Sunday, September 21, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (191)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Well the first day of fall is this week and I am a little bummed but I cheered myself up with my first mug of apple cider for the season.  I also pinned an intriguing recipe for a Paleo No Bake Triple Chocolate Pumpkin Pie that I might try for Thanksgiving since my sister is Paleo and it is a healthy alternative with chocolate involved.

Books reviewed:

Landline by Rainbow Rowell (not my favorite Rowell book)

Books read:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (reread)

I think the audio version was a fantastic way to experience the book again but I did have to turn it off at one point so I didn't cry while driving. This is the selection for my evening book group and we are showing the movie at the library on Monday night. I like being able to discuss the book and the movie adaptation together.

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

I really enjoyed this debut mystery set in the 1930s at a hotel in Brighton. It reminded me a lot of Deanna Raybourn's books, especially the heroine and her relationship with her husband. The setting and cast of suspects reminded me a little of Agatha Christie too. 

Currently reading:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (reread)

While I read the book before the movie came to theaters I hadn't finished listening to the audio version yet. I really like the narration and I love that Octavia Spencer is the voice of Minnie.

What I plan to read next:

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (reread)

This is the afternoon book group selection for September. I want to reread it so it will be fresh in my mind.

My True Love Gave To Me by Stephanie Perkins, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor, etc.

There are a number of stories in this anthology that I am eager to try. I'm especially excited to read the ones by Ally Carter, Stephanie Perkins, and Rainbow Rowell. I had thought John Green had contributed a story too so I was disappointed to find out I was wrong. I read another holiday anthology he wrote a story for a few years ago (Let it Snow).

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Review: Landline

By Rainbow Rowell
Published: July 8, 2014

Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it’s been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems beside the point now.

Maybe that was always beside the point.

Two days before they’re supposed to visit Neal’s family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can’t go. She’s a TV writer, and something’s come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn’t expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she’s finally done it. If she’s ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It’s not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she’s been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

My review:

While I kind of liked this book I was also a little disappointed with it. The main character is so selfish and I struggled to like her or relate to her. I did appreciate the honesty with which marriage is portrayed as well as the difficulties in trying to balance a demanding career with family life. I liked the flashbacks of the young Georgie and Neal as well.

I think the idea of the story is a good one but it just didn't work for me because the adult Georgie is too hard to like. The story ended up being about two people who maybe shouldn't have gotten married in the first place and you can't help but feel sorry for them and their children and wish they could find some common ground. I was left feeling that things weren't really fixed between them but maybe that just makes it more realistic (aside from the magic landline phone). There are some moving moments and at least Georgie seems to figure out what is important by the end of the book.

Overall I think I just prefer the author's teen fiction over her fiction for adults. Eleanor and Park was so heartfelt and beautifully written that this book just pales in comparison. I thought with Attachments that it was a good first effort and that any flaws were due to it being her first book but after reading Landline I realized her teen fiction is much better (in my opinion) and I hope she continues to write more of that. 

While Landline did not live up to my admittedly high expectations, that doesn't mean I didn't like it at all or that you shouldn't give it a try. It did receive mostly positive reviews from professional review publications after all. For those who are new to Rainbow Rowell's books however I would suggest starting with her teen fiction. For readers looking for similar contemporary books for adults, I'd suggest trying What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (141)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

Stitching Snow by R.C. Lewis
Release date: October 14, 2014

Princess Snow is missing.

Her home planet is filled with violence and corruption at the hands of King Matthias and his wife as they attempt to punish her captors. The king will stop at nothing to get his beloved daughter back—but that’s assuming she wants to return at all.

Essie has grown used to being cold. Temperatures on the planet Thanda are always sub-zero, and she fills her days with coding and repairs for the seven loyal drones that run the local mines.

When a mysterious young man named Dane crash-lands near her home, Essie agrees to help the pilot repair his ship. But soon she realizes that Dane’s arrival was far from accidental, and she’s pulled into the heart of a war she’s risked everything to avoid. With the galaxy’s future—and her own—in jeopardy, Essie must choose who to trust in a fiery fight for survival.

