Monday, June 30, 2014

Top 10 (err, 12) Classic Books I'd Like To Read

Today's prompt for Top 10 Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish deals with classic books -- you favorites, ones on your TBR list, etc. I decided to make my list:

The Top 10+ Classics I Want To Read

Creating this list was ridiculously easy because I have hardly read any classics at all that weren't required reading in high school and college. I've always felt this weird barrier between me and classics -- like they're going to be dry or boring or have an antiquated and stiff writing style or not hold up to the movie versions I've come to love. Every year I resolve to read at least one classic novel -- and I never do! Maybe I can change that this year. What books on my list have you read? Which was your favorite?  

1. Anything by Jane Austen
I've read and enjoyed all the movies based on her Regency-era romances, as well as spin-off novels like "Death Comes to Pemberley." And yet I've never actually read any Austen. That needs to be rectified.

2. Anything by Charles Dickens
"Great Expectations," "A Tale of Two Cities," "Oliver Twist." All I know of any of these is the line, "Please, sir, may I have some more?"

 3. "Catch-22" by Joseph Heller
I'd like to finally learn where the phrase "catch-22" came from!

4. "The Sun Also Rises" by Ernest Hemingway
I've wanted to read this book ever since I read "The Paris Wife," a novel about Hemingway and his first wife Hadley and their time in Paris. My only experience with Hemingway was "The Old Man and the Sea" --- zzzzzzz, oh, excuse me, I fell asleep for a second -- and I hope "The Sun Also Rises" is more interesting, or that I'll appreciate Hemingway's writing more as an adult than a high schooler.

5. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
All I know about Plath is that she battled depression and killed herself by sticking her head in the oven and sucking in carbon monoxide. But a friend of mine loves this book and I'd like to give it a try. I've been warned that it's not exactly happy reading.
 6. "Rebecca" by Daphne duMaurier
I've heard great things about this gothic novel!

7. "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov

8. "Fahrenheit 451" by Ray Bradbury

9. "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde

10. "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott
Adore the movie, time to read the book. (Love this cover!)

11. "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger
I need to know who Holden Caulfield is!

12. "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck

Book Review: "Bittersweet" by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

"Bittersweet" by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
First published in 2014
400 pages
My rating: 3.75 out of 5
(image source)

I really liked "Bittersweet," as evidenced by the fact that I blew through it in four days. The story -- of old money, dark secrets, and a summer spent lakeside in Vermont -- was captivating, but there were a couple irksome issues that kept me from falling in love with the tale.

Mabel Dagmar is a slightly pudgy, slightly frumpy dry cleaner's daughter, while her college roommate Ev Winslow is her polar opposite: wealthy, sophisticated, beautiful and sleek. When Ev invites Mabel to spend the summer at her family's Vermont lakeside retreat, Mabel can't say yes fast enough.

Mabel is entranced by the world of the rich she encounters at Winloch -- private beaches, priceless artwork and inhabitants with first names like Birch and Gallway and Banning. Low on self-confidence and crippled by family issues and the memory of a horrible thing from her past, Mabel hurls herself into the goal of becoming a part of the Winslow clan. When a rogue old aunt offers Mabel her precious lakeside cottage in exchange for recovering something the family stole from her, Mabel jumps at the chance to have a place at Winloch for life and immerses herself into Winslow family research. But she stumbles upon a handful of dark secrets in the Winslows' past and present, and Mabel must decide whether to do what is right or what will guarantee her a lifetime of summers by the lake in Vermont.

Mabel was a strange character -- intelligent and quick-thinking, but also naive, desperate to belong, clingy and sometimes spineless. It doesn't take long for Mabel to sniff out that something is fishy about the Winslows and she quickly discovers things that would make most people catch the first taxi to the airport and say goodbye and good riddance.

But Mabel is so incredibly obsessed with digging into the family's past and with being accepted by the Winslows. Why???? Why does she put up with being treated so poorly, why does she abide being lied to over and over again, why does she remain after learning sickening things about the people in cottage next door? I just could not understand her burning desire to be one of the Winslows -- they're written as horrible, condescending, snobbish, immoral people. I wish the author had given Mabel more of a vested interest in the situation -- maybe she was a woman who had just married into the family? I just couldn't see why Mabel-as-written should care.

