Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Post (43) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s 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 now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

I am so glad it is Sunday! My week definitely had its ups and downs. I have been battling a sinus headache for over a week now and unfortunately it is still here. I ended up leaving work early on Friday because of it but now it isn't as bad. Hopefully it will clear up soon. I have been treating it with steam and Tylenol for the pain. On the plus side I don't have a sinus infection. My poor sister had sinus surgery earlier this week so she will be off work for the next week and she is pretty sore at the moment. I've been giving her book recommendations as we have somewhat similar reading tastes.

One of the good things about this week was yesterday's coloring program at the library. I had 21 people sign up and 16 showed up so that is progress and a good turnout. They all seemed to have a good time and have asked me to do another one. I'll have to check the calendar and see. I don't like the idea of doing a Saturday afternoon coloring program once the weather is nice because people have a tendency to not show up and I don't blame them! Today is supposed to be beautiful and in the 60s so I hope to get out this afternoon and do some shopping and maybe walk around downtown. 

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

#FitReaders is hosted by Felicia at The Geeky Blogger and Jen at That's What I'm Talking About

My sinus headaches affected my exercise this week so I had a couple days where I didn't get my steps in. I couldn't move much on Thursday without throbbing pain so I spent most of the day sitting and reading or watching Netflix. On Saturday morning the pain was a lot better so I was able to exercise before work. I had a bad week in terms of eating as I consumed a lot of chocolate and white chocolate. I will try to do better this week. I am starting the day off with oatmeal at least :)

Sunday--10,475 steps
Monday--10,694 steps
Tuesday--10,537 steps
Wednesday--10,589 steps
Thursday--1,171 steps
Friday--3,039 steps
Saturday--10,850 steps

Last week on my blog:

The Lies About Truth by Courtney C. Stevens (review)

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda (review)

Books read:

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

While I found Letty to be frustrating, I did like this book. I enjoyed the discussion in book group and most of the members liked the book too though they also had issues with the characters' actions. I did hear that The Language of Flowers is considered to be a better book. I will have to read it sometime.

Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth

I still don't know how I feel about this book because of the ending. I did not figure out the mystery so that is a plus as so many times I know "whodunit" early on. 

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf

I liked this suspense novel. It didn't have much in the way of character development but it was straightforward suspense with lots of family secrets to uncover. I suspected who the killer was early on but I wasn't 100% sure and I enjoyed most of the book though in the end I kind of felt a little let down.

Currently reading:

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

I am now at the part where Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are reunited with Pippin and Merry at Isengard. Soon the story will move to the part with just Frodo and Sam. I kind of wish that Tolkien had done what Peter Jackson did with the film and interspersed the story lines so you know what is going on concurrently.

Currently listening to:

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix

I actually have an ARC of this that I never got around to reading to my shame. I was looking for something to listen to on my commute and found this on Overdrive. I am enjoying the audio book both for the story and the narration. It is a YA Regency spy novel with magic and has a definite Jane Austen vibe to it.

On my TBR pile:

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

I've read a few of these short stories already from when they were available on Kindle but some of the stories are entirely new. 

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

I hope to read this next. I really like the sound of it and I love fairy tale retellings so I have high hopes.

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

I am really hoping that as I read this, I will remember the first book and who the secondary characters are. It feels like years since I read Red Queen.

Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany

That title reminds me of the song that I really liked when I was a kid (I loved An American Tail). This story is about two sisters who were separated when they were little and put into foster care and now they are adults who will hopefully be reunited.

New books received:

Love, Lies and Spies by Cindy Anstey (for review)

A Girl's Guide to Moving On by Debbie Macomber (for review)

Somewhere Out There by Amy Hatvany (for review)

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi (for review)

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix (library book)

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (Audible purchase)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Review: The Golden Son

The Golden Son
By Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Published: January 26, 2016

The New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of Secret Daughter returns with an unforgettable story of love, honor, tradition, and identity.

The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency at one of the best hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage required to take on the role.

Back home in India, Anil’s childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and forces her to make choices that will hold drastic repercussions for her family.
Tender and bittersweet, The Golden Son illuminates the decisions we must make to find our true selves.

My review:

I loved Secret Daughter so I was thrilled to hear about The Golden Son. Like in her debut, the story spans India and the United States. In this novel, Anil grows up in a small rural village where he and his father share the dream that Anil will become a doctor one day. Anil's family also has the expectation that Anil will return to India and take his father's place as the arbitrator of village disputes. But once Anil reaches the United States and sees the life he can live there and the career opportunities, he doesn't want to leave.  In spite of the hardship of his residency and the discrimination he faces, he has built a promising life in Texas. He even has an American girlfriend. Anil is torn between his family's expectations and what he wants for himself.

