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Monday, July 31, 2017

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: Casanova's Secret Wife by Barbara Lynn-Davis

Title: Casanova's Secret Wife
Author: Barbara Lynn-Davis
Format: ARC
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: July 25, 2017
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Caterina Capreta was an innocent girl of fourteen when she caught the attention of the world’s most infamous chronicler of seduction: Giacomo Casanova. Intoxicated by a fierce love, she wed Casanova in secret. But his shocking betrayal inspired her to commit an act that would mark her forever . . .

Now twenty years later on the island of Murano, the woman in possession of Caterina’s most devastating secret has appeared with a request she cannot refuse: to take in a noble-born girl whose scandalous love affair resembles her own. But the girl’s presence stirs up unwelcome memories of Caterina’s turbulent past. Tested like never before, she reveals the story of the man she will never forget . . .

Bringing to life a fascinating chapter in the history of Venice, Casanova’s Secret Wife is a tour de force that charts one woman’s journey through love and loss to redemption."

My Two Cents:

"Casanova's Secret Wife" is the story of Caterina, who when we meet her in the book is a married woman who goes to a convent when she summoned by an old friend. This friend wants her to take in a  young pregnant woman who unmarried and at this time, that is socially unacceptable. Caterina knows that she will be scrutinized for taking taking in this woman and she is not sure she can take on any more scrutiny for a variety of reasons. But she agrees to take her in and at first she doesn't really know why she does this considering her history with the woman who asked a favor of her. As we find out in the book slowly Katerina has a long history with this woman. Told in sweeping prose that captures Murano, an island just off of Italy is Venice, and many other hidden secrets, this book captured my attention. 

As we find out in the story, Caterina who becomes secretly married to the infamous Casanova. I have to admit before reading this book I, of course, had heard Casanova used as a description of very amorous person but I have to admit that I didn't know very much about Casanova as an actual person. We get insight into his character as we see how 14 year old Caterina is entranced by Casanova and lives on his promises even when he doesn't see apt to keep them.

The detail in this book is great! The author draws on a lot of detailed writings that Casanova himself put together in order to come up with this story. And the setting, oh, the setting! I love any book set in Italy. I especially loved that this book was mostly set in Murano, a place that I had a chance to visit and one that I really really enjoyed. 

I really enjoyed the writing! I love the way that the author is able to give us just a little bit of a little bit of detail about Caterina's past at a time which really kept me reading. I also liked the part about Caterina taking in this young woman and eventually opening herself up to her as Caterina was once in a very similar position. 

Overall, this was a great story with great historical detail and kept me entertained throughout.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Review: Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee

Title: Broken Branches
Author: M. Jonathan Lee
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hideaway Falls
Publish Date: July 27, 2017
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "'Family curses don't exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don't think so.'

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

My Two Cents:

"Broken Branches" of the story of Ian who moves himself, his wife, and his son back to the home that he grew up in. Ian's past has been marred by a family curse that has brought unspeakable tragedy to several generations of his family. Ian believes that his immediate family may find itself marred by the next tragedy.

The book explores the family curse in two parallel timelines. We get insight into what happened to Ian's family when he was a young child. We also see how his family is now and how they have been affected by the tragedies throughout time. I loved getting the background and liked the way the author was able to show that things were not always the way that Ian initially saw them, which calls into question many details about the curse.

While the storyline is interesting and I appreciated the blur between the real and the perceived, there were definitely some parts where I wanted to feel a part of the book a little more. The dual timeline does get a bit confusing, especially toward the end of the book, which made it hard to get through. I was kept going by having to see what happened at the end and whether or not Ian and his family would be able to keep the curse contained. This book has a distinctly gothic feel but set in modern times, which was very interesting and made for a solid read. 


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

HF Virtual Book Tours Review: Lilli de Jong by Janet Benton

Title: Lilli de Jong
Author: Janet Benton 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Nan A. Talese
Publish Date: May 16, 2017
Source: HF Virtual Book Tours



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "A young woman finds the most powerful love of her life when she gives birth at an institution for unwed mothers in 1883 Philadelphia. She is told she must give up her daughter to avoid a life of poverty and shame. But she chooses to keep her.

