Sunday, August 30, 2009

Darcy and Anne by Judith Brocklehurst

Darcy and Anne

Darcy and Anne
by Judith Brocklehurst

Trade Paperback: 190 pages
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
First Released: 2009

Source: ARC from publisher

Back Cover Description:
He's like a big brother to her...

Fitzwilliam Darcy never disliked his cousin Anne de Bourgh. He certainly never wanted to marry her, but when she turns up at Pemberley alone, of course he won't send her back to her miserable life at Rosings.

Without his help, she'll never get away from her mother...

Anne has never had a chance to figure out what she wants for herself, until a fortuitous accident on the way to Pemberley separates Anne from her formidable mother. With her stalwart cousin Darcy and his lively wife Elizabeth on her side, she begins to feel she might be able to spread her wings...

But Lady Catherine's pride and determination to find Anne a suitable husband threaten to overwhelm Anne's newfound freedom and budding sense of self. And without Darcy and Elizabeth's help, Anne will never have a chance to find true love...

This novel is a historical romance set in the world of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. It's a "sequel" focusing on Anne de Bourgh's fate now that Darcy is no longer her intended.

The story was not written in quite the same tone as Pride and Prejudice, but the author stays very true to the characters and timeline of that book. She does occasionally have the characters act in ways I don't think they would, but that's more a difference in opinion about certain character's never-discussed motives than a departure from what was established in Pride and Prejudice.

It was a sweet and amusing tale with a likable heroine. The world-building was good, though I noticed several minor historical details that were off. Still, it wasn't noticeable unless you're a detail-freak like me.

The pacing was quick; almost too quick, in my opinion. Anne's transformation from sickly, dependent girl to healthy, independent woman came about rather quickly, though it wasn't forced.

There was no sex or cussing. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as "good, clean fun."

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
Lady Catherine de Bourgh to Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy:

My dear Nephew,

The disagreement between us regarding your marriage has gone on long enough. I disapproved; but that is in the past.

I am convinced that, after two years at Pemberley, your wife has become a worthy representative of our family. I am supported in this view by a letter from my old friend, Lady Louisa Benton, who lives, as you know, in your part of the world. Lady Louisa tells me that at a reception she recently attended "your pretty niece, Mrs. Darcy" was dressed with taste and elegance, and much admired for her ease of manner and witty conversation.

Let us let bygones be bygones. Her want of family connections is no longer a consideration; a wife, after all, takes the rank of her husband. The fact of her sister's disgraceful elopement with the son of your father's steward is known to no one in our set, except myself, and I shall never mention it outside the family. I have re-considered; I have made my resolution; I shall visit you.

Our visit will take place very soon, for another circumstance has arisen: Mrs Jenkinson, Anne's companion, has left us.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love by Beth Pattillo

The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love

The Sweetgum Ladies Knit for Love
by Beth Pattillo

Trade Paperback: 356 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: Review copy from publisher.

Back Cover Description:
Once a month, the six women of the Sweetgum Knit Lit Society gather to discuss books and share their knitting projects. Inspired by her recently-wedded bliss, group leader Eugenie chooses “Great Love Stories in Literature” as the theme for the year’s reading list–a risky selection for a group whose members span the spectrum of age and relationship status.

As the Knit Lit ladies read and discus classic romances like Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, and Pride and Prejudice, each member is confronted with her own perception about love. Camille’s unexpected reunion with an old crush forces her to confront conflicting desires. Newly widowed Esther finds her role in Sweetgum changing and is surprised by two unlikely friends. Hannah isn’t sure she’s ready for the trials of first love. Newcomer Maria finds her life turned upside-down by increasing family obligations and a handsome, arrogant lawyer, and Eugenie and Merry are both asked to make sacrifices for their husbands that challenge their principles.

Even in a sleepy, southern town like Sweetgum, Tennesee, love isn’t easy. The Knit Lit ladies learn they can find strength and guidance in the novels they read, the love of their family, their community–and especially in each other.

Knit for Love was about a lit club of woman who read classic romantic literature in which they saw lessons about their own romantic lives. Though they knitted projects to go with each lit club book, knitting had a very small role in this novel.

This book was the second about these characters, but you don't need to read the first one to understand this one. This charming story had more depth than I expected from the fluffy-sounding back copy, but it was still very predictable. The characters were interesting and varied, and the details of small-town life were good. Their small, Southern town doesn't match mine in their expectations of other people, I could see this type of town existing.

Though one of the characters was a pastor's wife and the rest attended the same church, there was no depth to their faith and little mention of God. Their church attendance came across to me as purely social or for appearance sake, and their "faith" made no impact on their behavior or lives. I wouldn't suggest this book to non-Christians, though.

