Friday, February 27, 2015

Friday Reads - Save Me


Save MeSave Me

By: Kristyn Kusek Lewis
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
Daphne Mitchell has always believed in cause and effect, right and wrong, good and bad. The good: her dream job as a doctor; Owen, her childhood sweetheart and now husband; the beautiful farmhouse they're restoring together. In fact, most of her life has been good--until the day Owen comes home early from work to tell her he's fallen head over heels for someone else.

Unable to hate him, but also equally incapable of moving forward, Daphne's life hangs in limbo until the day Owen's new girlfriend sustains near-fatal injuries in a car accident. As Daphne becomes a pillar of support for the devastated Owen, and realizes that reconciliation may lie within her grasp, she has to find out whether forgiveness is possible and decide which path is the right one for her.

My Thoughts:
"You can never know the truth about anyone's marriage, including your own" -Nora Ephron

That was a great quote to set the book rolling. Daphne is coming home from a business trip - something routine, she plans for her husbands birthday dinner, only to come home to the announcement that he has fallen in love with someone else. 

This was enough of a draw to get me involved. Not because of the physical messiness that was potential here. But because Lewis did her best to go through all of the various shades of emotional turmoil that this kind of event - which sadly is all too common - could cause.  Owen easily could be written off as the bad guy and this turn into another one of those books of woman independence, finding yourself outside of your relationships, and whatnot which are very prevalent in today's culture. But Lewis did far more than that.

She explored where relationships come from, what they need to thrive and how and when is the time to draw the line. Owen was far from the bad guy. He wasn't excused for his actions. But it seemed to be a case of life rather than something where you can suddenly point fingers and everything is black and white.

I was surprised by it's ending. And am still not quite sure how I feel about it. But it was definitely one that left me thinking. 

This novel explores fidelity, love and what is needed to keep a marriage going and I recommend it. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

YA Wednesday - Princess of Thorns


Princess of ThornsPrincess of Thorns

By; Stacey Jay
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
With the kindom at the mercy of soul-stealing ogres, the next generation of Sleeping Beauty  is in for a fight that no amount of fairy blessings could prepare them for. 

Given fairy blessings from her mother, Princess Aurora has been given the tools needed to end the reign of her evil step mother. Given superior fighting abilities, mercy and bravery Ror has everything necessary. But all magic comes with a price and Ror was also cursed to destroy the free will of any male who kisses her. Disguised as her brother, she goes out to save the kingdom, in the process finding the cursed Prince Niklaas who joins her in her quest to fight legions of evil and free her brother from the ogre queen who stole Aurora's throne ten years ago. 

My Thoughts:
Well, this was a sequel that I had never thought about. This takes what happens after "Happily Ever After" to a whole new meaning.  It also shows how not all blessings are blessings and even things which seem like curses can be to our benefit.

Princess Ror is impetuous, cunning and loyal to a fault. She loves her brother and would do anything to save him from the ogres who hold him captive. This requires raising an army, staging a revolt and killing the ogre queen all before the end of summer. She is a princess who sometimes is impossible to like. She pushes away others ideas, can't seem to see any other path than what is before her and will stop at nothing to achieve her goals.

In short she is a teenager -  a very driven teenager, I'll give you that but a teenager none the less. She knows what is best even if it hurts pretty much everyone around her in the process. And with this hubris, she is going to need her growing up moment and that is a painful, but almost beautiful thing to watch.

I love fairy-tales, always have, and I found this blend of a young woman who seemed to come out of Divergent''s 'dauntless' group an interesting fit. She actually did remind me of Tris, in how Ror tried to push out every spark of mercy she could to achieve her ends. (That was why I really didn't like Divergent. I didn't feel like there was any redemption for Tris...) But it was Ror's ending which redeemed her and which made the book a great read.

I liked the weaving narrators - of seeing the ogre's thoughts and motivations. Of seeing the sudden realization of Ror when it all comes coming to pieces around her and her determination to build back up.

If you like fairy-tales and remakes, or strong female leads (WITHOUT LOVE TRIANGLES!!! YAY!!!) then give this a shot. You will enjoy it.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Misc Monday: Love Water Memory


Love Water MemoryLove Water Memory

By: Jennie Shortridge
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars
Caution for conservative readers - multiple uses of strong expletives and adult content.

Summary:
Who is Lucie Walker? Even Lucie herself can't answer that question after she comes to, confused and up to her knees in the chilly San Francisco Bay. Back home in Seattle, she adjusts to life with amnesia, growing unsettled by the clues she finds to the selfish, carefully guarded person she used to be. Will she ever fall in love with her handsome, kindhearted fiance, Grady? Can he devote himself to the vulnerable, easygoing Lucie 2.0, who is so unlike her controlling former self? When Lucie learns that Grady has been hiding some very painful secrets that could change the course of their relationship, she musters the courage to search for the shocking, long-repressed childhood memories that will finally set her free.


My Thoughts:
What an interesting premise. What would you do if one day you found yourself somewhere with no memory of how you got there, nor of who you were? And what are you to do if that happens to someone you love?

It was an idea which got me thinking. What would I do in that position. Which of my habits would I go back to and what would I think was idiotic/strange/foreign? Lucie wonderfully captured what I imagine all of the confusion, heart ache and loss which would come with such an event. So many times trying to figure out who she was, and who she is going to choose to become. It was great to see her rebuild from the tragedy and become a woman even better than she was before. 

Throwing in an approaching wedding added a depth of complexity. Could Grady still love a woman who was so entirely different from the one he proposed to? Both versions of Lucie were so completely different but Grady managed to find the similarities, and I liked seeing the two of them begin to reconnect.

I just wished that it hadn't been so needlessly laced with profanity. Are there times that call for it - occasionally it can be justified. But there was just too much of it for me personally.

I liked the premise and the characters, it was well executed. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Secret Keeper


The Secret Keeper The Secret Keeper

by: Kate Morton
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 5 stars

Summary:
1961 England. Laurel Nicolson is sixteen years old, dreaming alone in her childhood tree house during a family celebration at their home, Green Acres Farm. She spies a stranger coming up the long road to the farm and then observes her mother, Dorothy, speaking to him. And then she witnesses a crime.

Fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to Green Acres for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by memories and questions she has not thought about for decades. She decides to find out the truth about the events of that summer day and lay to rest her own feelings of guilt. One photograph, of her mother and a woman Laurel has never met, called Vivian, is her first clue.

My Thoughts:
I love Kate Morton, always have. I still have difficulties determining which of her books are my favorites. This one just might take the cake. I finished it three days ago and I still can't get over how amazing it is. So many twists and turns in Laurel's search to find the truth and if a book can keep me guessing we know that excellent plot logic is at work. 

One of my favorite parts of all of Morton's work is how she writes. She writes for those who love literature and the written word. 

This story just kept me going and going and going. There were about 50 pages left and I was wondering how she was going to tie everything together and then when she did I just had to put the book down for the second and say "wow." It left me thinking about it and nothing else for a good day or so after I had finished it.

And so my friends if you find yourself stuck inside because of snow, or if you have a weekend and you want to get caught up in a novel - please, please, pick up The Secret Keeper. It really is one of the best books I have read. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Read - All Other Nights


All Other NightsAll Other Nights

By: Dara Horn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4 stars

Summary:
"How is tonight different from all other nights? For Jacob Rappaport, a Jewish soldier in the Union army during the Civil War, it is a question his commanders have already answered for him - on Passover, 1862, he is ordered to murder his own uncle in New Orleans, who is plotting to assassinate President Lincoln. After this harrowing mission, Jacob is recruited to pursue another enemy agent, the daughter of a Virginia family friend. But this time, his assignment isn't to murder the spy, but to marry her." Based on real personalities such as Judah Benjamin, the Confederacy's Jewish secretary of state and spymaster, and on historical facts and events ranging from an African American spy network to the dramatic self-destruction of the city of Richmond, All Other Nights is a story of men and women driven to the limits of loyalty and betrayal. It is also a parable of the rift in America that lingers a century and a half later: between those who value family and tradition first, and those dedicated, at any cost, to social and racial justice for all.

My thoughts:
I listened to this one rather than reading it - but it was a great way to pass time in the car as I drove around on errands and heading to and from my classes.

This was an aspect of history that I had never even thought of - spies in the Civil War. And then to get even more detailed let's take it up a notch with Jewish spies in the Civil War. This topic was wonderfully researched and chosen in my mind. The attention to details, to how the lines moved back and forth, adding in the Jewish culture - so often over looked in the finaces and weaving in characters such as Judah Benjamin and Edwin Booth made the listening experience so enjoyable.

Jacob was hard to listen to sometimes - I just wanted him to grow a spine, to say no. To refuse to kill his uncle or to have more strength than to play with the heart of a girl, even if she was a confederate spy. I wanted him to stand up to his commanding officers and make them realize what all they were asking of him. But the beauty of the book is that Jacob wanted the same things of himself.He was horrified to see how easily he did it himself.  It was an example of  how flawed a character can be and yet we still root for him. Because in him we find ourselves.

There were some amazingly cringe-worthy moments of antisemitism in there too. But it was accurately reflecting sentiments of the time. I am amazed at how far we have come. Not because of where we are now, but because of how bad the world used to be. 

For those who are wanting a Civil War novel (it is most definitely a novel) with a thrilling plot which keeps going until the end I would highly recommend All Other Nights.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

YA Wednesday - Royal Airs


15808431Royal Airs

By: Sharon Shinn
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.5 stars

Summary:
Josetta is a princess of one of the Five Families. But she is far from the throne, so she is free to spend her days working in the poorest sections of the city. 

Rafe Adova, an outcast since he was born, lives the life of a career gambler in those slums. He has no ambition other than cheating at the card tables—until the night he decides to help a girl named Corene, who looks like she's stumbled into the wrong bar. She, too, is a princess—sister to Josetta, who finds her with Rafe. He fascinates her. 

Josetta has never encountered anyone like him—someone seemingly devoid of elemental blessings. He is drawn to her, though he thinks they are unlikely to ever meet again—but their connection grows strong when she nurses him back to health after he is assaulted by foreign mercenaries.

And when they learn the reason he's being hunted, they know that the truth about his history could endanger not only their love but also their very lives...

My Thoughts:
I love Shinn, she is one of my favorite authors, so when I saw the second book of a series that I absolutely love I was so happy! This world is one of the favorites that I have read. (see Troubled Waters the first in the series) Along with wonderful world building, there are great characters. Josetta is the kind of woman who I would want to go to lunch with, and to see a young woman just trying her best to make the world better was a breath of fresh air.

And Rafe is a great male lead. It is great to see how the two of them help each other in thier whole comming-of-age journey. Rafe is resourceful, honorable, intelligent, but oh so directionless. I feel very much the same right now (directionless...I'm not sure how I measure on all of the other traits) and to see him fighting to find his own way felt real.

One of my favorite lines was about - when seeing something good and normal come into Josetta's life - her body guard tells her "You have led such an extraordinary life until now, it is nice to see something ordinary happening to you." The idea that love and family are the ordinary things in our lives was so sweet. 


The whole story was well woven, well written and I read it in one night. I can't wait for the next in the series to come out and I hope that she continues through all of the elements of her world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

YA Wednesday - The Girl in the Steel Corset


The Girl in the Steel Corset (Steampunk Chronicles, #1)The Girl in the Steel Corset

By: Kady Cross
Genre: Steampunk, YA
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Summary:
In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one... except the "thing" inside her.

When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no normal Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch...

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of them. The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on even if it seems no one believes her.

My Thoughts:
This book, has a great story, a fun plot, characters who I adore - it's steampunk, which is my favorite thing ever right now, but it did not in anyway live up to the standards set by Gail Carriger (and one more). The writing, or better said editing, didn't help the story reach it's full potential. I loved Finley, and how different sci-fi stories such as Jekyll and Hyde, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and Frankenstein were all woven into the narrative. I am not a love triangle fan, but this one was ok, I am excited to see how Finley will resolve this in the future. 

My main problems are best summarized in how when asking for forgiveness a character just looks and says "We good?" WHAT? This isn't taking place in downtown LA or in modern society for that matter. If you are trying to convince me that this is in London, stop with the slang and let the characters speak how they are supposed to. It irked me to no end to see this pop up through out the novel. Also if I figure things out about 250 pages before the characters it's a problem. 

It had potential to be amazingly wonderful, but because of poor editing it fell flat. Though, I will be reading the sequel because I love the characters that much

Monday, February 9, 2015

Misc Monday - The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs


The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs (Cyrus Mills, #1)The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs

By: Nick Trout
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5 stars

Summary:
After fifteen years, Dr. Cyrus Mills returns to rural Vermont to inherit the Bedside Manor for Sick Animals, the failing veterinary practice of his recently deceased and long-estranged father. Cyrus, a veterinary pathologist far more comfortable with cold clinical facts than living, breathing animals (not to mention their quirky, demanding owners), intends to sell the practice and get out of town as fast as he can.

Then his first patient—a down-on-her-luck golden retriever named Frieda Fuzzypaws—wags her way through the door, and suddenly life gets complicated. With the help of a black Labrador gifted in the art of swallowing underwear, a Persian cat determined to expose her owner’s lover as a gold digger, and the allure of a feisty, pretty waitress from the local diner, Cyrus gets caught up in a new community and its endearing residents, both human and animal. Sensing he may have misjudged the past, he begins to realize it’s not just his patients that need healing.

My Thoughts:
I thought this was a sweet novel, I just got Netflix and am on a Gilmore Girls binge right now, and this fit right in with the whole "small town/bad relationship with my parents" vibe. The characters are quirky and fun, and the reason why I love small towns - particularly the receptionist - she really is her own person - and the pets are cute too. 

I found this to be a sweet read, though too much whining about how parents weren't there and so I am going to be grumpy about it. Though it looks as like it the story continues in Dog Gone, Back Soon, so I will be interested to see how things further develop.

It was a sweet read, and I will get the sequel to see how it goes. It also probably rings truer for those who are huge pet owners. Go ahead, try it. It is a fun way to pass the time.