Thursday, April 17, 2014

Review: These Broken Stars

These Broken Stars
By Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Published: December 10, 2013

It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone. 

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help. 

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

My review:

This book has been described as "Titanic in space" and while only the first part takes place in space, the comparison has some merit. Lilac and Tarver are from opposite social classes like Jack and Rose and the scenes where they first meet are reminiscent of Titanic. Of course the ship crashes too though it doesn't hit an iceberg in space. The comparisons stop after that point however and the story takes unexpected turns as Tarver and Lilac explore their new surroundings and try to stay alive. 

At first glance Lilac appears to be a spoiled and pampered princess type but once the disaster hits she shows her strength. Tarver may have gotten them to the escape pod but it is her quick thinking that saves their lives. On the planet she proves that she is capable of hard work and she doesn't give up easily. Tarver is equally admirable and the development of their friendship and romance is sweet and appealing.

With unexpected suspenseful twists, a detailed setting, and a satisfying romance, These Broken Stars is a page turner that took me by surprise. I think even readers who don't usually go for science fiction would find much to like here. Another bonus is that this is a standalone novel but there will be other companion novels set in the same universe.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: House of Ivy and Sorrow

House of Ivy and Sorrow
By Natalie Whipple
Published: April 15, 2014

Josephine Hemlock has spent the last 10 years hiding from the Curse that killed her mother. But when a mysterious man arrives at her ivy-covered, magic-fortified home, it’s clear her mother’s killer has finally come to destroy the rest of the Hemlock bloodline. Before Jo can even think about fighting back, she must figure out who she’s fighting in the first place. The more truth Jo uncovers, the deeper she falls into witchcraft darker than she ever imagined. Trapped and running out of time, she begins to wonder if the very Curse that killed her mother is the only way to save everyone she loves.

My review:

Josephine is dealing with the loss of her mom as well as the stress of keeping secrets and the frustration of not having a normal teen life. On top of all that she also has to figure out who killed her mom and how to stop them. Fortunately Jo has support from her friends even if they don't know what is really going on. I liked how the book emphasized friendship, family, and sisterhood. The magical world is also really interesting and gritty. Every bit of magic comes with a price. I liked seeing Jo develop her talents and learning to trust and take risks.

House of Ivy and Sorrow reminded me of Rachel Hawkins's Hex Hall and School Spirits mixed with maybe a dash of Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone. It is both humorous and suspenseful with a great cast of characters. There is also a little bit of forbidden romance. I think it will appeal to teens who enjoy both paranormal fiction as well as suspense and snarky humor. As far as I know, this is a standalone book but I wouldn't mind reading more about Jo and her world.

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Review: Open Road Summer

Open Road Summer
By Emery Lord
Published: April 15, 2014

After breaking up with her bad-news boyfriend, Reagan O’Neill is ready to leave her rebellious ways behind. . . and her best friend, country superstar Lilah Montgomery, is nursing a broken heart of her own. Fortunately, Lilah’s 24-city tour is about to kick off, offering a perfect opportunity for a girls-only summer of break-up ballads and healing hearts. But when Matt Finch joins the tour as its opening act, his boy-next-door charm proves difficult for Reagan to resist, despite her vow to live a drama-free existence. This summer, Reagan and Lilah will navigate the ups and downs of fame and friendship as they come to see that giving your heart to the right person is always a risk worth taking. A fresh new voice in contemporary romance, Emery Lord’s gorgeous writing hits all the right notes.

My review:

What would it be like to be the best friend of a teenage Taylor Swift and go on tour with her? While there is some romance between Reagan and Matt, Open Road Summer is mostly a novel about friendship.  Lilah (known as Dee to friends and family) is a rising star in the country music world but she has just broken up with her boyfriend back home. The girls both have to deal with difficult emotional issues while also handling the paparazzi and stress of being on tour. 

What I really liked about this book was its emphasis on the importance of friendship and what it means to be a good best friend. Reagan may have made mistakes in her past but Dee was always there to help her pick up the pieces and she is determined to be there for Dee when she goes through hard times. Reagan also works hard to leave her past behind her and make better choices. Her relationship with Matt is sweet and he is genuinely a nice guy even though he is also a big music star. 

Overall I enjoyed this story of friendship, love, and country music.  The author also includes plenty of lyrics and details about the country music scene and what it is like to be on tour which  makes the story feel more authentic. I think Open Road Summer would be a great beach read and it is perfect for fans of Elizabeth Eulberg and similar authors.

Note: I received an e-ARC for review purposes courtesy of Netgalley and the publisher

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday (133)

"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:

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release date: November 4, 2014

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother's murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.
But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean's incarcerated father-a man he'd do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer's psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer's brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?
With her trademark wit, brilliant plotting, and twists that no one will see coming, Jennifer Lynn Barnes will keep readers on the edge of their seats (and looking over their shoulders) as they race through the pages of this thrilling novel.
With a lot of suspense books, I know who the killer is within just a few chapters, but when I read The Naturals, I couldn't figure out who the killer was till right before Cassie did. I am hoping this one will surprise me too!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (174)

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.

I am currently at my parents's house, staying with my mom while my dad is in Canada. It is amazing to me to see how well she is doing. She is almost back to her old self. She is able to walk without her walker inside their house and do a lot of the things she used to do. Yesterday she helped me do laundry and fold towels and we even baked a cake Friday evening. Now if I could only get her to sit down and rest! We did watch a couple of movies like Frozen and  The Book Thief (which she loved) but my mom has always kept herself busy so it is hard to get her to sit down sometimes. She is just so excited about all that she is able to do that she couldn't do a month ago.

