Monday, April 28, 2014

The End Of An Era

About six years ago, I started my book blog Penelope's Romance Reviews. I was a super enthusiastic romance reader who loved to chat about books.

I still am a super enthusiastic reader who loves to chat about books.

Unfortunately, the other part of the book blogging community--the part that is essentially an industry-driven business--is not really my cuppa tea. And the associated ruckus and melodrama that's going on constantly--about plagiarism, badly behaving authors, reviewers, publishers, etc--is a huge downer.

And so I've decided to "officially" hang up my book blogger hat. I'll still be here as Penny Watson. But Penelope, the Book Blogger, is retiring to Florida, to live out the rest of her days in a retirement community with shuffleboard and cocktails by the pool.


I'm replacing "Penelope's Romance Reviews" with "Penny Watson, Quirky Fiction." This will now be a personal blog that continues to explore ground-breaking topics such as dachshunds, lumberjacks, alcoholic beverages, assorted reading material, 1980s music, and any other fun bit of business that strikes my fancy.

Who wants some retirement cake? ME! ME! I WANT THE CAKE!

I have more or less already made the transition from book blog to personal blog. Just wanted to make it "official."

My reading goals have definitely taken a turn towards quirky, innovative, unique, creative. I'm tired of the bandwagon copycat books in romance. Now I'm reading humor, mystery, short stories, horror, and romance that is pushing the boundaries with a creative flair.

I read some great books over vacation, and will post some reviews when I get the chance.

Happy Spring Day To All!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Off The Beaten Trail

1. Living Plant cool is this? Check out Passionflower To Wear shop at Etsy...she has live plant rings, necklaces and bracelets. LOVE THEM!

2. Looking for something new to read? Check out this debut collection of stories by CB Anderson--RIVER TALK. I love this quote, from Monica Wood...

"I adored these stories, every one of which engaged my mind and my heart. Anderson writes with wisdom, generosity, and beauty about people we don't see often enough in contemporary literature. She gives us minimum-wage strivers, doing their best and sometimes their worst, and asks us to see them, hear them, walk with them for a while. Anderson is a marvelous writer, but her best gift is simple and rare: empathy."

I already got my copy, and I can't wait to read this over my spring vacation. You might want to visit Anderson's website, too.

3. There is a giveaway at Goodreads for Heather Rigney's debut novel WAKING THE MERROW. Go enter! This is one of the most amazing books I've read in recent memory. A mixture of New England history, raw yet compelling characters, and horrifying fantasy. It's a must-read! The release date is June 2014.

4.  On Sunday my family is heading down to Sanibel for a week of spring vacation. We'll be doing the regular stuff: collecting shells, paddle-boarding over manatees (my son did that last time...hee hee!), and biking around the island.

But my favorite activity is visiting Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge. It is a gorgeous spot to see wildlife of all kinds...mangroves, birds, fish, alligators.

If you are ever in the Fort Myers area, I highly recommend this spot if you get the chance for a visit. It's spectacular.

All right, my little chickadees. Enjoy the spring sunshine. I'll check in after my vacation.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

When Setting Comes To Life

There is nothing quite as exciting as reading a book when the setting comes to life.

Suddenly, you are right in the middle of a bitterly cold Canadian street. Where you can feel the icicles on your skin, the numbness in your fingertips, the bleakness and despair of the winter freeze. (Thank you, Louise Penny).

This is one of my favorite things, and I have the utmost respect for authors who are able to bring their settings to life.

Over the past few days, I enjoyed two books with this lovely talent on display, and one amazing film: Babette's Feast.

My mother, sister and I watched the 1987 film together and snacked on a platter of cheese, crackers and dried fruits while enjoying this incredible movie. The story is set in an isolated seaside Danish village in the 19th century.  The austere way of life is reflected by the pale palette of the buildings, clothing, and surroundings. You can hear the wind, feel the cold, and are completely immersed in the loneliness and starkness of this setting. Until Babette brings more than taste buds alive during her decadent meal of turtle soup, blini with caviar, and the spectacular Caille en Sarcophage avec Sauce Perigourdine (quail in puff pastry shell with foie gras and truffle sauce). You feel just as giddy as the devout townspeople who have tasted heaven for the first time in their lives. Such a charming, lovely, and romantic film. I highly recommend it!

Grade: A

Next up, THE CHOCOLATE THIEF by Laura Florand. This was my first book by Ms. Florand, and I must say it will not be my last. She transports the reader to Paris, with all of the quirks and charm and deliciousness of the city. The premise is fabulous...the American chocolate heiress vs. the talented Parisian chocolatier. Sparks fly between these two as a delightful courtship takes place. And it's nestled in tissue paper and dark bitter chocolate, dusted with cinnamon. Florand manages to pack all of my favorite things into one lovely story: amazing writing, laugh-out-loud humor, a charming romance, and a lush setting that brings the sweet simplicity of a perfect piece of chocolate bursting to life. Bravo, Ms. Florand!

Grade: A

Finally, a scrumptious amuse-bouche by Ros Clarke: Island Fling. This is a very fast read, but the gorgeous writing and vibrant setting make it a satisfying experience. Clarke brings the simplicity and beauty of a remote Scottish town to life, along with the layers of paint and regret of the two main characters. Her writing voice is a breath of fresh air, and her painterly writing style is a perfect fit for this art-inspired story. I love short stories like this that are a lush snippet of life. This is one quick bite, but it's satisfying and romantic. 

Grade: A

Happy Spring,