Tuesday, September 27, 2016


September ShallowReader Bingo!


For a lovely reading challenge, I decided to participate in the ShallowReader Bingo! this month as well. Here's a copy of the card. It is copyrighted to Vassiliki Veros and ShallowReader. Click on the image to embiggen.



I have completed the fourth column from the novel A Kiss to Build a Dream On by Marianne Stillings. It is set in the US during World War II. My review will be published by All About Romance in October. The entries in the fourth column are:

A Woman In Her Prime: Rachel Prentiss is in her mid-twenties and a pilot with five hundred hours of flying and teaching experience. In the America of the early 1940s, this was an asset that was recognized by an Army Air Force General. He invites her to be a civilian pilot attached to an air force base for ferrying planes and equipment, thus, freeing up men to be sent overseas for the war effort.

You Complete Me: New training officer for the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) squadron, Captain Jack Lassiter is an officer and a gentleman. He treats Lieutenant Rachel Prentiss with respect and equality and ultimately with affection and desire.

Naked Truth: The book outright shows how African American pilots with flying knowledge could best function as mechanics, but could not fly airplanes alongside their Caucasian American counterparts. One character was able to pass as a Caucasian and became a pilot, whereas her darker-hued sister had to become a mechanic—both were very skilled engineers, but the prestige of their jobs was tied to their skin color.

Hate: But all is not well at Camp Trask in North Carolina. There's someone who pays lip service to the WASP but hates the female pilots. He believes that God wished him to become a minister and now wishes him to teach young women the ways of men and women so that they can learn their proper place in marriage to their lord husbands.

Subtle: I loved all the engineering details that are present in the book and how they are handled. They're woven into the story and except for one small section, they're not in-your-face but rather subtly integrated into the characters' daily lives and the plot of the story.


Wednesday, September 21, 2016


#TBRChallenge Reading: Adam and Eva by Sandra Kitt


2016 TBR Reading Challenge
Book: Adam and Eva
Author: Sandra Kitt
My Categories: Romance, Contemporary (1984)
Wendy Crutcher's Category: Off-Theme (Yay, freedom!)

Adam and Eva is a Harlequin American romance published in 1985 and is one of the early books by an African American author featuring African American characters.

The story begins with Eva on the plane to the Caribbean island of St. Thomas from New Jersey. Her seatmate is a ten-year-old girl, Diane, who's a savvier traveler than her. Eva and Diane strike up a friendship, which is fun for Eva on one hand, while also painful for her. Her daughter, Grace, would've been a year older than Diane had she lived. There'd been a fire in their home in NJ, and Grace and Eva's husband, Kevin, had perished in it.

On the ferry from the main island, St. Thomas, to St. John, Eva meets Adam, Diane's father. Adam's divorce from Diane's mother was a bitter one and he deeply resents the short court-mandated two weeks a year he gets with Diane.

On the ferry, Eva is taken aback by Adam's immediate and obvious dislike of her and his rudeness. She's used to soft-spoken, soft-mannered people from her mother to her former husband and her coworkers. However, Diane's obvious happiness with and devotion to her father softens Eva's impression of him.

Throughout that first part of the book as Eva gets to understand the different facets of Adam, his relationship with his daughter features largely in Eva's behavior towards him. She plays the role of peacemaker and facilitator in moving their relationship forward to a closer connection.

I found this look into a 1980s contemporary book with its 1980s gender role norms interesting. There's a fledgling bid for autonomy and independence on Eva's part but it's perfunctory at best. The story's focus is on a strong, overpowering, brusque male figure coupled with a domestic, soft-hearted foil for him.

It is told from Eva's POV, so we see Adam only through her eyes. As a result, he comes across badly in the first half and improves in the second. I found it interesting to read a story where the developing relationship was shown only in one POV. We see how she comes to mean more and more to him by how her feelings for him change, how she perceives his changing behavior, and her interpretation of it all without knowing what he's thinking.

I never warmed to Adam. I have no patience with overbearing, conceited men who need to be appeased at every turn by the woman. His disrespect towards his current mistress further endeared him less to me.

"Eva, you aren't like Lavona Morris," he informed her distinctly. "And I won't treat you as if you are."

That begged the question: How is he going to treat Eva? OK, so not like a casual woman to spend an occasional night with...but then how? And will he talk about her disdainfully behind her back to someone else?

Looking at the story as whole, I really liked how Kitt dealt with the issue of race by not making a big deal out of it. We're given occasional mentions of skin color, hair styles, eye color, and tanned shades. However, Kitt doesn't make race a centerpiece to the story. Adam and Eva are two ordinary people, who're leading their ordinary lives, and who now fall in love. And that is how it should be.

