Saturday, November 27, 2010

BBC Reading Meme

As I was catching up on my reading of blog posts, I came across this meme on A Library Is A Hospital for the Mind's blog.  I thought it would be interesting to see exactly how many books I've read on their list.

BBC READING MEME:Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here.

Instructions: Bold those books you've read in their entirety Italicize the ones you started but didn't finish or read an excerpt. Tag other book nerds. Tag me as well so I can see your responses!

1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling

5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

6. The Bible

7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott

12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14. Complete Works of Shakespeare

15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulks

18. The Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger

19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger

20. Middlemarch – George Eliot

21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell

22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis

34. Emma – Jane Austen

35. Persuasion – Jane Austen

36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Berniere

39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41. Animal Farm – George Orwell

42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown

43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery

47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

50. Atonement – Ian McEwan

51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52. Dune – Frank Herbert

53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen

55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon

60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck

62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens

72. Dracula – Bram Stoker

73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett

74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75. Ulysses – James Joyce

76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78. Germinal – Emile Zola

79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80. Possession – AS Byatt

81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White

88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom

89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94. Watership Down – Richard Adams

95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare

99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

I've completely read through 31 of the titles listed--although several are more than one title (Harry Potter, etc.).  I also find it interesting that the BBC decided that Hamlet is separate from Shakespeare's completed works, but maybe they couldn't come up with more works of "literature" to equal 100. 

There are many titles that I've never heard of and even more that I've started reading and decided not to finish for various reasons.  How many have you read from this list?  Leave a comment or link up with your own listing.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Perfect Blend by Trish Perry

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Perfect Blend

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2010)

***Special thanks to Karri James of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Trish Perry is an award-winning writer and editor of Ink and the Spirit, a quarterly newsletter of the Capital Christian Writers organization in the Washington DC area. She has published numerous short stories, essays, devotionals, and poetry in Christian and general market media, and she is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers group.

Visit the author's website.

Product Details:

List Price: $9.99
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736930159
ISBN-13: 978-0736930154


Steph Vandergrift was jilted in a truly beautiful place.

She focused on her surroundings so she wouldn’t break down and openly sob in front of people passing her on their way to work. Eyes blinking and chin quivering, she desperately sought distraction in the old stone buildings, lush spring greenery, and fragrant wisteria and lavender from the well-tended landscape nearby.

Rick told her she would love Middleburg, one of the most charming little towns in northern Virginia. When he proposed—

She breathed deeply against the urge to wail as if she were at an ancient European funeral.

When Rick proposed, he said she would even love his law firm’s stately, historic building. This was where she sat now, her dark bangs in her eyes. Despite the warm spring air, she huddled outside on the front steps, certain her brain—or surely her heart—would burst if she didn’t stop and collect herself.

A sudden leave of absence. That’s what the receptionist told her. Rick had taken a sudden leave of absence. And Steph knew she was whom he had suddenly left.

She swallowed hard. She stood and dusted off her short flared skirt in an attempt to look nonchalant while she sized up her situation. Where was she going to go? Where? She wiped away a tear, but another one swiftly took its place. She needed to not do this here, in the middle of this quaint old town.

God, what do I do now? Please tell me.

Distraction. She needed another distraction right now.

Across the street a middle-aged woman stepped out the front door of a small building, the white-painted stone of which was gorgeously weathered. She bent to lift a watering can, and her loose blond curls fell forward. She tended to the flower boxes that hung, moss-laden, from green-shuttered front windows. Then she seemed to sense someone watching her. She turned around and smiled at Steph before calling out to her.

“Good morning, dear. Are you all right over there?”

Steph took a few steps away from Rick’s building and tried to look purposeful. She managed to say, “Yes, I—” before her throat seized and then released a torrent of weeping and incoherent babbling.

So much for her stoic resolve.

Within seconds the woman was across the street and at Steph’s side. She smelled like vanilla and strawberries.

“You poor girl. Whatever is the matter?”

Steph tried to speak between heaving sobs. “…were s’posed to elope…left everything…job, family, friends…he’s not here…leave of absence…what…gonna do?” And then full-on wailing obliterated any further at-tempts at communication.

The woman enveloped Steph with her free arm, the other still holding the watering can, and steered her toward the little stone house across the street.

“You just come with me this instant. You mustn’t stand out here all alone like this.”

Yes. That was it. She was all alone. Rick had lured her away from everyone she loved. Everything she knew. She had left them all to marry him. It seemed like such a romantic notion, to elope after her parents had expressed their disapproval of Rick. And then what did the dirtbag do but desert her here?

The enticing smell of fresh-baked bread wafted all around them when they entered the little shop. Despite her anguish Steph sensed a rumble in her stomach. She thought she must be more beast than damsel to actually harbor hope for a pastry or two in the middle of this catastrophe.

“You have a seat right there.” The woman coaxed her into a wicker chair at one of the lace-covered tables in the dining area. “What you need is a nice, soothing cup of chamomile. Just give me a moment.” Before she went too far away, she stepped back to the table and placed a box of tissues within Steph’s reach.

Once Steph was alone again, reality descended. What was she going to do? Granted, she hadn’t walked out on a stellar career. She could get another job selling men’s suits in just about any department store, she supposed. But she didn’t know anyone here in Middleburg. Should she hang her head and drag herself back home to Baltimore? Why had she made such a scene before leaving? She hadn’t quietly sneaked away. No, she had to pull an all-out, in-your-face confrontation with her parents. A dramatic disconnect with her friends and roommates. And all of them had simply been trying to save her from exactly what just happened.

