Sunday, May 31, 2015

Sunday Post (6) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. 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 will also be sharing my It's Monday post on Twitter #IMWAYR.

I had a really busy week at the library getting ready for our summer reading program which starts tomorrow. Our first event for adults is an after hours concert this Friday night and then next Monday we have a Bigfoot program. I'm also having another murder mystery dinner which seems to be our most popular program for adults (except maybe last summer's beer tasting and brewery tour). I can't believe summer reading program is already here! It feels like we spend most of the year preparing for it. I always enjoy this time of year at work even though it is busy. It is fun to see people so excited about reading. Even the adults have been calling and stopping by to ask when they can sign up. Of course we are giving away an iPad Mini 3 as our adult SRP grand prize which helps... 

I'm surprised that I was able to finish four books last week. It probably helped that Monday was a holiday so I had time to read and write a few book reviews. I still have a long list of review books to get through and hopefully I'll get caught up on my reviews this summer. I'm so happy that tomorrow is the first day of June. I wish it was summer all year round :)

Last week on my blog:

Nowhere But Here by Katie McGarry (review)

Books read:

I struggled with this book at first but then it started getting better and in the end I really enjoyed it. It is sad (two characters are struggling in the years since their child's death) and funny at the same time. I liked the quirky characters, especially eccentric Valerie who works in the lost and found office for the London Underground and falls for a man named Arthur Catnip and Septimus Drew, the young vicar who writes erotic novels under the pseudonym Vivian Ventress.  My book group members also agreed that the book was slow to start but really entertaining and touching in the end.

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

I liked this YA contemporary novel about a teen who finds out that the dad she never knew is actually a senator running for President. She ends up joining his campaign but has second thoughts when the campaign's beliefs don't exactly align with her own and her dad doesn't spend much time getting to know his long lost daughter. I did like that the senator's wife is portrayed as a caring person when she could have been really antagonistic.

The Swap by Megan Shull

This is a "Freaky Friday" kind of novel but instead of a parent and child swapping bodies, it is a girl and boy. 12 year old Ellie is feeling adrift when her best friend morphs into a mean girl who constantly puts her down. Jack is the most popular boy at their middle school and seems to have no problems but his home life isn't that great with a really strict dad for whom good is never good enough since the death of Jack's mom. After a visit to the school nurse they find themselves trading bodies and lives and realizing that the grass isn't greener on the other side. I thought the book was a funny and thoughtful story.

Emmy and Oliver by Robin Benway

Emmy and Oliver are best friends till Oliver is kidnapped by his dad when they are seven years old. Ten years later Oliver returns to town. In the years since, Emmy's parents have become very overprotective so she doesn't tell them that she has learned how to surf and that she loves it or that she is planning to go away to college at a school with a surfing program. Oliver feels smothered by his mom and her expectations and the new family she created in his absence. I really liked this novel about difficult family relationships and friendship and love. It was different from the other books I've read by her (Also Known As, Going Rogue) but it was very good.

Currently reading:

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

This novel has both a historical and contemporary story line. Jess is hiding from an abusive boyfriend in an abandoned cottage. At the cottage a letter arrives from an elderly man looking for  someone he once loved. She also finds a box of letters written between the man while he was a pilot in WWII and Stella, his lost love.  Jess tries to piece together what happened to Stella in the hopes of forwarding the letter to her while also figuring out what she will do next in her own life. I really like the book so far though the plot seems really familiar, kind of like a Sarah Jio novel maybe.

What I might read next:

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews

Now that summer is sort of here, I am in the mood for some beach reading. I loved Mary Kay Andrews's Spring Fever and some of her other books as well. This one involves a film location scout looking for a beach town. I usually like how the author includes details about the protagonists' careers in her books. I think it would be kind of cool to be a location scout though this particular character may have a hard time ahead since the community may not be okay about a film crew descending on their town.

Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin

I would love to visit Greece someday but in the meantime I can armchair travel with Zona in this book.

