Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: The Crows of Beara by Julie Christine Johnson

Title: The Crows of Beara
Author: Julie Christine Johnson 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Ashland Creek Press
Publish Date: September 1, 2017 (Tomorrow!)
Source: Author

What's the Story?:

From "When Annie Crowe travels from Seattle to a small Irish village to promote a new copper mine, her public relations career is hanging in the balance. Struggling to overcome her troubled past and a failing marriage, Annie is eager for a chance to rebuild her life.

Yet when she arrives on the remote Beara Peninsula, Annie learns that the mine would encroach on the nesting ground of an endangered bird, the Red-billed Chough, and many in the community are fiercely protective of this wild place. Among them is Daniel Savage, a local artist battling demons of his own, who has been recruited to help block the mine.

Despite their differences, Annie and Daniel find themselves drawn toward each other, and, inexplicably, they begin to hear the same voice--a strange, distant whisper of Gaelic, like sorrow blowing in the wind.

Guided by ancient mythology and challenged by modern problems, Annie must confront the half-truths she has been sent to spread and the lies she has been telling herself. Most of all, she must open her heart to the healing power of this rugged land and its people."

My Two Cents:

"The Crows of Beara" is the story of Annie and Daniel, two damaged souls brought together in Ireland on the Beara Peninsula, a gorgeous wilderness. They will be thrown together in ways that they cannot begin to imagine in the beginning and each of them will be called to define what recovery looks like to each of them. This book had great characters and a fantastic setting and made for a great read.

I am drawn to imperfect characters. They feel more real and they are certainly more interesting. In this book, we have two characters who are incredibly damaged. Both are addicts. Both have hurt their families and friends through their addictions. Both of them are seeking redemption and seeking how to make new lives for themselves. Even with having these issues in common, they deal with things very differently, which is part of the interest of this book.

I loved these characters! Annie is an alcoholic and is seeking to get back on her feet again. She knows recovery is important but she thinks there may be something to getting herself into a new environment and throwing herself into a huge work project: making a mining company look good in the beautiful setting of Beara. Daniel has spent time in jail for a crime he deeply regrets and he wrestles with the idea that he will never be able to make up for what he has done yet he still must go on and find a way to make a life with a major black mark on his name.

The other story in the book about Annie's project to improve the PR for a business who will majorly disrupt the ecosystem and beauty of the Beara Peninsula. This added a really interesting factor to the story. It's war between the business and the people of the small Irish village. Both feel strongly about what should be done with the land and what prospects their actions will have for the villagers. I loved seeing how this played out and the drama that this added to the book!

This is the kind of book that you get lost in. It's also the kind of book where you wonder about what became of the characters after the book is over, always a good sign!


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review: My Life in France by Julia Child

Title: My Life in France
Author: Julia Child
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Knopf
Publish Date: April 4, 2006
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Julia Child single handedly awakened America to the pleasures of good cooking with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she didn't know the first thing about cooking when she landed in France. Indeed, when she first arrived in 1948 with her husband, Paul, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever. Julia's unforgettable story unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as a cook and teacher and writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities of the last fifty years."

My Two Cents:

"My Life in France" is the story Julia Child's and her husband's life in post World War II France. Julia Child's husband, Paul, is a part of the Foreign Service for the United States meaning that much of their life was spent abroad. The years in France are idyllic. Julia falls in love with the food and the people even as she struggles mightily with the language. This book shows how she goes from a woman who dreads cooking to someone who begins to breathe and dream of cooking wonderful food and making those recipes accessible to all.

I was drawn to this book for a few reasons. First off, post World War II Europe seems like a really fascinating time to be in the Foreign Service. Europe was still very much rebuilding and France's government in particular was still trying to figure things out. The instability (which I had really forgotten was happening) was very interesting to read about in comparison to what Child thought about the situation in America with things like the "Red Scare." It was interesting to see what the Foreign Service was going through in the late 1940s and the 1950s. Some of the cuts seemed not unlike what could happen now in the current political climate.

