Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper. This week, I'm looking forward to Crystal Gardens by Amanda Quick, a romantic suspense novel to be released in April 2012. I stumbled across this book while scanning through the Barnes and Noble Coming Soon list, and as I'm currently feeling for some romance in my life, I can't wait to pick it up. Here's the Amazon summary: 

Evangeline Ames has rented a country cottage far from the London streets where she was recently attacked. Fascinated by the paranormal energy of nearby Crystal Gardens, she finds pleasure in sneaking past the wall to explore the grounds. And when her life is threatened again, she instinctively goes to the gardens for safety. 
Lucas Sebastian has never been one to ignore a lady in danger, even if she is trespassing on his property. Quickly disposing of her would-be assassin, he insists they keep the matter private. There are rumors enough already, about treasure buried under his garden, and occult botanical experiments performed by his uncle—who died of mysterious causes. With Evangeline’s skill for detection, and Lucas’s sense of the criminal mind, they soon discover that they have a common enemy. And as the energy emanating from Crystal Gardens intensifies, they realize that to survive they must unearth what has been buried for too long.
Crystal Gardens has so far gotten good reviews on Goodreads and though I haven't ever read anything by Amanda Quick (pseudonym of author Jane Ann Krentz, known for her romance writing) her huge catalogue of published work makes me feel optimistic and positive. Crystal Gardens appeals to me because the plot seems to mix everything I love into one darkly beautiful package: romance, the paranormal and a suspenseful mystery. I'm in the mood for a sexy hero, as Lucas Sebastian sounds like he will be, so this book has perfect timing. Look for a review in the future!

Crystal Gardens will be released April 24th, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Juliet Immortal (Stacey Jay, 2011)


The Heroine: Juliet Capulet, one-half of the famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. However, unlike in the Shakespeare play, Juliet was murdered by Romeo in 1304 as an initiation into the immortal Mercenaries, a powerful group committed to violence, anger and suffering. Luckily for Juliet, her life was saved by the Ambassadors of Light, a rival group of immortal spirits that live off of love and happiness, determined to stop the Mercenaries' reign of terror. Juliet has spent the last seven hundred years fighting Romeo over the souls of lovers, trying her best to convince them to commit to love and protect them from succumbing to Romeo's offer of immortality in exchange for killing their mate. Though creative, bright and good, Juliet has turned bitter over her years of service to the Ambassadors of Light, her hatred for Romeo controlling her every move. That is, until she lands in the body of Ariel Dragland and meets a human boy that may convince her it is possible to find love again.

The Highs: If you don't already know this about me, I am a HUGE sucker for romance. I also have a soft spot for Romeo and Juliet, though not for the reasons you may think! Anyway, the idea of a fresh twist on an old tale hooked me into picking up this book and I definitely got the unique outlook I was looking for. Not only are Romeo and Juliet immortal, but they are merely spirit beings that inhabit human bodies (or in Romeo's case, human corpses) whenever they are needed on earth – Invasion of the Body Snatchers style. And not only do Romeo and Juliet hate each other with a burning passion, but they are doomed to spend eternity together, fighting to convince soul mates to either love one another or commit murder and join the Mercenaries, like Romeo chose to do. Whew, what a concept!

The story begins with Juliet landing in the body of Ariel Dragland, a miserable teenage girl with a scarred face, a strained relationship with her mother and a real witch of a best friend, Gemma – who is also one-half of the lovers Juliet is supposed to ensure end up together, or one of them will die. The unfortunate problem for Juliet is her feelings for Gemma's soul mate, Ben. Torn between her love for Ben and her duty to make sure he is bound to Gemma, protecting them from Romeo, creates a huge conflict that forces Juliet to reassess almost all the beliefs she held dear, even her hatred for Romeo. The tangled relationships and assumptions made by each character bring some great suspenseful twists into the story. The romance between Ben and Juliet (though he believes she is Ariel Dragland, another insurmountable obstacle) is sweet, adorable and full of tension. If I wasn't so obsessed with Romeo and Juliet, I would definitely be rooting for them!

I also liked the attention the author paid to Ariel/Juliet's relationship with her mother, Melanie. Melanie has misguidedly felt she was protecting her daughter by keeping her away from other kids and opportunities, due to her facial scarring, but instead Ariel has ended up feeling ugly, unloved and alone. While in Ariel's body, Juliet makes a big effort to mend Ariel and Melanie's relationship, resulting in some scenes that were touching and sweet.

I have never read anything by Stacey Jay before and I was actually really impressed with her considerable writing talent and skill. Despite some problems I may have had with the plot, her prose itself is really neat, clean and beautiful.

The Lows: I was really liking Juliet Immortal up until I reached chapter twenty-one, when everything descends into chaos and I completely lost the plot. It never found me again, though I continued reading up until the very last page. I won't go into specifics, because I don't won't to spoil the ending for anyone who plans on reading this book, but I'll just leave it at I have no idea what body, place and century we are in, or how we got there. And by we I mean pretty much every character in the book.

