Sunday, December 10, 2017

Sunday Post (99) / 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.

Another month has come and gone and I've been a bad, bad blogger. I just haven't been motivated to write lately. Although I did read some books in November and early December I feel like I'm in a bit of a reading slump at the moment. I've read a couple of good books but everything else is lackluster. Even my current read (though it is good) isn't keeping my attention. I have too much on my mind I guess. Good thing there is Netflix. I haven't started the newest season of The Crown yet but I hope to get to it this week. I've been watching Christmas movies on and off as well as the Crisis on Earth-X crossover on CW. TV holds my attention better than books I guess.

Work has been crazy busy as I finished up ordering for the year. I still had a considerable amount of money left in my book and DVD budgets. I managed to spend the book budget but still have DVD money left over so I may go to Walmart next week to buy some more DVDs to add to our collection. I had my last program of the year on Monday. It was a craft night and we made wreath ornaments using shower curtain rings and tulle. Only a handful of people attended but they loved it. 

This week I will be finalizing the details of my year long reading program for adults. Although it was a bit of an ordeal, we got the Friends of the Library to agree to sponsor one year of reading program software so we can offer our reading programs online. Really excited about that and hopefully our patrons will like it too. 

On the personal front I will be trying to figure out what kind of car I can afford. My mechanic informed me this past week that it is time to get a new car. Mine has a part on the verge of breaking that would cost over $1000 to fix. I've had my car almost 15 years now (it was a year old when I bought it) so I guess it is time. I just don't want the extra cost of another loan on top of undergrad and grad loans and medical debt. Boo! No wonder I can't concentrate on books lately :)

Books read (over the past month):

Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

This was seriously disappointing. Not very historically accurate and there was lots of manufactured drama including an attempted rape. The only thing I liked about it was the character of Eliza. There is a sequel but I won't be reading it. I am going to give some of the Eliza Hamilton historical novels written for adults a try instead.

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

It pains me to say that I was disappointed by this novella too. I loved A Man Called Ove and last year's novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer. This book just didn't have the same emotional impact for me. Although there is a Christmas tree on the front of the book, the story is depressing for this time of year if you are looking for a holiday read. Stick with A Christmas Carol instead!

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

I wondered if this would be like A Man Called Ove but Arthur was pretty charming rather than grumpy. Every day he takes his lunch to the cemetery and visits with his late wife and one day he meets and befriends Maddy, a sad and prickly teen who is mourning the loss of her mom and going through a hard time. 

Kiss Carlo by Adriana Trigiani

I had hoped I would like this as much as The Shoemaker's Wife but I was disappointed once again. Maybe that will be the only Adriana Trigiani book I like. This one had some interesting parts but too much going on in the story and too many characters to keep track of. We had plenty to talk about at our book discussion though.

While I mostly liked this book I did have issues with the way it ended. It was fun to catch up with the characters from the first book though and I loved that it was set in London and New York during Christmas. I kind of hope there will be a third book about Issy because I want to know what happens next.

Lies Jane Austen Told Me by Julie Wright

This is not a contemporary retelling of any Jane Austen novels but instead is about a woman who is a fan of Jane Austen. She recently broke up with someone she had thought she'd marry someday and then finds herself working with his brother and sparks develop between them. I liked it but didn't love it because I thought she was too romance obsessed at times (she spent way too much time thinking of her feelings about both brothers even when at work).

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

I loved this book. The feminist Grrl Power and the friendships especially. I wish I'd been into the Riot Grrl movement as a teen but I hadn't heard of it in rural Ohio and I didn't truly embrace the feminist movement till I got to college. I became a huge fan of Kat Stratford from Ten Things I Hate About You and loved reading feminist theory.

Books listened to:

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (reread)

I love rereading this classic at Christmas. I listened to an abridged version read by Sir Patrick Stewart (he also stars in a film adaptation). We discussed this in my evening book group last month. 

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan (reread)

Currently reading:

I loved Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and so far this is pretty good too. It just isn't holding my attention that well because I think I am either in the mood for something lighter or just have too much other distractions on my mind. I am hoping to finish this by the end of the year. I may put it down and pick up something less depressing though.

New books received:

Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva (library book)

We're Going to Need More Wine by Gabrielle Union (library book)

Renegades by Marissa Meyer (library book)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sunday Post (98) / 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.

Hard to believe it's November! Seems like it was just summer. I know this month will fly by and it will be Christmas in the blink of an eye. Time to get the snow tires put back on my car and start making holiday plans. It's also time to think about what books I want to read before the end of the year. I have a giant backlog of review books and I know I won't get to all of them. I also have a stack checked out from the library. 

