Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (85)

"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 Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Publication date: September 18, 2012


Elisa is the hero of her country. She led her people to victory against a terrifying enemy, and now she is their queen. But she is only seventeen years old. Her rivals may have simply retreated, choosing stealth over battle. And no one within her court trusts her-except Hector, the commander of the royal guard, and her companions. As the country begins to crumble beneath her and her enemies emerge from the shadows, Elisa will take another journey. With a one-eyed warrior, a loyal friend, an enemy defector, and the man she is falling in love with, Elisa crosses the ocean in search of the perilous, uncharted, and mythical source of the Godstone’s power. That is not all she finds. 

A breathtaking, romantic, and dangerous second volume in the Fire and Thorns trilogy.

The Girl of Fire and Thorns was my second favorite book of 2011 (after Divergent) so I can't wait to get my hands on The Crown of Embers

Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (97)

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.

Thanks for all the kind words this past week as I took a bit of a break from blogging to help my wrist heal. I am still wearing a wrist brace but I am feeling much better. At least my neck and back are not hurting much anymore and I am getting more sleep which is a huge improvement. I still need to take it easy this week which means devoting more of my free time to reading rather than using the computer. Too bad I can't blog from my iPhone-much less strain on the wrist!

Books read:

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

I really enjoyed this book but I'm glad I watched the movie first. I think the movie is fairly faithful to the book but I appreciated the story more having watched the movie already. This is the February pick for my evening book discussion group. I look forward to my meeting Tuesday night to see what everyone else thought.

How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue

This is a book I hadn't heard of till I got it through Amazon Vine.  I loved all the cupcake descriptions though it made me hungry and I wish there were recipes included!

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

I really enjoyed this guide to the show and the historical information it draws on. Both entertaining and informative!

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

At first I worried that I wouldn't like this book because of the main characters but they both grew on me and I ended up loving How to Save a Life

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

I liked Midnight in Austenland though at times I did get a bit annoyed with both the protagonist and the mystery (probably because of the reminders of Northanger Abbey, my least favorite Austen novel). The romance though is really good if a little rushed. 

Books reviewed:

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella
Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver

Currently reading:

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

This is the February pick for my afternoon book discussion group. I have already heard from two book group members that they loved the book. I struggled with it at first but now I am really getting into the story and hopefully I will get it done in time!

What I plan to read next:

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

This book sounds similar to Countess Below Stairs by Eva Ibbotson. I came across it on a list of books similar to Downton Abbey so I had to give it a try. It isn't set in the same time period (it takes place a few decades later during WWII) but it is about a young woman who becomes a housemaid.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig

I usually enjoy this series but I have my doubts about the love interest as it is that poet Augustus Whittlesby. I had doubts about The Mischief of the Mistletoe though because Turnip was the love interest and I still really liked that one.

I hope to finally read the book that everyone in the YA world was raving about last year.  I need to return it to the library in a couple of weeks so I need to start it soon!

Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

I really liked The Peach Keeper and I am trying to listen to this on audio. I like the story but it isn't easy to listen to the narration in my car because I keep missing things. I am trying to get a paper copy to read from the library instead...

I am a big fan of this series and I hope to read this book in the next month sometime. 

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

I've had this for review since last May and haven't finished it yet so I am adding it to my t0-read-soon pile. I've read a few chapters and so far Cora reminds me of an American version of Lady Mary Crawley from Downton Abbey.

So that's my reading plan for the moment. 
What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of the books on my list?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Review: Pandemonium

By Lauren Oliver
Publication date: February 28, 2012

My review:

Delirium ended with a wrenching and heart stopping conclusion. Now in Pandemonium, Lena is living in The Wilds and discovering just how difficult the path to freedom truly is. She is dealing with the loss of her former life and the people she cared about who are no longer part of it. She is also very weak from her ordeal and it will take more than physical strength for her to make it in this new life. Told in alternating chapters between "Then" (her early months in the Wilds) and "Now", Pandemonium is a story that readers will not be able to forget.

