Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Book Review: A Lady’s Code of Misconduct by Meredith Duran

Man, I needed this book. I love a good historical romance at the best of times, and this time of year, when Boston's weather vacillates between 70 and 17, when glancing at the news can lead to crushing depression, and my natural inclination is to just curl up and hibernate, Duran's newest historical romance was just the diversion I needed.

This is my first time reading Duran, but not the last, as I loved this book. Our romantic leads were wonderfully appealing and the could-have-been-schlocky-but-wasn't plot line exciting and escapist.

Jane can't access her inheritance until she's married, and her vile uncle plans to compromise her reputation so she must marry her cousin. Crispin is an ambitious, ruthless politician who works with Jane's uncle, and he helps extricate Jane from her uncle's trap -- but forces Jane to spy for him.

When Crispin is violently attacked and left for dead, Jane does what she needs to escape her uncle: she has a marriage certificate forged, saying she and Crispin married. It is, she tells herself, a lie that will impact no one but her, as Crispin is expected to die any day. She won't impose on his family, but will simply take her money and escape to America.

Except Crispin miraculously recovers.

The plot seems laughable when badly distilled by me, but I'm telling you, it works and I loved it. Jane is caught because of her lie, made all the worse because Crispin has amnesia, rendering him unable to recall the last five years. All he knows is that he has a guarded wife, a rather unsavory reputation, and a family that expects the worst of him. He tries to make sense of the life he wakes up to, and as the bureaucratic wheels slowly move to release Jane's money, she has to make the best of the marriage she invented.

This over-the-top plot works because Jane and Crispin are both flawed but appealing characters, and they behave normally under these extraordinary circumstances. They both wrestle with the morality/ethics of their behavior and choices, the possibility of redemption, and most delightfully, both get called out on their BS. They have the kind of conversations you wish people doing something dysfunctional would do, and it makes this improbably dramatic plot feel touching and tender. The romance between them unfolds realistically, with a minimal of protests, and I one hundred percent rooted for them as a couple. (The sex was believable, without cringe-worthy phrases or euphemisms, and no shame, hooray!) The secondary characters are charming and fill out the story, and the more outrageous plot elements are deliciously fun.

I inhaled this book in less than two days; it hit every right note for me. If winter (or current events) has you down, pick this book up.

First line: The first sensation was light.

Title: A Lady’s Code of Misconduct
Author: Meredith Duran

Genre: Fiction (Historical / Romance / Victorian / Mid-19th Century / Amnesia / Politics / Conspiracy)
Publisher/Publication Date: Pocket Books (2/28/2017)
Source: The publisher
Reading Challenges: Historical Fiction

*** *** ***


I'm thrilled to offer one set (Reckless Reward!) of three autographed copies in the Rules for the Reckless series: Fool Me Twice, Lady Be Good, and Luck Be A Lady. You can enter on all participating sites (listed below, with a *), but you can only win once. To celebrate the fifth in the series, there will be five Reckless Reward giveaways per day beginning publication day, Tuesday, February 28th – Friday, March 3rd. U.S. only.

To enter, fill out this brief form. Ends March 1.

Blog Tour


Sunday, February 26th

Nikbooklovers Blog

Monday, February 27th

Books for Her

Tuesday, February 28th

*The Romance Dish

*Canadian Book Addict

*Just Another New Blog

*Top 10 Romance Books

*Unabridged Chick

Buried Under Romance

Dear Author

Toot’s Book Reviews – Feature

Il Profumo delle Pergamene

Marvelous Things

My Book Addiction and More

Wednesday, March 1st

*Book Nerd

*Reviews by Crystal

*All About Romance

*Booktalk with Eileen

*We So Nerdy

Roses Are Blue

In the Hammock

Feeding My Addiction Book Reviews – Spotlight

Romance Book Reviews for You

Thursday, March 2nd

*I am, Indeed

*A Midlife Wife

*Literary Gossip

*Undeniably Book Nerdy

*Dew On The Kudzu

Books and Beauty Are My Bag

Ebook Obsessed

Abigail Books Addiction

Dirty Girl Romance - Spotlight

Bookhounds – Q&A

Friday, March 3rd

*Black ‘N Gold Girl’s Book Spot

*JoJo the Bookaholic

*Sportochick’s Musings

*The Reading Wench

*Got Fiction Book Blog

Cup of Tea and Book

The Reading Addict

Nicely Phrased

Ladeetda Reads

Silvatrend8553 Book Blog

Night Owl Reviews – Author Guest Post


Saturday, March 4th

Passionate Encounters

Sunday, March 5th

My Little Book Corner

Monday, March 6th

Reading Frenzy – Spotlight

Bookish - Giveaway

Foreign Circus Library

Poof Books

Tuesday, March 7th

I Love Romance

Bookworm2bookworm – Spotlight, Excerpt, and Review

Dirty and Thirty

Wild Wordy Women

Polished Bookworm

Sammi's Bookish Reality

Passionate Reads

Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh my!

