Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Olympic Book Tag

I stumbled across a post by the blogger Miss Print today that featured an Olympic themed book tag and it just looked so much fun I had to join in. You can see Miss Print's list here and hop over to the post by Shannon over at It Starts at Midnight who graciously offered up her graphics for anyone joining her book tag.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
From its famous first line this is one of those books that just hooked me from the very beginning and completely swept me away into the world and story L'Engle had created. I feel like I know Meg, Charles Wallace, and Calvin and I just want to go on adventures with them.
Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
When Ginny's aunt dies, she leaves her 13 envelopes with instructions that set Ginny off on an adventure around the world. Not only is this a fun read, but I also read it for the first time as I was riding a bus through the Italian countryside, so it has special memories tied up in it as well.
Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle
At first I didn't think I liked this love triangle, but as more things are revealed about the characters the more I was torn. Serle definitely does a good job of keeping your interest and ratcheting up the drama.
NaomiRuth loved this book. I ... I just didn't quite get it.
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Technically this book starts in the winter, beginning in January of 1946, but the most significant part of the story takes place over the summer, so I'm counting it. Also, I'm in the middle of yet another re-read of this book and I will take every opportunity I can to share my adoration of this book. I have recommended this to so many people and have never had a single person dislike it. Read it. Right now.
Assassin's Heart by Sarah Ahiers
I mean, a book about a family of assassins? Of course there is a lot of fighting and death. Lea is one of my favorite heroines in books I've read this year. I loved the worldbuilding and the character development throughout the novel. So good.
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Maybe this is an obvious choice, but I mainly picked this book up because of all the hype. It's not in my normal wheelhouse. I got it on audio so it wouldn't take up reading time. I'm still sort of eh about the book as a whole, but the twist half way through was so shocking to me that I still remember exactly where I was driving when it happened, so it wins this category for me.
The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall
This category had a LOT of contenders as I tend to get very emotionally invested in books. But this one kept coming to mind, so it wins this category. I adore this entire series and you have to read them in order! This is the most perfect ending to the series. I want the Penderwicks to live next door to me.
The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Don't get me wrong, I love these books. But it moves. so. slowly. Especially in the beginning.
The Ordinary Princess by M. M. Kaye
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Princess Amy is given the gift of Ordinariness at her christening and her life quickly deviates from the proper path of a seventh princess. But as she makes her own decisions and grows as an individual she just might find her happily ever after anyway. This fairy tale is both expected and unexpected at the same time. It's so wonderful.
This series of wordless graphic novels is the sweetest. I love every single thing about it. It's kid friendly, but is sophisticated enough to enthrall adults.
Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
This was long and intricate and just lost me. I had such a hard time finishing it. In fact, I'm pretty sure the only reason I did was because I was listening to it on audio. If I had been reading it in print I would most likely have either put off finishing it indefinitely or just given up on it.
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
This series not only has lovely romantic relationships, but it is chock full of amazing friendships as well. My favorite is probably between Cinder and Iko.
I have to pass on this bonus category because, apparently, I don't read any books that contain any kind of Olympic sports. Or at least I haven't in recent memory.

This was a lot of fun! I'd love to hear some of your choices for any of these categories. Leave them in the comments or link us over to your blog if you decide to join in!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What I'm Reading Now: August Edition

I hope you've been getting some summer reading in, whether by the pool or curled up in an air-conditioned room. I've been back in the reading groove and here's what I've got going on right now.

On my Nook: I have been working through Andrew Lang's collected Fairy Books and I'm on the twelfth and final one - The Lilac Fairy Book. These have provided a lot of fun and some ideas for novels, as well. The further I got into the series, the less familiar the stories became and the wider the cultural spread, though I do have to wonder how much was changed when they were translated and "adapted" for children. An excellent place to start, though, if you want to spread your fairy tale wings.

On my Phone: Still chugging along in Don Quixote - got past the familiar parts and realized I haven't, in fact, read this before. Enjoying it when I have a few minutes to read here and there.

In Print - Fiction: I just started Fairest by Marissa Meyer. Now getting into the part of the series I hadn't read before and loving every minute of it. I'm particularly curious to see Levana's back story, because I have a feeling there are going to be some big surprises there. The Lunar Chronicles is an excellently told and crafted YA fairy tale retelling and I highly recommend them.

