Tag Archive: romance


The Dream Lover

The Dream Lover

The Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg

To be published: March 31, 2015

 

George Sand was way ahead of her time. The book starts out on the day Aurore (Sand’s real name) decided to leave her home in the French Countryside and her husband Casimir and try her luck at becoming a real novelist in Paris. It is a trial separation from her husband, and the story goes on to explain how she came to this point by jumping back and forth between her birth and after her move to Paris. She starts writing for a journal magazine when she is publishing her first couple of books and relying on her husband for income, to becoming totally independent with her own money and a string of lovers, both male and female. She starts dressing and acting like a man and eventually takes the pen name, George Sand. George is friends with writer Victor Hugo, artist Eugene Delacroix and composer Franz Liszt. She most famously tries to court the famous French actress Marie Dorval, composer Frederic Chopin and writers Alfred de Musset and Gustave Flaubert. 3 stars.

 I have always been fascinated with George Sand, but never knew anything about her. So when I saw this historical fiction, I jumped at the chance to read about her. My biggest gripe about this book was the length. The book started off interesting, but then got really tedious. It was if the author was turning the book into an academic nonfiction instead of a historical fiction. It became another one of those Advanced Readers Copies that I was sloughing through, having to review because I promised to, instead of because I was enjoying it.

Overall, I really enjoyed the story and she was an intriguing character both in her personal and professional life, a woman who didn’t take no for an answer in an age when women always took the backseat and did whatever their husbands told them to do. I never knew that she had children and it was cool that her son got to apprentice with Eugene Delacroix, the Romantic French painter so famous for paintings like Liberty Leading the People (28th July 1830), and later became a writer in his own right. George was also very political, even starting her own political journal and supporting worker’s rights. She led a pretty sad life with her father and brother dying young, her mother abandoning her, her tempetuous relationship with her grandmother, and her horrible relationship with her husband. It seems like she never really found happiness in love, but only in the her books. I would like read some of her own writing and would pick either Lelia, Indiana, or Consuela.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author, in exchange for my honest review.

Perdita

Perdita

Perdita by Hilary Scharper

To be published: January 1, 2015

 

Garth Hellyer is a historian in charge of the Longevity Project, which is collecting oral histories of the oldest people in Canada. A woman at a nursing home claims to be 134 years old and shows him her birth certificate to prove it. When he is obviously skeptical, she decides to give him her personal journals, which start in 1897 and document the life of Marged Brice. They tell the story of what life was like in the Georgian Bay of Ontario and the Cape Prius Lighthouse at the turn of the century, especially in the context of this vibrant young woman and her natural connection with its landscape and its people. It shows a tale of love, loss and a bit of redemption, which is mirrored in its modern day accompaniment story. Just who is Perdita and what is her connection to Ms. Brice? Is Marged really who she says she is? 4 stars.

I liked the cover of this book and the initial premise sounded interesting. I actually loved the incredibly detailed descriptions of the nineteenth century part of this book, but wasn’t so much a fan of the modern day story. It wasn’t until after I read the book that I saw it compared to Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre and I can definitely see aspects of them in the romantic brooding story. I liked that the book was mostly a historical fiction mystery with a little mythology thrown in for good measure, but I think the book got a bit bogged down by the mythology. It was nearly 3/4 the way through the book before we figured out who Perdita actually was and her true importance to both Marged and Garth. I also liked the way the author kept you guessing as to who was the true love of Marged’s life.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

 

The Legend of Sheba

The Legend of Sheba

The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen by Tosca Lee

To be published: Sept 9, 2014

Set in tenth century B.C.E., Bilqis is the daughter of one of the most beautiful wives of the King of Saba, also known as Sheba (located in modern-day Yemen). After her mother passes away, she is targeted by the new wife and forced to flee to her mother’s homeland of Punt (the actual location is disputed, but we’ll say that it is in modern-day Ethiopia). She takes on a new identity and becomes Makeda. Once she becomes eighteen and her father is gravely ill, she is taken back to Saba and successfully regains the throne. King Solomon of Judea, famous for his hundreds of wives which provided many alliances and his wealth, starts up a correspondence with the Queen and this continues for awhile until he demands she send an emissary. Lonely and intrigued by this man, she decides to go herself to see him. What happens next is written in the Bible, the Qu’ran and other texts.

