Robin McKinley
Putnam, 2010

I. Loved. This. Book.

Actually, to say I loved it feels like an understatement - however, true. Let me try and explain, without giving away too much. This is definitely a book you must experience for yourself - if you are ready for it.

The cover caught my attention. The design itself draws me in, the title intrigues. I see the flying horse - the glorious pegasus - above the girl-in-the-amazing-dress, and even without knowing anything about it, know I must read this story. The premise is deceptively simple: in a world where pegasi and humans coexist, a Princess, Sylvi, has her own personal Pegasus, Ebon, (a Prince in his own right), and - by some strange twist of fate - they are able to speak to each other. Sweet story, right? Who wouldn't want to be able to "have" their own pegasus, let alone be able to talk to one?! ("Have" is used very loosely - it's a centuries-old Alliance that binds royal humans with royal pegasi, but they're more ceremonial companions than pets or possessions).

As I began to read, I was swiftly caught up in this story on an emotional level. Actually, it took me longer than it 'should' have to read, because I would have to put it down rather than just keep reading. My heart got involved. My mind got involved. I actually dreamt I had my own pegasus one night. I loved watching the way everything unfolded. Four years' time is covered in the text, and yet there's so much more. It's a fantastic world - literally - populated by strange creatures and unbelievable things. It's a story that twists and turns and will leave you breathless. I listed Sylvi and Ebon in my "Favorite Book Couple(s) of the Year" post, because even though it's not a "romantic" relationship, it's a very very real - and powerful - relationship. It's engrossing, fascinating, and involving. At the end, I cried my eyes out. Actually, I started crying before the very end - as soon as I realized the story was going to take one more crazy twist. And normally, I really don't like books that make me cry, but the fact this one was able to make me cry just speaks of its power. I was a little devastated when Pegasus ended - yearning to know what happens next, what is going on. Good news however! There is a sequel coming in 2012, and though it's a (painfully) long wait, I have every belief that Robin McKinley will satisfy my hopes.

Book provided by my local library (however a copy is soon to-be-added to my personal library!)


Wide-Awake Princess

The Wide-Awake Princess
E.D. Baker
Bloomsbury, 2010

I first met Baker's creative take on traditional fairy tales via The Frog Princess books (which I loved, until my library stopped buying the new volumes - now I've got to try to get my hands on them all and start over. But I digress.) When I saw this on my library's shelf, I knew I had to give it a go. The cover looks a little young, but the story was fun and I did not feel like I was reading a "young" book. There's a humor to the events that had me cracking up inside, and I loved making all the connections.

Basically, The Wide-Awake Princess takes the story of Sleeping Beauty and upends it - along with many other fairy tales. Princess Annie is immune to magic, so the witch's spell on her sister - the "sleeping beauty" - has no effect on her. Rather than hang around and wait 100 years, Annie decides to see what she can do to wake her sister up, beginning with escaping the instantly-rose-covered castle and setting out to round up every available Prince to be found. All kinds of fairy tale characters are introduced on the scene, mingling and interacting with success - and hilarity. I love fairy tales, so I especially enjoyed seeing so many mixed like this. It was fun, it was a little different. It made me smile. Of course, everything turns out right in the end (it is a fairy tale after all!), but there are some surprises thrown in the mix. Not only will it appeal to the fairy tale lover, but those who just like a fun story will appreciate too.

Book provided by my local library.



April Lindner
Poppy, 2010

I first read Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre in early high school - I want to say it was actually freshman year. I was shelving books at the library I volunteered at, saw it, and decided to read it. I fell in love, revisiting it my junior year as the topic of my first 'real' (college-level) research paper. There is something about Jane's story that tugs at my heart and just calls to me. So when I realized there was a contemporary retelling of Jane Eyre coming out, I got just a little excited.

