The Jane Austen Handbook by Margaret C. Sullivan

The Jane Austen Handbook:  Proper Life Skills from Regency England by Margaret C. Sullivan, which Quirk Books will publish on March 8, is a nonfiction step-by-step guide on how to live in Regency England as a young lady or young man, though most of the advice pertains to women.  Chock full of illustrations of common dress for men and women, among other traditions, the handbook is practical and fun.  Humor is not forgotten either, as Jane Austen would have poked fun at certain traditions, so too does Sullivan.

For instance in the section “How to Raise Your Children,” among the tips listed to maintain decorum and sanity in the household is to provide children with cake!  “If all else fails, liberal slices of cake solve many a child-rearing problems.” (page 72)

The book is divided into three sections:  logistics of life among the gentry in Regency England; the ins and outs of daily life; and the rules for choosing a prospective husband.  Readers interested to learn how much Mr. Darcy is worth today should check out the handbook because apparently there is some controversy in the matter.

Each chapter contains a quote from one of Austen’s novels that applies to the contents of each chapter, and readers new to classic Austen books can rely on this handbook to understand the differences between a port-chaise, a hack, and other forms of transportation as well as the differences between various dresses worn by young ladies.  There is a schedule of a woman’s typical day running a household, the responsibilities of gentleman, what these people did in their leisure time, and how to recognize the gentry from royalty and more.

The appendix contains synopses of Jane Austen’s novels and other works, plus a list of film adaptations, sequels, retellings, and other “paraliterature.”  There are a number of other resources, a glossary, and selected bibliography as well.  The Jane Austen Handbook:  Proper Life Skills from Regency England by Margaret C. Sullivan is a great companion for the Jane Austen fanatic and fan because it offers guidance on how young men and women navigated a complex set of social rules and even broke them at times.  As each moment in life is addressed, Sullivan also offers moments in Austen’s work where traditions are bent.  Overall, a fantastic guide to a time period that many modern readers have a hard time imagining but will have fun navigating in not only Austen’s novels but also in the handbook.  It gives new meaning to role-playing.

About the Author:

Margaret C. Sullivan is the editrix of Austenblog.com. She lives in Philadelphia.

This is my 7th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton

Rosy Thornton‘s The Tapestry of Love follows 48-year-old Catherine Parkstone as she makes her way through the French countryside after leaving her home in England following her divorce.  She has bought Les Fenils in the Cevennes Mountains where she gets to know her quirky neighbors and learns how to navigate an unfamiliar culture with her amateur French-speaking skills.  Her initial plans are to establish a business as a needlewoman, but also to return to a place she remembers enjoying from her childhood.

Catherine loves working with her hands whether it is on cushions or tapestry or in the garden.  The lush scenery and sweet smells of food (check out Thornton’s recipes) serve as the backdrop of this woman’s journey as she learns to cook French cuisine, stand on her own, and carve out a life she can enjoy.  Although she is away from her grown children and her sister, Bryony, Catherine begins to make the transition into the community, providing them with well-crafted cushions and other items and companionship.

“It was the view from her kitchen window, the view from the place at the table where she generally sat to work.  She knew it so well now by all its lights and moods that she had no need to look up from her tapestry frame; on these quiet midnights she sat and worked from memory in front of the rectangle of black.  In her emerging picture, it was morning:  not first light but the soft luminosity of a breakfast time in spring, the sun breaking over the head of the valley to the left and outlining every leaf in gold.”  (page 232)

From the Bouschets and the Meriels to Madame Volpiliere and Patrick Castagnol, Thornton creates a rounded set of characters to interact with Catherine and bring out some of her best traits, including generosity and compassion.  Although Catherine was adventurous enough to leave England and move to the mountains of France, she still has to find her spontaneity and carefree nature, while navigating the bureaucracy of the French government.