I will admit that I originally picked up this book after reading Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus book The Ring of Solomon, which briefly mentioned both King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. Also, I did an art talk on Ethiopian Orthodox art and happened upon the origin story The Glory of the Kings, which describes the Ethiopian kings being descended from the mythical Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, made me curious to know more about her. It reminded me of something of both Ancient Egyptian history and the Arabian Nights. I love books about strong historical women and this book did not disappoint in that regard. I love that she conquered Solomon with her words and by not revealing her face for most of the storyline! I was glad that she managed to find some true love, despite the tragedy in her life. I think I liked and respected her more because she did not grow up a privileged brat but rather had to fend for herself and fight to be independent as a ruler and lover. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book Reviews June 2014

First off, I would like to apologize for the infrequency of my posts lately. I just finished my second week at my new job in the Youth Services dept of my local public library (which is awesome by the way) and even though it has less hours than my last job, I am more busy than before. Plus I’m also watching my son on my off days, so I don’t get as much computer time as I normally have been getting. I am really backed up on writing up book reviews as a result. I’ve finished all the ones for May and a few for June, but still have about 14 to do, so those will be on next month’s post. I kinda got burned out on the Newbery Medal/Honors List this last month, but will try to pick it up again after a break. I have managed to read 155 books so far this year, which is pretty good since the year is half over.I’ve been having pretty good luck with my Advanced Reader’s Copies too and there are a lot of interesting books coming out soon, so there will definitely be more posts about them in the future. I’m currently listening to Lloyd Alexander’s 3rd book in The Chronicles of Prydain series, called The Castle of Lyr. This sounds like it may be the most exciting book in the series so far! Crazy to think that these books were written in the late 1960s as they seem very modern and timeless. I just started an interesting nonfiction book called Sorry! The English and Their Manners by Henry Hitchings. I’m hoping to get some insights into the English, as I am an Anglophile and my husband and his family are from there.

As usual I rate books on a scale of 1 – 5 stars, with one being the lowest and five the highest. I am still trying to finish my Caldecott Challenge, and with all the winners and honors. I’m down to 11 books left to read. I’m also completing a Newbery Challenge, where I’m reading all the award winners and at least one honor book.

Children

Dog Loves Counting written and illustrated by Louise Yates

Dog Loves Counting

I adored her other book Dog Loves Books, so when I saw this in the library, I decided to get it for my son as his teacher says he needs to see more numbers in print form. It had the same precious illustrations as the last book, but even cuter (if that’s actually possible) with the addition of a dodo and a baby sloth! Dog loves books but loves reading so much he can’t fall asleep. So he picks up a book on creatures and starts counting them from 1 – 10 and back down again. I’m looking forward to checking out Dog Loves Drawing as well. Recommended for ages 2-5, 4 stars.

Little Chicken’s Big Day by Katie and Jerry Davis

Little Chickens Big Day

This book just grabbed my attention at the library with its bright happy colors and simple illustrations (I thought it was adorable), so decided to get it for my son. Little Chicken does everything his Momma orders him to do and always responds with “I hear you cluckin’ Big Chicken!”. One day while out with him Momma, he wanders off after a butterfly and gets lost. She soon finds him and they go home, where they read a story together and go to bed. Recommended for ages 2-6, 4 stars.

Hey Mr. Choo Choo, Where Are You Going? written by Susan Wickberg, illustrated by Yumi Heo

Another train book I picked up for my son, the rhyming text and collage/painted illustrations really bring you into the story of this train taking children to the beach. My only gripe was that the book was a little long for my son. Recommended for ages 2-6, 3 stars.

And the Train Goes… written and illustrated by William Bee

And the Train Goes...

I think my son’s favorite part of this book were the end pages with the many different colored train wheels. It’s kind of amazing that this whole book was done, illustration and text, on a computer. It’s also funny that without realizing till the end of the book that the author was English, I gave most of the characters English accents. The book is about a train leaving the station and all the people and cars of the train. At the end, a parrot repeats everything that was said, all the sounds and phrases. I liked the book but got bored with it as it just kept going on forever. Recommended for ages 3-6, 2-1/2 stars.

