Sunday, December 25, 2016

Giveaway Winner and Warm Wishes for the Holiday Season!

Hello! I have one giveaway winner to announce!

The Summer that Melted Everything:

I will be taking a break until the new year to spend time with friends and family (and hopefully a lot of books). May your holidays be filled with warmth and happiness (and also a lot of books)!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

My Bookish Christmas List

If you're reading this blog, I can probably guess some of what is on your Christmas list! Is it books? It's probably books! My Christmas List is filled with books!

Here's what I'm asking Santa for this year:

Backman is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers!

This is one of those books that I've been meaning to get around to reading. It's time!

This book sounds cute and I love anything set in London.

I just read this same author's book on Spain. This one is about food culture in Japan. Yummy!

Fiction set in Central America? Family Secrets? Sign me up!
I haven't heard a bad thing about this book!

What's on your wishlist?

Monday, December 19, 2016

TLC Book Tours: The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

Title: The Golden Son
Author: Shilpi Somaya Gowda
Format: Paperback
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publish Date: November 29, 2016
Source: HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "The first of his family to go to college, Anil Patel, the golden son, carries the weight of tradition and his family’s expectations when he leaves his tiny Indian village to begin a medical residency in Dallas, Texas, at one of the busiest and most competitive hospitals in America. When his father dies, Anil becomes the de facto head of the Patel household and inherits the mantle of arbiter for all of the village’s disputes. But he is uneasy with the custom, uncertain that he has the wisdom and courage demonstrated by his father and grandfather. His doubts are compounded by the difficulties he discovers in adjusting to a new culture and a new job, challenges that will shake his confidence in himself and his abilities.

Back home in India, Anil’s closest childhood friend, Leena, struggles to adapt to her demanding new husband and relatives. Arranged by her parents, the marriage shatters Leena’s romantic hopes, and eventually forces her to make a desperate choice that will hold drastic repercussions for herself and her family. Though Anil and Leena struggle to come to terms with their identities thousands of miles apart, their lives eventually intersect once more—changing them both and the people they love forever."

My Two Cents:

"The Golden Son" is the story of Anil, a 20-something year old who leaves behind everything he knows in India to complete his medical residency in Dallas, Texas. While he is trying to figure out the United States while trying to stay true to himself and his family, his childhood friend, Leena is forced into an loveless marriage. Both of these characters will have to figure out how to stay true to themselves while moving forward with their lives. This is a good book

I love books set in India, a place that I am absolutely fascinated with, so the setting appealed to me. As I mentioned, the book is also partially set in Dallas. I loved the juxtaposition between the unknown and the known for me. I really thought that it helped me appreciate just how different Anil's life is between India and the United States. In the U.S., Anil is a fish out of water. He is trying to get used to the culture and he's trying to understand how things are done at the hospital where he is doing his residency. He messes up a lot and begins to lose confidence at first. When he returns to India on a visit, he is looked to as a wise adviser after his father passes away. The difference in how he is seen in both places was fascinating to me. 

Even with all of Anil's trials and tribulations, I was even more interested in Leena's story. As a woman in India, Leena has fewer choices than men like Anil. She is supposed to be a subservient wife and she has a very hard time figuring out her place in her new household. Some of her story is very hard to read because you feel so bad for the things that she is going through but I think it's so important to read stories that make you uncomfortable because it'll make you think a little bit more. Leena's story still unfortunately rings true for many women around the world.

The writing of the book was good. The subject matter is fascinating, which helped to carry the story. There were a couple places that could used more showing and less telling. There were also a few places that could have been smoothed out a bit in order to increase the flow of the book. Overall, I loved how the characters were written and that the author looked at two very different perspectives throughout the book. That definitely pulled me in!

Friday, December 16, 2016

HBO, The Night Of, and Game of Thrones

It has been so cold this week and with it getting as dark as early as it has been, I really want to just curl up into a ball and watch something good on t.v. (only when I'm taking a break from the books). Thanks to Think Jam and HBO, I was able to get my hands on "The Night Of" and Season 6 of "Game of Thrones."

Synopsis of "The Night Of:"

In The Night Of, Pakistani-American college student Nasir “Naz” Khan, who lives with his parents in Queens, NY, takes his father’s taxi to go to a party in Manhattan. But what starts as a perfect night for Naz becomes a nightmare when he’s arrested for murder. The series examines the police investigation, the legal proceedings, the criminal justice system and Rikers Island, where the accused await trial.

Synopsis of Season 6 of Game of Thrones:

The most-watched series in HBO history and a worldwide TV phenomenon, Game of Thrones returns with another power season. This year, after the shocking developments at the end of Season 5 – including Jon Snow's bloody fate at the hands of Castle Black mutineers, Daenerys' near-demise at the fighting pits of Meereen, and Cersei's public humiliation in the streets of King's Landing – survivors from all parts of Westeros and Essos regroup to press forward, inexorably, towards their uncertain individual fates. Familiar faces will forge new alliances to bolster their strategic chances at survival, while new characters will emerge to challenge the balance of power in the east, west, north and south. 