Overall, The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton is a novel about living one’s dreams, making new friends, and enjoying life.  While there is romance, a love triangle, divorce, and other typical “women’s fiction” topics, Rosy Thornton takes these topics and makes them new by setting them in rural France among quirky farmers and business men and women.  Her prose is engaging and detailed, weaving a tapestry of community that readers will want to immerse themselves in for hours.

About the Author:

Rosy Thornton is an author of contemporary fiction, published by Headline Review. Her novels could perhaps be described as romantic comedy with a touch of satire – or possibly social satire with a hint of romance. In real life she lectures in Law at the University of Cambridge, where she is a Fellow of Emmanuel College. She shares her home with her partner, two daughters and two lunatic spaniels.  Visit her Website.

This is my 3rd book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Half in Love by Linda Gray Sexton

Linda Gray Sexton, an author of memoir and fiction, tackles the issues of depression, suicide, and family legacies in her latest memoir, Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide.  In case you haven’t deduced on your own who her famous mother is, it is Anne Sexton one of the greatest American confessional poets, who successfully committed suicide in October 1974 after battling depression for years by locking herself in the garage and dying from carbon monoxide poisoning.

“The other families in our neighborhood looked nothing like my own family.  My father did not run the family, nor did my mother.  It was my mother’s illness that had seized control.  My adulation of her was not tempered by the fact that she was mentally ill.  We never used the word ‘crazy’ — though when the ambulance arrived in the driveway to take her away, the neighborhood children whispered that Mrs. Sexton was nuts again.”  (page 59)

Half in Love is far from an easy read as Linda details not only her mother’s struggles with depression and suicide, but also the violent and sometimes inappropriate relationships within the family.  The legacy of suicide is clear as Linda discusses her college years, her marriage, and the birth of her children.  The “rabbit hole” is often used to describe the downward spiral Linda and her mother descend into without necessarily being triggered by a specific event.  Some of the details about institutionalization, attempts at suicide are detailed and will make readers turn away from the page, but they are necessary to convey the depth at which these women fell away from the real world into the darkness that obscured their reasons for hope.

“Unconsciously, my mother had bequeathed to me two entirely unique legacies, and they were inextricably and mysteriously entwined:  the compulsion to create with words, as well as the compulsion to stare down into the abyss of suicide.  Both compulsions have been with me for as long as I can remember.”  (page 23)

Despite a carefully outlined plan to avoid her mother’s fate, Linda finds that she has unwittingly stepped on the same path to suicide and also has become a confessional fiction author rather than confessional poet.  When Linda becomes a mother herself and realizes just how much she inherited from her mother in terms of mental illness, she becomes concerned and wonders how much she should tell her sons about the family legacy, while her husband wishes to shield them from “prophecies” that may or may not come true.

Half in Love is about the struggle with depression and suicide, but it also is about falling “half in love” with the idea of a famous poet and her legacy in spite of the rational reasons to distance oneself from that dangerous family legacy and live a “normal” life.   Readers will be absorbed in the author’s struggles and the struggles of her mother, but in spite of these struggles there is something to “love” about these women.  In a way larger parallels between a young Linda and the greater society can be drawn about falling in love with the darker sides of life that enabled her mother, Anne Sexton, to become one of the most famous poets of her time.  But this is not just Anne’s story, but a story of a family continuously torn apart, repaired, and fragmented — possibly irreparably.

***Reading this memoir prompted me to highlight one of Anne Sexton’s poems during the Virtual Poetry Circle last week.  Please feel free to join the continued discussion.***

About the Author:

Linda Gray Sexton was born in Newton, Massachusetts in 1953 and graduated from Harvard University in 1975. She is the daughter of the Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Anne Sexton, and has edited several books of her mother’s poetry and a book of her mother’s letters, as well as writing a memoir about her life with her mother, “Searching for Mercy Street: My Journey Back To My Mother, Anne Sexton.” “Rituals,” “Mirror Images,” “Points of Light,” and “Private Acts” are her four published and widely read novels. “Points of Light” was made into a Hallmark Hall of Fame Special for television.

Check out the other stops on The TLC Book Tour.

