Reason and Romance

Reason and Romance
Debra White Smith
Harvest House, 2004

I remember getting super excited about this when it first came out freshman year, but didn't get a chance to read it for another year or so. At which point I devoured the whole series and thought they were really cool! Jane Austen rewritten as contemporary Christian fiction: it was mesmerizing. My first foray into 'Austenesque' literature, but decidedly not the last. When I realized Reason and Romance would count towards the Sense & Sensibility Bicentennial Challenge, I jumped at the chance to reread one of my first Austen-plus reads! It did not live up to the remembrances.

Reason and Romance takes the story Jane told in Sense & Sensibility and transposes it into 20th century living. Most of the details are 'the same' and it's easy to pick up on the original themes in the beginning. But Smith took some interesting liberties with the story itself - Ted (the 'Edward' of our tale) is a student in Elaina's (Elinor) graduate course and is much more involved with the Wood (Dashwood) ladies' lives than in the original. Other characters are tweaked around and storylines fuzzed a bit. I understand adjusting things to make them fit contemporary society, but some of the changes are just awkward. Maybe even a little weird.

I also had a seriously hard time with Ted's portrayal of Edward. Ted is in a (second) secret engagement with Lorna (Lucy), but has no qualms about making moves on Elaina - going so far as to consider how to get out of his engagement. Where Edward is sort of lovably oblivious, and determined to keep his word, Ted comes across as keenly aware of what he is doing and actually works out a plan to rid himself of Lorna. I found Ted rather distasteful as a hero. In an interesting contrast, Willis (Willoughby) was actually more believable an interest for Anna (Marianne) - he was the 'star' she'd joked with Elaina about marrying one day. Yeah, he turned out to be scum, just like his original, but there was a bit more foundation for his character than the Ted-Edward thing. Dr. Brixby (Col. Brandon) was endearing, as he should be, which was a relief. And I liked the sense of humor Elaina displayed.

I am much more familiar with the original Austen now than I was when I first read Reason and Romance, so maybe that's why I had a hard time getting into the story. For someone who's new to Austen, it's a good, clean, introduction to the story. It's not an overly preachy Christian fiction, and the God-talk doesn't take away from the story. I'd recommend it for 'beginners' for sure, but if you're already not a fan of Sense & Sensibility, I'd avoid this rewrite.

Book provided by my local library.


Waterfall Wednesdays #5

You guys, it's the last Waterfall Wednesday! This is very sad. I've had so much fun reading Waterfall with you guys, and talking about all the crazy-awesome events and people, and now...it's over. But, I've not finished sharing the River of Time goodness with you! Did you see my review of Waterfall Monday? Check it out if you haven't, and know that reviews for Cascade and Torrent are coming very soon! (Yes, I confess: There was no way I could torture myself and not see how this story continued...so I picked up copies of the other two and read my happy little heart out). You guys have absolutely got to read these books! Plus, if there's enough interest, there's a good chance we could get more River of Time awesomeness! Anyway, enough of my intro...How about we tackle the last set of questions?

Waterfall by Lisa T Bergren
Discussion 5: Chapters 24-28
Today's Questions Hosted by Irresistible Reads

1.  After Gabi is injured, the doctor gives her a tonic.  Gabi questions the doctor several times what is in it but he refuses to tell.  Would have you taken the tonic in Gabi situation?
Honestly, I'm not sure. The doctor was acting a little sketchy, but at the same time - Gabi was a woman, and in his eyes she was out-of-place in questioning him (he didn't know she's such a kick-ass chick). I'm a little wary of mystery meds myself, but sometimes you have to take things that are weird to fix it. So I'm not sure...She was hurting pretty bad, and it did make things feel better, so...Yeah.

2.  Before the games Gabi asks Lia to let Lord Forabosch win in the archery event as people especially Lord Forabosch are becoming suspicious of them.  But during the games Lord Forabosch upsets Lia trying to throw her off her game. So Lia decides to win.  Do you think she did the right thing by not letting Lord Forabosch bully her or do you think she took an unnecessary risk?
I cheered for Lia, I'm not gonna lie. I felt like it was a bit of a turning point for her - like she was realizing this is 'real life' and there is a place for her, and Gabi, in it. Plus, Lord Forabosch is a major creeper. So seeing him get his butt kicked publicly was pretty awesome. At this point, I don't think it was any riskier than simply "being" there - Lord Forabosch had already come to his various dubious conclusions, and if he'd managed to beat one of the She-Wolves, would he really have been any kinder?

3.  When Gabi is dying and she and Lia decide to return to the tombs so they can get the cure at home but they have to tell Marcello the truth.  Even though Marcello thinks that it is madness that they are from the future he believes in Gabi because he loves her.  Do you think this is believable?  What would you have done if you were Marcello?
He believed her and it was with much questioning and doubt. Love won out, sure, but not without some struggle. And I'm thinking, somewhere in his mind, knowing the truth made other things start making a lot more sense. I kinda have a hunch that total belief didn't happen until he and Luca saw the girls actually disappear.

What would I have done? Hmm...Well, considering she's suffering from arsenic poisoning, and there's no cure, so she's gonna die no matter what, I think I'd be willing to try. Staying alive is a big thing, ya know? And if it worked once, it should be able to work again. And even if it didn't work, at least you'd know you tried everything you could.

4.  In the end Gabi and Lia return home.  Do you think Gabi will return to Marcello? Would you go back?
If Marcello's waiting on me, I'm totally going to go back. Plus, I think the whole experience would be one I'd want to explore more. This is like the ultimate history geek's dream! This goes beyond reading a primary source that managed to survive, this is making your own personal record. Awesome. Totally. Awesome. Plus, Marcello's there. And he's a definite perk. Just sayin'...

5.  Looking back at Waterfall what was your favourite moment?
Oh man...That's probably the toughest question of all! And I have no idea how to answer. I loved this book. Like, loved it. I didn't want it to end, and before I even finished I'd ordered Cascade and then before I finished Cascade I picked up Torrent. There's something about this story that has sucked me into the vortex - I've connected with the characters, I'm fascinated by the idea, I'm in love with the River of Time.

Thanks to all the lovely ladies who hosted these discussions and made it happen! You guys rock, and I'm glad we were all able to come together and enjoy such a great, quality read. May we all find our Marcellos, Lucas, and Lord Grecos!

Don't forget to swing by and check out everyone else's answers!