Another reason I was drawn to the book was of course Julia's cooking. I had vaguely remembered that she didn't really start cooking until later on in life (gives me all sorts of hope). I thought it was really interesting to see all that she went through with her partners to not only develop her cookbook but to publish it. I got a kick out of how secretive Child was about some of her recipes. It was also interesting that with as popular as her cookbook has now become that it had a hard time getting published.

This was a great memoir with interest at many different levels. Packed with Child's signature warmth and charm, this was a good read!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Review: I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

Title: I Hate Everyone But You
Authors: Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publish Date: September 5, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
Ava Helmer
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)

We're still in the same room, you weirdo.
Stop crying.

So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?"

My Two Cents:

"I Hate Everyone But You" is the story of Ava and Gen, two best friends starting their freshman year of college. They're going to schools across the country from each other and are deeply worried about how everything between them may change as they experience all that college has to offer. They're worried that they may not be friends after it's all over. Told through emails and texts, this book seeks to capture all of those feelings you have going away from home and the friends that make home home for the first time.

Because the emails and texts are between two people who already knew each other really well, there was not a lot of character development for me at first. This shifts as Ava and Gen begin to run into problems with finding their way through college. Both of them are involved in new activities that seem to threaten who they once were. Ava isn't particularly sensitive when Gen begins trying to feel her way through new relationships with women for the first time and Ava is forced to confront her mis-perceptions. Ava has her own stuff to work through with a sorority and a new boyfriend.

I've seen novels done through letters, texts, emails, etc. before but I thought this was especially effective for this story. Phones barely had text capability when I went to college but I had long, long, long email chains back and forth to my friends from high school (and I'm still friends with these friends today). This book doesn't break new ground but it does capture something special between old friends.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Review: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Title: When Breath Becomes Air
Author: Paul Kalanithi
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: January 12, 2016
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor making a living treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. Just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air, which features a Foreword by Dr. Abraham Verghese and an Epilogue by Kalanithi’s wife, Lucy, chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a na├»ve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a young neurosurgeon at Stanford, guiding patients toward a deeper understanding of death and illness, and finally into a patient and a new father to a baby girl, confronting his own mortality."

My Two Cents:

"When Breath Becomes Air" is the incredibly powerful story of a neurosurgeon who is suddenly confronted with his own mortality when he suddenly is diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer. He is just finishing his training as a neurosurgeon and is ready to dedicate a full career to saving other people's lives when he realizes that the dream he once had might be gone.

Death is scary. As humans, it is something that is inevitable for us. It is something that we have to face. This book is a rumination on what it means to live and what it means to die. How do you make the best of the time that you have when that time is something that you can't foretell. The way that Kalanithi writes is so raw, real, and beautiful. He pours out emotion into this book and turns it into something incredibly affecting.

This is an incredibly vivid book that really touched me. Kalanithi is looking at death before he really feels that he has reached his full potential or has lived a full life. While it is quite possible that all of us could be confronted by having our time cut too short for our preferences, we hope for the best and that we can have a full life to the point that satisfies us individually. Kalanithi shows us how to confront that finite amount of time with power and strength.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Review: Botticelli's Muse by Dorah Blume

Title: Botticelli's Muse
Author:  Dorah Blume
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Juice Box Artists Press
Publish Date: July 21, 2017
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "In 1477, Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli never thought his life was going to be easy after being fired by his prestigious patron and friend Lorenzo de' Medici. The artistic freedom Sandro is granted by an annoying new patron half his age only increases the artist's paralysis and depression. His creative well runs dry until the day he sees Floriana, a Jewish weaver imprisoned in his sister's convent. But obstacles threaten to keep his unlikely muse out of reach. So begins a tale of one of the world's most beloved paintings, La Primavera, as Sandro, a confirmed bachelor, and Floriana, a headstrong artist in her own right, enter into the most turbulent of relationships."

My Two Cents:

"Botticelli's Muse" is the first of a planned trilogy about the life of the famous artist Botticelli. Botticelli is well known for his gorgeous and almost dream-like paintings. This book tackles Botticelli meeting Floriana, a gorgeous woman plucked from relative obscurity to become the muse for one of his most famous paintings: La Primavera.