 I've been binging on both. Both of these shows are great to binge watch. My husband and I have enjoyed making these shows our date nights over the past several evenings (hey, you find time where you can with toddler twins!). The shows are quite different from each other but both are incredibly well done.

I also want to mention that My family and I decided to "cut the cord" this past year. It hasn't been too bad but I still appreciate anything that makes it a little easier! HBO now sells HBO NOW gift certificates! 

Here's all the details:

"HBO is making holiday shopping easier than ever this year by offering fans the chance to give a gift everyone can enjoy--the HBO NOW gift card! HBO NOW gift cards are available now in denominations of $25 and $50 at Walmart, Best Buy and GameStop stores throughout the U.S. and will launch at H-E-B grocery stores in Texas later this month, just in time for TV fans to add an HBO NOW subscription to their holiday wish lists. "

I would so love this as a gift! Remember me, Santa!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Review: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Title: Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Author: Ransom Riggs
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Quirk
Publish Date: June 7, 2011
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive."

My Two Cents:

"Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children" is a book that I have been wanting to read for a while. I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but this cover is hard to miss. You have a hovering little girl in black and white standing on the front cover. It was just begging me to read it!

In this book, Jacob grows up hearing fantastical stories from his grandfather who lived in Europe during World War II. Jacob doesn't think anything of his grandfather's stories besides just being entertaining. When Jacob's grandfather dies a mysterious death, Jacob begins to think that his grandfather stories are real. Jacob and his father traveled to Wales where he tries to put together the pieces of his grandfather's past.

I really enjoyed the story and it's easy to see why the series is being turned into movies. The story line is very original. You have Jacob initially believing that his grandfather's stories were a way for him to come to terms with all of the terrible things that he faced during the war. He was sent to a remote island in order to hopefully be saved from WWII.

I love the characters in this book! It was so interesting to see how Jacob begins to put things together. I loved all of their children in Miss Peregrine's Home as well as Miss Peregrine herself. I think one of the standout things about this book is the world building. It has a lot of fantastical elements but the way that the author puts it together makes them feel like they could possibly be real.

Another thing that I really liked about the book is that it includes photographs of various characters. All of the photographs came from vintage collections. I thought that they lended a really nice and kind of creepy air to the book. It also made it feel a little bit real. I'm looking forward to reading the other books in the series.


Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: I'm Still Here by Clélie Avit

Title: I'm Still Here
Author: Clélie Avit
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: August 23, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Elsa is spending her thirtieth birthday in the hospital bed where she's lain for months after a devastating mountain accident. Unable to speak, see, or move, she appears to be in an irreversible coma, but her friends and family don't know that she's regained the power of hearing.

That day, a stranger named Thibault enters the hospital to visit his brother, who's just been injured in an accident that killed two young girls. He instead seeks refuge in the room where Elsa lies, and quickly becomes intrigued by the young woman, returning day after day to sit beside her, convinced that his words are being heard.

As their connection grows, the doctors deliver a devastating blow to her family. Is it possible that Thibault knows something no one else does, and can he reach her before it's too late?"

My Two Cents:

"I'm Still Here" is the story of Elsa who finds herself in a hospital after a devastating accident at work. The problem is that she is in a coma but has started to be able to hear what goes on around her. Thibault is a man whose brother is in the same hospital is also after causing a car accident while drunk. Thibault is so mad at his brother that he can't stand to be in his hospital room so he wanders into Elsa's hospital room. All he knows about her is what is written in her chart. In a strange twist, he begins to fall for her. Elsa knows that Thibault is there.

This is a modern take on the sleeping beauty fairy tale. I love fairy tale retellings and while this is not exactly a true fairy tale retelling, it has a lot of elements of the sleeping beauty tale that really drew me in.

I really like that the story is told both from Elsa and Thibault's perspective. Elsa can only hear so she doesn't actually see what is going on around here her and uses her imagination to fill in the gaps. Elsa can't talk to also so she only has a slanted view as to what's going on. I thought that it was interesting to have some parts of the story not be there because of the perspective of the two main characters.

When this book ended, I found myself wondering about what was next for the two main characters. The book is left very open-ended and while I was frustrated with that, I still enjoyed the idea that it was open to the reader to determine what happened next. I could definitely see there being a follow on to this book as to where the story goes for these characters.


Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Review: Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe by Dawn Tripp

Title: Georgia: A Novel of Georgia O'Keeffe
Author: Dawn Tripp 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: February 9, 2016

What's the Story?:

From "In 1916, Georgia O’Keeffe is a young, unknown art teacher when she travels to New York to meet Stieglitz, the famed photographer and art dealer, who has discovered O’Keeffe’s work and exhibits it in his gallery. Their connection is instantaneous. O’Keeffe is quickly drawn into Stieglitz’s sophisticated world, becoming his mistress, protégé, and muse, as their attraction deepens into an intense and tempestuous relationship and his photographs of her, both clothed and nude, create a sensation.

Yet as her own creative force develops, Georgia begins to push back against what critics and others are saying about her and her art. And soon she must make difficult choices to live a life she believes in.

A breathtaking work of the imagination, Georgia is the story of a passionate young woman, her search for love and artistic freedom, the sacrifices she will face, and the bold vision that will make her a legend."

My Two Cents:

"Georgia" is a historical fiction novel about famed painter Georgia O'Keeffe. Before reading this book, I really did not know much at all about Georgia O'Keeffe. I always think that her paintings are absolutely stunning and I was hoping to gain some insight into what made her tick. I think a lot of times historical fiction makes for a great introduction to really interesting people. This book certainly fits that bill!

The book focuses on not only O'Keefe's work but also her love affair with a photographer and art dealer who eventually features O'Keefe's work in his gallery. O'Keefe was making art at a time where women still weren't really welcomed into that world so the book also focuses a lot on how she makes her way through the world is so anti-woman artist. This book is about a love affair but it's also about the great passion out of that O'Keefe has for her art. I was drawn more to the bits about her passion and her art-making. The author did a great job of capturing what made O'Keefe tick and what inspired her. It's no secret why O'Keefe made such a good subject for the story.

The writing of the book was good. The author has a great way of bringing to life to some pretty big names throughout the story. I would definitely like to read more by this author in the future.


Monday, December 12, 2016

Review: Valley of the Moon by Melanie Gideon

Title: Valley of the Moon
Author: Melanie Gideon 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: July 26, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In this captivating novel from the author of Wife 22, a woman who feels lost in her own time stumbles across a California community that has, impossibly, been marooned in the early twentieth century perfect for readers of The Time Traveler's Wife, Time and Again, and Sarah Addison Allen.

Lux is a single mom struggling to make her way when she discovers an idyllic community in the Sonoma Valley. It seems like a place from another time until she realizes it actually is. Lux must keep one foot in her world, raising her son as well as she can with the odds stacked against her, but every day she is more strongly drawn in by the sweet simplicity of life in Greengage, and by the irresistible connection she feels with a man born decades before her. Soon she finds herself torn between her ties to the modern world, her adored son and the first place she has ever felt truly at home."

My Two Cents:

"Valley of the Moon" is the latest release by Melanie Gideon, the author of "Wife 22," a book which I loved. This book seemed markedly different than "Wife 22" and I was intrigued by the synopsis. Lux is a woman who lives in the 1970s. She's a single mother and is trying the best she can to take care of her young son. When she comes across a group of people who seem to be trapped in the early 20th century, Lux never imagines that life inside this place will begin to feel more like home than any other place she's ever been.

Filled with magical realism, great characters, and a great romance, this book is perfect for those who are looking for their fiction off the beaten path. It may just be because of the time travel aspect but this book reminded me a lot of "The Time Traveler's Wife, which is one of my very favorite books.

In this book, Lux is seeking to run away from her family she really loves her son but being a single parent is really difficult. When Lux goes back in time and finds the small community that Joseph and his family run, she is drawn to the simpler way of life. I love the characters in this book. Lux is a great character. She is very strong but she is at her wits end. Raising children is difficult. Raising children by yourself is even more difficult. You have to admire how she tries to make ends meet. She is strong and feels like she can actually be useful in the town trapped in time. In her present-day life she barely feels useful at all. You see her grow and change throughout the book, which I really liked.

There is a romance at the center of this book. I think it will be apparent who it is between very quickly in the book; however, I don't want to give anything away because it is so wonderful. This book has a lot of twists and turns and covers a wide swath of time. I wish I could say more but you really should just read the book and experience the journey for yourself!

I really like the way that the author was able to turn the story into something that actually felt real even with all of the fantastical elements. I thought that the author did a good job of world building. In this book, traveling back in time doesn't feel like something that was absolutely impossible. Yes this book is definitely different than "Wife 22" but here you still have memorable characters in the novel to immerse yourself in. I got this book originally from the library and loved it so much that I had to buy a copy of my own. That's how you know a book is really good!


Friday, December 9, 2016

Review: The Empress of Bright Moon by Weina Dai Randel

Title: The Empress of Bright Moon
Author: Weina Dai Randel
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publish Date: April 5, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In the captivating sequel to The Moon in the Palace, Mei must protect her people from a murderous empress

The second book in this stunning duology, The Empress of Bright Moon follows Mei as she struggles for power within the Emperor's palace, risking her life to dethrone the murderous Empress and establish herself as the new female ruler of China.

