Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reading Musings

Reading These Days

I just wanted to mention that there may not be a ton of reviews coming for the rest of 2014 as I'm pretty much on a Michael Connelly kick and I rarely do thorough reviews of those here on the blog ... I've already read (in the last week or two) - Trunk Music, The Poet, Blood Work and I'm currently reading Angel's Flight. And I'm obsessed. It's all I want to read so I'm going with it. If you haven't read Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series, I can't recommend it more highly. It's fantastic and Harry is an amazing character. I love that Connelly has such an immense back list so I can tear through them!

Advanced Reader Copies Coming Up

I have a few ARC readings/reviews coming up soon (probably in early 2015). One is the new novel by Kristin Hannah, The Nightingale, which looks really good. Another is The Same Sky by Amanda Eyre Ward which also looks fantastic and right up my alley. Two more on my list are Rage Against The Dying by Becky Masterman and The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer. You're likely to see reviews for those books coming soon ...

My Best of 2014

I wanted to share with you the books that I loved most in 2014 but please note that I'm not including those 2015 books that I read as ARCs in this list although at least a few of those were some of my favorites of the year. Anything BEFORE 2015 is fair game for this list. This year was difficult to categorize for me. There was no ONE book that blew all others away as often is the case. This year I had a great reading year but no one book came out as a favorite per se. 

Here are the books that I'd characterize as my favorites of 2014 - 

The Poet by Michael Connelly
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

All fantastic books that I highly recommend. I'm linking to the reviews here on the blog, as I can,  in case you missed any of them!

2015 Books You Should Add to Your TBR List

There are two 2015 books that I have read that I would feel remiss if I didn't call out so you can be sure to get your hands on them ASAP in the New Year -

These are two of the books that I would say were of my favorites read in 2014. And I highly, highly recommend them both! They are fantastic!

Okay - that's it for now. I probably will have limited reviews for the rest of 2014 but I'm sure I'll be back with lots to share in 2015!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Review: First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First FrostFirst Frost by Sarah Addison Allen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will say up front that I may be biased in my feelings for this bookas I love Sarah Addision Allen's work and the Waverley's in particular are one of my favorite literary families (the family featured in this novel as well as her previous novel Garden Spells). I could not WAIT to get my hands on this novel as it is a follow up to Garden Spells and allowed me to visit with the Waverley's again. And I really enjoyed this novel - although not quite as good as Garden Spells, it's very close! Since I was a bit disappointed in her last novel, I was really frightened that this one wouldn't work for me. But, I am pleased to say that I loved it and highly recommend it!

In a way, this novel felt a bit like coming home and revisiting close friends. This was a very enjoyable and quick read. I didn't want to put it down because I couldn't wait to see what was to come for the characters! It had just the right amount of magical realism to balance the light family drama. If you enjoyed Garden Spells, then you will definitely enjoy this one. If you haven't read Sarah Addison Allen before, I highly recommend that you start with Garden Spells and follow up with this one. And I also recommend The Sugar Queen which is one of my all time favorite of her novels!

NOTE: This novel will be published on January 20, 2015 so mark your calendars so you don't miss it! The publisher provided me with a digital galley of this novel for an honest review!

Review: The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

The Life We BuryThe Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a novel that covers a lot of bases - legal thriller, mystery, family drama and more! I found it compelling and well written. Although the overall plot felt a bit familiar to me, I found that what Eskens did with it was interesting and a bit outside of the box. Given that this is a debut novel, I can't wait to see what Eskens has in store for us.

The characters were well drawn and interesting, the writing was great, the plot was strong and the pacing was fantastic. Giving just enough to keep the reader engaged while holding back enough to keep you reading is a skill that Allen Eskens employed well in this novel. Although in many ways this novel is more a mystery thriller than anything, I also think it read very much like literary fiction. I was engaged from start to finish.

I definitely recommend this one - it's a great story with lots of interesting twists and turns! Very worth the read!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: Revival by Stephen King

RevivalRevival by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There is nothing better than a new Stephen King novel - you know you'll be getting something amazing, page-turning, and compelling! And this novel is no exception!

I enjoyed every moment of Revival - it had everything I look for in a good book! The story was strong, the characters compelling and fully realized, the pacing was great and the themes were thoughtful. The book is totally engrossing and will keep you on the edge of your seat throughout!

In the end, this novel is what I'd describe as unsettling. It's not traditionally scary or anything - it just gets under your skin! King's imagining of some things we all wonder about from time to time is creative and unique. And creepy. But, I wouldn't characterize it as scary.

POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT - stop reading here if you have not yet read the book.

King is such a great writer - there were scenes in this book that literally caused shivers down my back just because of the way he brought people and things to life with words.  One scene that I'd say does that is the scene immediately after the car accident when Charles Jacob's wife is walking with the little one and they are wounded. I felt like I was there - watching the scene unfold because of the descriptive powers of King.

The ending really worked for me - it was imaginative and unique. It's not something we've heard a thousand times. And, honestly, it made me THINK about my own way of imagining life after death. I loved the ending (although I will say that some have not) and think it was a perfect conclusion to the book.

I highly recommend this, especially to King fans. Another high quality novel from one of the best storytellers writing today!
Lost Girls: An Unsolved American MysteryLost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery by Robert Kolker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those fantastic non-fiction pieces that reads like really good fiction! The story is told in a compelling manner and it did a great job of putting all of the events together in a manageable way. He brought the women - the Lost Girls - to life in this one. They were a group of women with very interesting and complex lives. I really appreciated the respect that Robert Kolker gave to them in this book.

I'm not usually a fan of the whole true crime genre but I think this is an outstanding example of true crime done well! The entire case is such a tragedy and I hope that the perpetrators of these crimes is eventually caught.

I highly recommend this particular book to those who enjoy very readable non-fiction and true crime stories!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor by Gina Homolka

The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on FlavorThe Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor by Gina Homolka
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fantastic cookbook! If you're looking for a cookbook with great food that are more healthy and low in calories, this may well be your best bet! Although I've heard of Gina's website, I haven't been spending a lot of time there regularly but I've decided to change that based on what I'm seeing in this cookbook!

The book itself is beautiful - well constructed, with great photography and lots of good tips! The content is well done and includes the following areas: Skinny Basics, Sunny Mornings, Skinny-Licious Soups and Chilis, Sandwiches on the Lighter Side, Skinny Bites, Fabulous Main-Dish Salads, Perfect Poultry, Lean Meat Dishes, Fabulous Fish, Meatless Mains, Veggie-Licious Sides, Skinny Sweet Tooth.

There is something for everyone in this cookbook! Although most of the recipes have a photo associated with it, some of them don't which frustrates me since I'd prefer to have a photo for ALL of the recipes. But, I do appreciate that most of them have a photo.

Some of the recipes that I'm planning to try soon include - Winter Potato, Kale and Sausage Frittta, Rustic Italian Gnocchi Soup, Summer Lobster Rolls, Guiltless Sausage-Stuffed Mushrooms, Tuscan Panzanella Salad with Grilled Garlic Bread, Chicken Marsala, Slow Cooker Mexican Pork Carnitas, Cilantro-Lime Shrimp, Black Bean Burrito Bowls, Silky Chocolate Cream Pie, and Baked Bananas Foster a la Mode. Yum! I can't wait to dig in and make some of these dishes!

