Carolyn Turgeon
Crown, 2011

I won this in a Passages to the Past giveaway, and was delighted. The cover is beyond gorgeous, and it's a fairy tale variation. What is there not to love? Mermaid is the story of 'The Little Mermaid' (the Hans Christian Andersen version, not quite Disney's Ariel), but with a bit of  twist. There's the handsome prince. There's the beautiful mermaid princess with the magical, melodious voice. And there's a smart and fetching (human) princess. One stormy night brings all three together in a way that forever changes their lives - and their worlds.

I loved this book. Loved it. It was a very fast read - drawing me in from page one, and sucking me in until the end. The story is told in alternating chapters from the mermaid - Lenia's - and the princess - Margrethe's - points of view. While this makes the chronology a little awkward to follow at times, it makes the story so much stronger - and I will suffer much for the sake of a good story. Getting to see the story unfold from the two very different perspectives creates a richness and depth - it's not a one-sided presentation, you get to see the struggles, the 'drama' if you will. Both princesses are heroines in their own right - each loves the prince and is willing to risk everything for the chance at achieving happiness, the fulfillment of dreams, and love.

Lenia and Margrethe are drawn to each other - and driven away from each other - until united once more. Each is fascinated and enamored with the beauty and exotic mystery of the other's life. They form a relationship that, while not close in the traditional sense of friendship, is strong enough to bridge life and death. Their willingness to lay everything on the line is what keeps the story moving. I wasn't incredibly impressed with the prince - but Lenia and Margrethe? Them, I loved. And the ending caught me wholly by surprised - reading every page faster and faster, wanting to find out exactly what was going to end up playing out - and then sighing with a wistful delight as the conclusion was reached and the story ended.

If you love fairy tales, read this. If you like good stories, read this. If you're totally bored and need a book, read this!

Book provided by my personal library.


Armchair BEA: Recap & Reflect

Oh man ... the week has flown by, and there was just so much information - I'm going to be playing a little bit of catch-up next week, I think. I would have to say that my first-ever ArmchairBEA experience was a rousing success. I got an amazing chance to peak into the worlds of other bloggers - not to mention all the sneak peeks into the BEA experience we were missing! I've really gotten to think about what I think about the way I blog and the way I feel about blogging, etc ... It's been a good experience. A learning one. And also a lot of fun! And seriously? I'm going to be playing "catch up" on some of the blog posts from this week - there were so many! But that just means the fun is extended!

Many thanks to everyone who contributed to making this such an awesome experience!


Armchair BEA: All About The Blog

This is the final day of ArmchairBEA celebrations, and the theme of the day is - what else - the blog! Essentially we've been given free reign to take about our Blogging Philosophy ... Which means I get to discover what my Philosophy of Book Blogging is, as I share it with you. With that forewarning, please forgive if this seems a bit "thinking-out-loud" at times. Shall we dive in?

I think I'm probably pretty low-key in terms of the way I blog ... I read my books, whether they are books I randomly picked up/decided to read for myself, or books that I've been sent for review, and then I review them. This year I'm making a conscious effort to write a review for every book I read - something that did not happen last year. I don't try to post every day - I'd run out of books, honestly - but a good blogging week for me is one where I get at least 2 reviews up, and maybe some other non-review post. (Bonus points if I get enough books to do a 'New Books' post on Saturday!) I confess to a very bad habit of getting a handful of reviews written and scheduled, and then forgetting to keep writing reviews until the end of my scheduling. Oops! I'm trying to get better about that, now that I'm on summer break and not dealing with other things.

Along with the low-key approach, I don't let my blogging become a stress or hassle. I make sure I can handle the things I'm getting myself into, and if I ever reach a point where I can't - I'll start pulling back to a more manageable place. I don't think there is any one right or wrong way to write a review, so I don't try to stick to too strict a 'formula' ... Some reviews are shorter or longer, depending on what I feel like I need to say. I hate to give away too much of the plot - especially if there's a really amazing moment you've got to actually build up to in the reading, so I try to be very sensitive of that. But I definitely want my reviews to convey what I felt and thought during and after my reading. On some levels, this whole blogging endeavor is as much for myself as it is for anything else - it's really making me look a little closer at what I read, and why.

