Wednesday, June 24, 2015

10 Things I Loved About The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale

I am a huge Shannon Hale fan. I love every one of her books that I've read. I've had this one sitting on my shelf forever and just now finally got around to reading it and, boy am I glad I finally did.

Becky is, well, a housewife. She's married to a man she adores, has three kids and another one on the way. She bakes and cooks and is involved with her church. She also just managed to sell a screenplay and who should happen to interrupt the meeting with her agent but Felix Callahan, Becky's long-time Hollywood crush. They share some banter, then find they're staying at the same hotel so they share a cab and dinner. Then Becky heads home, happy to have a story to share with her family. Until Felix shows up again. And their friendship starts to grow. Becky's husband, Mike, isn't sure what to think and Felix's wife, Celeste, just seems to be amused. Can Becky and Felix just be friends? And what happens when both of their worlds turn upside down? Can their friendship survive?

Read on to see 10 Things I loved about The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale.

  1. The Premise: Okay, so it's far-fetched. But there are a lot of people who have dreamed about meeting a favorite actor or actress. Then to find out you truly enjoy each other's company? And even end up being best friends? What fun to explore that idea.
  2. Becky's Commitment to her Family: From looking at other reviews I know a lot of people didn't feel that Becky's actions matched her protestations that her family is important. And I think Shannon Hale intentionally walks a line here looking at the idea of an emotional affair (rather than a physical one). I personally felt that Becky continually chose her husband and her children over her relationship with Felix. When Mike gets uncomfortable, she ends the friendship, and it isn't until he becomes okay with it that she picks it up again. At every turn she's considering how it will impact her husband and her kids. She thinks and considers whether she's crossing any lines and always tries to choose what is right for all of them, though she also realizes that she is a person and it's okay for her to have interests (writing and friends) that are not centered in her family.
  3. The Theme: Basically, Shannon Hale explores the question: can men and women be friends in a purely platonic sense? Hale seems to think so. But it's not an easy conclusion to come to. Both Becky and Felix as well as the people in their lives grapple with how and if it can work. I get so frustrated with a culture where a guy and a girl can't be friends without people assuming they're dating or having an affair or involved. Yes, it's tricky, and Hale doesn't make it simple. But is there really any reason a male and a female can't be friends without being more?
  4. The Banter: Oh the banter. Less than five pages in and I had already literally laughed out loud. Seriously, if I ever meet a man I can banter with like Felix I will never want to let him go - we will become friends or I will marry him. Becky and Felix play off each other in the most hilarious way. They honestly reminded me of the way my family talks at family dinners.
  5. Becky's Kids: They're kind of sidebars to the story, but each one is real and, if not fully drawn, at least filled out enough for us to care about them.
  6. The Struggles: Not only do Becky and Felix have to deal with the challenges of being friends with someone of the opposite sex when you're married, but both characters have to deal with life - both small and large challenges. And a lot of the book is about them being there for each other during really hard times and stepping in or out as the occasion needs.
  7. The Time: Though this may lend at times to a bit too much telling rather than showing, I liked the fact that the book followed them through years and years. They go through times of stepping back from each other's lives because things are too crazy or busy. They go through periods where they grow closer together. It's a journey and Hale doesn't rush it.
  8. Becky's Faith: This was another thing I noticed in the reviews - some people (both religious and non-religious) were turned off by this aspect. I heartily applauded it. As a person of faith myself I hate that religion is in many ways a taboo topic (unless the author is mocking it or showing how dangerous or creepy or horrible it is). Unless it's explicitly a "religious novel" so often it feels like religion dare not be spoken of. Which, to my mind is stupid, because belief, faith, religion is a huge part of many people's lives. Regular ordinary people. So there were some terms that didn't quite make sense. You don't have to understand Becky's beliefs to understand they are a part of her and that they impact her behavior. And I appreciate that Hale didn't erase this aspect of her life.
  9. The Emotions: I laughed out loud over and over. I cried. Actually, if I'm going to be honest, I sobbed. Like ridiculously.
  10. The Ending: I was dreading where the book was going from the beginning. Actually terrified and not sure if I even wanted to keep reading (but I couldn't stop), but I need not have feared. Hale brought it to a conclusion that satisfied me. I won't say more because spoilers, but I was happy with it.
Happy reading!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BEA Superlatives 2015 Edition

A couple of times when we've gone to Book Expo, we thought it would be fun to vote for book-ish superlatives. One year we did it during the event via Instagram, but this year that didn't happen.
So we pulled together this group post to give you a taste of what Jenn N, Rebecca T, and NaomiRuth found most and best of at this year's Book Expo.

