Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bloggiesta update - Saturday night

Bloggiesta Update #1

I. Reviews

A. Reviews to prepare and post:

The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos
Good Things by Mia King
Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows

B. Create template posts for future reads for the ARCs I've received, blog tours I've signed up for, and the ARCs am waiting for:

I HATE PEOPLE by Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon
The Richest Man In Town by W. Randall Jones
My Forbidden Desire by Carolyn Jewel
Loving Rabbi Thalia Kleinman: Sex and Romance in God's House by Gary Morgenstein
One Scream Away by Kate Brady
The Phoenix: Firestorm by Joseph Allen
Hunter by Campbell Jefferys
My Cousin Caroline: The Pemberley Chronicles by Rebecca Ann Collins
Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley by Sharon Lathan
Shimmer by Eric Barnes
The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage by Ellen Graf

II. Miscellaneous To Do Items:

A. Clean up my blog tags, archives, blog reviewed list - pending

B. Improve my blog template - can I come up with an interesting photo or eye catching art work, clean up sidebars and remove outdated contests, add a favicon and gravatar, look up and into installing plugins. - pending

C. Update my challenges.

D. Come up with a better system for keeping track of ARCs requested, ARCs received, reviews to be posted.

E. Prepare and catch up on correspondence.

F. Prepare for first two author interviews. Very excited to meet with Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler, authors of the samurai mysteries with Seikei and Judge Ooka on Wednesday. Arrange interview with Gary Morgenstein, author of Jesse's Girl.

G. See if there are other housekeeping items to add to the list.

III. Bloggiesta Mini Challenges

A. Challenges completed:

Jill at Fizzy Thoughts - visited 12 new blogs and a few ones that I visit often.

Emily from Emily's Reading Room - set up google alerts. I suspect that my alerts were too broad and I'll end up narrowing them in the next few days, but it's good to cast a wide net to start!

Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin'? - set up my gravatar but had some trouble with the site for my favicon. Will go back to do that, possibly after the challenge. This was something I wouldn't have known about at all - very helpful!

Michelle from Galleysmith - learned and have revised my use of links. Hopefully, reflected in this post. I'll have to go through my old posts and fix them up in the next day or so. Might have to extend beyond the Bloggiesta.

Chronicle of an Infant Biblophile - I'd listed my blog in a few of the directories, but have approached BBAW, Fyrefly's Book Blogs Search Engine, Globe of Blogs to ask to be listed. I'm preparing a spiel and getting ready to sign up for other blogging directories. Haven't opted for those that require a paid subscription yet.

Bookish Ruth - I ran the Website Grader, but the report was a bit dismal. I'll have to change quite a number of items. Some of the fixes seem quite technical and intimidating. Like figuring out how to have searches include my url with and without the "www", to create more links, to reduce the images or the size of images so that my blog pages load faster. There are quite a lot more...Though I've been able to add metadescriptions. I have improved my Website Grader report, though there's much to work on still. It's good to know my baseline though (reminds me of having to get on the scale at the start of a diet and exercise program - painful but good to do!)

B. Challenges Started

The Book Lady's Blog - tidy up my feedreader. Started but having trouble installing the plug in to Firefox. Will have to work on this.

Beth Fish Reads - to prepare a list post

Books, Movies and Chinese Food - to prepare an elevator speech. I really want to do this. It's pretty intimidating but I know it's important.

Devourer of Books - update a key page or post. Have to comb through my review policy, descriptions, "about me" section. I'm having my first giveaways and need to make sure that those descriptions and the corresponding reviews are in good order. - DONE

My Friend Amy - look into approaching other bloggers to become buddies. This might extend to past bloggiesta, but to at least keep an eye out and also be more outgoing (less shy) this weekend.

Book Blather - to read and try some of the blogging tips and tutorials. - DONE

As of 1:20 am on Sunday, I've spent 10.5 hours.

