Tuesday, December 18, 2012

City of Dark Magic, by "Magnus Flyte"

From Amazon.com:
Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.
     Soon after Sarah arrives, strange things begin to happen. She learns that her mentor, who was working at the castle, may not have committed suicide after all. Could his cryptic notes be warnings? As Sarah parses his clues about Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved,” she manages to get arrested, to have tantric sex in a public fountain, and to discover a time-warping drug. She also catches the attention of a four-hundred-year-old dwarf, the handsome Prince Max, and a powerful U.S. senator with secrets she will do anything to hide.
     City of Dark Magic could be called a rom-com paranormal suspense novel—or it could simply be called one of the most entertaining novels of the year.
City of Dark Magic, by Magnus Flyte (who is really two female authors), is a really fun book. I read some reviews stating that the reader could not get into the book because it was so unbelievable. True. It is. It is crazy and full of unbelievable characters and events...and I loved it. I loved reading this book because it was all of that! City of Dark Magic is just fun. If I were reading about the same heroine in a book by a literary fiction author, then I would feel the need to analyze her situation and choices...but not so in this book. Just have fun with it, and you won't regret the experience!

Basically, the plot revolves around Sarah Weston, a PhD student in music at an American university. In a single day, she receives the news that her dissertation director has died while researching and working in a private collection in Prague and that she is now up for the newly vacated position. She receives her invitation from a cryptic dwarf who arrives at her apartment and leaves strange symbols on her ceiling; in spite of these circumstances (which would probably scare most people from taking the trip), Sarah boards a plane and ends up in Prague. Her adventures there involve a prince, her child prodigy student and her Latino escort, Beethoven's "Immortal Beloved" letters, time travel, a corrupt US senator and her past KGB associations, and alchemy. Not to mention a certain reliance on the Infant of Prague. So, crazy? Yes. Unbelievable? Absolutely. But fun?? OH, YES. Really, give this one a try. It wasn't the best book I have ever read, but I had so much fun reading it.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Saturday, December 15, 2012

I graduated!!! YAY!!! Officially a PhD now!!

This is me right after the ceremony...

And even though his eyes are closed, this is my one of my favorites! It was so special to graduate with my cousin Jeff, and I am so proud of him!

Also, to Jessica: for taking photos and being an amazing cousin and person. I LOVE YOU. (And that gift was AWESOME!!!)
To Arturo: Thank you so much for lunch! You are such a wonderful person, and we love you, too!!
To Jeff: You always make me proud, but sharing this day was amazing. I love you and know you will do amazing things.
To Ginny, Ron, Chuck, and grandma: Thank you so much for coming (though, of course, you obviously came to see Jeff, too!!). I appreciate your love and support so much. These last six and a half years have had so much stress and joy, and you have seen me through it all.
To Jeanne and Theron, Laura and T: Though you couldn't be there today, I felt you in spirit! Thank you so much for all of your love and support, and I can't wait to see you over the holidays!!
To Larry: Thank you so much for all of your love and support!
To Melanie, Josh, and Mylee: Thank you for everything!!!  You are wonderful friends/family!
To Kelly: You have been through it all with me, too. I can't thank you enough. 
To James, Kiara, Mike, Lisa, and countless others: THANK YOU for your kind words and support!!! I appreciate it so much!
To all of my teachers and professors: You are so important to me and to the world. You helped get me to this day. Thank you.
To my all of my other family and friends...I could go on forever, but know that I think of each of you individually: Thank you, thank you, thank you. You mean the world to me.

Especially to my mom and dad: Thank you for getting me through this. Your love and support, compassion and kindness have meant everything to me. From the first book to the last, it has always been about and for you. I love you. I can't believe that all three of us saw this day. I feel so grateful. XOXO

And, finally, to Elizabeth Lemon: We talked about this day for so many years. It doesn't feel right without you, but I know you see me. I love and miss you, and thank you for everything.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Blog Happy

I decided that I will be writing my reviews on this site from now on. My "Friendly Reader" site annoys me. I will be continuing to update my Victorian Blog and my Alabama Book blog with reviews of material directly related to Victorian Britain and Alabama, respectively. Otherwise, all other reviews will appear here!

