Monday, December 29, 2014

Bookalicious Babe's Top Ten Books for 2014 Part 2: Who's Number One?

I'm still wrestling with numbers three and two, so I guess I will make up my mind when I get past number four.  Who knew picking my favorite reads of 2014 would come down to such a struggle?  Without further ado, here's the final four:

4.  Christmas at Tiffany's  by Karen Swan

This book was my biggest surprise of the year.  I was looking for something fun and light to read to get my mind off of homework, and instead I got a fantastic story that sucked me in and kept me up late at night.  I've shared it with friends who have had the same reaction.  Isn't it great when a book really grabs you and doesn't let go?  Read this if you want a great chick-lit story that takes chick-lit to a new level.  

3.  Delicious! by Ruth Reichl

This book had my heart just from the cover and the title.  Ruth Reichl, a famous food writer, takes her passion for food into the realm of fiction and delivers a delightful novel about a woman's search for the young girl who befriended James Beard in the 1940's while he was the food librarian at an esteemed cooking magazine in New York City.  Anyone who loves to cook, loves New York, and loves a good, fresh story should pick this one up!  Coming in paperback in May, 2015.

2.  The Homesman Glendon Swarthout

I first spotted this novel sitting on the fiction cart in my bookstore's receiving room, waiting to go out.  Just one copy.  I could have missed it any other time; I  like to think that wonderful bookstore magic put me in the right place at the right time to find it.  I quickly picked it up (the original cover has a sod house on the prairie) and ran to my manger, who also loves all things pioneer.  We ordered more in, read it, and began telling everyone we could about this amazing novel, which was first published in the 1990's and has been re-released in conjunction with the movie starring Tommy Lee Jones and Hillary Swank in the title roles of George and Miss Mary Bee Cuddy.  An unforgettable tale of one woman's decision to transport pioneer women who have gone insane on the wide and lonesome Nebraska prairie to a safe house in Iowa.  Powerful, moving, and one book you will want to share with everyone around you.   Once again reminding us of the incredible sacrifices women made in leaving their homes and families to travel West in hopes of a new beginning. 

And the Bookalicious Babe's favorite read of 2014 is.......

1.  The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

Rarely does a trilogy wow me from beginning to end.  Deborah Harkness, you are brilliant.  I don't know how you came up with this amazing tale of Diana and Matthew, but I thank the stars you did!  You wrote an amazing tale of vampires, witches,  and daemons and weaved an unforgettable cast of characters into a story that left me (and thousands of others) anxiously awaiting each new novel.  Brilliant, clever, sophisticated, and all neatly concluded in The Book of Life.  This is no teen fantasy, but a well-written, meticulously researched, and cleverly imagined tale of love against all odds, time travel, family, righting wrongs, settling past debts, and most of all, faith.  If you haven't read the All Souls Trilogy, please start now.  A Discovery of Witches, followed by Shadow of Night, then The Book of Life.  While I was sad to read the last of Diana and Matthew's story, I was so satisfied with the conclusion I couldn't be sad for too long.  Who knows?  Maybe another character will have their chance in a future book?

That's my list!  I can't wait to see what 2015 brings me.  Thank you everyone for reading my reviews, commenting, and sharing what you love to read.  It makes my heart glad to know so many people embrace books and reading with as much love as I do.  I can't imagine a world without books, can you?  

Have a wonderful New Year!   

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Bookalicious Babe's Top Ten Reads of 2014: The Countdown to #1 Begins Here!

To say this year went by quickly is a vast understatement.  I blinked and now 2015 is this week!  Which means I will spend three months thinking and writing "2014".  

I'll be honest and say I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked this year.  It has kinda left a bit of a blue feeling in my reader's soul.  Life has just gotten too big right now to be able to sit down and read whenever I want.  I think I'll take a page from my friend Madeline and start counting down the days until school is finished.  Then I will immediately take a few days off and read to my heart's content.  My soul will be happy and all will be right in the world. 

You know I couldn't possibly make one big post with my top ten reads of the year, right?  What fun would that be?  This post begins the countdown to number one....so here's my favorite reads of 2014, Part 1:   Ten through Five.

10.  Archetype by M. D. Waters

I took a chance on a genre I normally don't read and was pleasantly surprised.  A woman wakes up in a hospital not remembering who she is, but keeps having strange dreams about a man who is not the one visiting her and calling her his wife.  Futuristic fiction. 