Sunita's review mentions this quote, which is emblematic of how race is looked at in the story:

Eva took a moment to look around the small craft, noticing the mixture of people. There were those who were obviously just arriving for the start of vacation, with their pale untouched skins, and those who lived on these islands with their beige, brown, and black skin tones.

And then Eva moves on to notice other things.

In her review, Liz McCausland says, "There’s a scene in a ruined sugar plantation, but neither character thinks about the enslaved Africans who would have worked there."

To me, this was on par with the characters' personalities. In a scene with a cabdriver from St. Thomas, he mentions that July 3 is Emancipation Day. And like a twit, Eva asks, "Like Fourth of July?" And he explains that Emancipation Day is to celebrate freedom from slavery by Denmark. And she makes no remark to that. She's clearly not a deep thinker, and neither is Adam, so for those two characters not to reflect on slavery on their visit to the sugar plantation seems natural to them.

However, Eva does notice some of the cultural differences between NJ and the Caribbean. For example, she has to learn to ignore catcalls in the market streets from young men. She learns to appreciate the cuisine and to relax into the carnival festivities.

One of the quibbles I had with this book was how the kids were depicted in the story. Ten-year-old Diane was shown to be so immature at times and so mature at others. She can't pronounce or know the meaning of the word "pollute" but she can travel all the way from NJ to the Caribbean on her own. Gail was said to be learning to ride a trike at five. Romance novels seems to have a lot of trouble getting children right. It's a rare book where I find them age-appropriate.

I have talked a lot about the problems in the story, but the question remains: Did I enjoy any of it? I did. I liked seeing where Eva and Adam started and how they slowly came together. For a short book, the relationship's developed leisurely, and I always appreciate watching two people fall in love, rather being told, voilĂ , there're in love.


Monday, September 19, 2016


10th Anniversary of This Blog!


Today, in 2006, I posted my first "Hello World!" blog and Cogitations & Meditations was born.

I had just recently joined the online bookish world. I was reading group author blogs, such as SquawkRadio and RiskyRegencies, and I had joined Eloisa James's message board. Through these blogs and boards, I came in touch with many authors, aspiring writers, and readers. MY PEOPLE! For the first time, reading stopped being a solitary hobby. Now, I had people with whom to discuss my books. What joy! What freedom!

Everyone was blogging then, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon. The first year, I logged all of TWO one-sentence blogs. Clearly, my bandwagon wasn't going very far. The next year was five—still barely moving. But I finally started it seriously in 2008 with 51. The next year, 2009, was a blockbuster year with 147!! I have never achieved those heights again nor do I aspire to. Last year wasn't too shabby with 111, but this year, the numbers are down and will stay down next year as well.

I used to publish five days a week in the beginning, but have since slowed down to once or twice a week, and sometimes, not even that. I used to have many comments in the beginning, but very few these days. However, I have enjoyed writing this blog so much that I have continued writing. As the Blogger stats indicate, people may not be commenting but they're reading.

Over the years, I have written more than 940 posts on writing, reading, the publishing history, world history, popular culture, conferences, and photography. I have also reviewed some books. In the beginning it used to be a writer's and editor's blog, but in the past couple of years, it has become a reader's blog. As my previous post indicated, I'll be rethinking and retooling the site to decide what sorts of posts to write. This will of course continue to very much be a bookish blog, after all that is its raison d'ĂȘtre, however the content may vary from years past.

I designed the site by hand-coding most of the details, and I'm in love with it, so expect to continue seeing the same look. I have updated the sidebar list of recommendations as my reading has expanded beyond Romance in recent years. So now I have a Romance list and a Non-Romance list that includes all other types of fiction, genre and general, and all types of non-fiction.

I have removed the section that included glimpses of my personal library from LibraryThing, because I'm debating what to do about LibraryThing itself. I have liked having a catalogue of all my books on there, however, as I've given books away, I have forgotten to update it, and so the catalog there is out-of-date and less useful than it used to be. Besides, there are hundreds of un-cataloged books in my house!

I freely admit to being a book hoarder. I gave away nine big boxes of books to my local public library earlier this summer, and yet there are thousands on the shelves that I cannot bear to part with. Clearly, another purge is warranted in 2017.

And so, this is a quiet celebration of my ten years of blogging. It's an achievement I'm proud of and one I've enjoyed very much. Onward ho to another ten!