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

This "Top Ten Tuesday" prompt is brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. Check them out!

Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me

1. Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

2. Monkeys with Typewriters by Scarlett Thomas

3. Such Wicked Intent by Kenneth Oppel

4. Cleopatra's Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter

5. Poison Princess by Kresley Cole

6. Shadow's Claim by Kresley Cole

7. Edenbrooke by Julianne Donaldson

8. Iced by Karen Marie Moning

9. Cold Fire by Kate Elliott

10. Death in the Floating City by Tasha Alexander

Monday, December 03, 2012

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!

A wonderful reader of this blog worked some photo editing magic and cleaned up one of my scanned images! I love it! Thank you so much! This is one of my favorite photos, so I am very happy to have an improved version! Thanks, Chris! Check out Chris's wonderful photos at this LINK.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Dad enjoying his celebrity...

Today, Dad and I met with Sylvia Parker so that he could sign a copy of his record "Crazy Date" and some photos. The record and one of the photos will be auctioned off soon to raise money, and dad was happy to help. If you haven't seen one of my previous blog posts about the song, you can read Sylvia's great article about it (and my dad) here.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

This is for Jessica...

I was so excited when my cousin Jessica was born. There are about five years difference between us, and I couldn't love her more if she was my sister. I found these photos and just had to scan them in. No other images could capture my adoration for this tiny new addition to our family. And I feel the same way today.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

So, um, yeah. I got a scanner.

Which means I will be boring you with all kinds of old photos as time goes by. :)

Here are two:

This is my friend, Katie, and I after our prom in 1994. As you can see, we took off our shoes first thing!

This was taken in 2004 (??...I think??). I am in the middle. We were getting ready to run in the Mercedes Marathon and Half Marathon. I had trained for the full, but due to illness I had to run the half. It was a great race, but the starting temperature was 22 degrees (F). Too cold!

Together at last...

Here I am with the handsome William Augustus Bowles...the two of us in the same room. Well, yes, I realize it is just his picture, but I will take it. :)

Anyway, this is me giving a presentation at the Sylacauga Public Library. It was a great time, and everyone was so nice! When I get to talk about my history crush on Bowles,  I have a good day.

Getting in the holiday mood!

We took group photos this morning for our holiday mailing. Sara and I were the only ones wearing red, so we decided to take a shot together! December is right around the corner...  :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Authors I am Thankful for in this World!

As usual, the ideas for this listing are brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish. Check out their site and add a link to your own list!

Top Ten Authors I am Thankful for in this World!

1. Harper Lee. As a fellow Alabamian, she makes me proud. She might have published only one novel, but look at what that novel did for the world. Amazing.

2. J. K. Rowling. I am grateful for the whole experience of reading the Harry Potter novels, for having been involved in the fandom (and still am), and for the knowledge that books still bring people together in ways that (oddly enough) defy language. Most of all, I thank Rowling for Snape. :)

3. Ann M. Martin. I am grateful to her for so many wonderful books that helped make me such a voracious reader as a child. BSC forever!

4. Charles Dickens. I am grateful to Dickens because, even in his darkest plots, he manages to give his heroes dignity, humanity, and purpose. XO, Little Jo.


6. Augusta Webster. For "Medea" and "Circe." For "The Snow Waste" and "Jean d'Arc." For leaving behind poems so brutal that they still draw blood.

7. Shakespeare. Genius acknowledged, but I love you for finally getting it right in Antony and Cleopatra, even if most people don't know it.

8. Augusta Evans Wilson. I don't always love your novels, but reading and writing about your work has given me so many opportunities.

9. Donna Tartt. For making me do something I have never done with any other book: read one page at a time just to draw out my reading experience of The Secret History.

