Favorite Quotes on Books and Reading

"A book is a gift you can open again and again." Garrison Keillor

Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.” Jane Yolen

"It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it." Oscar Wilde

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Book 256: SERENADE Review

Serenade by Emily Kiebel
ISBN: 9781940716046 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716053 (ebook)
ASIN: B00LU7JS00 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress

Suddenly the voice she prized is now dangerously seductive...
Lorelei Clark's only concern was her future as a classically trained soprano, that is, until the day her father was tragically killed. Shattered by his death, she hesitantly accepts an invitation from a mysterious aunt to visit her lavish oceanside home in Cape Cod. She quickly discovers that her aunt and the two women who live with her are harboring a frightening secret they are sirens, terrifying mythical creatures responsible for singing doomed sailors to their deaths. Even more astounding, Lorelei is one of them. In this new world where water comes alive at her touch and an ancient power pulses beneath the tide, the most important rule Lorelei must learn is that a siren never interferes with fate. When she breaks this rule by rescuing a handsome sailor who should have died at sea, the sirens vow she must finish the job or face grave consequences. Finding herself inexplicably attracted to him, she must fight to keep him safe from the others, even if it means risking her own life, and her heart, in the process.

Lorelei Clark is interested in becoming the best classically trained soprano she can become. She spent much of her childhood devoted to singing and becoming a better artist. When she was offered the opportunity to study at a small but prestigious conservatory in Maine she was ecstatic. Her mother was anything but happy and refused to even talk to Lorelei before and after she left for college. Lorelei's father had always been her most devoted supporter, and when he dies in a freak accident in her arms she is devastated. After her father's funeral she returns to school but her mind simply isn't on her studies. When she receives a letter from a maternal aunt, inviting her to come to Cape Cod, Lorelei thinks this may be the answer to her prayers. Within a few scant months, Lorelei had started college, suffered the traumatic death of her father, reconciled with her mother only to separate from her once again over a difference of opinion on Lorelei's future. Perhaps this visit to long-lost relatives to the Cape will provide just the distraction Lorelei needs and allow her to focus on her future.

Little does Lorelei know that her entire life will change after she arrives at her aunt's home in Cape Cod. First Lorelei is introduced to an aunt and cousins she never knew she had. Second she is told that her family lineage includes sirens. Her love of singing and water are part of her siren nature. To say that this is a little hard to swallow is putting it lightly. Adding insult to injury, Lorelei is told that she has to go on a mission to assist in the transition from life to death for a group of merchant marines on a cargo ship. This may be the biggest trial that Lorelei faces in life...or is it?

Serenade is not just a coming of age story, but a story of family, heritage and the idea of free will. Ms. Kiebel has deftly incorporated the mythic sirens into a story that also includes messengers, banshees, an Idis, the Elysienne, and even Valkyries. I found Serenade to be a rather fast-paced read. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I first read the blurb and saw that the story included the rather fantastical element of sirens. Serenade is part coming-of-age, part fantasy, part heroic quest, and part self-realization/awareness with a touch of romance thrown into the mix. If you're looking for something a little different and enjoy reading YA or NA books, then you'll definitely want to add Serenade to your TBR list. (Trust me, you don't have to be a young/new adult in order to appreciate this story.) I can only hope that there will be more Lorelei stories coming in the future. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Book 253: ELLY IN LOVE Review

Elly In Love by Colleen Oakes
ISBN: 9781940716190 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781940716183 (ebook)
ASIN: B00L8BMPEE (Kindle edition)
Publication date: June 24, 2014
Publisher: SparkPress

The much anticipated sequel to the bestselling novel, Elly in Bloom, is finally here!

Curvy wedding florist Elly Jordan has had quite a year. First, she had to design her ex-husband's wedding to the mistress who split them up, and then she broke up with the hottest musician this side of St. Louis. Three months have passed since then, and now Elly is primed for what promises to be the best wedding season of her life.

Helped by her loyal friends, Elly is on the verge of opening a chic flower boutique uptown when BlissBride, a popular wedding reality show, asks her to design the wedding of a famous—make that infamous—celebrity. Elly is about to get everything she's ever wanted, when a stranger shows up at her store with a request that changes every aspect of her life—including her budding relationship with deli owner Keith. As she struggles to stay calm in the midst of growing chaos, Elly will learn the true meaning of love and sacrifice. 

Filled with the heart, humor, and horticulture that made Elly in Bloom a bestseller, Elly in Love welcomes readers back to Elly's big, beautiful, and messy life.