So far as social media is concerned ... I have a twitter where I link my posts, tagging authors/publishers of the reviewed book when applicable. I also have a facebook page for this blog, which gets a link to all posts. I love the 'connectability' that social media offers in terms of being able to communicate with authors, publishers, and other bloggers - I've discovered so many reads this way! And there's nothing more fun than when you can actually talk to the author of a favorite book! Yeah, I have total fangirl moments at times.

Do I have a Philosophy of Blogging? I guess on some level, I think blogging is a personal thing - we're all different, we all have different reading tastes and writing styles. There's no good cookie-cutter approach to blogging ... I do think that reviews should be fair, and honest. If I don't like a book, I'll try my best to explain to you why I didn't like it - but leave the reading to your own discretion (unless it's like, you know, really, really awful and then I'll just tell you to run away screaming. Kidding! Sorta. Moving on...). I think correct spelling and grammar, you know, basic good writing skills? Those are imperative. I'm going to have a very hard time taking you seriously if I can barely read your writing. (I've got an English degree, and worked as a Writing Tutor and A&E Editor for the Campus Paper - it's in my blood). Other than that? It's your blog, so do what you want with it ... If it becomes 'work' than things need to change ... Just have fun.

Okay, did I sufficiently talk myself into a logical point? This is one of those things I have a sense of what I like versus what I don't like, but when it comes down to trying to define it, well, it gets a little tricky. Possibly that's just the way my brain works - I'm looking forward to seeing what everyone else has to say on the matter.

On an unrelated note:
This has been a very fun experience for me, and I've gotten a great glimpse of just how huge and wonderful the book blogging world is! I am so glad I saw the information about ArmchairBEA and decided to join in the fun!


Armchair BEA: Relationships & Community

Today's ArmchairBEA focus is all about nurturing relationships and building a sense of community. You can blog all day long, but at the end of the day - if nobody is reading what you're blogging, you're really only writing for yourself, and could be doing that just as easily non-blog. What sets blogs apart from self-writing is the community that develops - you get a set of followers, or even just people cruising through reading. Your words, reviews, thoughts can help others make decisions about reading or make them think about something differently. But where does this community come from? I s'pose idle internet surfing is one way, google and other search engines are rather nifty for searching out reviews on a particular book. Or you could attract readers who stumble across something you've written or posted somewhere else. The secret, you know, is people. Gotta have people involved. Therein lies the 'nurturing relationships' concept ... Tricksy little creature.

At first I wasn't sure I'd be able to contribute much to today's conversation - I'm still feeling pretty new to this blogging thing, and I don't really "know" publishers or bloggers the way some people seem to. Then I started thinking, and I have met so many great people through this venture - there are definitely some relationships that have started. And you can't reach the end until you have a beginning - so a start is a great thing, and I am happy with that - knowing that as time goes on, and I keep learning through this venture, that the 'young' relationships will grow and one day maybe, just maybe, I'll be one of those bloggers than new bloggers look at and wonder "How does she know all these people?"

There are a few bloggers I know I can go to if I have a "How on earth?" question - they were spotlighted in yesterday's post actually: Gina, Danielle and Christina have been a great blogging example for me, and have answered my "?????" postings on twitter with help and humor.

I've also started a fun working relationship with Emily over at Peachtree Publishers - love, love, love their titles, and getting to review for them and participate in their Earth Day celebration blog tour was entirely too much fun!

Through the blogging adventure, I've also been able to meet some fun and crazy people through peripheral activities ... Austen Authors's monthly #TwitterAusten contests last fall resulted in meeting Adam (we tied for 1st place in condensing Sense and Sensibility to 125 characters), who ended up becoming co-creator of the Jane Austen Twitter Project, and well, that was an amazing adventure that introduced me to so many new friends ... Including my partners-in-crime Jess, Nancy and Kaydee (you know, the ones I team up with to post long treatises on Disney Heroes?)

So maybe I have more blog-based relationships than I first thought ... and that's not even counting the comments and discoveries of similar tastes and titles. Book blogging is really a very awesome, very huge community - and with a little effort, you can start finding your place in the family. I'm totally looking forward to seeing where next year finds me, enjoying the ride along the way.