I highly recommend this cookbook for pretty much anyone! Definitely a great one to pick up!

NOTE: I received this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Review: The Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer

The UncouplingThe Uncoupling by Meg Wolitzer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to love this book - the premise sounded unique and interesting. Unfortunately, the execution just didn't work for me. The characters felt like cardboard cut outs and I just didn't enjoy the reading of the book. It felt trite and never came together for me.

The story was promising but it just came off as flat to me. It just didn't ever come together. It was one of those books that I kept almost putting down but then didn't in hopes that it would improve. Luckily, it wasn't a super long book.

Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this one. It just didn't capture the imagination for me.

View all my reviews

Monday, December 1, 2014

Review: Yes Please by Amy Poehler

Yes PleaseYes Please by Amy Poehler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love Amy Poehler and was so excited about this book! I've been waiting forever for it to be released! I find Amy to be hilarious and to have an interesting perspective. I enjoyed this book but it wasn't quite what I thought it might be. I found it to be funny but it wasn't as fantastic as I'd expected. I was a bit disappointed. Although I loved getting into her head a bit and found some bits really quite interesting, I just didn't feel like it met my expectations.

There were funny bits but it just didn't come together for me as an entire book. But, I still recommend it as pretty good Amy Poehler is better than most people's best. The book is funny and definitely worth a read if you like Amy or if you enjoy funny books.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Review: The Children's Act by Ian McEwan

The Children ActThe Children Act by Ian McEwan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm starting to wonder whether or not it just might be that Ian McEwan isn't for me. I rarely find myself enjoying his novels so perhaps he and I just aren't a good fit. This book had such potential to resonate with me but it just never did. The entire child welfare court case about religious freedom was right up my alley. And I suspect that part of my not loving this one is related to where the novel takes that case and the issues involved in that case. I'm not going to spoil a thing but I will say that it just didn't work for me.

Ian McEwan is obviously a good writer which I say every time - the man can write! But, I just don't seem to 'get' his stories or style of writing. It just doesn't work for me. But, there seem to be a lot of other readers who loved this one. I can't recommend it myself but others do seem to like it so you may want to give it a shot if the description resonates with you.

View all my reviews

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Review: The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan

The Unquiet DeadThe Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love to read really smart, well written mysteries! They can be difficult to find sometimes but when you do, it's amazing! I would recommend this novel to fans of Tana French as there are similarities between this novel and Tana French's novels in terms of their being intelligent and well written mysteries.

Complex characters, a heartbreaking story, high quality writing and great pacing made this one stand out to me! I loved every moment of it and can't wait to see what is to come from Ausma Zehanat Khan in the future. If it's anything like this, I'm in!

This is a murder mystery in Canada that also explores the tragedies of the Bosnian War. There are two investigators (Rachel Getty and Esa Kahattak) who work in a special division of the Canadian Police that handles minority-sensitive cases. They are called to what appears to be an accidental death of a Canadian citizen. The story runs from there.

I really didn't have much knowledge of the Bosnian War and the Srebrenica massacre before this novel. I found it fascinating AND heartbreaking. I felt compelled to do some googling and learn more in order to better understand the background. That is always something that I love in a book - when it sends me to the internet for more details!

This novel is smart, well written and just plain GOOD! The plot is intricate and well conceived. The tension throughout the novel is perfection. I cannot recommend this one more highly. This is definitely one to put on your TBR. It comes out 1/13/2015 so make sure you have a reminder in place so you don't miss it!

NOTE: I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist: EssaysBad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved all of these essays. Such thoughtful insights that gave me a lot to ponder over! I will say that Roxane Gay's essays are right up my alley - much of what she said really resonated with me! Only Roxane Gay can make me enjoy an essay about Scrabble. Wow. She is fabulous!

She has much to say about feminism, pop culture, literature, politics and more. Each and every essay had something interesting for me to think about. Gay has a way with words - yes, she's opinionated but she's also very thoughtful and witty. I didn't find her to be in any way offensive or rude.

I highly recommend this essay collection. They are fantastic and thought-provoking. Great to dip into or devour in one sitting!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Review: Above Us Only Sky by Michele Young-Stone

Above Us Only Sky: A NovelAbove Us Only Sky: A Novel by Michele Young-Stone
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! I am just going to say it - I love this book and it may be one of my favorite books in a long while! What an amazing story! I could not put it down!

This is a beautiful book about a girl born with wings (but has them removed) and tells the story of her family, including an aunt who also had wings. This is a novel about family, identity, and loss. It also tells a story about Lithuania that really resonated with me and made the story all the more captivating!

I was so taken with this story and the characters. I truly didn't want to stop reading - it was one of those books I wish was 300 MORE pages because I hated to say goodbye to it. Such a well written novel with a current and historical story to tell. I almost don't want to say anything more beyond - in March 2015, get your hands on this book and fall in love! I highly recommend it to all!

NOTE: I received this ARC galley from the publisher in exchange for a honest review. This book will be released on 3/3/2015!

Review: Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique

Land of Love and DrowningLand of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel may be one of my favorites of the year. I think the great thing about this novel is how it melds together great writing, history and magical realism into a beautiful piece of art! I will warn you that there is a very disturbing plot line that may be difficult for some readers but I thought it was an interesting aspect of the novel that helped me to better understand some of the characters. I didn't find it in any way traumatizing but I wanted to mention it so you weren't surprised by it.

I knew next to nothing about the Virgin Islands before reading this novel. Yanique did a wonderful job of bringing place alive with this book. Her amazing writing coupled with a beautiful and fascinating place made for a magical reading experience.

The characters were fascinating ... flawed and difficult to understand sometimes. But, the interplay of character, place and magic makes for a mesmerizing and seductive reading experience. The plot is very complex and difficult to describe so I'm not going to even try to do it justice. However, I think that the plot was well done given the intricacies of the plot. As a reader, I felt the plot flowed well and really helped tell the story well.

All in all, I highly recommend this novel as I found it to be fascinating and well written! It's what good literature is ... a well written, fascinating story about truly interesting characters!

** NOTE: I'd probably give this one 4.5 stars rather than 4

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review: Rooms by Lauren Oliver

RoomsRooms by Lauren Oliver
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really interesting little book that I quite enjoyed. I've read one or two of her YA novels so I was interested in seeing how Lauren Oliver would approach an adult novel.

This is a ghost story but it's not in any way scary or anything like horror. It's very different in that respect to other 'ghost' stories which can be all about the scary. I really think that Lauren Oliver can write - she's got a way with words. And the story in this novel is quite good ... multi-layered and entertaining. There is a lightness to the story that I wasn't expecting that I felt was refreshing for a ghost story. I didn't think the characters were as well developed or attention getting as I like. I didn't feel as connected to the characters as I'd hope but I don't think that took too much from the overall book - perhaps that is what Oliver was looking for?

