Ice Land

Ice Land
Betsy Tobin
Plume, 2008

Oh. My. I fell in love with the cover a year or so ago, and when I found out it was about Norse myth, knew I simply had to read it. When I finally got my hands on it, it was definitely worth the wait.

I knew the story dealt with Freya (Norse goddess of love), and somehow the country of Iceland. What I didn't realize was that there were two separate storylines that were going to be presented -- stories that were overlapped and interwoven with an intricacy I did not expect. I was quickly immersed in the story - excuse me, stories - I was reading, and then when everything came together I was surprised. But also delighted.

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting - probably a novel just about the Aesir and Asgard. Instead I got a beautifully descriptive novel that examined the humanity of the gods, and their undeniable connections to the 'earthlings' (humans, dwarves, giants, animals ...). It's a novel about life, and chances, and most of all: Love.

Book provided by my personal library.


[Everything Austen II] Persuasion

Everything Austen II is a challenge hosted by Stephanie over at Stephanie's Written Word.
The goal: To read 6 Austen-themed works between July 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011.
The progress so far:
1: Persuasion (Jane Austen)

Jane Austen
Signet Classics, 1996 (original publication 1817)

I have read at least 3, if not 4, contemporary retellings of Austen's Persuasion - so I was very familiar with the story. Several of my close friends love it, calling it their favorite Austen of all. So I went into this with high hopes and a happy sense of anticipation. And then I struggled my way through it ... I love Jane, but I definitely do not love Persuasion. At all. You can tell that this novel was written as she was "running out of time" sotospeak, and was not able to go back and rework everything -- it's almost like a second, maybe third draft, and one more good revision would have done the trick. The story's there, the characters have some promise, but it's just not quite clicking. The best of the whole book are Chapters 10 and 11 of Volume 2 -- coincidentally, the only two chapters Jane went back and did serious reworking of (or so says the introduction in my volume). You can tell. There's a difference to the story in those two chapters.

Anne Elliot annoyed me. I wanted to shake her until her teeth rattled in her head and she woke up. They say she shows amazing patience -- to me, she showed immense passivity. Did she feel things? Yeah, to varying degrees. But she was just so ... complacent and accepting of everything. I got increasingly frustrated with her as the course of the novel continued. Captain Wentworth was not a bad hero - but I'd like to get to know him better. He had a humanity to him, a normal, familiar pride about him, that reminded me of Darcy. Perhaps if the Captain were written more, Anne would be more appealing and the story revived greatly.

Unfortunately, strangely, the original Austen is lacking in story and likeability to the contemporary retellings.

Book provided by my personal library.


After the Kiss

After the Kiss
Terra Elan McVoy
Simon Pulse, 2010

The cover caught my attention on this one. Well, the cover and the title itself. I'd seen several reviews for it, and they all led me to believe it'd be a cute, easy summer read. That part is definitely true - what they did not tell me was that it's a novel in verse.

The basic premise is that the book follows two girls, who do not meet or technically know each other. I say technically, because their stories overlap. Drastically. Dramatically.

Each girl is allowed to tell her own story ... Camille writes in free-verse, almost stream-of-consciousness, but in third person. It allows for a singular perspective: you're getting to see inside her - as much as she allows herself to look inward, anyway - but you also get to see the dynamics of her world. Becca writes in a variety of poetic forms ... from tributes to Browning and Williams to a very cleverly done villanelle.

Overall, I think the form works - I just wish I'd had a little forewarning. I was caught blindsided and was therefore a wee bit confused. That quickly dissipated, it just took a moment or two of adjusting.

Book provided by my local library.


Portion of the Sea

Portion of the Sea
Christine Lemmon
Penmark, 2010

I won this in a Goodreads.com firstread's giveaway: after stumbling across a review of Lemmon's newest novel (Sand in my Eyes) at Luxury Reading, I saw this book listed as an ending-today firstreads giveaway. I entered on a whim and a hope, and actually won. Talk about huge smiles!

What originally caught my attention was the blurb on the back:  
A tale about a woman’s treasures – heart, soul, and mind –
and the struggle to keep them afloat.

It’s 1953 in sunny Florida, and 15-year-old Lydia Isleworth thinks her ultimate life goal, like that of every woman she knows, is to marry a respectable man and raise a family. Then, she meets an aspiring Hollywood actress Marlena DiPluma, who says four life-changing words—YOU CAN DO ANYTHING—and gives her a journal to read. The journal, written by Ava, a defiant girl of Lydia’s age, becomes the catalyst for Lydia’s awakening and new life adventure.