This is my 2nd book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Kaleidoscope: An Asian Journey of Colors by Sweta Srivastava Vikram

Kaleidoscope:  An Asian Journey of Colors by Sweta Srivastava Vikram, who also wrote Because All Is Not Lost (check out my review), is a departure from her previous collection that deals primarily with grief.  Kaleidoscope focuses on colors and their relationship to Hindu women from birth to death including how red is worn as a bride, etc.

In this slim chapbook, Vikram tackles larger philosophical and cultural issues attached to a variety of colors prevalent in Hindu society.  She sketches out poetic memories and weaves in colors that demonstrate the emotional journey or right of passage in the moment described.

From “Innocence Comes in Pink” (page 3)

I am six today, and my limbs feel all grown up.
My tonsils are ready to be evicted from their home.
. . .
The color of my soft lungs untainted
by worldly pleasures resonates
with the wardrobe of my best friend, Barbie
and the hope of my favorite animal, Babe the pig.

Many of these poems are very vivid and pull readers into the moment.  Each line, each color, and each description is tied to a deeper familial history or tradition.  Vikram provides an in-depth examination of Hindu culture in a way that is easy to grasp and exposes the similarities between all cultures.  Further into the collection, there is a bit of defiance in her words as the color beige takes over in old age and she fights to remain red, youthful.  Overall, Kaleidoscope:  An Asian Journey of Colors is an even stronger chapbook poetry collection that Because All Is Not Lost because it deals more than with just emotion and healing.  Sweta Srivastava Vikram is a gifted poet, who has a work of fiction due out this year which I’m looking forward to, and she clearly is eager to highlight the differences in culture and the similarities between cultures at the same time — a fine line that she walks well.

About the Author:

Sweta Srivastava Vikram is an author, poet, writer, and blogger. Born in India, Sweta spent her formative years between the steel city of Rourkela, the blue waters of North Africa, and the green hills of Mussoorie before arriving in bustling New York. Growing up between three continents, six cities, and five schools, what remained constant in Sweta’s life was her relationship with words.

Please check out her interview on Page Readers.  Also, if you missed an earlier Virtual Poetry Circle in which I featured a poem from this collection, you should join the discussion.

This is my 1st book for the South Asian Reading Challenge.

This is also my 1st book for the 2011 Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

The Cool Woman by John Aubrey Anderson

The Cool Woman by John Aubrey Anderson begins in 1970 when Lieutenant Bill Mann enters pilot training and begins to live his dream of becoming a fighter pilot.  Mann is a black man entering the military at a time when bigotry and ambition made a dangerous cocktail for his race.  He’s determined to make his mark and do his father proud, and in the process meets the love of his life, Pip.

“In the world of aviation, conventional wisdom says:  To keep an aircraft in the air, a pilot will always need at least one of three ingredients:  airspeed, altitude, or ideas. If any one or two of those ingredients is absent or in short supply, the pilot must have a proportionate abundance of whatever remains.” (page 3)

Throughout the novel, Anderson weaves in Mann’s background and hidden secrets, but he also unveils how the path to God and faith is wrought with many obstacles and trials.  Christian faith plays a large role in this novel, as it should given the combat situations and uncertainty in the lives of the families tied to Bill Mann and his friend Rusty Mattingly and every other combat pilot they encounter along the way.

The three ingredients necessary for aviation are like those necessary for faith, but readers will also note that these ingredients can be boiled down to one word — hope.  Hope is the main message of the novel despite the bullets and bigotry flying through its pages.  Anderson’s use of sparse language to tell his story makes the plight of Mann and his friends in the jungles of Vietnam immediate and harrowing at every turn, but it also helps illuminate the enduring camaraderie and bonds that were created between soldiers, nurses, administrators, and many others.

