Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thoughts on The Christmas Bus

The Christmas Bus

By Melody Carlson

First published: 2006 by Revell

Read: 30 Nov - 1 Dec 2012

The people of Christmas Valley always celebrate Christmas to the fullest extent. The mayor plays Santa, every business is holiday themed, and there's a nativity for the kids each Christmas Eve. This town knows Christmas. But this year nothing goes according to plan. Shepherd's Inn is full of strangers, Mad Myrtle is causing problems, and a young couple with a baby due any minute rolls in to the middle of town in their Partridge Family-style bus. It's hardly the holiday Christmas Valley wanted--but it may be just what they need. This charming novella is sure to become a new Christmas tradition for readers who love a great holiday story.

My thoughts

This was such a delightful little Christmas story! In many ways it reminded me of the Harmony series by Philip Gulley which I love, with its small-town charm and quirky characters. It's the perfect way to spend a few relaxing hours in this otherwise stressful holiday month.

The main character is Edith, the pastor's wife who runs Shepherd's Inn. This year none of the couple's grown children are coming home for Christmas, so Edith decides to keep the inn open over Christmas in the hopes of making the holidays feel less lonely. Before long the inn is filled with guests, the most notable being old Myrtle, who's set on stirring things up in Christmas Valley.

Yes, the story is somewhat predictable and because it's so short we don't get to know some of the characters as well as others. But it's still an engaging story and it almost had me in tears towards the end. I admit to being a big softie at this time of year but I really enjoyed this tale and I wouldn't mind spending more time in Christmas Valley, perhaps during another season.

I've never read anything by this prolific author before, but this certainly won't be the last book by her I read. In fact, I think I'll start Christmas at Harrington's right away.

Bottom line: A delightful Christmas story that I'm sure I will re-read for many holidays to come.

My rating:

Melody Carlson online: Website

Random Acts of Kindness - December

December seems like the perfect time to participate in RAK, courtesy of Book Soulmates:

The RAK Rules:

  • Please sign-up each month that you can participate (and by participate, we mean give as well as receive).
  • Show off your participation by grabbing our RAK button.
  • Create a wish list (on Amazon, Goodreads, or your blog, etc) and post it in the Google Doc located in each R.A.K post for the month.
  • If you choose to do a R.A.K for someone, check out their wish list and contact that blogger directly for their information.
  • Once you receive a RAK, send us an our new email to [rakbybooksoulmates @ gmail . com] so that we can update the Google Doc. IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU SEND EMAILS TO THIS ADDRESS!
  • E-book participation is limited to files being gifted directly to a person from the e-book store. Amazon's Kindle Store is set up to allow this, as well as the Kobo store and we believe Barnes & Noble with Nook as well.
  • At the end of the month, SHOW US YOUR R.A.K by making a "RAK Wrap-Up" post.  This post should include who you SENT gifts to as well who you RECEIVED gifts from :)
  • OPEN TO EVERYONE including all our International brethren!
  • Remember, there's always the Book Depository and they offer FREE shipping!

My wishlists are pretty full because I add anything that sounds interesting, but these are the main two: Kindle wishlist and general wishlist in case anyone wants to take a look. :)

Happy RAK-ing!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Thoughts on Twenties Girl

Twenties Girl
By Sophie Kinsella

First published: 2010 by Black Swan

Read: 27 August - 11 September 2012

Goodreads | Amazon

Lara Lington has always had an overactive imagination, but suddenly that imagination seems to be in overdrive. Normal professional twenty-something young women don’t get visited by ghosts. Or do they?

When the spirit of Lara’s great-aunt Sadie–a feisty, demanding girl with firm ideas about fashion, love, and the right way to dance–mysteriously appears, she has one last request: Lara must find a missing necklace that had been in Sadie’s possession for more than seventy-five years, and Sadie cannot rest without it. Lara, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing distractions. Her best friend and business partner has run off to Goa, her start-up company is floundering, and she’s just been dumped by the “perfect” man.

Sadie, however, could care less.