Lena has come a long way from the girl she was at the beginning of the series. In Pandemonium, we see her inner strength begin to shine, especially in her interactions with Julian, a new character who believes in the cure as she once did. Lena has lost a lot and at first she is ready to give up but then she reminds herself of what she has sacrificed for freedom and she finds the will to go on. The people who live in the Wilds have a life of deprivation and hardship. Food and medicine are scarce and they have to be constantly vigilant for signs of danger. Still, they find a way to thrive. Their leader, Raven, is a tough young woman who is at times admirable for her strength and at other times she behaves in deplorable ways. She reminded me of some of the people in Mockingjay. There were several times that Pandemonium brought that book to mind as we find out more about the Resistance movement.  I was also reminded of Crossed by Ally Condie because of Lena's time in the Wilds and Cassia's struggles in the Outer Provinces.

Some people may not like Pandemonium because of the cliffhanger ending. I have to admit that I was a little disappointed though not surprised by it as things like that often happen in trilogies. Still, I think Lauren Oliver is an excellent writer and I enjoyed most of the book. I am hopeful that I will love book three even though I was slightly disappointed with Pandemonium in the end. There are enough surprises and plot twists to entertain, there is good character development for Lena, and some romance surprisingly enough. I liked the introduction of some new characters and look forward to seeing where the story will take them. Overall I thought Pandemonium was a worthy sequel to Delirium and I can't wait to find out what happens in Requiem.

Readalikes: Crossed by Ally Condie, The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Note: I read an ARC of this title, courtesy of Around the World ARC Tours

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Taking a little break

I will be taking a break from blogging for a little while in an attempt to help my wrist heal. My doctor thinks I might have carpal tunnel syndrome so I am wearing a wrist brace and doing my best to stay away from computers (not easy given my job as a librarian). I do have a review scheduled to post on Thursday (Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver) but other than that I am going to be forcing myself to step away for the good of my health :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

In My Mailbox (74)

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by The Story Siren to share what books you purchased, received for review, or checked out from the library during the past week.


While I am technically supposed to be on a book buying ban, I have heard so many times how wonderful this book is and there is a quite a waiting list for it at the library so I decided to go ahead and buy it-even if it means eating scrambled eggs every day for the rest of the month (I get free eggs from my parents b/c of my dad's job). It will be the first John Green book I read so my expectations are high.

Home Front by Kristin Hannah

This book has even more holds (over 300) and I am pretty far down the list so I went ahead and bought it too. This of course means I will be eating scrambled eggs everyday in March too.

Glitches by Marissa Meyer

I couldn't pass up this prequel to Cinder. It is only 99 cents as an e-book for Kindle and Nook!

For review:

The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani

I was so very excited to get an ARC of this book as it will be my very first Adriana Trigiani book. Plus the story is based on the lives of her own grandparents and it was my WoW pick last week.

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kristina McMorris

I hadn't heard of this book before I received the ARC from the publisher but I am very interested in reading it. It is a historical fiction novel about the treatment of Japanese Americans during WWII and what happens when the protagonist decides to marry the Japanese American guy she loves against the wishes of her family just on the eve of the Pearl Harbor attack...

The Expats by Chris Pavone

I have heard mixed things about this book but it sounded intriguing when I read reviews in either LJ or Booklist

How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue

I don't need instructions for how to devour cupcakes but I love the premise (and cupcakes). I think this will be more women's fiction rather than chick lit and I hope there will be recipes too.

Restoration by Olaf Olafsson

I don't remember requesting this book but I love that it is set in Tuscany and the cover is beautiful.

From the library:

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Incredibly excited about this book! I love the legend of Robin Hood and this has a unique twist of making the Will Scarlet character a girl.

The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig

Not so sure about Augustus Whittlesby as the love interest in this book but hopefully bad poetry aside, he will be up to the challenge!

