Review – Northanger Abbey by Val McDermid

18778806I’m not sure why I do it to myself. I really don’t. What I’m talking about of course, is the scenario in which you read a book hoping against hope that it won’t disappoint you, even when your gut tells you that it will.
Well, this happened to me this week when I decided to start reading Val McDermid’s contemporary retelling of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey.
Now, I’m sure most of you know the basic plot of this famous novel; Catherine (or Cat, as she is now called in this version) is sent away to another city in hope of finding a suitable marriage, and the intricacies of this societal bed of hot rocks, serves as the plot of the novel.
In McDermid’s version, Cat goes away to Edinburgh and the story focuses on the people she meets and the antics she gets herself into.
Now, although I wasn’t a fan of the actual book, I have to give McDermid credit for her way of making the story accessible for contemporary readers. McDermid seems to take scene by scene and change it to fit contemporary times, and as a story it does technically work, but does it make a good story? Is it really enough to replace “So and so went to the ball and caused quite a scene when she danced with Captain so and so instead of Captain…” with “so and so went to the club and caused quite a scene when she was recorded twerking with her BFF’s ex” (I made that text up, but it is the same principle). Some will claim that McDermid successfully completed her task, and some will argue that it is just lazy writing. What do I think? Well… somewhere in the middle actually. You’ve been given a task, and I imagine, paid quite handsomely, to contemporize (I know it’s not a word, but it is now) a classic novel. Yes, McDermid did this, and yes, she could have perhaps made it a little more original. All I know is that I’m glad I wasn’t given this task.
If you want to give this novel a go, and you are a die hard Austen fan, I just want to iterate that I am not responsible for any heart attacks, fits of rage, or spontaneous combustion that may occur. (-;

~ Pegasus

Northanger Abbey

Review: The Marriage Pact by Linda Lael Miller

20140518-214023-78023213.jpg Parts of this book were fun, and other parts were a little hokey, and still others were a little bit confusing. I’ll tell ya what’s what, and you can decide if it’s a book for you. (I totally believe everyone’s tastes are good for them, and some people’s mediocre is other people’s terrific. So read on.)

Hadleigh and Tripp grew up together, and despite her wedding that didn’t end in I-DO, and his wedding that ended in divorce, Hadleigh has always been a little bit in love with Tripp. Tripp’s persistence and Hadleigh’s reluctance create fun romantic tension that I loved! Tripp is a chivalrous, handsome cowboy and courts Miss Hadleigh with notions of settling down. The one little problem with the romance was that it jumped abruptly from Hadleigh not wanting to give in to her own feelings of love for Tripp, to all of a sudden being all-in, head over heels.

This book is the first in a series, each centering on one woman in a circle of three friends. They make a pact to support each other in their searches for husbands. This is the part I thought was a little hokey. Do people in their late 20s/early 30s do this? Make pacts with charm bracelets and promises? I’ve never heard of such a thing. It seemed very teenager-ish to me. And a little contrived. I think best friends would naturally be there for each other without a formal agreement!

I love Miller’s characters: well-thought-out, likable, distinct, and memorable. Tripp being a gentle, loving, caring, rich, gorgeous, perfect cowboy hero? I dig it. But I’m not a fan of the heroine changing her tune in a New York minute, nor her friends contriving a marriage pact.

–Calliope

buy THE MARRIAGE PACT

Sneak Peek Review: I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

aaaaa***This novel will be released in the USA May 27, 2014***

This was a stellar first novel. Hayes did a superb job. I gave this my highest rating, but after thinking about it for a day or two I have to knock it down just a bit….I will get the messy parts of what I didn’t like out-of-the-way first….

This is a story about a “retired” government agency director…well we all realise that there is no such thing as retirement when it comes to this type of thing….So “The Pilgrim” is born…and must go into Turkey to try to stop a “clean skin”, someone who has no history in any of the databases of the world….The “clean skin” or “The Saracen” has set out to commit biological warfare on American soil and Pilgrim has very little time or information to stop him.