“Apparently, the sound told the gunners exactly where they were; the anti-aircraft fire intensified and became a steel curtain woven of angry red and white arcs.  Driver’s grip tested the stress tolerance of the handholds.  Within seconds the airplane was standing on its nose — the engine was threatening to come off the mounts; swarms of tracers flashed by on all sides, barely missing them.  Driver was as far down in his seat as he could get, mesmerized by one particular string of red balls that seemed frozen in space just outside the canopy.”  (page 107)

Overall, The Cool Woman is a captivating novel about Air Force pilots and the struggles they faced.  It also explores the racism in the military, the politics that gets things accomplished or screws things up, and the faith it takes to not only do what needs to be done, but get through the roughest patches.  Anderson’s cool woman is not the plane, but the inner self that must be crafted and nurtured in times of combat.

This is my 62nd book for this challenge.

This is my 14th book for this challenge.

The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates

The Nighttime Novelist by Joseph Bates is an excellent resource for aspiring novelists, especially those that have full time jobs and are writing in their spare time.  Housed in a hard bound, spiral notebook format, the book makes it easy to find the best advice for the crisis of the moment for beginnings, middles, or ends of novels with its outlined table of contents.  Most writers are fond of taking notes or using sticky papers to highlight gems of information . . . what’s even better is that we color-code that information to keep it all fresh.

Some of the ideas in the book are those writers have heard a number of times, such as keeping a small notebook handy at all times when dialogue is too juicy to pass up or someone’s style catches the eye.  Story ideas always come from experiences and what writers see in other art or in other books.  What’s unique about this reference book is that it counters advice given to many writers that they should write what they know or write about things that have never been done before.

National Novel Writing Month participants would be wise to check out this book, but even those not engaged in the month-long marathon, should take a look at Bates’ advice.  From creating the three-act structure complete with conflict and resolution to ensuring the larger structure is supported by a smaller structure of action and development, The Nighttime Novelist offers direct advice about plot and point of view choices, differences between POV and voice, settings and description, and much more.

Overall, Bates provides a comprehensive outline for writing a novel and offers a “coffee break” to help writers assess their progress throughout the novel.  While the book is written in a linear fashion from beginning to end, writers can plunge into any section of the book and obtain excellent advice.  There are additional online and other resources listed in the back of the book, and appendices with empty worksheets, which writers can copy to use multiple times for multiple novels.  The Nighttime Novelist is a great addition to any novelist or writer’s shelves.

About the Author:

Joseph Bates’ fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The South Carolina Review, Identity Theory, Lunch Hour Stories, The Cincinnati Review, Shenandoah, and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.  He holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature and fiction writing from the University of Cincinnati and teaches in the creative writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

For more information please visit www.nighttimenovelist.com and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter.

Also check out the excerpt from the book posted earlier in November.

***Thanks to Writer’s Digest Books, Joseph Bates, and FSB Associates for sending me a copy for review. ***

This is my 59th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Heidegger’s Glasses by Thaisa Frank

Thaisa Frank’s WWII novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, combines philosophy, mystery, war, and more, woven with crisp, no-nonsense dialogue and just enough detailed description to tantalize the reader to continue the journey.  The story centers on Operation Mail, Briefaktion, a Nazi program to entice Jews to volunteer for relocation by sending letters from their taken relatives.  The letters are actually written by a group of Scribes pulled from the lines of people being relocated, who have special language skills.  A special set of orders, possibly from Goebbels, are sent to the Compound for a philosopher to answer Heidigger‘s letter to his Jewish optometrist Asher Englehardt, who was sent to Auschwitz and is probably dead.

“Hans Ewigkeit had originally planned to line the mine with thick brick walls.  But even before losing Stalingrad, the Reich was pinched for money.  So instead of brick walls, the Compound had thin pine walls covered with a single layer of plaster.  Workers had added five coats of paint.  But the Compound was a flimsy shell:  Scribes put their hands on their ears when they wanted to think.  Mueller had worn earmuffs.”  (page 81)

Enter Elie Schacten, a woman with two lives and names.  She writes some of the letters, but most importantly has permission to be outside after curfew and uses that to her advantage to save those she can from the oppressive Nazi regime.  She is caught between her lies and the ambitious Stumpf who considers himself in charge of the Compound as well as her affection for Lodenstein, the leader of the Compound.  Will the orders to write a response to Hiedigger’s letter expose the Compound for its lackadaisical work and Elie’s operations to rescue Jews, or will the orders be another means of saving helpless souls?

