Monday, March 31, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (173)

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 another busy week though I did finish three books. I am very behind on writing reviews and I had hoped to post one last week but I didn't get a chance to. Maybe this week I will have some time to write more.

I am glad that it is warming up again though I have a feeling it won't last. We had snow yesterday but it has already melted and it is supposed to hit 60 tomorrow. This coming weekend I will be going home to stay with my mom for the weekend. She is now able to walk a little bit without the use of her walker and she even went out shopping with my dad to Kohl's yesterday and he took her out to eat at Olive Garden. That is something she always enjoyed before she got sick so it is wonderful that she is able to get out again.

Books read:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (reread)

I love this book and the writing style and I felt like I appreciated it even more after rereading it. My book group liked it as well and we enjoyed talking about both the book and the movie adaptation which is a little different from the book but still really good.

Unmasking Juliet by Teri Wilson

This is a contemporary romance inspired by Romeo and Juliet without all the tragedy and death. Juliet and Leo come from feuding families in the chocolate business but they fall for each other after meeting at a masked ball. It is both funny and steamy and a little over the top at times but I liked it. The author also wrote a book inspired by Pride and Prejudice that I want to check out.

The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Initially I wasn't sure I would like this and there were a few times when I was frustrated by the main character but I did like the story. It reminded me a little bit of The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson but with more emphasis on romance and less politics. 

Currently reading:

Save the Date by Mary Kay Andrews

I usually enjoy Mary Kay Andrews's books and I really like this one so far. It is set in Savannah, my favorite Southern city.

A Fine Romance: Falling in Love with the English Countryside by Susan Branch

This book is great for armchair travelers as long as they don't mind that it is handwritten. I like the style and the stories of the author's visit to England.

What I plan to read next:

Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading (172)

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 haven't had the chance to participate in this meme since the beginning of February right before my mom became ill. This week we should finally have an official diagnosis for whatever caused her coma in the first place. She is doing a lot better now and is getting stronger every day and she goes to physical therapy three times a week. She is so determined to improve and walk without a walker and she has a great attitude about it all. I will be going to stay with her in two weeks.

Last week I had the chance to go to the PLA library conference in Indianapolis where I got to meet Susanna Kearsley, one of my favorite authors. She signed a copy of The Splendour Falls which I still haven't read. I guess that means I need to make time to read it soon! I also was able to attend the author lunch and book signing with John Green. He is an excellent speaker and also really nice. My sister and I stood in line for an hour and a half to get signed copies of The Fault in Our Stars for her and my step-niece. 

With all the traveling and other stuff going on I haven't had much time to read this month. I am currently rushing to reread The Book Thief before my book group meeting on Tuesday! I did finally get to watch the movie and I loved it.

Books reviewed:

Heartbeat by Elizabeth Scott
Better Off Friends by Elizabeth Eulberg

Books read:

Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Faking Normal covers a similar topic to Speak but it is written in a different way. I really liked the character of Bodee and though I think Speak is better, I think this book has a really important message too.

Mambo in Chinatown by Jean Kwok

I loved Girl in Translation and so I was eager to read Mambo in Chinatown. It features ballroom dancing and there is even a cameo from Kimberly (main character in Girl in Translation). 

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

I really loved the characters in One Plus One. It has a different tone compared to Me Before You but I still thought it was fantastic. It reminded me of a combination of Liane Moriarty and Sophie Kinsella. It would make such a cute movie! 

I finally finished this book after giving up on it early on due to pacing issues. I am glad I had to keep reading (it is the afternoon book group selection for this month) because it definitely got better. I am curious to see how the other members of the book group found it.

Currently reading:

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (reread)

I love this book and I am enjoying rereading it though I do wish that Death didn't give away so much! I think the movie was a good adaptation and I was surprised by the negative reviews.

What I plan to read next:

Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

I will be reading this book for review elsewhere. I love that time period and for some reason the premise of this book reminds me of Sense and Sensibility though there is no reference to it as any kind of adaptation.

This is an enchanting travel journal with painted illustrations, photos, and really pretty writing. It is like a scrapbook of the author and her husband's travels and how they fell in love. I started reading it already and I'm enjoying her descriptions of their voyage on the Queen Mary 2. I'm looking forward to reading about her experiences in England. It is my lifelong dream to go there one day (though I think I'd fly instead of sailing especially after reading about her seasickness!). 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Review: Heartbeat

By Elizabeth Scott
Published: January 28, 2014

Life. Death. And...Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can't tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn't have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

My review:

After reading The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley which also tells the story of a brain dead pregnant woman on life support, I wondered if this book would be similar. While that book focuses on the ethical aspects and court case, Heartbeat keeps the focus on Emma. There is no court case here or much ethical discussion although Emma is against her stepfather's decision to keep her mother's body on life support for the sake of the baby.

