Thursday, June 19, 2014

Book Review - Love Letters to the Dead

GoodReads Says: It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May did. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to people like Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Amelia Earhart, Heath Ledger, and more; though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating new friendships, falling in love for the first time, learning to live with her splintering family. And, finally, about the abuse she suffered while May was supposed to be looking out for her. Only then, once Laurel has written down the truth about what happened to herself, can she truly begin to accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was; lovely and amazing and deeply flawed; can she begin to discover her own path.

You know that girl from high school, the one that was so emotional that everything she said was intended to have a specific gravity...intended to make you think (even if the content of what she was saying was about a homework assignment?) She took herself so seriously, and came from the viewpoint that literally everything was life or death?

That girl is Laurel. Laurel's voice is .....dramatic. Emotional. Succinct, but with an edge of drama. The tone reminds me of The Fault in Our Stars, but not as good. 

In the beginning, I enjoyed the book, but wasn't enthralled. As the story progressed, I got bored and so.tired. of Laurel's voice. Towards the end I was thinking "a-ha!" It was a pretty satisfying ending (though not without the dramatic touches). It was all nicely wrapped up, and the story felt complete. 

I give this book 3.5 stars. I'm glad I read it, it made me think about a few things, and it would be good for a certain audience (this is one of those YA books that would better suit an ACTUAL YA audience. Slate, I'm looking at you.) I just feel like someone on the same emotional-field as a teenager would appreciate this book more than your average adult. 

Have you read this? What do you think?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

ARC Review: The Girl With all the Gifts

GoodReads Says: Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her 'our little genius'. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

(This book was release June 10, 2014; I received the book prior to this courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

I can't even. 

This book....not at all like I expected, but so.good. 

Since I don't want to give anything away, I'm going to list the things that I did and/or didn't like, instead of a full review.

1. I liked how it was sort of sci-fy-y (so not a word), without being firmly in that genre. The setting and plot brought out a lot of conversations regarding human nature (vs nurture), and it was handled really well.

2. There was violence, and some of it pretty (okay, really) graphic, but it didn't seem like it was inappropriate or just used for shock value. It certainly wasn't the main drive of the story.

3. I could relate to all the characters, even if I didn't like all the characters. I think this is a mark of a successful story/author - when you can tell that all characters were given consideration.

4. It's not a book that I would normally gravitate towards, but it had just enough of the familiar to interest me. Once it did, I couldn't put this book down for anything.

5. The ending felt solid. At first, I thought it was a tad abrupt, but upon thinking about it, I realized that it was orchestrated this way, and meant to end the way it did. When you get to the end, you'll notice that there is obvious forethought in the ending, and you'll appreciate it.

Overall - READ THIS. I'd LOVE to see a sequel!!!!

Top Ten Tuesday - June 17

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Today's topic:
Top 10 Books on My Summer TBR List
GoodReads Says: For many of us, there comes a moment when we wish we were invisible.

For Ellen Homes, not only does she wish it . . . she actually lives it.
She spends her days quietly observing but unobserved, watching and recording in her notebooks the lives of her neighbors, coworkers, and total strangers. Overweight, socially stunted, and utterly alone, one night Ellen saves a blind young woman from being mugged.
Then everything changes.
Character-driven, poignant, and leavened with touches of humor and witty dialogue, Invisible Ellen is a remarkable novel about personal transformation, morality, the power of friendship, and the human need for connection with others. 

GoodReads Says: Self-doubting Ruth is coddled by her immigrant mother, who uses food to soothe and control. Defiant Francesca believes her heavy frame shames her Park Avenue society mother and, to provoke her, consumes everything in sight. Lonely Opal longs to be included in her glamorous mother’s dinner dates—until a disturbing encounter forever changes her desires. Finally, Setsu, a promising violinist, staves off conflict with her jealous brother by allowing him to take the choicest morsels from her plate—and from her future. College brings the four young women together as suitemates, where their stories and appetites collide. Here they make a pact to maintain their friendships into adulthood, but each must first find strength and her own way in the world.


