Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Julie's Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Series: None
Publication Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Algonquin Books
Pages: 272
Obtained: Publisher via She Reads
Genre:  Contemporary
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A simple and sweet story for book lovers.
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Summary: We are not quite novels. We are not quite short stories. In the end, we are collected works. A.  J.  Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island — from Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, he can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly. And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, though large in weight — an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world. Or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

Review: Here's the thing, if you don't love books or aren't an avid reader, then The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry isn't going to be your cup of tea. If there ever was a book that really had a target audience it's this one. I'm not saying someone who reads occasionally won't enjoy the book, but there is definitely something intimate in it for book nerds. It isn't even the references to great works of literature or A.J.'s snobbery towards certain genres. It is about love for the written word and how we incorporate that into our daily lives.

This novel is truly character driven, sure there's a bit of a mystery when it comes to A.J.'s missing copy of Tamerlane but other than that it's about the relationships that are built. It is about love and being loved. A.J. isn't the most likable character at first but he grows on you as he changes. He's not a horrible human, he's just a miserable person. It isn't until Maya is deposited into his life that he finds his cold heart thawing. In some ways, I believe that Maya was his true love and not Nic or Amelia.

The story isn't complex, nor does it have a lot of subplots running through it. It is a simple and sweet story. It is about how books affect and can shape our lives. It is about connecting with other people and opening your heart up, even if it means being hurt. It is about taking pride in being a book nerd and pride in being who you are. I definitely liked this book. It was a sweet read and quick. It is the characters that drove the story. It was A.J. who everything was centered around but really it was about his bookstore and how it brought people together.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Alice's Review: The Here and Now

Author: Ann Brashares
Series: Yes?
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 288
Obtained: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Young Adult, Science Fiction
Rating: 4
Bottom Line: A reluctant hero's journey.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Just get it at the library

Summary:  Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.  This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.   Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.   But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.  ~blurb

Review:  A bit of time has passed since I finished this novel and started the review. I’ll start off by saying I think this novel is flawed however, I really enjoyed it. I liked Prenna, our main character. I like the time travel storyline. I liked that it was set in New York. I liked that the time travelers are woven among us, living secretly out in the open. That is the good.

And now for the bad. I thought the timeline of the novel was a little wonky. In one scene they have two days to save the world, in another they had enough time to go to Jones Beach one day and the Jersey Shore the next. Then after the Jersey Shore adventure, they are rushing back to North Jersey to accomplish their mission. It didn’t make sense. I hate when things don’t make sense. And a mosquito-borne illness? Seriously? I have a hard time believing there aren’t any vaccinations against this disease or ways to terminate mosquitoes in general. This future truly sucks. I won’t even get into how far-fetched the story line is or how anti hero Prenna is. It’s amazing she’s lived as long as she did, let alone long enough to impact the world.

Even with all this, here I am telling you how much I enjoyed it and I really did. It was interesting, a page turner, and unexpected. I believe in the concept of the novel, however I hope Ms. Brashares takes more time with the next one to smooth out some of the rougher edges. The more I think about this novel, the more I’m questioning my own judgement on giving it such a high marking. The truth is I enjoyed it, even with all the plot holes and inconsistencies. I’m looking forward to the next one in this series.


Friday, April 18, 2014

Julie's Review: The Heiresses

Author: Sara Shepard
Series: Heiresses #1
Publication Date: May 20, 2014
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 320
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Delicious fun
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: You know the Saybrooks. Everyone does. Perhaps you've read a profile of them in People or have seen their pictures in the society pages of Vogue. Perhaps while walking along that choice block on Fifth Avenue, you've been tempted to enter the ornate limestone building with their family name etched into the pediment above the door. The only thing more flawless than a Saybrook's diamond solitaire is the family behind the jewelry empire. Beauties, entrepreneurs, debutantes, and style mavens, they are the epitome of New York City's high society. But being a Saybrook comes at a price;they are heirs not only to a dizzying fortune but also to a decades-old family curse. Tragedy strikes the prominent family yet again when thirty-four-year-old Poppy, the most exquisite Saybrook of them all, flings herself from the window of her TriBeCa office. Everyone is shocked that a woman who had it all would end her own life. Then her cousins receive an ominous threat: one heiress down, four to go. Was it suicide . . . or murder? In the aftermath of the tragedy, the remaining heiresses;Corinne, the perfectionist; Rowan, the workaholic; Aster, the hedonist; and Natasha, the enigma—wrestle with feelings of sadness, guilt, and, most of all, fear. Now they must uncover the truth about their family before they lose the only thing money can't buy: their lives. The Heiresses is a whip-smart mystery that simmers with the wicked sense of humor and intrigue that made Sara Shepard's number one New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series a must-read, must-watch phenomenon.

