Wednesday, April 30, 2014

G305 Book Review of To Live Forever; an afterlife journey of Meriwether Lewis by Andra Watkins

Name of Book: To Live Forever; an afterlife journey of Meriwether Lewis

Author: Andra Watkins

ISBN: 9780615937472

Publisher: Word Hermit Press

Type of book: New Orleans, 1977, Nowhere, paranormal, father/daughter relationship, ghost, fulfilling deeds, fame, Natchez Trail, history, travel

Year it was published: 2914


Explorer Meriwether Lewis has been stuck in Nowhere since his mysterious death nearly two centuries ago. His last hope for redemption is helping nine-year-old Emmaline Cagney flee her madame mother in New Orleans and find her father in Nashville. To get there, Merry must cross his own grave along the Natchez Trace, where he duels the corrupt Judge, an old foe who has his own despicable plans for Em.


The characters that were really fleshed out were Em, Merry and the Judge. There were a few other secondary characters, but unfortunately they weren't as memorable as main, and it also seemed that they only appeared for a brief time before disappearing. Em is kind of a female Huck Finn. She's fearless, adventurous and determined to be reunited with her father no matter what. She is also very friendly and strangely enough isn't cautious, considering her upbringing. Merry is very cautious, introspective and it seems as if he is frustrated and sad due to the way his life is. He is also determined to do what he can for Em. The Judge himself has negative plans for Em and he seems to be stuck in the past and holding on to slights.


No idea what the theme should have been


Its written in first person narrative from Emmaline's and Merry's and the Judge's points of views. Considering that first person narrative is tricky, and the reader has no idea who's telling the story, its interesting that the reader isn't warned who's speaking. The writing and the voices are very distinctive and well done: when I was reading Em's point of view, I felt that I was seeing things from a child's point of view, and same goes for Merry. I also liked a little bit of the world building when it came to Nowhere and would have wanted to know what happens then. I think at one point it was kind of advertised as a romance, but its not. The book is paranormal and there is a father/daughter relationship at the center of sorts, but no passionate romance.

Author Information:

Andra Wakins is a native of Tennessee but calls Charleston, South Carolina, her home for the last 23 years.  She is the author of To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, a mishmash of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense that follows Meriwether Lewis (of Lewis & Clark fame) after his mysterious death on the Natchez Trace in 1809. 

You can visit her website at or follow her on Google+,Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest and Goodreads.


I'm sorry, but this book wasn't really my cup of tea. I didn't hate it and it was well written, but I guess the premise kind of made it that way for me. If I read kind of an absurd book, I expect it to be either comedy or perhaps something else. As odd as it sounds, I only have a cursory familiarity with Lewis and Clark, and yeah, I did know that Lewis had killed himself. I guess I kind of hoped that the book would be about the Lewis and Clark Expedition and then it will move on to 1977, but it wasn't. The book is definitely an adventure story. I also thought that secondary characters would be well drawn, but again, they weren't. I think one of the things I did find frustrating is that the story switches points of view, but in chapters we weren't warned who's speaking until we begin reading the chapter.

This is for Pump Up Your Book Tour

Purchase your copy:

Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis Tour Page:

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

G297 Book Review of A Comedy of Erinn by Celia Bonaduce

Name of Book: A Comedy of Erinn

Author: Celia Bonaduce

ISBN: 9781601831255

Publisher: Kensington

Type of book: Romance, chick-lit, May/December romance, Italy, TV, snob, know-it-all, unlikable character

Year it was published: 2013


Erinn Wolf needs to reinvent herself. A once celebrated playwright turned photographer, she's almost broke, a little lonely, and tired of her sister's constant worry. When a job on a reality TV show falls into her lap, she's thrilled to be making a paycheck--and when a hot Italian actor named Massimo rents her guesthouse, she's certain her life is getting a romantic subplot. But with the director, brash, gorgeous young Jude, dogging her every step, she can't help but look at herself through his lens--and wonder if she's been reading the wrong script all along. . .


While other characters populate the book, the only few that stand out in my mind are Erinn, Massimo, Jude and the sister Suzanna. Erinn is the most frustrating and unlikable character that I have encountered in my journey of fiction. She argues over pointless details, corrects people about their grammar in a condescending way, and yet good things happen to her! I often think that because of people like her, the intellectuals have a bad name. Massimo is a charming Italian man who seems to be perfect for Erinn and secretly I wish Erinn would have gotten with him. The romance between her and another character feels way too forced. Jude is Erinn's polar opposite. He uses current slang and isn't someone Erinn can get along with. I actually liked Suzanna because she's warm and sisterly and affectionate.