GoodReads Says: Acclaimed for her spare prose and exceptional psychological insights in her novels Becoming Jane Eyre and Love Child, Sheila Kohler’s latest is inspired by Sigmund Freud’s Dora: An Analysis of a Case of Hysteria.Dreaming for Freud paints a provocative and sensual portrait of one of history’s most famous patients.
In the fall of 1900, Dora’s father forces her to begin treatment with the doctor. Visiting him daily, the seventeen-year-old girl lies on his ottoman and tells him frankly about her strange life, and above all about her father's desires as far as she is concerned. But Dora abruptly ends her treatment after only eleven weeks, just as Freud was convinced he was on the cusp of a major discovery. In Dreaming for Freud, Kohler explores what might have happened between the man who changed the face of psychotherapy and the beautiful young woman who gave him her dreams.


Good Reads Says: Amidst the lush farmland and orchards in Old Gate, Virginia, stands the magnificent Bliss House. Built in 1878 as a country retreat, Bliss House is impressive, historic, and inexplicably mysterious. Decades of strange occurrences, disappearances and deaths have plagued the house, yet it remains vibrant. And very much alive.
Rainey Bliss Adams desperately needed a new start when she and her daughter Ariel relocated from St. Louis to Old Gate and settled into the house where the Bliss family had lived for over a century. Rainey's husband had been killed in a freak explosion that left her 14 year-old daughter Ariel scarred and disfigured.
At the grand housewarming party, Bliss House begins to reveal itself again. Ariel sees haunting visions: the ghost of her father, and the ghost of a woman being pushed to her death off of an upper floor balcony, beneath an exquisite dome of painted stars. And then there is a death the night of the party. Who is the murderer in the midst of this small town? And who killed the woman in Ariel's visions? But Bliss House is loath to reveal its secrets, as are the good folks of Old Gate.

GoodReads Says: Sixteen-year-old Josie lives her life in translation. She speaks High School, College, Friends, Boyfriends, Break-ups, and even the language of Beautiful Girls. But none of these is her native tongue--the only people who speak that are her best friend Stu and her sister Kate. So when Kate gets engaged to an epically insufferable guy, how can Josie see it as anything but the mistake of a lifetime? Kate is determined to bend Josie to her will for the wedding; Josie is determined to break Kate and her fiancĂ© up. As battles are waged over secrets and semantics, Josie is forced to examine her feelings for the boyfriend who says he loves her, the sister she loves but doesn't always like, and the best friend who hasn't said a word--at least not in a language Josie understands

GoodReads Says: Few things in life can come between a grim reaper and her coffee, but the sexy, sultry son of Satan is one of them. Now that Reyes Farrow has asked for her hand, Charley Davidson feels it's time to learn more about his past, but Reyes is reluctant to open up. When the official FBI file of his childhood abduction lands in her lap, Charley decides to go behind her mysterious beau’s back and conduct her own investigation. Because what could go wrong?
Unfortunately, another case has fallen into her lap—one with dangerous implications. Some very insistent men want Charley to hunt down a witness who is scheduled to testify against their boss, a major player in the local crime syndicate. If Charley doesn't come up with an address in 48 hours, the people closest to her will start to disappear. 
Add to that a desperate man in search of the soul he lost in a card game, a dogged mother determined to find the ghost of her son, and a beautiful, young Deaf boy haunted by his new ability to see the departed as clearly as he sees the living, and Charley has her hands full. The fact that Reyes has caught on to her latest venture only adds fuel to the inferno that he is. Good thing for Charley she's used to multi-tasking and always up for a challenge…especially when that challenge comes in the form of Reyes Farrow.

Good Reads Says: After shooting a Union soldier in her front hall with a pocket pistol, Belle Boyd became a courier and spy for the Confederate army, using her charms to seduce men on both sides. Emma Edmonds cut off her hair and assumed the identity of a man to enlist as a Union private, witnessing the bloodiest battles of the Civil War. The beautiful widow, Rose O’Neale Greenhow, engaged in affairs with powerful Northern politicians to gather intelligence for the Confederacy, and used her young daughter to send information to Southern generals. Elizabeth Van Lew, a wealthy Richmond abolitionist, hid behind her proper Southern manners as she orchestrated a far-reaching espionage ring, right under the noses of suspicious rebel detectives.

GoodReads Says: When Lucy, Elena, and Michael receive their summer reading list, they are excited to see To Kill A Mockingbird included. But not everyone in their class shares the same enthusiasm. So they hatch a plot to get the entire town talking about the well-known Harper Lee classic. They plan controversial ways to get people to read the book, including re-shelving copies of the book in bookstores so that people think they are missing and starting a website committed to “destroying the mockingbird.” Their efforts are successful when all of the hullabaloo starts to direct more people to the book. But soon, their exploits start to spin out of control and they unwittingly start a mini revolution in the name of books.