Lindner did a good job of transferring the story into something modern and current. Jane's a college student who must take time off to work for tuition money. She ends up nannying for Nico Rathburn - the bad-boy rocker who's trying to resurrect his career (and life). Anyone familiar with the original story can quickly see where Jane will go - but that doesn't make it less intriguing. It was interesting to see the way Lindner 'converted' aspects of Bronte's original, making both characters and situations/context relevant and relatable for readers. If some moments feel a little fantastic or too-good-to-be-true, well, that's kind of what the whole story is: the rocky romance between two people worlds removed in terms of social standing and experience. It's not quite a fairy tale, but it's a story that makes people want to believe in the power of love to transcend boundaries. Nico's far from perfect, as is his model Mr. Rochester, but the imperfections and flaws in him keep the story from being too perfect. I feel like Lindner successfully revisited a classic - and now find myself wanting to revisit and reread Jane Eyre once more.

Book provided by my local library.


[Everything Austen II] Persuasion (DVD)

Everything Austen II is a challenge hosted by Stephanie over at Stephanie's Written Word.
The goal: To read 6 Austen-themed works between July 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011.
The progress so far:
1: Persuasion (Jane Austen)
2: Emma (Jane Austen)
3: Mr. Knightley's Diary (Amanda Grange)
4: The Darcys Give a Ball (Elizabeth Newark)
5: I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend (Cora Harrison)
6: Persuasion (DVD)

This post will conclude the Everything Austen II challenge! Huzzah! I have thoroughly enjoyed this first-ever-challenge experience, and will continue to read my beloved Austen and the whole world of Austen-related books, even though the challenge has been completed. There is something about Austen that transcends time and experience, making her writing live ...

And so, the final review ...

BBC, 1995
Starring: Amanda Root & Cieran Hinds

I've been watching Jane Austen DVDs throughout this challenge, but did not want to include them as reviewed components, because I've seen them all several times. Persuasion, however is new to me - I read it for the first time over the summer, and I've just not watched a movie version. I must admit, I liked the movie better than the novel, but I still found myself incredibly annoyed. I think, for whatever reason, Anne Elliot and I do simply do not 'geehaw'. (And yet, I liked the contemporary retellings of Persuasion I have read. Strange...)

So far as the movie goes - it's a beautiful BBC production, and I felt it to be a good cinematic adaptation. I confess to finding it amusing that Mary Elliot (er, Musgrove) was played by the same actress who brought Miss Bates to life in Emma the next year. Seeing the characters interact was nicer for me than reading about them, and I did warm a bit to Anne herself as she began to 'evolve' and come in to her own. The subtle changes to her costume was a very nice touch to demonstrate this process. I *loved* Captain Wentworth as portrayed by Cieran Hinds. Loved him. He was just as he ought to have been - a bit gruff, but also sensitive; a weatherworn sailor, but also strikingly handsome. Yes, Capt. Wentworth is definitely a worth Austen hero.

DVD provided by my local library.

First Dog Fala

First Dog Fala
Elizabeth Van Steenwyk
Illustrated by Michael G. Montgomery
Peachtree Publishers, 2008

As soon as this came in the mail, I sat down and flipped through it, oohing and aahing over the illustrations. Montgomery definitely spends time around dogs, because I felt like Fala was just about to jump off the page and into my lap! (I'm totally smitten: I want a Scottie!) Since then, I've actually read the book several times - and the whole book is just as delightful as the illustrations.

It's been a little while since I read children's picture books *seriously* (translate: graduate class on children's lit as opposed to picking one up because I find it appealing), and I was at first surprised by the amount of text on the page. Once I started reading and thinking about it though, I realized it wasn't as 'extreme' as my first glance thought. (I was probably subconsciously wishing for less text and more Fala illustrations - he's that adorable). There's a lot of information shared, yes, but it's presented in a way that both "little" and "big" kids will be able to sit down and enjoy. The story is about Fala, and his life as a White House pet, but it also is a gentle introduction to American History. And there's something about Scottie dogs that just feels "Christmassy" to me, making it a fitting book for this season!

Book provided by publisher for review.


