Friday, May 29, 2015

Review: The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri

Title: The Lowland
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Knopf
Publish Date: September 24, 2013
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Two brothers bound by tragedy; a fiercely brilliant woman haunted by her past; a country torn by revolution. A powerful new novel--set in both India and America--that explores the price of idealism and a love that can last long past death.

Growing up in Calcutta, born just fifteen months apart, Subhash and Udayan Mitra are inseparable brothers, one often mistaken for the other. But they are also opposites, with gravely different futures ahead of them. It is the 1960s, and Udayan--charismatic and impulsive--finds himself drawn to the Naxalite movement, a rebellion waged to eradicate inequity and poverty: he will give everything, risk all, for what he believes. Subhash, the dutiful son, does not share his brother's political passion; he leaves home to pursue a life of scientific research in a quiet, coastal corner of America.

But when Subhash learns what happened to his brother in the lowland outside their family's home, he comes back to India, hoping to pick up the pieces of a shattered family, and to heal the wounds Udayan left behind--including those seared in the heart of his brother's wife."

My Two Cents:

"The Lowland" is yet another great release by Jhumpa Lahiri, who is quickly becoming one of my must-read authors. This book looks at two very different brothers. Subhash leaves India to make a new life for himself in the United States. Udayan stays behind in India where he is drawn to the Naxalite movement. His idealism will put him in danger. This is a story of family ties and human nature written in Lahiri's fantastic writing style.

I knew nothing about the Naxalite movement before reading this book and I love when I can learn something new from a book. We see how Udayan gets wrapped up in the movement even when it puts his life in danger. Subhash is left to pick up the pieces of a shattered life and a shattered family. This is a really powerful book. The way that Lahiri writes her characters makes them seem incredibly real and like people that you could really come across in real life. We get to know the characters very well. This book covers a broad swath of time in the brothers' lives but it never feels as if Lahiri is rushing things in the telling of their story.

I really enjoyed this story. Stories about families are always interesting to me. I thought that Lahiri did a really good job of capturing the way that siblings interact with each other and how they care about each other even when they don't necessarily agree with what the other is doing. I will be anxiously awaiting the next release by Lahiri!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publish Date: September 10, 2013
Source: Owned

What's the Story?:

From "Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?"

My Two Cents:

"Fangirl" is yet another great book by Rainbow Rowell. When I pick up a book by this author, I know that I'm in for a treat. She is very quickly becoming one of those authors whose future releases are instant buys for me. "Fangirl" is the story of Cath, a young woman who is going to college for the first time. In the past, she has always leaned on her more outgoing twin, Wren, to steer her through life. When The twins go to college, Wren decides to forge out on her own leaving Cath behind. This is a coming-of-age novel that I really enjoyed.

Cath is a great character. Even though her sister has grown out of it, Cath is still very much into writing and reading and being incredibly obsessed by fan fiction about one of her favorite fictional characters from the Simon Snow series (which seems to be a take on Harry Potter). To some degree, she uses this make-believe world as an escape even though others seem to think that she's a little bit too old to be doing that. Even though I have never particularly been into fan fiction, there are a couple fictional characters that I could see being obsessed with. Cath finds this make-believe world to be very comforting and she continues to looking to her fan fiction writing to carry her through college.

I'm mentioned before that this book is also really a coming-of-age book. Once Cath gets to college and doesn't have her twin to lean on she realizes that she has to meet other people... or she could just stay in her room, which she seems happy to do at first. Eventually a love interest appears and really gets Cath out of her shell. There is a love triangle in this book, which is usually something that I don't particularly care for but in this case it really worked for the story. I like that the author was able to keep me on my toes with the triangle, which does not always happen. Overall, this book was a real treat!


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Review: Absolutely True Lies by Rachel Stuhler

Title: Absolutely True Lies
Author: Rachel Stuhler
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Touchstone
Publish Date: May 26, 2015
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "A fledgling entertainment writer stumbles into the gig of a lifetime writing a teenage pop star's memoir and soon realizes that the young celebrity's squeaky-clean image is purely a work of fiction.

