Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015

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 Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015".

The books on this list are some of my favorites I've read this year but that does not mean they are what I'd consider "5 star" books or that they'll make my final list of the best of 2015. Some of the books were published a few years ago and I just got around to reading them this year but most were published in 2015.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah--My review

I have a feeling this book will be my "best book of 2015" winner. I can't imagine anything beating it for the top spot. When I found out Kristin Hannah wrote a historical fiction novel, I wasn't sure what to expect. I'd liked Home Front but it was emotionally overwrought at times. This WWII novel far exceeded my expectations with characters I cared about, a gripping plot and historical detail.

Both of these books look at degenerative diseases (Huntington's Disease and early onset Alzheimer's) and how they affect the individuals who have them as well as their families. Genova has a gift for portraying these characters and what they are going through. It makes for emotional and powerful stories.

Partly set in the 1960s and 2000's in the fictional college town of Plainview, Indiana, the novel tells the story of Odette, Clarice, and Barbara Jean from their teen years when they were called "The Supremes" to adulthood and the challenges they now face. I think readers who liked The Help and Steel Magnolias would like this one. It is laugh out loud funny and sad at the same time. I highly recommend the audio book with its excellent narration (or the print version if you're not into audio).

A Man Called Ove by Frekdrik Backman

This Swedish novel is wryly funny with its curmudgeonly "anti hero" Ove, a recently retired widower who doesn't have much to live for until new neighbors move in with their young daughters and upend his life in a good way. Ove is grumpy but he has a tender heart under that crusty exterior and it is entertaining to watch how he changes or reveals the truth about himself. We read this in my book group. I might not have picked it up otherwise but I'm so glad I had the chance to read it.

Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel

Flame Tree Road is a prequel novel to Teatime for the Firefly. The main character is Biren Roy, a young man in 19th century India who wants to change things for the better, specifically the rights of girls to have an education and better treatment for widows. Just like with her first book, I loved the author's descriptive writing style and vivid setting.

All the Rage by Courtney Summers--My review

This YA contemporary novel just made me feel so much emotion particularly anger and sadness at what Romy endures in her school and community because she chose to speak up about her rape and people chose to protect the town golden boy and vilify and bully her instead. Courtney Summers takes on really important and relevant topics like rape, slut shaming and bullying without the book coming across like an after school special.  I think it's an important book for teens and adults to read and talk about.

The Storyspinner by Becky Wallace--My review

This debut YA fantasy novel makes my list because I loved the world building and the characters. The story drew me in from the start with its adventure, suspense, romance, and magic.

I loved this YA contemporary about a teen whose boyfriend died and her plans for convincing everyone that she is doing okay. Something Emery Lord does a good job with in her books is her portrayal of friendships and the importance of friendship to the main character. The book isn't just about a romance but also about friendships, family relationships and personal growth.

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski--My review

The YA fantasy novel The Winner's Crime makes my list as a strong sequel to one of my favorites from last year, The Winner's Curse. This book introduces new characters and more complications for Kestrel and Arin and their people. I love the complexity of the world and the suspenseful plot. I just wish it hadn't ended with a cliffhanger!

Invaded by Melissa Landers

I think of this series as an accessible YA science fiction "lite". This sequel to Alienated shows what happens when Cara goes to the L'heir colony and Aelyx stays on Earth trying to get humans to trust him and the alliance. Both characters have to decide what they really want and if their relationship can overcome many obstacles. At the same time there are plenty of secrets and a mystery to be solved. Alienated had plenty of lighthearted moments and romance and Invaded still has some humor and romance but is necessarily a little darker. I  hope there will be another book as I don't think their story has finished yet.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: Emmy and Oliver

Emmy and Oliver
By Robin Benway
Published: June 23, 2015

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy's soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?
Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. . . . She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents' relentless worrying. But Emmy's parents can't seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.
Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. . . . He'd thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who had kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing, and his thoughts swirling.
Readers who love Sarah Dessen will devour these pages with hearts in throats as Emmy and Oliver struggle to face the messy, confusing consequences of Oliver's father's crime. Full of romance, coming-of-age emotion, and heartache, these two equally compelling characters create an unforgettable story.

