Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fitness Challenge Report Card: May 2011

Interested in joining the Fitness Challenge? Please visit the Sign Up post for more information, including the challenge rules. You may leave a comment there or on this post if you'd like to join. Be sure to include your fitness miles goal in your comment.

So how did everyone do with their fitness challenge miles* this month?

*ONE fitness challenge miles = 1 mile walked or run for fitness OR = 15 minute increments of other exercise for fitness such as cardiovascular or strength training exercises.

I set my goal once again for 115 fitness miles and I ended the month short at 108.2 fitness miles as of today. I guess I should have kept my goal at 100. ;)

Here's a breakdown of what I've been doing to workout this month:

spin class ........... 27
strength training... 24
swim .............. 16
kickbox class ...... 15
bootcamp class ... 15
bike ................ 7
run ................. 4.2

If you want to see what I did to keep moving all month long, check out my May Workout Log.

I finally got out on my bike this season. Finally! At first I put off getting out there because of all the post-winter pot holes out there. Pot holes are terrifying on road bike. A hybrid or mountain bike can handle them, but a road bike has those skinny tires. Catch a bump the wrong way and splat! Yikes. I also procrastinated getting out there because my faithful biking partner, a.k.a. my husband, hasn't been able to ride with me due to shoulder surgery on a sports related injury. It's not even that I mind riding alone. I did that a lot last summer, but I guess that first ride of the season after a six month hiatus can be daunting. Finally, I went out this past Sunday thanks to my friend Maureen who invited me out on a ride with her. We rode about 24 miles in under an hour and forty-five minutes with an average pace of 14.1 miles per hour. Not too bad considering the route consisted of rolling hills with a few tough climbs and we also took the liberty of riding side by side at times to chat when the road allowed it so of course, we our pace was a bit more casual. It felt good to finally get out there and I'm already looking forward to my next ride. Plus Maureen came up with a few goals for me to work on by the end of the summer including this killer hill that gives even cars a workout. Just another added bonus from having a friend who's a personal trainer! ;)

How did you do with your fitness challenge goal for May?

What kinds of activities did you do to keep moving this month?

Are you finding this fitness challenge helpful? I'm thinking of giving it a rest after next month, but will continue it if there's enough interest. I know some of you have been very dedicated at keeping track with me (Thanks, Brandy!), but I know we're all super busy with a myriad of other things in our lives and we just don't have the time to keep track of the hours spent exercising. I personally think keeping a log of your workouts is helpful and will continue to do it. I'm just a little geeky when it comes to lists and stats , what can I say? Plus, it reinforces what I've accomplished, which helps motivate me to keep it up. But I realize this method isn't for everyone. The most important thing is that you exercise every day. Let me know if you want me to continue the challenge. I'm glad to do continue it if you find it helpful, and I promise my feelings won't be hurt if you don't.


Monday, May 30, 2011

In Death Series Reading Challenge: May 2011

Interested in joining the Challenge? Anyone is welcome to join in at any time of the year at wherever in the series you currently are. See the sign up post HERE
and join the fun!

The winner of the quarterly challenge prize is ...

Natalie and I live about six miles from each other with a Barnes & Noble conveniently smack in the middle between our houses. We figured this out a couple of weeks after "meeting" online when she joined the In Death challenge over a year ago. I think Natalie and I will meet at our local B&N one evening so I can treat her to a book or a coffee and scone. :)
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Link up any In Death posts you made this month here. If you made a post on your blog whether it be a review or commentary, please grab the link to your post and enter in the Mr. Linky below along with your name so we can find each other's latest In Death posts easily.

If you're just keeping a running list of the books as you read them, grab the link to your list post and enter in the Mr. Linky so we can recognize your success this month.

If you're reading or rereading without documenting it on your blog, let me know in the comments which book(s) you read in this month. This will also help me keep track of who's eligible for the challenge giveaway this month!