Struggling writer Holly Gracin is on the verge of moving back home to upstate New York when she gets hired to write the memoirs of eighteen-year-old Daisy Mae Dixson, a former Nickelodeon child star who has moved seamlessly into both blockbuster movies and pop music.

Holly quickly realizes that Daisy's wholesome public image is purely a work of fiction, as Holly finds herself trailing the star as she travels around the world on yachts, gets stalked by paparazzi, and sneaks out of five-star hotels in the dead of night.

As Holly struggles to write a flattering portrait of a teenage millionaire who only eats "nightshades" and treats her employees like slaves, Daisy has a public meltdown - and suddenly, her book is the cornerstone of resurrecting her image. But working at all hours trailing a pop star has taken its toll, and Holly must decide if becoming the ultimate insider is worth losing a starring role in her own life."

My Two Cents:

In "Absolutely True Lies," Holly is a down on her luck entertainment writer and Hollywood who's just trying to make it. She's working a dead end job so when she has the opportunity to be a ghostwriter for an autobiography of one of Hollywood's hottest young teen starlets, she jumps at the chance. She has no idea how this is going to upend her life.

The premise of the story was interesting to me. Hollywood and all of the things that go on in that crazy town are interesting to me but definitely not anywhere where I would want to find myself so reading a book about all of the Hollywood craziness and living vicariously through Holly was perfect for me. This is a good light read. It takes readers on Holly's journey from L.A. to Miami to Rome to New York as she follows around Daisy Mae Dixson, the young starlet who's wholesome, squeaky clean image is simply a ruse. Daisy reminded me a lot of a Miley Cyrus or an Amanda Bynes or a lot of other young Hollywood starlets. Holly sticks around because she wants to do a good job and this also may be the only shot she has for her career to finally take off.

I enjoyed the story however the author definitely has a tendency to tell more than show in the book, which I found myself a bit frustrated with. A lot of the characters actions are explained so explicitly that it makes the book lose a little bit of steam. I like the work that a reader does as they are reading the book in order to really digest what is going on and that opportunity is not really there in this book. Sometimes it's better to leave some of the detail to the actions in the book rather than saying explicitly what is happening. This did bog down the story quite a bit. Overall, I enjoyed the story but I wish that there was a little less spelled out so explicitly for me.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Title: Boy, Snow, Bird
Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: March 6, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty—the opposite of the life she’s left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman.

A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she’d become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy’s daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitmans as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold."

My Two Cents:

"Boy Snow Bird" is a book by Helen Oyeyemi, an author that I had been wanting to try for awhile. It is the story of Boy, a young woman who is running away from her troubled and difficult past in New York City. She finds herself in Massachusetts, which is where she meets Arturo, a man she falls in love with and marries. Boy then becomes the stepmother to Arturo's daughter, Snow. But when Arturo and Boy have a child together, Boy realizes that Arturo and his family are light-skinned African-Americans who are passing White. It's the 1950s and this is a scandal!

One of the things that made me interested in reading this book is that it was billed as being a retelling of the fairytale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. However, this isn't exactly a retelling. There are definitely elements from that story such as their recurrence of the appearance of mirrors in the story as well as Boy being sort of a wicked stepmother to Arturo's first daughter, Snow. That being said I wasn't disappointed in this book even though it turned out quite differently from what I thought it was going to be in the beginning.

This is my first time reading this author but I know that I will be back for more. I like the way that she was able to weave some magical realism throughout the story, which is one of my favorite elements. The author also has a really interesting way of using subtle details in order to make the reader think.