There was no bad language and no sex. Overall, it was well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
Every Tuesday at eleven o’clock in the morning, Eugenie Carson descended the steps of the Sweetgum Public Library and made her way to Tallulah’s Café on the town square. In the past, she would have eaten the diet plate—cottage cheese and a peach half—in solitary splendor. Then she would have returned to her job running the library, just as she’d done for the last forty years.

On this humid September morning, though, Eugenie was meeting someone for lunch—her new husband, Rev. Paul Carson, pastor of the Sweetgum Christian Church. Eugenie smiled at the thought of Paul waiting for her at the café. They might both be gray haired and near retirement, but happiness was happiness, no matter what age you found it.

Eugenie entered the square from the southeast corner. The antebellum courthouse anchored the middle, while Kendall’s Department Store occupied the east side to her right. She walked along the south side of the square, past Callahan’s Hardware, the drugstore, and the movie theater, and crossed the street to the café. The good citizens of Sweetgumwere already arriving at Tallulah’s for lunch. Eugenie passed the café, heading up the western side of the square. She had a brief errand to do before she met her husband. Two doors down, she could see the sign for Munden’s Five-and-Dime. Her business there shouldn’t take long.

Before she reached Munden’s, a familiar figure emerged from one of the shops and blocked the sidewalk.

Hazel Emerson. President of the women’s auxiliary at the Sweetgum Christian Church and self-appointed judge and jury of her fellow parishioners.

“Eugenie.” Hazel smiled, but the expression, coupled with her rather prominent eyeteeth, gave her a wolfish look. Hazel was on the heavy side, a bit younger than Eugenie’s own sixty five years, and her hair was dyed an unbecoming shade of mink.

Hazel smiled, but there was no pleasantness in it. “Just the person I wanted to see.”

Read the rest of chapter one.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Speculative Fiction Reviewer's Database

Gathered by Grasping the Wind:


Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German


7 Foot Shelves

The Accidental Bard

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The Agony Column

A Hoyden's Look at Literature

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Andromeda Spaceways

The Antick Musings of G.B.H. Hornswoggler, Gent.

Ask Daphne

ask nicola

Audiobook DJ


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Barbara Martin

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Best SF

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Big Dumb Object

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Blog, Jvstin Style

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The Book Bind



Booksies Blog


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Breeni Books


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The Doctor is In...

Dragons, Heroes and Wizards

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Enter the Octopus

Erotic Horizon

Errant Dreams Reviews

Eve's Alexandria


Falcata Times

Fan News Denmark [in English]

Fantastic Reviews

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Fiction is so Overrated

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Janicu's Book Blog

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King of the Nerds


Lair of the Undead Rat

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ludis inventio

Lundblog: Beautiful Letters


Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review

Mari's Midnight Garden

Mark Freeman's Journal

Marooned: Science Fiction Books on Mars


Michele Lee's Book Love

Missions Unknown [Author and Artist Blog Devoted to SF/F/H in San Antonio]

The Mistress of Ancient Revelry

MIT Science Fiction Society

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More Words, Deeper Hole

Mostly Harmless Books

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My Favourite Books


Neth Space

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OF Blog of the Fallen

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Pat's Fantasy Hotlist

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Romanian French Chinese Danish Portuguese German

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Giveaway: Rose House

Rose House

Rose House
by Tina Ann Forkner

Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Author on Twitter

I really enjoyed this book, so I've decided to hold a giveaway contest for my review copy of Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner. You can learn more about the book by reading my review.

Due to shipping costs, this contest is for USA residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "@genrereviewer Enter me to win ROSE HOUSE because ________." (You need to fill why this book sounds interesting to you.)


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and giving the reason why this book sounds interesting to you.

The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner at noon (Central Time, Daylight Savings Time) on Sept. 1st on this blog. If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your shipping address.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper by Kathleen Y' Barbo

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper
by Kathleen Y' Barbo

Trade Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
This Wild West adventure just might be the life she was meant to live.

The future is clearly mapped out for New York socialite Eugenia “Gennie” Cooper, but she secretly longs to slip into the boots of her favorite dime-novel heroine and experience just one adventure before settling down. When the opportunity arises, Gennie jumps at the chance to experience the Wild West, but her plans go awry when she is drawn into the lives of silver baron Daniel Beck and his daughter and finds herself caring for them more than is prudent–especially as she’s supposed to go back to New York and marry another man.

As Gennie adapts to the rough-and-tumble world of 1880s Colorado, she must decide whether her future lies with the enigmatic Daniel Beck or back home with the life planned for her since birth. The question is whether Daniel’s past–and disgruntled miners bent on revenge–will take that choice away from her.

