Tag Archives: reading challenge

Halfway Through the Reading Year

I risk being chastised at for showing off, but I am having an excellent reading year. We’re halfway through and today I hit…


It is a new record for me.

199 books since January.

200 sounds more rounded by I want to go to bed and don’t feel like pushing myself through a book tonight just for bragging rights. But don’t worry, I’ll hit it tomorrow.

Whatcha Reading…? 5/23/2020 Book Update

It has been a while since I last did a book update! And as I am currently in quite a few of them….I thought it might be fun. I read a lot. In fact, I have so far read 145 books this year alone. I also really like reading multiple books at once. So, when the number get particularly unwieldy, I do a post on here about what I am currently reading.

At the moment, I am reading: Symposium by Plato, A Hero of Our Times by Mikhail Lermontov, The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim, Dare to Lead by Brené Brown, The Prospering by Elizabeth George Speare, Hear This Woman by Ben and Ann Pinchot, The Surrogate Proletariat by Gregory Massell, Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop, and The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King. Plus, kind of sort of The Great Debate by Yuval Levin but my hold is about to expire and I’m not sure I will renew it.

The TA I worked with last semester frequently recommended Plato’s Symposium. It is probably one of Plato’s more famous Socratic dialogues. So far I am finding it quite interesting, though I do not think it will be my new favorite. Too many statements like: “Then he and every one who desires, desire that which he has not already, and which is future and not present, and which he has not, and is not, and of which he is in want;–these are the sort of things which love and desire seek?” (Took me six tries to figure out what Socrates was saying. And I still probably am missing something.) Reading on Kindle.

I actually loved A Hero of Our Times by Mikhail Lermontov when I first started reading it. Then about 2/3rds of the way through, it switches from a narrative to a journal and almost completely lost my attention. I think I am going to just force myself to finish today. Reading on Gutenberg.org.

I’ve been eyeing The Enchanted April by Elizabeth Von Arnim for quite some time. I even own a copy of it. But it is taking more effort to get through than I expected. There are lovely descriptions and delightful characters but I feel like I’m perpetually waiting for the plot to start. The synopsis promises a bit more comedy of manners, so maybe that will start soon. Reading a soft cover copy I own.

My brother lent me his copy of Dare to Lead by Brené Brown. I’m enjoying it so far, though not finding it particularity applicable. Or maybe applicable is the wrong word. There is lots of good content about leadership, but as I am not in a position of leadership at the moment, I am not precisely jotting down notes. Reading a hardcover copy owned by my brother.

The Prospering by Elizabeth George Speare is proving surprisingly…challenging to get through. Initially I was delighted by it. I love Elizabeth George Speare and have read every other fictional book written by her at least twice. But I think there is a reason this one did not take off. It takes a darker, more mature tone, and yet the narrator is a child which feels awkward. It will be interesting to see where it goes. Reading a hardcover copy I got through an inter-library loan.

Hear This Woman by Ben and Ann Pinchot has been on my to-read list for years and I honestly can’t remember what inspired me to read it originally. It is certainly nothing like I expected. Written in 1949, the synopsis merely reads, “Follow Faith Holmes in her journey to bring all American Women together.” The story so far is more complex, surprisingly feminist, and actually quite heavy and political. Reading a hardcover copy I got through an inter-library loan.

Speaking of weird books on my to read list…The Surrogate Proletariat by Gregory Massell spends almost 500 pages describing how the Soviet Union tried to target Muslim women and spread communism from 1919 to 1929. I haven’t gotten particularly far but I’m intrigued. (File under ‘things I did not learn about in history class.’) Reading a hardcover copy I got through an inter-library loan.

Vision in Silver by Anne Bishop is an urban fantasy novel and book 3 in The Others series. Mixed feelings all around about the series so far but I’m sufficiently intrigued to keep reading. I keep telling myself I can drop it at any time, but also…? Reading via my library’s Libby app.