BookSparksPR Summer Reading Challenge

Okay, so as if I didn't have enough challenges to keep me busy, I've decided to join another one: the BookSparksPR Summer Reading Challenge! This one's much more relaxed though since you can read as many of the list as you want - it's not a required quota, just the more books you read the more entries into the huge contest you get ... Easy stuff, right?

Here's the list of books that count for the challenge:

Week 1: The Friendship Fix by Andrea Bonior
Week 2: Hotel No Tell by Daphne Uviller
Week 3: The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop
Week 4: Here, Home, Hope by Kaira Rouda
Week 5: Crush Control by Jennifer Jabaley
Week 6: Stay by Allie Larkin
Week 7: Populazzi by Elise Allen
Week 8: Sanibel Scribbles by Christine Lemmon
Week 9: The D Word by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Week 10: Sweet Valley Confidential by Francine Pascal
Week 11: Only Mine by Susan Mallery
Week 12: Goddess of Vengeance by Jackie Collins

Bonus PR Picks (BookSparksPR, Little Bird Publicity and Get Red PR chose these 3 non-client personal must-read books!):
Week 13: Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan
Week 14: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris
Week 15: Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle

There are a couple on here that are definitely on my To Read list already, and a couple others that look really intriguing ... What better time to give them a whirl than when they can count as entries? Think about it: if you're wanting to read it anyway, let's get some bonus points here ...

If you're interested, they're still taking registration, so mosey over and check it out for yourself!

Armchair BEA: Book Blogger Love

Today's theme for ArmchairBEA is the network of book bloggers - if you mosey over to the main site, there's a post of blogger-on-blogger interviews, as well as a selection of posts (like this one) spotlighting favorite fellow bloggers. If you're new to the idea of book blogging, or just like having a near-limitless resource for reviews and bookish news, then you will not want to miss these posts! Okay, I'll stop doing the introductory spiel and start sharing my favorite blogs ...

I've got to do a special shout-out for the first book blog I found, quite by accident:
Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
This is a fun blog, with a cooking/kitchen theme that makes me hungry if I stop to think too long about it. Reviews and memes are posted with a fun style and there is always something interesting to be found.

Now, for a sampling of some of my other favorites, in no particular order (well, okay, the Librarian in me demands alphabetical order):
  • Austenesque Reviews
    Featuring reviews of all things Jane Austen - including sequels, prequels, variations, and giveaways!
  • Chick Lit Reviews
    Specializing in British chick lit (I confess, my favorite!), but also having American Weekends. A great place to discover new authors from 'across the pond' as well as new American titles too.
  • Chick Loves Lit
    Fun blog with a lot of YA titles and frequent author interviews. 
  • Confessions of a Book Addict
    A lot of YA reviews, and fun giveaways too. Plus, for most of May, Christina's posts are a "kickoff summer" theme - loads of great beachy/summer reads!
  • Luxury Reading
    Vera and her amazingly prolific "staff" keep this blog updated with reviews like crazy. Also giveaways like crazy. Another of my first book blogs - and a great resource for readers!
  • Passages to the Past
    Historical fiction-focused only, and great giveaways. Need I say more?
  • There's a Book
    Danielle (who also takes care of American Weekend duty over at Chick Lit Reviews), and her two kiddies specialize in children's lit from picture books to young adult - and everything in between. Also featuring month-long spotlights of specific publishers, which is a great way to learn more about the industry. And giveaways. Lots of giveaways.
  • WriteMeg!
    Books, pictures, cupcakes/recipes. Yup, Meg's got 'em all! Fun blog with book reviews interspersed with adventures and recipes. Love this one! 
This is just a sampler of the book blogs I follow and love - there are so many great blogs out there, it's hard to narrow down the list. And I'm always discovering new ones too, which makes it even harder! But it's a happy problem to have, for sure. Hopefully I've introduced you to a new blogger or two, and I definitely look forward to seeing what everyone else is reading too!


So Much Closer

So Much Closer
Susane Colasanti
Viking, 2011

When I found out my ARC request for So Much Closer had been accepted, I literally did a happy dance in my office. I'd been hearing so many good pre-release things about this, that I was giddy to have a chance to add my own two-cents. (The book has since released, so you can all go buy a copy for yourself!)

