Sunday, April 23, 2017

Blogging Break

Usually on Sundays I like to participate in Sunday Post and It's Monday, What Are You Reading so here is a little update on reading stuff:

I am currently still rereading The Hobbit. I am at the part where Bilbo and the dwarves are in Lake Town. I hope to finish the book today. My book group meets on Tuesday but I work Monday night so I won't have much time to read tomorrow. This week I read one book: the young reader's edition of Hidden Figures. It was interesting but the narrative didn't flow very well at times. The movie is quite different!

The rest of my day will be spent figuring out what to pack for my trip to Mexico later this week and doing some more last minute shopping. In the meantime I will be taking a brief blogging break till sometime in May.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Review: Alex, Approximately

Alex, Approximately
By Jenn Bennett
Published: April 4, 2017

In this delightfully charming teen spin on You’ve Got Mail, the one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.

Classic movie buff Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online by “Alex.” Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.

Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new arch-nemesis. But life is whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever-it-is she’s starting to feel for Porter.

And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.

My review:

Bailey and her family have been through a lot. Her parents are divorced and her mom has remarried but she and Bailey's stepdad have been fighting a lot so Bailey decides for her own peace of mind to move to California to live with her dad instead. Another bonus is that her dad happens to live in the same town as "Alex", a guy she knows through an online group for film fanatics. Bailey is thrilled but also scared to be so near to where Alex is. She decides she will try to find him using clues from his posts. If he seems like a decent guy in real life, then she'll introduce herself. In the meantime, Bailey gets a job at The Cave, a local museum where she makes a new friend, Grace and makes a sort of enemy in Porter. They start off on the wrong foot but Bailey starts to feel differently about Porter as she gets to know him. 

I love You've Got Mail so I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this book.  I like that Bailey is into classic movies and that she has her own vintage sense of style. Bailey describes herself as an "Artful Dodger" and "evader". She doesn't like confrontation and she likes relationships to be uncomplicated. Unfortunately for her, life doesn't work that way and she finds herself challenged to grow beyond that. Bailey has something dark in her past that she has to work through as well.

At first I didn't think I'd like Porter because he comes across as a bit of a jerk but I know that is because of the "You've Got Mail retelling" aspect of the story. Like Bailey, Porter has his own issues to deal with involving a broken friendship and his complicated relationship with surfing. I liked how his relationship with Bailey develops first online and then in person while they don't know about their online connection. 

I also liked the other relationships in the book, namely the friendship between Bailey and Grace and the positive relationship between Bailey and her dad. They are very close and that is nice to see considering the difficult relationship Bailey has with her mom. Grace is a fun character and she challenges Bailey to come out of her shell. The setting is fun too. I liked learning a little bit about surfing and the beach community. The museum sounds like an interesting place to work though I'd hate to work in a hot cramped ticket booth all summer!

Overall I thought this was an enjoyable contemporary romance, perfect for summer reading. I'd suggest this to fans of You've Got Mail as well as readers who like Sarah Dessen, Emery Lord and similar authors.

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

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sunday Post (87) / 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 it's the middle of April already. Summer will be here in the blink of an eye! I enjoyed the warmer weather this week.  Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate.

Update on my cat niece Kitty: she doesn't like having the IV treatments every other day but she is doing okay otherwise. Thanks for your thoughts and kind comments. 

"The Chickens Build a Wall" (based on the children's book by Jean-Francois Dumont)

"Harry Peeper and the Mirror of Erised" (based on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone)

This past week was National Library Week and we had our Peeps diorama contest at the library. There were a total of 13 entries--more than I expected. Seven of the entries were from staff (including the two above) and six from the public. Hopefully even more will participate next year. Right now voting is going on for "Peeple's Choice".  There was an interesting mix of "based on a book or movie", "pop culture" and "political". You can see all of the dioramas here.

This week I have my spring craft night on Tuesday where we will be making yarn wreaths. I only have four people signed up but that's okay because I was worried I wouldn't be able to find enough wreath forms. It will also be cheaper and I can use the leftover money for bigger programs this summer like my 80s murder mystery dinner or Comic Con. Speaking of  my library's Comic Con, I was thrilled to be able to book Mark Clark, the author of Star Wars FAQ, as a presenter. I am also working on some low key ideas to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Star Wars next month. Because it falls right before Memorial Day weekend, I don't want to plan a big event. 

