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!

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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!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Review: Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from our Tuscan Kitchen by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar

Extra Virgin: Recipes & Love from Our Tuscan KitchenExtra Virgin: Recipes and Love from Our Tuscan Kitchen by Gabriele Corcos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was pleasantly surprised by this cookbook. I watch the Extra Virgin television show on occasion so I suspected what I might be getting when I opened this cookbook. Overall, I think the cookbook is a nice companion to the show but also serves as a stand alone cookbook for those who haven't seen the show.

The quality of this cookbook is fantastic. The cover is just stunning - so beautiful! It just begs you to open it! In addition, it is made of high quality material. The binding is fantastic - it allows you to open to any section of the cookbook without worrying that the pages will fly over. It's perfect for a cookbook and eliminates that annoying flipping that pages can do when you lay a book down. The photography is quite good and there is a good balance of food photography and photos of Debi and Gabriele.

The stories that are interwoven throughout the cookbook really make this special. It's similar to how they talk about their families and food on their show and it's one of my favorite things about the way they talk about food!

This cookbook is divided into 12 distinct sections - Appetizers, Pasta and Sauces, Risotto, Soups, Salads, Meats, Fish, Vegetables, Pizza, Panini, Desserts and Drinks. As you can imagine, anyone and everyone can find something here! I think the section on the essentials of the Tuscan kitchen is a fantastic resources for those specifically interested in Tuscan cooking and stocking your own shelves with the basics you need!

I love how each recipe includes commentary from one (or both) of the authors - giving tips as well as stories that bring that particular recipe to life for the reader! The recipe instructions are clear and detailed (but not too detailed). This cookbook is the perfect balance of traditional Italian dishes as well as new and interesting dishes that don't automatically think of when I think of Tuscan cooking. I love that about this book! And I think the recipes are going to challenge me to try new ingredients and cooking styles!

Some of the recipes that I'm most excited to try include - Pecorino and Honey Dip, Lasagne Alla Bolognese, Pesto Lasagne, Sausage and Asparagus Rissoto, Lobster and Cannellini Bean Soup, Grilled Tuscan Chicken, Fried Artichokes, Pizza Dough, Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Sandwich with Basil Oil, Carnival Fritters, Florentine Orange Cake, and the Lemon Brule Tart.

I have just two critiques for this cookbook - I wish there were more photos. I prefer to have a photo of EVERY recipe if at all possible and there were many recipes with no photo. Quite disappointing to me. In addition, I was frustrated by the fact that there is NO nutritional information in the book for any of the recipes. Also quite disappointing to me!

All in all, this is a great cookbook and I highly recommend it. It's definitely a great addition to any home cook's collection!

NOTE: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. However, my feelings about this book are 100% genuine, regardless of receiving it for review.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Review: The Chopped Cookbook by Food Network Kitchens

The Chopped Cookbook: Use What You've Got to Cook Something GreatThe Chopped Cookbook: Use What You've Got to Cook Something Great by Food Network Kitchens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm a huge Chopped fan! It's one of my go-to cooking shows and I love seeing what the chefs are able to create with the baskets. So, when I saw that there was a Chopped cookbook, I was all in!

This is a beautifully produced book - all of the photos are really great, very well designed graphics, and the overall graphic design of the cookbook is fantastic.

I think the books is well designed with a focus on using what you have available to create amazing dishes (which is really the focus of Chopped)! And I think this is a great cookbook for those with very little cooking experience and those that are more advanced since this is much more than just a bunch of recipes. There is a big focus on tips and ways to use what you might have on hand to make outstanding meals. Each section of the cookbook outlines new ways to use what you have! Which I think is why this cookbook is so successful!

Some of my favorite things about this cookbook include -

1. The plethora of tips throughout the book - some from our favorite Chopped judges and others just to outline a specific use for something or a cool tip to try!

2.Sections such as Play with your Pasta which outline ways to make a number of pasta sauces or Have Fun with your Frittata which demonstrates interesting combos to make yummy frittatas! Another favorite was Ten Fun Pan Sauces!

3. There is an entire section on cooking vegetables with lots of different options and flavor combinations. I often struggle with finding new and interesting ways to make veggies for our family so I love this section since it's so useful!

4. As I am trying to include more grains in our family meals, I love that there is a whole section on cooking grains. I know that will come in handy.

I have very few complaints about this cookbook but I'll share what did come to mind ...

1. I wish there was a photo for EVERY recipe in the book. I find that so helpful when I'm flipping through and trying to find something that strikes my interest. There are recipes here that I'd love to see a photo of before I decide if I want to make it.

2. I didn't see the nutritional information for any of the recipes which would have been a nice addition.

All in all, I'm really impressed by this cookbook and can't wait to get into the kitchen and cook! If you are a fan of the Chopped TV show, I definitely think you'll enjoy this cookbook. But, if you aren't, you may well still enjoy this one! It's a new favorite of mine and I highly recommend it!

NOTE: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review. However, my feelings about this book are 100% genuine, regardless of receiving it for review.

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Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon

Written in My Own Heart's Blood (Outlander, #8)Written in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Let me just start out by saying that I'm a HUGE fan of this series and of Diana Gabaldon's writing style. This series isn't for everyone - especially the later books. I acknowledge they are very historically and detail heavy. That is one of the things I love (and sometimes hate) about them but I know that some find that a bit boring. I have yet to find any of them bother me enough to not continue reading. My favorites to date have been book 1, 3, and 7. I really liked this installment ... although it's not one of my all time favorites, it's a great addition to the series and I love where the story goes in this one.

I'm loving the view into the American Revolution and that time in America. I love the characters - Claire and Jamie, of course, but also the others who I love spending time with including Ian, Brianna & Roger, Lord John, etc. That is what really keeps me coming back ... the characters that I love so much. Each new book is like getting to spend a week with the beloved characters that I have come to love so much!

Was this one too long? Probably. But, I honestly didn't care because I'd missed the characters and stories and was happy to be back in their world for awhile.

All in all, I'm a satisfied fan of the series ... my biggest disappointment? Having to wait for #9!