Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Post (76) / 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.

It's been a long week and I'm glad it's the weekend. I had the day off Wednesday and did some much needed cleaning and decluttering though I still have a long way to go. 

At work on Thursday, a patron asked me if I was American because I don't "look American"-her words (she seemed to think Americans would look like her). It was part of a much longer conversation dealing with people from Pakistan and India and "what kind of people they are". She was rude and it bothered me but she was being unintentionally racist I think as her whole purpose in coming to the library was to learn Urdu and find out more about Pakistan because she recently met someone from there she wants to befriend. I ordered her a book on culture and etiquette in Pakistan among other things so hopefully she won't be rude to him too! 

I finally booked some library events for spring. Last March a local musician did a Celtic music concert for us at the coffee shop and he said he'd like to do it again this year and this time it is actually on St. Patrick's Day. I hope it will be as successful as last year's concert. I'm planning to ask him if he knows The Skye Boat Song. Last year he included tunes from The Hobbit and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe so why not include a little Outlander (plus it is a legit Celtic song) :) The other event I'm really excited about is a paint night. I wanted to do one last year but didn't have enough in the budget so I'm glad it is working out this year. It is going to be in April during National Library Week. Now I need to come up with my programs for summer and I'll be golden.

Today is the seventh anniversary of my blog. Thanks for reading!

Last week on my blog:

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis (review)

Books read:

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

I finished this on Saturday afternoon. It took awhile to get into it and get past the vernacular writing. In the end, it just wasn't for me. I didn't really like the characters except maybe Miss Love. I'm betting my book group loved it though.

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

I loved this book about comedian Trevor Noah's childhood growing up in South Africa as a biracial kid under Apartheid. You'd think it would be pretty depressing but he is a very funny writer as well as a thoughtful one and I learned a lot and laughed a lot too. He was such a rascal as a kid! The Audible book is free to Goodreads users. I highly recommend it as the author is the narrator. Find out how to get your copy here.

Currently reading:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reread)

Currently listening to:

Starflight by Melissa Landers (reread)

On my TBR pile:

I have to read this for review. I hadn't heard about it before but it looks kind of interesting.

By Your Side by Kasie West

New books received:

The Romance Reader's Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell (for review)

March: Book One by John Lewis (library book)

March: Book Two by John Lewis (library book)

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: Spinning Starlight

Spinning Starlight
By R.C. Lewis
Published: October 6, 2015

Sixteen-year-old heiress and paparazzi darling Liddi Jantzen hates the spotlight. But as the only daughter in the most powerful tech family in the galaxy, it's hard to escape it. So when a group of men shows up at her house uninvited, she assumes it's just the usual media-grubs. That is, until shots are fired.

Liddi escapes, only to be pulled into an interplanetary conspiracy more complex than she ever could have imagined. Her older brothers have been caught as well, trapped in the conduits between the planets. And when their captor implants a device in Liddi's vocal cords to monitor her speech, their lives are in her hands: One word, and her brothers are dead.

Desperate to save her family from a desolate future, Liddi travels to another world, where she meets the one person who might have the skills to help her bring her eight brothers home-a handsome dignitary named Tiav. But without her voice, Liddi must use every bit of her strength and wit to convince Tiav that her mission is true. With the tenuous balance of the planets deeply intertwined with her brothers' survival, just how much is Liddi willing to sacrifice to bring them back?

Haunting and mesmerizing, this retelling of Hans Christian Andersen's The Wild Swans fuses all the heart of the classic tale with a stunning, imaginative world in which a star-crossed family fights for its very survival.

My review:

As a kid, The Wild Swans was one of my favorite fairy tales for some reason. I think I just admired the heroine and how much she went through to save her brothers. I have read some different retellings of this fairy tale over the years such as Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier and The Swan Kingdom by Zoe Marriott but this is the first time I read a science fiction take on the story.

Liddi is an heiress to her family's technology company but she lives in the shadow of her brothers' brilliance. They began inventing things at very young ages and Liddi has yet to show anything at the annual Tech Reveal. She spends her days dodging paparazzi vidcams and fending off people who want to use her or get 15 minutes of fame in her company. Liddi loves her brothers but doesn't get to see them that much since they've all grown and moved away. It takes awhile for her to realize something is wrong when her brothers go missing and then strangers show up at her house looking to grab her. Things get worse when Liddi trusts the wrong person and ends up implanted with a device that will harm her brothers if she speaks.