I have purposefully and quite successfully avoided The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King for years now, but enough friends have recommended it that I am giving it a try. The book kicks off the popular Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes series, which, just like it sounds, involves a retired Sherlock Holmes and his equally intelligent female apprentice. I am not precisely a Sherlock purist but still…that description…we’ll see. Reading via my library’s Libby app.

What are you currently reading? Anything good?

2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 6 (Mary Stewart!)

Some authors woo you slowly. Erudite and witty, you don’t fall at first glance, but you eventually come to love them. Other authors never quite win you. The spark should be there but no matter how many of their books you read, it never becomes more. More rarely, but infinitely precious for it, you fall for an author at first glance and, more marvelously still, stay in love with them past the cover or the opening line.

That would be me and Mary Stewart. It was love at first read and 9 books later, I am still obsessed. 7 of her books got 5-stars from me, the remaining 2 got 4-stars. I decided the five-stars deserved their own blog post. Two caveats: Mary Stewart is mostly known for her Arthurian fantasies. I have not read those yet. I have only read her romantic suspense novels. Second, she writes romantic suspense novels primarily aimed at women. They lack mystery, but they make up for it with awesome, Gothic atmosphere and kick-butt females. So, if you read her books, don’t go in expecting a whodunit. 

That said…I present my favorite books from my favorite ‘new’ author! (But also not so new as she wrote these mainly in the 1950s and ’60s.)

 Madam, Will You Talk? 

WW2 widow Charity Selborne decides to take a leisurely vacation in France to pull the pieces of her broken life back together. When she arrives at her hotel, she befriends a terrified boy on the run from his enigmatic, possibly murderous father. The book is full of eerie settings and long, descriptive passages. Character pause constantly to drink cognac or smoke cigarettes. Yet despite the slow, descriptive nature of the book, it is also an adventure novel and abounds with murderers, neo-Nazis, and exciting car chases. And best of all, you can listen to a brilliant audio version for free on YouTube.

This Rough Magic

When failed actress Lucy Waring agrees to join her sister for a vacation on Corfu, the last thing she expects is to get entangled with murder. Complete with communists, scenic beaches, and loads of Shakespeare quotes, this is probably my favorite Mary Stewart novel.

The Ivy Tree

While on vacation in England, Mary Gray gets accosted by a gentleman who says she looks just like his cousin, Annabel Winslow. Annabel disappeared years ago but her grandfather still refuses to leave his wealthy farm to anyone but her. He asks Mary to pretend to be Annabel and convince their grandfather to leave the farm to him instead. But mystery surrounds Annabel’s disappearance and Mary quickly realizes she might be in over her head.

Nine Coaches Waiting

When Linda Martin first accepts a position as an English-speaking governess to the nine-year-old Count Philippe de Valmy, she assumes her ability to speak French won’t matter. But she quickly learns that the Count’s French guardians intentionally advertised for an English speaker and that more is going on than meets the eye. When her young charge nearly dies, she decides it is up to her to save the day.

Airs Above the Ground

Vanessa March quarreled with her husband and now feels dreadful about it. But he’s off on a business trip in Stockholm so there is no use fretting to death…until she sees him in the background of a newsreel at a fire in Austria clutching a very pretty girl. Then all bets are off. And if she happens to get embroiled in the mystery of who set the fire while tracking down her missing husband? Well, that’s just a bonus. 

The Moon-Spinners

Nicola Ferris, secretary at the British Embassy on Crete, decides to take a walking holiday and further explore the beautiful island. But things quickly go awry when she stumbles upon a severely injured man in an abandoned shepherd’s cottage and learns there may be more to the nearby village than meets the eye. 

Touch Not the Cat

Bryony Ashley of Ashley Court has a secret. For as long as she can remember, she has shared a psychic bond with one of her cousins. The problem is, she doesn’t know which one. When her Father dies and leaves her a cryptic warning, she hurries home to find out once and for all who her mysterious ‘lover’ is and what dark secret Ashley Court holds. I particularly enjoyed this one because the whole ‘psychic bond with a stranger’ plot reminded me of Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan which was one of my favorite reads of 2016. 