Okay, the problems….The novel felt disjointed at times…as Pilgrim is telling the story, I was not sure if he was talking about the present or current events. He would be investigating a murder in current time and jump back to previous events….but because the entire story was told after the fact, you weren’t sure if his musings were at the present time period, the past or at a near future time. The other thing that flummoxed me was the fact that a murder investigation that started in NYC, totally unrelated to the Saracen’s evil plan to destroy America, is related to a murder in the exact same location that Pilgrim has to go track the Saracen. It was just too convenient and far-fetched. Somehow, Hayes expected us to believe that all of the unrelated events and characters meet up and interact within a small Turkey city….

I haven’t figured out how Hayes could have avoided this…but it lays within my mind that just a few simple changes or additions to the novel could have cleaned all of this up. I blame it all on the author’s previous television experience. Seriously….stop laughing at me! Telly viewers seem able to suspend disbelief and logic for short periods of times. Readers expect the author to have thought out all of the logic and have it laid out just right for their readers. If the author is unable to do so, at the very least his fine editor should be able to correct it…..

Having said this, I still really enjoyed this novel. There are plot twists that seem outrageous after the fact, but they seem perfectly logical as the story is being told. This is a hard book to review, because some of the twists are so outrageous. It will be hard to explain to someone why it’s such a great novel, without them looking at you and saying….”riiiighhhtttt”…..but they are the best parts of the book! They don’t *read* outrageous. I think any reader would be hard pressed to figure out all of the clues and timing. Yet, as I sometimes do, I did not feel cheated or that the writer was pushing too hard. This didn’t read like a modern-day thriller that is a best seller because it was written by a famous author that is relying on his name and not his skill to sell a book….This is a book that should sell and make a bestseller simply because it’s written with a plot that is scary and very real. It’s hard to put down…not because you want to hurry up and finish it….but because you’re gripped in fear and your heart is racing and you have very little choice but to carry on…scared or not, you must not let go….Like a roller coaster ride, you are secretly thrilled by your terror…..This book is real….this type of thing is what any Country needs to be looking out for….not nuclear war heads…but little glass vials….I just hope that there are many “Pilgrims” out there in the real world. There is little doubt that “I Am Pilgrim” is the start of a great new series….Since it is Terry Hayes first book, I have great hopes that the series and the author both grow and mature over time…I look forward to seeing if Pilgrim is able to accept that he is deserving of the things he wants in life. That he, too, is entitled to a little bit of happiness….Terry Hayes has a great opportunity to take a very conflicted hero and grow him into a household name…

Until next time….

Urania xx

Buy it now I Am Pilgrim

Review: All Lined Up, by Cora Carmack

01all
I am definitely not a fan of football, but I really enjoyed this story!! And having never grown up in a sport obsessed state, this was quite an eye opener.

I totally loved Carson. He was a second string player with the drive of ten first stringers. I loved his heart and his drive. He wanted to do the best he could, cuz he couldn’t afford to stay, unless he got a scholarship. So he busted his butt and knew his limits. I felt bad for him when school didn’t come easy to him. But he never gave up. He was not your typical alpha male, am I’m so thankful for it.

I loved how much he needed Dallas, and wasn’t willing to leave her. He knew she was a distraction, but one he could work around. NOT having her, was more trouble. I also swooned every time he called her Daredevil. It was just too sweet.

“I can’t walk away from you because I don’t want to. There are a thousand things I want and need to do, but you trump all of them. You drive me to distraction, and all I want to do is get lost in you. All I want to do is make you lose it, too.”

Dallas was a dancer through and through. She lived dancing. But she has grown up with football being shoved down her throat also. With no mom and her dad a coach, she had no choice but to follow him wherever he went. She was so sick of football.

After having her heart broken by her HS sweetheart, also the QB, she swore she’s never date another football player. So when she met Carson, her heart was saying one thing, while her head was saying another.