I enjoyed how the story unfolded and how everything wrapped up in the end. Although not a favorite book, I did enjoy this first adult effort by Oliver and look forward to more in the future.

This is definitely a good book and I recommend it, especially those interested in a ghost story but would like to avoid the scary!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

BelzharBelzhar by Meg Wolitzer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Based on Goodreads reviews, there seem to be some mixed feelings about this novel but I have to say that I don't understand that ... I absolutely loved this novel. Meg Wolitzer has become an author that I can rely on for great reading experiences.

I will say that the fact that Sylvia Plath is my favorite poet and that this book has a Plath tie was a draw for me. It's one of the reasons that I picked it up so quickly. And I think if you're a Sylvia Plath fan, this novel might be something of interest to you.

I love the way that Meg Wolitzer writes and tells a story. And this one really resonated with me - especially the teenage girl that I was back in the early 1990s. I love the idea of The Wooden Barn (a school for 'emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers') and I loved the idea of the Special Topics in English class. What a unique and cool idea! I think the ability to just go with the story and not think too much about the details makes the experience of this novel much better. I just enjoyed where the story took me and tried not to get too focused on the specifics of how, why, etc. I think that really helped me to enjoy the story to a fuller extent.

I ultimately found this novel to be very moving and to really give me a lot to think about in terms of grief, growing up, guilt, and acceptance. I'm not sure the entire story is technically plausible but I didn't find that to be a big deal - I just went with it and I think the novel has an incredible emotional pull that has stuck with me for weeks. I'm still thinking about to things in this novel which is the sign of something that really resonated with me. Great story, great writing, great characters. I just loved it. I can see that it won't be for everyone but I just loved it! I highly recommend this one!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Review: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a wonderful book this one ended up being! I'd tried to start it before but ended up putting it down. I am so glad that I returned and gave it another shot. This is definitely an odd novel - very different from anything I can remember reading before. And I mean odd in the best possible way! I don't even trust myself to try to describe this book because it's something that I almost think needs to be experienced in order to really understand how wonderful it truly is ...

I highly recommend this novel to any and every one! It's so fantastic and really resonated with me on so many levels. The narrative voice is one of the things that is so outstanding about this novel. It's a novel very much about ideas and it was ultimately a book that made me think about things in new and interesting ways.

I loved the characters. I loved the sense of place(s). I loved the writing. I loved the story. I loved the little tangents that the narrative took me. It's an all around fantastic read and I recommend you pick it up soon!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Review: My Perfect Pantry by Geoffrey Zakarian

My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential IngredientsMy Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential Ingredients by Geoffrey Zakarian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a big Geoffrey Zakarian fan so I was thrilled to be given this cookbook by the publisher for an honest review. I was so happy to find that its a good cookbook for home cooks at a variety of levels! It's a really great resource guide as well as cookbook! The premise is that he offers recipes for 50 ingredients that most people might/should have in their home pantry.

The book itself is quite nice - sturdy book with nice, heavy paper. The book's design is fantastic. The photos are great and I love that every recipe seems to have a photo in the book which is something that I personally look for in a quality cookbook.

I love that there is so much information offered about the variety of ingredients that the recipes utilize. There is good information AND there are good tips. I think that is a huge asset to this book.

There are approximately 3 recipes per essential ingredient so there is a lot of options available in the book! A few of my favorite recipes include -
1. All Purpose Fritter
2. Lime, Corn and Fresh Herb Salad
3. Magnificent Meatballs
4. Ricotta Gnudi with Mushroom-Garlic Butter
5. Italian Pasta Salad
6. Orecchiette with Lemon, Garlic and Parmigiano-Reggiano
7. Creamy Rice and Mushroom Casserole
8. Chinese American Fried Rice
9. Brown Sugar Pie
10. Quick Caramelized Apple Tart

All in all, I really like this cookbook and think I'll make some fantastic dishes using this great resource! I'm excited to dig in! If you like Geoffrey's style of cooking, I think this is a must buy! I definitely recommend this one!

View all my reviews

Monday, October 27, 2014

Review: The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

The Killer Next DoorThe Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I tried to start this one a few times but had trouble getting into it so I set it aside for a bit and came back later. I'm so glad I did ... once I got into it, I really enjoyed this novel.

I liked the intermix of action and character study that I found in this novel. I really like the character study piece and I think it made the story much more impactful overall. The primary reason for my 3 star rating is that I think the novel did have a bit too much action at times - in other words, how much can one group of people possibly encounter at one time!?!? It makes the overall story lose some of its believability, in my opinion. In addition, I think the 'killer' from the title is revealed a bit too early (and wasn't very difficult to figure out). With that all said, it's still a really good story with interesting characters. I think the pacing is great, the exploration of nuance was superb and the characterizations were fantastic.

This is definitely one I recommend if you enjoy a good thriller, especially one with a serial killer. There is quite a bit of violence in the novel so if that's not something you can stomach, you may want to avoid this one. Otherwise, I think this is a novel that is worth the read if the premise sounds interesting to you.

NOTE: Review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Review: Descent by Tim Johnston

Descent: A NovelDescent: A Novel by Tim Johnston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can't recommend this book more highly! What a fantastic, thrilling ride! It's not really like any book I've ever read before in many ways. It's definitely a thriller but its so much more! It's a book that sucks you in and holds onto you until the very end! I found myself staying up for one more chapter over and over until I was up way past my bedtime!

One of my favorite aspects of the book is how the Rocky Mountains come alive for the reader - in fact, I'd say that they are very much their very own character in this novel. The author just brings the mountains alive. I literally felt that I was THERE despite the fact that I've never visited the Rocky Mountains.

The characters totally came to life for me - with all of their flaws and humanity. None of them are trite representations of people - they are all well thought out and truly brought to life by Tim Johnston's beautiful writing. His ability to tell a great story is what keeps this novel above most thrillers I've read. There is something very raw about this one, a rawness that made me feel like I was there in the story as I read.

I'm only giving it 4 stars for one reason only - there was a piece of the ending (which I won't in any way spoil for you) that just didn't work for me and it ended up standing out so much that I felt it didn't stay true to the story. Just a small thing but it's stuck with me and I didn't feel ok with giving it 5 stars considering that flaw. But, all in all, this is a fantastic book that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys thrillers or just good storytelling! This one is well worth the read!

This book will be released January 6, 2015 and I definitely recommend that you add it to your TBR and grab it when it comes out!

NOTE: Thank you to the publisher for providing an advanced reader copy of this novel for my honest review.

Review: Make Up Your Life by Michelle Phan

Make Up Your Life!: Your Guide to Beauty, Fashion, Internships, Careers, Modern Manners, and More-- Online and OffMake Up Your Life!: Your Guide to Beauty, Fashion, Internships, Careers, Modern Manners, and More-- Online and Off by Michelle Phan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a self-proclaimed make-up junkie, I couldn't resist a book by Michelle Phan who is well known in beauty circles! And, overall, this is a really solid book. Unfortunately, I think it's targeted towards a different demographic than me. I'm 40 years old and very savvy (ok, obsessed) with makeup. I think this book is more geared to those in their late teens, early 20s. And, for that demographic, this book is fantastic!