2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 4

#IMomSoHard by Kristin Hensley & Jen Smedley

Be prepared to learn and laugh about all the intimate, awkward parts of being a mom that no one talks about. I am definitely not the intended audience for this book, not being a mom  and all. However, it still made me laugh really hard and gave me insights to relate better to my friends who are moms. I highly recommend this one as an irreverent and upbeat look at the challenge of motherhood and how to support the moms in your life. 

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Hamlet is that guy you know everything about but somehow haven’t met. You have all the same friends and maybe work in the same field but your paths never cross. And everyone says, “Oh my gosh, how do you not know Hamlet?” and all you can do is shrug and be like “IDK, dude. IDK.” Anyway, I’ve finally met Hamlet. And he’s awesome. Wonderfully ambiguous and funny. This is officially my favorite Shakespeare play.

The Four Tendencies: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too) by Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies focuses on how people respond to expectations and how those expectation motivates them. Gretchen Rubin claims four types exist: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers, and Rebels. Upholders are motivated by internal and external expectations. Questioners only by internal expectation. Obligers only by external expectations. Rebels are motivated by neither. It sounds pretty simple and in a way it is.The book is not particularly mind blowing once you understand the initial framework. But I actually don’t think the author intends it to be. Perhaps it is just her legal style, but she cuts through a lot of the fluff one would typically expect. It made the whole thing a straightforward and fast read. Quite insightful and practical. 

Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse

A sporting story about cricket and the friendship of two, unlikely schoolboys at the turn of the century. Wodehouse’s distinctive comedic style mixes with the boarding school vibe to give a lovely, old fashioned flavor. Psmith is one of the most delightful characters I’ve met in a long time. You don’t even have to know anything about cricket to enjoy this story! 

The Enchiridion by St. Augustine

In The Enchiridion–Latin for “the handbook”–St. Augustine summarizes Christian doctrine in under 144 pages. It is brief, profound, and definitely worth chewing over. He expounds on the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love in a way that was new to me. If you are at all interested in reading more by the early church fathers generally or St. Augustine in particular, this is a good place to start. 

Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions by Mario Giordano

The only cozy mystery to make it on my 5-star list, Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions is actually a German novel semi-recently translated into English and set in Sicily. The author does a great job conveying life in Sicily through quirky characters, beautiful descriptions, and odd jokes. For being a light-hearted murder mystery, it also tackles many heavy topics. The heroine of the piece, Auntie Poldi, is a depressed, alcoholic divorcee/widow who moves to Sicily with the intent of drinking herself to death. But her family won’t let her. Her sisters-in-law drop in regularly to make sure she is doing okay. Her nephew–the narrator of book–comes regularly to stay with her. The book has some genuinely brilliant quotes, funny scenes, and great characterizations. Oh, and murder. I cannot wait to read more in the series. 

2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 3

The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty

Before being killed by pirates, Bronte Mettlestone’s parents leave a will requiring their daughter to deliver a series of gifts to her many aunts. If she fails, the world ends. NBD. Precocious heroine, odd adventure, cast of caricature characters…you know the type. At the end of the day, a wonderful story that tugged on my heartstrings. It deals with grief, laughter, extended family, and the memories that bring us together. It was very sweet, very heart-aching, and satisfying. Generally aimed at middle school readers but good for all ages. 

Transformed: The Perils of the Frog Prince by Megan Morrison

Megan Morrison is one of my favorite authors and her fairy-tale retellings are creative and wonderful.  Transformed–book 3 in the Tyme series–did not disappoint. The series provides a wonderfully developed world with great, memorable characters, solid, believable character change, and unexpected endings. I do recommend reading the first one, Grounded, and the second, Disenchanted, before tackling this one. That is why I am keeping my description vague. But let me tell you, it is worth it. Highly recommend for all adults, but series aimed at high grade school/middle school readers. 