The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

I was drawn to this as an unusual love story where both characters are seriously misrepresenting themselves when they meet. Ella wants people to believe that her husband died in a selfless act of heroism and Hunter who is a screenwriter (a fact not known by Ella) is looking for a powerful love story to save his career.

New books received:

The Swap by Megan Shull (library book)

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh (library book)

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert (review book)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Review: Nowhere But Here

Nowhere But Here
By Katie McGarry
Published: May 26, 2015

An unforgettable new series from acclaimed author Katie McGarry about taking risks, opening your heart and ending up in a place you never imagined possible.

Seventeen-year-old Emily likes her life the way it is: doting parents, good friends, good school in a safe neighborhood. Sure, she's curious about her biological father—the one who chose life in a motorcycle club, the Reign of Terror, over being a parent—but that doesn't mean she wants to be a part of his world. But when a reluctant visit turns to an extended summer vacation among relatives she never knew she had, one thing becomes clear: nothing is what it seems. Not the club, not her secret-keeping father and not Oz, a guy with suck-me-in blue eyes who can help her understand them both. 

Oz wants one thing: to join the Reign of Terror. They're the good guys. They protect people. They're…family. And while Emily—the gorgeous and sheltered daughter of the club's most respected member—is in town, he's gonna prove it to her. So when her father asks him to keep her safe from a rival club with a score to settle, Oz knows it's his shot at his dream. What he doesn't count on is that Emily just might turn that dream upside down. 

No one wants them to be together. But sometimes the right person is the one you least expect, and the road you fear the most is the one that leads you home.

My thoughts:

I mostly loved the Pushing the Limits series so I wanted to check out this first book in McGarry's new Thunder Road series. What I liked were the main characters, Emily and Oz. Unfortunately the adults in the book were really immature and secretive. Of course without all the secrets there might not be a book but it really drove me crazy when they wouldn't be open with Emily about why she was in danger or her past history with her dad and his family. Something else that also bothered me was the treatment of women by the club. Although they were more respectful (according to Oz) compared to the other motorcycle club mentioned in the book, I thought it was still kind of a misogynistic society where women were viewed as belonging to the members. Their nickname of "old ladies" and the wall of bras really got my hackles up. I think I would have liked it more if women were allowed to be members of the club and treated more equally.

As I mentioned above, I liked Emily. She is smart and driven and she has plans for her life. It really turns her world upside down to find out that her mom hasn't been entirely truthful about the past. Spending time with her dad's family is eye opening and she does have the chance to explore new experiences and learn new things about herself. First she has to overcome her anger and her doubts and prejudices. I also liked Oz. His dream has always been to be a member of Reign of Terror and to work for their security company like his father. Unfortunately he messes up when he is supposed to be protecting Emily so he has to work hard to regain her dad's trust. He initially doesn't like Emily and blames her for causing her grandmother Olivia to suffer more. Olivia has cancer and has longed for a renewed relationship with her granddaughter. She has also been like a second mom to Oz. As Oz and Emily spend more time together they begin to fall in love and Oz also starts to rethink some things about the club and his future.

Overall I liked this book but didn't love it. The main characters kept me invested in the story line and while I guessed part of the big secret early on, I still wanted to know how things turned out. It was a quick read and a page turner especially towards the end. What disappointed me was the behavior of the adults--both Emily's mom and stepfather and her dad and the other adults in the club. They were pretty controlling of Emily and lying to her which wasn't cool with me. A lot of heartache could have been saved by their being more open and honest. I also found the club's treatment of women to be a little controlling and borderline offensive. I've read paranormal romance novels with werewolf packs that behaved in a similar manner and if readers like that sort of strong Alpha male thing, this might appeal to them more than it did with me.

While I liked Emily and Oz, I am not yet fully committed to reading the rest of the series though there are some characters I want to know more about like Violet and Chevy. Just because this book didn't quite work for me does not mean that it won't be a good fit for other readers. Perhaps I am more sensitive about certain things.  I think teens who have enjoyed McGarry's other books and authors like Simone Elkeles and Jennifer Echols will like this even with its flaws. The forbidden romance between Oz and Emily is definitely an appeal factor. Also fans of Sons of Anarchy might have a better appreciation of Nowhere But Here than I did.