Favorite Book Couple(s) of the Year

I found this totally awesome contest from a tweet, and after reading through the blogposts related to the Christmas Countdown? Totally. Awesome. And I started thinking about the couples in the books I've read this year ... Turns out, there have been several whose stories I adored. Sometimes they started out rocky (or worse!), sometimes you could tell there was an intense, very-real connection between them, and sometimes ... it was just one of those things that catches your heart. And so, without further ado, my favorite book couples of the year (listed in order of the books read, not in a hiearchical sense):

1: Laura Ingalls & AlmanzoWilder
So these are 'old' books, but I reread them for the first time in ten years back in January, and realized so much about myself in the rereading. I have a better understanding of who I am now, how I came to be the girl I am. And I fell head-over-heels in love with Almanzo 'Manly' Wilder. Looking back, theirs was the first romance I ever read, at the sweetly innocent age of 5 and 6. The sweet simplicity of their growing romance made a lasting impact on me, which I didn't see until rereading. But seriously, what girl wouldn't want the boy who gentles wild horses with a whisper and has dark, bluest-blue eyes? Sa-woon.

2: Cassie & Bear
I am an absolute sucker for a polar bear. Now that we have that out in the open, I'm also mesmerized by the Norse fairy tale/legend "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" and try to read every variation of it I can get my hands on. Sarah Beth Durst's Ice is an amazing contemporary retelling that had me holding my breath. For a chapter or two, I was convinced it was all going to fall apart - even though I *know* how the story has to end. It's a beautiful story, friends becoming lovers ... a bit of Beauty & the Beast feel, but with a twist. I liked Cassie, I liked how stubborn she was, and how her stubbornness is what re-won her Bear. (Plus, how amazingly gorgeous is this cover?!)

3: Malva & Orpheus
This is one of those romances you see coming, but also don't. Malva is the runaway Princetta, and Orpheus is the young sea captain searching to bring her home to an arranged marriage. But he doesn't. Things change, people change. There's an insane adventure, with lots of trials and tests and moments of revelation. But Malva and Orpheus find each other through it all, and theirs is an Ultimate Love. Definitely unexpected, The Princetta (also listed as The Princess and the Captain) is one of those books you have to read for yourself.

4: Ellen & Marek
The romance between Ellen and the mysterious Marek is complicated but beautiful, as it should be - WWII looming on the horizon, and then fully ravages Europe. There's mystery and confusion, heartbreak and heartachingly-beautiful twists. A Song for Summer was definitely a surprise for me, in that I became deeply attached and connected to the characters. It's a romance that reflects humanity, with all its flaws and beauties.

5: Selene & Juba
I hesitated including this couple in my list, because I hate to give anything up when I talk about Michelle Moran's amazing Cleopatra's Daughter. But I can't leave them off, because theirs is a story that stuck with me for a while ... I won't say a lot, because I really do believe everyone should read this for themselves - it's THAT good, people! - but I loved watching this one.

6: Jane & Nico
I have loved Jane Eyre since I first read it in high school. And April Linder's new retelling Jane is just as engrossing: a quiet student working as a nanny + a badboy rockstar with a mystery ... Oh yeah, it's good. It's real good. Their romance obviously follows the pattern of Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester's from the original, but that makes it no less powerful or breathtaking. If anything, having it so very contemporary makes it real-er, more identifiable. Definitely a memorable couple.

7: Slyvi & Ebon
Okay, so this one isn't really a romantic couple, but it's a powerful, powerful bonded relationship. (Literally). This one has been fascinating me, it's a girl and her pegasus. And they are closer than anyone ever thought they would be - or should be. In a sense, it's a forbidden relationship. Yet, it's so very, very right. I love Robin McKinley's ability to spin a story, and Pegasus is an amazing, engrossing, surprising read, with Slyvi and Ebon right at the very heart of it all. Personally, I'd love to have my own pegasus ...

I still have a few weeks left in 2010, and a tantalizing pile of books to read, so chances are good I may discover another amazing couple. But I think this list is a pretty good start.


