Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Julie's Review: The House Girl

Summary: The House Girl, the historical fiction debut by Tara Conklin, is an unforgettable story of love, history, and a search for justice, set in modern-day New York and 1852 Virginia. Weaving together the story of an escaped slave in the pre–Civil War South and a determined junior lawyer, The House Girl follows Lina Sparrow as she looks for an appropriate lead plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking compensation for families of slaves. In her research, she learns about Lu Anne Bell, a renowned prewar artist whose famous works might have actually been painted by her slave, Josephine. Featuring two remarkable, unforgettable heroines, Tara Conklin's The House Girl is riveting and powerful, literary fiction at its very best.

Review: It took for me to get to the last 3/4 of the book for me to not want to put The House Girl down. It's not that I wasn't enjoying it, but as with everything I'm reading lately it just didn't pull me in. It's not that I didn't like Lina or Josephine it's just that I failed to connect with them. I don't always have to connect with the characters but I do have to want to understand their journey.

With Josephine, I knew her journey was going to be rough and hard to read. Ms. Conklin did an excellent job with this storyline. She described the brutality of escaping and the realism that many tried but failed. And if they failed and were returned home to their owners, the hell that waited for them there. We are told  Josephine's story through her eyes in flashbacks. Ms. Conklin does an excellent job of revelling the story through subtleties and the use of words instead of hitting you over the head with them. As an avid reader, I appreciated this because it gave me a moment to think and mull over what she was alluding to.

Lina is a corporate Lawyer who is assigned to work on the reparations case for a client. It is through this case that Lina begins to assess her own family and question the story her father has told her about her mother. It is Lina's story and her digging into finding the truth about Josephine that I found the most enticing. It is what kept me coming back to the book. I wanted her to keep digging into the past even though her boss was discouraging. I wanted her to come into her own.

I thoroughly enjoyed the ending The House Girl. It ended the only way it really could. Reparations is such a divisive subject matter and Ms. Conklin wrote about it with assurance and care. Ancestry is a hard subject matter to tackle and I think that when you add in something like reparations, it can get even trickier. Especially if there is a lot of money at stake.

I look forward to reading what Ms. Conklin has published in the future.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to William Morrow for my ARC copy to review.


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Alice's Review: The Story Sisters

Summary: Alice Hoffman’s new novel, The Story Sisters, charts the lives of three sisters – Elv, Claire, and Meg. Each has a fate she must meet alone: one on a country road, one in the streets of Paris, and one in the corridors of her own imagination. Inhabiting their world are a charismatic man who cannot tell the truth, a neighbor who is not who he appears to be, a clumsy boy in Paris who falls in love and stays there, a detective who finds his heart’s desire, and a demon who will not let go. What does a mother do when one of her children goes astray? How does she save one daughter without sacrificing the others? How deep can love go, and how far can it take you? These are the questions this luminous novel asks.  At once a coming-of-age tale, a family saga, and a love story of erotic longing, The Story Sisters sifts through the miraculous and the mundane as the girls become women and their choices haunt them, change them and, finally, redeem them.

Review:  This isn’t a book review as much as an essay about love.  I loved this novel.  LOVED.  I have had a love affair with Alice Hoffman’s books since reading Practical Magic in the late 90s.  There is always something so personal, so raw and revealing in her characters.  I really enjoy how they don’t show themselves from the beginning, they make you earn their trust, showing their true selves only to those who they deem worthy.  I never know what I’m going to get when I start one of her novels.  I do know that I haven’t been disappointed yet.  The Story Sisters is no different.

I couldn’t put this novel down.  The last few novels I read, although good, had me wishing for the ending to come.  I wanted a resolution.  Not this one.  The Story Sister made me want to keep reading forever.  I felt genuine sadness when the story was over.  I wanted to continue exploring their world where these sisters were greater than the sorrow they experienced.  There is so much sadness and anguish in this novel, but it’s a welcomes sadness.  As a reader you know Elv, Meg and Claire have to experience this much unhappiness in order to transition into peace.   