When You Read This by Mary Adkins

This is the story of a woman given six months to live. Of a blog where she processes chemo and dreams and memories. A boss left grieving. A sister unable to move on. Like Where’d You Go, Bernadette or a book by Jaclyn Moriarty, it tells a story through texts, e-mails, and blog posts. It shows and it tells. Most of the action happens off-screen but it works because the real power of the story comes from the grief of the characters and the way they process it. And that’s not something you see up close. It is something that happens slowly and over time. I loved this book from the first chapter. Almost made me cry.

The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants: A Foundation CEO Reveals the Secrets You Need to Know by Martin Teitel

An odd book for this list of favorites but I found it an interesting and informative read. It reached 5 stars because of the writing. I really liked the engaging tone. This isn’t where you go to find something mind-boggling, or even specific advice. You go because it feels like grabbing coffee with someone who knows more than you and sometimes that’s just the encouragement you need.

Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits: Real-World Strategies That Work by Ilona Bray

Where The Ultimate Insider’s Guide to Winning Foundation Grants gives general advice, Effective Fundraising for Nonprofits provides strategy.  The book covers a very wide range of topics, is chalk full of relevant information, and left me with several new ideas. (I particularly appreciated the chapter about non-profit websites.) The writing is easy and enthusiastic, yet also structured enough that you can pick it up and jump around as needed. I’ll definitely keep my eye out for more from Nolo generally and Ilona Bray specifically. (And if that is not high, albeit odd, commendation for a reference guide, I don’t know what is.)

The Tyranny of Clichés by Jonah Goldberg

Some political books do not age well. They feed off the outrage of the moment and rely heavily on names and places. So despite its 2012 publishing date, The Tyranny of Clichés reached five stars because it did not fall into this trap. The book (at its heart) deals with ideas and languages. No references to popular politicians date it because any reference circles back to the idea being discussed. It was a very thoughtful discussion packaged more controversially than it actually is. 

2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

Best reads of 2019…continued. 

Since You Asked… & Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo

Since You Asked… was Maurene Goo’s first novel and Somewhere Only We Know her most recent. I loved them both. But honestly, I have yet to meet a Maurene Goo novel I did not love. She writes about Korean-Americans and usually references Korean dramas which is the way to my heart. Since You Asked… feels very “first novel” but the snarky heroine, tight friend group, and lack of any overarching plot make up for it. It balances angst with character growth and I found it super heartwarming. Meanwhile, Somewhere Only We Know is the story of a K-pop starlet trying to take a day off and a paparazzi who tricks her into hanging out with him. The K-pop starlet carries the plot with a quirky, driven character and it made for some fun, fluffy reading while still maintaining an undercurrent of emotional punch. If looking for some good YA, I will always recommend Maurene Goo. 

From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism and Christianity by Steve Cioccolanti

I recommend this book with a caveat: a formally Buddhist (now Christian) friend recommended it to me while I was studying in Thailand because I was struggling to understand Eastern Buddhism. (It is quite different from Western Buddhism.) The book does a great job differentiating the two. It perfectly fit what I needed at the time. But I would not recommend this to the casual reader hoping to compare the two religions. The main purpose of this book is to be a very short and to the point primer for Christians going on short term missions with the intention of witnessing to Buddhists in Asia. It might be an “insider’s view,” but it is a very select view with a very specific mission. 

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza (audio book version

This was an absolutely delicious audio book and if you decide to read The Knockoff, I recommend checking it out in the audio format. Katherine Kellgren somehow manages British posh, valley-girl, and start-up tech nerd without once making it feel forced or awkward. Delightful. The story itself is a novel about a middle aged woman who returns to her position as editor of a fashion magazine after a long leave only to find her boss turned it into an app. Now, surrounded by Millennials and baffled by e-mail, this Gen Xer must learn to find commonality with her co-workers and save her magazine. Despite a rather over-the-top villain, I found the story surprisingly thought-provoking and sweet. I really liked it. Very memorable. 