As she had always feared, her judgment was completely whacked. She had forgotten plans for any long-term career once she and Rick became serious. She thought she would spend the rest of her life married to an up-and-coming real estate attorney and raise their two perfect children and faithful dog in this adorable, classy town. Why had she believed that would happen simply because Rick said it would?

“Here we go, dear.”

It finally dawned on Steph that the woman had a faint accent. British? That would fit with this cute little shop, with its delicately flowered wall-paper and elegant china cabinets. The small, framed paintings hanging here and there looked like scenes of the British countryside.

The woman set a serving tray on the table and placed each item in front of Steph. A white porcelain china pot, painted with miniature violets, from which she poured tea into a delicate rose-covered cup and saucer. A plate with a couple of triangular biscuits on it. They smelled like butter and sweetness. And two dainty bowls: one holding strawberry preserves, and the other holding what looked like sour cream.

Steph realized she was able to stop crying as long as she stopped focusing on herself for a moment. She looked up and pressed a tissue against her nose. “Thank you so much. You didn’t have to—”

“No need for that. Go on, now.” The woman gestured at the food and tea and sat down across from Steph. Her gentle blue eyes reminded Steph of her mother during better times. “You’ll feel better if you have a bit to eat and some nice, relaxing tea.”

As soon as Steph lifted one of the biscuits, the woman said, “I’m Millicent Ashford Jewell. Everyone calls me Milly.”

“Steph.” She spoke around an absolutely delicious bite. She rubbed crumbs from her fingers and shook Milly’s hand. “Steph Vandergrift. Thank you for being so kind.”

Milly smiled and put a spoon of the cream on Steph’s plate for her. “Clotted cream. One of God’s great gifts, in my opinion. Marvelous on the scones.”

Clotted cream. Now that sounded downright nasty. But Steph was a self-admitted people pleaser, and she had never been one to ignore God’s great gifts. So she put a little of the cream on her next bite of scone. And then nearly moaned, it was so fantastic.

“But that’s just really thick whipped cream!”

Milly said, “I think you like it, right?”

“I love it.”

Milly stood. “I have a few matters to tend to in the kitchen. Feel free to walk back and get me if you need me. We don’t stand on ceremony around here.”

The shop door opened as Steph swallowed a sip of tea. She followed Milly’s delighted gaze toward the door and took another nibble of scone. Mmm. “Absolutely yummy.”

A crooked smile spread across the face of the young man who walked through the door. He looked directly at Steph and acted as if her comment were all about him. With a lift of his eyebrows and a tilt of the head, he said, “Well, thank you very much.”

Milly laughed and approached him. They hugged each other.

“Welcome back, stranger,” Milly said. “How was vacation?”

Steph didn’t pay much attention to their conversation after that. The man seemed to be in a hurry, which was fine by her. Otherwise she feared Milly might want to introduce them. She’d rather a man that attractive not look at her too closely right now.

Steph watched his warm brown eyes, which never seemed to lose their smile. She noticed he never once messed with his short, tousled blond hair or fussed with anything else about his looks. Yet, when he walked with Milly toward the kitchen, Steph saw how perfectly, yet casually, he was dressed and groomed.

Her heart was broken, thanks to Rick’s wimpy, childish retreat from her life. But Milly’s chamomile tea and warm scones made her feel a little better. And despite her circumstances and the many question marks in her immediate future, she was still able to appreciate a good-looking man. She leaned sideways to watch him at the kitchen door until he disappeared from view. He and Milly were out of earshot, so Steph surprised only herself when she whispered it again.

“Absolutely yummy.”

Dynamic Uno here: When I first heard about The Perfect Blend through the FIRST WildCard  email, I thought that I would enjoy it.  After all, having a romance set-up around a tea house is pretty exciting for this non-coffee drinker.  Meeting Steph at the front of her ex-fiancee's job site, bawling her eyes out over her non-marriage made me wonder if this was going to be a story where the main character mopes for most of the book and then meets "Mr. Wonderful" and they have a whirlwind romance, get married, and live happily ever after.  Thankfully, that was not the case. 

Yes, it is a romance. Yes, Steph mopes every now and again. (Wouldn't you if you had been left at the altar?)  But there's plenty of humor in this book--provided by Milly, Liz, Christie, and even Steph in certain situations.  (And I thought I was the only one who had bad timing and acted on impulse.)    I enjoyed the quirky characters and their spin on the happenings of Steph's life at that moment.  The "niceness" of the townspeople seemed a little far-fetched at first, but having lived in a small town, I must say that Trish  Perry pretty much nailed the stereotypes.  Needless to say, this is a cute chic-lit romance.

If you are interested in a quick, light-hearted read that focuses on how God works in unexpected ways and sometimes uses the people around you to help, then this is the book for you.  Aside from a few bouts of tears, I think I laughed and smiled all the way through the book.  The Perfect Blend leaves you with a warm, satisfied feeling after you read it, much like a warm mug of herbal tea and scones on a cool day.

Let me know what you think!  Happy Reading!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Happy NaNoWriMo!

Yes, today is the first day in November which means there are a great many people out there pounding the keys on their keyboards trying to maintain their word count quota for each day in hopes of writing a 50,000 word novel by the end of the month  I finally made it to my word count goal for the day, although I don't have much of a story at this point.  I'm more telling than showing, but I think eventually something will click and my story will sprout from there.  At least, that's what I'm hoping.  Did you make your word goal for the day?