Lisa T. Bergren
David Cook, 2011

Oh. Em. Gee. In case you have somehow missed my Waterfall Wednesdays posts, let me catch you up to speed: I have fallen in love with this book. And subsequently, with the River of Time series. True confession: I wasn't able to make myself stretch the read over all five weeks. I finished it quickly, but opted to post the review during the last week of Waterfall Wednesdays, to help build anticipation and intrigue. (PS: If you haven't read them, you really should check out the discussion questions from each week: a whole lot of fun, and definitely made my reading experience a richer one.)

Waterfall is a story that takes your wildest dreams and half-imaginings, and explores what would happen if they really happened. Gabi and Lia, two sisters stuck for the summer in Tuscany (poor kids, I should be so lucky!) as their mother excavates an archeology dig, stumble upon a portal of sorts - seemingly custom-made for them - and find themselves 600 years in the past. Right in the heart of medieval Toscana. Waterfall primarily focuses on Gabi's adventures as she tries to find Lia, because they were slightly separated in the transport. Along the way, Gabi meets knights - like, real knights - and comes face-to-face with the often harsh reality of life in the 1342 Italian countryside. Sienna and Florence are in a battle for dominance, and the lords between the two are on the frontlines. Add to that "normal" inter-family drama and human nature? Oh yes, this is an adventure worth having. Did I mention the very amazing knights? Because Marcello and his cousin Luca are definitely worth the read. Just sayin'.

If you've read the Waterfall Wednesdays posts, you have some idea of the story. Rather than repeat myself, I'd like to turn this review into a sort of reflection - try to tell you just what it is about this book that has captured my attention so wholly. Normally, time travel is kind of weird for me, I'm not going to lie. But in this case, it works. Really, really well. Maybe because my History major self would thoroughly appreciate the opportunity that Gabi and Lia stumble upon. Maybe because Lisa handles it in a way that makes it less weird and/or freaky, while still letting it be fantastic. Or maybe because the story itself is so effective. The characters are compelling (and not just because they're gorgeous! Promise!) and real, they're not perfect but they've got good hearts, and learn from their mistakes and their differences. It's Christian fiction without that overwhelming preachy-ness that occurs sometimes - actually, the "Christian" part is an undercurrent, a thread in the story that helps weave things together without becoming the story. And it's natural-feeling, very realistic.

The pace and setting of the story draw you along, teasing and taunting and getting you entirely engrossed and must. find. out. what. happens! Before I finished reading Waterfall, I had already ordered Cascade (book 2), and made plans to get my hands on Torrent as soon as possible. I must know how this story continues and develops, I've got to find out if Gabi and Marcello ever figure out how to make it work; to discover just what Lady Rossi is hiding behind her pretty face and sweet words; to laugh more at Luca and see if Lia can ever comprehend the draw the Forellis have for Gabi.

These books are amazing. That is all.

Book provided by my personal library.


Love Story

Love Story
Jennifer Echols
MTV Books, 2011

This is the first novel I've read by Jennifer Echols, but I'm now a fan. Her characters are realistic, the dialogue is authentic (complete with the scattered f-bomb that rattles me just as much in text as it does when I hear it in the halls at work), and the story is orchestrated nicely.

The novel itself is a mix between the stories Erin and Hunter write for their Creative Writing seminar and their actual story. Sometimes this type of set-up is a mess, but in this case it works beautifully - building tension and filling in the gaps between the things we get to see take place and the things that happened to shape those events. It's masterful, without being overwhelming. It feels real, plausible. There's a history that has shaped Erin and Hunter, and their non-relationship - a history that is complicated and intricate, and one that they are discovering at the same pace we are, as readers. Surprises, twists, turns, revelations and mistakes. The setting may be one that few of us are familiar with (prestigious horse society? In my dreams, but definitely not my reality), but the struggles are universal. And the story? Well, it's a quick, compelling read that still manages to touch on very, very raw and personal questions.

And as an entirely random, personal interjection: It's been a while since I've indulged in "horse stories," and there was just enough "horse" to this tale to make me want to find a barn. Or at least revisit some old favorites from the genre.

Book provided by author for review.


Waterfall Wednesdays #4

Hello, hello! It's Wednesday again, which means time for another installment of thought-provoking questions about one of my favorite books of the year! Oh heck yes, I'm doing happy dances. I know, I know, I do a lot of happy dances regarding books in general - particularly this book (*cough*and series*cough*). What can I say? I get very involved - on a personal level - with the books I read. The more I like 'em, the more involved I get. (Although, sometimes, the more I 'hate' it, the more involved...hmm...I digress). Okay, I'll stop the chatter and move on the the discussing now...

Waterfall by Lisa T Bergren
Discussion 4: Chapters 18-23
Today's Questions Hosted by Supernatural Snark

1. Gabi and Lia both face several life and death situations in these chapters, having to pick up weapons in defense of those they love and experiencing first hand the brutality of close combat. If you had the choice between picking up a weapon and standing on the front lines or staying behind to tend to the wounded as necessary, which would you choose?
Hmm...I'm trying to think this one through logically: I'm not skilled in a weapon, the way Gabi and Lia are, so there's a very good chance I'd end up making a bit of a 'mess' if I joined in the fight. At the same time, I don't always handle 'tending the wounded' very well, haha...My gut instinct says that if I found myself in that situation, I'd want to be doing something - so, give me something dangerous, and lemme at'em!

2. Both girls get to wear extraordinary gowns to their victory celebration; what would your dream medieval gown look like?
I love, and I mean love, historical gowns. I've been drooling over the dress descriptions in Waterfall so far, and now I get to talk about my own dream gown? Oh happiness...Here's what I'm envisioning:
Something akin to the dress to the right, but in a rich, dark, dusky purple, with a complimentary underskirt. Close-fitting bodice, with a flowing skirt. Sleeves that bell below the elbow to a wide, graceful drape. A neckline that shows off my collarbones and shoulders. Embroidery - mayhap in silver or gold thread - and maybe some beads, depending on fabric and exact cut.

3. Gabi has crude stitches put in and must endure both their removal as well as the cauterization of the wound. How is your threshold for pain? Do you think you would have simply gritted your teeth as Gabi does?
My threshold for pain is pretty good, most of the time. I've had stitches a couple times - including on my lower back, where everything hurts a lot more when they puncture your skin (dang bones/nerves being so close to the 'surface' haha), but I did also have not only local anesthesia but a highly skilled doctor stitching me. Hmm...I dunno, I'm kinda thinking I might would have passed out like Gabi eventually did. After I started screaming at people.