Author You Were Most Looking Forward to Seeing:
Jenn N: The author I was most looking forward to meeting was Tess Gerritsen. I love the Rizzoli and Isles novels. Tess was there to promote her new standalone novel, Playing With Fire. She was so sweet. I'm so glad that I got to meet her.
NaomiRuth: Probably Linda Urban. (Although, I found out I could go like two days before and had no time to prepare, so I was mostly just excited to be there and super out of it). I met Linda Urban at a past BEA event (the bookseller speed-dating author event) and I have really enjoyed her books. She's coming out with a middle grade fantasy/adventure and she usually does contemporary fiction, so I'm interested to read Milo Speck, Accidental Agent.
Rebecca T: There were so many, but I think I probably squealed loudest when I saw that Rae Carson was going to be there. Walk on Earth a Stranger looks absolutely amazing.

Best Surprise:
Jenn N: The best surprise was Michael Connelly. I'm in love with Mickey Haller aka The Lincoln Lawyer. So it was awesome to meet his creator. This signing wasn't listed in any of the BEA programs. I overheard someone on the Tess Gerritsen line talking about it and then got the details on Connelly's Twitter page.
NaomiRuth: Jon Klassen and Michael Buckley were both surprises (Michael Buckley is like always kept a secret, I don't know why. It's very strange). I love both of them and have such a respect for their work and for who they are as people, so I was really, really excited to see both of them.
Rebecca T: I have to second NaomiRuth's comment about Michael Buckley. Last year or the year before we happened to see in the PW Daily that he would be signing in booth the final book of the Sisters Grimm series. This year he wasn't on the schedule again, but we scoured the Daily and got very excited when we saw that he was indeed there again, signing his new YA novel.

Most Illegible Autograph:
Jenn N: Peter Kujawinski co-author of Nightfall. He and his friend Jake were really nice though. They're apparently longtime friends like Jen and I are. We all had a little laugh together. Their personalities sold this book for me. I can't wait to read it.
NaomiRuth: Probably Michael Buckley? I don't know?
Rebecca T: I have to go with Rebecca Serle. She was amazing and even signed other books for people (I brought a copy of Famous in Love which she signed), along with the ARC of Truly Madly Famously (which I can't wait to read!).

Best Line You Stood In:
Jenn N: The best line I stood in was the 3 mile long line for Starbucks. I love macchiatos.
Just kidding (although I do love macchiatos). The best lines I stood in were those at the Harlequin booth. The carpet was nice and plush. The people who worked at the booth were friendly and everyone waiting in line with me was pleasantly chatty. Plus their signings were for multiple authors. So by standing on just one line, you got to meet several awesome authors all in one shot. You definitely need the Harlequin tote you received to carry ALL your new Harlequin books home.
NaomiRuth: The line for Annie Barrows because I met this lovely lady who has written a book and has a radio show, and it was just a very encouraging, engaging kind of conversation. I love being able to meet new people and to hear their stories! :D
Rebecca T: I think my favorite experience was on the line for Shannon Hale (of course she would bring the best people together!). A group of us chatted basically the whole time and we met an author and it was just a lot of fun.

Longest Line:
Jenn N: The longest line I stood on was for Celeste Ng. Apparently Jen and I weren't the only ones intrigued by the plot of Everything I Never Told You.
NaomiRuth: By size: Patrick Ness (but we got cut). By duration: Salina Yoon, no doubt about it. That line was like molasses on a Massachusetts winter day. She was super adorable though, so I'm glad I waited on it.
Rebecca T: I think the longest line I waited in by size was probably the Harlequin Teen line on Thursday, but I agree with NaomiRuth - Salina Yoon's line definitely took the longest. So long. But she was very nice and did a little drawing in everyone's book.

Most Organized Publishing House:
Jenn N: Penguin Random House was the most organized. Their in booth signings featured tickets that were handed out approximately one hour prior to the signing. They also had adequate space to queue up while you waited.
NaomiRuth: Abrams seemed pretty organized, from the line I stood in. I don't know. I was mostly just wandering around from booth to booth or following Rebecca around. It was a very surreal kind of day, so I don't remember a lot of it.
Rebecca T: I agree with Jenn N that Penguin Random House had their act together. They were the largest booth probably and were placed in the corner, which helped, but the tickets (to make sure they didn't run out of books) and the people they had directing traffic, breaking up the lines, and making sure aisles were kept clear did a fantastic job.

Cutest Autograph:
Jenn N: Not really cute, but I definitely got a chuckle out of Lauren Saft's inscription in my copy of Those Girls. "I hope your friends are nicer than these girls." I'm currently reading her book right now and, yeah - those girls are awful friends. Lol
NaomiRuth: Rebecca Stead's Rebecca T got this signed for me, so Stead wrote "Surprise!" Which is adorable.
Rebecca T: For me it's definitely Maryrose Wood. Not only was her signature very cute, but she also recognized our blog name and got excited to meet me, which completely and utterly made my day.

Funniest Author:
Jenn N: Is it too easy to say that Judah Freidlander was the funniest author? The stand up comic and former 30 Rock star was there to promote his upcoming collection of comics and sketches. He was sporting his trademark - a quirky trucker hat - and took time to pose for pictures and a brief chat with all his fans. He's super funny and super friendly.
NaomiRuth: The funniest author/illustrator moment I had was with Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen when I asked them if I could take a picture with them and Wombly and Oppel was concerned about what Wombly was. It was hilarious. Funniest author/illustrator just in general? Probably Michael Buckley. He was wandering around looking at the line and his publicist had to come running over and was herding him back to the front and he was shouting, "She always thinks I'm going to wander off and get lost." He cracked me up.
Rebecca T: Once again I have to agree with NaomiRuth. Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen were the most hilarious pair. Their reaction to Wombly and their banter with each other was adorable and hilarious.

Book You're Most Looking Forward to Reading:
Jenn N: It's so hard to pick just one book as the one I'm most excited about! If I have to choose just one I'd say Playing With Fire. I've only read Tess' Rizzoli and Isles books so I'm really interested in something different from her. Although I will miss the latest exploits of my girl Maura Isles.
NaomiRuth: Well, I already read The Nest by Kenneth Oppel and Jon Klassen (it was AMAZING and I almost cried and it was beautiful and I kept stroking all of the pictures) I started reading The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin, so that's the one I'm most excited about right now. There are a lot of good books, though.
Rebecca T: Ah! So many! I think, though, that I'm most looking forward to Armada by Ernest Cline. I just loved Ready Player One so much and I'm dying to read this new one. Of course, I already did my Top 10 books I'm looking forward to reading, so you can go check that out, if you want to get a taste of more books we picked up at BEA.

So there you have it - those were our superlative moments. If you made it to BEA we'd love to hear about some of your superlative moments. And if you couldn't make it, then we'd love to know who you would have liked to meet or what books you would have liked to snag!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Laydown Lowdown

Summer storms are in the air.  What a perfect time to relax with a new book.

"Deadfall," the follow-up to Anna Carey's "Blackbird," is available today in Young Adult along with "Blood Will Tell," by April Henry, "After Hours," by Claire Kennedy, "Get Dirty," by Gretchen McNeil, and "Hungry," by H.A. Swain.

Over in Romance,  you'll have to wait until Thursday for "Grey," by E.L. James, a retelling of "Fifty Shades of Grey," from Christian's point of view.  In the meantime,, you can check out "Opening Up," by Laure Dane and "Loving Dallas," by Caisey Quinn.

Fans of  Elmore Leonard will enjoy "Charlie Martz & Other Stories: The Unpublished Stories" from the late author.  Other new releases in Mystery/Thriller include "Death in Salem," by Eleanor Kuhns, "Paradise Sky," by Joe. R. Lansdale, and "The Precipice," by Paul Doiron.

In Science Fiction/Fantasy, you can pick up "Pure Blooded,' by Amanda Carlson "Beyond Redemption," by Michael R. Fletcher, and "The Library at Mount Char," by Scott Hawkins.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Share with us!  Happy Reading and remember to support your local bookstore whenever possible.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

10 BEA Books I'm Super Excited About

It's hard to believe it's already been 2 weeks since BEA! Those of you following us on Instagram or Twitter already got a sneak peek at some of the fun we had.

And next week you'll finally get those BEA Superlatives I promised you (as long as certain people get me their votes...)

So this week I thought I'd give you a little taste of a few of the books I was most excited to get my hands on. In no particular order.

1. Armada by Ernest Cline - Ready Player One was a smash hit with our entire book club. So finding out that Cline had a new book coming out AND was signing it at BEA? It was like a dream come true. I can't wait to read it!

2. The Truth According to Us by Annie Barrows - Though she's probably best known for her Ivy + Bean books, Barrows also co-wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which is one of my top favorite books of all time and I will never stop convincing people to read it, so I was definitely getting in line to pick up this beauty. It's so lovely and thick too!

3. I Will Take a Nap! by Mo Willems - Every year I have wanted to meet Mo Willems and every year it hasn't worked out. But this year, not only was he going to be there, but he was signing a new Elephant and Piggie book which are my FAVORITES so I was determined and I succeeded! I got a ticket, stood in line, and am now the proud owner of an autographed copy :D

4. The Marvels by Brian Selznick - I loved The Invention of Hugo Cabret and was a fan of Wonderstruck as well. I really enjoy the way Selznick intermingles text and images and his crosshatch pencil style drawings are gorgeous. So happy to get my hands on this one!

5. Truly Madly Famously by Rebecca Serle - I met Rebecca on Twitter, and then stayed up until 1 in the morning to finish Famous in Love, the first book in this series. Not my normal cup of tea, but I loved loved loved it and can't wait to find out what happens next!

6. The Unmapped Sea by Maryrose Wood - this is the 5th book in the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series. I picked up the first one on the title alone and absolutely fell in love. I've been reading each installment with eagerness. Plus it was fun to meet Maryrose and I got quite a thrill when she recognized our blog and was excited to meet me too!

7. Lies I Told by Michelle Zink - It was so great to see Michelle. She was a local author at our Borders and is such a sweetheart! She was excited to see me too and even posted our picture together on her blog. I'm really looking forward to reading this book, too. I've enjoyed Michelle's other books and this one looks really interesting.

8. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson - Her Girl of Fire and Thorns series is seriously amazing so I'm actually giddy over getting to start this new series.

9. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness - The premise of this totally sold me on it. What would it be like to live in a YA novel when you're not the "chosen" one? I'm dying to find out. NaomiRuth and I had his signing on our list, but we stumbled across an ARC drop earlier in the day. It's a good thing we snagged copies then, because his line was so long it got cut off.

10. The Cage by Megan Shepherd - Two words: Human. Zoo. I really liked The Madman's Daughter and Her Dark Curiosity so I'm super curious about this one.

Of course, there are plenty of others I'm really excited about, but these are probably my top ones.
Are any of them books you're looking forward to reading, too?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Laydown Lowdown

As the temperatures heat up, there is nothing better than relaxing outside with a good book such as one of this week's new reads.

Look out for "Those Girls," by Lauren Saft in Young Adult today.  I just started reading my ARC of this today.  Keep your eyes on this blog for my upcoming review!  Other new releases in the genre include "Alive," by Chandler Baker, "Finding Audrey," by "Shopaholic" author, Sophie Kinsella, "Delicate Monsters," by Stephanie Kuehn, "Hello, I Love You," by Katie M. Stout, and "The Stars Rise," by Rachel Vincent.

Reach "The Breaking Point," by Jefferson Bass in Mystery/Thriller with "No Place to Die," by Claire Donohue, "The Dead Assassin," by Vaughn Entwistle, and "SignWave," by Andrew Vachss.

Load up on Romance 'till your "Heart's Desire," by T.J. Kline along with "Only a Promise," by Mary Balogh, "The Wedding Gift," by Cara Connelly, and "All's Fair in Love and Scandal," by Caroline Linden.

Beware the "Demon's Vengence" by Jocelyn Drake  in Science Fiction/Fantasy as well as "The Darkling Child: Defenders of Shannara," by Terry Brooks, "Dead Ice," by Laurell K. Hamilton, "The Invasion of the Tearling," by Erika Johnsen, and "Darwin's Watch: Science of Discworld III," by Terry Pratchett.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Share with us!  Happy Reading and remember to support your local bookstores whenever possible.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Laydown Lowdown

I'm back from Book Expo America and so is the Laydown Lowdown!  There are lots of great new reads this week so, let's get right to it.

If you're yearning for Romance this summer, check out "Crave the Night," by Lara Adrian,  "Beyond the Cut," by Sarah Castle, "One Night With a Billionaire," by Jessica Clare, "Suddenly One Summer," by Julie James, "All the Right Places," by Jenna Sutton, and "Moonlight on Nightingale Way," by Samantha Young."

If you're looking for thrills and chills, you can pick up "Finders Keepers," by Stephen King today as well as "Hell's Gate," by Richard Crompton, "The Evidence Room," by Cameron Harvey, "The Governor's Wife," by Michael Harvey, and "The Missing and the Dead," by Stuart MacBride in Mystery/Thriller/Horror.

Or maybe you'd prefer an out of this world escape with the latest Science "Nemesis Games," by James S.A. Corey, "The Fold," by Peter Clines, "From a Drood to a Kill," by Simon R. Green, and "Drink Deep," by Chloe Neill.

 You could load up a suitcase with today's Young Adult releases. Stock up with "The Witch Hunter," by Virginia Boecker, "The Devil You Know," by Trish Doller, "Charlie, Presumed Dead," by Anne Heltzel, "The Good Girls," by Sara Shepard, "Because You'll Never Meet Me," by Leah Thomas and "Siren's Fury," by Mary Weber.

Will any of these books make your "to-read" list?  Share with us!  Remember to support your local bookstore whenever possible.  Happy Reading.