Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff

The Things We 
The blurb:
An ambitious novel that spans decades and continents, The Things We Cherished tells the story of Charlotte Gold and Jack Warrington, two fiercely independent attorneys who find themselves slowly falling for one another while working together on a major case.  Roger Dykmans, a wealthy financier and the brother of a Holocaust hero, has been accused of World War II-era war crimes, including the betrayal of his brother, Hans, and the Jews Hans tried to save.  Charlotte and Jack set out to prove these charges false.

But Roger refuses to help with his own defense, revealing only that the proof of his innocence lies inside an intricate time piece that was last seen in Nazi Germany.  The mystery unfolds through the eyes of those the clock has touched across Europe over the past century, from a young Jewish couple struggling for a better life in turn-of-the-century Bavaria, to two brothers caught up in the political turmoil of Weimar Berlin, to Roger in World War II Breslau, who experiences true but forbidden love under the worst of circumstances.

All the while Charlotte resists her feelings for Jack, not willing to risk emotional devastation again -- particularly by the estranged brother of the man who once broke her heart.  But as they near the truth about the affair that may have turned a brother into a traitor, Jack and Charlotte are forced to face their own complex past and admit that theirs is the type of love that might just go down in history.

I confess that I began The Things We Cherished fully predisposed to fall for the story and the characters. Historical fiction set during World War II,  a Holocaust hero who loses his life while saving Jews in Germany, "fiercely independent attorneys who find themselves slowly falling for one another", and a heart-wrenching, life altering love story -- a recipe for a fascinating and engrossing read.

In fact, I started the book yesterday as I traveled from NYC to Boston.  It was the perfect escape for the four and a half hour trip.  I've convinced my mom to read the book on her 19 hour trip back to Manila next week. 

Here's what I enjoyed about The Things We Cherished and why I recommend that you read it too:
Pam Jenoff has created complex, sympathetic, and engaging characters -- both those that lived during World War II and those lawyers living in the present -- and Jenoff forces each of the characters to face nuanced, big picture dilemmas while keeping the characters real.    Jenoff has taken great care to make each of the people that you meet memorable.  One of my favorites is a less central character, a clockmaker named Johann who lived in a small town in Bavaria in 1902.   Johann advances the materials to create a one of a kind anniversary clock in the hope that the wealthiest man in their small town will make good on his order and that this will enable him to take his pregnant wife Rebecca to America.  The clock is his chance to make a new start, just as the town's economy seems to be collapsing.  When he's completed the clock, he dresses in his best clothes and brings his work to the merchant.  When the wealthy Herr Hoffel refuses to pay the agreed 100 because business is slow, it takes courage and a sense of his own worth for Johann to refuse the offer.   The scene comes early in the book and as I read it, Johann reminded me of the father in Marcus Zusak's The Book Thief, one of my favorite literary characters.

Jenoff takes seemingly unconnected story lines that are each interesting on their own and weaves them together to make this deeply engrossing and satisfying read.

ISBN-10: 0385534205 - Hardcover $27.95
Publisher: Doubleday (July 12, 2011), 304 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Pam Jenoff is the author of The Kommandant's Girl, The Diplomat's Wife, Almost Home, and A Hidden Affair.  She attended George Washington University, Cambridge University in the U.K., where she received a master's degree in history; and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. A former Foreign Service officer and special assistant to the secretary of the army at the Pentagon, she lives near Philadelphia, where she teaches law.


Double Day is generously sponsoring a giveaway of 2 copies of The Things We Cherish.  To enter the giveaway, please share your favorite character in literature and why you like him/her so much.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.
3.  One winner per household.

The contest is limited to US only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on Aug. 14, 2011.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Overbite by Meg Cabot

Overbite is out! The sequel to Insatiable, Meg Cabot's spin on Bram Stoker's Dracula, was released earlier this month.  I thoroughly enjoyed Insatiable (for those who missed my Insatiable review).
Overbite (Insatiable, #2)
The blurb:
Meena Harper has a special gift, but it's not only that anyone's ever appreciated it.  The Palatine Guard-- a powerful secret demon-hunting unit of the Vatican-has hired her to work at their new branch in Lower Manhattan.  With Meena's ability to predict how everyone she meets will die, the Palantine finally has a chance against the undead.