[Everything Austen II] I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend

Everything Austen II is a challenge hosted by Stephanie over at Stephanie's Written Word.
The goal: To read 6 Austen-themed works between July 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011.
The progress so far:
1: Persuasion (Jane Austen)
2: Emma (Jane Austen)
3: Mr. Knightley's Diary (Amanda Grange)
4: The Darcys Give a Ball (Elizabeth Newark)
5: I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend (Cora Harrison)

United States cover
I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend
Cora Harrison
Delacorte Books, 2010

I first learned about this back in the spring, when it was still months and months from releasing in the US. I was so excited about it though, I made plans to buy the UK edition since it was already out (plus, that cover is so incredibly cute! LOVE it!). Those plans never materialized, but my library bought a copy and I managed to snag it first. (Love-love-love when that happens).

UK cover

Going into the reading, I really wasn't sure what I'd get - the basic premise is that this is the diary of Jane Austen's cousin/best friend Jenny Cooper, and tells the story of how Jane helped Jenny with matters of the heart. I was expecting a light, fun read - and got that, but also got more. Harrison crafted a lovely story that offered a glimpse at what it must have been like to grow up with Jane Austen. In the adventures (and misadventures) Jenny and Jane share, you can see the beginnings of the stories and characters that would go on to become Jane's contribution to the literary world. Jenny's take on the Austen family is enough of an 'outsider' to be able to see things Jane cannot, but she's still very much a part of that close circle. It is in this circle that she becomes better acquainted with herself, and discovers what it means to fall in love.

I enjoyed the book, it was cute and fun, but also had a lot of interesting little details. Harrison, in her author's note, states that she drew heavily from surviving letters of Mrs. Austen and Jenny Cooper (who was actually also called "Jane"). I was amused by comparing what was going on in the book, and the characters, with what occured in Becoming Jane -- some interesting overlap.

Book provided by my local library.


[Everything Austen II] The Darcys Give a Ball

Everything Austen II is a challenge hosted by Stephanie over at Stephanie's Written Word.
The goal: To read 6 Austen-themed works between July 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011.
The progress so far:
1: Persuasion (Jane Austen)
2: Emma (Jane Austen)
3: Mr. Knightley's Diary (Amanda Grange)
4: The Darcys Give a Ball (Elizabeth Newark)

The Darcys Give a Ball
Elizabeth Newark
Sourcebooks, 2008

I saw this on the shelf when I was wandering the stacks one day, and knew I *had* to read it. So very glad I did! I loved it. Seriously loved it. A quick, easy read, I was hooked from the beginning. (Truthfully, hooked by the title). Imagine a world, 20ish years after Pride & Prejudice ends, where Lizzie and Darcy and Jane and Bingley have children. Oh, and don't forget Charlotte and Mr Collins and their children. Now, take a deep breath and imagine the children of all the other Austen couplings ... Yes, all of them. Emma and Knightley; Elinor and Edward; Marianne and Col. Brandon; Anne and Capt. Wentworth ... and, of course, the rest of 'em too. They all have children. And all the parents and children know each other. And they all come together at one ball - held at Pemberley and hosted by the Darcys. What happens is sheer delight. I absolutely loved seeing all the characters come together and coexist and interact across the novel borders. I loved getting a peek at what Lizzie and Jane felt and thought about the other great Austen figures. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the children of the matches - there is much to be said for having good parents, let me tell you. And the ending? Lovely. As lovely as a dance on a moonlit night. Now ... I just need to get my hands on Newark's mouse-version of Pride & Prejudice -- 'twas mentioned in the 'About the Author', and I have begun a quest to find it!

Book provided by my local library.


Chronicle Books: Happy Haul-idays, indeed!

 The holiday season is upon us, and Chronicle Books is having an AMAZING giveaway! They are having a "Haul-idays" giveaway, with up to $1000 in prizes! No lie. Here's how it works ... I went through and made my wish-list of up to $500 worth of goodies available from Chronicle Books. If I am selected as the winner, I get my wish list. But that's not all. One lucky commenter on this blogpost will ALSO WIN THE WISH-LIST! That's right. WE BOTH GET BOOKS! There are a lot of bloggers participating, so if you want to go check out their lists, head over here ... It won't hurt my feelings if you comment on multiple wish-lists. ((I'm doing it too!)) So here's my list, and I'm hoping it's a sweet haul-iday season!!!