Eleanor "Elly" Jordan is a successful small business owner. Last year she had to design the flowers for her ex-husband's wedding to his mistress. She kind of fell in love with her neighbor, an up-and-coming musician only to break things off with him before taking their relationship to the next level. She's learned to love her employees, especially Snarky Teenager, and considers them her extended family. Now she must decide if she can take her business to the next level and open a branch as well as allow Snarky Teenager to manage the new branch store. If that isn't enough to take into consideration, she's realized that she's in love with Keith the deli owner, and she's been contacted by a relative she never knew she had. And just to truly cap things off, she's been given the opportunity to be the florist for a celebrity wedding on a wedding reality show. Last year pales in comparison with all Elly has to deal with this year. Can she deal with the stress of a new family member, allowing her relationship with Keith to grow even though she feels he's keeping secrets from her, trust that Snarky Teenager can be relied upon with the new storefront, and handle the pressure of designing flowers for a reality television show? Only time will tell . . . 

I'm the type of reader that has to read all of the books in a series before reading the book I need to review. So I spent a glorious Saturday afternoon and evening reading Elly In Bloom then Elly In Love. I found both to be delightful, heart-warming, and fast-paced reads. It may not be necessary to read Elly In Bloom before reading Elly In Love, but it definitely helped with understanding the trials Elly has dealt with over the past few years. First her mother dies, then she catches her husband in flagrante delicto with his mistress in their marital bed, she leaves her hometown and state to wind up in Missouri and opens a floral business. Posies is not just any floral business but one that specializes in weddings. It is a small boutique florist and Elly only has a handful of employees: her best friend and fellow floral designer - Kim, her part-time worker/high-school student - Snarky Teenager (her actual name is never revealed), and her latest hire, Anthony. These four artistic and creative people comprise the Posies workforce and they do a darn good job, small or large. Now that Elly's business has become famous, Posies is the "it" florist for the Missouri elite. Although business is booming, Elly's life is still in upheaval. She loves Keith but knows he's hiding something and she can't let the relationship develop any further until he stops being secretive. 

Ms. Oakes has done a wonderful job of pulling the reader into Elly's world, or at least she did with this reader. I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next with Elly, Keith, and Snarky Teenager. I found the stories to have just the right amount of romance, touches of humor, and angst (teenage and adult) to make it realistic. We're given glimpses into the lives and backgrounds of Kim, Dennis (Elly's half-brother), Keith, and Snarky Teenager. Those glimpses are just enough to make their interactions and behavior realistic and compelling. It was nice to read about someone that has everything going for them and yet they still have doubts and concerns about doing the right thing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Elly in Love and can't wait for the next book in this series, Elly Inspired.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Monday, July 14, 2014

Book 246: THE BOOK OF LIFE Review

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy #3) by Deborah Harkness
ISBN: 9780670025596 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780385534857 (ebook)
ASIN: B00G3L6KQI (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Viking Adult

The highly anticipated finale to the #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy that began with A Discovery of Witches
After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness's enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew's ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

Diana Bishop and Matthew Clairmont have been through quite a bit over the past two books in the All Souls Trilogy. In the first book, they meet and fall in love. In the second book, they must walk through time in order to find a teacher for Diana in preparation of their battle with the Congregation (governing board that oversees daemon, vampire and witch activities and relationships). In The Book of Life, Diana and Matthew are back in contemporary times and have a lot to deal with: the Congregation, Diana's pregnancy, their blended vampire-witch family, and the ongoing search for Ashmole 782. The big question is just what is Ashmole 782? Can it answer the questions on the origins of daemons, vampires, and witches? And what is most important, will the answers stop the Congregation from their anti miscegenation charges and protect the lives of Diana and Matthew's children?

I actually spent the weekend re-reading the first two books in this series before reading the final book. I enjoyed becoming reacquainted with Diana, Matthew, Marcus (Matthew's vampire son), Miriam (Matthew & Marcus's vampire co-worker), Sarah (Diana's aunt), Ysibeau (Matthew's vampire mother), Hamish (Matthew's best friend and a daemon), Marthe (Ysibeau's friend and housekeeper), Baldwin (Matthew's vampire brother), Gallowglass (Matthew's vampire nephew), and more. Matthew is overly concerned with the progress of Diana's pregnancy (what expectant father isn't concerned about the health, safety and welfare of his spouse and offspring?). Marcus has done an admirable job in Matthew's absence of leading the Knights of Lazarus and enlisting the assistance of more vampires, some daemons and witches, and even a few humans. Diana's best friend, Christopher Roberts - a researcher and professor at Yale, makes a reappearance and plays a much larger role as he helps Matthew and Miriam perform genetic testing on the missing pages from Ashmole 782 and on daemons, vampires, and witches. Marcus has fallen for the Sotheby's agent, Phoebe Taylor, and they are now engaged. There are many surprises in The Book of Life with regards to people that Diana and Matthew interact with, and rather than spoil the surprise you'll just need to trust me on this one.