4. Marcello wants to properly court Gabi after they express mutual feelings of affection, wanting to speak with her mother about his intentions. What do you think is the most romantic aspect of medieval courtship?
I'm going to go with the 'Respect Factor' -- they didn't do the whole casual dating thing that's so prevalent today. Relationships were serious, even when they were 'practical' (*cough*business arrangements*cough*) rather than 'romantic'. There was a code of conduct, of expected behavior: certain things were deemed respectable, and others were not. But at the same time, there was also freedom for expression and things could go beyond those boundaries (case in point: Marcello kissing on Gabi). Even during these...slip ups...there's an underlying foundation of respect: respect for the Lady, for her family, for tradition. Love it! Call me old-fashioned, but I much prefer a guy who wants to let my family know his intentions (and himself!) and who respects me as a person and not just a physical indulgence.

5. Gabi and Lia find themselves with conflicting desires toward the end with Lia wanting to return home and Gabi hoping to stay. Do you think that Gabi is being unfair to Lia for wanting to stay, or is Lia being unfair to Gabi for demanding they go? A little of both?
I think it's a little of both. Lia's experience has not been quite the same as Gabi's, nor has she been as involved for as long. Gabi's been able to make meaningful connections, her heart's invested, and - whether she really knows this or not - she's becoming better acquainted with herself during her stay with the Forellis. So while Gabi has all kind of personal, emotional ties to the time - Lia's in a bit of a panic. (Entirely understandable, I might add). So yeah, I think it's a little of both - but neither is to blame, because of their individual experiences, their points-of-view are perfectly understandable. It's just a matter of both ending up on the same page.

There's only one more week of the read-along left! Come by next week for my last answers and my review of Waterfall! Until then, I need to check out everyone else's fantasy gowns...


Top 100 YA Books

I've been seeing this around the blogosphere, and decided to join in...Someone, somewhere, compiled a list of the top 100 YA books, and I'm going to show off my reading of said books.

Purple = books I've read
Blue = books I want to read & just haven't yet
Bold = books I really, really loved

Top 100 YA Book List:

1. Alex Flinn - Beastly
2. Alice Sebold – The Lovely Bones
3. Ally Carter – Gallagher Girls (1, 2, 3, 4)
4. Ally Condie - Matched
5. Alyson Noel - The Immortals (1, 2 , 3, 4, 5, 6)
6. Anastasia Hopcus – Shadow Hills
7. Angie Sage – Septimus Heap (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
8. Ann Brashares – The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (1, 2, 3, 4)
9. Anna Godbersen – Luxe (1, 2, 3, 4)
10. Anthony Horowitz – Alex Rider (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
11. Aprilynne Pike - Wings (1, 2, 3)
12. Becca Fitzpatrick - Hush, Hush (1,2)
13. Brandon Mull – Fablehaven (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
14. Brian Selznick - The Invention of Hugo Cabret
15. Cassandra Clare - The Mortal Instruments (1, 2, 3, 4)
16. Carrie Jones – Need (1, 2, 3)
17. Carrie Ryan – The Forest of Hands and Teeth (1, 2, 3)
18. Christopher Paolini – Inheritance (1, 2, 3, 4)
19. Cinda Williams Chima - The Heir Chronicles (1, 2, 3)
20. Colleen Houck – Tigers Saga (1, 2)
21. Cornelia Funke – Inkheart (1, 2, 3)
22. Ellen Hopkins – Impulse
23. Eoin Colfer – Artemis Fowl (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
24. Faraaz Kazi – Truly, Madly, Deeply
25. Frank Beddor – The Looking Glass Wars (1, 2, 3)
26. Gabrielle Zevin – Elsewhere
27. Gail Carson Levine – Fairest
28. Holly Black – Tithe (1, 2, 3)
29. J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
30. James Dashner – The Maze Runner (1, 2)
31. James Patterson - Maximum Ride (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
32. Jay Asher – Thirteen Reasons Why
33. Jeanne DuPrau – Books of Ember (1, 2, 3, 4)
34. Jeff Kinney - Diary of a Wimpy Kid (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
35. John Boyne – The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
36. John Green – An Abundance of Katherines
37. John Green – Looking for Alaska
38. John Green – Paper Towns
39. Jonathan Stroud – Bartimaeus (1, 2, 3, 4)
40. Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl - Caster Chronicles (1, 2)
41. Kelley Armstrong – Darkest Powers (1, 2, 3)
42. Kristin Cashore - The Seven Kingdoms (1, 2)
43. Lauren Kate - Fallen (1, 2, 3)
44. Lemony Snicket – Series of Unfortunate Events (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13)
45. Libba Bray – Gemma Doyle (1, 2, 3)
46. Lisa McMann – Dream Catcher (1, 2, 3)
47. Louise Rennison – Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
48. M.T. Anderson – Feed
49. Maggie Stiefvater - The Wolves of Mercy Falls (1, 2, 3)
50. Margaret Peterson - Shadow Children (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7)
51. Maria V. Snyder – Study (1, 2, 3)
52. Markus Zusak – The Book Thief
53. Markus Zusak – I am the Messenger
54. Mark Haddon – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
55. Mary Ting – Crossroads
56. Maureen Johnson - The Little Blue Envelope (1, 2)
57. Meg Cabot – All-American Girl (1, 2)
58. Meg Cabot – The Mediator (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
59. Meg Cabot – The Princess Diaries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
60. Meg Rosoff – How I live now
61. Megan McCafferty – Jessica Darling (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
62. Megan Whalen Turner – The Queen’s Thief (1, 2, 3, 4)
63. Melina Marchetta – On the Jellicoe Road
64. Melissa de la Cruz – Blue Bloods (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
65. Melissa Marr - Wicked Lovely (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
66. Michael Grant – Gone (1, 2, 3, 4)
67. Nancy Farmer – The House of the Scorpion
68. Neal Shusterman – Unwind
69. Neil Gaimen - Coraline
70. Neil Gaiman – Stardust
71. Neil Gaiman – The Graveyard Book
72. P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast - House of Night (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8)
73. Philip Pullman – His Dark Materials (1, 2, 3)
74. Rachel Caine – The Morganville Vampires (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)
75. Rachel Cohn & David Levithan – Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist
76. Richelle Mead – Vampire Academy (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6)
77. Rick Riordan - Percy Jackson and the Olympians (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
78. Rom LcO’Feer – Somewhere carnal over 40 winks
79. S.L. Naeole – Grace (1, 2, 3, 4)
80. Sabrina Bryan & Julia DeVillers – Princess of Gossip
81. Sarah Dessen – Along for the Ride
82. Sarah Dessen – Lock and Key
83. Sarah Dessen – The Truth about Forever
84. Sara Shepard – Pretty Little Liars (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9)
85. Scott Westerfeld – Leviathan (1, 2)
86. Scott Westerfeld – Uglies (1, 2, 3)
87. Shannon Hale – Books of a Thousand Days
88. Shannon Hale - Princess Academy
89. Shannon Hale – The Books of Bayern (1, 2, 3, 4)
90. Sherman Alexie & Ellen Forney – The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
91. Simone Elkeles - Perfect Chemistry (1, 2, 3)
92. Stephanie Meyer – The Host
93. Stephanie Meyer - The Twilight Saga (1, 2, 3, 4)
94. Sue Monk Kidd – The Secret Life of Bees
95. Susan Beth Pfeffer – Last Survivors (1, 2, 3)
96. Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games (1, 2, 3)
97. Suzanne Collins – Underland Chronicles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)
98. Terry Pratchett – Tiffany Aching (1, 2, 3, 4)
99. Tonya Hurley – Ghost Girl (1, 2, 3)
100. Wendelin Van Draanen - Flipped

