Thursday, May 5, 2016

Clean Sweep ARC Challenge

Clean Sweep ARC Challenhe

I have decided to participate in the Clean Sweep ARC Challenge hosted by Kimberly at Caffeinated Book Reviewer and Kristin at Addicted to Happily Ever After. The purpose of the challenge is to read the ARCs you have piling up and I've got a lot of e-ARCs on my Kindle I still need to read. Hopefully this challenge will be the motivation I need!

My goals:

Read as many ARCs as I can get to
Write reviews and post to Goodreads, Netgalley and Edelweiss

Wish me luck! I will be posting my updates and list of finished books here.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (180)

"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:

Exile for Dreamers by Kathleen Baldwin
Release date: May 24, 2016

Exile for Dreamers is the second captivating installment in the Stranje House series for young adults by award-winning author Kathleen Baldwin. #1 New York Times bestselling author Meg Cabot calls this romantic Regency adventure "completely original and totally engrossing."
Tess Aubreyson can't run far enough or fast enough to escape the prophetic dreams that haunt her. Her dreams bring nothing but death and grief. Tess refuses to accept that she may be destined for the same madness that destroyed her mother, until her disturbing dreams become the only means of saving Lord Ravencross, the man she loves, and her fellow students at Stranje House. Tess’s old friend, the traitorous Lady Daneska and the Ghost, ruthless leader of the Iron Crown, have returned to England, intent on paving the way for Napoleon’s invasion of England. Can the young ladies of Stranje House prevail once more? Or is England destined to fall into the hands of the power-mad dictator?

I thought the first book in the series was a lot of fun so I'm looking forward to this sequel. Thankfully I don't have long to wait!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Review: Love, Lies and Spies

Love, Lies and Spies
By Cindy Anstey
Published: April 19, 2016

In Love, Lies and Spies, Cindy Anstey's hilarious homage to Jane Austen, a lady with a penchant for trouble finds a handsome spy much more than merely tolerable.
Juliana Telford is not your average nineteenth-century young lady. She's much more interested in researching ladybugs than marriage, fashionable dresses, or dances. So when her father sends her to London for a season, she's determined not to form any attachments. Instead, she plans to secretly publish her research.
Spencer Northam is not the average young gentleman of leisure he appears. He is actually a spy for the War Office, and is more focused on acing his first mission than meeting eligible ladies. Fortunately, Juliana feels the same, and they agree to pretend to fall for each other. Spencer can finally focus, until he is tasked with observing Juliana's traveling companions . . . and Juliana herself.
Full of humor and English Regency Period charm, and starring a whip-smart strong female heroine, this young adult novel is the perfect mix of romance, action, and adventure.

My review:

I love Jane Austen's novels and have enjoyed other YA novels set during the Regency so I had high hopes for Love, Lies and Spies. I liked the idea of an intelligent female heroine and while I hate bugs I admired her interest in something other than ribbons and suitors. I also liked that she shared this interest with her father who encouraged her to pursue publication. I was expecting Juliana to become involved in Spencer's investigation but for the most part she is in the dark about his true motivations for much of the book. She accepts his story for why he needs to pretend to court her (his concern for his friend Lord Bobbington who is in love with Vivian Pyebald, a young lady Juliana knows). I admit I was disappointed that Juliana was not more involved in the action of the story though there is a secondary plot that affects her. I thought that at times she became a damsel in distress though to her credit she does try to get out of those situations first but ultimately must be rescued.

I did enjoy the romance between Spencer and Juliana. It was like a tamer YA version of the Regency romance novels I've read by Julia Quinn or Eloisa James. Like those novels there is also humor which I appreciated. Some of the secondary characters were caricatures and not fully developed, particularly the Pyebald family and Juliana's strict aunt Phyllis. 

Overall however I thought the novel was pretty good in spite of my slight disappointment. I was expecting the book to be more like A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin but it is more like Patrice Kindl's Regency novels for teens (which I also liked). Fans of Keeping the Castle and A School for Brides by Patrice Kindl and The Season by Sarah MacLean or readers who like the time period should give this a try.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Post (49) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

The week went by in a blur. I have been busy at work trying to get ready for our revamped summer reading program for adults (we are also revamping the teen and children's programs too) and still don't have everything figured out. At home I have been trying to plan a vacation I'll hopefully be taking this fall with my parents. Last spring I went to Williamsburg, Virginia on a girls trip with a friend and I'd like to go back and see more of the historical sites. We didn't buy tickets for Colonial Williamsburg so that is something I want to do this year if possible.

