Monday, April 28, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (176)

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.

A quick update on my mom: She has graduated from physical therapy and is done with her medication.  She tries to exercise everyday to keep building up her strength. I talked to her yesterday and this weekend she was able to do a little gardening and yesterday went to church for the first time since she was sick. I will be visiting her for Mother's Day weekend and we are going to her school's spring concert and I am sure her students will be thrilled to see her.

I didn't have as much time to read this week so I only managed to finish a novella and one book. I am still working my way through my book discussion book and I hopefully will have it read in time for our meeting tomorrow.

Saturday night was our Friends of the Library Just Desserts fundraiser. This was my first time attending and I thought it went really well. The food was pretty good and the wine was excellent. The guest speaker was a local journalist who had been on the Dr. Phil show and it was interesting hearing about his experiences in the news business. 

Books reviewed:

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Books read:

Twelfth Night by Deanna Raybourn

This is a Lady Julia novella set in January 1890. I like the novellas but they are not quite mysteries and just make me miss the series more. I wish Raybourn would write another Lady Julia Grey book but she seems to be focusing on historical adventure fiction instead. This novella does have a nice happy ending to it and I wish it had been released around the holidays.

Wish You Were Italian by Kristin Rae

This is one of the first books in the If Only line of "clean" teen contemporary romances published by Bloomsbury.  I enjoyed this one, especially the descriptions of Italy, and I think it is something the teens at my library would really like.

Currently reading:

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

I wish I could get into this book but I am not a big fan of the protagonist. I will have to persevere however since both of my book discussion groups are reading this and I am the leader...

What I plan to read next:

I started reading this last week but put it aside to read my book discussion book and other books on my Kindle. So far I like it and appreciate how closely knit Lara Jean's family is.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Review: The Winner's Curse

The Winner's Curse
By Marie Rutkoski
Published: March 4, 2014

Winning what you want may cost you everything you love 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My review:

The Winner's Curse is a fantasy novel that has a historical feel. The setting reminded me of the Greek city states in a way with Kestrel's people, the Valorians, as the Spartans and Arin's as the Athenians. Kestrel is expected to join the military and while she is very intelligent and good at figuring out strategy, her heart is on music, something which her father hates. Music is also what draws Kestrel and Arin together in spite of his being her slave and his view of the Valorians. 

Arin's part of the story is what I found most interesting. There is definitely more to him than Kestrel realizes. That is not to say that Kestrel is a boring character. I liked the glimpses of her gift for strategy and I appreciated that she could see things differently than the others of her society. 

I think the story really picks up midway when there is a game-changing twist and I loved the cliffhanger ending. While this book is not like a typical fantasy novel (no magic or mythical creatures) and it almost reads like historical fiction I think that will make it appeal to a far wider audience of readers.  I think readers who liked Rae Carson's The Girl of Fire and Thorns and Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes will enjoy this. There is suspense, romance, and action and I am eager to see what will happen in the next installment.

Note: I received an ARC of this book for review purposes courtesy of the publisher and Amazon Vine

Monday, April 21, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (175)

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 hope you had a nice Easter! Mine was quiet. I had planned to go visit my parents for the weekend but my car had other ideas so instead I stayed home and read. 

Books reviewed:

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord
House of Ivy and Sorrow by Natalie Whipple
These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Books read:

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

I thought this was really good and packed more of an emotional punch than I expected.

Wild Iris Ridge by RaeAnne Thayne

While not my favorite book in the series it was still a pleasant read and a nice romance. 

No River Too Wide by Emilie Richards

Even though I hadn't read the other books in this series, I was able to read this without feeling that I was missing something. I liked the idea of a woman breaking free from an abusive past.

Here's Looking at You by Mhairi McFarlane

This book was an enjoyable romantic comedy/drama with unexpected depth and a satisfying happy ending. I love it when characters are able to overcome past difficulties and I liked how this addressed bullying. Now I want to check out what else Mhairi McFarlane has written. I do hate the cover though.

The Tea Shop on Lavender Lane by Sheila Roberts

A lovely cover with two not so lovely protagonists but they turned things around by the end. I always say I like books about family relationships but these sisters were so bratty at times. 

Landline by Rainbow Rowell

I may be in the minority in finding this book a disappointment compared to her other books. I had to push myself to finish it. I have loved Rainbow Rowell's teen fiction and I liked Attachments but I think she should stick to writing for teens. The adults in this book behaved like immature teens and I found Georgie to be incredibly annoying and selfish.  On the plus side it does explore some of the difficulties of married life. The ending may have been movie script happy but it left me wondering if the couple could stay married for the long haul.

Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

I liked the heroine and felt sorry for her because she had to live down the mistakes of her past in a gossipy small town. Not convinced that she loves books or knows the bookstore business though. Still it was a mostly enjoyable romance. I've only read one other book in this series but I may pick up some more. 

Currently reading:

What I might read next:

The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro

This is a book discussion selection for both my afternoon and evening book groups this month so I definitely need to read it soon. Our meeting is next Tuesday!

Buzz Kill by Beth Fantaskey

This is a teen murder mystery that I will hopefully like. Beth Fantaskey has a humorous writing style that I have enjoyed in the past.

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!