I did wish that we as readers were able to get a little bit closer to the characters in the book. Even though the book is narrated from their perspective, it still felt as if in many cases they were keeping the reader at arms' length. The sparkling writing made up for that at least a little bit for me!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Review: The Curse of Anne Boleyn by C.C. Humphreys

Title: The Curse of Anne Boleyn
Author: C.C. Humphreys
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: May 1, 2015
Source: Netgalley

What's the Story?:

From "Years have gone by since the events surrounding the death of Anne Boleyn. But her missing hand and all that it represents to the dark world of 16th-century Europe still draws the powerful to seek it out. Jean Rombaud - the French executioner of the first novel - has grown old, both in age and spirit. Wearied by the betrayal of a son and the scorn of a wife, he fights in the seemingly never-ending siege of Siena. Meanwhile, Gianni Rombaud has forsaken everything his ageing father stands for and now kills heathen for the Inquisition in Rome. Then he is summoned by Cardinal Carafa himself. His masters no longer merely want his dagger in the hearts of Jews, they want the hand of the dead queen... But only three people know where it is buried, and one of them is Gianni's father..."

My Two Cents:

"The Curse of Anne Boleyn" is a re-release of the second book in C.C. Humphreys' French Executioner series about Jean Rombaud. Before reading this book, I did not realize that this book was the second in a series. I must tell you that had I known that, I would have read the first book first as I had a lot of questions about the characters in this book. The premise of this book is that when Anne Boleyn was buried, one of her hands was cut off. It's now been many years since her death and several people are now after the missing hand in this book.

I have read several other books by C.C. Humphreys at this point in time and many of the things that I liked about his previous books are also present in this book. Although this is billed as historical fiction, it can also be build it as historical action. In this book, the French executioner Jean Rombaud is now older. The book focuses on him as well as on his son, Gianni. There are also some sections about Princess Elizabeth, Anne Boleyn's daughter and her captivity. To me, these sections were more compelling in a lot of ways. I am a huge fan of Elizabeth I and it was interesting to me to see Humphreys' take on the events surrounding her mother who she barely knew's death.

Here is where you have to take into account the fact that I did not read the first book. I would've liked to see a little bit more development of the characters. The focus is really on the action of the book and therefore I feel like I didn't really get to know The characters well at all. I really wanted to know what their motivations were and what made them tick.

For other history lovers, I enjoyed that this book covers the siege of Siena, Italy, something that I did not know much about at all. The author uses a lot of historical detail to help the reader understand all of the different parties involved and that historical event. I always like learning something new! Again, I want to go back and read the first book in the series to see if it gives me any more background on any of the characters in this book. This book is great for readers who are looking for an action story with a little bit of mystery included.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Review: The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck

Title: The House of Hawthorne
Author: Erika Robuck
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: May 5, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Beset by crippling headaches from a young age and endowed with a talent for drawing, Sophia is discouraged by her well-known New England family from pursuing a woman’s traditional roles. But from their first meeting, Nathaniel and Sophia begin an intense romantic relationship that despite many setbacks leads to their marriage. Together, they will cross continents, raise children, and experience all the beauty and tragedy of an exceptional partnership. Sophia’s vivid journals and her masterful paintings kindle a fire in Nathaniel, inspiring his writing. But their children’s needs and the death of loved ones steal Sophia’s energy and time for her art, fueling in her a perennial tug-of-war between fulfilling her domestic duties and pursuing her own desires.

Spanning the years from the 1830s to the Civil War, and moving from Massachusetts to England, Portugal, and Italy, The House of Hawthorne explores the tension within a famous marriage of two soulful, strong-willed people, each devoted to the other but also driven by a powerful need to explore the far reaches of their creative impulses. It is the story of a forgotten woman in history, who inspired one of the greatest writers of American literature.…"

My Two Cents: 

 "The House of Hawthorne" is Erika Robuck's latest historical fiction. I enjoyed "Hemingway's Girl" so I was looking forward to reading this book (I need to get on reading Robuck's other books - so many books, so little time). This book focuses on the relationship and marriage between author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and his wife Sophia. Nathaniel is definitely the more well-known of the Hawthornes, however, his wife was also an artist in her own right.

I did not know much about Nathaniel Hawthorne's life before reading this book. It's always interesting to me to read historical fiction that takes a look at historical figures that you may not be familiar with. It seems like a great way to get an introduction! The only thing that I've ever read by Hawthorne is "The Scarlet Letter," so I was looking forward to reading about the man behind the book. Robuck looks at the interesting relationship between Nathaniel and Sophia. Sophia both inspired Nathaniel but was also an artist in her own right, who fought her own demons.

