casting on

Wishes and Stitches by Rachael Herron
I am not a knitter, nor have I ever read a book about knitters, so I was more than a little surprised when I started to read Wishes and Stitches and found that it defied all my expectations regarding what a book about knitters might be about… if that makes sense.

Preconceived notion #1: a book about knitters will center around some sort of mother-figure.

Notion totally blown out of the water.

Preconceived notion #2: the characters will be cozy types, hanging out in little shops and scheming.

Couldn’t be more wrong.

Preconceived notion #3: it will probably involve some sort of family reunion.

I was right on this one, but not in the manner that I expected.

I was completely wrong with my book cover judgements and happy to admit it. This book was a fun, sexy read. A completely unexpected romance that kept me reading through the night during my winter break and made me want to read more of the Cypress Hollow books.

The novel centers on the socially awkward Naomi, a doctor and closet knitter who moved to small-town Cypress Hollow, a haven for knitters of all ages. Eager though she is to fit in, shy Naomi has a hard time finding her place within the close-knit community (no pun intended). Unsure how to react when presented with a friendly greeting or an invitation to join Cypress Hollow’s knitting circle, Naomi comes off as standoffish and unsociable. But all that changes when she finds herself working with Rig, the hot doctor (and one night stand) who joins her practice. Soon, Naomi’s carefully planned life becomes nothing but a memory as family and friends start to shake things up and her relationship with Rig becomes something more.

Naomi is incredibly awkward, despite her intense focus on goals and life plans, so there were moments when I just wanted to shake her.However, this is a story about coming into one’s own and finding where one belongs. Part of the challenge is learning to let things go and Naomi learns to do just that, coming to accept change as it happens and taking things in stride. Rig is a perfect complement, the sort of romantic hero who helps the heroine find her own happiness even as he struggles to find a way to fit into her plans. It’s the sort of sappy love story that just works. It’s sweet and comfortable and hot all at once. A perfect read for a lazy weekend.

I received my copy of Wishes and Stitches from HarperCollins.

lost and found

Reading a good piece of women’s fiction is like making a great new friend. Suddenly, you get to share all those little intimate details that make lives unique. Well-written, engaging chick lit always makes me feel like that–as if I just had a reunion with an old friend and managed to catch up on all the moments I missed. Marisa de los Santos’ Falling Together stirs up that kind of emotion, drawing the reader into the lives of three awkward, flawed individuals who made the mistake of drifting apart.

Pen, Will, and Cat meet under the most dramatic of circumstances–while Cat was having a seizure. They can’t help but fall in together after such a meeting. The closest of friends throughout college, these three share an intensity that is nearly impossible to overcome, and so they decide to go their separate ways with the memory of this passion intact and spare themselves the disappointment of growing up and growing apart.

Years later, they are once again drawn together when one of their number is in need, but they soon find that they are all in need of each other and that their impulsive decision to lead entirely separate lives cannot go on forever.

Though not one of my usual chick lit type reads, I found myself enjoying Falling Together. I had never read one of Marisa de los Santos’ books, so it was a new experience and one that I might like to repeat. That’s not to say that it was a perfect read. I found some elements a bit far-fetched… like taking off to another country at the drop of a hat to save someone who may or may not need saving, but that’s why it’s fiction. It’s a bit escapist, but sweet and refreshing after reading too many “serious” books. It’s a perfect read for a lazy weekend or after a long day at work and sure to appeal to a wide readership.

I received my copy of Falling Together from HarperCollins.

Last post of 2010

Goddess of the Rose by PC Cast

Mikado “Mikki” Empousai has always had a special affinity with roses, as did her mother and grandmother. When she starts to have tantalizing dreams about a mystery lover, she starts to wonder if it’s the result of loneliness and an overactive imagination, or something more.  It doesn’t help that her dream man bears a striking resemblance to the mythical beast statue that guards the local rose garden. Little does Mikki realize that it’s a sign of a change to come, an awakening that brings her close to her true destiny and challenges her concept of dreams and reality.

I picked this book up on a whim at the used paperback store by my old job. The cover was a bit more sensual than the kind of covers that usually pique my interest, but I was intrigued when I read the blurb and realized that it was a Beauty and the Beast retelling.