Lara and Sadie make a hilarious sparring duo, and at first it seems as though they have nothing in common. But as the mission to find Sadie’s necklace leads to intrigue and a new romance for Lara, these very different “twenties” girls learn some surprising truths from each other along the way. Written with all the irrepressible charm and humor that have made Sophie Kinsella’s books beloved by millions, Twenties Girl is also a deeply moving testament to the transcendent bonds of friendship and family. (Goodreads)

My thoughts

This was my first Sophie Kinsella book, and for the first half I was mildly entertained but nothing more. I found some of the situations Lara got herself into because of Sadie too far-fetched and it felt like the author was trying too hard to be funny. I didn't really like Sadie, she was selfish and annoying, and Lara's pining for her ex-boyfriend was a bit irritating as well. But about half-way through the book something changed, and I started really enjoying it. The pace quickened, things finally started happening and the characters started developing. I went from wanting to knock some sense into both Lara and Sadie to wanting to hug them both.

Lara is a likeable, albeit naïve, girl in her late twenties, trying to sort out her life. Although I have never been in her situation, it was easy to relate to her. Sadie the ghost started out being very annoying, but she grew on me as we learned more about her. The glimpses into her old life in the roaring 20s were very interesting, and the author does a good job of bringing some of that 20s feeling into the 21st century. Oh, and the handsome American Sadie takes a fancy to is quite the dashing romantic lead (and the scene in which he and Lara meet is hilarious).

It is interesting to see how the relationship between Lara and Sadie slowly develops into a friendship, and what the two are willing to do for each other. The bittersweet but satisfying ending took me by surprise and was the best part of the book - definitely worth waiting for.

Bottom line: A fun and sweet story of unlikely love and an even more unlikely friendship.

My rating:

Sophie Kinsella online: Website | Facebook

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Booking Through Thursday - Emotions

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about (mostly) books and reading.

This week's question is:

What is the most emotional read you have ever had?


The most recent ones would be A Scottish Ferry Tale and Scotland By Starlight by Nancy Volkers. These two books made me feel so many different things all at once. They made me hopeful, optimistic, angry, satisfied, yearning, peaceful, sad, even devastated (particularly the latter book; tears were still streaming down my face hours after finishing it), but most of all they made me happy. The kind of happy that makes your heart swell and makes you all warm and tingly inside; the kind of happy that makes you think the world is good and true love really does exist. The very best kind of happy. I don't remember any other books making me feel quite like these two wonderful books did.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

Wow, I haven't done one of these since May! Even though I haven't been reading that much lately, it's time to catch up:

Hounded (my review) and Hexed by Kevin Hearne, the first 2 books in the Iron Druid Chronicles, a very entertaining and action-packed urban fantasy series. In addition I read Clan Rathskeller and Kaibab Unbound, which are two short stories set before the first novel.

I also read Her Majesy's Will by David Blixt, a historical fiction novel in which Shakespeare (quite by accident) was a spy before he became know as a playwright. I have yet to write a review of this one, but I will, because it was a very enjoyable read.

In between I've also read The Big Book of Top Gear 2009, which is "just like on the telly except it's a book."

I started re-reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night, because it felt like the thing to do.

As usual, no idea. I should probably pick up Les Miserables again though.

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Review: The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale

The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale
By Christine Bell

First published: 28 May 2012 by Carina Press
Series: Stormy Gale #2

Read: 1–14 May 2012
E-ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley

Goodreads | Amazon | Carina Press

London, 1841
There I was, retired from time pirating, enjoying a full if somewhat conventional life as a wife and mother. Then a chance encounter with a stranger drew me back into a world I'd thought I'd left, quite literally, in the past. From his odd behavior and even odder answers to my questions, I knew Phineas Grubb was up to something. I should have trusted my instincts--before he pulled out a time-travel mechanism and dragged my brother, Bacon, back with him...

Salem, 1698
The infamous Witch Trials may have ended a few years earlier, but the people of Salem are still pretty touchy about outsiders that appear in town as if by magic. Thanks to Grubb, my brother's been accused of witchcraft and thrown in jail. Now it's up to me and my husband, Dev, to save Bacon's bacon before the hysteria starts up again, and the course of history is altered forever...