“Light snow began to fall — swirls of white on grey.  The streets widened, narrowed, widened again, expanding and contracting, as though they were breathing.  Nothing felt quite real to Elie — not the sky, or the air, or a coffeehouse where customers drank from incongruously large cups of ersatz coffee.  People hurried by, surrounded by pale grey air — the only thing that seemed to hold them together.  Elie passed a muddy street with a chain-link fence followed by a row of prosperous houses.  The town was breaking up, and she felt she was breaking up with it.  It began to snow thickly, surrounding everyone in white.  We’re bound by veils, Elie thought, fragile accidents of cohesion.” (page 95)

Heidigger’s Glasses is more than a philosophical journey, it takes a look at how the ordinary can become extraordinary.  Each object can have a hidden meaning or take on the life of a memory that will have to serve as a lifeline in the most dire of moments.  Like Hiedigger’s glasses help the philosopher “fall out of the world,” each character must find that moment in time when they fall out of the reality they fear and into the reality that they create.  Frank has taken the time to weave a complex story during a tumultuous time in history, and her novel accomplishes that goal and more.  Her characterizations are unique and dynamic, and the plot is unraveled slowly by the reader who takes an unexpected journey to discover the mettle of even the most ordinary individual.

About the Author:

Photo by Chris Hardy; www.chrishardyphoto.com

Thaisa Frank has written three books of fiction, including A Brief History of Camouflage and Sleeping in Velvet (both with Black Sparrow Press, now acquired by David Godine). She has co-authored a work of nonfiction, Finding Your Writers Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction, which is used in MFA programs.  Her forthcoming novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, is coming out this fall with Counterpoint Press.  Foreign rights have already been sold to ten countries.

***Thanks to the author, TLC Book Tours, and Counterpoint for sending me a review copy. ***

Please check out the other stops on the tour.

Giveaway information:  1 Copy for 1 lucky reader in the U.S. or Canada

1.  Leave a comment about what historical period you love to read about most.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc., for a second entry and leave a link in the comments.

Deadline Dec. 3, 2010, 11:59PM EST.

This is my 57th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

2010 Green Books Campaign: Crazy Love by Pamela Uschuk

Created by Susan Newman

Welcome to the 2010 Green Books Campaign, sponsored by Eco-Libris!  The campaign is in its second year and aims to promote “green” books being published today. Last year for the first campaign, I read Saffron Dreams by Shaila Abdullah.

Crazy Love by Pamela Uschuk is just one of 200 books you’ll see reviewed or highlighted throughout the day on over 200 blogs.  Those books range from nonfiction and historical to poetry and fiction — and everything in between.  Crazy Love, a collection of poems, is printed with 50 percent recycled fiber.  The publisher, Wings Press, says, “Wings Press is committed to treating the planet itself as a partner.  Thus the press uses as much recycled material as possible, from the paper on which the books are printed to the boxes in which they are shipped.”

Pamela Uschuk uses melodious language in Crazy Love to drawn in her readers, sucking them into the depths of each poem and churning them in a tumbler.  The collection is broken down into four sections and each appears to deal with a different aspect of love whether it’s the passion of “Crazy Love” or the eternal connection of love in “Hit and Run.”

From “The Horseman of the Cross and Vulnerable Word:” (page 3)

I was young and fell in love
with your wounds, your tongue,
half-song, half-glands,
strong as the Calvinist hands
that whacked and fed your swampy youth.
I was young and drank vermouth
while you fell to your knees

Beautifully, Uschuk demonstrates human love through bird and nature imagery, but she also draws parallels between the destructive nature of grasshoppers on crops to that of humans on the overall environment.  There is a light and dark side to love and when love is too intense it can be destructive.