GoodReads Says: At nineteen years old, Nicole C. Kear's biggest concern is choosing a major--until she walks into a doctor’s office in midtown Manhattan and gets a life-changing diagnosis. She is going blind, courtesy of an eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa, and has only a decade or so before Lights Out. Instead of making preparations as the doctor suggests, Kear decides to carpe diem and make the most of the vision she has left. She joins circus school, tears through boyfriends, travels the world, and through all these hi-jinks, she keeps her vision loss a secret.

When Kear becomes a mother, just a few years shy of her vision’s expiration date, she amends her carpe diem strategy, giving up recklessness in order to relish every moment with her kids. Her secret, though, is harder to surrender - and as her vision deteriorates, harder to keep hidden. As her world grows blurred, one thing becomes clear: no matter how hard she fights, she won’t win the battle against blindness. But if she comes clean with her secret, and comes to terms with the loss, she can still win her happy ending.          

Told with humor and irreverence, Now I See You is an uplifting story about refusing to cower at life’s curveballs, about the power of love to triumph over fear. But, at its core, it’s a story about acceptance: facing the truths that just won't go away, and facing yourself, broken parts and all.

GoodReads Says: In the future, food is no longer necessary—until Thalia begins to feel something unfamiliar and uncomfortable. She’s hungry.

In Thalia’s world, there is no need for food—everyone takes medication (or “inocs”) to ward off hunger. It should mean there is no more famine, no more obesity, no more food-related illnesses, and no more war. At least that's what her parents, who work for the company that developed the inocs, say. But when Thalia meets a boy who is part of an underground movement to bring food back, she realizes that most people live a life much different from hers. Worse, Thalia is starting to feel hunger, and so is he—the inocs aren’t working. Together they set out to find the only thing that will quell their hunger: real food.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book Review: The One and Only

GoodReads Says: Thirty-three-year-old Shea Rigsby has spent her entire life in Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football, a passion she unabashedly shares. Raised alongside her best friend, Lucy, the daughter of Walker’s legendary head coach, Clive Carr, Shea was too devoted to her hometown team to leave. Instead she stayed in Walker for college, even taking a job in the university athletic department after graduation, where she has remained for more than a decade.

But when an unexpected tragedy strikes the tight-knit Walker community, Shea’s comfortable world is upended, and she begins to wonder if the life she’s chosen is really enough for her. As she finally gives up her safety net to set out on an unexpected path, Shea discovers unsettling truths about the people and things she has always trusted most—and is forced to confront her deepest desires, fears, and secrets.

Thoughtful, funny, and brilliantly observed, The One & Only is a luminous novel about finding your passion, following your heart, and, most of all, believing in something bigger than yourself . . . the one and only thing that truly makes life worth living.

First, was the"tragedy" they spoke of in the synopsis that thing that happened on the first page? It didn't seem like much of a tragedy to Shea. The synopsis makes it seem like this "tragedy" alters the direction of her life....and that's not exactly what happened in the book. 

Speaking of Shea, I still don't quite know who she was. I mean, I know all the stereotypes of her (there was a lot of telling and not showing), but Shea was simply one dimensional. There were many opportunities for the author to get into Shea's head, to explore some internal and intra-personal conflicts more, but the opportunities were totally wasted. 

-the football talk got old. Fast. 
-main source of tension or suspense in the book was.....icky.
-It was campy, predictable, and one-dimensional. 
-I didn't like Shea. At all. I couldn't related to her and most of the time I just wanted to slap her. 

In the books' defense, I did finish it because I wanted to see exactly how the love situation turned out. Unfortunately, I hated the ending. 

I give it two stars because it might appeal to someone, it's an original romance-novel concept, but unfortunately, it just didn't work and was one-dimensional. If you saw something in the book that I missed, please comment below!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Review: We Were Liars

GoodReads Says: A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

what.onEarth.was this???

So, for not really knowing what the book was about going in, and for the massive amount of hype this book received, I expected more. I wasn't sure what I expected (because the synopsis was so unsatisfying, but was therefore mysterious), but it wasn't this. 

