Musing Mondays

Musing Mondays—October 17, 2011

Musing MondaysIt’s Monday! That means it’s time for another Monday Musing. This week’s question is Do you judge a book by its cover?

All. The. Time. I know the adage well, but the truth is that publishers spend a lot of money paying people to design book covers. You know who I think does a consistently good job? Source Books. Just take a look at some of their covers. Sometimes judging a book by its cover has led me astray. Check out this gorgeous cover for [amazon_link id=”0345455932″ target=”_blank” ]Blackbird House[/amazon_link]:

[amazon_image id=”0345455932″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Blackbird House: A Novel (Ballantine Reader’s Circle)[/amazon_image]

And yet I didn’t care for the book.

I think it’s human nature to check out the package and be attracted to it before we get to know the contents. We do that with potential mates as well as books, so judging a book by its cover is nothing new.

Some covers I just love? The Ruben Toledo drawings for Penguin classics. My favorites are [amazon_link id=”0143106155″ target=”_blank” ]Jane Eyre[/amazon_link]:

[amazon_image id=”0143106155″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Jane Eyre: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image]

and [amazon_link id=”0143105442″ target=”_blank” ]The Scarlet Letter[/amazon_link]:

[amazon_image id=”0143105442″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Scarlet Letter: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image]

But I love [amazon_link id=”0143105434″ target=”_blank” ]Wuthering Heights[/amazon_link], too:

[amazon_image id=”0143105434″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Wuthering Heights: (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)[/amazon_image]

Love it or hate it, you can’t deny the cover of [amazon_link id=”B000QRIGLW” target=”_blank” ]Twilight[/amazon_link] has been influential:

[amazon_image id=”B000QRIGLW” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Twilight (The Twilight Saga, Book 1)[/amazon_image]

[amazon_link id=”B00136YCIG” target=”_blank” ]This[/amazon_link] is probably one of the most iconic covers of all time, and it has such an interesting background, too.

[amazon_image id=”0743273567″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Great Gatsby[/amazon_image]

Scribner has a reissue edition, which is pretty, by the way, but not as iconic as the Cugat original.

Here are some books I’ve read, bought, or received recently that I think have pretty covers:

[amazon_image id=”0312558171″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Ballad of Tom Dooley: A Ballad Novel[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0345524969″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Jane Austen Made Me Do It: Original Stories Inspired by Literature’s Most Astute Observer of the Human Heart[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0385534639″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Night Circus[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”1594744769″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0345521307″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Paris Wife: A Novel[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”0553807226″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]The Peach Keeper: A Novel[/amazon_image]

[amazon_image id=”B004SYA7PM” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”large” ]Revolution [Deckle Edge] (text only) by J. Donnelly[/amazon_image]

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays—July 20, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently reading a book my mother passed on to me called [amazon_link id=”B000BLNPIW” target=”_blank” ]More Than You Know[/amazon_link] by Beth Gutcheon. It was published over a decade ago, and I think she found it at a library or paperback book sale. I’m over 1/3 the way in, and it’s really good so far: New England setting (love those), ghosts, and an ax murder that has a familiar Lizzie Borden taint. I hadn’t actually heard of this book or seen it mentioned on book blogs. Let’s bring it back! I’ll save more for my review.

This week, I finished reading [amazon_link id=”055338483X” target=”_blank” ]Garden Spells[/amazon_link] (review) and [amazon_link id=”0553384848″ target=”_blank” ]The Sugar Queen[/amazon_link] (review) by Sarah Addison Allen since my last WWW Wednesdays update. Both of them were very enjoyable, but I liked Garden Spells better. I will probably read the rest of Allen’s books. It’s fun to find a new author you like.