Tiav lives on the planet of Ferinne and he and his mother are  part of its leadership. They take Liddi in when she shows up unexpectedly even though Tiav's best friend and others view her with suspicion. Tiav finds a way to communicate with Liddi and while she can't risk telling him all the details, she starts to have hope that with his help she can figure out a way to get her brothers free.

I felt bad for Liddi and all she has to go through. At times I was frustrated with the way people assumed the worst about her. I was glad she found some unexpected allies. I also thought she didn't believe in herself very much. I think because she felt she wasn't living up to the family name and because she'd been hurt by others it kind of affected her confidence. It was nice to see that change as she became more of a leader. The romance was okay. I didn't really feel much chemistry between Tiav and Liddi though I did like him as a character. It just felt like it was an expected part of the story. 

While some parts of the story felt a little slow moving (all her attempts to learn to communicate with Tiav felt really drawn out), it was overall a good story and a very creative retelling. I liked the various settings and really liked the protagonist. I was favorably reminded at times of the Starbound series by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner. I hope R.C. Lewis writes some more fairy tale retellings in the future. It almost fills the void left by the conclusion of Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles.

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

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top Ten Underrated/Hidden Gems I Read in the Past Year

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is "Top Ten Underrated/Hidden Gems I Read in the Past Year.

Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

This novel is set in a world where only the privileged few can learn to read and write. The heroine is a slave who is appointed as a tutor in training to the prince so she gets to learn to read and write. Raisa plans to just keep her head down but the Resistance wants her to help them. I liked the worldbuilding, political intrigue and mythology. I think readers who liked An Ember in the Ashes or The Winner's Curse would like this too.

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

This historical fantasy has slight tones of the X-Men. Evelyn's sister Rosamund has disappeared and Evelyn heads off to London to find her, with the help of a neighbor. A young man she meets insists that Evelyn and her sister have special healing abilities and she soon discovers there are other people out there with unusual abilities and someone sinister has taken her sister.

Wanderlost by Jen Malone

Aubree is not very adventurous and as the baby of the family, her mom coddles her and is overprotective. When Aubree makes a mistake that leads to her older sister getting in trouble and missing out on a vital summer job as a tour guide, Aubree reluctantly agrees to go in her sister's place and pretend to be her. It isn't smooth sailing (she loses her cell phone and the itinerary on the plane) but there was plenty of humor and I enjoyed armchair traveling with Aubree. 

The Geek's Guide to Unrequited Love

Graham is in love with his best friend Roxy and he has decided he is going to declare his love at the New York Comic Con. He has everything all planned out to give her the perfect day at Comic Con including meeting their favorite comic book creator who will be there in a rare appearance. Of course things don't go exactly according to plan. I thought this was fun and loved all the pop culture references as well as the characters and relationships. 

Flying by Carrie Jones

Mana's mom disappears and she finds out that one of her classmates is an acid spitting alien and that her mom is an alien hunter. She also discovers that she has some unusual abilities. This book is kind of like Buffy the Vampire Slayer but with aliens. There is lots of action as well as humor and it was a fun reading experience.

The Seafront Tearoom by Vanessa Greene

I wanted to read this because I love tea and visiting tea rooms but I found it to be a charming story about new friendships. 

A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe

Set in Minnesota in the 1950s, this is the story of Emmy Nelson, a young woman growing up in a strict religious household. She is expected to marry Ambrose, her grandfather's protege, and live a quiet moral life but Emmy soon discovers that things (and people) aren't what they seem. I enjoyed this historical novel and seeing Emmy grow and change for the better.

The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay by Kelly Harms

Lily's life has hit a rough patch and now she has to leave her apartment too. While packing she comes across some paperwork she forgot to take care of--an annulment. She decides to look up her forgotten husband Ben and get the annulment taken care of in person. When she lands in Minnow Bay she finds an unexpected welcome (though not initially from Ben) and a chance to start over. I really enjoyed this one. There was humor, romance and some wonderful friendships. 

The Choices We Make by Karma Brown

Hannah and Kate have been best friends since childhood and now that they are both grown and married, they are still a big part of each others' lives. Hannah has always wanted to be a mom but has just found out it isn't meant to be. Kate decides that she would like to carry a baby for Hannah to give her best friend the ultimate gift. It seems like a miracle but then a tragedy happens. This book reminded me of Jodi Picoult and Nicholas Sparks a little bit. 

