Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shorty Book Reviews: Christmas in Snowflake Canyon and Christmas on 4th Street

Let me preface these two reviews by saying, I am in love with winter and Christmas time. Yes. I am a weirdo, I love snow, and being out in it. I think it is so beautiful, the way it carpets the earth in a white glistening blanket. I get filled with the Christmas spirit this time of the year, and these Christmas romances are perfect for relaxing after all the bits and bobs that we all need to do this season - baking, cleaning, shopping, wrapping, etc.They are short little bursts of happy festiveness, and go well with peppermint mochas.

Author: RaeAnne Thayne
Source: NetGalley

I downloaded four holiday romances from NetGalley, and this was the one I wanted to read first, simply because that cover really appeals to me. I would love to go to a cabin in the winter and hunker down, safe and warm, and see trees covered in snow for miles. But I digress.

The heroine of the book is the local bad girl Genevieve- a slight twist on the usual bad boy. The hero Dylan is from a beloved family, and a wounded veteran to boot. When the two are thrown together, they learn that people are not always what they seem on the surface, as well as learning more about themselves. I really loved this one! It definitely lived up to my expectations.

Author: Susan Mallery
Source: NetGalley

This book was cute, but I didn't like it quite as much as Snowflake Canyon. The main character, Noelle, is the local proprietor of a Christmas store in a small town. Gabriel is an army doctor, who is haunted by what he has seen. He takes a job at Noelle's store while he is in town for the holidays visiting his family, and they soon realize they are attracted to each other. They get trapped in a cabin during a snowstorm, and my favorite part, rescued two mother cats with kittens that were living in the woods during a blizzard! My little animal rescue loving heart loved that!

But there felt like something was missing - all the elements were there to make this story perfect, but it felt a little flat to me. However, I still enjoyed it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

November Book Club

Hostess: Jennifer
Book: The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman
Food: Broccoli Cheese Soup in bread bowls, salad, and spiced pumpkin bread with ice cream
Month: November
Wine of the Night: 

It had been a stressful week for most of us, with the holiday season beginning and our various work and home demands, so by the time book club rolled around, we were ready to have a good time. Most of us were driven by Mary, who is pregnant, which was nice because then we didn't have to worry about having more than a glass of wine (or two).

We all rolled up at once to Jennifer's house, and plopped on the couches and chairs and poured glasses of wine all around, minus Mary of course. While we sipped at our glasses, we chatted a bit and then Jennifer told us we could eat. In a herd, we trooped into the kitchen to prepare our plates. I swear, that soup was so good, that I ate two bowls of it, and then couldn't eat any of the bread! I actually enjoyed it so much, that I recreated the meal, down to the bread bowls for dinner last night with my husband, where once again I ate two whole bowls! If you are looking for a warming comforting soup, try it out. It is definitely not low fat though!

While we ate, we discussed the book. We agreed that we loved the Jess and George parts, but didn't necessarily enjoy the Emily and Jonathan parts of the book. And the end! So stupid! I wasn't expecting it, and I didn't enjoy it. However, the Jess and George parts redeemed the entire story. The way the food was talked about, as sensual and slightly erotic - and books were described in the same way, not really erotic, but as these rare treasures, which they of course were. The cookbook collector to whom the title refers was this eccentric old guy, who collected all these rare and old cookbooks, as well as not so rare. But strangely, they were the only things in his kitchen - they were in the drawers, the cupboards and even the oven, while there was not a single utensil or plate or such. Inside the books were notes, imaginary menus, bits of romantic poetry, drawings of the same  woman, over and over. This cookbook collector seemed to be a sensual dreamer, with his head full of romance, yet who had never maybe enjoyed what he so desired - these exotic foods, a happy love life.

We also talked about our lives - one of the reasons we love book club is that we are all friends first. It is our time to stop our daily schedules, and make time for each other and our stories and our trials and our victories. We left feeling sated, emotionally and physically, full from the good food and conversation between friends. 

Next book club is Chrissy's, and we are reading Rant. It is also our homemade gift exchange! 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

Brought to you by Sheila at Book Journey!