10. Anne Rice. For making me think and for writing Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt. I'm often not happy with what people do with and to religion most of the time, but that novel is pure and gorgeous. It expresses what is beautiful: faith, love, and the power for good.

Monday, November 19, 2012

My thoughts on Stone Barrington

Stuart Woods's "Stone Barrington" series was recommended to me years ago, when I lived in Florida. Since then, I have heard many women talk about how wonderful Stone is--even that he is their dream man. I am reading the third Stone Barrington novel, Dead in the Water, and I have to say that I am totally confused as to why any woman would want to be involved with this man. I like the books so far, but I have to say that unless something drastic happens...well, I am not a fan of the male lead. He is likable in most aspects of the story, but his relationships with women are ridiculous. Each woman proclaims him (in some manner) to be her best lover, he cheats on his girlfriends, and, yet, he is totally ignorant about women. I don't care if he maintains a relationship with a female character or not, but his lack of depth is astounding. As a writer, Woods could turn a womanizer into a character of tremendous depth, but he chooses not to do so. Just when I think that I have identified Stone's code of ethics, he violates it--either by will or by stupidity. Keep in mind that this man is supposed to be middle-aged, yet he is wishy-washy in so many ways and is starting to look like a caricature rather than a hero. Ugh.

On the more positive side, I am at least interested enough to keep reading for a while longer. I just need my literary heroes to be a bit more. So, I am holding out hope that things change and get better.

And, as a side note: These books provide yet another example of why the general reading public should not put down romance novels because they think that they are full of illicit material. The "Stone Barrington" novels have more of that than most romance novels...and romance novels take a lot longer to work up to it. Anyway, just a thought. I always laugh when someone says that women read romance because it is full of such scenes. Such a false representation of the genre!

Okay. Rant over.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Alabama Letters: A Blog about Alabama Books and Authors

I've started yet another blogging project! To keep myself motivated and to expand readership of Alabama authors and books, I have started my Alabama Letters blog. The first review is already up! Join!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reading Challenge for 2013: Read Your State (Or Region or country...)

Over the last few years (that is when I started to notice this trend, at least), many bloggers have decided to embark upon various "Reading Challenges." I joined the most basic of them last year when I committed to read 50 books (of any kind) in 2012. I haven't quite met my goal, nor do I know if I will, but considering everything that I have had to do over the last year, I feel good about being over half-way through it.

I recently joined the "Classics Club," but that is a reading list of 50 classics that you must read over a five year period. (Note: You can find my reviews at my Victorian book blog titled "One Word More.")

Anyway, I have decided upon my reading challenge for 2013. It is one of my own making. So, if anyone wants to join me, I am committing to read at least 12 books (one per month) written by Alabama authors. You, of course, would choose authors from your own state...unless you just want to be cool like me and read those from Alabama. :)

In any case, that is it! I will be reading other things, of course, but I want to become more familiar with the books from my home state. So, cheers and happy reading!

Thoughts about post-dissertation reading...

I have been curious for quite some time about what my reading life would be like after I finished the dissertation. My reading patterns while working on the diss for the last 2 1/2 years, and during the last 10 years that I have been in graduate school (not just for the PhD), have been typical of my personality. I would read and work like mad on course or dissertation related materials. Then, my mind would rebel, and I would indulge in a few weeks of reading YA or romance novels. I always came back to my studies, but reading the fun books was a type of relaxation and recharging for me. I am a big believer in this if you are a graduate student. Reading something completely fantastical or unrealistic or romantic always recharged me. I went back to my dissertation ready to explore new ideas and full of energy. I would often dream of the day when I didn't have to worry about the dissertation...when I wouldn't be obligated to read 800-page Victorian novels. So, I just knew that after the diss was complete that I would indulge in the biggest pleasure reading fest EVER.