You all already know that I love historical fiction but some of my favorite historical fiction always seems to have to do with art. It's easy to appreciate Botticelli's painting style and beauty but this book is a very thorough look behind the scenes. We get to see how he works and what makes him tick. We get to see what inspires him while still getting insight into him as a person. It's easy to lose sight of his reality when only looking at his paintings!

The writing of the book is largely good. There is, however, a lot of conversations throughout the book that tell much more than they show. This really made the book drag for me and took me out of the book. I think there were definitely parts that could have been slimmed down in order to increase the flow more. I wanted to be shown more about what was going on throughout the book!

One very nice touch that I enjoyed is that there are a lot of small illustrations throughout the book. While I don't think it was necessary to have illustrations, it add some additional interest to the book. They really set the tone for the chapters that they appear in. It's a small thing but it was nice to have some indication as to what the various characters and events in the book looked like!  

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Review: The One That Got Away by Melissa Pimentel

Title: The One That Got Away
Author: Melissa Pimentel
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Penguin
Publish Date: September 22, 2016
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "Ruby and Ethan were perfect for each other. Until the day they suddenly weren't.

Now, ten years later, Ruby is single, having spent the last decade focusing on her demanding career and hectic life in Manhattan. There's barely time for a trip to England for her little sister's wedding. And there's certainly not time to think about what it will be like to see Ethan again, who just so happens to be the best man.

But as the family frantically prepare for the big day, Ruby can't help but wonder if she made the right choice all those years ago. Because there is nothing like a wedding for stirring up the past."

My Two Cents:

"The One That Got Away" is a loose retelling of Jane Austen's "Persuasion." Ruby has thrown herself into work after a bad break up with Ethan, the proverbial "one that got away" while her sister Piper has thrown herself into love with Ethan's best friend. Now Piper is getting married and her soon to be husband's best man is Ethan. Ruby isn't sure how she is going to be able to see him again and isn't sure if she can push her feelings down any longer. This was a really fun read!

I liked the characters, especially some of the secondary characters like Piper and Piper and Ruby's father who add a lot of humor in the essence of Austen throughout the book. I wanted to get to know Ruby a little better and wanted to know more about why she didn't seem to have changed very much in the time since she has seen Ethan. On the other hand, Ethan has totally changed. He has gone from a poor bartender to a very, very successful businessman.

There's a good reason that stories about the "ones that got away" seem to be so popular. I think as humans we always wonder about what might have been so the attraction to this book was fast and furious with regard to the topic.

This was a fast and fun read. It's light and romantic with a bit of a twist as we find out what happened to Ruby and Ethan's relationship that results in their break-up. I liked this book and found it satisfying to my want for a warm romance.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Review: Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture by Matt Goulding

Title: Rice, Noodle, Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan's Food Culture
Author: Matt Goulding
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Harper Wave
Publish Date: October 27, 2015
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "An innovative new take on the travel guide, Rice, Noodle, Fish decodes Japan's extraordinary food culture through a mix of in-depth narrative and insider advice, along with 195 color photographs. In this 5000-mile journey through the noodle shops, tempura temples, and teahouses of Japan, Matt Goulding, co-creator of the enormously popular Eat This, Not That! book series, navigates the intersection between food, history, and culture, creating one of the most ambitious and complete books ever written about Japanese culinary culture from the Western perspective."

My Two Cents:

"Rice, Noodle, Fish" is a travelogue through the delicious and fascinating food culture of Japan. When I travel, one of my favorite things to do is to explore the new place through their food. This is a gorgeous book that takes us to many different parts of Japan to show us how the Japanese prepare and eat their food. One word of warning: do not read this book while you are hungry. If you do and you don't have quick access to authentic Japanese food, you're probably going to eat the book and that's really frowned upon! So count yourself warned...

