Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Book Giveaway!

For the last 6 years, I've used this blog exclusively for book reviews. I'm happy to announce that I'm finally branching out to book giveaways, yay!

I read many fabulous books this year and here are my top 5 (in no particular order):

  1. Me Before You by JoJo Moyes
  2. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  3. The Storied Life of AJ Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  4. Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews
  5. Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Would you like a chance to read one of these awesome books? There will be 3 winners chosen by using a random number generator.  Leave a comment on this post to enter with your twitter handle or email so I can get in touch with you. Be sure to note which book you want!! Giveaway is for 
US only and you must be age 13+ to enter.

**You have until Sunday at 5pm CST to enter, so don’t miss out on your chance to win one of these amazing books!  Good Luck!**

Friday, December 19, 2014

The History of Love

Book: The History of Love
Author: Nicole Krauss

Leo Gursky taps his radiator each evening to let his upstairs neighbor know he s still alive. But it wasn t always like this: in the Polish village of his youth, he fell in love and wrote a book. . . . Sixty years later and half a world away, fourteen-year-old Alma, who was named after a character in that book, undertakes an adventure to find her namesake and save her family. With virtuosic skill and soaring imaginative power, Nicole Krauss gradually draws these stories together toward a climax of extraordinary depth and beauty (Newsday).-Goodreads

Review: It's official. My favorite (literary) elderly person is Leo Gursky. While my heart broke for young lovers Leo and Alma, I fell in love with Leo as a crotchety old man in the last years of his life. He was introspective, he was lonely and he just wanted people to notice him. He also had a lot of heart and was willing to make changes late in life, which I respect. He was also funny! 

This was a beautifully written tale of Leo and a young girl named Alma. Told in alternating narratives and timelines (random comment: I feel like over half the books I read are organized like this. I wonder if it was recommended at a large writing workshop a few years ago?) I loved Leo's sections. I was slightly annoyed by the use of "And yet." when he was thinking but Leo, as noted in the above paragraph, is fab. Krauss really nailed the psyche of a teenage girl for Alma and while her list style writing took a little getting used it, I enjoyed her journey to find her namesake.  Unfortunately, the one part of the book that was a challenge for me was the actual book Leo wrote, "The History of Love." I found those sections so tedious I just started skimming them toward the middle. 

Overall-I really enjoyed this, it's a beautiful, albeit sad book about love and loss. 

Grade: 4/5


Book: Hounded
Series: Iron Druid Chronicles #1
Author: Kevin Hearne

Atticus O'Sullivan, last of the Druids, lives peacefully in Arizona, running an occult bookshop and shape-shifting in his spare time to hunt with his Irish wolfhound. His neighbors and customers think that this handsome, tattooed Irish dude is about twenty-one years old--when in actuality, he's twenty-one "centuries" old. Not to mention: He draws his power from the earth, possesses a sharp wit, and wields an even sharper magical sword known as Fragarach, the Answerer.
Unfortunately, a very angry Celtic god wants that sword, and he's hounded Atticus for centuries. Now the determined deity has tracked him down, and Atticus will need all his power--plus the help of a seductive goddess of death, his vampire and werewolf team of attorneys, a bartender possessed by a Hindu witch, and some good old-fashioned luck of the Irish--to kick some Celtic arse and deliver himself from evil.-Goodreads

Review: Oh Hounded, I had such high hopes for you. An urban fantasy series focused on an ancient Druid. It sounds amazing, right? I couldn't wait to dive in. The main issue I had with this was the main character, Atticus O'Sullivan. He's an ancient Druid and almost too perfect. He's powerful (so powerful that I never once believed his life was in jeopardy), he's sex on a stick (I think he kissed 3 different goddesses in this book and slept with one of them) and he's always quick with a comeback (because everyone loves a sharp tongue and humor). Not in his favor: he pulls a weird prank on a paramedic at one point (I didn't find this funny). And just plain weird: he talks to his dog and his inner dialogue is that of a modern man, yet he's been alive for over 2k years. 

lieu of organic world building, there were a lot of information dumps. I was excited about the Celtic focus of this series and was surprised that everything goes in this book. As in everything. We have druids, vampires, werewolves, witches, Greek goddesses and Jesus. I was just a little much. Attitcus also has an elderly Irish neighbor that was cartoonish and ridiculous. 

Overall-didn't care for this. Poor world building, main character is too powerful, mythology needs to be more focused and the humor wasn't a fit for me. I am considering reading the next in the series, maybe Atticus will develop some flaws. 

Grade: 1/5

Failure to Navigate

Book: Failure to Navigate
Authors: Kris & Jessie Leavitt

"Before I begin, you have to understand something. What must be understood is that his evil was as apparent to me as his yearning to be angelic."

There is a difference between excuse and explanation. No one knows this better than Catherine Sellers as she recounts the story of her relationship with Thomas Christie to their child.

Failure to Navigate is a fictitious re-telling of a true story inspired by personal letters, authentic medical documents, and verbal accounts from those who have survived. With the late1960s and early 1970s as a backdrop, Catherine and Thomas's romance begins in a whirlwind of underground parties, fast cars, and drug-fueled nights. Things turn dark as Thomas sinks deeper and deeper into his mental illness and Catherine tries to navigate the emotion and violence that comes with it.

The pendulous back-and-forth nature of their relationship is as extreme as the thoughts in Thomas's mind, swinging between the sweetest, tenderest moments of young love to the erratic brutality of abuse. Though he yearns to be “a good, good man,” Thomas's attempts at redemption are no match for the depth of his sins.

Thomas's first-hand account and Catherine's perspective from both then and now together reveal the details of their equally sordid and sweet history, bringing into question the black-and-white nature of good versus evil and just how blurry the line between the two can be.-Goodreads

Review:  This is a powerful book about first love gone bad. Catherine is young and ready to fall in love when she meets Thomas, a wealthy, charismatic boy with a troubled past and destructive behavior. She falls like most of us did when we were teenagers-full speed ahead. Catherine is so drunk with love that Thomas becomes the center of her world very quickly. She abandons her studies, disregards her parents rules and worst of all, excuses Thomas' erratic behavior. As he falls deeper into manic episodes and substance abuse, Catherine falls along with him. 

Written in alternating narratives, we see the relationship develop from their first meeting and see how Catherine reflects on things many years later to their daughter. It would be easy to hate Thomas for his bad deeds and poor decision making, but the Leavitt's did an excellent job humanizing him. That isn't to say I liked him per say, but it was clear he was damaged from events in his childhood and had a mental illness so I could understand why (on some level) he behaved as he did. 

Overall, this was a very good book. It was a little heavy handed at times referring to how Catherine misread his intentions as loving instead of manipulative, but I will definitely read another book by this writing team. 

Grade: 4/5

Dark Places

Book: Dark Places
Author: Gillian Flynn

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she had been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben's innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother's? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day... especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who did massacre the Day family?-Goodreads

Review: I finished this book several weeks ago and my first instinct when finishing it was mild disappointment. I liked it but I was left wanting "more." Believe me, Flynn knows how to write disturbing characters and the multiple narratives (Libby in present day, her mother and brother the day of the murder) kept me reading non-stop but I felt a lot of the book was predictable. However, after thinking about it...and thinking about it...I realized this was better than I originally thought. Libby is perfection as an emotionally stunted adult after experiencing a horrible childhood trauma. She's a train wreck and it's hard to look away. I really felt sorry for her mother and the circumstances she was in and her brother's sections make me frightened about ever having teenagers. 

Overall, disturbing and well crafted. 

Grade: 4/5

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Book: Where'd You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she's a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she's a disgrace; to design mavens, she's a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette's intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter's role in an absurd world.-Goodreads

Review: Are you a fan of Arrested Development or satire? If so, you might love this book. This is about a group of wealthy Seattler's (not sure if that is an actual term) and their myriad of problems, including work, family and the drama of private school parental politics. While I found most of their issues eye roll worthy, this was cleverly written in a non-traditional format and I couldn't put it down. While the central character, Bernadette, was equally lovable and frustrating, I adored her relationship with her daughter. I also found myself loving a secondary character by the end of the book who I initially hated. 

Overall-loved it!

Grade: 5/5

Monday, December 8, 2014

What Alice Forgot

Book: What Alice Forgot
Author: Liane Moriarty

So imagine Alice’s surprise when she comes to on the floor of a gym and is whisked off to the hospital where she discovers the honeymoon is truly over — she’s getting divorced, she has three kids and she’s actually 39 years old. Alice must reconstruct the events of a lost decade, and find out whether it’s possible to reconstruct her life at the same time. She has to figure out why her sister hardly talks to her, and how is it that she’s become one of those super skinny moms with really expensive clothes.

Ultimately, Alice must discover whether forgetting is a blessing or a curse, and whether it’s possible to start over.-Goodreads

Review: I really enjoyed The Husband's Secret and thought this would be another fast paced 'I can't put this down!' read. Wow, I was mistaken. Alice wakes up at the gym (the gym-wait a second, she hates working out) and thinks she's 29, happily married and pregnant with her first child. Surprise! She's actually 39, has 3 kids and is in the middle of a nasty divorce. She tries to navigate what happened in the last decade while trying to convince her husband to give the relationship another chance. She also realizes her relationship with her sister is strained and tries to figure out what is going on. Moriarty was absolutely spot on regarding married life and how small things can compound and result feelings of resentment. I think the premise of this book is good but the main issue for me was Alice. I didn't find her likable or interesting at all. Her 29 year old self was so clueless and immature, she read more like a 21 year old. The dialogue with her husband (when they were both 29) was ridiculous. The ending was not a surprise and I feel like at least 150 pages could have been edited out.

Overall-interesting idea and good premise but I was bored by the main character. 

Grade: 2/5


Book: Curtain
Series: Poirot #38
Author: Agatha Christie

The house guests at Styles seemed perfectly pleasant to Captain Hastings; there was his own daughter Judith, an inoffensive ornithologist called Norton, dashing Mr Allerton, brittle Miss Cole, Doctor Franklin and his fragile wife Barbara , Nurse Craven, Colonel Luttrell and his charming wife, Daisy, and the charismatic Boyd-Carrington. So Hastings was shocked to learn from Hercule Poirot's declaration that one of them was a five-times murderer. True, the ageing detective was crippled with arthritis, but had his deductive instincts finally deserted him?

The novel features Hercule Poirot and Arthur Hastings in their final appearances in Christie's works. It is a country house novel, with all the characters and the murder set in one house. Not only does the novel return the characters to the setting of her first, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, but it reunites Poirot and Hastings, who last appeared together in Dumb Witness in 1937. It was adapted for television in 2013.-Goodreads

Review:  It's only fitting that Poirot's last case with Hastings is at Styles, where it all began. This book had almost everything I love in a Poirot mystery-Poirot is borderline obnoxious about how smart he is, Hastings is lovably clueless and I found myself taking notes as I read. It was quite sad seeing Poirot as a crippled old man but I loved how the story unfolded at the end. I'm sure many readers were upset with how it ended. I'll avoid spoilers but I will say Poirot said throughout the series that everyone is capable of murder given the right circumstances. My only complaint with this book was the murderer. While the individual was definitely creepy and there was a strong psychological aspect to the crime, he was kind of 'blah.' 

Grade: 4/5

Never Fade

Book: Never Fade
Series: The Darkest Minds #2
Author: Alexandra Bracken

Ruby never asked for the abilities that almost cost her her life. Now she must call upon them on a daily basis, leading dangerous missions to bring down a corrupt government and breaking into the minds of her enemies. Other kids in the Children’s League call Ruby “Leader”, but she knows what she really is: a monster.

When Ruby is entrusted with an explosive secret, she must embark on her most dangerous mission yet: leaving the Children’s League behind. Crucial information about the disease that killed most of America’s children—and turned Ruby and the others who lived into feared and hated outcasts—has survived every attempt to destroy it. But the truth is only saved in one place: a flashdrive in the hands of Liam Stewart, the boy Ruby once believed was her future—and who now wouldn’t recognize her.

As Ruby sets out across a desperate, lawless country to find Liam—and answers about the catastrophe that has ripped both her life and America apart—she is torn between old friends and the promise she made to serve the League. Ruby will do anything to protect the people she loves. But what if winning the war means losing herself?-Goodreads

Review: Wow-this was fabulous. Ruby has embraced her abilities although she still isn't comfortable with the power she wields. She is absolutely kick ass throughout this book. Several new characters were introduced that I enjoyed and even though Ruby spent most of her time on another cross country journey similar to book one (this time searching for Liam) this was fast paced and action packed. I absolutely love the addition of Liam's brother and cannot wait to read the next book. 

If you are a fan of YA science fiction, definitely check out this series. 

Grade: 5/5

One Plus One

Book: One Plus One
Author: Jojo Moyes

Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages . . . maybe ever.-Goodreads
Review: At its core, One Plus One is a love story about opposites who attract. Jojo Moyes does a great job crafting the story so it reads more like fiction instead of chick lit or a cheesy romance. Jess has a tough life but a great attitude and ends up on a road trip with Ed, a successful tech millionaire going through some major work issues. While this was well-written and I liked it, I never bonded with Jess or Ed. I liked Jess well enough and Ed grew on me as the book went on, but I never felt that vested in their relationship. I did really enjoy Jess's children, who dealt with a disappearing father and bullying. I kept waiting for a big emotional punch (her book Me Before You, one of the best books I've read all year, literally left me weeping) but while this book had it's sad moments, the overall tone was relatively positive. 

Overall-good read. 

Grade: 3/5 

Second Grave on the Right

Book: Second Grave on the Right
Series: Charley Davidson #2
Author: Darynda Jones

If you hang around with dead people, life can get pretty complicated. Take it from Charley Davidson, part-time private investigator and full-time Grim Reaper. Complicated is her middle name. The deceased find her very sparkly. Demons find her irresistible. And one entity in particular wants to seduce her in every way possible.

When Charley and Cookie (her best friend/receptionist) have to track down a missing woman, the case is not quite as open and shut as they anticipate. Cookie's friend Mimi disappeared five days earlier. Mimi then sends Cookie a cryptic message telling Cookie to meet her at an nearby coffee shop. The coffee is brewing, but Mimi's still missing. There is, however, a clue Mimi left on the bathroom wall: a woman's name. Mimi's husband explains to them that his wife had been acting strange since she found out an old high school friend had been murdered. The same woman whose name Mimi had scribbled on the bathroom wall.

Meanwhile, Reyes Alexander Farrow (otherwise known as the Son of Satan. Yes. Literally) has left his corporeal body and is haunting Charley. He's left his body because he's being tortured by demons who want to lure Charley closer. But Reyes can't let that happen. Because if the demons get to Charley, they'll have a portal to heaven...well, let's just say it wouldn't be pretty.

Can Charley handle hot nights with Reyes and even hotter days tracking down a missing woman? Can she keep those she loves out of harm's way? And is there enough coffee and chocolate in the world to fuel her as she does?-Goodreads

Review: Ah, Charley Davidson. I'm glad I gave you another try because this was a fun read. She's sassy, sexy, funny and helping her best friend with a missing persons case. I enjoyed this more than the first installment in the series for one primary reason-Charley came across as a more genuine person instead of a walking joke machine. Don't get me wrong-I have no idea how she pays her bills as she is the least professional investigator/grim reaper possible and pretty ditsy, but she's fun. I enjoyed the primary mystery involving Cookie's missing friend, especially how Charley handled random men in her apartment in the wee hours (I laughed a few times). The only thing that didn't work is Reyes, the primary love interest who is a ghost/Son of Satan. There was no relationship development from the first book and Charley seems more obsessed with him than really in love with him.  I was also pretty frustrated with her actions regarding him at the end of the book. I'll avoid spoilers but she was extremely selfish. 

Even though I'm not a fan of the love arc, fun book. I'll continue the series for sure. 

Grade: 3.5/5