Monday, March 31, 2014

Jenn's Review: The Iron Traitor

Author: Julie Kagawa
Series: The Iron Fey: Call of the Forgotten #2, The Iron Fey #6
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 384
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  YA, Fantasy
Rating: 4.5
Bottom Line: Sweeping tale; intense cliff-hanger
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab

Blurb:  In the real world, when you vanish into thin air for a week, people tend to notice. 

After his unexpected journey into the lands of the fey, Ethan Chase just wants to get back to normal. Well, as "normal" as you can be when you see faeries every day of your life. Suddenly the former loner with the bad reputation has someone to try for-his girlfriend, Kenzie. Never mind that he's forbidden to see her again. 

But when your name is Ethan Chase and your sister is one of the most powerful faeries in the Nevernever, "normal" simply isn't to be. For Ethan's nephew, Keirran, is missing, and may be on the verge of doing something unthinkable in the name of saving his own love. Something that will fracture the human and faery worlds forever, and give rise to the dangerous fey known as the Forgotten. As Ethan's and Keirran's fates entwine and Keirran slips further into darkness, Ethan's next choice may decide the fate of them all.

Review:  I was all set to read The Iron Traitor when it first came out in the fall but somehow I never got around to it.  I am glad that I've had a chance to do so, but I'm also a little saddened because now I have to wait for the next one.  I hate waiting!

Ethan has finally accepted his entwinement with the fey, so much so that he willingly returns to help his nephew.  I like the way Kenzie has softened him a little.  I like who he is when he's with her.  In so many ways, though, Ethan is like his sister, stubborn and a little reckless.  Unlike his sister he has someone he can turn to for help, but he chooses not to.  I will say in the beginning it is amusing to see Ash outwitted, but the gravity of the situation brings that to a quick end. I understand why Keirran chooses to go it alone, but it's certainly not the smartest plan.

The Iron Traitor heralds the return of Puck and his presence is sorely needed, not only to add a little levity but to help keep things rational.  Crazy that Puck would be a stabilizing force, but that's how extreme Ethan and Keirran can be.  He also one of the only characters present who knows the prophecy and all he can hope to do is watch and intervene but even Puck can't be everywhere at once.

The book ends where I knew it was heading; as cliff-hangers go, it's a brutal one.  Although I trust Julie Kagawa to see this through, it's hard to see a light at the end of this tunnel.  I started this series happy with where Meghan and Ash were and not wanting them to be featured, but I'm finding myself hoping to see a little more of them in the next book.  It somehow seems wrong to be in the Nevernever without them, and honestly, I think they will need to be the ones to sort things out.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Julie's Review: Ready Player One

Author: Ernest Cline
Series: None
Publication Date:August 31, 2011
Publisher: Findaway World/Random House
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Length: 15 hours and 46 minutes
Obtained: Audible;Mine
Genre:  Science Fiction, Fantasy
Rating: 5
Bottom Line: Any child of the 80s will want to listen or read this! Fantastic!!
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut — part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed. It's the year 2044, and the real world is an ugly place. Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes his grim surroundings by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia that lets you be anything you want to be, a place where you can live and play and fall in love on any of ten thousand planets. And like most of humanity, Wade dreams of being the one to discover the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this virtual world. For somewhere inside this giant networked playground, OASIS creator James Halliday has hidden a series of fiendish puzzles that will yield massive fortune — and remarkable power — to whoever can unlock them. For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that Halliday's riddles are based in the pop culture he loved—that of the late twentieth century. And for years, millions have found in this quest another means of escape, retreating into happy, obsessive study of Halliday’s icons. Like many of his contemporaries, Wade is as comfortable debating the finer points of John Hughes's oeuvre, playing Pac-Man, or reciting Devo lyrics as he is scrounging power to run his OASIS rig. And then Wade stumbles upon the first puzzle. Suddenly the whole world is watching, and thousands of competitors join the hunt — among them certain powerful players who are willing to commit very real murder to beat Wade to this prize. Now the only way for Wade to survive and preserve everything he knows is to win. But to do so, he may have to leave behind his oh-so-perfect virtual existence and face up to life — and love — in the real world he's always been so desperate to escape. A world at stake. A quest for the ultimate prize. Are you ready?