I read a really positive review of this in School Library Journal where the reviewer compares it to the Lunar Chronicles. I wonder if this will be a darker book due to a spoiler in that review (hate spoilers in reviews but maybe it was in SLJ to help school librarians decide if they wanted to purchase it). Also I am anxiously awaiting the start of season 4 of Once Upon a Time and something about this version of Snow White reminds me of Snow from OUAT.

Monday, September 15, 2014

(Updated Version) It's Monday, What Are You Reading (190)

Now updated to include pictures and my thoughts on the books I read :)

It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journey where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

This post is late because I currently don't have access to my laptop as of Sunday morning. It is trapped in my home office with a six-legged, winged creature that may be a wasp or bee. I have a bug phobia especially when it comes to things that may sting (I have never been stung and hope to spend the rest of my life without experiencing that pleasure). I am hoping it will just die on its own but most likely I am going to have to gather my courage and my flyswatter and go to battle. Eventually...


It was a bee and it is now resting in peace thanks to the kindness of a neighbor. 

In the meantime I finally got to watch Outlander when I was visiting my sister (I loved it!) and now I am tempted to order cable even though I can't afford it. I will hopefully be able to catch up on episodes next time I visit her. She owes me for all the Gilmore Girls episodes I taped for her since she didn't get that show back in the day :)  I think the casting was really good and the show seems faithful to the book so far.

Books reviewed:

Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Books read:

Maybe This Christmas by Sarah Morgan

I thought this was a fun Christmas romance though not as good as book 1. I still haven't read book 2 but I may pick it up someday. While it is probably best to start at the beginning it is possible to read this as a standalone (or without reading the second book).

Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

I liked Evil Librarian but not as much as I thought I would. I think there is definitely a "Buffy" kind of vibe to the story but it also reminded me of the snarky writing style of Rachel Hawkins.

Tarnish by Katherine Longshore

Tarnish provided a different view of Anne Boleyn so we get to see her before she caught Henry's interest and the story ended well before her time as queen.

The Perilous Sea by Sherry Thomas 

I loved this book. It is the sequel to The Burning Sky and I thought this book was even better than the first one. Lots of surprises and twists.

Currently reading:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (reread)

I am listening to this on audio which is a different experience from when I read the print version of the book. I think the narrator does a good job with Hazel's voice and that breathy quality when she is fighting for oxygen.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Review: Say What You Will

Say What You Will
By Cammie McGovern
Published: June 3, 2014

John Green's The Fault in Our Stars meets Rainbow Rowell's Eleanor and Park in this beautifully written, incredibly honest, and emotionally poignant novel. Cammie McGovern's insightful young adult debut is a heartfelt and heartbreaking story about how we can all feel lost until we find someone who loves us because of our faults, not in spite of them.

Born with cerebral palsy, Amy can't walk without a walker, talk without a voice box, or even fully control her facial expressions. Plagued by obsessive-compulsive disorder, Matthew is consumed with repeated thoughts, neurotic rituals, and crippling fear. Both in desperate need of someone to help them reach out to the world, Amy and Matthew are more alike than either ever realized.

When Amy decides to hire student aides to help her in her senior year at Coral Hills High School, these two teens are thrust into each other's lives. As they begin to spend time with each other, what started as a blossoming friendship eventually grows into something neither expected.

My review:

Amy and Matthew are both flawed and hurting teens and together they find understanding, friendship, and love but it isn't all smooth sailing from there. Amy has been over protected by her mother and other well meaning adults. A chance conversation with Matthew in her junior year precipitates her plan to have student aides help her during her senior year in an effort to reach out and make friends. In Matthew, Amy sees someone who won't sugar coat things and he is also on the outside at school like her. 

