Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Two for Tuesday: Into the Water (Hawkins) and Rare Objects (Tessaro)

I love it when I get to share TWO awesome books. My "two for Tuesday" has been a little hit or miss lately - usually one book was great and the other...bleh. But not today folks - not today!

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

From her website (http://paulahawkinsbooks.com/):

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

My review: I loved this book. I thought it was cutting edge and far more psychological than her debut novel Girl on the Train. If that book has put you off her sophomore debut, move past that. The multidimensional characters she write with Into the Water take a stab at your own dark secrets. I remember several times where she called the reader out, "you know you've thought about this..." and it was uncomfortable, because it was true. I plowed through this book quickly and did not want to put it down. Even got the hubs to read this one 😄

Rare Objects by Kathleen Tessaro

From her website (http://www.kathleentessaro.com/index.html):

In Depression-era Boston, a city divided by privilege and poverty, two unlikely friends are bound by a dangerous secret in this mesmerizing work of historical fiction from the New York Times bestselling author of The Perfume Collector.

Maeve Fanning is a first generation Irish immigrant, born and raised among the poor, industrious Italian families of Boston’s North End by her widowed mother. Clever, capable, and as headstrong as her red hair suggests, she’s determined to better herself despite the overwhelming hardships of the Great Depression.

However, Maeve also has a dangerous fondness for strange men and bootleg gin—a rebellious appetite that soon finds her spiraling downward, leading a double life. When the strain proves too much, Maeve becomes an unwilling patient in a psychiatric hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with an enigmatic young woman, who, like Maeve, is unable or unwilling to control her un-lady-like desire for freedom.

Once out, Maeve faces starting over again. Armed with a bottle of bleach and a few white lies, she lands a job at an eccentric antiques shop catering to Boston’s wealthiest and most peculiar collectors. Run by an elusive English archeologist, the shop is a haven of the obscure and incredible, providing rare artifacts as well as unique access to the world of America’s social elite. While delivering a purchase to the wealthy Van der Laar family, Maeve is introduced to beautiful socialite Diana Van der Laar—only to discover she’s the young woman from the hospital.

Reunited with the charming but increasingly unstable Diana and pursued by her attractive brother James, Mae becomes more and more entwined with the Van der Laar family—a connection that pulls her into a world of moral ambiguity and deceit, and ultimately betrayal. Bewitched by their wealth and desperate to leave her past behind, Maeve is forced to unearth her true values and discover how far she’ll to go to reinvent herself.

My review: I love Tessaro's writing style. She creates vivid detail that add to the setting and historical context of the novel. I fell in love with Meave, and even Diana Van Der Laar (which I don't know if you're supposed to love or not, but I did). Tessaro tackles some tough issues of even modern women in this novel with all the delicacy needed during the 1930s. I'm impressed by her subject matter and the way she politely affronts societal norms. Her portrayal of generational and cultural gaps bring an authenticity the book that many historical fiction works lack; she forces an understanding of the way it really was for a myriad of social classes during the Depression. She is a must-read author for me. 

Pick up either read - you'll be glad you did! Cheers, friends 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Faithful Place and Three Dark Crowns - Love and Loathe

So it's not Tuesday AND I missed a week of "Two for Tuesday" because last Tuesday was mega busy with work (yes...teachers DO work in the summers), helping my dearest elderly neighbor who took a fall last week that terrified us all, and taking CJ to cat and chicken "sit" (side note - CJ is scared of chickens, thought they were going to peck him to death. I have not raised a country boy, must correct) I didn't get to the computer to give my reviews. And I'm bummed because one of today's books is awesome!

I stumbled upon Tana French and the Dublin Murder Squad in The New Yorker. It might be the only useful article I've ever read in The New Yorker - side bar: The New Yorker is a pedantic disaster of writing in which the thesaurus is heavily used in obsequious effort to inflate the intelligence meter of the fussy authors attempting to make themselves out to be "serious" writers. And the comics suck. Side bar ended.

Tana French's murder mystery series is set in Dublin and each book tackles a new murder with a new focus character. That's what I love love love about the series. You can start from book one: In the Woods, but you don't have to. However, starting at the beginning (the very best place to start) allows you to understand the dynamics of the police force and how different teams interact with one another. Each book ends with a new focused protagonist for the next story. I'm on book three: Faithful Place, with book four Broken Harbor sitting mere feet from me.

From Tana French's website (no reason to reinvent a summary):

Back in 1985, Frank Mackey was a nineteen-year-old kid with a dream of escaping his family’s cramped flat on Faithful Place and running away to London with his girl, Rosie Daly. But on the night they were supposed to leave, Rosie didn’t show. Frank took it for granted that she’d dumped him-probably because of his alcoholic father, nutcase mother, and generally dysfunctional family. He never went home again. Neither did Rosie. Then, twenty-two years later, Rosie’s suitcase shows up behind a fireplace in a derelict house on Faithful Place, and Frank, now a detective in the Dublin Undercover squad, is going home whether he likes it or not.