Sure, her ex-boyfriend was Lucien Antonescu, son of Dracula, the prince of darkness.  But htat was before he (and their relationship) went up in flames. Now Meena's sworn off vampires for good. . . at least until she can prove her theory that just because they've lost their souls doesn't mean demons have lost the ability to love.

Meena knows convincing her co-workers including her partner, the uber-demon-hunter Alaric Wulf-that vampires can be redeemed won't be easy. . .  especially when a deadly new threat seems to be endangering not just the lives of the Palatine, but Meena's friends and family as well.

But Meena isn't the Palantine's only hope. Father Henrique-aka Padre Caliente-New York City's youngest, most charming priest, has also been assigned to the case.

So why doesn't Meena-or Alaric-trust him?

As she begins unraveling the truth Meena finds her loyalties tested, her true feelings bare. . . and temptations she never even imagined existed impossible to resist.

This time, Meena may have bitten off more than she can chew.

I'd been looking forward to Overbite, the continuation of the love story between Meena Harper and Lucien Antonescu.  After all, he seemed like such a romantic figure - smuggling Meena into the Met to look at his favorite painting.

But Overbite takes a different direction altogether. It focuses more on Meena Harper and her new life as a member of the Palatine Guard, her friendship with Alaric Wulf, and the struggle against the vampires.

Although we discover that the Prince of Darkness, Lucien Antonescu, hasn't given up on Meena Harper.  He doesn't appear that often in the novel.   No one sees him since his dramatic disappearance, except he shows himself the one time that Meena's life is threatened. 

We do learn more about Alaric Wulf and his fascination with Meena Harper.  Meena is torn. She enjoys her work for the Palatine Guard but she is painfully aware that her ex-boyfriend Lucien Antonescu is now out of bounds.  She can't be with a vampire not knowing what havoc and destruction they can cause, have caused.

Meena keeps Overbite interesting.  Although Meena's interest in Alaric isn't as fun as her romance with Lucien.  We get to know the famous vampire killer Alaric Wulf better in Overbite - his history with the Palatine Guard, his resentment of the glamorous and popular Padre Caliente.

But Meg Cabot's Overbite has the playfulness of Insatiable.  Those of us who loved Insatiable will enjoy learning how the love story between Meena Harper and Lucien Antonescu ends. 

ISBN-10: 0061735108 - Hardcover $22.99
Publisher: William Morrow (July 5, 2011), 288 pages.
Review copy provided by the publisher.

About the Author:
Meg Cabot was born in Bloomington, Indiana. In addition to her adult contemporary novels, she is the author of bestselling young adult fiction series The Princess Diaries.  She lives in Key West, Florida, with her husband.

NOLO's Credit Repair 10th Ed. by Robin Leonard, J.D. & Atty. Margaret Reiter

Credit Repair

The blurb:
Bad credit can get better.  When debts pile up, it can be impossible to see a way out.  And in the meantime, a bad credit report can prevent you from getting a mortgage, car loan, credit card, apartment, or even a job. Let the sensible strategies in Credit Repair help you take control now, clean up your credit, and live debt-free.
  • Assess your debt situation
  • Correct errors and improve your credit report and score
  • Choose the best repair strategy for your situation
  • Prioritize your debts
  • Negotiate with creditors to reduce debts
  • Add positive information to your credit report
  • Avoid identity theft and credit scams
  • Reduce mortgage debt through new government programs
  • Build a solid credit history
This updated version comes with a CD-ROM with forms, worksheets and sample letters to help you handle debts, clean up your credit line, and avoid overspending.

I always read the personal finance articles about how to raise your credit score, actions that lower your credit score, and how your credit score impacts your personal finances.  So, I was happy to sign up when offered the chance to review the latest edition of NOLO's Credit Repair book.

Though we've all read about the free credit reports that we're entitled to request from the 3 credit bureaus, which you can request online from or by phone 877-322-8228, or by mail from Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

I did learn several new things about credit reports that make the book worth purchasing:
  •  You are also entitled to a free credit report from a specialty consumer reporting agency, such as those that specialize in tenant histories, insurance claims, medical records or payments, employment histories, etc.  You will likely have to contact each of these companies separately to put in your request.   I recommend contacting Lexis Nexis for your Personal Report. If you have private health insurance, go to and request your MIB Consumer File or call 866-692-6901.  For insurance claims, go to or call 800-627-3487.  For a check writing report, go to or call 800-366-2425 OR
  • You can file use Form F-32 in the book, Request for Basis of Unfavorable Credit Offer or Action and put in a request 60 days of the denial of credit/adverse action if a report from a credit agency does result in the denial of credit or an adverse reaction.
  • One credit card account may have spawned "tradelines" such as when you report a credit card lost or stolen and the credit card company closes the account and issues a new card. Your old credit card will likely be considered a different tradeaccount/separate account.  This might mean that the age of your credit has changed, you have lost the advantage of the old account and have a new, younger credit line.
  • The list of ways and times that you can obtain your credit report for free that go beyond the 3 free annual credit reports.
  • Sources of additional information on credit scoring developments ( and how to understand your credit score.
  • Aside from the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the FTC also enforces the application of the Fair and Accurate Transactions Act of 2003.
  • The common errors in credit reports and how best to correct them and combat their effects.
  • The section on why to Avoid Credit Repair Clinics is particularly important.  I have friends that were badly hit by the recession, the decline in housing prices/values in California, and the variable interest rate of their home mortgage.  They received calls from credit repair companies and were considering paying a credit repair consultant thousands of dollars to help them with their situation.  I wish I had known about the federal Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA) (15 U.S.C. sec 1679-1679j) when they were going through this process in 2008.
  • How to supplement your credit report by adding information that shows stability.  The book has a particularly helpful form for this in its Appendix B and the enclosed CD-ROM.
  • The book also helps you negotiate with your creditors to have negative information removed from your credit file. 
  • The Chapter on Building Positive Credit History breaks down the different ways that a person can improve their credit score and does so in a systematic and step by step manner. 
The Appendixes and the CD-ROM provide  resources, additional publications, form letters and worksheets, budget forms,  organizational charts for payment schedules, etc.  for dealing with creditors, the FTC and the credit reporting agencies.

Though I haven't read the previous editions, NOLO's Credit Repair 10th Edition looks like helpful resource for those who want to improve their credit scores, to keep their credit reports accurate, and for those with a particular interest in the subject matter.

ISBN-10: 1413314201 - Paperback $24.00
Publisher: NOLO; 10 edition (June 6, 2011), 465 pages.
Review copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program and the publisher.

About the Authors:
Robin Leonard has co-authored several personal finance books, including Nolo's Solving Your Money Troubles and How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy.  Margaret Reiter is an attorney who worked for 20 years as a prosecutor in the California Attorney General's Consumer Law Section.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Historical Romance Group Blog Tour! Paula Quinn, Laurel McKee & Sue-Ellenn Welfonder

Welcome to this special tour celebrating three new historical romances: Paula Quinn's Tamed by a Highlander, Laurel McKee's Lady of Seduction, and Sue-Ellen Welfonder's Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel.

While the 90+ weather means it's too hot to read outside, this is a good time to indulge in the comfort of your air conditioned home.

Tamed by a Highlander (Children Of The Mist, #3)
Paula Quinn's Tamed by a Highlander
ISBN-10: 0446552364 - Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Publisher: Forever; 1 edition (July 1, 2011), 400 pages.

Paula Quinn's Tamed by a Highlander incorporates political intrigue in Stuart England in the romance.  Mairi MacGregor is deeply loyal to Scotland and her heritage.  When she visits the new and Roman Catholic King of England, she bumps into her childhood love, Connor Grant.  She calls on her anger and bitterness at his having abandoned her and Scotland.  She resents his loyalty to the English king and the Stuarts and she's not afraid to show her anger and displeasure, even if it means that she descends to rudeness.