Groundswell at The New Group

Groundswell at The New Group until June 27

Synopsis courtesy of The New Group:
On the barren, diamond-diving coast of South Africa, Johan and Thami, an ex-cop and a gardener from starkly contrasting backgrounds, maintain a beachfront guest lodge during the off-season while looking for a way out. When Smith, a retired businessman, shows up one foggy night, the two men think they've found an ideal investor for their scheme to buy into a government-run diamond concession. Soon, these rootless men find themselves in a power struggle fueled by greed, desperation and entitlement. GROUNDSWELL is a psychological thriller about hunger and hope and the glittering promises of a transforming society.


We felt fortunate to have stumbled across the production of Groundswell at the New Group. We hadn't known what to expect. The play opens with Thami writing to his family when Johan enters sopping wet and loud. As Johan convinces Thami that they should approach the guest, Smith, for capital to enable them to invest in a government-run diamond concession, I had the first twinges of unease.

The performances at dinner and as each character relayed their past and point of view that I had a sense of the power of the language and the acting. As Smith stated that he owed no one compensation for the life that he'd lived, an older viewer in the second row quite loudly exclaimed, "Bravo!" The rest of the audience would have let him off, but he would punctuate Smith's statements with further grunts and noises of assent. It's a very small theater, the man was eventually shushed. In time to allow each of the other characters a chance to say their piece.

Groundswell is an excellent show and well worth seeing. It's among my new favorites.

To learn more about The New Group (410 W. 42nd St, between 9th and 10th Avenues) and this production, click here or visit

To read the NY Times review of Groundswell, click here or visit

For information on tickets and directions, click here.
Performance Schedule for GROUNDSWELL
Mondays, Wednesdays - Fridays @ 8PM, Tuesdays @ 7PM, Saturdays @ 2PM & 8PM

Ticket Central (212.279.4200)


I'm signing up for this Bloggiesta, as created by Natasha @ Maw Books Blog.  I started quite late but it sounds like a fun and helpful event. If you'd like to learn more and sign up, click here or visit
A fuller explanation of the rules can be found at Maw Books Blog - click here.
  • The Bloggiesta will focus on blog content, improving/cleaning up your blog or working on your social network profiles.  They're pretty open on what you can do during the bloggiesta but reading actually won’t count!   The point is to catch up instead of adding another book to the “to be reviewed” pile.
  • What qualifies for Bloggiesta - I've italicized those which tasks I plan to do:

    • Write book, movie, TV, product reviews.  Any reviews really.
    • Write backup posts for a rainy day.
    • Write that great post idea from three months back.
    • Work on series posts.
    • Write guest posts.
    • Put out invitations for guest posts.
    • Conduct and edit author interviews.
    • Create template posts for your future reads (ie: title, images, linking, tags, etc,) so you can open up, write review and post without being bogged down with technicalities
    • Clean up your tags, archives, books reviewed list, etc.
    • Improve your blog template, clean up sidebars, add a favicon, install those plugins that you’ve been meaning to do.
    • Add or edit your about me page, review policy, create landing pages (for example - an about me for Twitter readers page) or any other pages you might have.
    • Any bloggy type housekeeping that you’ve been neglecting.
    • Clean up and update your challenge lists.  Link up your posts with hosts.
    • Make sure all of your social network profiles are up to date.  Brand yourself through those profiles with color scheme, images, etc.
    • Go get a gravatar.
    • Visit the Blogging Tips group on the Book Blogs Ning and find ways to improve your blog.
    • Work on any specialized projects that you may have going.