Feeling the Kitchen (page 25)

Talk about exfoliation.  This archaeology will
take weeks.  First comes the ripping, then
total destruction.
+++++++ Wrenching out
nails with screeching crow bars,
we pry huge sheets of cheap paneling
from the old walls to reveal
the smoky history of paint, and under
+++++++ that, a century of wallpapers shed
like snake skins embossing rough sandstone.

Who chose the bottom pattern tattooed
with blue and red flowers or the pink sky
spackled with gold stars, tiny and multitudinous as fleas?
Beneath everything, the harsh ash-smeared
plaster is the logic that holds.

Like an argument that spirals out of control,
my husband and I cannot stop tearing.
+++++++++++ The white celotex ceiling
we’ve despised for years must go, so
with our bare fingers, we yank it
crashing, with its load of coal soot, onto our heads.

When the ceiling lies at our feet, what is there
but more dingy ochre paint, stars
blurred dusty as the distant Pleiades, a silver filigree
some wife may have chosen to mimic moonlight
bathing her spinning head while she sweated
over meals and dishes, waddled with her pregnant belly
between woodstove and table, where
her silver miner sat to slurp her rich soup.

Day after day, I mount the rickety ladder
to avoid my computer, where I should compose
poems that shake their fists at stars or hold
the fevered heads of children in distant warring lands.

It is comforting this peeling back,
the scraper prying up paint chips
the size of communion wafers
while I balance on precarious steps abrading,
the motion repetitive as prayer.

Where all the sweet conformity of yellow
+++++++ once soothed our kitchen, strange maps
of foreign planets bloom, a diasphora of galaxies
blasted into the variegated watershed of hearts
we can never really know.

Perhaps, this simple work is poetry, to strip
chaotic layers revealing the buried patterns
of our stories, charting
love’s labyrinth, the way betrayal,
faith and fear spin us
in their webs, awful and light.

In this poem, Uschuk reminds us of the gems beneath the surface, like those that hover beneath the surface of words and phrases in stories and poems. The editing process fine tunes and refines the lines to reveal those underlying truths. Many of the poems read like folklore and myths from Native American stories. Overall, Crazy Love by Pamela Uschuk is a collection of poems that explores love and human connection and reminds us that we need to reconnect with nature and the planet, as well as one another.

About the Author:

Pamela Uschuk’s work has appeared in over 200 journals and antholgies worldwide, including Poetry, Parnassus Review, Ploughshares, Nimrod, Agni Review, Calyx, and others. Her work has been translated into nearly a dozen languages, including Spanish, Russian, Czech, Swedish, Albanian, and Korean.

Her Wings Press titles include Finding Peaches in the Desert (book and CD), (out of print), Scattered Risks and , which won the American Book Award (Sept. 2010).

Among her other awards are the Dorothy Daniels Writing Award from the National League of American PEN Women, the Struga International Poetry Prize, and the ASCENT, IRIS and King’s English prizes.

Uschuk also writes and publishes nonfiction articles and has been a regular contributor to journals such as PARABOLA and INSIDE/OUTSIDE. In 2005 she gave up her position as Director of the Salem College Center for Women Writers in North Carolina to become Editor In Chief of Cutthroat, A Journal of the Arts and to conduct poetry workshops at the University of Arizona Poetry Center. In 2006, Uschuk was a featured writer at the Prague Summer Writers Workshops, the Meacham Writers Conference and the Southwest Writers Institute. She makes her home in Tucson, Arizona, and outside of Bayfield, Colorado, with her husband, poet William Root.

To check out the rest of the Green Books, please visit the campaign Web site beginning at 1 p.m. EST. I’m a rebel, what can I say!

This is my 54th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

This is my 13th book for the Clover Bee & Reverie Poetry Challenge.

Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning

Bloodfever by Karen Marie Moning is the second book in the MacKayla Lane fantasy/paranormal series. Like book one, Darkfever (click for my review), Mac is still learning about her skills as a sidhe-seer and attempting to navigate the world she’s familiar with and the world of the Faery.