The Confidential Life of Eugenia Cooper is a humorous, fast-paced Christian romance set in 1880 in America. The romance was a predictable "lust at first sight" storyline, but the Wild West adventure parts added fun and unpredictability.

I generally found the characters engaging, though not very deep. Gennie comes close to being more than just the "rich girl" cliche, at least at the beginning, so I was disappointed when she lost this as the story went on.

The historical details were likewise rather superficial and scarce. I found several historical details that were wrong or questionable, one of them critical to the main crisis scene. Several of the scenes (one of those critical) felt contrived by the author to force certain events, but I think that was partly because the scenes weren't completely set up ahead of time. Since I was expecting a lighter, "dime novel adventure" style of writing, this didn't really bother me.

The characters were Christians living out their faith, which included praying and reading the Bible (which, to paraphrase Gennie, is 'the greatest adventure book' and 'contains more scandalous stories than dime novels'). No theological discussions occurred. Depending on tolerance levels, some non-Christians might enjoy reading this book.

There was no sex or bad language. Overall, this novel was a clean, fun romp.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
The warning came too late.

Mae Winslow’s finely tuned senses jumped as the fire bell rang, setting the populace into a motion akin to the stirring of a nest of hornets, and sending Mae into a fit of the vapors.

Before the sounding of the alarm, the only stings fair Mae felt in the bleak light of dawn were from her heart and her conscience. She had disappointed dear Henry once again, allowing the calamity that dogged her steps to set her on yet another path leading away from the home and hearth he so freely offered. Surely the longsuffering Henry understood that beneath her buckskin-clad exterior beat a heart that held nothing but love for him despite the vagabond life she must lead.

At the moment, however, her mind must turn from the excess of emotional thoughts that Henry Darling brought and toward the situation at hand. With the practiced eye of one far too well-trained in the ways of desperate outlaws and lowly curs, she lifted the sash of the boardinghouse window and lowered her gaze to the street below. With the fresh wind came the bitter scent of smoke. Alas, the odor did not emit from below or from beyond the bounds of the quaint structure, but rather swirled from behind, as if seeping beneath the slightly crooked bedroom door.

Mae made to turn when a shot rang out. A bullet chipped away several layers of paint on the sill and sent her scrambling to the floor. There, with her breath coming a bit freer, she crawled toward the bed, where her pistols hung on the bedpost.

“So,” the fair jewel breathed as she wrapped her small fingers around the cold metal that had saved her life more times than she could count, “they’ve found me.”

New York City, July 5, 1880
Something tickled her nose. Eugenia Flora Cooper batted at the offending object, then opened her eyes to see that she’d tossed a fringed pillow onto her bedroom floor. A thud told her the book she’d been reading last night had gone flying as well.

The book, a brand-new episode of Mae Winslow, Woman of the West. Gennie sighed and pulled the silk and velvet coverlet over her head as she snuggled down into the soft feather mattress. Despite the fact she was required to attend a post–Independence Day breakfast with the Vanowens this morning, then catch a train to Boston at noon, she’d devoured every word of the dime novel last evening, staying awake late into the night.

Read the rest of chapter one.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner

Rose House

Rose House
by Tina Ann Forkner

Trade Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
A vivid story of a private grief, a secret painting, and one woman’s search for hope.

Still mourning the loss of her family in a tragic accident, Lillian Diamon finds herself drawn back to the Rose House, a quiet cottage where four years earlier she had poured out her anguish among its fragrant blossoms.

She returns to the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the Sonoma Valley in search of something she can’t quite name. But then Lillian stumbles onto an unexpected discovery: displayed in the La Rosaleda Gallery is a painting that captures every detail of her most private moment of misery, from the sorrow etched across her face to the sandals on her feet.

What kind of artist would dare to intrude on such a personal scene, and how did he happen to witness Lillian’s pain? As the mystery surrounding the portrait becomes entangled with the accident that claimed the lives of her husband and children, Lillian is forced to rethink her assumptions about what really happened that day.

A captivating novel rich with detail, Rose House explores how the brushstrokes of pain can illuminate the true beauty of life.

Rose House was a well-written Christian romance novel with a good dose of suspense. It had a lot of romantic tension and temptation.

This novel was the second in a series. It focused on new characters with some characters from the previous book playing a supporting role. You can understand this book without having read the previous one. However, the author was deliberately vague about some details from the first book that might have helped readers understand the full significance of the Rose House.

The characters were engaging and complex. They dealt with real, difficult conflicts and decisions. There were no quick or easy answers to the pain and betrayal Lillian felt even though healing and reconciliation did come in the end. The pacing was excellent, and the world-building details were excellent.