Everything great happens in one day


Its written in third person narrative primarily from Erinn's point of view. I have to admit that the story and plot weren't realistic for me: someone who never had TV experience but only theater manages to land on TV and then is very egotistical and gives bad name to intellectuals also is well liked and manages to have two men after her? I would imagine that working there is cut-throat and its not suited for newbies.

Author Information:
Celia Bonaduce is an award-winning producer whose credits cover a lot of ground – everything from field-producing ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition to writing for many of Nickelodeon’s animated series, including Hey, Arnold and Chalkzone. If Celia Bonaduce’s last name is any indication, she is proof that TV talent runs in the family. 

An avid reader, entering the world of books has always been a lifelong ambition. The Merchant of Venice Beach is book one of her three-book deal with eKensington, a digital imprint of Kensington Publishing Corp. The follow up novel, A Comedy of Erinn, has also been released, and book three, Much Ado About Mother, will be coming out on May 14, 2014

You can visit Celia Bonaduce’s website at

Connect & Socialize!


Just because I rated it two stars it doesn't mean that the writing was horrible. It simply means that the cover, the story, and the character have completely turned me off from liking the story. Just thinking about the character is enough to make my blood boil. Better yet, if my blood worked as a grill, then right now let's enjoy a nice juicy hamburger. In other words, this isn't a book for me. I knew it would be a chick lit romance, but typically the reader should enjoy a character whatever their personal feelings about it, and its really not good when you're hoping for the main character to fail. What I wasn't warned is that it has tones of May/December romance and that the book and storyline are not realistic whatsoever. Umm, if you constantly correct someone, especially if they happen to be the boss, then wouldn't this person fire you or whatnot? And something that always mystifies me is how can a guy fall in love with a woman that is literally pain in the butt?

Buy the Book at Amazon
Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

A Comedy of Erinn Tour Page:

This is for Pump Up Your Book Tour

2 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

G301 Book Review of Night in Shanghai by Nicole Mones

Name of Book: Night in Shanghai

Author: Nicole Mones

ISBN: 978-0-547-51617-2

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Type of book: China, 1936-1941, African-American male/Chinese female relationship, jazz, music, Japanese, WWII, conquer, night world, Shanghai, Chinese, Communists vs Nationalists, Jews in Shanghai, Jew question, rescuing Jews

Year it was published: 2014


In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war.

Song Yuhua is refined, educated, and bonded since age eighteen to Shanghai’s most powerful crime boss in payment for her father’s gambling debts. Outwardly submissive, she burns with rage and risks her life spying on her master for the Communist Party.

Only when Shanghai is shattered by the Japanese invasion do Song and Thomas find their way to each other. Though their union is forbidden, neither can back down from it in the turbulent years of occupation and resistance that follow. Torn between music and survival, freedom and commitment, love and world war, they are borne on an irresistible riff of melody and improvisation to Night in Shanghai’s final, impossible choice.

In this impressively researched novel, Nicole Mones not only tells the forgotten story of black musicians in the Chinese Jazz age, but also weaves in a stunning true tale of Holocaust heroism little-known in the West.


With exception of Song Yuhua, I feel that the characters didn't seem to change, or that we spent little time with them to see them change. Thomas Greene is an African-American classical musician who was scouted by Lin Ming and he arrived to Shanghai. I would guess he is best described as loyal, and he can easily be seduced by beauty. He has suffered a lot, and is very strong when it comes to overcoming adversity. Song Yuhua is slightly similar to Thomas Greene, but she is trying to discover what she wants to do and she has strong beliefs and is willing to sacrifice anything and everything to fully realize her potential. Lin Ming is fearful of failure and is looking for perfection that doesn't exist. There are other characters as well, such as a Japanese admiral who loves jazz and who has paradoxical values when it comes to Jews and Chinese and few others, but it really was a joy to make this journey with the book.


Love comes in unexpected packages


Its written in third person narrative, primarily from Thomas Greene's and Song Yuhua's points of view, although we also have Lin Ming from time to time. I think the way it begins is with Thomas Greene arriving to Shanghai and realizing how different it is from Baltimore. From his point of view, there is sort of elegance and magic about Shanghai and the night club where he performs. However, as time goes on, he becomes adjusted and soon enough, the magic fades away and unwanted reality sets in. Besides the ambiguous ending, I honestly don't have anything to complain about.

Author Information:
(From Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour)

A newly launched textile business took Nicole Mones to China for the first time in 1977, after the end of the Cultural Revolution. As an individual she traded textiles with 03_Nicole MonesChina for eighteen years before she turned to writing about that country. Her novels Night in Shanghai, The Last Chinese Chef, Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light are in print in more than twenty-two languages and have received multiple juried prizes, including the Kafka Prize (year’s best work of fiction by any American woman) and Kiriyama Prize (finalist; for the work of fiction which best enhances understanding of any Pacific Rim Culture).