The Book of Life does answer almost all of the questions that were raised in A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night. The action in this book takes place in both Europe and the United States, primarily at Yale University in Connecticut, but also in England, France, Germany, Poland, and Italy. It was nice to read about the maturing relationship between Diana and Matthew, as well as see their integrated families continued interaction and support for one another. There are deaths (no I'm not telling you who dies) and births (well, you knew Diana was pregnant). There are battles (not on a battlefield per se), large and small. In addition to the external battles that must be fought, Matthew must contend with his blood rage and the possibility of his birth children carrying this trait. The Book of Life, for me at least, seems to be much more than the culmination of Diana and Matthew's quest for the truth of where they came from, but a spotlight on the notion that no one has the right to say who we can love. Ms. Harkness grabbed me from the very first page and I only put down the book to fix my meals (yes it is that good). As with the previous books in this series, The Book of Life is an excellent story that mixes a contemporary story with history, a bit of magical realism, add a touch of romance, and a noble quest, and you end up with one truly amazing read.

Did I enjoy The Book of Life? YES! Can I recommend it to others? Again, the answer is Yes! What did I like about this book? Everything. What didn't I like about this book? The only thing I don't like is that this is the end of Diana and Matthew's story. I had a hard time sitting down to write this review, not because I didn't like the book, but simply because it took me almost 12 hours to get used to the idea that I've said "goodbye" to Diana, Matthew, and the rest of the Bishop-de Clermont family and friends. There may be some that categorize this series as fantasy (and yes it does have some fantastical elements), but it is so much more than that. If you enjoy reading well-written stories that deftly blend contemporary and historical fiction, incorporate romance, the paranormal, and more, then you'll definitely want to read the All Souls Trilogy. If you've read the first two books, then you already know you want to read The Book of Life. I recommend waiting for the weekend to read this book since you won't want to deal with any interruptions while you're reading (again, yes it is that good).

Can't wait until you get your copy of The Book of Life to start reading this amazing book? Read the first chapter from The Book of Life here.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Guest Post by Author Frances Simone, PhD

The Book Diva's Reads is very pleased to host a visit by one of my local bookish friends (fellow book club member) and author, Frances Simone, PhD. Dr. Simone is the author of the memoir, Dark Wine Waters: A Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows, soon to be released by Central Recovery Press. Today Dr. Simone discusses the journey from writer to published author. 

In two weeks my memoir, Dark Wine Waters: a Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows, will be published. I feel like a teen about to go on her first date. Excited and anxious. A new chapter of my writing life looms ahead. All is possibility. 

It's been a long journey from that first draft many years ago, with starts and stops along the way, and so many revisions that I stopped counting. Finally after the last draft, I perfected the requisite query letter (once again many drafts) and sought a literary agent. No luck though I did have a few bites, several requests for the first three chapters and one for the entire manuscript.  Then the long wait,  followed by terse emails informing me to go take a hike.  I felt rejected, just like when Billy Madden tossed me aside for Jocelyn Kelly, the high school homecoming queen. No possibilities there.

Time passed; I regrouped. Should I self-publish? Should I seek out an independent publisher? While pondering these options, serendipity intervened. One day while browsing through the new book section at the library, I came across a book on addiction and recovery published by Central Recovery Press in Las Vegas. Bingo! A possible match. I checked out the website, revised my query, sent it off and waited. A few weeks later, I received a request for the first three chapters. I sent them off and waited. About a month later, I received a request for a proposal. Never having written one, I asked a writer friend for help. Using her proposal as a model, I drafted mine and we revised it together. I sent it off and waited. Another month passed and then I was offered a contract. I felt like a prom queen. To hell with Billy and Jocelyn. 

Time passed. I was assigned an editor. Helen and I worked together on polishing the manuscript for about two months. Thankfully, we were on the same page. Her suggestions were spot on and strengthened the book. I learned a lot during this critical part of the publication process, and I'm grateful to Helen for advice and guidance. Eventually the galleys arrived, another pass at proofreading and an invitation to  sign copies at Book Expo America 2014 at the Javits Center in Manhattan. I felt like a blushing bride. 

In two weeks my book will be launched. I'm excited, as well as anxious about how it will be received. All is possibility once again.