In Print - Non-Fiction: Also just started All Over But the Shoutin' by Rick Bragg. I'm already intrigued and I'm only a chapter in. I really enjoy memoirs and biographies.

On Audio in my car: The Serpent's Shadow by Rick Riordan is the final book in the Kane Chronicles trilogy and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. It's a fun series and a fun take on Egyptian mythology. And, as I mentioned before, the narrators totally sell the story through their narration.

On TV: I just binge watched the entire first season (all 8 episodes of it) of the new Stranger Things on Netflix. Loved it. I was trying to describe it to NaomiRuth, who I knew would also enjoy it, and it's basically X-Files meets Pretender meets Super 8 with some Lost sensibilities. It's dark and fun and creepy and mysterious and most of the main cast are middle schoolers.

So what are you reading or watching? Share in the comments!

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Little Lit: Albert of Adelaide by Howard Anderson

Albert is a platypus who has escaped from the Adelaide zoo and set out on a quest to try to find others of his kind. He has a vague memory of a beautiful place where he once lived with his mother. Armed only with that knowledge and a stolen soft drink bottle filled with water, he sets out into the Australian outback to find home. Along the way he runs into a wild cast of characters including a wombat who likes to burn down buildings, a pair of bandicoots who can't seem to survive without a drink, kangaroos, dingoes, and the mysterious Muldoon. As he stumbles from one mishap into the next, Albert learns more about himself and the world around him and has to figure out who he can trust to help him on his journey.

What I Liked:

  • This is one of the most unique books I've read. It's a western and a hero's quest and a coming of age and a fantasy all rolled up into one book.
  • Albert's character development was well done. He's naive and confused and fairly timid at the beginning and he grows, but doesn't change so much that he's unrecognizable at the end - a feat that was actually fairly difficult to pull off considering the things that happen to and around him through the course of the narrative.
  • The secondary characters are enjoyable and very distinctive.
What I Would Have Liked:
  • I would have liked just a bit more character development with the secondary characters. They're unique, but sometimes I felt like they were just a bit flat - like their quirks were their main substance. Not all the time, but at times.
  • I understood the purpose of leaving the ending open the way it was, but I felt vaguely dissatisfied by it. I didn't get the closure I was hoping for, I guess.
  • An enjoyable and very different read for fans of westerns or slightly dark fiction.
  • The animal protagonists do not in any way make this a comic or light read, but allow Anderson to explore the ideas of friendship, home, and growth in a very unique way.
  • I know I keep using the word unique, but it's the best descriptor I have!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What I'm Reading Now: July Edition

This summer has been an absolutely crazy one for me, so I haven't had much time for reading, but here's a look at the books I'm crawling through right now.

On my Nook: I just started rereading Cinder by Marissa Meyer. I've read the first 3 books in the series before, but I want to finish it and it's been long enough that I really felt like I needed a refresher before I read Fairest and Winter. I love this series so much, so I'm really excited to read the first 3 again and then attack the rest of the series.

On my phone: I've made it a few more pages into Don Quixote. I'm so familiar with many of the story events that I can't remember if I've just read excerpts/heard plot points or if I've actually read the whole thing before. I'm leaning toward the former, but we'll see how familiar it stays as I continue through the story.

In print - fiction: I made it through almost all of L.M. Montgomery's novels before the conference, and I'm determined to finish them off. I'm about a third of the way through Pat of Silver Bush. It's been so long since I read it that I don't remember anything at all about it, so it's like reading it for the first time all over again! It's definitely a very different novel from most of Montgomery's others.
In print - non-fiction: Still reading All Cracked Up by Patsy Clairmont. I love her and her style, but I have not been in the mood for non-fiction lately. I read a bit here and there and have made it about half way through, but I've been saving my reading time for other things.

On audio in my car: Having worked through A Series of Unfortunate Events and Harry Potter I was looking for another "kids" series to listen to. I really enjoyed the audio version of Rick Riordan's Kane Chronicles so I started those on my drive to Prince Edward Island. Now I'm almost done with The Throne of Fire, the second book in the trilogy. The narrators do a really good job of bringing the story to life.