Pregnant, abandoned by her lover, and banished from her Quaker home and teaching position, Lilli de Jong enters a charity for wronged women to deliver her child. She is stunned at how much her infant needs her and at how quickly their bond overpowers her heart. Mothers in her position have no sensible alternative to giving up their children, but Lilli can't bear such an outcome. Determined to chart a path toward an independent life, Lilli braves moral condemnation and financial ruin in a quest to keep herself and her baby alive. 

Confiding their story to her diary as it unfolds, Lilli takes readers from an impoverished charity to a wealthy family's home to the perilous streets of a burgeoning American city. Lilli de Jong is at once a historical saga, an intimate romance, and a lasting testament to the work of mothers. "So little is permissible for a woman," writes Lilli, yet on her back every human climbs to adulthood.""

My Two Cents:

"Lilli de Jong" is the story of Lilli, a young Quaker woman living around Philadelphia in the late 1800s. When she gets pregnant out of wedlock by a man she loves, she is forced to go out on her own as her positively evil stepmother will not see to helping Lilli at all. Lilli will be forced to try to make her way in the world on her own with her baby, a tall order for a woman at the time! This book gave me a ton of insight into a time and setting that I haven't read a lot about. What a treat for my fellow historical fiction readers!

This book does such a good job of describing how things were for woman in those days. Lilli first goes to a home for unwed mothers (based on a real place; I loved reading about the real place in the author's note). Most women give up their children and the book has some detail about what that is like. Lilli decides to forge her own path and keep little Charlotte. Lilli still has to work because she is on her own and must find some way to make ends meet. Lilli is already quite limited in what she can do outside of working on her family's farm. Since that's no longer an option and she is even more limited after having Charlotte, Lilli is forced into some pretty unsavory situations. The book is told through Lilli's diary entries so you get incredibly close to her and are pulling for something good to happen the whole way. 

The book is also timeless in a way! I am a mother and I think this book captures a lot of the feelings that you go through as a parent. She captures the instantaneous connection that you have with your kid. Here is one of my favorite handful of lines in the book: "My problem is how deeply she affects me. The doctor cut the fleshy cord that connected us, but an invisible one has taken its place. I begin to suspect that this one can be neither cut nor broken." You're willing to be uncomfortable and do uncomfortable things so that your child can have a better life. Lilli does this over and over and over throughout the book because her daughter means so much. It was so interesting to see the juxtaposition between Lilli's relationship with her daughter and Lilli's frayed relationship with her last remaining biological parent, her father. 

I loved this book a lot! You're pulled in from the very beginning and then you're not let go until the very end!




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Review: In a Daze Work: A Pick-Your-Path Journey Through the Daily Grind by Siobhan Gallagher

Title: In a Daze Work: A Pick-Your-Path Journey Through the Daily Grind
Author: Siobhan Gallagher
Format: ARC
Publisher: Tarcher Perigree
Publish Date: July 25, 2017 (Today!)
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "From small-talk to dating to death, In A Daze Work is an exciting, playful new spin on the minute and mundane decisions that make up your daily life. 
Each flip of the page puts you in control of the story: 
Will you stay in or go out?
Do you wake up or sleep in?
How will you navigate a bad date, or a party full of cookie-cutter couples (available in vanilla flavor only)? 
More importantly, where will your decisions take you? 
Bringing humor and sly self-reflection to the humdrum details of adulthood with hand-drawn illustrations and sharp wit, this relatable visual journey will help you find the extraordinary (or at least hilarious) moments in any day of the week."

My Two Cents:

"In a Daze Work" is a choose-your-own-adventure book for adults. As a kid who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I loved, loved, loved choose-your-own-adventure books! Even without having to pick the next page, books have always felt interactive to me but the CYOA books always had that extra oomph of super interactivity that I loved. I was excited to see what a CYOA geared for adults might look like!

So how does this genre work for adults? Well (if you have Siobhan Gallagher's wit and adorable illustrations at the helm). This book takes us through a normal day of either work during the week or (relative) pleasure during the weekend. Adventure may be a bit too cheery of a description for what for most adults is just life. Gallagher makes us laugh at ourselves though, which is really where the true beauty of the book lies!