The cover caught my attention first, as did the title - and the premise kept it: girl loves boy, boy doesn't know it, boy moves to NYC, girl leaves everything she knows behind to follow boy to NYC. Did I want to find out what happened next? Do diamonds sparkle?! Of course I had to find out what happened when Brooke changed her life in a radical way - just for a boy. But not just any boy: Scott was the love of her life - he just didn't know that. And he barely knew Brooke. I think you can see how very interesting this story could become.

So Much Closer is fast-paced and easy to read. I was quickly caught up in Brooke's story, and her new world of experiences in New York City. Brooke was an interesting girl to get to know - I liked watching her grow and become more comfortable in her own skin throughout the novel. A lot of this was a direct result of her surprising new friends, and realizing that there not only was a way to make what she loved most a 'life', but that it was okay to do so. I think that's what I loved best about So Much Closer actually: Brooke's journey from planning her life around chasing a particular boy to realizing that she deserved to let herself *be* and dream and chase those dreams - surrounded by friends who cared about and supported her.

ARC provided by publisher for review.

Armchair BEA: Best of 2011

Today's Armchair BEA posts are all about books: there are giveaway galore, as well as bloggers (like me) posting our "Best of 2011" lists. Between the two varieties of posts going up, your To Read list is probably going to grow exponentially. I would apologize for any contribution to that growing list I make, but - well, frankly, I'm not sorry if I can convince someone to give a book I loved a read. Stumbling upon new favorites is one of the best parts of reading, and if I can share that experience with someone else? I consider it a job well-done.

And now, without further ado, a sampler of reading delights I title "Best of 2011-SO FAR" (complete with links to my reviews):

Across the Universe: Beth Revis
Oh man, I loved this one. Absolutely loved it. Cannot wait for book two to come out! Gave it to my little cousin for her birthday, and she stayed up all night reading it. It's that great of a read. Plus, the cover is - how do you say? - gorgeous.

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares: Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
I loved this one too, because it sounded like something my friend Joshua and I would create. Dash and Lily are engaging and entertaining, and the whole concept of the book is just awesome. I laughed out loud reading this one.

Rose Daughter: Robin McKinley
So it's not exactly a new release, but it is a beautiful retelling of 'Beauty and the Beast'.

Prisoners in the Palace: Michaela MacColl
Fun historical fiction about the maid who saved Princess Victoria and helped her become Queen. (Plus, it's another fun cover - definitely worth seeing in person).

The Jane Austen Handbook: Margaret C. Sullivan
I'm a Janeite, and this is a nifty little reference book with the answers burning in everyone's mind ... You know, like how much is Mr Darcy really worth?

The Bride's Farewell: Meg Rosoff
This one surprised me, and I'm so very glad the cover caught my eye and I indulged my shallower side.

The Healer's Apprentice: Melanie Dickerson
'Sleeping Beauty' with a twist that will keep you guessing - and reading. Looking forward to Dickerson's next novel which will revisit 'Beauty and the Beast'.

Mermaid: Carolyn Turgeon
'The Little Mermaid' revisited -- a quick, engrossing read with an ending I never saw coming. Review's not posted yet, but will be soon!

What Happened to Goodbye: Sarah Dessen
I'm currently reading this one, and falling in love all over again with Dessen ... It's never really "Summer" for me until I read Sarah Dessen, and I think I'm going to be rereading almost everything this summer. Review for this one to come when it's finished.

There you have it. A sampler of my 2011 reading. Hopefully I've whetted your reading appetite and you'll discover something you've not read before. Or, if we have the same favorites, I'd love knowing that too!


Armchair BEA: Hiya!

This week there's this HUGE gathering of authors, publishers, bloggers, and all kinds of peoples meeting in NYC for the Book Blogger Convention/Book Expo America. Not gonna lie: I'm a leetle jealous - sounds like it's going to be an awesome event. Since I'm still a newbie at this (one year anniversary coming up!), I didn't really know much about it until it was *here* ... Maybe next year will find me joining the throngs. However, I don't have to miss out on all the fun, because a great group of bloggers have joined together to create the "Armchair BEA Experience". Over 300 of us who are missing the big convention in The City have decided to have our own convention - from the luxury of our own homes (or wherever we are this week). You should check it out, because it'll make my non-review posts this week make so much more sense: Armchair BEA Central.