This week I have my book discussion groups on Tuesday. I finished the book we're reading for the afternoon group but I have just started our book for evening book group. I'll be spending a significant part of the day trying to finish. On Friday I am going to visit my sister for the weekend. I'll be attending a cancer fundraiser that she co-chairs on Saturday. There is a lot of food to sample and a silent auction. 

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

#FitReaders is hosted by Felicia at The Geeky Blogger and Jen at That's What I'm Talking About

I did a lot better with my steps this week and I also found out that I lost a few pounds which was a nice surprise. Hopefully I will keep it off!

Sunday--3,038 steps
Monday--10,671 steps
Tuesday--14,802 steps
Wednesday--11,387 steps
Thursday--10,840 steps
Friday--12,359 steps
Saturday--12,119 steps

Last week on my blog:

Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (review)

Books read:

Emma by Jane Austen (reread)

I mostly enjoyed listening to this audio book. It has been years since I last read Emma. My thoughts this time were that Emma was pretty immature and could be annoying but I just couldn't hate her. Mr. Knightley deserved better and he seemed too good to be true in a way. I suppose that is why Jane Austen gave him that tongue in cheek name (George Knightley).

Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

I liked this book though I was a little disappointed that Juliana wasn't very involved in the espionage. I think I was expecting something more like A School for Unusual Girls

A Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner

I'm still not sure how I feel about this novel. Part of it were pretty tough to read but I did feel a little emotionally manipulated by the story (similar to Nicholas Sparks novels). I'm curious about how the others in my book group will feel.

Currently reading:

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

I just started this but I already don't like Anya. I'm not sure about Meredith either. I've heard this is almost as good as The Nightingale and some say it is just as good. I hope so! We'll see how it goes. Perhaps Anya's story will change my mind about her.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

I'm getting closer to the end of my reread. Frodo, Sam and Gollum are arriving at the Stairs of Cirith Ungol. Run, Frodo, run for your life!

Currently listening to:

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling (reread)

I'm having fun listening to the audio books again. I do feel sorry for Harry in this book and hate it when the Hufflepuffs and others think he is the Heir of Slytherin. I want to smack that pompous Ernie Macmillan!

On my TBR pile:

The Skylighter by Becky Wallace

I definitely hope to read this soon. It was published in March so I want to move it up my TBR pile.

Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

I think a beach read sounds perfect for this time of year. I can't wait for summer!

I just got the ARC for Britt-Marie Was Here which is a companion novel that will be published next month so I want to read this first.

New books:

Charlotte Cuts it Out by K.A. Barson (library book)

The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson (for review)

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (for review)

Wanderlost by Jen Malone (for review)

Summer Days and Summer Nights by Stephanie Perkins et al. (for review)

Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman (for review)

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Review:Girl in the Blue Coat

The Girl in the Blue Coat
By Monica Hesse
Published: April 5, 2016

Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion.

On a routine delivery, a client asks Hanneke for help. Expecting to hear that Mrs. Janssen wants meat or kerosene, Hanneke is shocked by the older woman's frantic plea to find a person--a Jewish teenager Mrs. Janssen had been hiding, who has vanished without a trace from a secret room. Hanneke initially wants nothing to do with such dangerous work, but is ultimately drawn into a web of mysteries and stunning revelations that lead her into the heart of the resistance, open her eyes to the horrors of the Nazi war machine, and compel her to take desperate action.

Beautifully written, intricately plotted, and meticulously researched, Girl in the Blue Coat is an extraordinary, gripping novel from a bright new voice.

My review:

What I know of The Netherlands and the Nazi Occupation during WWII is due to the memoirs of Anne Frank and Corrie Ten Boom (The Hiding Place). Unlike Anne and Corrie, Hanneke is not Jewish or hiding Jews in her home. She is instead surviving by procuring black market goods for her clients. Hanneke is also grieving the death of her boyfriend Bas who was killed during the Nazi invasion. Initially I wasn't sure I'd like Hanneke as she comes across as this cold character but Hanneke begins to change as she helps Mrs. Janssen look for Miriam and as she gets unwittingly involved with the resistance. At times I found Hanneke's naivete and stubbornness to be frustrating but she was acting from a good place and I liked seeing her character grow and develop maturity.

The story was suspenseful and there was intrigue over the missing Miriam and how she escaped hiding and where she might have gone. I also liked all the little details that added to the setting and really made it move vivid and gave the novel a sense of place. I liked learning about various Dutch foods like stroopwafels which I found at my local Wal-mart and enjoyed while reading the book. I find this time period fascinating and I liked learning about the Dutch resistance movement and what life was like in Holland at this time.

I thought this book was fantastic and a page turner that also affected me emotionally. I think readers who liked Anne Blankman's Prisoner of Night and Fog or Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein would like this book (and it is more accessible for readers who struggled with Code Name Verity). I would suggest it to fans of historical fiction and those who want to know more about this time period.