Lillian dealt with a lot of loss in the novel and questioned why God allowed her young children to die. She ignored God after losing them. Several of the characters discussed this question with her, but I never felt like the discussion got preachy or "here's how you ought to believe." There's probably more God discussion in the novel than most non-Christians would be interested in, though.

There was no sex (for reasons beyond "religion," too), and I don't recall any bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this book as very good, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
It seemed to be a cottage that was alive, but it was only the vines twining in on themselves and clinging to the structure that were living, not unlike the memories and feelings people had attached to the house over time, making it mean more than mere sticks, pieces of wood, nails, and peeling paint could ever imply on their own.

The camera zoomed out to trace the rose brambles wrapping along the awning, curling over the banister and into the flowering borders along one side of the porch.The rest of the house gradually came into view, filling the scene with an abundance of roses in shades of scarlet draping the windows like curtains, then rambling across the roof, around the chimney and sweeping to the edges of the house, where they seemed to reach out their thorny branches toward passersby.

The lens didn’t capture the woman’s form at first as it swept away from the house down toward the yard and footpath with its border of snow white Shasta daisies and purple coneflowers. It leisurely zoomed in on a mass of daisies, capturing the breeze that sent an occasional ripple through the border, until the camera was forced to pause at the surprise interruption: a foot that intruded on the otherwise perfect scene.

To the artist behind the lens it was an exquisitely formed foot with a milky white ankle and pink-painted toenails. The lens suddenly tightened its view to capture the sandal decorated with pink and white pearlescent beads and a delicate pink ribbon that wound around the ankle and tied neatly above the heel.

Read the rest of chapter one.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Author Quirks: Latayne Scott

Next up is Latayne Scott, author of Latter-Day Cipher. I asked her:

What's a quirky or little-known fact about yourself, your writing, and/or one of your novels? (For example, you can tell us about a non-standard pet you have, an unusual way you do your writing, a strange real life incident that inspired a scene in one of your novels, or so on.)

Latayne Scott's answer:

Here's something that even the ladies at Novel Mattters, my dear friends, don't know about my writing career!

I have always tried to let the Lord guide my writing career. That’s a romantic ideal – as long as He puts you into glamorous writing jobs. But sometimes He led me into writing jobs I didn’t want and didn’t think I was qualified to do. For a three year period around 2000 I was paid to interview people and write articles about utilities for a business Internet site that was partially owned by CBS.

That’s right, utilities. Like natural gas, nuclear, electric, water and sewer. I had to produce up to five feature-length articles a week, with at least two original interviews of professionals in those fields per article. It was a 60 hour a week treadmill of reading press releases about natural gas pipelines and nuclear safety and transmission lines and gray water and black water. And then thinking up article ideas and getting them approved. And then writing them.

Did you know that one prominent ski resort used artificial snow made from, um, toilet water?

And do you know why I so much enjoy writing novels now?

Yes, I do! Thank you, Ms. Scott, for sharing this funny information about your writing career.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

North! Or Be Eaten by Andrew Peterson

North Or Be Eaten

North! Or Be Eaten
by Andrew Peterson

Trade Paperback: 331 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
First Released: 2009

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Janner, Tink, and Leeli Igiby thought they were normal children with normal lives and a normal past. But now they know they’re really the Lost Jewels of Anniera, heirs to a legendary kingdom across the sea, and suddenly everyone wants to kill them.

In order to survive, the Igibys must flee to the safety of the Ice Prairies, where the lizardlike Fangs of Dang cannot follow. First, however, they have to escape the monsters of Glipwood Forest,(1) the thieving Stranders of the East Bend,(2) and the dreaded Fork Factory.(3)

But even more dangerous are the resentments and bitterness that threaten to tear them apart.

1. All possessing very sharp teeth.
2. Murderous scoundrels, the lot.
3. Woe!

North! Or Be Eaten is a young adult fantasy. Logic need not apply. (My poor, logical brain kept frying every time a sword or dagger was lost during a fight only to mysteriously and without comment show up when the owner needed it during the next fight.) There was a lot of happenstance and accidental good and bad fortune used to stir up the plot.

This is the second book in the series, and I haven't read the first book. I strongly suspect this book would be more understandable if I'd read the first book and learned the family's "normal" dynamics from it. As it was, I couldn't understand why the family members didn't seem to care about the odd behavior the others were showing.

The book starts out humorously, but quickly turns grim, sad, and full of guilt and shame. It's a world with very little beauty, trust, safety, or mercy. It was just so bleak and cruel, especially to the thousands of children in the book.

This book came from a Christian publisher, but the book showed no hint of Christian beliefs or religion. I can't even think of any good lessons found in the book.