So. Seeing as how this is Day 1 of Armchair BEA, and some of you may not know me - allow me to introduce myself. I've been reading since I was 4 (ahem, that's over 20 years), and have an undergrad degree in Literature and a Master of Library Science. To say I'm a "bookworm" is a bit of an understatement. I started transitioning into a "book blogger" last June, after discovering some amazing blogs (you'll find out more about them later this week), and realizing "Hey, I should do this!" Even though I've only been blogging reviews for just-under a year, I've been writing them for much longer. In middle and high school, Mum would make me write a page review/book report of every book I read (I was homeschooled). Her hope was to slow down my reading some, but it didn't work. Then in college, I was the A&E Editor for our campus paper, and often wrote book reviews or bookish columns. Once I became aware of the book blogging world, it was a natural transition, and I have loved the experience.

Being a bookworm extraordinaire, I read a lot of different things - but I am a little particular. I tend to avoid paranormal, most mysteries, all erotic, and ... uh ... hmm. That may be it, in regards to 'broad generalizations'. I love fairy tales, and read a lot of historical fiction. I'm also a fan of chick lit, and probably read more YA titles than adult. (My self-appointed specialization in grad school was in childrens/young adult, so it makes sense). I do have a major love of football, so I keep my eyes peeled for good "football books" and am eagerly awaiting the release of Tim Tebow's memoir later this month. Basically, if the story is something that appeals to me -- or I encounter enough positive recommendations, especially from people whose opinions I trust and respect -- I will give a book a go. I'm not afraid to stop reading if I find myself struggling or losing interest: reading is something fun for me - I don't want to make it a chore.

In regards to this whole Armchair BEA experience - I'm so new to this, I'm not sure what to expect! But I am giddy about the adventure, and look forward to getting to know more bloggers and discover more things about this fascinating new realm I've stumbled upon. I'm going to try and post each day this week corresponding with the suggestions listed on the Armchair BEA blog - as well as (hopefully!) getting some reviews up also. Please feel free to peruse my previous reviews in the meantime, and thanks for joining me on this adventure!

Here's to books and the readers - especially bloggers - who love them!



Rainbow Rowell
Dutton, 2011

I love epistolary novels, and can remember the first novel I ever read written entirely in email format (Snail Mail No More, in case you're curious). So when I managed to snag an ARC of Attachments through a @DuttonBooks Monday giveaway on twitter? I was excited. I was very intrigued by the premise: boy "meets" girl by reading her emails, and wanted to see how Rainbow Rowell would make it work. I was not disappointed.

 Lincoln is our 'hero' - he works web security for the local paper, and as part of his job has to read the emails that get caught in the filter. Enter Beth and Jennifer - two friends whose very-personal-emails get caught in the filter on a regular (almost daily) basis. At first Lincoln's just reading their emails as his job, but soon he is reading them for their own merit - and getting to know these two funny, vivacious women. He's especially fond of Beth's emails. We get to know Beth and Jennifer the same way Lincoln does: only through their emails, and then, somehow, by a chance encounter or two. Lincoln's chapters however, are "normal" chapters, and are the bulk of the novel. Through these, we get to know Lincoln, to work through his past and fight to find his place in the world. As Lincoln becomes more and more drawn to Beth, he realizes that the reason he's discovered her is the very reason he can never truly meet her. And so, he finally makes a decision - and leaves.

But that's not the end of the novel. Oh no, there's much more to be discovered. Reading, I had no idea where the story was going to go - I found myself cheering for Lincoln, Beth and Jennifer as they worked through their own individual problems. I kept trying to guess what'd happen next, and never succeeded. And that's okay, because the ending was everything it needed to be. Everything I wanted it to be. I, for one, am definitely looking forward to seeing what else Rowell will write.

ARC provided by my personal library.


The Beast: The Quest for Beauty

Today's post is part of a blog tour among a handful of Janeites who also love Disney heroes and movies. We call ourselves the TangledJaneites, and enjoy watching movies together via twitter - who cares if we're spread from East to West coast, and points in between? Technology makes miracles happen, my friends. For more reading fun, make sure you check out their blogs: Jess is tackling Prince Phillip @ Narnia Mum, Kaydee's covering Naveen @ For the Love of Austen, and Nancy called dibs on Flynn Rider @ Austen Aspirations!

If you're a regular visitor to this (sometimes eclectic) blog, you may have picked up on two things: My not-so-secret love of fairy tales, and my fondness for the sometimes-unexpected Hero. (If you haven't noticed, or are brand new, then consider yourself forewarned: it's all true!) And today? Oh happiest of First-Day-of-Summers! I get to combine the two and talk to you about my favorite Disney hero: The Beast!

I've always been a fan of Beauty and the Beast, ever since I was a little girl and got to see it in theatres when it released. ((Random interjection: I feel really, really old as all these Disney movies are hitting big anniversaries, and I can remember seeing them when they came out...)) But I didn't realize how much the story meant to me - as a girl, as a dreamer, as a reader and writer - until a few years ago. There's a beauty to the story 'Beauty and the Beast' that transcends what Disney was able to do. That's not saying I don't absolutely love their version, because I do. When I realized it was coming back to DVD in November, I was counting the days until I could buy it. And I got the soundtrack with Christmas money. Shoot, sophomore year in college, I learned and performed 'Beauty and the Beast' as my jury piece for Piano. So I am definitely a fan of Disney's production. There's a reason the Beast was my hands-down-favorite Disney Hero for decades! He reigned supreme and unchallenged until I saw Tangled for the first time - and then, even though Flynn Rider gave him major competition, the Beast still ranks first. (Flynn's a close second, but history equals extra points).

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about why I like - no, love - the Beast. Trying to look at it from the beginning, when the Disney version was the only one I knew. Finding it a little trickier than you'd think - in the last two years, I've read several versions of 'Beauty and the Beast', as well as several versions of 'East of the Sun, West of the Moon' (Nordic fairy tale which is very, very similar - it's awesome, you should check it out!). So there are a lot of "Beasts" hanging out in my head. Er, that sounds stranger than it should. Back to the topic at hand ... I've come to the conclusion that I cannot fully separate Disney's Beast from the other Beasts - the Beast is who and what he is because of his place in the story, and the story isn't just one simple version: it's a greater entity. That's why it's a fairy tale, and is revisited and rediscovered so often. There's a truth to it, a quest for beauty - and belonging - and love, that we all can recognize. The Beast just happens to be the amazing hero in our story. And while all of this is in my head, and heart, and I know it's the story that makes the hero - I do want to look today at Disney's Beast exclusively. Well, as exclusively as I can, of course.

So who is the Beast? Why do I love him? He's big and rough and hairy. Not human, but not really animal either. He's got a horrible temper and got in his predicament by being selfish and shallow. He lives in the middle of nowhere in a creepy castle that's full of inanimate objects with personalities and voices. By all accounts, this should be the Crazy Character or Villain, right? Especially when juxtaposed with the "Perfect Specimen" of Gaston. But the Beast is more than his circumstances. Yes, he started out as a spoiled brat Prince, but when he became The Beast, he was forced to learn to be human. He had to learn to love, but he also had to learn to appreciate and value beauty. True Beauty.

I think the Beast started changing the moment Belle said she'd stay in place of her father - she was giving him a real-time lesson in how to live and love. It was like nothing else he knew, and he was intrigued. He still had a long journey before him - they both did - but it started that moment. You can see it in his eyes: if Love like that really was possible, then maybe - just maybe - he stood a chance. Maybe this crazy-brave slip of a girl was the key. Sure, she tried his patience and provoked his temper. But in Belle, he had an adversary worth fighting for - she stood up to him, and he wanted to earn her trust, her respect, her love. Here's where I started falling in love with him as a Hero.

 If I started falling for the Beast when Belle decided to stay, then I was head-over-heels by the time he appeared at her side in the snow, risking everything to defend her against the wolves. Why? Why did he do it, why did he follow her, why would he put his own life (enchanted though it be) on the line for a girl who'd run away from their agreement? Because he recognized in her someone he wanted to be. Because he was somehow repaying the debt, evening the score, restoring the balance - and following her example. Belle gave her "life" for her father - the Beast offered his for hers. At this point, he's not really aware of how he feels about her, but something deep inside knows this is right - and he is rewarded by Belle's return to the castle, and another chance.

