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Friday, September 23, 2016

ootd 9/23/2016

ootd 9/23/2016

Cool and damp around the house today, so I'm cozy in my sheepskin lined slippers!

The Wedding Shop by Rachel Hauck

27840535 The Wedding Shop 
                                                     by Rachel Hauck
Kindle Edition352 pages
Published August 16, 2016, by Zondervan

GoodReads Summary:
From New York Times, bestselling author of The Wedding Dress comes The Wedding Shop.

Two women separated by decades. Both set out to help others find their dreams when their own have crumbled.

It's the early 1930s, but Cora Scott is walking in stride as a career woman after having inherited her great aunt's wedding shop in Heart’s Bend, Tennessee, where brides come from as far away as Birmingham to experience her famed bridal treatment. Meanwhile, Cora is counting down the days until her own true love returns from the river to make her his bride. But days turn into months and months to years. All the while, Birch Good continues to woo Cora and try to show her that while he is solid and dependable, he can sweep her off her feet.

More than eighty years later, former Air Force Captain Haley Morgan has returned home to Heart's Bend after finishing her commitment to military service. After the devastating death of her best friend, Tammy, and discovering the truth about the man she loved, Haley is searching for her place in life. 

When Haley decides to reopen the romantic but abandoned wedding shop where she and Tammy played and dreamed as children, she begins a journey of courage, mystery, and love.

As Cora’s and Haley's stories intertwine through time in the shadow of the beloved wedding shop, they both discover the power of their own dreams and the magic of everyday love.

My Review:
I requested this from NetGalley because I had loved The Wedding Dress and thought this book was a sequel. Well, inspite of the fact that it does follow the story of the dress, it is actually the sequel to The Wedding Chapel, which I haven't read, yet. Of course, I am going to as soon as I have a moment. I am not being compensated in any way. All opinions are fully my own.
~Judi E. Easley

I classified this as both an historical and contemporary romance in my GoodReads lists because both of the love stories are so deeply involved and so well told. I also classified it as womens' lit because it was women helping women throughout. You had mothers helping daughters. Bosses helping employees. Employees helping bosses. Experienced entrepreneurs helping newbies. Richer ladies helping helping younger striving women. Shopkeepers helping brides. And brides helping dreamers. When women reach out to other women, they can really change the world, or at least their little corner of it. And I think that's all you can expect to change on any given day.

All the characters are well developed and explored. I held out hope until almost the last minute with Cora. I dreamed about the shop right along with Haley. Rachel Hauck has created another gem in this line of wedding dreams. I very much look forward to reading The Wedding Chapel. I'm sure it won't disappoint. And I feel confident recommending it to you along with both The Wedding Dress and The Wedding Shop. These both are also on my Favorites list on GoodReads.  

Thursday, September 22, 2016

ootd 9/22/2016

ootd 9/22/2016

Time to get all those book reviews written and get my NetGalley % back up there! I've been reading some really good books lately, so lots to share!

Autumn Paints Its Own Art

Continuing my theme of the week, I have autumn colours in art!

Raven's Moon
Raven's Moon
by mrscharley
* A u t u m n Music * Contest! Enter! ♥
Autumn Music
by nonniekiss
Scarecrow's Cottage
Scarecrow's Cottage
by mrscharley
falling leaves us autumn
Falling Leaves Us Autumn
The Spirit of Autumn
The Spirit of Autumn
Autumn Opus . . .
Autumn Opus
by kateo
Autumn collage
Autumn Collage
by raamen365
The Door
The Door
by chileez

Hope you enjoyed the show!

Thank you, Sarah, for dropping in with a book review on City of Stairs to share with us! Great review, as always! Don't miss tomorrow's book review on The Wedding Shop. An outstanding book by Rachel Hauck. Enjoy your Thursday!
Judi and the Blue Cat

Guest Book Review: City of Stairs

Hey there! Sarah here. I know, it's been a little while ... well, a long while ... since I last checked in with a guest book review. I know, I know! I apologize. I've been hard at work on my graduate program in English Lit and while that means plenty of reading happens, the reviews get side-lined in favor of papers and discussion board posts. It's not as much fun, but there's a nice pay-off at the end of it when I get to nab my Master's degree. 