My review:

Both Emmy and Oliver's lives were changed by his dad's decision to kidnap him. Emmy's parents have been extremely controlling of her since that day which is why she keeps it a secret that she has learned how to surf and that she has applied to go to college hours away instead of the local community college her parents want her to attend first. Oliver believed for years that his mom abandoned him and didn't want him anymore. He didn't realize that he was kidnapped until he got curious one day and Googled her name and found the truth. Since returning home he has been torn between missing his dad and hating him for what he did. His mom has remarried and has two young twin daughters and Oliver struggles to fit into this new family where his mom expects him to be the same as the seven year old boy she last knew.

At first it is difficult for Emmy and her friends to reconnect with Oliver and it doesn't help that Emmy's parents push her at him (they kind of treat her like a little kid who needs to be told to play nicely). What changes things is her ability to treat him like a normal person. She soon becomes a lifeline for Oliver and she is able to share her own secrets with him. She teaches him how to surf and he tells her what life was like for him in New York with his dad. Eventually they fall for each other although her parents don't quite approve and Emmy's time with Oliver is finite since she will be going to college the next year. 

I enjoyed the growing friendship between Oliver and Emmy and how they were able to be there for each other. Emmy is fortunate to have two caring best friends in Caroline and Drew (also childhood friends of Oliver) though Emmy's secrets and renewed friendship with Oliver put some strain on their relationships. Drew and Caro have troubles of their own (especially Drew) but the four friends are there for each other when it counts.

While the friendship aspect of the novel was strong I was a little disappointed in the parents. Although it is understandable that they were all traumatized by the kidnapping, I thought that Emmy's parents in particular were difficult to like. They were so controlling and unreasonable even from an adult's perspective. Oliver's mom is struggling as well with her expectations for Oliver, her hatred of Oliver's dad and her fear. Things get better in both parental relationships by the end but I thought the parents exhibited poor behavior. I do think teens will be able to relate to the characters' troubles with their parents. It is a common trope in teen fiction to see parents having very different ideas of what their teens should do with their lives. I believe this mirrors real life however. Parents (usually) want what is best for their kids but their dreams don't always coincide with their kids' dreams and that is one of the struggles teens face as they become adults.

All in all I thought this was an excellent novel. I thought it did a fantastic job of exploring what it means to redefine friendship and family relationships after a traumatic event.The kidnapping may not be a normal part of teen life but the issues that the teens face in regards to their future and growing up and being true to themselves are all things that real teens deal with. The author portrayed realistic and flawed teens and even realistic and flawed parents. I would recommend this book to readers who like realistic contemporary fiction and authors like Sarah Dessen, Morgan Matson, Jessi Kirby and Sarah Ockler.

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (159)

"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 Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Release date: October 6, 2015

Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother's mysterious death, he's lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he's tracked down by a man he's never met--a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god.
The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants, and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision. Sometimes, the only way to start a new life is to die...
I've been a big fan of Rick Riordan's YA novels, especially the Percy Jackson books so I am eager to see what he does with his new series featuring Norse mythology. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Review: The Idea of Love

The Idea of Love
By Patti Callahan Henry
Published: June 23, 2015

As we like to say in the south,
"Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story."
Ella's life has been completely upended. She's young, beautiful, and deeply in love--until her husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her. Or so she'll have everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, but crippling writers' block and a serious lack of motivation are getting him nowhere. He's on the look-out for a love story. It doesn't matter who it belongs to.
When Hunter and Ella meet in Watersend, South Carolina it feels like the perfect match, something close to fate. In Ella, Hunter finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It's the stuff of epic films. In Hunter, Ella finds possibility. It's an opportunity to live out a fantasy - the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides. what's a little white lie between strangers? 

But one lie leads to another, and soon Hunter and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right?

My review:

A number of years ago I read and loved Driftwood Summer (also by Patti Callahan Henry), a book about three estranged sisters trying to save a bookstore. Since then I've been meaning to read more of the author's work. When I saw this title, my interest was piqued by the premise. Unfortunately it did not quite live up to my high expectations.

I was under the impression that Ella's husband was dead but under different circumstances from her tragically romantic story she spins for Hunter. We learn at the beginning of the novel that he is actually alive, having dumped her for her best friend's sister. They also happens to live in the same town. I am mentioning these minor spoilers (really this is all revealed at the beginning) because I found it hard to believe that Ella thought she'd be able to get away with lying to Hunter about her husband's story. Still I felt really sorry for Ella. She loses everything and has to live in the same town with her cheating spouse and his new girlfriend and painful memories. She also hopes that somehow he will come to his senses and return to her. I can understand what led her to lie to Hunter and why she is drawn to him as someone who doesn't know the whole pathetic story of her life.