Celtic Lady’s Reviews – Spotlight

Wednesday, March 8th

Moonlight Rendezvous

One More Chapter

Fresh Fiction - Spotlight

Thursday, March 9th

Happy Ever After Romance Book Reviews

The Book Junkie Reads

Three Boys and an Old Lady blog

Friday, March 10th

Smitten by Books

Celtic Guardian

Friday, February 10, 2017

Weekend reads, or digging out

I've got many books in the queue (Stolen Beauty, A Man Called Ove, Leopard At The Door) and they're all great, but I'm having such a hard time concentrating.

I have, in the words of someone I know, Trumpsomnia.

But I've been moved to tears over the response to Warren's unreasonable gagging, and have taken immense comfort in #NeverthelessShePersisted. (This gorgeous graphic is from Kimberly Faye Reads.)

We survived Winter Storm Niko, although I'm dreading digging out my car. Unabridged Toddler was scandalized that a construction vehicle was removing snow -- snow plows remove snow!

Hope all of you are doing well. What are you reading this weekend?

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Teaser Tuesday, February 7

Today's teaser comes from Laurie Lico Albanese's Stolen Beauty.

This delicious and fascinating novel tells the stories of Adele Bloch-Bauer, Klimt's muse and lover, and Adele's niece Maria, who is a young woman in Austria during Hitler's invasion.

It's the kind of novel that makes you want to stay in all day to read, and I'm looking forward to this weekend when I hope to finish it!

My teaser is actually the novel's opening line, because it is good.

I was a love-struck newlywed when Hitler came to Austria.

I know, right?? What are you reading right now? Got a teaser to share?

Friday, January 27, 2017

Weekend reads, or the first week of dystopian living...

I just have to say: the state of US politics right now has me in a pit of despair. I'm trying to so hard to turn down the outrage, anger, and hopelessness swirling through me (and my job requires me to pay attention to politics, so can't really ignore -- nor do I want to!) but I don't want to be complicit in what's happening by being unresponsive.

I'm grateful for Unabridged Toddler, who is my sunshine and joy each day. As a result, he's got me wrapped around his finger, and as you can see, on tap for this weekend is reading every book in that pile, more than once!

I'm also hoping to start Laurie Lico Albanese's Stolen Beauty, a historical novel about Klimt and Adele Bloch-Bauer and World War II. It's been a book I'd been soooo excited to read so can't wait to dive in.

What are you reading this weekend?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Book Review: Good Night, Baby Animals, You’ve Had a Busy Day by Karen B. Winnick and illustrated by Laura Watkins

Title: Good Night, Baby Animals, You’ve Had a Busy Day
Author: Karen B. Winnick
Illustrator: Laura Watkins

First line: When baby elephants are born, they don't know how to use their trunk. from 'Baby Elephant's Little Trunk'

Review: Unabridged Toddler and I were both completely charmed by this book, which is a collection of six stories about busy baby animals easing their way to sleep.

Featuring animals that all kids seem to be familiar with (even if they've never seen them in real life!), these sweet stories are beautifully illustrated with soft, warm depictions of animal parents and children.

I loved that the stories are gentle and positive without being cloying; there's a rhythm to the text but it doesn't have an irritating rhyme that will echo in your head hours later.

Each story has a different plot -- tigers exploring, an elephant learning to use its trunk, a newborn giraffe trying to eat, an imaginative rhino, a wandering panda, and a playful gorilla -- which makes this a great book for the bedtime read rotation. There are elements in every story that appealed to my two-year-old, like the giraffe nursing, and I appreciated Winnick's and Watkins' understanding of what children find interesting!

Five of the six stories feature only mother and child, while the last story, 'Time to Play, Baby Gorilla', features a mother and father as well as extended "relatives". The concluding pages of the book feature animal facts, which should appeal to older readers (or anyone with trivia-obsessed toddlers, like me!).