9.  Goodnight June by Sarah Jio

I do enjoy Sarah Jio's novels.  I think I've read every one!  This one especially grabbed me because it's all about bookstores, reading, and a childhood built by books.  I recommend Sarah Jio to anyone who likes contemporary women's fiction with a dash of romance and a bit of history.  Always enjoyable and perfect for vacations.

8.  First Impressions  by Charlie Lovett

Oh Charlie Lovett.   A new favorite author.  This was such fun to read.  Did Jane Austen take the idea of Pride and Prejudice from someone else?  What?!  If this is true, just how valuable would that proof be in the world of rare books today?  A literary mystery that is perfect for a summer's day on the front porch.  But if you want to read it in the winter, please do.  

7.  Green Rider by Kristin Britain

The first book in the Green Rider series.  I finally read it and promptly bought the next two in the series.  A strong female character, magic, evil, a kingdom in danger--great fantasy for all ages.  Oh--and a pretty awesome horse, too. 

6.  A Week in Winter by Maeve Binchy

2014 was the year I first read Maeve Binchy.  And I thought to myself, "Girl, why did you wait so long?!"  A lovely novel about the people who gather for a week at a small Irish hotel and make some pretty important life decisions.  A great cast of characters, and heck--it's set in Ireland.  How can you not love this? 

5.  The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch

A queen bee named Queen Elizabeth. Honey.  New York City. Magic.  Love at first sight.  Sarah-Kate Lynch needs to write faster.  I love her stuff!  Magical realism in the realm of Sarah Addison-Allen and Alice Hoffman.  You too will become obsessed with bees, hives, and urban beekeeping.  

Only four more to go!  All will be revealed in a few days.....
What are your favorite reads of 2014?  

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Last Review of the Year: Longbourn by Jo Baker

Jane Austen is like the energizer rabbit:  she just keeps going and going.  She is the ultimate Girl Power!  

School is done for a few weeks, and I've had a little bit of time to begin reading for fun.  And I've managed to buy another six books just to make myself crazy with which one to read next.  The life of a book lover is never dull.  

Longbourn is a novel that had to wait until I was ready to read it.  It has stared at me from the bookshelves and tables at work, first in hardcover, and now in paperback.  I am so glad I waited to read it, and it's a perfect ending to my reading year.  

Longhorn follows the lives of the Bennet household servants:  Mr. and Mrs. Hill, Sarah, and Polly.  Life is pretty dull washing out the underthings of the Bennet sisters, cooking food, and running up and down stairs at the slightest ring of a bell.  Then mysterious James shows up; he is taken into the Bennet household as their latest servant.  Sarah at first loathes him; but the loathing quickly turns into interest.  Just who is James, and why is he so secretive?  

Meanwhile, the storyline of Pride and Prejudice winds its way through the novel, and the author cleverly starts each chapter with a line from P&P, which helps keep you on track with what's going on above stairs.  Tiny details of life as a servant, the day to day life of British gentry, and the complicated relationships between servants and those they serve all bring a richness to this tale that completely captured my imagination.  I don't think I will ever be able to think of Pride & Prejudice again without this book in my mind.  It certainly did make me look at the Bennet sisters in a new light--and not a particularly flattering one at that.  It dented my admiration of Elizabeth just a bit.  Read it and decide for yourself!

Jo Baker did an amazing job creating a whole new addition to the world of Jane Austen.  Not only did she remain faithful to Pride and Prejudice, but she took the reader away from Longbourn and into the private hopes, dreams, and yes, nightmares of the servants that remain always below stairs, and always behind the scenes.  In this novel, the Bennet sisters and their love lives are merely along the edges--what happens to the Bennet servants is just as dramatic and  full of highs and lows as the best soap opera around.  

Rating:  8/10 for a wonderful story that weaves the world of Pride and Prejudice into a new tale sure to appeal to any fan of historic fiction.  And Sarah is a wonderfully strong female character you won't be able to forget. 

Available in hardcover, paperback, e-book, and audio.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

And the Winner of The Novel Cure Is......

The winner of a copy of The Novel Cure is.....

Madeline Jarvis!

Madeline:  please email me your contact information!

Stay tuned for my Best of 2014 Reads coming the last week of December!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Last Giveaway of the Year! The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin

I can't believe this year is almost over!  But before we say adieu to 2014, let's have one more book giveaway, shall we?