From here, the story plays out as you'd expect: they learn to trust each other, learn to communicate, learn to love - even though it's not confessed mutually, you can see it. Especially when he lets her go -  for years, those wiser than me have said that True Love is letting someone go when that's what's best for them. Even though Belle's departure - before the words were spoken - spelled his 'doom,' the Beast let her go. When she reaches up and touches his cheek in parting - my heart breaks a little. You can see the love in his eyes, and the effort the sacrifice cost him. He's reached the turning point, and his whole future lies in the hands of Belle. I love that as big, strong and powerful as he is - he is dependent entirely on the power of Love.

But I keep coming back to the question: Why? And the closest I can come to fully answering is - because he is. He is imperfect and 'horrible' and has a host of issues. But he fights back, he refuses to let his past determine his future, and he recognizes that he must change. When he finds a Lady worthy of winning, he does try - awkwardly at first, but practice makes perfect. Underneath all the fur and teeth and snarling, he has a heart of gold, waiting patiently for the moment it can be revealed. And yet, he wins the heart of his lady before his human magnificence is restored. He wins her trust, her respect, her love - as a Beast. I guess it's the ultimate fairy tale, really, showing the power of love to see beyond the appearance, and finding your heart's answer in an unexpected place. This is a fairy tale anyone can relate to, with a Hero who just may be waiting for you around the next corner - probably not a hairy animal-ish thing, but surprising? Definitely.

Why do I love the Beast? Because he reminds me that sometimes Heroes are not riding white chargers or tromping around in big boots looking Princely. Sometimes Heroes are right there, hidden behind a 'disguise of enchantment', and maybe - just maybe - I need to open my eyes to see past what I see. Plus, let's be honest, how can you not love a Hero so big, strong and furry? He'd totally keep you warm in the winter. And, he's got a sweet castle - I want the library, and the room they waltz in, 'k?thanks! Ahem. Not that those reasons are superior to his heart or character, I'm just sayin'.

This post has gotten long, but exploring the idea of the Beast, and why I love him so, is an interesting one ... Don't forget to check out the other blogs! We're each covering a different Disney hero!


New Books!

Combining two weeks' worth of new books again, last week was a little insane at work and I was just happy to make it to the weekend and crash. But now, it's officially Summertime for this girl, and hopefully things will get a little more organized/regular.

Books Won:

Reunion by Therese Fowler, signed! Won through the Girlfriends Book Club
Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware. Won through Laura's Reviews
Moonglass by Jessi Kirby, signed + bookmark + Starbucks card!
Won through The Elevensies


Love on Assignment

Love on Assignment
Cara Lynn James
Thomas Nelson, 2011

After reading Love on a Dime, I was really excited to pick up the second in the 'Ladies of Summerhill' series by Cara Lynn James. The premise of Love on Assignment sounded like it'd be as much fun as the first: female reporter goes undercover as a nanny to find out what's going on with her new boss, and mayhem ensues. (My paraphrasing, by the way). But about a third of the way in, I just couldn't stay focused - I started flipping pages randomly, reading one here - one there, and even that wasn't enough to jar my interest back into the story. It felt too predictable, and the details about Gilded Age society that I loved so much from Love on a Dime were nonexistent here. Please don't misunderstand me: the story is a good one, it's just not what I wanted - or needed - it to be. Maybe I just went into the reading with the wrong set of expectations. So while I was disappointed at the time, I'm not going to give up on the Ladies of Summerhill - nor James - yet! And you shouldn't either - seriously, check it out. Just don't pick it up with a history geek's mindset, and you'll be fine.

Book provided by my local library.


Princess of Glass

Princess of Glass
Jessica Day George
Bloomsbury, 2010

A few summers ago, at a friend's suggestion, I read Princess of the Midnight Ball - the princess sisters I was introduced to therein were fun and lively, so I was happy to pick up Princess Poppy's story once more in Princess of Glass. Taking place a couple years after Midnight Ball concludes, Poppy (as well as all her unmarried sisters) has been enlisted in an "exchange student"-type program where the royal children of many nations swap places to strengthen and repair international relations. Poppy's not your average, everyday princess though (even among fairy tale princesses, Poppy stands out), and of course - with her background - her adventure is unique as well.