After Mei's lover, Pheasant, is crowned Emperor, a power struggle erupts between Mei and Pheasant's wife, Empress Wang. Both women are desperate to secure their name and rank. But when Empress Wang takes their feud to a new level by murdering Mei's supporters, Mei realizes that she must defeat the bloodthirsty Empress—not only to save herself, but also to protect her country."

My Two Cents:

"The Empress of Bright Moon" is the second book in a duology. This is the continuing story of Mei, a concubine who rises up to be the new potential empress in ancient China. In this book, Mei is now more confident in her skills and power. When her lover becomes the new Emperor, Mei knows that she must force her way to the top any way that she can. She knows that she will be better for Pheasant than any other women, including his current wife.

Like I said, this is the second book in a duology. Definitely go back and read the first book! It will give you a lot of insight into the various characters, including Mei. Mei has definitely changed since the first book. She is now more confident and able to get what she wants. I loved watching her transformation between this book and the previous book. She is such a fascinating character!

Again in this book, the historical detail will make this a true treat for any historical fiction lover. I loved the detail about court life in the first book but even more so in the second book. The stakes are higher for Mei in this book and she must even more carefully navigate the in's and out's of court life in order to stay on top. It is incredibly intriguing!

I was not ready for this book to end and will definitely be looking for more from this author in the future!


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review: The Moon in the Palace by Weina Dai Randel

Title: The Moon in the Palace
Author: Weina Dai Randel
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publisher Date: March 1, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "A concubine at the palace learns quickly that there are many ways to capture the Emperor’s attention. Many paint their faces white and style their hair attractively, hoping to lure in the One Above All with their beauty. Some present him with fantastic gifts, such as jade pendants and scrolls of calligraphy, while others rely on their knowledge of seduction to draw his interest. But young Mei knows nothing of these womanly arts, yet she will give the Emperor a gift he can never forget.

Mei’s intelligence and curiosity, the same traits that make her an outcast among the other concubines, impress the Emperor. But just as she is in a position to seduce the most powerful man in China, divided loyalties split the palace in two, culminating in a perilous battle that Mei can only hope to survive.

The first volume of the Empress of Bright Moon duology paints a vibrant portrait of ancient China—where love, ambition, and loyalty can spell life or death—and the woman who came to rule it all."

My Two Cents:

"The Moon in the Palace" is the story of Mei, a concubine of the Chinese Emperor. This is the first book in a duology that takes readers back to ancient China. When Mei comes to court, she finds herself in stiff competition for the Emperor's affections. She really has no idea what she is doing and the way that she captures his attention is unlike any other concubine. This book explores the gilded court life and Mei's fascinating life at the center of it!

This book is so filled with court intrigue. Mei is at the center of so much in this book. We see when she first arrives at the Palace and how competitive it is with the other concubines. Mei is so happy to have a chance at a better life inside the palace walls that she isn't really aiming to impress the Emperor at first. It seems to be a happy accident that he is so enthralled with her. The author does a great job of showing Mei's growth throughout the book.

You all know that I love historical fiction. I especially love when it takes me to some place I am not familiar with. Ancient China definitely fits the bill. The author does a great job of incorporating a lot of detail in a seamless way to give you a good feeling as to what court life was like under the Chinese emperors. I ate up all of the rich detail! This was a great start to this duology!


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

TLC Book Tours: Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture by Matt Goulding

Title: Grape, Olive, Pig: Deep Travels Through Spain's Food Culture
Author: Matt Goulding
Format: ARC
Publisher: HarperCollins 
Publish Date: November 15, 2016
Source: HarperCollins and TLC Book Tours 

What's the Story?:

From "Grape, Olive, Pig is a deeply personal exploration of Spain, a country where eating and living are inextricably linked. Crafted in the "refreshing" (Associated Press), "inspirational" (Publishers Weekly) and "impeccably observed" ( style of the acclaimed Rice, Noodle, Fish, and written with the same evocative voice of the award-winning magazine Roads & Kingdoms, this magnificent gastronomic travel companion takes you through the key regions of Spain as you’ve never seen them before.

Matt Goulding introduces you to the sprawling culinary and geographical landscape of his adoptive home, and offers an intimate portrait of this multifaceted country, its remarkable people, and its complex history. Fall in love with Barcelona’s tiny tapas bars and modernist culinary temples. Explore the movable feast of small plates and late nights in Madrid. Join the three-thousand-year-old hunt for Bluefin tuna off the coast of Cadiz, then continue your seafood journey north to meet three sisters who risk their lives foraging the gooseneck barnacle, one of Spain’s most treasured ingredients. Delight in some of the world’s most innovative and avant-garde edible creations in San Sebastian, and then wash them down with cider from neighboring Asturias. Sample the world’s finest acorn-fed ham in Salamanca, share in the traditions of cave-dwelling shepherds in the mountains beyond Granada, and debate what constitutes truly authentic paella in Valencia.