The world was very imaginative, and what the new plants, animals, and objects looked like was always clear. The pacing was excellent.

There was no cussing, no sex, and no magic (in the sense of casting spells). I wouldn't give this book to a child under fourteen (unless I wanted to depress and frighten them), but some older teens or adults might like it. Overall, it's clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
"Toooothy cow!" bellowed Podo as he whacked a stick against the nearest glipwood tree. The old pirate's eyes blazed, and he stood at the base of the tree like a ship's captain at the mast. "Toothy cow! Quick! Into the tree house!"

Not far away, an arrow whizzed through some hanging moss and thudded into a plank of wood decorated with a charcoal drawing of a snarling Fang. The arrow protruded from the Fang's mouth, the shaft still vibrating from the impact. Tink lowered his bow, squinted to see if he had hit the target, and completely ignored his grandfather.

"Tooooothy--oy! That's a fine shot, lad--Cow!"

Podo whacked the tree as Nia hurried up the rope ladder that led to the trapdoor in the floor of Peet the Sock Man's tree house. A sock-covered hand reached down and pulled Nia up through the opening.

"Thank you, Artham," she said, still holding his hand. She looked him in the eye and raised her chin, waiting for him to answer.

Peet the Sock Man, whose real name was Artham P. Wingfeather, looked back at her and gulped. One of his eyes twitched. He looked like he wanted to flee, as he always did when she called him by his first name, but Nia didn't let go of his hand.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Fatal Waltz by Tasha Alexander

A Fatal Waltz

A Fatal Waltz
by Tasha Alexander

Trade Paperback: 308 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins
First Released: 2008

Author Website

Source: I bought it from Books-A-Million.

Back Cover Description:
At her friend Ivy's behest, Lady Emily Ashton reluctantly agrees to attend a house party at the country estate of Lord Basil Fortescue, a man she finds as personally odious as he is politically powerful. But if she was expecting Lord Fortescue to be the greatest of her problems, she was wrong. Her host has also included Kristiana von Lange among the guests, an Austrian countess who had once been linked romantically with Emily's fiancé, Colin Hargreaves. Both Lord Fortescue and the countess take great delight in tormenting Emily, but petty malice turns deadly serious when Lord Fortescue is found murdered, and his protégé, Robert Brandon - Ivy’s husband - is arrested for the crime.

Emily’s efforts to clear Robert’s name take her to Vienna. Glittering balls, sordid back streets, chic cafes, and even the Imperial palace yield fragmentary clues, but not until Emily engages a notorious anarchist in a game of wits does the shocking truth begin to emerge: The price of exonerating Robert can only be paid by placing Colin in deadly peril. And the one way Emily can ensure his safety is to strike an unthinkable bargain with her nemesis, the Countess von Lange.

A Fatal Waltz is a suspenseful historical mystery and romance set in England and Vienna in the 1890s. This book is the third in the series but is understandable without reading the previous books. However, I'd still recommend you start with the first book in series since each book "spoils" the previous ones and, if you enjoy this one, you'll want to read them, too.

The world-building in this novel was excellent. The historical details were skillfully woven into the story, bringing the world alive in my imagination without slowing the pace. The characters were all interesting and engaging. Emily was occasionally distressingly naive, but only as was accurate to the character.

The novel has an underlying humor that keeps it from getting dark. The complex mystery kept me guessing until the very end, and the ending was satisfying.

I don't recall any cussing, but the anarchist might have sworn once since a point was made that he wasn't religious. There was no sex. Overall, Tasha Alexander delivered an excellent historical mystery once again. I'd highly recommend this book as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
I had not noticed it when she first arrived: the way she leaned too far towards him as he kissed her hand, the hint of surprised recognition in his eyes. But having spent an afternoon in the same room as them, watching the effortless manner in which they fell into familiar conversation--two striking individuals against an equally spectacular backdrop--I could not deny that they were more than casual acquaintances. Never had I suspected my fiancé was so close to another woman.

I was accustomed to, and often amused by the parade of young ladies who flirted with Colin Hargreaves at every opportunity. The fact that he looked something like a Greek statue of ideal man--by Praxiteles, of course--made him irresistible to debutantes. His enormous fortune, family lineage that could be traced to the time of William the Conqueror, and a well-tended estate ensured that he was equally attractive to their parents. But until today, I'd never seen him react to a woman the way he did to the Countess von Lange.

“And you know, Schatz, the Baroness Meinz thought that Tintoretto had done the doors of the Duomo in Florence. Can you imagine?” she asked. Schatz? I was shocked to hear her use a term of endearment in such an intimate tone of voice.