I also felt there were a few gazillion plot holes that were left gaping wide, like why Ariel's soul retreated to the forgotten mists when Juliet was occupying her body, but this did not happen to the souls of other characters when their bodies were used briefly by other transient souls like Juliet's (such as Nurse's soul in I-won't-say-whose body). Another basic thing I did not understand was why Juliet was sent to help Gemma and her soul mate in the first place, when she really had absolutely nothing to do with helping the two get together (if you've read the book, you know what I'm talking about). Or why the higher mercenary spirit comes down to see Romeo, and why they can't properly tell the difference between an Ambassador of Light's aura and the aura of just a good human, when the magic they are capable of is astounding. Or why Juliet couldn't properly remember how she died (again, if you've read it, you know what I mean). Or why Juliet wasn't capable of seeing a "glowing aura" in the shadow of a building's overhang. I could keep going, but I won't for your sake.

I also felt it was a bit of a cop out to create a huge conflict between Juliet and her original soul mate, Romeo, and instead of focusing on the more complex journey to bring the two of them back together, the author just throws her a new, random soul mate. I would be a lot more interested in seeing Romeo and Juliet find a way to reunite after all the chaos and trauma, a tale of overcoming human weakness, forgiveness and fighting for true love, instead of Juliet running off with Ben despite the fact that she has no body and he has no idea that she's not actually Ariel, in a sci-fi twist on a classic tale with a dollop of spy thriller thrown in that is way too tangled to make a lot of sense.

Final Thoughts: I applaud Stacey Jay's creativity, and I wish it would have worked for me (especially since the beginning seemed so promising!) but the ending lost me completely and it's nearly impossible to make up for that.

Rating: Juliet Immortal earns five unexplained magical occurrences out of ten. 

To buy 'Juliet Immortal' on the Book Depository, click here
To connect with author Stacey Jay, click here
Photo from here

The sequel, Romeo Redeemed, will be released August 2012. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

One Hundred Follower Giveaway!


Woo woo! Time for another giveaway here at Books Are My Heroine, to celebrate passing the one hundred follower bench mark. Many thanks to every single one of you that has contributed by following and helping me reach my goal. Mwah! You're all stars!

THE RULES: 

1. You MUST be a GFC follower of Books Are My Heroine in order to qualify for the prize. 
2. This is an INTERNATIONAL giveaway. However, I define international as wherever the Book Depository delivers. To see if your country is on the list, click here. If your country is not on the list, I'm really sorry but you are not eligible to enter!
3. I cannot be held responsible for any lost, undelivered or late prizes. All I can do is place the order and hope the post reaches you. 
4. Please, please, please do NOT leave your email address in the comments section of this post. I use Rafflecopter in order to keep everyone's privacy safe, so help yourself out and refrain from posting it. 

THE PRIZES: 
There will be ONE (1) winner who will win ONE (1) of the books below of their choosing: 

Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay
Bumped by Megan McCafferty 
Before I Die by Jenny Downham

This giveaway will begin at 12:01 am on February 27th, 2012 and will end on 12:01 am on March 2nd, 2012. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dead Until Dark (Charlaine Harris, 2001)


The Heroine: Sookie Stackhouse, a pretty young waitress in the small town of Bon Temps, Louisiana. Naive, sweet and inexperienced, Sookie's "disability" – the ability to read minds – has prevented her from succeeding in school, work or romance. Enter Bill Compton, a hundred year old vampire, recently liberated from hiding by the new laws established in the United States. Sookie is unable to read Bill's thoughts and soon her curiosity propels them into a whirlwind romance, despite the contempt of Bon Temps citizens. But disapproving murmuring are only the beginning of Sookie and Bill's problems: a vicious serial killer is preying on girls in town, and trouble comes for Sookie herself in the form of Eric, a sexy Viking vampire who lusts for her blood. Sookie must find a way to dodge death coming for her from every direction, and find happiness for the first time in her life.

The Highs: Dead Until Dark is the first book in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, which has since been transformed into the HBO television series True Blood. Though I have never seen much more than a few clips of the television show (which, warning, is extremely risque), I decided to pick up this book based on the recommendation of Dani from Pen to Paper. I'm very glad that I took her word to heart, because I enjoyed Dead Until Dark and I'm looking forward to reading the second book in the series!

Sookie and Bill are an adult's answer to a grown-up, darker and much sexier Bella and Edward. Sookie is a Southern firecracker with a heart of gold, cast as a loony by her community, and yet she rises above this label, continuing to act with more grace and kindness than most would in her position. Bill, on the other hand, is a serious and sombre vampire, unapologetic driven by the occasional cruel and lustful impulses that grip him, though he hopes to live in peace with the humans in Bon Temps. Though they are complete opposites, Sookie's kindness and vulnerability humanizes and softens Bill, while his strength and protectiveness gives Sookie the confidence she needs to face down the obstacles between them. Dangerous, erotic and addictive, their romance blooms effortlessly and quickly keeps you rooting for them.

