Sunday, August 23, 2015

Mini review: The Nightingale

According to my Goodreads account, I started reading The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah on January 19 and finished on August 10. Seven months to finish a book? It shouldn't take that long. But I made the mistake of starting this book the week before my final semester of grad school. Once school started, reading for pleasure took a backseat.

Although.....I did manage to finish other books because of blog tours. I picked up The Nightingale, put it down, picked it up, put it down, picked up, put it down. It's not because I didn't like the book. From January until the end of April, my free time was scarce. After that, I was catching up on sleep and the mountain of shows on my DVR! But I was determined to finish this book. It takes place during World War II and I love historical fiction.

Two sisters, one conservative and controlled the other a free spirit who won't be contained. At the height of the war, both will be put the test, risking not just their freedom but their lives. Viann's husband, Antoine, is a soldier, fighting against the Germans trying to take over France. In Antoine's absence, Viann has to be both a mother and a father to their daughter, Sophie. She doesn't have time to deal with her wayward sister, Isabelle. The Nazi's are overtaking the small town of Carriveau. Food is scarce. The town is in shambles. Not a good time for Isabelle to get kicked out of yet another school, or to bring her ideas of a "Free France" to town.

Viann is forced to house a Nazi soldier in her home. It's the only way Viann can keep her home and her family safe. Isabelle disagrees. Isabelle wants to do more than just sit back and live according to the rules set by the Nazis. There has to be a way to fight back. But fighting back can put her life at risk. She has to leave Viann and Sophie. She has to help others. Neither sister believes in what the other is doing. Both sisters believe that the other is wrong. Neither sister wants to back down.

While this is a fictional story, The Nightingale is based in reality. It's well-researched. The book shows that Isabelle is more than just a wayward, fly-by-the-moment woman. She has a good heart. Viann is stronger than she realizes. She does whatever it takes to hold her family together. It's a story of love and family and the ties that hold us together. Definitely a book worth reading!


Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (St. Martin's Press) in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mini hiatus!

I know.....I have not posted in a while. I was away on vacation. But I'm back now and will start posting reviews again this weekend.

What reviews are coming up?


Yes, I have jumped on the bandwagon. I'm reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Halfway through the book, this is falling in the Gone Girl category. What do I mean? I'm not liking the book. Rachel, the main narrator, is getting on my nerves. But....I hear this is going to be made into a movie. Like Gone Girl, I think this will make a better movie. I have a little more than 100 pages left. If the ending knocks my sock off, I might change my mind but I don't have high hopes.


I finished The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah two weeks ago. and it was great. But my review might be short. I started it in January....when I was still in grad school. So, I put it down, picked it up, put it down, picked it up, read other books. You get the picture. But I was determined to finished The Nightingale. My memory of the book from start to finish might be a little fuzzy, that's why my review will be short.


Time to step out of my comfort zone! I'm reading a graphic novel, Blankets by Craig Thompson. As an intern for a children's publisher, I did read a short one. But Blankets is the first graphic novel I'm reading on my own.

Stay tuned!


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Time for a giveaway!!

It's summertime! It's time to stock up on some great books!

Make sure to put The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry on your reading list. Thanks to Sullivan and Partners, I have one finished copy available for giveaway. This is open to U.S. and Canada residents only. Simply leave a comment below and that's it! One winner will be selected at random on July 31. Happy reading!

Book description:
The Idea of Love is a duplicitous and compelling story of love lost and found in unexpected places and is praised by New York Times bestselling author Dorothea Benton Frank as "so wonderful I wish I had written it myself...This is a huge winner--no lie!"
 
A Nicholas Sparks-esque screenwriter lacking inspiration in the wake of his divorce, Blake is desperately in search of a love story beautiful enough to translate into big screen success. Disguising himself as a travel writer, he treks down the east coast to sleepy southern Watersend in search of a love story he can borrow. When he speaks with the young and beautiful Ella Flynn, he's convinced he has his screenplay: Ella's beloved husband died saving her life. It's the perfect love story for his audiences...and it's also a lie. 

Reeling from the shock of her very much alive husband's affair, Ella is lost. When she speaks to Blake and dismisses him as a stranger she'll never see again, she creates the life she wants and paints herself as a successful wedding dress designer recovering from her saintly husband's sacrificial death.

Drawn to each other's lies and grappling with their flawed understandings of love, Ella and Blake's chance meeting gradually leads to more encounters and a larger web of deceit. As Blake and Ella bind themselves tighter with the lies they tell, the inevitable unraveling of their stories will end as neither imagined.
 
Patti Callahan Henry is a New York Times bestselling storyteller of eleven books, including The Stories We Tell, Between the Tides, and Driftwood Summer. Patti lives in Mountain Brook, Alabama with her husband and three children, where she is crafting her next story.

Friday, July 24, 2015

My take on: Orphan #8

Imagine yourself as a scared 4-year-old girl.

Your mother is dead.

Your father abandoned you and your brother.