By Jennifer Lindner McGlinn
Photographs by BĂ©atrice Peltre
Who says gingerbread is just for the holidays? This unique cookbook shows how gingerbread can be enjoyed for breakfast or dessert year-round...

Deep Dark Chocolate
By Sara Perry
Photographs by France Ruffenach
Dark chocolate lovers will fall head over heels for each of the more than 60 indulgent recipes in Deep Dark Chocolate...

Sweet Tooth Pack
The Cupcake Deck AND The Chocolate Deck
By Elinor Klivans
There are two things that we can't resist: cupcakes and chocolate. So why fight it? We're throwing in the towel and succumbing to our cravings with the sweetest gift pack on our list.

Luscious Lemon Desserts
By Lori Longbotham
Photographs by Alison Miksch
Lemon sweets are the divas of desserts. Assertive and bold, lemons can be flamboyant, tart, and tangy as in the Lemon Granita or sweet, mellow, and velvety like the creamy Lemon Panna Cotta. Over 70 recipes--from the classics to lip-smacking new favorites--are all enticingly presented in Luscious Lemon Desserts...

Sweet Miniatures
By Flo Braker
Photographs by Michael Lamotte
Award-winning author and acclaimed baking expert Flo Braker knows the best things come in small packages. Now this acclaimed author is back with a revised and expanded edition of her beloved Sweet Miniatures. Winner of the IACP Single-Subject Cookbook Award, Sweet Miniatures offers rich, all-new color photography, a whimsically appealing design, and step-by-step instructions for making all kinds of delectable desserts scaled down to an irresistible one-bite size...

Wookiee Cookies
By Robin Davis
Boba Fett-Uccine and Princess Leia Danish Dos are just the beginning when the Force is with you in the kitchen. Wookiee Cookies is your invitation to fine culinary experiences in the Star Wars frame of mind...

The Big Book of Soups and Stews
By Maryana Vollstedt
Where the best-selling Big Book of Casseroles brought bubbling cheese and golden bread crumbs, The Big Book of Soups and Stews brings succulent meats, tender vegetables, and creamy, savory goodness with 262 comforting recipes for soups, chowders, and stews...

The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy
By Domenica Marchetti
Photographs by William Meppem
Italian cooks are masters of the art of preparing simmering soups and stews that showcase seasonal ingredients at their very best. Domenica Marchetti reveals their secrets with The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy, a collection of more than 60 exceptional, authentic recipes that celebrate each season in the Italian tradition...

Delicious Dips
By Diane Morgan
Photographs by Joyce Oudkerk Pool
Diane Morgan -- the diva of dips and champion of chips -- has created more than 50 recipes for everyone's dipping and dunking party favorites...

Pestos, Tapenades & Spreads
By Stacey Printz
Photographs by Mark Lund
With little fuss and enormous flavor, transform everyday meals with simple yet creative toppings, dips, and spreads. Forty recipes are paired with multiple serving suggestions for producing yummy (and healthy!) dishes, from appetizers to dinners...

The Big Book of Appetizers
By Meredith Deeds and Carla Snyder
Everyone is always looking for new and interesting recipes for appetizers, and in this book you'll find hundreds of dips, nuts, nibbles, salsas, spreads, soups, dumplings, tarts, wraps, and so much more!...

Classic Horse Stories
Compiled by Christina Darling
From Black Beauty to Pegasus, few animals inspire as much devotion and delight as horses. This collection has something for the horse-lover in everyone, including favorite horses in fiction, true stories of real horses, and a guide to grooming them...