    How to play (from Maw Books Blog):

    1. The date is Friday, June 19th beginning at 8am, Saturday the 20th and ending Sunday the 21st at 8am That is a total of 48 hours, of which you should aim high for a total of 18-24 hours spent on the challenge. The hours spent on the challenge do NOT need to be in a row. Use the entire 48 hour time frame and see what you can do with it. Whatever you can do is fine.
    2. It’s your call as to how much you want to put into it.  
    3. When you start the challenge, visit the “starting line” post at Maw Books Blog and link to your specific post about beginning the challenge which is posted on your blog. 
    4. How many updates (if any) you want to do is up to you.  
    5. If you are on Twitter, use the hashtag #bloggiesta to join the chatter.
    6. Your final summary post needs to be posted no later than noon on Sunday, June 21st. Return to the finish line and link to your specific summary post.  Your summary should include the number of hours spent on the challenge, what you accomplished and any other experiences you’d like to add.
    7. Sign the Mr. Linky at Maw Books Blog if you intend to join the challenge. 

    Who can play?

    • Anybody!   All are welcome!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Friday 56: Week 5

* Grab the book nearest you. Right now.
* Turn to page 56.
* Find the fifth sentence.
* Post that sentence (plus one or two others if you like) along with these instructions 
on your blog or (if you do not have your own blog) in the comments section of this blog.
Post a link along with your post back to this blog and to Storytime with Tonya and Friends here or at
* Don't dig for your favorite book, the coolest, the most intellectual. Use the CLOSEST.

Here's my entry:

"It'll just take five seconds." Deirdre may have been slightly inebriated, but she still believed in keeping a clean house.

-Good Things by Mia King

Book Review: Man Overboard - A Johnny Donohue Adventure by Sandy Mason

Review of Man Overboard - A Johnny Donohue Adventure by Sandy Mason


Tired of life as an IT professional in NYC, Johnny Donohue escapes to the simple life in a Florida marina. In between sailing, managing his marina software business, and socializing, Johnny finds himself in the role of amateur sleuth. This is the second in the Johnny Donohue Adventure series. This time, while sailing in from the Gulf of Mexico, Donohue discovers the empty boat of Tom McNeil, the owner of the local marina and Donohue's client.

McNeil's disappearance is a mystery. Too careful of a sailor to have just disappeared, clues emerge: money laundering, stolen boats, drug smuggling, jealous and grasping relations, an offshore bank account and a sighting at the safety deposit section of a local bank.

Johnny Donohue and ex-cop Lonnie Turner scour the waters, marinas, and bars for clues to McNeil's disappearance. Along the way Donohue falls in love with Maria deFlores, a local reporter with ambition of breaking an undercover story on drug smuggling in Florida.

McNeil's body eventually surfaces but Maria deFlores disappears under strange circumstances. Donohue and Turner must move quickly to solve the mystery and save the girl.

Johnny Donohue is an unlikely leading man, although he doesn't seem to realize it. Full of bravado and macho comments, he is likely to get a chuckle or two. I expect that he'd be particularly popular with readers who are much like the person that he portrays - fond of sailing, quick with snappy comments, and eager for adventure. I personally was not particularly drawn to Johnny Donohue.

I would recommend this book to people who enjoy detective and mystery novels set in unusual places, people fond of sailing, and also those who imagine leaving their corporate jobs for life on a boat. I'd rate the book at 2.75 out of 5.

Publisher: BookSurge Publishing (April 16, 2009), 218 pages.
Courtesy of Bostick Communications.

Thank you, Bostick and Sandy Mason for this opportunity!

If you'd like to read more about Man Overboard or Sandy Mason, click here or visit the author's website at

This counts towards the ARC Reading Challenge.

June is Rose Month at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden - Free Entrance on Saturday mornings and all day Tuesday

Just wanted to share some pictures from our visit last weekend.  If you're in the area, it's worth visiting the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.  Admission is free on Saturday mornings and all day Tuesdays.   To learn more about the hours and how to get the directions, click here or visit

Here is my favorite spot, the Japanese Garden. 

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Book Review: Broken Wing by Judith James

Broken Wing
Review of Broken Wing by Judith James


The book opens to Paris at the time of the French Revolution.  Sarah, Lady Monroe, and her half-brother Ross, have come to find and rescue their younger brother Jamie who had disappeared five years past.  Jamie had been in Maison de Joie, one of the better Parisian brothels.   Gabriel, who had been surprised at his impulses, had protected little Jamie for years and was happy to hear of his friend's good fortune and desolate at losing his only friend.  But Jamie refused to leave without his friend and protector Gabriel.   So, Gabriel finds himself on an estate in England,  companion and friend to Jamie and trying his best to keep from falling in love with the unconventional Sarah.