Mones’ nonfiction writing on China has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Gourmet, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. She is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. For more information visir


Reading this book was like reading The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (I mean it in a complimentary way.) The writing seemed to be styled like a seamless musical piece. I was very impressed with the book. In beginning there was the mystery, love, the thrill of plunging into something breathtaking. Masterfully, little by little, almost without notice, darker information emerges, taking away the breathtaking beauty of beginnings, and leaving the reader almost without ladders to climb out. Years and years back I attempted to read Nicole Mones, but at the time I wasn't ready for her. Yet when I was offered a chance by a publicity agent, I agreed and am very glad I did so. The book presents information not only about the jazz scene in Shanghai, but it also talks about the Jewish situation and how Chinese offered their assistance to Jews and how they have done their best to insure that those who came over stayed safe.I really admired Ho Feng-Shan who wrote many fake Visas to Jews, and there seemed to be an irony of sorts between how Japanese are towards Jews and how they are towards Chinese. Anyone but me also notice that?

This is for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, April 7
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews
Tuesday, April 8
Spotlight & Giveaway at The Bookworm
Wednesday, April 9
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Thursday, April 10
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Friday, April 11
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Monday, April 14
Review & Giveaway at A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Tuesday, April 15
Review, Interview, & Giveaway at Drey’s Library
Wednesday, April 16
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Friday, April 18
Review & Giveaway at Our Wolves Den
Monday, April 21
Guest Post at Jorie Loves a Story
Review at WTF Are You Reading?
Tuesday, April 22
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, April 23
Review at Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, April 24
Interview at Mina’s Bookshelf
Friday, April 25
Guest Post & Giveaway at Bibliophilia, Please
Monday, April 28
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

5 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

G166 Book Review of The Distraction Addiction; Getting the information you need and the communication you want, without enraging your family, annoying your colleagues, and destroying your soul

Title of the book: The Distraction Addiction; Getting the Information you need and the communication you want without enraging your family, annoying your colleagues, and destroying your soul.

Author: Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

Publishing Date: 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-20826-0


The question of our time: can we reclaim our lives in an age that feels busier and more distracting by the day?
We've all found ourselves checking email at the dinner table, holding our breath while waiting for Outlook to load, or sitting hunched in front of a screen for an hour longer than we intended.

Mobile devices and the web have invaded our lives, and this is a big idea book that addresses one of the biggest questions of our age: can we stay connected without diminishing our intelligence, attention spans, and ability to really live? Can we have it all?

Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, a renowned Stanford technology guru, says yes. THE DISTRACTION ADDICTION is packed with fascinating studies, compelling research, and crucial takeaways. Whether it's breathing while Facebook refreshes, or finding creative ways to take a few hours away from the digital crush, this book is about the ways to tune in without tuning out.

Other Works:

He wrote a book titled Empire and the Sun: Victorian Solar Eclipse Expeditions which was published in 2002




"You are the inheritor of a contemplative legacy that you can use to retake control of your technologies, to tame the monkey mind, and to redesign your extended mind. Connection is inevitable. Distraction is a choice." (229)

Problems addressed: 

"The monkey mind's constant activity reflects a deep restlessness: monkey can't sit still because their minds never stop.Likewise, most of the time, the human mind delivers up a constant stream of consciousness. Even in quiet moments, minds are prone to wandering...the monkey mind is attracted to today's infinite and ever-changing buffet of information choices and devices. It thrives on overload, is drawn to shiny and blinky things, and doesn't distinguish between good and bad technologies or choices." (4)

Summary of the Content:

Apparently people aren't created to cope with modern world or technology overload, thus the author introduces humans to programs that should help them slightly regain the world they have lost through devices and whatnot.


"There are eight principles for contemplative computing. You're using them when you learn to be aware of how devices and media affect your breathing and mood; when you replace switch-tasking with real multitasking; when you adopt tools and practices designed to protect your attention; when you tweet mindfully; when you employ restorative spaces and digital Sabbaths to recharge your mind. Being familiar with the eight principles and seeing how they connect entanglement, Zenware, mindfulness, self-experimentation, and restoration can help you create relationships with information technologies that improve your extended mind. Their presence signals that you're using technologies in ways that will let you improve your mind and restore your focus and concentration; their absence is a sign that your relationship with your technologies isn't working for you." (216)

Main points:

*Eight Steps to Contemplative Computing

Why book is interesting:

Certain things I learned, such as about email and lack of breathing, I had no idea, or how a lot of people are hooked to constantly checking email and other stuff as well. Very eye-opening. I did find writing and stories interesting, but I do feel that the author went a little too long with them, and sometimes I looked at the chapter heading and then what I was reading and often wondered how does what I'm reading relate to the chapter heading?

