Thursday, January 12, 2017

Quick Pick: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, by Lindsey Lee Johnson

Book Review: The Most Dangerous Place on Earth, by Lindsey Lee Johnson
  • Opening lines: Cally Broderick lingered in the doorway of the resource office, waiting to be noticed. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I like books about high school / high schoolers, and I had downloaded the book off NetGalley.
  • And what's this book about?
  • A captivating debut novel for readers of Celeste Ng's Everything I Never Told You and Curtis Sittenfeld's PrepThe Most Dangerous Place on Earth unleashes an unforgettable cast of characters into a realm known for its cruelty and peril: the American high school.

    In an idyllic community of wealthy California families, new teacher Molly Nicoll becomes intrigued by the hidden lives of her privileged students. Unknown to Molly, a middle school tragedy in which they were all complicit continues to reverberate for “her” kids: Nick, the brilliant scam artist; Emma, the gifted dancer and party girl; Dave, the B student who strives to meet his parents' expectations; Calista, the hippie outcast who hides her intelligence for reasons of her own. Theirs is a world in which every action may become public—postable, shareable, indelible. With the rare talent that transforms teenage dramas into compelling and urgent fiction, Lindsey Lee Johnson makes vivid a modern adolescence lived in the gleam of the virtual, but rich with the sorrow, passion, and beauty of life in any time, and at any age.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes books revolving around school-aged kids or books where the main characters have secrets.
  • Something to know: This book reminded me of the movie Men, Women, and Children, regarding online bullying and how things can quickly spiral out of control once it starts. 
  • What I would have changed: I really liked the beginning of the book, but then it changes to involve lots of different characters and their stories - while it was interesting to read about everyone, I was more invested in some characters over others. 
  • Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon - it just released on January 10th.

    *Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Sisters One, Two, Three, by Nancy Star {ends 1/12}

Ginger Tangle had nothing against nature. She often stopped to notice the sky, clouds particularly, but also hawks circling and the dissipating puffy trails of planes. But today was different. Today, in the parking lot at the summit of Mount Washington, as she gazed at teh granite ledges perched over sheer drops only inches from where her disgruntled teenage daughter stood, what she felt was hypertension. She could hear it, her heartbeat pulsing in her ears.
...
Was Ginger worried Julia might get blown off by a sudden gale, or worse, impulsively leap? No, it wasn't like that. But an overly bold and defiant skip to the edge? An eyes-on-the-phone clumsy stumble and fall? Accidents happened. Ginger knew this better than most.

It seemed like this book took me forever to read, but I think it was mostly because I read it in installments - I started reading it before the holidays, and finished it within the first few days of 2017. It's written well, but it's a slow-paced story, so it took me a while to get in to it.

Book review and giveaway: Sisters One, Two, Three, by Nancy Star
Official synopsis:
After a tragic accident on Martha’s Vineyard, keeping secrets becomes a way of life for the Tangle family. With memories locked away, the sisters take divergent paths. Callie disappears, Mimi keeps so busy she has no time to think, and Ginger develops a lifelong aversion to risk that threatens the relationships she holds most dear.

When a whispered comment overheard by her rebellious teenage daughter forces Ginger to reveal a long-held family secret, the Tangles’ carefully constructed web of lies begins to unravel. Upon the death of Glory, the family’s colorful matriarch, and the return of long-estranged Callie, Ginger resolves to return to Martha’s Vineyard and piece together what really happened on that calamitous day when a shadow fell over four sun-kissed siblings playing at the shore. Along with Ginger’s newfound understanding come the keys to reconciliation: with her mother, with her sisters, and with her daughter.

At turns heartbreaking, humorous, and hopeful, Sisters One, Two, Three explores not only the consequences of secrets—even secrets kept out of love—but also the courage it takes to speak the truth, to forgive, and to let go.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Year in review: The best books of 2016

I've been slacking a bit this year, unfortunately ... according to Goodreads, my total amount of books read for 2016 was 66 books, nine shy of my goal of 75. That being said, most of the books I remember reading were very good this year. Here's a list of my top nine favorites.

The top 9 books I enjoyed this year, in no apparent order, are:

1. The Circle, by Dave Eggers. I believe this is the only book I gave 5/5 stars to this year. It's an older book, I believe from 2013, but the movie adaptation is coming out in 2017 (starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks). VERY interesting book.

2. My Not So Perfect Life, by Sophie Kinsella. I'm a Kinsella fan from way back (loved her Shopaholic series) so it was unsurprising that I enjoyed this one as well. 4.5/5.
*publishing date: February 7, 2017

Best books of 2016, Small Great Things, Jodi Picoult
3. Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult. Again, huge Picoult fan, and I was privileged to get to read this one super-early on Kindle, and then receive a hardcover copy of it. She researches her book topics thoroughly, too, and it definitely shows. 4.5/5.

4. The Last One, by Alexandra Oliva. I started reading this on Kindle while on a plane, and I could not put it down. Think Walking Dead meets Survivor, minus the zombies. 4.5/5.

5. In Twenty Years, by Allison Winn Scotch. This book followed a group of college classmates as they reunite on the anniversary of one of the classmate's death. Each of them has secrets, though, which will come to light that weekend. 4.5/5.
*currently free for Kindle Unlimited subscribers

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Quick Pick book review: The Widow of Wall Street, by Randy Susan Meyers

Book Review: The Widow of Wall Street, by Randy Susan Meyers
  • Opening lines: Phoebe never hated her husband more than when she visited him in prison. The preceding nightmare of ordealseleven hours hauling a suitcase by bus, train, and cab, her muscles screaming from the weightwere the coming attractions of the misery she faced the next day.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I've read both Accidents of Marriage and The Murderer's Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers, and they were great.
  • And what's this book about?
  • A provocative new novel by bestselling author Randy Susan Meyers about the seemingly blind love of a wife for her husband as he conquers Wall Street, and her extraordinary, perhaps foolish, loyalty during his precipitous fall.

    Phoebe sees the fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers. As he creates a financial dynasty, she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.

    When Phoebe learns—along with the rest of the world—that her husband’s triumphs are the result of an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. Lies underpin her life and marriage. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her gilded life was fabricated by fraud? Did she partner with her husband in hustling billions from pensioners, charities, and CEOs? Was she his accomplice in stealing from their friends and neighbors?

    Debate rages as to whether love and loyalty blinded her to his crimes or if she chose to live in denial. While Jake is trapped in the web of his own deceit, Phoebe is faced with unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning Jake, a man she’s known and loved since childhood, feels cruel and impossible.

    From penthouse to prison, with tragic consequences rippling well beyond Wall Street, Randy Susan Meyers’s latest novel exposes a woman struggling to redefine her life and marriage as everything she thought she knew crumbles around her. “Meyers is quickly taking her place among the ranks of women’s fiction authors who write big-issue novels that explore the inner lives of women in crisis without descending into melodrama or cliché. Readers who enjoy Jodi Picoult will want to add Meyers to their to-read list” (Booklist Review).
  • Favorite paragraph: The cab driver didn't acknowledge Phoebe, except for nodding when she asked for Ray Brook Federal Correctional. Maybe he was being polite, accustomed to allowing psychic space to sad women visiting locked up men, but more likely, she disgusted him. She recognized the expression: the shock of detection and the scowl. 

    You.
    Her.

    The face of Jake's crime. Wife of the demon. Even if she dyed her hair, wore sunglasses, dressed plainer than an Amish woman, someone shook his or her head as she passed.

    The prison loomed. The cab stopped.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes stories about families or the rise and fall of empires. 
  • Something to know: The book starts at the beginning (Nov. 2009) after Jake, Phoebe's husband, is already in jail, and ends around 2011. I went back and read the beginning chapter after I had finished the book, and it made more sense contextually then.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing. 
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order - this book will be out on April 11, 2017.

    *Disclosure: I received a galley of this book from NetGalley. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Quick Pick book review: Love and First Sight, by Josh Sundquist

Book Review: Love and First Sight, by Josh Sundquist
  • Opening lines: Vice Principal Larry Johnston extends his hand.

    To clarify: I don't see this. I hear the swish of his shirtsleeve.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a fan of YA novels, and this one sounded different since it focuses on a teen who has been blind since birth.
  • And what's this book about?
  • On his first day at a new school, blind sixteen-year-old Will Porter accidentally groped a girl on the stairs, sat on another student in the cafeteria, and somehow drove a classmate to tears. High school can only go up from here, right?

    As Will starts to find his footing, he develops a crush on a charming, quiet girl named Cecily. Then an unprecedented opportunity arises: an experimental surgery that could give Will eyesight for the first time in his life. But learning to see is more difficult than Will ever imagined, and he soon discovers that the sighted world has been keeping secrets. It turns out Cecily doesn't meet traditional definitions of beauty--in fact, everything he'd heard about her appearance was a lie engineered by their so-called friends to get the two of them together. Does it matter what Cecily looks like? No, not really. But then why does Will feel so betrayed?

    Told with humor and breathtaking poignancy,
    Love and First Sight is a story about how we related to each other and the world around us.
  • Favorite paragraph: But if there's a chance I could gain eyesight, I mean, come on. Plenty of people go from sighted to blind. But how many people can say they've gone from blind to sighted? And how many details does most of the world take for granted, colors and shapes that I would be able to notice and appreciate? Normally, you learn to see for the first time as a baby and don't remember it. But getting eyesight for the first time as a teenager, when you can observe and remember every moment of the experience, that's much more than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It would be like winning the lottery. I could live a thousand lifetimes or a million lifetimes and not get the chance to try something as cool as that again.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes YA stories, or stories about people overcoming obstacles.
  • Something to know: The author, Josh Sundquist, is a YouTube star, although I've never seen his videos. Interestingly, he struggled with an ailment of his own - bone cancer - at age 13. Also, this was originally titled Sunrises Get All The Hype, but the name must have changed at some point to Love and First Sight, which I actually prefer.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing. 
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order - this book will be out on January 3, 2017.

    *Disclosure: I received a galley of this book from NetGalley. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Quick Pick book review: The Circle, by Dave Eggers

Book Review: The Circle, by Dave Eggers
  • Opening lines: My God, Mae thought. It's heaven.

    The campus was vast and rambling, wild with Pacific color, and yet the smallest detail had been carefully considered, shaped by the most eloquent hands. On land that had once been a shipyard, then a drive-in movie theater, then a flea market, then blight, there were now soft green hills and a Calatrava fountain. And a picnic area, which tables arranged in concentric circles. And tennis courts, clay and grass. And a volleyball court, where tiny children from the company's daycare center were running, squealing, weaving like water. Amid all this was a workplace, too, four hundred acres of brushed steel and glass on the headquarters of the most influential company in the world. The sky above was spotless and blue.
  • Reason I picked up the book: It's being made into a movie, starring Emma Watson and Tom Hanks, which will be out in April 2017. I've also read Dave Eggers' autobiography, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, back in college, and it was great. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO.

    Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America--even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.
  • Favorite paragraph: Meg knew that she never wanted to work - never wanted to be - anywhere else. Her hometown, and the rest of California, the rest of America, seemed like some chaotic mess in the developing world. Outside the walls of the Circle, all was noise and struggle, failure and filth. But here, all had been perfected. The best people had made the best systems and the best systems had reaped funds, unlimited funds, that made possible this, the best place to work. And it was natural that it was so, Mae thought. Who else but utopians could make utopia?
  • Recommended for: Anyone who uses the internet a lot - be it Facebook, Google, etc. The company in this book (called The Circle, appropriately) reminded me of both of those corporations, although far more all-encompassing. The book mentions Facebook once in it, though, so we know it's not that actual company, though it seemed to be based on campuses like Facebook's and Google's.
  • Something to know: This seems to take place in the near future, although the year is never mentioned - one thing that clued me in to this is that Mae mentions that the USPS only operates on Fridays now, for the delivery of paper mail.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing. Although the ending was interesting, it fit in with the tone of the book. I'm curious to see if they keep that ending in the movie version or not.
  • Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to purchase.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Everything You Want Me to Be, by Mindy Mejia {ends 12/20}

Most people think that acting is make-believe. Like it's a big game where people put on costumes and feign kisses or stab wounds and they pretend to gasp and die. They think it's a show. They don't understand that acting is becoming someone else, changing your thoughts and needs until you don't remember your own anymore. You let the other person invade everything you are and then you turn yourself inside out, spilling their identity on to the stage like a kind of bloodletting. Sometimes I think acting is a disease, but I can't say for sure because I don't know what it's like to be healthy.

The first character I remember playing was Fearless Little Sister.

This is the first novel by Mindy Mejia that I've read, and it was very good. The book tells the story of Hattie Hoffman, but it tells it from three POVs: Hattie's, Del's (a cop), and Hattie's English teacher.

Book Review: Everything You Want Me to Be, by Mindy Mejia
Official synopsis:
Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront...and she inches closer and closer to her death.

High school senior Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good citizen. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death on the opening night of her high school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of her small town community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a family friend of the Hoffmans, vows to find her killer, but trying to solve her murder yields more questions than answers. It seems that Hattie’s acting talents ran far beyond the stage. Told from three points of view—Del, Hattie, and the new English teacher whose marriage is crumbling—Everything You Want Me to Be weaves the story of Hattie’s last school year and the events that drew her ever closer to her death.

Evocative and razor-sharp,
Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?