Waking Dragons written by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Derek Anderson

This has been a repeat read for my son, though the story is very simple. A young knight’s mother has left him a note to wake the dragons, so he does and gets them ready for the day. They take off their jammies, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, say goodbye to their mother and fly the young knight to Knight School (of course!). Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Do Unto Otters: A Book About Manners written and illustrated by Laurie Keller

When I saw this at the library, I knew I had to check it out. I love otters and as always, my husband and I want our son to have good manners, so this seemed like the perfect vehicle for that. The book is about Mr. Rabbit and his new neighbors, an Otter family. He is telling another animal how he hopes the new neighbors aren’t rude, like his last neighbor, but have good manners and gives examples. It was a cute book but a bit long-winded. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Dinosaur Train written and illustrated by John Steven Gurney

Dinosaur Train

I think my son loves this book for the cover image alone. He kept going on and on about the giant feet and the T-Rex inhaling all the smoke. It is about a young boy named Jesse who really loved dinosaurs and trains (just like my son), and after drawing a picture of the two together, he gets invited on a real train operated by them. After exploring the train car by car, the whole train leans over to look at a volcano that Jesse has seen and it topples over. After helping to right the train, he gets to ride up front with the engineer and they head back to Jesse’s room. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Mr. Putter and Tabby Take the Train (Mr. Putter and Tabby #8) written by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Arthur Howard

I thought this was a pretty cute book, but I think my son was a little lost. Mr. Putter and his cat Tabby are friends with their next-door neighbors, Mrs. Teaberry and her bulldog Zeke. Mrs. Teaberry calls up Mr. Putter and asks him to join her on a short train trip. He reminisces and says how much he loves trains, even though he’s not been on one since he was a boy, and then agrees to go if they can take their respective pets. She assures him that it is possible but when they go to buy tickets, the ticket seller says no pets allowed. So they smuggle them on-board and have a grand old time. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss

Another Dr. Seuss book I’ve never read, I picked this up for my son because I know he likes the author/illustrator. This was an odd book. It was almost like he took all these single 2-page rhymes with illustrations that he had lying around and put them all in one book because it is not one continuous story, i.e. the fish, but a bunch of little stories. It was fun to read though, as it was rather silly, just a bit long for a nearly 3 year old. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2-1/2 stars.

Zella, Zack, and Zodiac written and illustrated by Bill Peet

I rather enjoyed this little story from Bill Peet, as did my son, who has become one of my favorite children’s book writers this year. Zella the zebra discovers an abandoned ostrich chick and rescues him by letting him ride on her back. She adopts him and names him Zack. As he gets older and can no longer ride on her back, they become distant. Eventually she has her own child, an awkward colt named Zodiac who is always tripping over his own hooves, a real danger when predators are lurking all around. Zella believes she has lost Zack forever until he rescues Zodiac from a lion. From then on, he is Zodiac’s protector. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

Caldecott

Book of Mother Goose and Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Marguerite de Angeli

Book of Nursery & Mother Goose RhymesOld Mother Hubbard from Book of Nursery and Mother Goose Rhymes

I will admit since this is my 3rd out of 4 Nursery and Mother Goose books I’m having to read for the Caldecott Challenge, that I skimmed this one. It was massive, for a children’s book, at 192 pages! This book won a 1955 Caldecott Honor and I knew the illustrator because of her book Yonie Wondernose (which I rather enjoyed), that had won Caldecott Honor exactly ten years prior. I thought they were a delightful mix of black & white small pencil-drawn illustrations and full-color single page illustrations with a variety of known and previously unknown nursery rhymes. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

The Most Wonderful Doll in the World written by Phyllis McGinley, illustrated by Helen Stone

I will admit that I did not want to read this book for a long time because it is about dolls, as I’ve always found them a little creepy. This book won a 1951 Caldecott Honor book, and is about a little girl named Dulcy (this name really dates the book) who has a large collection of dolls to play with but has just lost a doll named Angela she just received as a gift from a friend of the family. She goes on and on about the doll, each time inventing better and better things that it does. When she finally finds it again, she realizes that it didn’t do anything of things she said it did, but she was just imagining it. Recommended for ages 4-8, 2 stars.

Mr. T.W. Anthony Woo written and illustrated by Marie Hall Ets

Marie Hall Ets, the bane of my existence. Just kidding. This is actually one of her better books that won some sort of Caldecott, this one having won the 1952 Caldecott Honor. It’s a rather random story though. The title refers to the name of a mouse who lives with a shoemaker, along with a cat and a dog that are constantly fighting with each other. One day, the shoemaker goes out to run some errands and his meddlesome sister stops by and sees the shop in an absolute mess from the cat and dog. She decides that she must move in with her brother and take care of him, so she and her annoying repeating parrot move in without his permission and the first thing she does is get rid of the dog and the cat. The shoemaker comes back home all confused but is too nice to tell her to leave. He rescues the cat and dog from outside and they all plot together with the mouse to get rid of the sister (she is scared of mice). They do and all three and the shoemaker live the rest of their days in harmony. The illustrations are rather plain in black and white but tell the story nicely. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Young Adult

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #3) by Laini Taylor

First off, I would like to say that this book is very hard to summarize, especially for anyone who has not read the rest of the series. The author is so good at storytelling and universe-building that she reminds me of George R.R. Martin, as they’re universe and character lists are so huge. So I recommend reading the first two books first so you won’t be totally lost by what I am going to describe. Let us proceed to the summary.

