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Book Blind Date Results & Reviews

Blind-Date-with-a-Book

Thanks to all for participating in our book blind date challenge! We had a lot of fun organizing this challenge and we are happy that so many of you decided to join us. Keep reading to find out who won our prizes, the book titles of those poor dates that weren’t selected, and the compilation of all your reviews.

Winners:
To determine our winner, we had a guest judge read all the reviews. This judge was someone who was blind to reviewer names and hadn’t read any of the reviewed books. Reviews were judged primarily based on how informative the reviews were for potential readers. Since we had several non-native English speakers participating, reviews were not judged on writing (grammar, etc). Our two runners up were selected randomly using random.org.

Selecting a winner was difficult (an almost impossible task) because you all wrote strong reviews. The winner was selected because their particular review was judged to be helpful in multiple areas. Many people wrote fabulous synopses of their books and in fact we each felt (BW, guest judge, and myself) that certain other reviews stood out in terms of making us want to read a given book — and these were three different reviews! However, the winning reviewer also mentioned writing style, structure, and thematic content. Our judge felt that since he didn’t know any of you, or your reading preferences, the winning review provided the most information about the book that helped him determine whether or not the particular book would be appealing to readers.

And our first place winner with a $25 Amazon gift card goes to Anita with her review of the book This is Between Us by Sampsell.

Our two runners up, receiving $5 gift cards each are: Danielle & Andrea!

Congrats to all! All winners please email Jen (jenlane3@yahoo.com) with the email address you’d like us to send your prize.

Better luck next time to those who didn’t win, but hopefully you at least got an opportunity to read a good book. We truly struggled with selecting a winner because you gave us so many excellent reviews!!

Stay tuned for new challenge at the beginning of April – Spring cleaning challenge!

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And now on to our reviews (I know this is a long post, but please check out all our good reviews):

Dinner Date: The School of Essential Ingredients. Reviewed by Danielle.
Rating: 5 stars
Lillian, a chef and restaurant owner, teaches a cooking class.  As a chef, she is able to teach others how food speaks to people and can change a mood or a feeling and bring up a long forgotten memory.  This story details each student in her class and how her philosophies in cooking and food affect their lives for the better.  Also, you see how this particular class has an effect on her as well.

The story is beautifully written.  The descriptions of the food left my mouth watering and desperate to go out and try something new.  I thought at first that the story would be a little disjointed since the class is full of strangers and each chapter focuses on a new person.  It was smooth and clean.  The lives of these strangers and their stories entwine beautiful.  The book was full of realistic people that the reader can identify with in one way or another.  It was sad, happy, funny, and uplifting to see how much of an impact people can have on each other.

The I Hate Romance Date: Perfume by Patrick Suskind. Reviewed by Anna
Rating: 4 stars
Wow.  What a bizarre book.This story is set in mid-18th century France, and from beginning to end it is very strange.  The author takes us through an olfactory journey, starting from the birth of one of the queerest characters I have ever come across.  Jean-Baptist Grenouille is born to a fishwife in the slums of Paris, and from the very beginning we are treated to a detailed description of the smells of this world.  He is an unwanted child, left for dead and accidentally saved, soon orphaned, and assigned to a professional wet nurse, later an orphanage, and when old enough, apprenticed to a tanner.

Grenouille has no odor of his own, but is possessed of an uncanny sense of smell.  The author’s rich prose treats us to the point of view of Grenouille’s nose as we follow his journey from one odoriferous experience to another.  Eventually he succeeds in becoming apprenticed to a perfumer, where we are treated to an interesting description of the process of perfume making as he learns to capture and bottle the many scents around him.

Our protagonist appears to be completely amoral, and quite otherworldly.  From his point of view the reader is detached from the world, and sees it through the nose of a creature that is deliberately created to be not quite human.  When he comes across a heavenly scent and traces is to a young girl, he develops an obsession to possess it, killing her almost absent-mindedly in the process.  Having no body scent of his own, he is quite invisible to the rest of the world, able to slink along unnoticed by the rest of humanity.  The author deals with the inconvenience of a war in the middle of that time period by conveniently stashing our protagonist in a mountain cave to live a hermit-like existence for 7 years before bringing him back into the world again, and moving towards the climax of a series of murders of young women.

