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Thursday, December 18, 2014

My Christmas List!

'Tis the season for gift giving and dreaming of sugar plums. My shopping is finally finished (phew! I got such a late start that I'm still surprised that I'm finished!). I, of course, have some books that I'm dreaming of on my own Christmas list.

Here's what I'm dreaming of:

What's on your wish list?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

Title: The Invention of Wings
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Viking
Publish Date: January 7, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Hetty "Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements."

My Two Cents:

You all know that I love historical fiction but I don't seem to get a chance to read a lot of historical fiction set in America. It just doesn't seem as prevalent as historical fiction set in far off places like Europe or elsewhere. It's books like "The Invention of Wings" that make me think that it is a travesty that there is not more historical fiction set in the United States. This was a great read set in the early to mid-1800s, a very difficult time period in America's history when it came to slavery. Historical fiction lovers will find a lot to enjoy within this book!

Before reading this book, I had never heard of the Grimke sisters before. What is so amazing about Sarah (one of the narrators in this book) and her sister, Nina, is that they were both from a slave-owning family in Charleston, South Carolina. Both women became abolitionists, even though it meant pushing away their family to a great degree. They are fascinating as this book shows and it is a shame that they are not more well known. In this book, we get an intimate glimpse at the various struggles that both sisters, especially Sarah go through. Sarah realizes from a very early age that some of the rules when it came to slavery were meant to be broken. One of her first acts of resistance against what she sees as unfair treatment is to teach Hetty, one of the family slaves, how to read. This was incredibly dangerous for both Sarah and Hetty as slaves were not supposed to read at all (being someone who loves to read, it was so hard for me to read about how slaves were pretty much not supposed to be educated whatsoever). I loved seeing how all of the experiences that Sarah had as a young person shaped her into the woman that she would become.

The other part of the book was narrated by Hetty, also called Handful, who is one of the Grimke family's slaves. Hetty wants so much for herself and I loved reading about her. Her counterpoint in the book gives us a good glimpse at what slaves had to deal with in the South during this time period. Some of the information is difficult to read but it definitely made me appreciated how far this country has come. Hetty also gives us a good counterpoint to Sarah's experience.

The writing is really good and definitely compelling. I really enjoyed Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees and The Mermaid Chair before this and enjoyed them. Kidd definitely has a way of creating characters that feel really real and make you really care about what happens to them. I am going to be thinking about Hetty and Sarah for a long time. I definitely enjoyed this story and look forward to Kidd's next release!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Review: Secret of a Thousand Beauties by Mingmei Yip

Title: Secret of a Thousand Beauties
Author: Mingmei Yip
Format: ARC
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publish Date: November 25, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the author; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Spring Swallow was promised in marriage while still in her mother's belly. When the groom dies before a wedding can take place, seventeen-year-old Spring Swallow is ordered to become a ghost bride to appease his spirit. Under her in-laws' protection, she will be little more than a servant, unable to know real love or bear children. Refusing to accept her fate as a "bad-luck woman," Spring Swallow flees on her wedding day.

In the city of Soochow, Spring Swallow joins a community of renowned embroiderers. The women work for Aunty Peony, whose exquisite stitching once earned her the Emperor's love. But when Aunty Peony agrees to replicate a famous painting--a lucrative assignment that will take a year to complete--betrayal and jealousy emerges within the group. Spring Swallow becomes entangled in each woman's story of heartbreak, even while she embarks on a dangerous affair with a young revolutionary. On a journey that leads from the remote hillsides around Soochow to cosmopolitan Peking, Spring Swallow draws on the secret techniques learned from Aunty Peony and her own indomitable strength, determined to forge a life that is truly her own."

My Two Cents:

"Secret of a Thousand Beauties" begins when Spring Swallow, a young woman living in China during the 1930s. She was promised to her mother's friend's son before she was born. He died at birth and now that Spring Swallow is of age, she must become a ghost bride where she will still be married to the son even though he is dead. Instead of a life with her in-laws that she barely knows, she decides to run away and is able to find shelter with a woman that she calls Aunt Peony who teaches her the skill of embroidery. This is the story of one woman's determination to control her own destiny during a time where it may seem like she has no choice in the matter.

I loved following Spring Swallow's journey. She is such a fascinating character and definitely one who lives many lives throughout the book, each one as interesting as the last. With Aunt Peony, she learns a skill that she will be able to use to carry her through the rest of her life. She falls in love with a revolutionary, who might care more about the revolution than he does her. And these are just two of the stages that she lives. I loved reading about where her desires took her. Although she is often limited in what she can do for herself by society, she finds a way to make it work.