My thoughts

Regular readers of The Turn of the Page will undoubtably have heard me gush about the first book in this series, The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale. I loved the fresh, fun story of the time-travelling Stormy and have been eagerly awaiting the sequel for a year. I'm happy to say it didn't let me down.

A few years have passed since the events of the first book, and Stormy has settled down in Victorian London with her husband Dev and their little daughter and abandoned time-pirating for good. But when she discovers a mysterious man looking for a large amount of mercury, one thing leads to another and before long Stormy's brother Bacon is trapped in Salem in 1698 and Stormy and Dev have to devise a daring plan to save his bacon (yes, I've been wanting to use that pun for a long time).

The plot is action-packed and fast-moving, but what really drives the story are the characters; especially Stormy. I said in my review of Twisted Tale that I would love to have her as a friend, and that hasn't changed. Providing a 21th century perspective on 19th century London, her narration is filled with modern references (I'd miss Google too) and is often laugh-out-loud funny. She may be hot-headed and prone to acting before thinking, but she's also witty, clever and fiercely loyal to those she loves. Speaking of which, I was happy to see her dashing husband Dev, the Loony Duke of Leister, play an active part in the story, keeping Stormy level while proving to be quite the resourceful time-traveller himself.

Bacon is such a lovable dork and I loved getting to know him more. He's very kind and sincere, as well as funny – without really meaning to. For instance, in the beginning of the story his girlfriend has broken up with him, and Stormy suggests it might have something to do with his surname "Frogs", to which Bacon solemnly replies: "She said it wasn't that either. It wasn't until I went to her house last night and serenaded her with my digeridoo that she told me the real reason she left me." (Dev and I both had serious trouble containing our laughter at that mental image.)

As with the first instalment in the series, my only complaint is that it is a little on the short side. At 138 pages it is longer than Twisted Tale, but it's still a novella. I think a bit more time for both the plot and the characters to develop wouldn't have gone amiss. Although if I'm honest, the main reason I wanted it to be longer is because I was enjoying myself so much I didn't want it to end.

Bottom line: If you're looking for a fun, thrilling, character-driven story with steampunk elements, this is the book for you (but I advice you to read Twisted Tale first for a bit of background as well as a great story).

My rating:

The Stormy Gale series:
  1. The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale (2011)
  2. The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale (2012)
Christine Bell online: Website | Twitter

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Review: Hounded

By Kevin Hearne

First published: 2011 by Del Rey
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #1

Read: 1–14 May 2012

Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository

Atticus O’Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old—when in actuality, he’s twenty-one centuries old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.

Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he’s hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power—plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a sexy bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish—to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil. (Goodreads)

My thoughts

This was such a fun book to read! It's fast-paced and witty and kept me clicking the next button late into the night. I haven't come across any books featuring Irish mythology before, and it made for a nice change from the usual vampires and werewolves, though the latter do exist in this story as well.

Atticus is a great main character. Despite his old age and his powers, he never comes across as arrogant or condescending; rather the opposite. He has learned to adapt to the time he's living in, and his voice - the book is told in first person - is very much 21th century. His witty comments made me laugh out loud frequently, and the conversations with his Irish wolfhound Oberon are especially hilarious. Oh yeah, and he can do some pretty cool magic.

The minor characters - and there are quite a lot of them - are all very interesting, especially the Celtic gods who all seem to be after Atticus for one reason or another. The action is practically non-stop with lots of twists and turns. The story is a bit gory at times and there is some swearing, but unless you're really squeamish that shouldn't detract from the experience. And it certainly was a thrilling experience - I can't wait to continue the series to see what trouble Atticus will find himself in next.

Bottom line:
If you're looking for a fresh, fast-paced and fun urban fantasy, I can definitely recommend Hounded.

My rating:

The Iron Druid Chronicles:
  1. Hounded (2011)
  2. Hexed (2011)
  3. Hammered (2011)
  4. Tricked (2012)
  5. Trapped (2012)
  6. Hunted (2013)
Visit Kevin Hearne's website to learn more about the series!