This is not only a book about food but a book about the culture around the food. In many different cultures, food brings people together. It's no different in Japan. This book was published under Anthony Bourdain's publishing imprint and that's no surprise: this book feels like a readable version of "Parts Unknown," a show I absolutely love! The author talks not only about the food but about the people who make the food and the people that eat the food. This whole book is a treat for the senses and could only be made better if it actually came with the food that the book talks about.

I have never been to Japan before but it is definitely on my list of places to visit someday. I really, really want to visit now after reading this book!


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

TLC Book Tours: It's Messy by Amanda de Cadenet

Title: It's Messy
Author: Amanda de Cadenet
Format: ARC
Publisher: Harper Wave
Publish Date: September 19, 2017
Source: TLC Book Tours

What's the Story?:

From "Amanda is on a mission to facilitate conversations that allow all women to be seen, heard, and understood. Through her multimedia platform The Conversation, she interviews some of today’s most bad ass women—from Hillary Clinton to Lady Gaga—in no-holds-barred conversations that get to the heart of what means to be female. Now, in It’s Messy, Amanda offers readers an extension of that conversation, inviting them into her life and sharing her own story."

My Two Cents:

"It's Messy" is a series of essays by Amanda de Cadenet who is now probably most well known for her show "The Conversation" even though she has been on television since she was in her teens! I have seen a few episodes of "The Conversation" and one thing I have been impressed with is how de Cadenet is able to get very powerful women from politics and Hollywood and a myriad of other places to let down their armor and get real. She is a great interviewer that gets right at the meat of what's going on and that's what she does in this book: she gets real. It's refreshing in a world where so many people feel like they have to put up walls around themselves.

This book covers a whole variety of issues from finding yourself, having kids, being married, and being divorced. De Cadenet was born into a very wealthy family but this didn't protect her for having some pretty wild early years and she goes into all of these stories in the book. She was married to a famous musician before she was 20 years old and had a child very early on. Later on, she was divorced and then remarried to another musician before she had twins. Side note: Yup! she's a fellow twin mom so she has me there. Admittedly, her thoughts on how you get fraternal twins doesn't jive with science but she's a fellow twin mom all the same). She's been through a lot and has a lot of wisdom and interesting insights to pass on.

You start feeling like de Cadenet could be someone you know well, maybe a friend letting you in on some secrets. It's easy to see how de Cadenet is able to get the interviews that she gets on how once she's able to land an interview how she gets people to open up to her. I thought this was a good and insightful collection and I'm looking forward to sharing it with some women in my life.


Monday, August 21, 2017

Guest Post: An Excerpt from "It's Not Yet Dark" by Simon Fitzmaurice

I'm happy to share a guest post today from Simon Fitzmaurice, author of "It's Not Yet Dark." Check out my review of the book here!

I’m in the doctor’s office and he tells me I have ALS. Light leaves the room. And air. And sound. And time. I sit on the chair opposite but I am far away. Deep inside. Looking up through the tunnel of myself, as he speaks those words. “Three to four years to live.” I don’t hear him. Is this my life? Is he talking about me? I leave the room, the tunnel all around me, and stand before my wife[, Ruth,] in the waiting room. The color leaves her face. Her father is beside her. They come into the room and he tells them the same thing. I don’t hear him. Ruth starts to cry. Within ten minutes we are out on the street. Not knowing what to do, we do what we planned to do before. We go to lunch. Ruth’s dad will meet us after. We walk through the streets like the survivors of some vast impact. Pale, powdered ghosts. We reach the restaurant. Dunne and Crescenzi on South Frederick Street. Our favorite. I stand into a doorway outside and call my parents. It is the worst phone call of my life. I tell them everything, fast, hearing the panic in my voice. Later, I’ll thank them for coming when they arrive at our house, and they’ll look at me as if I’m insane and I’ll become aware, for the first time, that nothing is the same. We enter the restaurant. Sit down like everyone else. We sit there, not knowing what to do, what to say. The waiter comes over and starts to speak to me. Ruth starts to cry. The place is under water and I can’t hear what he’s saying. Ruth is pregnant with our third child.