Classic Western Stories
Compiled by Cooper Edens
For more than a hundred years, the vivid stories of the American West have thrilled and enthralled audiences both young and old, and captured the imaginations of generations. Here are the adventures of outlaws and gunslingers, explorers and settlers, lumberjacks and cowboys. Here are legends—Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, Calamity Jane—and trailblazers—Lewis and Clark, Daniel Boone...

Eric Carle Decorative Prints
By Eric Carle
This exciting collection features 12 ready-to-frame stunning posters celebrating the art of Eric Carle. The perfect gift for new parents decorating a nursery, or a delightful addition to any classroom, these posters feature colorful and kid-friendly images, including character favorites such as the Hungry Caterpillar...

Prisoners in the Palace
By Michaela MacColl
London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza's dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen?...

Romeow and Drooliet
By Nina Laden
Author-artist Nina Laden has taken her trademark wit and applied it to one of Shakespeare's best-loved plays. Adults familiar with the classic love story will delight in the many references to the original play, all of which make this a rarity: a children's book they want to read again and again...

The Hanukkah Mice
By Ronne Randall
Illustrated by Maggie Kneen
This adorable pocket-size tale of three mischievous mice makes an ideal Hanukkah gift. Sweet illustrations and flaps hiding shiny foil surprises keep readers turning the pages until they reach the special ending—a gatefold illustration of a beautiful menorah, with all eight candles burning bright.

Spot the Plot
By J. Patrick Lewis
Illustrated by Lynn Munsinger
Thirteen witty and wacky poems pose riddles that challenge readers to "Name That Book." With a glass slipper here and a spiderweb there, Lynn Munsinger's adorable illustrations lead young readers to the solutions. From Goodnight Moon to Madeline, children and parents alike will delight in recognizing their most cherished stories.

By Marianna Mayer
Illustrated by John Rush
At the dawn of the Middle Ages, a gripping tale of chivalry and suspense emerges. Two distinguished knights -- one Saxon, one Norman -- have returned from the Crusades. Though they fought on the same side, they now have a score to settle. What begins as a joust between two rivals quickly escalates into clanwide mayhem and a fast-paced series of battles for revenge, honor, and love...

Bears! Bears! Bears!
By Bob Barner
Everyone's favorite bears (and some you may have never met before) fish, munch, dive, cuddle, and climb their way through this playful romp. The simple rhyming text is enhanced with fun facts about new cubs (pandas are born no bigger than a stick of butter!) and bears around the world (the spectacled bear is the only species native to South America), while Bob Barner's richly textured paper collage illustrations bring the bears of the world to life. Budding ursinologists will bearly be able to contain themselves—this book is sure to leave them roaring for more!

Noah's Ark
Adapted and illustrated by Jerry Pinkney
For 40 days and 40 nights rain poured from the heavens, enveloping the world. Only Noah had been warned by God of the great flood—and only Noah could save life on earth. This powerful story of salvation has fascinated people of all ages for centuries. Now, four-time Caldecott Honor-recipient Jerry Pinkney captures all the courage, drama, and beauty of this ancient parable in rich, glorious paintings...

By Sylvia Long
From best-selling artist Sylvia Long comes an exquisite version of Hans Christian Andersen's beloved tale about a thumb-size girl and her larger-than-life adventures. Jewel-toned paintings depict the story's settings—from light and airy meadows to Mole's dark and dismal underground home—while whimsical details bring the classic cast of characters to life and make this storytime favorite a visual feast.

Sleeping Beauty
Illustrated by K.Y. Craft
Sleeping Beauty's enchanted slumber has captivated readers' hearts for centuries. Now brought luminously to life by K. Y. Craft's lavish paintings, this new edition of a timeless favorite is sure to enchant readers both young and old. Fairy tale lovers have been eagerly awaiting Craft's next magical romance since the release of her Cinderella. With illustrations inspired by the magnificent style of Baroque painters, the sumptuous color and exquisite detail of this breathtaking interpretation make it a dream come true.