Connor Grant is shocked to see Mairi at court. And when her father asks him to keep an eye on her, he isn't able to refuse, even if it means that he has to face the one woman that he's always loved.  Her anger, rudeness, and bitterness don't bother him - he's glad to be around her regardless. 

Paula Quinn creates a romance out of a seemingly impossible situation.  The intervention of a kindhearted queen, the bravery and loyalty of Scottish warriors, and the power of longstanding love all make Tamed by a Highlander a fun, absorbing read.

 Lady of Seduction (The Daughters of Erin, #3)

Laurel McKee's Lady of Seduction
ISBN-10: 0446544779 - Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Publisher: Forever; Original edition (June 1, 2011), 384 pages.

Lady of Seduction, Book Three of the Daughters of Erin series, by Laurel McKee revisits the widowed Lady Caroline Blacknall, a bluestocking and one of the famously independent and beautiful sisters has taken a dangerous sea voyage to find the reclusive Sir Grant Dunmore.

The two have a history from when Grant had wanted to marry Caro's sister Anna and had taken reckless, dangerous steps to get her attention. Grant's plan backfired through he tried to undo the damage, the incident left him permanently scarred.

But Caro isn't put off by the scars - physical and emotional - she sees something in Grant that he doesn't see in himself. Caro is still drawn to Grant and her brief retreat brings her adventure and love, however temporary.

Sir Grant Dunmore has long been haunted by his memories of Caroline Blacknall. When she washed up on his island, he fights to save her life, again and again. The love of a good woman has turned many a man around - and while Grant loves Caro, he feels that she deserves more than he can give her.

I discovered Laurel McKee with this Daughters of Erin series and fell in love with the characters. Her heroines, the Blacknall sisters are smart, strong, independent. The men who love them recognize their strengths even as others around them recognize that the sisters are ahead of their time. To be honest, their guts and intellect makes them seem almost cutting edge, even for our day.

I like that McKee sets the stories in an unusual location - Ireland during Rebellion of 1798 and the Rising of 1803. The final installment, Lady of Seduction, is a keeper.

Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel (Highland Warriors, #2)
Sue-Ellen Welfonder's Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel

ISBN-10: 0446561770 - Mass Market Paperback $7.99
Publisher: Forever; Original edition (July 26, 2011), 416 pages.

Sue-Ellen Welfonder's Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel is the second in her Highland Warrior series.  Set in the Glen of Many Legends in the highlands of Scotland, Sue-Ellen Welfonder introduces us to the MacDonalds, Camerons, and Mackintoshes, three warring clans who have been forced by their king to keep the peace. 

Kendrew Mackintosh holds the largest portion of land with impenetrable mists and rock formations of dreagon stones that are sleepy dragons turned to stone.  Kendrew is wild, deeply connected and proud of his Nordic roots.  His wildness, independence and golden looks draw the attention of Lady Isobel Cameron.

On the night of Midsummer's Eve, Isobel Cameron sneaks out of her brother's holdings to Mackintosh land - to watch Kendrew Mackintosh dance naked on the dreagon stones.  Though she's high spirited, Isobel has lived a sheltered life. She certainly didn't expect the things to progress as quickly as they did.  Not that she regrets any part of her encounter with Kendrew.  Kendrew has been careful to avoid virgins and ladies, but he certainly wouldn't have "danced" with Isobel Cameron if he knew who she was when they first met.  But Kendrew hasn't been able to forget their first meeting.

Temptation of a Highland Scoundrel is hilarious, fun, and a satisfying romance.  Feisty maiden, stubborn and honorable highland laird, friendship, alliances and danger -- what more can you ask for?


To enter, just share why you'd like to win this contest.  The one winner gets a set of all 3 books.

1. Please include your email address, so that I can contact you if you win. No email address, no entry.
2. You must be a follower to join the contest.
3.  One winner per household.

The contest is limited to US and Canada only. No P.O. boxes. The contest ends at noon on Aug. 14, 2011.