Matthew doesn't want to acknowledge that he has any problems. Sure he washes his hands several times a day and is afraid that if he doesn't follow his rituals, terrible things will happen to the people he loves but other than that he considers himself as just a normal teen. Amy notices the truth about him though and she pushes him to confront his fears.

I liked Say What You Will and reading about Amy and Matthew's journey in their last year of high school and beyond. The romance builds slowly which makes sense because a level of trust and friendship has to be established first. I really liked the portrayal of Amy and the things she struggled with and wanted for herself. Both characters showed growth but it was Amy's story that stuck with me. 

Overall I thought this was a good book and while it is different from The Fault in Our Stars and Eleanor and Park, I think it would appeal to fans of either book and those who like contemporary teen fiction. Ignore the comparisons to John Green and Rainbow Rowell and give this book a try anyway. You likely will not be sorry that you did.

Note: I received an ARC for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (140)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly meme to discuss upcoming books we can't wait to get our hands on. Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm waiting on:

The Ruby Circle by Richelle Mead
Release date: February 10, 2015

The epic conclusion to Richelle Mead's New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series is finally here...

Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets—and human lives.

After their secret romance is exposed, Sydney and Adrian find themselves facing the wrath of both the Alchemists and the Moroi in this electrifying conclusion to Richelle Mead’s New York Times bestselling Bloodlines series. When the life of someone they both love is put on the line, Sydney risks everything to hunt down a deadly former nemesis. Meanwhile, Adrian becomes enmeshed in a puzzle that could hold the key to a shocking secret about spirit magic, a secret that could shake the entire Moroi world.

After reading Silver Shadows, I can't wait to find out how this series will end and I am glad I don't have to wait till next summer. I hate winter but at least I have some good books to look forward to.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Review: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies
By Liane Moriarty
Published: July 29, 2014

Sometimes it’s the little lies that turn out to be the most lethal. . . .
A murder… . . . a tragic accident… . . . or just parents behaving badly?  
What’s indisputable is that someone is dead.   But who did what?

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:   Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?). And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?). 

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body. But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.   

New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies
 is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.  

My review:

I think Big Little Lies is even better than Liane Moriarty's previous bestselling book, The Husband's Secret. The pacing flows quickly helped along by the countdown to the fatal Trivia Night and interspersed with interview quotes with other parents and teachers at the school. 

The three main characters Madeline, Celeste, and Jane all have compelling individual story lines however Madeline at first seemed less interesting than Celeste and Jane who both had big secrets to deal with. Madeline initially reminded me of Cecilia Fitzpatrick from The Husband's Secret and I also thought there were some similarities between Jane and Tess (also from THS) because both were basically single mothers new to town and the school. While there are some similarities between the books, I was relieved to find that Big Little Lies took a different path. I liked the element of suspense and trying to figure out who died on Trivia Night.

I found Jane and Celeste's stories to be moving. I won't go into details to avoid spoiling the book but they both have dark secrets in their lives. Even Madeline's struggles with her eldest daughter touched me. I didn't like Madeline as much but I couldn't help but feel sorry for her. It would not be easy to be in the situation she faces with her ex-husband and his new wife living in the same community and watching how he treats his new daughter compared to how he wasn't there for Madeline and their daughter. I also liked how she could be protective of her friends and family. 

The school and the issues with bullying were frustrating to read about. I felt sorry for those involved and it made me angry with all the gossip and the useless response of the school to some of it. The community is very gossipy and not very welcoming to outsiders but thankfully for Jane, Madeline and Celeste take her under their wing. 

Overall I really enjoyed Big Little Lies. It is a page turner but it also made me want to cry at times because of the issues faced by the characters.  In a way this book reminded me of the movie American Beauty and the way outwardly perfect lives can hide big secrets. There is some humor too as well as a little romance. There is a little element of mystery but it isn't a true mystery novel. I think this would be a good pick for book discussion groups and readers who enjoy Jojo Moyes. It is definitely one of my favorites of 2014.

Note: I received an ARC for review courtesy of the publisher and Edelweiss