Month: May 2014

Books by the numbers

We talk so many books, here’s some interesting numbers:

  1. 45,000 books for free download on various sites, especially classics (Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, Moby Dick).  Many of the reading apps offer these same free books. For instance, iBooks offers 23,000+ free, Amazon, Kobo, Nook offer free books too.
  2. 88,000 approx average # of books per library per National Center for Education Statistics.
  3. 3,000,000 books at the Houston Public Library (100th largest), according to the American Library Association.
  4. 34,528,818 books in the Library of Congress.
  5. 500,000 books available on Oyster, the unlimited monthly book subscription service.
  6. 267 digital books on my iPad. Someday I may have to delete some … but not yet.
Photo: New Yorker:

Photo: New Yorker:



Fiction Review: Eve in Hollywood by Amor Towles

Available now: Eve in Hollywood

****4.5/5 stars

It’s the summer of 1938, and Evelyn Ross has just made her dramatic exit from the New York of Rules of Civility.  Do yourself a favor and join her, and the people who fall in love with her, as she takes the train as far west as she can go.

Recommended readers:

  • If you like short stories…
  • if you like golden Old Hollywood…
  • and if you’ve been waiting to hear from Amor Towles again ever since Rules of Civility, then this book is for you.

Here’s my Rankings:

  • 5/5 for characters
  • 4.5/5 for plot
  • 4.5/5 overall


Brief yet marvelous, Eve in Hollywood is the sonnet for LA, whereas  Rules of Civility was a love letter for New York. While essentially a novella, Eve in Hollywood is made up of six short stories, each from the perspective of a different character.  I loved seeing Eve from the points of view of innocent bystanders (including Olivia DeHaviland!) instead of  her Rules of Civility co-star, and then, finally, hearing from Eve her herself. She is a freight train.

Overall, the takeaway is, this man can WRITE. From his description of the opening of the great west as “…giving way to the high, lonely deserts west of Exodus and east of John,”  I’m hooked, impressed, envious.  I’ll read anything he ever writes. Please let there be more.

Find it on Kindle single:  Eve in Hollywood

Review: The Scoundrel’s Seduction

Available May 27: The Scoundrel’s Seduction: House of Trent: Book 3

***3.25/5 starsjennifer haymore The Scoundrel's Seduction

The Scoundrel’s Seduction is a passionate story of a troubled assassin and his widowed but challenging charge. Jennifer Haymore makes this a steamy read.

Recommended readers:

  • If you love historical romance
  • If you are a sucker for a troubled hero, heroine
  • If you like quite a bit of steaminess

Here’s my Rankings:

  • 3.5/5 for characters
  • 3.5/5 for plot
  • 3.0/5 overall
  • Note: Steamy factor (4 of 5 … pretty graphic)


When Sam Hawkins, an undercover agent, does he duty for his country and assassinates Lord Dunthrope, he doesn’t expect to become responsible for the widowed Lady Dunthrope, Elise.  As wife to a traitor of his country and a Frenchwoman, she makes it hard for her kidnapper to trust her.  I loved the dialogue and constant stimulation between Sam and Elise (though personally I prefer less erotics) – there’s so much build-up and confrontation between the two.


Order yours:  

Book Review: Empire Girls

Available on May 27th Empire Girls

Meet Rose and Ivy Adams, two country girls in New York City on a quest.  When the death of their father comes with news of an elder brother who is to inherit, two sisters who never see eye-to-eye must put aside their differences in order to secure their future.

***2.5/5 stars

Recommended readers:

  • If you’re the 1920s Jazz and Speakeasy sort..
  • If you like to read about sisters…
  • and if you like to hear a story from more than one point of view, this book is for you.

Here’s my Rankings:

  • 3/5 for characters
  • 2/5 for plot
  • 2.5/5 overall


Told in the alternating points of view of the elder, domestic Rose and and free spirited Ivy, Empire Girls is the charming story of two sisters searching for their elder brother.  Their search brings them both to Empire House, a tenement in New York City , and then separately on their own journeys to self-discovery, as the city brings with it new challenges, opportunities, and sins.

Coming to this novel without reading the critically acclaimed debut, I’ll Be Seeing You, I found the dual points of view somewhat distracting.  Though I often had to look back to remind myself who was speaking, I found myself charmed and rooting for Rose and Ivy, both separately and together.  A fun, engaging read.



Oyster Review: The Netflix for Books

Oyster Book Subscription App. Get your free month +$15 off.