Grape, Olive, Pig reveals hidden gems and enduring delicacies from across this extraordinary country, contextualizing each meal with the stories behind the food in a cultural narrative complemented by stunning color photography. Whether you’ve visited Spain or have only dreamed of bellying up to its tapas bars, Grape, Olive, Pig will wake your imagination, rouse your hunger, and capture your heart.

My Two Cents:

A book like "Grape, Olive, Pig" should carry a warning level and that warning level should say something like "Do not read on an empty stomach." I would also be inclined to add "Make sure you already have a future trip to Spain planned." Unfortunately for me, I do not have a trip to Spain booked... yet but this book makes me think that Spain needs to be a little higher up on my list.

This book is a exploration of all of the delicious food that Spain has to offer. The author lives in Spain and is married to a Spanish woman. He is from the United States but fell in love with the gastronomic culture of the country and treats readers to a first hand look at what makes Spain such a rich food culture. In the tradition of shows like "Parts Unknown with Anthony Bourdain" (who put his name on this book!), this book explores in a way that will make readers feel like they're right alongside of the author as he eats delectable seafood for a late night dinner and steaming, hot churros for breakfast in the morning.

The writing is soooo very detailed in the book and all of the detail leaps off of the page. This is exactly why you can't read this book on an empty stomach. The book is broken down by regions, which really made me appreciate how different the menus and food culture is throughout Spain where people are more inclined to associate themselves with region rather than country. In addition to just talking about delicious food, I really liked that the author included tips for traveling to Spain as well as profiles of various people associated with the food world in Spain.

This book is travel writing done right. Goulding fully immerses readers in a new world where the writing is so detailed that you can taste the food and picture exactly what the world of the Spaniards looks, feels, and sounds like. This was a true treat for me! This book is the definition of what armchair traveling should feel like!

This is the second book in a series from "Roads and Kingdoms," a website that brings together travel, food, and culture. The first book was "Rice, Noodle, Fish," which was an exploration of food culture in Japan and after reading this book, I'm very excited to read the first book!


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Flight Patterns by Karen White

Title: Flight Patterns
Author: Karen White
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: NAL
Publish Date: May 24, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Georgia Chambers has spent her life sifting through other people’s pasts while trying to forget her own. But then her work as an expert of fine china—especially of Limoges—requires her to return to the one place she swore she’d never revisit...

It’s been thirteen years since Georgia left her family home on the coast of Florida, and nothing much has changed, except that there are fewer oysters and more tourists. She finds solace seeing her grandfather still toiling away in the apiary where she spent much of her childhood, but encountering her estranged mother and sister leaves her rattled.

Seeing them after all this time makes Georgia realize that something has been missing—and unless she finds a way to heal these rifts, she will forever be living vicariously through other people’s remnants. To embrace her own life—mistakes and all—she will have to find the courage to confront the ghosts of her past and the secrets she was forced to keep..."

My Two Cents:

In "Flight Patterns," Georgia is forced to go back home, a place she never wanted to go back to, for her work. She is an expert in old China and when James, a client, turns up with a hard-to-find limited edition Limoges piece, Georgia knows that she has seen the pattern before in the house she grew up in. Committed to finding out where the china came from, Georgia goes home, bringing James along for the ride. Georgia eventually realizes that you can never outrun the past no matter how hard you try.

This is the perfect kind of book for when you want to get lost in a story. The author is a master world builder and I found myself quickly engulfed in Georgia's world. Between the setting and the great characters, it was easy to get lost in this book. Georgia is a great character! She has gotten so used to hiding from her past that when she is suddenly confronted with it, she doesn't know what to do at first. I certainly felt for her plight! We get to see as Georgia begins to realize that the way she thought things were between her and her family may not reflect reality. As she comes to terms with her past, readers will be cheering for her.

There is a romantic story line in the book that I ate up. Georgia and James eventually start falling for each other. At first they seem to be clinging to each other out of grief but it turns into something else throughout the book. This is the happy kind of romance that had me curling my toes with happiness.

This is the second book that I have read by Karen White and it certainly will not be the last. I love the detail that she brings into her books. I don't know anything about china whatsoever and I loved the way that the detail about different companies and patterns was brought into the book. This was a good read!


Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

Title: My Lady Jane
Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publish Date: June 7, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Edward (long live the king) is the King of England. He’s also dying, which is inconvenient, as he’s only sixteen and he’d much rather be planning for his first kiss than considering who will inherit his crown…

Jane (reads too many books) is Edward’s cousin, and far more interested in books than romance. Unfortunately for Jane, Edward has arranged to marry her off to secure the line of succession. And there’s something a little odd about her intended…

Gifford (call him G) is a horse. That is, he’s an Eðian (eth-y-un, for the uninitiated). Every day at dawn he becomes a noble chestnut steed—but then he wakes at dusk with a mouthful of hay. It’s all very undignified."