Getting sucked in is a lot easier than getting out again. Frank finds himself straight back in the dark tangle of relationships he left behind. The cops working the case want him out of the way, in case loyalty to his family and community makes him a liability. Faithful Place wants him out because he’s a detective now, and the Place has never liked cops. Frank just wants to find out what happened to Rosie Daly-and he’s willing to do whatever it takes, to himself or anyone else, to get the job done.

My review: I really enjoyed this book. Seeing a copper find and lose footing in his home town with his own family was interesting. The dynamics of how he was raised and the additional tension this added while trying to do his job created a solid plot line. Of course, knowing and being so close to the victim forced an official/unofficial capacity in solving the case, but French writes with an expertise to the inside workings of how to get the job done, even when you aren't on the job. 

For more about Tana French and her novels, visit her website at: http://www.tanafrench.com/index.html

And now we're on to novel #2 - pay attention, because this is going to go quick...Don't. 

From Kendare's Blake's website (I couldn't do a summary if I wanted to):

Three dark queens
are born in a glen,
sweet little triplets
will never be friends
Three dark sisters
all fair to be seen,
two to devour
and one to be Queen

Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

My review: Trite. Poorly written. Mind-numbingly boring. That's all. I do apologize. One day, when I do get around to ever writing a book, I'm so going to "get mine" back for some of the reviews I've given. But - I must find something nice to say - so I will say this: Kudos on this cover...it was fantastic!

However, if poorly written dystopian YA is your thing - check out more from this author at: http://kendareblake.com/books/  She has some other series and one stand alone that might be a stronger cup of tea. 

Happy reading friends! Cheers 🍷🍷🍷🍷🍷

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Savoring the Seasons by Traci Borum

Welcome back Chilton Crosse!

I'm so thrilled to do another review for author Traci Borum (a native and fellow Texan!). Her Chilton Crosse series is wonderful and just the escape I need to the cozy British countryside.

Savoring the Seasons is the fourth novel in the Chilton Crosse series.

Books in the series:

Painting the Moon
Finding the Rainbow
Seeking the Star

As I've noted in previous reviews (links included above) I'd like to move to this charming Costwold village #posthaste. This cozy series has everything you need to feel like the world has smiled and given you a hug. I think I've said that before in another book in the series, but I stand by it - it's absolutely true.

Now that doesn't mean that it's without conflict or tension - life has conflict and tension, and decisions are often bigger than ourselves...and that's just what Julia Bentley must decide as she navigates the choices she has made in her life.

Julia Bentley has just spent her fortieth birthday does what she always does - baking treats for the customers in her Cotswold bakery and taking care of her elderly father. She doesn't realize how stagnant her life has become until a younger man, Tristan Hannigan, arrives at the village and shows interest in her. As Julia grows closer to Tristan, he begin to season her mundane days and to challenge her insecurities about herself and how she views the world. 

But the relationship is threatened when Julia's doubts become too great, and the secret she's afraid to reveal creates a wedge between them. Will Julia choose the easy route, slipping back into her daily routine and living without love? Or will she find the courage to follow her heart and accept the love she deserves?

Ms. Borum has created an idyllic romance in the internal struggle of Julia Bentley. I appreciate the subtle nuances of her character and her battle with decisions that I think many women feel are apart of the feminine experience. Her relationship with Tristan grows organically and there is mystery there - mystery that keeps the reader turning the page. 

Now I feel I must also give the reader warning: I consumed more scones, baked goods, pie, bread, and sandwiches while reading this novel than my waistband appreciated. Seriously - if you weren't craving bakery fresh creations, you will be. Put your local bakery on speed dial. 

And that's the mark of a good book, I believe. For the subtleties of the characters, their lives, their day to day, to infiltrate the reader's life - my day to day. I regularly believed that the Publix scones were certainly not at good as Julia Bentley's, and maybe, just maybe, there's more to caring about others around you than effort previously given (particularly the elderly). I think Savoring the Seasons is part romance, part family, and part life lesson. 

Happy Reading my friends - this is one to savor.

Publication for this book is June 28th! Be sure to get your copy at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B071G3XHBM/ for a pre-order. Additionally, the previous books in the series are on a flash sale if you'd like to catch up - I assumer you, one afternoon is all you need to read and fall in love with this cozy women's series. For more details about the previous books and where to go for a steal, visit http://www.traciborum.com/

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Red Queen (series) and 1,000 Pieces of You

Hey folks - back again with another "Two for Tuesday." This week I'm taking a gander at two YA novels that frankly, were awful. There's just no nice way to say this. I love YA - intriguing and well-written YA. Alas, I can't say that about either of these series (I understand 1,000 Pieces of You is a series - I'm baffled?????).