Are we dreaming? Is this for real? Unlimited reading for only $9.95 per month. WOW!


Meet Oyster Books, a new app that provides unlimited access to more than 500,000 books through its $9.95 subscription service. It is pretty darn close to your public library available in an app – only you won’t see ‘checked out’ notices, overdue costs, or gas to and from. Of course, it’s not perfect or for everyone … here’s some notes to see if it’s a good fit.



  • Save money. If you buy more than one book per month (digital or paper), then you would easily save money.
  • Ease of use. Digital access is so easy. Once you turn the page on your last book, just find another (and don’t worry about paying for it or checking it out).
  • Tons of books. In fact, it looks like Oyster is ever-expanding their library.  They recently announced that powerhouse publisher Simon & Schuster joined Oyster – adding access to Stephen King, Dan Brown, Ernst Hemingway and others. Of course, this doesn’t mean every book S&S publishes will be available.
  • Best design. Oyster Books is beautifully designed and the best online book experience yet. The graphics are crisp, clean, stunning and it’s easily the best visual digital book experience you can ask for. I found myself browsing just because … much like I would a bookstore.



iPad and iPhone Oyster app.

  • **Only iOS available  – iPads, iPhones.  So this won’t work on Kindle, Nook or any other device. But there’s hope that it will. In fact, if you’d like to keep updated on the Android app, add your name here … it’s a sign they are working on it. (** Note: On June 17, Oyster announced they had added an Android app. See our full review of the Android vs iOS app here.)
  • Limited Library. Much like Netflix, you shouldn’t expect to have newly released books (and if this is what you spend your book $$ on, then keep in mind!). None of May’s New York Times Bestsellers are included in the current Oyster library. And they don’t have some books that your local library probably does. For instance, no Nora Roberts or John Grisham at this time.
  • Limited search functions. You can only search one thing at a time. I would love to have a filtering system where you can select, for example, Romance – Historical – Regency and then display a list of authors (vs individual books). And the desktop website version is not as friendly/usable as the app.
  • Limited book organization/categorization. After you’ve read a book (or even before) it would be great to categorize them.

Overall, it’s not perfect. It’s not available for Kindle/Nook (yet … we’ll keep you posted).  But am I going to get my dad a subscription for Father’s Day? Absolutely. It’s a great option for any avid reader. And even without having current bestsellers, there is so much variety that you’d have plenty of reading material. Oyster is a game-changer for any book addict.

(** Note: On June 17, Oyster announced they had added an Android app. See our full review of the Android vs iOS app here.)

If you’re interested in testing out a free month trial and getting $15 off, click here.

Take a peek at this Outlander trailer

As an Outlander and Diana Gabaldon fan, we are MORE THAN EXCITED for the Starz Series Outlander this fall.  The series kicks off August 9 at 9 p.m. in the US.

Here’s another fabulous clip … and how amazing does Jamie look?


To prep for the next book in the series and for the Starz series, see our full book recap here.

Review: Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

Leaving Everything Most Loved: A Maisie Dobbs Novel is available now

****4/5 stars

The 10th novel of  bestselling author Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs series finds Maisie at a major crossroads while investigating the death of an Indian governess.  If you haven’t yet discovered Maisie Dobbs, do.  She’s part guru, part Sherlock Holmes, and all British.

Recommended readers:

  • For lovers of detective and mystery novels, especially with a female lead
  • For those interested in “the time between the wars”
  • For Anglophiles
  • And for Downton Abbey Fans.  Why not?

Here’s my Rankings:

  • 4/5 for characters
  • 4/5 for plot
  • 4/5 overall


I’ve followed Maisie Dobbs from the beginning, and the series just keeps getting better.  With each case she takes on, housemaid-turned-psychologist and investigator Maisie Dobbs finds herself examining her own past, and now, reconsidering her future.  She is fallible and believable, and at times frustrating.  I can’t imagine the research and consideration it takes to craft these novels and I look forward to the next installment.

While the Maisie Dobbs series can be read as standalone novels, don’t miss out on the beginning.


Outlander, Starz Series Coming this Fall

As an Outlander and Diana Gabaldon fan, we are MORE THAN EXCITED for the Starz Series Outlander this fall.  The series kicks off August 9 at 9 p.m. in the US.  Here’s a peak at the trailer:

Can the series live up to the books? What do you think?


The trailer looks amazing – and we hope the history, emotion and plots can live up to the books.  See our full book recap here.