Thursday, January 31, 2013

Here I Go Again

Here I Go Again, by Jen Lancaster.

Maybe I considered bucking the social norm for a minute, but then I was all, "Wait, what is this, a John Hughes film?" News flash - no one actually gives the popular chick the slow, standing clap when they find out you're dating down. People don't rally around you and praise your open-mindedness. This was real high school and not some far-flung, romanticized eighties-movie concept of it. The truth is I'd have committed social suicide in dating him, and I did not work my way to the head of the Belles to throw it all away for some guy who was more into George Lucas than Troy Aikman. Thank you, no.

Here I Go Again, Jen Lancaster, time travel, high school
Lissy Ryder was "the popular girl" in high school, but now she's 37-years-old, newly divorced and kicked out of her house, and living at her parents'. She goes to her 20th high school reunion, only to find that everyone there still hates her because she made their lives hell when they were 18. Deva, one of her old classmates who is a "spiritual healer" now, gives her a potion of sorts that lets her go back in time, and this time she's nicer to people in high school. However, when she gets back to the present, everyone's lives are different, including her own, and she realizes she must go back a second time to make sure everyone has the bright futures they are supposed to have.

I'm a big fan of chick lit but when I started reading this book, the "valley girl" narrator's voice, so to speak, was kind of annoying. Lissy reminded me a bit of Elle from the movie Legally Blonde, but more bitchy than fun overall. However, as the book went on, even though the story was crazy and completely unrealistic (I guess that's why it's called fiction ...), I found myself enjoying the story more, although Lissy herself was still kind of an annoying character. I think this could be made into a good movie, actually, especially since "time traveling" books/movies are popular right now, but most of the scenes were a little hard to believe overall.

I did like that Lissy manages to "better herself" over time, though, and eventually realizes that in high school she was a jerk to everyone, even to her boyfriend and BFFs, the Belles.

3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this review for the BlogHer Book Club. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Time Between Us

Time Between Us, by Tamara Ireland Stone.

"I thought it would be safer to explain in writing." My next words are the most important. After all my practice, I should have this part perfected, but I think through each word in my head again, just to be sure. It's too easy for me to say the wrong thing today, and if I do, we may never meet at all."

His head springs up, and he stares at me, wide-eyed. No one's ever said anything like that to him before, and with that one statement, he knows that I'm in on his secret.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone
When I saw this book on the library shelf, I immediately thought of The Lake House, the movie with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reaves, where they both live in different years but are able to communicate via a "magical" mailbox. The difference with this book, however, is that Bennett is able to time travel - he lives in 2012 San Francisco, and Anna lives in 1995 Evanston, Illinois - and that is how they meet. So the book is more like The Lake House combined with The Time Traveler's Wife, in a way.

17-year-old Anna has never really gone anywhere, and 16-year-old Bennett has gone everywhere - he can time travel to wherever he wants and whenever he wants. The only rule is that it must be within his lifetime - March 1995 to present-day for him, 2012. He tries to travel to 1994 with his sister, Brooke, to see a concert - he loves using his gift to see concerts of his favorite bands back in the '90s and 2000's - but something goes wrong, and Brooke gets lost. He then travels to 1995 Evanston to recoup and stay with his grandma, Maggie (though she thinks he's a Northwestern student) and try to find Brooke. It's there that he starts a relationship with Anna, a high school student, and he eventually lets her in on his secret.

The book starts when Anna is in her 30s, in 2012 San Francisco, when she gives a letter to Bennett (see quote above), but the rest of the book takes place in 1995 Evanston, for the most part. Although I loved the book, I would have liked to have known how 34-year-old Anna was able to find Bennett, and what eventually happened to them, but the author has told me that there will be more of them in a future book, and so I suppose I can wait for that one to find out more about them. Bennett also shares Anna's letter with her 1995 self at one point (in present-day events, he received the letter before he met the "past" her), and it changes the whole trajectory of her life; she decides to take more risks and travel, and at the end of the book she goes on study abroad to Mexico.

Time travel is crazy to think about, but most of the (fictional) books I've read about it, including this one, have all been done very well. Time Between Us has also been optioned by CBS Films for a movie version, and I think that could be an interesting film if done properly.

4 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, by Jennifer Chiaverini.

"How dreadful," exclaimed Elizabeth. No wonder the president had grown so gaunt and weary, if such terrible imaginings plagued him at night. "But, Mrs. Lincoln, you must not fear that this nightmare will come to pass."

Mrs. Lincoln regarded her flatly. "You said yourself that it would have been an easy matter for an assassin to kill him as he stood at that window last night."

And how Elizabeth regretted saying so. "What I mean is that you should not believe that these are anything more than troubled dreams. They are not glimpses into the future. It would be astonishing if Mr. Lincoln did not have nightmares prompted by the threats made against him - in fact, it is a testament to his strength that he does not have more of them.

Mrs. Lincoln looked as if she wished she could believe her.

Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, Jennifer Chiaverini, slavery, Lincoln, dressmaking, needlepoint
I recently saw the movie Lincoln, and although I wasn't a huge fan of the film, it did get me interested in the Lincolns and their lives in general. In Mrs. Lincoln's Dressmaker, the relationship between Mrs. Lincoln and her "modiste," Elizabeth Keckley, is explored, and the book continues on many years past Abraham Lincoln's assassination as well.

Official synopsis:
Born into slavery, Elizabeth Keckley earned freedom for herself and her son by the skill of her needle. She moved to Washington, D.C., where she quickly made a name for herself as the city's most talented dressmaker. It didn't take long for Washington's political and social elite to take notice of her intricate designs, flawless needlework, and the flattering fit of her dresses. After moving into the White House, Mrs. Lincoln called upon Keckley to be her personal modiste - but she soon became much more. A devoted friend, Keckley supported Mrs. Lincoln through political scandal, the loss of a child, her husband's assassination, and her eventual descent into poverty. 

I didn't know until midway through my reading that Elizabeth Keckley was a real person, and when I found that out - that this novel is fiction but based on fact - it became more interesting to me. Keckley wrote a book about her time in the White House and the Lincoln family, with the intent of shedding positive light onto Mrs. Lincoln, but instead it became known as a "tell-all book written by a [Negro]," and she never received a cent from the publishing of it. Today, however, that book is well-regarded as a personal look into their lives, and has received much praise.

I thought the pacing of the novel was a bit slow, and although overall I enjoyed it, it's not normally the type of book I would read. Chiaverini is known for her Elm Creek Quilts series, but this is her first time writing about the Lincolns; the writing was definitely good, and she must have done a ton of research for the book. Those interested in the Lincolns and their history will most likely enjoy this book, as well as those interested in what it was like during slavery times in the U.S., and the impact it forever had on those who were slaves.

3 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I was compensated for writing this review for the BlogHer Book Club. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Amber House

Amber House, by Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, and Larkin Reed.

The thing I could do in Amber House was - unbelievable. Maybe a little scary. But Jackson said they couldn't hurt me; they were only echoes. And they were my echoes - people who had contributed bits and pieces to the puzzle of me. I had to admit - I was interested. We'd be gone in two weeks anyway.

Maybe I would stay and see what happened.

Amber House, supernatural, YA fiction, Kelly Moore, Tucker Reed, Larkin Reed
I received an e-galley of Amber House from NetGalley a while back, and finally got around to reading it - and I'm definitely glad I did. It's part teen love story, part supernatural, and part family heritage themed, and the house itself is almost a character in that Sarah, whose grandmother lived there, can feel "echoes" of the past throughout it.

Sarah's grandma dies, and so she, her mother, and her autistic brother, Sam, come back to Amber House for the funeral and to eventually sell the house. Sarah meets Jackson, whose grandmother Rose was taking care of the house and of Sarah's grandma, and they have a connection; however, she also meets Richard, a senator's son, and starts spending time with him as well. Meanwhile, the house has "echoes" - remnants of the past - that Sarah can feel, and she and Jackson embark on a hunt to find the long lost treasure of Amber House. What she finds, though, is a little more than what she bargained for.

I'm not one for scary books or movies, and at times this book was a bit scary; however, it's worth getting through the scary parts to learn more about the house, which has been around since the 1800s, if not earlier. I was also shocked to learn later that this is the first in an Amber House trilogy, as I'm not sure how they can go from here - the end wrapped everything up nicely - but the authors have already released a sneak peek of book #2 in the series, it seems.

I would recommend this book for anyone who is into YA books, good mysteries, or supernatural books (or all three, like me) - it's a quick read with interesting characters and plots.

4.5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions listed here, however, are my own.

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