Thursday, November 09, 2017

Review: The Duchess Deal

The Duchess Deal The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun romance, the kind where the snappy dialogue makes you grin out loud. This Beauty-and-the-Beast variation was just what I needed this week, and I recommend it to anyone who wants a pick-me-up with their romance reading.

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Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Raising up the next crop of readers

I'm still tutoring young readers through the United Way's Reading Pals initiative. This year I again have a 3rd grade girl, and I suspect that will be my "default setting" as long as I'm in the program. As much as I love working with younger readers just discovering books, there's a sense of urgency with the 3rd graders. Some have already been held back. All will be expected to read and comprehend chapter books by the time they're in 4th grade. In addition, reading as a skill isn't taught past 3rd grade so I want to do my best to help them learn how books work; what it means to read an unknown word and figure it out from context, how to get a feel for the author's structure of the writing, and, perhaps most importantly, how to enjoy reading.

My pupil this year is Camille (not her real name), and she's been an intriguing student. I've been coaxing her along,  trying to figure out what piques her interest and so far, it seems to be Disney princesses.

I'm OK with that. As I always tell the kids, "I don't care what you're reading, as long as you read. Read a cereal box. Read a comic book. Read anything that interests you. Like any other skill, the more you do it, the better you become at it."

So last week we read a classic telling of Puss in Boots and discussed how it compares to Shrek--what's the same, what's different. We read Rapunzel and compared it to Tangled. This week I have a book about brave princesses and, of course, we'll compare it to Brave.

As a romance reader and writer I understand the value of storytelling with plucky heroines who save the day, or at least don't wait around waiting for their prince to come. Most importantly, I hope to convey the idea that reading for fun is a huge part of my life, and the same is true for many other people. By the end of the year I hope to have Camille bop into our sessions excited to tell me about something enjoyable (maybe with princesses) she read over the past week. We're not quite there yet, but we're making progress.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Review: Color Me Gray

Color Me Gray Color Me Gray by Rose Phillips
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

We met Mags in Cutting to the Chase, the best friend who's socially awkward and naive, hiding her personal pain under a cheerful facade. A humiliating practical joke in high school only reinforces Mags' lack of self-esteem, so when a cute, older boy at a party pays attention to her, she thinks her life may be turning around.

Instead, it's a step toward personal disaster. Color Me Gray covers many of the issues that make up the tough life of young adulthood--sexuality, body image, domestic violence and career choices. But it also shows how friendship (sometimes in the most unexpected places) and family can lead to new beginnings and offer hope when all seems hopeless.

This is the second Rose Phillips YA I've enjoyed, and I'm hooked. Sometimes it's hard from the distance of years to appreciate how difficult life can be for those just stepping out into the world. Phillips brings teens and their issues to life, and does so in a way that's satisfying for readers of all ages.



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Monday, October 30, 2017

Persimmon season! Time to make the cake!


“Possum hangin’ in the tree, Raccoon on the ground; Raccoon say, you stingy rat, Shake them ’simmons down!”
Julia paused in her singing and frowned down at the spoon stirring through the cake batter. “Possum hanging in the tree?” Where had that come from? “Goodness, I’m becoming countrified!”
She chuckled, looking out the kitchen window at the activity in the yard. Rand was doing the morning chores in preparation for their trip to the Iveys’ farm. For a moment she watched him as she stirred, indulging herself in a fantasy that theirs was a normal marriage, two people on the Florida frontier, making a new life together.
But it was as much a fantasy as singing raccoons.

--Smuggler's Bride

It's that time of year, the time when the North Florida farmers market has lovely, ripe, orange persimmons. You can eat them as they are, or soften them up and turn them into yummy treats.

It's also the time of year when I re-post one of my most requested recipes for using up those lovely globes of sun-warmed fruit. If you like "marriage of (in)convenience" stories, then Smuggler's Bride is for you, available again in print and ebook!


SMUGGLER'S BRIDE PERSIMMON CAKE

Preheat oven to 325F

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup margarine or butter
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1 cup persimmon pulp--approx. six small ripe Florida persimmons
½ cup chopped pecans

To get persimmon pulp: Take very ripe persimmons, cut in half, scoop pulp out.  Remove pithy seed area, pulse a few times in food processor.