Monday, May 14, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

I didn't finish anything last week! I'm already 6 books behind in my challenge of reading 42 books this year. It doesn't look good. I still love to read once I sit down and focus on it, but usually I end up doing other things instead of reading. Clearly I need to sort out my priorities.

I've almost finished Hounded by Kevin Hearne, the first in the Iron Druid Chronicles, and I absolutely love it. Irish mythology isn't something I knew much about beforehand, and it's very interesting to read about other beings than vampires and werewolfes (though these do feature as well). Also, it's witty and action-packed and I'm already looking forward to reading the next book in the series.

Technically I'm also reading Les Miserables (abridged version in Norwegian), but I put it aside to concentrate on Hounded. Try as I might, I never seem to be able to alternate between two books. I always end up putting one aside until I've finished the other.

I think it will be Her Majesty's Will by David Blixt that I received for review through NetGalley. It's a historical mystery with William Shakespeare as a spy - sounds intriguing!

What are you reading this week?

Monday, April 30, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

April was an average reading month for me. I read the first book in a new-to-me mystery series by Australian writer Lenny Bartulin, A Deadly Business. I also finished a series for once (it only consists of two books, but still), the Scottish Ferry Tale series by Nancy Volkers. I adored the first book and Scotland By Starlight was just as amazing. I've been meaning to write a review of it for a while now, but I just don't know how to put my feelings into words - it was that special.

Some of you might have heard me gushing about The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell more than once on the blog. The much-awaited sequel, The Bewitching Tale of Stormy Gale, will be out 28 May and I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of it through NetGalley. After a quick re-read of Twisted Tale to refresh my memory I started the sequel, and I'm pleased to say it was an exciting, fun read. Review coming up closer to the release date!

I finished Bewitching Tale late last night and since I have to work today I haven't had a chance to start anything new yet. My plan is to start Les Miserables and read a few chapters a day, while alternating with a lighter book. Hopefully that way I'll be able to finish it. My library only had the abridged version, but it's daunting enough anyway. It's been ten years since I first read it (I was actually the last person to check it out of the library - not the most popular book apparently!) and I really want to read it again now. Not sure what that "lighter read" will be yet - any suggestions?

What are you reading this week?

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

Last week I read a book in Norwegian for a change (haven't done that in a year or so). Nattmannen by Jørn Lier Horst is book 5 in an excellent detective series featuring Chief Inspector William Wisting. So far only book 6 in the series, Dregs, has been translated into English, but hopefully the rest will follow soon.

A while ago I won the first three books in the Jack Susko series by Lenny Bartulin from Booklover Book Reviews (thank you, Jo!). They attracted me for two reasons: The main character owns a used book store, and they are set in Sydney, my favourite city in the world, so I was delighted to be able to read them. I have started the first book, A Deadly Business (it has later been renamed Death By the Book) and so far it's pretty good. The best part is that Jack's book store is situated only two blocks from where I lived in Sydney, so I know the area quite well. Being able to picture the locations in my mind makes for a much more vivid reading experience. (It also makes me miss Sydney a whole lot...)

As usual I don't have anything particular planned - but I don't think it will be a mystery.

What are you reading this week?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

New Bookends!

Aren't they cute? :) Of course I don't actually have anywhere suitable to put them at this point, so for now they're just sat on top of one of my bookcases. But I reckon they'll look really good in my future library. ;)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Booking Through Thursday - Different Kind of Romance

Booking Through Thursday is a weekly meme about (mostly) books and reading.

This week's question is:

Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character? Who and what about them did you love?

First I should mention that I tend to fall much faster and harder for TV and film characters than literary characters. I don't know why, maybe it's because on TV I can see their physical appearance very clearly, whereas characters in books are always a little fuzzy in my head.

That being said, I have fallen in love with a character from a book: Aragorn from Lord of the Rings. Admittedly I watched the first movie before reading the book so I already had the image of Viggo Mortensen on my mind, but I'm pretty sure I would have fallen for Aragorn anyway. He's the ultimate man really; mysterious, noble, ruggedly handsome, strong and courageous (and in the book he even has a sense of humour).