This book focuses on the following things - 1. Michelle Phan's story - growing up, makeup, going into business, etc. 2. Skin Care 3. Makeup 4. Hair/Nails 5. Fashion 6. Digital 7. Jobs and 8. Manners. All really great for someone still learning about makeup, skin care and beginning to think about finding their style and future profession. I'd highly recommend this for ladies in their late teens and 20s. It's a very good book for those beginning to think about who they are and who they want to be. Michelle Phan has written a fantastic starter manual for the modern girl!

The book itself is high quality - the photos and the design are quite good. Lots of great tips and tricks are included.

Although I don't think this is really a book that those who are a little further along their journey might get a ton out of, I still enjoyed it quite a bit. It was a nice, easy read. If you are obsessed with makeup or a big fan of Michelle Phan, I think you'll enjoy this one. Or if you are looking for a book for a high school or college graduate, this might be something to consider.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Review: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

The House at RivertonThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm not sure what happened but I just didn't love this one as much as I'd hoped or expected. It was one of those novels that you know, as you finish it, that just won't stick with you. I thought the story was good and I liked the characters. However, there was something about it that just didn't do it for me. I think there are two things that made it less than great for me. For one thing, the book felt under-edited to me - there were entire sections that I felt could have been removed and never affected the overall story. It was a longer book than it needed to be. Secondly, I figured out the big plot twist pretty early on so the big twist fell a bit flat for me since it was old news to me by the time I got there.

This is a good book but nothing special or outstanding. If you're a Kate Morton fan, I think you'll like this one but it definitely isn't as good as The Forgotten Garden which is the only other novel of hers that I've read.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Review: The Best American Essays 2013

The Best American Essays 2013The Best American Essays 2013 by Robert Atwan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think its really difficult to rate anthologies since they contain so many different elements but I'm basing my rating of this on how I felt about it as a whole after finishing. I only skipped 2 essays which I just couldn't connect two. The rest were all either good or great. I took my time getting through these essays, dipping in and out as I felt like it. It worked well for me.

There were two stand out essays for me - Tod Goldberg's essay about Duk Koo Kim and Steven Harvey's essay about his mother's suicide. Those are the two that will stay with me ... that I haven't forgotten about and that really resonated with me. Frankly, I'm surprised that the Duk Koo Kim essay worked for me given the subject matter but it was fantastic. And it goes to show that it's not always the topic that matters, but the writing. It was written so compellingly well that I didn't want it to end. And there were passages of Steven Harvey's essay that literally brought me to tears - due to how beautifully written they were AND how they resonated with some of the things I've experienced in my life.

This collection is worth it, just for those two essays, but there are many others worth the read. As I said, there were just two that I didn't' enjoy. I also recommend Cheryl Strayed's introduction which is also fantastic! I recommend this collection, especially to those who enjoy personal narrative essays!

View all my reviews

Monday, October 13, 2014

Review - The Paying Guest by Sarah Waters

The Paying GuestsThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book really surprised me ... I didn't read anything about it before picking it up except that I'd heard it was 'good.' I think this is one that is best read with little information going into it. Sarah Waters is such a brilliant writer - that is what made this book so special! The pacing of the novel was perfection! I literally felt like I was walking around the early 1920s as I read this novel. The characters were spot on, the story was wonderful and the novel slowly pulls you in and makes you feel unable to stop reading. I felt like the prose was dense but not in a bad way, just in that way you need to savor each and every word. It isn't, in any way, a quick read. It's a novel you should throw yourself into and just live there for the duration. I think you'd lose something of the impact the narrative has if you tried dipping in and out rather than just submerging yourself in the novel. I highly recommend this if you enjoy dense fiction that is well written. If you're looking for something fast paced that reads quickly, you may want to look elsewhere. All in all, I really enjoyed this novel! Great read!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman

A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home: Painting, Crafting, and Decorating a Cheerful, More Inspiring SpaceA Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home: Painting, Crafting, and Decorating a Cheerful, More Inspiring Space by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really struggled with rating this book but I think I'll go with 3 and a half stars. This is a book that will either resonate with you or completely turn you off ... or it may impact you like it did me - I found it interesting but I don't see myself using this one to guide the projects I decide to do in my home. Ultimately, I think the design aesthetic demonstrated in this book (and shown on Elsie & Emma's blog A Beautiful Mess) is a bit more hipster and crafty than my own design aesthetic. There were very few projects in the book that I felt would fit in our home (or could be adapted to our home) which was pretty disappointing. I love how committed Elsie and Emma are to their style and to thinking outside the box. I find that to be very inspiring and compelling as a reader of their blog ... and frankly its what keeps me going back there despite the fact that I don't find a ton of projects to actually do in our home.

The book itself is beautiful - the photography, the quality of the paper, etc - were all fantastic. If you're a huge fan of the types of projects they share on their blog, this book may be right up your alley. But if, like me, you enjoy their blog but never see much that you think would translate well into your own home, this might not be a book for you.

The book covers a lot of areas - Living Rooms, Kitchens, Dining Rooms, Studio Spaces, Bedrooms, Outdoor Spaces, Playrooms, and Small Spaces. In addition to specific project ideas, there are sections about several different types of parties which was a nice addition. Some of my favorite projects in the book include the Colorful Accent Art project in the kitchen section, the kids' gallery wall (which I've seen before so this isn't quite so innovative), and the color crates for the closet seemed interesting. That's about it. Everything else was interesting and fun to read about but doesn't really translate to something I can or would use in my own home.

All in all, I highly recommend this to huge fans of A Beautiful Mess. Otherwise, you may want to take a good look through the book before you purchase it to be sure it resonates with you and your aesthetic!

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a honest review.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Review: Almost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman

Almost Famous Women: StoriesAlmost Famous Women: Stories by Megan Mayhew Bergman

I've been fairly candid about my love/hate relationship with short stories. I want to love them but rarely do ... I tend to be more of a novel sort of girl.

I felt drawn to this collection of stories upon hearing about the fact that each story highlights a woman who gained some sort of fame during their lifetimes. That is right up my alley! And I have to say that I'm amazed by how much I enjoyed this collection. All but one or two stories were FANTASTIC and even those that didn't resonate with me were still good.

Each of the women she explores are fascinating PEOPLE who lived amazing lives. I loved learning about each of them. I found myself googling them all and learning even more about them! I highly recommend this collection ... it's fantastic and each story is like a little gift of great writing, wonderful storytelling and a fascinating view into the life of amazing women. Just fantastic!

I've had Megan Mayhew Bergman's Birds of a Lesser Paradise collection sitting on my Nook for almost a year and I can't seem to bring myself to read it as I'm scared I won't like it after hearing so many great things. But, now I plan to read it soon. She is an amazing writer - she has such a way with words, she paints beautiful pictures with her words. I can't wait to dig into another collection from her!

I think Megan Mayhew Bergman is an amazing short story writer who even a reader who isn't a fan of short stories will enjoy! The publication date for this collection is 1/6/2015 - get this one onto your wishlists!