I haven't read as many as I would've thought given the title of the list - but at the same time: there are a lot of YA novels. Just because I read a lot of them, doesn't mean I'll read all of them - or even a majority, if you stop and think about it. But it's always fun to see these lists and compare...

...How do you read?


The Penderwicks at Point Mouette

The Penderwicks at Point Mouette
Jeanne Birdsall
Alfred A. Knopf: 2011

This is the third installment of the Penderwick adventures, and it's just as fun and cute and quirky as the previous two. It is summer again for the Penderwick girls, but this time, they're being separated! Rosalind is vacationing with a friend, leaving Skye "in charge" as OAP (Oldest Available Penderwick) while she, Jane and Batty go with Aunt Claire to Maine for a few weeks. Needless to say: Adventures ensue.

Joining the Penderwick girls (and Hound, the faithful dog) is old friend Jeffrey, and the posse quickly makes new friends - young and old. There are misunderstandings and misadventures galore, surprises and discoveries, first kisses and bonfires. It's a very eventful few weeks, and I loved reading every moment of it. The characters are very well-written, and remind me of my cousins and other people I actually know. I feel like I could pick the Penderwick girls and Jeffrey out of a crowd. And I do hope the series continues - I have enjoyed watching them grow and develop over the last three volumes, and hope to see the story go further. I have a particular weakness for wanting to see how Skye and Jeffrey continue their friendship.

Even though this is the third Penderwick novel, you can read it as a stand-alone. It is fun however, to read them in order, just to get a better sense of the characters. They're a lot of fun, and their adventures are hilarious. Definitely fun reads that middle grade readers would enjoy, and this older reader appreciates.

Also, purely random observation: The covers! I love the covers of all three - and, truthfully, the cover of The Penderwicks is what got me to read it, and subsequently fall in love with the story. Delightfully old-fashioned, and very fitting with the story.

Book provided by my local library.


Reaching Riverdale

Reaching Riverdale
Geeta Schrayter
The Little Things Publishing, 2011

The title caught my eye on this one - it made me think of Tolkien, something the dreamy-nature of the cover art supported. Then I read the blurb, and realized this was going to be a contemporary novel about a girl not so very different from me, and I was hooked. (PS: Did you see my interview with Geeta yesterday? Check it out, this girl is fun, y'all!)

Annabelle always thought leaving Riverdale was the answer - that somewhere, out there, would be the solution to her problems, the dream she couldn't even define. So when she left for college, she never planned to come back. Well, she thought she'd visit, but she never saw herself staying. Eventually visits proved to be impossible, and Belle's first return to Riverdale came on the heels of her graduation from Graduate School. What happened next would change everything. Literally. Planning to stay for only two weeks before heading south to Georgia and a high-profile office job, Belle never expected it to be so easy to slip back into the routine of daily life in Riverdale. She had no idea how much she'd missed the small town - and it's cast of characters - until she found herself inundated by memories and slipping right back into the paths she used to travel. Fighting her initial response to Riverdale, Belle quickly realized that maybe - just maybe - life didn't always go as you mapped it out. Maybe, you have to leave the map and follow the trail.

I loved Belle - actually, I loved Riverdale; it reminded me of the small towns I've grown up with, and the town and its people breathed on the page. But I really like Belle - I could relate to her, and the struggle to make what you think you want and what you really need match up. I'm roughly Belle's age, and have my Master's degree in-hand but no real clear picture in terms of where I'm going. So I was feeling her story, you know? (And I may or may not have been able to recognize myself in her relationships with other characters). I always like when I can make a personal connection with the characters I'm reading about, and it's always doubly-nice when they're roughly my age and in realistic, true-to-life contexts (surprisingly hard to find, I might add!). My immediate connection with Belle aside, all of the characters in Riverdale are well-drawn and make me think I might run into them on the street one day. Their personalities are clear, their conversations and responses to each other are pitch-perfect. I'm telling you: this story breathes. I loved the ending, but it made me sad too -- because it meant there was no more story. Yet! I'm holding out hope for a return to Riverdale.

Digital copy of book provided by publisher for review.


Q&A with Geeta Schrayter

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Geeta Scrayter, whose debut novel Reaching Riverdale released on September 10th from The Little Things Publishing! Many thanks to Geeta for taking time to chat with me, and to Caroline over at TLT for setting things up. Also, be sure to swing by tomorrow when my review of Reaching Riverdale is posted! Now then, grab a drink and a snack and get to know Geeta...

A Word's Worth: Okay, so I absolutely loved Reaching Riverdale -- and also twinged a bit at just how much of myself I saw in Belle (which is a good thing!)

Geeta Schrayter: Really? That makes me so happy to hear! I'm SO glad you related to her

AWW: You obviously know how small-towns work and were able to create an environment and characters that breathed on the page -- how much did your own experience(s) help you create that world?

GS: I grew up in a couple of different towns... all of which were relatively small. So I think the experiences I had living there definitely helped me create Riverdale. Along with that, my family has a summer home in the mountains of Vermont that I positively love to visit - my experiences there certainly helped as well. The details in the story don't stem from any particular experiences... my own life didn't play out like Annebelle's does, but I'd say the overall occurrences are influenced from a lot of what I've been a part of or at least seen growing up

AWW: A conglomeration of observations channeled into one 'perfect' town :)

GS: Oh I like that! That could be the slogan for Riverdale's creation :)

AWW:  With baking being such a constant theme (thus why I read it at lunch: made. me. so. hungry!) -- I've gotta ask: Do you bake? And what's your favorite baked goodie?