The Angels (Seraphim) have come to Earth and humankind is freaking out, thinking it is the apocalypse. The Angel’s leader Jael heads right to Rome and tells the humans that the Beasts (Chimera) are coming. This is really just a ploy to get his hands on some human weapon technology to finally destroy the Chimera. Akiva and his sister Liraz have managed to convince the Misbegotten Angels to combine forces with their former enemies, the Chimera, so they have a chance to defeat Jael. The mysterious Stelian Queen Scarab tries to kill Akiva but can’t as she discovers that his mother was Stelian. Throughout the book, we learn more background about Akiva and his mother Festival, and the Stelian’s role in Eretz and beyond.

Meanwhile, humans have discovered the resurrection pits left behind by the Chimeras and are mystified and horrified by them. A young woman named Eliza is one of the scientists allowed to study the bodies, and she believes that the Beasts are from another universe. It turns out that she knows this because she is descended from an angel, which becomes evident when she starts spouting Seraphic in front of everyone. Will Eliza ever figure out who she really is and what her purpose is? Will Akiva and Karou be able to stop Jael and have a chance at peace and a better life? To find out read this exciting conclusion to the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. Recommended for ages 15+, 5 stars.

It’s been at least a year since I last read the second book in the series, and it definitely took me awhile to remember what last happened in the book, as there were hardly any clues at the beginning of this one. I forgot how confusing this book can be trying to remember all the place and character names. It took me about 100 or so pages to really get into this book, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. It’s nice that the romance between Akiva and Karou is still one of the main focal points. I liked that despite all the bloodshed and pain, there was still time to dream about hope, love and a home together. Cassandra Clare definitely has some competition for who can write the best kisses, as Laini Taylor is quite good with the lead-up to them and the description of love. I loved the section about Zuzane and her mad eyebrow warfare skills in Italy! If I had to fight at the end of the world, she is definitely someone I would want on my team because she fights so hard for the ones she loves. I also loved (and was totally blown away) by the encounter between Jael and Akiva in the Papal Palace. He is one badass angel. I loved the story and I was sorry to see it end, though I’m glad it ended the way it did.

Ask the Passengers written by A.S. King, narrated by Devon Sorvari

Seventeen-year-old Astrid Jones feels really unappreciated by her friends and family. Her younger sister Ellis gets all the love and attention from their mother. Their dad is too stoned to really care about anything other than his office supplies at work. No one can understand why her friend Kristy, one of the most popular girls in school, hangs around her. Astrid may possibly be in love with her best friend Dee, who is already out of the closet. She lives in a really small town where everyone gossips about every little thing you do, so she has to worry about that as well.

The only thing she really enjoys is her AP Humanities class, where she is learning about Greek philosophers. In an attempt to feel more wanted, she sends waves of love towards passengers flying in airplanes above her house and everyone she sees. She does this even if they ignore or hate her. When she is sending out love to the anonymous passengers of the airplanes, every now and again, we hear their stories. It seems at first that these people have no connection to her, but after awhile, we can see that their stories are kind of like an extension of Astrid, if she were older.

Astrid feels like she is straddling two worlds. The very private one she shares with Dee and the public one she shares with Kristy and her family. Will she be able to figure out who she is and what she wants? Can she be truthful with everyone? Recommended for ages 14+, 4 stars.

I had gotten the idea to read this book from Tara, The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say shhh!, and because she raved about it so much, I decided to give it a try. I’ve never read anything by the author but have heard for years that her books were good. I enjoyed hearing about the AP Humanities class and her learning about Greek philosophers, and how well it surprisingly blended with the story. I loved that she gave Socrates a first name (Frank) and made him kind of her protection, when things get too weird in her life. I’ve lived in small towns before and I know how limiting and frustrating it can be, so I could really identify with Astrid’s views on living in one.