The book is told from Sophia's perspective, which I really liked. She had a interesting life in her own right before she met Nathaniel where she ended up in Cuba where she was trying to recover from health issues that would end up plaguing her for her entire life. I liked that we get to know her separately from Nathaniel as well as what they are like when they are together. Robuck breathes life into Hawthorne and we get to know him in a very intimately.

The relationship between Nathaniel and Sophia was interesting and it's easy to see why the author was drawn to writing about this couple. They fight a lot of the same demons as well as some different ones but in many ways, they bring out the best in each other. When Nathaniel and Sophia first meet, the sparks are almost instantaneous. They recognize in each other something that they don't find in a lot of other people: a love of art and an understanding of the importance of solitude. When they get married, there are some naysayers (including the famous Margaret Fuller) who say that art will be put on the proverbial back burner and neither Nathaniel nor Sophia will create anything great again. In the case of Nathaniel, he writes some of his most famous books while he is married. Sophia has a much different experience. The book explores how she copes with this and what she is able to create as part of the family.

Another thing that I enjoyed within this book is reading about all of the Hawthorne's other friends. Much of the book is set in Massachusetts, specifically Concord where the family makes their home. Concord was a haven for many writers including Henry Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott. It was interesting to see a different side of these writers than just their books.

The writing of this book was great! Again, I really liked that Sophia narrated the book. She has a wholly original voice and all of the detail made her seem real. I also really liked this book takes you so many different places. Although most of the book is set in Massachusetts, throughout the book the characters travel to England, Italy, and Portugal, which Robuck is able to bring to life with rich detail. I recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a good portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family or wants to do some armchair traveling.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Welcome, Katherine and Hadley!

So if you follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, you may have caught wind that my girls arrived about a month ago. It was actually a month ago yesterday and it has been a whirlwind, an absolutely amazing, fantastic whirlwind but a whirlwind nonetheless. This is a post that I have been meaning to write for awhile but trying to find the time and more importantly, the words has been hard.

Before we found out that we were having twins, I was totally prepared for the idea of having a baby. One. single. baby. When we found out that we were getting two babies at the very same time, my head was spinning. I feel like I spent a lot of my pregnancy just trying to wrap my head around the idea that we would be having two identical twin girl babies that would indeed be arriving at the same time.  On top of that, twin pregnancies, especially identical twin pregnancies can be scary. All the sudden, my husband and I found ourselves speaking in acronyms and weird terms. Talking about and worrying about the complexities of MoDi twins, TTTS, TAPS, and so on and so forth became de riguer for us. We live in the Washington, D.C. area so acronyms are just a way of life mostly but these are acronyms that frightened me in so many different ways.

After being on partial bed rest for a month and then full bed rest for almost two months after that, I got up on the morning of April 16th to use the bathroom. When I came back to bed, Phil asked me what time it was. I replied "4:30. We still have time to sleep!" Right at that moment, my water broke. This was exactly a week before I was supposed to have the girls (at 36 weeks and 4 days - here's the other thing about identical twins is that they have to be taken early because of increased risks after 37 weeks). I panicked. I wasn't ready. I was worried that because the girls were coming even earlier than expected that we'd run all sorts of risks such as health problems and NICU time. Luckily, my dear husband is a man of action and started flying around the house to pack up the last few things that I hadn't packed for my hospital stay yet while calling my doctor on call.

We got to the hospital and got signed in. The next few hours went quickly and slowly at the same time. We waited in triage to figure out what the next step would be. Phil did his best to keep my mind from running and off of how badly the contractions started to hurt. Finally, my doctor came in and said that all we were waiting for was an OR.

By 10:35 a.m., Katherine Mary was born.

By 10:37 a.m., Hadley Elizabeth was born.

With everything that I was worried about and had fixated on for the previous several months, the girls came out perfectly healthy. Katherine only weighed 4 pounds, 7 ounces and Hadley weighed 4 pounds, 11 ounces yet they were fierce. Both girls blew their Apgar scores out of the water and neither one had to have any NICU time at all!!!