The next book I read will probably be [amazon_link id=”B001P3OLEM” target=”_blank” ]Burning Bright[/amazon_link] by Tracy Chevalier. She’s another author I enjoy, and this is one of only two books of hers that I haven’t read, the other being [amazon_link id=”B000234N76″ target=”_blank” ]Falling Angels[/amazon_link]. Also, how did I not know that Tracy Chevalier was on Twitter? Followed. If I don’t read Burning Bright next, I’m not sure what I’ll read, but I have a huge TBR pile, and I daresay if you are at all interested, you’ll find out what book I pick next soon enough. 😉

The Sugar Queen, Sarah Addison Allen

[amazon_image id=”B00125MK78″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Sugar Queen[/amazon_image]Josey Cirrini has an unhappy closet: it’s stuffed with candy, soda, and other sweet treats. Josey sneaks her treats in to hide them from her critical mother. One day, Josey finds Della Lee Baker hiding in her closet. At Della Lee’s request, Josey goes to a sandwich shop near the courthouse to buy Della Lee a sandwich and meets Chloe, who has just broken up with her long-time boyfriend Jake after he admitted to cheating on her. Chloe attracts books—they find her when she needs them and follow her around. Della Lee decides she is going to help Josey when she finds out Josey is in love with her mailman, Adam. Della Lee’s entrance into her life changes Josey in ways she can’t begin to imagine.

[amazon_link id=”B00125MK78″ target=”_blank” ]The Sugar Queen[/amazon_link] started a little more slowly for me than other Sarah Addison Allen books. It’s a quirky book. Josey is essentially childlike—she lives under her strong mother’s thumb, afraid to do what she really wants (which is travel and eat what she likes without scrutiny) because she feels she needs to do penance for her behavior as a child—nearly everyone in town has a story about Josey Cirrini’s poor behavior as a girl. As such, she’s not your typical spunky heroine. I liked her anyway because she was realistic. I also liked Della Lee and Chloe. Allen is good at drawing realistic characters and placing them plausibly in magical realism. I like the actual storylines in [amazon_link id=”0553807226″ target=”_blank” ]The Peach Keeper[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”055338483X” target=”_blank” ]Garden Spells[/amazon_link] better than the story in The Sugar Queen, but it was still an enjoyable summer read.

If you visit Sarah Addison Allen’s website, you can find recipes for Chloe’s sandwiches (which sound really tasty, I have to admit) and a guide to all the candy mentioned in the book. Allen says on her website that she tried all the candy mentioned in the book (for the purposes of research!) and gained 18 pounds while writing it.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen

[amazon_image id=”055338483X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery)[/amazon_image]Sarah Addison Allen’s first novel [amazon_link id=”055338483X” target=”_blank” ]Garden Spells[/amazon_link] is the story of Claire and Sydney Waverley, two sisters from Bascom, North Carolina. The Waverleys are odd. Claire seems to be able to influence the moods and attitudes of people who eat the food she caters, and she’s become a wildly popular caterer as a result. Sydney is restless and wild. She left Bascom right after high school to run away from her Waverley heritage, but returns ten years later with her daughter Bay after escaping an abusive relationship. The two sisters must reconcile their pasts and open their hearts to the possibilities of their present and future.

Allen’s books won’t appeal to everyone. Like [amazon_link id=”0553807226″ target=”_blank” ]The Peach Keeper[/amazon_link], Garden Spells strains at credulity with magical realism and a hint of witchcraft—perhaps even more so than The Peach Keeper, but in the context of the story, it seems to make sense. I liked all of the characters, particularly Evanelle, a Waverley relation who has strange urges to give objects to people, and the objects always prove useful later. I really liked the apple tree in the backyard, too—if you eat an apple from the tree, it will show you the most significant moment of your life, and for that reason, the Waverleys tend to avoid the fruit and bury the apples it drops before wayward townspeople can sneak into the garden and eat because after all, who wants to find out what the most significant moment of your life will be? That’s dangerous.

This is a fun summer read. It’s light and funny and captures the setting and characters. I do love a book with great characters. I’m a Sarah Addison Allen fan for sure after two great books in a row. You will not find writing that takes your breath away, but you will find a solid story with great characters to love.

Rating: ★★★★★
WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays—July 13, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I just started reading Sarah Addison Allen’s first novel, [amazon_link id=”055338483X” target=”_blank” ]Garden Spells[/amazon_link], which I obtained through PaperBackSwap. I am enjoying it as much as I did [amazon_link id=”0553807226″ target=”_blank” ]The Peach Keeper[/amazon_link] so far. I’m convinced I just don’t read paperbacks as fast I read Kindle books, though. I have a nonfiction book going on my Kindle—[amazon_link id=”1439170916″ target=”_blank” ]The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer[/amazon_link] by Siddhartha Mukherjee. So far, it’s fascinating. It reads almost like a thriller novel, or at least the first five percent has done so. Mukherjee described how leukemia was discovered and treated many years ago. I can already tell it will be a five-star read only a few chapters in.