Astrid’s mom, wow, she was a piece of work. I can identify with one parent loving your sibling more than you, but getting drunk with your teenage daughter is a whole other thing. And she thinks she’s the normal one in the family, geez.

Adult

City of Devils: A Novel by Diane Bretherick

Bittersweet: A Novel by Colleen McCullough

The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life: Cruelty-Free Crafts, Recipes, Beauty Secrets and More by Melisser Elliott

I’m always trying to get as much information as I can on the vegetarian/vegan lifestyle as I become more interested in joining it. I will admit also that after reading about how all types of meet including veal is processed in great detail, I was rather put off meat for a couple weeks. The book features useful information for those new to the idea of going completely vegan, which aside from eating a plant-based diet with no dairy or meat, also entails not wearing it in any form for clothing and shoes. For example, in addition to leather, you can’t wear wool from any animal, no fur naturally and silk. The author includes becoming involved with activism, profiles of vegans who have various food and apparel businesses and/or websites centered around the fact that they are vegans. I particularly liked the profiles as they not only had some good websites for references, but also seemed to profile real people and ask them why they went vegan, their favorite dish, favorite “accidently vegan” treat, item they can’t live without and more. She also discusses vegan companies that provide skincare products. The back section of the book is all about food and recipes, and I’d like the try the Tangy Cabbage Beet Slaw, Brussel Sprouts with Crispy Tempeh Over Soft Polenta, and Moroccan Chickpea and Kale Tangine with Quinoa. 3 stars.

Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite by Sarah Copeland

Ok, first things first. This is not strictly a vegetarian cookbook but rather a pescetarian (vegetarian + fish) one. That out of the way, the recipes I found were delicious-sounding and easy to make. The photos they had were gorgeous, though I wish there were more of them. I in particular wanted to try the Mushroom-Almond Milk Soup (as I’m trying to use more cow’s milk alternatives), Cheese Grits with Black Beans and Avocado, Artichoke Enchiladas, Sunny-Side Up Yam and Black Bean Tostadas with Avocado, Quinoa Bowl with Avocado, Red Cabbage and Walnut, and the Peanut Butter/Amaranth Cookies. 4 stars.

Bittersweet: A Novel

Bittersweet

Bittersweet: A Novel by Colleen McCullough

ARC from Edelweiss

To be published: August 19, 2014

This book is the story of the four Latimer sisters, two sets of twins, named Edda, Grace, Tufts and Kitty. They live with their father, a Church of England rector, and their stepmother in 1920’s Australia. The girls are going to be the first formerly trained nurses in Corunda, a prosperous town outside of Sydney. There is a lot of resistance to them to be thus trained not only by the un-trained female nursing staff already in the hospital as well people who don’t think the girls should be able to live on their own as unmarried women. The book chronicles not only the girls settling into their jobs as new trained nurses (which made me think of the Call the Midwife book and TV series, though it was set about 30 years later in England), but also how they each matured on their own in their personal and emotional lives. The story chronicles not only the sisters but also the lives of common Australian folk during the Depression of the 1930s, a story not usually told outside of the US. 3-1/2 stars.

Ok, I will admit that I originally picked up this novel because I had read The Thornbirds by the same author after watching the 1980s miniseries, and really enjoyed them. This one sounded just as interesting, so I decided to give it a try as well. Overall, I really enjoyed the story, even though it seemed to have suddenly ended just as it was getting interesting. I really think the author should’ve divided this story into two books or possibly one book per sister as that would make a better “romantic saga” as the publishers are terming the book. One of the things I did really like about the book is that the author had excellent vocabulary. The complex nature of the words used impressed me, and I found myself looking a lot up, which doesn’t bother me. I like books that educate me. I also liked learning about the Australian Depression, which I did not previously know that much about. I knew a little bit it as my paternal grandmother had grown up around Sydney during this time period, and she had told me some things.

 Edda was probably my favorite sister, or the one I could most identify with as she was not afraid to speak her mind and was the most independent and knew exactly what she wanted out of life. Grace and Kitty started out weak, but eventually became much more complex characters as the story progressed. I also really liked Tufts as she ended up being the more research-minded sister, content to be a teacher though she does end up with a much more public job by the end of the book. I thought Jack’s character was a little weak, but I’m glad he was able to find happiness in someone. Charles Burdum was an interesting character, and I have definitely met men like him before. I would’ve liked to hear more about Dorcas as she was only included in the last part of the book.

Disclaimer: I received this advanced reader’s copy book via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

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