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?

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Quick Pick: The Real Liddy James, by Anne-Marie Casey

The Real Liddy James book review, by Anne-Marie Casey
  • Opening lines: Liddy knew Mrs. Vandervost had been crying because she emerged from the corridor bathroom with her sunglasses on. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: The synopsis sounded interesting, and it was available on NetGalley. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • An exuberant new novel about a modern-day superwoman who leans in so far she falls over.

    Liddy James is forty-four, fit, and fabulous. One of New York's top divorce attorneys, a bestselling author, and a mother of two, she glides through the courtrooms and salons of the Manhattan elite with ease. Despite a devastating divorce from her first love, literature professor Peter James, Liddy, Peter, and Peter's sympathetic new partner, Rose, have formed a modern family to raise Liddy and Peter's truculent teen and Liddy's adorable, if fatherless, six-year-old. With her lonely and impoverished childhood far behind her, to the outside world Liddy's life is perfect.

    Until it isn't.

    When Rose announces an unexpected pregnancy, Liddy's beloved nanny takes flight, a high-profile divorce case becomes too personal, and the bill for a roof repair looms, Liddy realizes she may have finally bitten off more than she can chew. Long overdue for time off, she takes her sons and heads to Ireland to retrace her family's history. But marooned in the Celtic countryside, things are still far from simple, and Liddy takes on a stormy neighbor, an unorthodox wedding, and a surprise guest before she's willing to admit that even she might have forgotten just how to be the real Liddy James.
  • Favorite paragraph: Rose remembered a scornful debate she had participated in during her freshman year about women like Liddy, professional women whose lifestyles were balanced precariously on the subjugation of other women, women like Lucia, who were their servants. (For two and a half decades, Rose had self-consciously scrubbed her own toilet bowls; the moment she was forbidden to, Peter had greeted with cash and open arms the two undocumented Eastern European maids who came for four hours every week). But now she knew that Peter's unpaid sabbaticals, the renovations to the house, the new car, had all been lubricated by his ex-wife's salary, and the lifestyle Rose enjoyed was wholly dependent on the continued labors of Liddy. 
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes stories about untraditional families. 
  • Something to know: Nothing. 
  • What I would have changed: Nothing. 
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to purchase.

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

Quick Pick: My Not So Perfect Life, by Sophie Kinsella

  • Opening lines: First: it could be worse. As commutes go, it could be a lot worse, and I must keep remembering this. Second: It's worth it. I want to live in London; I want to do this; and commuting is part of the deal. It's part of the London experience, like Tate Modern.

    (Actually, it's not much like Tate Modern. Bad example.)

    My dad always says: If you can't run with the big dogs, stay under the porch. And I want to run with the big dogs. That's why I'm here.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I love all of Sophie Kinsella's books, especially the Shopaholic series, so I was pleased to see that NetGalley had a copy of her newest book.
  • And what's this book about?
  • Part love story, part workplace drama, this sharply observed novel is a witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world. New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella has written her most timely novel yet.

    Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she's desperate to make her dad proud. Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.

    Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the truth.
  • Favorite paragraph: I crawl to the side of the swamp and dip my head in the fresh water of the adjoining pond, trying to calm my adrenaline rush. OK. Regroup. This was not the plan. I have to keep it together. This may be Demeter, but she's a guest too. I cannot be having a mud fight with her. I mean, it really wouldn't sound good on TripAdvisor.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes chick lit, and/or who is a fan of Sophie Kinsella's books, or wants a fun read. 
  • Something to know: The Goodreads plot synopsis is actually worded different from this one (which I got off of NetGalley), although obviously the book is the same.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing. 
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order on Amazon - the book will be in stores on February 7, 2017.

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



Monday, November 21, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Livia Lone, by Barry Eisler {ends 11/27}

It was the end of the rice harvest when the men came to the village and took Livia and her sister Nason. Livia was thirteen. Nason was eleven. Their parents had sold them. 

I have never read any of Barry Eisler's novels before, but this one was very good; based on this one alone, I'd like to read more of his books.

Official synopsis:
Seattle PD sex-crimes detective Livia Lone knows the monsters she hunts. Sold by her Thai parents along with her little sister, Nason; marooned in America; abused by the men who trafficked them…the only thing that kept Livia alive as a teenager was her determination to find Nason.

Livia has never stopped looking. And she copes with her failure to protect her sister by doing everything she can to put predators in prison.

Or, when that fails, by putting them in the ground.

But when a fresh lead offers new hope of finding Nason and the men who trafficked them both, Livia will have to go beyond just being a cop. Beyond even being a vigilante. She’ll have to relive the horrors of the past. Take on one of the most powerful men in the US government. And uncover a conspiracy of almost unimaginable evil.

In every way, it’s an unfair fight. But Livia has two advantages: her unending love for Nason—

And a lifelong lust for vengeance.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Good Behavior, by Blake Crouch {ends 11/8}

She sipped her drink and stared at the napkin the barkeep had left on the table. Four handwritten four-digit numbers. Took her thirty seconds to memorize them, and a quick look around confirmed what she had hoped—the window washers and the hotel guests remained locked and absorbed in their own worlds. She lifted the napkin and slid the keycard out from underneath it, across the glass tabletop and into her grasp. Then shredded the napkin, sprinkling the pieces into the hissing water.