But just because they aren't my cup of tea doesn't mean you might not find them enjoyable, so here we go:

The Red Queen (series) by Victoria Aveyard

Novel Premise - The Red Queen:  

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime.

But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

Aveyard, Victoria. "Red Queen Series" https://www.victoriaaveyard.com/red-queen-series

My thoughts: So basically this is the premise of only the first novel...and it'll stop there for me. I tried to read the second novel and simply did not care. Redundant battle scenes that took far too long to play out over and over and over...you get the point. The characterization is simply dull. Mare starts as a hero and falls faster than Katniss Everdeen in book three. Just. No.

1,000 Pieces of You by Claudia Gray

Novel Premise: 

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her parent’s handsome, enigmaticassistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.
Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. To accomplish her goal, she must learn how each world works, and confront the many people she has the capacity to become. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows — including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she expected.

My thoughts: I DNFed this book, so maybe my "review" is unfair. But it's predictable in an annoying way - I knew who was the "bad guy" and the secret about her father by the end of chapter one. The science involved is questionable, and the science fiction aspect of it falls flat. There's a magical piece of metal shaped like a phoenix that can allow a character to jump dimensions and time, but no one knows how it works, it just does. Another nope. Nope. Nope. YA love triangle - check. Annoying and whiny "heroine" - check. Writing that talks down to teens - check. No bueno all around, and it's a shame because her website is full of promise! I will tell you all - my students didn't like this book either. It was a Battle of the Books finalist and ALL of them gave this novel a thumbs down! 👎 👎 👎

However - I will say that both books have amazing artwork on their covers - a positive in a sea of bleh! 

Sorry today's reviews didn't bring better news. I still say happy reading folks!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Luck, Love and Lemon Pie AND Wink, Poppy, Midnight - Two for Tuesday

It's been a while since I reviewed a novel because school at the end of the year is an impossibly busy moving machine. I kept up with reading, just not with writing. Going to try and catch up this summer with a few books I've placed back on the shelves with a new approach: Two for Tuesday

Luck, Love, and Lemon Pie by Amy Reichert 

When Milwaukee-area wife and mother MJ Boudreaux notices her husband Chris seems more interested in the casino than her, she’s more bothered that she isn’t upset than by her husband’s absence. She picks up poker as a way for them to spend more time together—and reignite their marital flame.

Although the game doesn’t give her the quality time with Chris that she’d hoped, MJ finds she has a knack for it. Increasingly unhappy at home, she turns to the felt top of the poker table for comfort. Intoxicated with newfound freedom, MJ begins spending more time at the gambling tables and less with her family, finally carving out for herself a place outside her role of wife and mother.

After a string of great wins, MJ finds herself in Vegas, attracting the attention of a certain magnetic poker star. But when she’s forced to choose between her family and her new exciting lifestyle, the stakes may be higher than she thought and MJ will have to play her hand carefully…or risk losing it all.

"Luck Love and Lemon Pie." Amy Reichert. Web. 31 May 2017. http://www.amyereichert.com/luck-love-and-lemon-pie

My Thoughts:  I liked this book, but I didn't love it. I read it because I loved the first novel I read by her, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, and couldn't' wait to read her sophomore debut. It fell a bit short for me. I didn't like the characters as much, really at all. And the way she wrote about a dysfunctional marriage was slightly inept to me. A lot of research holes in this with her children and the college application process and sports teams - and a lot of extremely selfish adults. I use the word "parent" loosely. The story was fine, but the way the plot proceeds and the deceit and lies and egocentric behavior between husband and wife just didn't feel realistic. Or maybe it is and I just can't get on board with it. I couldn't stand either of them, or their friends. It is absolutely ludicrous to believe a wife shouldn't be upset when her husband is meeting another woman for coffee - that he didn't tell her about - because she just needs a friend. So said wife throws herself into poker to save her marriage. Nope. Sorry Amy - this one wasn't for me. Only ☕☕  this time - but I'm not done with this author. She has just enough cheek and writing pith for me to give her third novel a go - The Simplicity of Cider.

Wink, Poppy, Midnight by April Tuckholke

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.
Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible and tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.

Tucholke, April. Wink, Poppy, Midnight. Web. 31 May 2017. http://www.apriltucholke.com/books

My Thoughts: I really liked this book. The characters are well-drawn and diverse. There's magic, but no "wands" - the magic lives inside those trying to be themselves. I think Tucholke creates a dynamic team of obvious high school cliches and breaks them down into humans, into unique individuals seeking only themselves; and what the reader finds is it's NOT the stereotype they are portrayed to be. I enjoyed the realness of this book - the desire to show that everyone, EVERYONE, is wearing a mask and we all just want to put it down for awhile...it's so heavy. ☕☕☕☕  from me - it would have been five, but the book ended too soon. I wanted to know more.