You and your sibling are sent to separate orphanages.

Unfortunately, one of the "orphanages" is really just a front for a doctor to turn young kids into human guinea pigs.

You survive the horrors of the orphanage.

You become an adult.

As fate would have it, you cross paths with your tormentor. If given the chance, would you take a shot at revenge? Or would you learn to forgive? Nurse Rachel Rabinowitz is faced with that tough decision in Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade.

It's beyond disgusting to think doctors would use children for their medical experiments, but it happened. The Hebrew Orphan Asylum opened in the late 1800s and closed in 1941. Author Kim van Alkemade used the real-life experiences to create an engrossing piece of fiction.

In an instant, Rachel Rabinowitz and her brother, Sam, lose everything. Their parents, Visha and Harry, were once a happy couple. Harry paints himself as a family man, but when his lies are exposed they have deadly consequences. Rachel is deeply attached to her parents. She's deeply attached to Sam. The family knows how to calm her down. The family knows how to show her love. What will happen when all of that is taken away. A social worker tried her best to to keep the kids together, but to no avail. The orphanage Rachel is sent to is nothing but a sham. Each child that comes in is just another test subject, yet the outside world doesn't know what's really going on.

Rachel went in healthy, but came out scarred physically, mentally, and emotionally. When she ages out of the home, and is reunited with Sam at another orphanage, Rachel's life isn't much better. As an adult, she seems to have it together. She becomes a nurse, working at a rest home. As fate would have it, Dr. Mildred Solomon -- the leader of all the experiments -- ends up as one of Rachel's patients. At first glance, Rachel isn't sure who the doctor is but can't shake the feeling that she knows this person. When she knows for sure, Rachel is faced with a tough choice. Revenge? Or forgiveness?

The book alternates between the past and present. The book slows down a little, when veering off to Rachel's love life. The book still would have been good without it. Some parts were hard to read. Some parts made me mad. My modern brain can't fathom incidents like this. But I'm a fan of historical fiction, so of course I kept going. It's an emotional roller coaster, but it's worth it. Start reading!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Please welcome Alexandra Burt !!

 Today Alexandra Burt, author of Remember Mia, is stopping by for a guest post, writing about her fascination with memories and their importance.                                                            
                                               On Forgetting: by Alexandra Burt


    Insomnia haunts me at night. Some people count sheep, others read, but I choose to summon the past; in my mind I visit my childhood room again—a small recessed bookshelf, underneath a crooked stack of board games, a record player and my beloved collection of fairy tale vinyl’s, psychedelic pink and red wallpaper with oval interlaced shapes.

     Fascinated with memories, I have always been able to recall glimmers, mere match strikes in the dark, illuminating the world for a short moment in time. I told my mother once that I remembered my crib—sideways in front of a large window, facing away from the door—and that my world was bathed in shades of pastel colors and fuzzy edges, and grown-ups leaning over me, making silly faces. I have memories of my great-grandfather sitting in a wingback chair by the window. According to his headstone he died days after my first birthday.

     No way, says science. There is ‘childhood insomnia,’ and the gist of it is that we can’t remember much, if anything, from before the age of three. The older we get, the hazier memories become and by the age of ten very few of them remain. On one hand my mother confirmed the crib story, on the other hand I have to agree that there’s so much that goes into memories in order for them to survive—seasons, days of the week, physical locations, relations to the people around us—that I couldn’t have grasped at such a young age. But how is it that I so vividly recall the old springy couch covered in a knobby fabric, and my father lifting me unto my great-grandfather’s lap where I cried with fear?

     Memories are at the very center of my writing and I have often wondered why that is, especially because my stories are not so much a conscious decision as they are subject to organic development. As I plotted Remember Mia—a story of a mother who is unable to explain her daughter’s disappearance—I decided to take it to the highest level of suspense and the ultimate eraser of all memory; amnesia. The mother holds the key to what happened to her baby but she doesn’t know whether she is responsible. With the help of a psychiatrist she attempts to solve the puzzle that is her missing daughter.

     But what about my own memories? I refuse to believe that they are imagined, after all, wouldn’t I lose part of myself? I prefer to be a curator of sorts, tending to them, so they remain. Maybe our entire life is nothing but a kaleidoscope of isolated moments: finger painting, hanging upside down from monkey bars, and scratchy tights on Sunday mornings. Science is one thing, my persistent mind another. And tonight, after the house goes quiet and dark, like the mother in Remember Mia, I will descend, once again, down into the mine and bring up sparkly jewels that are my past.

     After all, we are, in a way, just the sum of our memories.

Monday, July 20, 2015

My take on: Remember Mia

Like Gone Girl and eventually The Girl on The Train, Remember Mia by Alexandra Burt seems like a story destined for the big screen.

Why do I say this?

It's a page-turning mystery.

A young woman wakes up in a hospital after a horrendous car accident. She has no memory of the accident. Even worse, she doesn't know what's happened to her infant daughter. Was Mia kidnapped? Is Mia dead? Will this young mother every be able to remember what happened to Mia?