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II by Darlene Deibler Rose

This memoir tells the story of an American missionary who was held in a Japanese POW camp for four years during WW2. While it certainly recounts God’s grace to the prisoners during a very harrowing time, my favorite parts were when Darlene Deibler Rose lets down her hair a little and lets you know what she really thinks. For as much grace as she shows to her Japanese captors, she might suddenly name drop someone and be like “Yeah, that woman was a skank who had 3 amazing kids and I have no idea how they turned out amazing with a Mom like her.” And you would think it would come across as offensive and maybe it does to some. But to me it felt genuine. The personality of the storyteller really shines through. This is an imperfect memoir that feels super genuine and honest because of its imperfections.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

So, Crazy Rich Asians made 5 stars. China Rich Girlfriend did not. Jury is still out on Rich People Problems. We shall see. But I sure loved this one. It is a not-so-subtle mockery of the glitzy, rich life of an elite few and I ate up every word. Like the movie, my favorite part is how the intertwining stories balance the soap opera of Nick and Rachel’s life with the [still soap-opera-y] but more hard hitting drama of Astrid’s crumbling marriage. Of course, it is not perfect. Definitely vulgar at times and more language than I like. But so fluffy and ridiculously over the top I could not help loving it.


Whatcha Reading…? 9/20/2019 Book Update

If I cannot tackle a book in one evening, I will probably start another. Hence why I occasionally like putting together these “Whatcha Reading…?” posts. It helps me keep track of everything I’ve got going! Currently I’m reading 6 books: King Lear by William Shakespeare (technically a play but whatever), The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Wicked Fox by Kat Cho, Only Ever Her by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart, and A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. 

I was inspired to pick up King Lear after finishing Hamlet. For some reason, I marked it to-read in high school along with As You Like It (and only those two. No other play made the cut on Goodreads!) I’m enjoying it so far but not as much as Hamlet

The Cost of Discipleship, meanwhile, is one of those books I feel like I am eternally reading. I’ve been at it for almost 2.5 years now. It isn’t bad, quite the opposite. I find it so profound that if I read more than a chapter a day I feel like I am missing something. So I read a chapter one day, forget about it the next, and read another chapter a month later when I stumble upon my copy again. And then forget about it the next day. Slow and steady, I guess. 

Wicked Fox is, in theory, a Korean drama lovers dream. It involves Korean mythology and modern day Seoul. But I won’t lie, I’m finding it super disappointing so far. The author does a lot of telling but not a lot of showing. Characters are profoundly psychological in ways that feel at odd with their age. And by golly, I’m over a 100 pages in and nothing is happening. I am not sure I will make it through all 424 pages. 

On the flip side, I’m finding Only Ever Her surprisingly enjoyable. I heard about it on a blog I follow and picked it up on a whim. It is supposed to be a thriller but so far I haven’t found anything that scary. Just good character build-up. The first person present narrative style does get a little annoying but I’m hooked. 

I’ve fallen hard for Mary Stewart’s novels so there was no way I wasn’t going to like My Brother Michael. I’m not very far into it but I can already tell I am going to love it. Be warned: her books are going to overwhelm my end of the year 5 star reads blog post. 

Out of all the books I’m currently listing, however, A Curse So Dark And Lonely has taken me the most by surprise. It presents yet another Beauty and the Beast retelling and I’ve read enough of those to last me a lifetime. But so far, this one is really, really good. It hits the right note of familiar fairytale while simultaneously presenting enough ‘new’ to keep the reader hooked. I hope it can keep it up.  

Pamela by Samuel Richardson

Two stars (and 592 pages long!)

It took me seven months, but I did it. I survived Pamela. Published in 1735, this book really set the stage for the modern novel. And what a stage it was. 