Wild Horse Winter
By Tetsuya Honda
Based on an actual event, this suspenseful story tells the miraculous saga of a herd of beautiful wild horses and details the life of a young colt as it matures and follows the lead of its protective mother to overcome a wild, raging blizzard in the dramatic conclusion of their journey. The soft paintings combine with the simple text to bring a vanishing breed vividly to life. A wonderful book for reading aloud or for sharing, the story subtly parallels the growth of all creatures and underscores the strong bonds that exist between parent and child.

Cat Companion Journal
By Jeffrey Brown
This purr-fectly charming journal features a stamped cover and lots of really cute cat illustrations.

Cat Getting out of a Bag and OtherObservations
By Jeffrey Brown
Celebrated comic artist and graphic novelist Jeffrey Brown's collection of all-new drawings sweetly illustrates the joys of living with a cat. Featured in McSweeney's and on NPR's This American Life, and praised by comic luminaries Chris Ware and Daniel Clowes, Brown's work has always paid tribute to felines as they curl up on couches and purr on the peripheries of his autobiographical stories. Cat Getting Out of a Bag follows his cat Misty—really, any cat—as she goes about her everyday activities and adventures. In a series of drawings, Brown perfectly captures the universal charm of cats in a lovely book sure to please fans and cat lovers of any stripe.

Forests Eco-Keepsake Notecards
By Lisa Congdon
Printed on 100% recycled paper with soy-based inks, these gorgeous notecards feature the lush forest paintings of San Francisco artist Lisa Congdon. Housed in a reusable keepsake box.

Mini Notes
By Susie Ghahremani
Whether they are dropped in a friend's bag, left on a workmate's desk, or clipped to a birthday gift, mini greeting cards are sure to spread smiles and good cheer!

Masha & Friends
By Suzy Ultman
This adorable collection of die-cut notecards recalls the glorious colors and themes of Russian folk art. ...

Total: $491.99

Don't forget: Leave a comment, with an email address/some way to contact you, and you may win a set of these goodies too!

[Everything Austen II] Mr. Knightley's Diary

Everything Austen II is a challenge hosted by Stephanie over at Stephanie's Written Word.
The goal: To read 6 Austen-themed works between July 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011.
The progress so far:
1: Persuasion (Jane Austen)
2: Emma (Jane Austen)
3: Mr. Knightley's Diary (Amanda Grange)

Mr. Knightley's Diary
Amanda Grange
Berkley Trade, 2006

I happily timed the reading of this to coincide with the finishing of Emma. I liked the juxtaposition of having just finished reading the 'full-fledged' version with seeing everything unfold from Mr. Knightley's point of view. Having read Grange's Mr. Darcy's Diary when it first came out, I knew to expect good things of Knightley - and was not disappointed! Everything that I loved about Mr. Knightley in Austen's original comes through - and is gracefully and carefully fleshed out - in Grange's. Here is a Mr. Knightley who feels, and who battles with his own understanding. Watching his words reflect his so-very-obvious preference for Miss Emma Woodhouse above all others, before he realized he was in actually rather in love with said young lady, was delightfully amusing. I smiled often, chuckled a little, and fell even more in love with the gentle Mr. Knightley. Grange is very careful in her writing to stay true to Austen's original characters, even while giving them more 'body' and story. There are faithful accounts of the actions that take place in Emma recorded in Knightley's diary - whole conversations have even been recorded for posterity! A lovely read, and most definitely a wonderful accompaniment for Emma.

Book provided by my local library.


[Everything Austen II] Emma

Everything Austen II is a challenge hosted by Stephanie over at Stephanie's Written Word.
The goal: To read 6 Austen-themed works between July 1, 2010 and January 1, 2011.
The progress so far:
1: Persuasion (Jane Austen)
2: Emma (Jane Austen)

Jane Austen
Bantam Classics, 1984 (original publication 1815)

I read Emma ages ago, back in early high school. Probably sophomore year? I remember liking the story at the time, but at 15 there was no way I could possibly appreciate it the way I did now, rereading at the ripe old age of 25. This go-round, I was able to not only delight in the writing itself -- this may be the best written of Austen's novels, in my opinion -- but to lose my heart to the story, the characters, the whole shebang.