You can view sample pages at the publisher's website (and do -- the art is so gorgeous!). At 64-pages, this is a great volume to buy for yourself or gift to parents, and I'm so appreciative we've got this one in our rotation.

Genre: Fiction (Children's / Picture / Animals / Mothers and Babies)
Publisher/Publication Date: Henry Holt and Co. (1/24/17)
Source: The publisher

Monday, January 23, 2017

Top 10 Reads of 2016

2016 was been a year.

But the last two months of 2016 have really overshadowed the earlier chunk of the year, so I feel a kind of melancholy at the moment. But this has been a more exciting reading year for me than the last few years as I've done more "free range reading".

My greatest blogging disappointment has been my lack of reviews. I can't believe that I ended up leaving my favorites un-reviewed, when they're the books that I want to squee about.

I never did a top ten for 2015 (I'm in awe of the bloggers with kids who keep up with the work!), so I can't compare my reading to that, but this year I read about 37 books (and, it appears, I've "read" nothing in December, yikes!). (Not included in this list are the massive number of children's books I've read to Unabridged Toddler; I'll do a top ten of them later on, as some of them are marvelous.)

These ten still stick with me, and have been among my most recommended this past year. All are written by women. Seven were historicals, two contemporary, and one futuristic-ish (maybe?). Three (I believe) were written by women of color.

Lyndsay Faye, Jane Steele 

Badass Victorian who loves Jane Eyre but is, herself, far less pious. (I'm not a Jane Eyre fan, what can I say!)

This JE retelling is dramatic, sensational, and wonderfully imaginative, with our heroine Jane Steele being among my top 10 fav heroines ever. In addition to being a fun send up of JE, Faye adds a dash of Sikh history to the mix, which provided hours of rabbit hole researching.

Eva Flynn, The Renegade Queen 

Historical novel detailing Victoria Woodhull: badass mid-19th century American woman, born of hucksters, who decides to run for president. Married off as a teen, lovers with a Civil War hero, she goes nose-to-nose with Susan B. Anthony. Loved learning about her (especially during Hillary Clinton's campaign) and found Anthony's racism eye-opening (especially considering how white women decided to vote this year). I believe this is the first in a duology or trilogy, and I'm so there.
Heidi Heilig, The Girl from Everywhere

Nix has the ability to travel through time, if she's given a map of the place. Twist: the map has to be from the year she's to travel to as well. Her mother is from the 19th century, her father from the 20th; he's consumed with returning to Hawaii before her mother dies, and Nix helps him, unsure if this might wipe her out of existence in the end. There's this tantalizing fun world-building, and incredibly rich, complicated emotional landscapes, too. Whirl in some fascinating Hawaiian history, and I was glued to the pages.

N.K. Jemisin, The Fifth Season

My love for this book (and series) really can only be described by enthusiastic arm waving. But I'll try to explain. This world is geologically unstable with "fifth seasons" -- cataclysmic geological disasters -- dotting their history. The novel follows three women who can impact geology, all at different parts in their schooling/mastery of this skill, and their talent is hated, feared, and regulated. Part of this novel is written in 2nd person present tense, which I should have hated but loved, and every character was fascinating, intriguing, and vibrant. My tip: read the glossary at the end to internalize some of the world-building, then dive in and be mesmerized. Dy-ing for the final book in the trilogy, due out in late 2017.

Mary Robinette Kowal, Ghost Talkers

Mediums who debrief the dead during World War I. I mean, what is not to love? The story was fascinating and heartbreaking, and I really wish it was double the length because I was not ready to leave. World-building was rich but not complicated, and the characters immediately appealing. J'adored.

Catherine Lowell, The Madwoman Upstairs

My affection for this book grows as time goes on; I'm even contemplating a reread because I'm actually in the mood for more of our heroine's quirky charm. The last living descendant of the Brontes, Samantha, ends up at Oxford, studying literature. She's the focus of intense attention from many but her aloof-yet-dreamy tutor refuses to take on the Brontes. At moments, I wanted to shake Samantha, but ultimately, I was hooked by the occasionally over-the-top plot, hint of romance, and awkward, bookish Samantha.