And what happened? Well, the month of October was quite busy for me at work--lots of travel and work deadlines. So, I managed to squeeze in a Stuart Woods novel (and I have begun another). I read two YA books. But what was the first book I turned to? A classic. Yep. That is right. I became obsessed with Brideshead Revisited. Then, while I was in Mobile a couple of weeks ago, I realized that I had left my book at home (frantic packing), so I managed to find a bookstore and bought Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White (something I read partially a long time ago...but I have wanted to really read it for a long time). I am puzzled as to why I chose these two, but I have been thinking about it, and this is what I have come up with:

I chose Brideshead Revisited for two reasons:
1. I saw the movie and became more interested. Plus, I love to watch footage and read novels about Oxford.
2. After watching the movie, I loved the differences I saw between its (and the novel's) orphan character (who is post-Victorian) and those I had studied. It was something different, and I needed that in my life.

Then, in Mobile, I was placed in an environment where I needed to feel something familiar. The exhaustion of the defense and dissertation had worn off, and I was at a history conference surrounded by historians. I should explain that some historians think that literature scholars are ridiculous and that our field is not justifiable. "You just make things up," is something I have heard more than once...and even once at the conference when someone heard that I just defended my lit dissertation. Anyway, I just laugh it off, but I don't understand how people can think this way. I love history and it is so important. And literature is equally important to history studies, because books tell us the non-factual but equally important human emotional side to history. Anyway, suffice it to say that I felt a little trapped, so I think that is what caused me to buy the Collins book. It is like a comfort food.

So, why spend an entire blog post on this? Well, I think that what we read is not only important in terms of defining us intellectually or personally. I think that books have a very real power to feed us and comfort us in very important ways. What we connect with is important, and I can't believe that anyone would discount how that fits in with human history. It goes beyond popular culture. It is just human culture. The fact that books written over 100 years ago still have the power to move us implies that there is something excruciatingly human about these stories--something that facts can't relay in full. Anyway, that is my little exploration of this topic for now, rambling though it may be. I will keep you posted.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

And the month of craziness comes to a close...sort of...

Well, my ultra busy month has finally come to an end. My boss, coworker, and I had a great time at the conference (see photo below), but I am exhausted. I thought this would be the end of travel and craziness for a while, but I just found out that I will need to be out of town on Friday, too. Oh, well. At least I am with people I like!

PS: VOTE!!!!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Don't you hate it when this happens?

So, I am reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, a book I mentioned on here a few days ago. As I said then, this book started off with a bang. I loved it. Now I am about halfway through the novel, and I feel like the energy is gone. I don't know if it is me or if it is the book? I just can't figure it out. Honestly, though, I think it is the book. Something has happened to make me feel less enthusiastic and compelled to keep reading. I am going to stick with it, though, because the writing is really good. Also, I really like the heroine, Karou. So, I'll keep you posted...but I really hate it when this happens!!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Just for fun...because you know how I feel about the whole "dog on the roof rack" thing. LOL

I really wanted to buy Madison the dog shirt that said, "Don't roof rack me, bro!"  It was too funny! Still, I am poor, so my sign must do.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Top Ten Books to Get in the Halloween Spirit!

 As usual, "Top Ten Tuesdays" prompts come from The Broke and the Bookish! Check them out!

Top Ten Books to Get in the Halloween Spirit!

I used to love books that frightened me so bad that I couldn't read them alone. I haven't found one of those in a long time, but I will post some of my favorite spooky reads!

1. The Shining by Stephen King. I remember starting a chapter of this one night when I had the house to myself and being so frightened that I had to put it down until someone came home! A sequel is coming soon, so I can't wait to read it!

2. Hell House by Richard Matheson. Oh. My. God. This book scared me to death when I read it years ago! This book and Stephen King's miniseries Rose Red evolved out of Shirley Jackson's The Haunting. When I was a kid, I couldn't watch The Haunting without becoming so terrified that I thought that I would be sick! It doesn't show anything, but it plays games with your head. Hell House also gets into your head...and it is a heck of a ghost story.