Perhaps one of the reasons I got so much more out of the novel this time was because for the first time in my life, I can actually relate to Emma Woodhouse. (I've watched the movies a dozen times, so I'm intimately acquainted with the story itself, if not as familiar with reading the words). I keep hearing that people do not like Emma as a character, and I'm not sure why. She's no Lizzie Bennett, but I find Emma refreshingly human. So she's spoiled and vain - she has every reason to be, and there is a good heart underneath the silliness. I found her a bit flippant at times, but attributed it to her youth and comparative isolation from society. What I did get a wee bit frustrated with was her inability to see Mr. Knightley. I fell in love with Mr. Knightley, really and truly, and found him to be a rival of Mr. Darcy for the title of "Perfect Romantic Hero".

Emma has much to offer the ready reader: a love story of aching sweetness and possibility; a host of characters that reflect all the best and worst of humanity; moments of dialogue that could be overheard in any college hall or coffee shop; and that special flavor that Jane gives to her best work. A delightful experience, and I shall revisit Emma again before another 10 years passes.

Book provided by my personal library.


*Breaking News* Melissa Walker's New Cover Revealed!

So I am totally psyched to be able to help Melissa Walker reveal the cover of her new, upcoming book! The book, Small Town Sinners, doesn't come out until *July*, but the cover has just been unveiled ... and I must say, I am definitely intrigued! Can't wait to see it in real-life and read it!

Without further ado ...

Lacey Anne Byer is a perennial good girl and lifelong member of the House of Enlightenment, the Evangelical church in her small town. With her driver's license in hand and the chance to try out for a lead role in Hell House, her church's annual haunted house of sin, Lacey's junior year is looking promising. But when a cute new stranger comes to town, something begins to stir inside her. Ty Davis doesn't know the sweet, shy Lacey Anne Byer everyone else does. With Ty, Lacey could reinvent herself. As her feelings for him make Lacey test her boundaries, events surrounding Hell House make her question her religion. Does falling in love mean falling out of faith?


Mini Shopaholic

Mini Shopaholic
Sophie Kinsella
Dial Press, 2010

There's a new Shopaholic novel! My little sister and I were so very excited when we found out this was coming out, and when I got my hands on a copy before she did ... Well, let's just say there was a little jealousy. I had toyed with the idea of rereading all the others before reading this latest installment, since I haven't read them in several years, but I just didn't have the time. Turns out it would have been a totally unnecessary endeavor - this edition of Becky Brandon (nee` Bloomwood)'s life can stand alone easily. Yes, it helps to have some idea of who (and what) Becky is, and the nature of her hilarious life with Luke and Co. But this is a new phase of Becky's life, and seems to be a much more concentrated focus too -- dealing with a few months' time and a massive project. I liked it. It was different than the other Shopaholic novels, and so different from what I was expecting. But I did like it -- I had to find out if everything turned out alright. I had to see what on earth Becky would end up doing (or not doing) as the story progressed. It was an easy read, enjoyable and satisfyingly fluffy. And I really, really hope Sophie Kinsella picks up where she leaves off and gives us a seventh Shopaholic novel in a little while!

Book provided by my local library.


New Books!

Okay ... It's been a while since I posted New Books! happiness. So here's a glimpse of what I've acquired in the last ... month and a half or so:

The Moon Looked Down (Dorothy Garlock)

Whisper on the Wind (Maureen Lang - signed!)

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Syrie James)

To Conquer Mr Darcy (Abigail Reynolds - signed!)

 Queen's Daughter (Susan Coventry - signed and with Queen's Daughter sticky notes!)

Love on a Dime (Cara Lynn James)

All of them are very beautiful. I hardly know what to read first! I think I may end up closing my eyes, shuffling the stack, and randomly picking one. Or write the titles on slips of paper and put 'em in a tea cup or something and draw my next selection.

Keep your eyes peeled for reviews to come!