Patricia Park, Re Jane 

Gorgeous, gutting sort-of Jane Eyre retelling, only so much more. I actually hated the Jane Eyre-ish bits and got hung up on trying to ascertain who was Bertha and whatnot. But when I stopped focusing on that, and immersing myself in Jane's story, I was captivated. Jane is a biracial orphan in Flushing, Queens, hungering for love and belonging. She becomes a nanny and finds something like love, and much like Jane Eyre, Jane Re flees. The book's setting provides a fascinating "twist" to the tale that I loved; Jane ends up visiting her relatives in South Korea and is a far more admired woman there. In the end, it's a novel about a young woman coming to love herself and trust her place in the world. It's just been optioned for tv, I think, and it will make for fabulous watching.

Cherie Priest, Maplecroft
Imagine a world where Lizzie Borden wasn't just a mad murderer, but a young woman who killed her parents in an attempt to stave off a far greater evil. And now, that evil -- a wet Lovecraftian evil -- has returned, and she and her infirm sister are the only ones capable of stopping it. If you're not already intrigued, I don't know what to say! I was immediately captivated by this novel, and it was just the escapist read I needed in the weeks leading up to the election. It's more than just an homage to classic horror, as Priest depicts a rather complicated relationship between Lizzie and her sister.
Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

I'd long wanted to read this "prequel" to Jane Eyre and was not disappointed. In fact, this kicked of my unofficial 'Year of Eyre' in 2016, and set a rather high bar for everything that followed. This edition included an introduction by Edwidge Danticat, which read as a kind of love letter for both books. I'm planning to reread Jane Eyre this year, and I hope to rearead this one immediately after. Undoubtedly, it will get more rich with each read.

Imogen Robertson, The Paris Winter 

Audiobook "read" so good that I couldn't stop listening, which is saying a lot, as I'm not an audiobook fan. I grabbed this one on a whim -- basically, it was available on OverDrive when I had a day of chores ahead of me -- and I was digging the setting -- late 19th century Paris --with expat women learning to paint. Our heroine, impoverished, is set up to be a companion to a rich Parisian woman with an opium problem, and then BAM! the story takes this crazy, unexpected turn that made it a serious page turner. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Weekend reads, or, starting the #24in48 Readathon...

I'm a terrible failure at readathons, but I still love 'em, and today, I seriously need something to distract me.

So I'm attempting the 24in48 Readathon, in which one tries to read for 24 hours within a 48 hour period.

Unsure which read I'm going to focus on: short stories (Lovecraft, Gay) or novels (Smith, McVeigh). I'm wicked sleepy, so I'm thinking it'll be short fiction, with a longer dip tomorrow when/if I get some sleep. (Have been really anxious this last week and sleep hasn't come easily!)

If you're readathon-ing this weekend, good luck -- what are you reading?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Teaser Tuesday, January 18

My Teaser Tuesday this week is from Ottessa Moshfegh's Eileen, a short but dark novel set in 1960s Boston.

It's narrated by the titular Eileen, a weird young woman who works for a boy's penitentiary, who wants to both escape her life and remain mired in its petty misery.

(I'm both delighted and depressed while reading it!)

Today's teaser from about halfway, on having a social outing with a new co-worker, the gorgeous and confident Rebecca.
I stared disbelievingly into Rebecca's serene, wistful face, her eyes closed, her hands on my shoulders like an angel and a devil debating the logic of longing. (p150)

Share your teasers with me!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Weekend reads, or, a very long weekend

So, I'm feeling like my kick off to 2017 (blog-wise) hasn't been the worst. I've finished one book, and did some blog posts, and I've got one review in the works. Small steps, right?

I took today off from work to give myself an especially long weekend, as we're off this Mon in the US. To my surprise, my in-laws took the toddler for the day, so I'm totally on my own! Obviously, there's only one thing to do: READ.

My weekend read is Zadie Smith's Swing Time. What are you reading this weekend?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Winter 2017 Bloggiesta To Do Post

I love Bloggiesta for reminding me to brush up and take of my blog, and doing it "in community", so to speak, makes this housework a little more fun.

Given my earlier whining about feeling out-of-it with my blog, I'm really excited there's a mini-event this coming weekend in which I can do some backend work here.

My to do list is pretty simple:
  • make a top 10 of 2016 post (even if it is just a list!)
  • review the book I just finished!
I'd like to start 2017 without a backlog of reviews, so it feels important I keep up. We'll see if I'll tackle my 2016 backlog. (Perhaps for another Bloggiesta!)