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Review: The Passion of the Purple Plumeriaby Lauren Willig

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cover of The Passion of the Purple Plumeria by Lauren Willig
4 Stars

In the tenth installment of the Pink Carnation series, Jane and Miss Gwen find themselves back in England, searching for Jane's younger sister, Agnes, and her friend, Lizzy. They were in school at Miss Climpson's Select Seminary for Young Ladies, a locale that featured prominently in another Pink Carnation book, The Mischief of the Mistletoe. Jane is afraid that someone has discovered her secret and is using poor, dull Agnes as a means to get to her. Shortly after arriving on the scene to begin their investigation, Lizzy's father, Colonel William Reid, shows up. He's just arrived home from India and has no idea that his daughter is missing. The Colonel, Miss Gwen, and Jane search for the girls, hoping to find them before any harm befalls them.

Oh my. I did not ever, in my wildest dreams, expect a book about Miss Gwen! What a hoot! Somehow, I'd decided that she was at least 70. She's actually only about 45. And an attractive 45 at that, if you can get past the fierce way she wields her parasol in defense of Jane's virtue. I'm so glad she got her own story though. I've always thought that she was pretty one-dimensional in a series that is full of so many great, unique characters. Don't get me wrong--I've always liked her--but she's mean and fierce and loves espionage and that's pretty much all I needed to know about Miss Gwen. Except that there's so much more. We learn about her past and what exactly happened to her to leave her such a confirmed, man-hating spinster. She has a huge heart that's been severely wounded and she's doing her best as a single woman in a man's world. She deserves a little happiness.

And that's where Colonel Reid comes in. He's very dashing with his Scottish/American accent and has very stern ideas about honor. He also has very loose ideas about love. As Jacqueline Carey would phrase it, his personal motto could be, "Love as thou wilt." But he loves responsibly, which has left him caring for five children. He does his best by them, even though other "gentlemen" don't recognize their half-Indian offspring. He is as much of a match for Miss Gwen's sharp tongue as any man can possibly be. She always gets the last word, of course, but he holds his own. I was so afraid that I would be disappointed when I realized this one was going to be about Miss Gwen. Who could possibly live up to her? But I finished it happy and satisfied.

I'm getting worried about Jane, though. The pressures of leading the League of the Pink Carnation are starting to take a toll on her.

And then there are Eloise and Colin in 2004. They don't seem to be getting anywhere. For my taste, their chapters could be left out completely. I know they have to be written because that's how the whole series is framed but they really aren't doing anything for me now. It's just moving along so slowly!

Kate Reading did an excellent job with the narration, as always.

I adore this series. It's one of my guilty pleasures. If you haven't started it, fix that now. It is romantic, but it's also funny and clever. Highly recommended.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Find author Lauren Willig on her website, Twitter, and Facebook

Buy The Passion of the Purple Plumeria at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Cover of Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodríguez
4 Stars
Synopsis from GoodReads:
Locke & Key tells of Keyhouse, an unlikely New England mansion, with fantastic doors that transform all who dare to walk through them. Home to a hate-filled and relentless creature that will not rest until it forces open the most terrible door of them all...
Yet another book that I've waited almost a year to review. I recently read the second one and noticed my oversight.

What I remember:

I really, really liked this. I never had any idea where it was going and it just kept getting more and more twisted. I had more questions at the end than I did at the beginning. And I was definitely left with a sinking feeling in my stomach. This situation is going to get way worse before it gets better. I liked the characters a lot. They aren't perfect by any means, but they aren't complete brats either. They fall somewhere in the middle, like all of us. They're doing their best in an unthinkable situation. I love the artwork. It's dark and disturbing but very cleanly drawn. Sometimes the art in graphic novels looks kind of smeary to me, like a comic book that's been loved a little too well. That is not the case here.

I obviously decided to continue with the series and wish I hadn't waited so long to do so. If you like graphic novels and story lines that have you questioning what you think you know, give this one a try.

Read an excerpt.

Find author Joe Hill on his website, Twitter and Facebook.

Find artist Gabriel Rodríguez on Twitter.

And I just saw that the whole Locke & Key series has been made into an audioplay. Cool! You can pre-order it for free for a limited time from Audible.

Buy Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey
The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. She's taking a bit of personal leave so I'm also linking to Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

What. A. Week. I had some huge, surprising changes at work that have left me excited and nervous all at the same time. Yesterday my husband and I ran some errands then we rented a mountain bike for me (hubby already has one) and hit the trails. This was my first time. It did not go well at first, with me pushing the bike and fuming more often than I was pedaling, but as I got more comfortable with the bike, I did better. I'll give it another chance for sure.

Posted:
Review: Armada by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton--3 Stars

Review: Fables: Storybook Love by Bill Willingham--4 Stars

Read:
Nothing. Shantaram is a brick!

Currently Reading:
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Rome, 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World by David Maraniss

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall, read by Susan Denaker

Up Next:
I probably won't finish anything this week either.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Armada by Ernest Cline

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cover of Armada by Ernest Cline
3 Stars

Zack Lightman thinks he's losing his mind when he's sitting in math class one day, staring aimlessly out the window, and sees an enemy ship from his favorite video game, Armada. He's always been afraid this would happen. Zack's father, Xavier, died in a work accident when Zack was an infant, leaving behind some journals that outline a vast government conspiracy to train civilians as soldiers for an upcoming struggle against extraterrestrials. Crazy, right? Zack was afraid he would lose his mind too. And now it appears that he has. Except that the next morning a futuristic ship lands on his school lawn and the men in black step out, calling his name and recruiting him for the battle to save the earth....