REMINDER: In order to be eligible for the challenge giveaway in August 2011, you must have read four In Death books between May 1, 2011 and August 31, 2011 and have documented that you have either on your own blog, on goodreads [please leave a link to your profile if we're not already friends there] or you can let us know what you read here in the comments of the monthly In Death Reading Challenge posts. 
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Remember When by Nora Roberts and J.D. Robb

This month, I read Remember When which is a collection of two connected stories, originally published in 2003?. Part One is a Nora Robert romantic suspense story and Part Two is a J.D. Robb In Death story falling at book #17.5 in the series. Coincidentally, both stories were recently reissued in 2010 in separate mass market paperbacks respectively titled "Hot Rocks" and "Big Jack."

The first story, Hot Rocks, is a contemporary romantic suspense story featuring Laine Tavish, the daughter of professional thief and con man, Big Jack. Laine Tavis has worked hard to make a clean life for herself as an antiques dealer in a quaint town in Maryland. Her efforts for good a life are instantly jeopardized when a multimillion dollar diamond heist that her father is involved in starts to go south, bringing stolen diamonds and murder to her door. It also brings private investigator Max Gannon, which isn't such a bad thing as Laine and Max fall in love while trying to recover the diamonds before someone else is murdered.

The suspense and mystery in this story was really great and meshed really well with the romance between Laine and Max. It's obvious that there's attraction and interest between the two and Max asks Laine out to dinner when they meet for the first time. Although the love between them develops over a short period of time, their romance is tender and their happily ever after convincing and believable. How does Nora do that?

The second story in Remember When is an In Death series short story called Big Jack that takes place about 50 years after Hot Rocks. Lt. Eve Dallas and her homicide team are investigating a murder that occurs in the apartment of Samantha Gannon, granddaughter of Laine Tavish and Max Gannon and great granddaughter of the infamous diamond thief Big Jack from the previous story. Samantha Gannon has written a book about the diamond heist in which her family was so closely involved and is away on a book tour when her apartment is ransacked and her friend and house sitter is found murdered. It appears that someone is after Samantha in order to find a pouch of diamonds that was never recovered more than 50 years ago and will stop at nothing--including murder-- to get them.

The murderer in Big Jack was fairly easy to identify, but it was exciting nonetheless to follow the sequence of events that led Eve and her team to solve the case and take down the murderer. Nothing too consequential in the relationships or personal lives of the cast, other than Peabody adjusting to life with her new badge.

I really enjoyed reading Remember When and sampling Nora Roberts' two story telling voices side by side. Whether writing a contemporary romantic suspense as Nora Roberts or futuristic crime fiction as J.D. Robb, the author's talent developing relationships between her characters with natural and engaging dialogue is definitely one of her biggest strengths. Roberts is also adept at tightly weaving personal stories within a suspenseful crime fiction plot, rendering the entire story arc wholly believable and of course, enjoyable.

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I loved how this book is comprised of two stories from slightly different genres, but whose story arcs and characters are still connected. It's such a unique book, I think.

Can anyone think of any other author who has written a book or books like this?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

REVIEW: It Happened One Season by Stephanie Laurens, Mary Balogh, Jacquie D'Alessandro and Candice Hern

Once upon a time there were four authors who each contributed a novella with similar plot elements to the historical romance anthology titled It Happened One Night, published in 2008. The authors had so much fun collaborating their stories that they decided to do it again. Only this time, the recurring theme of the anthology would be determined by a reader and so a contest was announced to the world in search of such a winning theme. Over a thousand entries were submitted by readers and carefully narrowed down to a mere handful of candidates, the winning plotline then decided by public vote. The ballots were cast and counted and lo and behold, the winner of the contest was Phyl, who just so happens to be my friend and fellow blogger who blogs at Phyl's Books and Quilts. Isn't that so cool? Congratulations, Phyl. :)

I enjoy reading historical romances and discovering new authors, but I admit that I probably wouldn't have otherwise been compelled to pick up this anthology had I not known that it was Phyl's winning plot ideas that drove these stories. I have this silly notion stuck in my head that anthologies are a gamble of sorts. I generally feel this way especially about romance because I think it's very challenging to write a well developed, realistic and compelling love story in only a hundred pages. I need to shake this notion, though, because I have read several romance anthologies over the last few years and have enjoyed most of them very much--including this one!