The other main character is Leena, Anil's friend and onetime crush. Leena come from a poorer family. Her parents sacrifice everything to arrange a good marriage for her and Leena is only too happy to comply. Once she marries and moves into her husband's family home however, she realizes the truth about him and her new in-laws. They treat Leena like their servant and she suffers under their mistreatment even as she does her best to please them and not bring shame to her own family.

I loved both Anil and Leena but I have to admit that it was Leena's story that really pulled me in. While I liked reading about Anil's experiences during his residency and the challenges he faced, it really didn't have the same impact as what Leena went through. She starts out as an idealist, trusting that her parents have made a good match for her. Even while her new family treats her poorly she tries to care for them. She is such a kindhearted person that it makes it that much harder to take. I was happy to see her stand up for herself and take her fate into her own hands but I thought after awhile that her story was put on the back burner to make room for Anil's which was too bad.

The novel looks at the push and pull between tradition and individual dreams as well as Eastern and Western values. Anil and Leena both have to face some decisions about going against the flow. I liked how the plot went in a different direction from what I expected. Both Leena and Anil have grown by the end of the novel and have found a measure of peace and happiness. I liked the development of both characters though some of the secondary characters could have been better drawn.

I loved the setting and the details about Indian culture, pottery making and the practice of village arbitration as well as Anil's medical work. I think it added to the story and the author has a gift for description. I think readers who liked Secret Daughter will like this novel as well though I think Secret Daughter was slightly more compelling perhaps because Anil's story line wasn't quite as strong as Leena's. I thought it was a very good follow up to an excellent debut novel. 

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (177)

"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:

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Release date: May 3, 2016

A summer in Italy turns into a road trip across Tuscany in this sweeping debut novel filled with romance, mystery, and adventure.

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.
But then Lina is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept from Lina for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

I so badly want to go to Italy and hope someday I get the chance. In the meantime I will be reading books like this. I think it sounds like the perfect summer read. The premise reminds me of Sophomore Year is Greek to Me by Meredith Zeitlin, which I enjoyed so hopefully I will like this too.

A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi
Release date: August 28, 2016

A vivid, unforgettable story of an unlikely sisterhood—an emotionally powerful and haunting story of friendship that illuminates the plight of women in a traditional culture, from the author of the bestselling The Pearl That Broke Its Shell and When the Moon Is Low.

For two decades, Zeba was a loving wife, a patient mother, and a peaceful villager. But her quiet life is shattered when her husband, Kamal, is found brutally murdered with a hatchet in the courtyard of their home. Nearly catatonic with shock, Zeba is unable to account for her whereabouts at the time of his death. Her children swear their mother could not have committed such a heinous act. Kamal’s family is sure she did, and demands justice. Barely escaping a vengeful mob, Zeba is arrested and jailed.

Awaiting trial, she meets a group of women whose own misfortunes have led them to these bleak cells: eighteen-year-old Nafisa, imprisoned to protect her from an “honor killing”; twenty-five-year-old Latifa, a teen runaway who stays because it is safe shelter; twenty-year-old Mezghan, pregnant and unmarried, waiting for a court order to force her lover’s hand. Is Zeba a cold-blooded killer, these young women wonder, or has she been imprisoned, like them, for breaking some social rule? For these women, the prison is both a haven and a punishment; removed from the harsh and unforgiving world outside, they form a lively and indelible sisterhood.

Into this closed world comes Yusuf, Zeba’s Afghan-born, American-raised lawyer whose commitment to human rights and desire to help his homeland have brought him back. With the fate this seemingly ordinary housewife in his hands, Yusuf discovers that, like the Afghanistan itself, his client may not be at all what he imagines.

A moving look at the lives of modern Afghan women, The House with No Windows is astonishing, frightening, and triumphant.

I thought The Pearl That Broke Its Shell was amazing and I really liked When the Moon is Low too so I have high hopes that this will be a fantastic and moving story. Her writing is perfect for fans of Khaled Hosseini. I am cheating a bit by including this as a WoW pick since I just got approved for the ARC but I wanted to spread the word about this book :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: The Lies About Truth

The Lies About Truth
By Courtney C. Stevens
Published: November 3, 2015

In the same vein as Jandy Nelson and Gayle Forman comes a novel from the gifted author of Faking Normal, Courtney C. Stevens, about hope and courage and the struggle to overcome the pain of loss.
Sadie Kingston is living in the aftermath. A year after surviving a car accident that killed her friend Trent and left her body and face scarred, she can't move forward. The only person who seems to understand her is Trent's brother, Max.
As Sadie begins to fall for Max, she's unsure if she is truly healed enough to be with him. But Max looks at her scars and doesn't shy away. And Max knows about the list she writes in the sand at the beach every night, the list of things that Sadie knows she must accomplish before she can move on from the accident. And while he can help her with number six (kiss someone without flinching), she knows she's on her own with number three (forgive Gina and Gray) and the rest of the seemingly impossible tasks that must be made possible before she can live in the now again.

My review:

An accident destroys more than one life in this sophomore novel by Courtney C. Stevens. It has been a year since Trent died and Sadie is living as a recluse. She takes solace in helping out at the junk yard where Trent's car now lies and in running on the beach at night. She also finds comfort in her emails to Max, Trent's younger brother. While she'd like it if the rest of the world left her be, someone is trying to remind her of the past, her friends Gina and Gray try to reach out to her again and her parents want her to step out of her comfort zone a little. Then Max moves back to town and Sadie has to decide if their long distance friendship can turn into something more now that they are face to face. Secrets and fears have been holding her back but now she has the chance to move forward.

I liked this novel and its focus on friendship. The romance is sweet but doesn't overshadow the story. Trent is very present through flashbacks and memories and he was the glue that held the group together. Gray was Sadie's boyfriend and Gina was her other best friend but things happened that drove them apart. Little by little the events of the fateful night are revealed and it helps the reader piece together what happened, why the friendships were damaged and what can help them all to heal. I think fans of contemporary YA authors like Morgan Matson, Sarah Dessen, Sarah Ockler and Jessi Kirby would like this book.

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

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Sunday Post (42) / It's Monday, What Are You Reading

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Book Reviewer. It’s 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 now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date, where we share what we've read and reviewed over the past week and what we plan to read next.

Today is a beautiful day (as I write on Saturday morning). The sun is shining, the sky is blue and oh, yeah it is in the 60s in February! I know it isn't going to last but I will enjoy it while it does! It is funny considering that I stayed home from work on Tuesday due to snow! Only in the Midwest :) Update: It is now evening and the weather forecast says we may get 6-10 inches of snow from Wednesday through Thursday. Boo!

I had a quiet week at work with only a few days (I was off on Monday for President's Day too) at the library. This weekend is Girl's Night Out and my library takes our bookmobile downtown. This year the teen librarian is having a selfie photo booth on board. Last year we were supposed to participate but pulled out due to bad weather. I almost wish I'd agreed to be part of this year's festivities as the weather will be so nice but I'm glad I didn't since it meant I got to visit my parents instead.

#FitReaders Weekly Check In

#FitReaders is hosted by Felicia at The Geeky Blogger and Jen at That's What I'm Talking About

My steps were all over the place this week. I wasn't feeling well on Sunday so I didn't exercise and I spent a lot of the day resting with a heating pad. On Monday I had the day off and decided to rest other than a quick workout in the morning. I did better the rest of the week but on Friday I didn't get my steps in because I spent several hours driving to visit my family. Now that I am at my parents' place for the weekend I hope to walk on their treadmill. My dad walks about 7 miles every day and he is in his 70's so that is impressive and motivation for me to try harder!

On the eating front I still have a lot of work to do. It will take some commitment to give up some of my semi-unhealthy habits like snacking on Pop-Tarts or eating chocolate for lunch. Yeah, I did that one day this week. Go me! I have been having some digestive health issues and I think it might be a good idea for me to give up gluten for awhile and see if that makes a difference. Sugar and dairy could also be culprits. There goes most of what I eat :)

Sunday--1,377 steps
Monday--2,928 steps, exercised 15 minutes
Tuesday--11,277 steps, exercised 84 minutes
Wednesday--10,562 steps, exercised 42 minutes
Thursday--10,480 steps, exercised 42 minutes
Friday--8,912 steps, exercised 42 minutes
Saturday--3,064 steps 

Last week on my blog:

A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe (review)
These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (review)

Books read:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis (reread)

My Fair Gentleman by Nancy Campbell Allen

I enjoyed this gentle Regency romance with a twist on the My Fair Lady story. The heroine is trying to help the hero adjust to his sudden elevation in society which is complicated by his anger towards his aristocratic grandfather and his dreams of owning his own ship.  There is also a little bit of suspense as someone keeps trying to kill him.

The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

I thought this was a fun book though not as good as The Royal We. I did have some issues with it in terms of accuracy but once I moved past that it was entertaining.

Currently reading:

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

I am currently in Rohan and Grima Wormtongue is about to be banished. I don't remember this book as well as The Fellowship of the Ring. I'd forgotten that we don't get to see Frodo and Sam until the last section.

Currently listening to:

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I like this book though I was frustrated with Letty. She is supposedly smart (she was in honors science at a prestigious high school as a teen) but her parenting skills are nonexistent. As the book has gone on though I've started feeling sorry for her and started to like her a little more. I'm looking forward to hearing what our book group thinks of her and the story.

On my TBR pile:

Take the Fall by Emily Hainsworth

I will probably read this next. I am kind of in the mood for some suspense. This novel sounds similar to After the Woods by Kim Savage but in the case of Take the Fall we don't know who the killer is which makes things more interesting.

Missing Pieces  by Heather Gudenkauf

This library book is due back soon and there are other people waiting on it so I hope to read this soon. I have heard that it isn't like her other books but hopefully I will like it anyway.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

I ended up deciding not to read Passenger by Alexandra Bracken which is also about time travel and involves a ship because I want to read this first since it is for review. 

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine

New books received:

The Summer of Sloane by Erin Schneider (for review)

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (library book)

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard (library book)

Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (library book)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Review: These Vicious Masks

These Vicious Masks
By Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas
Published: February 9, 2016

England, 1882. Evelyn is bored with society and its expectations. So when her beloved sister, Rose, mysteriously vanishes. she ignores her parents and travels to London to find her, accompanied by the dashing Mr. Kent. But they're not the only ones looking for Rose. The reclusive young gentleman Sebastian Braddock is also searching for her, claiming that both sisters have special healing powers. Evelyn is convinced that Sebastian must be mad, until she discovers that his strange tales of extraordinary people are true―and that her sister is in graver danger than she feared.
Jane Austen meets X-Men in These Vicious Masks, the thrilling Victorian adventure from debut authors Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas!

My review:

Evelyn Wyndham and her younger sister Rosamund are not like other society girls. They have gained a reputation for their skills with home remedies and healing, especially Rose. Both girls enjoy helping others and Rose hopes to be a doctor someday. Unfortunately their mother sees it as a barely suitable hobby and wants her daughters to marry well. When they attend a ball at a neighbor's house, Evelyn meets Sebastian Braddock, the nephew of her host and she takes an instant dislike to him. Sebastian seems to be very interested in Rose's healing abilities as is the giant of a man who crashes the ball and tries to persuade Rose to help him. The very next day after a disturbing dream about Rose, Evelyn wakes to find that Rose has disappeared. Since her family refuses to believe that Rose couldn't have left of her own free will (a note was found supposedly written by Rose stating her plans to stay with her aunt and uncle in London), Evelyn goes off on her own even though she doesn't really have a solid plan.

Evelyn is pretty reckless but she is determined to find and save her sister. I liked that about her even when I got annoyed with some of her foolish ideas. Thankfully she has help from Mr. Kent, her friend and would-be suitor as well as Sebastian Braddock. I liked Sebastian and thought he was an interesting character though he should have given Evelyn more credit (and realized that whenever he tried to exclude her from the investigation it would only backfire). There is some romance and Sebastian and Evelyn have great chemistry but it doesn't overshadow the more pressing crisis of finding Rose and stopping a madman. 

There are other characters introduced with unusual abilities and that did remind me a little bit of X-Men. The evil villain and his henchmen are experimenting on people with these abilities and he has a scientific theory for it which I am sure will be explored more in the next book. 

I found These Vicious Masks to be an enjoyable historical mystery with some elements of the supernatural/unexplained phenomena. I could have used more explanation or detail about the characters' abilities but I liked the story and how they tried to beat an enemy who always seems one step ahead. I loved the banter between Sebastian and Evelyn and even Mr. Kent who grew on me. I eagerly look forward to the next book. 

I think this would be a good readalike suggestion for readers who liked A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin. Fans of Patrice Kindl's A School for Brides or those who like YA historical romance in general might enjoy it as well.

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday (176)

"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 Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by Lily Anderson
Release date: May 17, 2016

Trixie Watson has two very important goals for senior year: to finally save enough to buy the set of Dr. Who figurines at the local comic books store, and to place third in her class and knock Ben West--and his horrendous new mustache that he spent all summer growing--down to number four.

Trixie will do anything to get her name ranked over Ben's, including give up sleep and comic books--well, maybe not comic books--but definitely sleep. After all, the war of Watson v. West is as vicious as the Doctor v. Daleks and Browncoats v. Alliance combined, and it goes all the way back to the infamous monkey bars incident in the first grade. Over a decade later, it's time to declare a champion once and for all.

The war is Trixie's for the winning, until her best friend starts dating Ben's best friend and the two are unceremoniously dumped together and told to play nice. Finding common ground is odious and tooth-pullingly-painful, but Trixie and Ben's cautious truce slowly transforms into a fandom-based tentative friendship. When Trixie's best friend gets expelled for cheating and Trixie cries foul play, however, they have to choose who to believe and which side they're on--and they might not pick the same side.

I love Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and this looks like it will be a fun and creative YA contemporary retelling.