NOTE: I received this collection from the publisher for an honest review.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Review: The Night Garden by Lisa Van Allen

The Night Garden: A NovelThe Night Garden: A Novel by Lisa Van Allen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I gravitated towards this book after hearing that it reminded some of Sarah Addison Allen's work. I am a HUGE fan of her work so I was (of course) interested in finding something similar! There are definitely threads of this book that are reminiscent of Sarah Addison Allen's work but it's not quite as engaging as I'd hoped. I quite liked this novel - it's a very sweet little story that I found interesting but not quite as compelling as I'd hoped. Perhaps it suffered in comparison to one of my favorite authors? I'm not sure. I definitely enjoyed this one but just not to the level that I was hoping!

If you enjoy magical realism, I think this is a novel you may enjoy. Although I'd recommend not looking for the next Sarah Addision Allen novel but instead just enjoying what Lisa Van Allen has here for you. It's a very sweet story that I did enjoy. It just wasn't everything I'd hoped.

I'm not sure what it was that caused the story to fall a little flat for me. It had such potential to shine but didn't quite deliver. I wanted just a little bit more of something ... something to take it from good to spectacular!

I'll be keeping an eye out for future novels from Lisa Van Allen in hopes that her writing continues to get better and better! She truly does have such potential!! Give this one a try and see if it resonates with you!

NOTE: I received an advanced readers copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 6, 2014

Review: Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Bird BoxBird Box by Josh Malerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a fascinating novel with a really unique premise! It seems to me that this novel is a mash up of 3 genres - post-apocalyptic, horror, and psychological thriller! (But not horror in the sense of gore or anything like that - good classic, get under your skin horror.) It is a really successful take on all of those genres and I highly recommend it to those who are interested in reading something that is pretty unlike almost anything I've read before!

One of the best parts of this novel is how it explores the fact that the unseen is much more terrifying than the seen in most cases! The author created a circumstance that I found frightening in many ways and his exploration of those circumstances was spot on fantastic! Definitely a creepy read that gets under your skin! The pacing, tension, writing, characters, etc ... all of it was GREAT! I didn't have very high expectations going in so it was such a nice surprise to enjoy it so much! Very gripping novel that I highly recommend ... it's very creepy, interesting and well rounded!

View all my reviews

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Review: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Although I definitely think that the story itself was interesting and unique, I didn't feel like the execution came together that well. It was a good but not a great one. I felt it had great potential but just slightly missed the mark. What I did enjoy about this one was the exploration of memory and how life changes you over time. There was quite a bit of food for thought in the overall premise of the novel. I just wish the pacing of the novel had been tweaked a bit. I felt the flow of the story often felt disjointed to the point that I was at times even bored while reading. Which is a shame given that the overall story had such promise. I liked the characters overall and the story - it was just not a well executed novel in my opinion. I will say that many of my bookish friends really enjoyed this one so perhaps you will as well. If the premise sounds interesting, I definitely think it's worth giving a try. In the end, I was a bit disenchanted with this one. It didn't read as smoothly as the other Liane Moriarty novel that I've read.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Review: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Everything I Never Told YouEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a wonderful little novel about an interracial family (Chinese American) grieving for the loss of a teenage daughter. I don't want to tell you much about the plot of the book because I think it was all the more enjoyable by reading it with very little context or information. What I will tell you is that it's a wonderful story that explores racism, community, and emotional baggage.

The characters are wonderful and feel very real and raw for most of the novel. There is a realism about this story that I found made the themes and characters come alive in a way that could have been less subtle without Celeste Ng's deft hand. There are some really beautiful passages in this novel ... Ng is obviously a wonderful writer and I enjoyed the reading of her prose even if it was at time difficult to read due to how sad and desolate the story was at times.

The unraveling of the story and each character's perspective is one of the best things about this novel. There is a pacing and flow that keeps things moving, letting the various pieces of the puzzle are uncovered as Ng wants them to be. So well done! I highly recommend this novel as it's a really interesting take on racism, community and family dynamics.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Review: The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley

The Winter Sea (Slains, #1)The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a wonderful surprise this book was for me! I heard somewhere that this would be good to read if you enjoyed Outlander so i thought I'd give it a shot. Although it's no Outlander, it is a really nice historical fiction novel about the same time frame in Scotland. I was really pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this one.

Really great characters, an engaging cast of characters, great pacing and a really solid story! This is on the lighter end of historical fiction - there isn't a lot of density to the read, very engaging and easy to read.

I definitely recommend this to those who enjoy historical fiction, especially in 16th century Scotland. It's a great little book that I really enjoyed. I'm interested in reading more of Susanna Kearsley's books since this one was such a good one!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Book of Strange New ThingsThe Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've waited a bit to write this review to see how this novel set with me after thinking about it some more. I am still struggling with rating this one but I'm going with a 4 although 4.5 is probably closer to how I feel about this one. I have heard a few people say that if you liked The Sparrow, you might enjoy this one. Although I think they are ultimately very different books, I do understand the inclination to pair the two of them. And agree that they are both books that should be read by all ... although I'd say the Sparrow is a bit better overall.

There are a lot of BIG themes (religion, faith, humanity, etc) being explored here but I think Michel Faber did an amazing job exploring those themes while remaining even and non-preachy. Given my own complicated relationship with religion, I found Faber's exploration of religion to be even handed and fair. The book gave me a great deal to think about and stuck with me for a few days.

Michel Faber is obviously a deft story teller who is able to take a reader on a journey into this amazing new world that he's created that feels completely and utterly real. He's a fantastic writer and I really enjoyed all aspects of the story he told with this novel. I found this book to be extremely readable and loved every moment that I spent reading this one.

The novel will be published on October 28th and I highly recommend you give it a read. It's a wonderful story that is also intelligent and well written! I highly recommend this one!

NOTE: This novel was sent to me by the publisher for an honest review.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Review: Shotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler

Shotgun LovesongsShotgun Lovesongs by Nickolas Butler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that is right up my alley - a group of people who grew up together and are facing the world as adults! A Big Chill sort of vibe is what I love in this sort of book! And this one is a fantastic version of the coming together as adults books ... I really enjoyed every moment of the book. What made this book stand out, for me, was it's focus on male friendship. Many books focus on female friendship or a group of male and female friends but those focusing on men tend to be few and far between. So, the exploration of male friendship was one of the great things about this novel.

The novel is narrated by alternating chapters from the perspective of five different characters - the four male friends as well as one of the friend's wife. Each of these perspectives is key to telling the story and allowing the reader to peak into the lives of these characters and their relationships to one another.

I loved learning about their community (which is frankly another character in the book) and how their stories and friendships have played out over the years. It's a fascinating read and alternates between hopeful and heartbreaking. There is something rather simple about this novel which makes it all the more affecting and real.

The characters felt very real and honest to me. They all demonstrated the good, bad and ugly that is the human condition and it all felt very real to me. I began to care so much for each of the characters in this novel and their journeys were gut-wrenching at times!