Midnight in Austenland by Shannon Hale

I loved Austenland and am eager to begin this one after reading an excerpt. I wouldn't want to go to Pembroke Park myself (I prefer experiencing Regency England through books rather than living it in an "authentic" reenactment) but I will enjoy reading about it vicariously.

Frommer's Philadelphia and the Amish Country

I am going to PLA (ALA conference for public libraries) next month and hope to do some touristy stuff while I am there too so I picked up this guidebook. I've always wanted to see the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall  and I really hope I get to do that at least.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (84)

"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:

Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers
Publication date: April 3, 2012

Summary from Goodreads:

Why be the sheep, when you can be the wolf? 

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others. 

Ismae's most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

I am very excited about Grave Mercy, especially after reading the first chapter. I wonder if this book will be similar to Marion Zimmer Bradley's works.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Review: I've Got Your Number

I've Got Your Number
By Sophie Kinsella
February 14, 2012

My review:

Poppy Wyatt thinks things can't get any worse after she misplaces her engagement ring on the very day she'll be seeing her in-laws (the ring is an antique passed down in their family). Then her cell phone is stolen and she won't have any way for someone to contact her if the ring is found. When Poppy finds a cell phone someone has discarded and it works, she decides to keep it for herself. Unfortunately the phone's owner Sam Roxton is not happy with this arrangement as it is a business phone his former personal assistant threw away. Poppy persuades Sam to allow her to "borrow" the phone as long as she forwards him all of his messages. Of course Poppy can't resist reading the messages and before long she is offering him unsolicited advice and causing all kinds of complications as a grudging friendship develops between them. Meanwhile, her wedding draws ever closer, the ring hasn't been found, and Magnus's family might not approve of the marriage. 

When you read a Sophie Kinsella novel, you go into it knowing that the story will be hilarious and a little over the top and totally unbelievable. That is part of the fun! Her heroines usually get into embarrassing scrapes and ridiculously humorous situations and while the plot at times stretches plausibility, it makes for enjoyable reading. With I've Got Your Number, I found myself laughing out loud or smiling much of the time. 

There were a couple of things that I didn't like that detracted slightly from my enjoyment of the book. Poppy is supposed to be a physiotherapist but she doesn't spend much time at work. She sometimes comes across as a little flaky (typical for Kinsella's heroines) but you'd think Poppy would be written as a more intelligent character. Perhaps the reason she appears this way is in part due to the inferiority she feels next to her fiance Magnus or his family. The other thing that bothered me were the footnotes which got to be annoying after awhile. Some readers could probably just ignore them but I found I couldn't. Still, these are just minor things and some of the footnotes are quite funny.

I liked Poppy as a character. She is caring and creative and even though she has that inferiority complex, I think that makes her easier to relate to. Sam annoyed me a little bit at times because he could be cold and aloof with his employees but I think Poppy was a good influence on him. Sam makes quite a positive contrast compared to Magnus. I enjoyed the development of their relationship and the funny texts back and forth between them.

Overall, I thought this was a great book for a cold winter day. The short chapters and humor made it a quick read. After her Becky Bloomwood books, this is my favorite and I certainly liked it more than Mini Shopaholic. I'd suggest this to fans of Kinsella's other books and readers of chick lit in general. Pick it up when you are in the mood for something light that will make you laugh out loud.

Readalikes: Wedding Girl by Madeleine Wickham (Sophie Kinsella's real name), The Sleeping Beauty Proposal by Sarah Strohmeyer, Forget Me Knot by Sue Margolis

Note: I received an ARC of this book for review through the Amazon Vine program

Sunday, February 12, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (96)

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 managed to finish two books this week but I suspect I could have finished more if I hadn't spent so much time watching my Downton Abbey DVDs! 

Books read:

Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

I found this to be a very suspenseful read-not the sort of thing to read before you go to sleep if you are given to nightmares!

The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell

I was surprised to find that I liked this companion novel more than The Vespertine.  Maybe it was the prairie setting or the romance but I just found it to be a pleasant reading experience.