“If I’ve been guilty of anything, it’s having the blithely sunny disposition of someone who enjoyed a happy childhood, loving parents, and long summers of lazy-paddling ceiling fans and small-town drama in the Deep South which–while it’s great–it doesn’t do a thing to prepare you for life beyond that.”  (page 17)

She’s since discovered who murdered her sister, learned about her unknown heritage, and allied herself with an enigma Jericho Barrons, who oozes male sexuality and danger.  On the flip side, Mac remains cautiously intrigued by the Fae prince, V’Lane, who can bend reality to suit his needs and that of humans giving them what they desire most, but at a price.  Mac often wonders where the normalcy in her life has gone, but she attempts to make her life as normal by day as she could from cleaning the bookshelves to servicing customers.

“The Fae prince raised his brow but said nothing.

I raised a brow back.  He was Pan, Bacchus, and Lucifer, painted a thousand shades of to-die-for.  Literally.”  (page 38)

Mac and Jericho continue to search for the tools that will improve their chances against the Fae, while still searching for the darkest book, the Sinsar Dubh — a book that makes her feel dreadfully ill when it is near and pass out unconscious if it is near for too long.  Assassins and sinister Fae are at every turn, but Mac has discovered she is not as alone as she believed.

Bloodfever is a natural progression from the first book in the series, and readers will enjoy the fast-paced plot provided.  Moning is developing Mac in a slow and natural progression, allowing readers to uncover her hidden strengths as she discovers them and cheering her on when she asserts herself, even against the darkest Fae and criminals in Ireland and Wales.

About the Author:

Karen Marie Moning was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, one of four children. She graduated from Purdue University with a BA in Society and Law. After a decade of working with insurance litigation and arbitration, she quit her job to pursue her dream of a writing career. Four manuscripts and countless part-time jobs later, Beyond the Highland Mist was published by Bantam Dell and nominated for two prestigious RITA awards. Author of the beloved HIGHLANDER series and the thrilling new FEVER series, featuring MacKayla Lane, a sidhe seer. Her novels have appeared on The New York Times, USA Today, and Publisher’s Weekly bestsellers lists, and have received many industry awards, including the RITA.

Thanks to TLC Book Tours, Karen Marie Moning, and Random House for sending me a review copy of this book.

Please check out the rest of the Karen Marie Moning blog tour.

This is my 15th book for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.

Green Beauty Recipes by Julie Gabriel

Green Beauty Recipes by Julie Gabriel, with over 300 recipes, is an excellent reference guide for those seeking more eco-friendly ways of creating and wearing makeup, lotion, fragrances, deodorants, and more.  The introduction explains how these recipes are different and what types of alcohols and other materials to use in lieu of rubbing alcohol and other ingredients that are processed or contain artificial ingredients.

Another great find of the introduction is how to appropriately conduct a patch test to determine whether you are allergic to a particular compound or ingredient in each recipe.  For those with sensitive skin, this will come in handy, especially since many of the recipes include alternatives should they find themselves allergic to a particular material.  For those concerned about the shelf life of these products, not to worry because there are natural preservatives can be added to stave off bacteria, fungi, and other toxic elements that can render the products ineffective.

In the Handmade Beauty Basics chapter, Gabriel outlines what amount of space is necessary and what tools should be on hand to mix the minerals and other ingredients to make a variety of makeup and cleansing products.  Readers should be sure to ensure that their work space should be clean, using ethanol, and that tools are either stainless steel or medical glass, which needs to be cleaned before and after each use.  Most ingredients can be found in the grocery store, home cupboards, or drug stores; for those interested, many of these recipes are used to create products for Gabriel’s Petite Marie Organics line of cosmetics.