There are enough competing tensions within the plot to easily carry a series, including the continuing conflict between vampires and humans, the vengeful, deceitful and violent relationships between vampires themselves and the many suitors competing for Sookie's affections, willing to play dirty to get what they want. The plot is just dripping with suspense, hooking you immediately and refusing to let you go until the end. I'm very excited to see where the author takes Sookie in the next books in the series!

I'm a little in awe of Charlaine Harris's imagination and creations. The integration of her fictional vampires into a modern society is actually quite similar to what I imagine would happen in real life, if it were possible. Harris's vampires live on the margins of society, legally accepted but still socially ostracized by the majority of humans. The exceptions are fang-bangers, vampire groupies that frequent the vampire hang-outs such as the Fangtastic bar, hoping to catch the eye of a vampire for a night of sex, partying and blood-sucking fun. I adore the idea of realistic fiction with a twist of fantasy!

Additionally, credit is due to Chairlaine Harris for her fantastic talent. Told from the first-person point of view of her protagonist, Sookie, Harris has crafted a wonderfully original and unique voice that speaks of Sookie's personality and sets her apart.

The Lows: I really wish the book explained more about the origins of Sookie's strange ability to read minds. This is not a typical skill for anyone in Harris's fictional world. I'm really curious to know why and how Sookie has this skill. Perhaps this is explained in a further book that I haven't gotten to yet. We'll see!

I also should warn readers with more sensitive dispositions to be careful of this series – there is a lot of sexual and violent activity that is not skimmed over, which could be upsetting for some. I personally love a shocker, but just to be safe, keep that in mind when picking this one up!

Final Thoughts: I was considering watching True Blood, but now I think I'll stick with the books!

Rating: Dead Before Dark earns eight bite marks out of ten. 

The sequel, Living Dead in Dallas, as well as ten following books, are available wherever books are sold. 

To buy 'Dead Until Dark' on the Book Depository, click here
To connect with author Charlaine Harris, click here
Photo from here

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Friday Recommends!


Friday Recommends is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper (if you haven't checked out her blog there, finish reading this post and click on over immediately!). This Friday, I have just finished reading Before I Die by Jenny Downham and must recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it yet, as it is an extremely touching, powerful and emotional book. Here is the summary from the book jacket:
Everyone has to die. We all know it. With only a few months of life left, sixteen-year-old Tessa knows it better than most. She's made a list, though - ten things she wants to do before she dies. Number one is sex. Starting tonight. But getting what you want isn't easy. And getting what you want doesn't always give you what you need. And sometimes the most unexpected things become important. Uplifting, life-affirming and joyous - this extraordinary novel celebrates what it is to be alive by confronting what it's really like to die. 
Jenny Downham handles the complex, devastating and often confusing inner workings of Tessa's mind as she nears death with skill and sensitivity, creating a striking portrait of a girl on the edge. While 'uplifting, life-affirming and joyous' are not exactly the words I would use to describe this book, it certainly causes the reader to question their own life and feel appreciative for good health and good fortune.

I can see why there are people who don't like this book - it's not for the faint of heart. While I managed to keep it together, I could definitely feel tears gathering at certain moments in the story. I don't believe this novel is about the story itself; I think its really about the feelings it leaves you with once you have finished reading. I know I felt glad to be alive and healthy, and eager to experience life - but also sad and a little scared.

Before I Die deserves to be on your to-read pile for its artful prose, both beautiful and haunting, its brutal honesty and the admirable bravery Tessa portrays while facing her own demise. Truly a heroine to admire, I hope one day I'll be able to face my own mortality with as much boldness and attitude as Tessa (wow, that's a morbid thought, but important all the same).

If you've read Before I Die, let me know what you thought! I love reading each and every comment!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!



Sorry about missing Wishlist Wednesday last week, guys! I had a bit of a personal setback, but this week I'm back on track and ready to go. Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper, meant to bring attention to the books we are hoping to read next. 

This week, I'm lusting for Juliet Immortal by Stacey Jay. Here's the Amazon summary: 

The most tragic love story in history . . .
Juliet Capulet didn't take her own life. She was murdered by the person she trusted most, her new husband, Romeo Montague, a sacrifice made to ensure his own immortality. But what Romeo didn't anticipate was that Juliet would be granted eternity, as well, and would become an agent for the Ambassadors of Light. For 700 years, she's fought Romeo for the souls of true lovers, struggling to preserve romantic love and the lives of the innocent. Until the day she meets someone she's forbidden to love, and Romeo, oh Romeo, will do everything in his power to destroy that love.


As a hopeless romantic, I'm a huge Romeo and Juliet fan. I loved Anne Fortier's novel Juliet, which is another twist on the classical tale, and I'm hoping Stacey Jay's attempt to create her own unique take on the story won't disappoint. Putting Romeo and Juliet against each other as enemies is definitely unexpected; I hope its not so strange that I can't get a grasp on the story! Either way, I'm excited to check it out for myself.