Which brings us to the culmination of the story.  Now up to this point I had been wondering why this was tagged magical realism, as despite the exaggeration I could easily suspend disbelief and accept the unusual powers of smell that Grenouille possessed.  His story was intriguing even though the serial murders don’t occur until quite late in the book.

But then we come to the execution scene, and this is where the strange becomes totally bizarre, and this is where I finally get why someone tagged this magical realism.  This is also where I was disappointed because it just degenerates into macabre fantasy.  I won’t go into detail as that would REALLY be a spoiler, but you have to wonder if the author conceived this ending from the first, or if his character took him there, or if he decided the story was going nowhere and he needed something spectacular for the end.  I know I felt a little outraged that he expected me as a reader to swallow it whole, and all the way to the last sentence I just kept rolling my eyes, thinking, “Oh, come on!!”

Don’t get me wrong, I am very glad I had the opportunity to read this.  But it certainly would make me pause if I ever got the chance to meet the author, because I couldn’t help wondering what kind of mind could conceive of such a grotesque, gruesome tale.

I can’t quite give this 5 stars, because I did not love it.  But I can’t say that I just liked it either, because Suskind has a fantastic way with words that draws you in even though the subject is distasteful.  I’m hovering between 3.5 and a solid 4, but I really have to round up to 4 because this creation is a piece of art, and I can appreciate and admire the skill that went into its making even as I wrinkle my nose at the content.

Historical Love: The Secret Life of Violet Grant by Beatriz Williams. Reviewed by Lynsey
Rating: 3 stars
It is the 1960’s and Vivian Schuyler receives a notice that there is a package waiting for her at the post office. She rushes down to get said package and in the process meets the love of her life while being thrown head long into a mystery involving an aunt she’s heard of before. Sounds promising, right? A light, fun “beach” read to disrupt the darkness of the literary fiction I normally read. However, this book requires you to be near blind to avoid seeing all the holes in the story line. In both stories, actually, as this is not only the story of Vivian and her search for romance and the elusive history of her aunt but it is the story of Violet Grant, a young, brilliant female scientist in the early 1900’s.

The story of Violet Grant actually saves the day as Violet is an interesting character that seems well thought out along side what appears to be a moderately well researched period of history. Meanwhile the story of Vivian is the schlockiest bit of reading i’ve had the misfortune to come across in a very long time. She is a cartoon character with zero believability in a time period that could have been 2000 as easily as 1960 for what little historical references there are. Luckily the story of Violet, is interesting and compelling enough to put up with Vivian.

Realistic Love: This is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell. Reviewed by Anita
Rating: 3 stars
I really enjoyed reading this book that I picked up solely because Jen’s blog (thereadersroom.org) had a fun little activity called “Blind Book Date” where you pick a book blindly based on a few words. My words were “Realistic Love”, and this book was my date, lol.

So back to the book. I truly enjoyed it more than the three stars reflect. In fact, I almost gave it three stars and a heart. It’s just that I didn’t quite want to appear that I was endorsing it for other people because I do think the book has somewhat limited appeal. The story is narrated by a divorced man with a son who is in a relationship with a divorced woman with a daughter. Each chapter represents a year in their relationship. There is just the barest wisp of a plot. Each chapter is comprised of tiny vignettes or anecdotes that give the reader a bit of insight into the relationship. It is also written in some kind of odd second person where the narrator is talking to “you”, but where you represents the woman in the relationship.

The whole approach is very fresh, and I thought it was bold and that it worked. But I can seriously see people disliking it.

My other critique is that there is that so many of the vignettes are sexual. I am definitely not averse to reading about sex and some of the scenes were very well done, but because the book has no plot, it ends up seeming a little gratuitous.

On the flip side, I really liked the writing and the whole way the author used the smallest of details for big impact. Somehow it came across a little more like a writing assignment where the student is super talented as opposed to a fully realized novel. The ending, which is pretty abrupt, doesn’t really alleviate that impression.

All in all though, there was something very unique and original here, and I would definitely keep an eye out for more from this author just to see what he does with his talents.

