Friday, August 18, 2017

Book Blogger Hop No. 104: Books as 'Necessary' Decor



Welcome to the Book Blogger Hop,
hosted by Billy @


For more information, and 
to find out the topic of next week's question, click HERE.


This Week's Question

When you enter an unfamiliar
house or apartment for the
first time, do you feel disappointed
if you don't see any bookshelves,
or books on the coffee table?

(Submitted  by Maria @ 



My Answer

This question came to me after a visit to an acquaintance's house for the first time one afternoon, several months ago. This person was a fellow ESOL teacher at my school, whom I unfortunately didn't see again, as she has since moved out of the area. 

When I first walked into her living room, the first thing that caught my attention was a bookcase placed against a wall near one of the windows. Of course I immediately walked over to check out the books on the shelves. I'm sure any bookworm would do the same thing, right? Lol. 

After the visit, I remembered, some years back, also visiting a neighbor of mine. At the time, my husband and I were living in another part of the city. When I walked into this neighbor's living room, and looked around, a huge wave  of disappointment hit me. There was not a book in sight. There were no bookshelves at all. There was a coffee table, but no books sat on it, either. I don't recall much of that visit, except for that initial feeling when I stepped into that living room.

I realize this is probably an irrational feeling. Lol. Naturally, I understand that not everyone on the face of the earth adores books the way we bookworms do (especially those who, like me, are also bibliophiles, which I think most of us are). People have different hobbies and interests, after all. But I still feel that initial letdown if I don't see any books when I first walk into a living room for the first time. I guess I somehow expect to see books everywhere I go! Lol. Again, this is totally irrational, but there it is. It's how I feel.

In contrast, when I walked into that teacher's living room and saw her bookcase, the immediate sense of euphoria -- yes, this is the EXACT feeling that suddenly washed over me -- was unmistakable. I immediately felt COMFORTABLE in that living room, as opposed to the neighbor's, where I actually felt as if I had stepped onto a barren land..... It was like totally alien territory, where I actually felt that something very important was missing.

Again, this is irrational. I would NEVER want to impose my likes and dislikes on others. This is not a matter of JUDGING people for not having books in their living room. It's just a feeling I get. I do NOT mention this feeling to the person I'm visiting, of course, as that would be VERY rude. I simply go along with the flow, and chat about whatever comes up.

So some people are simply not into books. So what? However, I guess it's simply not easy for me to understand how someone can just NOT be interested in books. This despite the fact that my family members are not into books. My parents used to read years ago, but now, not that much. Ironically, it was my mom who first exposed me to books, and kept buying them for me as I was growing up, as soon as she saw that I loved them. One day, she realized that she had unleashed a monster. Lol. I just couldn't stop reading, even when she wanted me to help around the house! 

The rest of my family is completely indifferent to these precious objects, and they think I'm a bit "looney tunes" because of my bookish obsession. My husband is not into books, either, and he thinks I already have plenty of them, too. Ha, ha! So I wonder if perhaps I am unconsciously looking for validation when entering the houses or apartments of new acquaintances for the first time. 

Perhaps it's just a matter of wanting to make real-life friends who share my obsession. (Thankfully, I do have online friends who are DEFINITELY into books!) When I don't see any books in someone's living room, I know I might not become friends with that person. Since books are such a HUGE part of my life, I would naturally want to discuss them with others as much as possible. So, when I see none in sight, my hopes are suddenly dashed. I know I will have to talk about other things with that person, and I might not be into what THEY are into.

So there it is. This is my little irrational, quirky character trait, this intense longing for the sight of BOOKS wherever I go. Maybe I AM a bit "looney tunes". This is the way my brain is wired, though. Lol.

Here is what you will see when you walk into MY living room! (Yes, I know I've posted these pics before, but I just could NOT resist....)









What are your thoughts on
this topic?
If you're participating in this meme,
I'll go comment on your 
own BBH post.
If not, I will then comment on one 
of your blog posts!
Thanks for visiting!!! 







Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Tour Book Review: The Writing Desk, by Rachel Hauck



The Writing Desk
Rachel Hauck
Hardcover, 352 pages
Zondervan
July 10, 2017
Christian Fiction, Contemporary Fiction,
Contemporary Romance, Historical Fiction,
Historical romance




From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Dress comes a new, captivating novel of secrets, romance, and two women bound together across time by a shared dream.

Tenley Roth’s first book was a runaway bestseller. Now that her second book is due, she’s locked in fear. Can she repeat her earlier success or is she a fraud who has run out of inspiration?

