Thursday, February 15, 2018

Review: The Rending and the Nest by Kaethe Schwehn

Blurb from Goodreads:
A chilling yet redemptive post-apocalyptic debut that examines community, motherhood, faith, and the importance of telling one's own story.

When 95 percent of the earth's population disappears for no apparent reason, Mira does what she can to create some semblance of a life: She cobbles together a haphazard community named Zion, scavenges the Piles for supplies they might need, and avoids loving anyone she can't afford to lose. She has everything under control. Almost. 

Four years after the Rending, Mira's best friend, Lana, announces her pregnancy, the first since everything changed and a new source of hope for Mira. But when Lana gives birth to an inanimate object--and other women of Zion follow suit--the thin veil of normalcy Mira has thrown over her new life begins to fray. As the Zionites wrestle with the presence of these Babies, a confident outsider named Michael appears, proselytizing about the world beyond Zion. He lures Lana away and when she doesn't return, Mira must decide how much she's willing to let go in order to save her friend, her home, and her own fraught pregnancy.

Like California by Edan Lepucki and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Rending and the Nest uses a fantastical, post-apocalyptic landscape to ask decidedly human questions: How well do we know the people we love? What sustains us in the midst of suffering? How do we forgive the brokenness we find within others--and within ourselves?
My Review:
This wasn't bad but it also didn't feel particularly unique.  I haven't even read that many dystopians and this felt like it borrowed from them all in one way or another.  That being said, it was definitely atmospheric and well written.  I didn't fall in love with the characters but I also don't think that was the goal of the author.  The book represented something more, which I appreciated.  I don't know that I can say that I enjoyed reading this but, again, I'm not sure if I should have enjoyed it.  I ultimately felt that this wasn't unique enough to captivate me but also that there were a lot of questions unanswered. 

The Rending and the Nest comes out next week on February 20, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  This book definitely wasn't as good as either Gold Fame Citrus or Station Eleven but it has echoes of both as well as The Book of the Unnamed Midwife.
Chester leaned back and reached into the small pocket above the regular front pocket on his jeans. I'd always wondered what that tiny pocket was for and now I had the answer: that little pocket was for holding fortunes after the apocalypse.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Review: The Precious Dreadful by Steven Parlato

Blurb from Goodreads:
Combining romance and humor with elements of the paranormal, this is a profound novel about one teenage girl’s decision to redefine her life in the wake of supernatural events.

Teddi Alder is just trying to figure out her life.

When she joins SUMMERTEENS, a library writing group, she’s only looking to keep herself busy, not go digging around in her subconscious. But as she writes, disturbing memories of her lost childhood friend Corey bubble to the surface, and Teddi begins to question everything: her friendship with her BFF Willa, how much her mom really knows, and even her own memories. Teddi fears she’s losing her grip on reality—as evidenced by that mysterious ghost-girl who emerges from the park pool one night, the one who won’t leave Teddi alone. To top it all off, she finds herself juggling two guys with potential, a quirky new boy named Joy and her handsome barista crush Aidan, who has some issues of his own.

As the summer unfolds, Teddi is determined to get to the bottom of everything—her feelings, the mysterious ghost-girl, and the memories of Corey that refuse to be ignored.
My Review:
I will say that this book had fantastic descriptions of moods, settings, people.  But the ending and the failure to wrap up a major plot point properly really harmed this.  The problem was that the entire book was drawing toward something major.  When it was revealed, the aftermath of it was glossed over to such a fine point that I had to re-read to make sure I hadn't missed something.  Don't spend that long on a major mystery only to skate over it after it's revealed.  This also definitely had some mature YA topics that I'm not sure were properly handled.  That being said, however, the writing was well done and I'll be curious to read more from this author.

The Precious Dreadful comes out TODAY on February 13, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.
Summer's my favorite. Partly because I have a late July birthday, but I also the heaviness, that sense you could bit the air. The dusk-whirr of insects. Sparklers. And I'm not the type to moan about humidity frizzing my hair (that's why God invented bucket hats), specially since there's currently no particular boy to impress.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Review: Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Blurb from Goodreads:
New York Times bestselling author Laura Lippman returns with a superb novel of psychological suspense about a pair of lovers with the best intentions and the worst luck: two people locked in a passionate yet uncompromising game of cat and mouse. But instead of rules, this game has dark secrets, forbidden desires, inevitable betrayals—and cold-blooded murder.

One is playing a long game. But which one?