Some other  reviewers' thoughts on the book:

The Reader Bee "Nowhere But Here is an excellent beginning to what should prove to be another awesome series by Katie McGarry"

Quinn's Book Nook "Although Nowhere But Here was mostly what I expect from a Katie McGarry novel, something was missing and unfortunately this book didn't work for me 100%"

Unconventional Book Views "Nowhere But Here was like a double-hit: one to the gut, and one to the heart"

Brandi Breathes Books "Another great one by McGarry exploring love and relationships with family and friends"

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (155)

"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 Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Release date: July 7, 2015

When sixteen-year-old Tess Kendrick is sent to live with her older sister, Ivy, she has no idea that the infamous Ivy Kendrick is Washington D.C.'s #1 "fixer," known for making politicians' scandals go away for a price. No sooner does Tess enroll at Hardwicke Academy than she unwittingly follows in her sister's footsteps and becomes D.C.'s premier high school fixer, solving problems for elite teens.
Secrets pile up as each sister lives a double life. . . . until their worlds come crashing together and Tess finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy with one of her classmates and a client of Ivy's. Suddenly, there is much more on the line than good grades, money, or politics, and the price for this fix might be more than Tess is willing to pay.
Perfect for fans of Pretty Little Liars and Heist Society, readers will be clamoring for more in this exciting new series.
While I've never seen the show, I think this sounds like Scandal for teens. I am a big fan of Jennifer Lynn Barnes's books and while I'm a little disappointed that this isn't another entry in the Naturals series (have to wait till November for that), I am eager to read this new series too.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Top Ten Beach Reads

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish. There is a new subject each week and this week's topic is "Top 10 Books I Plan to Have in My Beach Bag/Top Ten Beach Reads".

I am participating in the Summer Kickoff at Confessions of a Book Addict, where I will be sharing some of the books I hope to have in my beach bag this summer. Here is my list of additional books I hope to read and some books I've already read that I think are great for beach reading.

Books I hope to read this summer:

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

I think this To Kill a Mockingbird sequel is probably the most anticipated book of summer. I am on the waiting list at my library where I am #70 on a list of 204 people. However we also have duplicate "Quick Pick" copies of popular books that holds can't be placed on so I hope to nab that as soon as it is cataloged unless one of my library coworkers beats me to it :)

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan

I featured this in a recent Waiting on Wednesday post. The book has a Revenge style plot with a girl who survived an attack on a cruise ship where all but three people survived--herself, the boy she fell for onboard, and his politician father. The problem is that they claim it was a freak tidal wave that caused the ship to go down. If not for their lies, her friend Libby may not have died. With a new name and identity she is plotting to take them down.

The Heart of Betrayal by Mary E. Pearson

I loved the first book in this YA fantasy series, The Kiss of Deception, and it sort of ended with a cliffhanger so I can't wait to read what happens next.

Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin

This contemporary YA novel takes place in Greece as teenage Zona is dragged unwillingly by her dad to meet her late mom's side of the family in Athens. I've read an excerpt and I liked Zona's snarky voice and her dreams of becoming a journalist (she includes "articles" that she writes about her adventures). I think this sounds like a really fun beach read unlike the heavier stuff on my list.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

I mostly love Sarah Dessen's books though some are not as good as others. I've heard this one is a little darker than her usual stuff but I still want to read it anyway.

Books that make good beach reads:

Emery Lord's sophomore novel is about a teen girl whose boyfriend died a few years before and her plan to show that while she loved him she is moving on with her life and not still mired in grief. With the help of her supportive best friends and Max, who encourages her to join the school's quiz team, she puts her plan in action. Pick this up if you like contemporary YA fiction from authors like Morgan Matson and Jessi Kirby.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

If you still haven't read this YA series, now is your chance to get caught up before the final book, Winter, is published this fall. Cinder is a retelling of Cinderella in a futuristic time period. The main character, Linh Cinder, is a cyborg mechanic living in New Beijing. She crosses paths with Prince Kai when he asks her to fix his royal android, an important task as the android has secret information that could help defeat the evil Queen Levana who is threatening Earth. Each book in the series focuses on a different fairy tale: Little Red Riding Hood (Scarlet), Rapunzel (Cress) and Snow White (Winter). The books have plenty of suspense, adventure and mystery as well as romance and the science fiction elements are carefully blended into the story making it more accessible to a wide variety of readers.

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

After reading Me Before You which deals with heavier subject matter (but still has lighthearted moments), One Plus One was really refreshing. Single mom Jess is determined to get her daughter Tansy to a math competition. If Tansy wins, she'll be able to afford to go to a prestigious school where her gifts will be nurtured. On the madcap road trip with them are Jess's sullen ex-stepson (who lives with her), multimillionaire Ed who is in trouble for insider trading and Norman, the lovable but smelly dog. This book offers both romantic comedy and compelling family drama. Perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Sophie Kinsella, One Plus One made me laugh out loud and tear up a little too.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Did you watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton? Would you have killed for an insider's look at their love story? The Royal We is a fictitious story loosely based on William and Kate only in this dishy version, the prince falls for an American girl. Scandal and speedbumps in their romance made this a page turner but the characters have unexpected depth as well. If you are a royal watcher or you loved The Prince and Me, be sure to give this book a try this summer!

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

The hook for this novel (soon to be an HBO series starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman!) is that a murder may have taken place at a school fundraiser but the details are slowly revealed as the story goes back to the beginning where three women meet when dropping their kids off on the first day of school. Madeline, Celeste and Jane are very different but they form a friendship that is tested by scandal and secrets. What happened at trivia night? Was it an accident or murder? Who died? You'll have to read it to find out! Big Little Lies is a good bet for people who like mystery, secrets and drama. 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Post (5) / It's Monday What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimba @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s a chance to share news. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and things we have received and share news about what is coming up on our blog for the week ahead. 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. In Sheila's absence you can participate by sharing your post on Twitter #IMWAYR.

Happy Memorial Day weekend! I am spending my weekend at home since I was traveling the past three weekends. It is nice for a change though I do need to catch up on some cleaning. There is always tomorrow! I have been binge watching this new show I found on Netflix called Chasing Life (ABC Family). The show is based on a telenovela (really we seem to get our best TV ideas from telenovelas lately) about a young career woman whose life is derailed when she finds out she has cancer. The show is surprisingly upbeat and I like the main character, April and her family. It is very addictive watching. The second season will be on TV this August.

I also found out this past week that I am officially going to be promoted to the head of the reference department when my supervisor retires at the end of the month. This means some changes and more stress though I still get to keep doing the things I love like programming, readers advisory and selecting books for adults and teens. I am thrilled and nervous at the same time.

Last week on my blog:

Top Ten Audio Books I've Listened To (post)
A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin (review)

Books read:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer (reread)

I had planned to revisit this series later this summer since the final book in the series will be published this fall. I stumbled across the audio book version through our library's digital catalog when I was looking for something new to listen to so I went ahead and downloaded it. I liked the audio version and it was fun to reread this one and remember just why I liked it so much.

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (reread)

Interestingly while listening to Scarlet I realized I didn't like it as much as I remembered. It is my least favorite book in the series because I am not a fan of Scarlet. She is stubborn and annoying and immature at times. I did appreciate her devotion to her grandmother but otherwise found her to be pretty fool hardy and "act now, think later". If not for Wolf she wouldn't have survived. Their romance didn't work for me either though it is more steamier and more present than that of Kai and Cinder.

Cress by Marissa Meyer (reread)

This is the best book in the series so far. I loved Cress and Thorne and the development of the other characters and story line. We finally find out some big secrets and all the main players now know who Cinder really is. The ending sets up the major showdown that is coming in Winter. I thought the narrator does a better job with various accents and character voices in this one too. 

Currently reading:

This is my evening book group's pick for our discussion this Tuesday. I am really struggling with it at the moment. The plot sounded like it would be a fun story and while the characters are quirky so far I am just finding it to easy to put this book down.

What I might read next:

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey

I like books with a dual timeline. This one involves an abused young woman in modern times who escapes to an uninhabited house and starts receiving letters there written by a pilot to his sweetheart in WWII.

Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews

I love Mary Kay Andrews's books. They are perfect for summer time reading. This book is about a woman scouting a location for a film and the handsome mayor of the town who is determined to stop her.

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne

What would it be like to find out that the dad you never met is actually a candidate for President? That is the premise of this contemporary YA debut novel about a teen who has to adjust to living in the public eye while also mourning her mom's death and being part of a campaign she may not believe in. 

New books received:

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee (library book)

The Wrong Side of Right by Jenn Marie Thorne (library book)

Dream Things True by Marie Marquardt (review book)

Death Wears a Mask by Ashley Weaver (review book)

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly (review book)

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review: A School for Unusual Girls

A School for Unusual Girls
By Kathleen Baldwin
Published: May 19, 2015

It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.

After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their hearts...

My review:

If Ally Carter, Y.S. Lee and Gail Carriger wrote a book together it might be something like A School for Unusual Girls. When Georgie is sent to Stranje House after a series of increasingly shocking social mistakes that culminated in burning down the family stables, she decides to escape what she thinks is an institution that tortures young ladies into submission to society's rules. Fortunately for her, the school is actually a secret training ground for young ladies with unusual talents that can be used to save the British Empire. Her new boarding mates Tess, Jane, Maya and Sera all have special gifts and so does Georgie herself. Her experiments to create an invisible ink are prized as a way to protect English spies and their messages from falling into the hands of Napoleon's supporters. 

It takes Georgie quite awhile to realize what kind of school she is really at which was kind of frustrating considering that she is academically intelligent. Once she figures things out, she is on board to help the school by continuing her scientific experiments. Unfortunately she doesn't exactly get along with her new lab partner, Lord Sebastian Wyatt, whom she finds annoying and attractive in almost equal measure. There is also danger in the form of the snooping Lady Daneska, a former student of the school and possible spy for Napoleon herself.

A School for Unusual Girls is entertaining with a fun mix of humor, romance and mystery. It looks at the roles that girls were typically relegated to during that time and the students are able to use that to their advantage when spying for information. That aspect reminded me a lot of Y.S. Lee's Agency series which involves female detectives during Victorian times. The book also reminded me of the Gallagher Girls series which features teen girls who are trained as spies and how people underestimate them all the time. Georgie and her classmates are spunky and resourceful and though they may not be the ideal for Regency Society they have found a home at Stranje House and friendship with each other. This is the first in a series and while there is some resolution to the plot and Georgie's story there are some unsolved mysteries f. 

I think this book would appeal to fans of YA historical fiction, mystery, and books like Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (minus the Steampunk and paranormal elements), The Agency: A Spy in the House by Y.S. Lee or Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle (minus the magic).

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (154)

"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.

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan
Release date: May 26, 2015

I’m the daughter of murdered parents.
I’m the friend of a dead girl.
I’m the lover of my enemy.
And I will have my revenge.
In the wake of the devastating destruction of the luxury yacht Persephone, just three souls remain to tell its story—and two of them are lying. Only Frances Mace knows the terrifying truth, and she’ll stop at nothing to avenge the murders of everyone she held dear. Even if it means taking down the boy she loves and possibly losing herself in the process.
Sharp and incisive, Daughter of Deep Silence by bestselling author Carrie Ryan is a deliciously smart revenge thriller that examines perceptions of identity, love, and the lengths to which one girl is willing to go when she thinks she has nothing to lose.

I think this sounds like a  really good psychological thriller. Early reviews have compared it to the TV show Revenge