This past week was a doozy! The book fair completely wiped me out; I would go home and around 8:00 pm just pass out from exhaustion. I was even tired on Saturday! But it is well worth it, both to see the excitement of the students about buying books, and as a fundraiser for the library. We earned our highest number of sales this year, what a blessing for my library. I already have a list of books I need to buy. Lol. My favorite moment - helping a student who brought in a hatful of pennies count out ten dollars in pennies so that he could buy the book he wanted. He was so proud of himself, and I was very happy for him. 

My new laptop came! Woohoo!

Read Last Week:

Nothing!! Just didn't have a single second to read.

Reading This Week:

Little WomenThe Signature of All Things Christmas on 4th Street (Fool's Gold, #12.5)
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: I have really been in the mood to reread this book! I am going to start it this week for sure.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert: I plan on reading this, we shall see. I do have lots of time to read this week, due to our super long Thanksgiving break.

Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery: I started this a few weeks ago, and need to finish it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Brought to you by Sheila at Book Journey!

I am late to the party today!! My laptop died yesterday, its a mess. But, in good news, I was sick last week, and my doctor gave me a shot that made me feel better for my birthday night! Last Saturday was my birthday, and I had won tickets to the opera. I was surprised to learn once we got there that I had won box seats!! We also had access to the VIP lounge, where the big money donors hang out and get free drinks during intermission! I had a great birthday, to experience such a once in a lifetime event with my husband, brother and sister in law. I will be posting about it this week if I have time.

 Me being dorky at the opera!

Read Last Week:


Christmas in Snowflake Canyon by RaeAnne Thayne: I got sick last week with asthmatic bronchitis, and all I wanted to do was sleep or read comfort books, which for me are Christmas romances. I ate this one up like candy!

The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman: This was our book club book for the month. It was...interesting. Not what I expected, and I enjoyed parts of it very much.

Reading this Week:

I am soooo busy this week! It is book fair week (which I am in charge of), and I have book club, and my mom is throwing me a belated birthday party too. Fun but busy! Therefore I am keeping my reading easy and fun.

Christmas on 4th Street (Fool's Gold, #12.5) Insurgent (Divergent, #2) 

Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery: I received this from NetGalley. I am on a Christmas romance roll!

Insurgent by Veronica Roth: I hope this is as good as the first!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Random 5 Friday

Random 5 Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Nancy at A Rural Journal.

1.  I have a cold! Blech. I haven't wanted to do much of anything after work besides sleeping, reading, and watching tv. When  I am sick, I turn to comfort books. This week I started reading a slew of Christmas romances, and have been devouring them like candy. This is the one I am currently reading.

2.  Peppermint Mochas are back for the season! Yay! Something to celebrate for sure.

3.  It also snowed this week! I love snow, I was so happy to see it falling from the sky and covering everything in a blanket of white. It didn't stay long, but it was pretty while it lasted.

4. Billy and I went on an Owl Prowl last weekend at our favorite metro park. We walked around with a little group of people, and the interpreter Kevin, lured screech owls to us to see. It was really cool! We ended up seeing a cute little screech. Another interpreter made the origami owls above. I am impressed!

5. Its my school book fair next week, and I have been setting up for it all morning. I am really excited for the kids to visit!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Book Review: The Ghosts of Chicago: The Windy City's Most Famous Haunts

Title: The Ghosts of Chicago: The Windy City's Most Famous Haunts
Author: Adam Selzer
Source: Amazon

Goodreads Summary:

From Resurrection Mary and Al Capone to the Murder Castle of H. H. Holmes and the funeral train of Abraham Lincoln, the spine-tingling sights and sounds of Chicago's yesteryear are still with us . . . and so are its ghosts.

Seeking to find out what we really know about the ghastly past of this famously haunted metropolis, professional ghost hunter and historian Adam Selzer pieces together the truth behind Chicago's ghosts, and brings to light never-before-told first accounts. Take a history tour like no other of the famous and not-so-famous haunts around town. Sometimes the real story is far different from the urban legend--and most of the time it's even gorier.

My thoughts:

I saw this book on Bibliosaurus Text, and knew I absolutely had to read it. I read these true ghost story books a lot, ever since I was a kid and would scare the hell out of myself with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. (Which by the way, is still scaring kids all these years later.)