I was interested to read this book, which ended up being a collection of 3 short stories, because TNT is premiering a TV show of the same name this month. I had heard about the TV show at BlogHer this year, as well, since they had a booth there. The stories ended up being pretty interesting, and the show should be good too.

Official synopsis:
The bestselling author of Dark Matter and Wayward Pines, Blake Crouch’s Good Behavior centers on Letty Dobesh, his favorite character creation of all time, and will be available in print and eBook from Thomas & Mercer on November 15th. TNT’s new television series (of the same name) starring Michelle Dockery also launches November 15th at 9pm ET/PT.

Featuring a special introduction and “behind-the-story” commentaries on the adaptation from Crouch, as well as a look at his earliest inklings of Letty in journal entries from 2009, both book formats will include photos from the set, and the eBook will feature video scenes from the new TNT series. Readers will transition seamlessly between Letty’s adventures on the page and Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery in live action as she brings the character to life on screen.

Fresh out of prison and fighting to keep afloat, Letty Dobesh returns to her old tricks burglarizing suites at a luxury hotel. While on the job, she overhears a man hiring a hit man to kill his wife. Letty may not be winning any morality awards, but even she has limits. Unable to go to the police, Letty sets out to derail the job, putting herself on a collision course with the killer that entangles the two of them in a dangerous, seductive relationship.

Good Behavior comprises three interlinked novellas, The Pain of Others, Sunset Key, and Grab, which together form a novel-length portrait of Letty Dobesh.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness, by Maddie Dawson {ends 11/3}

Of course there were other things. He snored sometimes. He left his toothbrush on the sink. He left little balls of socks in the living room. But the main thing wrong was that he'd had so much--well, so much life before me He'd watched his wife give birth twice, and he'd had new babies to hold and he'd helped toddlers learn to walk, and he'd had family dogs and cats, a couple of houses over the years, and plenty of cars, and besides all that, he'd owned a business for ten years.

And me? I was simply this aging kid who'd floundered around and who was still waiting for life to happen to me. 

But I ached to be with him, as though he was the only one who could teach me how to live in the world and not be afraid. He knew how to be married, and how to fall down and get back up again, and how to sing along to the radio as though his heart had never been broken at all. 

This book often made me laugh out loud - one of the women, Nina, was quite funny. The novel tells the story from three POVs - Nina's, Lindy's, and Phoebe's - and because of that, we get to "hear" from all three of the main characters in the book.

Official synopsis:
Three women, three lives, and one chance to become a family…whether they want to or not.

Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semiadrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She’s spent her life looking into strangers’ faces, fantasizing they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers.

Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She’s too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and…oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks.

But Nina is determined to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina pictured…but may be exactly what she needs. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic, and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Book Review: The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett, by Chelsea Sedoti

  • Opening lines: The first thing that happened was Lizzie Lovett disappeared, and everyone was all, "How can someone like Lizzie be missing?" and I was like, "Who cares?" A few days later, there was talk about Lizzie maybe being dead, and it was still kinda boring, but not totally boring, because I'd never known a dead person before.

    After that, I started to get fascinated by the whole situation, mostly because I noticed a bunch of weird stuff. Which was how I figured out Lizzie Lovett's secret.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I had downloaded it from NetGalley, and had a short work trip to Vegas this past weekend. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Hawthorn wasn’t trying to insert herself into a missing person’s investigation. Or maybe she was. But that’s only because Lizzie Lovett’s disappearance is the one fascinating mystery their sleepy town has ever had. Bad things don’t happen to popular girls like Lizzie Lovett, and Hawthorn is convinced she’ll turn up at any moment—which means the time for speculation is now. So Hawthorn comes up with her own theory for Lizzie’s disappearance. A theory way too absurd to take seriously…at first. The more Hawthorn talks, the more she believes. And what better way to collect evidence than to immerse herself in Lizzie’s life? Like getting a job at the diner where Lizzie worked and hanging out with Lizzie’s boyfriend. After all, it’s not as if he killed her—or did he? Told with a unique voice that is both hilarious and heart-wrenching, Hawthorn’s quest for proof may uncover the greatest truth is within herself.
  • Favorite paragraph: I pulled out a map, and Enzo examined the sections I'd highlighted. A breeze rustled the leaves on the trees. Birds and bugs gave us their own soundtrack. It felt like I was in the place I was meant to be, doing exactly what I was meant to do. Enzo and I were on the edge of an important discovery. Lizzie Lovett went into the woods and never came out. But I would. I would come back with all her secrets.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes mystery stories and/or coming of age stories about teens.
  • Something to know: This book almost reminded me of Mean Girls meets Twilight in a weird way (except Hawthorn thinks that Lizzie may have changed into a werewolf, so there are no vampires here).
  • What I would have changed: I would have given a little more background on Lizzie. Avoiding spoilers, but I wanted to know more why she made one of the choices she did, which is revealed at the end of the book. 
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order on Amazon - this book will be in stores and online on January 3, 2017.
*Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Fractured, by Catherine McKenzie {ends 10/16}

John
He wants me to tell them about that morning.

I've done that before. Told the police, Detective Grey, and his sidekick, more than once. I've read over my statement enough times to memorize it, but now I have to put it away. I have to forget that this is a repeat and tell it like it's an original broadcast.

Or it will sound rehearsed.

It will sound like a tale I'm telling.

I've reviewed a few of Catherine McKenzie's books before, and they're always very good; this one was no exception. The timelines here were interesting, as well - one chapter would be from a few months previous, and the next chapter would be in present day, where something bad has happened but we don't entirely know what, just yet.

Official synopsis:
Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.


In this novel, we learn that Julie and her family had to move away from the Tacoma, WA area after her book, The Murder Game, was released, because an old law school classmate of hers started stalking her. The author of this book, Catherine McKenzie, is actually going to release The Murder Game on November 1st, as Julie Apple (Julie's maiden name), which I'm now looking forward to reading as a companion book to this one.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult {ends 10/14}

Ruth

"I don't want her or anyone who looks like her touching my son," the father interrupts, and he folds his arms across his chest. He's pushed up his sleeves while I was out of the room. Running from wrist to elbow on one arm is the tattoo of a Confederate flag.

Marie stops talking.

For a moment, I honestly don't understand.

And then it hits me with the force of a blow: they don't have a problem with what I've done.

Just with who I am.

I'm a huge fan of Jodi Picoult's books, so when I saw that Small Great Things, her newest, was available on NetGalley in late May/early June, I was thrilled. I read it and later finished it while on vacation, and I'm excited to now share this book with you.

Official synopsis:
A woman and her husband admitted to a hospital to have a baby requests that their nurse be reassigned - they are white supremacists and don't want Ruth, who is black, to touch their baby. The hospital complies, but the baby later goes into cardiac distress when Ruth is on duty. She hesitates before rushing in to perform CPR. When her indecision ends in tragedy, Ruth finds herself on trial, represented by a white public defender who warns against bringing race into a courtroom. As the two come to develop a truer understanding of each other's lives, they begin to doubt the beliefs they each hold most dear.

I'll be honest and say this book was hard to get through, because Picoult really gets into the minds of her characters, and writes in first-person. Some of the chapters were from the POV of Ruth, the African-American nurse who Turk, the white supremacist, and his wife Brittany were suing. The other chapters were from Kennedy, the public defender who was representing Ruth at trial, and the third POV chapters (the hardest to read) were that of Turk's, the white supremacist who has a Confederate flag tattoo. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Beautiful, by Christina Lauren {ends 10/11}

I don't know what I would have done with a man like Jensen back in my real life. 

Would I have been able to let him in? Or would I have been all chatter and booze, jokes and chaos? Would he even have looked at me, with my every-colored hair, vibrant bird tattoo, and wildly bright skirts?

No, I thought. There were no other circumstances under which a man like Jensen would look twice at a woman like me. And even if he had, I wouldn't have had the faintest idea what to do with his attention. 

This is the last book in the Beautiful series, by Christina Lauren, and I'm definitely going to miss it! Their books (it's actually two people, writing as one pseudonym) are always fantastic. This novel does give closure to all of the couples who have been featured in the series, though, which I liked.

Official synopsis:
Featuring the entire BEAUTIFUL series cast for one final hurrah!

A free-spirited girl in need of a break.

A man weighed down by responsibility.
A road trip vacation where all bets are off.
Oh, and a lot of wine.

After walking in on her boyfriend shagging another girl in their place, Pippa Bay Cox ditches London for the States to go on a drunken road trip with Ruby Miller and some of her Beautiful friends.

Scaling the career ladder is the default way to deal with heartbreak—and to just deal—for Jensen Bergstrom. Absolutely buried by his drive and workload, he rarely takes time for himself. But when his sister Hanna convinces him to join the gang on a two-week wine tour, he has a rare moment of cutting loose. Of course, it’s only once he’s committed that he realizes the strange girl he met briefly on the plane is coming along, too. She might be too much for him…or he might realize his life has become too small and needs her to make it bigger, crazier.

With this circle of friends there’s always something going on: from Chloe and Sara’s unexpected personality swaps to Will’s new domestic side to Bennett’s text message barrage and George’s own happily-ever-after. In short, their adventures in love, friendship, and hilarity are nothing short of Beautiful.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Triple Love Score, by Brandi Megan Granett {ends 10/3}

Vegetarian, Montessori School Teacher, vitamin crazy, Suburu driving, Oregon living. Hipster, she thought, a health-nut hipster. A far cry from the boy she remembered. And until the morning, she thought she really liked him. Not that she had ever stopped liking him. It was more that she forgot about liking him for a while. Forgot about waiting for him to come back. Sitting home her entire twenty-first birthday just in case he showed up again like magic or even just called.

This is one of Brandi Megan Granett's first novels, and it's done very well; I especially liked the Scrabble board pictures woven throughout the story.

Official synopsis:
What happens when you stop playing games?

Miranda Shane lives a quiet life among books and letters as a professor in a small upstate town. When the playing-by- the-rules poet throws out convention and begins to use a Scrabble board instead of paper to write, she sets off a chain of events that rattles her carefully planned world.

Her awakening propels her to take risks and seize chances she previously let slip by, including a game-changing offer from the man she let slip away. But when the revelation of an affair with a graduate student threatens the new life Miranda created, she is forced to decide between love or poetry.

Miranda, a poet, is in her late 20s, and works at a local university. She starts making poetry using Scrabble board, under the name "Blocked Poet," and soon her social media channels start to become extremely popular.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Piper, Once & Again, by Caroline E. Zani {ends 9/18}

Piper, Once & Again was published in paperback this past July, and I have a chance for one of my lucky readers to win a copy, courtesy of the author!

If you don't want to wait to win a copy, too, you can purchase your copy here.

Official synopsis:
Longing for something just beyond her grasp ... a successful equine insurance agent living in 21st century Massachusetts, Piper struggles with relationships, patience, scents, and living in 19th century France.

Through tragedy, betrayal and a mother’s religious-driven fear, Piper must learn to intuitively understand the messages all around her. The scents of burnt raisins, freshly washed baby skin and the ethereal lavender fields of Provence, France reach out from a century ago to guide her on a journey she wasn’t aware she was on. And the shards of memories that ride on those scents – Friesian horses, a cradle in the corner of loft, an old man inhaling the scent of perfume on pristine white gloves – what could they possibly mean?

Follow Piper on this enlightening spiral through time, unconditional love, unbearable loss, unbelievable discovery, and a question of forgiveness, as she tries to find the one man who can help her unravel this tapestry woven before she took her first breath. 

See why she is indeed Piper, Once and Again.

*side note: I had to google "equine insurance agent," and I asked the author about the definition, too ... people actually do purchase insurance on their show horses! Interesting.

Monday, August 29, 2016

GIVEAWAY: The Jungle Book (2016) on Blu-ray/DVD {ends 9/7}


The Jungle Book is out on Blu-ray and DVD today, August 30th, and I have the chance for one of my lucky readers to win a copy!

I reviewed the movie on my film blog this past April, and I gave it a "Yes" review and 4 stars out of 5.

About the movie:
Audiences were mesmerized by Disney’s live-action epic adventure “The Jungle Book,” which has earned more than $935 million at the global box office to date. Critically acclaimed, Jon Favreau’s stunning live-action reimagining of Walt Disney’s animated classic, will be available early on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere on August 23, and on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and On-Demand on August 30.

Venture behind the scenes with in-depth bonus features that reveal the innovative filmmaking technology used to create the richly immersive jungle world and characters; Follow the journey of the film’s only on-screen actor, charismatic newcomer Neel Sethi (Mowgli); Delve into a candid and humorous scene-by-scene audio commentary with director Jon Favreau and meet the all-star voice cast who help bring the film’s colorful characters to life, as well as the musicians who accent the adventure with a majestic music score.

The all-star cast includes Bill Murray (“Lost in Translation”) as the voice of Baloo, Sir Ben Kingsley (“Learning to Drive,” “The Walk”) as Bagheera and Lupita Nyong’o (“12 Years a Slave,” “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”) as the voice of mother wolf Raksha. Scarlett Johansson (“Avengers: Age of Ultron”) gives life to Kaa, Giancarlo Esposito (“Breaking Bad”) provides the voice of alpha-male wolf Akela, Idris Elba (“Beast of No Nation”) roars as the voice of Shere Khan, and Christopher Walken (“The Deer Hunter”) lends his iconic voice to King Louie.

Directed by Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Iron Man 2,” “Chef”) and produced by Favreau and Brigham Taylor (executive producer of “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” “Tomorrowland”), “The Jungle Book” is a live-action epic adventure based on Rudyard Kipling’s timeless stories, inspired by Disney’s classic 1967 animated film and centered on Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a man-cub who’s been raised by a family of wolves. But Mowgli finds he is no longer welcome in the jungle when fearsome tiger Shere Khan (voice of Idris Elba), who bears the scars of Man, promises to eliminate what he sees as a threat.

GIVEAWAY: One of These Things First, by Steven Gaines {5 winners, ends 9/5}

One of These Things First was published on August 9th, and I have 5 (yes, FIVE!) copies of the book for some of my lucky readers to win.

About the book:
From New York Times–bestselling author Steven Gaines comes a wry and touching memoir of his trials as a gay teen at the famed Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic.

One of These Things First is a poignant reminiscence of a fifteen-year-old gay Jewish boy’s unexpected trajectory from a life behind a rack of dresses in his grandmother’s Brooklyn bra-and-girdle store to Manhattan’s infamous Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic, whose alumni includes writers, poets, and madmen, as well as Marilyn Monroe and bestselling author Steven Gaines.

With a gimlet eye and a true gift for storytelling, Gaines captures his childhood shtetl in Brooklyn, and all its drama and secrets, like an Edward Hopper tableau: his philandering grandfather with his fleet of Cadillacs and Corvettes; a trio of harpy saleswomen; a giant, empty movie theater, his portal to the outside world; a shirtless teenage boy pushing a lawnmower in front of a house on Long Island; and a pair of tormenting bullies who own the corner candy store and whose taunts drive Gaines to a suicide attempt.

Gaines also takes the reader behind the walls of Payne Whitney—the “Harvard of psychiatric clinics,” as Time magazine called it—populated by a captivating group of neurasthenics who subtly begin to change him in unexpected ways. The cast of characters includes a famous Broadway producer who becomes his unlikely mentor; an elegant woman who claims to be the ex-mistress of newly elected president John F. Kennedy; a snooty, suicidal Harvard architect; and a seductive young contessa. At the center of the story is a brilliant young psychiatrist who promises to cure a young boy of his homosexuality and give him the normalcy he so longs for.

For readers who love stories of self-transformation,
One of These Things First is a fascinating memoir in the vain of Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted and Augusten Burroughs’s Running with Scissors. With its novelistic texture and unflagging narrative, this book is destined to become one of the great, indelible works of the memoir genre.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: The Girls in the Garden, by Lisa Jewell

Her girls both nodded and smiled.

Clare felt a brief moment of parental satisfaction - a compromise painlessly reached - before it was overtaken by a wave of nervous energy that went straight through her gut like a storm. Dinner. With strangers. Her daughters finding safe places away from her. Lies to cover up. Secrets to keep. And all the time, as a throbbing, ominous backdrop, her husband, back to health, ready to reenter the world. And possibly turn it upside down.

The Girls in the Garden, formerly just titled The Girls, started at the ending, and then spooled us back in time so we could see the events leading up to it. I liked this technique a lot, and overall this was a book worth reading.

Official synopsis:
Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.

This was a novel that definitely kept me guessing, and a "whodunit" of sorts too. At the beginning of the book, Pip finds her sister, Grace, who has just turned thirteen, unconscious in the garden near where they live. Grace is in a coma, so she can't tell them who knocked her unconscious, and we (the readers) almost have to figure it out ourselves, as the book goes back in time and starts us off from the beginning.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Quick Pick: The Last One, by Alexandra Oliva

  • Opening lines: The first one on the production team to die will be the editor. He doesn't yet feel ill, and he's no longer out in the field. He went out only once, before filming started, to see the woods and to shake the hands of the men whose footage he'd be shaping; asymptomatic transmission. He's been back for more than a week now and is sitting alone in the editing studio, feeling perfectly well. His T-shirt reads: COFFEE IN, GENIUS OUT. He taps a key and images flicker across the thirty-two-inch screen dominating his cluttered workstation.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I had downloaded a copy via NetGalley, and wanted something to read on my flight out to LA for BlogHer last week. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense. She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far. It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game. Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes. But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing. Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated.
  • Favorite paragraph: "The game will continue until only one person remains, and the only way out is to quit." No one knows how long the show will last, not the creators, not the contestants. Their contracts said no less than five weeks and no more than twelve, though a fine-print footnote actually allows for sixteen weeks in the case of extenuating circumstances. "Ad tenebras dedi," says the host. "There is no other way. And regarding this, the contestants are truly In the Dark."
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes an interesting story, and particularly those who are fans of The Walking Dead, Survivor, and/or The Hunger Games.
  • Something to know: I found this to be a mashup of The Walking Dead (minus the zombies) meets Survivor (the TV show) and it was very interesting, especially after an event occurs that Zoo (main protagonist) doesn't know about; she still thinks she's playing the game/still in the TV show that she signed up for.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing. 
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Three Truths and a Lie, by Brent Hartinger {ends 8/9}

It's hard for me to talk about that conversation in the taxi. If I'd never suggested going away, I wouldn't have reminded Galen about Mia's parents' cabin. We never would have gone away. None of what happened that weekend would've happened. 

That's what I mean about this being all my fault. 

It's hard for me to talk about that conversation in the taxi. But that's easy compared to talking about everything that came next. 

I wasn't aware while starting this book that it was going to be as creepy as it ended up being; it definitely had a Cabin in the Woods vibe to it.

Official synopsis:
A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie goes horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definitely of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeves.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Quick Pick: Run, by Kody Keplinger

  • Opening lines: {Bo}
    I'm waiting for the sirens.

    I know it don't make much sense. The police ain't coming for me - not yet, anyway - but I already feel like a fugitive.
  • Reason I picked up the book: My friend Mandy over at The Romance Bookie had a signed copy that she mailed me! I love Kody Keplinger's books, so I was super excited to receive it in the mail. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who's not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn't care what anyone thinks.

    Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents' overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter -- protect her from what, Agnes isn't quite sure.

    Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it's the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

    So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn't hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo's dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and -- worst of all -- confronting some ugly secrets.
  • Favorite paragraph:
    {Agnes}
    Every small town has that family. You hear their last name and you just shake your head because you know the whole lot of them are trouble. No one will make it to their twenty-first birthday without being arrested at least once. Maybe it's in their blood, or maybe it's just how they're raised. It's hard to say. All you can do is steer clear because nothing good can come of getting mixed up with that bunch.

    In Mursey, that family was the Dickinsons.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes interesting YA (Young Adult) stories.
  • Something to know: The author is partially blind, like her character Agnes. I actually ended up relating a lot to Agnes, as well - because of her blindness, her parents are very strict with her, and that's sort of how my parents were with me in high school as well (I'm an only child).
  • What I would have changed: I wasn't sure if Bo was in love with Agnes or not - Bo comes out to Agnes as bisexual, and it's said that she loves Agnes, but I think it ended up being more as a friend. So I would have clarified that a bit. 
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Quick Pick: The Way to Game the Walk of Shame, by Jenn P. Nguyen

  • Opening linesBefore I even opened my eyes, I knew something was wrong. I wasn't in my bed like I should be, surrounded by the cream duvet comforter that Mom and I had gotten from Macy's last month. The fabric under my fingertips was cool and kind of scratchy. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I found it on NetGalley, or perhaps in an email they sent out, and it sounded like it could be a fun read. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Taylor Simmons is screwed.

    Things were hard enough when her single-minded dedication to her studies earned her the reputation of being an Ice Queen, but after getting drunk at a party and waking up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip.

    Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they’re in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it’s better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard.

  • Favorite paragraph:
    Hmmm. This was more like it. The kiss was turning out pretty nice. Okay, if pretty nice meant awesome, blow-your-mind-out-hot.

    It was ... god, like nothing I had ever imagined. I'd read about kisses like this in novels, but I never thought that it was possible. Nothing can make the world melt away and make you forget about everything and everyone except the person in front of you. The way he smelled. His muscles and warm skin pulsing beneath your fingertips. The softness of his hair as your fingers ran through it. And his lips, soft but impossibly hot without burning as they pressed against yours, opening and moving to massage, to kiss, to taste ... 

    The first thought that popped into my head was that Evan wasn't lying about his experience. In fact, he may have underplayed it. This was some damn kiss. 
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes cute YA (Young Adult) stories. 
  • Something to know: -
  • What I would have changed: For some reason, a lot of the parents in this novel somehow magically knew what Taylor and Evan's classmates were up to - I could see this working if they were close with the classmates' parents, but the author just said things like "I heard that (so-and-so classmate) is going to this college," or other related things, and I wasn't sure how they would have heard that, so it bugged me a little. 
  • Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: Some Women, by Emily Liebert

She'd made peace with her reality, thanks, in large part, to Mackenzie and Piper's friendship. 
...
Piper and Mackenzie had become her people. The ones she called crying in the middle of the night. The ones who materialized at her front door at a moment's notice when they detected even the slightest note of sadness in her voice. She'd learned so much from leaning on them. She'd learned to be her own person. To take responsibility for her mistakes and to face her fears, even if it meant stumbling like a fool along the way. 

She had no idea why she hadn't noticed how lost she'd been the past few years. 

I've read two other Emily Liebert books before, and both were satisfying chick lit - perfect for a day at the beach or a quick summer read. Some Women is no different, and follows three women, who weren't originally friends, and who are all currently having relationships issues.

Official synopsis:
An engrossing and thought provoking novel that examines the intricacies of marriage, friendship, and the power of unexpected connections…

Annabel Ford has everything under control, devoting her time to her twin five-year-old boys and to keeping her household running seamlessly. So when her husband of a decade announces that he’s leaving her, without warning, she’s blindsided. And suddenly her world begins to unravel.

Single mother Piper Whitley has always done her best to balance it all—raising her daughter Fern by herself and advancing her career as a crime reporter. Only now that she’s finally met the man of her dreams, Fern’s absentee father arrives on the scene and throws everything into a tailspin.

Married to the heir of a thriving media conglomerate, Mackenzie Mead has many reasons to count her blessings. But with an imperious mother-in-law—who’s also her boss—and a husband with whom she can no longer seem to connect, something has to give.

On the surface, these three women may not have much in common. Yet when their lives are thrust together and unlikely friendships are formed—at a time when they all need someone to lean on—Annabel, Piper, and Mackenzie band together to help each navigate their new realities.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: In Twenty Years, by Allison Winn Scotch {ends 7/23}

"Please don't get arrested," Catherine fretted. "Our parents are all in town! And we're graduating tomorrow!"

Not everyone's parents were in town, but we were past offending one another by parsing words. Only Annie's mother was here. And my parents not at all. 

But it didn't matter. What mattered was the six of us. What mattered was our star. What mattered is that in this moment in time, we were unbreakable. We were light and destiny and a meteor shower of invincibility.