Sarah had been drawn to Gabriel from the moment that they'd met.  Not only was he beautiful but he had tried to protect her brother at no small cost to himself.   While he presents a cold and polished front, she sees his pain and draws out his love of life, music, and learning.   

When Sarah and Gabriel finally come together, Gabriel leaves to prove himself and make his fortune to be able to provide for Sarah.  He undertakes to join Davey as a privateer and finds himself in great danger.   Though he escapes drowning, Gabriel must escape from slavers, mercenaries, and pirates along the Barbary Coast.  Will he be able to find his way back to Sarah?  


I suspected that I'd enjoy this book, just based on its blurb.   But I hadn't expected it to be such a good read!  I was unable to stop reading.  I found both lead characters very sympathetic.  It was unusual to have the male lead constantly objectified.  While Lady Sarah is beautiful, she wasn't the focus of the descriptions of beauty.  I enjoyed this twist - it was one of many unexpected aspects of the book.  

The plot was chockfull of action from the first page.  Pirates,  Napoleon, privateers, slavers, possible duels - they all fit into the plot naturally and make for a fun and heartwrenching read.  

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical romances, pirate stories, and action filled love stories.  

Format and cover: Eye catching while it reflects the tone and content of the book. 
Rating 4.75 out of 5
Publisher: Medallion Press (November 1, 2008), 440 pages.
Courtesy of Bostick Communications. 

Thank you, Bostick Communications and Judith James for this opportunity!

To learn more about Broken Wing or Judith James or read an excerpt of the book,  visit her website here or at

Book Giveaway: How To Score by Robin Wells

Thanks to Anna at Hatchette Books, we're giving away 5 copies of How To Score by Robin Wells.  Thank you, Anna and Hatchette Books!

Here's a short description of How To Score, courtesy of the author's website:


Museum curator Sammi Matthews isn't just in a dating slump, she's putting men on the injured list. After giving one date a black eye and cracking another's rib, Sammi decides she needs professional help. Enter life coach Luke Jones, who advises Sammi on how to overcome her klutziness. And their phone sessions work! Sammi soon meets a sexy FBI agent who seems to know just what she needs. 


When his brother Luke goes into federal protection, FBI Special Agent Chase Jones agrees to cover for him. Then Sammi's hot voice sizzles down the line, and the usual "phone only" rule is out. With "Luke" coaching her by day, and Chase dating her by night, Sammi's confidence soars, along with her appeal. Chase falls hard, but how will Sammi feel if and when he comes clean? Chase would rather she break all his bones than risk breaking her heart. 


About the Author
Before becoming a full-time writer, Robin Wells was an advertising and public-relations executive. Robin has won the RWA Golden Heart Award, two National Readers' Choice Awards, the Holt Medallion, and CRW's Award of Excellence. 

Robin currently lives just outside of New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband and two daughters. 

For more information please visit

Here's an excerpt from How To Score, courtesy of the Author's website:

Chapter One

“…I only stayed out until nine, but Mother was in a tizzy when I got home. She said she’d carried me for nine months and suffered through sixteen hours of labor, and I was a terrible son because I didn’t want to stay home and keep her company.”

Chase Jones rubbed the bridge of his nose as he listened to Horace’s nasally whine through the receiver of his land line, wondering, for the umpteenth time, how his brother Luke managed to listen to losers like this all day long without going bonkers. More to the point, how was he going to listen to them for the next four weeks? He must have been out of his mind, telling his brother he’d fill in for him as a life coach.

“I tried to explain to Mother that I needed some time to myself, just like you said, but she wouldn’t listen.” Horace’s voice trembled.