FAIR WARNING: I didn't finish this book. I tried and I just couldn't. I made it over half way through, but I couldn't finish because 1. I couldn't figure out what the heck was supposed to be going on, 2.  I didn't know why I was supposed to care and 3. because the narrative style was just too much. 

There was a group of four people, mostly family, called The Liars (not sure why). There was some accident and one of the Liars (the narrator) suffered from amnesia around her accident.


But even over half way through the book I couldn't figure out what the actual story line was, or why I was supposed to care about this character (and I honestly didn't).

I don't recommend this one, at all. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Waiting on Wednesday - June 11th

Waiting on Wednesday is a feature hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week, I'm for:

GoodReads Says: London, 1892: James Norbury, a shy would-be poet newly down from Oxford, finds lodging with a charming young aristocrat. Through this new friendship, he is introduced to the drawing-rooms of high society, and finds love in an unexpected quarter. Then, suddenly, he vanishes without a trace. Unnerved, his sister, Charlotte, sets out from their crumbling country estate determined to find him. In the sinister, labyrinthine city that greets her, she uncovers a secret world at the margins populated by unforgettable characters: a female rope walker turned vigilante, a street urchin with a deadly secret, and the chilling “Doctor Knife.” But the answer to her brother’s disappearance ultimately lies within the doors of one of the country’s preeminent and mysterious institutions: The Aegolius Club, whose members include the most ambitious, and most dangerous, men in England.

It's 544pgs, released June 17, 2014 (!!!!) and sounds like the perfect book to sink my teeth into on my upcoming flight and road trip. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - June 10th

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.
This weeks' topic is: 
Top 10 Books You've Read So Far This Year.

Really???!? I need to remember what I've read and then rate them? Holy difficulty, Batman. I haven't been as diligent as I need to be in updating my GoodReads account with books that I've read, which made this weeks topic hard.

1. The Rosie Project. This is a recent read (my review here), and I LOVED.IT. I'm encouraging my fiance to read it because it's a satisfying love story without all of the cliche parts of a love story.
2. FanGirl. I wish I could read this again for the first time!
3. The Invention of Wings. I will read literally anything Sue Monk Kidd writs. This novel reminds me of The Help, which I also loved.
4. The Museum of Extraordinary Things. The writing was so lyrical, the story so unique and engaging...I loved it.
5. Happily Ever After. This was such a cute story, with a premise that I had never heard of before. Such a good summer read.
6. A Circle of Wives. This one had great characters...all three of the wives were so real.
7. The Impossible Knife of Memory. This is a YA book, but I think it's so important for anyone and everyone to read. It touches on PTSD through the eyes of a service-members daughter.
8. Pastrix. I.can't.even. Just....unique. Lovely. Real and raw.
9. To All the Boys I've Loved Before. A cute YA story, but I loved the family aspect and the independence of the Lara Jean.
10. We Are Water. Wally Lamb consistently writes epic novels. Literally. complex, thought provoking and accessible.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

ARC Book Review: The Fever

This ARC galley was provided to me by the Little, Brown and Company publishers via NetGalley for an honest review. Release date is June 17, 2014. 

GoodReads Says: The Nash family is close-knit. Tom is a popular teacher, father of two teens: Eli, a hockey star and girl magnet, and his sister Deenie, a diligent student. Their seeming stability, however, is thrown into chaos when Deenie's best friend is struck by a terrifying, unexplained seizure in class. Rumors of a hazardous outbreak spread through the family, school and community. As hysteria and contagion swell, a series of tightly held secrets emerges, threatening to unravel friendships, families and the town's fragile idea of security.

I have been so.eagerly anticipating this release! For some reason, I thought it was a YA book (um. totally not), but was pleasantly surprised that it was (clearly) written for an adult audience. Though it takes place in a high school, there is a strong theme of virginity and narratives about sex that I wouldn't necessarily want my teenager reading (though I don't believe the author intended the novel for that audience).

The story is told through three different members of the Nash family; teenage Deenie, older brother Eli and dad Tom. One after another, Deenie's friends start falling ill with a mysterious illness that makes them convulse, seize, hallucinate and suffer facial and bodily tics. There are numerous themes throughout the story; virginity, friendship, family, high school drama, parenting issues, vaccinations and the world being a dangerous place for children. I think perhaps the author had too many themes, but on the other hand, they all really fed into the resolution of the story line (which, though complete, seemed a little "last minute.")