With pressure mounting from her publisher, Tenley is weighted with writer’s block. But when her estranged mother calls asking Tenley to help her through chemotherapy, she packs up for Florida where she meets handsome furniture designer Jonas Sullivan and discovers the story her heart’s been missing.

A century earlier, another woman wrote at the same desk with hopes and fears of her own. Born during the Gilded Age, Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of the old money Knickerbockers. Under the strict control of her mother, her every move is decided ahead of time, even whom she’ll marry. But Birdie has dreams she doesn’t know how to realize. She wants to tell stories, write novels, make an impact on the world. When she discovers her mother has taken extreme measures to manipulate her future, she must choose between submission and security or forging a brand new way all on her own.

Tenley and Birdie are from two very different worlds, but fate has bound them together in a way time cannot erase.




Note
I received a complimentary ARC from
the author in exchange for an honest review.

This most unusual plot, in which two women from very different eras are somehow tied to each other through the process of writing, was a delightful read, in spite of its rather bittersweet ending.

Birdie Shehorn and Tenley Roth are both strong women, both New Yorkers, both writers, both dealing with personal issues related to romance. And they also share the same writing desk, although years apart.

I was immediately drawn to this story, thanks to the vividness of the characters, their dilemmas, and their individual settings. Birdie, who lived at a time in which women were still expected to conform to their families' and society's expectations, yearned to write, to have her work published. Tenley, who lives in the present, with its more improved opportunities for women, must still struggle with her identity as a writer. Ironically, she finds it harder to follow up her initial success with a second one, whereas Birdie, struggling with the limitations of her time, somehow finds it much easier to write.

The narrative switches back and forth from one timeline to the other, and I wondered at first what the exact connection was between Birdie and Tenley. Only toward the end of the novel does the author reveal just what this connection is, and it's a rather poignant, as well as ironic, one. 

I enjoyed going back and forth in time, and seeing the differences in the way these two women lived. Birdie's life was a very sheltered one, and she was totally controlled by her mother, who wanted to force her into a marriage that would be advantageous to their family, even if Birdie was not in love with the man selected for her. In contrast, Tenley is living with her boyfriend, Holt, who is a screenwriter. She was abandoned by her mother at the age of 9, and her father, a famous writer, has recently died.

Eli is Birdie's true love. His inner strength of character is revealed through his unfailing support of Birdie's writing. In contrast, Holt fails to support Tenley's decision to fly down to Florida to help her mother as she undergoes chemotherapy. Not only that, but he goes off by himself to Paris, instead of accompanying Tenley to Florida. Although he's apparently supportive of Tenley's writing, he doesn't stay the course with her. If she's not at the top of the literary world, he's no longer interested in her.

Jonas, the man Tenley meets in Florida, is totally different. Like Eli, he appreciates Tenley's talent, and in addition, cares about helping her mother right along with Tenley. He has the same quiet strength possessed by Eli, the same passionate love for a woman whom he also admires. Holt, in contrast, is very shallow, easily seduced by fame, and therefore, fickle. Of course, I totally adored both Eli and Jonas!

Secondary characters are always important in a novel. Sometimes they can either make or break the book. In this particular instance, I especially loved Blanche, Tenley's mother. She was the principal secondary character in the plot. I was totally prepared to dislike her, since she had abandoned Tenley and her dad years before. However, Hauck actually made me love her, and I grew to appreciate her just as much as Tenley eventually did. In fact, I ended up forgiving her, just as Tenley did, too. To her credit, Blanche made up for lost time with her daughter, and a beautiful relationship developed between the two of them, one that was very touching, as well.

Although he had already passed on when the narrative opened, Conrad Roth, Tenley's dad, was another great secondary character. He was in the same category as Eli and Jonas, and was a wonderful role model for Tenley. He never spoke a word against his errant wife, fully forgiving her for her abandonment. And, he never stopped loving her, either. His influence on Tenley was enormous, and enormously positive.

I really liked the interweaving of a Christian world view throughout the novel. It's a gentle interweaving, too; one that is never judgmental, never rigidly righteous. For example, not once does Jonas bash Tenley over the head with his beliefs. He very simply and lovingly lives them, and they are actually part of the reason she falls so deeply in love with him.