 I knew I loved these girls before they arrived but what has been so amazing to me is how quickly it felt as if they have always been here. It sounds trite but I cannot imagine my life without them. Yesterday, they turned a month old and they have already grown so much. I feel like we are finally hitting a rhythm somewhat!

Anyone that knows me at all can tell you that I like plans. I really like plans. I am your classic "Type AI like to have things set and admittedly when my plans don't work out exactly the way that I had planned, it throws me off. My pregnancy was not smooth. I had to cancel a trip to India for a good friend's wedding and our babymoon to Philadelphia. I was on partial bed rest beginning at the end of January. By the end of February, I was on full bed rest. Just a few days before the girls arrived, I was diagnosed with mild pre-eclampsia. It was frustrating and actually quite scary for me at some points. If nothing else, my pregnancy and the birth of my girls taught me that you can't plan everything and the things that you don't plan don't always turn out badly. In fact, things can turn out quite well. Sometimes, the ability to be flexible and to roll with the punches is the only thing that you can plan for and that's okay. When you're open to all the different possibilities out there, truly amazing things can happen.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review: The Sound of Glass by Karen White

Title: The Sound of Glass
Author: Karen White
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: May 12, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "It has been two years since the death of Merritt Heyward’s husband, Cal, when she receives unexpected news—Cal’s family home in Beaufort, South Carolina, bequeathed by Cal’s reclusive grandmother, now belongs to Merritt.

Charting the course of an uncertain life—and feeling guilt from her husband’s tragic death—Merritt travels from her home in Maine to Beaufort, where the secrets of Cal’s unspoken-of past reside among the pluff mud and jasmine of the ancestral Heyward home on the Bluff. This unknown legacy, now Merritt’s, will change and define her as she navigates her new life—a new life complicated by the arrival of her too young stepmother and ten-year-old half-brother.

Soon, in this house of strangers, Merritt is forced into unraveling the Heyward family past as she faces her own fears and finds the healing she needs in the salt air of the Low Country."

My Two Cents:

"The Sound of Glass" is a story about a couple families who are connected in very unexpected ways. When Merritt inherits her husband's grandmother's house after he passes away, she leaves New England for a new life and a new start in South Carolina. She's hoping for some time to herself to deal with some of the hurt she felt at the hand of her husband. Her look for solitude is broken quickly when her stepmother, Loralee, and her half-brother, Owen show up at her house looking for a place to stay. Loralee says that they're only going to stay "a little while" but "a little while" turns into something much longer. Eventually Merritt begins to understand that her life is better with people surrounding her rather than trying to shut herself off from the world. As she is trying to put herself back together, she meets her late husband's brother, Gibbes, who will change her life in a lot of ways. This is a story of family, love, hurt and redemption and there is a good deal of mystery at the center of it. In the 1950s, Merritt's husband's grandmother witnesses a plane crash over her home. She becomes obsessed with trying to figure out what happened and why. In this book, we learn that the past can be connected to the present in the most surprising of ways.

I really enjoyed this book. This is the first book that I've ever read by Karen White but I know this is not going to be the last time that I read anything by her. There's so much going for this book! It has a lot of great characters, who feel really real. There's an interesting mystery that definitely kept me guessing through out the book. There's good thoughts on how important family is whether it's the family we have or the family we choose. There is even a good romance! I ate it all up. This is definitely one of those books that I was sad about when it ended. I wanted more!

The characters were definitely stand out for me. Even with as prickly as she is, I really liked Merritt. You can see that she's hiding a lot and is trying to cope with a lot on her own. I definitely felt for her. Loralee is loving and always has a little bit of advice for every given situation. These women are very different from each other however when they finally come together it's something really unique and special. I also just adored Gibbes. What a great guy!

I don't want to give too much away about the mystery surrounding the plane crash at the center of the book so I won't say too much on that aspect. I love when an author can keep me on my toes and keep me guessing and the author definitely did that throughout this book. I definitely didn't see what was coming at the end of the book! It's always nice not to be able to guess how things are going to come together.