“Well, perhaps she's no scholar of art, but--” Colin began.

“Scholar? Darling, she's absolutely hopeless. Why even you know who Tintoretto is, don't you Lady Ashton?”

“Of course,” I said, my lack of knowledge of Renaissance art making it impossible for me to add anything more.

“You understand, I hope, why Tintoretto couldn't have done the doors?” she asked, her green eyes dancing as she looked at me.

“My expertise is in classical art, countess,” I said. “I'm afraid I'm unable to discuss the nuances of the Italian Renaissance.”

“Nuance has nothing to do with it. Tintoretto was a painter. Ghiberti was a sculptor. He did the doors--Michelangelo called them gates of paradise.” She pushed against Colin's arm playfully. “You are going to have to educate her. I can't have you married to someone who's as foolish as the baroness. It would be unconscionable.”

“You've nothing to fear on that count,” he said. “Emily's brilliant.”

“Spoken like a man in love.” She had turned so that her back was almost to me, cutting me out of the conversation.

Read the rest of chapter one.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And the Winner is...

It's time to pick a winner for my copy of "Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz" by Belinda Acosta. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always join in the fun by buying a copy of this book at your favorite bookstore.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Author Quirks: Belinda Acosta

Next up is Belinda Acosta, author of Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz. I asked her:

What's a quirky or little-known fact about yourself, your writing, and/or one of your novels? (For example, you can tell us about a non-standard pet you have, an unusual way you do your writing, a strange real life incident that inspired a scene in one of your novels, or so on.)

Belinda Acosta's answer:

I was born and raised in Lincoln, Nebraska. I don’t find that so “odd” or “quirky,” but by the number of times people rear back when I tell them that, it apparently strikes others as wacky. When most people think of the U.S. Latino experience, they think of East Los Angeles, the Bronx of New York, or Texas. But I am a Midwesterner, made with Mexican parts and a heavy dose of Tejana backbone, thanks to my mother who was born and raised in the South Texas Valley.

Though Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz is centered around a quinceañera, I never had one (my mother asked me if I wanted a Sweet 16 and I declined—I was going through an anti-femme phase. Don’t ask). I don’t have any children. I had never been to a quinceañera mass until I was writing this book. But I’ve been fascinated by the range of approaches to the ceremony and hearing women’s oral histories on the subject. One of my favorite things to do at the nail salon—when you’re sitting there waiting for your nails to dry—is to ask women sitting with me if they had a quinceañera. The question always launches them into these long involved tales about their daughter’s quince, their niece, their comadre’s girl, and on and on and on. Some people think it’s babbling, but it’s the kind of babbling I love. It’s music to my ears. And sitting there waiting for your nails to dry is really boring.

—Belinda Acosta
July 31, 2009

Thank you, Ms. Acosta, for sharing this interesting information about your life.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Is "Clean" a Four-Letter Word?

I'm confused by something. I like to read widely. I like realistic problems, deep-felt struggles, and non-stereotypical characters in my fiction. I want to see how other people think and handle problems. (After all, I already know how I think.)

There are so many books out there no one can read them all, so we all have reading preferences--like reading only certain genre or liking the romantic lead to be tall, dark and handsome. My main "narrow down my choices of what to read" preferences are minimal cussing and no graphic sex.

(To be specific, I prefer no cussing or only a few cuss words per chapter or the "he cussed up a storm" style of handling bad language. If the novel contains sex, I prefer that it's realistic/has realistic consequences and isn't described graphically/titillatingly.) I've read books that don't meet these preferences, and, no, I'm not offended by them. I just don't prefer--for various reasons--to read them.

Since books don't have ratings on sex/gore/violence/bad language, I either have to confine my reading to imprints known for staying within my guidelines and settle for whatever writing quality I get or ask other readers for their recommendations of well-written mainstream fiction that meets my preferences. I like to branch out, so I've been asking for "clean reading" recommendations on Twitter, my blog, and a few other places.

I thought people would enjoy being asked for recommendations. I thought "clean" was the standard short-hand word used to give people an idea of what I meant. But this question seems to upset a few people. In fact, I've been told I should read according to their preferences instead of mine. *baffled look* Thank you, but you have your preferences and I have mine.

I honestly don't understand why people aren't just ignoring me or giving me a genuine recommendation. Why be upset? After all, I obviously respect and am interested in their reading choices or I wouldn't be asking for a recommendation.

So I can only conclude that using "clean" is somehow offending people when I never meant it to. So, if "clean" is a dirty word, what should I use instead?