Watching them move at a slow pace was quite refreshing. I’ve read so many books that they hook up almost instantly. This story definitely didn’t need it. They were both going through some things that needed time to resolve. It was the perfect pace.

Very sweet romance, with just the right amount heart. Perfect. Another winner from Cora!!

~Melpomene

Buy All Lined Up: A Rusk University Novel

Review: The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller

20140516-090046.jpgReading is one of my greatest loves. From as far back as I can remember, it seems as if I have always had some type of reading material at hand. Novels, comic books, even the back of the cereal box at the breakfast table…it all sufficed to satisfy my urge for the magic of the written word. And now as an adult, being a passionate reader is such an integral part of my identity that it’s impossible to separate the two. Books, newspapers, magazines, online articles…I devour them all with the appetite of someone who’s gone without food for too long.

But reading for pleasure is an endangered species, on its way to extinction according to some. The bleakest polls place the number of adults who read for pleasure at around 50%. And some surveys have shown that 30% of adults haven’t read a book for pleasure in the last year. As an admitted bookworm, these numbers make me so sad. And as a teacher, these numbers make me wonder why?

Donalyn Miller’s book addresses this issue. She believes, as do I, that it begins with the reading habits we, as parents and teachers, instill in young children. Her philosophy is simple. If you give them books, they will come. A few basic tenets are required: an environment filled with a variety of reading material, choice in what kids read, time to read, and modeling of passionate reading. Again, these foundational pieces are aimed toward the classroom but why wouldn’t they work at home as well? And can you imagine the effect if this was the standard at home AND at school?

And this author knows what she’s talking about. She has the benefit of many years of classroom experience. She also has a well-known blog and is in high demand as a presenter for professional development seminars. As a side note, she’s also a teacher in my district and has been featured at some of our workshops.

So what did I get from reading this book? In one word, validation. Donalyn speaks to everything I believe as both a parent and a teacher. Young children love to read and are fascinated by the words and pictures that come to life on the page. But something happens to them as they get older. They stop seeing reading as fun and start viewing it as work, something to be done when it’s required but no more. Ask any parent of a child who loves to read and you’ll hear a few common themes, the same ones espoused in The Book Whisperer.

This one’s a departure from my normal reviews, but it’s a good one. Although it’s geared toward classroom teachers, most of the anecdotes and tips given by the author can be put into practice by teachers and parents alike. And when you’re finished with this one, move on to her next one. Reading in the Wild is next on my list!

~Thalia

Buy it Now: The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child

Review: Room for Love by Sophie Pembroke

20140515-225338.jpg Well, I have never met a sweeter hero! Nate is the gardener, sure, but he’s also at innkeeper Carrie’s beck and call when her inheritance – The Avalon – endures some hilarious emergencies. He is just determined to do right by Carrie and her grandmother’s legacy, even if Carrie doesn’t appreciate him.

This guy figures out how to get exotic purple roses the day before a wedding! He takes care of the drunk and hungover stag party friends, the elderly friends of the inn, the gardens, and most importantly, Carrie. He doesn’t want anything in return, either. Well, he WANTS, he just doesn’t EXPECT. 🙂

Carrie is a workaholic, out trying to prove she can do anything, do it herself, and do it well. She can, of course…. but the handsome gardener decides to help. And that, my friends, is the start of something beautiful… Funny, crazy, nostalgic, and beautiful.

-Calliope
buy ROOM FOR LOVE

Thank you, Twilight. My reading journey

I am sad to say that I am a late in life reader. I was never a reader in school. I only read when it was assigned. Not sure if it was because my mom was dyslexic, and she hated reading, so she never encouraged it. Or perhaps the schools never made reading exciting. Whatever the reason, I never picked up a book, and read for fun, for about 15 years after high school!!