Chase gazed down at the open file sprawled on the oak dining table of his Tulsa apartment. According to his brother’s notes, Horace was forty-four years old, lived with his mother and never made a move without her approval.

“I just don’t know what to do,” Horace whined.

How about growing a pair? Unfortunately, the words weren’t on the list of conversational prompts his brother had left for him to use. Instead, the page was filled with namby-pamby, touchy-feely phrases such as “How did that make you feel?”

Chase stifled a groan. His brother’s let’s-talk-things-out take on life was the polar opposite of Chase’s get-‘er-done-now personality, and the two men had a running argument over whose approach was best. Luke said Chase needed to be less impulsive and more reflective. Chase thought Luke’s laid-back, let-things-take-their-course approach was inefficient, cumbersome and slow. This right here was a case in point. As far as Chase could see, Horace and the rest of these sad sacks didn’t need kid-glove handling and molly-coddling; they needed a swift kick in the butt and a few weeks of basic training. But Chase had promised to follow his brother’s instructions, so he swallowed his distaste and forced out the lame-assed words. “How did your mother’s reaction make you feel?”

“Frustrated,” Horace said woefully. “And upset. Like I don’t have a life of my own.”

That’s because you don’t, Chase thought dourly. He glanced back at his brother’s notes. Follow up with an empathetic statement, such as “those are understandable emotions.” Hell. Much more of this and he was going to gag.

“So what should I do?” Horace repeated.

Chase had a few suggestions, but none of them would have met with his brother’s approval. He scanned the conversational prompts. When he asks you a question, turn it around and make him answer it, Luke had written. “Well, what do you want to do?”

“I’m not sure. That’s why I hired you to be my life coach.”

Actually, Horace, old buddy, you didn’t hire me; you hired my younger brother Luke. I’m an FBI agent, and I don’t buy into this nursemaid crap. I’m filling in for Luke for a few weeks because thanks to me, he witnessed a mob hit and is temporarily in the witness protection program. But I can’t tell you that, Horace, my man, because you’re such a quivering mass of jelly-bellied insecurities that you’d never believe it, and you’d think Luke was giving you the brush-off, and if you thought that your life coach was rejecting you, you’d feel even more inadequate than you already do, and you’d probably never seek help again. Which is why I’m sitting here like an idiot, wasting a perfectly good Thursday evening, impersonating my brother on the phone.


To enter, please share your favorite romantic comedy, whether book or movie. 

1.  Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win.  
2.  For an extra entry,  sign up to be a follower. If you're already a follower, let me know and you'll get the extra entry as well.
3.   For another extra entry, subscribe via googlereader or blogger or by email and let me know that you do.
4.   For another entry, blog about this giveaway and send me the link.
5.   Leave a separate comment for each entry or you'll only be entered once. 

The contest is limited to US and Canada only.  No P.O. boxes.  The contest ends at midnight of June 30, 2009.  

Book Giveaway: A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore

Book Giveaway: A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore

Thanks to Anna at Hatchette Books, we have a historical romance giveaway for A Hint of Wicked by Jennifer Haymore.  I'd been reading about this book and it sounds like such a fun read!  Thank you, Anna and Hatchette Books!

A Hint of Wicked
Here's a description of A Hint of Wicked, courtesy of the author's website:


Sophie, the Duchess of Calton, has finally moved on. After seven years mourning the loss of her husband, Garrett, at Waterloo, she has married his cousin and heir, Tristan. Sophie gives herself to him body and soul. . . until the day Garrett returns from the Continent, demanding his title, his lands-and his wife. 


Now Sophie must choose between her first love and her new love, knowing that no matter what, her choice will destroy one of the men she adores. Will it be Garrett, her childhood sweetheart, whose loss nearly destroyed her once already? Or will it be Tristan, beloved friend turned lover, who supported her through the last, dark years and introduced her to a passion she had never known? As her two husbands battle for her heart, Sophie finds herself immersed in a dangerous game-where the stakes are not only love . . . but life and death. 


