Saturday, March 19, 2016

Quick Pick: The Heart Goes Last, by Margaret Atwood

  • Opening linesSleeping in the car is cramped. Being a third-hand Honda, it's no palace to begin with. If it was a van they'd have more room, but fat chance of affording one of those, even back when they thought they had money. Stan says they're lucky to have any kind of a car at all, which is true, but their luckiness doesn't make the car any bigger.
  • Reason I picked up the book: The author is Margaret Atwood, who wrote dystopian books before "dystopian" was even an actual word - I read The Handmaid's Tale by her in high school and loved it. {and it's free to read on Kindle Unlimited right now, too!}
  • And what's this book about?
  • Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.
  • Favorite paragraph:
  • Ed turns off the PowerPoint, puts on his reading glasses, consults a list. Practical matters: their new cellphones will be issued in the main hall. At the same time they'll receive their housing allocations. The details are explained more fully on the green sheets in their folders, but in brief, everyone in Consilience will live two lives: prisoners one month, guards or town functionaries the next. Everyone has been assigned an Alternate. One detached residential dwelling can therefore serve at least four people: in Month One, the houses will be occupied by the civilians, and then, in Month Two, by the prisoners of Month One, who will take on the civilian roles and move into the houses. And so it will go, month after month, turn and turn about. Think about the savings in the cost of living Ed says with a smile.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes dystopian books, or books that imagine different worlds from the ones we live in. This one is not SO different - the economy is down and Ed and Charmaine are homeless. Because of this, however, they decide to participate in the new Consilience/Positron experiment - they're given a house and a "safe life," and they live one month in the house, one month in the prison, and so on. 
  • Something to know: Goodreads says that this is book #4 in a series, but it's wrong - what happened was this: "The Heart Goes Last began as a serial for Byliner, which has now come down. There were four episodes under the title Positron and 64,838 were purchased. Even though the posted episodes have been completely rewritten, Byliner purchasers will be eager to find out what happens."
  • What I would have changed: This was a very kooky book but I'm not sure what I would have changed. Maybe give a bit more backstory for Ed and Charmaine, so we can see how they ended up broke, but Atwood does give a little bit of backstory.
  • 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 Edelweiss for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Book Review - Eligible: A modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice, by Curtis Sittenfeld

"When Lydia and Ham are back in Cincinnati, invite them over for dinner like normal. Or, I don't know, give them a waffle iron. They didn't get married to spite you guys. They're in love."

Mr. Bennet smiled wryly. "I suppose they are," he said. "But that's a condition that's acute, not chronic."

Full disclosure, I love Jane Austen's books in the sense that they are good stories - but at the same time, I find them very hard to read. I loved the movie version of Pride and Prejudice (the 2005 one, with Keira Knightley as Elizabeth) and I've heard the BBC version, with Colin Firth, is also quite good, although I haven't seen it. For anyone that's ever had trouble getting through an Austen novel, we now have Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld - one of my favorite authors - which is a modern retelling of the classic story.

Official synopsis:
This version of the Bennet family—and Mr. Darcy—is one that you have and haven’t met before: Liz is a magazine writer in her late thirties who, like her yoga instructor older sister, Jane, lives in New York City. When their father has a health scare, they return to their childhood home in Cincinnati to help—and discover that the sprawling Tudor they grew up in is crumbling and the family is in disarray.

Youngest sisters Kitty and Lydia are too busy with their CrossFit workouts and Paleo diets to get jobs. Mary, the middle sister, is earning her third online master’s degree and barely leaves her room, except for those mysterious Tuesday-night outings she won’t discuss. And Mrs. Bennet has one thing on her mind: how to marry off her daughters, especially as Jane’s fortieth birthday fast approaches.

Enter Chip Bingley, a handsome new-in-town doctor who recently appeared on the juggernaut reality TV dating show
Eligible. At a Fourth of July barbecue, Chip takes an immediate interest in Jane, but Chip’s friend neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy reveals himself to Liz to be much less charming. . . .

And yet, first impressions can be deceiving.

Wonderfully tender and hilariously funny, ELIGIBLE both honors and updates Austen’s beloved tale. Tackling gender, class, courtship, and family, Sittenfeld reaffirms herself as one of the most dazzling authors writing today. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Quick Pick: Firstlife, by Gena Showalter (Everlife #1)

  • Opening lines: If you failed to read my dossier, Nanne, I'm happy to bring you up to date on my highlights. I'm a well-trained and vastly decorated Laborer. What I'm not: a babysitter. Watching Tenley Lockwood is a waste of my many talents.

  • Reason I picked up the book: Another blogger had recommended it, and I saw it was listed on NetGalley. I love dystopian books and this sounded very unique. 
  • And what's this book about?

    Tenley “Ten” Lockwood is an average seventeen-year-old girl…who has spent the past thirteen months locked inside the Prynne Asylum. The reason? Not her obsession with numbers, but her refusal to let her parents choose where she’ll live—after she dies.

    There is an eternal truth most of the world has come to accept: Firstlife is merely a dress rehearsal, and real life begins after death.

    In the Everlife, two realms are in power: Troika and Myriad, longtime enemies and deadly rivals. Both will do anything to recruit Ten, including sending their top Laborers to lure her to their side. Soon, Ten finds herself on the run, caught in a wild tug-of-war between the two realms who will do anything to win the right to her soul. Who can she trust? And what if the realm she’s drawn to isn’t home to the boy she’s falling for? She just has to stay alive long enough to make a decision…

  • Favorite paragraph:
  • I've been told history is written by survivors, but I know that isn't always true. 
    My name is Tenley Lockwood and very soon, I'll be dead. This is my story - but my end is only the beginning.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes dystopian books ... this book was like a mixture of The Hunger Games, minus the actual games, and the Divergent series.
  • Something to know: This is the first book in the Everlife series - the second book, Lifeblood, is already listed on Goodreads, with an expected pub date of 2017.
  • What I would have changed: Another reviewer on Goodreads said something like "we literally just dive in to this world with minimal explanations" and I'd agree with that. Sometimes it got confusing trying to figure out who was who and what exactly was going on. That being said, the world that the author has created was very interesting.
  • 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, March 2, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: The Flying Circus, by Susan Crandall {ends 3/9}

They stepped closer to the window. An aerobatic competition and air race at Clover Field in Santa Monica on Saturday was advertised.

"That must be it!" she said. "More speed. Why else would fate have put that there, right now, when we're talking about it?"
"Fate didn't put it there. Fate doesn't use cloth adhesive tape."

She swatted his arm. "Stop being so literal."
He shrugged and shoved his hands in his pockets. He didn't like where this was heading.

"How many women fly racers?" she asked
"You don't even like piloting."
"Well, racing would make it interesting! We have to go."
"We can go. But don't get your heart set on it. To be competitive you have to have the best machine. And that means money. Probably lots of it."
"We'll see, Henry. We'll see."

This city had plenty of movie houses to choose from. Why had they come here?
Maybe Fate did use adhesive tape.

I do enjoy books about historical periods in the United States, and this would qualify - it takes place in the 1920s, when airplanes were new and exciting, and just starting to pop up across the country.

Official synopsis:
From the bestselling and award-winning author of Whistling Past the Graveyard comes an adventure tale about two daredevils and a farm boy who embark on the journey of a lifetime across America’s heartland in the Roaring Twenties.

Set in the rapidly changing world of 1920s America, this is a story of three people from very different backgrounds: Henry “Schuler” Jefferson, son of German immigrants from Midwestern farm country; Cora Rose Haviland, a young woman of privilege whose family has lost their fortune; and Charles “Gil” Gilchrist, an emotionally damaged WWI veteran pilot. Set adrift by life-altering circumstances, they find themselves bound together by need and torn apart by blind obsessions and conflicting goals. Each one holds a secret that, if exposed, would destroy their friendship. But their journey of adventure and self-discovery has a price—and one of them won’t be able to survive it.

As they crisscross the heartland, exploring the rapidly expanding role of aviation from barnstorming to bootlegging, from a flying circus to the dangerous sport of air racing, the three companions form a makeshift family. It’s a one-of-a-kind family, with members as adventurous as they are vulnerable, and as fascinating as they are flawed. But whatever adventure—worldly or private—they find themselves on, they’re guaranteed to be a family you won’t forget.

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