If you've read Juliet Immortal leave a comment below and let me know what you thought!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Bumped (Megan McCafferty, 2011)


The Heroine: Melody Mayflower, a sixteen-year-old student living in 2036, pushed by her parents to become the most valuable commodity in future America: a perfectly well-rounded Suffragette. A virus has swept across the globe, rendering most adults over the age of eighteen completely infertile, and causing a roaring trade of teenage-pregnancies-for-hire. Melody has already landed a six-figure-deal to produce the perfect offspring and is just waiting for her perfect male match to be selected, when the shocking arrival of her twin sister shakes her world. Separated at birth, Harmony was adopted by the cult of The Church, groomed for marriage and already betrothed to a man she barely knows. Both sisters are trapped in lives that were chosen for them, and their meeting will cause them to question everything they thought they knew.

The Highs: Bumped presents an original, unique and fascinating look into dystopian America, without the doom and gloom that most novels set in the distant future seem to portray. The world that Melody and Harmony navigate through is full of new found slang, crazy new technology and a set of ideological values that challenges everything people in today's society believes is right. To be fair, I suppose if we really were confronted with the eminent downfall of the human race due to a infertility virus, I guess paying teenage girls to have sex with donors chosen for their physical, mental and emotional superiority wouldn't be so unrealistic. We are a capitalist society, after all.

Though Bumped may be targeted for the young adult generation, it deals with serious and thought-provoking issues such as discrimination, enslavement and the idea of a "superior" humanity. This novel brings up the problems that genetic screening and genetic engineering has caused current society to think about: who gets to decide what traits are better and worth more than others? Who has the right to play God? And what could the effects of a reduction in genetic diversity? It could be a slippery slope from paying girls to procreate to selecting only those who are genetically "superior" as appropriate for paid procreation, such as in Bumped, to even the terrifying reality of eugenics (the idea of improving the human population, often by discouraging those who are deemed "undesirable" genetically from procreating).

I really enjoyed the interactions of the characters, especially between Melody and Zen. Their adorable romance made me smile (and I'm really interested to see what they plan to do with that illegal condom!). I felt very bad for Harmony, who also frustrated me beyond belief – her naivete, though believable for someone raised in the bubble of The Church – drove me insane!

The Lows: In Bumped, many parents groom their children from a young age to become the beautiful, popular, skilled and intelligent teenagers that are valued by the marketplace – the perfect Surrogette, in other words. Whether for the money or the rewards the girls reap from providing a sterile couple with a child (such as college tuition, cars, even plastic surgery!), I just could not believe that any parent in their right mind would use their child for such purposes. Especially after going through so much effort to adopt a child of their own, it seems cold that they would then turn around and use them as a money-maker. Melody's parents even borrowed money against the equity her eggs could make them. It's disgusting and despicable and I hope humanity never falls to such lows as this.

Bumped is the first novel in a series and I was quite irritated to come the end of the book and find there was no conclusion. I guess I'm not much used to a cliff-hanger ending!

Final Thoughts: Cute and witty, the upbeat tempo to the book can't hide the deep and thought-provoking questions embedded in the plot.

Rating: Bumped earns six MiNet updates out of ten. 

The sequel, Thumped, will be released on April 24th, 2012

To buy Bumped on the Book Depository, click here
To connect with author Megan McCafferty, click here
Photo from here

Friday, February 17, 2012

A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty (Joshilyn Jackson, 2012)


The Heroine: Mosey Slocumb, a teenage girl living with her mother, Liza, and grandmother, Ginny, in small-town Mississippi. The product of two successive teenage pregnancies, Mosey and her family are on guard for "the trouble year", the streak of bad luck that hits the Slocumb women every fifteen years. But none of them suspected trouble to come in the form of a child's dead body found buried under the willow tree in their backyard. The discovery launches Mosey into a journey of self-discovery, while Ginny fights to unearth the truth from her daughter Liza, silenced by a stroke. The Slocumb women's voyage to solving the mystery of the dead child forces them to confront the truth about love, family and identity.

The Highs: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty is an ensemble novel, featuring the voices of all three Slocumb women as the mystery of the dead child and the effect it will have on their family is unravelled. Each woman has her own unique, original voice and speaks true to who they are as a character. Ginny, nurturing and loving, is the heart of the family and takes on her role of protector as fiercely as her torch still burns for a lover from the past. Liza is a rebellious firecracker, struggling to overcome the effects of her stroke, is trapped in the memories from her drug-ridden past. And Mosey, funny and naive, is as real as any living, breathing teenager off the street. I was enraptured by the incredibly realistic characters created by Joshilyn Jackson and I was impressed by her skill at crafting original voices for each of her women.

The mystery of the dead child itself was exciting and suspenseful. The layers of the past, revealed through Liza's memories, were enticingly pulled back to reveal the truth behind the mystery, rich in personal history and long-buried secrets. The flashbacks to Liza's past were incorporated seamlessly into the story. This is the first novel I have ever read by Joshilyn Jackson and I was extremely impressed with her writing and story-telling abilities.