A story of parallel lives, Portion of the Sea follows two young women in passionate pursuit of their independence–Lydia during the cultural revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, and Ava during the late-1800s when a few pioneering American ladies set the course for women’s freedom.

In this stirring follow-up to her debut novel Sanibel Scribbles, Christine Lemmon offers a trademark story of how women can inspire each other to pursue bold dreams, make courageous choices, and reclaim lost treasures.
Knowing this was also about my much-beloved Gulf Coast, I couldn't wait to dig in and read. I was not disappointed.

Portion of the Sea is a double-story: Lydia's story is intricately interwoven with the story of Ava, and while sometimes this can be very confusing or slightly annoying, Lemmon executes it with success. There are clear delineations between the two girls and their stories, but they are similar enough that together they comprise a beautifully written portrait of a girl's discovering who she is and what she wants out of the world.

I saw myself in so much of the revelations and frustrations verbalized by both Lydia and Ava. I recognized their struggles, I empathized with their troubles and confusions, and I knew their joys. (Well, most of them). This is a book that I am going to, without a doubt, hand my friends, encourage my little cousins to read, and one day, share with my daughters. It's a powerful story, and beautifully written. Plus, it's about the magic of my Gulf.

Book provided by my personal library.


New Books!

So my list of new books is huge this week, but only because my library was having a major book sale: $1 a bag, for as many books as you can cram in. How amazing is that?! Needless to say, I had fun. Here are my newly acquired titles:

  • The Shy Stegosaurus of Cricket Creek (Evelyn Lampman)
  • The Shy Stegosaurus of Indian Springs (Evelyn Lampman)
  • The Garden Party (Katherine Mansfield)
  • The Grand Sophy (Georgette Heyer)
  • Cabbages and Kings (O.Henry)
  • Her Father's Daughter (Gene Stratton-Porter)
  • Free River (Myna Lockwood)
  • Names on the Land (George R Stewart)
  • Living Biographies of Famous Novelists (c. 1943)
  • Complete Works of James Whitcomb Riley, vol. VI
  • Children's Books too Good to Miss (1966 edition)
  • Men of Albemarle (Inglis Fletcher -- 1st edition!)
  • Dawn's Early Light (Elyswth Thane - Williamsburg series)
  • Yankee Stranger (Elyswth Thane - Williamsburg series) 
  • Ever After (Elyswth Thane - Williamsburg series) 
  • Light Heart (Elyswth Thane - Williamsburg series) 
  • Homing (Elyswth Thane - Williamsburg series) 
  • The Lost General (Elyswth Thane)
  • From This Day Forward (Elswyth Thane)
I also received another won-book: Ice Land (Betsy Tobin)

The Thane books -- I saw Ever After and was caught by the title. Picked it up on a whim, because at 10-cents a piece, it's okay to take the gamble. Then I realized there were several other titles by the same author, and snagged them too. Last night, while on Goodreads.com I learned that there actually IS a Williamsburg series (following a couple families through generations - I think very similarly to Eugenia Price's books), and I had managed to find the first 4 and 7th titles in the series. Just need to find the 'missing' 2, and I'll have a complete set! Wowzers. Hope they're as good as they look to be. The other two Thane titles are stand alones, best I can tell.


Someday My Prince Will Come

Someday My Prince Will Come
Jerramy Fine
Gotham, 2008

I LOVED the title first - it just speaks of my life. And when I saw it on a bargain table, I had to snatch it up. It's a light, easy read that actually does hit on some fairly important/serious issues. The premise is simple: American girl is IN LOVE to the point of obsession with an English Prince (whom she has never met, from the age of 6), and determines she is destined to marry into the Royal Family. The story is her adventures (and misadventures) along the way ... Any girl who has ever indulged in serious daydreams about what life would be like as a Disney Princess will appreciate and relate to Fine's musing and contemplation. I recognized myself in several of her statements - as well as in her revelations (well, maybe not ALL of them, but the more 'universally applicable' ones - if you read it, you'll know what I mean).

Book provided by my personal library.


New Books!