GS: I do bake. Baking is one of those themes that definitely stemmed from actual experience. Good old fashioned baking is one of my favorite things. When the holidays roll around, I can't wait to make dozens of cookies and all sorts of pies. I love looking through my grandmother's recipe box and baking something she used to make. It's like she's still here! That being said, I just started baking vegan, gluten free cupcakes and they're absolutely divine (I'm sure there are plenty of skeptics out there but I'd gladly prove anyone wrong... they're SO good!). But one of my favorite things to make is a batch of my Almost Famous Ebony & Ivory Cookies.

AWW: Those did sound amazing! As did the blueberry-cream cheese pies...I was like "mmm...oh, I'm eating hummus", haha

GS: Hummus is delicious too! But don't worry, you can justify a blueberry cream cheese pie... after all... it has fruit.

AWW: and Cream Cheese is good protein! ;)

GS: Exactly! I'm an expert at justifying various desserts

AWW: I think we're long lost sisters, haha

GS: Wouldn't surprise me in the least! Haha...Eat the hummus first for the heath food quotient, then justify some pie. Perfect plan.

AWW: Love it! Yes, must stash this away and use it...Random topic jump alert: What's your writing process like? Are you a plan-it-out girl, or a write-and-see-what-happens girl?

GS: I'm a write-and-see-what-happens girl who always tried to be a plan-it-out girl... it just never happens. I do usually get ideas for various scenes, characters, plot lines and the likes all throughout the day... when I'm running, driving around, taking a shower... so I always write those down and plan on using them somewhere within the story. But I never really know where they'll actually come in to play. Similarly, after a day of writing I'll always have an idea for what I might want to happen next. Sometimes it goes as I plan, but most of the time it changes on me.

AWW: Gotcha. Keep a stash of ideas and see what happens :) I like that! It also lets characters develop and "live"...

GS: Exactly. Characters are a great example. In Reaching Riverdale, for example, I pictured Annebelle a certain way before I began, having particular struggles and having gone through certain things, but when I actually got into writing, she changed on me. It sort of got to the point where I didn't even really have to think "ok I want Annebelle to have this attribute" - it just happened. It was obvious. Like "well duh, Annebelle IS like that."

AWW: That's awesome -- and also make sense in terms of how...real...Annebelle comes across. Was it hard to end the story? Do you think you'd write a sequel - or another book set in Riverdale?

GS: Actually, the ending was another one of those things that didn't go as planned. I had originally thought I'd make the story run through to the end of summer in Riverdale, but again, it sort of took on a mind of its own, and ending it where I did just made sense. But I always like to leave some loose ends or areas that could be developed further in another story - in another interview I think I referred to them as "literary breadcrumbs." I guess I'll have to wait and see how Reaching Riverdale is received before deciding whether or not to venture back there. But there are a couple of characters who I could definitely go back and focus on, like, say, Meredith or Clara. I hope it's received well... because, honestly, there are a couple of things I left open because I've had thoughts for another story... before this one was even finished!

AWW: I like that: "literary breadcrumbs"...yeah, both of those ladies would make a great story in their own right! And since Riverdale is so small and connected, we could get another peek at Belle's adventures! I hope it's received well too! I want to read more! :)

GS: Well then we know right off the bat I'd have at least one interested reader! That's a start :)

AWW: Speaking of readers -- tough question: What 5 books do you think everyone should read?

GS: Oh. That's a tough one, because everyone's tastes are so diverse... but I'm a big advocate of the classics. Pride & Prejudice is my absolute favorite story, so that'd have to be one because I'm so partial... I've even gotten a couple of guys I know to read it over the years. Then... To Kill A Mockingbird, definitely.

AWW: Yup, definitely long-lost sisters: I'm a major Pride & Prejudice girl!

GS: Love it! I'll have to send you a photo of my Pride & Prejudice shelf. Okay Adventures of Huckleberry Finn would be another. Then, hmm... you're right this is hard. There are so many! I have to say... Uncle Tom's Cabin, too

AWW: haha, I love the tough questions ;)

GS: Haha well you've got me thinking over here so well done...you make me want to quote Ever After here

AWW: haha, yes!

GS: "I could no sooner choose a favorite star in the heavens!" I'm going to make myself pick one that's not a classic... yet. And I'll say The White Tiger

AWW: ooooh, love the title - I will have to look this one up!

GS: It's by Aravind Adiga. It's definitely a bit different from what I'm usually drawn to... classics, or happy stories, romance and all that, but it's still good. I think it won The Booker prize

AWW: Definitely going to be looking it up :) Okay, after such tough questioning...Here's an easy one: Favorite place to read & snack to enjoy while doing so?

GS: Hmm I end up reading in my room a lot, or sprawled out on the couch. But I also like reading in parks or coffee shops... I've had conversations start up with strangers when I'm just sitting and reading somewhere (not always welcome interruptions, but I like meeting people) Snack-wise, well, I can't say I know! I devour the books I'm reading so I have no room for actual food. I'm trying to think, there must be something... but truly, I get so into reading, I don't usually have any attention to spare for eating

AWW: :) This means you pick really good books!

GS: Or I'm just a dork who gets really into reading haha. If I were to have a reading snack, it'd have to be something you can eat without looking... like... grapes or pretzels.

AWW: Good choices :)

GS: I had to think about it. I could have just as easily said chocolate chips.

AWW: LOL! I like m&ms myself ;)

GS: Ah, perfect!

AWW: Thanks so much for meeting with me - it's been a blast getting to know you and finding a long-lost sister!

GS: No no, thank you! I had fun, and again, I'm so happy you enjoyed the story.

Did you have as much fun reading out chat as we did having it? I hope so! If you'd like to learn more about Geeta, check out her website or twitter! And, of course, come back by to see my review if Reaching Riverdale tomorrow.


Waterfall Wednesdays #3

Guess what?! It's Wednesday again! In the past, Wednesdays have been weird days for me - kind of stuck in the middle, and either feeling like a second Monday or a really early Thursday. But that's all changed, thanks to Waterfall Wednesdays! Seriously, this is incredibly fun - I haven't done a read-along quite like this since my undergrad days (and I must confess: most of those were not this fun, haha), so it's doubly fun to be reading the same book as a whole assortment of people, and all having the same set of questions and seeing how our responses vary -  or agree. Plus, I have absolutely fallen in love with this book, and this series. But I'll stop rambling, and let you see my answers for Week 3...