I was thrilled by Phyl's win of the plotline contest and had been anticipating the release of It Happened One Season since its inception. Phyl's plot lines were really fantastic--well thought out, creative and truly the foundation for some great short story romances. Turns out there was no gamble whatsoever reading It Happened One Season. 

The recurring plot elements for each story in the It Happened One Season anthology are that (1) the hero is a younger brother of a titled lord, had a career in the army, but has lived as a recluse since returning from the war with France; (2) the heroine is shy or unattractive and after many Seasons has never had a suitor; and (3) The hero's brother has only daughters and asks his brother to marry to try to ensure succession.
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"The Seduction of Sebastian Trantor" by Stephanie Laurens

This sweet, fun story is a little mix of both romance and mystery. The story starts with a ball at which Sebastian Trantor is supposed to be seeking a wife from the lot of eligible women in order to fulfill is familial duty to marry and provide a family heir. In a desperate desire to escape the ball, he slips away and finds refuge in the library. While Sebastian sits in the dark enjoying the solitude, a young woman picks the lock of the library and begins rummaging through the desk, muttering to herself as she searches for whatever it is she's so desperate to find. Sebastian finds himself both amused and curious by this woman--Tabitha Makepeace, and her task at hand. He finally reveals himself to her and after some amusing exchange of words, they introduce themselves and explain what each is really secretly doing in the private library of their host. When they are discovered alone in the library together, Tabitha is compromised and Sebastian makes up the story that they have just become betrothed in order to protect her reputation. The couple proceeds to elude everyone with their fake betrothal as Sebastian helps Tabitha uncover a blackmailer and they fall in love for real.

"The Seduction of Sebastian Trantor" was fun and sweet. It was clear that Sebastian started falling for Tabitha right away and amusing how he would kiss her to disguise them or make their story look convincing, when really, he was trying to convince Tabitha that they had something between them. It was a lot of fun watching these two turn their farce into a reality all the while trying to catch a blackmailer.
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"Only Love" by Mary Balogh

In this story, Cleo Pritchard was married by arrangement at the young age of seventeen to the much older Colonel Aubrey Pritchard who died five years ago during the war. Now at twenty-seven, Cleo has given up hope of ever remarrying or even having a lover. Then she sees Major Jack Gilcrest at a ball, a dashing young man with whom she was acquainted during the war as he served in her late husband's regime. Jack is at the ball in search of a suitable bride per his older brother's request to produce an heir. Pleased to see someone he knows, Jack asks Cleo to dance and while they are a bit nervous and awkward, it is very clear that they drawn to each other. Jack realizes pretty quickly that that he and Cleo should marry. They have a slew of practical reasons between them why they indeed should marry. Jack just needs to convince Cleo that the only reason they should marry is for love.
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"Hope Springs Eternal" by Jacquie D'Alessandro

Captain Alec Trentwell leaves the comfortable solitude of his country cottage for two reasons. One is to seek a bride and produce an heir to satisfy his familial obligation. The second is to seek Penelope Markham, the beloved sister of his friend and fellow soldier Edward Markham who died at Waterloo at Alec's side. Alec feels tremendous guilt surrounding Edward's death and consequently feels a responsibility towards Penelope. Alec plans to tell Penelope the details surrounding her brother's death and offer her financial assistance which is so desperately needs. Alec becomes enthralled with Penelope as soon as he sees her, however, so delays telling her the truth. There is mutual interest and heat between them and soon they marry, but the secret of Edward's death threatens to destroy a happy marriage.

