Pandora’s Box: Garden of Stones

gardenofstones This month, we’re jumping into Pandora’s Box with Garden of Stones by Sophie Littlefield Here’s a bit about the plot: On the surface, fourteen year old Lucy Takeda seems to have a charmed life. Her father Renjiro is the well-respected owner of a prosperous business packaging and shipping dried apricots worldwide. Her mother Miyako is revered for her breathtaking beauty and elegance. And Lucy looks just like her mother. Their home is one of the nicest in the community. Still life is not always serene. Miyako is delicate and suffers from mood swings, spending some days in her darkened room, and then others with a surplus of energy. The high energy days, though, almost always end with Miyako in tears, as Lucy’s elderly father tries to comfort her.

But with the war, the pattern of Lucy’s life is changing. For the first time, her status as a wealthy man’s daughter doesn’t prevent her from being judged by the color of skin and slant of her eyes. Teachers bypass her for class positions, and friends ignore her presence. But nothing prepares her for the changes in her life on December 7, 1941. In a little over two hours, Japanese bombers almost destroy America’s navy and air force plus kill two thousand citizens and injure over a thousand. After the attack, Americans of Japanese ancestry are viewed with suspicion and distrust. Within weeks, Lucy and her mother are ripped from their home, and sent to Manzanar War Relocation Camp, located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California’s Owens Valley. Conditions there are harsh and dismal but Lucy’s spirits are buoyed by her youthful optimism.

Maggie has talked often about War World II stories, so as soon as I saw this book, I knew I had to read it. Since Maggie is more familiar with this time period, I asked if she would like to do a Pandora’s Box together. Continue reading

Declarations of Love

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day, a day known for over-extravagant, “show me you love me” gifts that sometime mimic scenes from one of our favorite romance novels. We are all familiar with the grand gesture, like the hero declaring his love in front of room full of people, or buying the perfect gift.

When I was younger I loved the over the top scenes, thinking that they epitomized true love — maybe because some of my co-workers actually did experience them too. One woman’s boyfriend proposed by having a plane fly over a beach that they were at — sky-writing “I love you, marry me.” Talk about green with envy. Wow, he must really worship her.

Today you can find numerous proposals online like the one up top. Or like this one: Continue reading

What Are Your Desert Island Keepers?

desertisland-300x200 I have always been stingy with my A’s and I found with reviewing the expectancy of the grade weighs on me more. Why? Because I have been on the other side. In the past, my anticipation has skyrocketed over a five star or A rating, only to end in disappointment. My first experience with romance book ratings occurred with Romantic Times magazine. Now four and a half star ratings were fairly common but five stars or 4 1/2G only happened once in a blue moon. Upon seeing a five star review, I was determined to find the book come hell or high water. Just that rating had me pulling out my small discretionary income and buying it. It must be fabulous, because it got a five star rating. However, more often than not, I didn’t agree with the grades there, and was quite let down. Continue reading

What to Review This Year?

Last year curiosity had me attempting to gather data about AAR reviews. How did the reviews breakdown into genres?  Well, for a statistics novice, it was impossible.  I would cut and paste data into my spreadsheet, but never could figure out how to populate it. I would work on it for a couple of hours, and then give up. This went on for about three months.

Finally I asked the right person and discovered that LinnieGayl is an expert at this type of thing.  I sent her my Excel file and within hours I had wonderful facts and figures such as a breakdown of what we each reviewed and the totals for the site.  Now these results are not all of 2012.  A portion of December is missing, still is it very close representation of the selection here for last year.

We talked about it in the group – more like kidding each other, because some of us definitely have a preference for certain genres while others are more eclectic. But then I got busy over the holidays, and forgot all about it.  But recently two different discussions on the potpourri board brought it to mind. And I thought you as readers might be interested in seeing the scope of books reviewed here. Continue reading

Starting to Explore Australian Romance

I have read several comments by different overseas authors that U.S. publishers advise them that they must sanitize their books to remove language and settings that make them uniquely different. Just recently, Sarah Mayberry in her interview here stated “Australian writers are constantly being told by the big mainstream publishers that U.S. and U.K. audiences don’t want to read about Australian heroes and heroines and settings.” Well, for me that is completely wrong. It is no secret that I love to do armchair traveling by reading books that incorporate the author’s native colloquialisms, dialect, or traditions. I read numerous Canadian, Australian and British authors. Continue reading

Pandora’s Box: Shadow Woman

Imagine if you woke up one morning and the face in the mirror did not belong to you. How would you react to that? For Lizette Henry, the thought that all is not as it should be triggers violent headaches and bouts of vomiting. When she makes the obligatory call to tell her boss she’s ill, she gets another surprise. Her boss mentions that Lizette hasn’t been sick for the whole three years she has worked for her. Lizette thought she had worked there for five years. Slowly, she realizes that she is missing two years of memories.