Waterfall by Lisa T Bergren
Discussion 3: Chapters 12-17
Today's Questions hosted by Edgy Inspirational Romance

1. In Siena, on her way to the ball at Palazzo Pubblico, Gabi likened her experience to being on the red carpet at the Academy Awards, the goal being "to see and be seen." If you were a peasant, watching from the crowd, what would you be thinking as this procession passed by?
Hmm...Well, obviously these are the people who are making the decisions that keep you safe and 'alive' - so I wouldn't want to tick 'em off by staging a protest or anything. On some level, I think my response would be similar to that of the red carpet idea: this is so obviously not a part of my day-to-day world, but it's fun to see - the colors, the fabrics, the intrigues and mysteries...

2. Though quite nervous about dancing at the ball, Gabi discovers a strange feeling of connection to the time, the people, and the society through the unified beauty of the dance. Have you ever been in a position where you felt out of your element, but, in one, pinpointed moment, became a part of or connected to something bigger than your fear?
Okay, I've been thinking about this one since I saw it, and saved it to come back to, to give myself more time to think...and I'm still drawing a blank. I definitely have times and instances where I am (often quite clearly) out of my element - but these are never moments that either A: truly 'scare' me or B: have a 'unifying factor' like Gabi experienced with the dance. Really, the only thing I can think of that comes closest to 'matching' that is everything surrounding 9/11: Everything changed, so my element wasn't really an element anymore, it was a new one, ya know? But the thing that got me - everyone - through that time of uncertainty and doubt and fear was knowing that we were all going through it, and we were all going to survive and triumph. So it's an imperfect answer/comparison, but it's the best one my mind can find in the archives.

3. The kiss. Oh, the kiss. When Marcello finally kisses Gabi, he believes the experience to be proof that they are meant to be together. What did you think about his assumption? Were you surprised at Gabi's reaction to it? Have you ever experienced a kiss that seemed to be prophetic in a similar (or opposite!) way?
The. Kiss! I loved the way he set it up - I was chuckling to myself, thinking "That is such a boy-thing"...I think it was also pretty daring of him, considering the situation and context, but hey - we like Marcello for his guts, right? As for Gabi's reaction...I like that she really is trying to "do the right thing" in regards to Marcello, even though it's painfully obvious there is something major-league-significant between them. I give her props for trying to convince him to take time and think about things, and while neither can deny The Kiss and its 'power,' there is definitely wisdom in what Gabi says. Especially considering the HUGE gamble they're all fixing to take. Oh man, I love this stuff, haha...
As for personal experience...in the nature of true, book-bonded, confession: I am still waiting on my first kiss. With the advantage of hindsight, I'm very happy that none of the past cases were able to stake that claim. But when it does come? Yeah, I'm thinking it'll probably be on a prophetic-level like this...

4. Many go through their teen years with a subdued sense of immortality. Do you think Gabi has a sense of this teen feeling? And did you think Gabi's converse observation, "Sometimes death came hunting and there was no way to cut it off at the pass." was informed more by the experience of losing her father, her self-admitted closet hypochondria, or the forced maturation of being transported to a different time? How does this observation show Gabi's growth as a character?
I think Gabi has a bit of the immortality 'tude, but more from being transported into a different time than just the normal teenage perspective -- almost like "I'm from the 21st century, nothing can happen to me here." I think her death observation is a combination of losing her father fairly recently, and seeing what she is seeing as "normal living" during her time with the Forellis. She's been transported to a different time, where Life isn't certain, and Death is often ugly. She's seen it face-to-face already, and it's settling into her awareness, her subconscious, and helping her grow into an ever-more-likable, better rounded, developing heroine.

5. In the span of a few moments, Gabi goes from sword-wielding teen beauty to man-killing warrior. Did you think her realization of the finality of death -- and her justification for its necessity -- was realistic? And, in her slippers, could you have done the same?
I think the scene did play out realistically: it's not an easy time, this is a life-or-death situation, and if you "show mercy" it does not mean your enemy/opponent will show the same mercy. I especially like how the threat to Luca and Marcello is what helped spur her on -- Gabi's showing good loyalty, true friendship, a real connection to these people and this place. Could I do the same? I don't know. I'd hope, if my life or that of my close friends, was on the line that I could step in and take whatever actions necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of those involved. But I think that's one of those things you don't find out about yourself until you're placed in the position of decision. 

This story gets better and better as I keep reading - and I really hope I'm catching your interest and you're wanting to jump in to the River of Time (if you haven't already)! I'm already looking forward to next week's installment - but for now, I'm going to see what everyone is saying...

...But before I go, I need to do something very important. You guys, I'm declaring myself. I have made my choice, and I am posting it proudly on The Blog. (Which, you know, is almost as BIG as making it facebook official!). I am... ::drumroll please:: ... Team Marcello! I know there's a lot of complication and so many things keeping us (er, I mean, Marcello and Gabi) apart, but take Lady Rossi outta the picture, take everything that's complicated - heck, take everything romantic outta the picture - and I love Marcello as a character. (And I'm using a lot of italics...) He's a true hero - he's amazing, but he's also human. He makes mistakes, but he's manful about them. He's loyal and true. Le Swoon. And *now* I'm going to go see what everyone else has to say this week.


Eleanor's Story

Eleanor's Story: An American Girl in Hitler's Germany
Eleanor Ramrath Garner
Peachtree Publishers, 1999

This is a striking, intriguing, and moving read. Eleanor is the American daughter of German parents. Her extended family still lives in Germany, and right before WWII breaks out her father decides to take advantage of a prosperous job opportunity and move the family from New Jersey to Berlin. War breaks out during their ocean crossing, and they find themselves stuck in Germany. At first, things aren't too bad and War seems like a bit of an adventure to Eleanor, her older brother Frank, and their new friends. But anyone familiar with the history of WWII knows that things get serious, and the story Eleanor tells is a unique perspective of the chaos and destruction.

Maybe it's just me, but I can't think of many accounts of WWII from a child's perspective - Diary of Anne Frank comes to mind, obviously, but other than that the titles I think of are historical fiction written after the fact by an unattached author. Eleanor's Story is different - it's the remembered experiences of a real-life American girl who found herself essentially trapped in Germany for the horror and aftermath of WWII. For me, this was a new reading experience - but a very 'enlightening' one. Eleanor's naivety and childish interpretations of what global War means ring true, and as she grows up - and the War is still going strong - her growth in understanding is also believable. Some of the stories -- I just can't even imagine. Most of the WWII books I've read have tended to focus on either the Holocaust aspect or the lives (and loves) of American forces...Eleanor let me see a different side: that of the German civilian and, in her case, the added danger of being an American - and thus a potential threat. At times it's a rough read, but it's a rough time in human history too, and I would be less inclined to give a "roses-and-puppies"-account of WWII Germany credit.

