Reading The Lightbearers by Nora M. Garcia

I finally started my autumn reading list!  I started with The Lightbearers by Nora M. Garcia.  I haven’t downloaded any audio books yet, but have started to read in spurts as per my commitment to get more reading time in.  Read about that here.

I will be interviewing Nora M. Garcia at Book Marks and that interview will be appearing in the near future.  In the meantime, I am about a fifth of the way through the book.

To be honest, this is the second self-published novel I have read.  The first was In Full Uniform by Anthony Carnovale, a friend of mine.  The novel is based on the true story of a 15 year old boy who was bullied, had many painful issues and committed suicide.  While the story was one that I basically lived, since the boy was a student  where I teach, I had a good reading experience because it was well written, plotted and paced.

I am easily seeing the differences between a self-published and traditionally published book as I read The Lightbearers. However, I am keeping an open mind and reading The Lightbearers anxiously waiting for that crescendo where I can say that’s why I stuck with this book!  It will happen. 

Have you read a self-published book that you ended up loving?

sign off bookmarks

What I’ve Learned From Reading Trashy Books

1.  I really love strong, female characters that speak their mind – fortunately, only one of the books I’ve been indulging in had a weak heroine that succumbed to her counterpart’s charms…well, I guess they all eventually do, but at least the strong ones show great wit as they match wills with their romantic interest.

2.  I’m so happy to have been born in the twentieth century.  The constant reminders that in medieval times women were a breath away from being raped, beaten and slain made me very grateful for the evolution of human rights. (And, sad that many women in other parts of the world still live with this fear on a daily basis).

3.  I now know what chausses (men’s pants), kirtles (women’s dresses), chemises (women’s underclothes) and tabards (vest-like sweaters…kind of like tunics) are.

4.  I don’t have to read every word of a book to “get it” – skimming through unneccesarily-descriptive parts to get to the good parts no longer induces discomfort or guilt.

5.  Too much trash is bad for you – as with food and bad television, bad books cause your brain to implode.  It was a great escape when I needed the break – and, now I know where to turn when life gets really stressful.  But, I am in need of a read that will offer me insights greater than how the touch of a man can cause a woman’s skin to quiver 🙂

What do you learn from your guilty pleasures?

bookmarks sign off

Reading Trashy Books and Loving It!

I have been very quiet lately.  Midterms.  Mommyhood.  Wifehood.  Oh yeah, and the few, fleeting moments that I steal for myself when I stubbornly sit and refuse to let anything else take away from my reading time.  This has been my life of late.  I try to catch up with blogs – but I mostly catch up via Twitter.  Sounds like everyone’s having a grand time – which warms my heart.

I have a confession to make.

I have drifted away from more “literary” reads (if you can call them that) and have started reading books that are more romance oriented, historical fiction romance to be exact.  You know the type – bold heroine, dashing hero, hot passionate sex and an adventure with lots of horse-back riding that inevitably leads to ever-lasting love in a grand castle of sorts.  Completely and utterly unbelievable.

I’m eating it up.  My brain is thanking me for the break from incessant thinking and analysis.

At first, I thought it a bit ironic considering my loathing of 50 Shades of Grey…but these books have strong characterization, strong (albeit, formulaic) plots and they have (what I think is) a good grounding in history (important for historical fiction).

Now, as I write this, I realize that these books aren’t trashy after all.  I think I would insult the legions of fans of this genre to call these books trashy.  They are pure fun and definitely help me unwind from long, stressful days.

Hmmm….change in direction for my blog?  Who knows?  In the meantime, I will keep reading and (hopefully) writing about my new-found interest in romantic historical fiction.

Do you ever find yourself reading (or doing) something completely out of character and find it totally refreshing?

A Rant on Fifty Shades of Grey


Anastasia Steele in E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey is in her early twenties and actually uses the phrase “…then I’m a monkey’s uncle.” Really???

I put this book on my summer reading list out of sheer curiosity.  I wish I hadn’t been so curious.  I knew it was going to be crap!  I knew it.  And, at 50 pages in, it is.

Friends whose reading tastes are similar to mine, or whose reading history I at least respect, all warned me…but did I listen?  Nooooo.  I had to see for myself.  Now I’m stuck with a shitty book that I will finish because that’s what I do – finish books I start (except for one, but whatever…everyone has at least one).

Anastasia Steele is the least believable character I’ve come across – her narrative voice is awful.  I would say that the book sounds like it’s being narrated by a teenager…but that would be insulting to teenagers.  Who in their early twenties talks like that?  As a girl in her early twenties she should be able to speak using modern cliches, not phrases that her great-grandmother would’ve used in her prime.