Although I've lived in Florida myself for many years, I had never heard of Cocoa Beach before reading this novel. The passages dealing with this city were wonderful, evoking that mellow, although very hot, summer mood. Jonas and his family lived very close to the beach, and it was actually relaxing to read about their family get-togethers and games, right on the beach. Blanche's house, which was located not far from the Sullivan house, evoked the same mellow mood, and I suddenly began to appreciate the life here in Miami, in spite of the heat!

While I did love and enjoy this novel, there were a couple of things that bothered me. For instance, I didn't like the way Tenley ultimately handled her writer's block; her actions just seemed completely out of character to me. 

Another problem I had concerned Blanche herself. I won't say more so as to avoid spoilers, but will say that something related to her was not resolved satisfactorily. I wasn't expecting this, either, and it totally floored me. 

Because of these objections, I have given this novel four instead of five stars. However, I still enjoyed it tremendously, and would definitely recommend it to all readers who love compelling stories whose female protagonists courageously face personal and societal obstacles. 

This was my first Rachel Hauck novel, and I am definitely interested in reading more of her books! 

MY RATING:





Purchase Links





New York Times, USA Today & Wall Street Journal Bestselling author Rachel Hauck writes from sunny central Florida.
A RITA finalist and winner of the Romantic Times Inspirational Novel of the Year, she writes vivid characters dealing with real life issues.
She loves to hear from readers. She also loves to encourage new writers and sits on the Executive Board of American Christian Fiction Writers.
A graduate of Ohio State University with a BA in Journalism, Rachel is an avid OSU football fan. She hopes to one day stand on the sidelines in the Shoe with Urban Meyer.
An avid Diet Coke fan, she is caffeine free. Sometimes you just have to compromise.
She's never skied or jumped out of an airplane. She leaves such hijinks to Jason Bourne.





To access the complete tour schedule, just click on the button below!



http://tlcbooktours.com/2017/05/rachel-hauck-author-of-the-writing-desk-on-tour-julyaugust-2017/




Can't Wait Wednesday No. 29: Speak Easy, Speak Love, by McKelle George





Welcome to "Can't Wait Wednesday"!
   
This is a weekly event hosted by
Tressa @ Wishful Endings, and inspired by "Waiting On Wednesday", which used to be hosted by
 Jill @ Breaking the Spine.

For more information, please click HERE.

As in the previous meme, this one showcases future releases  we book  bloggers 
are eagerly anticipating!!
There's also a Linky widget, so participating blogs can link up!



Here's my choice for this week!



 Speak Easy, Speak Love
McKelle George
Hardcover,  432 pages
Greenwillo Books
September 19, 2017    
Historical Fiction, Retellings,
Romance, Young Adult Fiction


https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30640834-speak-easy-speak-love?ac=1&from_search=true





Six teenagers’ lives intertwine during one thrilling summer full of romantic misunderstandings and dangerous deals in this sparkling retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.

After she gets kicked out of boarding school, seventeen-year-old Beatrice goes to her uncle’s estate on Long Island. But Hey Nonny Nonny is more than just a rundown old mansion. Beatrice’s cousin, Hero, runs a struggling speakeasy out of the basement—one that might not survive the summer. Along with Prince, a poor young man determined to prove his worth; his brother John, a dark and dangerous agent of the local mob; Benedick, a handsome trust-fund kid trying to become a writer; and Maggie, a beautiful and talented singer; Beatrice and Hero throw all their efforts into planning a massive party to save the speakeasy. Despite all their worries, the summer is beautiful, love is in the air, and Beatrice and Benedick are caught up in a romantic battle of wits that their friends might be quietly orchestrating in the background.

Hilariously clever and utterly charming, McKelle George’s debut novel is full of intrigue and 1920s charm. For fans of Jenny Han, Stephanie Perkins, and Anna Godbersen.




Why I can't wait for this one!

OMG!!  A Shakespeare retelling?! I DEFINITELY need to get this book!! Not only is that cover STUNNING, but the plot sounds SO cute, funny, and romantic!! Plus, I LOVE the 1920s setting and quirky characters! There's NO way I'm passing this one up!!





McKelle George is a reader, writer of clumsy rebels, perpetual doodler, and associate librarian at the best library in the world. She mentors with Salt Lake Teen Writes and plays judge for the Poetry Out Loud teen competitions (but has no poetic talent herself). Her debut young adult novel Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in 2017, and she currently lives in Salt Lake City with an enormous white german shepherd and way, way too many books.







What do you think of my choice?
Leave your link below, so I can
come check out your pick(s)!