Eleanor's Story extends beyond the official end of WWII, which also offered a neat perspective, and includes two sections of pictures of Eleanor and family. All in all, it's an eye-opening read that offers a different look at things for someone who has some background knowledge/experience of WWII, but also is a really neat introduction for students. I think seeing the story of someone they are close to in age can help explain some of the trickier aspects of WWII, whether it's in a classroom setting or some other form of reading.

Book provided by publisher for review.


The Gutenberg Rubric

The Gutenberg Rubric
Nathan Everett
NWE Signatures, 2011

I won a signed galley of The Gutenberg Rubric through ArmchairBEA, and happily my reading schedule worked out to be able to post the review during Nathan Everett's blog tour. (Speaking of, did you see his guest post yesterday? Check it out!) Now then, back to the book...I was intrigued by this one from the back cover blurb - as a History major and Librarian, how could I pass up a book about Gutenberg and hidden clues? Even though it's labeled as a 'thriller' and I tend to avoid those, it seemed similar enough to The Librarian and National Treasure movies that I had to give it a chance. (Yes, movies got me to read a book. What can I say? I absolutely love those movies!)

Keith, an expert in "old books," is a man with a secret - he's part of a Guild with mysterious, well-protected ties to Gutenberg - and the secret knowledge he may (or may not) have left unshared. Keith's ladylove, Maddie, is a rare books librarian with her own associations with the mysterious and secretive Guild. (Needless to say: they're a match made in Heaven). Together they are a force to be reckoned with - and also somehow the target for library bombings? The Gutenberg Rubric is one of those quick, engrossing reads you don't want to put down because you Have. To. See. What. Comes. Next! There's a lot of mystery and intrigue, many layers that overlap and come together in surprising ways. There's a colorful cast of characters, and tidbits and morsels of historical trivia that had this History graduate actually missing the History classroom.

It's an elaborate-yet-simple story: mysterious fragment of a letter or manuscript, clues hidden in texts, alchemical challenges to determine worth, and an international scavenger hunt of epic proportions. Not to mention all the inter-character drama. I'm not going to go into too many details, because a lot of the fun of The Gutenberg Rubric is the thrill of the hunt! I honestly wasn't sure where any of it was going until I got there, and I don't want to spoil that adventure and the "thinking process" for anyone. Just know: if you loved the National Treasure or The Librarian movies, chances are exceedingly good you'll enjoy this novel!

Galley provided by my personal library.


Guest Post: Getting the Right Word

Greetings! Today I am super excited to offer you a guest post as part of Nathan Everett's blog tour celebrating the release of his third and latest novel The Gutenberg Rubric. Nathan has agreed to talk to us about writing and the whole writing process - something I think most readers are curious about, whether they've ever felt inclined to write their own story or not. So settle in and get ready to enjoy today's guest post - and remember to check in tomorrow, when I post my review of The Gutenberg Rubric!

You would think that with my third novel in print and a dozen more sitting in drafts on the shelves behind me that I would pretty much have this writing process thing nailed. How I wish it were true!
I wrote my first novel in Mrs. Fites’ classroom in 4th grade, about 50 years ago. It was a heroic fantasy in which the heroes were two princes and two princesses. Their four kingdoms came together at a common corner where the four young royals would meet, but none could cross the boundary into the other’s kingdom. I gave up on the novel about 20 pages into it, not because I didn’t know the story I wanted to tell, but because I couldn’t distinguish between “princes” and “princess” in my head or on paper. Add “princesses” to the mix and there were too many hissing, sibilant sounds to keep track of, so I had to leave______ blanks wherever any of the words was to appear. Perhaps I thought in the deepest recesses of my mind that if I put the paper away it would magically fill in the blanks on its own.
Spelling is less of a challenge to me today, but getting the right word can often be a real headache. I still find myself occasionally leaving a blank in my manuscript while waiting for my brain to catch up with my fingers and supply just the right word. You can’t wait; you have to keep writing.
Through my involvement in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I’ve met a lot of new writers, many of whom don’t finish their 50,000 words in the month of November for no other reason than they get stuck trying to make the first draft—or maybe even the first page—perfect. That may be one of the most valuable lessons that I learned in my early writings 50 years ago, driven home by my eight years’ participation in NaNoWriMo. Don’t obsess about getting it right—just get it written.
There is no such thing as a perfect first draft. It is much more important to finish your story than to stress out about being perfect. You may plan your story for months in advance, but don’t let research and planning interrupt your writing.
I have loved the stories surrounding Johannes Gutenberg for many years. When I started teaching desktop publishing back in the 80s, I integrated a bit of print history with the keystroke shortcuts. I studied Gutenberg, collected old books and reproductions, and ferreted out information and data using the technology of the day: poring through countless volumes in the public and university libraries. I began speaking to groups about the effect of Gutenberg’s invention as he was frequently called “Man of the Millennium.”Gradually the idea for a mystery thriller began to take shape. So I started compiling my notes. That process took the better part of a year as I filled in information about Gutenberg, drafted descriptions and interviews with my characters, and started compiling peripheral research on historic sites, events over the past 2000 years, and the various legends surrounding lost and hidden manuscripts from Alexandria to the Dead Sea Scrolls to the works of Aristotle and others.
I had just finished what would become my second printed novel (Steven George & The Dragon) when I decided it was time to start writing my new thriller. This time, I would take my time and get it right. Eight months and 45,000 words later, I hated the story that I had called “Gutenberg’s Other Book.” I sent it to the book doctor (Jason Black, http://plottopunctuation.com) and to my wife (also an excellent editor) and their feedback was consistent. I’d strayed too far from my intent. I was too kind to both my villains and my heroes. There was too much backstory. So I put it in a box, did another two months of research, and, on November 1, sat down to write from scratch. The entire 80,000-word novel was completed in just over three weeks. It went through more than a year of re-writes before it won a 2010PNWA Literary Competition award. I decided it was time to get serious.
The next step was to go through the manuscript and fill in the blanks. Now that I knew the story, where things were going, and who my characters were, the right words fell into place for everything except the title. “Gutenberg’s Other Book” no longer fit what the story had become. Nor did it speak of a contemporary thriller. Just before publication, it was renamed The Gutenberg Rubric.
I should mention that “Princes and Princesses” is not dead, though it is unlikely that it will ever be published. While my daughter was in elementary school, we had a bedtime storytelling ritual. Coming up with a new story every night was taxing. Then I remembered my 4th grade writing. I started to tell her the story, chapter by chapter, night after night. As I told it, I wrote it all down. It is in a box of treasures I’ve saved for her.
And it has no blanks.
The Gutenberg Rubric:  http://www.gutenbergrubric.com
Author Info:
Nathan Everett