Even as Lizzie becomes aware of her missing memories, she realizes she has instincts she has no business having. For example, she has the certain knowledge that her cell phone is being used to spy on her. Slowly she becomes aware of a whole host of things that seem out of place: her unnaturally quiet life style, the neighbor who pays too much attention to her, her growing sense that she is being watched wherever she goes. Small changes in her routine seem to be a trigger to have people start following her. Is she slowly going crazy? Or are people really out to get her?

For Xavier, it has been three long years of waiting to see if Lizzie ever woke up. Now she is doing so and some small part of him hopes the wake up will be complete, that she will remember him. And yet he realizes that her returning memory could actually cause a much darker outcome. For the return of her memory will mean the activation of their enemies. And that could mean the end of them both. Sound intriguing? Then follow Leigh and Maggie into Pandora’s Box to see what they thought of Shadow Woman, Linda Howard’s latest release. Continue reading

Are Books the Perfect Gift?

While I can’t say that I would pick a book over diamonds, on Christmas day after a day spent eating turkey and dressing, homemade rolls, squash, sweet potatoes, broccoli salad, and too many other things to mention for the mid-day meal, I am ready to curl up with a good book. I can’t really remember when my mother’s tradition of giving me a book or books as a stocking stuffers started, but I do have memories of my dad and brothers watching the Bowl games on television while I found a quiet corner to read. My mother was multi-talented in that she would stay in the same room as the game, but still read the book that I had put in her stocking. Our stocking tradition continued way into adulthood but after I moved away she and I would browse the book selection together, giving big hints on our choices or even sometimes just picking the books out.

As readers most of us love opening a present containing a book by our favorite author. And because of this we often look to books as the perfect gift, too. But my experience over the last few years has shown me that buying a book for someone is similar to buying them perfume. You just have to know their taste because books can be a very personal gift. Continue reading

Special Holiday Stories?

Many of you got up at some unearthly time this morning to start your Christmas shopping. And for the next month or so, it is going to be go –go –go with more shopping, cooking, parties, children’s Christmas programs, and visiting relatives, leaving you with very little time to sit down and read. Of course you can buy the books you want to read, and after the holidays have a lie in and pamper yourself- there is definitely nothing wrong with that. But I like reading around the holidays. Many of the stories seem kinder, gentler, and filled with family.

What I do like is that holiday stories tend to have a lot of my favorite plot devices- like friends to lovers, pets, babies, and extended family. I am not saying that I want the stories to be sugarplum sweet, which I think is a big failing of some authors. Continue reading

Freading? The Continuing Saga of EBooks and Library Lending

I have to admit that my passion, ire and wrath about publishers and eBook pricing has been more about how it affects me as a consumer. But now that things seem to be turning around I have lost some of my tunnel vision and realize that our libraries have been through the wringer as much as we have(if not more, quite frankly), and they still don’t have a viable resolution yet.

Oh, I have talked about it before in this blog but it is not something that I followed religiously. One reason is that as a Kindle owner, library lending wasn’t an available feature for a long while since Amazon didn’t have any type of agreement with libraries. And finally when they did add this feature, I found a very limited collection of books available. Almost all major publishers such as Macmillan Publishing, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group, Brilliance Audio, and Hachette Book Group blocked libraries’ access to eBooks. HarperCollins limited the access to 26 times before the book expired. Random House reaffirmed its commitment to the library eBook market but tripled their prices. Continue reading

Books With Buzz: My Kind of Christmas by Robyn Carr

A new release by Robyn Carr is a fabulous reason to celebrate. When you add into the equation that her latest is a new Christmas release plus it features hunky Patrick Riordan, then it is triple the delight as far as I’m concerned. I had the opportunity to interview one of my favorite authors about her writing career, and her very successful Virgin River series. In addition to some great insights into Ms. Carr’s varied writing history, her publisher Harlequin MIRA is providing copies of Carr’s November 2012 release, My Kind of Christmas for some lucky winners. The details on that are listed at the end of the interview. But enough from me. Let’s get to the good stuff.

Leigh: I am very excited to have you here today, as I’ve been reading your books since the late 1990s. You have been writing a long time, first starting out with historicals like Chelynne published in 1980. Was it the change in the industry that made you switch from historicals to contemporary books or just your own internal voice?
Continue reading