"Hope Springs Eternal" is a romantic and sexy love story. There is sweet romance between strong, believable characters who shared a passion for each other that was romantic and sexy. Penelope Markham is a strong and intelligent woman and I admired how she was unapologetic and unashamed of her dire financial situation or her ruined reputation as an art instructor just for creating a piece of sculpture that the ton deemed scandalous. Plus Penelope wears glasses! I found that little detail so refreshing. Alec was truly haunted by his guilt for the death of Penelope's brother. His grief and guilt made sense and while I knew all along that Penelope would not blame him for Edward's death when she finally learned the truth, the whole process of Alec telling her the truth of what happened, her reaction, his reaction, the resolution... it was dramatic without being too over the top. The story felt very genuine and I enjoyed it very much.
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"Fate Strikes a Bargain" by Candice Hern

This story features two unique and unapologetic characters who enter a marriage of convenience who truly deserved their happily ever after. Captain Nathaniel Beckwith is still emotionally disturbed by the war, leaving him surly, moody and stern, yet he has agreed to do his duty and provide the family with an heir. He is seeking a suitable wife at the latest ball, but in an attempt to avoid the ladies and the dancing, Nathaniel finds reprieve behind a large potted orange tree, where he meets a simple but pretty and gregarious woman who also happens to be hiding.

Philippa Reynolds enjoys the lively balls but has grown tired of the Seasons without a suitor and is resigned to a life without marriage. When she reveals to Nathaniel that she doesn't fit in because of a severe limp due to a displaced hip she's had since birth, he is open and honest about the severity of her condition, but also disgusted with the ton's narrow-mindedness regarding her health and potential as a marriageable woman. Nearly straightaway Nathaniel sees that a marriage between them is the answer to both their problems.

Both Cleo and Nathaniel are misfits of sorts. While Nathaniel's imperfections are the emotional scars he acquired from war and Philippa's imperfections are a physical disability she's had since birth, their experiences with their flaws are enough for them to be honest, understanding and empathetic to each other without pity. Add a spark of mutual attraction and these two are a perfect and loving match.

"Fate Strikes a Bargain" is a well wrought story about two characters with obvious imperfections who are honest, open and willing to work through their issues together. It was nice to read a story in which an author is willing to write about characters with real disabilities, be sensitive to those issues and show how important honesty and a positive attitude are to a person's character. And that romance, love, passion and happily ever after are truly deserved by all.

I think it's challenging enough to pull off a realistic, compelling love story in a full length novel when the author has enough page time to develop the characters, conflicts and resolutions while convincing the reader of true love. In an anthology, the author has to successfully do all of that in only a hundred pages or so and I think all four authors did a fine job of accomplishing just that in It Happened One Season. Reading this anthology also gave me the opportunity to discover three new-to-me authors in one book. Previously, I had only read one work by any of the authors and that was A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh. I would definitely consider reading novels by all four of these authors again.

Have you read any other works by the authors of It Happened One Season?
If so, what do you recommend? 

Do you have a favorite anthology? (any genre) 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Lost a Post? I might have it. Sort of.

According to Blogger on Twitter, and also as stated on Blogger Buzz, Blogger service was down for some time and in order to remedy the situation, all posts and comments made from 7:37 am PT on Wednesday May 11 through sometime yesterday had to be deleted. According to Blogger buzz, the removal of those posts is temporary and they have started restoring those posts. I trust that they'll follow through.

Interestingly, many posts from the blogspot blogs I follow made it into my RSS feeds and so I am able to read those posts even though they're gone from the blogs. So if you lost a post due to this service problem and you want to repost it, and are too impatient to see if Blogger will indeed restore it to you, I might be able to help you. Of course I can only help you if I subscribe to your blog by RSS feeds, which you'll only know if you ask me! Drop me an email and I'll copy your lost post from my feeds and email it to you. You'll have to reformat it for posting, but at least you can get your clever words back.

krauscakes [at] verizon [dot] net

Or you can email me at my other personal email address if you have it.