On TV: I'm going back and forth between Leverage and Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix. But the show I'm absolutely loving right now is So You Think You Can Dance: The Next Generation currently airing on Fox.
I've been a fan of SYTYCD for years now and this new twist has been so interesting. The kids are incredibly talented and I cry at least 3 times during each episode. I do wish there had been a way for them to do both a regular and a kids' version of the show rather than switching from one to the other. But if you're looking for a great dancing competition with talent that will blow you away every week, I highly recommend it. The first live show was Monday and it looks like Fox has a few episodes available for streaming on their website if you want to catch up a little. If you've watched the show before, the kids are paired with all-stars from earlier seasons so you get to see some of your favorites dance and mentor the next generation, which is all kinds of cool and warm and fuzzy.

What are you reading or watching?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

TLC Blog Tour: The Sun in Your Eyes by Deborah Shapiro

A witty and winning new voice comes alive in this infectious road-trip adventure with a rock-and-roll twist. Shapiro’s debut blends the emotional nuance of Elena Ferrante with the potent nostalgia of High Fidelity, in a story of two women—one rich and alluring, the other just another planet in her dazzling orbit—and their fervid and troubled friendship.From the distance of a few yards, there might be nothing distinctive about Lee Parrish, nothing you could put your finger on, and yet, if she were to walk into a room, you would notice her. And if you were with her, I’d always thought, you could walk into any room.For quiet, cautious, and restless college freshman Vivian Feld, real life begins the day she moves in with the enigmatic Lee Parrish—daughter of died-too-young troubadour Jesse Parrish and model-turned-fashion designer Linda West—and her audiophile roommate Andy Elliott.When a one-night stand fractures Lee and Andy’s intimate rapport, Lee turns to Viv, inviting her into her glamorous fly-by-night world: an intoxicating mix of Hollywood directors, ambitious artists, and first-class everything. It is the beginning of a friendship that will inexorably shape both women as they embark on the rocky road to adulthood.More than a decade later, Viv is married to Andy and hasn’t heard from Lee in three years. Suddenly Lee reappears, begging for a favor: she wants Viv to help her find the lost album Jesse was recording before his death. Holding on to a life-altering secret and ambivalent about her path, Viv allows herself to be pulled into Lee’s world once again. But the chance to rekindle the magic and mystery of their youth might come with a painful lesson: while the sun dazzles us with its warmth and brilliance, it may also blind us from seeing what we really need.What begins as a familiar story of two girls falling under each other’s spell evolves into an evocative, and at times irrepressibly funny, study of female friendship in all its glorious intensity and heartbreaking complexity.
The Sun in Your Eyes is a brilliant mash-up of road-trip story, mystery and social commentary.

This book reminded me a lot of one of my all-time favorite novels, Summer Sisters by Judy Blume which also spanned decades of a female friendship in all its greatness and the sorrow when it falls apart.  I loved that this book also had this extra layer that gave you a lot to think about fame.  Lee's dad was a famous musician but since he died when she was so young, she barely got to know him yet millions fans believed they knew him and felt they even loved him.  Of course they didn't really know him but who hasn't felt a sense of love and kinship toward a celebrity?  I had my suspicions as to the mystery surrounding Jesse's car crash but it was a great ride exploring it with Lee and Viv.

Pick up The Sun in Your Eyes, at your favorite local bookstore or online book retailer.

Visit the rest of the stops on the blog tour for additional reviews and information about The Sun in Your Eyes.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

10 Things I Loved About The Agency Series by Y. S. Lee

Mary Quinn was only twelve years old when she was sentenced to death. Turning to thievery after the death of her parents, she managed to scrape out an existence on the streets of Victorian London, but after being rescued from the gallows and given a home in a school for girls, her life took a turn for the better. Now she's seventeen and learns that the school is more than it seems. She's given the chance to train as a spy in an agency of women who take advantage of the way girls and women are overlooked and taken for granted. As she faces a variety of mysteries, villains, challenges, and a chance at romance, Mary has to deal not only with the dangers of her work but also with the weight of her past and her heritage. Can she come to grips with who she is or will she lose everything she's worked to gain?