Review: I haven't ever read or watched Ms. Shepard's Pretty Little Liars, so I was not biased when I requested this book. I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Heiresses. Am I a bit disappointed that it will be a series, a bit but just because I don't want to get sucked into another one.

The Heiresses quickly sucks you in and it never lets you go. There are a lot of characters but you quickly figure out that who the important ones are and who the bystanders will be. Poppy, Natasha, Corinne, Aster and Rowan are the centerpiece to this novel. They are "the heiresses" that someone is after. Each one has a chapter from their point of view and this lends insight to their relationships as only they can. All of them were extremely close as children, but then something shifted. Natasha disowned herself from the family without telling anyone why and Aster separates herself from the family by maintaining a partying lifestyle.

I enjoyed getting to know all of them. Each one has their flaws but each one is human and relatable. I wouldn't say I have a favorite because each of them is so unique. I do love to see character growth in the novels I read and this one had that in spades. Each of the heiresses finally came into their own towards the end of the novel, but the one who made the most significant change was Aster. She truly blossomed and found her way, even if it is having to work a job.

The story moves along at a quick pace, which keeps you on your edge of the seat. Who is trying to kill them? Why? Who keeps leaking insider photos and information to the website following their every move?

What Ms. Shepard does so well is she keeps the story shifting to suspects. You find each of them plausible and just when you think "ah, that's the person", she makes you re-think everything.

Of course since it's a series, it ends on a note that left me wishing I had the next one already in queue. I am definitely looking forward to The Heiresses #2.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Jenn's Review: The Sea of Tranquility

Author: Katja Millay
Series: None
Publication Date: November 13, 2012
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 352
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Contemporary, YA
Rating: 5
Bottom Line: Emotionally raw, heart-wrenchingly beautiful
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!

Blurb:  I live in a world without magic or miracles. A place where there are no clairvoyants or shapeshifters, no angels or superhuman boys to save you. A place where people die and music disintegrates and things suck. I am pressed so hard against the earth by the weight of reality that some days I wonder how I am still able to lift my feet to walk.

Former piano prodigy Nastya Kashnikov wants two things: to get through high school without anyone learning about her past and to make the boy who took everything from her—her identity, her spirit, her will to live—pay.

Josh Bennett’s story is no secret: every person he loves has been taken from his life until, at seventeen years old, there is no one left. Now all he wants is be left alone and people allow it because when your name is synonymous with death, everyone tends to give you your space.

Everyone except Nastya, the mysterious new girl at school who starts showing up and won’t go away until she’s insinuated herself into every aspect of his life. But the more he gets to know her, the more of an enigma she becomes. As their relationship intensifies and the unanswered questions begin to pile up, he starts to wonder if he will ever learn the secrets she’s been hiding—or if he even wants to.

The Sea of Tranquility is a rich, intense, and brilliantly imagined story about a lonely boy, an emotionally fragile girl, and the miracle of second chances.

Review:  I came across The Sea of Tranquility last year during a blog hop and was intrigued by not only the blurb but the outpouring of adoration from the blogger. This is not my normal read; I'm usually not a big fan of contemporary works. However the more reviews I came across the more glowing recommendations I found, so I added it to my pile. I finally picked it up this past week and the praise for this book is richly deserved.  In fact, it's going on my list of all time favorites. 

Katja Millay has a way of bringing everything to the surface and letting it simmer.  The prose are straight forward, in your face. Was the language sometimes corse?  Yes, but sometimes it needed to be.  However it was never overly gruesome or vividly violent... even when Nastya finally reveals to the readers what happened... her retelling takes on a dreamlike quality that makes it easier to read, though no less horrifying.  It was hard not to identify with all the characters.  I even loved the minor characters... even Drew and his uber-popular sister are given depth that is easily overlooked by some writers.

Nastya has to find a way to keep going even if it means running on rage.  What do you do when you no longer have your outlet?  When the very thing that gives you relief from the world is taken?  As a conservatory trained musician, I can't imagine the loss of my ability to create; to loose the very thing that is so much apart of you it comes to define you.

As a mom, it's your worst nightmare, a completely random act that destroys your happy, healthy child.   How do you deal with the destruction of your child?  How can you help her rebuild when you can't get through at all?  Should she have pushed Nastya to open up more?  Who can say.

Josh is amazing.  He's lost just about everyone, but he's still standing.  He let the anger and hurt overtake him for a while but he's gotten to a point where he's made peace with it enough to live with it.  Not letting anyone in is his defense mechanism and he's been pushing everyone away for so long, it's just habit now.

Credit also needs to be given to the publisher for the fantastic cover that's poignantly symbolic.  Honestly, there just aren't enough wonderful things to say about this book.  It's going on my recommend to everyone list.  It's fabulous.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Group Review: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line

Author: Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Series: Veronica Mars #1
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Vintage
Pages: 324
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  mystery
Rating: 4
Bottom Line: A must for Veronica Mars addicts.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Blurb:  From Rob Thomas, the creator of the television series and movie phenomenon Veronica Mars, comes the first book in a thrilling mystery series that picks up where the feature film left off. 

Ten years after graduating from high school in Neptune, California, Veronica Mars is back in the land of sun, sand, crime, and corruption. She’s traded in her law degree for her old private investigating license, struggling to keep Mars Investigations afloat on the scant cash earned by catching cheating spouses until she can score her first big case.

Now it’s spring break, and college students descend on Neptune, transforming the beaches and boardwalks into a frenzied, week-long rave. When a girl disappears from a party, Veronica is called in to investigate. But this is no simple missing person’s case; the house the girl vanished from belongs to a man with serious criminal ties, and soon Veronica is plunged into a dangerous underworld of drugs and organized crime. And when a major break in the investigation has a shocking connection to Veronica’s past, the case hits closer to home than she ever imagined.

In Veronica Mars, Rob Thomas has created a groundbreaking female detective who’s part Phillip Marlowe, part Nancy Drew, and all snark. With its sharp plot and clever twists, The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Jenn's Review:  Veronica Mars may be an adrenaline junkie, but I am a Veronica Mars junkie.  I've seen the movie at least 15 times since it came out last month, and ever since I've been looking for my next VM fix.  Not that the movie wasn't fabulous, it was everything the fans could have hoped for after seven years of radio silence (glaring at you CW execs).  But returning to it only made me crave more VM (I told you I was a junkie didn't I?).  I found it in this newly released novel from creator Rob Thomas.

The book picks up shortly after the movie leaves off.  Keith is on the road to recovery and Veronica is struggling to make a go of things back in Neptune again.  She finally lands her first big case since Bonnie DeVille, and she has to accept the fact that she'll be doing all the detective work while Lamb will be getting all the credit.

The plot is solid with several fabulous twists.  It kept me guessing right up until the end.  It doesn't go over the top.  The whole book stays very true to the show in that regard.  I love the exchanges between Veronica and her Dad.  Of course there is very little Logan, but that was to be expected, but what we do get is enough and it's nice to hear Veronica's inner monologue on her relationship.

However, I don't know if Veronica and company translated very well to the written page.  It felt like I was reading a script.  I could see it unfolding on the screen in my mind, and it worked beautifully there.  But I was hoping for more depth to the writing and more layers to the characters. It felt like the whole of the story was one long Veronica voice over.  Veronica's witty quips feel somewhat less snarky.  Mac and Wallace became more background than usual... and Weevil's sudden appearance felt like a cameo for the sake of a cameo.

Would non-fans of the show enjoy this as a stand alone novel?  I'm not so sure...  but then again, I don't know if it was really meant for anyone but the fans and for Rob Thomas himself.  I will be interested to see what Julie has to say because she is listening to this as an audio book with Kristen Bell narrating.  I have a feeling it might work better that way.  That being said, would I read another VM novel?  In a heart beat.  There should always be more Veronica Mars in the world.

Julie's Review: This book is purely for those who loved the show and the movie. It is the perfect thing to listen to when you are jonesing for a fix. Oh did I reference addiction, yes I did. That's the thing about Veronica Mars, she sucks you in and never lets you go. You can see why her and Logan never got over each other. Alas, this book doesn't focus on her relationship with Logan, but I would totally favor one that did, but on the disappearance of a college student while partying in Neptune. Who would have thought of Neptune as a spring break destination? Not me, but I guess they do have a beach. 

The mystery is reminiscence of the ones on the show and with a couple twists and turns towards the end, made it that much more enjoyable. I loved that Mac is working with Veronica and that Wallace is still her best friend, even if they aren't front and center in the book. They are there when it counts. It is Veronica's relationship with her dad that always gets me. He may not agree with her decisions but he does end up supporting her. They have a very unique relationship and understanding between each other.

I will admit that if it wasn't for Kristen Bell narrating this version, I would have passed. I couldn't imagine anyone else reading it because Bell is Veronica. One thing that didn't resonate well was that is was told in third person. The show and movie were in first person, why change the book? Having it told in third person took away some of the personal connection with Veronica. I felt like I was in her head, or like Jen said, in her voice overs and that wasn't what I expected. It did lessen my enjoyment a bit but definitely not enough for me to quit listening.  There are a few surprises along the way and I won't spoil them for you. There were even times when I laughed out loud.

Veronica Mars will always be something that I come back to. Her snark, her wit and yes her vulnerability is what makes people like her and identify with her. She's a hard shell but she's a marshmallow on the inside.
Will I read/listen to the next one? Heck yeah, did you read that I'm an addict! My suggestion to Rob Thomas is that the next one needs to be in first person.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Julie's Review: The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating

Author: Carole Radziwell
Series: None
Publication Date: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt
Pages: 320
Obtained: Publisher
Genre:  Contemporary, Womens Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: A wonderfully moving story about unexpected bonds.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Just get it at the library
Summary: The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating is Carole Radziwill's deliciously smart comedy about a famously widowed young New Yorker hell-bent on recapturing a kind of passionate love she never really had. Claire Byrne is a quirky and glamorous 34-year-old Manhattanite and the wife of a famous, slightly older man. Her husband, Charlie, is a renowned sexologist and writer. Equal parts Alfred Kinsey and Warren Beatty, Charlie is pompous yet charming, supportive yet unfaithful; hes a firm believer that sex and love cant coexist for long, and he does little to hide his affairs. Claires life with Charlie is an always interesting if not deeply devoted one, until Charlie is struck dead one day on the sidewalk by a falling sculpture ... a Giacometti, no less! Once a promising young writer, Claire had buried her ambitions to make room for Charlies. After his death, she must reinvent herself. Over the course of a year, she sees a shrink (or two), visits an oracle, hires a "botanomanist," enjoys an erotic interlude (or ten), eats too little, drinks too much, dates a hockey player, dates a billionaire, dates an actor (not any actor either, but the handsome movie star every woman in the world fantasizes about dating). As she grieves for Charlie and searches for herself, she comes to realize that she has an opportunity to find something bigger than she had before—maybe even, possibly, love.

Review: So you know when you have high expectations that a book is going to be funny but it's not? That was my experience with The Widow's Guide to Sex and Dating; I don't think I laughed once. While I really liked Claire as a character, I found both Sasha and Ethan to be stereotypical. Ethan was the stylish gay best friend who was also her husband's assistant. Sasha was the boozy, botox-addicted other best friend. I found them annoying and contrite. I'm not sure if they had had her best interest at heart. I think they just wanted to see her move on and deal with Charlie's death.

What this book was to me was about New York society and how the rich/elite work. Sure, Charlie was a well-known sexoligist (someone who writes and talks about sex all the time) who was a little less than faithful to Claire. He didn't even seem to truly love Claire. She felt like something to collect for him. I'm glad that Claire came out of her fog and found happiness but it was a little too predictable for me. Oh and I know that George Clooney is in many women's dreams but not every fictional movie star needs to favor him. Throw in Bradley Cooper look-a-like every now and then.

I was hoping for my laugh out loud moments during the book but they just didn't come for me. I would have even taken some chuckles too, but again it lacked that for me too. Until the end of the novel it didn't feel like there was one genuine character in the novel.


Monday, April 7, 2014

Julie's Review: Boy, Snow, Bird

Author: Helen Oyeyemi
Series: None
Publication Date: March 6, 2014
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Fairy Tale
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: 
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: From the prizewinning author of Mr. Fox, the Snow White fairy tale brilliantly recast as a story of family secrets, race, beauty, and vanity. In the winter of 1953, Boy Novak arrives by chance in a small town in Massachusetts, looking, she believes, for beauty — the opposite of the life she's left behind in New York. She marries a local widower and becomes stepmother to his winsome daughter, Snow Whitman. A wicked stepmother is a creature Boy never imagined she'd become, but elements of the familiar tale of aesthetic obsession begin to play themselves out when the birth of Boy's daughter, Bird, who is dark-skinned, exposes the Whitman's as light-skinned African Americans passing for white. Among them, Boy, Snow, and Bird confront the tyranny of the mirror to ask how much power surfaces really hold. Dazzlingly inventive and powerfully moving, Boy, Snow, Bird is an astonishing and enchanting novel. With breathtaking feats of imagination, Helen Oyeyemi confirms her place as one of the most original and dynamic literary voices of our time.

Review: Boy, Snow, Bird is an expertly written novel that takes the fairy tale of Snow White and spins it 180 degrees. What if Snow wasn't as pure as the driven snow? What if the step-mother wasn't really evil? What if the truth is somewhere in between? Ms. Oyeyemi explores this and how a family deals with the issue of race within society and themselves.

This story belongs to both Boy and Bird, with Snow being both a catalyst and a symbol. Boy is somewhat of an enigma throughout the whole book and even at the end. She's aloof, cool and bit frigid.  That doesn't mean I didn't like her because I did. I felt that when the story was told through her she was honest. Honesty doesn't always make you the most well liked person. You never really know what Boy's intentions are with Arturo. Does she truly love him? Does she know how to love? I never really figured it out.

Bird is a wonderful character. She's full of life and love and curiousity that will serve her well in life. She aspires to be a investigative reporter. What I find interesting is that in someways she is shunned by her own family but is embraced by the community. She is cautious to get to know her sister, Snow. Why was she sent away? What is it about Snow that people seem to revere here? Why is she treated like an artifact in a museum?

Snow remains an enigma for the whole novel. Is that the purpose? Yes. It makes us question if someone can be pure good or have they been put on a pedestal to suit the needs of the family? Is Snow adored because she doesn't show the family's true race? Are they proud to call her their own because she's so white? Is she symbolic of the pressure we put on black people to be more white? Maybe it doesn't speak to now but it certainly was true back in the 50s and 60s.

There are some loose ends that were never tied up or never fully came to fruition. What was the deal with the mirrors? Why drop the bombshell and not really do anything with it? Was the point to help us understand Boy and her upbringing? While I enjoyed the dropped bomb, I'm not sure if it helped me understand at all.

Ms. Oyeyemi writes a truly beautiful and lyrical novel. She weaves a story and pulls you into her spell and doesn't release you until the final word. I look forward


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Children's Corner: Mo Willems

It's that time again on the blog where we highlight a favorite of ours...Mo Willems! We are HUGE, HUGE fans of all of his books but we recently bought 2 of his newer books; I'm a Frog! and Let's Go for a Drive!.

Not only are the kids thrilled with the 2 new acquisitions but my son even pulled out the Knuffle Bunny books to read for a night. This meant that my daughter had to come in and steal them after he was done with them to read them.

I love, love, love the friendship between Piggie and Gerald. They truly adore each other and bring out the best in each other. My kids and I crack up every time we read their adventures and these two are no different. I think my favorite out of these two are Let's Go for a Drive because of what Piggie does at the end.

Mo Willems never disappoints and he will be an author I always look forward to reading.


Friday, April 4, 2014

Julie's Review: The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel

Author: Magdalena Zyzak
Series: None
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt
Pages: 288
Obtained: Publisher
Genre:  Humor, Folklore
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: A politically humorous debut that was hard for me to connect with.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? just get it at the library
Summary: Set in the quaint (though admittedly backward) fictional nation of Scalvusia in 1939, The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel follows the exploits of a young swineherd with romantic delusions of grandeur. Desperate to attract the voluptuous Roosha, the Gypsy concubine of the local boot-and-shoe magnate, Barnabas and his short-legged steed Wilhelm get embroiled in a series of scandals and misadventures, as every attempt at wooing ends in catastrophe. After the mysterious death of an important figure in the community, a witch-hunt ensues, and a stranger falls from the sky. Barnabas begins to see the terrible tide of history turning in his beloved hometown. The wonderfully eccentric supporting cast includes a priest driven mad by a fig tree, a gang of louts who taunt our reluctant hero at every turn, and a dim-witted vagabond with a goat for a wife. Even as her characters brush up against one of the darkest moments of the twentieth century, Magdalena Zyzak's humor and prose delight in the absurdities of the human animal.  

Review: The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel is a quirky modern day folk-story about a young man coming into his own while his country and the world around him begins to fall apart. Barnabas is a smart young man that no one takes seriously because of his status within the community. It doesn't seem to bother him much except when it comes to his object of affection, Roosha.

Among the humor, is a story of a country at the crossroads of choosing their future. They are stuck between the past and the uncertain future. The town of Odolechka demonstrates on a small scale with the inhabitants. It's hard to believe that this is Ms. Zyzak's first novel because her writing is lush and descriptive. Her use of humor is unlike any other book I've read. It is used in a way that not only makes you laugh but it makes you think. It takes true talent to get the use of humor correct in the first try.

While it might not have resonated with me, I think those who enjoy "dramedy" books, will thoroughly enjoy this one. I will definitely look for Ms. Zyzak's books in the future to see what else she does with her talent. 


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Julie's Review: Beautiful Disaster

Author: Jamie McGuire
Series: Yes, Beautiful Series
Publication Date: 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 10 hours, 30 minutes
Obtained: Audible, mine
Genre:  New Adult
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Totally not in my scope of genres but if you want a little bad boy gone good, this is for you
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Just Get it at the library
Summary: The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate number of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance from the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University’s Walking One-Night Stand. Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby wants—and needs—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.

Review: Abby/Travis or Travis/Abby it doesn't really matter because you know these two are destined to be together. Beautiful Disaster was an interesting book for me. On one hand I couldn't tear myself away from it and on the other I wanted to scream because of the co-dependency between these two. I think if I had read it I probably would have put it down but listening to it kept me from stopping. Plus I kind of wanted to see if they would implode or survive.

Let's talk about the good things: Abby's strong personality, her ability to go toe to toe with Travis' erratic behavior and her confidence. Let's face it, even if you aren't into men with tattoos Travis is still hot and the sex scenes. That Jamie McGuire does a great job of writing those scenes. You can't help getting a little flushed.

Let's talk about the questionable things: Travis' control-freak behavior towards Abby, their co-dependency on each other, the anger/violence that Travis has burning inside him, their ping-pong relationship. The fact that he felt he needed her to save him, that's a tough bill to fill for anyone let alone an 18/19 year old girl. The overuse of "Pigeon" as a term of endearmeant. It was enough to want me to puke at times.

I enjoyed the reveals of why Abby didn't have the pristine background everyone thought she had. I loved that she did have an edge to her and I loved that she could keep up with Travis' antics. I loved that Abby was finally finding her place in the world and was able to find stablity, even if Travis seemed unstable to me.

While I enjoyed it as a book and will probably read the next one Walking Disaster. Travis is the exact kind of guy we warn our daughters about. He's violent, possessive, irrational and downright scary at times. So why did I root for them? I guess because maybe Abby is his calming affect. Maybe they really are each other's yin and yang. My only hope is that he won't become more possessive now that they are together. Perhaps he was that way because he was fighting for her.

If you are looking for a novel to escape into, then Beautiful Disaster is for you.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Alice's Review: The Opposite of Loneliness

Author: Marina Keegan
Series: None
Publication Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 240
Obtained: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Essays, Short Stories
Rating: 4
Bottom Line: A wonderful collection by a talented young woman.
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary:  Marina Keegan’s star was on the rise when she graduated magna cum laude from Yale in May 2012. She had a play that was to be produced at the New York International Fringe Festival and a job waiting for her at the New Yorker. Tragically, five days after graduation, Marina died in a car crash.  As her family, friends, and classmates, deep in grief, joined to create a memorial service for Marina, her unforgettable last essay for the Yale Daily News, “The Opposite of Loneliness,” went viral, receiving more than 1.4 million hits. She had struck a chord.  Even though she was just twenty-two when she died, Marina left behind a rich, expansive trove of prose that, like her title essay, captures the hope, uncertainty, and possibility of her generation. The Opposite of Loneliness is an assem­blage of Marina’s essays and stories that, like The Last Lecture, articulates the universal struggle that all of us face as we figure out what we aspire to be and how we can harness our talents to make an impact on the world.

Review:  I didn't know anything about Marian Keegan before I began reading this collection. I chose it simply because I am a lover of short stories. Upon beginning, I was shocked to learn of Ms. Keegan’s premature death at the age of 22 from a car accident.

I just loved The Opposite of Loneliness, the essay this collection was named after. It did something to me when I read it, like goose bumps/twisted insides kind of something. It was so good, so wonderful and so sad knowing the outcome of Ms. Keegan’s life. Having an author explain what she wants from life, knowing that her own was cut so short is heartbreaking.

I enjoyed the fiction stories more than the non-fiction essays. Each of the fiction stories was better than the last. My favorites were Baggage Claim, Sclerotherapy, and the eerie Challenger Deep. I loved, loved, loved Challenger Deep and read it 3 times before moving onto the next story. Of the non-fiction collection, I just loved “I Kill for Money.” There was only one essay I didn’t enjoy at all called Even Artichokes Have Doubts. It was too scientific and read more like a school paper than anything else. It lacked the soul the others possessed. I will admit my eyes glazed over after a couple of pages and I skipped the rest of it altogether.

I believe anyone who enjoys short stories and observations will benefit from this collection. It is beautifully written and full of soul. It is a shame Marina Keegan was taken so soon. I can only imagine what other greatness would have come from her because The Opposite of Loneliness is just about perfect.


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Julie's Review: On the Rocks

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Author: Erin Duffy
Series: No
Publication Date:April 22, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 320
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  contemporary fiction, women's fiction
Rating: 4.25/5
Bottom Line: nothing rocky about this delightful novel
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab it
Summary: A funny, bittersweet, yet heartwarming novel about friendship, family, and finding love in the Facebook age—not to mention the perils, pitfalls, and dubious pleasures of life as a modern young single woman—from Erin Duffy, the author of the acclaimed Bond Girl Ever since she was a little girl, Abby Wilkes dreamed of her wedding, the day when she'd wear a pretty white dress and look like a princess. . . . But that was before her life fell apart for the entire world to see. Her longtime boyfriend-turned-fiancĂ©, Ben, unceremoniously dumped her—changing his status to single on Facebook—while she was trying on the most gorgeous Vera Wang dress for the big day. Six months and twenty pounds later, the usual remedies—cupcakes, a freezer stocked with pints of Ben and Jerry's, sweatpants, and a comfy couch—haven't worked their magic. Worried about her best friend, Grace devises the perfect plan to get Abby back on her game. The two of them are going to escape sweltering Boston and its reminders of Ben and head to Newport for the summer. In a quaint rented cottage by the sea, the girls will enjoy cool breezes, cocktails, and crowds of gorgeous men. But no matter which way they turn, Abby and Grace discover that in this era of social media—when seemingly everyone is preserving every last detail of their lives online and prying eyes are everywhere—there is no real escape. Truth to tell, dating has never been easy. But now that the rules have changed and the boundaries are blurred beyond recognition, will they ever find true love? And if they do, how can romance stand a chance when a girl's every word and move can go viral with a single click? As the summer winds down to Labor Day, Abby will make some surprising discoveries—about love, men, friendship . . . and, most important, herself.

Review: I loved Abby. I loved how she was a mess, then not such a mess, back to being a mess and then finally figuring it out. I mean haven't we all been there before? Ok, maybe not jilted while trying on wedding dresses, but dumped by someone and didn't see it coming? My heart went out to her. That's not saying that at times I didn't want to tell her to pick herself up and get over it, but most of the time I found her plight funny and relatable. Not only that but I bet most of us has sunk some sorrows into a few pints of ice cream in our lives.

Not only is Abby great but the rest of the people that she is surrounded by are wonderful as well. You've got her best friend, Grace, who has her own relationship woes; Bobby, who is always ready with a zinger at Abby's expense and Wolf, the German who is always getting slang mixed up. Together they are hilarious and have great chemistry. They all have a true friendship that builds over the course of a summer.

On the Rocks is full of humor, quips but it's also got some life lessons thrown in. It's about realizing that maybe you are better off without that person, figuring out who you are without them, and figuring out who you want to be.

Even though I've never experienced dating in the new social media world, I could feel her pain, her humiliation and indignation. I don't think I would want to be single in this new world, it would feel as if you always had to be "on" and to be judged by your profile and the pictures on your account.

Ms. Duffy had a great way of reeling you in and keeping you hooked. It is her portrayal of friendship that I truly enjoyed. I loved that Grace and Abby had been friends since grade school and were still as close as sisters. I loved Abby's dysfunctional family, because don't we all operate under some dyfunctionality?

If you are looking for a book where you will just enjoy the ride and have a few hearty laughs along the way, then pick up On the Rocks.