I have mixed feeling about the novel itself… I found the concept original. The plot draws on Greek mythology and casts the Beast as the misunderstood Minotaur who guards Hecate’s Realm of the Rose, the place where the mundane world’s dreams are made. Mikki is portrayed as a strong, determined woman willing to chase her dreams, while the Beast is presented as a creature who is well aware of his position as a man-beast. The magickal elements also seemed a natural part of the world created by Cast. However, I had some trouble with the prose. I’m very particular about my idea of romance, dialog, and description when it comes to sex in literature, and the language just fell short in my opinion.

The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina

The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina by M. Padilla

I’ve been making an effort to broaden my reading horizons. When I took the multicultural lit course this summer, I realized that my reading has a very Anglo bias. Other than works by some Asian-American writers–Gail Tsukiyama, Lisa See, for instance–most of my reading tends to be white. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is my penchant for British literature. So I’ve been making a concerted effort to read across cultures. Oddly enough, I find that I read a lot of multicultural books when I was a kid, from slave and Native American narratives to Jewish-American fiction and more, I don’t know how much of this was due in part to the curriculum when I was in grade school, and how much resulted from constant desire to know more about other people, places, and times as I was growing up.

That’s kind of a long wind-up, but it goes to show that I’ve somehow become more limited in my reading choices as an adult.  When I saw The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina listed on the LibraryThing Members giveaway a few months ago, I clicked to enter the giveaway and was really excited when it arrived. I was already reading Latina lit for my class and this seemed like a great chance to try something new. Another explanation… yeah, yeah, I’ll get to the review in a moment :-D … If the Z at the end of my last name isn’t a dead giveaway, my being from South Florida might be a sure indicator that I’m Hispanic. I’m Cuban-American to be precise. I won’t go into a thesis on why I use the term Hispanic rather than Latina when referring to my ethnicity, but I will say that my being a Cuban-American from Miami definitely affects my reading of Latina/o literature, especially Chicano/Mexican-American Cali lit. It’s a very different cultural experience, even the Spanish slang differs. There is a lot of cultural discovery when I read Latina lit, including realizations about my own experiences as a 2nd gen. Hispanic girl.

At first, I did not think I would connect with Padilla’s Girls. Julia seemed a little too self-deprecating for me, and Ime and Concepcion too superficial. Nina and Marta were interesting, but they seemed like minor characters by comparison. I was wrong. I soon became absorbed in the plot and started to connect with Julia and her desire to prove herself as an independent career woman in a society that had little regard for girls from the barrio. I grew up watching novelas with my mom and granma, as do most girls in Miami. Novelas are the Hispanic woman’s primetime entertainment–long, soap series generally involving some sort of love story between treacherous wealthy people. Sometimes there is a Cinderella-story plot featuring a poor woman or man from a village or small town falling in love with some rich person. There is always a rich person, or someone always comes into money and love. You need both, after all for a happy ending. This novel was almost like a novela–the kind of novela I wish were being broadcast, instead of the impossible fantasy stories. Girls has all the challenges, romance, and drama of a Spanish soap, but it’s also a story about finding one’s self and realizing that you can become the person you want to be and still hold on to who you are at heart. It’s an empowering tale. There is no perfect, tie-a-ribbon-around-it happy ending, but it is all the better for its honesty.

Getting off the soap-box… this was a fun, chick lit read that really surprised me–especially when I realized Padilla is a man.

a bit of fluff

Watched the “City of Ember” movie last night and though it has been a very long time since I read the book, I cannot say that I recall there being giant mutant moles in the pipeworks. But I may be wrong about that. Were there really mutant creatures in the book?

Otherwise, the movie was excellent. Much more fast-paced than the book, but it still managed to remain true to the story.

Work has been slow lately, so I’ve managed to read two books while waiting around for no-show appointments: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Lauren Willig’s The Secret History of the Pink Carnation.

The Graveyard Book was a wonderful read. Bod’s graveyard family is charming and not the least bit macabre, and Bod’s transition to young adulthood makes for an unexpectedly touching story. And yes, I cried as I read the last chapter.

The Secret History of the Pink Carnation really was just a bit of fluff. I had it in the “to read” pile for ages, so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s a sort of romantic comedy with a historical twist, so it has its funny moments, but not enough to inspire me to read the sequels (There are about four others?). Cute and silly, but enjoyable as a quick read.