We are orphans of the universe. Our species is defined by asking questions, out into the dark, without anyone to guide us except one another.
    Time is a trick. From an outside vantage point we live a certain length of time, one that we measure in minutes, hours and seconds, birthdays and anniversaries. But we don’t live at a vantage point to ourselves: we are immersed. We live in fits and starts and jumps, like dreams. And the lives we inhabit are measured in moments, irrespective of time. How we live is strange and uncertain and not written on any map.
    In a movie, when a doctor tells a patient they have a certain time left to live, it sparks a voyage of discovery, a quest for authenticity and redemption. In Joe Versus the Volcano, one of my favorites, Joe Banks, when told he has a “brain cloud,” goes outside and hugs a large dog, then goes on to do what he’s wanted to be doing for years: he lives his life.
    I think of him often in those first days after. How that moment I had always laughed at had become my life. What now? What do I do? And it comes to me very quickly. I suddenly know what is different between me and Joe Banks, between all the stories and my life. I am happy. I am exactly where I want to be, with exactly who I want to be with. It’s quite a realization to discover beyond doubt that you’re happy. And death had brought me there.
    Death. On my shoulder. In my head. In the garden. At the door of my office. In every glance with my wife. My new companion: the end of my life.
    We are living in North Cottage[, Ireland], with our two little boys, Jack and Raife. We moved here so we could afford to live the life we wanted to live. I was working on my films, Ruth was writing her first novel and the boys had a garden ten times the size of the one at our previous house. We had a plan. And it was working. We were happy.
    But that was before. This is after. Never before had I felt that split, but now a fault line has opened between our past and present, and there is no going back. Death, which before had lived on some distant horizon, is now in our living room. We are lost, within the familiar surroundings of our lives. Ruth and I cry a lot, at night, in bed.

Human time is not measured by clocks and watches. Time slows down, time speeds up and the mystery of how we live is ever present, despite our will for it to be otherwise. Our lives are not the legacy we leave behind, or the value of the work we do. Our lives happened inbetween the deeds and ideas that define us. Each of us feels it, the mystery, the strangeness of life on earth. Of life and death. We feel it when we travel, we feel it when we stay at home. We feel it when a loved one dies or when a loved one is born. I’m sure we all crave more certainty than we have but that is not human life. That is the ticking of the clock.
    When you are told you will die within a certain period, time slows down. Life becomes dominated by the last time. Is this the last time I will read a book to one of my boys? If not the last, how many more? How many? Everything is heightened. I stand outside in the darkness and watch my son playing in the window of the cottage. I stand until the cold is in my bones and wonder, Is this the last time that I’ll stand? I’m in my life and outside it, in the moment and conscious of the significance of every moment.
    It’s lucky. In this heightened state, experience is burned into my memory. I’m running after Raife and I’m thinking, Is this the last time I’ll be running? So I speed up. I’m running with a limp, and so running full tilt becomes a series of long hops and strides. But I’m running, across the grass, after my son, who is laughing uncontrollably, in the half-fright ecstasy of pursuit. And I’m remembering it. Fear of the last time is recording every second. Which is lucky, because it is the last time. And when you lose something central in your life it’s important to have a memory of it, so you don’t feel insane, so the pain you feel has a corresponding shape, something that says definitively, “That is real.” Then, happy or sad about it, I have that for ever.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Book to Movie: Big Little Lies

Sometimes turning a book into a movie doesn't work well and sometimes it works really well. "Big Little Lies" is a thriller by Liane Moriarty that I really enjoyed and I was interested to see how it would translate to the screen in the recent HBO miniseries.

The miniseries has a lot of big name stars like Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Laura Dern to just name a few. It has a truly star-studded cast. The miniseries is seven jam packed episodes with a lot of twists and turns. Although the book had many layers, it didn't feel quite as twisty as the miniseries did. I loved the book but the miniseries really packed a punch.