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

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Post (48) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. It's Monday, What Are You Reading is a fun weekly meme now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

This week we finally return to spring :) I have been enjoying the warmer weather and a visit to my family this past weekend. I didn't get much reading done but this coming weekend I am hoping to participate in Dewey's 24-HR readathon (though I definitely will not be reading for 24 hours!).

The edible book festival went really well. Below are some of the pictures. My favorite is "To Grill a Mockingbird" which won Best in Show, Best Pun/Funniest, Most Creative Use of Ingredients and People's Choice. One of the ladies in my book group made the grill out of cake. The wheels are Oreo cookies and she used candy for the coals. My entry is the middle one. The Twinkie cars turned out nicely and didn't take me that long to make. I won Best Library Staff Entry and Best Visual Presentation.

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

#FitReaders is hosted by Felicia at The Geeky Blogger and Jen at That's What I'm Talking About

I knew I wouldn't get my steps in this past week due to my trip to see my parents and other morning commitments but I did have a few good days. Tuesday was very busy at work with the edible book festival and my Star Wars movie night going on at the same time. I'm not surprised I did so well on steps that day!

Sunday--1,317 steps
Monday--4,224 steps
Tuesday--15,776 steps
Wednesday--11,479 steps
Thursday--10,554 steps
Friday--6,854 steps
Saturday--5,548 steps

Last week on my blog:

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan (review)
Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (review)

Books read:

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson

While it did have a slow start I thought this book was fantastic and I think readers who like WWI historical fiction and the English village setting would appreciate it. I was also reminded a little of the TV shows Downton Abbey and Home Fires.

Currently reading:

Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey

I should be finishing this soon as I only have a few chapters left to go. I am enjoying it.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

Frodo and Sam have parted company with Faramir and are making their way to Cirith Ungol. I'd forgotten about the parts in Ithilien and how pleasant that area was in spite of its proximity to Mordor.

Currently listening to:

Emma by Jane Austen (reread)

I'm almost done listening to this with only three hours left. I should finish later today on my trip back home. I think Emma is my least favorite of Austen's heroines but she does mean well most of the time. 

On my TBR pile:

Summer of Sloane by Erin L. Schneider

Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah

This is my evening book group's selection for April. We loved The Nightingale and I've heard Winter Garden is excellent too.

New books received:

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski (library book)

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead (library book)

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum (library book)

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith (library book)

When We Collided by Emery Lord (library book)

Be Frank With Me by Julia Claiborne Johnson (library book)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Review: Eligible

By Curtis Sittenfeld
Published: April 19, 2016

From the “wickedly entertaining” (USA Today) Curtis Sittenfeld, New York Times bestselling author of Prep and American Wife, comes a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Equal parts homage to Jane Austen and bold literary experiment, Eligible is a brilliant, playful, and delicious saga for the twenty-first century.
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.
Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.
Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . . 
And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.
Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, Eligible both honors and updates Austen’s beloved tale. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today.

My review:

I have been a devoted fan of Jane Austen since my teen years and Pride and Prejudice is one of my favorite novels. I also enjoy reading books based on her novels though some are definitely better than others. Eligible appealed to me because I liked the idea of a modern day Pride and Prejudice and was curious to see how Sittenfeld would adapt the story. In some ways I was pleased but in others I was very disappointed.

Eligible is set in Cincinnati, Ohio, the home of the Bennets' once glorious Tudor home that has fallen into disrepair. The main character Liz and her sister Jane are home from New York in the wake of their dad's heart attack where they now shoulder the burden of taking care of him and everyone else. Liz's younger sisters Kitty and Lydia are unemployed and spoiled fitness fanatics with coarse manners. Mrs. Bennet is a shopaholic socialite and Mary is a dull intellectual who continually racks up degrees without getting a job. Mr. Bennet like the original character is bad with finances and not concerned at all with all the problems around him. 

The part of the novel that disappointed me most was the romance between Liz and Darcy. I felt like it was poorly developed and lacked the spark and sizzle of the hero and heroine's relationship in Pride and Prejudice. Jane and Chip's romance had some issues and felt a little rushed but I suppose that echoes the original in a way. I also struggled to relate to Liz and didn't like her as much as I'd hoped compared to Elizabeth Bennet.

What I did like was the way the story was updated with some contemporary twists, including some that I definitely didn't expect. The novel is entertaining as it pokes fun at reality TV dating shows and the foibles of the Bennet clan. I think readers who like the original novel but don't mind the idea of a modern take on the story might enjoy Eligible while purists and Austen devotees should probably consider skipping it or perhaps check it out from the library. 

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