I wanted to take some time away from that, though, and stop in at Blue Cat Review and say "hi!" I also wanted to leave you all with a review that I managed to find some time for after reading a book that I'd heard a lot of hype for. I was curious to see whether it held up. It's something of a cross between urban fantasy and classic fantasy, and earns major points for blending a multicultural cast of characters that work effectively. As some professional literary critics, various "puppy" groups, and amateur reviewers tend to argue from time to time (particularly as awards season comes around), the fantasy genre is dominated by white, male authors. This is a truth in many respects, the greats traditionally being recognized as Tolkien (white male), Jordan (white male), Card (white male), Brooks (white male), Martin (white male) and their like. 


And thus, as authors tend to write from perspectives they know and are comfortable with, fantasy story protagonists are largely white, if not also male. Evolution is taking place, though, never fear! Women have broken into the pantheon of famous fantasy writers. J. K. Rowling, anyone? Anne McCaffrey, Andre Norton, and Juliet Marillier? N. K. Jemisin even claimed the Hugo for Best Novel this year, showing that not just a woman, but a woman of color could write every bit as powerfully as the white males she beat out on the ballot. 


Now, this isn't to say that fantasy is a "racist" genre, by any means. In fact, it is an excellent arena in which to take on such social issues. This is showcased rather well by Bennett in City of Stairs, and is one of the finer points of the piece, IMHO. I think it's important to remember how young the fantasy genre is and that it got its start with Granddaddy Tolkien's Euro-centric creation of Middle-Earth. As the genre gains greater age, we'll see more authors who both divert from the "white male" demographic themselves and who write about characters who aren't the traditional Arthur's, Aragorn's, and Rand al'Thor's. It will make for a richer, more diverse collective of creativity we who flock to the SFF shelves at Barnes & Noble can appreciate.

So, leaving the ramblings behind, here are my two-cents after reading Bennett's work...

Book cover

I was excited for City of Stairs, looking forward to a completely different take on the fantasy genre. While the underlying story of the Continent, the Saypuri, the complete reversal of power dynamics, the look at issues of racial prejudice, and the exceptional take on religion were worth the full weight of their ideological heft in gold, I was sadly disappointed by Bennett's book. There were a lot of excellent elements in play, but he failed to support them with solid writing and consistency.

Some Background...

The Continent was once home to the dominant race of mankind. Here, the people were ruled over by present Gods who tended them and offered succor. As the "sanctified" race, the people of the Continent held the power to rule the world. They oppressed the Saypuri of the South, as they were people who had not been chosen as they had. A Saypuri rebel discovered a way to destroy the Gods of the Continent and, in time, the Gods were decimated and Saypur claimed dominion. 

Generations later, the murder of a notable Saypuri historian in Bulikov, the most sacred city of the Continent, brings Shara Komayd to search out the ones responsible. One of the most effective intelligence officers Saypur has ever seen, she uncovers a plot that speaks of hidden Gods, a return to power for the Continent, and death for those who dared claim what was not theirs.

Good Stuff! So, What Went Wrong?
Bennett came up with a great story to tell. He truly did! He asks some of the same questions that N. K. Jemisin asks in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms regarding divinity, how might society be affected by the presence of gods within it as opposed to absent deities, and what is the Man-God relationship really about? Great, deep questions! He just didn't tell the story well. His writing, turns of phrase, delivery of profanity, and sense of consistency tripped the story up endlessly until I just couldn't enjoy it. For instance, there came a point mid-book when there needed to be an info dump in order for readers to understand what was coming. Bennett knew that Shara was the one capable of delivering it since, you know, she's smaht. He didn't want to just have her standing around and talking at her audience, though, so he decided to have a little activity going on as background in order to frame the conversation as well as reveal a deeper part of Shara's personality. What did he choose to do? Shara cooked curry. Ta da! No really, this was presented as a huge revelation about her character that was supposed to clue us into the fact that she is a many-faceted persona ... and, of course, it was the bestest curry anyone had every eaten. Like evah! *eye roll*