I could see this book being a good gift for a friend that just needs a good laugh. I had fun going through the book a few times just to see if I would find something new to laugh at during my journeys (and I did). This book is a lot of fun!


Monday, July 24, 2017

Review: Perilous Prophecy by Leanna Renee Hieber

Title: Perilous Prophecy
Author: Leanna Renee Hieber 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Tor
Publish Date: June 20, 2017
Source: Author


What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "The Goddess:
In the beginning, there were lovers: a winged deity of power and light, and a queen of grace and beauty. Phoenix was murdered, his beloved stolen away to the Whisper-world. But their passion inspired the Muses. Through great sacrifice, it could live again.

The Guard:
There are always six, mortal hosts for the divine. Battling spirits through the ages, they defy Darkness, Lord of the Dead. In 1867, a shadow rises. The tide turns against them, and all hope falls on a child of prophecy, an eerie, snow-white girl yet to be born. But her path must be cleared. A Great War is coming, and song, wind and stars whisper that the eighteen-year-old Beatrice Smith must give everything to prepare."


My Two Cents:

"Perilous Prophecy" is the prequel to the two books in Ms. Hieber's Strangely Beautiful books. I have not read the other two books in the trilogy but after reading this book, I definitely want to read them! I've heard this book described to me as "gaslamp fantasy," which is the perfect description. You have the history of the Victorian age combined with a paranormal bend that made even the familiar seem different and new.

In this book, we meet Beatrice, a young woman, who is called up to perform the ultimate duty as the leader of the Guard, a group charged with protecting our world from another. This book does not go that much into the legend behind the Guard, which I was very much interested in. I would love to see if the other books talked more about this and gave some more background. We see how this group storms when they first get together to eventually getting to a better place where they begin to function, which is interesting. Each member of the guard is unique and many of them come from different places with different customs, which take awhile to get to where they understand each other. I loved that part of the journey.

One of the things that I really liked in this book is the setting and the way that the author weaves together the real and unreal. Set in 1800s Cairo and London, this book was off the beaten path for me. I read a lot about London but Cairo was relatively new for me, especially with a historical setting. I loved the detail that the author used to bring everything to life! This book makes for a great story to get lost in. I love how the real and unreal become one in this fantasy. This book is a great start to what promises to be an interesting trilogy!


 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Everybody But You by Thia Sexton

Title: Everybody But You
Author: Thia Sexton
Format: ARC
Publisher: Weasel Press
Publish Date: August 29, 2017
Source: PR



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: ""A collection that's spirited and endearing . . . which she tells with winning self-deprecation and a level of detail that conjures the dusty, sunny fragrance of her travels. Sexton punctuates the pieces in an all-caps-studded brand of wacky humor, mostly in the form of wry one-liners." -- Kirkus Reviews"

My Two Cents:

"Everybody But You" is a collection of short stories by Thia Sexton, comedian. I was initially drawn to this book as I had seen Sexton on Comedy Central before and was looking for a light read that might have some humor thrown in. This book touches on many different subjects. Some of them are very funny on the serious, others are serious but Sexton does her best to try and lighten the mood, with mixed results.

In this collection, Sexton regales us with stories that cover everything from funny surnames to her adventures abroad (these are some of my favorite tales in this book). There are other stories like the one where she calls a suicide hotline, happens to get an operator that really sucks at his job (like really, really sucks), and she has to reassure him instead of him really helping her (this kind of made me cringe since hotlines like that are supposed to be a good resource and I'm not sure if it was the light treatment or the incompetence that bothered me more).

There are some truly funny stories that made me laugh out loud (always the mark of a good story). I really liked some of the stories about her family (nieces and nephews) and also about being abroad. I also liked the story about how she came to love New York. I'm not a New Yorker but I love to visit and I loved the way she captured the city (and EVERYBODY'S hatred of the one way streets and while I would never be brave enough to back down one of the streets, she does and lives to share the hilarious tale).

Overall, this was a solid collection with only a few stories that did not hit the mark for me.