Supports thesis:

The book does support the thesis, but the thing is that the thesis is at the end of the book rather than beginning, thus through the whole book I had no idea how everything connects until the very end.

Addressing Issues:

Instead of people controlling and using technology mindfully, its the other way around which isn't a good thing at all. People sacrifice time and everything else just to check Facebook or email or whatnot. (Fine I'm guilty of email thing myself...) and the author cautions to take breaks and at times enjoy time and life without Facebook or email and so forth.

Book Ideas vs World ideas:

I can imagine that his advice will help people reconnect and will prevent soul destruction. I also imagine that should the advice be followed, who knows, the world will become slower and peaceful instead of quick and harried.


To some extent I do agree with the author's conclusions and advice, but I guess I wanted something a bit more concrete and realistic instead of something that seemed out of reach of many. (Flying on a place as peaceful? I can't afford to fly) I also would guess that a lot of it could be something like this: be ready for the future technology! And at one point, I thought that the chapter headings were switched because the writing didn't match up to them.


The author was extremely detailed when it came to various sources


I would read it and I did find it interesting, but the things that stopped me from giving it five stars and instead I had to resort it to three is that the thesis is at the back instead of the front, and that the stories went for a little too long and didn't seem to match up to chapter headings. Also, for some odd reason, the writing was a bit childish for me.

Quick notes: I won this book on thus this review will appear in its entirety on goodreads as well as the blog.

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Mini-Interview with Phyllis T Smith, author of I am Livia

I only recently began to read I am Livia, a story about Caesar Octavius's (Augustus, ruler after Julius Caesar...) wife and so far I'm really enjoying it. The review itself will come out in June (Thanks!) Meanwhile, here's a mini-interview with the author of this wonderful book. (Thanks for your time and for answering my questions!)

What inspired you to pen down a story about Livia and Octavian?

I enjoyed I Claudius (both the book and the TV miniseries) which introduced me to Livia as a fictional villain. I’ve had a longtime interest in ancient Rome and have wanted to write a historical novel with that setting.  Livia seemed like a great central character but I didn’t know if I could stand spending a lot of time writing about someone so evil.  Researching her life, however, I came to the conclusion that she was misjudged, that her reputation was trashed because she was a powerful woman living in a time when women were not supposed to be powerful.  Imagining her life I came to empathize with her and even to want to do her historical justice.

 Who are your favorite characters, if any, and why?

Livia was my favorite character.  There is something about writing in the first person voice of a person who actually lived, and putting yourself in her place, that builds empathy.  I had a sense of how resilient she had to be to get through some of the things she did.  I also got to like Caesar Octavianus quite a bit-- more than I expected to.  Some historians have called him an enigma.  He had his dark side.  But I believe he was capable of deep human emotions, certainly when it came to Livia.  His complexity made him interesting to write about.

Octavia, Caesar’s sister and Mark Antony’s wife, deserves a mention here.  She is generally looked upon as the boring third party in the romantic triangle that included Antony and Cleopatra. But she was heroic in her own way, not afraid to defy her all-powerful brother.  She made a stand for peace.  I find her truly admirable.

What were the easiest and difficult parts of your research and why?

Rome, to put it mildly, was patriarchal.   I found the lives of men who were active in public life relatively easy to research because Roman historians were mainly interested in them. The details of the lives of women and children didn’t particularly interest these ancient historians—who were men--and much information was never recorded and is simply lost to us.

Livia was the most powerful woman in Roman history so she left an imprint on history, but you have to read between the lines.  There is a quotation from her in which she attributes the success of her marriage, to among other things, her never interfering in her husband’s affairs.  That is laughable.  There are other sources that show she was her husband’s partner in running the Roman Empire.  I suspect that she was always interfering in his affairs, that is, in public business, but she kept her mouth shut about it because it would be bad public relations to be truthful.   So you have to understand that certain things were said just for public consumption.  The historical record is not only scanty but distorted when it comes to Roman women, and you have to do a lot of checking of one bit of evidence against another to make sure you are not led astray. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

G303 Book Review of The Towers of Tuscany by Carol M Cram

Name of Book: The Towers of Tuscany

Author: Carol M. Cram

ISBN: 9780981024110

Publisher: New Arcadia Publishing

Type of book: Italy, Tuscany, art, painting, passion vs society, women's role, black plague, disguising self, escaping, 1338-1340s or 1350s?