Allow me to save your precious time:

Pamela, The Short-ish Version: 
Pamela: I am a virtuous maiden!
Pamela’s parents: PAMELA. GUARD YOUR VIRTUE.
Pamela: I must guard my virtue!
Me: Whoah, chillax, dudes. She’s like 15. Stop making a big deal out of her virtue. What’s the worry?
Young Lord: I will take Pamela’s virtue!
Me: Ah, that’s the worry.
Young Lord: * repeatedly makes attempts at Pamela’s virtue * 
Pamela: I must stay strong! 
Young Lord: You’re pretty. You must be a slut.
Young Lord: * dresses like a servant girl and sneaks into Pamela’s bed *
Young Lord: I will have you!
Pamela: * repeatedly barely escapes with her virtue * 
Servants: Oh no! GUARD YOUR VIRTUE.
Pamela: SOME HELP WOULD BE NICE. Woe is me!
Servants: He’s our master. What would you have us do? GUARD YOUR VIRTUE.
Pamela’s parents: If you lose your virtue, we, like, aren’t ever going to talk to you again.
Young Lord: * makes more attempts at Pamela’s virtue *
Young Lord: The servants like you. Somehow you have fooled them all into thinking you are not a slut!
Young Lord: * kidnaps Pamela and locks her away in another house *
Pamela: Alas! Poor me! For I can do nothing! But above all I must preserve my virtue. 
Pamela’s parents: If you lose your virtue, we still won’t ever talk to you again. 
Young Lord: * makes more attempts on Pamela’s virtue *
* this goes on for about 300 pages * 
Young Lord: Well, Pamela! You’ve resisted me. You must be virtuous. I will marry you. 
Young Lord: * under his breath * Haha! Yeah right, slut. I’m going to pretend to marry you but not really.
Pamela: I heard that. Woe is me!
Young Lord: No you didn’t. 
Pamela: Yeah I did. I think maybe I will kill myself instead of giving up my virtue. Woe is me!
Young Lord: Wow, you must really be virtuous. 
Pamela: Ya think? Woe is me!
Young Lord: Okay, you can go home now. 
Young Lord: JK, I want to marry you for real now. I’m sick and can’t leave my bed for love of you.
Pamela: What a coincidence! I love you too! But I am so beneath you!
Me: How is there still 30% of this book to go?????
Young Lord: Beneath me in rank and wealth but not in virtue! 
Me: Duh, you freaking kidnapped her!! Pretty sure you have no virtue. The cow has more virtue than you.
Pamela: If you marry me, I will spend the rest of my life devoted to you for showing such kindness. 
Young Lord: Let’s get married tomorrow.
Pamela: Oh! But as a virtuous maiden, the thought of getting married fills me with shyness! Let’s push it off.
Young Lord: Must we?
Pamela: Just for two weeks.
Young Lord: Two weeks is sooooooooo long.
Pamela: But I’m so shy! 
* This goes on for some time *
Pamela’s Dad: I am here! If Pamela is still virtuous, she can come home with me. If not, I never want to speak to her again. 
Pamela: I’m getting married!
Pamela’s Dad: Cool beans! In that case, have fun, kiddo. Bye. Oh, by the way future son-in-law, thanks for the money!
* Pamela and Young Lord finally freakin’ get married *
Me: Why is there still 20% of this book to go???
Young Lord: Now, Pamela, I shall tell you all the ways you must act and behave to make me a good wife.
Pamela: I love my master so! I will do all you say. 
Young Lord: Always be happy and dress nice and never contradict me or point out my faults or ever talk about my faults to anyone and always tell everyone what a great guy I am. 
Pamela: But these are all exactly what I most wish to do! 
Young Lord: You make a great wife.
Pamela: Oh! I do not deserve your compliments! You are too good! Too kind!
Me: Have we just all agreed to forget about the kidnapping? Attempted rape? etc. etc.?
* insert long and boring plot point about Young Lord’s older sister who hates Pamela but then comes to love her when Pamela takes her side in an argument * 
Young Lord: PAMELA. How DARE you take my sister’s side over mine! You shall leave this house without me.
Pamela: Oh! Don’t make me! I will never not take your side in an argument again.
Young Lord: Oh, okay. You’re forgiven. I guess I can be a bit temperamental. We all have our faults, right? 
Pamela: Oh! But you have none! You are so kind, generous, good, loving, noble! 
Pamela: By the way, you wanted to see all my letters to my parents and friends. Can I mail this one? 
Young Lord: How come you only sign it with your first name? 
Pamela: It seemed too presumptuous to assume you would let me take your last name!
Young Lord: By golly, I like this humility in you. Go ahead and use it. 
Pamela: You are so kind, generous, good, loving, noble!
Young Lord: Oh, btw, remember that one time when I tried to take your virtue? 
Pamela: Oh yeah, why?
Young Lord: Well, once I did the same thing to another girl, but she gave up her virtue and gave me a daughter. And…surprise! Here is the daughter. 
Pamela: Oh! I love her above all things! Let me keep her!
Young Lord: Uh…maybe. Or we could just leave her at the boarding school…
Young Lord: We could have our own kids…
Pamela: Oh! Don’t speak so vulgarly! 
Pamela: Um, dare I ask what happened to your cast off lover? 
Young Lord: Well, I tried to make her my lover again but she fled to Jamaica. Aren’t you thrilled? You don’t need to worry about competition. 
Pamela: I feel kind of bad for her. Had she not succumbed to temptation, she would still have her virtue, like me!
Young Lord: You behave so nobly! How I love you! 
Pamela: And I love you!
Author: I shall now endeavor to tell you what each character means. 
Author: * goes into exhaustive description about what moral lesson each character represents *
Me: * gags repeatedly *