3. The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright. This is a children's book I read when I was about eight years old, I think. Wow. It terrified me then! It is basically about a dollhouse that comes to life and reveals a murder mystery. Very good book!

4. Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark by Alvin Schwartz and Brett Helquist. I was so addicted to this series as a kid...wow. I loved it! Some stories were scary, some boring, and some were funny. When I was a library assistant in the fifth and sixth grades, we could not keep these in stock! Another classic.

5. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin. You've probably seen the movie, and I think that the movie is fairly close to the book. I love to talk about this one. You can take it in so many directions!

6. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. This classic novel is short and a great read. It has a good pace, and it is just really creepy. 

7. Dracula in Love by Karen Essex. I really enjoyed this sequel to Bram Stoker's Dracula. It is for an adult audience and takes on Mina's story. For more details about this one, see my review here.

8. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. Maybe no one else found parts of this book scary, but there is just something about it that really creeps me out.

9. The Magic Toyshop by Angela Carter. Extremely creepy feminist horror. Loved it!

10. The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing. This is a great classic. If you haven't checked it out, do so now!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Book shopping...

I bought two books today, and I am super excited about them!

I've been waiting for this one. I really like the "Immortals After Dark" series, so Cole is an automatic buy for me. This is a YA book, but I have heard wonderful things.

The other book:

Oh. My. This book is so amazing. I read so many good reviews of it, and, though I had intentions of reading Cole's book first, I can't now...because I already started this one. It pulled me in from the first paragraph (I love moody settings), so there is no going back!

I will keep you posted!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Review posted!

I have posted my review of This Dark Endeavor over at my book blog "The Friendly Reader," if you are interested!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

"What's Next??"

"What's Next??" is  a prompt brought to you by IceyBooks.

The idea? To give your blog readers an idea of books you will be reading soon. So, here are my choices...

Which should I read first??

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Authors In "X" Genre

As always, "Top Ten Tuesday" is brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish!

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favorite Authors in "X" Genre... Well, I usually discuss YA or Romance on this blog, so this time I think I should discuss something different! So, today I will list my...

Top Ten Favorite Authors in the Historical Fiction Genre!

1. Margaret George. I love her historical fiction because I feel so close to the characters. She never disappoints! Here are a few of my favorites by her:

Yes, they are "big" books, but George's writing style is wonderful. I know historical fiction gets a bad rep, but I don't have a problem separating historical fiction from history. I also think that George has a good reputation for being historically accurate. 

2. Diana Gabaldon. If you like "time travel" and Scottish history, then you should check out the Outlander series!

3. Some people will hate me for this one, but every now and then, I really like to read a Jean Plaidy book! For a long time, she was the go-to author for books about females in history. Though some would disparage her writing, I don't mind it most of the time. Some of my favorites are...

                                                   (Actually, this is three books in one...)

4. Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness is probably my absolute favorite historical novel ever written. I LOVE IT. Do yourself a favor and grab it. The rest of the series is a bit strange for me, but this first novel is wonderful. Also, if you read Outlander, you will have a little surprise in this book!

5. Hilary Mantel. I really enjoyed Wolf Hall, and I plan to read Bring up the Bodies very soon! PS: It was just announced that she won a SECOND Booker Prize!!! So, one for Wolf Hall and another one for Bring up the Bodies!!!

6. Sara Jeter Naslund: another author who has never disappointed me. I loved Abundance, a Novel of Marie Antoinette.

7. Phillipa Gregory. I loved The Queen's Fool, and I have read several of her other novels. All have been very good!

8. Jenna Blum's Those Who Save Us. This is an amazing story about the Holocaust. It is very difficult to read at times, but the story stays with you.

9. Tracy Chevalier. She has written many historical novels, the most famous of which is Girl with a Pearl Earring. LOVE this book.

10. Alison Weir. She is known for writing non-fiction about history, but she has recently delved into historical fiction. I love reading about Jane Grey, so her book Innocent Traitor is a favorite!