Review: I don't do Sci-Fi. I just don't. I think my dad scarred me with making me watch the tv show Star Trek and the subsequent movies. So when Michelle suggested Ready Player One, I agreed with some hesitation. I will say this, it isn't so Sci-Fi that it's not a plausible future, because it is. What sold me though was the 80s reference. Dear lord there was a perpetual smile on my face from this book. Mr. Cline has certainly written a book that will appeal to a wide variety of people. I felt that Mr. Cline did a fantastic job of including politics in the book without it hitting you over the head with it. There's adventure, action, romance packed into this gem of a book.

Wade is a fantastic character. He's the definition of an every man. You identify with his struggles, his hopes and his pursuit. His life sucks so badly outside of the Oasis that he creates the life he wants inside of a virtual world. The hunt for the "Easter Egg" is a glorified scavenger hunt that makes people crazy and greedy. I mean it is a ton of money but money does weird things to people. I would even consider Wade a bit of a savant. Seriously who remembers dialogue of a lot of movies in a variety of genres? I guess if that's all you do, then maybe you do have brain capacity for it. It is his memory and how he puts together the pieces of the puzzle that shoot him to the top of the gamers scoreboard. And that's where I'll leave it because saying anymore would ruin it for you. I will say this about all the other characters in the book, the geeks shall inherit the earth is so true. This is a great group of people who find solace in a virtual reality but have real connections with each other. And that's where I'll leave it because saying anymore would ruin it for you.

And really, you should listen Ready Player One. You may ask, why not just read it? Well you could but then you would miss Wil Wheaton as the narrator. Wil Wheaton was made for this book. His inflection, his voice, his characterization were spot on. Good god, I think I have a voice crush on him now. I mean I've been a fan of Wil Wheaton since his Stand By Me days and of course the times he was on The Big Bang Theory but I wouldn't have guessed him to be such a fantastic narrator.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Julie's Review: Tempting Fate

Author: Jane Green
Series: None
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary, Women's Fiction
Rating: 5
Bottom Line: Honest and heartbreaking portrayal of modern marriage
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: From Jane Green, the New York Times bestselling author of such beloved novels as Jemima J, The Beach House, Another Piece of My Heart, comes an enthralling and emotional story about how much we really understand the temptations that can threaten even the most idyllic of relationships….Gabby and Elliott have been happily married for eighteen years. They have two teenaged daughters. They have built a life together. Forty-three year old Gabby is the last person to have an affair. She can't relate to the way her friends desperately try to cling to the beauty and allure of their younger years…And yet, she too knows her youth is quickly slipping away. She could never imagine how good it would feel to have a handsome younger man show interest in her—until the night it happens. Matt makes Gabby feel sparkling, fascinating, alive;something she hasn't felt in years. What begins as a long-distance friendship soon develops into an emotional affair as Gabby discovers her limits and boundaries are not where she expects them to be. Intoxicated, Gabby has no choice but to step ever deeper into the allure of attraction and attention, never foreseeing the life-changing consequences that lie ahead. If she makes one wrong move she could lose everything;and find out what really matters most.A heartfelt and complex story, Tempting Fate will have readers gripped until they reach the very last page, and thinking about the characters long after they put the book down.

Review: I've been reading Jane Green for at least 10-12 years now and saying this is her best yet, says something. Tempting Fate is a simple story at it's core but it's always complex when you are dealing with a marriage. How far are you willing to go to resurrect your self-esteem? What happens when you look for validation of your worth outside of your marriage? These are the things that Gabby confronts when she meets the gorgeous, intelligent and younger Matt during a girls night out. What begins as an innocent flirtation, quickly goes further.

This book isn't about having an affair or the affair itself. It's about the after shocks of that act. How an impulse, a carnal desire can change everything immediately. A few minutes for a lifetime of regret and irreversible consequences. Do I agree with Gabby and her actions? No! Do I understand how Gabby might have felt? Absolutely. It wasn't until his wife started to get the attention of another man that Elliott started to notice her a bit more. It wasn't that he wasn't attentive, he was but we all get stuck in ruts. Elliott's was not noticing his wife. Gabby's was getting too comfortable in comfortable clothing. It wasn't that she let herself go, it was that she never did herself up. She was always competing with the other moms/wives in the neighborhood. Her self-esteem was suffering because of all this comparison.