Magical Love: The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. Reviewed by Jamie
269 pages
Rating: 5 stars and a favorite
Emily Benedict moves to her mother’s hometown, Mullaby, North Carolina, after her mother’s death. Emily never knew she had a grandfather living in Mullaby as her mother never told her stories of the past. Emily soon learns that the townsfolk do remember the past and weren’t necessarily all that fond of her mother. She will have to learn of her familiy’s history to help navigate her way through the political waters of the town. She’ll also have to suspend belief as strange things like mood changing wallpaper and unexplained dancing lights in the woods occur as routine in Mullaby.

Emily’s new neighbor, Julia Winterson, helps to make her feel welcome and fit in. Julia bakes cakes to offer herself hope; hope that someone from the past will find her, hope that she will be happy in the future, and hope that it’s not too late to find her happiness, a place she can call home.

Another great story about Mullaby and almost as enchanting as Garden Spells. Mullaby is a small town, but the folks in it have their own special magic. I love that the characters have flaws but they really do have an inherent magic to them. Whether it’s the magical tree in Garden Spells, the scent for baking in this novel, or something more extreme, it’s all about the capacity for love in the characters that is endearing. I can’t wait to read another one of Sarah Addison Allen’s books. They captivate me.

Some quotes:
“Men of thoughtless actions are always surprised by consequences,”

“there was no use dwelling on the unfixable past when there was so much you could do to fix the future.”

“”Some men you know are Southern before they ever say a word,” Julia said as she and Emily watched Sawyer’s progress, helpless, almost as if they couldn’t look away. “They remind you of something good— picnics or carrying sparklers around at night. Southern men will hold doors open for you, they’ll hold you after you yell at them, and they’ll hold on to their pride no matter what. Be careful what they tell you, though. They have a way of making you believe anything, because they say it that way.””

“It took me a long time to realize this: We get to choose what defines us.”

““I’m homesick all the time,” she said, still not looking at him. “I just don’t know where home is. There’s this promise of happiness out there. I know it. I even feel it sometimes. But it’s like chasing the moon— just when I think I have it, it disappears into the horizon. I grieve and try to move on, but then the damn thing comes back the next night, giving me hope of catching it all over again.””

“He could sense her holding her breath when she realized how close his face was to hers. “I’m knotted up with you,” he said. “Don’t you feel it? From the moment we met.””

““I can be your home,” he said quietly. “Belong to me.””

Love in the Title: A Tale of Love and Darkness by Amos Oz. Reviewer: Kristel
RATING: superb ★★★★★
REVIEW: This is called an autobiographical novel of Israeli author written in 2002. It chronicles the author’s birth (in Jerusalem in 1939) during the British occupation and the birth of the nation in 1948. I think this work is more that a mere autobiographical novel of the author, it is also a biography of the birth of a nation. I enjoyed reading this work though it did not read fast for me. I enjoyed learning the history of this time period and learned a lot but the book is also even more. Written by the author as an adult, it is not chronological so much as bits and pieces of him memory of events. Here’s a quote from page 390, “Memory deludes me. I have just remembered something that I completely forgot after it happened. I remembered it again when I was about sixteen, and then I forgot it again. And this morning I remembered not the event itself but the previous recollection, which itself was more than forty years ago, as though an old moon were reflected in a windowpane from which it was reflected in a lake, from where memory draws not the reflection itself, which no longer exists, but only its whitened bones.” and “living memory, like ripples in water or nervous quivering of a gazelle’s skin in the moment before it takes flight, comes suddenly and trembles in a single instant in several rhythm”.

I enjoyed the author’s comments on writing and words and the insights in how and what made him an author. I also liked this story because of the story of Jews returning to the homeland, their experiences in Europe and what brought them back to the middle east before WWII and also the birth pangs of a new country. The tension of waiting in the night as the United Nations determined their fate and then the terrible abuse by British and Arabs after the UN passed the resolution giving Israel the right to be a country. Finally, Oz explores his childhood, his relationship to his father and his relationship to his mother who suffered from depression.

OPENING LINE: I was born and bred in a tiny, low ceilinged ground-floor flat.

QUOTES:

But all of them, Tolstoyans and Dostoevskians alike, in our neighborhood of Keren Avraham worked for Chekhov.

Facts have a tendency to obscure the truth.

Success flows from perspiration, and inspiration from diligence and effort.

I wandered dizzily through virtual forests, forests of words, huts of words, meadows of words.

