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.

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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!

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