Waterfall Wednesdays #2

It's Wednesday again! And that means another installment of Waterfall Wednesdays. I. Am. So. Excited. I am absolutely loving this book, and it's also a lot of fun not only answering the questions but also seeing what everyone else has to say! So, without further ado:

Waterfall by Lisa T Bergren
Discussion 2: Chapters 7-11
Today's Questions hosted by The Unread Reader

1. Gabi's search for her sister is made increasingly difficult by the fight for territory between Castello Forelli and Castello Paratore. At this point, do you think the rivalry is warranted? Why or why not?
I think there's something more going on than appears at first glance. If this is really just about a disputed patch of land, I don't think there'd be quite the same ferocity as is displayed. Then too, Gabi notes that Marcello almost seems to enjoy the midnight encounter with the Paratore knights -- and yet, he also seems hesitant in application of violence and is very careful about protecting all those around him. So I can't help but feel like there's definitely something else going on.

2. Gabi aids Fortino by having his sickroom cleaned out and using steam to loosen the phlegm inside his lungs so he could breathe better. Have you ever found yourself in a situation that required you to rely on home remedies to aid yourself or another? What are some of your favorite home remedies?
Um, yes. Definitely use home remedies, haha...I've used steam before when I've had bronchitis really, really bad (but I took the liberty of steaming up the whole bathroom instead of just 'tenting' it). Also use honey and lemon juice for bad coughs. Peppermint and raspberry hot teas are amazing for stomach aches, sinus congestion, and sore throats. (Also: frozen yogurt. Absolute miracle food for sore throats and swollen glands. But I'm pretty sure that doesn't qualify as "old-fashioned home remedy"...) One that did not work for me: the application of crushed garlic and honey to a rash (which turned out to be an allergic reaction to latex) -- I ended up with a horribly painful, and huge, blister that left a scar you can still see traces of. Not a good idea. Definitely recommend sticking to honey & lemon juice and tasty hot teas! 

3. Marcello and his men don't hide their surprise when they learn that Gabi is skilled with a sword. What did you think of this development? Has your initial impression of Gabi changed? Do you have any secret skills?
I think Gabi is more medieval than she cares to admit. She loves the whole knighthood and battle-idea, and can hold her own with a sword (though I have a feeling she'd rather have a lighter one). I thought Gabi was pretty kick-ass before, and that is definitely still present, but she's also starting to show some awareness and recognition that she really is in a different time. And it really isn't the safest of places at times, so she might want to listen a little closer when the good guys - like Marcello, Luca and Fortini - tell her things.
Secret skillz...I can give you just about any random Dewey Decimal location; am a passionate lover of football (thus having my own skilled-with-a-sword moments when guys are around to hear me talk/watch); and I'm a rabbit whisperer.

4. "Our lips were so close, I could feel the heat of his breath on my skin." Gabi and Marcello's feelings for one another are beginning to stir. What do you think of Marcello as a romantic interest thus far? What do you think of his intended?
Ahem. I am in love with Marcello as a romantic interest. I appreciate his struggle between reconciling his duty - and apparent actual understanding - to Lady Rossi/Romana, while also manfully admitting that maybe, just maybe, there's more to life. As in, you know, Gabi. I think Marcello is one of those quintessential "Knight in Shining Armor"-types, who also happens to be a real, honest-to-goodness man. Er, as real as a fictional character can be. As for Romana - I like her better now than I did in the first section. She's fleshed out more, and she's also not reminding me quite so much of catty girls I've known. 

5. Marcello and Luca take turns teaching Gabi the dances of Toscana. Would you have liked to attend a ball like the one Gabi was practicing for? Do you like to dance? Do you know any cool dance moves? Extra (not really) points if you YouTube yourself dancing and share the video. Come on, it will be fun! :)
First: No dancing video. Sorry.
I love to dance, even though I get the opportunity rarely. I have particular expertise in certain mountain square dances, but my not-so-secret wish is to take ballroom dance lessons. I adore waltzes, like, really, really love waltzes. And I'd like to learn the other beautiful ballroom dances well enough to begin improvising within their structure and context. So yes, I would totally and entirely jump at the chance to attend a ball like Gabi's practicing for. Especially if I can be taught the new dances by Luca and Marcello...I'd agree to learn just about any dance move with Marcello as my teacher. Just sayin'...

It's been another wonderful week, and I'm off to see what everyone else has to say!


we'll always have summer

we'll always have summer
Jenny Han
Simon & Schuster, 2011

Oh. My. Goodness.

Last summer I read (and reviewed) the first two books in Jenny Han's Summer series. I loved them. I loved the whole story, and the way Han presented it - I never knew what was coming next, but it always turned out to be just what I wanted. It's like she could read my mind (or else she's a very, very good writer and can manipulate my mind to go in the exact direction it should be going)! When I found out there was a third, and final, installment to the story of Belly and the Fisher boys, I knew it was going to be a bittersweet read. I love these characters, and while I wanted to know how the story ended, saying goodbye was going to be hard. (And it was. I may or may not have actually teared up during the last chapter. For happy reasons, of course). Without going into too much plot detail - because this is a book, a whole series, you have got to read for yourself - let me just make some general comments.

I have always loved Jeremiah - he's fun and laughable, very much like a half-grown puppy. But in the beginning of we'll always have summer, he was kind of a jerk - I wanted to slap some sense into him. Sense does come, btw, you just have to wait it out. Conrad's in the story - of course! - and has actually grown up a lot. The arrogance that got on my nerves in it's not summer without you has been outgrown, and I found him an enjoyable character again. Still a little odd, but enjoyable. Belly...oh Belly, you've grown so much - and you're still finding yourself, but you're doing much better. I feel almost big sisterly towards Belly, wanting to help her see her own value and worth, and point out that she doesn't have to take the crap she does at times. But she's growing too - they all are. And it's an amazing story.

Just do yourself a favor, and if you haven't read any of these books yet: Check them all out, and read them in order. Also, do what I forced myself to do and do not flip ahead and read the ending. My efforts were rewarded with a much greater sense of gratification and delight from reading through (all three) from beginning to end without "peeking." That is all.

Book provided by my local library.