Sunday, July 28, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (152)

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 a fantastic time on my vacation to the Savannah area. Some of the highlights of my trip included going to The Savannah Tea Room, taking a trolley tour of the Historic District, and candy shopping on River Street. It was also great to spend time with my family.

Even with all the activities I still found time to do some reading. Now I need to get caught up on writing my reviews!

My mom and I on the beach at Tybee Island

Books reviewed:

The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe

Books read:

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (reread)

Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi

This is a contemporary romance featuring a librarian so of course I wanted to read it! I thought the parts about librarianship in a small town seemed accurate. I really liked this book until the end when it let me down with its lack of conflict resolution.

The First Star to Fall by Diana Peterfreund

I enjoyed this e-novella so much that I decided to start my ARC of Across a Star-Swept Sea even though I'd planned to wait till closer to the October release date. 

The Selection by Kiera Cass

I was surprised that I actually liked this book. It was a quick and light read which was just what I needed on vacation. Now I am on the waiting list for The Elite at the library.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

I started listening to the audio book (fantastic) but then switched to the print version because I needed to finish the book in time for this week's book discussion. I loved it and can't wait to hear what the other group members thought. 

Currently reading:

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

This is a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel set in the same world as From Darkness Shows the Stars. It is something of a companion novel but takes place in a different place (New Pacifica-reminds me of Hawaii) and possibly different time period. So far, I love it. 

What I plan to read next:

The Husband's Secret by Laura Moriarty

The Sweetest Dark by Shana Abe

I am going to be reviewing the sequel, The Deepest Night, for Amazon Vine so I thought I better read this book first! I like books about dragons and while it probably won't be like Seraphina, maybe it will be a cross between that book and Firelight by Sophie Jordan. I am intrigued by the setting during The Great War too.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review: The Summer Girls

The Summer Girls
By Mary Alice Monroe
Published: June 25, 2013

Three granddaughters. Three months. One summer house. 

In this enchanting trilogy set on Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, New York Times bestselling author Mary Alice Monroe captures the complex relationships between three half sisters scattered across the country—and a grandmother determined to help them rediscover their family bonds. 

Set amid ancient live oaks and palmettos, overlooking the water, historic Sea Breeze is Marietta Muir’s ancestral summer home. Her granddaughters once adored vacations there, but it’s been years since they’ve visited. Mamaw fears once she is gone, the family bonds will fray. The Muir family is one of Charleston’s oldest and the blood of their pirate captain ancestor runs strong, so Marietta drops a subtle promise of loot—pearl necklaces, priceless antique furniture, even the house—to lure her “summer girls” back to the lowcountry. 

For years, Carson Muir has drifted, never really settling, certain only that a life without the ocean is a life half lived. Adrift and penniless in California, Carson is the first to return to Sea Breeze, wondering where things went wrong . . . until the sea she loves brings her a minor miracle. Her astonishing bond with a dolphin helps Carson renew her relationships with her sisters and face the haunting memories of her ill-fated father. As the rhythms of the island open her heart, Carson begins to imagine the next steps toward her future. 

In this heartwarming novel, three sisters discover the true treasures Sea Breeze offers as surprising truths are revealed, mistakes forgiven, and precious connections made that will endure long beyond one summer.

My review:

The Summer Girls tells the story of three sisters who share the same father, a man with many flaws. Carson lived with her father while Dora and Harper lived with their respective mothers. The only time they saw each other was during their childhood summers at their grandmother's home, Sea Breeze. Now years later they are not close at all but have returned to Sea Breeze for one final summer.

The book focuses on Carson although there are chapters from the POV of her sisters and Marietta too. It was nice to see the perspectives from Carson's sisters and how they each viewed things (and each other) differently. I found it more difficult to like Dora though I did feel bad for her as she is going through a divorce and dealing with raising a special needs child on her own. She was judgmental and pushy which made it harder to like her. Harper is more similar to Carson though she grew up with her wealthy (and controlling) mom. 

What I really liked about this book was the focus on the relationships of the three sisters and their misconceptions and the healing process that begins. I also liked Carson and admired the way she finally faced her personal demons to get the help she needed. The addition of a love interest for Carson was also a bonus and I appreciated the growth that Carson goes through when it comes to relationships and her ability to trust. 

Unfortunately one of the things about the book that I didn't like was the dolphin "Delphine". At first I enjoyed the way that Delphine interacted with Carson and seemed to help Dora's son but then I became annoyed by Carson's behavior towards the dolphin and the way she thinks she knows what is best rather than the experts. It is supposed to be a lesson for the reader but it just didn't work for me. I am sure that I will be in the minority and that most people will like the dolphin story line but I just didn't care for Carson's melodrama where the dolphin was concerned.

