Sunday, March 31, 2013

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! I am home visiting my parents for Easter and my dad's birthday which makes the day even more special. 

I have been enjoying my time with my family and yesterday we watched Les Miserables which I think is a great movie for this time of year since it is a story of redemption and grace. I just finished the book this afternoon and hopefully will have a review written for later this week.

If you celebrate, I wish you a Happy Easter and Resurrection Sunday!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (140)

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.

My busy month is winding down and with my library's big Star Wars program out of the way I should be able to find more time for reading and getting caught up on reviews!

Books read:

I liked this book and the references to the show though I did wish there were more parallels between the show and the various storylines in the book.  If you haven't watched the first two seasons of Downton Abbey and want to avoid spoilers, I'd wait to read this book until you've caught up!

Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt

I thought this was a fun book overall. I hope to have my review posted later this week.

Books reviewed:

Poison by Bridget Zinn

Currently reading:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I made a little progress with this book but had to stop so I could read my book group books. I am currently at the part where Marius has seen Cosette in the Luxembourg Gardens and fallen in love. It is kind of funny especially when he picks up a handkerchief that he thinks belongs to Cosette (but actually belongs to Jean Valjean) and kisses it. I hope to get back to reading Les Miserables soon.

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez

I am finding this to be more readable than The Round House which ended up being a DNF for me. Still I think I managed to select two duds for book discussion this month. Sadly I was so excited about both books.

The Rules for Disappearing by Ashley Elston

This is a book for review.  I remember reading a book about a teen in witness protection when I was a teen. It may have been a Lois Duncan book but I'm not sure. I like The Rules for Disappearing so far. It is both suspenseful and frustrating at the same time. I definitely prefer it to the Nora Roberts book, The Witness.

What I plan to read next:

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter

It will be awhile before I get to this I think but it is next on my list once I finish my current books (except for Les Miserables).

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Poison

By Bridget Zinn
Published: March 12, 2013

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart . . . misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

My review:

I wasn't sure what to expect with this book but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. There is quite a bit of humor and lightheartedness so even though Kyra is on the run and has a dark task ahead of her, the story is actually fun. 

Kyra is a smart and funny main character and she isn't perfect. She makes mistakes and sometimes trusts the wrong people or doesn't trust the right ones. I think this made her easier to relate to. There are some mysteries about her and some things that I wish were explored more such as her other abilities aside from potion making.

Fred also adds to the humor and I love their banter. He is not exactly a "Prince Charming" type but he is a decent guy who still has the ability to make Kyra a bit weak-kneed at times (though she really fights the attraction-she has a job to do!). Instead of being a hero who saved the day, they really helped each other quite a bit.

I do wish we'd gotten to know the secondary characters a little better. Of those characters, I think Princess Ariana is the one I felt I knew the best by the end of the book. Being able to see the flashbacks of their friendship through Kyra's memories certainly helped.

The magical world that the author created was very interesting. I liked learning about how magic worked and the various potions Kyra could create. That aspect of the book reminded me of Princess Ben by Catherine Gilbert Murdock and I think Poison would appeal to fans of that book.

Overall, although it had some minor flaws, I thought this book was charming and funny with some suspense and plot twists but nothing overly dark. Although this isn't a fairy tale, it has that kind of tone as well as light fantasy. I laughed out loud while reading and had a smile on my face as I turned the last page. I only wish there was more.

Note: I am honored that I had the opportunity to read an e-ARC of this book. It is so sad that the author Bridget Zinn did not live to see it published.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (118)

"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:

Ladies' Night by Mary Kay Andrews
Release date: June 4, 2013

Description from Goodreads:

Take a splash of betrayal, add a few drops of outrage, give a good shake to proper behavior and take a big sip of a cocktail called…Ladies' Night!

 Grace Stanton’s life as a rising media star and beloved lifestyle blogger takes a surprising turn when she catches her husband cheating and torpedoes his pricey sports car straight into the family swimming pool.  Grace suddenly finds herself locked out of her palatial home, checking account, and even the blog she has worked so hard to develop in her signature style.  Moving in with her widowed mother, who owns and lives above a rundown beach bar called The Sandbox, is less than ideal.  So is attending court-mandated weekly "divorce recovery" therapy sessions with three other women and one man for whom betrayal seems to be the only commonality.  When their “divorce coach” starts to act suspiciously, they decide to start having their own Wednesday "Ladies' Night" sessions at The Sandbox, and the unanticipated bonds that develop lead the members of the group to try and find closure in ways they never imagined.  Can Grace figure out a new way home and discover how strong she needs to be to get there? 