There were a lot of differences between the book and the movie. Some of these differences included:

  • The setting being moved from Australia to the California coast.
  • Madeline having a whole sub-plot regarding bringing Avenue Q to their town.
  • Madeline having an affair the way she did.
  • Jane's relationship in the end.
  • The ending was different.
Like the book, the story in the miniseries is told by going back and forth between the past and present. This helped keep me on my toes throughout the whole series. Even though I knew how the book ended and therefore thought I could guess how the miniseries would end, the way that the story was told made me think that there could possibly be another outcome, which I loved!

The miniseries is great! The music is good (I neeeeed to buy the soundtrack)! The cinematography is gorgeous and captures the sort of noir-like feel of the story. The acting is great. I love Nicole Kidman but she played Celeste amazingly. Celeste is soooo complicated like she is in the book. Out of all of the main characters, it is Celeste that looks like she has the most picture perfect life and it is also Celeste that probably has the worst stuff going on in the background. Kidman played all of this so well!

If you haven't read the book or seen the series, read the book first (always, always, always) and then watch the miniseries!

Thanks to HBO and ThinkJam for a copy of the book and the miniseries! What a treat!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Review: Watership Down by Richard Adams

Title: Watership Down
Author: Richard Adams
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Avon Books
Publish Date: 1972
Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society."

My Two Cents:

"Watership Down" is a classic book that I had been wanting to read for a while. Luckily, I had a 2017 reading challenge that fit the book perfectly. This book is about rabbits who try to find a better life for themselves. Along the way, they come across hostile rabbits, dogs, and cats who threaten their lives. This book feels very much like a military novel.

I wasn't expecting for the book to have such a strong religious undertone. Throughout the book the rabbits speak about another rabbit whose story has become so legendary that this particular rabbit almost becomes a spiritual protector for all other rabbits. I was especially interested in the legend of this rabbit as it gives you a lot of insight into the sort of traits that the rabbits care about and look for in others.

In general, I am also very interested in how authors come up with the stories that they come up with. The particular edition of this book that I read includes an author's note that talks about how he came up with this idea for essentially telling a conquest story through the eyes of rabbits. I also thought that it was really interesting that he wanted to make sure that aside from having intelligent thoughts and conversations, the author really wanted to make sure that his rabbits actually acted like rabbits and so he goes into a little bit of the research that he did in order to do so.

Overall, this is an incredibly inventive story and it's easy to see how books like this one have stood the test of time!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Review: How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry

Title: How to Find Love in a Bookshop
Author: Veronica Henry 
Format: Ebook
Publisher: Orion
Publish Date: August 15, 2017
Source: Publisher

What's the Story?:

From "Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers--a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father's death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.

There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there's a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage--she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.

Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future--and not just within the pages on the shelves. How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish."

My Two Cents:

"How to Find Love in a Bookshop" is a multi-layered story that centers on a bookstore in a small English town. First we have the story of Julian and Rebecca and it is a whirlwind romance that took my breath away. Then there is the story of Julian's daughter, Emilia, who inherits the bookstore when her beloved father passes away and she isn't sure that she will be able to do everything that she needs to do in order to keep the bookstore afloat. This book is the perfect book for when your heart needs a little squeeze.

I love the characters in this book! The romance between Julian and Rebecca is so amazing and so passionate! I loved seeing how Emilia deals with trying to make a new life for herself when so much of who she is and what she does seems to have been tied up with her father who did everything he could for her. Then you have all of the secondary characters like Sarah, who is trying to put things together for herself after a lot of friction.

There is something magical about books set in and around bookstores. Sure, being a reader, I love a good bookstore and Nightingale Books seems just like the kind of place that I would like to while away communing among the books. While much of the action is driven by the characters, the bookstore and the descriptions of what it's like factor heavily into this book. The bookstore almost felt like another character in the book. This book is definitely geared for those that believe in the magic of bookstores!