The big news this past week was Star Wars Celebration. I wish I'd been able to go to Orlando but it was fun to watch some of the live stream events. I was especially thrilled to see the new  teaser trailer for The Last Jedi. Also very happy about the new character. I can't wait to see the movie! 

Last week on my blog:

Duels and Deception by Cindy Anstey (review)

Books read:

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg

I liked this book though it didn't have a plot really or character development. It's the story of a town from beginning to modern day with an Our Town kind of vibe.

I wasn't planning to read this yet but it is my afternoon book group's reading selection for April and I thought I'd better read it soon since we meet next week. The historical part was interesting but the contemporary part has issues and I read in the author's note afterword that the "inspired by true events" part wasn't exactly true. I think we'll have plenty to talk about at book group.

Currently reading:

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (reread)

This is my third time reading The Hobbit. I first read it in 2002, immediately after I read The Lord of the Rings so I was disappointed by it. Then I read it again in 2012 before the first movie came out and I loved it. It is my evening book group's April selection and I'm looking forward to the discussion. I think there are some in the group who have never read it.

On my TBR pile:

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

The Vicar's Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain

New books received:

Geekerella by Ashley Poston (library book)

An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole (library book)

Beartown by Fredrik Backman (for review)

Purple Hearts by Tess Wakefield (for review)

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert (for review)

No One Can Pronounce My Name by Rakesh Satyal (for review)

That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim (for review)

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon (for review)

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah (for review)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Review: Duels and Deception

Duels & Deception
By Cindy Anstey
Published: April 11, 2017

Lydia Whitfield has her future entirely planned out. She will run the family estate until she marries the man of her late father's choosing, and then she will spend the rest of her days as a devoted wife. Confident in those arrangements, Lydia has tasked her young law clerk, Robert Newton, to begin drawing up the marriage contracts. Everything is going according to plan.
Until the day Lydia is kidnapped—and Robert along with her. Someone is after her fortune and won't hesitate to destroy her reputation to get it. With Robert's help, Lydia strives to keep her family's name unsullied and expose the one behind this devious plot. But as their investigation delves deeper and their affections for each other grow, Lydia starts to wonder whether her carefully planned future is in fact what she wants...
Fans of historical romance will delight in Duels and Deception, a young adult novel from Cindy Anstey, author of Love, Lies and Spies.

My review: 

Lydia is considered something of a bluestocking but she is fabulously wealthy and unofficially engaged to the son of her late father's best friend. Lydia is determined to go through with her father's plan for her life as she considered him to be wise. He always put the needs of the estate first and she feels she must do the same. Then she meets Robert Newton, the new apprentice to her solicitor. Mr. Newton stirs up unexpected feelings in Lydia from the moment they meet and she starts to question her path.

I liked Lydia though I also wanted to smack her because she could be annoying regarding her fiance and although she is supposed to be intelligent she didn't always come across that way. She is at least better than her silly relatives. Robert was more likable. 

Duels & Deception is a lighthearted Regency romance for teens but it is rather bland and the action is slow paced in spite of the description. At times I wanted to scream with frustration because of the pacing but as the book went along it became a little more interesting. There is some humor (at the expense of the ridiculous characters) as well as romance and while I wish the pacing was better, it is not a bad book and it grew on me. I think readers who are more patient than I would appreciate it more. It reminded me a little bit of Patrice Kindl's Keeping the Castle and the tone was somewhat reminiscent of Gail Carriger's Etiquette and Espionage (though without the steampunk elements) and the recent film Love & Friendship.

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

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sunday Post (86) / 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.

My beloved cat niece and the mascot of my blog (photo taken a couple of years ago)

It's been a sad week that ended on a hopeful note. Kitty, my cat niece (and my sister's oldest fur baby) is very sick. Kitty had lost a lot of weight in recent months so my sister had taken her to their regular vet in February but the vet only put Kitty on some special food. She didn't really gain any weight back and then she quit drinking water and didn't eat last weekend so my sister took her to a new vet this past week. She found out that only 1/3 of Kitty's kidneys are functional and after three days at the vet's on an IV, Kitty is now home. My sister and her husband have to inject Kitty with fluids every other day for the rest of her life. Please keep Kitty and my sister in your thoughts and prayers. It is good news that Kitty responded to treatment but I have a coworker who went through this with her cat so I know what the eventual outcome is likely to be. :(

Not much reading done this week. I have a busy week ahead so that may not change. On Monday, the Peeps Diorama contest judging gets underway at the library so I'll be scrambling to get things ready and finish decorating our display case. I hope more dioramas were turned in over the weekend. Right now it's mostly my coworkers participating. On Tuesday, I have another movie program. This week I'll be trying to finalize my craft for next week. I was at the craft store on Saturday and they do not have enough styrofoam wreath forms in the size that I need. I will have to see if I can get some more elsewhere or come up with yet another wreath craft.

I enjoyed the spring weather and blooming trees even though we did get some snow on Thursday night/early Friday morning. Thankfully it didn't last long and the weather warmed up Saturday and should hit the 70s today. Very happy about that!

Last week on my blog:

Books read:

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

I loved this contemporary YA take on You've Got Mail. All the movie references made it more fun but I also enjoyed the story and the characters. 

Currently reading:

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg

I am about halfway done with this already. I thought it started out well and the characters were quirky and interesting at first. There is a definite feel of Our Town. I wish there was more character development though. It is kind of a quick history of the town instead.

On my TBR pile:

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain

New books received:

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes (library book)

The Wonder of Us by Kim Culbertson (for review)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Top Ten Fandom Freebie

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 theme is "Fandom Freebie".

I think it's perfect timing that this week's topic is about fandoms as I am currently helping to plan my library's third annual Comic Con event. 

According to Wikipedia, a fandom is "a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest. Fans typically are interested in even minor details of the object(s) of their fandom and spend a significant portion of their time and energy involved with their interest, often as part of a social network with particular practices..." 

Here are some of my favorite fandoms:

Star Wars

I have been a Star Wars fan since I was a tween and first watched the movies on video (I wasn't born yet when the first one came to theaters and too little when the other two were released). I think I even joined the fan club. I used to get these mailings with items you could buy like signed cast photos (I never bought anything). One of my friends later loaned me Timothy Zahn's Star Wars books when I was a teen and I became a Star Wars fan for life. I'll never forget the joy of standing in line for over an hour to see the movies when they were rereleased in the 90s. Someday I hope I get the chance to go to Star Wars Celebration.

Harry Potter

Ironically I was not a Harry Potter fan until the year book 5 was released. In college, one of my friends started reading the books and loved them but at the time I had no interest because I figured it was too juvenile for me (this same friend was a huge fan of Rugrats at the time). I didn't start to read the books till my sister convinced me to give them a chance.  I was hooked by the time I started Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  Being an adult while reading Harry Potter meant that I missed out on some of the fun that kids have when discovering the series and growing up with it but I still love the books. I never went to a midnight release party though I did help with a book release program at my library one year that was a blast. I also remember waiting in line for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and talking with complete strangers about the books and what we thought would happen. 

I even took a fun class through Barnes and Noble taught by John Granger (the Hogwarts Professor) about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince that really went in-depth. I still suspect that J.K. Rowling joined the discussion board because someone with the initials JK as part of their screen name shared a lot of what actually does happen in the final book and I heard that she was going on various fan boards and leaving hints back then.

The Lord of the Rings

I didn't become a fan of The Lord of the Rings until 2001 when I first read The Fellowship of the Ring after seeing a trailer for the movie. When I was a young teen, one of my friends told me that the books were fantastic but I picked up book two, not realizing it wasn't the beginning of the story and I quickly lost interest. To be honest, I wasn't into fantasy back then and probably wouldn't have appreciated the book at the time. Years later in my twenties I was finally able to read the books and enjoy them. I loved the movies and watched them many times. I became such a huge LOTR fan that I would even buy and read literary criticism and books like The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy: One Book to Rule Them All. I still have several of those books on my bookshelf. I had planned to read all the extra material as well as The Silmarillion but sadly that didn't happen. I read parts of The Silmarillion but never got around to finishing it. Maybe someday! Of course books weren't all I bought. I also had to have a replica map of Middle Earth, multiple calendars and posters, the soundtracks to the movies (some of my favorite movie scores of all time) and books on the art of the films. I'm sure if I'd had the money I would have bought more. I think my sister bought me a Gollum keychain but I don't know what happened to it.

Downton Abbey

I kind of consider myself one of the "original" fans of Downton Abbey because I liked it before the show became a huge hit :) When I first started watching it, I remember being mad at Brendan Coyle for leaving Lark Rise to Candleford but then I watched the first episode and I understood why. Season one will always be my favorite though I still love the rest of the seasons too. I became a Downton Abbey evangelist of sorts and convinced my coworkers to watch the show. I tried to get my parents to watch it because I was sure my mom would love it but sadly she fell asleep during the first episode! I enjoy talking to people about the show and some of my book groups discussions were even derailed by the show a time or two. I also bought some Downton Abbey merchandise. As a soundtrack junkie I couldn't rest till I owned the music from the show which is beautiful. I also purchased behind the scenes books and even various types of Downton Abbey tea (The Crawley Sisters tea is a favorite). I was so tempted to buy Downton Abbey ornaments for my Christmas tree till I remembered that I don't like to bother with putting up a tree :)

Star Trek

I never really watched the original episodes of Star Trek (I wasn't alive then!) but as a teen I was hooked on Star Trek: The Next Generation thanks to my favorite older cousins and uncle who were big fans of the show and would watch it while visiting us. Of course I mostly watched reruns but it quickly became my favorite show. While I don't think I got into it as much as Star Wars, it was still an important part of my teen years and I started reading Star Trek science fiction because of it. I later tried reading other science fiction but couldn't get into it. For me, it was all about the familiar characters. My favorites were Picard (I love Patrick Stewart!), Data and Deanna Troi (because I loved her hair and wished mine would curl like that). I also enjoyed Deep Space Nine and Voyager though not as much as TNG. When the Star Trek movie reboot came out in 2009, I wasn't planning to watch it till a friend convinced me to give it a try and I loved it. While I don't watch the old William Shatner episodes, I love the new versions of Kirk, Spock and Bones especially.

Gilmore Girls (the original series)

I was a little late to the Gilmore Girls bandwagon because the show started when I was still in college (and didn't have a TV) but I became a big fan with the second season. I'm glad they aired the reruns of the first season (Gilmore Girls: Beginnings) so I could get caught up. I then converted my mom and my sister. I remember having to always work on Tuesday nights when it was on so I used to tape the episodes and watch them on Wednesday evenings with my mom. Then I would take the tapes with me to my sister's place when I visited and we'd binge watch several episodes together. Pizza and Gilmore Girls became a family tradition :) I also had a friend at work who was really into the show so we had fun discussing the characters and when Luke and Lorelai would finally get their act together. Sadly my friend passed away before she got to see the rest of the original series. She had such a huge crush on Luke. I thought of her as I watched the final episode of the new series.
I admit I was so disappointed with the Netflix series though it was still fun to catch up with the characters and Emily was fantastic. I hope that if more episodes are made, the problems will be fixed.

Game of Thrones

I am a latecomer to the Game of Thrones fandom as I didn't start to read the books till I watched the show. I had heard of the books years before when one of my cousins told me I should give them a try. I looked at the size of the books and decided not to at the time. I also wasn't a huge fan of that particular cousin so I thought I wasn't missing anything. I'm glad the show changed my mind! I still haven't read all of the books yet but I do enjoy the show and talking about theories with friends and coworkers. Quite a few of them hadn't heard of R+L=J! I was so thrilled that the show finally revealed that. Jon Snow is one of my favorite characters. I also love Arya, Tyrion and Danaerys. Sansa is growing on me. Eddard was another favorite so I was devastated by season one. I will be on pins and needles while watching this next season. All of my favorites better survive!

Jane Austen

I am a Janeite and former member of JASNA but I didn't become a fan of Jane Austen till after college. Sense and Sensibility was required reading in one of my sophomore English classes but for whatever reason I couldn't get into the story. Then I watched the movie and loved it (sadly I still failed my exam since I hadn't finished the book). I also watched Emma (the Gwyneth Paltrow version) and fell in love with Jeremy Northam and decided to give Jane Austen another try. While my attempts to read Emma didn't succeed at the time, I persisted during the summer after college and read Jane Austen's major novels. I admit that watching the Pride and Prejudice miniseries helped give me the determination I needed :) I remember taking this huge volume of Jane Austen's works on my family's annual two week trip to Canada that summer. Oh, for a Kindle in those days! Back then I had to pack a separate bag for all my books :)

Other fandoms I am part of but to a lesser degree: 

The Flash, Sherlock, Outlander, Percy Jackson

What are some of the fandoms you belong to?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Sunday Post (85) / 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.

Happy April! I can't believe March is already over. The trees are starting to bloom which I always enjoy seeing every year.

Hope you survived April Fool's Day unscathed :) I saw some creative jokes including one involving Oreos with just the cream filling and no cookie (wish that one was real) and Goodreads' new Literary Chit Chat Line. My personal favorite was from Ohio Public Library Information Network (OPLIN). They sent out a message about a new telepathy service that will allow librarians at the reference desk to telepathically know what patrons are actually looking for when they want "that book with the blue cover", etc. The memo then went on to talk about other uses and the future release of other features like teleportation and telekinesis. See, librarians do have a sense of humor! :)

This past week at the library I had book discussions on Tuesday and a movie night on Thursday (I showed Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them). I also met with the other programming librarians to discuss this year's Comic Con. We have a lot of exciting plans and I hope we get the presenters we want. This is going to be the year I finally dress up as Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel (I just need to get my mom on board to make the costume since I can't sew). This week I have my Peeps Diorama workshop on Monday night. Only a couple of kids have signed up though a lot of people have taken entry forms for the actual diorama contest. They have until Saturday to turn in the dioramas and hopefully we'll get a decent showing to make it more fun. 

I've had a quiet weekend. It was cold on Saturday so I just stayed in and finished my library book. I think the weather should be warming up again this week. I'd like to put my sweaters away for the season but I know that until mid April there is still the chance of snow.

Last week on my blog:

Hunted by Meagan Spooner (review)

Books read:

It Happens All the Time by Amy Hatvany

This book was a tough read as it deals with rape. One of the difficult things was reading the rapist's POV but I understand why the author included his perspective. I am working on my review and hope to have it posted later this week.

As Old As Time by Liz Braswell

I mostly enjoyed this retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It is based on the Disney version but with a twist--Belle's mom was a witch and she cast the curse on the Beast. You get the backstory on Belle's mom and dad and why she did what she did and then the "present day" with Belle and the Beast and Lumiere and Mrs. Potts, etc. There are other changes from the Disney version as well though the author does include some quotes and scenes from the movie. There were some inaccuracies with the historical setting, etc. that were a little jarring for me but teen readers likely wouldn't notice. 

Books listened to:

The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan (reread)

Currently reading:

Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

So far I think this book is fun. I loved You've Got Mail and while this book doesn't quite live up to the movie that inspired it, that's to be expected. I do love the references to classic movies. I still haven't seen North by Northwest and need to do that someday (It's actually showing at my theater this weekend but I don't feel like paying that much to see it).

On my TBR pile:

Always by Sarah Jio

I am moving this up my TBR pile because it is due back at the library this week and there is a waiting list. I used to love her books and it's been awhile since I've read one but this appealed to me.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

I am really looking forward to this after all the glowing reviews I've seen. Also, I love that cover.

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff

A Twist in Time by Julie McElwain

New books received:

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline (library book)

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner (library book)

These Ruthless Deeds by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas (library book)

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen (library book)

The Fortunate Ones by Ellen Umansky (library book)

For Time and All Eternities by Mette Ivie Harris (library book)

The Vicar's Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack (for review)

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal (for review)

Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis (for review)