My Two Cents:

"My Lady Jane Grey" turns the story of Lady Jane Grey, otherwise known as the nine-day queen on its head. As a historical reminder, Lady Jane Grey became queen for 9 days before being killed after the death of Edward VI, who was Henry VIII's son. It's a very tragic story and definitely not one with a happy ending. In the hands of the three authors of this book, Lady Jane Grey is given a much better ending. This is a great story filled with magic and a much happier ending.

In this book, Jane is known as the one at court who always seems to have her nose in a book. She's promised to Gifford, who is hiding a secret, and doesn't want to get married. In this world, there are beings called "edians," who can turn into animals. Jane is absolutely fascinated by this and is pulled in to this world and making sure that those that are able to turn into animals have the safety to do so. It sounds like an incredibly strange permits for book but it definitely works. I was not ready for this book to end!

I love the way that the authors were able to be blend a bunch of magic with a bunch of historical detail as well. This is the first effort between Cynthia Hand, Brittany Ashton, and Jody Meadows and I'm definitely hoping that it won't be the last!


Friday, December 2, 2016

Review: All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

Title: All Fall Down
Author: Jennifer Weiner 
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Atria Books
Publish Date: June 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Allison Weiss got her happy ending--a handsome husband, an adorable little girl, a job she loves, and a big house in the suburbs. But when she's in the pediatrician's office with her daughter and a magazine flips open to a quiz about addiction, she starts to wonder whether her use of prescription pills is becoming a problem. On the one hand, it's just medication, the stuff her doctors give her. Is a Percocet at the end of a hard day really different from a glass of wine? Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class...or if your husband ignores you?

Back in the car, after the appointment, with her daughter safely buckled behind her, Allison performs the familiar ritual, opening the Altoid tin in her purse and slipping a chalky white oval underneath her tongue. The pill unties her knotted muscles, erases the grime and ugliness of the city, soothes her as the frets about her looking-good life: that her husband's becoming distant, that her daughter is acting out, that her father's early Alzheimer's is worsening and her mother is barely managing to cope. She tells herself that the pills let her make it through her days...but what if her every-increasing drug use, a habit that's becoming expensive and hard to hide, is turning into her biggest problem of all?"

My Two Cents:

"All Fall Down" is the story of Allison, a woman who on the surface seems like she has it all. She has a seemingly nice husband, an adorable daughter, a nice house and good friends. She's hiding that she's addicted to prescription drugs. This is a pretty serious topic and definitely one that I think needs to be discussed of lot more especially with what's going on and our country currently.

I love the way that Jennifer Weiner is able to take a serious topic like addiction and give it a face through Allison. I think from the outside it can be difficult to understand how addiction happens and why people are susceptible to facingaddiction. Allison shows that even if your life looks perfect, you can be hiding a lot of secrets. The book goes through how Allison hides her addiction and how she spirals out of control. It happens in such a way that you don't really see that it's coming. Sometimes fiction is the best way to access difficult issues. This book definitely shows that!

I was pulling for Allison throughout the book. You see how difficult it is to even diagnose that you have a problem. Hopefully by talking about this issue, more and more people will be able to get the help that they need. Jennifer Weiner is my go-to when I want smart stories with a lot of heart. This book felt a little more serious than some of her other books, which I think comes from the subject matter. Again, I think it's so important for books to tackle really difficult subjects. You're in good hands with Weiner.


Thursday, December 1, 2016

Giveaway: The Summer that Melted Everything!

Welcome, December! If you're anything like me, you're probably still doing your Christmas shopping and what better gift for anyone than a book? To help you with your shopping, I'm giving away a copy of "The Summer that Melted Everything" (U.S. only, please). This book was one of my faves this year!

Want to win? Just fill out the Rafflecopter form below and I will randomly choose one winner!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Review: Duty to the Crown by Aimie K. Runyan

Title: Duty to the Crown
Author: Aimie K. Runyan
Format: ARC
Publisher: Kensington
Publish Date: October 25, 2016
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "In 1667, an invisible wall separates settlers in New France from their Huron neighbors. Yet whether in the fledgling city of Quebec or within one of the native tribes, every woman’s fate depends on the man she chooses—or is obligated—to marry.