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

Two stars

Imagine a Hallmark movie sent in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A restaurant owner walks in on her fiance cheating on her. Then a curmudgeonly, British food critic writes a scathing review of her restaurant. She’s newly single and in despair. He’s British and cranky. They meet…she doesn’t know his identity as destroyer of her restaurant…they fall in love over Wisconsin food…

Oh wait, that’s the plot of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert.

Maybe if I did not know Milwaukee I would have taken the book more seriously. As is, I could not keep a straight face, even while hearing about familiar landmarks. Cheese curds are amazing…but not the food of love. Maybe the food of constipation. Brewer games are super fun! But probably not The Best Thing Ever for someone who does not like sports. Etc. Etc. 

The utter drama of the story and the string of lies the hero tells the heroine (combined with the fact that the curmudgeonly food critic who does nothing but sit around his house all day has a six pack…) quickly turned me off. 

The book tries, it really does, but I just could not take it seriously. Still, quite memorable.

Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews

4 stars

Short version: Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews promises—and delivers—an action packed, paranormal novel with a strong female lead.

Plot: Dina Demille runs an inn. To her neighbors, she presents the picture of respectability. (Well, mostly.) But her guests know otherwise. Dina runs an inn for paranormal creatures: aliens, werewolves, vampires, you name it. As an innkeeper, she possesses incredible powers in order to keep her guests safe and Earthlings from finding out about their extraterrestrial neighbors. Usually, her biggest concern involves getting enough guests to make ends meet. But that all changes when a dangerous predator comes hunting near her inn…

Thoughts: I don’t normally read paranormal novels and Ilona Andrews (actually a husband-wife writing team) can get kind of sketchy. But this one pleasantly surprised me. Dina is a truly fascinating character. Like many modern heroines, she possesses great power. Unlike them, her power comes with a severe limit: she basically has none once she leaves the inn. Her role as innkeeper also places her in a position as a truly neutral character. She must protect both the good and bad guests who check into her inn. 

The neutrality gets played up more as the series continues with some fascinating results. Unfortunately, the next two books throw in a romance that left me underwhelmed and distracted from the cool power plays. It will be interesting to see how Book 4 goes. I think it follows Dina’s sister. (Another kick-butt female heroine.)