If 27-year-old Estelle Paradise were a real person, I would just want to shake her until I could knock some sense into her. Most people would be rejoicing when they become a parent. But seven-month-old Mia is anything but a joy to Estelle. Mia is an annoying, crying thing that is zapping all of Estelle's time and energy. Her husband, Jack, is never around and when he is he just wishes Estelle would snap out of her funky mood. No one can see what an annoying, crying thing Mia is except for Estelle. There are moments when she wishes she could silence Mia forever. Maybe by taking that pair of scissors and piercing her soft skull? It sounds so morbid, but Estelle actually has these thoughts. I cringed reading those parts, and it wasn't easy controlling my facial expressions while reading this on the train!

The day Mia disappears is a baffling one. All of her bottles, diapers, and clothes are completely gone from the apartment. There is no evidence that a baby was ever in Estelle's apartment. What happened to Mia? Estelle doesn't act like a grief-stricken mom. She doesn't call her mother right away. She doesn't call the police right away. Somehow she ends up in a car accident, miles and miles away from her home. Was she trying to hide something? Was she trying to run away from something?

Each chapter offers a deeper insight into Estelle's psyche. One moment she comes across as just an overwhelmed mother. The next moment she comes across as a total psycho. A large chunk of the book takes place in a psychiatric hospital -- Estelle's last hope at recapturing her lost memories. Every fragment is key to solving a larger puzzle. Everything has a meaning. Every little piece is key to the overall memory. Estelle has to want to remember. She has to want to remember Mia. I was entertained from start to finish. This wasn't an easy puzzle to solve. Many times I thought, it's too easy for everything to be Estelle's fault. What about Jack? How could he not be involved in this? It would be very easy for him to blame the crazy wife for Mia's disappearance. But maybe Jack isn't the source of all this evil. Maybe Estelle is really crazy? Maybe some mysterious person is at fault? What happened to Mia and who was responsible? I can't tell you that, you will just have to read it! Anyway you slice it, this was a thrilling read from end to end!

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Berkley) in exchange for an honest review. Come back tomorrow for a guest post by author Alexandra Burt!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

My take on: Maybe in Another Life

Some days everything is going great. Some days everything is going bad. From a professional perspective, I haven't had the greatest week. A summer Friday was a welcome respite. I put that extra free time toward finishing the last half of Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid.

I have to say reading this book was a great way to end the week! I went into this book expecting a light summer beach read, but I got more than I bargained for. A refreshing, thought-provoking, and enjoyable read.

Do you believe in fate? What if your whole life, your happiness, your successes, your failures, your heartaches, your triumphs hinged on a single choice? Do you believe in the possibility that there is more than one version of yourself out there? One version of yourself goes toward point A and the other goes toward point B. Both points of your life go in different directions, but somehow everything is connected and life is just as it should be.

For Hannah Martin, her life is a mess. At 29, she has no real career to speak of. No major achievements in her life. Her parents and little sister, Sarah, have long since relocated to London. Hannah could have gone with them but chose to stay behind in Los Angeles to finish high school, living with her best friend, Gabby, and her parents. Gabby Hudson has been the one constant in her life. Gabby has been there for the good and the bad. Even when Hannah broke up with her high school boyfriend, Ethan. No matter what Hannah has done in her life, she has always thought about what could have been with Ethan. Would her life have been better if they were married with a family? Would her life have been worse? After college, Hannah has bounced from job to job and city to city. Now after a tumultuous affair with a married man, Hannah is returning to Los Angeles. She's returning to her roots in hopes of getting her life back on track.

To celebrate her return, Gabby and her husband, Mark, take Hannah for a night on the town. As luck or fate would have it they run into Ethan. All of the old feelings come rushing back. At the end of the evening, Hannah has to make a choice. Does she wander the streets of L.A. reminiscing with Ethan and potentially spend the night with him? Or does she go home with Gabby and Mark? Neither choice is without consequences. In alternating chapters, author Taylor Jenkins Reid explores both scenarios.

At first, I thought Hannah's decision not to go with Ethan was wrong. But as each chapter went along, I started to change my mind. If she and Ethan were meant to be together, life would have found a way to bring them together much sooner. Maybe she's meant to forge her own path and meet new people. Maybe Ethan is meant to forge his own path and meet new people. Maybe they are better off as friends. Then on the other hand, Hannah does go home with Ethan. They pick up where they left off, but a life-altering circumstance could derail their chance at happiness.

Which path is better for Hannah? There is no right or wrong answer here and I believe that's the whole point of the book. Both decisions come with good and bad outcomes. Whether one chooses point A or point B, life will always end up just as it should. After reading this book, I have to search through my piles of books for Taylor Jenkins Reid's first book, Forever Interrupted. I know I have it, but I have yet to read it. Clearly I missing out on very good author!

Rating: O.M.G.!!!

Note: I received an e-galley from the publisher (Atria) as part of a blog tour.
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