It was a wonderful novel that I definitely recommend to anyone who likes a good story with fantastic characters! I can't wait to see what Nickolas Butler has for us in the future!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Review: Kitchen Confidential by Kelsey Nixon

Kitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook AnythingKitchen Confidence: Essential Recipes and Tips That Will Help You Cook Anything by Kelsey Nixon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by this cookbook. I've watched Kelsey Nixon's cooking show a time or two but really don't know her well. I wasn't sure that her cookbook would resonate with me and the tastes of my family. I am very happy to report that I was concerned for no reason - the book really resonated with me and I enjoyed it quite a bit!

I really liked how she balances the needs of an experienced cook with those of an inexperienced cook. There is a great section about essential equipment for a home cook that I think is a fantastic resource - and I especially like how she adds in the equipment she feels is 'nice to have' and 'fun, if you have the room.' Very useful for those with or without home cooking experience!

The contents of the cookbook include recipes across the spectrum including breakfast, starters, salads, sandwiches & soups, main course, sides, and desserts. Very comprehensive with so many different options for everyone! Some of the recipes that I'm most interested in making for our family include Prosciutto, Mushroom and Gruyere Strata, Buttermilk Biscuits, Cinnamon Buns, Antipasti Bruschetta, Green Goddess Dip, Charred Corn Salad, Shrimp Rolls, Pan-Seared Scallops, Chicken Piccata, Quinoa Pilaf, Sausage, Apple and Pear Dressing, and Lemon Bars. As you can see, LOTS of the recipes in this book have grabbed me!

This is a solid cookbook that I definitely recommend ... especially if you are a Kelsey Nixon fan!

NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Review: The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

The Silent SisterThe Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think Diane Chamberlain is one of those authors who steadily offer solid books that are extremely readable, interesting and are a good break from heavy literary fiction. I'm always eager to read her newest offering!

This novel, like most of the others I've read by her, is a really great read! Great characters, interesting plot, fascinating twists and turns! Very readable - they flow nicely with excellent plotting! I think I've mentioned this in reviews of her other novels but Chamberlain excels at capturing the relationships and emotions of her characters in a way that makes you feel a part of the very world she's created. It's the heart of what makes a Diane Chamberlain book so compelling!

There were some flaws in this one which is why I only gave it 4 stars but they are easily ignored or overlooked flaws. They nagged at me a bit but I was ultimately able to let them go and just enjoy the ride!

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel and definitely recommend it, particularly if you're a Diane Chamberlain fan! This story was really quite good and is worth the read!

NOTE: I received an e-galley of this novel from the publisher for my honest review.This novel comes out for publication on October 7th.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station ElevenStation Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may well be one of my favorite books of the year! Such a fantastic read! I am just sorry that I haven't discovered Emily St. John Mandel before! This is another dystopian novel that explores what happens to a group of people after a superflu kills off 99% of the population.

Since dystopian novels happen to be some of my favorite kinds of novels, this was certainly right up my alley. However, this novel is one of (if not THE) best dystopian novels that I have ever read. The way that Mandel writes about the experiences of those left behind is just AMAZING - the slices of life she highlights, the small experiences she obviously values, the very personal impacts of the larger world ... it's all so good. There were moments when I was overwhelmed at the tiny little things we take for granted that would be GONE if such a thing happens to our civilization. She highlights those things SO well and so effectively that I truly felt that I was there, experiencing these losses with the characters of the book.

The characters were very well drawn - flawed but REAL. The tenderness with which she wrote about each of them was so well done that I'm still thinking about many of them even days after putting the book down. I won't forget a few of them for some time - they truly made an impact on me.

This is a very quiet and intelligent literary novel. There isn't a ton of action or chaos. Similar to how it must feel to be one of just a small group left in a place, this novel feels all at once haunting, tender, quiet, elegant, and everything a good book should be! I cannot recommend this one more highly! It's simply fantastic and beautiful and a must-read! Don't miss this one! It's coming out in early September so make sure to make a note to pick up a copy!

NOTE: Received advanced readers copy (ARC) of this novel from the publisher for a honest review.

Review - The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

The Girl with All the GiftsThe Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't know a lot about this novel before I started it but I had heard some very vague good things so I thought I'd give it a shot. And I'm so glad that I did. The world and characters created by M.R. Carey in this novel are fantastic! I'm not going to tell you much about the book because I think not knowing much going in was a positive thing and allowed me to enjoy the book all the more as it all unfolded.

The girl mentioned in the title, Melanie, is a fantastic character that really came alive for me. She truly is the centerpiece of the novel and her relationship with a teacher is one of the most beautiful things I've read about in a very long time.

This book has a lot of suspense and action which make it feel like the reading experience is flying by! I never felt bored or a sense of dread. Although eager to see what would unfold, I enjoyed the entire experience getting there.

I found the early 1/3 of the book to be my personal favorite although the entire book is worth the read. This book is a really fantastic read that really challenges the reader to think about what it is to be human and to evaluate how we treat others. Highly recommended! I will note that this could be classified as horror and there is some of that but it's such a well written, well plotted book that I have a hard time calling it horror. There is some horror but I think it's well done and not in any way gratuitous. I think it's a book that will appeal to almost anyone!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: The Secret Place by Tana French

The Secret Place (Dublin Murder Squad, #5)The Secret Place by Tana French
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My amazement at what Tana French is able to create, book after book, is just off the charts. She blows me away. I keep waiting for a bad book as one would expect would eventually happen. No one's perfect, right? Well, I'm not sure ... because this is yet another standout novel from Tana French. If you haven't read any Tana French ... WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? She's amazing and probably one of my favorite novelists. Although you don't have to read the series in order, I would recommend that you do since characters float throughout the books and I think they build nicely on each other. Again, they are certainly stand alone novels but I'd recommend you start at the beginning and work your way to this book which happens to be the fifth in the series.

When I first read the description of this novel, I was sure it wouldn't be a favorite - it seemed to me that it sounded very focused on the lives of teenage girls which is not an area that I'm eager to explore at the moment. But, WOW ... Tana French knows how to take the very thing that I think I'm not interested in and make it fascinating! This story is captivating, interesting and kept me on the edge of my seat.

The interplay between the adults and the teens in the novel makes it a standout for me. I'm just fascinated by the way French is able to tell a story - with tension and expert pacing. It floors me every time and this book is no exception. The way she unfolds the story is perfection - keeping me on the edge of my seat, turning the pages, trying to figure out the mystery! I'll take a Tana French literary crime novel over ANY crime novel out there! She takes her time, giving you bits and pieces to chew on, all the while developing the characters and themes with a richness that you just don't find in most novels. It's just outstanding!

I'm not going to go on and on ... just take me at my word, read this. Read all of her novels. They are fantastic and well worth the time. Highly recommended!

NOTE: I received a galley of this novel in exchange for an honest review. Book will be available September 2, 2014.

Review: Elements of Style: Designing a Home and a Life by Erin Gates

Elements of Style: Designing a Home & a LifeElements of Style: Designing a Home and a Life by Erin Gates

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've been thinking a lot about home design lately so when I saw this Erin Gates book, I thought it might be exactly what I was looking for. This is a really solid design book with a lot of personal anecdotes from the author and some very good tips and tricks!