…a magic piper who draws the desperate and lonely into the folds of his silken cloak. The ancient serial killer of disappointed souls.

….yellow electricity pouring out like glue that’s so thick it’s hard to spill, it can hardly move, it can barely make its heavy way, the way viscous liquids do; dull and yellow and slow, it advances like heavy motor oil across the evening, which is a little gray-blue now, and the breeze stirs and licks it for a moment.

…while it was true that books could change with the years just as much as people could, the difference was that whereas people would always drop you when they could no longer get any advantage or pleasure or interest or at least a good feeling from you, a book would never abandon you.

There were lots of great lines and word use in this book such as “arguing with an angry chorus of dogs”, “whole parliament of sparrows”, and “inhaling silence like a smell”.

FINISHED: 2015-March, as a blind date, it did not disappoint.

Forbidden Love: Thorn Birds by McCullough. Reviewed by Brandy

5 stars

The Thorn Birds is the epic telling of the Cleary family after they are transported from the hills of New Zealand and most likely a family legacy of poor farmhands, to the Australian Outback where their destiny awaits them on the homestead of Drogheda.

On Drogheda they begin learning the life of stockmen; working the land, the stables, the livestock and embrace’ngs even if reluctantly, their future inheritance.

On Drogheda, the forbidden love story of Meggie Cleary and FatherRalph de Bricassart, begins. Their story is passionately woven throughout the telling of the lives of the Cleary’s and Drogheda, through life and death, tragedy and celebration.

Colleen McCullough has written a beautiful and haunting love story with a rich and vivid backdrop of history.I fell in love with this story. McCullough gave just enough details to enrich the story but never overpower the telling.

Artistic Love: I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira. Reviewed by Andrea
4.5 stars

Synopsis: Mary Cassatt was an American painter who lived in Paris during the Belle Époque.  She found out how hard it was for an American woman to get accepted in the artistic circle back in Paris; when she was about to quit and go back to Philadelphia, she met Edgar Degas through a common friend.  This meeting, not only helped Mary define her art but also was the beginning of an intense relationship, surrounded by all of the other artists of the time, as Pisarro, Monet, Manet, Caillebote, etc.  The book not only tells the love story between Cassat and Degas, but also the romantic relationship between Edouard Manet and Berthe Morisot, as a complementary story.

I really enjoyed reading this book, the author makes a very good description of this time in history, which could only happened in this specific city, as it is the Belle Époque in Paris.  With some short and simple chapters, Oliveira is capable of making the reader really feel what struggles the Impressionists painters went through at the time, when their art was not acceptable, nor understood, in the Paris’ society; as well the way they confront love, family and friends.

In “I Always Loved You”, the author is able to help the reader really understand and feel what the painters went through while creating their masterpieces, after reading this book, admiring these paintings can become a new experience, knowing the feelings and sufferings behind the canvas.

I give this book a 4.5 star, I enjoyed it from the beginning all the way to the end.  The author gives a very clear description of what was going on in Paris during the late 1800’s, sometimes I even felt I was right there on some street in Montmartre.   While I was reading, I found myself looking for some of the paintings mentioned in the book and not only found out the description was very accurate, but also admired the masterpiece with a new perspective, now that I was “living” with the painters.

I really recommend reading this book, it already is in my TBR-again list.

Paranormal Love: Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion. Reviewed by Charisma
3 stars

WARNING: This review contains spoilers.

I must confess, I didn’t know what to expect from the book, and given this is my very first book about zombies, I didn’t have much to compare it to. It did start very well, in my opinion, and instantly I was engaged and couldn’t wait to know more about R. His thoughts were very entertaining and quite deep, I would say. I didn’t expect that from a zombie! (I’m currently in the middle of the Delirium trilogy and they, too, have ‘zombies’ in their midst. I think, the general perception about zombies is that they don’t think, they don’t speak, and they definitely don’t try to save people. They kill and they eat. It’s as simple as that.

Well, the zombies in “Warm Bodies” are ‘completely and utterly’ different: they do think, and their thoughts are quite long; they do make sounds other than a ‘groan’ here and there; they even bring ‘take out’ for their ‘families’. Yep, you heard me right: they have a church, they have a school, they do have husbands and wives, and they even have kids.)