The book is told from the perspective of Spring Swallow, which I loved. It really allowed me to fully immerse myself in the story. The storytelling style is simple but powerful. I loved all of the historical detail that the author chose to include. I did not know much about China in the 1930s at all so I really enjoyed getting to visit a new time and place through this story! Overall, this was a great historical fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Audiobook Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (Read by Tim Robbins)

Title:  Fahrenheit 451
Author: Ray Bradbury (Read by Tim Robbins)
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Audible
Publish Date: 1953 (Audiobook released October 2014)
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Ray Bradbury's internationally acclaimed novel Fahrenheit 451 is a masterwork of 20th-century literature set in a bleak, dystopian future, narrated here by Academy Award-winning actor Tim Robbins.

Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden. Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television "family". But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn't live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television. When Mildred attempts suicide and Clarisse suddenly disappears, Montag begins to question everything he has ever known. He starts hiding books in his home, and when his pilfering is discovered, the fireman has to run for his life."

My Two Cents:

"Fahrenheit 451" is one of the original books on the dangers of banning books. Like many other book lovers, this book is definitely one of my favorites (and if you are a book lover and you have not read this book, get ye to the book store and pick up this book for your own collection and then read it and then read it again).

So in this book, we have Guy, a fireman. In this mixed up (and absolutely frightening world for book lovers) world, it is his job to destroy the written word. If it's a book, it has to go. No one in this world is supposed to read. Everyone must watch television instead. There is no room for thinking out of the box. Eventually he sees the light and realizes that books are sort of awesome and worthy of protecting. See, it's easy to see why this book is still a favorite for so many readers. The story has a great message and serves as a great warning too. This is definitely a book that has stood the test of time and I still love it!

This book is still by far one of my favorite dystopian novels. I have read this book a couple times before and while I have loved it every single time, I might have liked this time a little bit better. I listened to this book for the first time on audiobook, which provided a brand new perspective on this old favorite. Better yet, the book is read by Tim Robbins, a great actor and a person whose voice I really love. I loved the life he brought to this book. It definitely made for a really special experience. Even if you think that you know this book well, Robbins gives the story a new spin and is most definitely worth listening to!

Audiobook Review: Fog Island Mountains by Michelle Bailat-Jones

Title: Fog Island Mountains
Author: Michelle Bailat-Jones
Format: Audiobook
Publisher: Tantor/ Audible
Publish Date: November 4, 2014
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "What if you could rewrite a tragedy? What if you could give grace to someone s greatest mistake? Huddled beneath the volcanoes of the Kirishima mountain range in southern Japan, also called the Fog Island Mountains, the inhabitants of small town Komachi are waiting for the biggest of the summer's typhoons. South African expatriate Alec Chester has lived in Komachi for nearly forty years. Alec considers himself an ordinary man, with common troubles and mundane achievements until his doctor gives him a terminal cancer diagnosis and his wife, Kanae, disappears into the gathering storm. Kanae flees from the terrifying reality of Alec's diagnosis, even going so far as to tell a childhood friend that she is already a widow. Her willful avoidance of the truth leads her to commit a grave infidelity, and only when Alec is suspected of checking himself out of the hospital to commit a quiet suicide does Kanae come home to face what it will mean to lose her husband. Narrating this story is Azami, one of Komachi's oldest and most peculiar inhabitants, the daughter of a famous storyteller with a mysterious story of her own. A haunting and beautiful reinterpretation of the Japanese kitsune folktale tradition, Fog Island Mountains is a novel about the dangers of action taken in grief and of a belief in healing through storytelling."

My Two Cents:

"Fog Island Mountains" takes place in a small island village in Japan. The story focuses on the residents of this village and their dealings with each other as well as the world changing around them. The story is told by Azami, the descendent of a storyteller who seems to be very different from many others in the village. This story is very atmospheric and in some places, almost like dreamlike, although the subject matter is very heavy. This is a book that I know that I am going to be thinking about for a very long time.

The characters are important in this book but in some places, it almost felt like the way that the characters were written was truly the key to understanding the story fully. Aside from Azami, we also meet Alec, a South African ex-pat, and his wife, who is convinced that he is going to die from his recently diagnosed cancer so she runs away. I really wanted to understand these characters fully. They are definitely complex but I loved the way that the author was able to give us a tiny bit of insight little by little in order to give us the ability to see where they are coming from even if we don't fully understand where they are coming from.

The writing of the book was good. I also enjoyed listening to the audiobook. I think listening to this particular book on audiobook was a little difficult because the stories of the characters and their dealings with each other were so intricate but if you pay close attention, you will be engulfed by this story!


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Premier Virtual Author Book Tours: The Demon Who Peddled Longing by Khanh Ha

Title: The Demon Who Peddled Longing
Author: Khanh Ha
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Underground Voices
Publish Date: November 21, 2014
Source: Premier Virtual Authors Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Set in post-war Vietnam, The Demon Who Peddled Longing tells the terrible journey of a nineteen-year-old boy in search of the two brothers who are drifters and who raped and killed his cousin. It brings together the damned, the unfit, the brave, who succumb by
their own doing to the call of fate. Yet their desire to survive and to face life again never dies, so that when someone like the boy who is psychologically damaged by his family tragedy, who no sooner gets his life together after being rescued by a fisherwoman then falls in love with an untouchable girl and finds his life in peril, takes his leave in the end, there is nothing left but a longing in the heart that goes with him."