Update: Amy pointed out that she wrote on this topic yesterday on her blog. I agree with her Read and Let Read post and think it's well worth reading.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Latter-Day Cipher by Latayne C. Scott

Latter-Day Cipher

Latter-Day Cipher
by Latayne C. Scott

Trade Paperback: 377 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Author on Twitter

Source: Won a copy from the publisher in a twitter contest

Back Cover Description:
When rebellious Utah socialite Kirsten Young is found murdered in Provo Canyon with strange markings carved into her flesh and a note written in 19th century code, questions arise about the old laws of the Mormon Church. Journalist Selonnah Zee is assigned the story—which quickly takes on a life of its own. Even before the first murder is solved several more victims appear, each one more mysterious than the last.

Adding to a slew of other distractions, Selonnah’s cousin Roger has recently converted and is now a public spokesperson for the Mormon faith. But paradoxically, Roger’s wife, Eliza, is struggling to hold on to the Mormon beliefs of her childhood. If something is really from God, she wonders, why does it need to be constantly revised? And could the murderer be asking the same questions?

Latter-Day Cipher is a well-written, intriguing mystery/suspense novel. The world-building details about Utah, Mormon culture, and the character's jobs were all excellent and brought the world alive in my mind.

The author used a lot of figurative language. It was well-done, though I was occasionally confused about what was being described until the end of the description. I also found that the frequent use of figurative language (mainly used in Selonnah's point-of-view) gave a dreamy, distant feel to her character--which fit but also sometimes diluted the tension in her scenes. (Thus, I considered this a mystery novel until the suspense built in last third of the novel.)

The pacing was excellent, and the tension built when Selonnah began to suspect who the murder was. The varied, complex characters dealt with realistic struggles which I sympathized with. One character's fate at the end could have been made clearer (though my questions disappeared the more I thought about it), but the author does clearly indicate the future courses of the main characters.

Information about Mormon beliefs as well as bits about Hispanic Catholic culture, Protestant Christianity, and even Islam were woven skillfully into the story as information necessary to deciphering the clues left by the murderer. Events were seen through the eyes of an atheist, Selonnah, and several Mormon characters. The Mormon side of things was handled in a sympathetic manner. The novel was never preachy; the characters were just living out their beliefs. I think most non-Christians would enjoy this novel.

I don't recall any bad language, and there was no sex. The murder scene was graphic (how the body was laid out and what done to it), but I didn't really find it gory. Overall, I'd highly recommend this "good, clean read" to anyone interested in learning more about Mormon beliefs or who enjoys an interesting mystery.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
There on the damp pine needles, Kirsten Young lay on her back, a serene Ophelia in her dusky pond of blood. The dark irises of her bloodshot eyes stared unseeing into the branches above her. The sun had burst through the clouds after the sudden downpour and now blazed above the canopy of conifers and aspens in Provo Canyon. Deep in its recesses, the light filtered down in vertical sheets of champagne dust that played across the body.

Her skin, once the faintest of olive, now was pale as churned cream, mottled in the dark pooling of what everyone called her hot Italian blood. An angry oval bruise, dark as a plum, marked the side of her forehead.

The silt in her throat cut deep. Her left arm lay loosely at her side, still bearing at the wrist the friction marks from the plastic rope that had bound her. Her right arm crossed her chest, with the elbow supported by a rock underneath the triceps so the arm stayed in place. Her fingers curled slightly around her own shoulder, as if she gave herself a final hug in death. The tip of her thumb touched, delicately, the edge of the open wound under her left ear.

The scene on the forest floor was meant to set things aright.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Giveaway: Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz

Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz cover

Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz
by Belinda Acosta

Trade Paperback: 315 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
First Released: 2009

Author Website

I really enjoyed this book, so I've decided to hold a giveaway contest for my review copy of Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta. You can learn more about the book by reading my review.

Due to shipping costs, this contest is for USA residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "@genrereviewer Enter me to win DAMAS, DRAMAS, AND ANA RUIZ because ________." (You need to fill why this book sounds interesting to you.)


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered and giving the reason why this book sounds interesting to you.

The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner at noon (Central Time, Daylight Savings Time) on August 13th on this blog. If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your shipping address.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta

Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz cover

Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz
by Belinda Acosta

Trade Paperback: 315 pages
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
First Released: 2009

Author Website

Source: Review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Being a Woman is Never Easy...No Mater What Your Age

Ana Ruiz can't change the fact that her husband, Esteban, moved out or make their two children miss him less, but she can reach out to her angry and confused daughter, Carman. What better way to come together as a family than a traditional quinceañera?