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Review: It's Not Yet Dark by Simon Fitzmaurice

Title: It's Not Yet Dark
Author: Simon Fitzmaurice
Format: ARC
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: August 1, 2017 (soon!)
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "In 2008, Simon Fitzmaurice was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (also known as ALS). He was given four years to live. In 2010, in a state of lung-function collapse, Simon knew with crystal clarity that now was not his time to die. Against all prevailing medical opinion, he chose to ventilate in order to stay alive. Here, the young filmmaker, a husband and father of five small children, draws us deeply into his inner world. Told in simply expressed and beautifully stark prose—in the vein of such memoirs as Jean-Dominique Bauby's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly—the result is an astonishing journey into a life which, though brutally compromised, is lived more fully and in the moment than most, revealing at its core the power of love its most potent. Written using an eye-gaze computer, It's Not Yet Dark is an unforgettable book about relationships and family, about what connects and separates us as people and, ultimately, about what it means to be alive."

My Two Cents:

"It's Not Yet Dark" is a memoir by Simon Fitzmaurice, a filmaker, father, and husband, who is struck down in the prime of his life by ALS. Even if we are relatively healthy, there is a chance that something could strike us like that without warning. It is a slim chance (luckily!!!) but there is still a chance. Most of us just don't go around thinking about things like that because it would drive us absolutely nuts. It's the fact that this book is so raw that makes it good and that makes it thought-provoking. This situation could happen to any of us.

Fitzmaurice walks us through his diagnosis and the disbelief that he originally has when he starts having issues. He blames it on his shoes at first because the idea that a healthy person like him could have a medical issue that makes it impossible to fully work his foot seems so strange and then things quickly seem to go from bad to worse.

Told in stark prose, this is a story of heartbreak and how you go on living when everything that is happening to you is fully out of your control. How do you embrace family and friends? How do you adapt and move forward? How do you form a new life when reality is so different than what you had anticipated? This book explores all of these topics and more in a really raw and real way. This book is relatively short but it packs a huge punch!


 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: The Comfort of Secrets by Christine Nolfi

Title: The Comfort of Secrets
Author: Christine Nolfi
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Lake Union
Publish Date: July 18, 2017 (Yesterday!)
Source: Author



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Cat Mendoza needs a win. After a business failure and years of dating the wrong men, she’s ready to turn things around.

First she must convince the residents of Sweet Lake, Ohio, that she’s taking her responsibilities seriously. As the events director of the newly restored Wayfair Inn, she has the support of her best friends, Linnie and Jada. But everyone else—including her overprotective mother and the well-meaning Sweet Lake Sirens—can’t help but chime in with advice about her plans, her apparently too-tight clothes, and her undeniable attraction to Ryan D’Angelo, the charming ad exec hired to promote the inn.

Cat knows she should keep Ryan at a distance, but she’s drawn closer by the heartbreak he tries to hide. Will uncovering his secrets derail the new life Cat hopes to achieve…or will she gain something to cherish forever?"


My Two Cents:

"The Comfort of Secrets" is the story of Cat, a young woman trying her best to show the small town that she grew up in that she can be an adult with true responsibilities that she can take seriously. After developing a reputation for being fun loving and fancy free with no regard for consequences, Cat has a long road ahead of her. Luckily she has some good friends in her corner who are pulling for her to figure out her career and her romantic life.

This is the second book in the Sweet Lake series by Christine Nolfi but you don't need to read the first book in order to enjoy this book. Many of the same characters from the first book appear but Cat is really at the center of this book.

The characters in the book were great. I loved Cat! She's the kind of scrappy character that you can't help but to root for her. The reader knows early on that Cat really has changed and she really is ready to take on being the event planner at the inn in town but almost everyone around her seems convinced that she is going into this endeavor with her eyes closed and want to make sure that she knows that they think about this.

You're also pulling for the love match in the book! Ryan comes to Sweet Lake as the ad-exec charged with getting the inn some business through some slick advertising. Love is the last thing on his mind. The love between Cat and Ryan feels a little insta-love but works relatively well. Ryan is more of a realist but Cat is a dreamer and this seems to fit in her character a little more. The love between them is very sweet, especially when we see the plans that Cat carries out to give Ryan back some of the childhood that we learn he missed out on.

This is a sweet romance with a quirky set of characters. This book was a lot of fun! 



Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Review: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger

Title: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash
Author: Candace Ganger
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: July 25, 2017
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. Told in alternating perspectives, The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash by Candace Ganger is a beautiful, complex, and ultimately hopeful teen novel that will move you to the very last page."


My Two Cents:

In "The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash," Birdie and Bash meet at a party. Birdie isn't supposed to be at the party. Bash is trying to escape from everything else in his life by going to the party. Bash is trying to do the same. At the time, neither of them can imagine the inextricable ways that their lives will be tied forever more.

On its surface, this book seems like fun romp but it is so much more than that. This book is filled with a lot of drama and questions about whether its better to hide or its better to tell the truth even with the truth has the power to rip people apart. I loved seeing the main characters and the secondary characters in the book explore what this meant for each of them throughout the book. You're pulling for the truth the whole time but the author keeps you guessing so that you are not sure on what side the characters are going to end up until the very end. I love when a book can keep me on my toes like that!

The characters really make this book. I really liked how the author gave depth to not only the main characters but the secondary characters as well (Birdie's sister and Bash's friend, Kyle - OMG! Both of these characters!). Birdie has a pretty good life. Yeah, she fights with her sister and yearns for a closer relationship. Yeah, she just lost a scholarship but things are okay until the unimaginable happens and Birdie suddenly realizes how good her family had it. Bash is struggling. His mother (the only person that she really has in the entire world) is dying and he is doing everything he can to try to forget about it. He can't confront what his life might/ will be like when he loses his mother. This book goes deep and makes you care about these characters so much.

I was left wanting the ending to draw out a bit more so we could see what happens to these characters and their families after the book ends but this isn't one of those books that would ever lend itself well to a sequel. There is a bit of beauty in the way the author left it: open with a good dose of hope for the future.


 

Monday, July 17, 2017

Review: Mr. Ridley by Delilah Marvelle

Title: Mr. Ridley
Author: Delilah Marvelle 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Delilah Marvelle Productions, LLC
Publish Date: February 28, 2017
Source: Author



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "LONDON, ENGLAND - 1830
Criminals fear the iron fist of justice he delivers. Scotland Yard will do anything to get their hands on his mind. Whilst women? They crawl in the hope of becoming his. But only one woman is about to hold his body and his mind hostage.

Jemdanee Lillian Watkins is a botanical savant from India who ends up getting arrested for a crime she didn't commit. Only one man believes her: Mr. Ridley. Drawn to him and the rope he knots in her presence, she realizes this overly regimented dark hero hides nothing but his passion."


My Two Cents:

"Mr. Ridley" is the story of Jemdanee, a young woman who knows what she wants. Originally from India, she finds herself in danger and arrested in England and teams up with our titular character, Mr. Ridley. Neither one is prepared for the other and what they'll bring into each other lives. Filled with rich characters, romance, and deep, dark secrets, this is a thoroughly exciting opening to a new trilogy! There is so much to love about this book!

The characters really make this book. Jemdanee is a great character. She is smart, witty, and resourceful. Even with all of Ridley's darkness, she never seems to lose her cheer or her quick retorts. I was also very interested in her biology expertise. Especially for the time - she is very much ahead of her time. Her work was so fascinating! Ridley is a complete puzzle. As the story unfolds, we find that he keeps a lot hidden. His father was brutally murdered when Ridley was young. This changes his whole trajectory and acts as a massive shadow that Ridley can never quite seem to get out from under. I loved the way that we find out about everything both of these characters have been through. As their relationship together blooms, we see how they got to where they are. The author has a gift for giving you just enough detail to keep you reading for a few pages before dropping another hint that keeps you reading a bit more to try to figure these characters out.

The chemistry between Jemdanee and Ridley is amazing! Although Jemdanee seems drawn to or at least intrigued by Ridley in the very beginning, the chemistry soon unfolds into something really special. The romance in this book is so good and ridiculously hot! The anticipation builds throughout the book and the action feels realistic!

I love a good historical romance but I like when there is real historical detail in the book as well! This book definitely has that. I especially liked the glimpse of Scotland Yard that you get in this book. The author does a really good job of world building and showing us what the characters' world is like! There is a lot of really rich detail and the research that must have gone into this book is clear.