Overall I thought this was a good first book in this series. I liked the setting as well as the introduction to the sisters and their relationship to each other. Things aren't completely wrapped up as there is room for more growth and the other sisters get their own books. If you like books about sisterly bonds and family relationships and you are looking for a beach read, this might be one to pack in your bag. 

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

Sunday, July 14, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (151)

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 a great time with my family in Canada last week and I even found some time to read. Of course most of these books were read after I got back! I still haven't completely unpacked because I've been busy reading instead...

Books reviewed:

45 Pounds (More or Less) by K.A. Barson

Books read:

Blackberry Summer by RaeAnne Thayne

I really enjoyed this series to my surprise. This first book introduces the main families in the town, the Angel of Hope (an anonymous person or persons who does good deeds in the town) and a tragedy that affects the rest of the series. It is still a light romance though even with the sad parts.

Woodrose Mountain by RaeAnne Thayne

This is my second favorite book in the series. I really liked the secondary characters in this one too and the resolution of some things from the first book.

Sweet Laurel Falls by RaeAnne Thayne

This is my favorite book in the series. It is also my favorite cover. If you were a fan of Lorelai and Chris from Gilmore Girls and always wished they'd gotten back together (I did not because Luke Danes is the perfect man), you might like this book!

Currant Creek Valley by RaeAnne Thayne

This book has some sweet and heart tugging moments too but I was frustrated with the heroine at times. 

Willowleaf Lane by RaeAnne Thayne

While not the best book in the series, I still enjoyed this book because I could relate in some ways to the main character.

I read this on a whim and it was really enjoyable until the end when I felt a little letdown. I do plan to pick up the first book in the series too. You've Got Mail is one of my favorite movies and this book uses a similar device with the couple exchanging letters anonymously and falling in love but loathing each other in real life.

Currently reading:

Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews

I like this one so far though I know that Grace is in for a world of hurt before things become better for her. I usually enjoy Mary Kay Andrews's books so I have high hopes...

What I plan to read next:

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

I am really excited about this book. I've read some of it already and it is definitely entertaining and suspenseful so far.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is a book group book for July and I have heard really good things about it. I can't wait to start. I also have another book by Rainbow Rowell for review (Fangirl) that I am looking forward to reading.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: 45 Pounds (More or Less)

45 Pounds (More or Less)
By K.A. Barson
Published: July 11, 2013

Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

She is 16.
And a size 17.
Her perfect mother is a size 6.
Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.

Welcome to the world of informercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother. 

And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!

My review:

Ann has been on many diets over the years and what usually happens is that she'll tell her mom she wants to lose weight and her mom will push and push and push her. At some point, Ann's diet will fail, her mom will be disappointed, and Ann will feel disgusted with herself. It is an unhealthy cycle and one that is about to start again when her aunt announces her wedding and asks Ann to be a bridesmaid. Ann decides she wants to go on a diet and this time she will stick with it. Unlike in the past, she also decides to keep the diet a secret from her mom.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this book but I knew that I wanted to read it. I found myself really touched by Ann's struggles with both weight loss and other people's perceptions of her based on her size. The book also looked at friendships and family relationships which I really appreciated.

I found Ann to be easy to relate to as a character. There were definitely some moments where I really felt for her and could remember what it was like when I was a teen and people made comments about my weight or eating habits (I wasn't overweight but my relatives made comments anyway) or like Ann, I had those emotional fitting room scenes where clothes were too tight. I liked Ann's spunk and determination and I enjoyed watching her grow and discover more about herself and her family. It was great to see Ann decide to quit trying to fit her mom's ideal and work on being herself instead. Along the way she even makes a great friend in Rainee and finds a sweet love interest who likes her the way she is.

Overall I thought this book had a great message and great characters. The mom isn't portrayed as some villain. She genuinely cares for Ann but she doesn't have the healthiest attitude towards her body and she has passed that on to her daughters. She has her own issues to work on and while the end of the book doesn't wrap everything up with a bow, it does show that Ann and her mom are making progress in their relationship with each other and with food. There is also progress in mending broken family relationships. What I liked best is that the emphasis of the story is not on weight loss but on being healthy and being yourself rather than trying to fit someone else's concept of who you should be. 

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (127)

"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:

Spring Awakening by T. J. Brown
Release date: August 6, 2013

Description from Goodreads:

The thrilling conclusion to the evocative Summerset Abbey series featuring two sisters and their maid as they navigate an uncertain world in the midst of World War I. 

Aristocratic and free-spirited sisters Rowena and Victoria, as well as their maid and dear friend Prudence navigate the uncertain social and political climate of WWI-era England in the dramatic conclusion to the sweeping saga about the women of Summerset. Vividly evoking both time and place with authentic dialogue and richly detailed settings, this beautifully written novel explores the conflict between tradition and modernity as these women struggle to determine what to expect from their futures…

I've only read the first book in the series but I liked it and definitely want to finish the rest. It will give me something to do while I wait for Downton Abbey Season 4...