Heartache, humor, and a little bit of mystery come together in a story about life’s unpredictable twists and turns.  Ladies' Night will have you raising a glass and cheering these characters on. 

I have become a fan of Mary Kay Andrews and loved her last book, Spring Break. I think this sounds like fun and a great summer beach read. 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (139)

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.

This is going to be a really really busy month for me so I anticipate not much time for reading or blogging but I will do my best!

Books read:

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

This was a really creepy thriller at times. My book group members all enjoyed it and we found much to discuss though all of us decided the story wrapped up well enough that we didn't want to continue on to the sequel.

Poison by Bridget Zinn

This was a charming fantasy book and I am currently working on my review which hopefully I will post later this week.

Books reviewed:

Also Known As by Robin Benway
Lighthouse Bay by Kimberley Freeman

Currently reading:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

I made some progress with Les Miserables and now I am nearly halfway through! Of course I am starting to skim the passages that are irrelevant to the story...

What I plan to read next:

Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez

I need to start this book soon since it is for my book group. It is the true story of  an American hairstylist's experiences starting a beauty school in Afghanistan.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

I haven't read anything by Louise Erdrich but I am excited to start with this novel since it is a National Book Award winner and has been so well reviewed. My afternoon book group will be discussing it this month.

Perfect Scoundrels by Ally Carter

I am looking forward to reading this book as I usually love Ally Carter's novels though I prefer the Gallagher Girls series to this one.

What have you been reading lately? 
Have you read any of the books on my list?

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Review: Lighthouse Bay

Lighthouse Bay
By Kimberley Freeman
Published: April 9, 2013

In 1901, a ship sinks off the coast of Queensland, Australia. The only survivor is Isabella Winterbourne, who clutches a priceless gift meant for the Australian Parliament. This gift could be her ticket to a new life, free from the bonds of her husband and his overbearing family. But whom can she trust in Lighthouse Bay?

Fast-forward to 2011: after losing her lover, Libby Slater leaves her life in Paris to return to her hometown of Lighthouse Bay, hoping to gain some perspective and grieve her recent loss. Libby also attempts to reconcile with her sister, Juliet, to whom she hasn’t spoken in twenty years. Libby did something so unforgivable, Juliet is unsure if she can ever trust her sister again.

In these two adventurous love stories, both Isabella and Libby must learn that letting go of the past is the only way to move into the future. The answers they seek lie in Lighthouse Bay.

My review:

I usually enjoy stories with dual narratives that are set in the past and in the present so I was pretty sure I would like Lighthouse Bay. I did find Isabella's story to be more compelling but I still liked the contemporary story because of the sibling relationship between Libby and Juliet and wanting to find out what happened to cause their estrangement. 

All three of the women are dealing with grief: Isabella is grieving the loss of her child, Libby is mourning for her dead lover, and Juliet also has a loss she has been dealing with for 20 years. Part of the story revolves around how they learn to cope. Isabella in particular has a difficult time partly because of her husband's cruel behavior. Perhaps this is why I found her story so interesting. She has a lot of growing and healing to do.

At first I wasn't sure that I would like the character of Isabella but I came to understand that some of her odd behavior was due to the twin blows of the death of her baby and the meanness of her husband and his family. They really controlled her and wouldn't allow her to grieve which I think led to almost madness. I think anyone who has experience such a deep and shocking loss and then wasn't able to mourn or show sadness might react in the same way. 

I enjoyed the setting and reading about the history of Lighthouse Bay. It seems to be a character of its own. The writing style is descriptive at times without bogging down the pacing. Even though the secrets weren't really hard to figure out, I still kept turning the pages because I wanted to know what would happen, especially with Isabella-would she escape the clutches of her husband's family? 

There is some romance for the characters too but it isn't the main focus of the book. Instead the book looks more at family relationships and dealing with loss and healing. I think this would be a good pick for fans of books like The Violets of March by Sarah Jio or The Things We Cherished by Pam Jenoff. Fans of Susanna Kearsley might also enjoy it though the book does not involve any time travel elements. Readers who enjoy historical fiction should also take note. 

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