Carmen blames her mother for her parents' separation, and Ana is torn between telling her daughter the truth--that Esteban was unfaithful--and protecting her from it. The advice Ana gets from friends and family also pulls her in two directions: Some urge her to get over Esteban's betrayal while others think she should get over him altogether and move on. As the quinceañera approaches, Ana realizes that Carmen isn't the only Ruiz who needs a lesson in what it means to be a strong and independent woman.

Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz is an insightful, touching, and sympathetically humorous novel. I loved all of the characters, which were complex and acted in realistic and understandable ways. The problems they faced were also realistically complex. The world-building was nice, and the pacing was very good.

The story is written with Spanish words and short Spanish phrases mixed in with the English. It helps if you know some Spanish, but the meaning was often clearly implied by the context or was made clear in the next sentence. Don't let the Spanish hold you back from reading the novel.

Occasionally, mild cuss words were used, and there were a few instances of swearing. There were some sexy descriptions and lustful thoughts, but no sex. (Well, technically, there was, but it's implied rather than explicit.) Many of the characters were Catholic to various degrees, but faith played little role in the story.

If any cussing, swearing, etc., bothers you, then you'll probably not enjoy this book. If you want every female main character who encounters a gorgeous and willing man to jump in bed with him, then you probably won't enjoy this book. The characters in this novel have their own beliefs and way of doing things; they don't act in a stereotypical fashion. I'd highly recommend this well-written, fairly clean read to anyone who thinks it sounds interesting.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Prologue
Don't let anyone tell you that being a woman is like – cómo se dice? – a piece of the cake. Mira, take a look around. All these niñitas dressed up like Barbie dolls outside of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, their toes scrunched into pointy high heels, hair pulled into tidy buns, bangs springing over their foreheads or hanging in gaunt strands alongside their girlish faces. The smell of hairspray and designer perfume, starched shirts and polished shoes mingle in the air. The matching boys are tucked into tuxedos looking like they want to be someplace else. They do! The Spurs game starts in thirty minutes. The limo driver allá, is looking at his watch for the same reason. And then there's pobrecita Ana Ruiz. That poor woman! All she wanted was to have a small quinceañera, a nice way to celebrate her niña Carmen con cariño. She wanted Carmen's fifteenth birthday to be special and lovely. Instead, there she is, the one in the lilac dress, her wavy hair going flat and her feet screaming from running around in heels, taking care of one disaster after the next. Today, she looks older than her thirty-eight years, weary from months of worry. The few streaks of gray she has, she got this month alone! Still, everything about Ana is soft—her hands, her laugh, the color of her amber skin. She has a small patch of dark skin below her ear that some women get when they have babies. But because Ana is what you would call pretty, you don't even notice. She's a good-looking woman; thin, but with meat in all the right places, as the men might say. For the women who need to be the center of attention when they walk into a room, Ana is the last one they worry about. They think, She's like a sugar cube – easy to melt with the heat they make with the sway of their nalgas or the heave of their chichis. But oh no! Ana is the one that surprises them. With those lips béseme, the whispery hollows of her cheeks, the way her neck curves like poured water, and finally, that look from her smoky black eyes – that alone will make some men walk into walls while the women, who thought they were the main dish at the party, will cluck to themselves and think, Her? Quién es esa?

You can tell right away that Ana Ruiz is respectable. She's no spring kitten, but she's way too young to cover it up in housedresses. But right now, Ana doesn't care what she looks like. She's wondering how this wonderful day turned to this. All she wanted was a little tradition, a nice way to mark this time in Carmen's life and maybe get back to the way things were before Esteban left.

Carmen is officially becoming a woman today, in a time when becoming a woman happens in a flurry like a million cascarones broken over your head. Just this week, she was figuring out the best way to brush her hair to make the tiara sit just so. Pero, no one knows where the tiara is now and Carmen doesn't even care. Today means nothing and everything to Carmen who, right now, only really wants to know, When will this pinche day be over?

Ana is standing near the door of the church. No one would be surprised if she snapped in two from all this drama! But no, like always, there she is: like a blade of grass in a hurricane. You can smash her down but she will never break. She's the one they call a strong woman, though she never understood why. She would say she only did what she had to do and that if patience and hard work are what it takes to be a strong woman, then okay, call her what you want. But right now, she feels spent. She feels like she might lose it. Her son, Diego, didn't come home last night, and Carmen has been barfing since midnight. The band that showed up is not the nice mariachi Ana thought was coming but three boys, one with tattoos on his arms and silver rings poked aquí y allá on his face and ears. And did I tell you about the cake? The cake is late. There was talk that there might not even be a cake, and well, you can't have a quinceañera without a cake, can you?

[...cut so you can read the end of the prologue...]

Pero, let me go back to the beginning. The very beginning, because híjole! I love a good quinceañera story. And I got to tell you this one.