Monday, January 25, 2016

On hiatus...(again!)

I'm no longer writing book reviews for this blog. Just don't have the time (and it pains me to write that!)

However, if you are interested simply in what I'm reading and rating, please find me over at Goodreads where I do keep track of what's on the shelf. You will find me under my full name: Cresta McGowan.

Happy reading!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Seeking the Star by Traci Borum

Another fantastic home run by Traci Borum!

Seeking the Star is the third novel in the Chilton Crosse series, a quaint Cotswold village that makes me want to pack and move post haste. Seriously. #notevenjoking

Genre: Women's/Christian Fiction

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

This time, we enter into the Christmas spirit as a lone drifter named Ben suddenly collapses outside George and Mary Cartwright's home. Mary, a bit of an insomniac, hears the thud and discovers this man helpless in the snow. Her senses tell her she must help, she cannot leave him in the cold. With the help of her husband, Ben is moved into their home and upon waking, reluctantly allows the Cartwrights to nurse him back to health. Ben has a secret though, and Mary knows that he carries a pain greater than he admits - and she wants to help him. See, Mary and George have known great pain, too and Ben's arrival in their lives boasts of divine intervention. 

Christmas cheer can't help but spread throughout the tiny village with the Dickens-themed festival in full bloom. As nervous as Ben is to immerse himself in a society again, the village of Chilton Crosse slowly brings him round to understanding that it's okay to begin again, to forgive oneself, to learn to let go of pain, to believe in divine providence. 

In a turn of events, Ben's secrets come to light on Christmas Eve pushing his guard to the ground and pulling him from his shell. How he handles the transition creates magic for the soul.

Traci’s Blog:


Red Adept Publishing:

About the author:

Traci Borum is a writing teacher and native Texan (WOOT WOOT!). She’s also an avid reader of women’s fiction, most especially Elin Hilderbrand and Rosamunde Pilcher novels. Since the age of 12, she’s written poetry, short stories, magazine articles, and novels.

Traci also adores all things British. She even owns a British dog (Corgi) and is completely addicted to Masterpiece Theater–must be all those dreamy accents! Aside from having big dreams of getting a book published, it’s the little things that make her the happiest: deep talks with friends, a strong cup of hot chocolate, a hearty game of fetch with her Corgi, and puffy white Texas clouds always reminding her to “look up, slow down, enjoy your life.”

See other reviews by this talented author with her first two Chilton Crosse novels Painting the Moon and Finding the Rainbow. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Eleanor & ParkEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't know how to write about this book. Eleanor and Park. Eleanor and Park. A "must read" falls short of the world's greatest understatement.

This novel. These teens. They make you split yourself open and everything you hate about yourself comes spilling out into the world, and everything you love about yourself comes spilling out into the world, and you can't put it back. This books leaves you raw and exposed, clinging to love in a way that doesn't seem possible in words. Propels you to physically press yourself into your "person" and want to mold to them to fill any gap in your soul. That sounds terribly dramatic. I don't even care. This book destroyed me. It is perfection.

From Goodreads:

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Back on the Shelf - Another Round of Reading

When school is in session, it seems I never find the time to blog about reading. Terrible. Truly terrible. Reading is still my passion, even when I'm spending hours grading essay after essay...after essay after essay. I digress.

A few books are back on the shelf since my last update, with an ever-growing pile sitting on the side table to read (and a few on my Kindle). Side note: today I discovered "McKay" in Nashville. Used book Heaven - check it out.

My posts today are more "book jacket summaries" than reviews, but I'm giving credit where credit is due - I did not write these summaries...I borrowed them.

Pride and PrejudicePride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

From Goodreads:

So begins Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's witty comedy of manners--one of the most popular novels of all time--that features splendidly civilized sparring between the proud Mr. Darcy and the prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet as they play out their spirited courtship in a series of eighteenth-century drawing-room intrigues.

My thoughts:

Hands down, a damn fine piece of literature. Jane Austen creates a world you want to march right into and never leave. Her characters are dynamic. Her prose is flawless. Her settings are timeless. And Mr. Darcy - well, let's just say if he's offering me wine, I will not be turning that down. A five-star classic that is as poignant and relevant today as when it was first penned.