I also have a bit of a crush on quite a few characters - Dirk Pitt (Dirk Pitt adventures), Locke Lamora (The Lies of Locke Lamora), Sam Howard (Winter Solstice), Joe Morelli (Stephanie Plum series), Keiro (Incarceron & Sapphique)... And I used to have the biggest crush on Nancy Drew's boyfriend Ned Nickerson when I was a kid. He was dreamy. Nowadays I rather seem to fancy Carson Drew instead... ;)

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

Last week I finished As You Do: Adventures With Evel, Oliver and the Vice President of Botswana by Richard Hammond and loved it. Read my review here.

I spent three days deciding what to read after As You Do, and ended up with Raise the Titanic by Clive Cussler. His Dirk Pitt adventures are a guilty pleasure of mine, and the only series of which I own all the books.

Given my latest track record, I spend more time trying to decide what to read than actually read... I don't know why that is, because I have so many books I want to read - just not always at that exact moment I finish another book. Anyway, I think it  might be time for a fantasy next.

What are you reading this week?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Review: As You Do

As You Do
Adventures With Evel, Oliver, and the Vice President of Botswana
By Richard Hammond

First published: 2008 by Orion Publishing

Read: 2 - 13 February 2012

The wry, honest and often hilarious chronicles of a very brave and clever TV presenter, Arctic explorer, and general drawer of the Short Straw. Moving quickly on from the devastating crash that nearly killed him he ranges widely over his life and times—a visit to Glastonbury with James May reminds of him of his early years of playing in a band and how and why he never quite made it as a rock star; the stunts and other perils that come his way like the Top Gear North Pole race (why is it Richard who is out in the howling elements in a dog sled while the others are in the heated cab of an all-terrain vehicle?), Africa where he falls in love with and repatriates a stray car, and the U.S. (once to be chased by rednecks in middle America, the other in pursuit of his hero Evel Knievel); his passion for cars, what he owns and why, and although he loves his wife why it is a toss-up whether he says hello to the wife or the cars first. Balancing home and family with a crazy, peripatetic working life (or not, sometimes), the hamster is well and truly back on the wheel.

My thoughts

Lately I've found myself going through a bit of a Top Gear phase (you know, the British car show where three middle-aged men act like eight-year-olds in expensive cars), so when I came across this book by my favourite presenter, I thought I'd give it a go. I'm glad I did.

I read a review somewhere saying that reading this book is like having Richard Hammond telling you these stories in person, and that is exactly what it felt like. I kept hearing his voice in my head as I was reading, and could almost picture him sitting across from me at the pub, happily recounting his adventures over a pint or two. (I imagine the audio book would enhance this image even further.) This familiarity made As You Do an easy and enjoyable read.

As expected, the writing style is informal and conversational. Some might find Richard a bit too talkative and argue that he's not concise enough. I won't. It is true that there is a great level of detail - maybe even bordering on too much information at times - but I didn't mind it. Hammond comes across as a genuinely nice guy with a childlike enthusiasm for everything he does, and that enthusiasm is catching. (If you've ever watched Top Gear, you will know what I mean.)

The book is a fun look at some of the things we never got to see on television, and I found it particularly interesting to read about all the work and preparations that went into making the Polar special episode. I also loved reading about the Botswana special, which happens to be my favourite TG episode, however this subject was touched much more lightly upon and the single chapter left me wanting more.

Having seen the Top Gear episodes being discussed in the book will probably make it a more enjoyable read as you will know exactly what is being is referring to (although you really should see them even if you don't read the book, because they are a lot of fun!).

But Richard Hammond is more than just fun and games. This he proves especially in the touching (perhaps surprisingly so) last chapter about the making of documentary about his childhood hero Evel Knievel. This chapter is probably the strongest part of the book and well worth a read for anyone, whoever your hero.

Bottom line
As You Do is a witty and honest account of some of the amazing experiences in a year of this popular television presenter's life and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

My rating:

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How do you organise your books?

I just had a new floor laid, and because I had to move all my furniture to make room, I had to pack away all my books for a while (and there were MANY!). I now have a unique opportunity to reorganise my shelves, but I haven't the faintest idea where to start. I've been sitting here staring at my bags and piles of books wondering how to put them back on the shelves. So I was hoping to get some smart tips from you.