The themes in the story resounded deeply with me, giving me a chance to reflect on my own familial relationships. The love, care and respect that the three Slocumb women have for each other is touching and heart-warming. I also loved the theme of identity reflected in Mosey's search for answers; it is very true that it is the relationships you choose to nurture, not the place you were born, that says most about you.

The Lows: Throughout the novel, Mosey has various conversations over text with her best friend and partner in crime, Roger. Though I found their hijinks really humorous, I was annoyed at the constant "text-speak" used by the author. As a nineteen year old, I have recent memories of my teenage years (some might say I'm still in them!) and I don't know a single person who texts "like ths". It can b relly annoyin to read a hole convo like this. Pls just spk english. I dnt no what ur trying to say!

I also wish some characters had gotten the justice they deserved. It pained me for the Slocumb women to let them walk away with out damages after the real hard inflicted on them by others. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't say much more beyond that I was disappointed that the Slocumb's did not pursue the justice they deserved for certain crimes done against them.

Final Thoughts: I really enjoyed this book and I hope to pick up another of Joshilyn Jackson's books soon!

Rating: A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty earns eight willow trees out of ten. 

Buy this book at the Book Depository here
Connect with Joshilyn Jackson at her website here
Photo from here

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Odds and Ends


Thank you to everyone who entered my very first giveaway, the Follower Love Giveaway Hop! The winner has been emailed, so go check your inbox! If you aren't the lucky winner, stayed tuned for my upcoming One Hundred Follower Giveaway, to celebrate reaching my goal of 100 followers, for another chance to win free stuff!

On another note, I'm pleased to announce that Gone Reading International has offered my readers an exclusive 25% off coupon at their store. All the profits go to fund new libraries around the world. For the next month, type in the code 'BAMH25' at check-out and get 25% cute booky t-shirts, book lights, book marks and pretty much everything else a bookworm could want! I myself am looking forward to grabbing a super-cute Jane Austen t-shirt. 

Stay updated with all things Heroine by following heroine8addict on Twitter and liking Books Are My Heroine on Facebook! More great content to come. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Q&A with Sherri Wood Emmons!


I'm so excited to feature Sherri Wood Emmons, author of Prayer and Lies and The Sometimes Daughter, here on Books Are My Heroine! Sherri has graciously answered some questions for us about her life, her writing and of course, her favourite heroines! To learn more about Sherri Wood Emmons, visit her website at http://www.sherriwoodemmons.com/

Q: Who is your favourite literary heroine and why?

A: It’s really hard to pick just one! But I guess my all-time favorite is Jo March from Little Women. I first read the book when I was 12, and I so wanted to be like Jo. She is independent and opinionated. She defies the conventions of her time. She loses her temper sometimes and makes rash decisions. But ultimately, she follows her heart and her own convictions. And she is a writer! I reread the book with my daughter several years ago and was amazed at how much I still love Jo and her sisters.Other favorites are Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen), Lillian Leyb (Away by Amy Bloom), Tamila Soroush (Veil of Roses by Laura Fitzgerald), and Ellen Gulden (One True Thing by Anna Quindlen).

Q: Who is your favourite female author?

Again, it’s so hard to choose just one. I love Jane Austen. I discovered her during my freshman year in high school and read all of her novels, one right after the other, during that year. I reread them every couple years, and I still love them.Austen has such keen insight into human relationships, with all their complexities, and it is so easy to relate to her heroines. I think it’s amazing that she could write the way she did, given her time and her situation. She never traveled, never married, and spent most of her life in the same little town. But her rendering of that life, with its narrow boundaries and strict conventions, defied the very boundaries she faced. Plus, she’s just drop-dead funny.

If I can add a second favorite, I’d say Maeve Binchy. I will read anything she writes! I love the sense of place in her books, and I love how characters from one novel will show up briefly in another. For just sheer fun, I love Maeve Binchy. I also love Anna Quindlen, Amy Tan, Anita Shreve, Amy Bloom, and Sarah Gruen.

Q: In both Prayers and Lies and The Sometimes Daughter, the plot follows young girls through their childhood experiences. What was your childhood like and has it inspired anything from the childhoods of your protagonists?

I had kind of an idyllic childhood, really. I grew up in the 1960s in a neighborhood of Indianapolis called Irvington (where both my books are set), that really was—and still is—like a small town surrounded by the city. People didn’t lock their doors, neighbors knew one another, we had block parties and ice cream socials. Community meant a lot. I spent my summers in the Coal River Valley of West Virginia, where my parents are
from, so I took the setting for Prayers and Lies from that time and place. My dad is an ordained minister and my mom was a reading tutor. I am the youngest of five girls, so there was always a lot of estrogen in the house. I had great friends in my childhood, and many of them are still close today.

I did “borrow” some stories from my childhood, but reworked them to fit the novels. People who knew me when I was a kid sometimes recognize things from my childhood.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Recommends!


Friday Recommends is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Dani at Pen to Paper, meant to bring attention to great books we have read in the past. Check out the other blogger participant's recommendations here

Today I'm recommending Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert. I first encountered this book in a writing class, where my teacher used a passage from the novel to demonstrate the importance of setting and how it contributes to characterization. I fell in love with Flaubert's attention to detail, beautiful descriptions and striking characters. Here is the Chapters summary:
This exquisite novel tells the story of one of the most compelling heroines in modern literature--Emma Bovary. Unhappily married to a devoted, clumsy provincial doctor, Emma revolts against the ordinariness of her life by pursuing voluptuous dreams of ecstasy and love. But her sensuous and sentimental desires lead her only to suffering corruption and downfall. A brilliant psychological portrait,Madame Bovary searingly depicts the human mind in search of transcendence. Who is Madame Bovary? Flaubert''s answer to this question was superb: "Madame Bovary, c''est moi." Acclaimed as a masterpiece upon its publication in 1857, the work catapulted Flaubert to the ranks of the world''s greatest novelists. 

Madame Bovary is feast for the senses; Flaubert's writing is so descriptive and detailed that I could feel Emma's silk robe, smell the scents of the French countryside, taste the dinner placed in front of her. As both a reader and a writer, I do agree with my former teacher that this book is a lesson in prose wrapped in the package of a poignant story, exploring the flaws in the human character. Emma is not a likeable character, but she is lovable (very much like the other Emma of Jane Austen's book of the same title!) I would highly recommend Madame Bovary to anyone who has romantic tastes, likes historical romances or is just looking for some beauty in their life.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Distant Hours (Kate Morton, 2010)


The Heroine: Edie Burchill, a shy book editor who has always had trouble connecting with her distant mother. When a letter arrives for Edie's mother, fifty years late, Edie is suddenly immersed in her mother's childhood as a war refugee at Milderhurst Castle, where the three spinster Blythe sisters still live, trapped in a night in October 1941 when a missing house guest failed to arrive. As Edie uncovers the secrets of her mother's past and of the Blythe sisters' turmoil, Edie will ultimately discover her own capabilities and a bond with her mother that she never thought she could have.

The Highs: The Distant Hours is a thrilling, modern take on a Victorian Gothic novel, featuring all the usual suspects: a majestic castle in the forest, a dark and stormy night, a mysterious dinner guest and a sister driven insane and hidden in behind the castle walls. Everything is not as it seems at Milderhurst Castle, and from the first page the story twists the plot in every direction, culminating in an ending I would have never suspected. The suspense is palpable throughout the book and once I was past the first hundred pages, I couldn't put it down!

The novel is stuffed full of interesting characters, the bookish and intellectual Edie being the least exciting (though still loveable!). I think its a great writer's trick to narrate the story from the perspective of the least interesting character; it allows for the reader to see each of the superstar players in full bloom without the clouding of their personal perspective to obscure their many eccentricities. First, there are the twins Persephone and Seraphina Blythe, as opposite as could be. Percy is the hard-headed leader with a fierce loyalty to her home and determined to keep her sisters under her control, while Saffy is nurturing and gentle, with a kind heart, a love for chickens and a secret dream to live out from under her twin's thumb. The author's most impressive creation, however, is their younger sister Juniper. Ethereal, poetic and stunningly beautiful, Juniper was driven mad to night that her fiance failed to show up at the castle for dinner and never recovered.

I also loved the relationship between Edie and her mother, Meredith. Though they start off distant, polite and cold, their bond is strengthened as Edie uncovers the Blythe sisters' past and Meredith's childhood experiences that left her changed forever. Heartfelt and honest, the journey Edie and Meredith take together rings true and left me longing for my own mother!

The Lows: I felt that the novel had a very slow start. I had trouble concentrating through the first one hundred pages or so, when the story finally began to pick up speed and zoomed toward the ending at the speed of light. I feel that the author could have perhaps paced the story better to even out the flow between the too-slow beginning and the super-speedy ending.

I also felt there may have been some inconsistencies with Juniper's characterization. Although both Percy and Saffy remark that they believed Juniper incapable of loving or being considerate for anyone, I thought she showed quite a lot of love and care for both Meredith and her fiance, Tom, as well as for her sisters. The way they characterize her is as a cold, other-worldly being with both feet off the ground, though I found from her perspective that she was really just lonely. However, perhaps the author meant to do that in order to portray how misunderstood Juniper was.

Final Thoughts: Lovers of novels in the Gothic tradition, as well as anyone who enjoys historical romance, literary mysteries and any of Kate Morton's other excellent books, should definitely check out The Distant Hours

Rating: The Distant Hours earns eight rolling thunder storms out of ten. 


Buy 'The Distant Hours' at the Book Depository here
Connect with author Kate Morton here
Photo from here

COMING SOON: Q&A with Sherri Wood Emmons, author of The Sometimes Daughter

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper, one of the best book blogs on the web, in my opinion. Wishlist Wednesday is an opportunity for us bloggers to share the books we hope to get our hands on soon with our readers. 

Today, I'm wishing for All That I Am by Anna Funder. Though published originally last summer, a beautiful new edition will be released soon. Here's the Goodreads summary: 
Two years after Hitler came to power in Germany, the bodies of Dora and her friend Mathilde, prominent anti-Hitler activists in exile, lie poisoned in a flat in Bloomsbury. The room is locked from the inside; the place appears undisturbed. As London buzzes with rumours of Gestapo assassins operating on British soil, the inquest whitewashes their deaths as romantic suicides. All That I Am is the story of four extraordinary people who risked their lives to alert the world to Hitler. Two narrators, Ernst Toller and Ruth, tell the story of Dora, the woman they both loved. As we come to know them, and her, the novel reveals itself as a searing and intimate portrait of courage and its price, of desire and ambition, and of the devastating consequences when they are thwarted. Closely based on a true story, All That I Am brings to light a new and very early hero of the resistance in a beautifully written novel that speaks to both the head and the heart.
As I'm sure all of you already know, I'm a sucker for a historical romance. I especially love the World War II era, so this book is very appealing to me. It also seems like there are some great strong heroines in this book, so I'm definitely excited to get my hands on a copy. It has great reviews on Goodreads, so hopefully I'm not disappointed!

All That I Am's new edition will be released April 1st, 2012

Monday, February 6, 2012

Follower Love Giveaway Blog Hop!


Presenting the Follower Love Giveaway Blog Hop, hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer. The purpose of this giveaway is to link up all the participating blogs on a linky list so readers can easily jump from blog to blog and enter all the giveaways! To find the linky list of the other participating blogs, click here

THE PRIZES: The winner of the Books Are My Heroine Follower Love Giveaway will have the choice between three books. The winner may choose ONE (1) from the choices. The choices are:

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

The Sometimes Daughter by Sherri Wood Emmons

A Grown Up Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson

THE RULES:

- MUST be a follower of Books Are My Heroine
- MUST live in a country that the Book Depository delivers to (to check if you qualify, click here)

THAT'S IT. 

As this is my first ever giveaway (yay, go me!) please don't hesitate from sending me a little email or leaving a comment if something isn't working properly. 




Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Sometimes Daughter (Sherri Wood Emmons, 2012)


The Heroine: Judy Webster, a young girl born at Woodstock during the turbulent era of hippies and flower children. Raised by her straight-laced, lawyer father, Krik, and her wild, free-spirited hippie mother, Cassie, Judy finds herself torn between the two as their marriage disintegrates, finally culminating to divorce when Cassie runs off to a commune, taking young Judy with her. When Kirk finally rescues Judy from the commune and brings her back to suburban Indiana, Judy struggles to grow up as a normal child in her unorthodox family. Following Judy through her experiences in friendship, first loves and identity crisis, The Sometimes Daughter is ultimately focused on a young girl's journey to adulthood, always leading her back to the mother in whose arms her life began.

The Highs: I absolutely adore the premise of this novel. I love the intricacies of family dramas and The Sometimes Daughter does not disappoint. Judy struggles throughout the book to form an identity, a difficult process when she constantly questions her place in the world, the love of her parents, the effect of her mother's abandonment and the undeniable connection between her and Cassie (whether she wants it to exist or not). This a great book for anyone who feels, like Judy, a little left-out, unloved or alone sometimes.

I also love that this book, though told in first person, does not suffer the sometimes self-absorbed perspective of most teenagers. Instead, Cassie's abandonment also has an effect on Kirk, a kind, protective single father who works hard to support and care for Judy. I felt my heart breaking as Kirk suffers through the novel; his lingering love for his ex-wife is obvious, through the wonderful arrangement of prose by the author that hints at his buried emotions without outright telling the audience. Again, Sherri Wood Emmons displays writing worthy of a creative prose class lesson on "show, don't tell".

As a lover of historical novels, I find the era of the sixties and seventies largely ignored by many authors and I was delighted by the historical frame of reference in this novel. The music of Woodstock, extreme political views and race relations all played a big role in the time period and are used in fascinating and creative ways throughout The Sometimes Daughter.

The Lows: I felt the story ended really bluntly and out of nowhere. I was looking forward to seeing Judy find some sort of resolution within herself and her external conflicts at the end of the story, or at the very least in an epilogue, but this never came to fruition. I really feel this story is lacking an epilogue. Since it follows Judy through her childhood and adolescence, it seems natural to find out where her life takes her as an adult. So I was definitely disappointed that I'm left wondering what happens to poor Judy.

I also was disappointed in the relationship between Judy and her teenage boyfriend, Matt. Though I understand what brought a schism between them, I wish they could have either resolved the conflict (the romantic in me!) or have found some closure. I wish I could have dated Matt in high school!

Final Thoughts: Sherri Wood Emmons is a talented writer and can provide insights into truly fantastic prose for aspiring authors and readers alike. I'd also recommend this book to anyone who loves the Woodstock era!

Rating: The Sometimes Daughter earns eight homemade bread loaves out of ten. 

Buy 'The Sometimes Daughter' at the Book Depository here
Connect with author Sherri Wood Emmons here
Photo from here

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Recommends


Friday Recommends is a weekly meme hosted by Dani at Pen to Paper meant to call attention to great books we've read in the past. 

This week, my pick is White Oleander by Janet Fitch. This book is spectacularly written and features a wonderful heroine. Here's the summary from the author's website:

Astrid is the only child of a single mother, Ingrid, a brilliant, obsessed poet who wields her luminous beauty to intimidate and manipulate men. Astrid worships her mother and cherishes their private world full of ritual and mystery--but their idyll is shattered when Astrid's mother falls apart over a lover. Deranged by rejection, Ingrid murders the man, and is sentenced to life in prison. 
White Oleander is the unforgettable story of Astrid's journey through a series of foster homes and her efforts to find a place for herself in impossible circumstances. Each home is its own universe, with a new set of laws and lessons to be learned. With determination and humor, Astrid confronts the challenges of loneliness and poverty, and strives to learn who a motherless child in an indifferent world can become. 
Tough, irrepressible, funny, and warm, Astrid is one of the most indelible characters in recent fiction. White Oleander is an unforgettable story of mothers and daughters, burgeoning sexuality, the redemptive powers of art, and the unstoppable force of the emergent self. Written with exquisite beauty and grace, this is a compelling debut by an author poised to join the ranks of today's most gifted novelists.
This book is one of my favourites and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a piece of beautiful prose. Inspirational and haunting, the back and forth pull between Astrid and her manical mother Ingrid is magnetic. I admire Janet Fitch's creation greatly and I think everyone, especially writers, should take a look at what is truly a work of art.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Flight of Gemma Hardy (Margot Livesey, 2012)


The Heroine: Gemma Hardy, an Icelandic orphan brought over to Scotland by her benevolent uncle as a toddler in the 1950s. Disconnected from her past and out of place in her uncle's family, Gemma finds herself alone in the world after her uncle's death, thrown into a boarding school by her cruel and cold aunt, where she is treated as a servant and suffers injustice. Her world only begins to look up when she finally leaves the school and becomes an au pair to Nell, a small girl with a wild and uncontrollable spirit, and finds herself falling in love with Nell's guardian, Mr. Sinclair. But peace and happiness are hard to come by for Gemma: Mr. Sinclair reveals a deep secret that threatens their bond and thrusts Gemma back into turmoil, where she embarks on an adventure leading all the way to the shores of her childhood in Iceland.

The Highs: Hailed as a modern day telling of the classic story Jane Eyre, this novel is undoubtedly one of the best books I have ever had the pleasure of reading in my life. Margot Livesey is a highly talented and skilled writer, who has created a protagonist, Gemma Hardy, who comes to life within the first paragraph and continues to tell her tale like a living, breathing, utterly real entity until the very last page. Gemma is such a wonderful, fantastic creation that I almost can't believe she's fictional. Brave, bold, righteous and too smart for her own good, Gemma is both loveable and frustrating, a mixture of the good and bad that make humans what they are.

I was hooked on this book for the very first page, wanting to know where Gemma's life would take her next. Chaotic and disordered, Gemma is helpless to the forces of those bigger than her as she is tossed thoughtlessly from place to place. The inspirational fact is that, even as a child, precocious Gemma never admits defeat, from telling her aunt exactly what she thinks of her to plotting an escape from her boarding school to visit her dying friend Miriam. The story follows Gemma as she ages and learns, and with each chapter, my attachment to the character only grew stronger.

Beautifully written, thoughtfully and carefully crafted and embedded with gorgeous imagery and important lessons, The Flight of Gemma Hardy is a book I will not forget. It has become a classic for me and deserves a spot on my bookshelf next to the likes of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.

The Lows: I felt that the story ended rather abruptly, which was such a shame after the strong attachment that had grown between me and the character, Gemma. I wish the author had included an epilogue so I could know what happened to Gemma.

Final Thoughts: I read this book on my e-reader, but I am now determined to get my own hard copy, so I can add it to my library. This is the type of book I imagine passing on to my own daughter in the future; I highly recommend it to everyone.

Rating: The Flight of Gemma Hardy earns the very rare ten birds in flight out of ten. 

Buy 'The Flight of Gemma Hardy' at the Book Depository here
Connect with author Margot Livesey here
Photo from here

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wishlist Wednesday!


Wishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely Dani at Pen to Paper.

This week, I'm wishing for a copy of the dystopian novel Pure by Julianna Baggott. The plot reminds me a little of a grown-up version of the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld that I enjoyed as a teenager. Here's the Amazon summary:
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it's his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her. 
When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again.

I didn't really understand the summary until I read the description written by Barnes and Nobles are their website. From what I understand, Pure is a story about a post-apocalyptic world, where society has become divided between those who are damaged - like Pressia - and the Pures, like Patridge, the people who survived unscathed and are now protected from the outside world by the Dome.  I'm really interested to see where the story goes when the two of them meet up. Pure got mixed reviews on Goodreads, but I figure I will probably give it a chance as I rarely read this type of novel. It also has a beautiful cover!

Pure by Julianna Baggott will be released February 8th, 2012. 
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