Although this novel focused on the three Story sisters, the two unsung heroes are Annie, the girls’ mother, and Natalia, the girls’ grandmother.  Although their roles are small, their love carries Elv, Meg and Claire through the heartache they are forced to endure.  This novel is dark.  It evokes gut wrenching sadness that stays with you long after you put the book down.  But it was unlike any other Alice Hoffman novel I have read in the past.  There was a clear line defined between real and fantasy.  It still held all the magic of her previous novels.  The difference with The Story Sisters is that it had realism about it.  It wasn’t magic that ruled Elv, it was addiction and avoidance.  It’s what tore the sisters apart. 

The Story Sisters is so well rounded.  There was so much substance with many subplots, however it was never confusing or reaching.  And it has some of the best pearls about love I’ve read in a long time.

“In the world of sorrow, love was an act of will.  All you needed were the right ingredients.”

“That was the way love was, invisible, there whether or not you wanted to see it or admit it.”

“Maybe some love was guaranteed.  Maybe it fit inside you and around you like skin and bones. “

This is the best novel I have read so far this year.  I simply loved it.

Final Take: 5/5


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Children's Corner: Little Kids First Big Book of Space

Review:  Both of my kids recently studied our solar system at the same time and of course to coincide there happened to be a Scholastic Book Fair at both schools. Well, my son's school was first so they got the majority of our money for books and this was one that he immediately wanted. It seems that my son has taken a shining to learning about our solar system.

National Geographic Little Kids First Big Book of Space (First Big Books) is a wonderful first book of space. It is easy for them to hold, loaded with wonderful information about the solar system, planets and beyond. The pictures and/or illustrations are bright and colorful.

We can either look at it together before bed or he likes to look through it by himself. We go over fun facts and he asks me something different every time it is pulled off of his bookshelf. Even my 7 year old likes to look at it from time to time, which is nice because they can read it together.

This book is definitely something that can grow with my son as he goes into Kindergarten. I hope that this books keeps his interest in space alive for a long time. I even find myself learning new things as we read it together.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Julie's Review: All This Talk of Love

Summary: It’s been fifty years since Antonio Grasso married Maddalena and brought her to America. That was the last time she saw her parents, her sisters and brothers—everything she knew and loved in the village of Santa Cecilia, Italy. Maddalena sees no need to open the door to the past and let the emotional baggage and unmended rifts of another life spill out. But Prima was raised on the lore of the Old Country. And as she sees her parents aging, she hatches the idea to take the entire family back to Italy—hoping to reunite Maddalena with her estranged sister and let her parents see their homeland one last time. It is an idea that threatens to tear the Grasso family apart, until fate deals them some unwelcome surprises, and their trip home becomes a necessary journey. All This Talk of Love is an incandescent novel about sacrifice and hope, loss and love, myth and memory.

Review: All This Talk of Love is about family and the ties that bind us to them. It is about one family's tragedies and triumphs. It is about understanding your parents and understanding yourself. It's about survival and living.

What I loved about the book what the way Mr. Castellani got us into each of the characters heads at various points in the book. We got to know them not only by their own thoughts but the thoughts of the other members of the family.

The character that drove me the most nuts was Prima. She is the epitome of a "helicopter mom". Her boys are her life, so much that her marriage suffers. She's a bit over the top. She's the opposite of mother, Maddelena. For me, she's got too much time on her hands. She throws her sons and their friends a party with alcohol.  Not only that but she's proud of her twin sons when they have a threesome with a girl at the party!! Seriously?!! Then she becomes obsessed with the girl and essentially stalks her. I just wanted to smack her throughout the book.

Frankie is an intellectual who also suffers from depression. He's the baby of the family and I also looked at him as the replacement child. I wonder if he felt the same way his whole life. There is no doubt that even though he's the furthest from his parents, he is the most dedicated to his parents. Specifically, Maddelena since he calls her every night at 11:01.

Mr. Castellani depicts realistic family dynamics and also how Alzheimer's affects the family and the one afflicted with this horrible disease. It's obvious he did his research to truly have a realistic view of the disease.

Overall, I enjoyed the novel and the realistic depiction of family. I did feel that it was a bit slow in parts and I wanted the trip to Santa Cecilia to happen a bit earlier in the book.

Final Take: 3.75/5


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Alice's Review: Poison Shy

Summary: Brandon Galloway, a 29-year-old nobody with a history of dead-end jobs, lands a position with a pest control company. When he meets 21-year-old wild child Melanie Blaxley while fumigating her apartment for bed bugs, her vulgar sensuality and reckless promiscuity both attract and repulse him. Before long her world of crazy sex and petty crime starts to take its toll on Brandon’s sanity, and he wonders how much more of her he can stand. Then she disappears, and Brandon must find out if it is all just a prank, or if Melanie’s wild ways finally led her into danger. A hair-raising thrill ride through the bars and backstreets of a fictional small town, this fast-paced and darkly funny debut novel explores obsession, fear, and the threat of other people. ~amazon

Review: Poison Shy is darkly disturbing and filled with sex, booze and violence. Our protagonist is 29-year-old Brandon Galloway who was born under a dark cloud. He lives a relatively lonely existence in a crappy job taking care of his bipolar mother. He has no hope, no future.

As a reluctant hero, Brandon was a great character. He was rough around the edges and complacent with his small existence. He was the shining star in the novel, unlike Melanie Blaxley. She was a very unlikable character and one I had a hard time understanding. With such a great plot, I think this novel would have been elevated had Melanie been more kind. I understand she’s supposed to be this “wild child,” but there wasn’t a clear understand of why Brandon was obsessed with her. I found it hard to believe he would take to Melanie as much as he did. As a reader, I didn’t feel any attachment to her. When she went missing, I really didn’t care and I couldn’t believe Brandon cared either.

Honestly, I’m on the fence with this one. I hate to say that about any book because I know the author put her heart in it. This novel reads like a Young Adult novel although it is for adults. It’s a bit elementary, although I think that works in its favor. Ms. Madden’s greatest strengths are she writes character dialog that is spot on and the plot is good as well. Overall, Poison Shy was worth it because Brandon is a solid character.

Final Take: 3/5


Giveaway: The Lost Art of Mixing

It just so happens that I have an extra ARC copy of The Lost Art of Mixing that I am excited to share with you! (My review)

You know what to do... by 2/27/13! Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This contest is for US and Canadian residents only!


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jenn's Review: The Lost Art of Mixing

 Blurb:  Lillian and her restaurant have a way of drawing people together. There’s Al, the accountant who finds meaning in numbers and ritual; Chloe, a budding chef who hasn’t learned to trust after heartbreak; Finnegan, quiet and steady as a tree, who can disappear into the background despite his massive height; Louise, Al’s wife, whose anger simmers just below the boiling point; and Isabelle, whose memories are slowly slipping from her grasp. And there’s Lillian herself, whose life has taken a turn she didn’t expect. . . .

Their lives collide and mix with those around them, sometimes joining in effortless connections, at other times sifting together and separating again, creating a family that is chosen, not given.

 Review:  In my quest for food-lit, I came across Erica Bauermeister's first novel, The School of Essential Ingredients, which I adored (my review).  My only complaint with it, was it felt a little too open ended, so I was beyond thrilled to learn that there was a sequel, The Lost Art of Mixing.

Not all the threads from the previous novel are present in this continuance, but new threads have been picked up that are just as interesting.  It took me a few chapters to get back into Ms. Bauermeister's writing style, each chapter from the viewpoint of a different character, but mostly I think it was because after the excitement of a huge reveal in the first chapter with Lillian, we are moved on to to steady, reliable Al and I was resistant.  Not that Al's story wasn't interesting, it provides impetus for the rest of the novel, I just didn't want to leave that particular story thread.  My heart broke for Isabelle who is at the cusp of loosing her independence.  I loved the introduction of Finnegan into the group.  The only character I had a difficult time with was Louise, even though I could see things from her perspective, but I did start to warm up to her a little  by the end.  I would have liked at least a mention of some of the characters that are left behind in this book, but Ms. Bauermeister is very true to life, in that people wander in and out of your life and you don't always get to know their full story.  This is true here too, as Ms. Bauermeister leaves things slightly open ended again, but with more of a sense of closure for me than with The School of Essential Ingredients.

One of my favorite lines from The School of Essential Ingredients is “We’re all just ingredients. What matters is the grace with which you cook the meal.” I think The Lost Art of Mixing follows this tenet, but is with less emphasis on the food.  For me, the novel is a combination of The School of Essential Ingredients and Joy for Beginners.  Food was important to the novel, but it is the celebrations of the little things in life and double sided truths that is central.  I think that was my only disappointment, that Ms. Bauermeister taken a step away from the sensuality of the food which I adored in her first novel.

If you've never read Erica Bauermeister, I highly recommend her.  Her writing is elegant and inviting and her stories are illuminating.  She always gives every side of the coin, and there is something refreshingly honest in that.

Final Take:  4/5

Thank you to Penguin Books for my ARC.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Children's Corner: Interrupting Chicken

My daughter's favorite knock-knock joke is the one about the interrupting chicken.  Unfortunately, she inherited my joke telling skills, so it's the only one she can tell.  When I saw a book called Interrupting Chicken in the Scholastic catalog, I knew we had to have it.

Little chicken is having trouble falling to sleep because her bed time stories need to be fixed... if the characters just knew the rules they wouldn't get into such sticky situations.  Every time her father starts to read a story, Chicken jumps in and teaches the character's a life lesson, which will save them all from the trouble they're about to get into.  For example, when Little Red meets the wolf, Chicken jumps in and yells, "don't talk to strangers, so she didn't the end!"  Finally when Papa is out of stories, Chicken puts him to sleep.

My daughter has entered the "I know more than/better than you" phase so I'd like to think it gives her perspective on what it's like when someone constantly challenges everything.  I also like that Chicken sums up the moral of the fairy tale stories so succinctly; sometimes I wonder if I dwell on explaining stories too much and this makes light of the situations without trivializing them.

More importantly, however, this story gives us the giggles.  And we love a good giggle.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Alice's Review: I'll Take What She Has

Summary:  Perfect for fans of Marisa de los Santos and Allison Winn Scotch, Samantha Wilde’s new novel is a funny and heartfelt look at friendship, marriage, and the dynamics of modern motherhood.  Nora and Annie have been best friends since kindergarten. Nora, a shy English teacher at a quaint New England boarding school, longs to have a baby. Annie, an outspoken stay-at-home mother of two, longs for one day of peace and quiet (not to mention more money and some free time). Despite their very different lives, nothing can come between them—until Cynthia Cypress arrives on campus.  Cynthia has it all: brains, beauty, impeccable style, and a gorgeous husband (who happens to be Nora’s ex). When Cynthia eagerly befriends Nora, Annie’s oldest friendship is tested. Now, each woman must wrestle the green-eyed demon of envy and, in the process, confront imperfect, mixed-up family histories they don’t want to repeat. Amid the hilarious and harried straits of friendship, marriage, and parenthood, the women may discover that the greenest grass is right beneath their feet.

Review:  Every once in a while a novel comes along that is so bubbly, it’s fruity and sweet like a peach bellini.   That’s what I’ll Take What She Has makes me think of.  Childhood friends Annie and Nora couldn’t be more different.  Nora is an upbeat, kind woman who can’t see bad in anyone. Annie is the realist, cynical friend who tells it like it is.  It’s no wonder the two of them are such great friends, they are opposite sides of the same coin.

When major life changes come their way, a wedge is drawn between them.  They have to come to terms with their lives, their wants and desires, and especially their friendship.  Telling each chapter from alternating points of view, we get to spend an equal amount of time with each of them.  I thought this was a great way to dive into their lives.  Of the two, I appreciated Annie more.  As a mother of two with some anger issues, she was a well-rounded character.  I found her very likable about 95% of the time.  The other 5% I wished I could crawl into the pages to shake some sense into her.

This novel had great supporting characters.  I especially loved Nora’s kooky Midwestern relatives.  I laughed out loud several times during the novel especially during the Nora chapters.   There was a sense of fun about them in what they would say and do.  I was part horrified and part wishing they could be my relatives too. 

Something unexpected was the substance in I’ll Take What SheHas.  It was deep.  I found myself taking reading pausing to digest a thought or feeling that was stirred in me.  It was very easy to relate to each of their journeys.

This novel is very funny and uplifting.  Although this is typical chick-lit with an ending I saw coming, I still welcomed and enjoyed it.  I’ll Take What She Has is a great beach read and one that you’ll likely share with your own girlfriends.

Final Take:  4/5


Friday, February 15, 2013

Giveaway: Autobiography of Us

We are thrilled that Henry Holt is allowing us to giveaway the debut novel Autobiography of Us by Aria Beth Sloss.

We actually have 2 copies to giveaway! One for you and the other is for your best friend!!

Please fill out the information below to be entered by 2/22/13! Good Luck!

This contest is for US residents only!

Autobiography of Us Giveaway


Julie's Review: Autobiography of Us

Summary: A gripping debut novel about friendship, loss and love; a confession of what passed between two women who met as girls in 1960s Pasadena, California. Coming of age in the patrician neighborhood of Pasadena, California during the 1960s, Rebecca Madden and her beautiful, reckless friend Alex dream of lives beyond their mothers' narrow expectations. Their struggle to define themselves against the backdrop of an American cultural revolution unites them early on, until one sweltering evening the summer before their last year of college, when a single act of betrayal changes everything. Decades later, Rebecca’s haunting meditation on the past reveals the truth about that night, the years that followed, and the friendship that shaped her. Autobiography of Us is an achingly beautiful portrait of a decades-long bond. A rare and powerful glimpse into the lives of two women caught between repression and revolution, it casts new light on the sacrifices, struggles, victories and defeats of a generation.

Review: Women are complex, therefore our friendships are as well. Any woman can tell you of a complex friendship she's had or might be currently having. I'm finding out as I get older that it never really ends; complexity in friendships. Rebecca is drawn to Alex like a moth to a flame the first day that Alex enters her classroom. They are completely different. Rebecca is the shy bookworm who likes to retreat into herself. Alex is the outgoing, vivacious actress who likes to be the center of attention. I'd say they are unlikely friends, but as a woman I know that you are drawn to those who aren't like you. Dare I say, you are drawn, especially when you are young, to the people you admire or want to be more like?

Overall I would say that Alex and Rebecca didn't have a deep friendship, but a friendship that was built on being needed. Rebecca needed someone she could be with and didn't have to add much to the conversation. Alex needed Rebecca so she could always have a rapt audience. There were times during this novel where I wanted to smack Alex who was so self-absorbed and rude, so she could see that Rebecca would never intentionally betray her. I also wanted to smack Rebecca for letting Alex walk all over her and for discounting her own intelligence.

I loved the way Autobiography of Us was written. I loved that it felt that I was sitting in a restaurant or in a coffee shop listening to Rebecca describe her and Alex's complicated history. I loved that Ms. Sloss threw a little twist in at the end. There was one twist where I wasn't sure if I wholly bought into it in the end. It's not that it isn't plausible, I just didn't get those feeling throughout the novel. Maybe I'm missing something or maybe it's just my viewpoint.

I will definitely be looking forward to whatever Ms. Sloss writes in the future, she is definitely one to watch.

Final Take: 4/5

Thanks to Henry Holt for my ARC of this novel.


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Julie's Review: Eight Days to Live

Summary: Number-one New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen delivers a thriller that will chill you to the core: Eve Duncan’s adopted daughter Jane has been targeted by a mysterious cult who has decided that she has only eight days to live. Eve Duncan and her adopted daughter, Jane Macguire, are pitted against the members of a secretive cult who have targeted Jane and have decided that she will be their ultimate sacrifice. In eight days they will come for her. In eight days, what Jane fears the most will become a reality. In eight days, she will die. It all begins with a painting that Jane, an artist, displays in her Parisian gallery. The painting is called “Guilt” and Jane has no idea how or why she painted the portrait of the chilling face. But the members of a cult that dates back to the time of Christ believe that Jane’s blasphemy means she must die. But first, she will lead them to an ancient treasure whose value is beyond price. This elusive treasure, and Jane’s death, are all that they need for their power to come to ultimate fruition. With Eve’s help, can Jane escape before the clock stops ticking?

Review: I love the Iris Johansen books but to be a bit honest, I'm tiring of the whole "will Eve find Bonnie's killer or not?" themes in the books. So, when I realized that Eight Days to Live centered around her adopted daughter, Jane, I was thrilled. Not only that but we get to meet up with some great characters from Jane's recent past: John MacDuff, Jock Gavin and Seth Caleb. All who in their own way care for Jane and Eve. Let me tell you that Seth Caleb can enter my head any time he wants. Holy Smokes, that guys breathes sexual tension.

Again, Jane is the target of some crazed, fanatical group. This time they are a religious cult that centers around Judas Iscariot, you know the guy who was the traitor to Jesus. She's on their radar because one of her paintings is the spitting image of Judas and therefore she must be a blasphemer because that image is sacred. She's being hunted by a man called Millet and the one truly holding the strings, Roland. Both these men are psychotic, in different ways but no less dangerous. Jane, being Jane, throws herself right into the middle of the fray and uses herself and those around her to draw out these crazed men. Luckily for her, the people around her are lethal in their own ways.

Now, it's not that I think something will happen to Jane, Eve or Joe because I do know the series goes on, but it's always a roller coaster ride with them. They always draw the most interesting people to them and then they are bound to them for life. I always like to see who they pick up on their latest adventure.

Since it's the 10th book in the Eve Duncan series, I don't think you have to start at the very beginning, I didn't but I do think you need to go back to when Jane started to be a main character to understand the ties that bind her to Joe and Eve.

I've definitely been away from this series too long so I'll make it a priority to return to it soon. Perhaps this summer. Next up would be Eve, Quinn and finally Bonnie (Eve Duncan).

Final Take: 4/5


Monday, February 11, 2013

Julie's Review: The Aviator's Wife

Summary: In the spirit of Loving Frank and The Paris Wife, acclaimed novelist Melanie Benjamin pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America’s most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. For much of her life, Anne Morrow, the shy daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, has stood in the shadows of those around her, including her millionaire father and vibrant older sister, who often steals the spotlight. Then Anne, a college senior with hidden literary aspirations, travels to Mexico City to spend Christmas with her family. There she meets Colonel Charles Lindbergh, fresh off his celebrated 1927 solo flight across the Atlantic. Enthralled by Charles’s assurance and fame, Anne is certain the celebrated aviator has scarcely noticed her. But she is wrong. Charles sees in Anne a kindred spirit, a fellow adventurer, and her world will be changed forever. The two marry in a headline-making wedding. Hounded by adoring crowds and hunted by an insatiable press, Charles shields himself and his new bride from prying eyes, leaving Anne to feel her life falling back into the shadows. In the years that follow, despite her own major achievements—she becomes the first licensed female glider pilot in the United States—Anne is viewed merely as the aviator’s wife. The fairy-tale life she once longed for will bring heartbreak and hardships, ultimately pushing her to reconcile her need for love and her desire for independence, and to embrace, at last, life’s infinite possibilities for change and happiness. Drawing on the rich history of the twentieth century—from the late twenties to the mid-sixties—and featuring cameos from such notable characters as Joseph Kennedy and Amelia Earhart, The Aviator’s Wife is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows. With stunning power and grace, Melanie Benjamin provides new insight into what made this remarkable relationship endure.

Review: I'll be honest, when I closed the book after I read the whole thing, I can't help but think that Charles Lindbergh is an ass. I think what he accomplished in performing the first aviation flight across the Atlantic Ocean was a feat in and of itself but he got consumed in his own public persona. He never let Anne "in" to his life. She's his "crew" but that's all she ever really was to him. Maybe he did love her in his own way, but in my opinion she was just a person on his staff.

I never knew much about the Lindbergh's except about his flight and the kidnapping but how the media treated them was abhorrent. For me, they were the first victims of the paparazzi. They were put through things that no one else had been through during that time period. The press and the American public were fascinated by this first couple of the air. They wanted to be them and to be seen with them. It was an obsession.

There was only one time when I truly got mad at Anne and it was when she didn't speak up to her husband about the Jews treatment in Germany. I wanted her to stand up to him and fight for what she thought and believe. I didn't want her to be part of her husband's "group think" philosophy. Anne was such a product of her time. She was what women were expected to be a dutiful wife, a dutiful mother and to wait patiently as their husbands lived their lives. I am so happy that Anne figured out how to live her life even if it was in her 50s. I'm thrilled that she found the happiness she deserved, even if it wasn't with Charles. She found it mostly within herself. Back then, that took guts.

This book is so worth your time. It brings to light a pioneer who little is truly known about. For me, it had a slight lull in the last 3/4 of the book but nothing that kept me from reading. There is so much thought and research that went into the book to make Anne really, truly jump off the pages.
Anne Lindbergh was an accomplished woman in her own right, regardless of how she came to have those accomplishments. I am thankful to Ms. Benjamin for bring her story to life for me in The Aviator's Wife.

Final Take: 4.75/5

Alice's Review

Thank you to Pump Up Your Book Tours for including me.

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Friday, February 8, 2013

Jenn's Review: Beautiful Creatures

Blurb:  Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

 Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

 In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

Review:  Beautiful Creatures has been sitting in my TBR pile for way too long so I happily added it to my 2013 TBR Challenge, but when I saw the movie trailers floating around I knew I had to dive in before the movie came out.  The down side is I could have enjoyed it so much sooner, the silver lining is that all four books in the series are out and I can devour them in short order.

While many have said the book is too long, I have to say I never noticed the length, possibly because I read it as an ebook, or possibly because I could have read it in two sittings if I didn't have to pause for life getting in the way of reading.  Length never matters to me when I'm enjoying the read, and I loved Beautiful Creatures.  I think if it had been shorter I would have found myself frustrated by things not being properly fleshed out.  Although the authors certainly don't give everything away; there are plenty of little mysteries that unfurl in their own time.  And once they start to unravel, the reader still doesn't have any idea where the story is headed.  There was surprising reveals throughout --I love when a book can keep me intrigued!  I have no idea where things are headed and it doesn't matter, because I will follow where ever it leads.

Some readers found it slow in spots, but I didn't find that either.  Granted, it wasn't back to back action but the pace had a nice ebb and flow to it.  I found Kami Garcia's and Margaret Stohl's characters enthralling and I soaked up everything they gave me.  I loved that the story was told mostly from Ethan's point of view; it was refreshing.  The only time the point of view was switched was out of necessity and I think it helped to make it abundantly clear that (more) things are being kept secret.  I was frustrated with Amma and Macom for a while, but they came through when it mattered.  Was it a stereo typical southern town with some stereo typical archetypes?  Sure, but those towns and those people are out there.  There is a grain of truth to stereo types, that's how they become stereo types...   There are towns like that.  The authors do such a good job with describing the town and the people in it, I felt like I knew them all.

Above all, it is a beautiful love story.  Lena and Ethan are characters I will be routing for throughout and perhaps even after I've closed the final pages of the last book.

I'm only one book in but I can already tell this is one of those series I'm going to read again and again.  Caster Chronicles is one of those series that I want to own in hard cover to keep for ever and digitally to have with me at all times.  There will be more reviews of the rest of the series shortly, because I don't see myself being able to stay away from it for very long. Now I'm ready to see the movie and I can't wait to see what they do with it!

Final Take:  5/5