They meet at a local tavern in the small town of Belleville, Delaware. Polly is set on heading west. Adam says he’s also passing through. Yet she stays and he stays—drawn to this mysterious redhead whose quiet stillness both unnerves and excites him. Over the course of a punishing summer, Polly and Adam abandon themselves to a steamy, inexorable affair. Still, each holds something back from the other—dangerous, even lethal, secrets.

Then someone dies. Was it an accident, or part of a plan? By now, Adam and Polly are so ensnared in each other’s lives and lies that neither one knows how to get away—or even if they want to. Is their love strong enough to withstand the truth, or will it ultimately destroy them?

Something—or someone—has to give.

Which one will it be?

Inspired by James M. Cain’s masterpieces The Postman Always Rings Twice, Double Indemnity, and Mildred Pierce, Sunburn is a tantalizing modern noir from the incomparable Laura Lippman.
My Review:
This was such a good slow burn mystery.  Definitely in the vein of film noir but the writing was so good, you never know what's what and who to trust.  I love that!  I love it when you can't immediately figure everything out.  The character development was so good in this one, too.  I've never read anything before by this author but now I know I need and want to - this was so refreshing.  It's hard to describe everything in this book but something about the language, pacing, setting and character development felt new and authentic.  Also, has anyone else been reading more books set in the early-mid 90s lately or is it just me?  It takes the cell phone out of the equation which ruins so many plot points that it makes sense but I've just seemed to notice it a lot lately!

Sunburn comes out later this month on February 20, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.  I really loved this one and you will too, especially if you love film noir and mysteries.
Her shoulders are thing, pointy, hunched up so close to her ears that they make him think of wings. The front of her pink-and-yellow sundress is quite a contrast, full and round. She carries herself as if she doesn't want to attract any male attention, at least not tonight. On the front, he can't help noticing as he slides on a barstool she's not so pink. The little strip of skin showing above the relatively high-necked dress has only the faintest hint of color. Ditto, her cheeks. It is early June, with a breeze that makes it easy to forget how strong the sun is already. Clearly a modest type, she wears a one-piece, so there's probably a deep U of red to go with those shoulders. Yesterday, fingerprints would have left white marks if pressed on the flesh there.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Review: Layover by Amy Andelson and Emily Meyer

Blurb from Goodreads:
Flynn: At first we were almost strangers. But ever since I moved to New York, Amos was the one person I could count on. And together we were there for Poppy. (I mean, what kind of parents leave their kid to be raised by a nanny?) I just didn’t expect to fall for him—and I never expected him to leave us.

Amos: I thought I was the only one who felt it. I told myself it was because we were spending so much time together—taking care of Poppy and all. But that night, I could tell she felt it, too. And I freaked out—you’re not supposed to fall for your stepsister. So I ran away to boarding school. I should have told her why I was leaving, but every time I tried, it felt like a lie.

One missed flight was about to change their lives forever….
My Review:
This one started off okay.  I was a bit on the fence about the stepbrother/stepsister thing but it was described in the blurb.  Then they all land in LA with their younger special needs sister and I just was not happy about the direction.  I  know I need to be better and not always think that teens are so immature/irresponsible in YA.  That being said, I feel like a 16 or 17 year old with a special needs sister would just once think about that child's medication and would also not allow that child to consume alcohol? Maybe that is too harsh but it changed my perspective of the characters and that was kind of unforgivable for me with the book going forward.  I just didn't care for this one and I can't say I'd recommend this one.

Layover comes out next week on February 6, 2018, and you can purchase HERE. Hopefully you have better luck with this one than I did!
Maybe coming home was a bad idea. I've only been back a few hours, and already my brain just feels . . . crowded. That's another reason I went away. I needed space to think. To be somewhere else. You spend your whole life in this city, and you think it's normal to never see the stars. And just as I'm trying to remember why i decided on this detour to the city in the first place, she walks in.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Review: By the Book by Julia Sonneborn

Blurb from Goodreads:
An English professor struggling for tenure discovers that her ex-fiancé has just become the president of her college—and her new boss—in this whip-smart modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic Persuasion.

Anne Corey is about to get schooled.

An English professor in California, she’s determined to score a position on the coveted tenure track at her college. All she’s got to do is get a book deal, snag a promotion, and boom! She’s in. But then Adam Martinez—her first love and ex-fiancé—shows up as the college’s new president.

Anne should be able to keep herself distracted. After all, she’s got a book to write, an aging father to take care of, and a new romance developing with the college’s insanely hot writer-in-residence. But no matter where she turns, there’s Adam, as smart and sexy as ever. As the school year advances and her long-buried feelings begin to resurface, Anne begins to wonder whether she just might get a second chance at love.