How do you organise your books?

By author? By genre? By colour? Alphabetically? In a completely different way that no one else has thought of? Tell me! :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

Last week I finished Master of None by Sonya Bateman, a highly entertaining urban fantasy debut.

I'm in a bit of a Top Gear phase at the moment (marathons on BBC Entertainment will do that to you), so I picked up As You Do: Adventures With Evel, Oliver and the Vice President of Botswana by Richard Hammond. It is a behind-the-scenes account of some of the bigger Top Gear adventures like the North Pole race and the Botswana challenge. I'm only about a quarter into it, but so far I've had strange looks from at least two people because I was giggling like a madwoman. I've found that reading a few pages in the morning is a great way to start the day, because it puts me in a good mood.

I loved Master of None, so perhaps I'll move on to the second book in the series, Master and Apprentice. Or maybe I'll continue the Riyria Revelations with Avempartha by Michael J. Sullivan. Then again I really want to start the Rizzoli & Isles series by Tess Gerritsen. And a friend lent me a Jo Nesbø which I really should read soon. And then... You get the picture. Too many books!

What are you reading this week?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Holiday books

Seeing as the season for Christmas books is well behind us (at least if you are like me and insist on reading Christmassy books only in December), I thought I'd do a quick summary post of the books I read last month.

The Christmas Scrapbook by Philip Gulley
Sam Gardner admits that his history as a gift giver is abysmal. Determined to redeem himself, he has enrolled in a scrapbooking class. His artistic enterprise, however, ends in disaster. Meanwhile, wife Barbara sees through his lame ruse of a Wednesday night "men's group," but suspecting the worst, she begins to search for a romantic rival.

This charming little tale is part of the Harmony series, which centers around Sam Gardner, who's moved back to his hometown to work as minister. I love the series; it's humorous, touching and being from a small town myself I can definitely relate. At less than 100 pages it's a quick read. I found myself chuckling throughout the story, while sympathizing with Sam and shaking my head at the quirky inhabitants of Harmony. I've been reading the other Christmas story in the series, Christmas in Harmony, every December for a few years, and I see the same thing happening with The Christmas Scrapbook (plus, I think I have a small crush on Sam Gardner).

The Christmas Secret by Donna VanLiere
Christine Eisley is the mother of seven-year-old Zach and five-year-old Haley. Her ex-husband provides little, if any, child support and makes life difficult for Christine by using the children as pawns. She works long hours as a waitress to make ends meet, but her job is in jeopardy because she’s often late to work due to the unreliable teenaged sitters she’s forced to use. When Christine saves the life of a woman who works in Wilson’s department store, the owner of Wilson’s wants to find her, to thank her, but Christine has disappeared, losing another job once again. He sets his grandson, Jason, to the task of finding the mysterious “Christy.” Jason, an accountant by trade who has lost his job to downsizing, thinks he is “above” working at Wilson’s. Soon, he discovers that this new task gives him more than he bargains for. The Christmas Secret is a novel for anyone who wants to see how love is a gift that keeps giving back; that hope is a treasure that never runs dry, and that faith is a miracle that is reborn with each new day.

The Christmas Note by Donna VanLiere
Gretchen Daniels has recently moved into a condo with her two children to be closer to her mother, Miriam. As they build a life together in their new community, they notice a mysterious young woman, Melissa McCreary, who lives next door. She has few possessions, little personality, and keeps to herself. One day a local landlord who is looking for Melissa knocks on Gretchen’s door for assistance. Melissa’s mother has died and in the coming weeks the landlord needs Melissa to empty her mother’s apartment. Gretchen reaches out and offers to help Melissa, but the apartment is a gut-wrenching shamble of a home. There is little worth saving except for a few photos and a note that is discovered on the crate beside the bed. It is unfinished, but in the two scribbled lines, Melissa discovers secrets about her family that she never could have imagined. Can two very different women embark on a journey that explores a long-buried need for forgiveness, hope, and redemption?