What I love about Jane Green is that she doesn't mince words or actions. She is brutally honest in the details of how Gabby's world comes crashing down upon her. Ms. Green examines suburban living with a microscope and she understands it. On some level all of us play the "Keeping up with the Jones'" game in our life. Even if it's Mrs. Jones you are trying to keep up with.

Did Gabby get on my nerves at times? Yes, but in a way that your best friend or sister would if she were going through the same things. You want to counsel her but you know she's not at the right place to truly listen.

There is one part towards the end of the book where Gabby and her friend Claire meet for coffee and they are talking about their friendship and I thought what Gabby said to her was beautifully written and completely honest. Gabby needed to say those words to Claire if their friendship was going to heal.

If you've never read Jane Green, then Tempting Fate is a wonderful place to start. If you have, then you are in for her best work yet.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Julie's Review: The Opposite of Maybe

Author: Maddie Dawson
Series: No
Publication Date:April 8, 2014
Publisher: Broadway Books
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher via netgalley
Genre: Women's Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: Well-written but formulaic novel
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Just get it at the library
Summary: Jonathan and Rosie have been together so long they finish each other’s sentences—so when he (finally) proposes and asks her to move across the country with him, everyone is happily surprised. But when things suddenly unravel, Rosie sends Jonathan packing and moves back home with Soapie, the irascible, opinionated grandmother who raised her. Now she has to figure out how to fire Soapie’s very unsuitable caregiver, a gardener named Tony who lets her drink martinis, smoke, and cheat at Scrabble. It’s meant to be a temporary break, of course—until Rosie realizes she’s accidentally pregnant at 44, completely unequipped for motherhood, and worse, may be falling in love with Tony, whose life is even more muddled than hers. When Soapie reveals a long-hidden secret, Rosie wonders if she has to let go of her fears, and trust that the big-hearted, messy life that awaits her just may be the one she was meant to live.

Review: The Opposite of Maybe is a well-written novel where you pretty much know the path it's going to take after a few key scenes. That doesn't mean it's a boring novel, it means that you can sit back and enjoy the ride. Rosie is one of those characters where either you like her or you feel sorry for her. I felt sorry for her. I felt that she was lost and drifting through life. She had no direction. She blamed the absence of her parents for this lack of direction. I have a problem with adults blaming their parents for their lives. To me she was stuck. She was fine with the status quo until it wasn't the status quo.

It's really the secondary characters that give this book life. If it wasn't for them, it would be flat. Soapie was wonderful and at times not so wonderful. She hid important information from Rosie and wasn't always kind. In some ways, she blamed Rosie for not being able to live the life she wanted as well. Mostly though she lived life to the fullest and had fun doing it. She was trying to teach Rosie that sometimes life is unexepected. Which Rosie shortly finds out. Life isn't always the expected, most of the time it's the unexpected that ends up changing our lives. It's not always a easy road but the easy roads aren't the most satisfying either. Rosie's friends are a hoot and stick by her through thick and thin. They tell her the things she needs to hear, even if she doesn't want to hear them. To me, those are good, real friends. Jonathan annoyed me from the first time we meet him in the novel. He never really stopped either. I could never figure out how Rosie spend 15 years with this guy. I respected the fact that they tried to make it work but I just knew that they wouldn't because both of them had changed so much.

I would like to read a book about Soapie when she was younger, before she had to become the caregiver for Rosie. She was the most interesting, well-rounded character in the novel. If you are looking for a quick, formulaic read with some fun secondary characters, then The Opposite of Maybe is for you.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Alice's Review: Vintage

 photo Vintage_zps06f25abf.png
Author: Susan Gloss
Series: None
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Pages: 320
Obtained: Publisher
Genre:  Contemporary, Womens Fiction
Rating: 4
Bottom Line: Quirky shop owner's coming of age.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary:  At Hourglass Vintage in Madison, Wisconsin, every item in the boutique has a story to tell . . . and so do the women who are drawn there.  Violet Turner has always dreamed of owning a shop like Hourglass Vintage. When she is faced with the possibility of losing it, she realizes that, as much as she wants to, she cannot save it alone.  Eighteen-year-old April Morgan is nearly five months along in an unplanned pregnancy when her hasty engagement is broken. When she returns the perfect 1950s wedding dress, she discovers unexpected possibilities and friends who wont let her give up on her dreams.  Betrayed by her husband, Amithi Singh begins selling off her old clothes, remnants of her past life. After decades of housekeeping and parenting a daughter who rejects her traditional ways, she fears she has nothing more ahead for her.  An engaging story that beautifully captures the essence of womens friendship and love, Vintage is a charming tale of possibility, of finding renewal and hope when we least expect it.

Review:  Vintage is a great story about the owner of a vintage clothing and goods store in a Midwestern city and the wonderful people who cross her path.

I’ll start by saying that I loved the location. I never once thought I would enjoy a visit to Madison, Wisconsin until now. It’s the kind of novel where the city itself is a main character. Madison is as eccentric and charming as her inhabitants. It’s also a place pictured myself completely enjoying and one I have added to my Places To Visit list.

I loved the characters. Violet was quirky and entertaining. I enjoyed her journey, her great sense of style, and her overall way of life. She was always true to herself and never wavered on what was important to her. The downside was she was very set in her ways and as the saying goes, couldn’t see the forest from the trees. There were times when I had to roll my eyes at her and the choices she made. If she were my friend, I think I would have shaken some sense into her on more than one occasion.

April was insightful, mature beyond her 18 years. She was dealt with a lot and handled it with grace that is uncharacteristic for someone her age. Yet she felt the most authentic of all the three women.

My favorite was Amithi Singh. The way she dealt with her husband’s betrayal was sad and heart wrenching. My heart went out to her. As a first generation American myself, I appreciated how she had to balance the old country with her new world. She was everything you would expect her to not be. Bold, daring, and finally ready to start living the life she wanted.

I really enjoyed this novel. I could see myself at Hourglass Vintage, browsing the displays and chatting with Violet, hearing her tell the stories of the unique pieces in her shop. It was a fun time, however you know how authentic I like a story to feel. Novels, although works of fiction, need to be real in order for me to enjoy them. Mostly though, a novel needs to have life and a soul. Vintage started out with all that but somehow lost a bit of the soul in the end. I think it was because the ending was too perfect. There were a few things that happened at the end that didn’t make sense to me. As my boyfriend likes to say, things happened to “move the story along.” I think it did Vintage a real disservice because it didn’t feel organic and I questioned the authors choices.

That’s the only minor flaw I found. Overall, it has great characters, a great setting and a whole lot of happy endings all around.


Monday, March 24, 2014

Julie's Review: Cassidy Lane

 photo 2d10b3ee-e6e8-4bf9-8b5b-7f47d3a5425d_zpsba125db9.png
Author: Maria Murnane
Series: None
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 342
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary, Womens Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A book to curl up with on a weekend and feel like you are with your friends
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!

Summary: Bestselling author Cassidy Lane walks into her twentieth high school reunion with several novels under her belt, but no date on her arm, and deep down she still feels like the smart girl no one asked to the prom. Then handsome Brandon Forrester confesses his teenage crush, and soon Cassidy finds herself swept up in a modern-day fairytale romance not unlike the tales she spins for a living. While their relationship blossoms, however, the new book she’s writing isn't going as well, and for the first time in her career she considers crafting an ending that doesn't include a proverbial walk into the sunset. Contemplating the simultaneous reversal of her own romantic fortune and that of her protagonist’s is daunting, but maybe it’s time for both her writing and her personal life to take a new path. Or is it? Filled with Murnane’s trademark wit and optimism, a charming cast of secondary characters, and loads of heart, Cassidy Lane will have you cheering for its heroine down to the very last delightful word.

Review: Whenever I read one of Maria's books, I always wonder how autobiographical they are. I wondered even more so with Cassidy Lane than I do with the Waverly books. Cassidy Lane is a 38 year old sucessful writer of romance novels who is getting over a break-up, when her 20 year high school reunion comes knocking. Now, Cassidy wasn't the most popular girl in high school so she's pretty much dreading the whole thing and only going because her best friend, Patti is making her.

So when least expecting it, Cassidy begins a long-distance, texting relationship with Brandon. Witty, smart and sexy as hell; she can't wait until her next visit home. However, life being life gets in the way and before their relationship can truly begin to bloom, it begins to unravel. She begins to doubt everything and most of all herself.

What Maria always does well is capturing the feelings of her heroine and in Cassidy Lane it's not different. You are elated when she is and deflated when she is. You root for her and Brandon, even though you wonder if it's truly going to work. As a reader, you want to counsel her and tell her that putting her life on hold for him isn't going to help her. Her relationship begins to consume her and delays the writing on the book she's working on. She needs to focus but she finds herself thinking of Brandon when she has idle time.

There is a nice little twist that Ms. Murnane puts in the book that had me cheering and then booing, but I totally get why she did it. Bravo!

While I didn't find this one as laugh out loud as the Waverly Bryson books, it definitely had funny moments and  is cemented in how relationships work in the 21st century. Also, the host of supporting characters is wonderful and show a different side of Cassidy.

If you haven't read any of Maria Murnane, then you are missing out. Cassidy Lane is a great read on a weekend when you want to curl up on the couch and read a good book.

Share/Bookmark Google+ 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Julie's Review: Seducing Ingrid Bergman

Author: Chris Greenlaugh
Series: None
Publication Date: March 18, 2014
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  historical fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: I enjoyed it more as I was reading it than I do now reflecting on it
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Just get it at the library
Summary: The beautiful Casablanca star, the world's greatest war photographer, and the secret love affair that would change their lives forever . . . in Chris Greenhalgh's Seducing Ingrid Bergman June 1945. When Ingrid Bergman walks into the lobby of the Ritz hotel in Paris, war photographer Robert Capa is enchanted. From the moment he slips a mischievous invitation to dinner under her door, the two find themselves helplessly attracted. Played out against the caf├ęs and nightclubs of post-war Paris and the parties and studios of Hollywood, they pursue an intense and increasingly reckless affair.But the light-hearted Capa, who likes nothing more than to spend his mornings reading in the tub and his afternoons at the racetrack, is not all that he seems. And Ingrid offers the promise of salvation to a man haunted by the horrors of war, his fathers suicide, and the death of a former lover for which he blames himself. Addicted to risk, Capa must wrestle his devils, including gambling and drink, and resist an impulse to go off and photograph yet another war. Meanwhile, Ingrid, trapped in a passionless marriage and with a seven-year-old daughter to bring up, must court scandal and risk compromising her Hollywood career and saintly reputation if their love is to survive. With their happiness and identities at stake, both Capa and Ingrid are presented with terrible choices.  

Review: First of all, let's talk about this cover. It's gorgeous. It evokes the feel of the old movie posters and has a very romantic feel. Seducing Ingrid Bergman pulls you in immediately. I knew nothing of Ingrid Bergman's personal life or had I heard of Robert Capa before reading this book; now I want to know more about their affair.

What Mr. Greenlaugh does beautifully is transport you to Paris towards the end of World War II. He sets the scene and transports you. You can picture the lights, the nightlife, the cafes and feel the mood of the city. He also tells the story from both Ingrid and Robert's POVs, which makes for an interesting peek into an affair. I don't want to say I felt horribly for Ingrid and her marriage to Petter but it seemed more like a business arrangement than a passion filled one. I'm not excusing her behavior but it did make me understand why she might have been infatuated with Capa. I can see why he was beguiled with her because she was a mysterious and glamorous woman.

For me the center of this book was Capa. Bergman was just the object of his affection and she happened to be famous. He had been a war photographer and had his share of heartache. The heartache only exacerbated his need for thrills and danger. He was never going to be able to settle down. I think he knew that and that's why Ingrid being married didn't worry him. He knew it was never going to be long term. He was a wild horse; he couldn't be tamed.

Part of me also wondered if her just calling him Capa instead of Robert made the affair seem less real, less personal. Did it make it more of an affair and love for her? I'm not sure. I have no doubt her feelings for him were real.

Unless you are a fan of either of these people, you might not have an interest in a fictionalized account of their affair.

This is the Hashtag Book Group's book. Join us for our discussion using #SeducingIngrid


Monday, March 17, 2014

Jenn's Review: Exposure

Author: Kathy Reichs and Brendan Reichs
Series: Virals #4
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 418
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  mystery
Rating: 4.75
Bottom Line: another fantastic adventure
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!

Blurb: When twin classmates are abducted from Bolton Prep, Tory and the Virals decide there’s no one better equipped than them to investigate. But the gang has other problems to face. Their powers are growing wilder, and becoming harder to control. Chance Claybourne is investigating the disastrous medical experiment that twisted their DNA. The bonds that unite them are weakening, threatening the future of the pack itself.

The Virals must decipher the clues and track down a ruthless criminal before he strikes again, all while protecting their secret from prying eyes. And everyone seems to be watching.

Review:  This is one of those YA series that I always make time for... and since things were left rather precariously between the Virals at the end of Code, I couldn't help but pick it up as soon as it was released.

I was rather surprised to find that Exposure begins with a trial. The aftermath and legal fallout is something that often gets glossed over in novels, especially YA. It was a fantastic place to start though, as there are definite consequences from their last escapades and it really set the tone and the pace for what is to follow.

Getting beyond the trial, I must admit that I was a little disappointed with the storyline. It seemed uncharacteristically predictable; I had it all figured out and knew where everything was headed... or I thought I did. By now I should know that things are never what they seem in a Virals novel. I wasn't right on a single point --not one-- and I love when that happens. I was completely blown away.

As pack leader, Tory is growing more aware of the problems with their condition, making her more determined than ever to delve into the research.  Her inability to let go of her hurt and move on is complicating things, but she is attempting to rise above it.  However as concientious as she is when it comes to the health of her pack, Tory is equally reckless when it comes to plunging into investigations and jumping to conclusions.  Tory pushing the boundaries as a pack leader seems to be a reactionary reflex to everything that has led up to this point.  The pack is off balance, and the harder she tries to right it, the more off kilter it becomes. I have to remind myself that she's a teenage girl and even the most responsible of which can be impulsive and short sighted.

On top of everything else, Chance is getting more desperate to learn the Virals secret. In his slightly unhinged state, how far will he go?  We have witnessed his darker side before... 

I won't delve into the story anymore than I already have so as not to spoil things.  This is one of those series that I can't recommend strongly enough.  I feel close to these kids and I always feel like my time with them is too short.  I may just have to go back and re-read them while I wait for the next installment.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

Children's Corner: What My Kids Are Reading

So, most nights my 8 year old reads herself to sleep, so I don't have a lot of those reading to her moments anymore, but I'm thrilled that she's reading on her own and it's how she chooses to end her night. She recently had the Scholastic Book Fair where she picked up Shannon Hale's The Storybook of Legends (Ever After High) and Whatever After: Sink or Swim. She was all impressed that I followed Ms. Hale on Twitter. We also went to the library this weekend where she picked up Big Nate: In a Class by Himself.

What I've found with her is that she likes to read multiple books at once and rotate them. That is not like me, but why force my reading style on her, when she'll find her own.

Now my 6 year old is reading at a 2nd grade level, so while he might love Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes, I've encourage him to up his choice of books. So he's come home with a couple Star Wars books from the school library. He also has been really into Minecraft the past few months, so his purchase at the book fair was the Minecraft: Essential Handbook from Scholastic. He also got this Minecraft novel for his birthday.

His choices at the the library this weekend were a few of Dave Pilkey's Captain Underpants. Now, they aren't my cup of tea but they definitely appeal to a 6 year old boy's sense of humor. Saying that, again I'm happy he's found something to read that excites him. I'll still read to him when he asks but I am throughly enjoying that both of them are becoming independent readers.

What are your kiddos reading?


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Alice's Review: The Taste of Apple Seeds

Author: Katharina Hagena
Series: No
Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow and Company
Pages: 256
Obtained: Publisher
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 
Bottom Line:  Whimsical & romantic with a touch of scandal.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab  
Summary:  When Iris unexpectedly inherits her grandmother's house in the country, she also inherits the painful memories that live there. Iris gives herself a one-week stay at the old house, after which she'll make a decision: keep it or sell it. The choice is not so simple, though, for her grandmother's cottage is an enchanting place, where currant jam tastes of tears, sparks fly from fingertips, love's embrace makes apple trees blossom, and the darkest family secrets never stay buried. . .

Review:  The best way to describe this novel is this:

You recently met a woman. She is funny, witty. You are drawn to her. She invites you over for tea and you go because you can’t wait to find out more about her. She pours you a cuppa and as you settle in for your first sip, she begins to tell you about herself. Only it’s not the basic “favorite color” nonsense, it’s the juicy, nitty gritty stuff. She reveals this to you because she is comfortable with her past and with her family's past. She is not ashamed to tell you because she knows she is interesting and her family is interesting. She is proud of what she came from. She doesn’t mind that soon you will be gossiping to your friends about them either. She knows that secretly you will wish for that life instead of the boring one you have. You enjoy every single second you spend with her.

That is how I feel about The Taste of Apple Seeds. It’s a relatively simple story about a young woman who inherits her grandmother’s house upon her death and spends a few days there reminiscing and deciding whether or not to keep the house. What ensues is a slightly whimsical and romantic tale with a little scandal thrown in there too.

The Taste of Apple Seeds is my favorite kind of book, a book for the soul. It satisfies the heart with juicy bits of morsels. Some I wish I could share with you but as I received an ARC I am unable too. It also satisfies that nosey body in us where we get great satisfaction in learning the scandal and secrets of someone else's family. Some secrets were heartbreaking, others laughable. These secrets are told be a reserved young woman named Iris.

I loved Iris. She was odd and awkward and bold. She had a crazy fashion sense and a tendency to swim in the nude and stalking unsuspecting men. I know these are curious facts to share but these very things add to the Tao that is Iris. She truly was fabulous.

The Taste of Apple Seeds didn’t lose anything in the translation from German to English, although I had to keep reminding myself if Frau references a man or a woman. Overall I enjoyed this novel. It was funny and very interesting but not quite a five for me.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Alice's Review: Safe With Me

Author: Amy Hatvany
Series: None
Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary, Women's Fiction
Rating: 5
Bottom Line: A wonderfully moving story about unexpected bonds.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab it
Summary:  The screech of tires brought Hannah Scott’s world as she knew it to a devastating end. A year after she signed the papers to donate her daughter’s organs, Hannah is still reeling with grief when she unexpectedly stumbles into the life of the Bell family, whose fifteen-year-old daughter, Maddie, survived only because Hannah’s daughter had died. Mesmerized by this fragile connection to her own daughter and afraid to reveal who she actually is, Hannah develops a surprising friendship with Maddie’s mother, Olivia.  The Bells, however, have problems of their own. Once on the verge of leaving her wealthy but abusive husband, Olivia now finds herself bound to him in the wake of the transplant that saved their daughter’s life. Meanwhile, Maddie, tired of the limits her poor health puts upon her and fearful of her father’s increasing rage, regularly escapes into the one place where she can be anyone she wants: the Internet. But when she is finally healthy enough to return to school, the real world proves to be just as complicated as the isolated bubble she had been so eager to escape. ~

Review:  The first few pages of this novel left me with an oddly familiar feeling like I read this before or saw a movie just like this on the Lifetime Channel. Immediately I felt a bit disappointed in the unoriginality. After all, I just loved Heart Like Mine and was expecting the same love for Safe With Me. Thankfully I threw those early judgement aside and kept reading because what I discovered was a deeply moving story about grief, forgiveness and the power of friendship.

This novel has so many hidden gems. It’s not just about coping with the loss of a child or receiving a donor’s organ or finding a way to survive an abusive marriage, it’s so much more. It’s about two women and a teenager on the cusp of finding her true identity. It’s about leaning on others when you can’t stand on your own. It’s about coping with something so heartbreaking, it robs of you all you know. I am so in love with this novel I just want to start reading it again. I don’t want to let these characters go.

Safe With Me is told in alternating chapters from the points of view of Olivia, Maddie and Hannah. I just love that Ms. Hatvany does that. As a reader, it’s a great way to really get to know the inner working of each character. And I simply adored the three of them.

As the victim of domestic abuse, Olivia didn’t come across as someone who was weak or needy. I felt sorrow for her circumstances, oddly proud of what she endured to protect her daughter. With Maddie, I understood her awkwardness and need to find out who she is as a person. I loved watching her take those baby steps into the world, finding her place among a sea of new faces. And Hannah. The thing with grief is everyone does it differently. There is no correct way to grieve. With Hannah, I understood her need for isolation and simplicity.

Ms. Hatvany is so gifted, so wonderful. She took two subjects that were so horrible and wretched and told a story with such compassion I was repeatedly moved to tears. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors ever. If you have not read her before, this is a great time to start. Safe With Me is a must read. Make sure you have a box of hankies nearby. You’ll need them.