Still, I enjoyed the writing and the fast-paced story. And, though I found Mabel to be deserving of a good, hard shoulder-shake more times than I could count, the characters were interesting and vibrant, the unanswered questions kept me turning pages, and I loved the rustic setting of a cluster of seculded family cottages on a lake surrounded by woods in Vermont. I'd say "Bittersweet," is a solid summer read -- preferably to be enjoyed sitting on a towel with one's toes in the water.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio

"Wonder" by R.J. Palacio
First published in 2012
315 (very fast) pages
My rating: 4 out of 5

(image source)

August Pullman was born with a severe facial deformity that terrifies small children and causes adults to gape at him when they think he's not looking. He's always been homeschooled, but August and his parents decide that he should try attending a regular school for 5th grade, which in his New York City neighborhood means the dreaded... middle school.

Middle school is a tough time for every kid, but 10-year-old Auggie, with his strange face and Star Wars obsession, is bound to be teased, taunted and cast out. He is made of strong stuff, however, and he perseveres. And we readers cheer when a few kids courageously risk ostracism by befriending Auggie -- who is really a pretty cool guy when you look past the exterior.

The story of Auggie and his first year of private school is absorbing, and we celebrate every little victory, feel every insult and cry every tear right along with Auggie. Auggie's tale is mostly told from his point of view but also from a few different perspectives, including his older sister's and his two best friends at school, which I enjoyed.

"Wonder" really made me think about being kind to others, and also about how that guy we saw at our favorite barbecue restaurant the other week with his face completely tattooed over almost definitely noticed me elbowing my husband and whispering, "Did you see that guy!?" (Of course, he chose to do that to his face, whereas Auggie just got double-whammied in the gene pool.) Everyone has a story, everyone has a unique personality, and everyone can use a nice word and a friend from time to time.

This is a middle-grade book and I think it would make wonderful required reading. It's eye-opening to be skillfully set into the shoes of a sweet, bright and funny 10-year-old who is the victim of bullying as well as the recipient of kindness, love and admiration.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Stitch Fix Box 2 Review: Fail

Earlier this week I received my second Stitch Fix box, and I'm sad to say that I just don't think Stitch Fix is for me. You can see a description of Stitch Fix, my reasons for signing up for the subscription, and the items from my first box here. (See the items from this box below.)

So why am I canceling my subscription?

*I was so excited to have a real, live stylist pick out clothes she thought would suit me and maybe take me a little outside what I'd normally choose. I was hoping to transition to a slightly more grown-up wardrobe and avoid miserable shopping trips to the mall. But after two boxes and two different stylists, I just don't feel they have a good grasp of what I like. My second stylist DID listen to my feedback about the first Fix -- I wanted more form-fitting clothes and summer stuff (which should have been obvious for a May box?) -- but even so, nothing was quite right. I included a link to some outfit posts from my blog in my Stitch Fix style profile, but I'm pretty sure neither stylist looked at it to get an idea of what kinds of clothes I prefer. The first stylist seemed to focus on my meager Pinterest style board, which does give an idea of some clothes I think are pretty but shows nothing of my body type, how clothes fit on me, and what I actually wear day-to-day.
*The clothes just don't seem well-made and high-quality enough for the prices. Maybe if the clothing was all made in the U.S.A. I'd be willing to pay $50 or $60 for things, but most are made in India and China just like everything else, and the fabrics don't seem to be any different than what I'd find at Old Navy or Target -- places where I'm trying to shop less as my goal is to focus more on quality over quantity with my wardrobe. (I'm not having much success so far!)

*With my wide hips, long legs and arms, and bodily imperfections, I really need to try stuff on; for this reason I rarely buy clothes online. I was worried sizing would be a factor and sure enough it was. That's not really Stitch Fix's fault, though.