Donna VanLiere's Christmas books are another Christmas tradition of mine and I usually buy one every year in time for Christmas. Yes, they are all rather cheesy and predictable - just what I want for the season. These latest two in the series were both just as heart-warming and sweet as I have come to expect. Although all books in the series are stand-alones, some of them share a few characters, like these two books. They are set in the same small town and both feature young women who have gone through some tough times and are struggling to get ahead. VanLiere is very good at describing human relations and creating strong and likeable characters. These books provide a good story combined with a little bit of holiday magic.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the New York Times bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

It was impossible to ignore all the great reviews going around the blogosphere when this book was first released, but not being a huge fan of most YA books and romance novels, I didn't think it was for me. I only picked up the ebook version because it was on sale - and it turned out to be one of the best buys I made last year. Frankly, I loved it. It was fun, interesting and sweet and I couldn't wait to see what each new challenge would bring. Dash and Lily are very different characters but I was rooting for them from the beginning. The secondary characters are also great, especially Lily's great-aunt (I think?). My only concern is that both main characters, Dash especially, sounded and acted much older than they are, but it didn't ruin the experience for me in any way. Another Christmas favourite!

Monday, January 23, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. It is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.

My first read of the year was The Crown Conspiracy by Michael J. Sullivan. I've heard so many good things about the Riyaria Revelations series, and now that all six books are out I decided to start it. This first installment was fast-paced, action-packed and fun, and I'm looking forward to the rest of the series.

I've also read The Shadow Project by Scott Mariani, which is the fifth book in a thriller series featuring ex-SAS Major Ben Hope. I have a weak spot for daring heroes, and Ben is one of my favourites.

After reading Stella @ Ex Libris' excellent review of Master of None by Sonya Bateman last year I added it to my wishlist and was RAKed it by Bookaholic Does Blogging soon after (thanks, Ashley!). This is the first book in an urban fantasy series (with a male protagonist, I might add!), and after it had been waiting on Pickwick (my Kindle) for a while, I'm so glad I finally started it. I'm 1/4 in and so far I've cringed twice and laughed out loud a lot more times. I'm enjoying it very much!

As usual I have no idea. I like to pick up whatever fancies me at the time. However, I do have a list of books I want to get to soon so I'm sort of organised. ;)

What are you reading?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top Ten Books of 2011

I reached my goal of 40 books in 2011, the highest number I've managed in a year since I was a teenager. I thought I'd share my favourites from last year with you here. I'm not including re-reads (but if I did, you'd find some Harry Potter books and a certain Locke Lamora on this list as well).

10. Tripwire by Lee Child
Third in the Jack Reacher series. This kind of action series is my guilty pleasure (though I don't really feel guilty). I do love a good action hero, and Reacher is one of the best.

9. Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis
This first book in a new paranormal series really impressed me. I was invested in the characters and the story, and I'm looking forward to the next installment.

8. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
It was impossible not to notice all the buzz about this book when it was released but at the time I didn't think it would be my cup of tea. I picked it up late last year because the price was reduced, and decided to read it over Christmas. It turned out to be the surprise of the year and I loved it.

7. Heat Wave by Richard Castle
I'm a big fan of the TV show Castle, and this book was just like reading an episode of the show.

6. The Christmas Scrapbook by Philip Gulley
I love Gulley's Harmony series with its small-town setting and its quirky characters. This will most likely be an annual Christmas read for me.

5. Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz
The Spellmans are one of my favourite fictional families and this second book in the series was just as hilaroius as the first.

4. Sapphique by Catherine Fisher
I don't know why I waited so long to read the sequel to Incarceron, because this YA series is very, very good.

3. The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen
I absolutely loved this magical, whimsical story about love, belonging and cakes. (And how pretty is that cover?)

2. The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell
If you've been reading my blog the past year, chances are you've heard me rave about this book before. I just had so much fun reading it, and the characters and the story have stuck with me almost a year now.

1. A Scottish Ferry Tale by Nancy Volkers
I'm not usually a fan of romance novels, but this wonderful love story went straight to my heart. I could identify with the main character on several levels, and the magical Scottish setting captivated me.