I am quite jealous of all of you life long readers. My reading journey began about three years ago, and it started with Edward and Bella. That’s right, Twilight. I can see some of you rolling your eyes, but it doesn’t matter the book, as long as you’re reading, right? Well, I never got into the Twilight books until the 3rd movie came out. I remember watching Twilight on a Saturday and freaking out and begging my hubby to get New Moon and Eclipse DVDs on Sunday. So I watched both on Sunday night. Then Monday morning, I went to the library and checked out all four books. Then I proceeded to sit on my butt, for four days, and read the entire series.

1653565_710854742287663_144842943_n

This pic was taken during one of those days. Not my finest picture, but still a life changing one. I ended up reading them each three times. I was obsessed.

So, for Mother’s day, a few months later, I asked for the last two books, since I picked up the first two at a used books sale. Instead, hubby decided to give me a kindle. Why?? I’ll never know, but that decision changed my life.

Once I figured out how to work the darn thing(Technology challenged) I started downloading free books. Then I found Facebook pages just about reading. Pretty soon I made book loving friends, I’d like to call enablers. They told me what to try and pretty soon, I found my niche.

Now I read about 6-7 books a week. I buy purses only if they fit my kindle. I use Coinstar every other month, for amazon cards. I am on a million FB book clubs, street teams, fan clubs. I buy shirts, related to by books. I spend crazy amounts of money just to buy signed books. I have my hubby paying for me to go to book signings, with and without him. Heck, I even blog about my crazy books!! CRAZY!! All of this is because of a silly vampire book.

So, thank you, Stephanie Meyer. I hope my children find their own “Twilight” to get them sucked in this magical world of reading.

~Melpomene

Review – The First Patient, by Michael Palmer.

1577458This week, I decided to try a book in a genre, or sub-genre I should say, that I’ve not tried before: a Medical Thriller. I did some research, and Michael Palmer seemed a popular choice. So I went to the library, and picked up The First Patient. This story looks at what happens when the White House doctor mysteriously disappears and the President asks Gabe, his old college roommate, to take over the role. When Gabe gets to the White House, it is not long before the President starts exhibiting bizarre symptoms that could end his presidency, or even worse, result in his death. It is up to Gabe and a host of supporting players to try and figure out the mystery illness and the reasons behind the disappearance of the previous doctor, before it’s too late.
As I’m in that frame of mind, I’d love to find a good book (fiction, or possibly non-fiction that isn’t too technical) that revolves around an organization such as the CDC, or something to do with a major virus/illness. I’m looking for a story that focuses more on the people trying to solve/prevent the catastrophe, than the actual effects of the illness. If any of my lovely readers could suggest a book to me, then next week I shall randomly pick a name and send you a yet to be determined prize!
Anyway, back to the review…

The First Patient is a fairly fun read. It keeps you guessing, and the pace is good. The characterization isn’t necessarily all that, but then what can you expect from a book, and indeed genre, that is purely plot driven? Dialogue and characters aside, it is a fun and easy read. I will definitely read another Palmer book as he is a doctor, and so in theory, knows what he is talking about. Maybe he has more medical medical thrillers (rather than political medical thrillers like this one is), which might be a better read. With all this strange flip flop weather we are all having, it might be an idea to curl up on the sofa with a nice easy read like this!
Remember to comment on the post (either via FB, Twitter, or the blog) for your chance to win a nice little prize!

Much love,

Pegasus.

The First Patient

Review: Hitch-22 by Christopher Hitchens

Hitch-22Okay, so I will be the first to admit, I’m not an expert on Christopher Hitchens. I’ve read “Morality” and that’s it. I didn’t watch him on television or read his reviews or articles or anything. So basically, I am unbiased. I am not a fan. I am not a hater. I am just me 🙂

First of all…there is no doubting that this man was touched with brilliance. However, there is no doubting that he is a bit condescending as well. *However* taking it a step further, he seems well aware of both these traits and does not apologise for them. To be honest, that’s quite refreshing. At least he was not playing to the masses, nor was he in denial.