Selzer takes us on a journey through Chicago, stop by stop, and the stories are told in such a way that I feel like I am walking through the neighborhoods and streets of Chicago with Selzer on his tour. The beginning of each legend or tale begins with the area the story is in, including the cross streets, so that a reader who aspires to be a ghost hunter can check the area out for themselves. Selzer includes what you can do and where you can go at the end of each chapter, and considerately leaves out details if there are privacy issues, so that these wanna be ghost hunters do not disturb private residences.

I loved the legend of Resurrection Mary. It is the legend of the ghostly passenger ; I think this a story everyone is familiar with, and seems to be in every city and everywhere. A driver will pick up a hitchiker, and then as they pass a graveyard, the passenger mysteriously disappears. Chicago has its own ghostly passenger, known as Resurrection Mary, which stretches back all the way to the 1930s, when the first story was told. That is another thing I loved about this book - all the historical research that Selzer put into the stories. Some of the evidence he unearthed goes all the back to the 1800s, including a vampire scare in the late 1800s!
This book made me realize I know practically nothing about Chicago's history. I know about the Haymarket Square Riot, the great Chicago Fire, the mob connections, and thanks to Devil in the White City, I know a little bit about the World's Fair and the killer H.H.Holmes. Selzer's book taught me about the Iroquois Theater Fire, about Abraham Lincoln's funeral train and that Lincoln had to be re-embalmed numerous times along the way, and the Eastland disaster, which I had never even heard about, among other events.

This book was interesting for the supernatural histories, and for the actual history of the city. I want to go back to Chicago now, to see where some of these histories and legends occurred. I also of course want to take Selzer's tour. I think next time I visit, I will. Maybe I will see a ghost...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Classics Spin #4!

My Book Spin List for the Classics Club Classics Spin #4:

1. Franny and Zooey - J.D. Salinger 
2. Animal Farm - George Orwell   
3. Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood 
4. Paradise Lost - John Milton 
5. Snow Crash - Neal Stephenson 
6. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee 
7. Little Women - Louisa may Alcott 
8. Edith Hamilton's Mythology 
9. The Little Prince - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
10.  Ghosts - Henrik Ibsen 
11.  The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien
12.  The Divine Comedy - Dante 
13.  Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut 
14.  A Streetcar Named Desire - Tennessee Williams 
15.  Winesburg, Ohio - Sherwood Anderson
16. Walden - Thoreau
17. Gone with the Wind - Margaret Mitchell 
18.  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn - Betty Smith
19. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - C.S. Lewis 
20.  Complete Poems of T.S. Eliot

Books I am Dreading:

Paradise Lost
The Divine Comedy
Edith Hamilton's Mythology
A Tree Grows in Brookyln
Complete Poems of T.S. Eliot

Books I am Neutral about:

Franny and Zooey
The Little Prince
The Blind Assassin
Snow Crash
Winesburg, Ohio

Books I am Excited to read:

A Streetcar Named Desire
The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe
Slaughterhouse Five
Gone With the Wind
Little Women (reread but I was a kid)

Books that are Free Choice:

To Kill a Mockingbird (reread)
Animal Farm (reread)
The Hobbit (reread)
Walden (reread)

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, where we share what we are reading and see what others are reading as well.

Read Last Week:


Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood: Soo good! Review Wednesday

The Ghosts of Chicago by Adam Selzer: I loved this! I feel like I learned some cool things about Chicago, even minus the ghostie stuff. Review Tuesday

Reading This Week:


The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman: Our book club book for November - it seems perfectly seasonal.

The Wilde Passions of Dorian Gray by Mitzi Szerto: I won this from Librarything - it has aroused my curiosity.

Posts Last Week:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Book Review: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

Title: The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic
Author: Emily Croy Barker
Source: Library - but you can believe it will be on my Christmas list this year

Goodreads Summary:

Nora Fischer’s dissertation is stalled and her boyfriend is about to marry another woman.  During a miserable weekend at a friend’s wedding, Nora wanders off and walks through a portal into a different world where she’s transformed from a drab grad student into a stunning beauty.  Before long, she has a set of glamorous new friends and her romance with gorgeous, masterful Raclin is heating up. It’s almost too good to be true.