I received the second book of the series - The Body at the Tower - at BookExpo America several years ago. I couldn't read them out of order, of course, so I tracked down the first book. After reading the first two I had to read the third and fourth as well!
This review contains some mild spoilers for the series, since I'm looking at it as a whole, but I'll try to keep it as spoiler free as possible.
So here we go - 10 things I loved about Y. S. Lee's Agency series

  1. Mary - I liked how resourceful and determined she was. Yet she really struggled with how to survive in a world where she was considered a second class citizen on several different levels. She has to learn how to be comfortable with who she is and with the choices she's made.
  2. James - The banter between Mary and James was probably my favorite part of the books (and there was far too little of it in the fourth one!). I liked how he developed as a character. It was nice that he had his own family and other things to deal with, even though the series was focused on Mary.
  3. Their relationship - minor spoilers - I really appreciated that Mary and James went their separate ways at the end of the first book. And I liked the way Lee brought them believably back together again. The development of their relationship happened at a good pace, I thought.
  4. Spies! - I really enjoyed the way Lee played with the cultural mores in Victorian England. And even if there wasn't a female agency like this, I know there had to be women who would have excelled at that kind of subterfuge. Because women were often overlooked and would have been able to gain information as servants, governesses, etc.
  5. The setting - Lee did a good job of evoking Victorian England through the little details - the clothes, the food, the descriptions of setting woven in through the mystery.
  6. The ethnic issues - minor spoiler - Mary is half Chinese and I really appreciated the way Lee dug into the prejudices and challenges of Asian people in London at the time. It's not something I've ever really heard about before and she wove it into the narrative in such an interesting way.
  7. The mysteries - I liked the way that each book had its own distinct mystery which was wrapped up by the book's end. There were larger threads that carried through the series and call backs to earlier events and people, but it was kind of nice having a sense of closure at the end of each book. Also, each mystery was different and had its own challenges and approaches to solving it.
  8. The layers - There was the larger mystery, but there were also plenty of other things going on to flesh out the stories and the characters - conflict in the Agency, Mary's conflicted feelings for James, trying to figure out who she is apart from the Agency, dealing with her past, James dealing with his brother and familial obligations - it just made for a much more interesting larger story. And I thought Lee did a good job of balancing all those different layers.
  9. A complete story - I'm kind of glad I didn't get around to reading this until now, because I was able to read all four books one right after the other and get the whole story. I thought Lee did a good job of keeping you reading and wanting to know what happens in the next book and then by wrapping it up well in the fourth book. There's a real sense of closure but also a recognition that there are still a lot of possibilities left for Mary (and James).
  10. The ending - Spoilers! - I liked the way the fourth book tied back to the first book and wrapped up the loose ends from the first mystery. I especially liked the way Lee wrapped up Mary's family story as well. It just completed the larger story pieces really nicely.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Everywhere and Every Way by Jennifer Probst

Ever the responsible eldest brother, Caleb Pierce started working for his father’s luxury contracting business at a young age, dreaming of one day sitting in the boss’s chair. But his father’s will throws a wrench in his plans by stipulating that Caleb share control of the family business with his two estranged brothers. 
Things only get more complicated when demanding high-end home designer Morgan hires Caleb to build her a customized dream house that matches her specifications to a T—or she’ll use her powerful connections to poison the Pierce brothers’ reputation. Not one to ignore a challenge, Caleb vows to get the job done—if only he can stop getting distracted by his new client’s perfect…amenities. 
But there’s more to icy Morgan than meets the eye. And Caleb’s not the only one who knows how to use a stud-finder. In fact, Morgan is pretty sure she’s found hers—and he looks quite enticing in a hard hat. As sparks fly between Morgan and Caleb despite his best intentions not to mix business and pleasure, will she finally warm up and help him lay the foundation for everlasting love?
I loved this book! I watch a lot of HGTV especially Property Brothers so this book was right up my alley.  However the Pierce brothers don't get along anywhere near as well as the Scott brothers seem to.  I thought the romance was great and it was definitely hot.  Probst does a stellar job at keeping the sexual tension between Caleb and Morgan pulsing.  In addition, I loved that Caleb and Morgan were both mature, independent, hard-working people. Morgan's secret also sheds awareness on an important issue.  I can't wait to see what's in store for Caleb's brothers in the planned sequels for this series.  Everywhere and Every Way is available at your favorite bookseller now, so rush out and pick it up, you won't be sorry.  

****/5 stars

For more on Jennifer Probst and her novels, please visit the author's website.