The photography in the books is beautiful and looking at the variety of spaces that the author highlights was very inspiring for me! I loved how each section of a home was highlighted by its own section with really good tips and tricks (and photos). One of the things I was surprised by is how Gates included tips for renters which I think is a nice addition to the overall book since so many people are renting these days. I also loved the special features she included such as recipes in the kitchen section and some tips around blogging and starting a blog. I thought those were unexpected but really nice additions which added something special to the overall book.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone with an interest in design or if you enjoy Erin Gate's blog. There is a lot of great information here!

NOTE: Review copy received from the publisher for an honest review. Book available for purchase October 7, 2014.

Review: Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson

Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy IndustryBrick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry by David Robertson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was drawn to this book about LEGO for two reasons - 1. my son is obsessed with LEGOs and I was interested in learning more about the company behind his beloved toy and 2. it sounded like a fascinating case study of a company that is known for innovation. I'm not usually a huge fan of non-fiction or business books unless they offer more than the usual stuff and this one really did deliver some unique and interesting things!

From a business perspective, I found the pieces on the history of the company and how it became the company we know and love to be fascinating. I knew nothing about LEGO beyond the very basics. If you're a LEGO fan, you may find this insiders view of the history of the company fascinating. I also found it interesting in terms of my own job - there was much to learn about innovation, changing culture and how to avoid making decisions that can take your focus in the wrong direction.

The other thing I loved about this book was the fascinating facts and interesting tidbits that I learned and was able to share with my son who is an avid LEGO fan. He loved that I was reading a LEGO book! And I loved getting a bit more information about something that he loves so much.

If you have an interest in LEGO or you want to read a case study about how LEGO got off course and made it's way back, I highly recommend this one. It's an interesting read that I feel I got a lot out of reading!

NOTE: I received this book for review, from the publisher, for an honest review.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Review: Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead

Seating ArrangementsSeating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that really isn't for everyone. I found the reading experience to be VERY dense. I'm not sure that's the best description but it's the word that kept coming up for me. It's got a lot of depth and the writing is quite good (some of the writing is stunning) but it's ultimately a social satire about a very specific segment of the American population - the East Coast WASP that has lots of wealth, goes to Ivy League schools, owns beach houses, etc.

I felt the world created by Shipstead certainly felt real to me ... although not the world I'm from by any stretch of the imagination, it seemed to resonate with me in terms of my own encounters with such people. Were the characters likeable? Well, no. Not even a little bit. Flawed certainly and often self-absorbed and annoying. Yet, I still enjoyed reading about them.

I struggled with rating this one ... it's probably more of a 3 and a half for me but I'm rounding up since I really did enjoy this one overall. I think the book deserves a higher rating for the moments of genius that I found within (some of the writing blew me away yet some of it most definitely did not). There is an intensity to the novel that gave it the sense of density that I referred to earlier. I'm not sure that I'd recommend this to most readers ... but, if you are interested in reading satire about wealth or are interested in getting a taste of Maggie Shipstead's writing, I would recommend this one. I am looking forward to trying her new novel to see if that one resonates even more than this one!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Review: The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

The FarmThe Farm by Tom Rob Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a really fast-paced and intriguing novel that grabbed me from the start and kept me wanting more for the entire read! The pacing kept the story moving quickly and the short chapters helped that sense of being propelled forward. The story itself was very well constructed and keeps the reader guessing almost to the end!

The structure of the book leads the reader to experience confusion, skepticism and tension throughout the novel. Giving the reader a sense of urgency and questioning at every turn of the page. I understand that the story came out of the author's own experiences with his mother which may be why it all feels so real and fresh.

Very intriguing novel that I definitely recommend. I already knew Tom Rob Smith was a good writer but this book definitely reminded me of his talent and made me ask myself why I never finished reading his Leo Demidov series but I plan to rectify that soon! Again, I definitely recommend this one ... it's a really intriguing and interesting novel!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson

Fourth of July CreekFourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This may be one of my favorite books of this year - it's fantastic! I still can't quite believe it's a debut novel! I will say that this one took me awhile to get into - and I think that was partly a result of getting connected to the narrative voice as well as the 'feel' of the overall story. But, once I connected, WOW! I couldn't stop reading. I wanted more and more and more!

Well written, really interesting and multi-faceted characters, realism at every turn! The primary thing that pulled me in initially was the social work angle - I'm always pulled into stories about social workers and the families they serve. This may be one of the most realistic depictions of the challenges of being a child protective services worker that I've read in fiction. This social worker isn't the usual do-gooder we see in fiction ... this man is flawed and real and at times very dark. As real people can be.

This story felt very realistic and true to life. The characters felt the same. This is a gritty book that doesn't flinch from the hard things in life. In fact, it pulls up close and really explores the darker side of things in life. And I loved this book for that unflinching look it gives the reader!

I highly recommend this one ... but don't give up on it if you don 't immediately connect to the story or the characters. Give it time, live in the world a bit and I bet you'll begin to connect! It is so worth it! I cannot wait to see what Smith Henderson has coming for us in the future if this book is any indication of his talent!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Should All Be FeministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I quite liked Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's newest novel and when I saw this piece was going to be available, it seemed right up my alley - feminism, a great writer, based on a TED talk? I'm IN!

And I'm so glad I took the time to read this piece - it's very insightful, thoughtful and interesting. She has such an intriguing voice. Now, I should say that I suspected going in that I'd agree with pretty much all of her arguments around feminism as I consider myself to be a feminist. But, even so, I found myself very interested in her ideas and I kept highlighting sections of the piece that really resonated with me. This was well presented/written and certainly speaks to feminism at a pretty basic level. She makes some really well thought out and logical arguments that were drawn from her experiences in Nigeria and the United States.

This is an excellent and needed re-visit to feminism and being a feminist in today's world. I highly recommend it to all!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation (Southern Reach Trilogy, #1)Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really struggled with this novel. After hearing so many raves about it, I think I was expecting much more than I actually found during reading it. I just didn't 'get' it. I am not sure what I missed but I never connected with the story, the world created by the author or the characters. I kept waiting to 'get' it but I never did.

This is the kind of book that would typically be right up my alley but I found this one a bit lacking. I felt very in the dark throughout the reading and I really don't feel like I ever came into the light. And that is part of the problem for me ... knowing it's a trilogy, I didn't expect the author to give it all away in this novel. But, give me SOMETHING so I can feel grounded in the world and to help me to care what is happening in that world. But, I never really connected to the story or the world being built. As a result, I just didn't find the novel to live up to the hype.

I don't think I'll be reading future books in the trilogy. I think this one is worth a read if you find the description interesting since so many people have loved it. However, it just didn't work for me. I really hope it will work for you. The upside is that it's a fairly short book so you can give it a shot without having to invest a ton of time and reading energy!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

LandlineLandline by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I absolutely love Rainbow Rowell's previous novels so it really pains me to give a novel of hers 3 stars. I kept waiting for Landline to get better but it just never did. It was truly middle of the road - not great, not terrible - just in the middle all the way. I am tempted to give this 2 stars but I didn't find it to be below average, just AVERAGE. So, I went with a 3.