Monday, August 14, 2017

Review: The Crowns of Croswald by D.E. Night

Title: The Crowns of Croswald
Author: D.E. Night
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Stories Untold Press
Publish Date: July 21, 2017
Source: PR

What's the Story?:

From "In Croswald, the only thing more powerful than dark magic is one secret…

For sixteen years Ivy Lovely has been hidden behind an enchanted boundary that separates the mundane from the magical. When Ivy crosses the border, her powers awaken. Curiosity leads her crashing through a series of adventures at the Halls of Ivy, a school where students learn to master their magical blood and the power of Croswald’s mysterious gems. When Ivy’s magic––and her life––is threatened by the Dark Queen, she scrambles to unearth her history and save Croswald before the truth is swept away forever."

My Two Cents:

"The Crowns of Croswald" is the story of Ivy, a girl who is adrift until she gets the chance to go to a school where she will learn to use the magic that has been there all along. Geared for middle grade readers, this book has a lot of fantasy and magic to excite younger readers.

This book was a slow start for me. We first meet Ivy before she has gone to school when she dreams big dreams. It's not until about halfway through the book that the action really begins to pick up and Ivy begins to interact more with the others at school and begins to uncover the secrets of what her life will eventually be like.

There is some good world building in this book, which I liked and believe will appeal to middle grade readers. From the magic to the names of some of the characters in this book, this book has a very Harry Potter feel to it.

The writing of the book was a little stiff in some places but this was uneven. There would be some passages that had a lot of flow to them and others where every thought and action was told rather than showed.

Overall, I think the fantasy was good but could have flowed more. I am interested to see where Ivy's story goes!


Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 Reading Challenges - July Check In

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

PopSugar Monthly Challenge

  • January (A book with one of the four seasons in the title ): Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (1/25)
  • February (A book by a person of color): Dragon Springs Road by Janie Chang (2/15) 
  • March: A book about an interesting woman: Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick (3/25) 
  • April (A book with an unreliable narrator): We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (4/6)
  • May (A novel set during wartime ): The Baker's Secret by Stephen P. Kiernan (5/6)
  • June (A book involving travel): News of the World by Paulette Jiles (6/18)
  • July: A book set in two different time periods : The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor (7/27) 

 PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Basic

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

Pop Sugar Ultimate Reading Challenge Advanced 

  • A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Radius of Us by Marie Marquadt (1/23)
  • A book about a difficult topic: Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen (3/2) 
  • A book with an eccentric character: Eggshells by Catriona Lally (3/14)  
  • An audiobook: Identical by Ellen Hopkins (5/1)
  • A book recommended by an author you love: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (6/28) 
  • A book from a genre/subgenre you've never heard of: Perilous Undertaking by Leanna Renee Hieber (7/12) 

Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge

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

Curious Iguana's Read Broader
  • Peek into the Past: Putin Country by Anne Garrels (1/7)
  • Justice for All: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance (2/1)
  • Justice for All: Excellent Daughters by Katherine Zoepf (2/6)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Chosen Maiden (3/5) 
  • LGBTQ+ Perspectives: Becoming Nicole by Amy Ellis Nutt (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Global Voices): The Confessions of Young Nero by Margaret George (3/20)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): One Child by Mei Fong
  • Choose Your Own Category (Justice for All): Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
  • Armchair Adventures: Kindred by Octavia Butler (5/7)
  • Global Voices: Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (6/1) 
  • Small Press Works in Translation: Before the Feast by Sara Stanisic (6/5)
  • Choose Your Own Category (Peek Into the Past): Bears in the Streets by Lisa Dickey (6/15) 
  • Armchair Adventures: Orhan's Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian (7/1) 
  • Collections Near and Far: Whatever happened to interracial love? By Kathleen Collins (7/22)
  • Peek into the Past: The Black Calhouns by Gail Lumet Buckley (7/23)
  • Global Voices: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez (7/24)
  • LGBTQ+ Perspectives: The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North (7/25)
  • Collections Near and Far: Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli (7/26) 

Challenge Totals:
  • January: 10 books
  • February: 9 books
  • March: 19 books 
  • April: 11 books
  • May: 5 books
  • June: 6 books 
  • July: 8 books 
How did it go this month?

I had a little bit of an uptick this month. I'm hoping to finish at least a challenge or two this month!
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