And below are the five items from my Stitch Fix Box #2:
1. Pomelo brand Brentwood Space Dye Tiered Tank, $58
I actually liked this tank top well enough. I wasn't crazy about the "space-dye" (little white lines throughout the blue that you can't see well in the photo) but it fit pretty well and I liked how it disguised my stomach. However, it was almost $60 and I just couldn't pay that much for a tank top that that I wasn't absolutely drooling over -- or really, ANY tank top. A sweater, sure. Jeans, definitely. But a little tank top? I considered it, but in the end I just couldn't shell out 6 hours worth of work at the library for a tank top that I couldn't even WEAR to work.
2. Renee C brand Haime Abstract Chevron Spaghetti Strap Tank, $48
Stitch Fix stylist, why oh why oh why couldn't you have sent a regular tank top with this amazing chevron pattern?! I absolutely adored the print, but the halter neck was kind of weird (though even I admit that it looks good on) and as a rule I avoid clothes that require a (horrifically uncomfortable) strapless bra. I almost kept this one, but it was a bit small in the hips and bunched weirdly right above my butt. In the end, I couldn't get over how wrinkly and odd it looked in the back; that, combined with the strapless bra issue, had me worried that it would just hang in my closet and I'd have wasted $50.
3. Angie brand Royce Spaghetti Strap Paisley Print Dress, $58
I knew as soon as I pulled this dress out of the box that it wasn't going to be for me. I actually like this style of dress (other than the spaghetti straps, due to my aforementioned aversion to strapless bras) but I didn't care for the pattern. I know the dress looks decent in the picture, but the fit was off. It gapped badly in the armpits (a perpetual problem I have with dresses -- apparently my hips aren't proportionate to my boobs) and the elastic cinching hit at a really uncomfortable spot, somewhere between my natural waist and my bust, and I kept wanting to tug it up or down.
4. Pink Martini brand Joshua Colored Ankle Jean, $64
I love the cobalt color of these and have absolutely no problem paying more than twice this price for jeans. I was thrilled to see that I might be saved from pants shopping but I should've known it was too good to be true. These are a generic size large, which seems odd for something as specific size-wise as jeans, and they were way too small. I couldn't even get them over my thighs. And I think that even if they had been big enough in the waist they'd have been too short. :(
5. Zad brand Charlize Tiered Chandelier Earrings, $34
These earrings aren't my style and they seemed really cheap. They looked like they were made out of ball chain and couldn't possibly be worth $34.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Book Review: "Longbourn" by Jo Baker

"Longbourn" by Jo Baker
First published in 2013
352 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

"Longbourn" is a delightful romp in the English countryside of Jane Austen, told through the eyes of servants working in the household of the Bennets of "Pride and Prejudice."

This book was dubbed as a re-telling of Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," but I was pleased to find that, instead, it's a sweet and lovely tale entirely its own that just happens to occur at the same time the events in "P&P" are taking place.

Sarah is one of two maids at Longbourn, her days spent alongside Mr. and Mrs. Hill and young Polly, cleaning, cooking, laundering, mending, emptying chamber pots and acquiring endless blisters. She longs to experience life outside the quiet countryside, fantasizes about up and leaving Longbourn and heading down the road to London, or even the sea.

While she doesn't get the travel she dreams of (at least not at first), her monotonous daily existence is livened up when not one but two interesting men find a way into her life. There's handsome, ambitious and worldly mulatto Ptolemy Bingley, footman to the Mr. Bingley; and James, a careworn but handsome hard worker with a secret bag of seashells and a dark past who is hired on as a footman and jack-of-all-trades at Longbourn.

"Longbourn" is a wonderful Regency love story that fits nicely with "Pride and Prejudice." It's a romance at its core, but Baker also has readers guessing about the secrets James is harboring and keeps us fascinated with the details of Sarah's seemingly mundane life of servantry and the wonderful sense of atmosphere. And of course there are cameos by the cast of "Pride and Prejudice," especially the kind and down-to-earth Elizabeth, the over-dramatic Mrs. Bennet and the wicked Mr. Wickham.

This was a fun and absorbing tale of the "downstairs" side of life in 1800s England. It took me about 75 pages to really get into the story, but then I was off and away in Hertfordshire, scrubbing floors, acquiring shoe roses in the pouring rain and daydreaming about London right alongside Sarah. Anyone who likes Jane Austen, historical fiction or "Downton Abbey" should give this novel a shot!

*One minor note of annoyance: Be prepared to read about umpteen things being compared to puppies. Apparently Jo Baker is a dog person!

*P.S. It appears "Longbourn" (like every decent book these days) will be made into a movie. I look forward it!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Top 10 Books on My Summer TBR List

Hello and happy Tuesday! I'm super-excited about this week's prompt for Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish:

Top 10 Books on My Summer TBR List

There are so many amazing-sounding books I'm looking forward to reading in the next few months! Most are already out, a few will be released soon. Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

This is my favorite trilogy ever and I can't wait for the conclusion! It involves vampires, time travel, England, France, academics, science, history, romance... Oh, it's the best! Here's my review of the first book.

From the Goodreads summary:
In Goodnight June, Sarah Jio offers a suspenseful and heartfelt take on how the "great green room" might have come to be. June Andersen is professionally successful, but her personal life is marred by unhappiness. Unexpectedly, she is called to settle her great-aunt Ruby’s estate and determine the fate of Bluebird Books, the children’s bookstore Ruby founded in the 1940s. Amidst the store’s papers, June stumbles upon letters between her great-aunt and the late Margaret Wise Brown—and steps into the pages of American literature.

From the Goodreads summary:
'Elizabeth is missing' reads the note in Maud's pocket in her own handwriting, and the one on the wall. Maud's been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she's made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud is determined to discover what has happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war.

 I think the cover of this graphic novel by a popular blogger seems to sum it up: "Unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem and other things that happened."
From the Goodreads summary:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first man to die there. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills--and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit--he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

From the Goodreads summary:
From the highly acclaimed, multiple award-winning Anthony Doerr, a stunningly ambitious and beautiful novel about a blind French girl and a German boy whose paths collide in occupied France as both try to survive the devastation of World War II.

Goodreads summary:
Stuck at the bottom of the social ladder at pretty much the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be here,” Maya Van Wagenen decided to begin a unique social experiment: spend the school year following a 1950s popularity guide, written by former teen model Betty Cornell. Can curlers, girdles, Vaseline, and a strand of pearls help Maya on her quest to be popular?
*This isn't the kind of book I'd normally pick up, but I've heard lots of good things about it.

From the Goodreads summary:
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

From the Goodreads summary:
Allison Weiss has a great job...a handsome adorable daughter...and a secret.

I'm really looking forward to reading the second book in this series. Here's my review of "Cinder."

And a few more summer reads that I'm excited about:
*Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich
*One Plus One by JoJo Moyes
*Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
*Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
*That Summer by Lauren Willig
*Landline by Rainbow Rowell

Book Review: "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn

"Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn
First published in 2006
252 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

Gillian Flynn is a master at crafting tales of the gritty, horrifying, sickening side of human nature in an addicting way that makes readers feel both satisfied and haunted after closing the back cover.

With "Gone Girl," Flynn tells us the tale of the world's most fucked-up marriage. In "Sharp Objects," her debut from 2006, she delves into the depravity possible in a mother-daughter relationship.

Camille is a cub reporter for a daily newspaper in Chicago and a recovering cutter; nearly her entire body is covered in scars of words she has carved into herself. When two young girls are brutally murdered -- and their all their teeth removed -- in her small hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, Camille must return home and face her demons.

And there are a lot of demons. This book contains more sickening, screwed-up elements than you can count on one hand. As Camille investigates the heinous murders, she uncovers long-buried secrets about her community, her family and herself, each more horrible than the last. And when she succeeds in unraveling the mystery, the answers are shocking.

Gillian Flynn has a crazy mind. I can't imagine even conceiving the twisted plots she manages to devise and write so adeptly and unflinchingly. But I sure do enjoy devouring the results -- I tore through this novel and will not soon forget it.

Warning: "Sharp Objects" is not for the faint of heart. The descriptions of Camille and her cutting made me queasy (literally!), and that's one of the more tame aspects of the story.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Top Five Books I've Read So Far In 2014

Can you believe 2014 is halfway over? I kind of feel like I was hibernating through the first four months of the year with the terrible winter we had, and have only recently woken up and started enjoying the beautiful late spring weather. The upside of staying snuggled under blankets with cups of cocoa all winter is that I got a lot of reading done -- and I've read some pretty decent books lately. I struggled in 2013 with a bad reading slump; I wasn't enjoying the books I was reading, and I couldn't ever find the motivation to just sit down and read. Happily, 2014 has been much better!

The prompt for Top Ten Tuesday at The Broke and the Bookish this week is the top 10 best books you've read so far this year. I decided to shorten the list to five best books, so I don't risk my end-of-year list being exactly the same!

Top 5 Books I've Read in the First Half of 2014: 
1. The first three Harry Potter novels on audiobook
If you're a Harry Potter fan and have not yet discovered the magic that is Jim Dale, CHECK OUT THESE AUDIOBOOKS! I've tried a few audiobooks in the past and have been unimpressed, but the HP audiobooks are amazing. Jim Dale creates unique voices, injects atmosphere, and makes listening to the story just as gripping as reading it. It's been a quite different, though wholly enjoyable, way to experience the world of Harry Potter. I plan to listen to the rest of the series on audiobook too -- it's the perfect thing to do while knitting.

2. "I'll Be Seeing You" by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan
I adored this book written in letters between two women set up as penpals during WWII. These authors have a new book coming out, "Empire Girls" and I'm excited to read it.

3. "The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgway
Time travel, romance, Georgian England, vibrant characters... what's not to love? This delicious book gripped me from cover to cover and I loved how the answers were unraveled in tantalizingly timed fashion.
My Review

4. "The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry" by Gabrielle Zevin
If you're a booklover, then you should check out this sweet, charming and heartwarming tale about a grouchy bookstore owner whose life is changed forever when a baby is abandoned in his shop.

5. "Mad About the Boy" by Helen Fielding
The third installment of the Bridget Jones series got mixed reviews, but I loved it! It was hilarious and heartfelt and I found it to be quite relatable.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Book Review: "The One & Only" by Emily Giffin

"The One & Only" by Emily Giffn
First published in 2014
432 pages
My rating: 4 out of 5
(image source)

I loved Emily Giffin's last book, "Where We Belong," (my review) and was excited to read her latest novel. "The One & Only" is a bit of a departure from Giffin's past books, and I'll say upfront that if you don't like football or you're sensitive to unconventional romance, this novel is probably not for you.

"The One & Only" is supposed to be a story about finding yourself and breaking out of your comfort zone -- taking risks to get the life you want. Shea Rigsby has spent her whole life in the small north Texas town of Walker, a place where everything centers around Walker University and it's stellar college football program. Shea lives and breathes football, having grown up best friends with the head coach's daughter. Now, as an adult, she works for Walker in a sports PR capacity.

Approaching her mid-30s, Shea has been feeling unfulfilled, unsatisfied with the boring, safe, easy life she's made for herself. With a small push from family and friends, Shea realizes that change is desperately needed -- she breaks up with her boyfriend, a good-natured but immature former Walker football player who she fails to see a long-term future with, and starts pursuing new career opportunities. Soon she's dating the star quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys (also a former Walker player) and interviewing for a sports reporter job at the Dallas Post. Everything is falling into place perfectly, but Shea can't truly be happy because she's forced to confront her romantic feelings for someone else -- someone she can't have, but who might be her "one and only" love.

I like sports and have a working knowledge of college football, thanks to a husband who bleeds Florida Gator orange and blue. And I enjoyed the journalism element since I, like Shea, have a journalism degree that's gathering dust. But I think Giffin may have made a mistake focusing the plot so heavily on football -- I can see how non-sports fans would have a really hard time getting into the story.

Another problem is that Shea isn't always the most likeable of main characters. Part of what makes the book interesting is the "what would you do in this situation" aspect. And Shea does not always choose to go in the direction that we think she should. I suppose she's a realistically flawed character, but in order for that to work we as readers have to sympathize with her.

While I had slightly mixed feelings after closing the back cover, I tore through this book in excellent time. I had difficulty putting it down and enjoyed the story. Giffin is a good writer and has a knack for spinning gripping tales that get to the heart of women's emotions.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Stitch Fix Subscription Box Review

A couple weeks ago, I received my much-anticipated first delivery from Stitch Fix, an innovative though-the-mail fashion company. For $20 a month, you get a personal stylist who picks out five pieces of clothing and accessories for you. First you fill out an extensive style profile. Then you get the box of goodies in the mail, have three days to try everything on and decide what to keep, then you simply pop the return shipping envelope in the mail. If you keep anything, the $20 stylist fee is deducted from the price of your items (and if you keep everything you get a 25% discount). The whole thing is extremely fun, easy and convenient!

I'm in a weird style place right now; some of the stores and brands I've chosen for so long now seem too youthful as I approach 30, but I often find that the more grown-up styles and cuts don't do anything for me. I'm also in a constant battle of quality vs. quantity. I KNOW those cheap-y $5 tops from Old Navy and Target don't fit me right and I should stop buying them. But who can resist a $5 shirt? Instead, I really need to focus on having fewer pieces, but pieces that fit me right, are made well and are comfortable.

That's where Stitch Fix comes in. I signed up hoping that the eye of a professional stylist would help me in transitioning my wardrobe to adulthood. And get my out of my comfort zone, with some fun new pieces and colors. Stitch Fix states right up front that the average price of its items is $65, so I knew I'd have to bite the bullet in that regard and get over some of my cheap-ass-ness.

My first box was sort of a success. At first glance, I liked every one of the five items. But the three tops just didn't fit me right, and the scarf was way too expensive for something that I didn't really need. After much debate, I only kept the necklace. I wrote lots of feedback about why the rejected pieces didn't work for me, and I'm hopeful that my next box will be a better fit. I was most disappointed that, despite the box arriving in mid-May, there were no short sleeves or tank tops. All the sweaters were fairly lightweight, but I know I wouldn't really have worn any of them until fall. This is hot, humid Ohio for god's sake! I asked for my next box to include summer stuff -- maybe something cute for me to wear to Lollapalooza in August.

If you're interested in signing up for Stitch Fix deliveries (they can be sent once a month or less frequently, it's up to you), follow this link and I'll get a credit for my next box! Woo hoo!

And without further ado, here are the goodies that filled up my May box (I accidentally tossed the price list, but costs per item ranged from $38 to around $60):
Oh, the delicious anticipation!
This is the one piece I kept. It was over $40... way more than I'd normally pay for a necklace! But I loved the colors and the length, and it's crafted from paper beads made by women in an impoverished country (Uganda, I think?), so hopefully my $40 did a bit of good. I've worn this necklace on several occasions already and gotten compliments each time!
Beautiful but way-overpriced scarf!
The dolman sleeves of this sweatshirt did nothing for me. And it was just way too loose in the sides. I told my stylist that I need clothes with more shaping in the waist since I've got "child-bearing" hips.
I really liked this funnel-neck sweater -- though it refused to photograph properly and was actually a kelly/grass green, not the pretty turquoise that it appears here. The fabric was soft and light and I reeeeally wanted to like it, but it didn't do anything for my figure. It would have counted as stepping out of my comfort zone, since I probably wouldn't have chosen that color on my own.
This cocoon sweater with the fun accents on the back was the item I was most excited about when I opened my box, but it just didn't fit right at all. Sad!

My next fix comes June 17. I can't wait to see what sartorial wonders that box will hold!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Book Review: "The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgway

"The River of No Return" by Bee Ridgway
First published in 2013 (and in paperback with a better cover in 2014!)
452 pages
My rating: 5 out of 5
(image source)

The cover of "The River of No Return" sums up its plot pretty concisely; this is indeed "a novel of love and time travel" -- and an excellent, captivating, delicious novel at that.

There's a wonderful cast of characters, the rich atmosphere of Georgian England, the ability to travel in and manipulate time, mystery, romance, conspiracy, espionage, a big ugly dog and a horse named Marigold... what's not to love?

We first meet Nick Davenant in Vermont in 2013, where he's been living a life of leisure and luxury for the last decade. In his past life -- before he "jumped" to the 21st century to escape a dealthy blow from a dragoon in battle -- he was a young British marquess, powerful, wealthy and rather arrogant.

Nick was met upon arrival in 2013 by the Guild, a secret organization that assists and governs those who possess the ability to jump in time. He was schooled in 200 years of popular culture, very comfortably set up with money, house, car and every creature comfort, and has happily gone about life as a well-off modern man. But after 10 years, Nick's perfectly contented existence is interrupted when the Guild makes a request of him -- he is to go back to 1815, something he had been told was impossible, and complete a mysterious assignment. Nick soon learns that there is far more to the Guild -- an organization he finds to be full of secrets -- and his ability to jump in time than he had ever imagined.

Back in 1815, Julia Percy is mourning the death of her beloved grandfather and guardian, Earl Darchester, who had occasionally entertained Julia with his little trick of stopping time, and often returned from trips with strange things like rocks with skeleton impressions and shockingly life-like paintings. Julia's life is a mass of confusion -- not only has her vile cousin come to take over the estate, but she has only just discovered her own ability to affect time. And she has a horrible suspicion that her grandfather knew of her talent and kept it from her all those years. Why?

I don't want to say more, for fear of spoiling the tantalizing plot. But "The River of No Return" is probably the best book I've read this year. The writing was good, the plot was riveting and the characters were excellently drawn. There were some loose threads left hanging at the end, and I'm crossing my fingers for a sequel!
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