I was never bored during reading this but I just didn't find it nearly as engaging as her other novels. I didn't love the characters as much as I've loved the characters in her previous novels. The magical realism aspects of this novel were fine but nothing outstanding. I loved the narrative voice in this novel but I just never connected to it as I usually do with her work. There was something missing that is usually there with Rowell's work. I can't seem to identify it but I noticed it was missing!

If you haven't read Rainbow Rowell, I highly recommend you start somewhere else ... her other novels are much better than this one. But, even not great Rainbow Rowell is better than a lot of good books. So, if you're a Rowell fan, you may want to give this one a go but know that it's not nearly as good as her best!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Review: One Kick by Chelsea Cain

One Kick (Kick Lannigan, #1)One Kick by Chelsea Cain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Publication Date:

I was so excited to hear that Chelsea Cain was coming out with a brand new series given how much I love her Archie Sheridan series! And I have to tell you, if this first book is any indication, the new series is going to be just as good (if not better)!

What a wild and wonderful ride this book was for me! I could not put it down! Cain has such a way with words - she makes characters come alive in amazing, wonderful ways! And this new character, Kick, is just fantastic! She's a perfect blend of strong, fearless, hurting, sad and WILD! And I loved every moment of getting to know her!

I enjoyed the story line here - the idea that Kit was abducted and abused as a child and then able to help use those experiences to help others. I found her to be complex and her journey pretty realistic! I didn't find her story to be unbelievable or anything. And her interactions with the other characters in the book are really fantastic. Have I said fantastic enough?? HA!

Cain paced this novel so well - it's fast paced and un-put-downable! Well written, well paced, great characters and wonderful storytelling ... it doesn't get any better!

If you love Cain's Archie series, I have a feeling you'll love this one. If you haven't tried Cain before but enjoy suspenseful novels, I suspect you'll enjoy this one as well! If you felt the Archie series was a bit too violent and gory, this one might be more palatable as the violence and gore is considerably less here than in the Archie series. I cannot wait to see what is to come for Kick Lannigan in future books of the series!

NOTE: I received an electronic copy of this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley for review consideration. My feelings about this book are 100% genuine, regardless of receiving it for review.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Review: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (All Souls Trilogy, #3)

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy, #3)The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I could not be happier with the ending of this particular trilogy. I was worried how this third book might go after having mixed feelings about the second book. But, wow! The final book in the trilogy definitely exceeded my overall expectations and sealed this trilogy's fate as an all-time favorite of mine!

I wouldn't say this book is easily read as a stand alone novel - you really need the context of the first two books to fully understand and enjoy this one. I continue to be amazed at what a wonderful writer Harkess is ... her ability to weave a fantastic story with multifaceted characters is just superb! She's a master storyteller and kept me enthralled with this one for every single page!

I am often frustrated by the final book in a trilogy because many authors seem to almost give up and give the reader a half-hearted story that doesn't actually provide closure or it closes the story up so quickly that it feels undone. Not this one ... Harkness unravels the mysteries of the trilogy slowly and provides the reader with answers that have obviously been thought out and demonstrate a respect for the reader's intellect. THIS is what the final book of a trilogy should be! It's so good that it makes me want to go back and read all 3 books from the start, one after another!

I will point out that these novels, especially this one, are not fluffy vampire/witch fiction. These novels are well thought out, intellectual and cerebral takes on fantasy/gothic horror. These story lines are occasionally treated as fluff by other writers. But not Deborah Harkness ... she elevates them and brings them to life with her attention to detail and excellent writing skills!

This may well be one of my all time favorite trilogies - well written, great characters, intellectual exploration of identity and self awareness, and more! I can't recommend the trilogy more highly! In fact, I envy those of who haven't read them and get to read them for the first time!

Note: I received an electronic copy of this book for free from the publisher via Netgalley for review consideration.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Review: Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories by Karen Russell

Vampires in the Lemon Grove: StoriesVampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories by Karen Russell
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It absolutely KILLS me to rate a Karen Russell book of stories this low but I have to be honest ... this collection did not do it for me. In fact, I really only enjoyed the first two stories in the collection. I loved the title story - Vampires in the Lemon Grove - as well as the second which was about silkworms. That was also a really fascinating story that captivated my imagination. However, for the rest of the collection, I was frustrated and forcing myself to read them just to get finished with the book. The ideas she puts together are SO creative ... but some of them just didn't come together for me.

I should also add that short stories are not my favorite genre and I am often frustrated by them. Very rarely does a short story really resonate with me - it happens but rarely. I'm sad to say that this collection was not for me! But, if you love Karen Russell OR short stories that are outside the box, this definitely might be a collection for you to try out!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Review: All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

All Fall DownAll Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me say upfront that I'm a big fan of Jennifer Weiner - the writer AND the person. I think she's funny, interesting, polarizing and fascinating! So, I was so excited to hear that she had a new book coming out!

And I have to say that I really enjoyed this novel - even more than I'd expected! Weiner's books have been hit or miss for me - either I like them ok or I love them. Never do I not like them but I don't love them all. This one actually did a great job of exploring a serious subject - addiction - while also giving the reader a really compelling and interesting main character.

I love how Weiner is able to be both realistic and compassionate about addiction through Allison's journey with addiction. And by adding in her trademark touch of humor, she makes the reader care for Allison while also feeling such frustration with her decisions while in the crux of her addiction. There were aspects of the story that I wish had been explored more fully than they were but that didn't necessarily make the story go downhill for me. They were just aspects that were ultimately left to my imagination which was fine given that I enjoyed the rest of the novel so much!

I highly recommend this novel if you're interested in reading a well written novel about prescription drug addiction and it's impact on a woman, her family life and her work life. It's a well-written and thought provoking novel that is well worth the read!

View all my reviews

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Review: The Fever by Megan Abbott

The FeverThe Fever by Megan Abbott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my first Megan Abbott novel and I only picked it up after hearing good things from a few readers that I trust! And I'm glad that I picked this novel up but I'm not sure that I loved it as much as some others have. Definitely a compelling read with pacing that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the novel. The story itself is definitely compelling and interesting. There is a strong focus on the lives of teenagers and high school which is to be expected given this is a young adult novel but part of me was hoping for something with a little more depth which is why I'm rating it a 3 instead of a 5.

The concepts being explored in this novel could have gone so much further with small shifts in focus. However, it is a good read that most who enjoy young adult reading will love! There is much good here such as Abbott's exploration of the impact of 'the fever' on this community and the exploration of the inner lives of teenagers (male and female). This novel was much darker than I expected for some reason. I was a little surprised by that aspect of the book ... in a good way. However, I was disappointed in the 'big reveal' which I didn't find to be nearly as good as all that led up to it. Perhaps that is just personal preference, in the end, but it just didn't resonate with me.

I think this was good for what it is ... but I was a little disappointed as I was hoping for a bit more given how many great things I was hearing about it. If you're a YA fan, this is one you should definitely consider. If the inner lives of teens is not your thing, you may want to skip this one!