Although Claudine Deschamps and Gabrielle Giroux both live within the settlement, their prospects are very different. French-born Claudine has followed her older sister across the Atlantic hoping to attract a wealthy husband through her beauty and connections. Gabrielle, orphan daughter of the town drunkard, is forced into a loveless union by a cruel law that requires her to marry by her sixteenth birthday. And Manon Lefebvre, born in the Huron village and later adopted by settlers, has faced the prejudices of both societies and is convinced she can no longer be accepted in either. Drawn into unexpected friendship through their loves, losses, and dreams of home and family, all three women will have to call on their bravery and resilience to succeed in this new world…"

My Two Cents:

"Duty to the Crown" is the second book in the "Daughters of New France" series by Aimie K. Runyan. The colony of New France is a little more established when the book opens up but still feels like a new frontier for many of its residents. I loved the first book in this series and was anxious to get back to Runyan's New France, still a very new setting for me and one that I really loved seeing through this book. Although New France is no longer new to the main characters in this book, it still makes for a fascinating setting where even a place that the characters think they know well can totally change their lives.

While characters from the first book appear, this book largely focuses on the next generation of women in New France. There is Claudine, the sister of Nicole from the first book who wants to find her husband. Gabrielle is a young woman that is forced into a loveless and abusive marriage and will have to rely on herself in order to make her situation better. Then there is Manon, a young woman who walks the line between the settlers and the natives, two groups who don't get along all the time. Through each of these characters, the author explores what it was like to live in New France during this time period. Each of the stories are interesting in their own way and I appreciated getting so many different perspectives. I loved how the author was able to create really different voices for each of the characters.

The world building and historical detail in this book are fantastic and I loved being immersed in the world of the characters. Settlement life is not glamorous and readers get many doses of reality throughout the book. I appreciated that the author did not shy away from the realities of settlement life even if it was difficult to read some parts of the book after becoming attached to some of the characters. Overall, this was a great follow up to the first book!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

TLC Book Tours: The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Title: The Fate of the Tearling
Author: Erika Johansen
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper
Publish Date: November 29, 2016 (Today!)
Source: TLC Book Tours and HarperCollins 

What's the Story?:

From "
The thrilling conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Tearling trilogy.

In less than a year, Kelsea Glynn has transformed from a gawky teenager into a powerful monarch. As she has come into her own as the Queen of the Tearling, the headstrong, visionary leader has also transformed her realm. In her quest to end corruption and restore justice, she has made many enemies—including the evil Red Queen, her fiercest rival, who has set her armies against the Tear.

To protect her people from a devastating invasion, Kelsea did the unthinkable—she gave herself and her magical sapphires to her enemy—and named the Mace, the trusted head of her personal guards, Regent in her place. But the Mace will not rest until he and his men rescue their sovereign, imprisoned in Mortmesne.

Now, as the suspenseful endgame begins, the fate of Queen Kelsea—and the Tearling itself—will finally be revealed."

My Two Cents:

What a ride! "The Fate of the Tearling" is the conclusion to the Queen of the Tearling trilogy. I have really enjoyed this trilogy and was torn between wanting to see how the author ended the trilogy as the books have taken so many interesting turns and not wanting to get to the end because I was enjoying the ride so much. This book will thrill followers of the trilogy and I found it utterly satisfying!

First things first, you NEED to read the first two books in the series in order to understand this book and get the most out of it you can. The world building in this book is as great as the other books but gets even more intricate in this book. We understand more about what Kelsea is up against and how she has to grow and change in order to meet the challenges in her world. We also get to understand more about how her world came to be. I can't say very much without giving parts of the other books away but the explanation of the past was fascinating to me and I loved the way the author explained why Kelsea's world is the way that it is.

The characters in the book are great. I continued to be enthralled with the way Kelsea has changed since the first book. This is the book where she really comes into her own! The secondary characters are fantastic as well. I was especially interested in the parts of the book with the Red Queen. Her story takes some interesting turns throughout the book that kept me engaged.

Now, there was a lot going on in this series and I had some trepidation surrounding whether or not the author was able to neatly tie up the various story strands throughout the book. I am happy to report that she is able to do it. The very ending felt slightly rushed to me but still worked just fine overall.

This whole series is an exciting ride and this last book is a great capstone!


Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Crown
Publish Date: February 11, 2014
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. 

Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars' surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive. And even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, Mark won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. 

But Mark's not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills—and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength–he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.

As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive."

My Two Cents:

"The Martian" is a fantastic science fiction book about a mission to Mars that goes awry. Mark becomes one of the first people to walk on Mars and now he thinks he'll be the first person to die on Mars. After freak accident has his crew leaving the planet and thinking that he's dead, they quickly find out that Mark may not really be dead. 

Filled with a lot of humor, this is a great book that will appeal to more than just traditional science-fiction lovers. One of the best things about this book is the voices that the author creates for the characters. The book starts out with Mark's voice and Mark is absolutely hilarious. He seems like somebody that I would definitely get along with. He has sort of a funny way of looking at his plight and I think that it shows how humor can get you through some very difficult times. I loved following his story. We get to see the NASA scientists as well and it was interesting to see how they try to figure out what happened to Mark and what he what they can possibly do in order to save him. 