Okay, sure, frame your big info dump so that you avoid the common reader complaint about the process, but c'mon!! And, I don't know whether anyone else noticed, but Mulaghesh and Shara, who are both experienced political players, spent a lot of time "grimacing" in front of the people they were trying to outplay. Wouldn't a savvy spymaster guard her expressions and school the messages she gave in front of a crowd? *sigh*

And the profanity that I'd mentioned? Well:

"...I'll f**k your ancestors' mouths..." 

REALLY?! I'm not against profanity. It can be an effective vehicle for emotion and expression in a story, but it needs to be delivered well. Bennett couldn't seem to manage it. *face/palm*

In Summation...
Awesome story concept and great world-building elements come into play, but I just can't give this a glowing recommendation. It's got a boatload of great ideas in it that just want to be your next big fantasy addiction, but it's too poorly put together for it to really be what it should. However, I'm hopeful that Bennett will be one of those really good authors who learns and develops, honing his craft and publish future books that have outgrown these weaknesses. He has the imagination to do something big and awesome, and I'm rooting for him to pull it off!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

ootd 9/21/2016

ootd 9/21/2016

Today I have a Tilt Table test. It should be interesting, to say the least. Let's just hope that all this testing shows something they can do something about without a lot of bother.
Have a great Wednesday! Hope you are enjoying the fall colours I'm sharing with you this week!
Best from Judi and the Blue Cat

Autumn Accents

Autumn Accents

You can either change out a few things to add some autumn accents to a room, or you can totally redo a room for fall.
Autumn Accents 2
Whichever you do, the colours for fall will look fabulous around your house!
Have a wonderful Wednesday!
Judi and the Blue Cat

ootd 9/20/2016, OOPS! Missed this one!

ootd 9/20/2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

8 Great Fall Looks

With mid-September upon us and Halloween already in the stores, it's definitely time to look at fall looks. The colors of fall are so rich that I like to spell it the British way with the "u", colours! So let's look at some looks for fall and see what we've got.

Fall Colour 1

An Army green skirt (the Army calls it "OD", olive drab) with a vintage print top and a gold cardigan. Add olive green peep toe booties and a caramel color suede and leather bag for a great look. Nice gold hoop earrings finish it off.
Fall Colour 2
OD chinos and a boxy turtleneck sweater under a camel coat. Tuck into fringed ankle boots and grab a caramel tote. Asymmetric gold leaf and green bead earrings add a pretty fall finish.
Fall Colour 3
And there's always the classic leopard print for fall. I really do think that this is better on older women. I think you have to have a certain je ne sais quoi to wear it well, that young women just haven't developed, yet. They can wear it, but I think it takes a mature woman to do it justice.

I do not like colored leopard print such as pink or blue. Stick with the rich, natural tones of the original.
Fall Colour 4
The drama of black with the richness of fall's orange and red tones is a fabulous look, as you can see here. Combining the tones is what makes it so rich.
Fall Colour 5
The rich burgundy of fall with neutrals is also a great look. When you combine black, gray, cocoa and cream with burgundy, you get a great fall look. Combine more of the tones and you just get more good stuff.
Fall Colour 6
What says fall more than burgundy plaid? Maybe matching it with burgundy satin and suede and bright red croc!
Fall Colour 7
Red and green don't always say Christmas. In this case, it definitely says Fall! Putting the taupe tee shirt with the OD jeans and jacket seems to tone them down a bit. Then add in the light green booties and the fab bag, even the buffalo check coat can't make this Christmas!
Fall Colour 8
And here's the OD with two strong neutral tones, dark brown and charcoal gray. And see how classy it looks. Totally ready for fall! So check through your fall wardrobe to see what combinations you can come up with and what you need to go shopping for to step up you look. Have a great Tuesday!
Judi and the Blue Cat