1. Stir together dry ingredients

          2. Cream sugar and butter, add eggs, add dry ingredients, pulp and nuts.

          3. Pour mixture into standard loaf pan (grease and flour pan, if not nonstick model), bake one hour and 15 minutes.  Let cool on rack ten minutes, remove from pan. Freezes well.



Review: Duke of Desire

Duke of Desire Duke of Desire by Elizabeth Hoyt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A satisfying conclusion to the "Lords of Chaos" story arc as Raphael de Chartres, the Duke of Dyemore begins his long awaited mission of revenge against the secret organization of powerful men who abuse women and children for their pleasure. First though he has to rescue Lady Iris Jordan, kidnapped by mistake as the Lords seek their own revenge against the Crown and its officers.

Hoyt's long-time readers will enjoy this latest installment, but the novel can also be read as a stand-alone. Raphael's dark secrets set against Iris' quiet determination to bring him into the light make for an engrossing romance full of angst, passion and danger. The author's use of the Georgian period for her stories offers a setting of decadence and power set against wrenching poverty and inequality, and will leave historical romance fans feeling they've gotten more than their money's worth in the Maiden Lane series.

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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Review: Before the Rain Falls

Before the Rain Falls Before the Rain Falls by Camille Di Maio
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A touching and moving tale of a woman who spends her life in a Texas prison for murdering her sister, and how her tale impacts a reporter looking for redemption and a doctor thrust back into the small town she left behind.

Poignant and shocking, convicted killer Della Lee's tale of love and murder captures the despair of a life with few choices, and offers a glimpse of life behind bars for women in a justice system that cared little for them.

The ending was a touch predictable, but in some ways that added to the enjoyment of seeing how characters lives intertwine and what the future can hold for people brought together by chance and family.

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Review: His Perfect Partner

His Perfect Partner His Perfect Partner by Priscilla Oliveras
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yazmine Fernandez has always believed in "family first", so she's not impressed by busy executive Tomas Garcia's being MIA from his young daughter's father/daughter dance practice. She's got enough on her mind with caring for her ailing father while focusing on trying to get her New York dance career back on track. But the handsome ad exec and his adorable daughter Maria are making it hard for Yazmine to keep focused.

Tomas is hesitant to get involved with dating a woman focused on her career to the exclusion of her loved ones, but Maria needs what the graceful dance teacher can offer...and Maria's father is finding it hard to resist her as well.

Oliveras' debut novel is a sweet tale of family, friendship and making the tough choices, especially when one's in the "sandwich generation", caring for elderly parents as well as seeing to the needs of children. The dynamics of a loving Latino family also pull at Tomas and Yazmine, and readers will find a lot to enjoy in this new series.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Review: An Echo of Murder

An Echo of Murder An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another gripping William Monk tale had me guessing whodunnit until the very end. There were suspects, but bringing the facts together took a team, and that's part of what made this story work. It wasn't just Hester and Monk, it was Monk's assistant detective, Hopper, Crow the surgeon, attorney Oliver Rathbone and Scruf.

Some of them are the usual players in this series, but we also got enough new characters to add interest and zip. A damaged doctor from Hester's service in the Crimean war...some long-lost relatives, and the growth of mudlark Scruf into "Will Monk", an apprentice physician who took on his mentor's name, but not his profession as a police officer.

As usual, I look forward to more Monk mysteries from Ms. Perry.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Review: An Echo of Murder

An Echo of Murder An Echo of Murder by Anne Perry
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another gripping William Monk tale had me guessing whodunnit until the very end. There were suspects, but bringing the facts together took a team, and that's part of what made this story work. It wasn't just Hester and Monk, it was Monk's assistant detective, Hopper, Crow the surgeon, attorney Oliver Rathbone and Scruf.

Some of them are the usual players in this series, but we also got enough new characters to add interest and zip. A damaged doctor from Hester's service in the Crimean war...some long-lost relatives, and the growth of mudlark Scruf into "Will Monk", an apprentice physician who took on his mentor's name, but not his profession as a police officer.

As usual, I look forward to more Monk mysteries from Ms. Perry.

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