Tuesday, September 6, 2016


My August Reading


This month, I had the temerity to read and comment on a Kathleen Woodiwiss novel. Reams have been written about her novels. She's, after all, considered to be one of the originators of the modern format of the Romance genre novel. So it was intimidating to be commenting on one of her novels, especially since I wasn't lauding it.

Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss
Categories: Romance, Contemporary
Comments: Shanna Trahern is a spoiled, pampered eighteen-year-old in Georgian England. Her father, the lord and master of a Caribbean island, has given her a year's grace to find a husband, or else he'll find one for her. So what she do? At the end of the year, she marches off to Newgate and flashes her wealth and generous bosom and hopes to bamboozle a condemned murderer into marrying her. Ruark Beauchamp acquiesces but demands a night of passion from her in return.

Shanna then bribes the prison guard and get a day's outing for Ruark. But after the wedding ceremony is over, Shanna betrays Ruark and has him captured back before he can get his night of passion. She then returns to her father's isle to spend her days as the widowed Mrs. Beauchamp. Imagine her horror, when a few days later, a liberated Ruark shows up at the island as her father's bondsman. Well, 660 pages later, everything's all settled.

There's great worldbuilding here and clearly shows Woodiwiss's writing talents. However, the forced seduction scene (the book was written in the 1907s after all), the foot-stamping curl-tossing feistiness of the heroine, and her tiresome childish outbursts didn't work for me. My review is here.

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
Categories: General Fiction
Comments: This is as much a story of Afghani women as it is a story of contemporary Afghanistan. On the surface it is a murder mystery. A young wife is found covered in blood next to the dead body of her husband with a hatchet buried in the back of his head. Did she or didn't she do it? That is the question that various characters ask during the story.

Zeba is mum about the exact events, and it is up to her legal aid Afghan American lawyer, Yusuf, to tease out what exactly happened. I found the story elements to be at once identifiable and also difficult to connect with. The role of women in Afghan society in its many facets is what Hashimi discusses through this murder mystery. It's a fascinating story, and I found Hashimi's writing very compelling. My review is here.

News of the World by Paulette Jiles
Categories: General Fiction
Comments: If historical fiction is to be written, it should be like this. Jiles paints such a gorgeous canvas of Texas in 1870, and on it she details a tender story of a seventy-year-old man and a ten-year-old girl. The German American girl had been captured by the Kiowa at age six and ransomed back to the U.S. by the army at age ten. To all intents and purposes, she is Kiowa, and that is how he treats her. With such care and patience, he slowly brings her into the Anglo-American world.

And just as he changes her, she changes him. He had been feeling depression settle upon him in his rootless life of wandering from town to town of North Texas reading international newspapers in town halls for money. She grounds him, gives him a renewed purpose in life, and brings affection and a child's joy into his life. I loved this book so much. If there's a fault in the book, it lies in too many details bogging down the forward drive of the story especially towards the end. My review will be published by All About Romance in October, and I'll add a link back here then. [Edited 10/7: My review is here.]

The American Earl by Joan Wolf
Categories: Romance, Regency, Traditional
Comments: Julia Marshall is the daughter of the Earl of Althorpe. Following her father’s rather gruesome death, she now has the burden of the house and the impoverished estate of Stoverton on her young shoulders as well as the future of her younger sister to worry about.

While Julia is struggling to make ends meet at Stoverton, the new earl has been informed of his misfortune. He is an American from Salem and is enormously wealthy, but his wealth comes from a vast shipping business. To the ton, he's a cit. To him, the earldom is a burden he doesn’t want, and he is reluctant to leave his business to travel all the way to England. Likewise, Julia can’t believe an American will be able to appreciate the responsibilities and duties that go with an earldom.

I enjoyed reading how Wolf had the two protagonists approach the other's culture and develop an understanding of their own in the other. Their rapprochement was very satisfying to read. Wolf does people so well.

My problem with the book came in the last quarter. She wrapped up all the story threads with an alacrity that felt almost business-like—a contrast to the leisurely development of the story for the initial three-quarters of the book. My review is here.

Roman by Heather Grothaus
Categories: Romance, Medieval
Comments: I was very excited to read a medieval romance set in Syria. Unfortunately, the story did not live up to its premise. The book was riddled with editing errors. A guiding developmental editing hand would've helped in streamlining the story into a cohesive whole. As it is there were tiger scenes in there that added nothing to the whole. The characters were strangely unromantic towards each other despite a love scene. The whole setup of the plot that launches the hero and heroine on a journey together is thin and implausible. And so on. A disappointment. My review will be published by All About Romance in October. [Edited 10/2: My review is here.]