Books reviewed:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Currently reading:

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

I read two more chapters in this interesting book and now am starting chapter four about life in service.

The Dressmaker by Kate Alcott

I've just started this book but I have a feeling I'm going to like it. It takes place partially aboard the Titanic and deals with the life of a lady's maid. I am reading it for my Downton Abbey Reading Challenge.

What I plan to read next:

Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

This is a book I've had since last spring but haven't read yet (though I've seen the movie) and it is my evening book discussion group's February pick so I will be reading it really soon.

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

This is my afternoon book discussion group February read and I've heard it is really good.  I may not get to it till next week.

The Bungalow by Sarah Jio

I really liked The Violets of March so I am looking forward to giving The Bungalow a try. I love the cover! So nice and tropical and the opposite of the snow outside my window. 

I am a big fan of this series and since it will be published soon, I need to read my ARC!

What have you been reading lately?

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Review: Cinder

By Marissa Meyer
Publication date: January 3, 2012

My review:

This retelling of Cinderella takes the familiar story and sets it on a futuristic Earth complete with science fiction elements like cyborgs, androids, hovercraft, and alien beings who live on the moon. Cinder herself is a cyborg and a mechanic. Adding to the story is a plague that is devastating the populace and the threat of war with a powerful alien nation.

I love fairy tales retold but I was hesitant about reading Cinder. For one thing I wasn't a fan of the cover. I also was concerned about the science fiction part of the book. I've never read about cyborgs or androids (aside from Lt. Commander Data in Star Trek novelizations) and I wasn't sure what to expect with this book. Thankfully I found Cinder to be a thoroughly engrossing novel and the science fiction aspect blended very well with the traditional story. It is not an exact retelling of Cinderella either which added to my enjoyment. 

I liked that Cinder is a mechanic and that she is not just a helpless victim the way Cinderella was portrayed. Cinder has spunk, she is unselfish, and she is intelligent. Her relationship with her younger stepsister Peony was especially touching and I loved the banter with Iko, an android and Cinder's best friend. The world that Cinder lives in is a place that undervalues cyborgs and androids, treating them as second class citizens or worse. Cyborgs are used as test subjects for plague cures and live at the whim of their masters. Cinder does her best to hide her cyborg identity from outsiders like Prince Kai. She may be spunky but Cinder does deal with issues of low self esteem because of the way she is treated by her "family". While a romance later develops between Cinder and Prince Kai, it is not the main focus of the story. As a  love interest Prince Kai is a genuinely nice guy. He has a lot of weight on his shoulders but he tries to make the best decisions. 

Overall I thought Cinder was a fantastic book. I did find one particular plot twist to be very obvious but that did not detract from my reading experience. Cinder is very creatively told and a fast paced read. At the same time the book explores deeper themes like family relationships and prejudice. I think Cinder sets the bar high for other YA speculative fiction debuts and I can't wait to read the next book in the Lunar Chronicles series, Scarlet

Readalikes: Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Note: I received an e-ARC courtesy of NetGalley for review purposes but I ended up loving the book so much that before I was halfway through it, I bought a copy

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday (83)

"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 Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani
Publication date: April 3, 2012