I think this book had a really good message about how the past doesn't have to be doomed to repeat itself even when it seems like it's inevitable. Overall, this book was definitely a delight and I look forward to reading more by the author in the future!


Review: Wolf Bride by Elizabeth Moss

Title: Wolf Bride
Author: Elizabeth Moss
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publish Date: May 5, 2015
Source: Netgalley

What's the Story?:

From "England, 1536. Lord Wolf, hardened soldier and expert lover, has come to King Henry VIII's court to claim his new bride: a girl who has intrigued him since he first saw her riding across the Yorkshire moors. Eloise Tyrell, now lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne Boleyn, has other ideas. She has no desire to submit to a man she barely knows and who - though she is loath to admit it - frightens her not a little. Then comes that first kiss. It awakens in both a fierce desire that bares them to the soul. But as the court erupts into scandal around the ill-fated Queen, Eloise sees first-hand what happens when powerful men tire of their wives. Dare she surrender her body and her heart?"

My Two Cents:

"Wolf Bride" is a historical romance/ erotic fiction with a heavy dose of hotness. It's set during the time of the Tudors (books like this show me that I am still not over the Tudors). As this book opens, King Henry VIII is married to Anne Boleyn, who is suspected of having dalliances with many men other than her husband. However, this book does not focus on Anne Boleyn or Henry really but one of her needs and waiting, Eloise.

Eloise is a naïve woman who has promised to a man who scares her a little bit while at the same time also intrigues her. Lord Wolf is powerful and a little bit intimidating. When Eloise becomes his wife, she is attracted to him in a way that she has never been attracted to another man. I really loved the relationship between Lord Wolf and Eloise. The author did a great job of showing the development of the relationship between the two characters so that everything that happened felt really real. The way that their relationship evolves over the course of the book was really interesting to me. There is a ton of passion and a lot of hotness and this book which I really enjoyed!

A lot of the book focuses on the initial misunderstandings that Lord Wolf and Eloise have of each other. It almost feels as if they are chasing each other in a way, of which I really enjoyed. While for most of the book, the Tudor setting merely plays a backdrop for Lord Wolf's and Eloise's relationship, I did appreciate that the author really tied the characters to their places at court. I think a lot of times historical romances and eroticas can suffer because the time period in which they are set seems undeveloped. This is definitely not the case here! Overall, I enjoyed this book!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Review: The Silver Witch by Paula Brackston

Title: The Silver Witch
Author: Paula Brackston
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Publish Date: April 21, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "A year after her husband’s sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat’s death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her – a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she’s near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.

On this same lake in Celtic times lived Seren, a witch and shaman. She was respected but feared, kept separate from the community for her strange looks. When a vision came to her of the Prince amid a nest of vipers she warned of betrayal from one of his own. Prince Brynach both loved and revered her, but could not believe someone close to him wished him harm, even as the danger grew.

In her own time, Tilda’s grief begins to fade beside her newfound powers and a fresh love. When she explores the lake’s ancient magic and her own she discovers Seren, the woman in her vision of the boat. Their two lives strangely mirror each others, suggesting a strong connection between the women. As Tilda comes under threat from a dark power, one reminiscent of Seren’s prophecy, she must rely on Seren and ancient magic if death and disaster are not to shatter her life once more."

My Two Cents:

When Tilda moves to the small cottage on a Welsh lake that she and her husband were supposed to live in before he passed away suddenly, she feels like maybe she is working towards closure with dealing with her husband's death. What she finds is that there is a whole new world awaiting her that will shock and surprise. Brackston's latest offering has a heavy dose of magical realism that pulled me in. This is another one of her Witch books that I ate up

Tilda is definitely an interesting character to me. She starts the book being very upset about her young husband's untimely death and rightfully so. She pushes away anyone that gets too close and seems to want to shut herself away from the world. Very quickly, she realizes that this new cottage on a lake may hold the key to showing her who she actually is and that she can have a life after her husband. A lot of the book focuses on her self realization and she goes from being totally unaware of her and the power of the past that she holds to realizing that things are not always as they seem. I really enjoyed following her journey!