Monday, August 14, 2017

Book Review: Bound Souls, by N.D. Jones


Bound Souls
(Forever Yours, Book 1)
N.D. Jones
Trade Paperback, 
Kuumba Publishing
February 10, 2017
Diverse Reads, Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, Science Fiction
Source: Author

Synopsis:  Regent Lela of Asiya is the most powerful person on her planet, but she is powerless to save the life of her beloved soulmate — Zion Grace. For thirty years they lived as husband and wife, but Zion’s time is at an end. Lela must go on without him.

“There will never be anyone else for me.”

Despite having died, nothing can keep Zion from his soulmate. He’s back, but not as the man he once was. Zion must help Lela move on with her life, lest he lose her forever. But how can Zion convince Lela to accept the love and affections of another man when he still wants her for himself?

“I love you, Lela. My heart is forever yours.”

Lela and Zion are bound souls, destined to live eternity together. For these lovers, death is not an end, but a fateful beginning.



https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/34369474-bound-souls?ac=1&from_search=true








I started this book with mixed feelings. In fact, I stopped reading it after about 100 pages. But then, after taking care of some other book reviews, I returned to this novel, having decided to give it another chance. And I'm so glad I did, too! I started from the beginning again, and this time, was able to finish it. I very much enjoyed it, as well!

What I had initially objected to was the way the love triangle in this novel was handled by Jones. I wasn't very comfortable with that. I won't say more, as I don't want to include any spoilers. However, the second time around, I was able to move beyond this to an appreciation of the great love that both Zion and Ammon, the two male protagonists, felt for Lela, the female protagonist.

Zion, Lela's first husband, was from Earth. From the descriptions in the novel, it became apparent that he was also an African-American. 

Ammon, like Lela, was from the planet of Asiya. The inhabitants of this planet have an unspecified ethnicity, and are much like humans.

Although Lela was bound to Zion for eternity, she also loved Ammon. Her relationship with him was no less beautiful than the one she had with Zion, although she was unable to give her heart fully to Ammon. Still, she loved him as much as she was capable of loving him. 

I did feel sorry for Ammon. As Lela's second husband, he was well aware that her heart totally belonged to Zion, but his love for Lela was unconditional, so he gladly accepted what she was able to give him.

This is a science fiction romance novel, so the emphasis is on the romance. Thus, it's not a fast-paced novel. Initially, this was another thing that bothered me. During the second reading, I saw and felt that the gentle pacing was just perfect for this particular story. This is, after all, a character-driven novel. It's the characters' emotions and thoughts that are important. 

The narrative opens with an argument between Zion and Lela, a few years before his death. It closes with a beautiful, peaceful reconciliation/reunion between them. In between, we go through all of Lela's tumultuous feelings right along with her, as she tries to come to terms with Zion's passing, as well as her acceptance of Ammon as her second husband.

I loved both Zion and Ammon, each being wonderful in his own way. I loved how much they each loved and treasured Lela. Both men also accepted Lela as the strong woman she was. As Regent of the planet of Asiya, Lela was indeed in a powerful position, and they respected that.

The secondary characters were wonderful as well! I especially liked Sage, Zion's sister. She and Lela were not only sisters-in-law, but also best friends. Their relationship was truly special. If Sage often came across as a bit domineering (she was constantly urging Lela to move on, as 7 years had gone by after Zion's death), it was because she truly cared for Lela, and wanted her to be happy. Sage also loved her brother, and missed him terribly. This became very evident when he unexpectedly revealed himself to her, asking for her help in helping Lela to move on.

I also loved Xavier, Zion and Lela's son. He, too, was very concerned about his mother, and was very devoted to her. I felt for him, too, as he struggled with the circumstances of his father's passing, which had left him feeling embittered and angry. 

The world-building in this novel was very well done, although I did feel that it could have been more detailed. However, readers can still get a feel for the world and culture of Asiya, which are both fascinating! I especially liked all of the rituals involved in courtship. They were absolutely beautiful! 

Interestingly, there seem to be references to Greek mythology with the presence of the three Fates. These are the closest thing to gods that the Asiyans have. As in Greek mythology, the Fates control the destiny of all Asiyans, and, of course, the destiny of any off-worlders married to Asiyans, as well.

I also found it interesting that Lela's first husband is named "Zion". This is also the name of a specific mountain located near the city of Jerusalem, and the name is often used as a synonym for the city itself. Furthermore, in the Rastafari religion, which developed in Jamaica in the 1930s, the name "Zion" refers directly to Ethiopia. So there's symbolism involved in the name of this character. 