The majestic and haunting beauty of the Italian Alps is the setting of the first meeting of Enza, a practical beauty, and Ciro, a strapping mountain boy, who meet as teenagers, despite growing up in villages just a few miles apart. At the turn of the last century, when Ciro catches the local priest in a scandal, he is banished from his village and sent to hide in America as an apprentice to a shoemaker in Little Italy. Without explanation, he leaves a bereft Enza behind. Soon, Enza's family faces disaster and she, too, is forced to go to America with her father to secure their future.
Unbeknownst to one another, they both build fledgling lives in America, Ciro masters shoemaking and Enza takes a factory job in Hoboken until fate intervenes and reunites them. But it is too late: Ciro has volunteered to serve in World War I and Enza, determined to forge a life without him, begins her impressive career as a seamstress at the Metropolitan Opera House that will sweep her into the glamorous salons of Manhattan and into the life of the international singing sensation, Enrico Caruso.
From the stately mansions of Carnegie Hill, to the cobblestone streets of Little Italy, over the perilous cliffs of northern Italy, to the white-capped lakes of northern Minnesota, these star-crossed lovers meet and separate, until, finally, the power of their love changes both of their lives forever.
Lush and evocative, told in tantalizing detail and enriched with lovable, unforgettable characters, The Shoemaker's Wife is a portrait of the times, the places and the people who defined the immigrant experience, claiming their portion of the American dream with ambition and resolve, cutting it to fit their needs like the finest Italian silk.
This riveting historical epic of love and family, war and loss, risk and destiny is the novel Adriana Trigiani was born to write, one inspired by her own family history and the love of tradition that has propelled her body of bestselling novels to international acclaim. Like Lucia, LuciaThe Shoemaker's Wife defines an era with clarity and splendor, with operatic scope and a vivid cast of characters who will live on in the imaginations of readers for years to come.
I haven't read any of Adriana Trigiani's novels yet but I had the opportunity to hear her speak about this book last year while she was working on it and it sounded so amazing. I especially like that it is based on her family.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (95)

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 only managed to finish one book this week because I had a very busy week and not much time for reading. Sadly I did not finish rereading A Thousand Splendid Suns and realized during the book discussion group meeting that I'd forgotten a lot of the story between now and when I read it in 2007. Someday I may pick it up again and reread it but right now I feel that I need to concentrate on getting through my giant pile of books for review.

This week I did post my Downton Abbey Reading Challenge. Participants only have to read one book to be entered in the prize drawing. For those who are Downton Abbey fans, please check it out! You'll at least find links to some books that might interest you. (Please forgive my BSP, just had to mention the reading challenge in case there was any interest)

Can't wait till Tuesday when Season 2  of Downton Abbey is released on DVD! I may not get much reading down this week after all...

Books read:

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey

This novel is inspired by Jane Eyre. The Flight of Gemma Hardy is set in 1960s Scotland and while it is not completely faithful to the original story, the changes work in this setting.

Books reviewed:

None-but I am in the process of writing reviews for Cinder by Marissa Meyer and The Lost Wife by Alyson Richman hopefully to be posted later this week.

Currently reading:

Ripper by Amy Carol Reeves

I am really enjoying this novel as I learn more about the Jack the Ripper killings and Whitechapel. Abbie reminds me of Amelia from The Vespertine and Mary Quinn from The Agency: A Spy in the House.

The World of Downton Abbey by Jessica Fellowes

I read a little more of this book over the weekend and learned quite a bit about servants' lives. Poor Daisy (just like the real kitchen maids on whom the character is based) gets up at 4:30 every morning and works till 9:45 at night and she only gets a half day off each week! I also found out why Carson spends so much time pouring wine through a funnel and what O'Brien is supposed to be doing when she is not plotting with Thomas...

What I plan to read next:

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

I am eager to start this book and I've read so many positive reviews (it received several starred reviews from trade publications and a lot of good reviews from the blogosphere) but I'm a little worried it won't live up to my expectations.

The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell

I hope to get to this book soon as it is a Vine request and I really liked The Vespertine. Sadly I can't remember it very well after all the other books I've read since then. Hopefully there will be a recap in The Springsweet...

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

Some reviewers have said this is a book that fans of Downton Abbey would like. I think the premise sounds like something Eva Ibbotson would write as the main character is a girl born into wealth and privilege who must leave that life and become a maid (similar to The Countess Below Stairs). 

The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

I probably won't get to this book yet but I have read a few chapters already and thought it was really good, reminiscent of Michelle Moran or Philippa Gregory.

Have you read any of these books? Which ones should I move up my TBR pile?
What have you been reading lately?