This lovely book is sure to cure anything that ails you--a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn't read, being a control freak, or even...ahem...being locked out of your house.  Yes, Ella and Susan have managed to compile a brilliant list of books both classic and contemporary to help you through life's little bumps.  

And now you can have your very own copy of this delightful book, which is coming out in paperback.  

All you have to do is enter the contest below, and do 1 or 2 things:  comment on this post about what you read to cure your afflictions, or like my facebook Bookalicious page.  You can do both if you'd like! The contest runs December 13th through midnight, December 17th.  Please make sure if you are picked as the winner, you send me your email!  Otherwise, no Novel Cure for you.

This contest is open to US peeps only.  Thanks to Penguin for the giveaway!   Now get busy and start entering!

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Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Second Bite at the Apple by Dana Bate

I'm still on my kick of fun books to read while finishing up my school semester.  I just finished this book today right after I had my last class for the semester!  Now it will take me a few weeks to decompress, then gear up for the Spring semester in January.  I will do my best to read like a fiend.

Meanwhile, let's talk about A Second Bite at the Apple by Dana Bate. If you're a fan of food fiction (or food writing), you will love this book.  If the character of Rick the baker wasn't described as so physically unattractive and chauvinist, I'd want  to marry him just for his baking skills.  I'm pretty sure I can rule out working at a farmer's stand selling baked goods as a future job.  I'd be like the candy-line Lucille Ball of the farmer's market, stuffing food in my mouth in a futile attempt to maintain control. 

Sydney Strauss lives in Washington, D.C.  She's just been handed her pink slip from the television station where she works at a job she hates, with people she can't really stand.  It's not what she wants to do anyway, but once again she feels like a failure at life.  Sydney really wants to be a food writer, but no one will hire her to write about her passion.  A breakup with Zach 5 years previously has given her a complete avoidance of cooking.  They were quite good at creating meals together, and it gave Sydney her passion for food writing.  Now all she has left is a horrendous, visceral reaction to spaghetti carbonara, and plenty of bitterness towards men and love.  

Sydney makes ends meet by working for Rick, owner of the Wild Yeast Bakery.  He travels to local farmer's markets each week and sells amazing breads, cookies, muffins, and pastries.  He's a total crab, a real ass, and a giant complainer.  But his food is amazing.  Sydney meets Jeremy when her friend forces her to go out, and they have a rocky beginning.  Jeremy keeps coming back, and eventually they start to date.  Jeremy has a past that Sydney finds out about, and she questions her choice in men.  Their relationship has plenty of ups and downs, mostly based on Sydney's problem with trusting men.  Oh--did I mention Jeremy is a home brewer, who has a knack for creating pretty awesome beer?  

Things seem to be going slowly, but  pretty well with Jeremy. But Sydney has to make things complicated when she finds out Jeremy is indirectly involved in a huge food world cover-up.  This is her chance to finally have a story in a major newspaper, and jump-start her career as a food writer.  Her decisions are the one thing about Sydney that really, really really  annoyed me.  To the point that I was talking to the book, telling her what an idiot she was; I believe I had a few other choice comments to make to Sydney.  She really does have a problem with her past determining her present decisions.  She makes some really poor choices.  

So.  Did I like this book?  Yes.  Put food in a book and I'm all over it!  I was, and still am, not completely happy with Sydney.  I am a big believer in learning from the past, and moving forward.  Reading a novel about someone who carries her past with her all the time kinda drove me a bit batty.  I would have liked her to have a bit more faith and confidence in herself.  I won't tell you what happens to Sydney, but you'll be satisfied.  And you will love all the food!  And Dana Bate makes me want to jump on a plane to Washington, D.C. in the spring just so I can walk around the city and take in all the sights.  

Available in paperback and e-book.
Rating:  7/10.  The food and city of Washington, D.C. are lovingly described.  Sydney is a complex character that stayed stuck too long on her past for my taste, but otherwise I enjoyed this novel and would probably read more from this author. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Ruth's First Christmas Tree: A Novella by Elly Griffiths--And It's Free!

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook, and I immediately hunted it down.  And what do you know...it's a free novella!  Anyone who's read the Ruth Galloway series (even just the first one or two) will enjoy this sweet  short story about Ruth's first Christmas tree in her little cottage by the sea.  

A little appetite teaser for me.  Now I want to grab the two Ruth Galloway novels I have on my bookcase that I haven't read yet and dive in!