About the Author

As a child, Jennifer Haymore traveled the South Pacific with her family on their homebuilt sailboat. The months spent on the sometimes-quiet, sometimes-raging seas sparked her love of adventure and grand romance. Since then, she's earned degrees in Computer Science and Education and held various jobs from bookselling to teaching inner-city children to acting, but she's never stopped writing. 

You can find Jennifer in Southern California trying to talk her husband into yet another trip to England, helping her three children with homework while brainstorming a new five-minute dinner menu, or crouched in a corner of the local bookstore writing her next novel. 

Here's an excerpt, courtesy of Jennifer Haymore's website which you can visit here or a

The patterned red silk of Sophie’s dressing robe whispered over her skin, light and cool after the warm, heavy brocade she had worn to the party. She’d gone to check on the children, and finding them fast asleep, had kissed them goodnight, returned to her dressing room, and called her maid to undress her. Now she sat, finally alone at her table, drawing the pins from her coiffure one by one, watching in the oval-shaped gilded mirror as the tendrils of honey-brown hair fell away from her tight chignon.

She paused in mid-action as a sudden memory assailed her. Garrett standing behind her, removing her hairpins in the same methodical order, using his fingers to fan her hair over her shoulders. He watched her in the mirror with that stormy look in his blue eyes. The look that reminded her of crashing ocean waves in a storm. The look that said he wanted her.

Sophie curled her toes into the lush ivory strands of the carpet. Dropping the final hairpin on the glossy surface of the mahogany table, she clutched its edge and stared into the mirror, taking deep breaths to regain her composure.

The unbidden memories came less frequently now. She supposed that was natural after so many years.

She didn’t want to forget Garrett. At times, she welcomed the memories, coveted them. But not tonight. Tonight she wished only to think of Tristan, of his long, lean body, his disarming smile, his caresses. The way he’d slid into the mud today to hold her body against his, tight and comforting. The sheer desperation in his expression before he’d realized she was all right.

As if her thoughts summoned him, the door separating her dressing room from their bedchamber swung open. Swiping the back of her hand over her damp eyes, Sophie reached for her hairbrush. She watched in the mirror as Tristan closed the distance between them, sharp as ever in his snug gray trousers and embroidered waistcoat, the gold thread matching the color of his cravat. He’d untied the cravat, and it hung loose about his neck.

“That didn’t take long,” she murmured, smiling at him.

“I came as quickly as I could, love.” He grinned at her, revealing straight white teeth and the single dimple that always had the ability to melt her heart. “Got rid of Billingsly. Even tales of his Egyptian travels can’t entice me when I know you’re in our bedchamber…” a hint of wickedness quirked his lips and sparkled in his eyes in an expression he reserved for her alone, “…waiting.”

As she dragged the brush through her hair, Tristan rested his hands on her shoulders. Long-fingered and elegant, with blunt, clean fingernails, his hands weren’t the only part of him that hinted at his position in society. His face was aristocratic, with clean lines, sharp angles and shrewd, dark eyes. But his refined mannerisms and famed control proved he was of the higher orders. Though he may not have coveted Garrett’s legacy, he suited his new role as the Duke of Callahan.

“How’s your leg?”

She forced a smile. A nasty bruise had bloomed on her leg, but she was thankful. It could have been so much worse. “It’s all right. I scarcely feel it anymore.”

His smile faded as they locked gazes in the mirror. “Ah, Soph…” His voice trailed off, and he must have seen the residual grief in her expression, because the pain in his eyes suddenly reflected her own.

He squeezed her shoulders. “I miss him too, love. Every day.”

Tilting her head to glance up at him, she smiled sadly. Tristan was the one person in the world who understood her loss. He too had lost a spouse. Nancy had died giving birth to their son two years after Waterloo. Though Sophie knew he’d loved her, Tristan rarely spoke of Nancy.