Year it was published: 2014


Set amid the twisting streets and sunlit piazzas of medieval Italy, the Towers of Tuscany tells the story of a woman who dares to follow her own path in the all-male domain of the painter's workshop. Sofia Barducci is born into a world where a woman is only as good as the man who cares for her, but she still claims the right to make her own mistakes. Her first mistake is convincing her father to let her marry Giorgio Carelli, a wealthy saffron merchant in San Gimignano, the Tuscan city of towers. Trained in secret by her father to create the beautifully-crafted panels and altarpieces acclaimed today as masterpieces of late medieval art, Sofia's desire for freedom from her father's workshop leads her to betray her passion and sink into a life of loveless drudgery with a husband who comes to despise her when she does not produce a son.

In an attack motivated by vendetta, Sofia's father is crushed by his own fresco, compelling Sofia to act or risk the death of her soul. The choice she makes takes her on a journey from misery to the heights of passion-both as a painter and as a woman. Sofia escapes to Siena where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her.

The Towers of Tuscany unites a strong heroine with meticulously researched settings and compelling characters drawn from the rich tapestry of medieval Italy during one of Europe's most turbulent centuries. The stylishly written plot is packed with enough twists and turns to keep readers up long past their bedtimes.


The main character would be Sofia who is best described as stubborn, caught up in a male and female world, and she is determined to follow her passions. She does make mistakes and choices that aren't good for her, but one can easily relate to her. There is of course Sofia's father who longed for a son, but instead teacher Sofia lessons of life through art and who wanted for her to be happy and understood. Sofia's husband used to love her and was passionate for her, but then the relationship soured and he doesn't really understand her. Salvini the son becomes Sofia's crush and both enjoy banter and comedy who enjoys Sofia for who she is. Francesco is Sofia's protector and loves her a great deal. My favorite character happened to be Francesco and I would have liked for him to be more prominent in the book.


Sacrifices and choices are a double-edged sword


Its written in third person narrative from Sofia's point of view. I have to say that I really enjoyed reading it due to writing style which makes it easy to forget how many pages you have read. I seriously jumped in and floated along for the ride. The chapters are on a long side, but I didn't pay attention to that. There are also sections where Sofia remembers her father's lessons and how they apply to her current life. Just to let you know, they are there throughout the whole book.

Author Information:
Carol M. Cram has enjoyed a great career as an educator, teaching at Capilano University in North Vancouver for over twenty years and authoring forty-plus bestselling textbooks on business communications and software applications. She holds an MA in Drama from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Carol is currently focusing as much of her attention as she can spare between walks in the woods on writing historical novels with an arts twist.
She and her husband, painter Gregg Simpson, share a life on beautiful Bowen Island near Vancouver, Canada.

Author Links


This book is a prime example of not judging it by its cover or summary. When I looked at the cover and read the summary, I seriously thought it would be a romantic comedy. So its a big risk to pull off. However, the book is much more than that. First of all, it's not a romantic comedy, but its a tale of Sofia who desires to follow her passions and express herself through painting in a time and place where women weren't given any choices. Despite being misled, I sympathized and understood Sofia and her actions, and I also felt really bad for her. Imagine being forbidden from doing a hobby or something you love simply because its more of a man's world rather than a woman's. That person will wither and die. I also enjoyed learning how the colors were mixed and painting techniques that Sofia uses to paint various pictures as well as life in 14th century in Italy.

Buy the Book

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, April 14
Review at Historical Novel Reviews
Tuesday, April 15
Review & Giveaway at Kinx’s Book Nook
Wednesday, April 16
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, April 17
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, April 18
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Guest Post & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Monday, April 21
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Excerpt & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, April 22
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Guest Post at Kincavel Korner
Wednesday, April 23
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, April 24
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, April 25
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

This is for Historical Fiction Virtual Book

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

G308 Book Review of White Girl in La Casa by Christa Jeanne

Name of Book: White Girl in La Casa

Author: Christa Jeanne

ISBN: 9781495349997

Publisher: Createspace

Type of book: Mexican male/American female relationship, culture clash, vegan vs carnivore, comedy, interracial pairing, working hard, hiding, failures

Year it was published: 2014


After being dumped by the last bad boy she’s ever going to date, Calliope meets her Hispanic prince charming. Peter Delgadillo is the perfect gentleman, sure, but he’s also extremely easy to look at with a flirtatious grin, naturally tanned skin that just radiates over gorgeous muscle, and the potential to be Calliope’s passionate Latin lover who whispers sweet Spanish nothings into her ear. Hmmm. If only she could convince him that she is his Caucasian love goddess. However, Peter wants to remain in the ‘just amigos’ category. Well, that is until a pipe bursts and they are forced to stay with Peter’s mother. He confesses that in order to ease his mother’s ailing heart, they need to act like a couple in love. Pretend to adore one another? Play the part of the adorable girlfriend while getting to touch, fondle, cuddle and cozy up to the man that she’s been madly in love with for years? No problemo!

