Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Quick Pick: The Longest Ride, by Nicholas Sparks

  • Opening lines: I sometimes like to think to myself that I'm the last of my kind.

    My name is Ira Levinson. I'm a southerner and a Jew, and equally proud to have been called both at one time or another. I'm also an old man. I was born in 1920, the year that alcohol was outlawed and women were given the right to vote, and I often wondered if that was the reason my life turned out the way it did. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a big Nicholas Sparks fan, and also the movie is coming to theaters this April. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Ira Levinson is in trouble. At ninety-one years old, in poor health and alone in the world, he finds himself stranded on an isolated embankment after a car crash. Suffering multiple injuries, he struggles to retain consciousness until a blurry image materializes and comes into focus beside him: his beloved wife Ruth, who passed away nine years ago. Urging him to hang on, she forces him to remain alert by recounting the stories of their lifetime together – how they met, the precious paintings they collected together, the dark days of WWII and its effect on them and their families. Ira knows that Ruth can’t possibly be in the car with him, but he clings to her words and his memories, reliving the sorrows and everyday joys that defined their marriage.

    A few miles away, at a local rodeo, a Wake Forest College senior’s life is about to change. Recovering from a recent break-up, Sophia Danko meets a young cowboy named Luke, who bears little resemblance to the privileged frat boys she has encountered at school. Through Luke, Sophia is introduced to a world in which the stakes of survival and success, ruin and reward -- even life and death – loom large in everyday life. As she and Luke fall in love, Sophia finds herself imagining a future far removed from her plans -- a future that Luke has the power to rewrite . . . if the secret he’s keeping doesn’t destroy it first.

    Ira and Ruth. Sophia and Luke. Two couples who have little in common, and who are separated by years and experience. Yet their lives will converge with unexpected poignancy, reminding us all that even the most difficult decisions can yield extraordinary journeys: beyond despair, beyond death, to the farthest reaches of the human heart.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes Nicholas Sparks books as well as those who like historical fiction. The book was split between Ira's POV and Sophia's, Ira being a 90+ year old man who has been in a car crash and Sophia being a 21-year-old college senior who meets a cowboy, Luke, after a bad breakup.
  • Something to know: The movie will be out in theaters on April 10th, 2015! Just from the trailer, it looks like Luke + Sophia's "meet-cute" has been changed - she meets him at a bull-riding rodeo.
  • What I would have changed: Not sure. Some parts of the novel were a little slow, but I was interested and engaged in the novel for most of its almost-400 pages.
  • Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I buy this book? Click here.

Monday, February 23, 2015

GIVEAWAY: 2 paperback copies of The Headmaster's Wife, ends 3/4

A year ago, I reviewed The Headmaster's Wife, by Thomas Christopher Greene, and gave away a copy of the novel. The book is now out in paperback, and to celebrate, I'm giving away two more paperback copies of the book!

Official synopsis:
Like his father before him, Arthur Winthrop is the Headmaster of Vermont's elite Lancaster School. He is married to his college sweetheart, Elizabeth, and they live on the school campus, although without their son, Ethan, who opted out of college, joined the military and went to Iraq. Lancaster is where Arthur has built his life and established his legacy, but it is also the site of his undoing. On a cold winter's morning, Arthur is arrested after being found wandering naked in New York City's Central Park. After he begins to explain what happened to the police, details of an affair with a student and the subversive world of the boarding school emerges. However, as his story unfolds, his memories seem to collide into one another. Like pieces of a puzzle, Arthur's ramblings slowly begin to form the portrait that lies beneath his bizarre behavior and lead up to a shocking twist that brings the truth into sharp focus.

A beautifully written, profoundly emotional book, it is perfect for fans of Anita Shreve and Richard Russo, and stands as a moving elegy to the power of love as an antidote to grief.

{you can also purchase this novel by clicking here.}

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book GIVEAWAY: The Thickety: The Whispering Trees (The Thickety #2), ends 3/1

The Thickety: The Whispering Trees (The Thickety #2) by J.A. White debuts on March 10th, and you can win a copy here first. The Thickety is a "middle grade series" and is appropriate for ages 10 and up.

More about the book:
“Nail-biting suspense is the hallmark of this pleasantly accomplished debut. The spellbinding story, lashings of suspense and stalwart heroine will draw in fantasy fans and keep them reading until the bitter ending.”
— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“White creates a fantasy world with creatures that are anything but sweet and his prose is evocative without being dense. Absolutely thrilling.”
— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

The Thickety J.A. White
HarperCollins Children’s Books is thrilled to publish THE THICKETY: THE WHISPERING TREES (Katherine Tegen Books; $16.99; Ages 10 & UP; 9780062257291), the second installment in J.A. White’s elegantly written and masterfully plotted middle grade series. The first book in the series The Thickety: A Path Begins, was selected for several “Best Summer Reading for Kids” lists including Washington Post’s Summer Book Club , Huffington Post’s “Summer Reading List for Kids” and the Christian Science Monitor’s “25 Best New Middle Grade Novels.” THE THICKETY series reads like a classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale told from the perspective of a young girl.

The Thickety has a setting that feels both familiar—a dark, enchanted forest from a fairytale—yet is wholly unique. Brilliantly imagined and filled with interesting creatures such as three-eyed birds, poisonous plants, and monstrous beings, The Thickety weaves all that is scary and strange with the power of familial love to create a fully-imagined world that highlights the strength of the good within all of us despite the evil that surrounds us.

After Kara Westfall’s village turns on her for practicing witchcraft, she and her brother, Taff, flee to the one place they know they won’t be followed: the Thickety. Only this time the Forest Demon, Sordyr, is intent on keeping them there. Sordyr is not the Thickety’s only danger: unknown magic lurks behind every twist and shadow of the path. And then Kara and Taff discover Mary Kettle, an infamous witch with an unspeakable past—she is everything their village fears about magic.

When Mary shows them the path leading out of the Thickety guarded by Imogen, a creature more monster than human, Kara is hesitant to trust her. But then she offers to help Kara learn to cast magic without a grimoire…and this could be Kara and Taff's only chance to escape.

Or the first step down a dark and wicked path.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Gone Girl: Book vs. Movie Adaptation

I first read Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn, back in October 2012, and I remember being shocked by all the twists and turns in the novel. I didn't review the movie, because I saw it after it came out in theaters {generally I see movies at pre-screenings}, but it was very good, and seemed to follow the movie's story very closely.

You can see a more complete list of book-to-movie changes here, but here's some that I did notice:

(heads up .... a few SPOILERS are ahead, so skip those if you haven't seen the movie OR read the book yet)

  • The book is written in first-person point-of-view (POV) - first from Nick's POV, then from Amy's
  • A few of the minor characters in the book were cut out of the movie
  • The way that Amy (SPOILER!!!) sets up the murder scene to frame Nick
  • We learn a bit more about Amy's crazy past (aka, that she is CRAZYPANTS and has been for a while) in the book than in the movie
  • The way that (SPOILER!!!) Amy kills Desi

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand {win a $25 Family Christian certificate, ends 2/18}

So I haven't actually seen the movie version of Unbroken yet (directed by Angelina Jolie) but it's based upon the acclaimed book of the same name, by Laura Hillenbrand.

(The book's full title: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption) 

I don't usually read nonfiction, unless it's a memoir, and the reason is that I tend to get bored with them. Unbroken is technically a memoir, although not an autobiography; the subject of it, Louis Zamperini, has told his story to Hillenbrand, who has recorded it for posterity. Although the book was a bit slow in parts, overall it was an interesting - and true - read.

Official synopsis:
On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in
Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Same Sky, by Amanda Eyre Ward, ends 2/14

"Say yes," said Jake. "To all of it. Why not? We'll adopt seventeen Chinese babies and live happily ever after."

Why not, indeed? I shrugged. I'd studied English because I loved to read, but I didn't really want to teach or get a PhD. The thought of starting something tangible with Jake sounded fucking wonderful. 

After all, in a world of countless peril, whom better to stay near than a man who could tame fire?

This novel kept me guessing the whole time as to how Alice and Carla would suddenly intersect. Alice is a barbecue owner in Texas, and she and her husband have been wanting a baby for a long time now, even though she found out she can't conceive. Carla is an illegal immigrant - or, technically, hoping to be an illegal immigrant, as she and her brother live in Honduras while her mother works a minimum wage job in Texas.

Official synopsis:
In this heartrending and poignant novel, award-winning author Amanda Eyre Ward tells the story of Alice Conroe, a forty year old Texas barbecue owner who has the perfect life, except she and her husband long for a child. Unable to conceive, she’s trying desperately to adopt but her destiny is quickly altered by a young woman she’s never met.

Fearless thirteen-year-old Carla Trujilio is being raised by her grandmother in Honduras along with her four year old twin brothers. Her mother is sending money home from Texas where she’s trying to make a better life for her family, but she only has enough to bring one son to her. When Carla’s grandmother dies, Carla decides to take her fate into her own hands and embarks on a dangerous journey across the border with Junior, the twin left behind.

Two powerful journeys intersecting at a pivotal moment in time: Alice and Carla’s lives will be forever and profoundly changed. Heartbreaking, emotional, and arresting, this novel is about finding the courage to trail blaze your own path in life with faith, hope and love, no matter the struggle or the tragedy.

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