In library world I've been busy. In October I had a program nearly every week. My favorite was my acrylic pour painting class. We had 20 people and it was a big hit. This month I have two programs, an ugly Christmas sweater craft night on Thursday (they bring a sweater or shirt and I provide decorations to make it ugly/tacky) and then at the end of the month is our ugly Christmas sweater themed murder mystery dinner. I have one program for December (a craft night) and then I'm done for the year. I'm also starting to think about programs for next year. I decided not to do a winter reading program. Instead I want to do a year-long reading challenge for adults that would also incorporate our summer reading program. It's still in the planning stages but hopefully it will work out. Right now I'm trying to figure out an easy way for them to track their progress. 

This week I hope to get caught up on some book reviews. I've had some major sinus headache issues lately and haven't felt like writing or even reading that much. I have been watching a lot of TV though. Getting caught up on The Flash and Supergirl at the moment as well as watching old episodes of Frasier

Books read:

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

I thought this book was both sad and interesting. I didn't know much about Hillary Clinton's early life and it was also illuminating to learn more about her campaign and her plans even if things didn't work out the way she'd hoped. 

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I love Agatha Christie and I read a lot of her novels when I was a teen, including this one but to my surprise I'd completely forgotten what happened so it was like reading the book for the first time! My book group enjoyed reading this for our October book and I had planned to go see the latest film version in the theater but changed my mind. I will definitely be checking the movie out when it is on DVD though.

Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray

I loved this book! It is set a few years before Rogue One. Leia is a teen and as the heir to the Queen of Alderaan she has to undergo a set of trials to prove herself worthy to rule. She also joins the Apprentice Legislature (junior senate) to learn about politics and prepare for public life. Then she finds out that her parents are part of a rebellion and that's where things get interesting. Also we are introduced to a teenage Amilyn Holdo (a new character in The Last Jedi) and get to see other familiar characters from the Star Wars universe as well. 

Currently reading:

Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow

This biography is surprisingly very readable. I became interested in learning more about Alexander Hamilton because of the Broadway musical. I have been listening to the soundtrack a lot and hope to go see it next year. The book is long but I am enjoying it so far. I may set it aside to get caught up on some review books though.

Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

I wasn't planning to read this yet but I got the e-book from Overdrive after being on hold for a long time and it is going to be due next week so I need to read it! I hope I will like it. Melissa de la Cruz's books are definitely hit or miss with me. 

On my TBR pile:

I need to read this soon since there are holds on it and it is due back to the library next week. Thankfully it is a collection of short stories so hopefully I'll get through it. I am ready for more Star Wars stories :)

This is another book due back at the library soon. I really enjoyed the first book Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe and I'm in the mood for some holiday reading. Also I really want to eat that cookie. 

The Deal of a Lifetime by Fredrik Backman

I enjoyed the author's last novella, And Every Morning The Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and this one looks like it will be just as moving. I like that it is a holiday story too. Love that beautiful tree on the cover.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Sunday Post (97) / 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 can't believe we are halfway through October already! It's been a long time since I last posted anything. I wanted to take a break from blogging in September and I planned to start writing again in October but I ended up getting sick. There is a nasty cold going around. I am feeling much better now but I was one of the lucky ones. One of my coworkers got bronchitis and sinusitis. I am just happy to not have a sore throat or be constantly needing tissues!

To be honest I haven't missed writing reviews all that much. It was nice to take a break from it! I think I may quit requesting books for review in 2018 and try to just read what I am in the mood for. Let's see how long it takes me to break that resolution ;) I haven't been reading that much though I did read a few books I liked.

During my blogging/writing break I have been indulging a new hobby--acrylic pour painting. I took a class at my craft store at the end of August and now I'm hooked. I never thought I'd ever paint anything because I have zero artistic talent. I definitely can't draw. This type of painting is so easy that anyone (even me) can do it and it is very addictive. I must say I enjoy it much more than coloring which I usually found stressful instead of relaxing. I am still learning and currently taking an online class. 

This Tuesday I will be teaching an acrylic pouring class at my library. We have 19 people signed up which is the maximum I can accommodate. I am really excited about it and it makes up for having to cancel a murder mystery dinner at our branch library because not enough people signed up. I also have a bad art night planned for the following Tuesday and in November we are having an ugly sweater craft night. So far only a few people have signed up for each program but I'll probably still go through with them.

This trailer is fantastic. I think it adds even more intrigue and suspense over the plot. I cannot wait to see this movie! 

Lastly, this song is stuck in my head--a reminder to pray for the people of Puerto Rico. If you are able to, I hope you will donate to Hurricane Maria relief or at least buy the song from iTunes (all proceeds go towards that).

Last post on my blog:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Some of the books I've read recently:

The Essence of Malice by Ashley Weaver

This is the fourth book in the Amory Ames mystery series. A perfumer died under mysterious circumstances and Amory and her husband head to Paris to investigate. I liked that I couldn't figure out the identity of the killer.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

I enjoyed this one quite a bit. It is the story of Emilia Nightingale and her father who founded the bookshop and has recently passed away. It is also the story of those in the village whose lives have been touched by the bookshop and its beloved late owner. Perfect for fans of Jenny Colgan and Jojo Moyes.

Caroline by Sarah Miller

This is a retelling of the events of Little House on the Prairie through the eyes of Caroline Ingalls. It is definitely a very different experience for a grown woman who is pregnant and trying to take care of two young girls along the way. Also because I remember the show more, I'd forgotten that Laura was only 3 years old! I mostly enjoyed this and hope to write my review soon.

The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

I thought this was a quick read. It is about a teenager who survives an accident and wakes up with no memory of the last four years.

Currently reading:

Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray

This novel features a teenage Leia before she became a Senator and joined the Rebellion. Leia is learning about leadership among other things as she starts her time with the apprentice legislature and undertakes the tasks that will prove to the people of Alderaan that she will make a worthy ruler someday.  There is some stuff with the beginnings of the Rebellion and a new character from The Last Jedi is introduced. So far this is really good.

What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

This has not been an easy book to read. Especially when I think of what might have been. She is a good writer though.

On my TBR list:

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

I've heard good things about this so I am eager to give it a try. Since the Wonder Woman movie was released on DVD I have watched it three times. I am curious about The Justice League movie but I will probably wait to see it on DVD.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (reread)

Speaking of movies, my evening book club chose this for our October book since it is going to be in theaters soon and we wanted a mystery for Halloween. I read this as a teen so I don't remember it very well. I am looking forward to rereading it!

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

I have heard very good things about this and it got excellent reviews. I hope to get the chance to read it soon.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give
By Angie Thomas
Published: February 28, 2017

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

My review:

At the beginning of the book, Starr goes to a party with her friend Kenya (she also happens to be a half sister of Starr's half brother Seven). While she is there, Starr feels like she doesn't belong. She may have gone to school with the other teens long ago and she still lives in the same neighborhood but now she goes to a prep school and has a secret white boyfriend. Her wealthy best friends don't know what her home life is really like as their parents wouldn't allow them to visit her. She is torn between two different lives and has different versions of her persona, not really able to be herself with anyone. It is at this party that Starr reconnects with Khalil. When she was a child, Khalil was one of her best friends but in recent years they'd grown apart. Her other childhood best friend died tragically in a drive-by when Starr was ten.

In the aftermath of the shooting, Starr is broken. She can't stop reliving what happened and she has to face going down to the police station to give a statement. There are all kinds of nasty things being said about Khalil in the media where he is not portrayed as a victim but a criminal. Starr's only break from her pain is at school where she tries to act like everything is just fine but even there she can't escape what happened.

This was a powerful novel inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement and many true stories. The title comes from Tupac's T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. tattoo and what it stood for (The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody). Angie Carter has written a book that will make readers think and feel strong emotion and hopefully want to take action in a positive way. 

One of the most impactful moments of the book for me was when Starr talked about how her parents had "the talk" with her. Not the one that everyone gets at puberty but rather what to do when a cop pulls you over. It was heartbreaking that such a conversation needed to take place and it is a common occurrence. In a later scene, Starr witnesses a loved one being forced to lie down on the ground as an act of police intimidation. Not all cops are portrayed in a negative light. Starr's uncle is a police officer and second father to Starr and he has faith in his fellow officers though not all are deserving of it.

Starr goes through so much and I really felt for her. I was glad she had such a loving family and her boyfriend was pretty sweet. I loved how they bonded over their mutual fandom (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air). Unfortunately not all of her friends were there for her and she had to figure out who her true friends were. I admired Starr for standing up for herself and Khalil even though it was so hard to do (and scary). 

The Hate U Give is the best book I've read in 2017 so far. I think it is so relevant to what is going on in America today but it is also a well written story. I highly recommend it. I'm afraid my review doesn't quite do it justice.

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

Review: The Daughters of Ireland

The Daughters of Ireland 
(orig. The Daughters of Castle Deverill)
By Santa Montefiore
Published: August 15, 2017

Ireland. 1925.
The war is over. But life will never be the same...
In the green hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill has burned to the ground. But young Celia Deverill is determined to see her ruined ancestral home restored to its former glory — to the years when Celia ran through its vast halls with her cousin Kitty and their childhood friend Bridie Doyle.
Kitty herself is raising a young family, but she longs for Jack O’Leary — the long-ago sweetheart she cannot have. And soon Kitty must make a heartbreaking decision, one that could destroy everything she holds dear.
Bridie, once a cook's daugher in Castle Deverill, is now a well-heeled New York City socialite. Yet her celebrity can't erase a past act that haunts her still. Nor can it keep her from seeking revenge upon the woman who wronged her all those years ago.
As these three daughters of Ireland seek to make their way in a world once again beset by dark forces, Santa Montefiore shows us once more why she is one of the best-loved storytellers at work today.

My review:

In the first book in the Deverill Chronicles, the story focuses on Kitty Deverill but here we get to see what is going on with Celia, Bridie and several other characters. The legacy of the castle ties them all together. It is more than just a place. It represents family and heritage and home. When Kitty's father Bertie had to put the castle up for sale, the family had no idea that Celia would be the one to buy it. She pours money and effort into rebuilding it and making it better than it was before. For Kitty, it is bittersweet. While Castle Deverill stays in the family, it is still hard to see it in someone else's hands and it isn't the same. The castle is also home to the ghosts of the Lords Deverill because of the curse Maggie O'Leary placed on Barton Deverill centuries ago. This time we get to find out what happened in the past as well.

In addition to the Deverill family in Ireland we also see what happens in the lives of the London Deverills and a long lost Deverill in America. As the years pass, there is tragedy and family secrets are unearthed. Meanwhile Bridie Doyle is nursing an undeserved grudge against Kitty Deverill. Even though she has riches (far more than Kitty who is living at the mercy of her cousin) Bridie is bitter and wants more. She blames Kitty for her unhappiness instead of rightly looking in the mirror (though Kitty's father holds some blame as well). Bridie is not my least favorite character in the book but she certainly comes close. I'm really hoping she will finally grow up in the next book. Celia on the other hand starts out as flighty and by the end has matured quite a bit. I really liked her character progression. Kitty grew up some more as well. It is hard for her to decide if she should let go of Jack and put her family first though I don't think Jack is good enough for her. He is a bit of a mess but both Kitty and Bridie still love him.

The Daughters of Ireland is the story of the Deverill family in the 1920s but it is also about the idea of home and what that means to the various characters. The setting of Ireland as well as the castle is important although at times the story goes to New York and even South Africa. The family curse ties into it as well. So does the concept of revenge and forgiveness. The novel covers several years and a lot happens but the story moves at a good pace and there is some character development though there is a large cast to keep track of. 

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It has historical details, interesting settings, characters that I cared about and some soapy drama and scandal as well. Now I am waiting for my copy of book three to arrive from Book Depository because I don't want to wait till next year to find out what happens. I'd suggest this series to readers who are interested in historical fiction set in Ireland or family sagas. 

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

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Review: The Paris Spy

The Paris Spy
By Susan Elia MacNeal
Published: August 8, 2017

Maggie Hope has come a long way since serving as a typist for Winston Churchill. Now she’s working undercover for the Special Operations Executive in the elegant but eerily silent city of Paris, where SS officers prowl the streets in their Mercedes and the Ritz is draped with swastika banners. Walking among the enemy is tense and terrifying, and even though she’s disguised in chic Chanel, Maggie can’t help longing for home.

But her missions come first. Maggie’s half sister, Elise, has disappeared after being saved from a concentration camp, and Maggie is desperate to find her—that is, if Elise even wants to be found. Equally urgent, Churchill is planning the Allied invasion of France, and SOE agent Erica Calvert has been captured, the whereabouts of her vital research regarding Normandy unknown. Maggie must risk her life to penetrate powerful circles and employ all her talents for deception and spycraft to root out a traitor, find her sister, and locate the reports crucial to planning D-Day in a deadly game of wits with the Nazi intelligence elite.

My review:

At the end of the last book, Maggie used her connections to find a way onto a plane to France. Maggie wants to find her sister Elise and rescue Agent Calvert and retrieve the information she had collected. Also newly arrived in France are her friends (and fellow spies) Sarah and Hugh who have their own mission to accomplish. Unfortunately there is a mole in their midst which makes the situation even more dangerous.

The Paris Spy is a fast paced mystery with some unexpected twists and edge of your seat moments. I did figure out early on who the traitor was but that didn't lessen my reading experience. Like in the other books in the series there are real historical figures like Winston Churchill and Coco Chanel. I really didn't like her at all. She may have been stylish but she was also a Nazi collaborator. It was fascinating to get more insight into all the preparations that went into planning the invasion of Normandy. There is also an interesting discussion about espionage and the expending of lives for the greater good.

One thing I noticed with this book is that with the growing cast of characters, the individual stories weren't as impactful at times. I was riveted by what was going on with Hugh and Sarah though. Elise's story also ties in with Maggie as we find out where she is hiding now and what she has been up to. I still cared about all the returning characters but there were some things that I felt detracted from the main action happening in Paris. The ending is something of a cliffhanger however so I'm curious to see what is going to happen to Maggie next. It is going to be a long wait till the next novel! Overall I liked this newest installment in the Maggie Hope mystery series. 

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