I think a lot of people expect this book to be an autobiography it is, in fact, a memoir. After I finished it, I read some reviews and it was a common complaint. There isn’t a lot of his life story here. It’s mostly about events that happened to him and his viewpoints. It’s exactly what a memoir should be and it’s somewhat annoying to see people down-rating the book because there wasn’t enough talk about how he was brought up and his family life.

This was interesting in so many ways. One of the things I find most interesting about Hitchens is that he can see both sides of an issue very clearly. He could and does argue each side, at times making it hard to choose, yet he makes no holds about where he stands. I don’t think he straddled very many fences. Having said that, he also has no problems admitting he isn’t dead set in his viewpoints and had no issue admitting that perhaps he got it wrong. If he started to see that something he believed in the past wasn’t working any longer, but the opposing side was, well hey ho, he had no problem saying so and joining their ranks. So often people, especially famous people, once they declare an alliance with something, refuse to budge from their viewpoints. Especially when it comes to politics. Hitchens seemed to have no problem saying, okay, this worked in the past, but it’s not working now…what can? His loyalty seemed to be in what he found to work at that moment. Now I realise that some might see this as a bad thing. I don’t. I wish more people were able to open their minds to other viewpoints and think about what might work instead of just being loyal to the idea of the past. So often we only look at an opposing viewpoint to point out what is wrong about it. It is rarely that one is confident enough to look at one and see what is right.

I especially liked when Hitchens talked about his religious beliefs and his Jewish history (he was an adult when he found out he was Jewish) near the end of this book. He seemed very open to the fact that although he was an atheist he was waiting for someone to prove him wrong. His talk of his Jewish background (or lack of, I suppose) and the culture really fascinated me. So much so that I plan on reading more about it.

The thing about his book is…well, I didn’t really like it. I listened to the audio and there is no doubt that Hitchens was an arrogant sod. If I had ever met him, I am quite sure I would have disliked him. But there is much to enjoy reading this book. Hitchens might not have been my ideal person, but he had a great mind and was very precise on presenting multiple viewpoints on different, important subjects. I would have hated to meet this man in a debate. But my oh my…I would have loved to watch him in one….

Until next time…

Urania xx

Buy it now Catch-22 by Christopher Hitchens

Cover Reveal for Flat-Out Celeste, by Jessica Park

I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this. I absolutely loved Flat-Out Love and Flat-Out Matt. In fact I’m listening to FOL right now. Makes me love it even more. And don’t get me started on Jessica’s book Left Drowning. That book KILLED me. So when I heard she was writing Celeste’s book, I was overjoyed. It should be released sometime near the end of May. I can’t wait!! And this cover!!! It is just plain gorgeous!!! I mean, I plan buying the kindle version and the paperback. I need this cover on my shelf.

FLC
Whether you were charmed by Celeste in Flat-Out Love or are meeting her for
the first time, this book is a joyous celebration of differences, about battling private wars that rage in our heads and in our hearts, and—very much so—
this is a story about first love..

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery.
And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too
affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice
but to retreat into isolation.

But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling
senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a
lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.
Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that
person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let
him.

Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together
they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely,
positively flat-out in love.

Excerpt
There was a knock at the door and Matt leaned in, swinging a brown paper bag
in her direction. “I heard Mom made stuffed peppers tonight. Last time she
made those, I nearly died from flatulence. I assume she stuffed them with her
usual repulsive ground chicken, quinoa, Brussels sprouts, and pomegranate
seed mix?”

Just the sound of Matt’s voice made Celeste relax. She smiled at him. “Based
on the smell, I believe you’re right.”

“So you didn’t eat then? I was right!” Matt flopped onto her bed and lay down,
his long body scrunching up the neat white comforter that she spent ten minutes
arranging before she’d gone to school this morning. “I thought I’d take a break
from studying and bring you something edible.”