Funny, smart, and full of heart, this modern ode to Jane Austen’s classic explores what happens when we run into the demons of our past...and when they turn out not to be so bad, after all.
My Review:
Persuasion is my favorite novel by Jane Austen and despite there being so many good P&P retellings, there are actually very few retellings of Persuasion.  As such, I was so excited to read this one.  It was definitely a very fast read - it flowed very easily and wasn't taxing to read.  It was a pretty good retelling as well.... I just think a few things were missing (not just from the Persuasion plot but for this to be a truly stellar book).  I think the history could have been developed a bit better as well as some of the characters.  That being said, the setting was good, the faithfulness to the original was good and it was a fun, fast read.

By the Book comes out soon on February 6, 2018 and you can purchase HERE.  I definitely recommend this one for fans of Persuasion or Jane Austen.
I'd learned my lesson after that. It was a rookie mistake, imagining that I could be friends with my favorite writers. Now I knew that I preferred my authors to keep a safe distanceand they preferred the same of me.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Review: Dear Dwayne, With Love by Eliza Gordon

Blurb from Goodreads:
Wannabe actress Dani Steele’s résumé resembles a cautionary tale on how not to be famous. She’s pushing thirty and stuck in a dead-end insurance job, and her relationship status is holding at uncommitted. With unbearably perfect sisters and a mother who won’t let her forget it, Dani has two go-tos for consolation: maple scones and a blog in which she pours her heart out to her celebrity idol. He’s the man her father never was, no boyfriend will ever be—and not so impossible a dream as one might think. When Dani learns that he’s planning a fund-raising event where the winning amateur athlete gets a walk-on in his new film, she decides to trade pastries and self-doubt for running shoes and a sexy British trainer with adorable knees.

But when Dani’s plot takes an unexpected twist, she realizes that her happy ending might have to be improvised—and that proving herself to her idol isn’t half as important as proving something to herself.
My Review:
This book tried so hard to be funny and it just . . . wasn't.  In some ways, it was a bit motivational re: stepping outside of your comfort zone, pushing yourself physically, and getting in shape but I found it instead rather sappy and trite. Unless you are, like the MC in this book, a HUGE (and I mean GIGANTIC) fan of Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson, you may have trouble relating to this book and Dani.  For me, the idea of the diary to DJ/the Rock was better in theory than in reality.  Plus there was a lot of ancillary embarrassment that just put me off.  Hopefully you have better luck with this one!
Dear Dwayne, With Love comes out soon on January 23, 2018, and you can purchase HERE.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Review: The Spring Girls: A Modern-Day Retelling of Little Women by Anna Todd

The Spring Girls: A Modern-Day Retelling of Little Women by Anna Todd

Blurb from Goodreads:
Four sisters desperately seeking the blueprints to life—the modern-day retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women like only Anna Todd (After, Imagines) could do.

The Spring Girls—Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—are a force of nature on the New Orleans military base where they live. As different as they are, with their father on tour in Iraq and their mother hiding something, their fears are very much the same. Struggling to build lives they can be proud of and that will lift them out of their humble station in life, one year will determine all that their futures can become.

The oldest, Meg, will be an officer’s wife and enter military society like so many of the women she admires. If her passion—and her reputation—don’t derail her.

Beth, the workhorse of the family, is afraid to leave the house, is afraid she’ll never figure out who she really is.

Jo just wants out. Wishing she could skip to graduation, she dreams of a life in New York City and a career in journalism where she can impact the world. Nothing can stop her—not even love.

And Amy, the youngest, is watching all her sisters, learning from how they handle themselves. For better or worse.

With plenty of sass, romance, and drama, The Spring Girls revisits Louisa May Alcott’s classic Little Women, and brings its themes of love, war, class, adolescence, and family into the language of the twenty-first century.
My Review:
Retellings lately have been more miss than hit for me so, although I was excited to read this one, my expectations were admittedly low.  And the start of the book felt sad and staid but about 20% in, I was invested and the book really took off.  I have to tell you that it is a wonderful retelling - not an exact copy but a true retelling of the heart of Little Women in the modern world.  The characters were perfect - so well developed but true to the original.  I loved this - pick it up for a great start to your year!!

The Spring Girls comes out today, January 2, 2018, and I truly recommend this retelling.  I wasn't convinced at first but it ended up being perfect.  I hope more installments will come!
His kiss was just the seed. His fingers turned to branches, rooting themselves into my body. My hands became no longer my own, and I thought that this was why Meg put herself through all the pain that boys bring along. For that feeling. It was worth it, I thought, as Laurie flipped my world upside down. How quickly my mind changed from smart, thought-out conclusions to sappy syrup dripping from the trunk of a tree.
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