriates with  the man-handling, controlling behaviour and refusal to have a honest conversation.

I'll add to this list the Loveswept romance: I Do by Mallory Rush a.k.a. Olivia Rupprecht.

Mostly because I don't think it deserves it's very own post.  In the case of  I Do, I fell victim to the ever popular 'replacement cover'.  Always one to be intrigued first by the book cover, I saw this and figured...why not?
After reading the book I had a suspicion so I googled the book and located THIS!

SOL--He Promised Her Forbidden Pleasures.... 
He'd nearly died in a foreign land, and in a moment of madness he'd married the woman whose letters had given him a reason to live. But when Sol Standish faced his bride for the first time, he knew he should release her from her vows. Mariah Garnet trembled when her husband stepped off the plane, wildly excited at meeting Sol, but deeply ashamed of the deception that had made her his wife.
Irresistible Temptations
Innocent, passionate, unrestrained in her hunger for the sensual gifts he offered, Mariah was a mystery Sol itched to unveil, but was her reckless courage strong enough to heal a man whose scars ran so deep? Desperate for the trust of his wanton angel, Sol demanded the truth she'd kept from the man who shared her soul. Could he make her believe he'd let no one take her from him, that she was his answered prayer
SOL is his name...and he does start out in the book thinking he actually is Sh*t .Outta .Luck.

I read this book and thought that I may injure myself from the almost constant eye-rolling.  Such cheesy lines and that old story...almost underage girl, innocent and sweet falls for older, hardened, dominating man.  I actually laughed out loud a few times over utterings such as "He realised he was the wind beneath my wings" blah blah

...okay.  All complaining and making fun aside, I admit I did read the whole thing.  In one sitting.  And it was kinda fun.  If you can embrace or even revel in the cheese factor then I Do is actually a bit of fun!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Saturday, August 4, 2012

39. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Weird as it is working for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, Evie’s always thought of herself as normal. Sure, her best friend is a mermaid, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she's falling for a shape-shifter, and she's the only person who can see through paranormals' glamours, but still. Normal.

Only now paranormals are dying, and Evie's dreams are filled with haunting voices and mysterious prophecies. She soon realizes that there may be a link between her abilities and the sudden rash of deaths. Not only that, but she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.

So much for normal.

Literary Cupcakes

I came across this site and instantly wondered what
the shipping cost would be!  I think It may be worth it!


Perfect for your next reading club gathering. These are not fictional! Literary cupcakes from Victoria's Kitchen in Chiswick, West London. Hmmm...cupcakes. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

face BOOK: How do you use your library?

From the Blurberati Blog:
How do you use your library? That’s the question that Ann Schofield put to the patrons of a branch library in Cruddas Park in Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK. And the way she had people answer is one we quite approve of: having them hold their reasons up to the camera. Knowing that many people use the library for more than just books, she let those patrons hold up signs saying why they came (to use the Internet, read newspapers, attend jobs groups…). And we love the way photographer Keith Pattison captured each shot with tremendous warmth and humanity.
The book that came out of it is a wonderful reminder of what libraries still mean to people in the digital age: a place of community and sharing. In fact, feel free to tell us what your library means to you, in the comments section below.

View the whole book here: faceBOOK

38. Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman

What a cool idea!  Intermixing journal entries and a video diary to tell a story. This feels as though it was inspired by the Blair Witch Project.  The format  feeds the tension and suspense.  No third party narrative to foreshadow or explain beyond what the Ryan ans Sarah know.

Skeleton creek is broken into two parts - Ryan's text in the book, and Sarah's videos on a special website, with links and passwords given throughout the story. Skeleton Creek is a book and a movie at the same time. The format contributes greatly to the series appeal.

Carman uses suspense and fear to drive the plot.  The concern that housebound Ryan has for Sarah as she investigates alone creates the urgency this story needs. The grainy video provides a horror movie feel (although the acting could be much better!).  The special effects are effective.  In fact, they may be too much for younger, more sensitive viewers.  The back and forth from text to video also feeds the urgency of the situation by echoing the emotions of the main characters.  As they  hide their searching from their families and wait for 'safe' moments to send messages, the readers need to switch from reading to firing up the computer echo  those actions.

A great mystery ghost story for middle school to teen readers!

Book 1: Skeleton Creek

After an eerie accident leaves Ryan housebound and forbidden to see Sarah, their investigation takes two tracks: Ryan records everything in his journal, while Sarah uses her videocam in the haunted woods beyond Skeleton Creek.

Ghost in the Machine

Clues from Ryan’s journal and Sarah’s videos all point to one thing: someone will do anything to stop them from uncovering the deadly truth. 200 pages, nine videos, and a shocking end to the story that started a revolution in reading.