“It smells like a burger from Mr. Bartley’s,” she said as she got up and took a
seat next to Matt. “Hand it over, thoughtful brother.”
He tightened a hand around the top of the bag. “You have to guess which kind I
brought you first.”

“How am I supposed to know?”

“Close your eyes.”

She did as instructed and felt him move the bag under her nose. Sweet, spicy…
a bit garlicky. “Aha! Boursin cheese and bacon! The Mark Zuckerberg burger!”

“And sweet potato fries and a bottle of iced tea, but you win. A burger named
after ‘the richest geek in America,’ as the restaurant calls him.”

“You will be the richest geek in America after you finish your Ph.D. Program,”
Celeste said through a mouthful of fries.

“If M.I.T. doesn’t land me in a psych unit first.”

“You only have this year left to endure. And you will hardly find yourself in
need of psychiatric care, Matthew. You are doing stupendously.”

“I’m scraping by.” Matt reached into the bag and grabbed a handful of fries and
opened her iced tea.

“You are not ‘scraping by.’ You are assistant teaching classes, excelling in your
own, and in all ways performing to standards that exceed even the high ones
our mother set for you.” She frowned as he chewed on the fries. “Did you not
eat?”

“I did. A Big Papi burger and a Fiscal Cliff. But you can never have enough
sweet potato fries.”

“I have a finite amount of my own from which you are stealing. But I shall not
complain because this was very kind of you.”

Matt chewed and studied her. “Are you okay?”

“Why do you ask?”

“No contractions. When you’re stressed out, they disappear.”

“I know. But most days I do not care to use them. If it is an effort, then I do not
push.”

“Okay. I get it.” He chewed for a minute. “I heard your presentation went well.
Did your friends like it?”

“It went marvelously. My friend Dallas took me aside to share quite the flow of
compliments.”

“That’s great, Celeste.” He was downing half her iced tea.

“And then I bitch slapped her.”

Matt choked on the drink and desperately tried to clear his airway. “I’m sorry.
You did what?”

She cocked her head. “I bitch slapped her.”

“That… that can’t be right,” he sputtered. “I mean, I hope it’s not.”

“I slapped my hand against her hand. Up in the air.” She looked at Matt
blankly. “Is that not the right term?”

“Thank God, no, it’s not. I think you mean a high-five.”

“If you say so. Well, either way, it happened. You know I have trouble with
colloquialisms, so I resent your shocked reaction.”

“I do know that about you, and I apologize.”

“Since we are on the subject, there is something else I would like for you to
clarify.”

“Shoot.”

“What is meant by ‘nut bag’? Is that a testicular reference or merely the
identification of a satchel of cashews or pecans?”

Matt groaned. “This conversation has gotten really weird. Could we just talk
about— Wait a minute. Why are you asking me this? Did someone say that to
you?” He looked angry.
Celeste picked at her fry. “No. Certainly not. I heard the term and had a natural
curiosity.”

“Okay then…” Her brother crumpled up the paper bag and then smoothed it out
in his hands. Then crumpled it again. “It’s the same as ‘nuts.’ You know,
crazy.”

“Thank you for the definition.” She took the last bite of her burger and wiped
her hands on one of the paper napkins. It shouldn’t matter what her classmates
thought of her. Celeste would just be strong about this. She would move on.

It’s going to be flat out wonderful!!!

~Melpomene

Buy Flat-Out Love

Buy Flat-Out Matt (Flat-Out Love)

jessicapark
Jessica is the author of LEFT DROWNING, the New York Times bestselling
FLAT-OUT LOVE (and the companion piece FLAT-OUT MATT), and
RELATIVELY FAMOUS. She lives in New Hampshire where she spends an
obscene amount time thinking about rocker boys and their guitars, complex
caffeinated beverages, and tropical vacations. On the rare occasions that she is
able to focus on other things, she writes.

Please visit her at jessicapark.me and on Facebook
at https://www.facebook.com/authorjessicapark and Twitter @JessicaPark24