I recently finished Jennifer Donnelly’s “Rose” trilogy: [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link] (review), [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link] (review), and [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link] (review). Very enjoyable reading, and I discovered that Jenners read them, too, and you can read her review, too.

I think next I’ll read Sarah Addison Allen’s [amazon_link id=”0553384848″ target=”_blank” ]The Sugar Queen[/amazon_link], which I also obtained from PaperBackSwap. Aside from that book, I’m not sure. I have a few interesting books coming via PaperBackSwap: [amazon_link id=”0452289661″ target=”_blank” ]Burning Bright[/amazon_link] by Tracy Chevalier, [amazon_link id=”B000V5WH7S” target=”_blank” ]All the King’s Men[/amazon_link] by Robert Penn Warren (which I am reading for my challenge), and [amazon_link id=”1400031702″ target=”_blank” ]The Secret History[/amazon_link] by Donna Tartt. I might want to save the Tartt for the R.I.P. Challenge—would it fit, anyone who has read it? I am thinking I probably will save Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs for the R.I.P. Challenge, much as I want to read it now.

What about you? What are you reading?

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays—July 6, 2011

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am reading the second novel in Jennifer Donnelly’s trilogy, [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link]. I am enjoying it so far. Not as many of the plot points turn on coincidence (which was a weakness of [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link]), so it has more of an air of plausibility. It’s still fun, but I like the characters profiled in the first book better.

I did just recently finish The Tea Rose (review). I also recently finished Dexter Palmer’s [amazon_link id=”B003A7I2PU” target=”_blank” ]The Dream of Perpetual Motion[/amazon_link] (review). Really enjoyed the former, but not the latter.

The next book I plan to read is [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link], the third and final installment of Donnelly’s trilogy. I have a galley copy on my Kindle. After that one, I’m not sure what will be next. Maybe Sarah Addison Allen’s [amazon_link id=”0553384848″ target=”_blank” ]The Sugar Queen[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”055338483X” target=”_blank” ]Garden Spells[/amazon_link], which are on their way to me courtesy of PaperBackSwap.

Friday Finds

Friday Finds—July 1, 2011

Friday FindsJuly already? Really? My summer is going to be gone in the blink of an eye (sigh).

I managed to find a few interesting looking books this week. I claimed [amazon_link id=”055338483X” target=”_blank” ]Garden Spells[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id=”0553384848″ target=”_blank” ]The Sugar Queen[/amazon_link] by Sarah Addison Allen on PaperBackSwap, and they should be arriving in my mailbox shortly.

I think [amazon_link id=”1439167397″ target=”_blank” ]The Map of Time[/amazon_link] by Félix J. Palma crossed my radar some time ago, but I hadn’t added it to my to-read list yet. It’s there now. Looks like fun.

Did you discover any interesting books this week?

[amazon_image id=”055338483X” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Garden Spells (Bantam Discovery)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0553384848″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Sugar Queen (Random House Reader’s Circle)[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1439167397″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Map of Time: A Novel[/amazon_image]

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesdays

WWW WednesdaysTo play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading [amazon_link id=”B003A7I2PU” target=”_blank” ]The Dream of Perpetual Motion[/amazon_link], and frankly, I’m not liking it much. It has a few interesting moments (so far), but I am not finding the characters interesting or likable. The plot is weird. I am still reading it for two reasons 1) I have had it on my Kindle for a long time, and I bought it, so I feel compelled to read it; 2) I can’t get any new books right now, and the ones on my to-read list that I’m itching to read most are books I don’t have.

I recently finished [amazon_link id=”0553807226″ target=”_blank” ]The Peach Keeper[/amazon_link] by Sarah Addison Allen (review) and [amazon_link id=”0345521307″ target=”_blank” ]The Paris Wife[/amazon_link] by Paula McLain (review), both of which were amazing books. It could be that The Dream of Perpetual Motion is suffering by comparison.

The next books I really want to read are Jennifer Donnelly’s [amazon_link id=”0312378025″ target=”_blank” ]The Tea Rose[/amazon_link], [amazon_link id=”1401307469″ target=”_blank” ]The Winter Rose[/amazon_link], and [amazon_link id=”1401301045″ target=”_blank” ]The Wild Rose[/amazon_link]. The Wild Rose hasn’t been released yet, but I scored a copy at NetGalley, and I would like to read the other two first, as I understand it’s a sort of generational saga. I loved Jennifer Donnelly’s [amazon_link id=”B003F3PN0Q” target=”_blank” ]Revolution[/amazon_link] (review). It’s the best book I’ve read this year.

Yesterday’s post about websites and apps proved lucrative for me because I learned about NetGalley and PaperBackSwap from the post by The Broke and the Bookish. I know—where have I been and all of that. You can see my PaperBackSwap profile here, and feel free to friend me. I’m going to check out the posts by some of the other participants and see what other great book websites and apps I might have been missing out on.

The Peach Keeper, Sarah Addison Allen

[amazon_image id=”0553807226″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” class=”alignleft”]The Peach Keeper: A Novel[/amazon_image]Sarah Addison Allen’s novel [amazon_link id=”0553807226″ target=”_blank” ]The Peach Keeper[/amazon_link] is the story of the unlikely friendship of Willa Jackson and Paxton Osgood, who are linked through shared family history and not much else. Willa’s great-great-grandfather built a house called the Blue Ridge Madam in Walls of Water, North Carolina. In 1936, Willa’s family lost the house. Years later, she feels oddly drawn to the Blue Ridge Madam, now in the hands of the Osgood family. Paxton Osgood is the president of the Women’s Society Club and is planning the unveiling of the newly restored Blue Ridge Madam at the society’s gala. She asks her twin brother Colin, a landscape architect, to come home to Walls of Water to landscape the Blue Ridge Madam. A family secret binding the Osgoods and Jacksons is unearthed when Colin’s crew removes a peach tree and begins digging deeper to plant a live oak and finds a suitcase, a frying pan, and a skull belonging to a magic man named Tucker Devlin.

I could barely put this one down. It’s hard to describe it. It’s part chick lit, I suppose, but also part magical realism, ghost story, mystery, and romance. It’s a perfect summer read. Allen’s characters are well-drawn and likeable. The setting of small-town Walls of Water with its tourists and shops alongside ancient town families was pitch perfect. I think perhaps no one does gothic like Southern gothic, and though Allen’s writing style is completely dissimilar, this book is an oddly cogent mashup between William Faulkner and Joshilyn Jackson. Family secrets, grand old Southern mansions, friendship, and devilish charmers are good building blocks for stories. I liked both Willa and Paxton as protagonists, and I found Colin, Sebastian, and even Tucker Devlin charming. I would definitely read more of Allen’s books. I picked this one up after reading Stephanie’s review. Darlene at Peeking Between the Pages has another good review.

I’m not sure this book is for everyone. Some readers will be turned off by the chick lit aura or the magical realism, but I found it utterly charming and completely Southern. Parts of it reminded me of a book I have deep affection for called [amazon_link id=”0807114103″ target=”_blank” ]I Am One of You Forever[/amazon_link] by Fred Chappell. If you are a fan of Sarah Addison Allen’s, give Fred Chappell’s novel a try. It’s harder to find and was published by a smaller press, but it’s a gorgeous book.

Rating: ★★★★★

This book has enough of the macabre to qualify for the Gothic Reading Challenge.

Friday Finds

Friday Finds—April 29, 2011

Friday Finds

I heard about or discovered several books lately, but it’s hard to say for sure it was this week. Since this is my first week participating in Friday Finds, I might cheat a little and talk about older books I found.

Here are my finds (none of which I have read, but all of which I have already purchased with the intention of reading):

[amazon_image id=”B004R1Q9PI” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Secret Diary of a Princess[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”1594202885″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Jane Austen Education, A: How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id=”0553807226″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Peach Keeper: A Novel[/amazon_image]

What about you? Did you discover any books that look interesting this week?