Tilda is not the only character in the book. The book is also told from the perspective of Seren, a Celtic healer and witch who lives in the past. Tilda and And Seren will be connected in ways that neither one can imagine. Although I enjoyed reading about Tilda's journey, I really enjoyed the writing of Seren's sections a little bit better as we get a first person point of view of her life back in the 900s. Tilda's sections are told from the third person present point of view which almost made me feel that we were being held at arms length as readers. The book started out being fast paced but as the book went on, I did think it lost a little bit of momentum but not enough to take away too much for my enjoyment of the book.


Review: Abe & Fido by Matthew Algeo

Title: Abe & Fido
Author: Matthew Algeo
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Chicago Review Press
Publish Date: April 1, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

 What's the Story?:

From "In early 1861, as he prepared to leave his home in Springfield, Illinois, to move into the White House, Abraham Lincoln faced many momentous tasks, but none he dreaded more than telling his two youngest sons, Willie and Tad, that the family's beloved pet dog, Fido, would not be accompanying them to Washington. Lincoln, who had adopted Fido about five years earlier, was afraid the skittish dog wouldn't survive the long rail journey, so he decided to leave the mutt behind with friends in Springfield. Abe & Fido tells the story of two friends, an unlikely tandem who each became famous and died prematurely. It also explores the everyday life of Springfield in the years leading up to the Civil War, as well as Lincoln's sometimes radical views on animal welfare, and how they shaped his life and his presidency. It's the story of a master and his dog, living through historic, tumultuous times."

My Two Cents:

Abraham Lincoln has always been one of my favorite presidents. There's a lot of reasons that I like him. He was a reader. He seemed to have a great sense of humor. He was very smart. He seems like he had some really fantastic life experiences and it's hard to get around that whole presidential career. In Abe and Fido, I found a new reason to love our 16th president. Apparently he was a huge animal lover, as am I. In this book, we learn about his history with animals. This book includes a whole lot more as well. If you're looking for a light historical read, this may be a great pick for you.

I was attracted to this book by the idea of learning something about Abraham Lincoln's life that I didn't really know about before. I loved that he was an animal lover and wanted to know more about that aspect of his life. This book includes a lot more about many other famous people who loved animals. I love history books that are off the beaten path and this but definitely fits that bill.

The writing of the book is pretty good. It's clear that the author did a lot of research. There is a lot of information on Abraham Lincoln and his animals, particularly his "yeller" dog, Fido, as suggested by the title. During Abraham Lincoln's time, Fido was so famous that after Lincoln was assassinated, people ran around trying to grab pieces of Fido's hair as a souvenir!

The book also includes a lot of other information about other people and their animals. While it's interesting, some of the information simply seems to be thrown in there so parts of the book feel like a list of interesting facts. I liked the facts but the way that the book was organized made it a little bit disjointed. Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It is always fantastic to learn something new about a famous person who I've already read a ton about.


Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Review: I Regret Nothing by Jen Lancaster

Title: I Regret Nothing
Author: Jen Lancaster
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: May 5, 2015 (Today!)
Source: I received this book from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

What's the Story?:

From "Sure Jen has made mistakes. She spent all her money from a high-paying job on shoes, clothes, and spa treatments. She then carried a Prada bag to the unemployment office. She wrote a whole memoir about dieting…but didn’t lose weight. She embarked on a quest for cultural enlightenment that only cemented her love for John Hughes movies and Kraft American Singles. She tried to embrace everything Martha Stewart, while living with a menagerie of rescue cats and dogs. (Glitter…everywhere.)

Mistakes are one thing; regrets are another.

After a girls’ weekend in Savannah makes her realize that she is—yikes!—middle-aged (binge watching is so the new binge drinking), Jen decides to make a bucket list and seize the day, even if that means having her tattoo removed at one hundred times the cost of putting it on.