I hate that Anastasia is an English literature major and loves reading classics. Sure, that makes her a romantic – but it should also make her smart, and well spoken.  James should have made all cliche, slang, figures of speech off limits and made her sound intelligent without all the pitiful internal monologuing on how many times Grey looked at her.

Well, I put this book on my list…I started it and now I must finish it.

I cannot believe that this book is a “hit”, a “best-seller”…it is so frustrating that people who can write, who have wonderful ideas for great books cannot find publishers but this crap gets published.

Rant over.

The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton


Summary courtesy of Goodreads:

Cassandra is lost, alone and grieving. Her much loved grandmother, Nell, has just died and Cassandra, her life already shaken by a tragic accident ten years ago, feels like she has lost everything dear to her. But an unexpected and mysterious bequest from Nell turns Cassandra’s life upside down and ends up challenging everything she thought she knew about herself and her family. Inheriting a book of dark and intriguing fairytales written by Eliza Makepeace – the Victorian authoress who disappeared mysteriously in the early twentieth century – Cassandra takes her courage in both hands to follow in the footsteps of Nell on a quest to find out the truth about their history, their family and their past; little knowing that in the process, she will also discover a new life for herself.  A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. [… a] story of the past, secrets, family and memory from the international best-selling author Kate Morton. 

This book chips away at my summer reading list and I have to admit, although the story is not all that new – it reminds of  Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman a book I reviewed a while ago – it did keep me intrigued.  And, despite its length, I finished it rather quickly.

**few small spoilers throughout**

I feel like the summary does not provide enough detail about the scope and range of the book.  Although the summary focuses on Cassandra, I felt like the plot was more about the mystery Cassandra was solving – the origin of her grandmother.  We learn early in the novel that Nell, Cassandra’s grandmother, was found at the age of four in Australia.  She has no memory of being lost and was raised believing she was in the midst of her biological family.  At the age of 21, her father reveals the truth and this turns Nell’s world upside-down.  She essentially rejects all things and people that are familiar to her because she no longer feels a part of the world in which she grew up.  I found this really strange, I mean I can understand being angry and wishing to uncover the truth about her parents – but to reject her only source of support and love seems rather odd.

Nell only uncovers part of the story, it seemed that she was put on a ship to Australia from Cornwall, England – we find this out also fairly early on…and it is up to Cassandra to solve the mystery for us.  Why not Nell’s daughter, Leslie, you might wonder?  Because Leslie essentially severs all ties with Nell and Cassandra for a man.  Another strange action for a character to take and one that the author does not set up very well.  Might as well have Leslie die as far as I’m concerned because I find it rather baffling that after Nell was distant with Leslie for most of her life, Leslie would turn around and abandon Cassandra altogether.

But, this just covers the surface of the novel.  The other plot in this novel involves Cassandra’s ancestors.  So the novel moves through time.  It is 2005 for Cassandra, 1975 for Nell and 1908-1913 for the mysterious ancestors.

Morton does move seamlessly through the time periods and establishes a great cast of characters for each time period – but I found myself frustrated with each move.  At times I felt like Morton had attempted too much and many, many things were left unearthed or only touched upon briefly.  There were moments that I wished could be further explored, investigated and so I was left with questions.  Perhaps this is an effect that Morton wished to created – no matter how much we might discover about our past and our ancestor’s lives, we can’t ever truly know who they were and what they felt and experienced every day.  We can only piece clues together and fill in the rest with our imagination.  As a reader, however, I didn’t like it.

Although Cassandra’s story was touching, it was the story that least interested me partly because it’s almost cliche – woman must reconstruct old house and in the process meets fabulous man and reconstructs own life.  Seen it.  Read it. Let’s try something different this time, shall we?  Really, the only difference is that Cassandra is redoing the garden…the garden that holds all the secrets.

I almost wish each story had been told separately – perhaps in trilogy fashion.  Each time period, 2005, 1975 and 1908, is so rich in plot that it could be its own novel.

I will say this, Morton’s writing is strong.  It is clean, easy to follow and quite beautiful at times.  There are some wonderful fairy tales inserted throughout, written by the Authoress, Eliza Makepeace, that are fun to read.  The Forgotten Garden kept me entertained and it was fun to solve the mystery – which became quite evident early on (at least for me it did).  Sometimes this was good because it was neat to see the characters figure it out.  Most of the time it was annoying because I had to wait so long for them to figure it out.

I was left feeling very sad that I didn’t see Nell solving the mystery since it was so meaningful to her.  And, once I discovered Nell’s story, I felt really let down that Morton did not give me more insight into the relationship between her parents and the feelings of her mother…there were many moments that I felt the book was long for all the wrong reasons and the questions I had were not answered.  Despite these reactions, The Forgotten Garden is a good book, even though it wasn’t entirely satisfying.

Have you read any books lately that overall are good, but still left you feeling a bit let down?