Since many readers will be trying these recipes for the first time, it is helpful that Gabriel included some FAQs to deal with common problems found when making these natural products.  From fixing moisturizers that are too runny to offering ten steps to finding and creating toners, Green Beauty Recipes offers a number of remedies, recipes, and advice.  Gabriel’s experience as a holistic nutritionist and mother dedicated to eco-friendly living shines through in this reference guide.  Readers can either jump in all at once or take on a few recipes to tackle their top beauty concerns.

***This book is published by a carbon-neutral, eco-conscious publisher, Petite Marie, and distributed by Ingram.***

About the Author:

Julie Gabriel is a holistic nutritionist educated at Canadian School of Natural Nutrition. A former magazine beauty editor, a television journalist, a weight loss coach, and a new mom, Julie Gabriel is a dedicated advocate of green living and holistic natural eating.

A Canadian living in Switzerland, Julie is a regular guest at Martha Stewart’s Living Radio and has been featured in USA Today, Washington Post, Toronto Star, Sun Sentinel, Natural Solutions, Body & Soul, and many other publications.

Dante’s Divine Comedy adapted by Seymour Chwast

Dante’s Divine Comedy by Seymour Chwast is a graphic novel adaptation of the classic, allegorical epic poem written in three parts:  Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradise.  Dante’s lines were written in Italian, the language of the people, rather than Latin as a way to protest the political influence of the church and the Pope.  Chwast has taken a great many liberties with the text and Dante’s poetic lines.  Although the poetic lines are not as lyrical, the text is easier to read for those who find language in the middle ages and poetry hard to understand.  Chwast’s Divine Comedy graphic adaptation would be an excellent introduction to this classic without causing new readers to shy away from poetry.

“We witness carnal sinners/Those lustful creatures/who committed sins of the flesh/who are tossed about carelessly in the dark/by the most furious winds.” (page 19)

Dante, the poet, is guided through the inferno, purgatory, and paradise by the poet Virgil and several female muses, including Dante’s real life love, Beatrice.  Chwast’s illustrations capture the essence of each canto, though the depictions of Virgil and Dante in what looks to be 1940s clothes is an unusual selection.  The characters almost look like they are from The Untouchables.

Chwast makes this classic accessible to many more readers, but for people that love the classic’s lines or the original Italian words, the book could read like Cliffs Notes.  However, the illustrations are very detailed and accurately depict the travels of Dante and Virgil.  Dante’s Divine Comedy by Seymour Chwast is a helpful introduction to a classic, epic poem from the middle ages, by a politically active poet.

***The book is printed on natural, recyclable paper from wood grown in well-managed forests.***

This is my 50th, and final, book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.

A Vampire Is Coming to Dinner! 10 Rules to Follow by Pamela Jane, Illustrated by Pedro Rodriguez

Pamela Jane‘s A Vampire Is Coming to Dinner! 10 Rules to Follow is a picture book for ages three to eight and is brightly illustrated by Pedro Rodriguez.

The images and text teeter between light and dark, balanced enough to engage young readers and keep them on their toes.  The pranks the young boy comes up with to keep the vampire guessing are hilarious and just something a young kid would come up with.

The only drawback for some younger readers is the design of the book in which the flaps would be hard for their uncoordinated hands to open without ripping.  The book has a final surprise for kids that will have them smiling.  A Vampire Is Coming to Dinner! 10 Rules to Follow is a hard bound children’s book with bright images, fun pranks, and rules that are familiar and new where vampires are concerned.  Kids will enjoy the book, and parents can have fun reading it with their children.

About the Author:

Pamela Jane is the author of twenty-six books for children, including Noelle of the Nutcracker illustrated by Jan Brett (Houghton Mifflin) which has been optioned for a film, and the “Winky Blue” and “Milo” series published by Mondo. Her new book, A Vampire is Coming to Dinner! 10 Rules to Follow, illustrated by Pedro Rodriquez, has just been released (Price Stern Sloan, a division of Penguin Books for Young Readers).

To check out the rest of the tour stops, click the link.

***Thanks to the author and TLC Book Tours for sending a review copy of this book.***

This is my 48th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.