Now the only problem that I have with this trilogy is the decision of whether to read the second book right away when the third book won't be out for awhile yet or to wait until the third book comes out so that I can finish Ridley and Jemdanee's story in one fell swoop. Decisions, decisions!  



Friday, July 14, 2017

Review: All We Shall Know by Donal Ryan

Title: All We Shall Know
Author: Donal Ryan
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publish Date: July 4, 2017
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Melody Shee is alone and in trouble. At 33 years-old, she finds herself pregnant with the child of a 17 year-old Traveller boy, Martin Toppy, and not by her husband Pat. Melody was teaching Martin to read, but now he's gone, and Pat leaves too, full of rage. She's trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming, while the past won't let her go.

It's a good thing that she meets Mary Crothery when she does. Mary is a bold young Traveller woman, and she knows more about Melody than she lets on. She might just save Melody's life. Following the nine months of her pregnancy, All We Shall Know unfolds with emotional immediacy in Melody's fierce, funny, and unforgettable voice, as she contends with her choices, past and present."


My Two Cents:

"All We Shall Know" is the story of Melody, a young woman who finds herself pregnant but not by her husband. This sets off a chain of events that will have Melody and everyone around her questioning the way that things are supposed to be. The father of the baby is a teenaged kid from a Traveller family (that Melody has been tutoring). At first, it is hard to see why this happened but as the book unfolds, we see that not everything is the way it seems.

The strong point of this book is really the writing. It is so real and very raw. The book is told from Melody's perspective as she gets further and further along in her pregnancy. We get a lot of insight into her feelings about Pat, her husband, and the marriage that is rapidly unraveling between them. We see how she is hated by his family even though Pat is most definitely not perfect himself. I really liked that the book was told by Melody as it allowed me to get really into the story.

While the writing is good, I did want to know more of the motivations of the characters. What is driving Melody to doing what she does throughout the book? While we get a lot of her perspective, there was a lack of showing what was really driving her. What drives Mary to form the kind of relationship that she forms with Mary? And then there is the ending (I don't want to give anything away so I apologize for my vagueness). The ending is incredibly clean and neat and is very much in stark contrast with the messiness of the rest of the book. It didn't feel realistic and left me wondering.


 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Review: Fox Chapel Coloring Books

I was excited to receive these two coloring books, thanks to the PR and Fox Chapel Publishing!






Thank goodness for coloring books! Even as an adult, I still love to color as a way to relax in the evenings. Both of these books are really cute and have some really nice designs. I love how different each page is and how fun the designs are in both books.

I have a fascination with henna so I especially loved the Henna Style coloring book. The designs are so pretty!

Are any of you out there into the adult coloring book craze?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Review: The Child by Fiona Barton

Title: The Child
Author: Fiona Barton
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Berkley Books
Publish Date: June 27, 2017
Source: Publisher



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn house by house into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women and torn between what she can and cannot tell."


My Two Cents:

"The Child" is the story of three women. There is Angela, a woman that had her baby stolen from the hospital many years ago. She still dreams that her child may be alive but realizes that may be too good to be true. There is Emma, a young woman trying to come to terms with her majorly messed up childhood as an adult. Then there is Kate, an intrepid reporter, who wants to find out the mystery behind the baby buried in the garden that captivates the whole country. This book had tons of twists and turns and definitely kept me guessing.

Thrillers are still one genre that I don't seem to get around to all that much but during the summer, sometimes you just want a book that is going to take you on a wild ride and this book certainly does that. It's not too fast paced but the twists and turns make this book thrilling. There were a few points in the book where I really thought I had everything figured out only to have Barton turn everything on its head again and again. I really liked how she was able to do this! She definitely knows how to build up excitement.

Another thing that I liked is that she actually puts a lot into making sure her characters aren't flat (a flaw that often seems to be hiding in more action oriented books). I especially enjoyed reading about Emma and Jude, her mother. Jude is a terribly flawed, sort of horrible character that doesn't seem to get that the world does not revolve around her. Although she wants a relationship with Emma, she seems to want to make sure it is a contentious, strained relationship at every turn. Emma seems to have some deep-rooted issues that are slowly unraveled throughout the book.

Overall, this is a good read that will keep you on your toes!