Yet the loss of Garrett was different. Garrett had been gone longer, but he remained a solid presence in their lives—perhaps because they had retained hope for so long.

Tristan was patient with her melancholy. Most men would have despised her for continuing to love a dead man. Most men would have been jealous of her unwillingness to let go of her affection for him. But not Tristan. He knew how much she had loved Garrett, and he never tried to take that away from her.

“It’s just—nights like tonight—” Struggling to order her thoughts, she shrugged helplessly.

She never intended to make Tristan feel inferior, because he wasn’t. He was simply different. When she fell in love with Tristan, it seemed her heart swelled to twice its previous capacity to make room for him.

Still, more than anything, she feared hurting Tristan by clinging so desperately to her feelings for Garrett. If she lost him as she had lost Garrett… The thought was intolerable. If that happened, she wouldn’t be able to endure it.

“I know,” he murmured, as if reading her mind. His lips brushed against her hair. “I understand. I do.”

“I’m sorry.”

He rose to his full height. “Don’t be sorry, Soph.”

She set the brush on the table and stood, twining her arms around his neck. The linen of his cravat brushed against her skin as she pressed her cheek to his solid chest. He smelled like exotic spice, like the eastern countries he was so fond of. “I adore you,” she said. “You mean everything to me.”

His fingers sifted through her hair as he tilted her head to face him. He laughed, but the sound was ragged. “I can’t force you to forget him, Sophie. Hell, I can’t forget him. You know how strongly I cared for him. He was more than a brother to me.”

“Yes.” She tightened her arms around him. “Thank you.”

He nuzzled his face in her hair, his breath hot against her scalp. “We’ve come far, wouldn’t you say?”

Sophie nodded. “Yes.”

They’d come much farther than she ever would have imagined. Their wedding night had been difficult. She’d been shy and awkward, and she couldn’t shake the feeling that she was betraying Garrett’s memory. It was the first time for her since the day Garrett left with his regiment to fight at Waterloo.

But Garrett was gone. Tristan was her husband now, and in the past months, he’d earned her complete trust. In his arms, she’d exposed everything to him, from her life’s desires to her deepest and darkest fantasies. They shared a level of openness and communication she’d never thought to have with anyone.

“There was no need to rush up,” she said in order to change the subject, her voice muffled against his chest. “I would not have begrudged you talking with Mr. Billingsly. I know how you crave news of Egypt.”

“Not as much as I used to. I find myself perfectly content wherever you and the children are. Egypt seems more of a youthful fancy these days.”

His admission stole the breath from her lungs. Tristan was an adventurer, a traveler. His wanderlust had always been a mystery to her. She felt most comfortable at home, either here in Mayfair or at Callahan House in the north. While she’d waited patiently for Garrett’s infrequent trips home, Tristan had explored half the globe. China, India, Madagascar. Jamaica, Ireland, Italy, and America. When he married Nancy, he didn’t stop. Nancy always said good-naturedly that it was a miracle he’d managed to get her with child, he was gone so often.

He’d never visited Egypt, though. When they were children, an Egyptian adventure had been his dream.

She rubbed her cheek against his chest and sighed. “Perhaps I have domesticated you after all.”

A soft murmur of contentment was his only response. His body pressed against her in all the right places, hinting at the pleasure he could give, making her long for his firm touch. She slipped her hands from his neck to his shoulders. Muscles rippled beneath her fingertips, and keeping her fingers light, she skimmed lower, down his back to curve over his behind.

He stroked the slippery fabric of her robe and pulled her tight against him so his erection prodded her belly. When he spoke, his voice was husky in her ear. “Billingsly’s travels couldn’t hold my attention tonight. I kept thinking of you alone up here. Everything pales beside the promise of having you, love. Seeing you, touching you…taking you…”

The way he talked to her, the way he felt against her…there was nothing like it in the world. The blood ran heavy and slow through Sophie’s veins, warming her, making her muscles languid. Her breaths came in shallow little pants. As hard as pebbles, her nipples pushed against the silk of her dressing gown. She sensed the change inside her body as it heated and opened, eager for his invasion.