As I said, it started out quite good, and then… well… it kind of went downhill from there. SPOILER: I do love a good romantic story: boy meets girl, boy likes girl, boy and girl fight evil together and grow so much closer, boy and girl live happily ever after. Sounds about right. But a zombie boy and a warm live girl living happily ever after? Isn’t it stretched a little too far?). Some sources refer to the story as being a ‘post-apocalyptic “Romeo and Juliet”.’ I am not convinced I can see it there. (See the spoiler above for more information.) If I were to choose the story that it resembles, I would have said it was “Pinocchio.” Yep, you heard me right. Wanna know why? Read the spoilers following. (SPOILER: Wow! Really, at the very end of the story the zombie becomes a live human being? – “I am a real boy!” – yeah, right!)

Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all that horrible, but it wasn’t super great either. If you’re into zombies and are a fan of ‘different’ super-beings (like sparkling vampires, etc.) you might enjoy the story, otherwise, if you favour the original zombie behaviour, you might wanna reconsider reading it.

Funny Love: The Rosie Project by Grahame Simsion. Reviewed by Daisy
4 stars
The Rosie Project is the story of a socially awkward Professor of genetics who decides he wants to find a wife. He embarks on a “Wife Project” to find his perfect partner using his personally developed survey to weed out those “inappropriate” for him. This was a good story. I found it very funny from beginning to end. The story was sweet and humorous and I laughed out loud many times. I enjoyed reading it.
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And for our books that weren’t selected? Check out what you could have selected:

  1. Epic romance : Gone with the Wind by Mitchell
  2. Love that makes you cry: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  3. Classic romance: Pride & Prejudice (we had lots of back ups for this category)
  4. Love overseas: Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Seldrick
  5. Star-crossed lovers: The Night Circus by Morgenstern
  6. Love like a cliche:The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
  7. Graphic love: Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine
  8. Let’s be friends: The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat (Vintage Contemporaries) by Moore
  9. Love Triangle: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  10. Unrequited love: Sputnik Sweetheart (Vintage International) by Murakami

So, what do you think? Any books you’d like to read or would like to avoid?

12 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brandy H #

    I’m thankful for challenges such as these and book clubs that force me out of my comfort zone. I would not have picked up The Thorn Birds on my own, especially at 600 pages. But I really enjoyed reading it. If there is another challenge in the future I would definitely be game!

    Like

    March 16, 2015
    • I’m so glad you enjoyed your book. Your review definitely made me want to read the book. We’ll be hosting more challenges and one coming in April so stay tuned! More chances to win prizes!

      Like

      March 16, 2015
  2. Lynsey #

    Congrats Anita! Thanks for the fun challenge Jen and Bookworm!

    Like

    March 16, 2015
    • Second that. Congratulations to the winners! Jen, Bookworm, thanks for a fun challenge that I loved participating in 🙂

      P.S. I’m yet to read the reviews.

      Like

      March 16, 2015
      • glad you both joined us! It was fun to put together. Stay tuned for our Spring challenge that will be announced in the next few weeks 🙂

        Like

        March 16, 2015
    • Thank you so much for your kind congratulations!! I appreciate it so much.

      Like

      March 16, 2015
  3. Oh my gosh oh my gosh!! Thank you so much!!! I am really, really honored and so delighted. This was completely unexpected! Thank you so much for making my day. I wish you could see my big smile!!

    I loved participating too so it was a double win for me.

    Like

    March 16, 2015
    • yay! Congrats on the win. Much deserved. Really tough to pick b/c we had so many awesome reviews (i’m just glad I wasn’t the one making the decision)!

      Like

      March 16, 2015
  4. Yupi! I am so happy!! I really enjoy this challenge, count me in for the nex one!! This make my day!!

    Like

    March 16, 2015
    • Congrats! Let me know which email address to which you want me to send your amazon card. your gmail account that you used to send me your review? Our next challenge will be announced in a few weeks and will last for the spring season 🙂

      Like

      March 16, 2015
  5. Congratulations to the winners! This was a fun game, and I certainly would never have picked up my book on my own, but I enjoyed it. I love discovering books this way.

    Like

    March 16, 2015
  6. Thank you to everyone for taking part I really enjoyed this challenge and hope you did to 🙂

    Like

    March 17, 2015

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