From attempting a juice cleanse to studying Italian, from learning to ride a bike to starting a new business, and from sampling pasta in Rome to training for a 5K, Jen is turning a mid-life crisis into a mid-life opportunity, sharing her sometimes bumpy—but always hilarious—attempts to better her life…again."

My Two Cents:

There are a handful of authors that make me giggle deliriously and uncontrollably. One of those authors is Jen Lancaster so I was absolutely thrilled to be able to get my hands on a copy of her latest book, compliments of the publisher (a thousand thank yous!!!). Jen Lancaster's memoirs are so funny and I've never been disappointed with one of her memoirs. "I Regret Nothing" is definitely in that category. If you haven't read anything by her and you're looking for a really funny and witty but that will keep you reading long into the night, this one is a great choice.

In this book, Jen has realized that her 40s are upon her and she wants to begin to do some of the things that she always said that she would do that she has yet to get around doing. Who doesn't have a list like that? Jen's list will take her from buying an adult tricycle (seriously they exist) to taking Italian lessons. All of these items are undertaken with that signature Jen Lancaster panache that I have come to love in so many of her books.

One of the things I I have always really enjoyed about Lancaster's memoirs is that she has a way of writing that makes you feel like you are one of her closest friends. You get to see her successes and you also get to see her failures. The successes are sweet but usually the failures tend to be more funnier to me. Jen obviously gets the joke as the failures are infused with a dose of very funny snark and self deprecation on Jen's part.


Review: Wild Wood by Posie Graeme-Evans

Title: Wild Wood
Author: Posie Graeme-Evans
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: March 3, 2015
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review

What's the Story?:

From "Jesse Marley calls herself a realist; she’s all about the here and now. But in the month before Charles and Diana’s wedding in 1981 all her certainties are blown aside by events she cannot control. First she finds out she’s adopted. Then she’s run down by a motor bike. In a London hospital, unable to speak, she must use her left hand to write. But Jesse’s right-handed. And as if her fingers have a will of their own, she begins to draw places she’s never been, people from another time—a castle, a man in armor. And a woman’s face.

Rory Brandon, Jesse’s neurologist, is intrigued. Maybe his patient’s head trauma has brought out latent abilities. But wait. He knows the castle. He’s been there.

So begins an extraordinary journey across borders and beyond time, a chase that takes Jesse to Hundredfield, a Scottish stronghold built a thousand years ago by a brutal Norman warlord. What’s more, Jesse Marley holds the key to the castle’s secret and its sacred history. And Hundredfield, with its grim Keep, will help Jesse find her true lineage. But what does the legend of the Lady of the Forest have to do with her? That’s the question at the heart of Wild Wood. There are no accidents. There is only fate."

My Two Cents:

Wild Wood is the story of Jesse, a young woman living in 1981 who finds out as an adult that she has been adopted. She freaks out and leaves the only home she's ever known in Australia to figure out her origins in Great Britain. When she arrives in England she suffers a accident that makes her end up in the hospital. Strange things start happening after her accident and she can draw things that she has never seen before. Her neurologist, Rory, finds out that she may be drawing pictures of a castle from the estate that he grew up on. I had seen the story billed as being the next Outlander. While not totally unfounded (at least when it comes to the structure of the story), this book left me wanting a little bit more after expecting to have a more Outlander-ish story.

The story is told in two times. The present-day time is 1981 and Prince Charles is about to marry Diana Spencer. The past time is set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1300s. The author differentiates between the two time periods by telling them in different voices. This gets a little bit confusing at times.

This book has a lot of mystery surrounding Jesse's contact with the past as it's figured out through the story. Her own origin story is also figured out. I was really drawn in by the beginning of the book, however, eventually the story lost me a little bit towards the end. The momentum seemed to slow for me during the middle.

All in all, this book was a mixed bag for me. I did like the writing style, particularly that of the sections of the book set in the distant past.  I would love to try some other books by this author.


Monday, May 4, 2015

Giveaway Winners!

I have a couple winners to announce today!

One Plus One:
Lisamarie H.

The Invention of Wings:
Meredith M.

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