The Sheriffs of Savage Wells

Paisley Bell is running for sheriff though the townsfolk don't know what to make of a woman sheriff.  Paisley knows the quirky residents and she cares about them. She's been the acting sheriff since the previous sheriff quit and even before that she did his work for him. She also desperately needs the money to provide for her dad who is losing his memory. Unfortunately the town council has invited outside candidates from around the country to interview for the position, including handsome legendary lawman Cade O'Brien. I thought this story was entertaining and a touching romance with great characters.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Post (75) / 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.

I had a busy but uneventful week. This month is just flying by but I'm not complaining as I can't wait till May. Then I wouldn't mind if time slowed down a little :) I seem to finally be over my cold which I am happy about. Now I just need to get back into working out since my clothes don't fit very well these days. I really meant to start on Saturday but it didn't happen. Maybe today is the day. At least I got the chocolate out of my apartment (I took it to work to share with my coworkers) and I plan to throw away the cookies later today. Baby steps.

At work I am finally ready for the Page to Screen winter reading challenge. There are already some library patrons expressing interest and saying it sounds fun. It starts Monday and all I have left to do is to set up my display of books that were made into movies. Now I need to start planning my spring programs. Even though it feels like spring is far away (aside from that rare 60 degree weather we had on Thursday) I know it will be here quickly and I have a lot to plan. So far I know that I want to have a Peeps diorama contest in April. Last year I had several programs in the works and was starting to book performers for spring and summer in January. Now I am struggling to come up with ideas. Hopefully inspiration will strike soon! I'm spending time on Pinterest every day so maybe I'll find something there.

Last week on my blog:

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

Books read:

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

This was both funny and sad and I'm glad I read it. I admit I much preferred the parts written by her older self than the reproductions from her diary. That part was kind of painful to read and focused on her feelings about the affair with Harrison Ford. I loved the stuff about getting cast in Star Wars and the filming experience and there were also pictures from the set.

Spinning Starlight by R.C. Lewis

I can't believe I waited so long to read this because I liked it a lot. It is a YA science fiction retelling of The Wild Swans

Currently reading:

Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns

I am reading this for my afternoon book discussion. So far it's okay. I'm not a huge fan of the vernacular writing style. 

Currently listening to:

Starflight by Melissa Landers (reread)

On my TBR pile:

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (reread)

This is the book we're reading in my evening book group. I believe I read it back in 2015 or maybe it was 2014. I don't know if I'll get the time to reread the entire book but I want to at least look through it to jog my memory. I tried an audio version but didn't like the narrator.

The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah

New books received:

By Your Side by Kasie West (for review)

The Wish Granter by C.J. Redwine (for review)

The Chilbury Ladies' Choir by Jennifer Ryan (for review)

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (for review)

The Orphan Keeper by Kamron Wright (for review)

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly (purchased)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Review: The Sun is Also a Star

The Sun is Also a Star
By Nicola Yoon
Published: November 1, 2016

Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

My review:

The Sun is Also a Star has been compared to Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell and while there are some similarities and they are both excellent books, I think this book is not quite as dark as that one which dealt with abuse. 

Natasha meets Daniel on the worst day of her life--her last day in America. Her family are undocumented immigrants and thanks to her dad's bad decisions, they are being deported. Natasha was just a child when she arrived in the U.S. To her it is home more than Jamaica and she is feeling fear and worry about going back to a place that feels like a stranger. She also has to give up her college dreams to study science and become a data scientist.

Daniel is on his way to an interview with a Yale alumnus to help him with the college application process. His future is laid out before him: Yale, medical school, becoming a doctor, marrying an appropriate Korean girl. His brother was on the path but screwed up by getting sent home from Harvard. Now his parents are putting the pressure on him instead. Daniel isn't sure what he wants to do with his life but he doesn't think it involves being a doctor. He loves writing poetry but his dad doesn't approve.

When Daniel first sees Natasha on the street, he is fascinated by this pretty girl who is so into her music. Natasha finds Daniel attractive but in spite of his friendliness and attempts at flirtation, she doesn't want to give him false hope since she is leaving. She is too busy trying to find a last minute miracle to stay. Daniel however is convinced they are meant to be. 