The story benefited from three separate narrators, but I wish there was more of a distinction between the three voices in the layout of the pages. It's entirely possible that the format of the digital galley was mapped differently than the print version will be. Though it was fairly easy to tell who was "speaking," I would've benefited from more of separation (particularly because the voices of Tom and Eli seemed so similar, even though their characters were so different).

I was also totally annoyed by all of the teenage girls in this story (including Deenie), but I think that was the point. It made me look back on my time in high school, and the high school environment was the perfect environment for "the fever." (And, perhaps, "fever" wasn't the best word to use in the title. Though far less catchy, "fervor" would fit better). 

Overall: I give this book four stars and I would recommend it to others. It was thought provoking and entertaining; I really wanted to know what the heck was going on! It gives the reader ample time to reflect on their opinions of certain topics, while still maintaining enough distance to be fiction. I think it would be a great book club pick!

Favorite Quote: "Growing up felt like a series of bewildering afters."

Waiting on Wednesday - June 4

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

GoodReads Says:  Self-doubting Ruth is coddled by her immigrant mother, who uses food to soothe and control. Defiant Francesca believes her heavy frame shames her Park Avenue society mother and, to provoke her, consumes everything in sight. Lonely Opal longs to be included in her glamorous mother’s dinner dates—until a disturbing encounter forever changes her desires. Finally, Setsu, a promising violinist, staves off conflict with her jealous brother by allowing him to take the choicest morsels from her plate—and from her future. College brings the four young women together as suitemates, where their stories and appetites collide. Here they make a pact to maintain their friendships into adulthood, but each must first find strength and her own way in the world.

I can't wait to read this book, released June 26, 2014, because it's a glimpse into the lives of different, with food as a theme. The relationship between women and food is often fraught with anxiety, rationalizing and fear. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Topic Tuesday - June 3, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This weeks topic is:

Top Ten Books that Should Be (or Will Be) in your Summer Beach Bag

To me, summer reading is about light, entertaining books. In the summer, I enjoy humor and books that are cute but don't necessarily take too much brain power. This week, I'm going to split it up into five books that should be in your summer bag, and five books that will be in MY summer bag!

Five Books that Should be in Your Summer Bag:
1. To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

2. The Heather Wells series by Meg Cabot

3. The Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella

4. Past Perfect by Leila Sales

5. Getting over Garrett Delaney by Abby McDonald

Five Books that Will be in My Summer Bag:
1. Top Secret Twenty-One by Janet Evanovich (series is getting predictable, but still enjoyable)

2. Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour (not a concept I would generally go for, but I've heard nothing by positive reviews of this book)

3. Undone by Cat Clarke (a little heavier than normal summer reading, but great synopsis)

4. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche (sound familiar to my life currently...)

5. The Earth, my Butt, and Other Big, Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (a re-read, but I love it!)

Monday, June 2, 2014

Book Review - The Bookman's Obsession

GoodReads says: Hay-on-Wye, 1995. Peter Byerly isn’t sure what drew him into this particular bookshop. Nine months earlier, the death of his beloved wife, Amanda, had left him shattered. The young antiquarian bookseller relocated from North Carolina to the English countryside, hoping to rediscover the joy he once took in collecting and restoring rare books. But upon opening an eighteenth-century study of Shakespeare forgeries, Peter is shocked when a portrait of Amanda tumbles out of its pages. Of course, it isn’t really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture’s origins.

As he follows the trail back first to the Victorian era and then to Shakespeare’s time, Peter communes with Amanda’s spirit, learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays. Published 5/28/13.

This book made me feel dumb. There were a lot of details about the main plot (the provenance of certain literary works, some that I'm not even sure actually existed) that I'm sure I didn't understand. I was hoping that the the book would focus on Amanda and the painting. 

Instead, the book focused on possible forgeries that would either prove or disprove that Shakespeare of Stratford actually wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare. There were many details about the passing down of books, about book binding, and about forgeries. The amount of characters was overwhelming at times, and I felt like I couldn't keep all the details straight. And, the actual beginning of the book, featuring the portrait that Peter finds, feels like a forgotten detail, even though it was in the opening of the book (and in the synopsis), implying that it would play a much bigger part in the overall story. 

I give this book 2.5 stars. If you're interested in a detailed, literary mystery, this book would definitely rate higher for you, and I would encourage you to give it a try.