 

Friday, July 7, 2017

#HNS2017 Wrap Up





Last week, I got back from Portland, Oregon where I attended the Historical Novel Society conference. This was my third HNS and I loved every minute of it. It was nice to see people that I only really get to see in person every other year when I go to this conference.

The location was fabulous this year! The hotel where I stayed and where the conference was was right in downtown Portland, which is an amazing city. The public transportation is great. The city is clean and also has got to be the quietest city that I have ever been to.

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View from Pittock Mansion.


The conference itself was great! It felt much bigger than the previous conferences. On one hand, that meant more sessions to go to but it also meant more sessions to choose from. There were easily more than one session I wanted to attend each time slot. The bigger conference also meant that there were a lot of people I barely got to see and even a few people that I knew were there, was hoping to meet, and just ran out of time.

One of my favorite sessions during the conferences was one called "History Through Hooch." We drank everything from mead to gin martinis and talked about the alcohol during the times from the drinks we were drinking. I tried absinthe for the first time and I have to say the preparation (pouring the absinthe and then water over a sugar cube resting on a nifty spoon) outweighed the drink itself (I don't like licorice).

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I was also lucky enough to add a couple days on to the end of my trip and thanks to an amazing new friend, I got to see a lot of the surrounding area! Oregon is beautiful and I would love to go back someday! I'm hoping that maybe I can back someday and next time I'll bring my fam!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

2017 Reading Challenges - June Check In

Here's where I am with my reading challenges! 
Here is the original post about all of the reading challenges I'm taking on. The date listed after each book is the date I completed the book. 



PopSugar Monthly Challenge

  • January (A book with one of the four seasons in the title ): Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (1/25)
  • February (A book by a person of color): Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang (2/15) 
  • March: A book about an interesting woman: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (3/25) 
  • April (A book with an unreliable narrator): We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4/6)
  • May (A novel set during wartime ): The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan (5/6)
  • June (A book involving travel): News of the World by Paulette Jiles (6/18)

 PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Basic

  •  A book recommended by a librarian: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt (1/19)
  • A book you loved as a child: Matilda by Roald Dahl (1/12)
  • A book with a subtitle: Caught in the Revolution: Petrograd, Russia, 1917 – A World on the Edge  by Helen Rappaport (2/3)
  • A book that's published in 2017: The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak (2/5)
  • A book with a red spine: Stalin's Daughter by Rosemary Sullivan (2/8)
  • A book of letters: 100 Love Notes by Hyong Yi (2/13) 
  • A book about food: A Square Meal by Jane Ziegelman, Andrew Coe (2/27)
  • A book written by someone you admire: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (3/1) 
  • A book by an author from a country you've never visited: Havana Real by Yoani Sanchez (3/5)
  • A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you: Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina (3/5) 
  • A novel set during wartime:The Orphan's Tale by Pam Jenoff (3/10) 
  • A book set in two different time periods: A Bridge Across the Ocean bySusan Meissner (3/12)
  • A book with a cat on the cover: A Few of the Girls by Maeve Binchy (3/14)
  • A book by or about a person who has a disability: The Secret Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach (3/14)
  • A book about an interesting woman: Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton (3/22)
  • A book with pictures: Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (3/28)
  • A book by a person of color: Born a Crime by Trevor Noah (3/31)
  • A book with a title that's a character's name: The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith (4/1)
  • A book from a nonhuman perspective: Watership Down by Richard Adams (4/13)
  • A book involving travel: The Gods of Tango by Carolina de Robertis (4/19)
  • A book set in the wilderness: The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Advanced 

  • A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Radius of Us by Marie Marquadt (1/23)
  • A book about a difficult topic: Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen (3/2) 
  • A book with an eccentric character: Eggshells by Catriona Lally (3/14)  
  • An audiobook: Identical by Ellen Hopkins (5/1)
  • A book recommended by an author you love: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (6/28) 

Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge

  • Read a debut novel: The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee (1/6)
  • Read an all ages comic: Scenes from an Impending Marriage by Adrian Tomine (1/14)
  • Read a book you've read before: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (1/19)
  • Read a book about war: Stolen Beauty by Laurie Lico Albanese (1/29)
  • Read a fantasy novel.: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (1/31)
  • Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.: The Wicked City by Beatriz Williams 2/9)
  • Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (3/11)
  • Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.: Our Own Private Universe by Robin Talley (3/23) 
  • Read a book about books: A World Between Two Covers by Ann Morgan (3/26) 
  • Read a book published by a micropress: Concepcion and the Baby Brokers by Deborah Clearman (4/6)
  • Read a travel memoir: Schadenfreude by Rebecca Schuman (4/18)
  • Read a book published between 1900 and 1950: I Change Worlds by Anna Louise Strong
  • Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative: Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
  • Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.: China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan (5/5)
  •  Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.: Odes to Common Things by Pablo Neruda (5/12) 
  • Read a book about sports: Moneyball by Michael Lewis (6/6)

Curious Iguana's Read Broader
  • Peek into the Past: Putin Country by Anne Garrels (1/7)
  • Justice for All: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (2/1)
  • Justice for All: Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf (2/6)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Chosen Maiden (3/5) 
  • LGBTQ+ Perspectives: Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): One Child by Mei Fong
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Armchair Adventures: Kindred by Octavia Butler (5/7)
  • Global Voices: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (6/1) 
  • Small Press Works in Translation: Before the Feast by Sara Stanisic (6/5)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Peek Into the Past): Bears in the Streets by Lisa Dickey (6/15) 

Challenge Totals:
  • January: 10 books
  • February: 9 books
  • March: 19 books 
  • April: 11 books
  • May: 5 books
  • June: 6 books 
 
How did it go this month?

Slow and steady! It's looking like I already have most of the books for the rest of the challenges; it's just a matter of reading them!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review: Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva by Rosemary Sullivan

Title: Stalin's Daughter: The Extraordinary and Tumultuous Life of Svetlana Alliluyeva
Author: Rosemary Sullivan
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: June 2, 2015
Source: Library



What's the Story?:

From Goodreads.com: "Born in the early years of the USSR, Svetlana Stalin spent her youth inside the walls of the Kremlin. Communist Party privilege protected her from the mass starvation & purges that haunted Russia, but she didn't escape tragedy—the loss of everyone she loved, including her mother, two brothers, aunts & uncles, & a lover twice her age, deliberately exiled to Siberia by her father. Gradually learning of the extent of her father’s brutality after his death, Svetlana could no longer keep quiet & in 1967 defected to the USA—leaving her two children behind. Altho she was never a part of her father’s regime, she couldn't escape his legacy. Her American life was fractured; she moved frequently, married disastrously, shunned other Russian exiles & died poor in Spring Green, Wisc.

With access to KGB, CIA & Soviet government archives, as well as the close cooperation of Svetlana’s daughter, Sullivan pieces together her incredible life in an account of unprecedented intimacy. Epic in scope, it’s a revolutionary biography of a woman doomed to be a political prisoner of her father’s name. Sullivan explores a complicated character in her broader context without ever losing sight of her powerfully human story, in the process opening a closed, brutal world."


My Two Cents: 

"Stalin's Daughter" is the non-fiction story of Stalin's daughter Svetlana. She was, of course, a real person but her story reads much more like fiction. She grew up under a father who was larger-than-life. He alternated between being very kind and being mean and manipulative of her even when she was just a child.

When she was in her 40s, she gave up her Soviet citizenship and defected while on travel in India. She comes to the United States and is taken under the wing of the Secretary of State at the time, George Keenan. One would think that that might be the most exciting thing that happens in this book but you would be wrong! She joins a commune! She eventually marries an architect from Frank Lloyd Wright's Talesin, who happens to be the son of FLW's last wife, Olgivanna. And oh, Olgivanna ends up manipulating Svetlana too. It's a wild ride!

I love learning new history from books. I don't think before reading this book that I even knew that Stalin had a daughter. Her story is so very strange but so very fascinating. It's no wonder that it takes the author over 600 pages to tell her whole story. Svetlana is a person who I feel like I know after reading this book. She had a tumultuous life to say the very least.

Drawing on a wealth of resources, the author brings her story to life. This book is quite long but it flies by as Svetlana seems to have a habit of finding chaos wherever she goes. This was a great history but showed new light on some events that I knew nothing about before reading this book.


 


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