Emma is understandably angry but she also seems incapable of seeing her stepfather Dan's grief and she can be very selfish and mean. While this did not exactly endear her to me I thought it was an authentic portrayal of Emma's feelings. She is not just angry at Dan. She is angry at herself for not spending enough time with her mom and putting too much emphasis on being the perfect student. Emma is also frightened that Dan will abandon her once he has his long awaited child. 

Emma is fortunate to have her best friend Olivia who is there for her even when Emma is being self centered. Olivia is supportive and caring even if she can't always understand what Emma is feeling or going through. Emma also develops a friendship/relationship with Caleb, the school troublemaker. Caleb does understand grief because he has suffered the loss of a loved one too. With the help of Caleb and Olivia, Emma is slowly able to forgive herself and begin to mend her relationship with Dan.

Heartbeat is a moving contemporary novel. It is sad but it also has moments of hope and light especially in the scenes between Emma and Caleb. I loved how she started to come out of her solitude with him and I think that seeing the environment he lived in and the way his parents treated him helped her in her own relationship with Dan. Emma grows as a character and she realizes some truths about herself, her mom and Dan, and what is truly important in life. 

I think that teens will find it easy to relate to Emma even if they haven't experienced such a personal loss themselves. Fans of Sarah Dessen, Sarah Ockler, Morgan Matson, and Jessi Kirby will likely enjoy it.

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

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: Better Off Friends

Better Off Friends
By Elizabeth Eulberg
Published: February 25, 2014

For Macallan and Levi, it was friends at first sight. Everyone says guys and girls can’t be just friends, but these two are. They hang out after school, share tons of inside jokes, their families are super close, and Levi even starts dating one of Macallan’s friends. They are platonic and happy that way.

Eventually they realize they’re best friends — which wouldn’t be so bad if they didn’t keep getting in each other’s way. Guys won’t ask Macallan out because they think she’s with Levi, and Levi spends too much time joking around with Macallan, and maybe not enough time with his date. They can’t help but wonder . . . are they more than friends or are they better off without making it even more complicated?

From romantic comedy superstar Elizabeth Eulberg comes a fresh, fun examination of a question for the ages: Can guys and girls ever really be just friends? Or are they always one fight away from not speaking again — and one kiss away from true love?

My review:

Macallan first meets Levi a year after her mother died. Things are still raw and she is tired of being treated differently by those around her so Levi is like a breath of fresh air. They both share a love of the same BBC show, Buggy and Floyd which initially bonds them. Macallan also becomes close to Levi's mother and their families mesh well together, sharing weekly meals. As the two grow older, their friendship continues to deepen but they hit speed bumps like Levi's desire to be popular and Macallan's tendency to run away when facing difficulties.

Better Off Friends is a novel of friendship, love, and loyalty. The story is told through the perspectives of both Macallan and Levi which allows the reader to get to know both characters better. Macallan seems almost too good to be true but she does have some flaws. It is hard for her to acknowledge her feelings, something that could have been explored more in the novel. She is loyal to her family and friends and she isn't afraid to speak her mind except when it comes to her feelings for Levi. Levi is portrayed as a decent guy though he sometimes chooses popularity over doing what is right.

The novel has been touted as "When Harry Met Sally for teens" and the comparison is apt. Though it would be nice to see a book where the characters remain just friends without undercurrents of romance, it is a good exploration of friendship and growing up and falling in love. The romance is sweet. There isn't an instant attraction but instead it is a love that is based on friendship which makes it more satisfying when the characters get their happy ending.

Better Off Friends would be a good pick for readers of contemporary teen romance and it would be appropriate for younger teens as well. Fans of Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen and teen contemporary romantic comedy should definitely consider picking this up.

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

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Great news!

Since my last post, my mom has been moved out of the hospital and into their rehabilitation center where she has been undergoing physical therapy and speech therapy. I just found out this afternoon that my mom will be able to go home on Monday! 

I will be traveling to Fort Wayne to see her this weekend at the rehabilitation center and then once she is settled back in at home, I will plan to go and spend some time with her there too.

In the meantime I will also be going to PLA in Indianapolis next week with my sister. It will be easier to go to a library conference knowing that my mom is doing well!