Frances Simone, PhD

About the book:

Dark Wine Waters: My Husband of a Thousand Joys and Sorrows by Frances Simone, Ph.D.
ISBN:  9781937612641 (paperback)
ISBN:  9781937612658 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00L781FG2 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Central Recovery Press
Publication Date: July 14, 2014

The dynamics of codependency are brilliantly illuminated in this gripping tale, lovingly told, of a marriage destroyed by the husband's addiction to alcohol. Author and widow, Dr. Frances Simone, describes in vivid prose the progression of both her relationship with husband Terry from its earliest beginnings to the progression of his disease through all its stages. She recounts his attempts at treatment and subsequent relapse, his suicide, and her own recovery through a twelve-step program for families.

About the author:

Frances Simone, PhD is a recently retired professor emeritus from the graduate college of Marshall University in South Charleston, West Virginia. She received her PhD from Duke University, and she has served on the board of the West Virginia Humanities Council. Her professional affiliations include West Virginia Writers, Inc. and Story Circle Network. Her essays have appeared in The Voice and The Quarterly of the National Writing Project, the Charleston Gazette, and Writers Digest, The Forum (a twelve-step fellowship magazine).

She currently resides in South Charleston, WV.

Connect with the author:     Website      |     Facebook      |     Email 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book 243: AFTER I DO Review

After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid
ISBN: 9781476712840 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780385534857 (ebook)
ASIN: B00GEEB8UC (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 1, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press

From the author of Forever, Interrupted—hailed by Sarah Jio as "moving, gorgeous, and at times heart-wrenching"—comes a breathtaking new novel about modern marriage, the depth of family ties, and the year that one remarkable heroine spends exploring both.
When Lauren and Ryan's marriage reaches the breaking point, they come up with an unconventional plan. They decide to take a year off in the hopes of finding a way to fall in love again. One year apart, and only one rule: they cannot contact each other. Aside from that, anything goes.
Lauren embarks on a journey of self-discovery, quickly finding that her friends and family have their own ideas about the meaning of marriage. These influences, as well as her own healing process and the challenges of living apart from Ryan, begin to change Lauren's ideas about monogamy and marriage. She starts to question: When you can have romance without loyalty and commitment without marriage, when love and lust are no longer tied together, what do you value? What are you willing to fight for?
This is a love story about what happens when the love fades. It's about staying in love, seizing love, forsaking love, and committing to love with everything you've got. And above all, After I Do is the story of a couple caught up in an old game—and searching for a new road to happily ever after.

Lauren and Ryan met in college and fell in love. After graduation they moved in together and eventually got married. They've been together eleven years. They were blissfully happy for years but they've grown apart. After one argument too many, they make the decision to separate for one year and then re-evaluate their relationship. Can they survive being apart? Can their marriage survive the time apart? How do you know what you want when you no longer know who you are without the other person? These are just a few of the questions Mr. Reid attempts to answer in her novel After I Do.

Being in a relationship is hard work. Being in a marriage is hard work. Being true to yourself is even harder. Lauren and Ryan assume that they are no longer in love with one another because of their constant anger toward one another. What do you do when you can't love the person you're with? For Lauren and Ryan the answer is to separate. After I Do provides a fascinating glimpse into this separation from Lauren's perspective and through her interactions with friends and family. Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) her family loves Ryan just as much as they love her and can't quite grasp why they've separated. Lauren receives advice from her maternal grandmother Lois, her sister Rachel, her brother Charlie, her mother Lesley, and her co-worker Mila. Everyone seems to have a different opinion on what works and what won't. Over the course of this year Lauren learns quite a bit about herself and life, including the following: it is acceptable to be alone, separating from her husband and even getting a divorce (if it goes that far) doesn't mean she's a failure, it's okay to not like something the other person likes, compromise is necessary in all relationships, and most important -- life goes on.

There aren't any good guys or bad guys in After I Do. Ms. Reid has portrayed a young couple in turmoil and their struggle to survive. The relationships portrayed, from single-mother Lesley to widowed grandmother Lois, are all quite realistic. Lesley and Lois are from different generations and their perspectives on life are viewed through the lenses of their experiences and upbringing. I liked the notion that even when the family didn't necessarily agree with Lauren they continued to support her wholeheartedly. Although the majority of the story is committed to the idea of marriage and what happens after the vows are exchanged, I enjoyed reading about Lauren's interactions with her brother and sister just as much as I enjoyed the dilemma she faced with Ryan. I found After I Do to be a fast-paced read that isn't so much a happy-ever-after but a hopeful-ever-after. If you enjoy realistic, contemporary stories about relationships and self-discovery then grab a copy of After I Do as soon as possible. Be forewarned, this is a story that will make you smile, laugh, and even cry. 

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes via BookSparks PR. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."