However, nothing is getting past Peter’s mother, Margarita, who is not fond of the new white girl who doesn’t speak the language, doesn’t know the culture and doesn’t eat meat! With quite the language barrier and culture shock, Calliope struggles to keep her end of the bogus relationship bargain especially when she begins to realize that their friendship may break her heart. Oh, and then there’s Peter’s brother, Eddie, who threatens to blow the secret wide open because he knows it’s all an act. With a love triangle right out of a Spanish novella, Calliope tries to figure out what’s real and what isn’t so her heart won’t take another blow.

One white girl, one fake boyfriend who should be The One, one ice cold Margarita who’s determined to drive her out and the one guy who knows it’s all a sham. It’ll be a wonder if this white girl will survive in la casa…


The main character is Calliope, a beautiful blond haired blue eyed woman who is in love with Peter, but the trouble is that Peter isn't returning the emotions back to her. Calliope is very outspoken, and stands up for what she believes in, no matter the costs. She also is best described as brave, especially when going against Margarita. Margarita is Peter's and Eddie's mother who seems to be a complete opposite when it comes to Calliope, at least in the meat part. (Calliope is a vegan, while Margarita eats meat and does her best to make Calliope run away.) Margarita is also not easily shocked by life. Peter is Calliope's best friend, and she has a major crush on him as well. When it's just he and Calliope, he's a gentleman, while when he's at home, he becomes mother's boy. Then there's Eddie, Peter's elder brother who works hard and does his best not to let Margarita mess with him. Eddie and Calliope also clash from time to time, and I have to admit that's it almost as fun as watching her and Margarita clash.


Life is unexpected


The book itself is written is written in first person narrative from Calliope's point of view. I think the story is more focused on the plot rather than how the characters have changed, and I feel that there wasn't enough time to get them to change and to admit certain things about themselves.

Author Information:
Christa Jeanne lives and writes in the Los Angeles area, which means at any given moment she is likely to be stuck in traffic somewhere.  When she isn’t writing her next romantic comedy, she is either busy getting clobbered at Candyland by her daughter, educating anyone who will listen about how her son with autism is going to change the world one day, or lovingly doting on her handsome, charming, intelligent and perfect husband (who totally fed her that line).  Christa is the ringleader of her circus at home and as soon as the kids go to bed, she can be found at her computer rocking out to a playlist that matches the mood of the current book she’s hammering out.  She loves writing about the funnier side of love since falling in love can be pretty hilarious sometimes.
Her latest book is the romantic comedy, White Girl in La Casa.
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I really didn't expect this book to be so hilarious and so unexpectedly funny! The author is really good at hitting your funny bone over and over in the most unexpected ways. The whole time I was reading, I always ended up laughing when Calliope and Margarita clashed. And some situations, wow. (Imagine eating something meaty and listening to a vegan woman telling you about how it was killed and so forth. Or imagine being caught doing something and instead of the mother reacting with horror, she has a "been there seen that" attitude.) I was very close to rating it five stars just for how hilarious it is, but I feel that the resolution was a little too sudden for me, and I guess I had difficulty understanding a few things, one being how a character is extremely manipulative, and whether or not an important event happened. Oh, love the cover by the way.

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White Girl in La Casa Tour Page:

This is for Pump Up Your Book Tour

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

G285 Book Review of Casebook by Mona Simpson

Name of Book: Casebook

Author: Mona Simpson

ISBN: 9780385351416

Publisher: Knopf

Type of book: Spying, divorces, secrets, mystery, friendship, growing up, undecided, wealth, money, figuring out the truth, hidden things

Year it was published: 2014


From the acclaimed and award-winning author: a beguiling new novel about an eavesdropping boy working to discover the obscure mysteries of his unraveling family. He uncovers instead what he least wants to know: the workings of his parents' private lives. And even then he can't stop snooping.

Miles Adler-Rich, helped by his friend Hector, spies and listens in on his separating parents. Both boys are in thrall to Miles's unsuspecting mother, Irene, who is "pretty for a mathematician." They rifle through her dresser drawers and strip-mine her computer diary, finding that all leads pull them straight into her bedroom, and into questions about a stranger from Washington, D.C., who weaves in and out of their lives. Their amateur detective work starts innocently but soon takes them to the far reaches of adult privacy as they acquire knowledge that will affect the family's well-being, prosperity, and sanity. Once burdened with this powerful information, the boys struggle to deal with the existence of evil, and proceed to concoct hilarious modes of revenge on their villains and eventually, haltingly, learn to offer animal comfort to those harmed and to create an imaginative path to their own salvation.


Okay, let's see if I can do the characters. First there's the main character named Miles whom I didn't like. He's fond of nicknaming almost everyone, and he's uncertain of his sexual identity. He also spies with his friend Hector and apparently his hunches and ideas are correct. There is Miles's mom Irene, whom he'll call Mims for the rest of the book. She's a mathematician who is also uncertain of herself and allows for men to take advantage of her. For me she's a cold person as well as very strict. Eli is Irene's boyfriend who has an interesting past when it comes to his previous marriage and so forth. He is also nerdy, makes promises he can't keep and is also a mathematician. The other characters are there just to be there.


When one spies, one learns more than they need to.


Its written in first person narrative from Miles's point of view. I enjoyed the writing style, but I didn't enjoy the characters or anything else about it. The subplots and so forth are too many, and it was hard for me to keep up with what's going on. I think the author also expected the reader to read the book in one sitting instead of multiple ones, and while I do sense talent within the book, there was too much going on. Also, despite the cover, its a pretty depressing book in my opinion.

Author Information:
(From TLC)

Mona Simpson is the author of Anywhere But HereThe Lost FatherA Regular GuyOff Keck Road, and My HollywoodOff Keck Road was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award and won the Heartland Prize of the Chicago Tribune. She has received a Whiting Writer’s Award, a Guggenheim grant, a Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writers’ Award, and, recently an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Connect with Mona on Facebook.


This is a strong case of don't judge the book by its cover or summary. From all the hype, I seriously had an idea that I would be reading an entertaining book about mishaps that Miles experiences when he begins to spy on his mom. Instead, despite the cover and summary, I found it to be a frustrating read where it became a chore. Also from the book, I imagine that many people will think this is something kids will enjoy, but I will warn that due to some strong language as well as sexual situations, this isn't a book for kids. The writing was enjoyable and Miles was memorable, but what frustrated me the most are the real names and nicknames. First of all, what's the point of calling their mother "mims"? Or why call the twin sisters Boops One and Two instead of their real names? And perhaps hints of time passing before beginning chapters would have been nice. I had trouble figuring out how many years have passed or how old the twins and Miles were when their mother becomes divorced and when the truth about Eli is revealed. Also, the entire time I laughed when I read the book is when Miles and Hector create their revenge against Eli.

This is for TLC Book Tour

Mona Simpson’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, April 14th:  Mockingbird Hill Cottage
Tuesday, April 15th:  Book Chatter
Tuesday, April 15th:  Guiltless Reading
Wednesday, April 16th:  From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, April 16th:  5 Minutes for Books
Thursday, April 17th:  Bookchickdi
Friday, April 18th:  She Treads Softly
Monday, April 21st:  Entomology of a Bookworm
Monday, April 21st:  Simply Stacie
Monday, April 21st:  A Bookish Way of Life
Tuesday, April 22nd:  Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, April 23rd:  Anita Loves Books
Thursday, April 24th:  Lit and Life
Friday, April 25th:  Chaotic Compendiums
Monday, April 28th:  Book-alicious Mama
Monday, April 28th:  Daily Mayo
Tuesday, April 29th:  Love at First Book
Tuesday, April 29th:  Fiction Addict
Wednesday, April 30th:  Bookish Ardour
Wednesday, April 30th:  Booksie’s Blog
Thursday, May 1st:  Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Friday, May 2nd:  Missris
Monday, May 5th:  Bibliophiliac
Tuesday, May 6th:  Bound by Words
Wednesday, May 7th:  No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, May 8th:  BookNAround
Friday, May 9th:  In Bed With Books
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

Monday, April 21, 2014

G262 Book Review of The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor

Name of Book: The Girl Who Came Home

Author: Hazel Gaynor

ISBN: 978-0-06-231686-8

Publisher: William Morrow

Type of book: Titanic, Ireland, third class, steward, iceberg, 1912, 1982, reporting, great-grandmother/granddaughter relationship, lost love and lost chances

Year it was published: 2014


Inspired by true events surrounding a group of Irish emigrants who sailed on the maiden voyage of R.M.S Titanic, The Girl Who Came Home is a story of enduring love and forgiveness, spanning seventy years. It is also the story of the world’s most famous ship, whose tragic legacy continues to captivate our hearts and imaginations one hundred years after she sank to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean with such a devastating loss of life.

In a rural Irish village in April 1912, seventeen-year-old Maggie Murphy is anxious about the trip to America. While the thirteen others she will travel with from her Parish anticipate a life of prosperity and opportunity - including her strict Aunt Kathleen who will be her chaperon for the journey - Maggie is distraught to be leaving Séamus, the man she loves with all her heart. As the carts rumble out of the village, she clutches a packet of love letters in her coat pocket and hopes that Séamus will be able to join her in America soon.

In Southampton, England, Harry Walsh boards Titanic as a Third Class Steward, excited to be working on this magnificent ship. After the final embarkation stop in Ireland, Titanic steams across the Atlantic Ocean. Harry befriends Maggie and her friends from the Irish group; their spirits are high and life on board is much grander than any of them could have ever imagined. Being friendly with Harold Bride, one of the Marconi radio operators, Harry offers to help Maggie send a telegram home to Séamus. But on the evening of April 14th, when Titanic hits an iceberg, Maggie’s message is only partly transmitted, leaving Séamus confused by what he reads.

As the full scale of the disaster unfolds, luck and love will decide the fate of the Irish emigrants and those whose lives they have touched on board the ship. In unimaginable circumstances, Maggie survives, arriving three days later in New York on the rescue ship Carpathia. She has only the nightdress she is wearing, a small case and a borrowed coat, to her name. She doesn’t speak of Titanic again for seventy years.

In Chicago, 1982, twenty-one year old Grace Butler is stunned to learn that her Great Nana Maggie sailed on Titanic and sets out to write Maggie's story as a way to resurrect her journalism career. When it is published, Grace receives a surprising phone call, starting a chain of events which will reveal the whereabouts of Maggie’s missing love letters and the fate of those she sailed with seventy years ago. But it isn't until a final journey back to Ireland that the full extent of Titanic’s secrets are revealed and Maggie is able to finally make peace with her past


I'll do my best to describe the characters: In 1912, Maggie is an excited Irish girl that is very devoted to her sweetheart Seamus and she is also in awe of everything in Titanic. In 1982, Maggie is a great-grandmother who is haunted by the episode of Titanic and its not something she shares with everyone. She has a lot of scars that refuse to heal. There are her friends and so forth, but I feel they aren't very fleshed out as one hopes. Grace is Maggie's great-granddaughter and she is struggling with some changes in her life. Maggie decides to tell her the story, thus it helps Grace with priorities. I couldn't really connect to either character, and felt that they were simply reporters rather than people.


Time heals wounds


Its written in third person narrative from Maggie's, Grace's, and Harry's point of view, although at times the story does veer off to people in New York, in particular Katie's sister who's getting ready for her sister's arrival, and few times it is from Maggie's aunt's point of view. I admit that I liked Maggie's story and found it an interesting read. For some odd reason the point of view switch did bother me a little. I really feel that scenes between Maggie and Grace should have been fleshed out more in order for me to enjoy it. I also couldn't connect to the characters. I guess it seems that the pacing is awkward, or that there seems to be too much going on and the novel should have been slightly longer.

Author Information:
(From TLC)

Hazel Gaynor is an author and freelance writer in Ireland and the U.K. and was the recipient of the Cecil Day Lewis Award for Emerging Writers in 2012. Originally from North Yorkshire, England, she now lives in Ireland with her husband, two young children, and an accident-prone cat.
Connect with Hazel on Facebook.

A while ago, I read Titanic series by Diane Hoh, which, even if written for young adults, are excellent and incredibly detailed. What I liked as well is that the point of view is from third class people, the Irish, and that it focused on what it was like being a steward on the liner. I had hoped that this book would be the same way, and while it is informative and full of details as well as going further into details that Diane Hoh's first book has neglected, I feel that the story tended to lack, and was disappointed that the sinking of Titanic seemed to be brief. (Not asking for it to be stretching out for thousands of pages, but I thought there would be more tension and heartbreak just like in Diane Hoh's book.) I also thought that the 1982 section was short and seemed to add little to the story. (Perhaps the author didn't want to copy Titanic the movie by having Maggie tell her story to a great-granddaughter?) And although it wasn't intentional, how Grace used Maggie's story wasn't very well demonstrated as I had hoped. Also as well certain plots weren't resolved, in particular involving Vivienne Walker-Brown, although I liked the compare and contrast between Vivienne's mother and Katie's sister. Oh, I also love the book cover.

This is for TLC Book Tour

Hazel’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, April 1st: Reflections of a Bookaholic
Tuesday, April 1st: Historical Tapestry (guest post)
Wednesday, April 2nd: Peppermint PhD
Thursday, April 3rd: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, April 7th: Ladybug Literature
Tuesday, April 8th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, April 9th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Thursday, April 10th: Book-alicious Mama
Monday, April 14th: The Avid Reader
Tuesday, April 15th: Bibliophilia, Please
Wednesday, April 16th: Jenn’s Bookshelves
Thursday, April 17th: Read. Write. Repeat.
Monday, April 21st: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, April 22nd: Books in the Burbs
Wednesday, April 23rd: Ageless Pages Reviews
Thursday, April 24th: Little Lovely Books 
Monday, April 28th: My Bookshelf
Tuesday, April 29th: Mel’s Shelves
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)
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