Are any of these on your favourites list as well?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Book recommendation: Music Listography Journal

Music Listography: Your Life in (Play) Lists
By Lisa Nola
Chronicle Books 2009 | The Book Depository | Goodreads

Do you like music? Do you like making lists? Then this is the perfect book for you.

I have been using to make lists for a while and love it. I finally decided to check out the related books, and Music Listography seemed a good choice to begin with. It arrived in the mail today, and I've just spent an hour flipping through the pages and filling out some of the lists. I absolutely love this book. There are all sorts of list topics about music, ranging from List Your Top Twenty Favorite Bands to List Your Summer Time Road Trip Mix and List the Saddest Songs in the World. And if the list you want to make isn't included in the book, there are several blank pages in the back where you can make your own list topics.

I foresee many more hours of fun, going through my music library and filling out the lists. This is a great gift for the music lover in your life, or something special for yourself. Just remember to use a pencil, so you can update the lists as your music taste changes. :)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

End of Year Book Survey

This awesome survey is hosted by The Perpetual Page-Turner.

I had a few ups and down last year when it came to reading and blogging, but I reached my overall goal of 40 books, which is the most I've read since I started keeping track in 2005. I could have made it to 45 if it hadn't been for a reading slump over the summer, but I did read some great books so I'm very happy with 2011 bookwise.

1. Best book you read in 2011?
Hmm... I reread a few old favourites, but if I'm not counting them then it's A Scottish Ferry Tale by Nancy Volkers. It's a heart-warming love story with a beautiful setting and I didn't want it to end. And I obviously can't answer this question without mentioning The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale by Christine Bell. Technically it's a novella, but I had so much fun reading it that I simply have to include it.

2. Most disappointing book / Book you wish you loved more than you did?
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. It sounded like a lot of fun and adventure, and while it certainly wasn't boring, I just felt, well, way too old for it.

3. Most surprising (in a good way) book of 2011?
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. There was a lot of buzz about this book when it was published and to be honest I didn't think it would be my cup of tea, being a teenage romance and all. But I ended up loving it so much I sat up reading until 3 in the morning because I didn't want to put it down.

4. Book you recommended most to people in 2011?
The Twisted Tale of Stormy Gale. I just want everyone to read it. :)

5. Best series you discovered in 2011?
The Bloody Jack series by L.A, Meyer. The first book was chock-full of adventures on the high seas, and I can't wait to read more books from this series.

6. Favourite new authors you discovered in 2011?
Sarah Addison Allen, Lawrence Block and Nancy Volkers.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?
Hard Spell by Justin Gustainis. Not sure what to call this genre - supernatural crime, maybe? Anyway, it was a new experience for me, but one I really enjoyed.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2011?
I have to say The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, even though it was a reread. I guess it's a testament to the author when the book is just as good (maybe even better) the second time around.

9. Book you most anticipated in 2011?
The Devil Colony by James Rollins (number 7 in the Sigma Force series).

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2011?

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. It's blue and shiny and whimsical and I love it.

11. Most memorable character in 2011?
A few spring to mind: The afore-mentioned Stormy Gale and Locke Lamora, and Keiro from Sapphique by Catherine Fisher.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2011?
A Scottish Ferry Tale certainly created beautiful images in my mind.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2011?
Again, A Scottish Ferry Tale. I related quite strongly to the main character and the book lingered for days after I had finished it. I still wish I could go to Scotland and find my own little ferry tale.

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2011 to finally read?
Sapphique by Catherine Fisher. I should have read this sequel to Incarceron the minute I had finished the first book, while the story was still fresh in my mind.

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2011?
From A Scottish Ferry Tale:
"Here's what I think," she said. "You love him. The two of you are amazing together. And that scares you. You are sure that because it's so good, something will go wrong, and instead of enjoying it, you're on guard, waiting for the bad thing to happen."

16. Book that you read in 2011 that you would be most likely to reread in 2012?
The Christmas Scrapbook by Philip Gulley. I love the Harmony series and I think this one will be a Christmas tradition just like Christmas in Harmony.

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it?
Frequently during Dash & Lily's Book of Dares!

And that was my 2011. Here's to 2012!
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