Hunter's real name is Blake (his last name is Hunter). He is struggling to come up with a good story and while he hunts for one, he lies and tells the people he meets that he is working on a book about coastal towns. This gives him a way to connect with Ella under the guise of her acting as his tour guide in the town. He is also hiding from his own personal issues-a messy divorce (he cheated) and a difficult relationship with his teenage daughter who is understandably angry with him. 

I found Hunter/Blake to be hard to like as a hero. I thought he wasn't good enough for Ella which kind of soured me on the romance aspect of the novel. While I felt sympathetic towards Ella and wanted her to find happiness and some peace (and let go of her delusions about her husband) I didn't want her to end up with Blake. I did like how Ella grew as a person through her friendship with her feisty elderly neighbor, Mimi and the way she learned to stand her ground. She even found a way to mend fences with her best friend who truly was sorry about the mess with her sister and Emma's husband. 

If the novel had given us a hero that was truly worthy of the heroine, I would have enjoyed it so much more. Instead I felt a little disappointed in the end. While this book didn't quite work for me, I wouldn't say it was bad. I may not have cared much for the hero but that doesn't mean that other readers would feel the same way. I did enjoy the setting and the characters of Ella and Mimi in particular. I think readers who like Nancy Thayer's novels might appreciate this one too. 

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

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Post (9) / 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. 

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there! I called my dad this morning since I couldn't be there in person. I've now missed Mother's Day, my mom's birthday and Father's Day. Hopefully I will get to visit them over Fourth of July weekend!

Yesterday's ladies clothing swap at the library had a very small turnout but the people who came all found something new to take home. I don't know if it was the rainy weather that kept people away (is anyone else tired of all the rain we've been getting in the Midwest?) or other things going on in the community. I am hopeful that next month's back to school clothing swap for kids will get a bigger response. Tomorrow night is the murder mystery dinner. I have a lot to do but thankfully I have one volunteer helping me to set up and decorate tomorrow afternoon and another volunteer helping me at the event. So far we have 25 people signed up but I wouldn't be surprised if some call tomorrow to register at the last minute. Seems to happen all the time!

Later this week I will be traveling to Toronto for my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary party. It will just be a quick trip and a very busy weekend! Hopefully there will be some time to relax but we'll probably be trying to visit some relatives and pick up groceries on our one free day. Now I need to make my packing list!

Last week on my blog:

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah (review)
Beach Town by Mary Kay Andrews (review)

Books read:

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

I picked this up on a whim at the library and I ended up really liking it. It is the first inspirational fiction dystopian novel I've ever read. It reminded me a little bit of books like Matched and Delirium.  I definitely plan to read the sequel.

I read this contemporary inspirational romance for review. I read one other book by Beth Vogt (Catch a Falling Star) that I really liked so I wanted to give this a try. The premise reminded me of Sweet Home Alabama, one of my favorite romantic comedies. The novel didn't have as much humor as I'd hoped but I liked it.

Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel

I loved this book, especially the early parts when the main character, Biren, is a kid. He was so smart and caring and passionate about helping people. His dad was pretty awesome too. Although this is a companion novel/prequel to Teatime For the Firefly (which features an elderly Biren as a secondary character), it can be read as a standalone. I actually recommend reading Flame Tree Road first before Teatime for the Firefly so things are chronological and there won't be spoilers.

Currently reading:

I am really enjoying listening to the audio version of the book though I also have the print copy checked out from the library.  I've laughed out loud, felt angry and nearly teared up too. I kind of don't want the story to end so I've been slowly listening to it a bit at a time so I can listen on my long drive later this week. I hope my book group members love it as much as I do. It's still early but it may be one of my favorite books I read this year. 

What I might read next:

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

I wasn't very interested in reading this last year but when it was on sale for Kindle, I read a sample and decided to buy it. I've since read some positive reviews from bloggers I trust so hopefully I will like it. If not, it was only $1.99...

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

I got an ARC of this and I've mostly loved her books so I am looking forward to reading The Fixer sometime soon. It is supposed to be like the TV show Scandal.

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond

I kind of liked the idea of a mystery novel featuring Lois Lane as a heroine. This version of Lois kind of reminds me of Veronica Mars too. I was pretty disappointed by the portrayal of Lois in the latest Superman movie but this Lois doesn't seem like the damsel in distress type at all. Plus she has a friend she met online named "Smallville Guy". I think we all know who that is...

New books received:

First and Then by Emma Mills (review)

If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins (review)

The Fixer by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (review)

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella (library book)

The Guest Cottage by Nancy Thayer (library book)

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond (library book)

Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch (purchased)

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Review: Beach Town

Beach Town
By Mary Kay Andrews
Published: May 19, 2015

Greer Hennessy needs palm trees.
As a movie location scout, picture-perfect is the name of the game. But her last project literally went up in flames, and her career is on the verge of flaming out. Greer has been given one more chance, if she can find the perfect undiscovered beach hideaway for a big-budget movie. She zeroes in on a sleepy Florida panhandle town called Cypress Key. There's one motel, a marina, a long stretch of pristine beach and an old fishing pier with a community casino-which will be perfect for the film's explosive climax.
There's just one problem. Eben Thibadeaux, the town mayor, completely objects to Greer's plan. A lifelong resident of Cypress Key, Eben wants the town to be revitalized, not commercialized. After a toxic paper plant closed, the bay has only recently been reborn, and Eb has no intention of letting anybody screw with his town again. But Greer has a way of making things happen, regardless of obstacles. And Greer and Eb are way too attracted to each other for either of them to see reason.
Between an ambitious director and his entourage-including a spoiled "It Boy" lead actor-who parachute into town, a conniving local ex-socialite, and a cast of local fangirls and opportunists who catch the movie bug, nothing is going to be the same in Cypress Key. Now Greer is forced to make some hard choices: about the people and the town she's come to care about, and about her own life. True love is only for the movies, right? Can Greer find a way to be the heroine in her own life story? Told with inimitable heart and humor, Mary Kay Andrews' Beach Town is the perfect summer destination.
My review:
Beach Town is a contemporary novel about the movie making business and life in a small town that is struggling to survive economic hardship. Mary Kay Andrews writes with her signature blend of romance, Southern settings and detailed description, in this case of what it's like to work on a movie set. 
Greer is the third generation in her family to be in the movie business. Her grandmother acted in films while her mom was on the small screen and her dad was a stunt car driver.  She is very devoted to her career and to her grandmother who is all she has left since her mom died and her dad is no longer in the picture. She loves her job even though her career took a hit with a disaster on her last film set. Now she is desperate to salvage things by finding the perfect spot to film Beach Town. While she has found an ideal location in Cypress Key, the mayor has other ideas. Eventually Greer prevails on him to at least allow the shoot to happen even if he still hasn't consented to their plan to blow up the old casino. Eb cares a lot about his town and he has his own plans for renovating the casino and turning it into a community center. Unfortunately the building is in really bad shape and it will take a lot of money to fix it. He is determined to try though in spite of the odds. 
While Eb and Greer's chemistry is immediate they start off on the wrong foot with Greer assuming he is just a janitor at the motel she is staying and Eb thinking she is a spoiled brat. Their further altercations over the movie make things even more difficult but the reader knows that eventually they will work things out. The journey to get to that point however is far from smooth. Issues with town politics, trouble on the set with a bratty entitled star and drunk script writer and family drama for Eb and Greer add to the complications. 

I've become a fan of Mary Kay Andrews's novels. I liked Greer and Eb as the protagonists and the setting. The details of the movie industry were really interesting to me too. I like how Andrews always gives her protagonists interesting jobs.  I also liked some of the colorful secondary characters like Eb's aunt Ginny, his teenage niece Allie and the wisecracking police chief, Arnelle. They made Cypress Key sound like a fun place to take a vacation. Greer's dad also seemed like a hoot and I loved that he owned a "General Lee" from his time working on The Dukes of Hazzard.

If you are looking for something light with some humor, romance and small town Southern charm, pick up Beach Town. It is the perfect summertime read.

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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Waiting on Wednesday (158)

"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:

Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart
Release date: September 1, 2015

From the New York Times best-selling author of The Drunken Botanist comes an enthralling novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.
Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared. 
I like that this is based on a true story. She kind of reminds me of a real life Phryne Fisher from Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries (Australian TV series based on the Kerry Greenwood books). I like historical mysteries and strong heroines so this book sounds like a perfect fit for me.

Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
Release date: December 1, 2015

A year ago, Flynn Cormac and Jubilee Chase made the now infamous Avon Broadcast, calling on the galaxy to witness for their planet, and protect them from destruction. Some say Flynn's a madman, others whisper about conspiracies. Nobody knows the truth. A year before that, Tarver Merendsen and Lilac LaRoux were rescued from a terrible shipwreck-now, they live a public life in front of the cameras, and a secret life away from the world's gaze.
Now, in the center of the universe on the planet of Corinth, all four are about to collide with two new players, who will bring the fight against LaRoux Industries to a head. Gideon Marchant is an eighteen-year-old computer hacker known in Corinth's underworld as The Knave of Hearts. He'll climb, abseil and worm his way past the best security measures to pull off onsite hacks that others don't dare touch.
Sofia Quinn has a killer smile, and by the time you're done noticing it, she's got you offering up your wallet, your car, and anything else she desires. She holds LaRoux Industries responsible for the mysterious death of her father and is out for revenge at any cost.
When a LaRoux Industries security breach interrupts Gideon and Sofia's separate attempts to infiltrate their headquarters, they're forced to work together to escape. Each of them has their own reason for wanting to take down LaRoux Industries, and neither trusts the other. But working together might be the best chance they have to expose the secrets LRI is so desperate to hide.
I love this series! I was excited to see the cover reveal for this one. I think Sophia and Gideon sound like interesting characters that will add something different to the series. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: The Nightingale

The Nightingale
By Kristin Hannah
Published: February 3, 2015

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France...but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When France is overrun, Vianne is forced to take an enemy into her house, and suddenly her every move is watched; her life and her child’s life is at constant risk. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates around her, she must make one terrible choice after another. 

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets the compelling and mysterious Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can...completely. When he betrays her, Isabelle races headlong into danger and joins the Resistance, never looking back or giving a thought to the real--and deadly--consequences.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah takes her talented pen to the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

My review:

The Nightingale is a novel about life in WWII France but it is also about the complications of relationships, particularly familial bonds and what it is like when someone you love leaves you behind. Vianne and Isabelle lose their mother at a young age and then are left by their father at the home of a relative. Later Vianne sends Isabelle away to boarding school when she becomes too difficult. There is a recurring theme of leaving and being left behind throughout the book that gives it a deeper sadness.  The novel also explores what it means to be brave and how Isabelle and Vianne go about that in different ways.

Vianne is a very mothering and nurturing person. She basically had to take over as a mother for Isabelle when their mom died and their dad couldn't handle parenting. Vianne married young and she and her husband Antoine kept Isabelle with them but a tragedy and Isabelle's increasingly difficult behavior led to the decision to send her to boarding school. Since then the sisters have been estranged. Everything changes when the Germans invade Paris and Isabelle returns to Carriveau to live with Vianne and Sophie, Vianne's young daughter.

There is friction between the two sisters as old resentments resurface. Their differing views about the war with Germany creates tension as well. Isabelle survived the long and dangerous trek from Paris to Carriveau. She saw people get gunned down in front of her and she knows that the war isn't going to end quickly and peaceably. She wants to do her part to stop the Germans even if it means putting Vianne and Sophie in danger. She views it as her duty to her country to be loud and vocally opposed to the German captain now living in their home. Eventually Isabelle joins the French Resistance where she is reunited with Gäetan, the young man who inspired her on the journey from Paris. 

Vianne on the other hand still believes that her husband and the other brave French soldiers will prevail and that they need to keep their heads down and get on with living without angering the Germans. Unlike Isabelle, Vianne remembers the last German occupation during WWI and this colors her perspective. She doesn't want a repeat of all the hardships they suffered and is sure it won't come to that until it does. Vianne's main concern is her daughter Sophie and her Jewish best friend and neighbor Rachel and her children. 

The Nightingale is a powerful and moving story. The characters are well developed and multifaceted. I loved how Vianne and Isabelle came to understand each other and their father and by the novel's end saw their relationships in a different light. The book makes you feel strong emotions both sadness and admiration for the characters and what they went through.  I've heard Kristin Hannah's fans say that this is the best book she's written and I certainly hope she writes more historical fiction in this vein. I thought the book reminded me a little bit of Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein as well as similar elements in Jojo Moyes's The Girl You Left Behind (though The Nightingale was much better than that WWI novel). Readers who enjoy historical fiction should definitely give The Nightingale a try. 

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

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Post (8) / 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 was supposed to be visiting my parents for my mom's birthday this weekend but unfortunately bad weather (heavy rain/thunderstorms) got in the way of my plans. I hate driving in torrential downpours especially since my car has been having issues. I made it a little more than an hour from where I live and it got so bad that I couldn't really see and didn't have a way to get off the highway. Thankfully I made it through and was able to wait out the heavy rain at a Starbucks before turning around and heading back home. I am getting my car fixed in a few days so that won't be a problem anymore but it made me sad to miss out. At least they got to visit with my sister and brother in law yesterday. I will be seeing my parents in a couple of weekends when we all go to Canada for my aunt and uncle's 50th wedding anniversary party.

Summer reading at my library is going well though I don't have as many people signed up as I'd hoped for. This is the first year we are not giving away gift baskets which were always popular but kind of expensive to put together but the baskets were a great way to advertise the program. Instead we are giving away gift cards and an iPad Mini 3 which I'd think would be more popular than a gift basket. The idea of book bingo might have scared some participants away too but with a bigger prize we wanted people to earn it. Hopefully the participation numbers will go up. I also have two programs left. Our first ever ladies clothing swap is on Saturday. I have no idea what the turnout will be like or how much stuff we'll get. I limited it to spring and summer clothes and accessories to make it a little easier. If all goes well I am also planning one in August for kids' clothing. 

Last week on my blog:

Top 10 Anticipated Upcoming Releases of 2015 (post)
Letters to the Lost by Iona Gray (review)

Books read:

The Secrets of Lily Graves by Sarah Strohmeyer

I liked Lily as a protagonist. She is smart, quirky and opinionated. Her family is fun and a little wacky too. I did have some issues with the mystery and how things were resolved but I enjoyed the book as a suspenseful page turner.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

This was probably my most anticipated debut novel of 2015 so I was worried it would disappoint me. Thankfully it did not and I mostly thought it was a good start to the series. I would have liked some more of Sharzad's tales (I think she only shared two) and there is somewhat of a love triangle but it looks like the feelings are one-sided from one of the guys (hopefully that won't change in the sequel).

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

I'd heard that this book would be darker than a lot of her others but I didn't find it that way. There wasn't that much humor but I thought it was a fantastic novel that dealt with some tough family issues.

A Bollywood Affair by Sonali Dev

This contemporary romance received good reviews from NPR, Romantic Times, and Library Journal and the premise made me give it a try. While I liked Mili as the heroine (though she is naive it is understandable from the way she was raised), it took me awhile to warm up to the "hero" Samir who behaved like a jerk at times (he improved in my estimation as he spent time with Mili and we got his backstory). I loved the descriptions (especially the food!) and wanted Mili and Samir to have a happy ending. 

Currently reading:

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker

This is not being marketed as teen fiction but I added it to our teen fiction collection at the library though I may also buy a copy for our inspirational fiction for adults. The author is the daughter of Christian fiction writer Ted Dekker. The premise is a futuristic society controlled by The Authority who practice a warped form of religious devotion to God. Women are valued as "help-mates" whose primary duty is to be "Chosen" to be a wife and mother. Girls who are not selected at the Choosing ceremony become "Lints", menial drudges. There is also a serial killer attacking the Lints. I don't normally read Christian fiction these days but it sounds interesting doesn't it? So far the book reminds me a little of both Matched and Delirium

What I might read next:

Flame Tree Road by Shona Patel

Flame Tree Road is sort of a companion novel/prequel to Teatime for the Firefly (a novel I loved but never wrote a review for--bad me!). This book tells the story of Biren Roy, who in Teatime is a grandfather raising his granddaughter. I loved his character in that book so I am looking forward to reading about him as a young man fighting for women's education in India.

We will be discussing this book in my evening book group this month. I thought it was Southern fiction but it is actually set in small town Indiana in the 1960s and the 2000s.

New books received:

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (review book)

P.S., I Still Love You by Jenny Han (library book)

The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker (library book)

The Supremes at Earl's All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore (library book)

The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen (purchased)