My Two Cents:

"The Demon Who Peddled Longing" is the story of Nam, a nineteen year old boy who is in the middle of a journey that will take him all over Vietnam. He is looking for two brothers who raped his cousin. This journey will change him and will take him to meet people he may never have come across otherwise. Each character is struggling with something. These characters will force him to look into himself and to decide the kind of person that he will become. This is the second book that I have read by Khanh Ha and I continued to really enjoy his brand of storytelling.

This book is really hard to describe. It deals with some heavy topics. Nam is dealing with a lot and is a really fascinating character. He is trying to find who raped his cousins. He is also just trying to cope with becoming a man. The topics are heavy but the prose is almost dream-like and sometimes nebulous, which means you have to pay close attention to the book. The writing is also quite stark and I found myself wanting a little more detail about how Nam and some of the supporting characters were feeling. At first, I had a little bit of a hard time getting into the book but once I hit my stride, the story was enjoyable.

The author does not shy away from painting a very real and sometimes brutal picture of what post-Vietnam War Vietnam was like. In this book, we meet several characters that are truly struggling to make ends meet. While I found myself wanting more detail, I did like that the author did not candy-coat Nam's journey! Overall, this is a difficult story but those that appreciate writing that is off the beaten path may want to try this one.

Follow the Rest of the Tour:

Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus Nov 6 Spotlight & Giveaway
Black Heart Magazine Nov 7 Review
Pinky’s Favorite Reads Nov 10 Excerpt
Savvy Verse & Wit Nov 11 Interview
Inspire to Read Nov 12 Excerpt
Oh,For the Hook Of a Book Nov 14 Review & Interview (postponed)
She Trends Softly Nov 17 Review
Flashlight Commentary Nov 18 Review (Postponed)
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus  Nov 19 Review
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus  Nov 19 Interview

Cassandra M’s Place Nov 20 Review & Giveaway
Manic Mama of 3 Nov 21 Review
Mary’s Cup of Tea Nov 24 Review
Book Dilettante Nov 25 Review & Giveaway
The Year In Books Nov 26 Review
What U Talking Bout Willis? Dec 1 Excerpt

Deal Sharing Aunt Dec 3 Review
Savvy Verse & Wit Dec 3 Review
Two Children and a Migraine Dec 4 Review
Buried In Print Dec 5 Review
My Devotional Thoughts Dec 5 Review

True Book Addict Dec 9 Interview
A Bookish Affair Dec 10 Review

Indie Reviews Behind the Scenes Jan 11 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Review: Waking Up Joy by Tina Ann Forkner

Title: Waking Up Joy
Author: Tina Ann Forkner
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Publish Date: October 8, 2014
Source: Book Sparks

What's the Story?:

From "Behind every lost dream lies a second chance…
When adored town spinster Joy Talley ends up in a coma after a peculiar accident, she is surprised and incensed to hear what is being said in her hospital room, including plans for her funeral. When she finally wakes, her well-meaning, but bossy, brothers and sisters dismiss her claims, thinking her accident has knocked her off her rocker, but Joy has never felt better, and is determined to set the past right.
Now Joy must face her darkest secret and risk reopening wounds caused by an old flame who rejected her more than twenty years ago. But taking risks brings change, as well as a new, younger man into Joy’s life, making her feel like a teenager again. Suddenly Joy’s once humdrum life is anything but boring and routine and the future beckons, exhilarating and bright."

My Two Cents:

"Waking Up Joy" is the story of Joy, a never married woman who finds herself in a bit of a predicament at the beginning of this book.  After freak accident, she finds herself in a coma. Although the rest of the world thinks that she can't hear them including her big, comedic family, she can most definitely hear them and all of their different thoughts about what happened and what she meant to them.

At the beginning of the book, we know that Joy has a difficult past that she has been struggling with. The author gives us details little by little, which at times I found very frustrating because it was hard to get emotionally involved with the character without really knowing what was going on with her until towards the end of the book. We get to see you Joy as she wakes up and is determined to make the past right. It was really interesting to me to see how did Joy goes about doing this. In a way, it was interesting that such an event had affected her so much even though she was far removed from when it actually happened.

The writing of the book was okay. Joy's family was a lot of fun to read about. She comes from a huge family filled with a lot of different characters. We definitely got to know Joy the best out of all of her siblings; however, we also get to know one of her nieces pretty well too, which added to the story. Overall, I thought this book was interesting. If you like family stories and don't mind not knowing a lot of details in the beginning, this book might be a good pick for you.

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