'Twas an exciting week! I got three new books! And only one of them was for my birthday. Without further ado ... The New Books:

This showed up via UPS and I was a little confused at first, Mum and I just laughed at my random receipt of an ARC (advanced reading copy). And then I did some sleuthing and realized this was won in a contest back in April - first 100 entrants into the BIG contest won this ARC; apparently I was one of those 100 and just got the book. I'll take more free reading!

I am super excited about this one! Was introduced to Lemmon's work via Luxury Reading and kinda fell in love a little. I am a huge fan of the Gulf Coast region, especially Florida's Gulf Coast. So when I saw this listed as a "ending-today-giveaway" at Goodreads.com, I entered on a whim. And won! And it was delivered to me this week. Oh happiness.

This was a birthday present, because I am a sucker for kiddie picture books, and I have a much beloved little princess bunny of my own. (The living, breathing kind!) It's adorable. Simply adorable.


Cleopatra's Daughter

Cleopatra's Daughter
Michelle Moran
Crown Publishing, 2009

For several months, actually close to a year, I've looked at this cover and seen mini-reviews of it, and wanted to read it; but I never did anything about it - until I saw it on the New Books Shelf at my library. So I snatched it, devoured it, and think anyone with any interest at all in A] a well-written story, B] historical fiction that actually reads believable, or C] ancient Rome, should definitely take the time to read Cleopatra's Daughter.

The story centers around Cleopatra's twins, Alexander and Selene, and how they lived in Rome - in Octavian's sister's home - after Octavian conquered Egypt and effectively forced the suicides of their parents. Moran does an amazing job of working in Roman history, and the story is engrossing and exceptionally well-written. I got personally involved with the characters, and had to know what was going to happen to them. So much so, that I skipped ahead and flipped through the last few pages - and grinned like a Cheshire cat! I love it when what I really want to happen happens, and love it even more when the story is such that even knowing the ending I have to keep reading. This was one of those books.

I don't want to give away anything. You just have to pick it up and read it. If you don't like it, let me know why, please, because I think anyone who appreciates story will love it as much as I do.

Book provided by my local library.


Android Karenina

Android Karenina
Leo Tolstoy & Ben Winters
Quirk Classics, 2010

I won this book free through the FirstReads giveaway on Goodreads.com, and was rather excited about it. Several summers ago, I randomly read Anna Karenina for the heck of it, and loved it. I have since discovered that I have a bit of a weakness for sci-fi, so when I found out that my favorite Russian work was being meshed with robots and uber-technology? Oh yes ... Summer reading extraordinaire! 

The story is good, fast-paced and has a lot of twists and turns, some that I definitely was not expecting. It's been a while since I read the original, so I kept having to consciously stop myself from trying to remember the "real" story/where the deviations came in (other than the obvious addition of robots). I don't think you need to be familiar with Tolstoy's original to appreciate, or even read this version. Actually, I think it'd be best if you didn't have that background knowledge (yes, I really got that distracted trying to figure out how much the story was deviating.) That aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the read, and will definitely recommend it.

Book provided by my personal library.

The Bad Queen

The Bad Queen
Carolyn Meyer
Harcourt, 2010

Marie Antoinette has never been my favorite queen in history - mostly because I'm not a fan of French history in general. I picked up this book because the cover & title were intriguing, and I liked the way each chapter was titled by a rule. The story itself has tons of details regarding court life at Versailles, and has a feel of authenticity to it that is sometimes lacking in historical fiction. The read was easy, though by the end it was a bit more difficult to read - just knowing how it was going to end, you know? The story is told from Marie Antoinette's perspective, but switches over to her daughter, Marie Therese's voice right when things get bad. It's an interesting method, and it worked very well.

I liked Meyer's style, and will pick up her other titles in the 'Young Royals' series.

Book provided by my local library.

it's not summer without you

it's not summer without you
Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster, 2010

Wowzers, this was even better than the first one. A lot fewer flashbacks, and they were presented as in-text rememberings rather than separate chapter-separate flashbacks. There are a few chapters told from Jeremiah's perspective, but they are clearly marked and therefore not confusing. The story takes place over just barely a week, and goes where I didn't think it would but discovered I really wanted it to. I don't want to give away too much, because that makes it not as much fun to read -- but as I was reading along, I found myself wishing it'd turn out one way, and then, well, it pretty much did! There's a bit of mystery at the very very end, which leads me to think that there might be another book coming. I hope so! Defenitely worth reading, but read 'The Summer I Turned Pretty' first!

Book provided by my local library.