Princess of Glass revisits the traditional idea of 'Cinderella' - looking at it from a wholly different perspective that was both intriguing and a lot of fun. While the misadventures of 'Ellen' the maidservant are the heart of the Cinderella-story, it's woven intricately in with the lives and stories of Poppy and her new friends. Particularly handsome Prince Christian, whom Ellen's "godmother" has selected as the perfect match and about whom Poppy cannot quite define her feelings. I thoroughly enjoyed this read - and the fun of it is in the reading, in seeing how things work out (or don't), and wondering what-on-earth is going to come next. I find myself hoping that George picks up the story of another of the sisters and continues the fun.

Book provided by my local library.


The Healer's Apprentice

The Healer's Apprentice
Melanie Dickerson
Zondervan, 2010

In case you haven't figured it out yet, I love fairy tales - original fairy tales, retold fairy tales, contemporary fairy tales, I just love 'em! One of the reasons I decided to join the Once Upon a Time V challenge, and definitely a reason why I picked up this book. It also has the double-bonus of being historical fiction too! Um, double win!

The Healer's Apprentice is a new take on 'Sleeping Beauty' - the "cursed Princess" is hidden away somewhere, while her betrothed is searching for her would-be destroyer. But this is no ordinary 'Sleeping Beauty' story, dear readers! There's a twist: the Hero, seemingly a failure at finding the evil sorcerer threatening his future bride (whom he has never met, knowing only her name), meets a charming young lady - a peasant girl, the daughter of a woodcutter, working as an apprentice to the healer of his father's court. I think you can see where this is going ... Rose and Wilhelm are engaging main characters - their interactions and conversations are sweet and sincere. Rose knows her mind and is very well educated for a woman (let alone a woodcutter's daughter!) - something she's not afraid to demonstrate. She also reads the Bible, having a knowledge of Scripture that most men in the town do not. She is more careful about revealing this, but does take on Wilhelm in theological matters as their uneven, unexpected friendship develops. As a reader I loved her, she is a great leading lady: faithful, loyal, with a gentle heart and a passion for doing what she knows is right, Rose is admirable.

The true beauty of this story lays in the way it all plays out, so I'm going to try very hard not to divulge the twists and turns it takes. I will confess to having an inkling of a hunch somewhere around chapter 4, but I refused to give in and flip ahead to see if I was "right" or not. So very glad I refrained, because the development of the story was beautiful. Skipping ahead to the end would definitely not have given me any reading satisfaction. So if you pick this up: Read it straight through! Don't skip ahead! Your patience will be rewarded with a journey unlike any other. Definitely enjoyed this fairy tale retelling, and look forward to Melanie Dickerson's next novel The Merchant's Daughter (coming out in November), which is a retelling of "Beauty and the Beast"!

Book provided by my local library.


Goodnight, Tweetheart

Goodnight, Tweetheart
Teresa Medeiros
Gallery, 2010

I was so excited when my library's copy of this came in! I'd been hearing fun things about it, and absolutely love following Teresa Medeiros on twitter (you should check her out: @TeresaMedeiros), so I had a hankerin' to read this one (sorry, the Southern slips out sometimes). I was not disappointed.

Abby is one of those down-and-out characters who is in just such a bad place that you can't help but like her. She's struggling to write the Next Great American Novel and in a last ditch effort to help rejuvenate her career, Abby's agent sets up a twitter account to connect Abby with her adoring masses - er, you know, her fans. This is when things get interesting. During her first attempts to navigate and decipher twitter, Abby meets Mark Baynard - Literature professor on sabbatical, and Abby's personal twitter guru. Their 'lessons' turn into a friendship balancing deepest, darkest secrets and shameless flirting. I loved reading Abby and Mark's tweets - they're very believable, very real - and the friendship that develops between them is fun. I enjoyed watching them move from "tweet nothings" mixed in with the "here's how to use twitter" to actually talking to each other - it's a great look at the relationship-growing-aspect of twitter (and all social media, for that matter). The challenge of 140 characters or less is also a fun twist on communicating.

This was a fun read, a light read. I laughed out loud at times, and I was delighted to discover that Abby's cats are actually the same as Teresa's cats (which are way too adorable - she shares pictures on twitter!). That said, the twist at the end caught me wholly unawares. I almost got really mad and quit reading, to be honest. But I persevered, and my sticking-to-it was rewarded with an ending that made me smile and sigh. I do wonder what happens next - but isn't that what good books do: Leave you wanting more?

Book provided by my local library.