Sophie reached between them and untied the belt on her robe. The silk slipped off her shoulders and pooled on the floor, leaving her bare. Cool air brushed over her sensitive skin, raising gooseflesh on her legs and arms.

She ran her lips along his jaw, speaking softly. “Make love to me, Tristan.”


To enter, we'll make this easy - just let me know you want a copy of the book.  

1.  Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win.  
2.  For an extra entry,  sign up to be a follower. If you're already a follower, let me know and you'll get the extra entry as well.
3.   For another extra entry, subscribe via googlereader or blogger or by email and let me know that you do.
4.   For another entry, blog about this giveaway and send me the link.
5.   Leave a separate comment for each entry or you'll only be entered once. 

The contest is limited to US and Canada only.  No P.O. boxes.  The contest ends at midnight of June 30, 2009.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan through the Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club

I'd written about Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan once Barnes & Noble announced its First Look Selection.  

Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan: Book Cover

Like other First Look selections, this is a debut novel.  Erick's background is unusual, which we discovered from his letter to the First Look readers.  After reading it, I asked permission to share it on Starting Fresh.    

Dear Reader,


For most of my life, I have had an uneasy relationship with language, and even though I dreamed of it, I never seriously believed I could become a published writer. Silence was the language I was most comfortable speaking while growing up.


I was born in 1975 in Jakarta to Chinese parents. Routinely targeted as scapegoats, we were forbidden to speak Chinese or embrace any part of our heritage. Instead, we were forced to speak Indonesian, the same tongue used by the government and the masses to denounce us. I learned from early on that language could be used to oppress and discriminate and the only way I knew how to handle it was to withdraw into silence. Being painfully shy did not help. In fact, I was so quiet that for a long time my fourth grade teacher thought I was mute.


At sixteen, I left my family and moved to the States. I barely spoke English. The challenges of learning a new language and living in a new country brought all my insecurity to the forefront. I was ashamed of my accent. I remember sweating with apprehension while I waited in line to order at McDonald's. My uneasy affair with language continued after I enrolled at Stanford two years later (to this day, I believe they admitted me by mistake). Feeling inferior to all the brilliant students who had spoken English all their lives, I chose to major in Computer Science and stay away from classes that required me to speak. Yet something else happened to me in college. Reading fiction on the sly, I began to take comfort in the written word, and to discern avenues in English where my own native tongue had failed to afford me. I worked as a software engineer after graduation, but I was always reading and writing. I persisted, despite my doubts, and my novel is the result of that labor.


Of Bees and Mist is a literary fantasy about three generations of women in two families. The world they inhabit is entirely imagined, woven from customs and mythologies I have had the privilege of encountering. The book is my attempt to give words to the daydreams that saturated the silences of my childhood, and to show that language-more than an instrument of division-can also embrace and emancipate.






Barnes and Noble posted an interview with Erick which you can read here or at

Or visit Erick's website, click here or at

I'll post more on Of Bees and Mist soon...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Bumble & Bumble Model Project - Cuts, Color & Styling for free

Just a quick post about the benefits of joining Bumble & Bumble's Model Project.   

Unlike some of the other options, Bumble & Bumble participants are stylists that are honing their craft.  They've had several years of experience and are in NYC for a week or two to update themselves on new trends and methods.  They tend to be quite good already. The teachers/supervisors are excellent and will help direct them when coming up with the colors or shaping the cuts!

Bumble & Bumble's Model Project is free - you're not even expected to tip.  You might have a before and after picture taken.  You'll have to come for a model call visit before they set your first appointment and the appointments are spaced out every few months, unlike when you have to pay for the cut...but I've been happy with the cuts and coloring.   It's also interesting to see this side of the beauty industry.  

If you're on a budget in NYC, it's one of the best places to go for a good cut, albeit infrequently. To learn more click here or visit