BossypantsBossypants by Tina Fey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads:

Before Liz Lemon, before "Weekend Update," before "Sarah Palin," Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher. She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV.

She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey's story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately halfhearted pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon—from the beginning of this paragraph to this final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we've all suspected: you're no one until someone calls you bossy.

My thoughts:

While I understand this was "her story," I wanted it to be funnier. The writing fell flat for me in several places; it lacked the sharp wit I've seen from her in performance. But then again, she's famous for her delivery of lines, not necessarily writing them. A solid read, but not a laugh out loud for me (albeit there were moments so don't get me wrong here). But that's okay - I still love Tine Fey.

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors? To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.

Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

My thoughts:

Eh. Eh. (shoulder shrug) Eh. It's not bad. But, it's not great. Just average for me. Another dystopian novel; another end of the world teens save us all concept. Albeit, there were hidden aliens, and that's pretty cool. I didn't like Cassie - she was whiney, but I do like Ringer (a somewhat minor character that I think it going to become MAJOR in the next book, so I'll keep reading the series). I think the concept is actually plausible, the idea that there are aliens living among us and one day - BAM! They are taking over (yes - I believe in aliens because c'mon - this cannot be all there is). I just hope the human race handles themselves a little better than these guys.

The MiniaturistThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From Goodreads:

"There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed..."

On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office-leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist-an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand-and fear-the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshiped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

My thoughts:

This book really deserved its own blog. It is amazing. I found myself with a serious book hangover after finishing this novel. It's the kind of book you don't want to end, but you're clawing at the pages to find out the story. And then when it's over - you want to start it again. Jessie Burton weaves an intricate tale of crossed language, crossed lovers, and crossed lives. Every character - Marin, Johannes, Nella - even the maid the man-servant - come to life in a way that becomes part of the reader's world. I know them. And I want to see them again. Best novel I've read in a long time. Well worth the wait!

The Revenant: A Novel of RevengeThe Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

From Goodreads:

The year is 1823, and the trappers of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company live a brutal frontier life. Trapping beaver, they contend daily with the threat of Indian tribes turned warlike over the white men's encroachment on their land, and other prairie foes--like the unforgiving landscape and its creatures. Hugh Glass is among the Company's finest men, an experienced frontiersman, and an expert tracker. But when a scouting mission puts him face-to-face with a grizzly bear, he is viciously mauled and not expected to survive.

The Company's captain dispatches two of his men to stay behind and tend to Glass before he dies, and to give him the respect of a proper burial. When the two men abandon him instead, taking his only means of protecting himself--including his precious gun and hatchet-- with them, Glass is driven to survive by one desire: revenge.

With shocking grit and determination, Glass sets out crawling inch by inch across more than three thousand miles of uncharted American frontier, negotiating predators both human and not, the threat of starvation, and the agony of his horrific wounds. In Michael Punke's hauntingly spare and gripping prose, The Revenant is a remarkable tale of obsession, the human will be stretched to its limits, and the lengths that one man will go to for retribution.

My thoughts:

My family started this book on a whim before we even knew it was to become a movie. We needed an audiobook for traveling, and there is was. The story is solid - it's historical fiction so what I wanted to happen in the end didn't, but if you're true to the story you can't rewrite a fact. Even my son (who is eleven) thought it was a good book. The characters are interesting is a way modern men are not, which gives the book some grit. Definitely a novel I think men would enjoy more than women due to the nature of the characterization, but overall a solid read.

And finally:

Red Riding HoodRed Riding Hood by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Do not bother. The premise is sound, the writing is abysmal. I try so hard not to give poor reviews, to find something redeemable about the text, but I simply can't. Characters - flat. Story - uneventful. Writing - It baffles my mind this person graduated from an accredited program. I almost DNFed this book, but I pushed through with a skim to get to the end.

Watch the movie - at least there's eye candy.

Upcoming novels I'm excited to share:

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Blog Feature Author: Kate Moretti (and a CONTEST!!)

This week I'm featuring author, writer, and friend Kate Moretti to help promote her new companion book to the New York Times best selling novel Thought I Knew You (see review of this fantastic read below!) While Your Were Gone.

While You Were Gone

Despite Karen Caughee’s intense focus on her music, her life is drifting out of its lane. Her alcoholic mother keeps calling from bars for early-morning rides, her boyfriend doesn’t think she gets him, and that Toronto Symphony Orchestra position she applied for ends up going to her friend, Amy. By chance, she meets American Greg Randolf just before she’s in a car accident. He pulls her from the wreckage, but after major surgery, her recovery is slow. Without her music, her life’s pursuit, Karen is pushed further adrift. 

Greg stays by her side while she heals, and he sees her every time he’s in Toronto for work. Without any other support or friendship in her life, Karen craves his enthusiastic attention, and their friendship deepens to love. Though she’s fallen hard for him, he doesn’t share everything with her. In one heartrending moment, Karen’s life comes to a crossroads, and she must face the full truth about who Greg is, and about who she has become.

You have a chance to win book here people!!!  Just enter the following contest:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thought I Knew You

One word comes to mind when thinking about Kate Moretti's Thought I Knew You: RIVETING! I was engrossed in the story from the first page and found myself staying up way past my bedtime (telling myself it was worth it to be tired tomorrow) to finish the book because I just HAD to know. That is when a novel deserves the word riveting; when you have to know how it's going to end.

Claire, a mom of two girls that is on leave from work, stands at the back door and calls for the family dog. Much to her dismay, he never comes back. Her girls are distraught, but like all moms, she tells them "he'll turn up," most dogs do. Except this dog. This dog does not turn up. And this moment is what sends the family into a downward spiral from the life they knew. Not only has Cody gone missing, but by nightfall, her husband Greg still hasn't come home from his business trip. Two for two. Gone.

Claire doesn't know what she's going to do, but her instincts tell her something is wrong. She calls 911 and from there, the plot of tracking down a missing person comes to light. Claire listens dutifully to the police and detectives when she's told most adults that go missing, go missing by choice. She wrenches her heart in and out of torrid pains trying to solve the mystery of Greg's disappearance sorting through dates, trips, conversations, and late night phone calls. She starts to question her life, her marriage, her husband and allows herself to delve deeper into Greg's private side than she ever thought she could. And what she finds gives the reader pause. Claire is an emotional roller coaster and the reader takes every climb, drop, and loop with her. There are moments of frustration with Claire, sadness, anger, and pride.

Her longtime best friend from childhood, Drew (Uncle Drew to the girls), becomes her lifeline in dealing with the aftermath of a missing husband. Their relationship becomes precariously difficult under such mitigating circumstances, and even though the reader worries about Greg, we understand Claire's vexed outlook on every situation.

Claire learns how to be a self-sufficient woman and mother, really examining the marital bed from a new vantage point. Not only does she struggle and come terms with how well she knew her husband, but also herself.

Thought I Knew You will be a book that stays in your heart and in your mind. The characters are well-drawn and fleshed out. I loved and hated Claire, and loved her again. Greg made me so mad I could spit, and Drew - well, Drew is the guy that everyone loves and when reading about him, your heart breaks and mends many times for the depth Kate Moretti provided to his persona. I loved the changes I saw in Claire when she had to "fend for herself." As a military wife whose husband travels quite a bit, I've known personally the pains of replacing screens or cleaning gutters. We think of these things as "men's work" but Moretti adeptly shows us how easily they become "women's work," too.

This examination of marriage is also a bit terrifying. How well do we really know our spouses? Is there something out there hidden from our view? This book challenges the concept of really knowing one another, regardless of everything you've been through together.

Thought I Knew You is Kate Moretti's debut novel (and what a way to break in!). It is complete at 276 pages, published by Red Adept Publishing. I read this book in three days flat!

Kate Moretti lives in Pennsylvania with her husband, two kids, and a dog. She's worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life.

She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn't to do those things as much as she'd like.

Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway.