Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Top Ten Most Anticipated Books for the Second Half of 2017

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 "Top Ten Most Anticipated Books for the Second Half of 2017".

Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson

I think this is the book I'm anticipating most. After the way things ended in the second book, I'm curious to see where the story will go.

On Her Majesty's Frightfully Secret Service by Rhys Bowen

I always find these mysteries so delightful to read and I'm glad to have another one to look forward to this August.

Cafe By the Sea by Jenny Colgan

I enjoyed The Bookshop on the Corner and the Rosie Hopkins books and I think this sounds like fun. I love the cover too.

The Paris Spy by Susan Elia MacNeal

I love this WWII spy series and the setting for this one is especially appealing. Maggie continues to be an interesting character and I love how each book includes historical events and characters.

From a Certain Point of View by Renee Ahdieh, Meg Cabot, et al.

This collection of stories all take place during the events of the first Star Wars movie but from the POV of minor "background" characters (not the main cast). I think that the concept is interesting and I'm willing to give it a try.

Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

I still need to read her second book which I've heard is fantastic and I also want to read this one. I love the colorful cover.

Daughters of Ireland by Santa Montefiore

After reading The Girl in the Castle last fall I've been tempted to buy this sequel (under its original title) from Book Depository but I am going to wait and get it from the library. The final book comes out this summer in the UK.

The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby

I usually like her books and while this amnesia story sounds familiar I plan to read it anyway.

The Library at the Edge of the World by Felicity Hayes-McCoy

This book is being compared to Jenny Colgan's and the fact that it features a librarian and is set in Ireland makes it a win-win for me. Love that cover!

Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Thankfully I don't have to wait very long to read this (hopefully) as it is released next week. I am sure I will love it :)

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Sunday Post (90) / 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 Memorial Day! Can't believe we are at the end of May already. I am excited for summer though. I have a feeling it will go by in a flash.

After an unplanned blogging break, I have a lot of reviews to catch up on and hopefully I can use some of this long weekend to do that. I also need to finish my book for my book discussion group and figure out what books to suggest for July. 

This past week was the 40th anniversary of the movie release of Star Wars. Hard to believe isn't it? At my library I showed the movie all day and put together some book displays and had a trivia quiz that patrons could fill out to win a DQ gift card. There were supposed to be cookies to give out too but the bakery did a really bad job decorating them (Darth Vader was especially unrecognizable and moldy looking) so the staff ended up eating them. The children's department also put out some coloring and activity sheets for kids but in spite of our efforts, it wasn't very popular (perhaps because of the timing--right before the last day of school, graduation and Memorial Day weekend). I did see that a few of the books got checked out though. *I love that Princess Leia standee. I will have to take a picture standing next to it. I was surprised that Carrie Fisher wasn't that much taller than me!*

This coming week will be all about finalizing my plans for our summer reading program (still need to buy all the stuff for the grand prize gift basket) and getting ready for my rock painting craft night. So far I've forgotten to submit a purchase order to buy some necessary craft materials and my director is on vacation till the day of the program. I'm sure it'll work out somehow, right? I did buy a StoryHero book sleeve from Becky at Stories and Sweeties to give away as a prize at our Comic Con. It is so cute! If I didn't read almost exclusively on my Kindle, I'd buy one for myself too!

Books read:

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

I thought this was a fun book. Dimple is thrilled that her parents are letting her go to coding camp but what she doesn't know is that Rishi, the son of her parents' friends, will be there too and the families are hoping they will get married. Rishi thinks Dimple is interested in an arranged marriage down the road and she has no idea who he is so of course things don't go smoothly. 

The Vicar's Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack

While there is a romance involved, the story focuses on character development and family relationships first. Cassie hates that she has to wait till her older sister Lenora gets married before she can be presented to society. Lenora is already in her late 20s and she is painfully shy and suffers from anxiety so after several seasons she is still single. Cassie decides to help bolster Lenora's confidence and when Lenora meets a nice gentleman, Cassie starts writing to him in her sister's name. Then she falls in love with him herself. 

The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

I thought this was pretty good. I connected with the main character and thought the author did a good job of portraying what it's like to be a conservative Christian teen.

Flight of Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

This is my afternoon book group's selection for May. I didn't really know much about the Hindenburg disaster and I found it to be a fascinating story. There is also a bit of mystery/suspense and the author presents her take on what caused the disaster.

The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Michael's dad is the leader of an anti-immigrant group and at a protest, he sees a beautiful Muslim girl protesting in favor of the refugees. Then Mina shows up at his school as a new student and they are partnered on a project. Gradually he starts to see things from a different perspective as he and Mina spend more time together but then her family's business is targeted and Michael has to decide what he believes.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

One of my coworkers jokingly asked if this book is like Fifty Shades--it is not! Nikki gets a job teaching what she believes will be a creative writing class at the Sikh community center but when she arrives, she realizes that her students (all Punjabi widows) are barely literate. She tries to teach them to read and write anyway but they decide that they want to tell erotic stories which she transcribes even though they could get in serious trouble from the strict men who police the  Sikh community.  Nikki gets to know the women in her class and realizes that though society marginalizes them, they are still full of life and have much to teach her.

Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis

This is Jill Shalvis's first "women's fiction" novel but I thought it was pretty heavy on the romance with lots of steamy scenes. It wasn't bad but it wasn't as good as Kristan Higgins's novels in that genre.

Books listened to:

I am glad I listened to these radio dramas and I enjoyed the narration of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker but I didn't care for the actress who portrayed Princess Leia. She could be pretty whiny and seemed helpless at times--something Carrie Fisher's Leia never was. I did like the addition of Billy Dee Williams in the second one and I enjoyed the incorporation of sound effects and the movie scores. 

Currently reading:

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

This is my evening book group's May selection. So far I like it. The protagonist worked in advertising for Macy's back in the 1920s and was also a published poet. I do wish the book had better pacing like Flight of Dreams though.

On my TBR pile:

The Summer House by Hannah McKinnon

In This Moment by Karma Brown

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

New books received:

The Summer House by Hannah McKinnon (for review)

In This Moment by Karma Brown (for review)

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (for review)

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn (library book)

Saints for All Occasions by Courtney J. Sullivan (library book)

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Review: The Wonder of Us

The Wonder of Us
By Kim Culbertson
Published: April 25, 2017

Riya and Abby are:
Best friends.
Complete opposites.
Living on different continents.
Currently mad at each other.
About to travel around Europe. 

Riya moved to Berlin, Germany, with her family for junior year, while Abby stayed behind in their small California town. They thought it would be easy to keep up their friendship-it's only a year and they've been best friends since preschool. But instead, they ended up fighting and not being there for the other. So Riya proposes an epic adventure to fix their friendship. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. But two small catches:

They haven't talked in weeks.
They've both been keeping secrets.

Can Riya and Abby find their way back to each other among lush countrysides and dazzling cities, or does growing up mean growing apart?

My review:

Abby has had a difficult year in the wake of her parents' divorce. Her dad fell apart and the burden of taking care of him and the house fell to her. It's also been tough because her best friend Riya moved to Germany and they got into a major fight. Now she is in Europe on a trip with Riya (paid for by Riya's wealthy grandmother) where they hopefully will mend their broken relationship. When Abby first sees Riya again she realizes how much Riya has changed. She dresses like a sophisticated European and Riya is also keeping a big secret from Abby that could destroy their friendship for good.

Riya comes across as flighty and irresponsible and a little spoiled at times. She does care a lot about Abby and wants to be a good friend but she definitely has some growing up to do. I think Abby is more mature in a way because of what she's been through with her family. Riya seems like a younger, boy crazy idealistic dreamer in comparison. Of course Abby also likes their small town and doesn't want things to change while Riya is growing away from that and wants to see and experience the world. For Abby, their small hometown represents stability and for Riya she feels it is holding her back. She doesn't want to have the same exact life that everyone else is living. I think this is something teens can easily relate to as they prepare to graduate and possibly leave home for college or career. It is a time when friendships change and people sometimes do grow apart because they want different things.

Abby and Riya are not alone on their trip as they are chaperoned by Riya's older cousin Neel who is in college. Neel is British and can be a stick in the mud in Riya's view but he and Abby get along really well (cue the romantic sparks). Abby is really into history and the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, something she and Neel have in common. As someone who has loved history since I was a kid, I liked how Abby kind of geeked out on it. I love reading books about travel (especially set in Europe) so that appealed to me about this book and I enjoyed reading about the different places they visited.

While there is some romance the book really does focus on the friendship of Abby and Riya which I appreciated. The resolution of that part of the story felt realistic. I also liked how supportive Riya's parents and grandmother and Abby's dad are. It is nice to see positive portrayals of adults in teen fiction. I mostly enjoyed this novel, especially the travel aspect and the growth of the protagonists. It would be a great book to pack in your beach bag this summer.

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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bout of Books 19 Wrap Up

Bout of Books

I managed to complete three books during the Bout of Books read-a-thon. I was in the middle of reading the first book when the read-a-thon started and I read the other two books from start to finish. I think if it hadn't been Mother's Day weekend, I would have finished a couple more. I've participated in 24 hour readathons where I've read more so I am disappointed that I allowed myself to be distracted by TV earlier in the week.

The next Bout of Books read-a-thon is in August and hopefully I'll have the chance to participate.

Books read:

The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan
The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Post (89) / 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 Mother's Day! I will be spending the day with my family and we are taking my mom out to eat at an Indian restaurant. On Saturday we went to a couple of garden centers that were having sales for Mother's Day. One place even gave away free plants (and hot dogs and ice cream). My mom came home with several new geraniums to add to her flower garden and some other plants as well. 

On the reading front I am participating in Bout of Books but not reading as much as I'd hoped. It is that time of year when TV shows are wrapping up I guess. I am also participating in the Clean Sweep ARC Challenge that is going on through the month of May. I hope it will motivate me to read more of my ARCs. 

I spent some time catching up on TV shows when I could have been reading. Oh, well. It's that time of year when TV shows are wrapping up. I still need to watch the final episode of Home Fires and get caught up on The Flash, Supergirl and Jane the Virgin. I am most excited about The Flash. I've heard that there is a cliffhanger ending. I wish Home Fires hadn't been cancelled but at least the creator has written some e-books that wrap up the stories. The first one will be out in July.

After a cool and rainy week it is nice to be able to look forward to days in the 80s. I hope I don't have to dig out my sweaters again! I am longing for summer and hope we have a nice one. 

Last week on my blog:

The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff (review)
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer (review)

Books read:

The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

I liked this though I still prefer the other series (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus) but it was fun to catch up with Leo. The next book looks like it will be incorporating characters from Camp Jupiter like Frank and Hazel and possibly Jason and Piper as well. 

The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert 

I love apple cider and apple desserts so I wish I could have tasted a lot of the food and beverages mentioned in the book. I read an ARC so maybe the final copy will include recipes. I enjoyed this almost as much as The Coincidence of Coconut Cake. I was also reminded of Sarah Addison Allen's books.

Currently reading:

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

I should be finishing this one today. It's a fun teen contemporary featuring Indian American protagonists. 

Currently listening to:

I hadn't listened to this NPR radio drama before and thought it would be perfect to read it now with the 40th anniversary of Star Wars later this month. Mark Hamill and Anthony Daniels are both in it. Of course this was recorded in 1981 so some of the additional scenes don't really mesh with "canon". It's fun to listen to though.

On my TBR list:

The Vicar's Daughter by Josi S. Kilpack

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Letters to the Lost

Letters to the Lost
By Brigid Kemmerer
Published: April 4, 2017

Juliet Young always writes letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother's death, she leaves letters at her grave. It's the only way Juliet can cope.
Declan Murphy isn't the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he's trying to escape the demons of his past.
When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he's opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither Declan nor Juliet knows that they're not actually strangers. When life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, sparks will fly as Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart.

My review:

Letters to the Lost is a story about two teens who are deeply grieving and find a way to reach out to each other through anonymous letters and later through anonymous email. In real life however Juliet and Declan are not friends. In fact, Juliet feels nothing but disdain for the cocky troublemaker. Declan sees Juliet as spoiled and privileged. He has no idea of the pain she is going through the same way that she can't see his hidden depth. Of course they will somehow find out the truth about who they've been writing to all along...

Juliet has really been struggling since her mom died. Her mom was a talented and adventurous photojournalist and while Juliet has a gift for photography, she hasn't been able to pick up a camera since her mom died. She feels her skills are so meaningless compared to what her mom achieved. Since her mother's death, Juliet and her dad have been living like two strangers in the same home and even though her best friend Rowan tries to be supportive, Juliet feels like she can't be honest about her continuing grief.

Declan lost his younger sister in an accident he blames himself for. His family fell apart that day and things have only gotten worse now that his mom is remarried. He does not get along with his stepfather and on top of that he has to do court ordered community service. Rage, grief and guilt simmer below the surface in equal measure. Declan wants to do better but it is really hard. Things starts to feel a little better when he answers a letter he finds on a tombstone.

I thought this book was fantastic. The author does a good job of exploring grief, guilt and family relationships as well as friendship. A variety of families are represented in the book from the dysfunctional family of Declan to the fractured family of Juliet and the stable and loving families of Declan's supervisor and Rev's adoptive parents. It is nice to see some positive portrayals of parents along with the imperfect ones in this novel. The main characters are well developed and I loved the growth of their relationship with each other. The secondary characters are also well drawn, especially Rev. I liked how the book challenged the assumptions of the characters as well as the reader. 

Letters to the Lost is likely going to be one of my favorite YA books of 2017. It would be a good pick for fans of authors like Jessi Kirby and Morgan Matson.

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