The Sun is Also a Star is about falling in love but it is also about having dreams and what happens when those dreams may not become a reality. The book looks at heavy issues like illegal immigration and parental pressure to succeed. It may seem like Natasha and Daniel may not have anything in common but they do--they are both the product of immigrant parents and both families have dreams of making it in America. In Daniel's case, his parents expect him and his brother to have amazing lives and accomplish more than they were able to. Coming to America meant giving their kids a brighter future. For Natasha's parents, her mom dreams of a bigger home with actual bedrooms for her kids. Her father wants to make it as an actor, the reason he is in the States in the first place. While they love their children, the kids' dreams seem to be secondary to survival and in their dad's case, he doesn't seem to notice them much anymore in the face of his own disappointments.

The story is told through the viewpoints of Natasha and Daniel but in between chapters we also get the perspective of Natasha's dad, Charlie's mean older brother and various other characters. This helps to round out the characters and the narrative. Both science and poetry are woven throughout the story, matching the viewpoints of Natasha and Daniel. 

When I finished this novel, I could see why it received so much praise. It is certainly worthy of it and to be honest, I liked it much more than Yoon's debut, Everything, Everything. It made me think and I cared about the characters and their situation. While Everything, Everything has been made into a movie I hope this one will be too. It is almost like Serendipity (the romantic comedy film) meets Eleanor & Park. If I had read this last year, it would have made my list of 2016 favorites but I am sure it will be making my list of favorites this year.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant to Read But Didn't Get To

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's theme is "Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To (but Totally Plan To).

Even though I read 140 books last year I still didn't have time (or make time) to get to these books that are still sitting on my TBR pile or list. The first four on my list were actually books I have ARCs to review so I'll see if I can make them a priority.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Belgravia by Julian Fellowes
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine
One Half From the East by Nadia Hashimi
Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Sunday Post (74) / 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.

It's been awhile since I last participated. I had a nice Christmas and then caught a cold shortly before New Year's. I am feeling better now but I didn't get to read as much as I hoped. I did finish my first book of the year this weekend. 

At work I have been busy trying to catch up from my week off and getting ready for the winter reading program. This year I am having them read books that were made into movies and they can also watch movies based on books. The prize will be a gift card to the movie theater and a gift card to a restaurant. 

It is so cold here but I am thankful that we don't have the heavy snow that some places are dealing with around the country. We are supposed to get more of the white stuff as well as some ice Monday night into Tuesday. Winter is here to stay. 

Last three weeks on my blog:

The Christmas Surprise by Jenny Colgan (review)

Books read:

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story by Alexander Freed

After talking to friends who saw the movie, I am glad I read the novelization. They liked the movie but they all felt that the character development could have been better. I think I got that from the book. 

This is a touching novella about a grandfather who has dementia and his relationship with his grandson and son. I was reminded a little of My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry.

Christmas Angels by Viola Shipman

I did not like this one. I ended up returning it. I usually like Christmas stories but this one just didn't work for me. 

A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund

I couldn't help but think of Merida from Brave while reading this. The main character is basically a female version of Robin Hood. Aside from some minor issues, I mostly enjoyed this inspirational historical romance.

Silver Bells by Debbie Macomber

Another Christmas novella that I ended up not caring for. 

The Life She Wants by Robyn Carr

I felt really bad for Emma who is dealing with the death of her husband and all the suffering he caused through his Ponzi scheme. She returns to her hometown where her ex-best friend Riley lives (their friendship ended during the college years when Riley cheated with Emma's then-boyfriend and got pregnant). I liked the friendship aspect of the story though I wanted to shake Riley at times.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

One of my favorite books I read last year (and the final book I read in 2016). I recommend you read it with tissues. Also I now want a pet fox and you will too.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I've read reviews comparing this to Eleanor & Park and while I still think that one is better, I definitely agree with the comparisons. I can see why it made so many readers' "best of 2016" lists. 

Books listened to:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (reread)

Christmas Jars by Jason F. Wright 

Currently reading:

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

So sad to hear of Carrie Fisher's passing (and Debbie Reynolds the day after). I've never read any of her books and I thought now was the time to start. She was a funny writer. I'm enjoying her anecdotes about Star Wars. I am now starting the chapter where she talks about Harrison Ford. 

On my TBR pile:

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

The Lady of the Lakes by Josi S. Kilpack

New books received:

Almost Autumn by Marianne Kaurin and Rosie Hedger (for review)

Wait For Me by Caroline Leech (for review)

News of the World by Paulette Jiles (purchased)

Come Away With Me by Karma Brown (purchased)

One Half From the East by Nadia Hashimi (library book)

Cold Sassy Tree by Olivia Ann Burns (library book)

Pax by Sara Pennypacker (library book)

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (library book)