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Monday, December 29, 2014

Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel by Priya Parmar (Netgalley Review)

Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel by Priya Parmar is a delightful book written as the diary of artist Vanessa Stephen. It details the lives of those artists and thinkers that made up the Bloomsbury Set. This group included Virginia Woolf (Vanessa's sister), Lytton Strachey, and John Maynard Keynes, along with Vanessa and her brothers. The diary, while fictional, feels real in every aspect. The writing was well done and kept me reading. 

I really enjoyed this book and the author took fictional liberties in all the right ways. The story felt complex and real, much like life, while still held onto its integrity. I found that I was eager to pick up the story or to keep reading. I think most readers will enjoy it. 

The book looked at all aspects of the lives of the Bloomsbury Set. Not just their art and work, but also their lifestyle choices and relationships. This group was very intermingled in all aspects and the author's choice to use diary form helped to keep everyone straight. There was also a helpful character guide in the beginning of the book, which I referenced often.

The book releases tomorrow, if you are interested in reading it.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

NaNoWriMo Update

I didn't finish. In fact I think I only wrote for one weekend. I had way to much going on in November to add this. I think I might try again in March, when I am not so busy. 

I hope that if you participated you were able to finish!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning

Almost Perfect by Diane Daniels Manning lived up to its name. The book is the story of a young boy named Benny who dreams of owning a dog and an old lady named Bess who dreams of taking a dog to the Westminster dog show. The two are neighbors and meet because Benny thinks he keeps hearing a puppy and follows the noise to Bess’s kennel.

Benny is a student at a school for kids with issues and spends a lot of time with school’s founder and psychiatrist, Dr. Kate. I read in several other reviews that Benny was autistic. I never got that impression from the book, but I might have missed it. (If you read it, let me know your thoughts.)

It took me a while to get into this book (I was about halfway done, before I wanted to pick it up each time), but I was glad that I finished it. I recommend it, if you like watching The National Dog Show each Thanksgiving. ( Side note: did you see the Min Pin escape artist this year?)

Anyway, would I recommend this book? Probably. Given the right audience (dog lovers or lovers of determined kids) it will be a huge hit. I love dogs, so the dog show aspect was fascinating. I love determined kids and the insight into everything that Benny was trying to overcome was intriguing as well. This story doesn’t have much action and it takes a long time to build to the excitement.

Finally, I was a bit confused by the ending. While I understood what happened, it was like there was chunk of the story missing and I didn’t know how it went from plot point A to B.

This book releases on January 4.

I received an advance copy of the book for free from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, December 15, 2014

I'm All About The Books

I don't think I mentioned it here, but I took the Goodreads challenge this year and committed to reading 50 books in 2014. I am happy to announce that I completed that goal. (Warning this post contains affiliate links to Amazon - I will mark them with *.)

While I have reviewed a lot of those books on this blog throughout the year, I thought I would make a list, superlative style, to give you a run down of everything I consumed. 

My MVS (Most Valuable Series) goes to the Chop Chop books by L.N. Cronk. They make up nine(!) of my books. The first book in the series Chop Chop* and it is free for Kindle. This is the book that sucked me in, I downloaded and started reading it over the summer I finished it quickly (its 202 pages) and needed more about the characters. (Sidenote: I love books that cover the whole of character(s) lives. This series does that.) Following the series, there are two stand-alone companion books. I only read one - Remind Me* (which is only 70 pages). 

My Longest Read was Quitter* by Jon Acuff. This was the second time I have started this book. The irony was not lost on me. I really liked it and highly recommend it for everyone. While it is marketed for those who are considering quitting their jobs to pursue their dreams, I thought it was good at whatever career stage you are living. I left this book in my car and would read a little bit each time I had a to let my car warm-up. 

My Most Recommended book was Love Story: The Hand That Holds Us From the Garden to the Gate* by Nichole Nordeman. I even bought this as a birthday gift for someone. Nordeman's fresh look at old Bible Stories coupled with her honesty and transparency will give you a new way to look at the world. I can't say enough good things about this book. I am chomping on the bit to re-read it, but I am waiting to do it in the new year.

My Most World-View Changing book was  The Tyrant's Daughter by JC Carlson(runner-up to Most Recommended). This book changed my view of things and put a new perspective onto a lot of the news. The link is to my full review, check it out for more information.

There is definitely a tie for the Wish I Hadn't Read It category. Stanley and Sophie* was one I picked up off the clearance rack at my favorite used book store. We had adopted Will a month earlier and I thought I might glean some wisdom, spoiler alert, I didn't. It was kind of a let down. While I initially like Glitter and Glue the more time since I read it the more ridiculous it seemed. I don't know why, but I would now call it unrelateable. Two fiction books found their way into this category as well. The Right Thing by Amy Conner was great and then it wasn't. I love the first part of the book when it was a recounting of the main character's childhoods. But then it got a bit bizarre and very adult and I wish that I hadn't read it. It was well written and a great read, but a bit too inappropriate for me. The other fiction book I didn't like was The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell. It was not a pleasant experience for me as it was dark and awful. Plus, I had a hard time reading it, like had ago force myself to continue to read, hoping the whole time for an ending with would justify the plot. Hint - there isn't one.

My Least Favorite Book of the year was far and away I've Never Been to Vegas, but My Luggage Has by Mandy Hale. While I wasn't expecting to relate to Hale as an author (she is the blogger at The Single Woman), I figured I could appreciate where she was coming from with her writing. The book is basically her memoir of overcoming some very difficult issues (panic/anxiety and an abusive relationship), then making a vision board and having everything on it come true in a year. While she says that God was making everything come true for her, it seemed a bit unrealistic and braggy, at least to me. As I said in my review, check out my friend Brenda's review for a different perspective on this book.  

The Funniest Book I read all year was definitely Is Everybody Hanging Out Without Me and Other Concerns* by Mindy Kaling. While I wouldn't recommend this book to my mom or a teenage girl, I definitely recommend it if you are a fan of The Mindy Project. I couldn't read it in bed, because I laughed too much.

My Most Anticipated Release of the year was definitely Allegiant by Veronica Roth. If you at all in tune to the Divergent Series (this is book three), then you may know that most readers fall into one of two camps - it was great or I didn't like it. I didn't like it. The story switched narrators a lot and I had a hard time keeping up with who was talking. 

My Favorite Series this year was the Safelands* Series by Jill Williamson. Book One is Captives and you must start there. To give any information would be to spoil the fun. Book Three was runner up of the Most Anticipated release of the year. The runner-up in this category was the Aggie's Inheritance Series by Chautona Havig. My Kindle recommended these books to me after I read the Chop-Chop series. They are delightfully long. (I love long books, especially on the beach.) Book One is Ready or Not*. Warning: there are some definite cheese-ball moments in this book, but push through!

So there was one book that falls into a Read-It-And-Liked-It-Thought-About-It-And-Got-Mad category. That book is For Such a Time by Kate Breslin. It was an Esther inspired World War II story. In my review, I recommended it for those who like historical fiction, but the book is really historically inaccurate. While most of the story could have happened, the ending most definitely did not. After I reviewed it and processed this part of the story more closely and realized that I was really unhappy about this turn of events. 

Another book Didn't Live Up to Its Hype. That was The Fault in Our Stars* by John Green. I was thoroughly unimpressed with this book. If I had mapped the plot it would have been one straight line.

The Whole New Genre award goes to Gail Carriger's Finishing School books. It starts with Etiquette and Espionage. These books were so much fun to read, I can't wait to get caught up on my reading and read book three. 

My Beach Reading this year was Sullivan's Island by Dorothea Benton Frank. This was a fantastic book and I recommend it if you are a fan of Frank's other work or of The Help. I just realized that this is the first book in a series, though it seems that each of the books stand alone. Frank's books always remind me of home and, IMO, are best read with sand in between your toes.

In the Books by Friends category this year was A Different Path by Nicole Schenz. This book was very well written and great quick read. 

In the Books I Wish I Had Written category I am placing A Charmed Life by Jenny B. Jones. This (really big) book is three books in one and was an absolute blast to read. I tore through a chunk of it while waiting at the tire shop. It totally redeemed those three hours.

Those are the highlights. Here is a quick re-cap of the rest of the books I read. The links are to bigger reviews. 

The Sinner's Garden by William Sirls - great read about redemption and God's Love. I liked it.

Rain Song* by Alice J. Wisler - takes you back to the 1990s, fun, but sad. I liked it. 

Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski - YA book that was a fun read. I liked it.

The Here and Now by Anne Brashares - the newest novel from the author of the Pants series. Involves time travel. I really liked it and hope there is a sequel.

Runaway Saint by Lisa Samson - really great book highly recommend for gals my age. It was a great story about love and family and secrets. There were lots of great quotes in this book. I really liked it.

Dog Gone Back Soon by Nick Trout - fun read for this dog lover. I liked it.

Then and Always by Dani Atkins - set in the UK so some funny words. Great story, keeps you guessing and makes you think. This story has stayed with me. I loved this book. 

Here to Stay by Melissa Tagg - This is Book Two in the Where Love Begins series. I am loving the entire series.

How She Does It by Anne Bogel - this non-fiction is about work life balance and load sharing. A great read, I can't recommend it enough. I loved this book. 

The Last Summer (of You and Me)* by Anne Brashares - very sad and hard to read (emotionally). Definitely not beach reading. It was okay.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer - Fun and entertaining read. Definitely an adult book, lots of language and adult themes. I really liked it.

How to Pick up a Stripper by Todd and Erin Stevens - This book about servant evangelism was life changing. I really liked it.

True Colors* by Kristin Hannah - I intended this to be a beach read, but didn't get to it in time. It was okay, but not very beachy. I liked it.

Appalachian Serenade* by Sarah Loudin Thomas - It was ok. It felt predictable and trite. It falls in a genre I don't usually like and I read it anyway. I wouldn't bother with it, unless you like Amish Fiction.

Hit by Lorie Ann Glover - This is a good book. What does grace look like when you get hit by a car? I really liked it.

Silence* by Natasha Preston - Fascinating book. Went where I was hoping it wouldn't, but did it gracefully. I really liked it.

Almost Perfect* by Diane Daniels Manning - I haven't reviewed it yet, but I liked it.

The Walled City* by Ryan Graudin - (update) I haven't reviewed this one yet, either. Find my review here. I loved it.

I am going to assume that if you have made it this far, you care about my reading habits. I am not done for the year. I am currently reading Gone Girl* by Gillian Flynn, Motherless* by Erin Healy, and Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel by Priya Parmar. I am also still working my way through Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain. So I think I will make my stretch goal of 52 books!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Walled City by Ryan Gaudin

The Walled City by Ryan Gaudin is a fast-paced, heart-wrenching, adrenaline fueled race against the clock. 

The Walled City sucks you and doesn't let you out. Three teenagers have found themselves trapped there: one enslaved, one searching for her sister and one trying to escape his past. Survival is the goal, escape is the fantasy. It will take all of them to do it.

The book is based on the real life walled city which was located in Hong Kong. This slum developed inside of an old fort. It was run by one man, a drug kingpin. To take down the slum, they had take down the man. 

I really enjoyed this novel and was more fascinated by its origin. Gaudin did a great job changing the narration and moving the story along. No detailed was missed and the story was next to impossible to put down. I really loved this book and highly recommend it to anyone. 

There is some human slavery and prostitution that may be a too mature for some audiences.

A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I really did love this book. I reviewed this book through NetGalley.