The book is well-written and I love a good survivor story. This book is a little bit different because it talks about survival on Mars but it is a survivor story nonetheless. Overall, this book is incredibly entertaining. It would make for a great intro to sci-fi for those that don't read sci-fi at all or very often!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: Ten Years Later by Lisa Marie Latino

Title: Ten Years Later
Author: Lisa Marie Latino 
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Long Shot Publishing
Publish Date: October 4, 2016
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "When New Jersey-based sports radio producer Carla D'Agostino receives a save-the-date for her ten-year high school reunion, she is thrown into a tailspin. She is miserably single, living at home with her old-school Italian-American family, and miles away from her dream job as a sports talk radio host. She voices her discontent to her closest friends, the stunning Andrea, cheerful Katie, and playboy Dante, and they encourage Carla to stand up and fight for the life she wants. Inspired by their words, Carla sets her plans in motion. She enlists the help of a personal trainer, tapes a sports commentary demo with Dante for her unconventional WSPS boss Dan, and gets back into the dating game for the first time since her heart was broken by her first love. But the universe has different ideas for Carla than she has for herself, and she suffers setback after setback: Dan gives the afternoon host position to a Los Angeles import, and, worse yet, offers Dante a gig, which he accepts, much to Carla s hurt and dismay. More determined than ever, Carla continues to throw herself at life with gusto, and a series of surprises, both good and bad, lead her straight into the arms of a love that never really left."

My Two Cents:

"Ten Years Later" is the story of Carla, a 27 year old staring down the barrel of her ten year high school reunion and she's wondering what her life has amounted to and how she can show her face when it seems like all of her classmates seem to be so much further ahead her in life. So she makes a plan to turn her life around and to finally get what she has always dreamed of and her plan goes awry and hilarity ensues.

This is a very funny story about trying to figure out where you're going and how you can get there. Carla is a great character. She's funny and she's imperfect in a way that seems real. She seems to be going through some sort of quarter life crisis in this book, which I think a lot of people can find some commonality with. Throughout the book, we get to see her grow and change throughout the book. She starts out not being sure how to get what she wants and we see how she becomes more assertive throughout the book. It's a great transformation to watch!

The writing of the book was addictive for the most part. I loved following Carla to see where she goes. The book is pretty hefty and I think there were definitely parts that could have been streamlined to make the book move along a little bit more. That being said, overall, this is a great story with a dash of romance and a healthy helping of heart.


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, American friends! May your day be filled with friends, family, food, and lots and lots of books!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Review: The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy by Masha Gessen

Title: The Brothers: The Road to an American Tragedy 
Author: Masha Gessen
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Riverhead Books

Publish Date: April 7, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "The facts of the tragedy are established: On April 15, 2013, two homemade bombs fashioned from pressure cookers exploded near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and wounding 264 others. The elder of the brothers suspected of committing this atrocity, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, died in the ensuing manhunt; Dzhokhar will stand trial in January 2015. What we don’t know is why. How did such a nightmare come to pass?

This is a probing and powerful story of dislocation, and the longing for clarity and identity that can reach the point of combustion. Bestselling Russian-American author Masha Gessen is uniquely endowed with the background, access, and talent to tell it. She explains who the brothers were and how they came to do what they appear to have done. From their displaced beginnings, as descendants of ethnic Chechens deported to Central Asia in the Stalin era, Gessen follows them as they are displaced again, from strife-ridden Kyrgyzstan to war-torn Dagestan, and then, as émigrés to the United States, into an utterly disorienting new world. Most crucially, she reconstructs the struggle between assimilation and alienation that ensued for each of the brothers, fueling their apparent metamorphosis into a new breed of homegrown terrorist, with their feet on American soil but their loyalties elsewhere—a split in identity that seems to have incubated a deadly sense of mission."

My Two Cents:

"The Brothers" is a nonfiction book about the Tsarnaev brothers who committed the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013. This book explores the story of their family and where they came from and what may have driven each of them to do what they did on that tragic day. It is an interesting story of terrorism with both foreign and domestic influence.

This book also happens to be one of my favorite nonfiction authors, Masha Gessen, a reporter who is known for her focus on Russian related subjects. As with a lot of other Gessen's books, she does a great job of giving a lot of different sides to the story so that you're really able to understand why things happen the way that they happened. She sheds a lot of light on the situation and looks at all of the complicated angles of this event.

This book really drew me in. Not only because it's tragic but because I was so wondering about what would drive people who came to this country trying to escape terrorism to commit more terrorist attacks. It was really interesting to see the differences between both of the brothers. This is a sad account of what led to an American tragedy that is still on so many of our minds.

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