I also thought that Zion's last name, "Grace" was very significant. I think it refers specifically to the grace of God, which He abundantly bestows on His children. It also has something to do with the concept of elegance and refinement in the carrying out of one's duties. Certainly Zion, as a diplomat assigned to the world of Asiya, possessed these qualities.

Lela's second husband is named "Ammon". (He has no last name; Asiyans are instead identified by their Houses, or clans.) This name actually refers to "an Iron Age Semitic-speaking nation occupying the east of the Jordan River, between the torrent valleys of Arnon and Jabbok, in present-day Jordan." (Source: Wikipedia) The Ammonites are mentioned in the Bible, in Genesis 19:37-38. "It is stated there that they descended from Ben-Ammi, a son of Lot through incest with his younger daughter. Bén'ámmî, literally means "son of my people"." (Source: Wikipedia article mentioned above)

These two names are significant for a reason. I would guess that they are meant to express the initial, strong rivalry that existed between Zion and Ammon. After all, in the Bible, the Hebrews were always contending with pagan nations. The Wikipedia article referenced above also points this out. "Throughout the Bible, the Ammonites and Israelites are portrayed as mutual antagonists. During the Exodus, the Israelites were prohibited by the Ammonites from passing through their lands. The Ammonites soon allied themselves with Eglon of Moab in attacking Israel."

How fascinating that, in this novel, Zion and Ammon, who were initially rivals, eventually came to a peaceful resolution in their mutual love for Lela, although Zion was the one she was bound to for all eternity.

The name "Sage" is also significant. Not only is this an aromatic plant, but the noun is also defined as "a profoundly wise person". (Dictionary.com) So this is a very appropriate name for Lela's sister-in-law. Not only did she do her best to soothe Lela's sorrow, which is something that alludes to the aromatic plant, but she also provided Lela with excellent advice, and always had Lela's back.

This beautiful, heartbreaking story is also poetically and sensitively told. Using a third-person narrative with several POVs, Jones weaves a tale that is vividly real, vividly poignant. It also becomes depressing at a certain point, as it seems that Lela will never be able to move beyond her sorrow. But then, the tone of the story changes to one of hope, and ends on this note. Even though the author's take on the afterlife is totally alien to me, I was able to appreciate the fact that everything came to a lovely conclusion. The great romantic cliche that "true love always wins out in the end" was beautifully depicted.

This is such an emotionally powerful novel! It's also a very philosophical one, as several themes are touched upon, such as life after death, the enduring power of love, the ideal of peace among all lifeforms in the universe, and the impact of one's legacy on future generations.

I've never read an SF novel like this one before. When I finished reading it, I did indeed feel as if I had lived this life, as if I, like Lela, had had to deal with the passing of a beloved spouse, as well as the conflicting emotions elicited by another. By the end of the book, all of the characters felt like family, with all of the lovable qualities and flaws typical of families. I was, of course, very sorry to see all of it come to an end.

At the back of the book, the author has included a beautiful short story titled "The Garden". This story was the seed from which Bound Souls sprang into full form. It focuses on the same theme as the novel, but resolves the central issue in another way. And, it, too, was very beautiful!

I highly recommend this novel, which I'm sure I will re-read at some point in the future. I am also planning to read the other PNR novels written by this highly-talented author!
  

MY RATING:







N. D. Jones lives in Maryland (USA) with her husband and two children. Having earned an M.A. in Political Science, she is a dedicated educator. She taught high school Social Studies and served as chair of the Social Studies Department. Currently, she is a Professional Development Teacher Specialist with a local Maryland school system, working on increasing student achievement through teacher and administrator efficacy. She is a lifelong learner, pursuing her doctorate in Community College Leadership.

She is the founder of Kuumba Publishing, an art, audiobook, eBook, and paperback company. Kuumba Publishing is a forum for creativity, with a special commitment to promoting and encouraging creative works of authors and artists of African descent. Her teenage daughter created the image design for Kuumba Publishing, while her son has written a role-playing game original character bio for a new paranormal romance series--making Kuumba Publishing a true family affair.

A desire to see more novels with positive, sexy, and three-dimensional African American characters as soul mates, friends, and lovers, inspired the author to take on the challenge of penning such romantic reads. She is the author of two paranormal romance series: Winged Warriors and Death and Destiny. She's also embarked on a science fiction romance series, Forever Yours. N.D. likes to read historical and paranormal romance novels, as well as comics and manga.