Or text me if your among the elite. Haha! ;)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Once Upon a Time V

A Challenge

Once Upon a Time V is an annual springtime reading event hosted by Carl who blogs at Stainless Steel Droppings. The reading event consists various levels of participation or Quests, but the gist of the whole thing is to encourage readers to read more fantasy, folklore, mythology and fairy tale books and share their journey with everyone else. The event takes place from the first day of spring to the first day of summer (Northern Hemisphere), so I'm joining kind of late here. Quite late, actually. Alas, I am determined and confident that I can do it. :)

I have decided to do Quest the Third this year. The requirement for this quest is to read any four books from the four categories or one from each category-- fantasy, folklore, mythology and a fairy tale in addition to reading the play Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare in June. Here's a list of what I plan to read for this quest:

1. Fantasy:        War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
2. Folklore:       My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent
                         River Marked by Patricia Briggs
3: Mythology:   The Odyssey by Gareth Hinds
4. Fairy Tale:    Cloaked by Alex Flinn
5. Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

I read My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent in April prior to signing up for this event, but since it was still during the valid time frame for the Once Upon a Time V challenge, I'm counting it!

I am currently reading The Odyssey Graphic Novel by Gareth Hinds.

Be sure to visit the Once Upon a Time Review Site for links to reviews from participants.

The artwork for Once Upon a Time V is by artist Anne Julie Aubry whom you can visit on her blog, Ma petite Theiere  as well as at her online shop on Etsy, The Nebulous Kingdom. I encourage you to visit Anne Julie. Her pieces range from hauntingly beautiful and somewhat melancholy to sweet and charming.


Monday, May 9, 2011

A Mom Meme

I'm a day late, but I wish all of the moms out there a very Happy Mother's Day ... I hope you all had a wonderful day yesterday and were spoiled with hugs, kisses and favors from your families. I was! I went camping over the weekend with my younger daughter and her girl scout troop which was really fun, even though the sleeping was kind of rough. We got home just before 2 pm yesterday at which time I was showered with flowers and gifts, followed by a nice long nap and Thai for dinner! :)

A few years ago, I saw this Mom Meme on someone's blog--I'm pretty sure it was at Amy's-- and thought it was such a fun idea for a Mother's Day post. Well, I finally remembered to do it this year. I asked my girls the questions over weekend and expected to be humored with a bunch of short one or two word answers. Which for the most part, I did get from my youngest, but both girls surprised me at how much they really pay attention to me. The answers from my teenager were thoughtful and well... touching. I didn't expect such thorough and insightful answers and I honestly hadn't realized how well she really knew me. Not just as her mom, but as a woman.

So here are the questions I asked my daughters A (age 12) and M (age 16) about me.

1. What is something your mom always says to you:
A: "Don't leave your hairbrush on the table!"
M: A lot of things I guess! She says she loves me, that I look pretty, "good job sweetie!" when I do well on a test or accomplish something.

2. What makes your mom happy?
A: When everyone's nice to her.
M: Spending time with Daddy, spending time with A and me (when we're not fighting or when A is being a pita). Reading, cooking (sometimes), good food, traveling, talking to friends across the world, exercising.

3. What makes your mom sad?
A: Funerals.
M: Various movies, TV shows, books, short videos, thinking about life before she was married to Daddy, random things (PMS), etc.

4. How does your mom make you laugh?
A: When she dances.
M: She dances. And some things she says make me laugh, especially when she thinks she knows what's going on with my modern day high school life (she actually usually does).

5. What was your mom like as a child?
A: She was blond.
M: Shy, insecure, emotionally unstable (cried a lot). But really cute, and most likely very bright.

6. How old is your mom?
A: 42
M: 42... or 43. Uhh...

7. How tall is your mom?
A: 5' something. Taller than me.
M: 5'6"

8. What is her favorite thing to do?
A: Read.
M: See number 2.

9. What does your mom do when you're not around?
A: She goes to the gym.
M: How would I know? Uh, probably read, computer surf, watch Lolo {my elderly father-in-law} , bond with Gigi {one of our cats}, I don't know what else. Be naked.

10. If your mom becomes famous, what will it be for?
A: Writing a cookbook.
M: Doing something good for someone else. Or writing an autobiography.

11. What is your mom really good at?
A: Cooking.
M: Making me better, making me happy, taking care of other people, being healthy, exercising, setting goals, meeting goals, writing, drawing cute people, cooking, baking, socializing, navigating, being pretty, knowing what's best for herself, picking out things for a house (e.g. paint colors, cabinets, floors, tile, appliances, light fixtures, doorknobs, windows, doors, molding, furniture, decorations), running, biking, math, teaching math, driving, cuddling, hugging, raising kids, camping, keeping the family in a good place literally and figuratively.

12. What is your mom NOT very good at?
A: Singing. And dancing.
M: Being bad at things.

13. What does your mom do for her job?
A: Takes care of my family.
M: Takes amazing care of everyone in the house, especially [Lolo].

14. What is your mom's favorite food?
A: Ice cream.
M: Ice cream.

15. What makes you proud of your mom?
A: How well she takes care of our family.
M: Everything. There isn't one thing about her that doesn't make me proud. I am proud of how brave and strong she is, how she is so healthy and lively. I am proud of how I can talk to her about anything (not many people can do that).

16. If your mom were a cartoon character, who would she be?
A: Ruby from "Max and Ruby."
M: Mrs. Incredible.

17. What do you and your mom do together?
A: Talk.
M: Talk, shop, take pictures, cuddle (sometimes), watch movies, play video games (sometimes).

18. How are you and your mom the same?
A: We both like to read.
M: We both like to do a lot of the same things. I think we're both pretty brave. We think similarly and have a similar voice. I think that our views on parenting are the same (even though I'm not a parent). We generally have the same taste in music, movies, books, clothes (kind of), and aesthetic things. Oh yeah we cry a lot. And procrastinate.

19. How are you and your mom different?
A: I don't know!!!
M: I don't exercise as much as she does. :) I can't cook or bake. We're actually not that different at all.

20. How do you know your mom loves you?
A: She tells me.
M: I just know. The little everyday things tell me that she loves me (e.g. packing lunch, giving me freedom, hugging me, telling me she loves me, surprising me). And also some extraordinary things.

21. Where is your mom's favorite place to go?
A: The gym.
M: She wants to go to Paris and Hawaii. She wants to go places with her husband. And family (maybe). Her current favorite place is probably anywhere with Daddy or the Y. Or outside somewhere.

In conclusion, she's the best mum ever.

Tears in my eyes.

My daughters are more aware of the things I do for myself, for our family and for others than I thought .... they listen to my dreams... and apparently, I look ridiculous when I dance. ;)

I am reminded how thankful I am for my daughters who would not be half as amazing as they are without their dad. We're a great parenting team and it shows in our children. xo

Friday, May 6, 2011

Gone Camping

A blog dedicated to saving girl and boy scout camps

I'm going camping with my 12 year old daughter and her girl scout troop this weekend, leaving shortly after school lets out this afternoon. Our weekend will consist of hiking, orienteering, canoeing, horse grooming {no horseback riding this time as the horses just arrived at camp for the season and aren't yet ready for riders...}, arts and crafts, campfire songs, s'mores and girls giggling to the wee hours of the morning. The best part? Aside from quality time with my daughter, of course... it's still too cold for mosquitoes!  ... and maybe a lot of other bugs, too? 

What kind of plans do you have for the weekend? 

Whatever it is, I hope you have a great weekend.

I'm planning to post a fun Q&A with my daughters on Sunday in honor of Mother's Day, but in case I don't get to it...

Happy Mother's Day to all of you who are moms! ^_^ 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Library Loot XXXVI

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries! This week's Library Loot is at Marg's.

War For the Oaks by Emma Bull

This is the May selection for the Women of Fantasy 2011 Book Club in which I'm participating. Although I use the term "participating" very loosely here. While I read the January and February books and absolutely loved them both --especially Elfland by Freda Warrington, I regretfully didn't join in the book discussion for either one. I'm going to try my best to make time to comment in the discussion post for this one at the end of the month.

War For the Oaks has been on shelves for a very long time. Having been first published in 1987, it is widely considered the founding book of the entire urban fantasy genre. There's a quote on the cover of my edition from Neil Gaiman: "Emma Bull is really good." All right, then, Mr. Gaiman. Thanks for those inspiring words of praise! LOL. I'll let you all know if indeed he's spot on with that. ;)

The First Cut by Diane Emley
Nan Vining Mysteries, Book 1

This is the May selection for the Authors by the Alphabet Book Club. It's Paula's turn to pick this month who so graciously chose a book for an E author after we skipped last month. I vowed that I would really be okay with skipping a letter if we had to, but I do not lie when I say I feel more right with the world now that we are covering the letter E. Saying I feel Elated, Ecstatic, Euphoric, Exulted would be Exaggerations but I am definitely put to Ease with this move on Paula's part. ;)

This is the first suspense thriller that we'll be reading together, so I'm looking forward to seeing how we all react to this one. Look for a review and or commentary at the end of the month.

After reading several stellar young adult books last month, I couldn't help myself from revisiting the shelves at the library for some new material.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

A collaborative work by two fantastic young adult authors, Will Grayson, Will Grayson was published in 2010 and has been the recipient of countless literary awards. Okay, maybe not countless, but I'd say seven literary awards is pretty darned impressive. The story is about two teen boys both named Will Grayson who cross paths and the consequences of their intertwined lives. And something about a fabulous high school musical? Should be interesting.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

This book is author David Levithan's 2003 debut novel and recipient of the ALA's Top Ten Books for Young Adults in 2004. And my David Levithan book of the month. Boy Meets Boy is about the complicated love life of a sophomore boy's year in a utopian-inspired high school devoid of homophobia.

Trash by Andy Mulligan

Published in late 2010, this is yet another novel with several literary awards already to its name. Trash is a story about a boy named Raphael who lives in a dump site with other boys. They find a leather bag the contents of which will change everything.

I also picked up a fourth YA title, but as I was typing this, I realized it was book #3 in a trilogy. Oops. It's going back to the library and I'll hopefully switch it for book #1. I'm not counting it in this week's loot. :P

What looks good to you?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What I Read Last Month

April 2011

April was a fantastic reading month for me. I read TEN books--hey, that's a lot for me! ;) --and they were all really good! I hope my May reading is just as enjoyable and equally productive!

Here's a list of what I read last month and some brief thoughts.  Many of my comments below are exactly what I've said about these books on goodreads, so if you follow my updates there, I apologize for the duplicity.

Total books read: 10

Young Adult ....... 4
Romance ........... 2
General fiction .... 2
Graphic novel...... 1
Urban Fantasy ..... 1

1. Naomi & Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan A

I loved this contemporary young-adult novel co-written by the dynamic author duo Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, both of whom so naturally and expertly capture the essence of teenagers, first loves and life lessons.

A truly insightful story about friendship and love. The love between friends and the friendship between lovers. Sometimes reciprocated, sometimes unrequited. I laughed and I cried and rooted for Naomi and Ely to find their true places in the world at every turn of the page. Highly recommended for fans of contemporary young adult novels.

2. Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta A+

Jellicoe Road is a phenomenal book. It's a coming of age story and so much more. It breaks your heart with the weight and sadness of loss, confusion, loneliness, uncertainty... and puts it back together with the power and strength of friendship, purpose, love and hope. And a sense of belonging. A place of solace. And just like the people whose lives are intertwined by the Jellicoe Road, you will never be the same.

Jellicoe Road has received numerous literary awards, including the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature in 2009.

3. My Soul to Keep by Rachel Vincent A-
4. Reaper by Rachel Vincent B+

My Soul to Keep is the third full length novel in the young adult urban fantasy Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent. This one is probably my favorite installment in the series so far. The author expertly blends the typical modern day teenage experience with a unique and suspenseful urban fantasy story arc. This book ends on somewhat of an emotional cliffhanger for the protagonist and narrator, Kaylee Cavanaugh. I'm now desperate to read the next book in the series, My Soul to Steal to find out what could possibly happen next!

The background story of Tod Hudson, the teenage grim reaper in the Soul Screamers series is revealed in the novella "Reaper." This novella, along with the short story "Fearless" in the Kiss Me Deadly anthology sets the stage for the next book in the series, My Soul to Steal, on which I'm still trying to get my hands! The fifth book, If I Die comes out in July, I believe.

5. Frankenstein The Graphic Novel Classic Text by Mary Shelly A-
I have quickly become a fan of Classic Comics, original text versions of classic literature. Last month I read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and now this month, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which was as equally thought provoking as it was heart wrenching.

Prior to reading the Frankenstein graphic novel, I admittedly knew very little of this classic literary work other than it was a story about a man who created a monster who gets loose in the world and frightens, torments and even murders innocent people. I did not know the characters, the plot or the thought provoking themes of the story including the moral implications of scientific and medicinal advancements and the responsibilities that lie therein. Nor did I have any inkling as to how very sad and tragic this story is. Before, I merely thought it a horror story.

This graphic novel version of Frankenstein also includes a brief, yet informative biography of Mary Shelley and an account of the immediate and long term success of Frankenstein from when it was first published in 1818 when the author was merely 21 years old to the present day. Nearly two hundred years later, Frankenstein is still widely known all over the world and has been adapted into countless retellings and productions on stage, in radio and film.

Frankenstein is an exceptionally insightful and expressive story. I highly recommend this graphic novel to everyone. You might just be surprised at how little you truly know about Victor Frankenstein and his creation.

 6. Knight of Passion by Margaret Mallory B

This is the third book in the All the Kings Men trilogy--a medieval historical romance. I enjoyed the romance and the politics of the time period, but didn't find it quite as engaging as the first book in this series that stole my heart. Still, it boasts intelligent writing and a solid romance.

7. River Marked by Patricia Briggs A

Once I've come to enjoy a series as much as I do this one, I find it more and more difficult to fairly rate the books. The quality of the writing, world building, and character development continues in its consistency and development. The story is creative, intelligent and entertaining. While there are other books in this series that may have been more nerve-wracking or heart pounding with regard to the suspense and action, River Marked is an excellent novel that provides fascinating insights to Mercy Thompson's geneaology and the mythology of walkers. The story is sure to please fans of this series.

8. Pieces of Paper by Jeannie Lin, novella B

This is a very short contemporary story about a young Asian-American woman who is visiting Tokyo and has a chance meeting with a young Anglo-American man who happens to be studying in Japan at the time. The story is semi-autobiographical, semi-romantic and simply an interesting anecdotal story about self identity. For anyone who has grown up in a country as a minority separated from the country of their origins, this story is insightful to feelings you may have felt about yourself--especially upon a visit to your "homeland."  If you don't fall into that category... this story still provides some food for thought about one's sense of identity and belonging. Pieces of Paper is available for download at Smashwords, Amazon for Kindle and iBooks for 99 cents, of which Jeannie Lin is donating all proceeds to the relief efforts in Japan. :)

9. Still Life With Husband by Lauren Fox B+

This book was the April selection for the online Authors by the Alphabet book club. It surprised me how much I enjoyed reading this one, given the book focused on infidelity. You can read my review HERE.

10. Lover Unleashed by J.R. Ward A-

This is book nine in Black Dagger Brotherhood, paranormal-urban fantasy series by author J.R. Ward. What can I say? I confess I'm a sucker for this series and I loved this one. I could offer a slew of comments here, but am considering writing a commentary type review so we can discuss spoilers. Anyone interested in discussing?

And that's it! How was your reading last month? 

Did you discover any new favorites?