Then the elegant veneer shatters. Nora’s new fantasy world turns darker, a fairy tale gone incredibly wrong. Making it here will take skills Nora never learned in graduate school. Her only real ally—and a reluctant one at that—is the magician Aruendiel, a grim, reclusive figure with a biting tongue and a shrouded past. And it will take her becoming Aruendiel’s student—and learning magic herself—to survive. When a passage home finally opens, Nora must weigh her "real life" against the dangerous power of love and magic.

My thoughts:

I am about to reveal a secret that is really not that secret, if you know me. I love fantasy stories, elves, fairies, heroes, dragons, and wizards. A few of my favorite books and movies include The Princess Bride, The Last Unicorn, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. My husband introduced me to the Dragon Lance books, and I read those too. I go to the Renaissance Festival every year, and I every time I contemplate wearing elf ears. I even have my own "One" ring. Then I found this book. The title alone spoke to me - I mean, I am a thinking woman, and I would love a guide to magic.

This book is of course not a "guide" to magic, but a wonderful magical story. We meet Nora Fischer at a pretty low point in her life. She is a grad student who is just scraping by, and her boyfriend has recently left her. After he let her cat out to be run over by a car, of course. If it were me, I wouldn't even want him after that, but Nora does. She is invited to a wedding of a friend, where she runs into the dreaded ex, and as a result, feels pretty sorry for herself. She gets up the morning of the wedding, and takes a walk - and ends up into another world. One filled with magic and spells and wizards and fairy princes. But not all that glitters is gold, as the adage says, and the glamorous new world that Nora is living a fabulous life in, becomes a dark and twisted nightmare.

Enter Arundiel. A grumpy but powerful wizard, Arundiel takes Nora in, pretty begrudgingly. The truth of her situation begins to dawn on Nora, and she realizes she must take control of her life in some way. Her former academic life has not prepared her for life in a rural medieval village, and Nora must make her own place in this world. Nora's  curiosity and thirst for knowledge of all sorts though is not quenched by her new position as a servant, and begs Arundiel to teach her magic. I don't blame her, I would want to learn too! Although he is a bit of a grouch and curmudgeon, Nora develops a wee crush on him. (Again, I probably would too)

And then the book ended, and made me yell nooooo right out loud. This couldn't be the end, right? There must be more to the story, even after reading 563 pages, and reading those pages within a span of two days. Feeling desperate, I googled the author to see if there was a sequel in the works, and breathed a sigh of relief to know that it is coming. In like a year, I am sure, but it is still going to exist. Thank God, because I was not happy with the ending. I see the need for it, but I am not willing to accept it for all time.

I think if you are a fantasy nerd like me, you will love this book. If you like the All Souls series by Harkness, or even the Outlander books (well, like Outlander if you twist reality just a little bit more..) then you will definitely like this one. I encourage you to read it, unless you are strictly into realistic fiction. Then you may hate this book. But if you don't mind a little magic in your books, than read this book,  fall in love and come back and tell me how much you loved it. You will be enchanted, I promise.

Monday, November 4, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading?

It's Monday What Are You Reading is a weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey, where we share what we are reading and see what others are reading as well.

Read Last Week:


Divergent by Veronica Roth: My sister in law gave me this to read, and I loved it!!! The cool thing about it is that I was in Chicago when I started reading it too! Lol. I took the faction quiz at the end, and my score placed me in Candor.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker: Wow, I absolutely loved this book. Like I am totally infatuated with it, and was sad when it ended - especially since I didn't care for the ending! Now I must wait for the second book, I am sure there must be a second one in the works, right? *desperation in my voice here*

Reading This Week:

Star Cursed by Jessica Spotswood: I have been meaning to read this for two weeks! I am definitely reading it this week. No doubts about it. 

The Ghosts of Chicago by Adam Selzer: A little anniversary gift from my husband. (today is our 13th anniversary!) He said that "he loves me so much that he gives me books about dead people." A joke, since I have wanted to read this for months!

Posts Last Week: