Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's resolutions: Books to read in 2013

Well, my plans for the year didn't work out as well as I'd wanted.  I'd intended to read five classics in 2012, and I didn't read a single one of them.  I'd thought reading would be a New Year's resolution that I could actually achieve, but I guess not!

So I'm going to try again in 2013.  I'll roll these five titles over into the new year's list, plus add a couple more titles (to the end of the list).

Sunday, December 30, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund

I've read and reviewed quite a few Diana Peterfreund books on this blog: Rampant and Ascendant, her killer unicorn books, plus her Secret Society Girl series, and Morning Glory, a novelization of the recent movie.  She is one of my favorite authors, so I was excited when I realized she had a new book out: For Darkness Shows the Stars, a dystopian, post-apocalyptic YA novel.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley

I was reminded of another book I need to review by an announcement that the ebook is on sale: The Shadowy Horses by Susanna Kearsley is currently only 99 cents on both Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com's websites.  I myself checked the ebook out from the library a couple of months ago -- and quite happily devoured the entire thing.  In fact, I am currently debating whether I ought to still buy it -- although I don't frequently reread books, it is only a buck.  Plus, I own several of the authors' other ebooks (also all bought on sale).

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Duck for President

On Election Day 2012, Barnes & Noble offered this book, Duck for President, as their Nook Daily Find.  You have to respect their sense of humor, offering a picture book like this -- in which the duck tires of being president and returns to the farm -- instead of a weightier political book.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

The Gunslinger is actually a book I finished last week -- it was our sci-fi/fantasy book club book for December.  We had read another Stephen King book last year, The Eyes of the Dragon, which was officially my first Stephen King book since I read Dolores Claiborne as a teen (unless you count On Writing, which I really don't in this case).

I hated Dolores Claiborne, so I never read another Stephen King book after that.  As far as I was concerned, I hated Stephen King.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy holidays

Today my husband and I will be spending a quiet Christmas at home.  After we had to euthanize Grace a couple weeks ago, we decided we wanted to spend Christmas on our own, instead of with family.  It's supposed to be a white Christmas -- we'll be getting a little bit of snow tonight and tomorrow morning -- which will make it a nice day for staying in and reading, putting together a puzzle, and watching a movie.  We are also planning on going to our favorite local Asian restaurant, which (luckily for us!) happens to be open on Christmas.

I hope all of my readers have similarly pleasant holidays planned!  Happy holidays!

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

I found The Lifeboat while browsing Barnes & Noble's ebook selection on my Nook -- I probably found it in the Top 100 category.  It's a historical novel set a couple of years after the sinking of the Titanic -- the heroine has survived a luxury liner sinking and three weeks in a lifeboat until they were picked up, and is now on trial for murder.  The very beginning of the book drops you into the middle of the murder trial, leaving you wondering what could have happened at sea that was so terrible she would be charged with murder because of it.

From there, Grace's journal -- which she has written on her lawyers' request to recount the events in the lifeboat -- takes you back to the day of the explosion that sank the ship, and how Grace found herself as one of 39 survivors in a lifeboat.  From the very beginning -- when it becomes evident that the lifeboat, despite its placard claiming a capacity of 40, isn't big enough to hold them all -- you know that some of the survivors will have to die in order for the rest to survive.

When I started this book, I was expecting Hollywood-style drama and suffering, but the story itself is quieter and grimmer.  The narration is a beautifully done character portrait, in that you find yourself wondering at times whether Grace is telling the truth -- and what she might be lying about.  It's also written in a somewhat old-fashioned style that (between the language and the woman accused) reminded me a bit of The Scarlet Letter, if that book had been written in Hester's voice instead of in third-person.  In some of the reviews on Barnes & Noble's website, readers claimed they devoured the book in only a night or two -- and it is a little on the short side, but I thought it was better read over a few days, since I found that I wanted to read more slowly in order to properly absorb the language and the details.

Although I liked the book, in the end I was left feeling somewhat unsatisfied.  I think I suspected and wanted to find out that Grace was concealing some crucial detail, and the fact that the author never addressed what that might be was disappointed.  I still wonder if I missed something important!  Even so, I would certainly recommend this book, which is an interesting exploration of whether it is moral to sacrifice a few so that the rest can survive.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The $100 Startup by Christ Guillebeau

The $100 Startup is another library book that expired before I had a chance to finish it, so I read the first half several weeks ago, and the rest last night and today.  Even so, the book is a remarkably fast and easy read (it was waiting too long to start it that caused me to be unable to finish it in time, not any flaw with the book itself) -- and, even more impressive, a pretty easy book to pick back up after a while and still remember pretty well where I'd left off.

I attribute this primarily to the fact that the book's messages are pretty simple: Chris Guillebeau's entire message is that microbusinesses are easy to fund and start, and relatively easy -- if you have a good product with customers who are willing to pay for it -- to succeed.  He tells us this partly using his own experience, but also with lots of stories of other entrepreneurs to illustrate his points.

The book's points are clear and concise, and the examples are inspiring.  I'm a freelance writer and no stranger to self-employment, but I still found the book's format and concepts helpful -- especially the ideas for launching a product, ways to get paid more than once, and self-promotion.  But I think the beauty of this book is that it has a lot of useful advice for both existing and would-be entrepreneurs.  Even if you've only ever thought in passing about starting a business, pick up this book -- it's a fast read and chock-full of useful ideas to help you get started (or just give you some food for thought, if you're still on the fence).

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dearly, Beloved by Lia Habel

In the spirit of getting back into the swing of things, I am -- for once -- writing a review right after writing the "I'll be back soon!" or "I'm coming back now!" post.  How many times have I posted that, and it never happened?  So I could see how you could be understandably skeptical when I posted that again tonight.

Yet here I am.

Just earlier today, I finished Dearly, Beloved, the sequel of Dearly, Departed, a YA zombie romance that I read earlier this year.  As you may (or may not) remember, I adored Dearly, Departed, as I found it an incredibly unique (and romantic) take on zombies -- a refreshing change from all the scary-zombie books and movies that have been out lately.  Note: This review will contain spoilers for the first book -- Dearly, Departed -- so read onward at your own risk!

Dearly, Beloved was a continuation not only of Nora and Bram's romance, but also of the predicament they find themselves in.  Although they live in "New Victoria," this actually takes place in the future, when people have technology but have adopted a Victorian-styled society (corsets and dresses, chaperones, etc. mixed with computers, science, and medical technology).  After the existence of the zombie disease was exposed in the first book (sorry if that was a spoiler), New Victoria is struggling with whether to accept the sane zombies -- zombies that retain their identity and intelligence, and are able to abstain from human flesh -- as part of society.

I didn't find the second book as addicting as the first, but that might have been because my library book expired when I was in the middle of it, and I had to wait weeks before I could check it out again and finish it.  Even so, I found the initial romance between Nora and Bram much more compelling than the second book, when their relationship was already established.  This might have been because I felt like the second book focused less on the relationship, and more on the rest of the story -- the intrigues, the politics, the betrayals, etc.  There were more narrating characters in this book, too, which was probably why I felt like the focus had shifted off of Nora and Bram.

I may have been disappointed that the romance was less compelling, but at the same time, I felt like the second book was building to a much bigger story than just Nora, Bram, and their immediate circle.  I think I remember seeing that this is supposed to be a trilogy, but I don't know when the third book is due out, and there doesn't seem to be any information about it on Lia Habel's website (which hasn't even been updated to include the newest book).  Hopefully they won't keep us waiting too long, though -- I will certainly be reading the next one as soon as it's out!

A rough year

I have to say that 2012 has been a rough year for us.  We've been busy, sure: In November 2011, I took an after-school nanny job, which means I no longer work solely from home as a freelance writer.  (I still freelance, but on the side of my part-time work.)  Over the summer, while the kids were out, I worked double what I normally do, so I was very busy then, too.  And barely had I gotten a chance to reclaim my schedule post-summer vacation, when November -- and NaNoWriMo -- happened.

On top of that, there were a lot of pet-related emergencies and time-sucks this year.  Our dog Grace, a white shepherd with hip dysplasia, required weekly physical therapy/acupuncture all year, as well as regular vet visits for various reasons.  She passed away 10 days ago, so life will be easier, yet we're not quite past the empty feeling of losing her yet.

Then there was Emma's (our other dog's) pneumonia in January, Rondo's (my younger horse's) emergency vet call from getting kicked in the face in March, Panama's (my older horse's) weight loss in the spring and early summer, Cleo's (my oldest cat's) possible urinary tract infection (can't remember when that one was), the stray kitten I caught at the barn (now named Izzy) who required various checkups and shots as part of acquiring her, and all the regular vet care (checkups and shots) throughout the year, particularly for the horses.

Whew.

Meanwhile, every time I finish a book, I've been dumping it on my main screen of my Nook to remind me to eventually write a review of it.  The result is a puddle of book covers that I dare not even guess the number of.  The exceptions are the library books I've read in the last few months, since I downloaded the OverDrive app, which keeps my library books in a different part of my Nook (and therefore doesn't allow me to move covers to the "desktop" when I'm done with the book).

In other words, I have a lot of reviews to catch up on.  The thought of even trying to play catchup at this point, let alone trying to remember all of the library books I've read and have no record of, is rather overwhelming, so I think instead I am going to just start reviewing books as I finish them again -- and as I have time, I will write reviews of those I've read this past year, and insert those into any gaps in my reading.  Perhaps then, for a while, this will once again be a "book of the day" blog, even though I no longer have time to finish a book every day!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Happy Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week is this week.  I chose to read something from the list of the top ten challenged books in 2011: Brave New World.  (I've already read the others that would have interested me the most, The Hunger Games trilogy, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, although I might consider rereading To Kill a Mockingbird sometime -- it's been a while since I've read it.  I just wish it were available as an ebook!)

If you are interested in buying the ebook of Brave New World, Books on the Knob has a list of coupon codes for KoboBooks.com, where I got my copy.  Some of the codes are good for as much as 45 percent off, if you can find a code that is still active!  I ended up paying less than half than I would have at BN.com, since the ebook was priced less to begin with through Kobo.

Right now I am finishing up another book I am reading, but I will start Brave New World next in honor of Banned Books Week!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Banned Books Week is next week!

Image reprinted by permission of the American Library Association.

It occurred to me tonight to check and see when Banned Books Week is, and it's good I checked -- it's next week, September 30 through October 6!  (Usually I only realize it's Banned Books Week midway through the week, once I see a blog post or promotion from someone else.)  This year is also extra special, since it's the week's 30th anniversary: We've been celebrating Banned Books Week since 1982!  Can you believe it?

I always try to choose at least one challenged book to read during the week, usually from the list of the top 10 challenged books from the previous year.  The list of banned books from 2011 includes several from last year, and even a couple of classics:

  1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle 
  2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
  3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
  4. My Mom's Having A Baby! A Kid's Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
  5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
  6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
  7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  8. What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
  9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
  10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
 It's incredibly sad to me that To Kill a Mockingbird is still being challenged -- and, in fact, still makes it onto the top 10 list pretty frequently.  So does Brave New World, for that matter.  Others that seem to pop up regularly are Huckleberry Finn (of course), The Catcher in the Rye, The Color Purple...  Every generation always seems to have its share of offended parents when it comes to these books.

Another repeat from last year was The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which I actually read and reviewed back in 2008, before it started popping up on the banned books lists.  This is another one that amazes me when I see that it is a challenged book, since I never saw anything that I thought was questionable about it.

What strikes me as really funny (though not ha-ha funny) about these lists is how often racism is cited as the reason why a book is challenged.  Huck Finn, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Absolutely True Diary... all of these are challenged because they are ostensibly about racism.  However, anyone who thinks that that's what these books are about needs to reread them.  They are not about promoting racism, they are about overcoming it -- and why wouldn't you want your children reading about that, unless you don't really want them to overcome it?

In any case, I am trying to decide what to read this year for Banned Books Week.  I am thinking Brave New World, which I have never actually read before.  About time I did, don't you think?

Monday, September 17, 2012

A summer's worth of books

After a very busy summer, I have a lot of blogging -- and a lot of book reviews -- to catch up on.  And it doesn't help that I'm adding more to the list all the time, since I pretty much never stop reading, no matter how busy I get!  But now that the kids I nanny for are back in school, I'm back to freelancing and blogging and generally making a nuisance of myself online, so stay tuned for some more book reviews soon!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Titanic craze

When books and magazine articles about the Titanic started showing up a couple of months ago in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the sinking (which was April 15th, if you didn't already know), I have to admit, I got sucked under.  I've been intrigued by the Titanic most of my life, and was only more so after I saw the movie in the theaters in 1997.

So far this spring, I've gotten two magazines on my Nook for the magazine articles, have read the National Geographic "short" in-store on the Nook, and have bought or downloaded quite a few ebooks on the subject, including re-releases of survivor memoirs and period books, short ebooks released especially for the anniversary, and full-length nonfiction books.  (We also saw the movie in 3D in the theaters -- the first time we've seen a 3D movie, and I have to say, it was pretty breathtaking to see the footage of the wreck in 3D!)

Rather than doing separate reviews on everything, since I have a lot of reviews to catch up on as it is, I figured I would do one long post with short blurbs on everything I've read so far.

A Night to Remember, written by Walter Lord in the 1950s, is the classic book on the sinking of the Titanic.  It was, to my understanding, the first compilation of survivors' stories, and the most accurate account of its time (and still is quite accurate, in many cases).  The author interviewed survivors and their relatives, read their accounts, and put everything together into a chronological account.  The only glaring error that I saw was the fact that Lord's account doesn't have the Titanic breaking in half as it sank, but I believe that's a fact that did not come to light until more recently.

Reading Lord's account of the Titanic's sinking is especially interesting if you know the 1997 movie well.  Many of the events during the sinking as it's depicted in the movie come straight out of Lord's book -- although poetic license is sometimes taken to incorporate the characters of Rose and Jack into what actually happened.  (For instance, when they encounter Thomas Andrews the final time, and Rose asks him, "Won't you at least make a try for it?" -- that was actually asked of him by a crew member the last time he was ever seen.)

Lifeboat No. 8 is a short ebook -- only about 70 pages on the Nook -- that focuses on just those passengers who ended up in lifeboat no. 8 that night.  It traces them from their backgrounds, to how they ended up in that boat, to what happened to them once they were in the boat.  The ebook is also billed as being about the love story that was the basis for the movie Titanic -- the real Jack and Rose were Jack, a wireless operator, and Roberta, a maid in first class.  Roberta survives, but runs back for a picture of Jack before making it into a lifeboat.  Jack keeps sending messages for help on the wireless until the last possible moment, and although the other wireless operator survives, he does not.

The ebook also describes what happens in the lifeboat after the ship sinks, how some want to go back for survivors and the rest overrule them.  Although this little book focuses on the one boat, instead of the stories of the entire ship as Walter Lord's book does, it's still well researched and well written.

This is only 40 pages -- notice that it is called "National Geographic Shorts" -- but there are some great pictures and details packed into those 40 pages.  I read it via the read in-store feature on my Nook Tablet during a few separate visits to Barnes & Noble, and although I don't think I would have paid $3.99 for it, it was a nice little ebook on the subject.

I also read the April issue of National Geographic, which had a couple of articles on the Titanic.  It had some fantastic pictures, plus some really good (and new!) information about the crash site and how the ship sank.  I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy if you are interested in the subject.

Finally, the one that started the rebirth of my Titanic craze this spring was the March issue of the Smithsonian, which had a couple of articles on the Titanic as well.  One was based on a new book by Tim Maltin, on how mirages may have contributed to both the collision with the iceberg, and the failure of the Californian (which was only 10 miles away, within sight of the sinking ship) to come to the Titanic's aid.

That brings us up-to-date on my current reading about the Titanic, though I do have several other books on my reading list that hopefully I will get to soon!

Friday, May 11, 2012

In memory of Maurice Sendak

I was planning on blogging about it yesterday, but a broken finger changed my plans.  I'm also typing with 9 fingers instead of 10 -- and the broken finger happens to be the most frequently used finger in typing, the left middle finger, controlling the E, D, and C, possibly the most common letters in the English language -- so posting is taking a little longer than usual.

But back to the point of the post: I was saddened to read a couple of days ago that Maurice Sendak, possibly one of the most beloved children's picture book authors, passed away.  He was 83, so he wasn't young by any means -- but I hadn't actually realized how old he was, not knowing much about him.

NPR has done a number of stories on Sendak in the last few days, as have the other news sources.  I didn't realize that he had such a dark childhood, as this story discusses -- he was the son of Polish Jews who immigrated to America, and he grew up during the Holocaust.  If that isn't enough to darken a childhood, I don't know what is.

Although Where the Wild Things Are is one of my favorite picture books of all time, I didn't realize that a lot of kids are scared of it -- and a lot of parents complain about Sendak's books being too scary.  I also did not realize that some of his other books are controversial as well -- In the Night Kitchen depicts the main character in the nude, and Outside Over There is about a girl who has to rescue her baby sister from the goblins that kidnap her (sounds like the inspiration for Labyrinth, to me).

Controversial or not, Sendak was a wonderful children's author and illustrator who had a huge impact on the genre, and I was sad to hear of his death!

Monday, April 30, 2012

New template and other changes

I've finally migrated my old template into the Blogger Template Designer, so even though I've used the same background and image header, it will look a little different now.  Eventually I think I will change those, too, though.

I've also, by changing the template, started the process of eliminating Barnes & Noble affiliate ads from my blog.  I am doing this for two reasons: One, I wasn't making any money at it, and two, I discovered the affiliate program doesn't pay commissions on ebook sales.  The two may have something to do with one another, I don't know.  In any case, for the time being my blog revenue on this blog will come solely from AdSense ads.

I'm looking forward to the new look and the ad changes as I finish them!

Barnes & Noble and Microsoft team up

Once again, I am so sorry for the lack of posting lately.  Despite my good intentions once my client backed off on doling out blog assignments, I've been too busy to play catch-up on my blogs quite yet.  Even with this morning to myself, the thought is still a little overwhelming, so I may have to resort to just going back to my blog like normal, rather than trying to write reviews about all the books I've read over the past few months.

Anyway, a couple of articles today revealed a startling move by Barnes & Noble: They are going to create a subsidiary for just the Nook and the college bookstore, and Microsoft is going in on it too.  Here are a couple of stories about it:

NPR: Barnes & Noble Deal Gives Microsoft Door to E-Books
NY Times: Microsoft to Take Stake in Nook Unit of Barnes & Noble

I don't think this will mean any changes for those of us who already own Nooks and/or have ebook libraries with Barnes & Noble.  It sounds like B&N is separating the Nook from the physical books because the former is eating through the profits of the latter.  It costs a lot more money to stay on the cutting edge of technology, apparently.  And of course, the inclusion of Microsoft, and the upcoming Nook app for Windows 8, is expected to benefit those with computers and Windows-based tablets, and probably capture a whole new segment of the market, technology geeks "who did not associate the bookseller with e-books," according to the NY Times article.

Anything that makes the Nook and the ebook market stronger sounds good to me.  My readers know that I'm big on supporting Barnes & Noble, who was somewhat of an underdog in the fight against Amazon and Apple.  Considering the success of their latest devices -- the Nook Tablet and the Nook Simple Touch with Glowlight -- they probably can't be considered an underdog anymore, but I'm still all for supporting them over the two A-words.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Getting used to the Blogger changes

I've had quite a few busy weeks, and as a result I haven't had a chance yet to start incorporating my changes to the blog.  My mornings have been largely taken up by pet appointments and other things, and for the first time since I started my afternoon nanny job in November, I actually am really starting to miss having my whole day to myself (instead of just the morning and early afternoon).  I have to remind myself that the extra (and reliable) income from the nanny job is a very, very good thing!

But I digress.  I noticed that during my blogcation, Blogger incorporated some changes.  I think I like the changes, but they are taking some getting used to.  Still, they might make things a little easier as I get ready to eliminate the Barnes & Noble affiliate ads from my blog.

I am curious -- what do other bloggers think about Blogger's new look?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Catching up and upcoming changes

For several months now, I've been writing for a client with a number of book-related blogs, which is part of why this blog has been so ignored of late — sometimes it's hard to come up with two posts for the same books, and I'm afraid that the blogs that generate solid income are the ones that have benefited from my limited creative impulse.  (Although I do get some ad revenue from my blogs, this is NOT one of the higher-performing sites — which has to do with some other changes I will address in a moment.)

Anyway, said client recently backed off a bit on assignments, so I will only be writing a few blog posts for them a week now.  Although in some ways I'm sad to see the additional income go, at the same time I am looking forward to having more time to devote to my own blogs again.  They have been quite ignored since I started blogging for this client!

One other change to report: I discovered last month that Barnes & Noble's affiliate program no longer pays commissions on ebooks.  While I realize that many of my readers do still read traditional books, it seems that those who buy from the links on my page do not, as I have yet to earn any commissions from the affiliate program.  Therefore I've decided to stop using my book reviews to advertise.  It will be much quicker for me to just load a cover image into Blogger, rather than creating an affiliate link via LinkShare's website, which is a little slow (and Barnes & Noble's site is even slower, so I likely won't be getting my cover images there, either!).  The downside is that my readers will no longer be able to click on a cover and buy a book, but I may consider keeping a Barnes & Noble search button in the sidebar to make up for that deficiency.

I may also be changing the look of the blog a little bit to make managing it even easier — I'm still using Classic Blogger because of my older custom template.

Stay tuned...  As I find the time (which I should be able to do so more readily now), I will start making the changes to the blog!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Changes coming to Livre du Jour

Lately I've been contemplating making a few changes to my book review blog.  One is more related to what I am reading — between library books that are due at a certain time, book club selections, and even a book I promised to review by a certain date, I've been feeling a little like I've lost control of my own reading list.  Reading is a very personal thing for me: I like to choose my reading material according to what I feel like reading next — and lately my selection process has been anything but that.

So I've decided that after the library book I am reading right now (which isn't a chore, mind you, but still, there are many other books I've purchased recently that I want to read at the moment), I am going to take back my reading list!  It helps that I've already read the book club selections for March and April, so I don't have to do anything more than look them over to refresh my memory if I don't feel like actually rereading them.

The other change I'm contemplating is whether I want to continue advertising with Barnes & Noble.  Last week a website and Facebook page I follow announced that they'd discovered in the terms of service that B&N no longer pays commissions on ebooks.  Since I read ebooks almost exclusively, and since I believe I am writing to an audience that often buys digital over physical books, this makes the affiliate program virtually worthless to me.  Is it worth taking the time to put together affiliate links for only those readers who buy physical books?  That's what I need to decide.

To help me make this decision, I would love to hear from you, my readers.  How many of you read ebooks?  How many still prefer physical books?  And have you ever used the links on my site to make purchases of either kind?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Redwood Bend by Robyn Carr

iconiconWhen I picked up Redwood Bend, I have to admit I was a little skeptical.  I read another book by Robyn Carr about a year ago, Promise Canyon, and while I enjoyed it, I wasn't overjoyed about it.  (In retrospect, it probably was caused at least in part by the fact that I was reading it more for the horse story than the love story.  This is something that happens to me occasionally, as being horse crazy can have a significant impact on what I choose to read.)

So I wasn't a newcomer to Virgin River, but I have to say, I liked this "visit" much better than the last one.  It probably had a lot to do with the differences in the characters and the story.  I felt I could really relate to Katie's inner strength and independence.  Honestly, she won me over when it became clear in the first 20 pages that she could change her own flat tire — no damsel in distress here!  And just in case I hadn't noticed, a few chapters later, she changes her own oil, too.

It might sound silly, but I knew then that I was going to really like the book.  The love story was different than your typical romance novel, too.  Both Katie and Dylan get involved thinking it's only going to be a fling, though of course anyone who reads the genre knows that won't be the case.  But again, I liked how Katie didn't fall apart when he left, weeping and begging him to stay — even if she did want him to.

And of course, Dylan was a perfect romance novel hero.  The entire idea of him — Katie's childhood movie star crush, sweeping her off her feet again as an adult, and this time for real — was an idea I'm sure most women would find appealing.  After all, how many of us can relate to having a crush like that as a preteen or teen?  (Or, as in my case, many crushes like that...)

It's interesting that one of my biggest complaints about Promise Canyon, and one of the things I found the most distracting from the story, wasn't an issue in Redwood Bend:  In the former, I didn't like the "catching up" with characters from previous novels, probably partly because it was the first of the Virgin River novels I'd read, so I wasn't as interested in the other characters in the town as a longtime reader might have been.  But I was pleasantly surprised to find that the only "catching up" that occurred in Redwood Bend was when it was crucial to the story.

All in all, I thought Redwood Bend was a sweet, solid, and well-written story, with characters that I could genuinely relate to, and a love story that made me truly care what happened to them!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Read an eBook Week starts Sunday!

Read an eBook WeekI saw a mention of Read an eBook Week on a Facebook page I follow, and sure enough, it starts Sunday, March 4th!  If you remember from last year, Smashwords and other sites celebrate the week by offering tons of books for free and on sale.  I still haven't gotten through all of my acquisitions from last year.

The website has a bunch of really cool banners you can put on your blog to help with promotion.  I will also update my blog with information about ebook sales and free offerings throughout the week.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Auschwitz by Miklos Nyiszli

iconiconAuschwitz came to my attention mostly because it was a sale ebook at BN.com, but it intrigued me because of the description.  It's a memoir by a Jewish doctor who was pressed into service at Auschwitz, and lived to write about it afterward, helping to expose many of the terrible things that went on there.  It's not very long, but it is well written and compelling, and it isn't as hard or as horrifying to read as I had feared.

The introduction to the memoir is pretty harsh, condemning the author for his professional vanity and for allowing himself to be forced into helping the Nazis.  Personally, though, I found I couldn't blame the man.  He wasn't forced to kill anyone, only to perform autopsies on people the Nazis had killed, mostly in their quest to prove their theories of the degeneration of the Jewish people.  He also had to provide medical care for the Nazis themselves, but a good part of his duties were also providing medical care for the prisoners, so you can see why he might be willing to help the Nazis if it put him into a position to also help his own people.

But the biggest reason why I thought his actions were excusable was because it gave him the opportunity to save his wife and daughter of Auschwitz.  He was favored by the Nazi's head doctor at Auschwitz, which enabled him to get special privileges, and he was able to get his wife and daughter onto a work detail that took them away from the camp.  And of course, later in the memoir, it turned out that the head doctor's favoritism saved his life more than once, and enabled him to be reunited with his family.  With all of that in mind, I didn't find him nearly as much to blame as the author of the introduction evidently did.

In any case, it's an interesting if sometimes horrifying memoir.  I'm glad that, so many years after its initial publication, this book is still so popular — it seems like it ought to be widely read, so that we never forget the horrific things that were done to other human beings at Auschwitz.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

To Walk the Night by E.S. Moore

iconiconThe difficulty of reviewing books I read so long ago is that they get to be rather difficult to remember, as much else as I read!  That's another reason why these reviews may be a bit shortened until I catch up.

Anyway, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed To Walk the Night.  It seems to have been inspired by Underworld and Blade, as the tone of the whole vampires-and-werewolves setting reminded me a little of both, in addition to many similar details — vampire and werewolf blood not mixing, for instance, and the lone supernatural taking out entire vampire covens.

I liked the main character, though, a reluctant vampire with a kick-ass attitude.  I always do like tough heroines, and Kat is definitely tough.  I also liked the dynamics of her relationships, too — with her human sidekick, and with a couple of the supernaturals that seem like they will be in future books.  The next book isn't due out until summer, though, so I will have to wait!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

India Black by Carol K. Carr

iconiconI was really impressed by Carol K. Carr's India Black. There seem to be a lot of steampunk and vampire series lately, but instead, Carr has made a mystery/espionage series out of the "ordinary" Victorian world and an unlikely heroine: a whorehouse madam.

When she is unlucky enough to have one of her clients die on her premises, while being serviced by one of her prostitutes no less, India ends up in more trouble than she'd bargained for.  Initially impressed into service against her will, she teams up with a British agent named French to try to keep Russian spies from stealing British intelligence.  The book's setting is excellent, ranging from the filth of the streets of London to the opulence of the Russian embassy, and even includes an exciting car(riage) chase through the snow.

Like I said, with dark fantasy series multiplying like rabbits, this one really stood out for me.  There is a second book out in the series, and I am really looking forward to reading it — just as soon as my reading list clears out a little!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

I almost forgot to say...  Happy Valentine's Day!  Hubby and I are planning to spend the evening tucked away at home, enjoying homemade pizza and watching a movie together.  Afterward I'll read for a while before bed, as always, so there will definitely be books involved in my Valentine's Day!

There are, of course, some ebook deals to be had today, especially in the romance genre.  For instance, both Amazon and Barnes & Noble are offering Twilight for only $2.99 today only.  You can find some other ebook deals on Karen's Books on the Knob.

However you celebrate the day, enjoy!

Grave Peril by Jim Butcher

iconiconOnce again, I fell behind on my reviews.  The problem is that I'm enjoying reading so much lately — I've been blazing through books one after another, and with less time available for various things these days, that has meant less time to blog.

The solution: I'm going to do fairly quick reviews on everything in order to get caught up.  Once I'm caught up, I will need to assess my time constraints, and may continue doing shorter reviews than usual when there isn't time for longer ones.

I read Grave Peril weeks ago — to give you an idea of how long ago, our monthly book club is coming up this Thursday, and Grave Peril was January's book!  This is the third book in Jim Butcher's Dresden series; our book club read the first two books, Storm Front and Fool Moon, last summer.

I liked Grave Peril just as well as the first two — like them, it was fast-paced and fun, with a bit of flip humor here and there.  In this book, Dresden is hunting ghosts, which are suddenly popping up all over the place.  When he realizes the sudden influx of ghost activity is not coincidental, he has to try to figure out who (or what) is behind it.  I don't want to give anything away, but as we agreed in the book club, the ending really makes this book!  It's a big ending, you might say.

This book also introduced some new characters that will supposedly be in future books as well.  I'm looking forward to reading more about them!  I don't know if our book club will read another of the Dresden books — I think we've already chosen our books for the entire year — but if it looks like we won't, I might continue the series on my own.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dearly, Departed by Lia Habel

iconiconI've read a lot of YA dark fantasy romance — vampires, werewolves, you name it.  This one was about zombies, and it was a really different take on zombies.  I loved it!

Lia Habel's zombies are infected with a disease that causes their death, and then reanimates them.  Depending on how long the brain goes without oxygen — before the reanimation — and whether the person is able to keep from going mad, many zombies are actually no different in death than they were in life... except for the inability to heal, of course.

The story takes place in a futuristic, post-apocalyptic, yet steampunkish world where society has returned to Victorian values and culture.  In New Victoria, Nora Dearly is the orphaned daughter of an important scientist.  She finds out about the existence of zombies when she is kidnapped by a group of them, but as she learns to trust one of them, a young man named Bram, she discovers that they are the good guys, and actually saved her from a group of the "bad" zombies.  Now Nora is involved in the battle that is going on in the border territories, unbeknownst to the regular citizens of New Victoria, and there are quite a few surprises in store for her.

One of the things I liked about Dearly, Departed was, like I said, the portrayal of zombies as something other than mindless, man-eating monsters.  I also loved the way Habel switched periodically between narrators — although Nora was the main character and the primary narrator, a few others carried the story forward at times when Nora would have been unable to.  The fact that the story was also often told from Bram's point of view actually helped to make him one of my favorite love interests in any book I've read recently.

I'm really looking forward now to the next book in the series (because of course it's the first book of a series — everything is part of a series these days), Dearly, Departed, but unfortunately the listing on Barnes & Noble's website doesn't have it coming out until September 25, 2012!  Such a long time to wait!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dorchester Publishing in its death throes

I have a lot of books to catch up on, made worse by the fact that I barely posted at all last week, but before I get to that I have a fairly important announcement to make: According to a post on the Barnes & Noble forums, Dorchester Publishing is going out of business.

Dorchester is a publisher of mass market genre novels, such as romance and Westerns.  Apparently as far back as 2009, though, they started showing signs of financial difficulties.  Dorchester was continuing to sell ebooks that they had no rights to, and wasn't paying authors their royalties.  A boycott of Dorchester books started in March 2011, and the SFWA delisted Dorchester last month, the second organization to do so.  Now it sounds like they are in their final death throes: According to the B&N forum post, their editorial staff and sales/marketing VP are gone.

It's unfortunate, but it seems like going out of business is long overdue.  Essentially they stayed in business as long as they did by throwing their authors under the bus — no doubt failing to pay royalties allowed them to pay their other bills, at least for a while.  But that kind of behavior tends to catch up with a company after a while, and now it sounds like they're done.

The forum threads on B&N advocate backing up all of your Dorchester ebooks — they've offered quite a few free ones over the last few years, so you might have a few, even if you aren't aware of it.  The thread also suggests buying any books you want while they are still available, though someone else immediately posted saying not to do so because the authors likely won't get paid.  My suggestion is to try to evaluate how likely it is that the author will show up later with another publisher.  Well-established authors probably will, but from what I know of the publishing industry, more obscure authors probably wouldn't have had enough negotiating power to get a contract that readily returned rights to them.

If you ask me, this is a pretty scary justification for self-publishing.  You'll never find yourself in publishing rights limbo that way!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Grave Sight by Charlaine Harris

iconiconI fell in love with the Sookie Stackhouse books about a year and a half ago, so when I saw another book by the same author available in ebook format from my library, I jumped right on it.

Grave Sight is a quick read about a young woman who travels around the country with her brother, solving murder mysteries.  She is able to do this because she senses dead people, ever since she was hit by lightning as a child.  Her brother, who is actually her step-brother (I wonder if there will ever be any interesting developments there later in the series), more or less acts as her manager.

Grave Sight picks up when they've been doing this for a little while, as you gather by all the stories that crop up about previous jobs they've done.  (There were enough references to previous jobs that I actually kept checking to make sure I'd started with the first book.)  It's the beginning of the series, and you can see that it's going to be an interesting one.  Grave Sight wasn't very long, though, and I wonder if all of the books are that way.

Definitely a fun, quick read by a favorite author.  It may not be about vampires, but I love Charlaine Harris's style just the same!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fools Rush In by Kristan Higgins

iconiconFools Rush In was the last book of a run of Kristan Higgins books I checked out from the library.  I think they still have one or two more I have yet to read, but I needed a break first!

Millie, the heroine of this book, has had a crush on Joe since she was just a kid, but he has no idea she exists, so once she completes her doctor's degree, she returns home determined to make him notice her.  She loses weight, buys new clothes, and even gets a dog.

Of course, as you might imagine would happen, it turns out Joe isn't anything like how she'd built him up to be in her mind.  And it turns out that the man who really is everything she's ever dreamed of is closer than she realized.

Like many of Kristan Higgins's books, Fools Rush In challenges generally accepted ideas of romance, especially of romance novels.  The hero in this book is much older than Millie, and was previously married to (gulp) her perfect older sister.  As you can imagine, this makes for some awkward moments when they realize how they feel about one another — and when they finally get together!

But a trend that I'm starting to recognize in Higgins's books, and one I really like, is that the love she writes about isn't (usually) based on lust.  In The Next Best Thing and Just One of the Guys, two other books of hers that I read recently, the love interest was always someone the heroine didn't expect — because he was her best friend.  Higgins's books are romance novels that are about healthy relationships... and they're wonderfully entertaining.  Amazing!  It is possible!

Growing up with books is important!

Just one more off-topic post before I get back to the business of reviewing books.  A couple of weeks ago I saw a story on NPR about Walter Dean Myers, the new ambassador for Young People's Literature.  In the interview, Myers talks a lot about how books are important parts of your life, and stresses that, as part of his goals, he wants young children to be read to every day.

There is this idea that what children need, in order to do well in school and in life, is to be read to every day.  And while I think that's true, this widely held notion is actually a fallacy.  Being read to every day doesn't impact how kids do in reading and in school — how many books they have at home does.

This is not to say that if you put 500 books in the home of every poor kid in the city, they are suddenly going to start doing well in school.  But think about it: Adults who value reading tend to have lots of books in the home.  Their children see them modeling habits that emphasize the value of reading and books, and they in turn grow up to value reading and books.

In other words, reading to your children every day is good, but it's not enough.  If you view it as a chore, chances are your children will too.  But if you surround yourself with books and read a lot, for the pleasure of it, in front of your children, they will absorb that passion for reading, and their own lives will benefit from it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Yet another article on rising e-reader ownership

What timing!  Not long after I saw the CNN article about tablet and e-reader ownership doubling over the holidays, I saw this one on NPR:

Niche No More: Survey Shows Tablets Are Everywhere

The NPR article quotes another survey that shows an even larger percentage of e-reader and tablet ownership: 29 percent, up 11 percent from December.  In comparison, the CNN survey found ownership to be about 19 percent, after an increase of 9 percent in the same time frame.

There's no doubt about it...  E-readers and tablets are here to stay!

E-reader and tablet ownership takes off

Sorry for the dearth of posts lately!  I've actually been reading quite a bit — I've just been too busy to write about what I've read — so I have lots of catching up to do.  But first, I want to share an article I read just the other day, about how popular tablets and e-readers have become.

Ownership of tablets, e-readers almost doubles in one month

The number of people who have these devices went up from 10 percent in December, to 19 percent in January.  The deceptive "1" at the beginning of both numbers might be a little bit deceptive, but think about it: That means that out of every 10 friends you have, one of them has had an e-reader for a while, and one other just got one for Christmas — and two out of every ten of your friends are now reading on an e-reader (or at least playing games and browsing the Internet).

I look at these trends, and I think that despite the traditionalists' protests, ebooks are not going to go away.  They are a valid way to read books, an improvement over a format that has been around for centuries, just as the book itself was an improvement over scrolls.  (I wonder what the traditionalists' arguments were then?  "With scrolls you don't have to worry about losing a page!" or "It's made of animal skin so in 2,000 years it'll still be around!")  Don't get me wrong, I love physical books too, and will likely always have bookcases full of them in my house.  But thanks to e-readers, I can devote precious shelf space to the books I want to collect — old books, pretty books, and first editions — and get my reading books in digital format.  Plus, I can check out library books without leaving the house or worrying about overdue fines!  What's not to like?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Science of Battlestar Galactica by Patrick Di Justo

iconiconI've been reading a lot lately, but I haven't dedicated very much time to blogging about what I've been reading.  Part of the reason is this book, The Science of Battlestar Galactica — I've been struggling with what to say about it.

I checked the book out from my library on a whim when I saw it among the new arrivals in our ebook catalog.  I am a big fan of Battlestar Galactica, and was interested in learning about the science behind the fiction.

Initially I was very disappointed with the book, as the first few chapters especially were largely conjecture.  However, I do have to say that as the book got into discussions about physics, space, and related subjects, it got much better.  It started talking about the size of the universe, what a planet would likely have to be like in order to support life (and what sort of star it would have to orbit), and I found that kind of thing quite interesting — enough so to redeem the book somewhat in my eyes.

I'd recommend it to other geeky BSG fans, but with the advice: Don't be afraid to skim and skip around.  I didn't find the entire book interesting, so I think I enjoyed it much more once I started skimming, and just slowed down to read more carefully when I came across something that interested me.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Free calendar and organizer app!

iconiconIt's not a book, but I wanted to take a moment to review a fantastic app I just downloaded to my Nook Tablet earlier today.  I found out about it when it was posted to Barnes & Noble's Facebook page this morning.

A little background: I'd been wanting a way to sync calendars between my iPhone and Nook.  The iPhone calendar can be challenging to use, mainly because I don't always feel like typing on that little keyboard.  My Nook isn't always on me, though, so I don't want my primarily calendar to be on that device, and it seemed tedious to input all of my stuff on not just one but two touchscreen keyboards.

Cozi Family Organizer turned out to be just what I needed, even though I don't have a big family to organize calendars for.  (I did add our pets as family members to help keep their vet and other appointments straight.)  The biggest advantage is that it syncs between devices, so when I'm at home (with an Internet connection) I can use the Nook, and when I'm out I can use my iPhone.

Besides the calendar, the app has to-do lists and grocery lists, so I've added my husband as well so that we can share grocery lists.  So much better than keeping a pad of paper on the fridge!  We frequently forget to get items because they weren't on the list, so hopefully this will solve the issue by allowing us to add to our grocery list — and share what we've added — no matter where we happen to be at the time.

The iPhone app and the website are ad-supported, but so far I see no ads on the Nook (and the ads on the iPhone and website are fairly innocuous).  You can pay to get rid of the ads and get a few more features, but it's more than I need, so I'll put up with the ads for now.  Such an amazing free app!

Get a free Nook!

iconicon

I logged on to the Barnes & Noble site today to see a fantastic deal broadcast across the top of the page: If you subscribe to the New York Times ($19.99 a month), you can get the Nook Simple Touch Reader for free, or the Nook Color for half off ($99 instead of $199).

I'm not a big fan of paying for newspaper subscriptions when you can get it all online, but of course the NYT is limiting access to the website for non-subscribers now.  In any case, if you were planning on subscribing anyway, you might as well do it through B&N and get a free or steeply discounted Nook!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Last Cowboy by Lindsay McKenna

iconiconBeing a horse person and the proud owner of two rescue horses, I tend to gravitate toward books about horses.  Some of them, like War Horse, I enjoy thoroughly.  Others make it perfectly obvious how little the author knows about horses.

The Last Cowboy was, unfortunately, among the latter group.  Although the overall story, about a doctor who hires a handsome cowboy to train her and her mare for endurance racing, was a good one, there were a lot of clues in the book that the author was writing the horse stuff from research rather than experience.

First of all, the author clearly was rather misinformed about mustangs.  She seemed to think they were some kind of glorified horse breed, not to mention that a bunch of things were unique to them.  Mustangs are, actually, sort of like a feral pack of dogs (or multiple packs), mutts with lots of different breeds represented in them.  Although they are often touted as the descendants of Spanish Barb horses that the Conquistadors brought over from Spain, they are in fact mixed with lost and unwanted horses of virtually every breed.  Some herds show more Arabian influence, while others show the influence of other breeds.

Another thing that clearly demonstrated her lack of knowledge about horses: She repeatedly described the heroine's "steel-grey" mare, who sported a dorsal stripe and zebra stripes on her legs, as a grey.  If she were a horse person, she'd know that this coloring is actually called gruella.  A grey is a horse that is born dark and slowly turns white as they age.  Horse people call white horses "grey," not white.

She also seemed to think dorsal stripes and zebra stripes are unique to mustangs.  Not sure where she got that idea.

And it drove me nuts that she kept referring to the hero's 15-hand mustang stallion as "huge."  That may be on the large side for a mustang, but not for a horse in general.  That's really about the small side of average.  Most people's horses are 15.2hh and larger.  Furthermore, you don't struggle to mount a 15hh horse, especially if you are 5'6" (as the heroine was).  If the author thinks that's a struggle, I'd like to see her try to mount Tiny, the 17hh Thoroughbred at my barn!

I realize that most readers won't know this much about horses, and therefore won't have the same complaints I was.  But I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the story, too.  The author's rather terse narrative style made me feel rather removed from the story, especially from the intimate interactions between the hero and heroine.  In a good romance novel, the reader ought to feel the sparks fly.  Instead, the author would periodically lapse into descriptions of either the hero or the heroine's angst and attraction for one another.  This didn't help much to add to the romantic tension, because it was pretty much the same description every time, just reworded a little.  And it is decidedly unromantic to read five times throughout the story that the hero (or the heroine) wishes s/he could "make hot, passionate love" to him/her.  It felt corny and forced to me.

It's rare for me to say so, but I have to admit, this is NOT one of the titles I would recommend... to anyone, really.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Lincoln by Russell Freedman

iconiconI've been reading so much fiction lately.  A few years ago, my norm was about half fiction, half nonfiction — or perhaps it was about two-thirds fiction, and one-third nonfiction.  (This was a big change from my childhood, adolescence, and early twenties, when I read fiction almost exclusively, except for assigned reading in school and college.)  Although I do love fiction, occasionally I get a hankering for something a little more serious, so I was quite interested when I saw Russell Freedman's biography of Lincoln was one of the new additions to my library's ebook collection.

Although the subtitle calls it a "photobiography," in fact it is more than just pictures.  There are some great portraits of Lincoln throughout his life, as well as historical photos and engravings from newspapers and periodicals, but the book also provides a concise written biography of Lincoln.  The ebook is about 90 pages, but since the physical versions are often (but not always) about 20 percent longer than the ebooks, it's hard to judge length by the ebook.

In any case, it was a fairly quick read — I read it in about a day, despite the fact that nonfiction typically takes me longer than fiction.  The narrative style flows easily, and the photographs and illustrations are fascinating, though some of them were a bit small on my e-reader screen.

Interestingly, just a few days after I finished Lincoln, my husband and I watched The Conspirator, a movie about the woman who was hanged as a conspirator in Lincoln's assassination, primarily because they couldn't find her son (who really was the one involved — she just had the misfortune of keeping the boardinghouse where the men met).  In the beginning of the movie, when it showed Lincoln's assassination and the immediate fallout, I found it fascinating to see the things I'd read about in the biography brought to life.

In any case, the biography is interesting and highly entertaining — I would recommend it to anyone interested in Lincoln and/or that period in history!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Taylor Five by Ann Halam

iconiconAfter reading two Kristan Higgins novels in a row — and don't get me wrong, I love Kristan Higgins, I just needed a break — I decided to change gears and read something a little more serious.  My choice was Taylor Five, which is a children's book on a fairly serious topic: cloning.

Taylor is a 14-year-old girl who is a clone of another woman, a scientist.  She lives with her surrogate parents and their 12-year-old son, whom she considers her brother, on a primate reserve, where her parents and a handful of other scientists are studying the primates.

Then violence erupts nearby, and rebels come to the reserve and kill all of the scientists.  Taylor and Donny have to traverse the jungle with Uncle, an intelligent orangutan who seems to understand more than he ought to about what is going on.  This is when Taylor's gifts start to show: She is smarter and physically stronger than her surrogate brother Donny, causing the reader to start wondering what else she is, besides a clone.

It's a short book, and not as controversial a topic as, say, Eva (love that book!), but it's still pretty daring.  Indirectly, the story is addressing the question of what makes us who we are — nature (in this case, our genetic makeup) or nurture (the experiences and memories we have that are unique to us)?  A fast but memorable read, and one I would recommend to adults as well as children!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Just One of the Guys by Kristan Higgins

iconiconOut of all the Kristan Higgins books I've read thus far, I think this one might have been my favorite — primarily because I felt I could most relate to this character's tomboyish nature.  It wasn't quite as funny as the other two I've read, Too Good to be True and The Next Best Thing, both of which were hysterically funny at times, though it was still good for quite a few laugh-out-loud moments — I don't normally laugh aloud when I'm reading, so I find it amazing when a book is able to get me to!

The heroine of Just One of the Guys, Chastity O'Neill, is a journalist (something else I can relate to) in a family of firefighters and first responders.  For years she's been in love with a family friend, a guy who's been treated like just another of her brothers since she was a kid, but she thinks he only sees her as one of the guys.  She decides to start dating, and (after racking him in a self-defense class) quickly lands a serious relationship with a doctor.  But she can't shake how much she loves Trevor.

In another Kristan Higgins book I recently started, she mentions in a letter to her readers that she really enjoys writing about family.  This explains something that I'd only started to notice — that family plays a big role in every one of her books.

I also really like how every one of her books is different.  Sometimes the heroine ends up with the boy next door, sometimes it's someone completely different (and the boy she's been in love with since childhood turns out not to be the one for her after all).  The only constant is that it's always someone the heroine thinks is the least likely candidate for her.  In Just One of the Guys, for example, she'd loved Trevor since she was a kid, but she didn't think he felt anything other than friendship for her.

These books are different from the usual romance — they are told in first person, from the point of view of witty, and typically flawed, heroines.  They poke fun at the things we women do for the sake of love and life in general, and of course there is always the element of family in Higgins's books.  These are the kind of romance novels I would recommend to people who don't usually read romance, because they are the kind you can feel good about reading, instead of feeling like you've lost a few brain cells in the process!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Next Best Thing by Kristan Higgins

iconiconThis was one of the books I read last week, during my week off between Christmas and New Year's.  It was also the first time in a long while that I stayed up extra-late to finish a book.  Not having any obligations (or at least a clock to punch) the next day, I finished the book at 4am on the nose.

You may remember that I read another Kristan Higgins book, Too Good to Be True, back in April.  I love Higgins's funny narrative style — I often laughed out loud while reading Too Good to Be True, and found the same true of this book.
 
The Next Best Thing is about a family whose women are always widowed young and never remarry.  Lucy, the heroine, was widowed more than four years ago after only 8 months of marriage (and no children).  The birth of her niece makes her decide to break with family tradition and  find a new husband, so that she can have kids someday too.

The awkward thing is that she's been sleeping with her deceased husband's little brother for the past couple of years.  Despite her feelings for him, Lucy decides that she is better of marrying someone she won't love too much, to avoid the heartache of losing another husband should the family's curse hit her a second time.

One thing I thought of while reading The Next Best Thing is how Kristan Higgins manages to take deeply flawed characters and make them funny, rather than annoying.  As annoyed as I got with the insecurity of Kelsey, the heroine (and I use that word loosely) of Tiger's Curse, you'd think I just didn't like flawed characters.  But I loved Lucy and her crazy family, despite Lucy's downright neurotic fear of losing another man she loves.