I did manage to finish two books and I have a review written that will be posting later this week. I also filed my 1040 though I still have to file my state and local taxes. Nothing like waiting till the last minute! At least spring has finally made an appearance. My mom's daffodils are starting to come up and I'm sure we'll be seeing more buds before long.

Books read:

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews

This was a fun contemporary romance set in Savannah. I enjoy Mary Kay Andrews's humorous writing and the way she adds details to the story through the setting and the character's career (this time as a wedding florist). 

Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

This book appealed to me as a story about two very different sisters. I also enjoyed the setting in Jazz Age New York and the mystery surrounding their missing brother.

Currently reading:

I am still working my way through this one. I probably won't get through it this week.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This book has received a lot of buzz and so far I really like it. The main character is a grumpy widower with an attitude who runs a bookstore and how he begins to change for the better after the theft of a valuable book and the delivery of a big surprise...

What I plan to read next:

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

This is a book group selection for April. Both of my groups are reading the same book for once which will be a nice break for me! I also enjoy seeing how each group has a different opinion about the book and characters. My afternoon group is mostly retired seniors and my evening group is made up of people from their 20s-50s. People always bring their own life experiences into the discussion so every book group is different!

Monday, March 31, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (173)

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.

I had another busy week though I did finish three books. I am very behind on writing reviews and I had hoped to post one last week but I didn't get a chance to. Maybe this week I will have some time to write more.

I am glad that it is warming up again though I have a feeling it won't last. We had snow yesterday but it has already melted and it is supposed to hit 60 tomorrow. This coming weekend I will be going home to stay with my mom for the weekend. She is now able to walk a little bit without the use of her walker and she even went out shopping with my dad to Kohl's yesterday and he took her out to eat at Olive Garden. That is something she always enjoyed before she got sick so it is wonderful that she is able to get out again.

Books read:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (reread)

I love this book and the writing style and I felt like I appreciated it even more after rereading it. My book group liked it as well and we enjoyed talking about both the book and the movie adaptation which is a little different from the book but still really good.

Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

This is a contemporary romance inspired by Romeo and Juliet without all the tragedy and death. Juliet and Leo come from feuding families in the chocolate business but they fall for each other after meeting at a masked ball. It is both funny and steamy and a little over the top at times but I liked it. The author also wrote a book inspired by Pride and Prejudice that I want to check out.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Initially I wasn't sure I would like this and there were a few times when I was frustrated by the main character but I did like the story. It reminded me a little bit of The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson but with more emphasis on romance and less politics. 

Currently reading:

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews

I usually enjoy Mary Kay Andrews's books and I really like this one so far. It is set in Savannah, my favorite Southern city.

A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch

This book is great for armchair travelers as long as they don't mind that it is handwritten. I like the style and the stories of the author's visit to England.

What I plan to read next:

Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (172)

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.

I haven't had the chance to participate in this meme since the beginning of February right before my mom became ill. This week we should finally have an official diagnosis for whatever caused her coma in the first place. She is doing a lot better now and is getting stronger every day and she goes to physical therapy three times a week. She is so determined to improve and walk without a walker and she has a great attitude about it all. I will be going to stay with her in two weeks.

Last week I had the chance to go to the PLA library conference in Indianapolis where I got to meet Susanna Kearsley, one of my favorite authors. She signed a copy of The Splendour Falls which I still haven't read. I guess that means I need to make time to read it soon! I also was able to attend the author lunch and book signing with John Green. He is an excellent speaker and also really nice. My sister and I stood in line for an hour and a half to get signed copies of The Fault in Our Stars for her and my step-niece. 

With all the traveling and other stuff going on I haven't had much time to read this month. I am currently rushing to reread The Book Thief before my book group meeting on Tuesday! I did finally get to watch the movie and I loved it.

Books reviewed:

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Books read:

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking Normal covers a similar topic to Speak but it is written in a different way. I really liked the character of Bodee and though I think Speak is better, I think this book has a really important message too.

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok

I loved Girl in Translation and so I was eager to read Mambo in Chinatown. It features ballroom dancing and there is even a cameo from Kimberly (main character in Girl in Translation). 

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I really loved the characters in One Plus One. It has a different tone compared to Me Before You but I still thought it was fantastic. It reminded me of a combination of Liane Moriarty and Sophie Kinsella. It would make such a cute movie! 

I finally finished this book after giving up on it early on due to pacing issues. I am glad I had to keep reading (it is the afternoon book group selection for this month) because it definitely got better. I am curious to see how the other members of the book group found it.

Currently reading:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (reread)

I love this book and I am enjoying rereading it though I do wish that Death didn't give away so much! I think the movie was a good adaptation and I was surprised by the negative reviews.

What I plan to read next:

Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

I will be reading this book for review elsewhere. I love that time period and for some reason the premise of this book reminds me of Sense and Sensibility though there is no reference to it as any kind of adaptation.

This is an enchanting travel journal with painted illustrations, photos, and really pretty writing. It is like a scrapbook of the author and her husband's travels and how they fell in love. I started reading it already and I'm enjoying her descriptions of their voyage on the Queen Mary 2. I'm looking forward to reading about her experiences in England. It is my lifelong dream to go there one day (though I think I'd fly instead of sailing especially after reading about her seasickness!).