I didn't even realize Ernest Cline had published a new book until I saw Sheila over at Book Journey mention it. I knew I had to get my hands on the audio. I loved Cline's first book, Ready Player One, but didn't realize that Wil Wheaton narrated the audio version until after I'd read it in print. I wasn't going to miss out this time.

Wheaton's narration was everything I hoped it would be.

The book.... Well, my hopes were high. Cline knocked it out of the park with his debut novel. Armada was good but not great.

The world building just took way too long for me. I tuned out for long chunks of time during descriptions of the video game and the back story and past missions and unbeatable alien technology. That's not my thing.

Which leads into my other problem. I'm not a modern gamer. I'll at least mostly understand references to video games from the 80s and early 90s, and there's a decent chance that I've played them or at least watched my cousins or sister play them. I'm lost with today's games. I have no desire to join a vast online community of people talking smack to each other and playing war games. Totally not my thing. And I think that's the group this book is primarily going to appeal to.

I did like Zack and the other characters a lot. I was rooting for them all the way. I enjoyed their interactions with each other and their reactions to the situations they found themselves in felt real. Once I got through all the lead-up to the real story, I was hooked and I finished this audio book in record time.

I'm pretty happy with the resolution. There's definitely room for a sequel and, like Zack, I still have unanswered questions. Armada stands just fine on its own though.

Don't expect a repeat of the Ready Player One experience, but I still recommend it. As I said, I do think gamers will enjoy it more than the rest of us, but it's definitely a good book, especially in audio.

Read or listen to an excerpt.

Check out my review of Ready Player One, Ernest Cline's first novel.

Find author Ernest Cline on his website, his blog, and Facebook.

Buy Armada at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Storybook Love: Fables Volume 3 by Bill Willingham

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Cover of Storybook Love by Bill Willingham
4 Stars

The story of the Fable refugees continues, this time with a focus on the many forms of storybook love.

I was much happier with this volume than with the previous one. I'm on firmer footing with love stories, however fractured they may be, than with a retelling of Animal Farm.

There's not really a big plot arc here--it's more like a collection of short stories than a novel, but I enjoyed them. I particularly liked the charming tale of the marooned Lilliputian army as well as Snow White and Bigby's continuing...denials. I'm from the Southern Appalachians, a region well-known for our "Jack Tales," so seeing one of those represented here was also a bonus. There was also a death I found to be shocking. I'd assumed this person would be around for a long time!

I still enjoy the quality of the artwork and appreciate the scope. From a typical, happily-ever-after quest tale to a gory blood bath, it's all represented well here.

I don't have much else to write except that I'll be picking the next one up sooner rather than later. If, like me, you were a little turned off by Volume 2, don't hesitate to pick up Volume 3. You'll be back in fairy tale territory.

See my reviews for Fables: Legends in Exile and Fables: Animal Farm.

Buy Storybook Love at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Sunday Post/What Are You Reading?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? hosted at Book Journey
The Sunday Post











It's Monday!  What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. She's taking a bit of personal leave so I'm also linking to Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer.

It was another fairly uneventful week here. I had a girls' day out with some friends yesterday for an upcoming birthday. I drove halfway to meet them and they drove the other half, but I essentially traveled two hours for cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. Yes, I do think it's that good. :-) It was nice to spend time with them, laughing 'til we cried, and having time to really catch up on everything. My husband and I started actively planning for our upcoming trip to the coast of Maine. We think we've got the first half nailed down, but we've got some major sticker shock from the cost of hotels in Portland!

Posted:
Review: Seriously Mum, What's an Alpaca by Alan Parks--2.5 Stars

Review: Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham--3 Stars

Read:
Cover of Armada by Ernest Cline
Armada by Ernest Cline, read by Wil Wheaton


Cover of Moon: Coastal Maine by Hilary Nangle
Moon: Coastal Maine by Hilary Nangle--I won't post a formal review of this one, but I'm not very happy with it as a guide book. I don't know if there are better travel guides for this part of the world, but I've definitely used books with better formats and information for other vacations.

Currently Reading:
Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Rome, 1960: The Olympics that Changed the World by David Maraniss

Up Next:
Maybe I'll finally make some headway on Shantaram this week. I've split my lunch breaks between my travel planning and my novel for a while now. I also need to download an audio book. As luck would have it, I had to pause Summer Knight when it was my turn for Armada and now I'm something like number six in line to get started on Summer Knight again.

What are you reading this week?

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

Review: Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cover of Fables: Animal Farm by Bill Willingham
3 Stars

Eh. Three years have gone by since I read this and I just got around to reading Volume 3. I remember that I do like this world and concept a lot, and I enjoy the artwork, but I did not like this retelling of Animal Farm. I somehow missed the classic novel in school and that's an oversight I've never felt the slightest need to correct. I've picked up enough about it over the years to have a good idea what happens and it's not my cup of tea. The same goes for this graphic novel. In retrospect, I am glad that I continued with the series, and I do feel like you should read this volume before reading the others, but this was a very weak entry for me. As others have told me, it does get better.

See my review of Fables: Legends in Exile.

Buy Fables: Animal Farm at

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop's, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site. My opinions are completely my own.

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