We were twenty-one. We were allowed to believe impossible things. 

I'm a big fan of Allison Winn Scotch's books, and I've reviewed two of them here before, with them earning a 5/5 rating (which I don't give lightly) and 3.5/5. In Twenty Years was just as good, if not better, and was a great book to read.

Official synopsis:
Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a house, naively certain that their friendships would endure—until the death of their ringleader and dear friend Bea splintered the group for good. Now, mostly estranged from one another, the remaining five reluctantly gather at that same house on the eve of what would have been Bea’s fortieth birthday.

But along with the return of the friends come old grudges, unrequited feelings, and buried secrets. Catherine, the CEO of a domestic empire, and Owen, a stay-at-home dad, were picture-perfect college sweethearts—but now teeter on the brink of disaster. Lindy, a well-known musician, is pushing middle age in an industry that’s all about youth and slowly self-destructing as she grapples with her own identity. Behind his smile, handsome plastic surgeon Colin harbors the heartbreaking truth about his own history with Bea. And Annie carefully curates her life on Instagram and Facebook, keeping up appearances so she doesn’t have to face the truth about her own empty reality.

Reunited in the place where so many dreams began, and bolstered by the hope of healing, each of them is forced to confront the past.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Quick Pick: The Cresswell Plot, by Eliza Wass

  • Opening linesI carved my first star when I was six, so by the time I was sixteen there were stars everywhere in the woods. Some of them I didn't even remember carving. Sometimes I wondered if someone else had - Hannan or Delvive or Caspar or Mortimer or Jerusalem. Or my other brother, the one who died. But I think I knew it was just me. I think I knew I was the only one carving stars.
  • Reason I picked up the book: NetGalley had it and it sounded like an interesting read.
  • And what's this book about?
  • The woods were insane in the dark, terrifying and magical at the same time. But best of all were the stars, which trumpeted their light into the misty dark.

    Castella Cresswell and her five siblings—Hannan, Caspar, Mortimer, Delvive, and Jerusalem—know what it’s like to be different. For years, their world has been confined to their ramshackle family home deep in the woods of upstate New York. They abide by the strict rule of God, whose messages come directly from their father.

    Slowly, Castley and her siblings start to test the boundaries of the laws that bind them. But, at school, they’re still the freaks they’ve always been to the outside world. Marked by their plain clothing. Unexplained bruising. Utter isolation from their classmates. That is, until Castley is forced to partner with the totally irritating, totally normal George Gray, who offers her a glimpse of a life filled with freedom and choice.

    Castley’s world rapidly expands beyond the woods she knows so well and the beliefs she once thought were the only truths. There is a future waiting for her if she can escape her father’s grasp, but Castley refuses to leave her siblings behind. Just as she begins to form a plan, her father makes a chilling announcement: the Cresswells will soon return to their home in heaven. With time running out on all of their lives, Castley must expose the depth of her father’s lies. The forest has buried the truth in darkness for far too long. Castley might be their last hope for salvation.

  • Favorite paragraph:
    My heart was pulsing inside my veins, sending out little heart signals on tiny boats that raced through my bloodstream. Lie! Lie! Tell a lie! Tell a story! Tell a lie!
    ...
    Say you did it.


    Castella Rachel Cresswell. Tell the truth; God is watching.


    I opened my eyes. I couldn't tell if Father had actually spoken, or if I'd just heard it as if he had.
    Or maybe it was God.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes stories about cults or religion-crazed people.
  • Something to know: The publisher is Disney-Hyperion, which I found to be interesting ... this is definitely not your typical "Disney" story.
  • What I would have changed: Not sure.
  • Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

GIVEAWAY: Absalom's Daughters, by Suzanne Feldman {ends 7/6}

Absalom's Daughters, by Suzanne Feldman, will be in stores on July 5th, but two of my lucky readers can win themselves a copy!

Official synopsis:
A spellbinding debut about half sisters, one black and one white, on a 1950s road trip through the American South.

Self-educated and brown-skinned, Cassie works full time in her grandmother’s laundry in rural Mississippi. Illiterate and white, Judith falls for “colored music” and dreams of life as a big city radio star. These teenaged girls are half-sisters. And when they catch wind of their wayward father’s inheritance coming down in Virginia, they hitch their hopes to a road trip together to claim what’s rightly theirs.

In an old junk car, with a frying pan, a ham, and a few dollars hidden in a shoe, they set off through the American Deep South of the 1950s, a bewitchingly beautiful landscape as well as one bedeviled by racial strife and violence. Suzanne Feldman's Absalom’s Daughters combines the buddy movie, the coming-of-age tale, and a dash of magical realism to enthrall and move us with an unforgettable, illuminating novel.


Read Chapter One of the book here.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Quick Pick: The Lovely Reckless, by Kami Garcia

  • Opening linesA police officer shines a blinding light in my eyes. "Do you know why I pulled you over?"

    To ruin what's left of my miserable life?
  • Reason I picked up the book: Kami Garcia is the co-author of Beautiful Creatures, a book series that I really enjoyed. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • I’ve become an expert at avoiding things that could hurt me—which means I will figure out how to stay away from Marco Leone.

    Seventeen-year-old Frankie Devereux would do anything to forget the past. Haunted by the memory of her boyfriend’s death, she lives her life by one dangerous rule: Nothing matters. At least, that’s what Frankie tells herself after a reckless mistake forces her to leave her privileged life in the Heights to move in with her dad—an undercover cop. She transfers to a public high school in the Downs, where fistfights don’t faze anyone and illegal street racing is more popular than football.

    Marco Leone is the fastest street racer in the Downs. Tough, sexy, and hypnotic, he makes it impossible for Frankie to ignore him—and how he makes her feel. But the risks Marco takes for his family could have devastating consequences for them both. When Frankie discovers his secret, she has to make a choice. Will she let the pain of the past determine her future? Or will she risk what little she has left to follow her heart?

  • Favorite paragraph:
    My heart aches. "Me too. But that doesn't change anything."
    "It should."
    "We've been through this. I'm the daughter-"
    "Of a cop, and I'm a car thief, he says softly. "But if I wasn't?" Marco watches me. He's playing
    what if, and I already know how the game ends.
    "Are you saying you stopped stealing cars?" I already knows the answer.

    He frowns and bites his cracked lip.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes family tales and also family secrets; also for those who like "chick lit."
  • Something to know: I believe this is a standalone novel.
  • What I would have changed: Some of it was very YA-ish but overall, it was written very well. 
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order on Amazon - it will be released on October 4th. You can also read the first five chapters here, for free.
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Book Review: One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reid {and a giveaway!}

The voice I hear through the phone is one that I would recognize anywhere, anytime - a voice that spoke to me day in and day out for years and years. One that I thought I'd never hear again, one I'm not ready to even believe I'm hearing now. 

The man I loved since I was seventeen years old. The man that left me a widow when his helicopter had gone down somewhere over the Pacific and he was gone without a trace.

Jesse.

"Emma," Jesse says. "It's me. I'm alive. I'm coming home."

I am a huge fan of Taylor Jenkins Reid's books, so I was excited to see that she had a new book coming out soon. One True Loves, like her other books, focuses on romance and relationships, but this time there's a small hitch: Emma, who recently became engaged to Sam, finds out that in fact, she's not a widower; her husband, who they thought died in a helicopter crash, is still alive.

Official synopsis:
From the author of Maybe in Another Life—named a People Magazine pick and a "Best Book of the Summer" by Glamour and USA Today—comes a breathtaking new love story about a woman unexpectedly forced to choose between the husband she has long thought dead and the fiancé who has finally brought her back to life.

In her twenties, Emma Blair marries her high school sweetheart, Jesse. They build a life for themselves, far away from the expectations of their parents and the people of their hometown in Massachusetts. They travel the world together, living life to the fullest and seizing every opportunity for adventure.

On their first wedding anniversary, Jesse is on a helicopter over the Pacific when it goes missing. Just like that, Jesse is gone forever.

Emma quits her job and moves home in an effort to put her life back together. Years later, now in her thirties, Emma runs into an old friend, Sam, and finds herself falling in love again. When Emma and Sam get engaged, it feels like Emma’s second chance at happiness.

That is, until Jesse is found. He’s alive, and he’s been trying all these years to come home to her. With a husband and a fiancé, Emma has to now figure out who she is and what she wants, while trying to protect the ones she loves.

Who is her one true love? What does it mean to love truly?

Emma knows she has to listen to her heart. She’s just not sure what it’s saying.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Quick Pick: First Comes Love, by Emily Giffin

  • Opening linesIt is the first day of school, a symbolic and hopeful fresh start, at least that's what I tell myself as I stand before my captive, well-scrubbed audience of ten boys and eleven girls in my J.Crew finest - gold ballet flats, gray pants, and a pink, sequined sweater set.
  • Reason I picked up the book: NetGalley had it for reviewing and I love Emily Giffin books - she's also written Something Borrowed, which was a great movie too, plus its sequel, and tons of other "chick lit" books that I've enjoyed.
  • And what's this book about?
  • In this dazzling new novel, Emily Giffin, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, and The One & Only introduces a pair of sisters who find themselves at a crossroads.

    Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond.

    Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

    On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.

    As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first.

    Emotionally honest and utterly enthralling,
    First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.
  • Favorite paragraph:
    "No. I can't," I say, shaking my head. Then, talking about my sister in the third person, I add, "Will someone please tell her that bringing a child into the world is the hardest thing you can do?"

    When nobody answers, I finally turn to walk out of the house, catching the look of anguish on Mom's face and knowing, in an instant, she's thinking how wrong I am about this. That watching your child
    leave the world is actually much harder.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes family tales and also family secrets; also for those who like "chick lit."
  • Something to know: I found this to be more serious than Giffin's other books; it deals with a family tragedy and the aftermath of that. 
  • What I would have changed: Nothing.
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to pre-order on Amazon - it will be released on June 28th.
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from Netgalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.